Saturday, January 26, 2013

Going to Extremes

The television is off quite a bit in our home, not so much because I don't believe there is any quality viewing these days, on the contrary, we have a plethora of educational channels to choose from like the Science Channel, History Channel, Discovery Channel and so on.  We are so blessed to have these compared to when I was young.  Mostly are television is off simply because, quality programing or not, I just don't like the idea of hours of our families life being passed lounging on the couch watching television.  The world has so much more to offer.

Digital recording devises such as  DVR's have made it easy to record and save (or savor, depending upon how one looks at it) shows which we deem highest on our time allotment, and then allowing us the luxury of watching them when it is most convienent for us, without disrupting our otherwise busy schedules.

Recently I have discovered a fascination border lining on obsession with a certain genera of reality television.  Shows like Extreme Cheapskates, Extreme Couponing, Alaska: The Last FrontierAmerican Colony, and Doomsday Pepper's have become the staples in my viewing arsenal.  I wondered what was it about these shows that so mesmerized me.  While there are certainly bits and pieces of each episode that I could relate to or actual already apply in my own day to day life, I truly have no emanate plans to adjust my lifestyle in correspondence with any of those I watch on the programs.  So what exactly is my attraction to these shows?

After considerable  contemplation I came to the realization that I was clearly appreciating the strict choices they had made in the same fashion I find my self captivated each time the Olympics role around.  While I have no aspirations, either delusional or real to become an Olympic athlete, I can relate simply based on the common thread of as a human, desiring to become the best at whatever I choose to do. In other words, it is not the specific activity necessarily, although at times it can be, but instead the passion and perseverance with which they dedicate themselves in pursuit of their ideas and dreams that I find most captivating of all.   I admire that.

Additionally, I respect the way with which they admonish those that might otherwise try to derail them from there visions.  We teach our children to not worry about what others think of us, then we all grow up worrying about whether or not we are wearing the right clothes, living in the right neighborhoods, working in an admirable field with a fancy title, wearily going from one day to the next dancing a dance to please as many on lookers as we can.  We have become quite hypocritical like that.  Yet here, on these "extreme" shows, are folks that actually listened to the wisdom of their parents and more likely the voice inside them and took it to heart, choosing to find the joy within instead of seeking it through the approval of others and finding the best life lived is that of an authentic nature.

I relate to this notion of "walking to the beat of my own drum."  It can often be a difficult road to follow but, one I believe important for peace of mind and true joy, contentment and happiness.

Last night I was watching a program with my son and husband.  In it there was the stereotypical computer geek.  My son, Ethan, thought the guy was great and watched him with no relevance to the story line.  After a bit he announced, "I'm like that.  A mix between computer geek and not."  I laughed and agreed with his assessment, then I added, "Yep, and don't ever stop being who you are, no matter what anyone thinks." 

"Because there is only one Ethan in this world and there will never be another,"  came his response.  I couldn't have said it better.

But back to my obsession with these programs.

If you've been reading the posts in this blog then you've gotten a sense of where I stand on some issues, in particular finances and personal responsibility.  I figuratively pound my head at the foolishness that runs rampant in our society.  Fiscal irresponsibility and a welfare social state of mind which eradicates the passion and drive that is crucial for humans to thrive in a balanced life can completely and exponentially drive me into a heated tirade.  Enough with the excuses already people.

Take a look at the Discovery Channel program Alaska: The Last Frontier.  Anyone, and I mean anyone that knows me knows I would set up tent in the Sahara Desert before moving to the beautiful state of Alaska.  Yet, the way in which the Kilcher family for generations have built a homestead and learned to thrive off the land using their wits in that frozen tundra simply fascinates me.  And they are happy for goodness sakes!  How can someone get up in below zero temperatures, spend day after endless dark day hunting for food, fixing broken down machinery without proper tools and or replacement parts?  Everyday seems to me as one prison sentence after another; and yet, they are happy!

We have a continent full of folks who live in civilized communities where merely finding something to eat doesn't take weeks and months of planning, they have a moderate to comfortable home over their heads and things to entertain them from cell phones, to computers to gaming systems.  Additionally, more times than not people and businesses are within a walking or small driving distant for opportunity to work.  Still they drone on and on about how unfair life is and expect the "haves" to give them; the self-described "have-nots," some of that which the "haves" have earned.  I say we should send them all to Alaska to live with the Kilcher family for a year in the attempt they will return home grateful and thankful for what they have and hopefully with a new work ethic.

Or better yet, let's send them to live with the Hutterites at the American Colony, another isolated type of community were the day begins and ends with work, all geared toward a self sustained life.  Certainly it can be argued whether or not the Amish type living is a positive environment, but that is not of my concern.  For me it is more a matter of how efficiently each aspect of their communal life is executed.  For instance, there is a head cook, a head rancher, the money man (person in charge of finances for the community), someone responsible for the garden, etc.  I find it much like being in the military except they are pacifists.  So instead of training for war, they are training to survive on their own for generations to come.

Speaking of survival, Doomsday Preppers have worm holed a spot into my heart.  Can I just say, I get them.  How could I not.  I was raised with an X-Special Forces father, lived in rural Midwest and served in the Air Force myself.  I grew up shooting guns, fishing, hunting, skinning hides, gutting fish, gardening, camping, canning, dirt bike riding and on and on.  So, I get them.

Debate the validity of their reasons for prepping all you want, but in the end, they have a purpose in life, it gives them contentment and peace of mind.  They establish their plans, refining and executing with as much precision as their individual level of knowledge allows.  Again, I admire that.

Probably my most favorite of all the shows however is Extreme Cheapskates.  While some are quirky and others edgedy to the point their mental state of mind could be questioned, for the most part, I find them to be pretty normal individuals that just get IT.  Get what?  Get that they do not want to spend their every waking moment stressing about money or more specifically, the lack of.  That's right - they're also happy individuals!

I love how the Extreme Cheapskate folks make a game out of seeing how little they can spend and how much they can save.  I have found that to be the case with myself as well although not to their narrow level.  I'm a numbers person by nature, so calculating where I can save $10 here and there is fun for me.  When reducing your debt, saving money and becoming financially independent can be addressed from the point-of-view of a game instead of a begrudged lifestyle, it becomes quite fun I promise.  The best part of all, of course, is not the money in the end, it is the stress-free life it allows.  Remember, we only want money for the feeling we think having the money will give us.  Money in and of it's self is little more than a piece of paper, it is the residual effects of having money that we want most of all in our lives: freedom.  When you get this, as Extreme Cheapskates do,  then one can choose whether or not to go out and earn additional income on their terms.  It is an activity to be enjoyed instead of a make or break necessity.

Personally, I want to enjoy a higher level of comfort them the average person who appears on Extreme Cheapskates, however, the same financial principals of spending less and saving more still apply.  I recently read a great book called, "Money Secrets of the Amish" by Lorilee Craker.  In it the community lives by the motto: "Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do or Do Without."  Since reading this I reprinted it on a sheet of paper and taped to our refrigerator.  There is always room to learn.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Royal Announcement! JAAAG Resurrected From The Dead

Okay, maybe "royal" is pushing it a bit, but only a bit.  I mean, hey, if Kate can announce her baby bump, I can trumpet the rebirth of one of my babies of sorts.

So, your attention please....

"It is with much gratitude and excitement that I announce a resurrection like none you have seen since Indiana Jones entered the tomb of the Templar Knights and correctly selected the most convented secular goblet in all of history.  Without further ado, Bellas and Hotties, may I present to you Just An All American Girl 2.0!"

It has been almost three, YES three years since I put this baby to bed.  Since then much has change, happened and been lived and loved in my life.  I have so much more to share and explore with you.

Why bring the blog back and why now?  Truth be told I mourned the loss of Just An All American Girl like loosing the connection with an old friend.  In it's heyday it brought me great happiness, sharing my thoughts, joys, mishaps and triumphs with what turned out to be a group of followers who humbly could relate to some, and at times, even much of what I had to say.

Yet, as they say, life happened.  Days turned into weeks, then months and well, you know how that story goes.  Still, there in the dense fog of memories a light burned in my heart, fueled by passion, for the light tapping of computer keys, the spinning of words and the self banter of rambling wit.  I think I always knew somewhere deep inside I hadn't seen the last of my faithful blog; or at least I held a hint of hope locked away with a itsy-bitsy blinged out skeleton key that JAAAG hadn't fallen too far down the rabbit hole.

So why now?  The stars have aligned.  Seriously, I don't know any other way to say it than that.  The timing was right, but probably more influential were the thoughts roaring around in my head needing an outlet so as I could get a good nights sleep.  And here we are.

What, oh what can you expect from Just An All American Girl 2.0?  That, my friend, you will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Get Out of Debt - Part 9

If this is your first time reading the "Get Out Debt" Series and would like to catch all the drama from the beginning click here and start reading from the bottom up.

Welcome back to my weekly post where I air and even at times exploit my dirty-debt laundry. 

This week in doing my part to help all of you become debt-free, I thought I would pass along a few helpful tidbits ala Dave Ramsey .

First, this is something I want to get out right away because I don't know how long it will last.  Dave is giving away some FREE "Financial Peace University" training the week of April 5-12 in cities across the country.  This is something almost unheard of.  Again, not sure how long it will last so if you at all think you would like to take advantage of this amazing opportunity or want to pass it along to someone who would, follow this link for details and to sign up.

Next, I thought it would be fun to share with you all a couple of real-life success stories from Dave.  I know it helps me to read them when I think about the task ahead of us yet.

This first is about a single mom who paid off $30,274 in debt while making less than 40K a year.  Read about her triumphant story here.

This next one is an Indiana couple who paid off almost $800,000 in debt in seven years. Read about their inspiring story here.

I want to finish you off with a story from Cindy who went from $45,000 in credit card debt, unemployed for four months and way behind on most bills with only $12.00 to her name to not only out of debt (except for mortgage), but in six more years will be 100% debt -free, including mortage, and have a net worth of over One Million Dollars.  You'e got to read how she did it.

I hope you enjoyed todays "Get Out Of Debt" post.  It was meant to inspire and encourage you.  I hope I have accomplished both.

Have an amazing day - Jamie

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Webcam Sites for Your Kids (and you.)

Today I wanted to pass along some great webcam sites that are educational and just plain darn fun to watch.  Hope you enjoy!

This one my son (and my husband and I) has been obssessed with.   It is a live feed of a wild barn owl named Molly.  The owl box is located 15 feet off the ground. She has five eggs which are expected to hatch any day.  The male - McGee shows up sometimes at night with food.  We have been watching this one for days - very fascinating.

Here is a live Bald Eagles nest cam located on Two Harbors Bald Eagles Nest on Santa Catalina, California. Two eggs in nest.

This is a Red Tailed Hawk in Philadelphia, PA located at the Franklin Institute Building.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Doesn't My Son Look Good In a Bonnet?

Cute huh?

Okay, I'm kidding. 

But how in the heck did we ever get to this point?

Well, we did a homeschool day in Old Salem, North Carolina, which is about an hour and a half drive from our home here in Raleigh.

Old Salem is a unique community of original museum buildings from the late 1700's.

Salem was founded in 1766 by the Movarians, a Protestant faith founded in Czech Republic.

The Movarian Church and community kept meticulous records.  These records provided a detailed diary of the lives of those living and working in Salem.  Many of the building are original structures.

Salem was also know as a trades town.  When you visit  you will see costumed men and women recreating the trades people of the past such as bakers, crafters, silversmiths, gunsmith and others.

In 1950 a group of volunteers established Old Salem, Inc. as a way of preserving and restoring the town of Old Salem.

Today the historic site operates with more than 200 employees, four museums, 11 gardens, retail shops and book publishing. It can even rent out part of Old Salem for Weddings.  Way Cool.

We first arrived and went to the visitors center where you purchase your tickets for the day. 

 While tickets are not required to roam Historic Old Salem, they are required to get in many building and for any museum or tours.

Inside the visitor center is this original Movarian organ, the Tannenberg Organ, restored, I believe to the tune of a glorious $600K. Originally housed in the Home Movarian Church, it is America's largest eighteenth century organ.   It truely was beautiful to see, ufortunately this was as close as they would let us get.

After exiting the tourist center we crossed this reproduction bridge into the town of Old Salem.

Ethan made a few runs while waiting for us old folks.

Once across the bridge the first museum was the Old Salem Toy Museum and The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA).

The Toy Museum was amazing!  They wouldn't let me take pictures however, bummer.  Here are a couple of photos from the website to give you an idea of what it was like.

The Old Salem Toy Museum presents an amazing display of toys that span over seventeen hundred years.  From 225 A.D. to 1925, with more than 1200 American and European toys.

I personally really enjoyed this.

Next we headed into the Historic part of Old Salem.

The first building we went into was the Timothy Vogler Gunsmith Shop.

It was established in 1831.

Skilled tradesmen practices the trades of gunsmithing and blacksmithing in this shop.

Then we went into the back of his shop were he melted the metals to make certain pieces for the guns.

Hungry, we decided we better skip on over to the Salem Tavern for a meal before it closed at 2:00.

Established in 1816...

...The Salem Tavern Restaurant offers authentic Movarian food... for lunch and dinner most days.  I had the chicken pie.  Very, very delicious!

Afterward we went next door to the 1784 original Tavern in Old Salem were travelers used to stay when passing through or in town for business.

Before going in we had to first explore the barns, of course.

This is where the guest of the Salem Tavern would have parked their horses while in town.

Cool huh.

Then we took a guided tour of the Old Salem Tavern.

Established in 1784... was first built on the outskirts of town to minimize the influence of "outsiders" into the community.

Whether they liked the strangers coming into town and staying in the Tavern or not really didn't matter.  It was critical to Old Salem's business interests in particular to the craftsmen and merchants.

Think of the Old Salem Tavern like a modern day Bed and Breakfast although not so quaint.

Instead of paying by room you paid for "bed space."  So yes, the more they could cram in the better.  Prices also went up or down depending on how busy they were.  Men would bunk together but there were separate quarters for women and children.

This is a letter from their most famous visitor, PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON.  The larger parchment is a photocopy of the original letter sent to the Inn from President Washington.

There was something way cool, eerie and even oddly patriotic to know I was walking on the same wood floors, down the same corridors that President George Washington walked on.  Call me a sap but I got goose bumps.

Here is what the letter said, don't worry if you can't read it, scroll down for a close-up...

FYI - the Movarians used to refer to themselves and the area as Wachovia.

And that's what president George Washington had to say about it!

This is where the travelers would have dined while staying at the Tavern.

While they know for sure George Washington stayed here, they do not know which room he slept in.

While all the other beds are originals, this bed is a reproduction and therefore they allow visitors to lie down on it.  Just think, Ethan could be laying down in the same room George Washington slept in.  Can I say cool again?

This was the only private room that could be rented out. We've sure come along way haven't we.

Next we were guided down into the cellar...

...this was the Salting (for food only I hope) room...

...and what every good Tavern needs, lots and lots of vino.

The last leg of the Old Salem Tavern tour brought us to the kitchen.  This lady was so nice and informative.  I sure was digging the big fireplace, er stove,  but then I think living in the dessert is living the high life.

Check out that broom.  It's bad enough I even have to use one but you mean I have to make it first.

And ladies, welcome to your kitchen sink.  Could you imagine!  I am not ashamed to say here that this made me very thankful for modern conviences - except for that fireplace.  I want that fireplace!

Okay, enough hanging out at the tavern, time to move on to the Vogler House...

...established in 1819 it was the home to John and Christina Vogler and their children.  (The lady not in costume is my husbands Grandmother, Jeanette.  She was visitng from Iowa.) 

The house is where John Vogler had his silversmith shop here in the front room.

The house was restored to what it would have looked like in 1840.

This home is an example of some significant changes that were going on during the mid 1800's.

In such a safety conscious society as ours today, it is hard to imagine a wood stove right out there in the open in a child's room.

Not sure but guessing this is a nursery...

...and the Master Bedroom.

Next we were off to the Single Brothers House.  Here they explained just how they ran their Movarian society in Old Salem.  Wait till you hear this.

This very large house served as a home as well as a spirtiual center and workplace for the unmarried men of Salem.  As we go through this home together you will see a variety of trades the Single Brothers of Salem would have learned.

Boy was this an interesting explanation.  I'll try to make this short and sweet.  See this lady dressed in traditional Movarian costume?  On her head is a type of bonnet.  It is tied with a white ribbon which meant she was widowed and therefore had to go live in the Single Women's Home. 

You see, no one owned their homes here.  Guess who did own the homes?  That's right, the church, and everyone would rent their home from the church.  So if your husband died and he didn't set aside the money and make it know in writing that he wanted his wife to continue living in the home, then out she went off to live in the home with all the other widows and single women.

There were other colored ribbons as well.  One was for single, eligable women who had to live together as already explained above.

One was for young girls around fourteen and under and the other was for married women.

How's that for control of the population?

Many of the buildings had a tile heater like this one or something similar to it.  They were installed on site by the local artisian.  Isn't it beautiful.  The little built-in shelves would be used to put tea kettles or the such on.

This was one of the word working rooms where the Single Brothers would learn this craft...

...and here is where they learned pottery.  Ethan really enjoyed this one.

The brothers made their own shoes while learning the art of being a cobbler.  This is the room for that trade.  Notice a black tile furnace similar to the green one I showed you earlier.

Here is where they learned to tailor clothing.  Notice the pattern laid out on the table.

This is the other side of the room above.  Here you find the various dyed and spun yarns and threads.

And now we have where the Single Brothers learned the trade of silversmith.  This gentlemen showed how they made things out of tin like cookie cutters, food graters, etc.

Here is where he melted the metals for casting such things as silverware.

Which brings us to how my son ended up in a bonnet.  There are several shops throughout that offer an array of souvenirs as well as many authentic Movarian items handcrafted on site.

We only touched on a small portion of the buildings available to visit.  I think one could easily spend two full days here to see everything.

But for now our visit to Old Salem was up...

...we'll leave the rest to see for another day.

Things to know before you go:

You're going to walk a lot so make sure you wear comfy shoes.

Tickets are purchased at the Old Salem Visitor Center upon arrival.

They are closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, December 24 & 25 and on Mondays.

For more information on ticket discounts and special programming visit their website at

There was so much more to see than we were able to in the one day, things like:

An 1823 Log Church
The Graveyard
An 1861 Brick Church
Blum House - Home and shop to a Salem Printer
Shultz Shoe Shop
Market-fire Engine House
Any of the 11 gardens

Also, though not on the Old Salem tour, the Salem Academy and College represents the thirteenth oldest college in the U.S.  The house of the former Single Sisters' House (1786), it is currently part of a  four-year liberal arts college for women.

My recommendation is to visit Old Salem if you ever have the opportunity.  It truely is not only a part of North Carolina's history but early American History as well.