Friday, November 22, 2013

Surprised by Kindness

I was in a conversation recently where the idea of paying for the car behind you in a drive thru came up - and it was a new idea to some people.  Which kind of shocked me!  That specific version of paying it forward or random acts of kindness has even made the news so I was shocked that someone found it to be a new idea.

So it got me thinking - maybe there are other kind gestures people do that others simply hadn't thought of and maybe making a list of some of those things would be a cool thing to blog about.

So I went to my social network and asked people for input.  Tell me your favorite acts of kindness, compassion, charitable care and giving.  I assumed I'd get a list of - pay for the car behind me, leave flowers with a cashier and ask that they give a flower to anyone who seems to need it, leave a dollar on the vending machine, and so on. 

Instead, I got a bigger lesson than that.

People shared stories of seeing a need or having a need and it being met by friends, family, and even strangers.  Stopping to help an emergency situation.  Paying for the car behind you - but from the perspective of a manager of a fast food restaurant and her sharing the joyful impact it has on her employees. A single mom who struggled and had people reach out to offer aid.  Paying for someone's train ride when they realized they didn't have their ticket.

But every message I read had the same theme.

I had a need and someone saw it and filled it.

I saw a need and found a way to fill it.

So I thought I was going to come up with a list of 20 ways to show kindness.

Instead, I got some valuable inspiration on awareness and compassion.

Keep your eyes and heart open.  When you become aware of a need... when you see a place where you can help... when you are aware of an opportunity to make life better for someone (even if it's just buying their lunch or giving them a big smile)...

Do it.  We each have such individual power.  We don't need permission to be compassionate.  And if you do need permission - I'm giving it to you.  Step out of your comfort zone this holiday season.  Challenge yourself.  Don't just toss some money at a problem.  Put your heart out there.

Open your heart.  Open your mind.  Open your eyes.

Need is all around you.

And even the smallest gesture of kindness can have a big impact.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Menu - Check! #RespectTheTurkey

I've been scouring the internet for recipes and inspiration for Thanksgiving dinner.

I'm very excited to be able to have a more active role in the family meal this year.

Last year... well, w eknow I wasn't feeling any kind of holiday spirit.

This year... not only am I filled with joy and love and gratitude, I'm also so excited to spend time with our families!

We have Thanksgiving with Jeff's family this weekend.  The only thing we bring is a veggie tray and a fruit salad or fruit tray.  I've got a recipe for homemade ranch dip that I'll be using for my veggie tray.  Most years, we just buy the 2 trays from the grocery store but this year, I am putting together my own veggie tray and fruit!

Zach and I will be heading to my mom and dad's house on Wednesday evening.  I'll be heading up the cooking on Thursday morning.  Jeff, our friend Brian, and Teagan will head over on Thursday morning (Teagan has dance class on Weds evening).

The menu is planned to make sure that favorite items are included - for example, the grocery store cheese ball and ritz crackers is a must for Jeff.


Veggie tray with homemade ranch dip
Grocery store cheese ball and ritz crackers
Summer sausage, cheese, crackers
Shrimp cocktail
Baked brie with apple slices, bread
Deviled Eggs


Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce
Green bean casserole (no mushrooms)
Stove Top stuffing
Roasted potatoes/carrots/leeks/brussels sprouts


Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie
Turtle Cheesecake
Pumpkin Crunch

OMG. This is making me hungry.  Is it Thanksgiving yet?? I'm ready to cook and eat! I'm ready to hug my brothers and kiss my grandma!  I'm ready for football in the yard and Star Trek gaming in the living room and making Star Wars snowflakes!

I'm ready, Mr. Turkey!  Bring it on!!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Back To My Old Self

I took some time today and went back and read some of my blog posts from 1 year ago.

For those of you who have stuck around... thank you.

Dang, I was in a low place.  I was starting to bring myself down just reading about how I used to feel!

I am about 1 year out from the lowest point in my working career... when I had to face Depression for the first time.  It still boggles my mind that I've gone through some really intense stuff but it was the ongoing crappiness of my job situation that finally took me to a point where I needed to face that D word.

And then I reflect on how my life is right now.

And it's incredible... the difference.

New boss, new department, new office.

Back to the Old Me.

I'm excited for Thanksgiving.  I'm eagerly planning the menu and figuring out all the travel needs for the weekend.  A friend is getting married that weekend and I'm excited to be part of her day as a witness in the congregation.

I'm excited to get started on the Christmas season.  I'm still respecting the turkey... no decorations are up yet.  But I am thinking about decorations and holiday events around town and parties and get togethers and Christmas lists and church programs.

I'm actually looking forward to this entire holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

Instead of stress, exhaustion, self doubt, irritaiton, frustration, guilt... that was soooo 2012...

I am filled with love and joy and peace and I want to share it.

Last year, I could barely crack my heart open for compassionate giving.  Did it. But my heart wasn't feeling it.

This year, I'm overflowing and hoping my finances can keep up.

My theme word for 2012 was Steady.  For 2013, it was Reach.  And reflecting back... both were appropriate.  I feel like 2013 is ending with a different focus word.  Celebration.

I'm back to my old self.  And that I'm also new and improved! And I've never felt better!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Momentary Wishes

The other day, I read a daily devotional that comes to my email each day - it's a daily reading of C. S. Lewis.  I often find something in it that sits with me.

Recently, there was a letter that he wrote to a woman who had expressed her concern about her own heart because she was pregnant and wished that she wasn't.

His response included the line above.

And it has not only stayed with me but has been coming up in various places time and time again.

We all have immediate responses to things, don't we?  That emotional reaction.

And there is no reason to feel guilty for those momentary, fleeting feelings or wishes or desires.

It's when we hold on to them that a problem arises.

Sometimes, I have a fleeting thought that perhaps... maybe... just for a moment...

I don't want to be a mom anymore.

Those are hard words to say.  Sometimes I can crack jokes about the stresses of parenthood.  But sometimes, I really have a momentary thought of just running away or somehow just not being a mom.

And then I feel guilty.

Because what kind of mom would ever think such a thing?

But this reminder... I don't embrace that wish.  I don't embrace that momentary wish at all.

Which means there is no room for guilt in my response.

Sometimes, I want to go buy and eat a Medium bag of Peanut M&M's.  And then I start to beat myself up for considerin git when I am working on eating better, being healthier.

But I don't go buy the candy.  And I don't pig out on a replacement.  And with a little prayer and focus, my momentary wish passes and there is no room for guilt.

"As to wishing it had not happened, one can’t help momentary wishes: guilt begins only when one embraces them. You can’t help their knocking at the door, but one mustn’t ask them in to lunch. And no doubt you have many feelings on the other side. I am sure you felt as I did when I heard my first bullet, ‘This is War: this is what Homer wrote about.’ For, all said and done, a woman who has never had a baby and a man who has never been either in a battle or a storm at sea, are, in a sense, rather outside—haven’t really ‘seen life’—haven’t served. We will indeed have you in our prayers."

"And no doubt you have many feelings on the other side."

That's another really important point, isn't it?

When I have that momentary wish of not being a mom anymore... the flip side is that I would never give up being a mom, that I would literally die to save my children, that my kids fill my heart with joy and love.

When I have that momentary wish of snarfing down a large bag of candy... the feelings on the other side are the pride I have in my accomplishments, the strength I have in knowing that I can choose something beneficial rather than unnecessary.

Momentary wishes.
No embracing, no guilt.
Focus on the other feelings.

That's some common sense I can definitely use in my life.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Reality Check

I've lost 5 pounds.

But I don't feel much like celebrating.

Because what I am first doing is working on losing the weight I've gained in the last 6 months.  I went nuts with food.  I was eating anything and everything and in any quantity I wanted.  I was completely ruled by food - and the greasier, sweeter, saltier, and more processed the better.

And when I lose the weight that I gained because I was being... lazy, self-indulgent, unaware... I don't feel like there is a whole lot there to celebrate.

I'm proud of myself.  I'm very glad a friend asked me to partner with her so we can support each other.  Because I needed a push, I needed something to get me out of that downward spiral that I was in.  And I am making better choices most of the time.

And once I get back into the weight zone that I was in 6 months ago... then I will feel like I am actually back on track.  And then I will start to really celebrate my losses, my successes.

Because I will have successes to celebrate!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Healthy. Hmmmmm.

I've been thinking about this word lately.


Even when you look it up in a dictionary, you don't get a good definition.

"enjoying health and vigor of body, mind, or spirit"

"in good health"

"freedom from disease or abnormality"

"a condition of optimal well being"

I am working on healthy living.  Eating better.  Moving more.

How do I know when I've become healthy?  When I've eaten nothing but whole foods for a month?  When I can run a 5K?  When my annual physical comes back with zero areas of concern?  When I feel strong and energetic?  When I reach a certain weight?

How do any of us know when we are healthy?  And if we all have different definitions of healthy, how are we ever supposed to know how to get there?

If you ask the question - "I want to lose weight" or "I want to get healthy" - you will get a different answer from every person you ask.

Some need to follow a diet.  Some need a strict plan. Some need accountability.  Some need medication or surgery or counseling.  Some need a goal.  Some need to cut out sugar.  Some need to go gluten free.

We each have to find what works for us.

For me...

I am focusing on natural foods, real foods.  If it grows, it's good.  Doesn't mean I stick with it 100% of the time.

I am focusing on letting God into my food.  I've kept Him pretty well locked out.

Next step is to get some daily, intentional activity.

I'm not looking to run a marathon.  I'm not looking to be a certain size or weight.

At the end of the day, I just want to be able to honestly say that I did my best.

I want to know that I took care of my body.   That I took care of my spirit.  That I took care of others.  That my choices reflected love, respect, and dignity.

That's what healthy is to me.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Wrong! #RespectTheTurkey

This past weekend, a local outdoor mall had their annual extravanganza to welcome Santa Claus.

Yup - you read that correctly.  Santa made a grand entrance at a big festival on November 9.  6 weeks and 4 days before Christmas.

Some radio stations have been sneaking in some Christmas songs here and there and I hear a local station will be kicking off the "all Christmas" format very soon.

I've heard reports of Christmas music being heard in stores.

I can understand the Christmas shopping and even the Christmas hobby and gift shows that start popping up.
But then the unimaginable happened.

The 12 Days of Christmas.

Being sung very loudly and joyfully.

From the backseat of my own vehicle.

My own children have turned against me!


Where did I go wrong?

Time to bring some Thanksgiving focus to my family.  I've been participating in the month of gratitude thing that pops up this time of year - sharing something each day that I am thankful for.  It's kind of nice - I generally take time at the end of the day to reflect on the events of the day and find a blessing in there that I am thankful for.

And I think it's something we can easily bring to our dinner table for the rest of the month.

Giving Thanks.  Thanksgiving.  A focus on gratitude.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Letting God In

My pastor has often preached about letting God in... maybe you haven't let him in to your finances, your broken marriage, your relationship with your estranged father, you job.  And as we discover where we are refusing to allow Him to guide us, we will grow closer on our walk with Christ, be more effective in living to our life purpose.

And every time he's said it... I nod my head and go through a checklist.  And I've felt like I have God pretty securely in most areas of my life.  I know I'm not perfect and I know I'm a work in progress so I never claimed to have Him completely but I couldn't identify an area where I immediately needed improvement.

And then things happened.  And my eyes were opened.  And it kinda stung.

A friend and I have become partners on a journey to healthy living.  Anyone who has been around this old blog for the past few years may recall that I've been on and then off and then kinda on and then off and then a little bit on and then off again.  And I've been struggling to ge tback on the wagon.  I've gained a good amount of weight and have known that I needed to take action.  But I had no motivation, no desire to plan for it.

And then my friend approached me about maybe working through a book with her - Made To Crave by Lysa Terkeurst.  I had tried reading through it about a year ago.  Got a couple of chapters in and put it down and didn't pick it back up.

I don't think I was ready for what it was going to hit me with.  Because at that time, I had other areas where I needed God.

But this time around... big, huge, smack me upside the head wake up call.

I've prayed for strength. I've prayed for perseverance.

But I've never let God into my food.

I pray that He would give this day my daily bread.  And then I would eat as though he'd given me this day my daily convenience store.

I have kept God pretty clearly away from my food, away from my eating.  I was willing to thank Him.  But I wasn't willing to let Him into this broken relationship I have with food.

For the past month, I've loved gummy bears more than God.

I've loved frosting more than God.

I've loved brownie mix more than God.

I've indulged in large meals, 3 meals per day.

I'm still pretty early on in the book.  But there are several things that are staying with me.

I've been loving food more than loving God.  I've been trying to keep my relationship with food separate from my relationship with Christ.

I need to focus more on what is beneficial for my health.  Everything is permissable, not everything is beneficial.  1 Corinthians 10:23

When it comes to the Fruits of the Spirit... I've been seriously lacking in self-control.

The author uses many Bible references and stories to illustrate her points.  Food is talked about in the Bible time and time again.  The downfall of mankind is represented by Eve's taking the apple.  Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew.  Before I can take up my cross and follow Him, I need to give up the current relationship with food.

All of this realization work doesn't mean it is suddenly easy to avoid temptation.  Doesn't mean I've magically got time for working out.  Doesn't mean I've suddenly begun to only crave foods that are nutrient dense.

It does mean that when temptation strikes, I've got something to ponder before I give in.

I found an area in my life where I hadn't let God in, where I hadn't given God control.  And I'm working on it, bit by bit.

Where is God knocking on your heart?  Where do you need to let Him in?


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Menu #RespectTheTurkey

Speaking of Thanksgiving...

I have volunteered for a task and am eager for it but also feeling like I need to make sure I don't go completely overboard.

Our family Thanksgiving will be a bit smaller this year.  Less family able to travel, less family in town.

So we will have my parents, my grandma, my brothers and my family (including a friend) - all at my parents' home.  8 adults and 2 kids.

My kids don't eat much at Thanksgiving.  So the menu doesn't concern them much.  They're too busy watching movies, playing in the toy closet, and convincing their uncles to take them outside or to the basement to play.

This year, I volunteered, and my mom has actually accepted, to make the family meal.  She is in charge of the turkey.  I get to do everything else.  The kids and I will come to town the evening before Thanksgiving and I can get started on any prep work that needs to be done for the next day.

I'm not looking to make a gourmet meal.  I'm not trying to create a brand new menu that will contain all kinds of frou-frou dishes.

I've polled several members of the family and gotten feedback on the classic dishes that are required for our meal.

Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Stove Top
Cranberry Sauce
Roasted Veggies & Potatoes

It's a good, basic meal.

But I want more.

One thing I love about Thanksgiving is the idea of a feast, a celebration of bounty.

I want to prepare some of the foods that I love and that my family has taught me to love but that we don't often eat.  Like brussels sprouts.  And beets.

I think we need sweet potato casserole.  Jeff wants corn.  I'd prefer a corn casserole.  But he's my plain jane so plain corn he shall have.

So I'm looking for ideas.  I'm looking for your family traditions and must haves at any family holiday gathering.  What goes on your table?


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Let's start a movement.  A hashtag movement.  Or just a regular old movement.

It's not Christmas yet!

Yes, Halloween is over.

Novemeber has just begun.  And the deluge of ads and music and decorations is upon us.  Green and red have become the colors of the season.

And I'm simply not ready yet.

Thanksgiving comes first.  I take this stance each year.  I won't be listening to carols or turning on lights or putting up my tree.

I can understand shopping for presents or making crafts - I think those are things you can do year round.

But I think we tend to jump the gun when it comes to the Christmas season.

Here's what I like about Thanksgiving.  It's not some glamorous holiday.  There isn't much commercialism to it.  It's a simple holiday with a simple ideal - giving thanks.  Being thankful is key to being happy, being fulfilled.

Here's what I dislike about Christmas cropping up before Halloween.  You lose your momentum, it lacks specialness.  When Christmas is part of life for 1/6 of the year, it becomes part of the everyday.

I think we want to celebrate Christmas early because we like the warm fuzzy of it.  We like the memories, the magic, the food, the giving.  But there's no reason not to celebrate those things thorughout the year - we can give compassionately any time, we can feed the poor or make a family meal any time, we can recall fond memories or make new memories any time.  There's no reason to wait for Christmas to make all those things happen.

Maybe we seek Christmas early each year because we're seeking happiness.

And maybe we need to stop and let happiness find us first.

And maybe a solid focus on the month leading up to Thanksgiving as a time to prepare our hearts for being thankful, to truly recognize our blessings, to see the miracles around us each and every day... maybe that's how we actually #RespectTheTurkey.  Thanksgiving lays a wonderful groundwork for Christmas.  By being compassionate, blessed, thankful, our hearts are more prepared to see and meet the needs of others.  Maybe focusing on Thanksgiving will help us reduce the commercialism of Christmas and focus on the meaning of the season, the good that can come from the holiday.

Join me! #RespectTheTurkey!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Live Happy

I've written about Happiness a bunch of times on this blog - I guess it's one of those themes in my life.  I think life is most fulfilling when we have happiness, joy, peace, and all those other warm fuzzy type things.

I think happiness can be simple or complex.  I think happiness can come in a season of joy or in a season of sorrow.

And I think some people spend a lot of time and energy pursuing happiness, never stopping to allow happiness to just be part of living.

Last week, I received an email about a new magazine called Live Happy.  I received an online version of the mag to peruse.  And I flipped through a few pages and was hooked.

I think one of the main reasons I don't read magazines is because it seems like most of what is out there is either bad news or somehow going to leave me feeling "less than."

I don't do the news magazines because it's all bad news - wars and crime and disasters.

I stopped doing parenting magazines as my kids got a little older.  I don't need ideas on toilet training and I don't need to know how to introduce solids.

I'm not into celebrities or entertainment news.

I like the idea of fitness or healthy living magazines but most of them leave me feeling like I'm not measuring up.

I'm not into fashion or beauty or home decor.

But I am totally into happiness.  How to live a happy life, how to share happiness with others, how to make the world a happier place.

The first thing that caught my eye was the opening from the Editor - Karol DeWulf Nickell.  Four main points are made and each struck a chord with me.

- Happiness is a lifelong journey that is different for each of us.
- Authentic happiness is the kind that lasts.
- Understanding happiness takes an open mind.
- Applying happiness is easy to do and its effect multiplies with repetition.

The premiere issue had an article on teaching kids about compassionate giving.  It had some easy to make gift ideas (easy enough that I could even make them).  Articles on people doing happy things, articles on why finding your life partner is part of happiness, book suggestions, happiness in a family system, being thankful.

I read through it and actually jotted down some notes.  Things I wanted to try, ideas that sat with me.

What I really like about this magazine is that it's not just a bunch of fluff.  This premiere issue isn't about "dressing in these bright colors will make you happy" or "here's a magic elixir that guarantees happiness" or "make you rhome happy by decorating like this" or anything like that.  As one article states, "True contentment takes more than mirth and smiley faces. Meaning and service to others are essential elements of the well lived life."

And now there's this magazine with ideas on those elements, ways to have meaning, ideas for giving.

If you see a copy out there... pick it up and flip through it.  Maybe it will speak to you the way it spoke to me.

Life balance
Healthy living
Time with family
Generosity toward others
Fun with friends
Compassionate giving
Understanding of self
Faith, spirituality

Where do you want to focus on right now?  Where are you lacking in the happiness department?  Where are you doing great or making strides (or even baby steps)?