Category Archives: About

Life is about taking risks and finding the hidden reward

megs beach135It started out as a quiet Friday, just like any other before a holiday weekend. We chatted about our Easter plans hundreds of miles apart. Megs in CT home for Easter break and me in South Bend, Indiana, trying to make it in my first TV job post college. My weekend was a little less exciting. Just a soccer game, followed by a sleepless night that I passed up to too much Gatorade. Megs was home on Easter break, ready to enjoy life with friends after a week studying for exams and interviewing for teaching jobs with graduation just a few weeks away.

MegsIn a flash, it all didn’t matter. Megs was gone, and my sleepless night made sense. When the phone rang in the middle of the night to alert me to the accident, I picked it up on the second ring already wide awake for some unknown reason. After all, it wasn’t too much Gatorade. It was that sick sense shared between sisters that something terribly was wrong. Megs wasn’t coming for another visit. The woman I knew was gone forever, remembered only in my heart.

Instantly I thought back to our visit two weeks prior in Syracuse, the surprise Christmas trip, and previous summer vacation. Three occasions where we put each other first and visited each other spending quality time. We both had no money, but put our sisterly bond first and saved up to make our trips possible.

MegsMegs drove through an ice storm to come to Syracuse to hang with my friends, which with Megs meant “our” friends. Being so close in age, we shared and got along with each other’s friends. My college friends embraced Megs when she visited her big — actually little in stature — sister. I’m reminded of that last trip in horrible winter weather every March. Megs came to Syracuse to watch the ‘Cuse advance to the Final Four. She didn’t care about my team, just sister time. Every March Madness I am now reminded of that amazing risk she took driving through terrible weather. The memories are the best reward. That was the last time I saw Megs alive. She was killed two weeks later.

skydivingThe previous summer we took a leap of faith and jumped out of an airplane in an awesome girls weekend. Something I will forever cherish.

It’s been 11 years, and this weekend is exactly as it was then. Good Friday followed by the day of shock and then Easter on Sunday. A day that will forever be marred by the memory of picking out caskets. Not exactly what I thought I would be doing for my 21 year old sister. Easter will never be the same for me.

It’s been a long, challenging road full of twists and turns. It took many years to collect myself, contain my anger over the injustice of what happened, and open my heart so I could love again. I lost the closest thing to me — the person who could answer my sentences — and knew me inside out. The years of legal maneuvers leading up to the trial, then an early release, and request to end  probation early weighed heavily on me. Just when I thought I was doing better, there was a new and unexpected legal fight. I found it hard to heal constantly dealing with the court system, but I vowed to never stop fighting for Megs. None of it really mattered. Nothing would return what I lost, but I committed myself to standing up for my sister. Finally, about seven years after Megs was killed I was able to begin the healing process.

Wedding sunset with heartI had to find my new normal. My husband helped me find that. He taught me how to love again. Not only love another person but love life again. I continued to pursue my career, and dragged him along the way.  Having been through his own significant loss, we both know what life is really about. If anything, we have gained new perspective on life from our losses.

In the TV business, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers especially the size of a market. Last year, I faced a turning point. Move to a city because it was simply a bigger market or move to a city that offered a better lifestyle. We took a risk, and packed up our belongings and moved to Florida.

There were many critics along the way who told me I was making a huge mistake. I ignored them. You get used to ignoring critics after you’ve lost someone so close and so suddenly.  Throughout the last eleven years, plenty of people have told me how I should be grieving and handling the stress and emotion that accompanied my loss in. Plenty of people also told me why I lost my sister even though there is no reason. It was bad luck and bad timing. Megs was on the wrong road at the wrong time. I once again ignored the critics, and listened to my heart and the guidance of my closest friends who have stood by me for eleven tough years.

imageAs my windshield wipers dried up the last of the raindrops on my windshield, a rainbow appeared in the road in as I drove the last few miles in Ohio. I had hundreds of more miles to drive to Florida, but that rainbow was a sign to me that I knew I was making the right choice. Sunshine awaited to wipe away all the tears and agony of the last eleven years.

Fast forward a year, I am living in a city and state I should have moved to years ago. It is not about the size of a city, but the circumstance. I am working at a TV station that is the dominant leader in the market and state, and exposing stories and issues that haven’t been exposed for years in this community. I feel I am making a difference in a place I am happy to finally call home.

megs beach139The beach. The sun. The warmth. What is not to love?

A place that reminds me of Megs. She went to school on the beach, and loved all it had to offer.

Losing Megs was the worst thing in my life. It turned my life upside down. That being said, I learned the true value of life. I am the first to admit my life probably would not be what it is today if she were still here. I probably would have chased an elusive dream rather than focusing on my husband and the personal things in life that fulfill us.

jenn and meg

Life takes unexpected twists and turns. I never expected the dark path I would have to walk. Luckily, Megs left a few angels to walk that path with me. In honor of Megs, live each day to the fullest and take risks. They lead to the greatest rewards.

imageThanks to all my friends who guided and pushed me along the last 11 years. Some of you never knew Megs, and those of you who did still stick by me knowing the scar sometimes still bleeds often at the most unexpected times. Thanks to all who still remember a young woman who touched so many of us in her short time.

imageMy friends have given me so much. You allowed me to walk this painful journey and guided me as I took a big risk. Now I want to give back to you. Come visit me in Paradise. A place where I feel closest to the sister I love no matter how long ago I lost her.

 

 

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Shining a light on ripoffs in the sunshine state

west palm beachIt’s been a busy few months. My husband and I recently hit the road driving from Ohio to Florida, where we are making our new home. Instead of blogging about consumer tips, I’ve been putting them to use getting our car ready for the 1200 mile road trip and hiring a moving company to help us unload our belongings. Over the next few weeks, you’ll notice a few consumer thoughts and tidbits that popped in my mind during the 18 hour drive. After all, this blog is about my life as a consumer with the insight of a reporter who has been covering these issues for 13 years.

headshot 2I am excited to be in South Florida, the epicenter of many consumer issues. Many of the biggest national ripoffs I’ve covered as a reporter, originated in Florida. I’m glad to be here to expose some of these schemes and to help South Florida consumers.

I’ve already picked up on how rampant the fraud is here. The good news — there are many arrests for it. In some states, consumer fraud is rarely investigated or prosecuted. That’s not the case here. There are also many agencies trying to educate consumers to prevent them from becoming a victim. Despite all the efforts to curb the fraud, it’s still prevalent and a threat to consumers. That’s why NewsChannel 5 is is launching the Contact 5 Consumer Watchdog.

helping in floridaI’m already working with many South Florida and Treasure Coast residents. In a way, I feel like I’m back home in the Northeast. Every day I speak with someone from New York. I’ve even met many people from my home state of Connecticut. We’re already getting action for people, and I look forward to helping even more people.

You can find me on Florida’s #1 station, WPTV. My Contact 5 Consumer Watchdog reports will start in August. Until then, stay connected on Facebook and Twitter. Let me know if you have a consumer issue, or think I should look into a new trend or ripoff. I look forward to working with you, and warning you of ripoffs.

10 years ago today…my life changed — why I don’t let money get in the way of life

oklahoma city

Oklahoma City Memorial

There’s been a lot of talk this week about all the American tragedies that occurred in the month of April. Events like Columbine, Oklahoma City bombing, and Virginia Tech shooting come to mind. We all remember where we were at that moment in history when we heard the news of destruction and lives lost. Now, we’ll add the Boston Marathon to the list.

During moments of national tragedy, we all pause aghast at the images we witness on television. We then grieve. Finally, we unite and rally for the victims. These events paralyze us for a few days. Newtown perhaps paralyzed America for a few weeks because so many children were lost in a senseless crime.

When I witness a tragedy like this, I am lost for words. The tears flow freely when I hear the families of victims speaking about their unthinkable loss. Their grief is often raw and palpable as they try to speak through heavy breaths. Their thoughts often rambling. It’s a moment I know all too well.

megs pixEvery tragedy makes me relive my own personal tragedy. It’s hard to believe it was ten years ago today that a senseless crime took my sister. I know how those families who lost loved ones in Boston and Newtown feel. I felt it too.

In the early morning hours, I was learning the details of what happened from my friends back in Connecticut who were watching the news. Ten years ago, there wasn’t Facebook or Twitter. News didn’t spread like it does today. When I arrived home, and pulled up to the accident site I saw a news photographer. The accident wasn’t on the scope of these national tragedies, but the accident impacted several families and the emotion rippled through two very small communities.

Unlike these national tragedies, the headlines didn’t last long. They came and went over the years as the trial ensued, but people went on with their lives in a few days. It may be hard to believe now, but soon we’ll move on from Boston. That’s the hardest part about losing someone. The families who lost loved ones will never move on. Their journey is just beginning.

megs coverMy journey through grief is ten years old today. I’ve been through a lot, and worked hard to get to this point emotionally. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Megs and all I’ve lost. The pain is too difficult to bear some days. The hole in my heart is still there. The wound has scabbed over, but some days it still bleeds. I have good days and bad days. I had many bad days after the Newtown shooting because of the senseless nature of the crime, the innocence of those children, and the bravery of those teachers. I thought of my sister who was just like those young teachers killed. She was a month away from being a teacher, and was busy interviewing for jobs in April of 2003. Then, it was all taken from her.

Salve Regina University held a memorial service soon after the accident. It was hard to walk back on campus, after cleaning out her dorm room.  She was a typical college student going about her life preparing for exams and job interviews. It was hard to see that room frozen in time knowing Megs would never return. Going back to Salve wasn’t easy until I met her students. Megs was student teaching at the time, and it was her students who taught me how to laugh again. They told funny stories about activities they did with Megs, and how they loved her hair. I’ll never forget those brave second graders standing up in front of a room full of college seniors and adults. 

megs college tennis134Those students are now graduating high school. They still remember Megs, and that means so much to my family. A few recently attended the tennis tournament held every year in honor of my sister. It’s hard to believe those little kids are graduating. For them to take time out of their busy lives to remember and honor their student teacher is more meaningful than words could ever explain. My sister didn’t get long to teach in a classroom, but it’s apparent she touched many lives in her short time.

Life is short. We need to make the most of each and every day because we never know when it will be our last. That’s hard to do with all the craziness that life throws us, but you need to find a way to do it.

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

I’ve been living life to the fullest this past year. I got married in August. It was a day I dreaded since my sister was killed. How could I get married without her? I posed that question to myself many times. I did it, and I had the best person I could think of by my side walking me down the aisle. My sister’s boyfriend walked me down the aisle. He’s become a brother to me.

If only Megs’ knew how much Kevin and his family are a part of our family. I know she’s watching and cracking up at it. She pushed me from the beginning of their relationship to get to know Kevin. When she was in South Bend, she had me talk to him on the phone. When I came home to CT, she made sure we all went out together. I remember her saying to me afterward, “Isn’t he great?” He is great Megs and he’s a gift from you.

Hot air balloon ride, Queenstown, New Zealand

Hot air balloon ride, Queenstown, New Zealand

As if getting married wasn’t enough, my husband and I decided to take a trip to New Zealand. We wanted to take a second trip of a lifetime. It was exhilirating, breathtaking, and enjoyable. We did things we’ve always wanted to do. My sister and I used to chase hot air balloons with our family during festivals. So, we took a hot air balloon ride. It truly was a trip we’ll always cherish.

mickey mouse jenn megs089Why did we do this? New Zealand was definitely a bucket list trip. We did it because we believe you have to live life to the fullest. You can’t let money get in the way of life. For those of you who follow my blog, you’ve heard me say that the past few years. Growing up, we let money get in the way of life. One of my fondest memories is taking a trip to Disney World when I was in second grade.  Megs and I had a blast. I still vividly remember details of that vacation as if it were yesterday.

In college, I went to London to study for a semester and there was a lot of discussion about my mom and sister coming to visit. It didn’t happen because of money. My parents put four children through private school so I don’t fault them one bit. They had tough choices to make. I can tell you, though, that decision to not come to London was a lost memory and one I know we all wish we had.

I’m not suggesting you go spend money in a foolish fashion. After all, I spend the entire year helping you save money. This is the one time of the year I’ll remind you to take that savings you’ve created and use it for a good cause. If you’re smart with your money throughout the year, you might have a little extra. Do something with it that will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Plan something or do something spontaneous. Just a few weeks ago, I took spontaneity to a whole new level. The last time I saw my sister alive was during the semifinal game of the NCAA Tournament when Syracuse beat Texas to go on to the Championship Game. My sister drove from Newport to Syracuse in an ice storm to meet up with my friends and I. Megs was loved by all my college friends, and she loved to visit. When she was still in high school, she’d write me letters begging me to come up to visit. I found those in a box recently and they brought a smile to my face. So, she was determined to visit for the Final Four. I’m so glad she did because she was killed two weeks later.

This year, ten years later, when Syracuse was once again made it to the Final Four I knew I had to go. Plus, it was in Atlanta which is the new home of Kevin. There was simply too much symbolism to pass up the trip. For a day or so, I regretted booking the trip because I worried about money. Then I remembered why I was making the trip. It was another bucket list item. My husband told me to stop worrying about money, and I went to Atlanta and had a great time! I got lucky and found some great deals so it wasn’t even that big of an expense. My team didn’t win, but I won in the game of life!

megs and jennI’ve been creating lots of memories with my husband this year. I couldn’t think of a more perfect year. Perhaps that’s the good that’s come out of such a horrible situation. What memories are you going to create for your family this year? Do something in honor of Megs!

Related links you may like:
Don’t let money get in the way of life part 1
Don’t let money get in the way of life part 2

Social media “sharing” out of control – now you can share voicemails

Courtesy: Sprint

How much information are we going to share with the world? It seems every product or service has a way to share it on social media. Now, add voicemail to that long list. In my opinion, that’s going a bit too far.

My cell phone’s voicemail prompted me to upgrade recently, and the new feature is sharing voicemails. I couldn’t believe it. How far is this “sharing” business going to go? Can I have any privacy anymore? I’m losing control over all my information because now others are in control of it and how it’s disseminated.

Not only is voicemail sharing a bit intrusive for me, it’s almost a violation of sorts. As a journalist, I know voicemails are touchy subjects and make station lawyers cringe.  I know some journalists (not me) who have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for using voicemails in broadcast stories without permission. You also can’t use a recorded phone conversation unless you’ve received permission. These rules exist for broadcasting over the airwaves on TV, but what about broadcasting on social media?

Once again, the Internet is like the Wild Wild West. Pretty much anything goes. The regulations are so far behind what’s happening on the Internet. We have very little privacy and control of our information. You’re tracked online for advertising purposes and marketing efforts. That’s why you’ll see a shoe ad on your browser for weeks after searching for shoes. There are things you can do to prevent this tracking, and the Federal Trade Commission is trying to come up with standards for information that’s collected online but the rules are so far behind technology.

We are taking this “sharing” a bit too far. Luckily, I haven’t seen too many people sharing voicemails on social media yet. Is it a phone’s way of staying relevant since soon we probably won’t even leave voicemails or make phone calls in the future? I don’t know, but I do know I won’t be sharing voicemails and I hope one I leave for someone isn’t shared without my permission until I hear on your voicemail  “Hi this is Susy. I can’t get to the phone right now. If you leave a message, I’ll get back to you or I may just post it on social media.” BEEP! That way I can just hang up.

Don’t let money get in the way of life – part two

This weekend my Inbox started filling up with emails from people I never met. They were emails I wasn’t expecting. Memories I wasn’t expecting to hear. Moments they felt compelled to share about a woman we all lost nine years ago today.

One person said she still remembers “that call.” I remember it too. The one that stopped my heartbeat. The one that changed the beat of my life forever.

It’s a day I dread every year. The weeks leading up are painful. The weeks following too. The NCAA tournament brings back memories of the last day I saw Megs alive. We were celebrating Syracuse’s march to the Final Four. Good Friday is the last day we spoke. April 19th is the day she was killed. Easter is the day I picked out caskets. Oh, by the way May is no breeze. Graduation brings up the memory of walking across the stage to pick up her diploma. The one she worked so hard for, but never would hold. Then, there’s her birthday and Mother’s Day. A lot of days of sadness packed into a one month span.

For nine years, I’ve tried to move on. Last year, I finally composed my thoughts on life and publicly shared them. I almost didn’t post that article, afraid to share such raw and personal emotion with such a public audience. The simple title — “Don’t let money get in the way of life” resonated with so many. A year later, that post is still being shared among the masses. I still have no idea how many of Megs’ college friends found that article last weekend, but I’m so honored the message and the memory of my sister is still being shared and still living so strong.

Who knew a day I dreaded could bring such joy?
I never expected this year would be the one that brought such comfort. After all it’s been nine years. So much time has passed, I thought most people forgot. I’m overwhelmed by people who still remember, honor, and miss Megs.

Plus, I didn’t expect April 19, 2012 would be the easiest of anniversaries because I’m getting married this August. It’s a day I thought about in those early days after our loss. Back then, I didn’t know if I could love someone so much again. How could I ever walk down the aisle without my best friend and maid of honor there? It’s taken nine years and an amazing man to find a way to do that.   It’s moving that this year, the year I’ve dreaded, I’ve had so many people unexpectedly offer such support.

A few days after the unexpected and comforting words from my sister’s college friends, one of my college friend’s husband posted something on his Facebook page. “You have a lifetime to payoff debt, but only a number of years your kids want to hang out with you….. Book a family vacation and enjoy the time with them.” He has two kids, and obviously had a moment that made him compelled to post that. Little did he know the timing of that post coincided with the anniversary of losing Megs.

Both events made me realize I need to make it a yearly habit to remind people that money should not get in the way of life. It’s hard to do during such tough economic times. I’ve seen friends deal with sudden job loss. I know how difficult it is. No matter your financial state, you can still find time to make memories.

Our lives are so hectic, and sometimes we get so caught up we really lose sense of reality. The reality is — life is short and as much as you think you control it — you don’t. At any time, it can change.

You don’t know what’s around the next corner
It was the last thing on Megs’ mind. When I walked into her dorm room, I remember staring at her appointment book full of notes about job interviews and exams. It was a chaotic scene – – clothes and books thrown about. Sticky notes covered her desk with tasks that needed completing before graduation. In a heartbeat, that life no longer mattered because Megs’ would never return.

All I have to hold onto, are those memories we created for 21 years together. I’m so glad we spent the money and went skydiving the year before she died, or that I went home that Christmas never knowing it would be the last. There are so many other things I wished we’d done, but we let money get in the way.

When you grow up with four siblings, money is tight. We didn’t take many family vacations. We took mostly day trips. The only exception was in second grade when we traveled to Orlando to see Disney. I’ll never forget it. All these years later, the memories are fresh. It’s a trip that probably broke the bank, but I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about money during that trip. They probably saved up for years, but it’s a memory we’ll always remember.

There’s one memory I don’t have, because my family let money get in the way. My junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. I saved up for years. My mom had dreams of taking my sister overseas during April vacation to visit me. The trip never happened. My family simply didn’t have the money. At the time, my brother was also in college so I understood the hardship. All my other friend’s parents came over to visit, but not mine. It was a missed opportunity and my family knew it. Now that Megs is gone, it’s more than a missed opportunity. It’s a missed memory. To this day my mom talks about the regret over that financial decision. We can only imagine the memories the three of us would have created that week. The only memory we have — not having enough money to take that trip.

That trip was probably possible. At the time, we couldn’t justify the cost given the other expenses facing our family. I think we all realize now we should have made it a bigger priority and made other sacrifices to make it happen. Losing Megs made us realize that instead of thinking a trip is financially impossible, we need to focus on ways to make it possible. We should not have let money get in the way of a once in a lifetime moment. A trip like that simply can’t be duplicated.

In honor of Megs and the other young man who lost his life, don’t let money get in the way of your life. It doesn’t mean you should spend lavishly or spend your way into debt, but take those trips that are once in a lifetime. You’ll be able to do that if you find ways to save in your daily life even if it’s $5 here or $10 there. It adds up, and then you can use your savings to take a once in a lifetime trip.

Create a bucket list and chip away at it each year. Skydiving was on both our lists, and I’m so glad we did it. It’s a memory we wouldn’t have if we dwelled on the $150 price tag. Instead, we splurged and took a leap of faith. Now, I’ll have that memory forever.

While an African Safari is on my bucket list, the next one I’m crossing off is a beautiful wedding on the beach followed by an amazing honeymoon. We’re making memories that day on a budget, but we’re splurging for things here and there that we know will be memorable for us and our guests forever. Thank you to everyone whose reached out to me over the years to help make this year a year I’ll treasure rather than dread. I look forward to the day I start the next chapter in my life and begin to make memories with my husband and hopefully family to be.

This year how are you going to make sure money doesn’t get in the way of life?

Bracket and wallet busting basketball madness

Is your bracket busted? Only 16 teams remain, and if your team is still in the hunt you may be on the hunt for tickets. If your school is like my alma mater, you need to be a big donor to get tickets or a student ticket holder. That leaves the majority of fans to buy tickets through other venues or simply at the venue on the day of the event. However, beware as ticket scams flourish during big events like this.

Think it can’t happen to you ? That’s what my college roommate thought during a trip to the Big East Tournament in New York. They bought tickets off the street, only to find they didn’t quite scan at they walked into Madison Square Garden. Fraudulent. Imagine how you’d feel having just spent $200. It’s easy to get duped.

When you buy a counterfeit product, you’re often supporting illegitimate activity that may stem much deeper than just ticket fraud. It’s not just tickets, but team jerseys and hats as well.

The Better Business Bureau warns that buying online doesn’t add any extra protection than paying cash on the street. The BBB says many websites simply want your personal information and card number so they can steal your identity or drain your bank account.

That’s why I always advise people against using a debit card online. If a crook gets your information, the money is instantly gone. At least with a credit card, you won’t feel the financial pinch immediately. It’s easier to get a refund than your money back.

Even though there are built-in protections with credit cards, be careful which websites you use. You don’t want a thief to know where you live or your card information. Often having one piece of personal information enables them to find and steal others.

When you’re buying tickets, go through legitimate companies that guarantee the authenticity of the tickets.  First, check the NCAA Ticket Site. You might just get lucky. There are also many legitimate resale websites like StubHub that offer guarantees if a ticket is fake. You might pay more, but it’s the best way to avoid disappointment before your team even hits the court.

Where were you on 9/11?

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

Image via Wikipedia

It was a hot, late summer day. I was at work early that morning, focused on an investigation into a family that had to leave their home because of dangerous mold. I was headed to Michigan to interview the insurance company. As I gathered my papers, and waited for my photographer I heard a gasp from behind my back as the morning crew hovered around the televisions against the back wall. Suddenly, what I was doing no longer mattered.

The images silenced the newsroom. We all stood horrified watching the World Trade Center go up in smoke. None of us knew what to expect. Before we could comprehend what was happening, a second plane hit the towers. That’s when we knew we were under attack.

Our news instinct kicked in. We realized we needed to find people and document where they were and what they were doing. I remember walking into an electronics store and watching people standing in front of the rows of televisions watching in horror as the events were replayed over and over on television.

For many hours that morning, we had no idea who was behind the attack or if it was over. Americans tried frantically to reach members of their family whether they lived in Washington, D.C. or Washington state.

My brother worked in an adjacent building to the World Trade Center, and had a meeting inside the WTC every morning at the time the planes hit the building.  We tried for hours to get a hold of him. Most of the phone lines on the East Coast were jammed, and you couldn’t get through. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 that afternoon that we finally heard he was safe. He was on his way back into the city from a meeting in Philadelphia. In the next few days we heard a million stories like this one of people who were supposed to be in the WTC at the time of the attack but were delayed or changed their plans that day.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. Then, you see the children of 9/11. The ones who were not born and will never know their father, and the ones who were just infants and wish they had a memory of their mother or father. Now, they are all grown up.

Then, I think of how long it has been for me. I remember talking with my sister that night about the horror of that day. Then she called me when we invaded Iraq. Then, she was killed. The pain is still raw, and the grief still tears a hole deep in my soul. Events like 9/11 rehash that sadness.

The stories of heroism and loss still choke me up. I’m fixated by the coverage. Perhaps it’s because I tragically lost a loved one far too soon in a horrible accident, and knowing my pain I can only imagine the pain of these children who never knew their dad because they were in their mom’s womb at the time. Or the parents who have to somehow go on for their children despite losing their partner. At least I knew my sister, and we had 21 great years together.

Usually my focus is on money. What a doozy of a decade it’s been for any one of our financial futures. Instead of focusing on what’s changed and the financial mess we’ve been experiencing, today I’ll focus on what matters most. Instead of the numbers as they relate to dollars and cents, I’ll focus on the number of lives touched by this horrible day in American history. At the end of the day, it’s family that matters most — not money!

Where were you that day, and what does the day 9/11 mean to you?

Looking for a product or good deal? Check YouTube

Courtesy of YouTube

Have you ever come back from a shopping trip so excited with the deals you found that you wanted to share the savings with everyone? Some women are doing this on a weekly basis. They’re not only sharing money finding deals, but also showing you the latest products and ideas so you can see for yourself if it’s something that interests you.

The shop-a-holics are sharing their deals and duds on YouTube in what’s known as a “haul” video as in I hauled out lots of goods from that store.

Next time you’re curious about a product and want someone else’s opinion, check out a “haul” video. Note, that some reviewers are paid for the review as advertisers catch onto this trend. Most haulers don’t make a dime, and do it just for fun.

Check out my story for NewsChannel 5 explaining this trend.

Don’t let money get in the way of your life

I’m a thrifty person, always looking to save a buck.  I keep my money saving efforts in perspective, and won’t go to extremes to save money like you see on the new TV show “Extreme Couponing.”  I don’t have 10 hours to get my coupons in order for a shopping trip. Nor do I want to find 10 hours to do that. I know first hand there’s a lot more to life than saving money.

Eight years ago, I was caught up in the trials and tribulations of life.  I talked to my sister that Friday afternoon in April.  I called her Megs.  We talked about her plans for the evening, and I talked about my plans for the Easter weekend. It was a mellow, lackluster conversation. If I had known it was going to be our last, I would have said so much more.

Twelve hours later, my phone rang again. Only this time, it wasn’t my sister on the other end talking about her night out with friends. It was a relative telling me Megs was gone.

It’s a phone call that changed my life.  I now had plans for Easter — picking out caskets. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. Death was never on my mind or my sister’s. She was just 21. I was just 24. She was one month away from her college graduation, full of all the worries that come along with that.

I remember walking into her college dorm to clean it out, and finding her appointment book full of notes about job interviews, exams, etc. She was home for Easter fully expecting to return to school. Her dorm room is a scene I’ll never forget. The chaos of her life was evident by the books piled high and sticky notes covering her desk with tasks that needed completing.  In a heartbeat, life as Megs knew it disappeared.  None of the stress that filled her life hours earlier mattered anymore. She was gone.

It took me a long time to get my life back on track.  I struggled to find a purpose without my best friend and the woman who knew me like nobody else.  Growing up, we created so many fond memories.  We played the same sports, and liked the same things.  Being just three years apart, we did things together all the time. When I learned to play tennis, Megs learned too.  My friends were her friends. Megs even knew my college friends really well, coming up to visit and fitting in as one of the gang.

Early on in life, we learned the value of money. When there are four siblings, money is tight. We didn’t take many family vacations.  We took mostly day trips. The only exception was in second grade when we traveled to Orlando to see Disney.  I’ll never forget it. All these years later, the memories are fresh. It’s a trip that probably broke the bank, but I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about money during that trip.  They probably saved up for years, but it’s a memory we’ll always remember.

There’s one memory I don’t have, because my family let money get in the way.  My junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. I saved up for years.  My mom had dreams of taking my sister overseas during April vacation to visit me.  The trip never happened. My family simply didn’t have the money. At the time, my brother was also in college so I understood the hardship.  All my other friend’s parents came over to visit, but not mine.  It was a missed opportunity and my family knew it. Now that Megs is gone, it’s more than a missed opportunity. It’s a missed memory.  To this day my mom talks about the regret over that financial decision.  We can only imagine the memories the three of us would have created that week. The only memory we have — not having enough money to take that trip.

That trip was probably possible.  At the time, we couldn’t justify the cost given the other expenses facing our family.  I think we all realize now we should have made it a bigger priority and made other sacrifices to make it happen. Losing Megs made us realize that instead of thinking a trip is financially impossible, we need to focus on ways to make it possible.  We should not have let money get in the way of a once in a lifetime moment. A trip like that simply can’t be duplicated.

In honor of Megs, don’t let money get in the way of your life. It doesn’t mean you should spend lavishly, but take those trips that are once in a lifetime.  You’ll be able to do that if you find ways to save in your daily life even if it’s $5 here or $10 there. It adds up, and then you can use your savings to take a once in a lifetime trip.

Create a bucket list and chip away at it each year.  I’ll always remember the item we crossed off our bucket lists the summer before Megs died. Eight years later, I still remember the rush jumping out of that plane with Megs.  She was scared of heights but wanted to do something crazy.  I didn’t mind heights, yet I was the one scared out of my mind when the door to that plane opened at 10,000 feet.  It’s a moment only we will share.  It’s a memory we wouldn’t have if we dwelled on the $150 price tag. Instead, we  splurged and took a leap of faith. Now, I’ll have that memory forever.

Someone took away Megs, but nobody can take away the good times we had. Even if our time together was cut short.  It’s those memories that get me through the difficult days.  Today, is one of those days.  It’s been eight years, but the pain doesn’t go away.  It’s a reminder to live life to the fullest each and every day no matter the expense.  You never know what your last memory will be.

Next up on my bucket list — an African safari. What’s on yours?