New Year's Resolutions for Beginners: Part 1

As I may have mentioned yesterday, I've been apprehensive about making resolutions that are too big and unattainable. While I have a lot of different ideas for all the different areas in my life, I'm only focusing on changes for myself during the start of the year.

Here they are, my first ever New Year's resolution. Sort-of.  I guess technically they aren't all New Year's resolutions because I'm not officially starting them all with the new year.

Let's just call 2015, the year of change.

Just for Me

 I used to read books. It was fun. Sigh. This year I've decided make a goal of reading 6 books (that don't have pictures to help with the story.) I'd also like to go out with friends more than five times this year-yeah, I'm getting all wild and crazy over here!

 I don't do gyms. I hate working out in crowds. But I do need to work on my strength and flexibility (2015 marks my 40th year and I plan on making sure the next 40 or more years are good ones.)  My goal is to workout more than I did in 2014. Having only worked out (ahem) once officially this year, I think this is a goal that I can achieve.

My chosen method: Pilates (I used to do Pilates and I loved it!) Frequency (baby stepping here remember): Twice a week for January, and February. Three times a week for March and April. May through forever, four to five times a week.

Speaking for myself, I can't be a healthy mother if I don't set aside some time to 'be' with God. Right now I have two different devotionals and my Bible sitting on the end table next to my couch. While I'd like to say that I will definitely read my devotional daily, it doesn't always happen. However, I can spend quiet time with God-when I'm getting ready in the morning, packing lunches, getting dressed, after the kids go to bed at night. Prayer without ceasing.

I also know that I need time to breath. To just exist without caring for anyone, without having anything to do or think about. For me, getting outside in nature or doing manual labor (I know, weird, right) does that for me. 

I am horrible about designating time for my art or to finish the art that I start. Ironically, I feel the most comfortable and content when I am creating. I can't tell (okay, I won't tell you) how many projects I have laying around the house right now. If it is a project for someone else I generally get it done (especially if it's not a family member). I just need deadlines I guess. This year I'm setting a goal of finishing three of those projects that I have started.

Well that's it. I've started with me because I truly believe that the more balanced, happy, and healthy I am, the better I can take care of my kids. It's important for them to see a their mom taking care of herself.  

Fingers crossed. I have other goals for the year which I plan on sharing eventually. Like I said, 2015 is going to be a year of making healthy changes.

What are some of the healthy changes you plan on making in the coming year? 

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New Year's Resolutions

I have never been one to make New Year's resolutions. To me, our lives should be a continual process of self improvement. This coming year feels different. Our family has been through a lot. It feels at times that there is a dark cloud hanging over us. A sorrow that will never lift. But I refuse to live that way.

Life is not meant to be endured, it's meant to be lived. While grief makes me want to stay frozen in time, life is moving forward. Painful as it is. 

We have a brief time on this planet. I am not going to stroll through my journey, I want to run the race. Even if I trip and fall along the way. I may reach the finish line beaten and bruised, in fact, I am fairly certain that I will. But, I also know that along with the lows, there will be highs. Moments of joy to match the moments of sorrow. Moments of both triumph and failure.

Most importantly I want to show my children that, although life can be hard, we should never be afraid to live.

The extraneous stuff, the mundane, that petty worries that keep me awake at night-I'm done with it (at least I'm going to try.) There's a saying by Stephen Covey that says, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

I've been trying to narrow my goals down to a few of (what I consider to be) the most important areas of my life. I'm keeping the goals small. With my hectic life, there is really no point in making grandiose, impossible goals.

I need to take care of myself. I need to take care of my family. I need to take care of our home. I'd like to serve others and make an impact on the world in some small way. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of things that I could do in each of these areas. It can be overwhelming.

For me, I've decided to first look at who I am as a person, and who I would like to be. I need to stay true to myself. I need to set goals that have meaning to me and would make a difference in my life, for my family. Over the past few weeks, I've been spending time just trying to imagine what I want our lives to look and feel like. The question is, what would have the most impact? What's the "main thing" or things for us?

What's your main thing? Are you ready for 2015?

I'll be publishing my list of goals/plans/resolutions on New Year's Eve.

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A Holiday Message from a Broken Family

Dear Friends and Strangers,

I don't want to be a downer. Normally, I love the time from Thanksgiving until New Years. I love Christmas music, I love planning out the delicious treats that I am going to make, and finding just the right gifts. I love finding ways to give to others at this time of year-to those who are struggling and might need a little bit extra.

It looks like we will be the ones struggling this year.

Last year at this time, our family was still reeling from the unexpected death of my father. He passed away the day after his birthday of a massive heart attack on the way home from work.

It was tough.

Eleven months passed, and we started the twelfth. As the end of October approached, we held our breaths. All of the birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, and seasons, had been survived. This was our new normal and we could do this. My brother (the one who had been with my dad when he died) and his wife were expecting a baby any day, surely a sign of better things to come for all of us.

Then, just days before the anniversary of my dad's death, my brother and his wife lost their newborn baby girl. Two weeks later, one of my younger brothers died in a car accident. To say we are devastated doesn't even begin to describe how we feel.

We will never be the same.

Our fractured lives will slowly be put back together, but there have been pieces that are beyond repair. No amount of 'glue' will put things back to the way they were. I did not know that it was possible to feel so broken. It's as if the floor has disappeared from under our feet and we are in a free fall.

Coming from a large family, each of us is processing our grief in different ways. Collectively, we have lost a spouse, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, fiance, niece, daughter, grand daughter, big sister, and cousin-all in just over a year.

Never in my life have I felt so completely broken.

One of my students asked me if our family was cursed. Sometimes, it's tempting to feel that way. Thankfully, I was raised to know the difference between God and Santa. Santa is the one that brings us what we want, then leaves. God is the One who is there with us even when life hands us what we would never want.

As I sit at night, still trying to digest this truth that feels so much like a nightmare, I cling to Jesus. God hears and feels our pain (Psalm 22:24). When Lazarus died, Jesus wept (John 11:35). We just need to look up to him.

Little Man and I have been reading the Chronicles of Narnia books recently. I was surprised that the book would have anything that might help me in my grief, but it did. The lion (Aslan), represents God.

I've had to remind myself that being a Christian doesn't make us exempt from pain and trials. It doesn't make our lives a guaranteed success. The Bible doesn't say, "Follow me and I will make you really successful, wealthy, and make sure you never have tragedy in your life." (Even though sometimes in today's culture it feels like that is what we are being told.)

Our family is not the only broken family working our way through this holiday season. There are other families out there who are facing situations that have broken them as well. Addictions, betrayals, divorce, joblessness, disease, hunger, abuse. We might not be able to see it when we meet them on the street, but they too are feeling the fragility of life. Putting one foot in front of the other. Praying for a dreamless sleep at the end of another tough day.

I still love Christmas. I want my children to enjoy and celebrate the true meaning of this time of year. But in my new brokenness, it will be done in a quieter, gentler way than I've ever celebrated it before. It's the 'holidays.' A time for gathering together and sharing with one another.

As you celebrate with the one's you love, say a prayer for the broken families. And, if you're one of us, know that I will be saying a prayer for all of you as well.

"You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? " Psalms 56:8

"For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard when he cried to him." Psalms 22:24.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace, In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

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Our Own Worst Self

There has been a common theme in many of the conversations I have been having with people over the past few weeks. Discussions of struggle and regret, hurt and second chances. This post is one that I wrote some time ago but was waiting for the right time to post it. 

I think now is that time.

Everyone has those days. Days where we are the worst version of ourselves. Days as parents that we wish we could go back and have a do over. Days where we are stressed to the max and are just doing the best that we can to just get by.

If we are one of the lucky one's, we have people around us who support us through these tough times. Who give us grace and understanding, walking alongside us until we reach the other side of our struggle.  They know we will do better next time. They are able look at the big picture, and don't hold our mistakes against us.

Sadly, we are not always supported by such people. There are those who prefer to keep track of and tally up every one of our mistakes, to be used against us later. Delighting in our failures. Rather than looking at our whole lives, they take our worst mistakes and use them as the moments that define how they view us. Whether it happened yesterday or 40 years ago, they revel in their self proclaimed role as judge and jury.

I have often thought that it would feel great to be able to put those people in their place. To really tell them what I think of them and set them straight once and for all. In reality, I know nothing I say would really matter to someone bent on focusing on another person's faults. Even bringing the proverbial mirror up for them to look into would have no impact on what they believed. They are virtually flawless, or (at the very least) much better than most.

So, I have tried to create boundaries for myself and my children to keep a distance from such judgement. I try to learn from those experiences of being judged and serve up grace, instead of condemnation, on those around me. It doesn't always work, but I keep trying.

After all, who doesn't have moments in life where they wish they'd made different choices, or handled things a little differently? I know that I do (usually daily.)

Thankfully, as L.M. Montgomery wrote in Anne of Green Gables, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

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Learning How to BE

This last year has been one of change and growth for me. Change is a process, and does not have to be a bad thing. In fact, the end result can be a amazing once we get to the other side.

However along with change, can come pain. Growing pains, if you will. We can fight it, and break in the process. Or we can bend with it, and let it shape us into something uniquely beautiful that we never would have expected.

I hate change. Yep. Always have. Give me safe, predictable, and boring any day.

This process of change has forced me to find a new way to 'be.' It truly felt like I didn't know who I was anymore. In my quest to discover who I am now, I was brought face to face with something I didn't anticipate.


I have struggled with a laundry list of fears (both real and imagined) that have paralyzed me to act on many things during the past twelve months. Self doubt, imagined scenarios, you name it and it has probably kept me awake at least one night in the past twelve months. So I have stayed silent, gripped by fear. But we are not meant to live in fear.

Because FEAR LIES!

Fear says that we will never make it, that all is hopeless, that we will always fail, that it will never get better, that we can't make a difference, that all is lost. We're never good enough, smart enough, clever enough, good looking enough.

But that's not true.

Life is about learning and growing from our mistakes, not about perfection. We will fall many times in our life. FALLING ISN'T FAILING. Whether or not we get back up, that's what counts.

It's something I've needed to remind myself of, and maybe you needed to hear it today as well. Some days we will thrive and some we will just get by.

I will never be able to go back to the way I was. It hasn't felt comfortable. There is a depth to the 'song of my life' that wasn't there before. A deeper, more sorrowful tone that wasn't present a year ago has been added. That just makes that joyful notes sound so much sweeter.

I will proudly 'sing' these new notes in my life, acknowledging them, but not letting them stop me from continuing to add to my song, and continuing to learn how to be.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
                                                                                                                                  ~2 Timothy 1:7

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When Words are Not Enough

The past several months have been painful ones for me. Although I am able to put on a happy face and answer "I'm well, and you?" when approached in public, it is harder for me to put on the same facade when I write. Writing has always been the place where I process my life, with all the gritty details.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where words can't express how we are feeling. Where, in fact, words would be a hindrance. When the depth of emotion in the situation, the sorrow, joy, fear, shock, love, excitement... is beyond being able to be expressed with simple words.

This summer has been filled with those moments. I have witnessed and/or experienced emotions that are difficult impossible to put into words and so I have stayed silent. I have cried tears for myself, for people I know well, and for virtual strangers. All of these instances have been a catalyst for me to really examine my own life history.

I once heard someone on a radio program say that, as a Christian, we should never be heard saying "life is hard" because God is with us and therefore, nothing should be hard. I think that's a load of hooey. (Apparently he had never read the book of Job.) Christian or not, life is filled with highs and lows.

Having faith does not make us exempt from pain just as admitting our struggles does not mean we lack faith.

This summer, I have focused on trying to heal some of the painful spots in my heart that I have accumulated over my thirty-nine and a half years. I have spent hours in the night talking with God. I have stood outside drinking in the sweet perfume of twilight and sat with the dog enjoying the stillness of morning. I've stood, eyes closed, while I relished the feeling of a cool breeze on my face and the sounds of my children playing. I have allowed myself to cry the tears that I have kept bottled up for far too long. To grieve fully all of those people, dreams, and relationships that I've lost through the years. I've worked to make peace with those past hurts from people who will never offer an apology, and to forgive myself (my own worst critic) for the mistakes of my past.

I had a wonderful childhood and have a good life. Because of that, I think sometimes it's hard for me to admit that I've ever struggled. Almost as if I'm being ungrateful for what I have, by grieving what I have lost, where I have stumbled.

We don't like pain, so we try to put it behind us as quickly as possible. "Whew, we made it through! Now quick, close that chapter of life and move on to happier times and pretend that it didn't happen."  Failing to finish processing what we have gone through (debriefing, if you will) is generally avoided. Yet, the tough times in our lives are as much a part of who we are as the good times. In fact, I would argue that they have made us who we are today.

I am not one to encourage having a victim mentality, or wallowing in self pity. Tough stuff happens and it changes us.

How we respond is what makes the difference in the end.

Because, even in our brokenness, I believe it's possible to fly.

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. 
The Lord builds up Jerusalem; 
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. 
He heals the brokenhearted 
And binds up their wounds. 
~Psalm 147:1-3
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Keeping Up With the Joneses

There is an old saying, "Keeping up with the Joneses." They've even made a movie with that phrase as the title. Growing up, the saying didn't make all that much sense to me. My teenage self would have said, "I mean, what's the big deal? We all just live our lives in our own way. After all, we are all unique, right? Who would ever want to be the same as someone else?"

Aaah, the innocence of youth.  As much as we all may try, there are times in all of our lives where we may find ourselves getting caught up in the quest to keep up with society. Even our friends, neighbors, and family can become the 'Joneses' in our lives.

I have found myself on more than one occasion caught in the vicious cycle of trying to keep up. Whether it's trying to be the super single parent, the mom who plans the best birthday parties, the colleague who has everything organized and put together. Posting the best pictures on Facebook. Being the most 'artsy' of artists.

Proving to the world (or at least those who know me) that our family is doing GREAT!  I'm doing GREAT! EVERYTHING IS GREAT!!!(Super psycho smiley face implied, hope you caught it.)

Not long ago, Little Man, Baby B and I went to the park with my brother's family, and my mom. While there, I saw a mom with an impressive camera getting pictures of baby's first trip to the park. You could see how excited the mom and dad were. Expectations were high. They were going to capture this first of their precious little girl playing at the playground. That is not a bad thing (although that lens was pretty ginormous cool.)

As I looked at their amazing camera, I thought about our broken digital camera and the fact that I am currently capturing memories on my cell phone.  Just like that, they had become the Joneses. It wasn't their fault. There is nothing wrong with having a nice camera when you can afford one. They weren't trying to be flashy or showy.  They were just living out their life.

I was the one making myself feel inadequate, and envious. (Gulp.) So much for my youthful spouting off about how "We should all just live our lives!" Are there real 'Joneses' in the world? Absolutely. For some people, every aspect of life is a competition and they are the victors. This time, unfortunately, I was the one that was the problem.

At that moment I thought to myself, "Enough is enough!" The fact of the matter is, there will always be someone who is more-something- that I am not.

While I try to pride myself on my individuality, a small part of me wonders if I should maybe be more athletic, studious, friendly, creative. More motherly, more understanding, more frugal, more patient, you get the picture. I think that many people have the same internal thought process. We act self assured and yet we are always trying to be thinner, smarter, richer, poorer, etc.

Yes, there are those who encourage the competition and suddenly in life becomes a rivalry. (Kind of like the women in this clip from "The Happiest Millionaire"-I love that movie!)

"Yeah, I have given away all of my clothes except for seven items. Seven days of the week, seven items." "I gave my entire income for the year to Feed the Unicorns. They're a really worthwhile organization."

Enough already!

Aiming for self improvement is not the problem. Treating everyone as if we are in a competition, THAT is the problem.

I recycle because its a habit I started a long time ago. I give to organizations that I feel speak to me, and don't worry about what everyone else if doing. I try to eat organic and raise organic foods when I can afford to, but I'm not going to preach to you about the dangers of not eating organic unless you ask. I would love to be like Claire Huxtable (according to one of those FB profile games that is the TV mom that I am most similar to) cool and stylish and always knowing the right thing to say.

In reality, I spend an inordinate amount of time talking to my two year old about the importance of going poop.

I don't know who the original Joneses were, but I know Genesis says that Adam and Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit because they wanted to have knowledge just like God. It seems the desire to be equal to and/or better than others started a long time ago.

Well, Joneses, I will be taking the next exit out of this crazy town to enjoy my own life. Enjoy the neighborhood without me.

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Color Blind

I am an art teacher and have taught several students through the years that were color blind. The two most common forms of color blindness involve poor discrimination of the colors red and green respectively. In other words, those individuals can't see the colors red and green as well (or at all) as a person normally would. Generally, when someone explains that they are color blind, our automatic response isn't, "That is soooo great! Don't you wish EVERYONE was color blind?"

However, it has been very popular for people to state that they are color blind when referring to their attitudes towards other races. So much so, this one of the definitions of the phrase.

  1. 1.
    unable to distinguish certain colors, or (rarely in humans) any colors at all.
  2. 2.
    not influenced by racial prejudice.
    "a color-blind society"

Honestly, in my younger years, I would have thought calling myself color blind would have been a good thing. If I say that I am color blind, that must mean that I see all races as equal right? So that must be a good thing.

Or is it?

Just as being physically color blind, while not crippling, is not something we celebrate, I have started to feel the same way about being (for lack of a better word) racially color blind. You see, I think that the different races that make up our world are something to be celebrated. Not being influenced by racial prejudice is good, ignoring our uniqueness is not. I find it so interesting to meet and interact with individuals who have backgrounds different than my own. It would be extremely sad for me to live in a world where everyone was of the same racial origin.

While the idea of being color blind is good in theory, for me it feels like we're missing the mark with that statement.

With my own children, ignoring their race would be disregarding a major part of who they are. It would feel like I was saying they weren't important, by not acknowledging that wonderful aspect of them.

My children's heritage is to be celebrated just as much as my heritage or your heritage. Our histories, our origins, our cultures, are an important part of who we are.  Our life stories are meant to be rich with color, not devoid of them.

That depth of color, those experiences we share with others, is one of the things that make life so beautiful.

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Fatherly Behavior

Those of you who know me, know that I am raising Little Man and Baby B 'on my own.' (Alone, I guess, if you don't count the support structure of carefully vetted friends and family that I have surrounded us with.) According to statistics, the chances for a bright future while having no father may not be as bright for them as for those children being raised in a two parent home. I know that, so please don't feel the need to comment on that fact after reading this post. I will just delete your comment. We plan on ignoring the statistics. Now that we've taken care of that, shall we continue?

It is quite common to hear the term 'motherly' being used. Ironically, we don't use the term 'fatherly' used as often. Think about it, people will often refer to a little girl as acting 'motherly' but when a little boy is acting in a nurturing manner, we don't automatically say that he is acting 'fatherly.'

I think that's too bad.

Boys need to learn about what it means to be a father just as much as girls need to learn what it means to be a mother. Nurturing and supporting others is one of the most important things we can teach a child.

On this Father's Day, I celebrate the father that was part of my for nearly 39 years. If anyone modeled fatherly traits, it was him. The man who worked hard to not only support his family financially, but also took the time to really love his children and his wife. The man who rarely, if ever, raised his voice. Whose life demonstrated what integrity, honesty, and kindness should look like. The man who was a father/mentor/grandfather to many young boys and men through the years. The man who taught Little Man so many of the things a father would have wanted to teach him. Some of those things I thought Dad was showing Little Man at too young of an age. Now I'm thankful for those lessons he gave him.

I celebrate the dads out there who aren't afraid to show their children their silly side. Who aren't afraid to let their kids see them cry. The fathers who are a firm, kind, stabilizing force in their families. Those dads who stay with their families even when things get tough, and scary, and uncomfortable. Who are 'fatherly.'

I celebrate those men who are mentors to the children who have no father around in their life. The men who help the children without dads learn how to treat a woman, and how a woman should be treated. Who are nurturing and supporting without conditions-just out of the goodness of their heart. The men who help balance out the life of these children, whose days are so often filled with only the influence of women. They really need both.

I celebrate my Father in heaven, who promises to be there for the widowed and the orphaned. Who will help me to navigate this thing called parenting. To be there for me when I am aching so to hear my dad's voice (just one more time) as he cracked a lame joke with my son, then winked at me as he waited to see if Little Man had caught it.

For those of you who still have a father here on earth, I pray that he is one that brings you that kind of love and happiness. For those of you who don't have that kind of relationship with your father, my heart aches for you. I pray that there is someone in your life who has filled that void. And, if there isn't, I know there is a God who has been waiting for years to fill the position.

Happy Father's Day.

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The Deconstructed Home

Deconstructed food is all the rage these days. The Barefoot Contessa was on today and Ina Garten was making a deconstructed lobster salad. I've seen other shows where they have deconstructed different dishes-everything from strawberry shortcake to chicken kiev to black forest cake. There are even pinterest groups dedicated to the idea. Pretty fancy schmancy stuff from what I've gathered. ☺

Today as I flipped past the deconstructed lobster salad, I was hit with a genius thought. (Hang with me here).

According to one definition of the word deconstuct it means to break down into components;dismantle. Well, I don't know about you but we are super good at breaking things down and dismantling in our house. (Don't mean to brag or anything.) It's just the whole putting things back together part where we struggle.

In fact, we are so good at deconstructing that I am currently hoping to "reconstruct" our home into something that less resembles a home in the early stages of packing up to move.

We all want a clean, beautiful home. But life happens and since we live in our home, that is not always the case. Especially when it's the end of the school year...and you're me.

I recognize that even the top chefs who love created 'deconstructed' dishes do not ONLY make deconstructed masterpieces. Speaking only for myself, I am definitely on a mission to eliminate all of the extra 'stuff' out of our home (I blogged about that quest before), create defined spaces for the stuff, and make the housework more manageable. Frankly, right now we are at one of our low points as far as having things organized and looking presentable.

My main goal for this month is to donate a ton of junk and create concrete parking spots for the stuff that we do keep. Little Man is all in, and Baby B loves putting things away when it's a game. Will there still be days where our house looks a little bit deconstructed? Absolutely! To me, that's how you know you're in a house that people truly live in.

 But, if someone pops in for a surprise visit when the house is a mess, I now have a new explanation.

Oh, and if you are planning on stopping by before July, could you give me a couple of hours heads up so that I can shove everything in a closet put away a couple of things? Thanks.
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The One Million Words Project

Little Man had his last day of second grade today. It's crazy to me that he is growing up so fast. He himself will gleefully tell me that he has only eight years (okay 7 1/2) until he can get his drivers license. Yikes. Time is passing too quickly. Way to soon, my kids will be thinking I am just another adult who doesn't know half of what they know. Gone will be the days when I am "funny, cool...the best mom ever."

When I think back to my childhood, some memories stand out more than others. My dad playing practical jokes. My mom dancing with us to records in the living room. Having squirt gun fights with my siblings in the summer (where, inevitably someone would always end up crying).

What will my children remember from their childhood? What things do we do as a family now, that will make them smile looking back years from now (even when they are teenagers and can't admit it out loud)? What words can I give them that they will carry with them and share with their children?

So, I've come up with a plan. Actually, it's been rolling around in my head for a least a couple of months and I finally feel like I the idea has crystallized. Rather than crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, I've decided to be proactive.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. My goal is to give my children the gift of a visual history of some of those big and small things that we share as a family. Trips, puddle jumping, fishing, taking walks, etc. Memories fade, but photos can be a nice reminder. I plan on recording some of my thoughts for them as well. Written accounts of things that they've said, or moments that were precious to me. Similar to the adventure book that was in the movie "Up".

Our Adventure Book Personalized Photo Album, Scrapbook or Guest Book

A gift for them now and in the future.

I started the project June 1st, and will periodically post my photos on Instagram, Twitter, and here on the blog. Will I finish the project over the summer? Probably not. But I'm determined to leave a visual legacy for my kids to reinforce the lessons and memories we will be sharing along the road of life.

Who would like to join me? If you would like to share a moment from your own family story, you can share it on my Facebook page, or you can find me on Twitter:  @JustMamaBea.

Remember..."Adventure is out there!"

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Choose Your Words

I've been working on finding a better balance for my life. A clarification of what is REALLY important in my life was in order. For me, an introverted, headstrong, perfectionist, chatty patty, people pleaser (Yikes! Doesn't really make sense, does it?) spreading myself too thin means everyone else may be happy but I am miserable.

The more I say 'yes' to the wrong things (too many committees, projects, etc.) the more I say the wrong things to the one's closest to me (No, I can't do x,y,z with you...I just don't have the time... For the fifth time, will you please listen.) Sarcasm, impatience, sighs of frustration in response to perfectly valid requests...you know the ones. The misery of my own choosing results in those around me suffering.

One of the aresa I've decided to work on is choosing my words carefully. Thinking before I speak (a trait that I often do not practice during times of stress.)

 My children are learning from my actions and my words.

Our childhood minister once gave a sermon about choosing your words carefully. During the sermon, he shared a story about he and his siblings fighting as children. One of them said to the other, "Take it back!" after hurtful words were spoken. Then he said something that still resonates with me years later.

"You can't take it back."

People like to pretend that words are not powerful, but I disagree. Words have the power create enemies or friends. To heal or to scar. Everyone has memories of words spoken to them in their lifetime that have lifted them to greater heights, or brought them down.

 A blessing, or a curse.

I want my words to be a blessing to those around me. It's time to practice being intentional with my words and my actions.

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What Makes Someone Brave?

A couple of weeks ago I was having a tough go of it. Feeling overwhelmed, incompetent, never able to complete things that I felt had to be done, and short tempered with those around me.

Then somebody told me I was brave.

When she said it, I stopped short. I had been in the middle of mentally telling myself not to cry (after being told something cutting another person had been saying about me.)

I have never thought of myself as brave. I am frequently second guessing myself. Often fighting off fears that I am doing the wrong thing or that things are about to go badly. Berating myself for all of the mistakes I have made. The would haves, could haves, should haves. When a job needs to be done, I'm an 'okay' fill in, but never first pick. Last choice. Stubborn, yes, but never brave.

Yet, this person saw me in a totally different light. I didn't know what to say. I started to ask myself, why didn't I think of myself in that way?  It almost felt like God whispered in my ear at that moment and said "See, cut yourself some slack."

My doubts and fears can partially be attributed to the voices I have chosen to listen to from outside.

You know how it goes, those off handed comments comparing us negatively to others ("Oh, her mom is sooooo nice, she never gets crabby or anything." "When so and so used to work here, this is how he did it." "Did you let her pick out her own clothes today?" ) Those watchful eyes, analyzing your every move, yet staying painfully silent. The noises of disapproval ("Hmmm," "Ooookaaay," "Well that's so...nice.") Then my favorite, the outright bossy, direct approach: "No, no, no! That's not how you do it at all. When I was raising my kids..."

The thing is, I've chosen to listen to these negative messages and internalize them.

But lately I been asking myself, if I don't consider myself brave...then what is brave?

Here's what I've come up with so far.

~Pushing forward even when you feel like giving up.

~Loving, no matter what you get back in return.

~Sacrificing for others, expecting nothing in return.

~Knowing who to listen to in our lives, and who to ignore.

~Speaking up for those who have no voice.

~Risking failure for a good cause.

The more I thought about it, the more I have realized that brave does not have to mean loud, or flashy. "Brave" isn't just reserved for the big stuff. It's in the little things too. The day to day trek through lifes ups and downs. Through the homework struggles, car payments, and aging.

Faithful, quiet, steady, but determined.

Something like this...

That's the kind of brave I'm going to try for. Anyone else ready to be brave?

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

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Spring Break

I am currently on break from regular blog posts and working on some other 'non-blog' things. I may still be occasionally posting status updates and kid pics, but I am tired to the core and God and I have some little projects to finish.

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8 Tips for the Strong Willed Parent

I was what people call a 'strong willed' child. I knew what was expected of me and would behave appropriately in public (most of the time). At home however, it was a different story.

My poor parents. I know that many of their gray hairs have my name on them. They told me when I was out of college that they seriously wondered if I would survive to adulthood (yep, that bad).

The ironic part of all of this is that I am now raising not one, but two strong-willed children. Each one has their own strong-willed tendencies. This doesn't mean that they are bad children. They have definite leadership potential. They are loving, sensitive, creative kids. Thankfully, the battles they each pick aren't the same ones. Usually, they aren't at the same time either.

The funny thing is, at the end of a day full of battles, my kids aren't the problem...I am.

Being a former strong willed child, part of me wants to pull on the gloves when I sense conflict. I think the word that my mom used to use for it was being 'ornery' or 'contrary'.  You say yes? Well then, my answer must be 'no'. Try to back me into a corner decision wise...I'll come out fighting.

I know, it makes no rational sense and is completely juvenile. In most adult situations, I can mentally talk myself down from this mindset. With my kids however, I have the added piece of 'Hey, I'm the grown-up here. Just obey me now, okay?' My kids know exactly which buttons to push to get me going. The last thing they need is a mom who is playing a headbutting game of wills over ridiculous things, just for the sake of having my own way.

So, what's a parent to do?

I've narrowed it down to eight things for myself.

1. Admit that I have a oppositional streak. Ask myself "Is it really the kids picking the battle, or am I just in a 'mood.'"

2. Take a break. Don't discipline until I can do so calmly and rationally.

3. Look back to look forward. I was a strong-willed child and I turned out okay. I just need to work the rest of my strong willed 'kinks' out. What did my parents do to help me turn into a successful adult.

4. Make a research project out of it. I've been trying to figure out what things are triggers for me, and what my children's triggers are.  If it helps to avoid conflict in the long run, it's worth it.

5. Laugh a little. Talking to other formerly strong willed children (and parents) helps a ton. Not only does it help me to be able to laugh a little at my struggles, but suddenly I no longer feel so alone in this journey. Plus, most of us have at least one strong willed child so we have a lot a stories to share.

6. Take care of myself. The better I eat, the more I sleep, and the more I move the better I parent. Remember how crabby you would be the day after Halloween as a kid when you were coming down from your sugar rush and had gotten to bed too late? Enough said.

7. Admit defeat. Sometimes I will be wrong. I will make the wrong decision. I will jump to the wrong conclusion and I need to tell my kids those two words, "I'm sorry." It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength and it's something that my children need to see me model.

8. Pray for wisdom and discernment. God will point out to my flaws and weaknesses if I ask him. I might not always like what I discover but it's worth it.

Becoming a parent didn't mean that I automatically had all of the answers. Boy, was that disappointing to discover! But, being a parent does mean I need to be the best that I can be so that I can help my children become their best. To do that I need to take care of my strong willed tendencies, so that they don't raise their ugly head during the sometimes stressful journey of raising two amazing human beings.

I think I am up for the challenge. Remember...I'm kind of strong willed. ☺

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When Peace Like a River

Much of my life these past few months has felt like I have been walking upstream in chest deep water. With spring coming, I had thought that the pain of the loss of my dad would have lessened by now. Instead, I find the sadness welling up again at unexpected times. I catch my breath as a sharp stab to my heart reminds me that my dad is gone.

There are supposed to be five stages of grief and I guess I am somewhere along that journey right now. I'm not angry or in denial. I just know that I still miss my dad. I've reached the point where I can actually talk about memories of him and not always want to cry. I have resorted to indulging on some of my hardest days (mainly on coffee, chocolate, and granola bars, but not usually all at once). I don't want to numb myself to the pain.  I lost my Dad-his memory should be grieved.

I try to remind myself that there are others on similar journeys, for the river of grief is rarely walked completely alone.

My children have suffered the loss of their birth parents and birth culture, at an age where they will not have the comfort of loving memories. Other's in my life have suffered the loss of children before they ever had a chance to meet them. Some are grieving the loss of a dream, a future that will never be their's or the diagnosis of an illness.

It's good to remember that struggle is happening in the lives of others, even in the midst of our own pain. As hard as it is to do, I believe if we reach out to others we could help each other as we work through it.

Sorrow is an experience that is touches all of us. It rarely makes sense. While never welcomed, it brings a certain complexity and tenderness to our lives if we allow it.  Instead of our lives having the simplicity of the song 'Chopsticks' it becomes more like a piece by Tchaikovsky.

Oswald Chambers once said, "If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart." So as I walk through this period of brokenness, I pray that His purposes are brought to pass through this struggle knowing that God will carry me through.

This old hymn really says it all.

It is Well With My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!
Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

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Math Club, Matchmaking, and Other Mysteries

Some things in life are a complete mystery to me.

Take math club for example.  Growing up, I knew people that were in math club (or Math Masters). They were very nice people, fun people. But I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that club was not for me.

Solving mathematical equations for fun? No thanks, I'm good.

The ironic part is...I now run a math club at our school. The kids are having a blast, I'm having a blast...I still can't believe it. Who'd have ever thought?

Matchmaking. Yikes. I have gone on dates with men that people have matched me up with. They weren't horrible dates, but we definitely weren't a match.(Okay, so one of the matches actually was pretty bad. He had recently quit taking his medication...but that's a whole other story.) Now we have all of these dating sites like Match.com, eHarmony.com, ChristianMingle.com, etc. with ads proclaiming their success. I love the idea of finding my perfect match, but matchmaking freaks me out.

For Pete's sake they even sang about the risks of arranged marriages in Fiddler on the Roof..although that tune really sticks in your head.

Potty chairs with an Ipad stand attached.. I'm not even kidding. Sigh. Like we need to kill children's imaginations at an even earlier age.

Not to mention all of the germs. Ugh. Enough said.

Those are the 'big' mysteries bothering me these days. Although, there are a few minor one's still floating around in my head (Like banana popsicles, fruit juice that contains no actual fruit juice, high heeled tennis shoes, kidney pie...)

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One Year Ago, I Met My Daughter

One year ago, Little Man and I traveled to Haiti to meet Baby B for the first time (check out those posts herehere , here, and here). Although she has only been home since September, it already has started to feel like she was always here (in a good way! ☺) The smiles come more easily these days, the tears are less. Lately, she only wants her mama when other people are around...and I love it! 

So much has happened in a year. I thought you'd like to see some of our highlights.

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Unhappy People

Unhappy people are all around us in life, without us always realizing it. They come across as 'difficult.' We, more often than not, absorb their negativity and throw it right back at them. Then we continue on our way, being equally difficult to those who are unfortunate enough to cross our paths.  It's a frequently repeated occurrence.

Last week I encountered many unhappy people. Each was unhappy for a different reason.

Past Decisions

The first was dealing with pain from a decision they regretted in their past. The anger at themselves had tainted every aspect of their lives since then. Anyone that they perceived as being associated with that negative event-ready, aim, fire. That's where I walked into the picture. A completely innocent bystander, I was first shocked, sickened, and then furious. How could she, how dare she, I'll show her...you get the picture. Thankfully, I was at work so I couldn't respond right away. Then I went home and I had sick kids to take care of. When I finally was able to deal with the issue, I had taken time to breath and process. That's when I realized her anger did not have to become my own. Her anger was just her coping mechanism, her way to block the grief and sadness that she had never truly allowed herself to deal with. So I took a breath, said a prayer for her, and moved on.


The second was dealing with temporary circumstances that were causing a great deal of stress. Through no fault of her own, life had thrown her a curve ball. She felt overwhelmed and was sinking. Everything at this point felt like too much. Consequently, her response to everyday events was not as gracious as it normally would have been. She was hurting, had lost her joy. While she was not consciously trying to spread her pain, it was happening nonetheless. I crossed her path, got 'bit', took the bait. and bit back. I instantly regretted my reaction and worked to repair my half of the problem. In the end things, worked out fine, but it wasn't a fun situation at the time.


The third was a student of mine. We had just started a new project in class. I could see that he was determined to succeed. This young man does not do well with any missteps or imperfections. He fears failure and looking weak more than anything else. Unfortunately, as with all humans, he made a mistake on his drawing. Despite having an eraser close at hand, he instantly became angry and started to shut down. I offered a couple of solutions and tried to redirect. Instead, he started to bait the nearest student that he knew would 'bite'. Soon, I had two angry students. I told the other student what was happening, and in the end, he was able to walk away without taking the anger with him.

I encountered each of these situations over a twenty-four hour period. In two of the three scenarios, I wanted to lash out in return. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's true. I, in turn, started to become the difficult person.  It's a good lesson for me to be reminded of.

Being able to look past the anger to see the underlying pain, makes all the difference.

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Wishing for Spring

We've had a warm streak around here lately. It's been so warm (up to a steamy fifty degrees!) that the kids are outside at recess without their coats on. I know, I know, fifty degrees isn't that warm in most places, but when you've had a winter of -40, it feels positively muggy.

Thankfully, the warmer days are starting to melt the piles of snow. There are even a few places where you can see patches of grass.

When my dad was still alive, this kind of weather would get both of us all excited. For us, melting snow has always meant two things. 1.) get out the shovels and channel the water off of the gravel drive. 2.) Start raking some of the snow banks down so that they melt faster.

Yep, kind of lame, but it always worked for us. When I was kid, us kids would be floating various objects down the rivulets of water my dad created in his quest to dry off the driveway. Now, Little Man and Baby B will be following in my footsteps, while I follow Dad's.

Some would say it's an exercise in futility. That it really doesn't make enough of a difference to warrant the amount of time, and effort we put in to the process. That it's much too early to be thinking that the snow will melt any time soon (at least where we live.)

They are probably right.

Dry driveway, here we come. Now where did I put the rake and shovel?

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