One step at a time

Creating an enjoyable journey for myself and my family.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Valentine's Day

I LOVE Valentine's Day. This year was awesome. I threw a party for Mia and Teryn and four of their friends. We ate heart-shaped waffles for dinner along with berry punch and strawberries. We decorated cookies, colored a big poster that said "Happy Valentine's Day," watched a Strawberry Shortcake movie about friendship, danced to Justin Bieber, made heart leis and ate pink M&M's all night long.

As if that wasn't enough love for one day, Adam totally surprised me. There is a youth group in our area that was raising money for a summer camping adventure with a Valentine's Day package. Adam had the group serenade me at home, bring me a dozen white roses, deliver six hand-dipped chocolates and a hand-written note from The Shum. I detail all of this here on my blog because #1 I thought the fund-raiser idea was brilliant! #2 I think my man deserves all the praise he can get. #3 I want everyone to know that Valentine's Day doesn't have to be awful.

The first song the serenaders sang was a song that is sentimental to me. Let Me Call You Sweetheart by Bing Crosby.

The last song they sang was How Do You Know He Loves You, from the Disney movie Enchanted.

I love these songs. I think we could all use a little more love in our lives. I hope your Valentine's Day was filled with Love. I hope your every day is filled with Love.

If you want to have a good laugh about Valentine's Day and love in general, you should watch this episode of 30 ROCK.

"Love is something eternal; the aspect may change, but not the essence."
Vincent Van Gogh

The American Dream

Recently President Obama spoke in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He's been addressing "The American Dream," in many of his please-reelect-me speeches.

"If you're willing to put in the work, the idea is that you should be able to raise a family and own a home; not go bankrupt because you got sick, because you've got some health insurance that helps you deal with those difficult times; that you can send your kids to college; that you can put some money away for retirement," Obama said.

"That's all most people want," he said. "Folks don't have unrealistic ambitions. They do believe that if they work hard they should be able to achieve that small measure of an American Dream."

Reading his remarks in this and other venues has made me a question what the American Dream really is these days?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the term American Dream was first used in 1931, in the middle of the Great Depression. It is defined as "an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also : the prosperity or life that is the realization of this ideal." For example, "With the acquisition of a big house in the suburbs, they felt as though the American dream had indeed become a reality for them."

So generally speaking the American Dream is:
A home that you own
Money for your children for college
Money saved for retirement

Here is how the American Dream has shaken out for this hard-working gal.

I've owned a home for 7 years, my payments are on time and current, and I owe more on it that it's worth. That's roughly $84,000 I've spent on a home and I have little to no equity.

I've paid healthcare insurance premiums my entire working life sometimes as high as $300/month. I'm still paying off my 4-year old and that pesky pulmonary embolism I had last year.

By the time my kids reach college age they will need somewhere in the ballpark of $40,000/year each to go to college. They currently get about $25/month each in their savings accounts so in 14 years they will each have a little over $4000.

Retirement age for my generation has now been pushed to 65. Social security will be bankrupt in the next decade. Wall Street has dwindled our retirement savings down by 30%. Nursing homes cost between $5,000 and $10,000/month now. In 50 years, if you calculate inflation at 2% they will cost double that when I'm 80.

Wherein lies the dream? This is an American Nightmare.

People all over America are taking this dilemma seriously. Here are some of the things they are doing to overcome this troubling gap between dreams and reality.

-Taking diet and exercise seriously to maintain the best possible health without expensive surgeries and drugs. Check out ideas at
-Paying off their homes in 15 years to avoid the interest payments while providing themselves with a place to retire.Check out ideas at
-Helping their children to develop skills/talents that will later translate into scholarships. I love the ideas at Student

Good luck finding and achieving your dream, whatever it is. We're all in this together!

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt