Wendy Stewart is a native of Baltimore and an adult convert to the Catholic Church. As a life coach and personal trainer, she works with families, children, and singles to bring together all aspects of their lives to be happy and healthy in body, mind and spirit. You can contact her for individual or group coaching at http://wendystewartwellness.com or nutritioncoachwendy@yahoo.com.


April 2015
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Wendy, I am also of the Roman Catholic religion, all 67 years of my life. I cry for my neighbors also. I do not live in the city, but after all, we are all neighbors. I truly cry for those living in the neighborhoods like yours who live and work and abide by the law, who, as reported many times are afraid in their neighborhoods because of the drug dealers and gangs that rule those neighborhood streets making all around them afraid and unsafe in their own neighborhoods. I remember the Baltimore family that reported what was happening in their neighborhood and in the act of trying to protect their family and others, their house was set on fire and all members of their family perished. I believe in helping those who are truly needy, but I also believe there are the same opportunites for all in those areas of the city as all citizens of the city. There are those who choose to take advantage of those opportunities e.g. attending school and getting an education or finding an honest way to support themselves. I see many help wanted signs, so there are jobs available. I blame the city leadership from the top down for city schools' downfall. There are those e.g. previous mayor Sheila Dixon who choose to spend taxpayer money on what is good for them and their political agenda. Yes, I cry along with you. You make me proud for what I have just read about you and your service to our country. Why is your example not followed? I think that you have a family who teach their values and respect for all to their children. That is what I feel is necessary to help neighborhoods to rise above what we are experiencing now. My prayers go out to everyone affected and I pray that God has a plan for His good to come from this. Thank you for allowing me to air my feelings. Praying for you and the good work you do.


I so hear Ya Wendy!! I, too, love and remember that song well. Always brings back great memories! Great blog today Wendy!



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The Healthy Spirit

What do we do now?

(Read Part One of this blog, "I cried for my neighbors.")

As I stayed home Wednesday, I finally had a chance to relax a little and not get caught up in TV media coverage. But questions still linger about the death of Freddie Gray and police accountability. While I can’t answer those questions. I can say there are many voices that need to be heard and many actions that need to be done.

First, I would like to say that I do hear everyone’s concerns. I have heard all sides, and while I don’t have to agree with everyone, I will continue to support the right to peaceful assembly. I will not supported sharing your “message” through violence. That’s how misunderstandings happen and messages get lost. Keep it simple if you want to draw attention to your cause, whatever it may be.

Secondly, many people who don’t live in the area are wondering what they can do to help. I have some ideas for you:

1.                 Keep the conversation going. 

When things are troubling we can talk about this rationally like adults and, hopefully, explain to our kids how to be heard, just like the students who marched from Penn Station today, without resorting to violence. Remember that it’s okay to take sides but be careful when you don’t have all of the facts. Reacting out of fear or anger never helps the situation.

2.                 Participate in a peaceful protest.

If you happen upon a group you agree with and they will be peacefully demonstrating, feel free to join in. Many times, these are are also family friendly and it reiterates what I mentioned in the first point. It’s amazing what people can do when they come together for a common cause.

3.                 Keep praying.

As I walked the neighborhood Tuesday, I said the rosary and the St. Michael prayer many times. That photo of me from the NY Daily News wasn’t for show. I grabbed one of the guys helping to keep the peace and told him what we were going to do. We happened to be joined but the man in the orange shirt. People were doing lots of talking and shouting but not enough praying. Whether you lead a group in prayer or just remember throughout the day. Prayer is a powerful weapon and we must deploy it often. It keeps us in touch with God and the needs of our fellow human beings.

Image via James Keivom | New York Daily News


4.                 Keep doing God’s work.

Serve the poor. Volunteer. Donate time or money. Remember, this is what the Church does and we will continue to do. Have you seen the viral photo of the little boy offering water to police officers? Sometimes it’s small actions like that which make a huge difference. Did you hear about the mother and her child (7 years old with cerebral palsy) who lost their home, and her son’s much needed wheelchair, when the neighboring store was set on fire? You can read that story here and visit their donation page http://www.wbaltv.com/news/fire-destroys-store-home-of-mother-disabled-son/32631276. Of course there are shop owners and employees who lost their only means of making a living. Be on the lookout for a spike in need at food pantries and other places serving the poor and marginalized. Be there to lend food and support. Help others find employment and help rebuild businesses around town. No one deserved what happened to them, even if it was a liquor store.

Thing of it all is that we have been so comfortable for so long, that the need for change has kind of exploded in our faces. We are, again, reminded that our livelihoods could be taken away at any time for any reason. We may find ourselves like the one mother, Tracy, whose place of employment for the last four years was looted and she no longer has means to support her three children.

What we decide to do here and now, no matter how you choose to help, will help us rebuild this city, our communities, and strengthen our faith. We must find a way to help each other, no matter where you live. We much continue to fight for the poor and marginalized. We must continue to find ways to uplift and enrich.

Oh, and if you happen to have skills in counseling or mental health, your skills are always needed for not only the kids, but for many who have lost hope. Seek out schools where the counselors might be overwhelmed.

Please leave comments on more ways to help. Especially creative ways that can be done with the family. While everyone may not appreciate the help and attention, I will be the first to say, “Thank you.”



April 30, 2015 09:27
By Wendy Stewart

I cried for my neighbors

Since it’s Wednesday, I’m sure you, dear readers, are well aware of why Baltimore City is in a State of Emergency. What you may not know, is that much of that violence was in my own neighborhood; on my own block.

Let me take you back to Monday afternoon.

A friend and I went to Mondawmin Mall to go to Target. As we came up from the subway station, I noticed an unusually heavy presence of MTA police officers and BPD officers (Baltimore Police Department). Many of the BPD officers I saw were usually stationed at the mall due to the high number of students who use the transit hub. But it didn’t really hit us until we went in the mall.

As soon as we stepped into the mall, we saw shop owners rushing to close down their kiosks and stores. Some stores had to wait for approval before closing as the mall had not officially shut down yet. I saw an employee friend and all he could tell me was that something was going to happen, though he did not know what, and everyone was trying to hurry and go home. When we walked out to Target, we could see that was indeed true as carts were used as barricades at the doors.

We were able to get through the mall to get back out and we went our separate ways. I took the bus home and thought maybe they were just overreacting to some perceived threat.

How wrong I was!

After about an hour or so of being home, my aunt and I turned on the news to see what most people saw, kids throwing cement, bricks, bottles and anything else they could find at the police officers. The officers held their line. I wondered if my cousin was up there as he is a school police officer and I prayed he would be safe. I watched as the police did their best to disperse the crowd and clear the Mondawmin area.

Then I saw the looting at the CVS at North and Pennsylvania. I go to that CVS. It’s the closest to me. There is a library right across the street and many busses stop at that intersection along with another metro stop. I wondered how long it would be before my mom and brother made it home safely from work and school.

I watched the store go up in flames and the angry mob, so bent on destruction, make their way down North Ave, getting closer to my street, looting and hurting people along the way.

Then I went outside and saw they were only half of a block up from me at the beauty supply store trying to break in. There were so many people and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I prayed the shop owners were gone so at least they would be safe, unlike the poor owner from just around the corner who had been dragged out and beaten before they looted his liquor store.

When the mob finally broke in to the store, the crowd cheered and the looting began. Those armed to break in made their way to my side of the street to break in to the Fireside North liquor store. We just call it the bar but it was more than that.

Cheers when they broke in but the shop owner was still there. They beat him and smashed the windows of his car. It was right when they started to beat him that I felt the need to go and help. I needed to get him to a safe place. My family begged me not to go up there because I couldn’t help. Anyone who has been in a helping profession knows how hard it is not to step in. I fought for my country. I spent time in the military protecting our rights and the rights of others but I am powerless against an angry mob of criminals and vandals? 

I broke down. I had to go inside my neighbor’s house and all I could do was cry. This was so wrong and feeling helpless was the worst. I already have PTSD and this was no help. So I call Father David Mott, OP, pastor of my parish, Saints Philip and James. God bless all the priests, especially those at my parish. He was able to help me get my head on straight and calm down to understand why my family was so adamant I do nothing. After a good talk, I pulled myself together and went back outside.

Crowds were still looting but it wasn’t the juveniles everyone thought was behind this. No, people who didn’t live in my community were driving in to loot and take what they thought they deserved. Some tried to sell it right after they stole it. I heard some younger neighbors (under 30) say the bar owner deserved what happened.

No one deserves that. Never.

Young and old, people came to get what they wanted. Parents brought their children with bags. People with canes and braced arms went in for things. Only a few people managed to call their relatives back from the madness. It went on for what seemed like an eternity. After two hours I could not believe there was anything left to take.

It was shortly after that the bar was set on fire and flames engulfed the building. One of my sisters called 911 to get the fire department. After the crowd cleared, because they started to head back to Mondawmin Mall, it took one ambulance, 5 engines, and one truck to finally put out the fire. For the protection of the fire department, an armored rescue vehicle from the state police stood watch over them. Even CNN was there. Then I heard it was set on fire again.

By 9:15 pm, we were all exhausted. Emotions ran high and I was still in shock and disbelief over what I witnessed with my own eyes. One of my Naval Academy classmates saw one video I posted on Facebook and accurately described it as a war zone - something I thought I would never see.

Sleep only came because I have medicine for that. But I know many who couldn’t sleep, likely out of fear of more violence and being caught unprepared and unable to respond.

They destroyed my neighborhood and my community for what? I’m still not sure but I’m certain whatever message they thought they delivered was lost in the violence. It usually is.

So, I wanted you all to read how things went down around where I live. I will post again on what I think should happen now and what I encountered the day after all of this destruction.

Photos from Tuesday can be seen on my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/28692914@N06/sets/72157651841311758/.

Comment below with your thoughts on what I witnessed and how that compared to what you saw of all of this on Monday. Thank you for reading!


April 29, 2015 02:21
By Wendy Stewart

TV during Holy Week

In case you hadn't noticed, this is the time of year when major networks air new and old documentaries and dramas related to the Bible and Jesus in any way shape or form. I think this year has the largest selection as we kicked off Palm Sunday with the dramatization of Bill O'Reilly's book, "Killing Jesus." To come as a two-part miniseries on CBS starting Tuesday is "Dove Keepers," while next Sunday will bring us "A.D." and "The Ten Commandments."

If you have cable or satellite, you'll notice an uptick in documentaries on both of the History channels, National Geographic, and the American Heroes Channel.

That's a lot of programming!

Now, I don't mind the rise in interest, but if you are going to sit and watch any of these shows, remember the program may not present Christianity or the Catholic Church in the best light (unless you see "Secret Access: Vatican because that one is good). Some of these programs exist to try and prove or disprove certain events in the Bible and nothing is off limits. Everything from the Resurrection, the Garden of Eden, Noah's Ark and if there is evidence of a flood, and the destruction of Soddam and Gomorrah.

While I'm a big fan of history and documentaries, I have a few rules I use while watching so I don't throw my TV out of the window:

1. When in doubt, look it up.

If an expert says something that doesn't jive with what I remember in the Bible, I simply pull out my Bible and look it up. Same goes for anything claimed historically. Even though all historically claims cannot be verified with a simple Internet search, it is best to get as far as you can and then consult a priest or church historian. If it's a big issue, someone may have already written about it. 

2. You decide.

I remember I'm the only one who needs to accept or reject what is in front of me. Knowing that means I don't have to get caught up in someone's theory or believe it all goes back to a particle in theoretical physics which has yet to be found. Time will test all theories but we are human so there will always be questions. Questions are good; just be ready pray to hear the truth.

3. Change the channel.

Sometimes there is too much misinformation or it is of such low quality that the best thing to do is to stop watching. No reason to torture yourself!

Enjoy Holy Week and drop a note in the comments if you have a favorite movie/miniseries you like to watch each year!

April 02, 2015 04:12
By Wendy Stewart

Why I do my own taxes

Each year millions of Americans have to make the decision to do their own taxes. It is not always an easy question to answer, but, I have been doing my own taxes since 1998 or so.

The factors I considered when deciding to prepare my own taxes were the complexity or simplicity of taxes that year and the cost of filing. When I first started, as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, there wasn’t much to consider. I had a W-2 and that was it. I always got a refund and could complete the forms in record time.

After leaving the navy I had new forms to deal with. Schedule C for my business, 1099s, statements from paying tuition, etc. But because more people were starting to e-file, tax prep software got better. Actually, I hardly ever bought the software and used the program online.

Last year, just like the year before, I was falling behind in filing my taxes. Usually I have everything done by mid February. But I had been letting it go until April 15th! That is just insane. So, last year, in an effort to simplify my life, I wanted try a tax prep place. I found that it was going to cost money I didn’t have and I was unlikely to a refund. So why spend the money? I did it myself. And $17.95 later, I neither owed money nor received a refund! I was happy! Mostly happy that it was over!

I know lots of people can be confused by the constantly changing tax laws, the different forms to file, and where to go for help. I have to admit that I am a little bit of a nerd when it comes to taxes. Not only that, but when I received my second bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, my accounting elective was on personal income taxes! Yes I did!

Whether your tax situation is complex because of business, real estate, job expenses, education costs, etc., you have to choose the situation that’s best for you: self preparation or using a tax expert or account. For me, I will stick with self preparation until my situation dictates otherwise. That’s my advice to you, but make sure you still know what’s going in with your money!



February 27, 2015 10:52
By Wendy Stewart

California Dreamin'

When I was in high school, I attended an all-girls' boarding school in Glencoe. Oldfields School is a small school but there's lots of cool things always going on. We did not shut down for weather very often and we did not get many of the holidays our public schoolmates received. To make up for that, we had a "free day" built into each quarter to give us a break. Sometimes the free day was was used when so many of us were sick we just needed a day to catch up. Other times it was used to buy travel time in inclement weather.

Oldfields School has a snowy setting Feb. 17.

Free days aside, there was another thing to contend with our psychological well-being: cold, dreary winter days. So what do a bunch of girls at a boarding school do to get out of the winter doldrums? We looked to our a Capella group, the Dubious Dozen, to provide relief through song. You know music makes everything better!

When it was time for a moral boost because the weather was so dreary, Dubious, as we were called (I was a member for one year), had one song to do in order to lift winter spirits: California Dreamin' by The Mamas and the Papas.

All the leaves are brown and the sky

I've been for a walk on a winter's day

I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA

California dreamin' on such a winter's day

Sounds lovely right? We thought so which why it became sort of a tradition.

This is the view from my front porch during the latest snowstorm. 

Although I don't own a copy of the song, I still remember the lyrics from my time in the Dubious Dozen. When the temperature started to drop and the snow kept rolling in, that was the first song that came to mind.

While we all wait patiently for warmer weather to return, share your favorite warm weather song in the comments below!


February 23, 2015 04:05
By Wendy Stewart

The Impact of the March for Life: Part 1

It's been a little over one week since I participated in my very first ever March for Life. I am not really one for crowds and the thought of being in the crowd rather than standing back to observe was a little scary. But, since I was traveling with a group from my parish, Saints Philip and James, and we would be meeting up with the Dominican friars, I figured I was in good hands. Plus, any excuse to take the train is good for me!

A group of people from Saints Philip and James Church in Baltimore, including Dominican Father John Paul Walker and Dominican Father Dominic Bump, attend the March for Life.

First, let me say that I had not walked so much in a long time. With my pedometer recording over 13,000 steps that day, my feet didn't ache at all. We hustled from Union Station to meet the other Dominicans and I was struck by all of the different groups making their way to the mall. I'm not sure what kinds of people I expected to see because I haven't been very active in pro-life causes (figuring I could leave that to someone else), but the sheer number of kids, students, and families blew my mind. I was overcome with joy and happiness to see people from all over the country take the time and expense to travel for such an important cause. How I wish I could have done that in high school and college!

Another refreshing sight to see were the number of habitat religious. Of course I saw many Dominicans, but men and women religious, Orthodox and Roman Catholic, of all stages of vows and formation (I believe I saw some postulants), all came to show their support for life. Many of these religious were the chaperones for those very same students I mentioned earlier. How inspiring!

Signs, good folks around me to walk and talk with, a common cause, hyped up college students and bands made the March one of the best I've ever done. But I hadn't realized the depth of pro-life until I finally made it home, and this is why I'm still in awe and still mentally digesting all that I've taken in since that day.

I forgot about the people on the other side of the issue. Not because they weren't important, but because I didn't see them until I watched the news. Now I know everyone isn't always peaceful when defending their passions, but I'm glad I didn't run into anyone who was very militant or angry. As I passed signs of support for life from Canadians, feminists, and rape survivors, it was clear to me I needed to absorb more and really walk my talk. In other words, I couldn't just casually mention this in my blog anymore and I know my views on life extend to all people regardless of wealth, status, or anything. But I also had to remember that fighting for life is also important when it comes to suicide in any form.

I certainly cannot hope to cover everything that has been going on in my head so I will leave part one of this series with a question for you: what is one thing you can do every day to support a culture of life?

I'll see you for Part 2: From Pro-Choice to Pro-Life.

February 01, 2015 10:09
By Wendy Stewart

Mary said "Yes!"

It's always incredible to me when I attend daily mass and hear a theme reinforced the following Sunday in other readings. It reminds me that Scripture is alive and well and can touch us deeply if we keep our hearts and minds open.

For the fourth Sunday of Advent, we were treated to the Gospel reading recounting the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary and her agreement to do God's will (Luke 1:26-38). What an incredible task for such a young woman. As Father John Paul Walker, OP, reminded us at daily mass, it was a task for a young woman only 13 or 14 years old. That's very important.

We often forget in the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas that our salvation, the birth of our Savior, was dependent on a teenager's willingness to be the handmaiden of the Lord. Of course, we can't think of her in today's teenage terms because the world is different and life spans are much longer. However, we can hardly imagine the weight of the world on our shoulders at such a young age. Would we have said yes? I bet we all like to think we would. Since Mary was already betrothed (engaged) to Joseph, which carried the same weight as a legal marriage, she must have been aware of the consequences of her agreement on her and Joseph.

Although we have no diary of Mary's innermost thoughts, we do have what is referred to as the Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat. If you pray the Divine Office, you know what I am referring to. But if you don't, I believe this is one of the most beautiful expressions of how confident we should be in saying yes to God. I'll write out the text below, but I leave you with this question on which to meditate: Is God calling you to something and you're afraid to say yes? If so, pray for the courage to follow God and all he has for you!

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour, for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.

He has shown mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever." Luke 1:46-55

December 24, 2014 12:00
By Wendy Stewart

Preparing for Ferguson

It seems odd that in Baltimore we should prepare and brace for the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, be we are. Officers from many jurisdictions in and around the city have put in overtime to act as a deterrent to those who would resort to violence if the decision isn't what certain people want to hear.

But the country has been here before. I wasn't alive for the rioting that occurred after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Notable rioting happened here, DC, Chicago, and Kansas City. Three years before that, rioting due to racial tensions lasted in Watts for six days.

Fast forward to 1991 and the country was shocked as video of the beating of Rodney King by LAPD officers after a traffic stop led to more racial unrest. When the jury acquitted the four officers the next year, there was more rioting in Los Angeles.
As we turn our focus to Ferguson, rioting due to injustice because of race or politics has, unfortunately, become the norm. That's unfortunate, and in the case of Dr. King, it's sadly ironic that such violence would follow the death of someone who stood for nonviolence.

How many of us thought there would be rioting if George Zimmerman was found "not guilty" in the Trayvon Martin case? Thankfully, that didn't happen. It was, however, within the realm of possibility. And now the country waits for another police-involved shooting tearing a city apart along racial lines.

In case you are not up to speed on the case in Ferguson, here's what you need to know: On August 9, 2014, 18 year old Michael Brown was shot and killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Witness accounts of the fateful encounter differ from Officer Wilson's statement claiming the unarmed teen attacked him. The Grand Jury (which decides if Officer Wilson will be indicted and on what charge) has been in session since August 20th. For more on the case, see this write up from Yahoo.com.

Why am I writing about this now? Because, like many of you, I am trying to understand how violence and destroying your own community will solve what is such a complex problem. There will always be people who try to capitalize on situations like this and turn it into something racial. Honestly, I don't know enough about the case to make that call. Most of us don't. I can only intelligently comment on the peoples' response to this incident.

Riots won't bring back Michael Brown. Violence won't solve whatever problems brewing in towns like Ferguson. In this case, violence would only show us the worst in people. Again, this doesn't solve the problem and only serves to keep people on edge and tensions high.

However we got to this place, I have to wonder if anyone really cares why these things happen. Who among protesters and activists is taking the time to find the facts and help make Ferguson better? How can the death of Michael Brown serve as an impetus for good and inspire change? That's where our energy should be - not worrying about our safety because of the foolish actions of a small percentage of people.

So, as we wait for a decision in Ferguson, let us pray for all involved and pray always for peace remembering the sanctity of all life, especially our enemies.

November 25, 2014 04:36
By Wendy Stewart

Are we slaves to consumerism?

As I roamed the aisles of my favorites stores over the last couple of weeks (good prices require research), I noticed something peculiar. In one store, though we were still almost two weeks from Halloween, something against the back wall caught my eye. No, it wasn't the fall harvest decorations I was hoping to see; rather it was shelves stocked with Christmas lights.


Wait, it's only mid-October! We don't even have a World Series champion yet and Christmas lights were already for sale!

It's part of a disturbing trend many of us have noticed over the past few years: holiday and special sales occur earlier and earlier each year. Don't believe me? Do you remember seeing school supplies for sale in your favorite big box store in July or clothing stores beginning to stock school uniforms?

When I saw those displays I got a little sad. I love school and school supplies (yes, I'm that kind of nerd), but many kids had only been on summer break for less than one month before parents, teachers, and care givers had to start worrying about the next school year. And because we want to stick up and get the best deals possible, we go along with the sales when they occur. But is that the best thing to do? If we continue buying in this particular economic pattern, does that encourage retailers to push merchandise on us whenever they please?

I fear the answer might be yes.

For example, take Starbucks. Right around Labor Day, Starbucks told us it was fall by introducing classic fall drinks and flavors, along with new drink ware to match. One problem, it was still technically summer. We were reminded of that by some pretty warm days that month. Shortly after reading this, if you haven't already, you'll see the winter holiday drinks and signature red Christmas hot cups at Starbucks. Yes, Starbucks does dictate our seasons.

Now don't get me wrong, I love it when Peppermint Mocha espresso is back on the menu, but I felt a little guilty drinking it when it was only the end of October.

Soon, in Target and other stores, Halloween items will be offered at a steep discount, there will be a few things around for Thanksgiving, but the emphasis and space will be devoted to Christmas and Hanukkah. And, as we all know, that retail train doesn't stop until after the new year when we will be encouraged to shop for the next major retail holiday: Valentine's Day.

So what does all this mean? Have we become consumer zombies and victims of our own desires to beat the competition and get the best deals? Maybe, but it doesn't have to be that way. I have a couple of ideas to keep the consumer monster at bay:

1.         Stock up on holiday décor and other items that can be safely stored until the next year. The best time to do that is right after that particular holiday when prices are at there lowest and on clearance.

2.         Make a decision about when you and your family will start to purchase holiday items.

The retailers can't tell you when and how to spend your money. Get wise and plan for each holiday so you are not compelled by sales or last minute purchases because you failed to plan. After all, these same holidays occur every year, so there is no surprise!

3.         Keep track of sales cycles.

Though this may sound harder than it is, it's really simple to keep track of when things you might need will go on sale. Need fitness gear? January and February are great for buying new items as people are still fresh on their resolutions. The beginning and end of seasons are good for clothing, accessories, and shoes. If you're a little nerdy like me, keep a spreadsheet of the items you're saving for and note each week your favorite store has it on sale. That's what I'm doing while I save up for a new computer and iPad (Target gift card with purchase). If that's too much work or you just don't have time, check out the ladies who run the site http://thekrazycouponlady.com. They have articles and videos to help you know what goes on sale each month of the year. It's been a huge help to me!

4.         All great deals don't happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While it's nice to take advantage of offers on those days, most of the better deals come in the categories of electronics, gaming, etc. Kudos to you if you want to brave those crowds, just remember to take time and celebrate Thanksgiving with your family first. Also, if you've been paying attention to sale cycles, you may notice some Black Friday prices aren't the lowest of the year. I know it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, but cooler heads will prevail in this case. Another good way to do this is to purchase gifts as the year goes on!

5.         Remember the small businesses.

All businesses had to start somewhere and your community stores are a great way to break free from some consumer madness – especially going into the winter holiday season. Reinvesting money into your community is why Small Business Saturday exists the day after Black Friday. Take some time to shop in your neighborhood, meet your neighbors and build communities. Charm City Run is always one of my favorites!

Those are my best five tips for helping you break the chains of consumerism and send a message to companies that you value time in your community and with your family and no sale or early display of merchandise is going to change that. That's how we affect change – one day and one person at a time!

Leave a comment and share how you will break the bonds of consumer slavery and take back the holiday season!

November 03, 2014 03:39
By Wendy Stewart

To myself on my 35th birthday

Depending on when you read this, my 35th birthday may have already come and gone, but the lessons still remain year after year.

Turning 35 isn't really a milestone birthday, in my opinion, but it's a good number to take time and reflect on what I have done thus far and if I am where I thought I would be. The problem is, other than living the life of a religious, I really didn't know or plan what I would be doing at 35.

If you know me now, you'd be surprised because I plan everything and love making lists and learning how to make and achieve my goals. So why didn't I ever give thought to what I would be doing right now, as I embark on my 35th year of life?

I think, like most people, we let ages like that sneak up on us. This was especially true when I was in college at the Naval Academy. When I graduated at 21, I had no idea what I was going to do 14 years later! Now let me be clear: I have enjoyed everything I have done and relished in the fact that all of these experiences have contributed to the person I am today. So what am I really lacking? Just the conventional answer to what I'm going to do when I grow up!

Even in the last 10 years since leaving the military I have done so much it could make your head spin. But in all that time, I have learned so much about myself, how to interact better with other people, and how to really embrace the quirky person God created me to be, that I can't say there have been too many wasted moments.

I get to be with my family, write this blog, and have fantastic adventures and experiences. I get to spend more time in prayer and adoration as I learn how to heal my body and mind from my military disabilities. I get to be a resource for people when I have the blessing of being able to use my skills and gifts to help others.

While I am at the point where I can no longer hold a traditional job, I remember that "freedom" gives me a chance to be around for other people and help in a way I couldn't before. Perhaps it's not official, but I feel like I am starting to live the life of a religious!

I have learned to accept that people may not be able to give me what I think I need, but, as I grow closer to God, I am able to find more and more peace in meeting people where they are and seeing them as God does. Sure there are more earthly things I wish for, but I know those have to be put in the proper perspective with my highest priorities.

While I am not where I thought I would be at age 35, I believe I'm in a much better place. I look forward to what is to come and how I can give all of me in the service of God for my fellow human beings (that's about as sappy as I get).

And for everyone who reads these words, I hope and pray that you will live your life according to your highest priorities, for it is only there you will find fulfillment and contentment. It won't always be easy, but it will be worth it!



October 24, 2014 05:02
By Wendy Stewart

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