Sunday, January 25, 2015

50 Questions that Will Free Your Mind (part nine)

More of the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. I'd love to hear some of your answers to these questions - if any of them strike a cord with you or if you have a reaction to something I've said, please do share!

41. If you knew everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
Well naturally I really hate this question. I would definitely spend the day with my husband and kids at Disney World. (Hopefully I could talk my sisters and their families into going as well as our parents.) Is it better or worse that we don't know when the people we love (or ourselves) will be leaving for good? I really can't decide.

42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
Hell to the no.

43.  What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
Have you seen the movie Click? It's a really good one (in my opinion) because it shows you why it's valuable in life to not only have the peaks, but the valleys as well. We all wish we could fast forward through the week until it's Friday or skip through life until we get the promotion we've been waiting for... and this movie shows you how awful that would be if we had a magic remote to skip over the less desirable parts of our life. The truth is that those "less desirable" days are full of promise. They're full of special moments. The movie also shows the difference between having an active presence in your life versus just being on auto pilot. Listening to people talk instead of checking out of the conversation to mentally go over that grocery list one more time. Engaging with others. Checking in with the people you love. Or rather, finding ways to make being alive the same as truly living.

44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
I don't think there is any concrete answer to give here... the closest I could come is to say that to calculate your risk/rewards includes relying heavily on your mind and to go ahead and take the leap has to do with feelings and doing more than it does thinking. It's something you feel and then react to, I guess.

45.  If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
Being mistakes hurt. We learn from our mistakes (usually) after time has put things into perspective. Everything we experience changes us and it's sometimes impossible to learn anything from those experiences until after they are over. If that makes sense. Sometimes in order to learn a lesson we have to learn them the hard way the first time. This results in losing people we love or the potential of what could have been. And even with the perspective we eventually gain, it is extremely painful.

Then there is the possibility that our mistakes not only hurt us but they hurt the people we love the most. There is nothing we can do to take those things back and though they propel us into a future where we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to grow as a person as a result - but who the hell wants to volunteer to be hurt? Not me. And yet, we so often reap such amazing benefits from our mistakes and the mistakes of others by who we've been hurt. So though nine times out of ten during the pain I would wish the pain away - one hundred percent of the time I am glad it's God's will and not mine because I know it will make sense eventually.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Pre-Oscars 2015.

The Oscars are coming up - less than a month away!  That means we'll be trying to see as many movies from the list of nominees as possible.  Here is the list we're working with right now...

  1. Boyhood  (According to IMDB, it has a 100/100 metascore!)
  2. Maleficent -- Really excellent movie and not at all what I expected of the story.  I absolutely understand why this one is up for costume design.
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy -- Love love LOVED this movie even more than I thought I would. Chris Pratt is fantastic. I can't wait for them to make another one of these!
  4. How to Train Your Dragon 2 (And I guess see the first one)
  5. Begin Again -- Definitely a lackluster opinion on this one from both of us when it comes to the movie as a whole.  I personally hated the ending!  BUT, I think all of the actors did a fantastic job and it was a pretty cool story. This movie has a song up for an Oscar (Lost Stars) - which is why we watched it - and I do love the song. And I LOVED Adam Levine in it! 
  6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier  -- Holy moly. Favorite Marvel movie to date. It reminded me why I liked the Avengers movies so much to begin with - I had kinda forgotten at this point or stop caring. Just... loved.
  7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  8. X-men: Days of Future Past
  9. Unbroken  -- Holy shit. This movie was incredible. I cannot wait to read the book. Acting was phhhhheeeenominal. HIGHLY recommend this one. Kinda pissed the metascore is so crappy.
  10. American Sniper -- I don't really understand how anyone could say that a sniper is a coward... especially after watching this movie and understanding Chris Kyle's dedication, sacrifice, and bravery. Truly an incredible person, story, and movie. If this can't raise awareness for PTSD and justice for our veterans after they return home, I don't know what will.
  11. Wild
  12. The Boxtrolls
  13. Intersteller
  14. Selma
  15. Still Alice
  16. Foxcatcher
  17. Into the Woods
  18. The Theory of Everything
  19. Birdman
  20. The Imitation Game
  21. Big Hero 6
  22. Nightcrawler
  23. The Judge -- I'll be honest: I didn't expect much from this movie. The reason it's on our list is because Robert Duvall was nominated for an Oscar for his performance here. And the nomination is 100% deserved. The movie itself was incredible, too, and I wish Robert Downey Jr. would have gotten a nomination in addition to the movie, itself. The cast was chalk FULL of people I love. Highly recommend giving it a watch.
  24. Beyond the Lights
  25. Mr. Turner
  26. Ida
  27. Leviathan
  28. Virgunga
  29. Finding Vivian Maier -- Nominated in one of the documentary categories and by far one of the best documentaries I've seen in recent times. (Which is slightly easy to do because I don't see many anymore.) This story is incredible - Vivian Maier's and how it intertwines with John Maloof's. It's all so unbelievable except for the physical evidence that it all indeed took place.... all I can say is the product is incredible. All of it. And the "story" isn't over yet. It's still happening and changing and it is one I will continue to follow and hope for the best.
  30. The Grand Budapest Hotel -- It's hard to say what has been the BEST movie we've seen from this list so far since they are all very obviously incredible movies in their own right... but this movie was perhaps as close as it comes to having a favorite. So far. We're less than halfway through the list at this point. It's nominated in SO many categories and I hope it walks away a winner. Such a neat movie.
  31. Gone Girl (Been wanting to see this one SO BAD!) -- Just as good as the book! Well, okay, obviously the book was better BUT what I mean is that the movie followed very closely to the story AND added so much by the characters they cast. Loved it & so did Tony. His reaction to the ending was just perfect: "Is that really the end?" And casting Tyler Perry? UM, PERF. Can absolutely see why Rosemund Pike is up for an Oscar - very deserved.
There are SO MANY more we want to see before the Oscars, but we have to be realistic.  We won't be able to see any of the movies that aren't available on DVD before the Oscars air.  Who knows if we'll be able to catch all the ones that are already out - but it's fun to see them before the awards show!

Here is the list we made we compiled as a result of watching the Oscars in 2014.  As you can see, we still have PLENTY we need to watch from last year.

But honestly, I'm currently preoccupied with a fun reading challenge (which I will post about later) and it makes me care a little bit less about movies and TV shows.  I've read 4 books since the new year and I'm on my 5th one now!  Having the Kindle App on my phone makes it so much easier, too.  The girls' nap time and bedtime is dedicated to reading for me lately.  I'm still reading the Caster Chronicles and it is fantastic.

I also watched "Beautiful Creatures" (the adaptation from book to movie) a few weeks ago and it was pretty terrible.  I feel like the casting was COMPLETELY wrong for nearly all the characters (especially Link, Lena, Ethan, Macon...) and not to mention the storyline was much too far from the book.  Ugh.  Such a letdown.  I can understand why the film did NOT do well and why there hasn't been an attempt to turn the other books into movies.  It actually makes me pretty upset because these books are right up there with the likes of the Hunger Games and Divergent books if you ask me.  If you haven't read the Beautiful Creatures books and liked the other series I mentioned, I would definitely recommend them to you.

Alright... so, have any of you seen movies from the Oscars list up there?  Which would you recommend the most?  And how about what you've been reading?  Any recommendations there?  Love to keep up with people are into!  Hope everybody is surviving the winter months... hold tight because it is less than TWO MONTHS until the first day of Spring, my people!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Praise & Thanks.

Today's Point of Praise: "We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you." (Colossians 1:3) Day #7

The theme for today is thanksgiving.  When I originally read this entry in October, I responded by writing down some of the things that I am grateful for - some of the things are simple... superficial even.  Other things are deeper.  All are meaningful to me.  Some are things I often take for granted.  A few things can almost be read as mantras... things I repeat to myself in order to let the reality of them sink in.

I reread the entry again today and it struck me as funny how the things I'm thankful for are more often than not the topic of my conversation - and not always in the most positive light.

I have great people in my support system. vs. "Why does everybody have to live so far away?"
My husband & kids are alive & healthy. vs. "I never have time for myself."
I have a beautiful house. vs. "This house is always such a mess!"
I have a car that runs with no problems. vs. "Why is this car always such a mess?"
I have a family who loves me, despite my imperfections. vs. "Why am I always such a mess..."
I am loved & appreciated. vs. "This one person said one bad thing about me and now I'm just gonna focus on that for the next eight days straight..."
I have money to buy food. vs. "Grocery shopping with kids SUCKS."
My husband provides for us. vs. "You spend more time at work than you do your own house!"

It actually reminds me of the old happies & crappies post I used to take part in every week.  Anyways, the line in the devotional that made me think to reflect on what is truly in my heart at the end of the day versus what I mindlessly complain about was this, "But when we fail to count our blessings, we rob ourselves of the happiness, the peace, and the gratitude that should rightfully be ours."

It's the truth, too.  Think & speak the positive and you end up living more positively.

"The game was to just find something about everything to be glad about -- no matter what it was.  You see, when you're hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind."  Eleanor H. Porter

"Thanksgiving or complaining -- these words express two contrastive attitudes of the soul of God's children in regard to His dealing with them.  The soul that gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul that complains can find comfort in nothing."  Hannah Whitall Smith

When I go dark, I feel like everything is dark.  When we have an exceptionally bad series of events, how quickly do we turn that into having a bad day/week/month/year/etc?  We can't expect to constantly live in the light and there is no sense in beating ourselves up over our lack of gratitude at times... but we do need to hold ourselves responsible for the way we carry ourselves.  The way we approach situations.  The lessons we take away from all things.  And certainly the way we treat ourselves and the rest of the people we love.


Thanksgiving in my heart.
Praise on my lips.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Why I love Ebates.

Any of you out there do online shopping?  How many of you online shoppers like to save money by using coupon codes or waiting to purchase something until it goes on sale?  I know I can't be the only one who gets excited when I see "free shipping" when shopping online.

Did you just nod your head?  If yes... you are my kinda person.


In addition to doing those things, when it comes to online shopping, I use Ebates.  Any of you familiar with their website?


And a completely effortless way to save a couple $$ here and there!

So let me tell you about it and I promise to keep it brief... pays you cash back every time you shop online (up to 26% back).  They work with 1,800 stores including Sephora, JCPenney, Kohl's, Home Depot,, Groupon, and Walmart.

In addition to cash back, Ebates has great coupons, free shipping, and special offers from its stores, so not only does it literally pay to use Ebates, you can find additional good deals through their website as well.

Membership at Ebates is free and there are no forms to fill in or points to redeem. You get paid cash back for shopping by check or Paypal. As an added bonus, we'll each get a $5 bonus from Ebates when you make your first purchase!

People often ask: "This sounds too good to be true, how are you able to do it?" It really is quite simple. Just like almost every other online shopping center, Ebates get a commission from the stores when you make a purchase. Instead of keeping that money - like almost all other sites do - they share it with you!

If you can't tell, I am a tad bit enthusiastic about Ebates - but it's hard not to be!  I currently have $5.43 in pending cash back and since signing up a couple years ago, I've made a total of $58.43 just by stopping by Ebates before checking out online.  I opt to have a check sent to me and they send one every few months by mail.  Again, free money.  And it's awesome.

If I've done a good job and now you want to sign up, please consider joining through my specific referral code which you can find HERE.  This way I will get a bonus and a nice pat on the back by Ebates once you sign up!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

If you already use Ebates - how much have you made over time?  And if you're on the fence about it, what in particular is stopping you?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind (part eight)

It's kinda crazy to think that it's been nearly a year since I last participated in answering the 50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind. Very hard to believe that life can just pass by without realizing... anyways, enjoy part eight and to recap, here are links to the previous answers.
(part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven)

36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
It's funny this question pops up at this time in my life - I'm currently reading the Beautiful Creatures books which is all about the light and dark of things.  Sometimes I feel unsure about questions like this... I do think there are grey areas of being good and bad... but when it comes to talking about evil - I feel like there are distinct lines that we're all (mostly) aware of.  I really tend towards believing that the majority of people are inherently good.  There are good people who continue to do good in the world and then there are good people who make bad decisions on occasion.  There are bad people out there that had every potential to be good until their upbringing screwed that up.  There are bad people who do awful things and then somewhere down the road have a change of heart.  I don't know... call me crazy or stupid or naive but I do believe that most people can recognize the difference between good and evil.  I may never understand what makes people do truly evil things - I assume there are a million different "reasons" - and most of the time I really want to sit down and understand where others are coming from to help me understand why they do what they do.

37. If you won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
I wonder that sometimes... if I was wealthy, would I still be interested in raising my children myself?  Would wealthy me be more comfortable with trusting someone else to raise my children right?  I mostly wonder these things after a hard day with the kids.  Or I think of all the less desirable duties stay-at-home parents have and I wonder what it would be like to be able to do all the good things and leave all the worse parts for someone else.  Overall, I really don't think I would trust someone else enough to handle my kids with the care my husband or I would show.  There is something so gratifying in knowing the parts of your children that you might not understand if you missed out on them constantly and staying home with Presley and Molly is a luxury in my book. (No matter how far from "luxurious" it ACTUALLY is!)

38. Would you rather have less work, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
I've thought a lot about this question, too!  Where I'm at in my life right now - which is putting my family first - I would rather have less work to do.  I want to be able to spend time together as a family and make as many memories as we can while we have our children to ourselves!  Once my kids are in school (if I'm not homeschooling them), I assume that I will have more time to work on myself and the professional goals I have for myself. 

I really do feel like ANYONE who works more than 40 hours a week is insane.  (Which, yes, includes my husband.)  Life is too short to live a life like that.  And really, I think 40 hour weeks are way too damn much, too!  Want to know why so many families are so messed up, in my opinion?  Somewhere along the way we stopped putting PEOPLE first and started putting things first.  There are people who are working so many hours just to scrape by.  There are other people working huge amounts of hours in order to have more things, nicer things, etc.  It's exhausting.  I wish our society, as a whole, could decide that people and relationships and loving others is what matters and that we could rework our systems to reflect those ideals.  I feel like our lives would be so much more gratifying.

39. Do you feel like you've lived this day a hundred times before?
In some ways, YES.  I feel like on certain issues I just am constantly bashing my head against a wall.  (see my above answer to #38... it's something that comes up in my life on a daily/weekly basis.)  I love my kids and the "work" I do with them (see my above answer to #37) - but HONESTLY, I feel like I am always just keeping myself busy until Tony gets home.  He works from 7am until 6pm five days a week.  Even though I love what I do with the kids - it can be completely exhausting doing it myself for 11 hours a day with no one to share it with (the ups, the downs, and everything in between).  Not only that, but I look forward to his companionship all day long.  So at the end of the day, it does feel like I am just living the same day over and over again and that I am in a period of my life where I am waiting for it to get better or something to give.  But in reality, THIS is my life and nothing is going to change itself anytime soon.  If I want something to change in order to make our day better while Tony is gone, I am responsible for making that happen.  That is both empowering while simultaneously making me feel a little sheepish.

40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
It's been a while.  I feel like the last time I felt the feeling of jumping off a cliff towards something unknown and better was when Tony and I moved to Illinois a few years ago.  I come back to that moment in my life often because it was a big turning point for me as a person and for us as a couple (and I think for him as a person, too).  For some reason, I didn't feel that way when it was our time to move back to Memphis.  Maybe because it was less of a turning point in our life.  We were just picking up the family we had started and the life we were living and continued that here.  So to answer the original question, it has been 7.5 years since I had that feeling.

A photo of me & Tony the week before we moved to the Quad Cities after living in Memphis for a year.

A photo of me & Tony - about 365 days later - after having lived in the Quad Cities for a year.

Hope you found the questions and answers here to be thought provoking.  Anybody feel compelled to add anything?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy HALF BIRTHDAY, Molly-girl!

Wow wow wow. We've got six months until her first birthday! Holy moly. (That means in six months it will be summertime!) Time sure is flying along.
  • She is rolling all over the place now - she can roll from her belly to her back and from her back to her belly! Belly to back is a little less smooth, though.
  • Tried mashed bananas for her first food and she either didn't know what to do or she just didn't want them because the majority of it ended up on her bib. We'll try again later with solids!
  • Tonight is her FIRST NIGHT in her big girl bed and in her own room. She's been sleeping in the bassinet of her pack and play (in our room) for the last six months and is now in her crib (in her own room). I am trying to be brave and strong about this one despite the reality that this is one of those earliest of moments where I have to silently let her go little by little and surrender to her independence. Don't get me wrong... I am pretty excited to not have to tip-toe around our room anymore... and I know it'll be a great thing to have our space back... but right now I'm just feeling a little nostalgic.
  • Sleep has been inconsistent lately for little Molly. Not sure if it's a growth spurt, teething, or maybe us needing to sleep train her or what - but she went from sleeping through the night to having one or two wake-ups a night. We change her and feed her and she usually will go right back to bed but GEEZ it makes for tired parents! Again, it's a phase and I know it will pass so quickly and I might even find myself missing these moments. I can see that this time around with how quickly Presley has grown up so it really hasn't been killing me. I read something recently titled "The Last Time" and it sums up my feelings pretty perfectly. If you're a parent... you might want to grab a tissue before reading!
  • She sleeps with her fan, a blanket, and her Cloud B lullaby animal.
  • She has been LOVING the jumperoo that she got for Christmas from Grandmommy & Papa. She's also been talking more and it's the cutest thing. She likes to growl too and that makes us all laugh every single time!!!

  • Molly's starting to be able to reach for the things she has her eye on and can also manipulate the items in her hands somewhat. It's amazing to watch her face and seemingly see the wheels turning inside her brain and then making it happen!
  • She laughs and smiles on such a regular basis - she is such a light for our family. Presley is her FAVORITE person in the world.

  • Molly's also been chewing on our apple cores lately. Well, not the core, just what's left of an apple after you eat most of it. She doesn't eat any apple... just chews (she's teething like crazy!) and drools all over it.
  • She's also so good at just going with the flow of everything.
  •  Oh and she drools all over EVERYTHING. I mean, completely soaks her bibs from top to bottom!
  • Molly also likes listening to upbeat music while she's in her jumperoo... especially "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift. She will bounce along to the beat and everything! Hilarious and adorable and just so awesome. We've been listening to a lot of Pentatonix lately and she loooves them.
  • Almost forgot to mention Molly's first Christmas! A few days before Christmas we checked out the Zoo Lights at the Memphis Zoo and had SUCH an awesome time. We rode the train, carrousel, and they even had a Ferris Wheel to ride which was equal parts amazing and terrifying. It was literally the BEST way to get into the holiday spirit.

Christmas Day was definitely a relaxing, low-key holiday and I am so glad that it was. Grandmommy and Papa spent the day with us and we opened gifts and ate so much food (mashed potatoes, shrimp & grits) and like I said... just relaxed. It was great.

I can't believe it's already 2015. We're slowly starting to put away all of the Christmas decorations and it will be nice to get back our house back to normal! It's insane that we'll be planning Presley's 3rd birthday here very soon and not long after that it will be time for Matthew's first birthday! And then Molly's and then Anne Marie's 3rd birthday! The first half of the year is always full of excitement and even more-so now with our sweet new babies!

  • She weighed in at 14 pounds & 5 ounces and is 25 inches tall now at her well visit with Dr. Jones! She is just a little petite thing when compared to Presley at 6 months - who was 15 pounds & 13 ounces and 26 inches tall.
Happy six months of being a Duggan, little one.

We love you so much, Molly. (I could just kiss that face all day long!) You're an angel and I am so thankful that you are my daughter. It's been such an amazing six months with you that I really can't wait to keep spending time with you and getting to know you! Thank you God for giving me such a loving, special, sweet, happy girl to take care of and to cherish. I promise to do the best job that I can.