It’s a 2fer! Valentine’s Day & Ash Wednesday!

I love a good celebration. I think it’s super fun to decorate, find coordinating napkins, bake related food treats, and more. But this year – 2 special days for our family fall on the same calendar date! Wednesday is February 14th, both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday. A 2fer! I am personally thrilled that this day is being shared by two occasions that our family finds so valuable. If you think about it, these two special days have some very similar qualities – the importance of both love and sacrifice.

I know that Valentine’s Day has a bad reputation – often referred to as the “Hallmark Holiday”. There is history of this holiday of which many are unaware. St. Valentine lived in Rome, Italy in the 200’s. He was a Catholic Priest that secretly married Christians and otherwise helped others that were persecuted in other ways. He was arrested and imprisoned for doing these good deeds. He focused on love and helping those that needed assistance. In my mind, I think it’s important EVERY DAY of the year to focus on the good and open our eyes to the needs around us. Why not designate a special day each year to expressing our love and admiration to those who are important to us? Nope, I don’t believe it’s necessary to purchase a diamond or roses, or big boxes of rich, sweet chocolate – but who am I to turn such gifts down? Not a penny needs to be spent – words are free, written word is even better .  Write down your words of admiration, your thoughts of devotion, your gratefulness –  then it can be read over and over, and enjoyed forever. I have always loved the concept of Valentine’s Day and the Saint himself, I even went so far as to choose him as my Saint for my Confirmation! Every year in our house, we have a “Heart Hunt” for the kids – which I started when they were teenies. I place clues in the shape of hearts around the house and they search for the final clue that leads them to a small gift or gift for each of them. It continues to be a tradition that they enjoy each year. We also have tiny mailboxes that we put out in February each year. Many years ago they were decorated by each child and are used to collect notes from all of us. Notes that remind us why we are loved, admired and appreciated. When a new note is placed in the mailbox, the little flag is raised – creating quite a bit of excitement for the mailbox owner! We store the notes in the mailboxes and re-read them every year, laughing at the hand-writing, spelling and sentiments at times (“You are a good big brother and you always help me with my HARD homework” love his 3rd grade sister). We bought these mailboxes at Target in the dollar section years ago- and they carry them every year – it’s been another fun and relationship building traditions for our family.

Regarding Ash Wednesday, for Catholics, this day begins the Season of Lent for us. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. During this 40 day period of time, our family focuses on preparing our hearts, deepening our faith and showing our love. Sacrifice is a part of Lent – giving something up that may take up too much of your time, thus making more room in our schedule to read a devotional, pray or listen to your favorite worship music. Whatever makes you feel closer to God – do it during Lent… and don’t stop at Easter – keep it up! Sacrificing for others requires love. Love is also the focus of Valentine’s Day – BONUS!!! In the end, if you are religious or not, I hope Wednesday is a special reminder for you to appreciate those that are in your life, and who have shaped you into the person you are today. Much love to you, from me❤️

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Lean in…

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Not everyone will allow themselves to cry in public. I have definitely been known to openly shed a tear or two. I’m not talking about a big ugly cry, but tears on the cheeks, yes. Last week at my Bible study, I cried. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and to be honest, it even surprised me a bit. Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll explain.

I’m currently in a new season of life. These birdies that I have been raising are trying out their wings and I am nervously biting my nails as I watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. With one a college freshman and one a high school senior, the milestones come daily and it’s all a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I am able to focus on the positive and enjoy this season of new found independence – I’m doing OK (until I’m not).

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This particular day at Bible study, I was commenting on a scripture passage that we had recently looked up. It was Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece – created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While reading this scripture out loud, the words caught in my throat and I had to pause and pull myself together. You see, I have always wanted to be a Mom. Knowing very little what it would actually involve, the idea of raising littles was a tad magical to me.  I felt that God was in agreement, since He blessed us with 4 stinky butt babes. But now, as my children have grown, I tend to wonder a little bit more about these “good works” that are meant for me. They aren’t so obvious anymore. I’m still busy, yes. Feeling productive, yes. But I am lacking that sense of being needed, feeling necessary – and frankly,  this feeling is not the greatest. What else does God have planned for me? To be clear, my concern is less whether or not He does have plans for me, but will I love these new plans as much as  I loved being a Mama to littles?!

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I read before, that in order to deal with our pain and uncertainties, we need to lean in. What does leaning in look like? For me, it looks like sorting through boxes of outgrown clothing and pouring over scrapbooks containing pictures of years gone by. It’s sitting attentively as your senior debates between colleges , when all you really want to do is pull her onto your lap and read her a Golden book. It’s repainting bedroom walls from bubble gum pink to sophisticated grey. It’s talking with other parents about how to let go, while holding tight at the same time. And it’s tears – sometimes expected, but often an embarrassing surprise. It’s a big messy box of acceptance wrapped with a sloppy bow of denial on top. Even though we experienced these emotions just last year, we are still novices at this whole “watching your child grow up” gig. 

I don’t think anyone should ever have to explain themselves when they are leaning in. It takes a lot of extra effort and is very important. It looks differently for everyone, but is crucial for all of us. Don’t think you can skip over tough things and hope it won’t catch up with you. It will. I’ve tried to ignore things, it doesn’t end well. 

So what about you? Are you avoiding a tough situation right now? Or are you leaning in? Please know that I’m here – online if nothing else – if you’d also like to lean on me!

 

 

My biggest character flaw…

Everyone is good at something. We all have an area in which we excel. Some are extremely creative, organized or out going. Others are great at hosting, event planning or dealing with financial matters. It’s important to know where your skill sets are, and how they can help you succeed. On the other hand, it’s equally important to know the areas in our lives that need improvement. I am AWFUL at asking for help. Really bad at it. Seriously, I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than admit I need assistance or can’t handle something. Being stubborn only makes this worse, and gets me in more trouble. Every. Time.  I have several examples of situations that should have changed my mind about asking for help from others. But apparently, I’m a slow learner. I need to be repeatedly shown that I’m not capable of “going it alone”, nor should I even try that route. God provides these opportunities for growth frequently because He knows this is my weak spot.

Despite my inability to request help, one of my very favorite things to do is offer help to others. To see a need and fill it. To witness a struggle and make it easier for someone else to bear. The world is chock full of chances to assist others, and I love to jump right in! So – if I find joy in helping others, why do I refuse such help from my friends? Crazy. When I see the question on paper, I feel silly and shake my head. But still, I struggle. To bring a meal, pick up a child from practice, watch a toddler so a sick mama can rest – all of that would be appreciated … but would it be accepted if offered? I know I’m not the only one that tries to do it alone.

Pride. It’s a dirty word. It’s my biggest character flaw. I’m too proud to admit when life is indeed getting the best of me, or when I’m just trying to keep my head above water. There have been times that I didn’t know how I would possibly juggle all that needed to be accomplished. Those that know me, understand this – and help anyways. Their help is given in various ways. A text that contains a funny meme or an instant message that insists I am stronger than I believe.  Sometimes, it’s a meal delivered when I am unable to care for my family. Please note – help with my family and I will NEVER forget your kindness. These gestures mean the world to me, so why do I feel like sharing my burdens with those that love me is selfish? Why can’t I accept their love, smile and hug them and move on? How do I so easily forget the joy it brings me when I help others? The best part of friendship is helping each other through our most difficult days. The sickness of our children, the stress of marriage, the caring for our aging parents, the chaos of our typical Tuesday. We all have areas that we could use help in.

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Let’s make a deal. Let’s all be more honest with each other (especially on Fakebook, oops, Facebook).  Let’s try our best to be open about what we encounter that is threatening our sanity . We could even admit when we need an extra set of hands, or one less day of carpool commitment. Less guilt and less perfection. More community and more compassion. I can’t wait to help you out! My guess is that we will all benefit.

BOOK UPDATE – A PLOT TWIST, INDEED

  

I have done my very best to avoid writing this post. My closets have been organized, books have been read, laundry has been done.  I can’t wait any longer – it’s time to share with you what has been weighing so very heavy on my heart. This chapter is one that I sincerely wish could have been avoided. But it has become part of my story, and I must embrace it and find a way to move forward. I appreciate your willingness to walk this crazy road with me. There is no way that I would continue down this path alone. 

If you have been following over the past year, you are aware that I was very excited to announce my second children’s book. The release date was set for February 7th, 2017. Yes, just days away. Instead of excitement for this day, I am now dreading it. This time around, the publishing experience has been drastically different. Miscommunication, confusion, missed dead lines and conflicting information were only part of what made me continually shake my head over the last 6 months. Publishing my first book in 2013/2014 was relatively simple. Other than my “newbie jitters”, I followed the directions given to me and was very pleased with the support that I received. There was absolutely no indication that anything would be different the second time around. I actually thought it may be a bit easier, since I knew the schedule and what was expected from me during the progress. But life has a way of knocking you back when you least expect it. People get greedy and their choices and actions have an enormous impact on others. I am learning HUGE LESSONS in trust and patience and flexibility through all of this – but that doesn’t stop me from being angry and sad. That being said, I absolutely refuse to go through this mess and not come out stronger on the other side.


After all of the delays and malarkey this time around, I discovered that my publishing company has closed as of January 17, 2017. Yes. CLOSED.  The  authors have not even been officially notified as of yet. I found this out after some extensive online research and articles written in a few Oklahoma newspapers. LONG STORY short, they were not paying their bills. They were not paying the salaries of their employees. They were not sending royalty checks to their authors.  They now have lawsuits against them for over 4 million dollars. They have not responded to calls or emails since before Christmas. On the 18th, we (the authors) received an email that the company was in “transition” and we would be contacted within a few weeks with “options concerning the completion of our projects”. There are a million questions still left to be answered.  At this point, I have filed complaints with several agencies and with Discover in attempts to recoup the money paid for the books I ordered – and was charged for – but will never receive. There are discrepancies regarding what rights I have to my own books – I have a copyright on the words, they may own the cover design and illustrations. I need to be given back my completed files in order to find another company to publish for me – which can be a lengthy and tedious process in itself. 

To say that I am overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe my emotions.  I am sad, angry, embarrassed, frustrated and disgusted that all the effort I have invested in the last 3 years has been swept away. As I await more news, please pray that I can find the time, energy, strength and motivation to continue this process. Back at square one is not at all where I had imagined I’d be at this point. My book is complete – perfect in every way – but I may never have the chance to hold it in my hands. I truly love to write ~ and this will continue. But there is not a lot else that I am sure about at this point. I have about a hundred copies of my first book in my possession,  so I will be able to do a few more book events, but once they are gone – I don’t know. I just don’t know.  I am hoping by the end of February to have some sort of update so I can determine which direction I will take my first steps. I am tired of being disappointed. I have already started talking to other publishing companies. As of now, I am leaning towards self publishing or going with a much smaller publisher ~ once bitten, twice shy.  I know it feels like a break up and you want to bash my “EX” – and please know that they are at the top of my list of least favorite people as well. But please – if you see me,  simply hug me and remind me that the glass is always half full {refillable, in fact!}.  Please pray  for me – this news is a major mountain that I must climb – and I am already exhausted. I am blessed to have an amazing group of supporters that I thank God for every night. I know He has great plans for me. I will do my best to not fear the future – as I know that God is already there. 

Something in the air…

organizingThe month of January typically brings with it a fresh motivation to get my act together. Now, mind you, I try super hard throughout the year to keep my ducks in a row (or at least in a cute chevron pattern) so this shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to most of you. I am inspired by pinterest, home decor shops and the adorable ads on TV that suggest I try the “out with the old, and in with the new” method of starting my New Year. I vow to pull it all together – and keep it that way.

I feel the “urge to purge” my clutter, extra clothes and pantry chaos about twice a year- usually in January and June. The kids finishing school and being home for 3 months motivates me to have the house in order, since I won’t have much time for cleaning while they are all here 24/7. It’s easy enough to understand my desire to tidy up after the six occupants in this house are spoiled rotten at Christmas and our new belongings all need a “place” to call their own. It becomes a necessity to dig out the house and carve out a landing space for all of our new this and thats. Clothes are donated and food is rearranged in order to be able to close the pantry door safely. This year, I was even inclined to give away 14 bottles of red wine that we had accumulated from house guests and such through the years (we just aren’t red wine drinkers). While cleaning out the pantry, I took a picture of the bottles and posted on Facebook that I wanted to give them away to a good home. I quickly became the most popular girl around and also got a chance to see a few friends as they dropped by to pick up their free bottles. Such fun! I now had a bunch of freed up space in my pantry and my friends could bring in the New Year with a glass in the air – CHEERS!

I also try my best to update my calendar and clean out my desk at the start of each year. I make appointments that I have been putting off and send notes and thank yous on cute stationery that makes me happy. I restock my pens, notepads, stamps and envelopes and little things that end up missing like rolls of tape and push pins for the bulletin board. I also throw away all of the old notices, invitations and event reminders that have taken over our family control center. A cleaned off bulletin board makes me a bit less frantic when I walk past it in the morning on my way to pour a cup of coffee. Straightening piles – and better yet, eliminating them all together – allows me to focus more on the important stuff in life.

In the end, your environment is just that – YOURS. If you thrive in a neat knick paradise, my hope for you is that you can achieve your organized dream – and keep it that way.  And, if you like your piles, I hope a neat freak doesn’t mess with them! Enjoy the rest of January 🙂

My word for 2017 ….

For several years now, I choose one word that I attempt to focus on throughout the year.I am not one to make resolutions – mostly because I prefer short term goals over long term goals (I get distracted entirely too easily). Having a word or concept to pay particular attention to for the entire year allows me the chance to look at the various ways and areas that the definition of the word works in my life. For me, it works.

In 2016, I chose the word release. I felt that it was time for me to start letting go. Of what, you may wonder? Of lots of things, starting with clutter – stuffed closets, overflowing drawers, unloved knick knacks and more. Once the physical “stuff” was taken care of, I shifted my priorities to feelings, relationships and expectations that needed to be released. This wasn’t as easy as taking a garbage bag into the closet, but it was even more important. Letting go of these things frees us from the heaviness it creates – a heavy heart has trouble finding happiness. I worked hard on paying attention to the things that were causing me stress and attempted to change the way I dealt with these people, issues or situations. At the end of 2016, when my book was delayed – I needed to release all of my anxiety that was created by this overwhelmingly frustrating event. I was forced to let go of my plans and dreams of selling during the Christmas season and change gears for the future. At first, I wondered if my word would serve me well for 12 whole months. In the end, I could have easily used this word for another entire year – but instead decided to build off of it.

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For 2017, I chose the word acceptance. I figured that since I had devoted a year to cleansing my life from negative habits, people and situations that I could not control, I should follow up with a year of learning how to live with what I can not change – and making the best of it. In June of 2017, my first born is graduating from high school. This is something that consumes my thoughts and much of my energy right now as we fill out college application, cap and gown forms, take senior pictures and plan for his graduation party. In the back of my mind, I fully understand (logically) that he is growing up . I hear his deep voice, see his facial hair and watch him drive away in his car as he heads to work. Yet – I haven’t fully accepted it. I think I am still in denial. I need to focus on how proud I am of him and his accomplishments, instead of how sad I am that he is leaving. Time will help, and so will seeing his excitement about his college days ahead of him. It’s all a matter of accepting it, right?  Being a parent is sort of crappy like that.

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Acceptance is also important in regards to how I manage the areas of my life that just aren’t “my favorite”. I think we all have things and people we absolutely must deal with that we wish we could JUST. NOT. The thought alone makes us cringe, but it doesn’t make the issue or relationship go away. So now what? ACCEPTANCE. To be clear – the definition of acceptance is “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered” (according to the online dictionary). No where does it state that I have to LIKE it in order to ACCEPT it….right? My goal is to accept a few of the things that I can not control (like my babies growing up and leaving me) and search for the good – something positive – something that will make me smile and not pull my hair out. We can all use a bit more sunshine and a few less clouds. My wish for you is that you find a word that helps you in more ways than one this year. Please let me know what your word is once you know it – I love to hear how my friends are working to improve their lives!

Coffee, anyone?!

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I haven’t always been a coffee lover. In fact, we didn’t even own a coffee pot until we had our 3rd baby in 4 and a half years. At that point, we knew we needed help. A morning cup of coffee brought me back to life after MANY sleepless nights and became a comforting and well loved part of my daily routine. Often, around 1, I would pour myself another cup of energy – especially if I had nap-refusing littles roaming the house. Coffee quickly emerged as one of my closest mommy friends and I looked forward to creating a special place of honor in my kitchen from where I could serve it..

The problem, as with most projects, was that I was lacking in time and money to dedicate to my dream of a coffee bar. I had ideas GALORE- and with the creation of Pinterest, I found that many others shared my desire for a space to serve this well loved hot drink. These amazing pictures fueled the fire and helped to convince me that this was a need not a want. I had the best day dreams of a quaint little spot where I could prepare and serve this magical brew for myself, my Prince and any visitor that needed a cup of Joe.

I was on vacation this past summer when the planets all aligned and I was able to (in my mind) relocate my roll top desk that fit perfectly in our kitchen to an equally perfect spot in the living room – thus providing an open space for my coffee bar! Once we returned from the Smokey Mountains, I shared my design plans with my hubby. Before attempting to move the desk, we pulled out the measuring tape to ensure it would, indeed work. VICTORY!!! The perfect fit! So you know me, I am such a spaz, I started to move the desk the very next morning. The process was very Laverne & Shirley-esque, since I had to enlist the help of whatever child was available to help push, pull and lift this monster of a desk to its new location. My heart pounded with excitement and I set up my “new” work space in the living room. My heart then almost stopped when I entered the kitchen and stood looking at the big empty spot I had created before finding something to put there next. Time to go shopping!

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I had something in mind. I wanted the piece to be wood, painted white, with at least one open shelf and I needed it to be at least waist high for easier prep and pouring. How hard would it be to find something that fits my needs? One quick glance on Amazon, right? OH, NO!  The search began to consume me. Too big, too short, too shelf-less, too not white. I looked everywhere – on-line, resale, big box stores, tiny boutiques. My excitement was beginning to wain as my search continued and I truly felt like I would never find something “just right”. I didn’t want to settle on a piece of furniture that I didn’t LOVE – I’d thought about this little oasis for far too long to not be in love with it once it was finished. After snapping pictures at stores, sending links to my honey and debating between a table, bookcase, buffet – we finally decided on a piece from Overstock.com. We placed the order and I waited nervously for it to be delivered.

The day it arrived, I literally clapped my hands (something I do more than any other 43 year old I know). It was entirely too heavy for me to take inside – so I sent a picture to my lovie captioned, “LOOK WHAT’S HERE!”. I was gone the rest of the night running errands and carpooling kiddos, and when I returned…. I found him in the garage almost done putting it together. MAN, DO I LOVE THIS GUY!!! After we put it in its place of honor in the kitchen, I immediately began to add all the fun touches. I bought a white shelf for above it, and several place mats to protect the surface where I would inevitably be spilling coffee. I found a cute little spoon rest for a dollar on clearance (!!!) and I moved my sugar bowl to the prime location next to the Keurig. I happily moved all of my mugs that had pictures of my children on them onto the open shelf. It makes me smile to see the 12 mugs of memories sitting sweetly in my kitchen. I also added a tray and four of my favorite matching mugs to the shelf so they were easily accessible when company comes. Underneath the shelf is a HUGE storage space covered by doors. It is here that I keep the extra sugar, creamer, travel cups/lids and our large crock pot. The additional storage was a bonus that we love!

I’d have to say, that this is one of my very favorite spots of our home. In addition to housing my coffee essentials, it has given me a new area to decorate with seasonal knick-knacks … and who doesn’t love that?! Super happy with my completed coffee bar – if you are ever in the area, be sure to stop by for some coffee 🙂fullsizerender-27