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Monday, February 13, 2017

Be The Love

"All You Need Is Love," some say and I do cherish being loved.  But instead setting up false expectations about a deeply romantic Valentine's Day, use the 14th as inspiration to be the love that others in your life can celebrate.

I'm kind of famous among those who know me well for being wild about Valentine's Day.  It remains such a fun moment for me to spoil and pamper the ones that I hold most dear.  Mostly, I want them to know they are so loved by not only me, but by their Heavenly Father.  His love is more than enough to fill our lives, if we let Him. This is the true message of love.

So how do I celebrate this annual Love-fest?  Here are some ideas:
  • Spend some energy to spruce up your space.  You don't have to wait for someone to buy
    flowers, bring some back from the grocery store after your next weekly trip.
  • Send something special to someone unexpecting.  Do you know a single mama or grad student?  Surprise them with an invite to dinner or something that shows you see their hard work.
  • Pay it forward in the drive through - just for fun! 
  • Take cookies or flowers to your neighbors.
  • Spoil your children with notes that detail what you love about them.  Leave on the table for a breakfast surprise on Valentine's morning.  Pack some chocolate in their lunch.  Never let them wonder if you think they are amazing!
  • Send a text to a friend far away.
  • Love yourself with a bath, mani/pedi or new lipstick.  Wear red or pink just for fun on Valentine's Day.  
  • If there is a man whom you admire, think about what would be special for him.  Write a note.  Bake some cookies.  Give him something to anticipate in the bedroom.  Find a way to connect.  He may never admit it, may even say Valentine's doesn't matter, but he will appreciate your reaching out to demonstrate the ways you love him.
  • Tell your parents how much you love and appreciate what they have done for you all of your life.  Send an encouraging note to a far-away relative.  Isn't it fun to get real mail these days? 
  • Send a care package to a college student far from home.
  • Offer to babysit so your friends can go out.  

There are countless ways to celebrate love, but most importantly we must take the time to do it!

Valentines Day - Skip the Dread & Drama

Nine Easy Ways to Love Your Family

Our Valentine Tradition

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Big Secret is That the Forties are Fabulous!

I never dreaded my forties, but I didn't know that I was supposed to look forward to them either.  For anyone who hasn't hit this age yet, the big secret is that the forties are fabulous!

Of course I deal with the normal aging issues: my knees crackle and ache, heels are no longer and all-day option, yet I'm healthy and strong.  My waist is thicker and my skin less youthful, but I smile more than ever.  I am comfortable in my own skin.  I enjoy deep, quality relationships that involve give and take.

I know myself better than ever, and I know what I need, what I like and what doesn't work for me.  Plus, I'm not afraid to speak up about those things.  I am happier and more content in my life than ever, I think.  I don't say that to gloat or rub-it-in-your face or one-up anyone.  I'm just truly happy, and recognizing it amplifies the feeling.  Here is what I note about myself this year:
  • I am confident in God's over-arching care of me, no longer
    driven to perform for approval but able to rest and act in confidence that He has my best interest in mind (even when I don't understand at a particular moment).
  • I'm loved and respected by a true partner in life.  I fully trust Mr. Wonderful and knows he desires the best for me and my children.
  • I get to be the primary parent to three fabulous children.  I have a role in the lives of two step daughters that we continue to work out and define.  I am confident of my place in these lives.
  • Every physical need is supplied and so many of my wishes, too.  We are healthy and I am aware this is a gift that we may not always enjoy.
  • My extended family is far away and that sometimes makes me sad.  Yet I recognize that we have wonderful relationships and history.  I know not everyone enjoys close relationships and I'm so grateful that we all make the effort to remain connected.
  • My best friends are also far away in location, but close in heart and are seriously the highest quality women that I know!  We have adapted to our cross-country friendships and manage to remain involved and active in each others' lives.
  • The stress levels in my daily life are fairly low.  This is an ENORMOUS gift! 
  • All but one of my children can do their laundry from washer, to dryer, to folded and put away.  This is seriously one of the best gifts of the year!
 Birthdays happen every year and while I don't love everything about getting older, I really am in love with this season of life!  I've been working on those goals I make every year...kind of like my "New Year's Resolutions," and I'll share those soon.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What's Saving My Life Right Now

1. Getting Outside: I track my outside exercise miles in the Map My Run App, and January/February are notoriously low mileage months.  But this January?  I was right up there with my monthly average of 100 miles.  It's been warmer than usual, even if quite gray.  So forcing myself outdoors while it's still light out has worked wonders so far this winter.  I'm already noticing that the light is lasting longer and the tangible promise of spring is encouraging.

2. Spice Jar Labels: This seems so minor, but it is a huge lifesaver for me.  For years I have lifted the jars while trying to add just the right spice to a recipe at just the right moment.  I mumbled every single time.  Finally, I did something about it and ordered labels to make my life easier.  I haven't applied them all and can't wait to complete the task.  Perhaps I'll bite the bullet and order the uniform jars, too!

3. Glovies from the Hubby: Even though it has been a warmer winter, my hands still get ultra cold and dry when I'm outdoors each day.  My Santa put these cuties in my stocking this year and I just love that they are warm yet allow me to use my iphone apps.  Double score for Mr. Wonderful.

4. Budget and Planning: February is a month of some serious payments due: property tax, loan payoff, new tires and insurance premiums.  I hate the massive outflow of cash-on-hand, but I'm thankful we planned ahead and aren't blindsided.  We are mostly prepared, even if we do have to be especially frugal in the fun department this month.  I can see why people opt to live without vehicles, they are seriously expensive to own and operate.

5. Treating the eczema with the "hard stuff:" The past several years have been blissfully mild ones for my ongoing eczema issues.  But in December I had a flare-up that has persisted.  I try to avoid the harsh steroids, when I can, but by January I was done playing nice.  I used all three prescriptions and beat that rash back.  It is a persistent plague and I still have spots but I'm not suffering like I was. Also, I began using Aveeno Eczema Therapy all over after my showers.  So far, no more outbreaks, which is totally saving my life.

6. Chick Fil A Night and "Make Your Own" in Meal Planning:  Meal planning has long been one of the only ways I survive each week feeding our large, blended family.  Now I plan for flexibility with a couple of nights off for myself.  They are labeled on our Meal Plan and are self explanatory, I think.

8. Texting with the Girlfriends: I've embraced the group text and the jolt of intimacy/laughter/camaraderie is perfection.  I have the best friends!

9. Finally, my sister has always snickered at the way I avoid washing my hair until absolutely necessary.  For Christmas, she gifted me with a dry shampoo and it has made my life even easier plus I feel even less pressure to wash, dry and style every time I shower.  Thank you, Mindy!

This post was inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy and I'm linking up with others there.  Check it out to see what could be saving Your life right now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The March of Women

Over the weekend I heard reports of women marching both near and far away.  I tried to relate, but was embarrassed by most of what I saw.  I tried to relate because I usually feel an instrinsic connection to with women that transcends opinions.  I wanted to connect, but I could not.  Today I saw women marching and I was proud.

I saw a young woman marching into the classroom to teach even younger women-to-be and future men the basics like reading, math and science.  It's her first classroom and she is still learning, too. But she shows up each morning with a smile and a positive attitude.  She modeling the march for little girls and boys each day.

I saw another woman marching into a middle school before she had to be there to help a student who has fallen behind.  She earned nothing extra for her twice-weekly efforts or her consistent presence to make sure he stays on track in his difficult subject.  She is quietly and consistently marching.  Her work may never be documented by the media, but our family will never forget her investment.

Earlier this year I was moved by another woman in the super center who was shopping for back to school.  She was marching to gather supplies and provide for her own woman-child, the one marching to the beat of her own unique, middle-school drum.  I was moved because this woman has faced serious setbacks, addiction, jail-time, false starts.  But she kept marching.  She was marching for her daughter.

Not long ago I was able to dine with a woman marching in high places: government, management, leadership.  She marched with kindness, determination and focus.  She was disciplined and credentialed.  This woman marches in places of great influence.  She inspires me to march well, also.

This week I see women marching to the gym to donate their time and their talents to teach little women basketball.  I see women march to the church to donate money and time to share hope.  I saw an elderly woman slowly march to her front door, leaning heavily on the aid of her friend and her walker.  She marched through great struggle.

Every day I see women marching.  Some with energy and zeal, some with resignation and struggle, some with pain and longing.  Yet they march on and with them the future for womankind and humankind everywhere.

I get it, I have personally experienced many of the struggles that are particular to being a woman: bullying, poverty and government assistance, infertility, special needs, single parenting, childcare woes and zero pay for maternity leave.  I faced childhood sexual trauma and our family has grieved with illegal immigrants who are lost in the underworld of being undocumented.  I have to discuss pornography with my children,  We attend Title One schools. I struggle with working and finding balance for family life and personal aspirations.  I've been a corporate warrior and a secretary as well as a work-at-home mom.  I relate with most women in some way and draw from that connection. I do not march with some who protest in parades, but I am proud to march daily in conquest for what is right and dignified.  I am honored to be a woman.  I am pro-woman and desire to empower women everywhere.

There are days when I am required to stand up and stand out.  But most days, my best effort is made by marching forward and onward, looking to my left and my right and nodding in camaraderie with those marching, too.  We link arms and reach out to those who are trying to get their own footing and together we rise.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What's Your Connection Cue?

Our home is a busy one and I'm sure that yours is, too.  Life is full and hectic, which makes it very easy for married couples to become task-oriented rather than relationship-focus.  I myself get fixated on too many details and schedules, when I would rather focus on connections that last.

Because of this, it's so very easy to fall into the tag-team pattern of running a household and parenting where I take care of one thing and Mr. Wonderful deals with another, so that we operate in parallel worlds.  It works for functionality, but the connection and personality gets starved from our relationship.  I've lived in a marriage like that before and I am vigilant against allowing that pattern to creep into our home.

So we have little rituals that remind us that we are more than the grown-ups responsible for the housework and maintenance of life.  We are two people madly in love a devoted to one another for life, not just someday when the to-do lists are done, but right now in the crazy and madness of all that requires our attention.  I want Mr. Wonderful to know he is my priority.  He is more important than dishes or laundry or bills or the best show I can find on tv.

So after the children are tucked into bed (and sometimes before they even get there when our schedule gets crazy), Mr. Wonderful and I site together on the couch and just let ourselves relax.  Often, I find myself giving him a little foot rub or neck massage.  I can feel him let go of the daily cares and the physical act of touching brings an intimate connection that is so satisfying.  In this brief interaction, often just ten minutes or so, we move from coworkers managing life into partners pursuing each other.  It signals loud and clear that while I must cook and clean, I choose to connect.

This has been the most obvious connection cue, but I notice there are others throughout the day.  That moment in the mornings where we pause during the mad-dash and embrace, kiss and move on to our individual schedules.  The quick call or text as we move through individual itineraries.  So much of life inevitably pulls a couple apart.  We must find a way to intentional draw closer to one another and remain connected.  There are many ways to do this and much freedom for creativity.  For us, it's a simple cuddle as we shift from corporate warrior and home manager into a couple who are simply satisfied in each others' company.  What is your connection cue? Me? I rub feet.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Easing Into January

It is the season for yearly thoughts of looking forward and looking back.

I am grateful that we are able to slowly ramp back into our regular routine.  This continued week of a lax schedule reminds me of how much my children need unscheduled downtime.  I do believe this is more true for children who move between two homes.  There is added chaos and disruption to their lives and routines, so additional recovery and downtime is so helpful.  The extended winter break is a gift this year.

At one point, it was warm enough to be out with no jackets.
I've been back to my normal work schedule most of the week and the children have been home.  Mr. Wonderful has been in his home-office much of the week and my step daughters are home, too.  It's been a week of much-treasured togetherness.

Sometimes, the lack of routine, travel and extra-togetherness brings conflict, drama plus extra noise and hassle.  Thankfully, things have been different this year.  I've gotten to read and look over the aspirations I had for 2016.  New goals are rising in priority and lots of thinking about what is working and what is not.  I usually solidify my ambitions by the time my birthday rolls around in February.  There is always plenty of stopping and starting.

Mr. Wonderful received a new TV for Christmas - we are using it!
I hope that 2017 is already treating you well!  It's snowing just now and I foresee a weekend of additional togetherness and warm snuggles...and soup!  It's just that kind of day.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas 

from our very imperfect family.  

Joy is available, even in difficulty.
God is good, even when we don't understand.
I will choose to trust Him when it seems impossible.
Love is so much better than bitterness.
Come quickly, Lord. Our weary world waits.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. - Luke 2:11