Leaving for Cuba in:


It Takes a Village


It Takes a Village

These wonderful people make it possible for me to achieve my dream. 





"If you have someone who believes in you . . . you can increase your belief in your own skills and take risks that you might not otherwise take.”  - Caroline Adams Miller

Without a doubt, I would not be dancing around the world if I’d never known Caroline!!

During my search for meaning after Paul's death, I found Caroline’s book, Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List GuideI loved the book! So, I emailed Caroline and asked if she’d help me on my journey, never really expecting to hear from her. To my amazement she not only wrote back but she agreed to help me.

I’ll never forget Caroline's response when I told her I wanted to dance around the world. “Hmmm . . . I’ve never heard anyone say that before. OK, let’s figure out how to do it”, as if there was never any doubt that I could do it. This is what makes her one of the most influential people in my life – she believed in me!

Since Caroline lives in Bethesda and I live in Minnesota, our meetings were always by phone. After knowing each other three years, we finally met when I was in Washington, DC. Just like on the phone, Caroline is warm and genuine, and she’s beautiful. We hugged, and fighting back tears, I was finally able to thank her in person for helping me find this new life that I love. 


(Aka "Meals on Wheels"


Barb is my neighbor, adopted sister and Guido’s babysitter. When I'm away I never have to worry about him because Barb treats him like he’s at a kitty spa.

Barb and I have also taken several trips together, one to Chicago where we had afternoon tea at the American Girl Cafe. (See slide show.) Since we were "doll-less", we borrowed the American Doll named"Kit" to dine with us. (Coincidentally that's the name of my other adopted sister and fellow traveler, Kitt.) We listened to live harp music while we sipped tea and nibbled on petit fours. 








Caroline suggested I write a blog, I tried to do it on my  own, but I couldn't make it do everything I wanted. So, I placed an ad at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, hoping to hook up with a recent grad web designer. Adam responded. Wow!!! He's more than I'd ever imagined!




At our first meeting Adam showed me his creation, "Seymour's House of Uncommon Terrors".  Seymour traveled from room to terror-filled room when you moved your cursor. I've put in a few screen shots so you can see just how talented Adam is.

Look at Seymour (lower right). What a face!

Look at Seymour (lower right). What a face!

"Omphalophobia" (terror of bellybuttons) - "Innie or Outie--it's just plain bad."

"Omphalophobia" (terror of bellybuttons) - "Innie or Outie--it's just plain bad."



Seymour is so incredibly cute that I couldn't stop myself from saying, "Adam I want a Seymour!" to which he replied, "You can have one Karen!". Then he created Esperanza ("Hope" in Spanish). Isn't she absolutely adorable?


Working with Adam has been such a delight. He's been extremely supportive and hand-holding during the long time it's taken me to write this. Occasionally Adam would interject his own creative humor into my writings or emails that would catch me completely off guard, and I'd have fits of belly laughing until I cried. 

I am forever grateful, Adam!

Adam says:

“My philosophy is that everything goes better with a smile. By using design principles and artistic humor, my clients get their message across in a way that’s engaging. It not only brightens the reader’s day, but it also creates a bond between them and my client. And, because I’m having fun with what I do, I show up each day with a smile.” 



how i do it

how i do it

 work at home! Do it if you can!

My home office!

My home office!

My co-worker, Guido da Nurse!     (This is his "Nurse Rachet" look.)

My co-worker, Guido da Nurse!     (This is his "Nurse Rachet" look.)

The money I save in gas, car maintenance, lunches, wardrobe and Internet fees is enough to finance one to two trips a year. It also provides a more relaxed lifestyle that saves three to six hours a day by not having to commute to or prepare for work. 

Because I work part-time, I need to use fewer paid time off  hours. I only need two PTO days to get a week's vacation.

Living Simply

When TV went digital, I didn't . . . 

Instead I use Apple TV (Amazon Fire TV is a less expensive alternative) towatch YouTube, Hulu, Netflix or one of my favorites sites - TedTalks. (Speakers are invited to present their ideas in their most innovative and engaging way  in 18 minutes or less.) 

Here’s a particularly funny TedTalk with a great message.

I miss my flip phone. It was so gratifying to slam it shut at the end of an upsetting call and like    . . . "WHATEVER!!!'"

For years I used a pre-paid flip phone to save money, but recently I was given an LG G4 phone at an AT&T booth at an Expo!! When I told the representative about my blog, she decided to give me the LG G4 phone because of its incredible photo/video capability, which is absolutely true! I found this perfect travel tripod to use with it. Being a dancer, you'd think I'd be graceful and coordinated but I'm an absolute klutz! Things go flying in the air whenever I touch them. So the first step for my phone was to get a Defender Otterbox.

Next, I needed a phone bill I could afford - $45/month with AT&T with a $50 sign-on bonus through Plenti.   AARP members also get an extra 10% off their bill. 

Farmer's Daughter

I grew up on on a farm with parents who could seemingly fix anything,  so I try to do the same. I've discovered that most repairs simply require duct tape. If that doesn't work, I have a pink girlie toolbox for the bigger jobs. Rather than paying for services, farmer's daughters always do their own -  like cleaning the car (and the manicure needed from cleaning the car).  We also buy used cars and drive them 'til they die. (Besides, I've heard the "new car smell" is highly over-rated and may even pose health risks.)

Maintaining focus on the dream

“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of everyday life.” –Plato


Keeping up with the everyday tasks can be distracting and time-consuming. My goal is to manage the mechanics of life in only 10-15 minutes each day. 

First, I try to take advantage of as many automated things as possible  - direct deposit, bill pay, managing my accounts online, etc.

And I use FlyLady to streamline housecleaning and organizing. 



Life's Too Short

 . . . to waste brain cells trying to remember passwords!  Keeper is one of the SSO (Single Sign-On) apps that creates secure passwords and remembers them for you; you only have to remember a Master Password. It's available for Android and  iOS.

 . . . to get stuck in phone menus!


2 ways to work around those time-sucking menus

  • After the machine is done talking, say "Representative". If it asks for something else ignore it and say "Representative" again.
  • If that doesn't work try pressing zero.

. . . . to sort through junk mail!

CatalogChoice.org is a free, easy-to-use website that let's you opt-out of junk mail!

 . . . to save your "good" clothes for later!

I have this goofy thing about not wearing my "good" clothes in daily life. I tell myself silly things like, "It's new" or  "I don't want to wear them out".

I'm not the only one who does this. Even though my Grandma Mildred had drawers of nightgowns we'd given her, I caught her wearing one that was ripped halfway across the yoke when she was 70 years old. "Grandma, what happened to your nightgown?" "Oh,  Vern (Grandpa)  tried to rip it off me!" 


Disorganization fragments focus


For years, "Declutter" has been at the top of my New Year's resolution list. This year I found the help I need in two books.

10-Minute Declutter    by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport is for those who like to declutter a little at a time - 10 minutes a day.  The authors have a great list of 15 questions to ask to help you decide what to keep and what to get rid of.  You can get an audible version of this book and the one below for only $2 on Swagbucks. (Click on "Discover", then "SuperRewards" and scroll down until you reach "Audible Books". Be sure to check on other offers as you scroll down.)

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant.  Her method teaches how to simplify and declutter your home once and  never have to do it again!! Then you'll "enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home--and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire." 



I, like millions, am addicted to "Maru" from Japan whose "cat mother" makes these videos. I've always been impressed by the cleanliness and simplicity of her home.

(To view full-screen, click on the square to the right of the YouTube symbol. The video is a little long but stay to the end. You'll be glad you did.)






How to get the money you need

How to get the money you need

TRavel the world on a part-time salary

"If saving money is wrong, I don't wanna be right"  (Surprisingly, this quote came from William Shatner) 

In order to earn money to pursue their dreams, some people work more hours. Call me lazy but I'd rather save the money I have. After paycheck deductions (insurance, taxes, contributions like 401K, etc.) my take-home pay is about 50% of what I earn, which means I need to earn $2 for every $1 spent. It also means the more money I save, the fewer hours I have to work. That's how I can do this working 25-30 hours a week. 

One simple way to save money is by asking the question, "How many hours will I have to work to pay for this?" That question alone nearly eliminates impulse buys. For example, I saw this goofy frog oven mitt (that perfect gift for someone who has everything) at a gift store for $25. I turned it down, reminding myself I'd have to earn $50 to pay for it. Later I found it on Amazon for $6.21 plus shipping.

my money mentor


Mom, Barbara Bushee Shively (1935-2000) LOVED a good deal!! Like a mother bear teaching her cub, she'd take me sales shopping when I was a child. We had this ritual afterwards where we’d line up all our purchases, add up how much money we saved, and maybe add it up again just for fun. Then we’d just sit with our smug satisfaction.

 Mom also saved money by gardening, canning, making soap and sewing clothes. She even sewed a complete wardrobe for Ken and Barbie (including the wedding dress). 

Here's a snapshot of Mom's playfulness. My niece Stephanie and I drove 300 miles to surprise her on her 50th birthday!

Here's a snapshot of Mom's playfulness. My niece Stephanie and I drove 300 miles to surprise her on her 50th birthday!


Tragically Mom died suddenly the day after her 65th birthday. I really miss her. If she were alive I'd be calling her during my trips. She'd be tickled by all my stories and we'd laugh ourselves silly. Barb had a very playful, mischievous sense of humor. 

For example, one story she teased me about was when I broke my foot at a concert - on a first date! As Steve and I were getting seated, I tripped, flew onto a stranger's lap and felt something snap in my foot. Steve was wonderful. During the concert, he held my foot firmly between his hands to lessen the pain, and afterwards he carried me to the car. Does it get any more romantic than that?

What was Mom's response? "Karen, I got just one question for ya"  . . .   long . . . dramatic . . . pause  . . .   "Did he ask you out again?" And we laughed and laughed.  


Mom and I shared a love of travel

Mom and me with Las Vegas Elvis in his "hot" years!

Mom and me with Las Vegas Elvis in his "hot" years!


Here I am with Elvis in his "later" years.

Role model for a strong independent woman 

Mom's money sense served her well. When my father Arnold died (1931 - 1968) she was 32 years old, the mother of two teenagers and the owner of a 24-hour truck stop. People told her that "a woman couldn't possibly run it alone". This just made her more determined. She succeeded and later owned a different restaurant.

I learned a lot about life from watching her.

11 ways to earn & Save money 

by Esperanza 



In the past 4 years, I’ve earned $925 in gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, Macy's - even gift cards for flights, hotels and cruises - just by taking surveys, watching videos, shopping, and other activities on Swagbucks.

Check it out. When you create an account, you'll need to enter a valid email address. I did like most people and created a second email specifically for this purpose. That way I avoid spam and clutter in my main email.  


3 unique ways to earn extra money

1. Be a research subject

  • Radiant Research pays for medical research. This year, I earned $400 in a flu shot study. 
  • Comprehensive Research Group has some of the most lucrative studies ($150 to $1200 per study) on hair and skin products. Recently I earned $500 for a shampoo study. 

2. Taste tests

  • FPI Testers  Want to earn $45 for comparing fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies? 

3.  Focus Groups

  • Fieldwork has some interesting opportunities. I earned $150 for participating in a mock jury trial. 
  • Leede Research  - I recently earned $85 for a 20-minute interview about banking.
  • FocusGroup - Earn from $60 to $600 dollars. Follow them on Twitter to get notified immediately about opportunities.

Register on their databases and they'll periodically contact you for studies; it's also a good idea to regularly check their sites. "Like" them on Facebook and you'll receive immediate notification of new studies. 



Earn tons of free airfare and lodging with Rewards Credit Cards (I've saved $3050 so far!)

Discover - Although not technically a “travel” card, "Discover Deals" sometimes offers 1% to 20% cash back on the already great travel deals at Groupon Getaways or LivingSocial. I use TripAdvisor to research hotels and all-inclusives before booking.

Discover Cashback Checking  Earn $25 when you open an account. Checks are free and you'll earn 10 cents on every interaction - up to $120 a year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a sign-on bonus valued at $650 free travel if you charge a certain amount within the first three months.  No annual fee the first year but $95 a year thereafter. It might be worth the money because you need 20% fewer points to book airfare. (For example, if a round-trip flight  normally requires 20,000 points, you get it for 16,000 points.) 

Capital One Venture offers a sign-on bonus equivalent to $200 worth of travel with no annual fee. Plus, as Samuel Jackson says, you'll earn 1.25% cashback on every purchase, everywhere!

*For side-by-side comparisons of credit cards and online banks, check out Bankrate.*

Online Banking

My financial advisor recommends having an emergency cash reserve equivalent to three months' living expenses. He suggested keeping the cash in an online bank because of the higher interest rates they offer.

Capital One 360  offers savings account with 0.75% interest rate. Click on this link to get $25 for opening a savings account and $25  for opening a checking account. 

consignment stores

True Religion Jeans $40; Coach Bags $22; Ralph Lauren Tops $15;  Designer shoes for every outfit for $25 or less

A wardrobe planner and former model introduced me to consignment stores. They look like any other retail shop but they sell used, like-new, designer clothes, shoes, bags, and jewelry at 70% to 90% below retail costs. People bring clothes to consign and receive a percentage of the price when they sell. This is where I buy almost all my clothes. Then if I get tired of something and it's still in like-new condition I re-consign it. 

Before I buy any clothes, shoes, or purses they must pass the "4 F's"

  • Does it Fit?
  • Is it Fabulous?
  • Is it Flattering? 
  • Is it Functional?

(If something doesn't meet the criteria, move on to the next store because the variety at consignment stores is endless.)

Elite Repeat  This is my go-to place for jeans. (Recently I spent $30 on a new pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans, typically $100 to $130 retail.) 

Turnstyle   is the only consignment store that accepts spring/summer and fall/winter clothes all year long, making it easy to clean out your closet all at once. They also consign home furnishings.

Second Debut  I believe this is the only consignment store that allows 7-day cash back returns. It also has an art boutique. They even offer free stylist sessions. It feels good to shop there because their revenue is used for workforce development and job opportunities for disabled individuals. 

Clothes Mentor   Instead of consigning clothes, Clothes Mentor buys them outright. You won't earn as much money there but you'll get some great deals.

Second Time Around is a consignment store where I found this memento of my trip in Washington DC. I paid $21 for her but later learned that she's a Swarovski necklace named Erika who sells for $99 to $205 on eBay. Giselle sold her to me and humorously pointed out that Erika has both a daytime and a nighttime look, depending upon how you turn her body. (Savings tip: If you shop on eBay, you can save even more money by buying a discounted gift card on raise.com. You'll get $5 when you purchase your first gift card. After that, you'll earn an extra 1% to 4% discount if you buy them through Swagbucks. (Go to "Shop", then "Gift Cards".)

Giselle wearing "Erika"


"Erika's evening look, exhausted after a night of dancing"

Erika's day outfit

Loyalty Programs

You can save hundreds of dollars by scanning loyalty cards at checkout

SuperAmerica Speedy Rewards saves me  . . . 

  • Between $100-$200 a year on gas. 
  • Between $60-$120 a year with their"Buy 6 and get the 7th free" clubs for milk, coffee, car washes, etc. 
  • Free coffee  There's a green light near the coffee spout with a circle around it saying, "Your coffee is free when the light is blinking".  I never noticed this before until a "little person" pointed it out to me; it was at her eye level. 

Walgreens - gives "Balance Rewards" for all purchases. You can even earn Rewards for exercising. Link your AARP or AAA account and you'll receive extra points. 

CVS - gives "ExtraBucks" for purchases and for filling prescriptions. Periodically they'll send emails with coupons like $5 of $15 purchase. My latest deal was four 12-packs of Diet Coke for $4.88 (without clipping coupons).

Panera Bread - After about six purchases, you'll get something free. This is where I write my blog. My "office" is the lounge chair on the right  (NOT the one on the left) in front of the fireplace. The staff is so friendly that it's like the bar on "Cheers". "Everybody knows my name".

Pocket Your Dollars

Helps me save at least $300 to $500 a year (probably more)


Pocket Your Dollars is a Minnesota money-saving blog that is easily the best of its kind. It all began when Carrie Rocha and her husband wanted to eliminate their $50,000 debt - without working more. They paid off their debt in 2 1/2 years by using the methods she details in her blog. 

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

In the past 4 months, I've saved $150!

Raise  If you have gift cards that you don't want, you can sell them to Raise. They'll verify that the balance stated is correct and then sell them at a discounted rate - up to 30% off.  I buy these for my everyday expenses (i.e. Panera, TJMaxx, etc.). They have gift cards for hundreds of places - even airfare and hotels. You'll receive $5 when you make your first purchase.  After that, you'll save an extra 1% to 4% if you buy them through Swagbucks (Go to "Shop", then "Gift Cards".)

Become a Driver for uber or lyft

This is a fantastic way to earn extra money for travel or dance or to pay off your car - whatever! Work anytime you want. Have an extra hour to spare? Hop in your car and drive. Use the links below to see what you'll earn. 

Uber  - You'll also receive a $20 credit on your first trip when you use this link and go to the bottom of the page where it says "promo/invite"; then enter this code karenb14101ue.

Lyft -  You'll also receive (10) $5 coupons to use on your first rides when you use this link.