Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Revolution

Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Besides stressing out about how close that means Christmas is, I am thinking about how grateful I am. I need to note here that I am not grateful as OFTEN as I should be. Gratefulness and thanksgiving are not practices that come easily to me. When things are great, sure! Then it's easy. What's not so easy is being thankful and grateful when life happens and dreams are put on hold. When we think that the thing that will change everything for the better is just around the corner and then it never comes. In those moments of fear and frustration, gratefulness is not what shows up first. But shouldn't it? Shouldn't we just feel miraculous that we have a place to live, food to eat, and opportunities each and every day to show others a spirit of joy? I think that is what this Thanksgiving holiday is really all about. Whether or not you have a fancy dining room table with a beautiful centerpiece or you're having KFC right out of the bucket, being thankful for each and every day that we are given by our God and how BIG and AMAZING He is! Living that truth. I am learning to be grateful and thankful for just that. But it's taking practice.

I am also grateful that my family and I will be spending time with great friends all day long! Tomorrow will be about celebrating all kinds of blessings. It will also be, not just about remembering why we are grateful and thankful, but living it OUT LOUD. Kids may have made handprint turkeys with "What I am Thankful for Feathers" and posted them on kitchen refrigerators. Maybe you even have a Thanksgiving Thankful Tree decoration in your home with leaves to write your blessings on. Or maybe your family goes around the table before you eat and has everyone share what they are grateful for. It is a great habit to practice. This season of being grateful for the things we have received and sharing those grateful thoughts with those around us is a reminder to put that practice into action every day.

My family is thankful for the blessing of having a full thanksgiving dinner right at our fingertips. Turkey, pie, potatoes, stuffing and don't forget about green bean casserole. The seemingly unlimited amounts of food that will be baked, roasted, mashed and stuffed on this holiday will be thoroughly enjoyed by us(except for those picky eaters that I live with). But as I was compiling my list for the store this year, I came across a disturbing statistic. One in every six Americans is going hungry this holiday (and every day). In this "land of plenty" that number seems crazy. How is that even possible? Especially when it seems the other five have stuffed themselves and still have leftovers for days? Something isn't adding up. What if this year we all decided to share our bounty? What if we could each buy two turkeys and give one away? What if we bought the ingredients to make a dinner and delivered it to a hotel for homeless families? What if...well, what if we just decided to give more and eat less? A favorite blogger of mine is always reminding her readers that "we belong to each other." How great would it be if we actually started living, day to day, in just that way? We could start a Thanksgiving revolution! What is a revolution all about anyway? It's about change. Our revolution can be about taking care of each other. Let this Thanksgiving be a catalyst to feeling grateful and living it out loud ALL YEAR LONG! Sharing the bounty, no matter how big or small. Acts of generosity bring hope and blessing to others who are yearning for a sign that someone cares, that someone has noticed, and that something is changing. A little kindness plants a seed of hope, and that can go a long way. If we each did something little for someone in need, be it a neighbor or a stranger, who knows what kind of sparks we could ignite. I would love to find out!

This next week, as your making your third or fourth plate of leftovers and thinking how sick of turkey you are, take a second to think of something small you could do for someone else that would make them say "I'm so thankful for that!" Even if your circumstances have left you with only a smile to give to someone else, do it to the best of your ability. A smile can sometimes change someone's day.

So today, tomorrow and the next day, remember to be thankful in all your circumstances (remember it takes practice). Think about something little that you can do to pass some joy on to someone else, and look for things that will help you to LIVE OUT LOUD how grateful you are. The revolution has only just begun! {H}

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Get Over Myself

This morning started like any other day. Alarm going off too early. Dragging myself out of bed to get the kidlets up and going. Coffee. Waffles (um, the frozen kind, let's not get crazy), back packs packed, running in the rain (what? it's WET outside)to get to the car. Walking the dog, quickly so we aren't too drenched. Back home to HGTV and another cup of coffee. Then it was time to start my to-do list. Today was supposed to be about cleaning and writing, but I think I started off on the wrong foot. Maybe I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or maybe its the very rare rainy day, but my mind drifted to other things and my motivation dried up. I sat too long watching someone else's kitchen get remodeled and their house get decorated for Christmas and the Grinch in me raised its ugly head. I started thinking things like "we don't even HAVE a fireplace so I could decorate the mantle if I wanted to", and "I'm SO SICK AND TIRED of living in 900 square feet with 5 people, 3 of which are getting bigger EVERYDAY! (the other two might be as well but that's another rant). Discontent set in QUICKLY. It was all about ME and how I didn't deserve this!! I deserve to have a cute kitchen! I deserve to have a roaring fire in the fireplace when it's raining! All of these thoughts swirling around in my head and finally landing in me in a pity-party.

I started cleaning. Usually cleaning is my way of mulling over the situation. Whether it's an argument or I'm stressed about work or whatever, something about vacuuming away dirt and dust, and bleaching the heck out of everything puts me in a better frame of mind. This time though, it was only feeding my feelings of entitlement. My bathtubs are EXTREMELY hard to keep clean. They have these tiny ridges in them all along the bottom, for safety I suspect. But in order to get them clean enough I have to soak them in bleach and then scrub like a mad woman. I feel like I've run a marathon afterwards and so I leave it until I can't leave it anymore. So today, as I'm scrubbing away, I'm cursing the bath tubs in my head. Reminding myself how NO ONE ELSE cleans them. How if we lived in a "normal" house, I would have a nice tub with NO F***!@# RIDGES!!! I really worked myself up. By the time I was done, I had moved to a country house somewhere with porcelain tubs and was homeschooling my children so we wouldn't have to wake up early every morning.

I needed something to make me feel better. What usually does the job? Food. I decided I was going to make a batch of brownies and EAT THEM ALL because I would still have time to clean everything up and no one would even know we had brownies in the house. If my kids got home and could smell the left over aroma, I would simply explain it was a new candle I got as I brushed the last of the crumbs off my hands in to the sink. Ha! That would TOTALLY make me feel better!

I made the batch and put them in the oven and then sat down to scroll through FaceBook. What do you think the first thing I read was? An article about committing to others and not ourselves, pushing through selfishness so that we can see what the needs are around us and help to meet those needs. It was titled "Get Over Yourself". God really has a sense of humor.

The next article I saw was about raising kids to feel content in an entitled world.

I am paraphrasing, but this line stood out..."And this combination of (the desire to consume and blurring the line between wants and needs) is creating a generation of children who aren’t grateful, who expect everything to be handed to them and don’t really know how to work and this breeds the greatest enemy of all: discontentment." (Source)

Discontentment was MY ENEMY this morning. Thank goodness the God who loves me NO MATTER WHAT saw fit to ease me out of my tantrum and open my eyes to the battle that I was fighting. Grace. Peace. Love. The frustration and sadness melted away and my soul was soothed.

I have heard that when we are too wrapped up in our own problems, focused on finding a solution, the best thing we can do is help someone else. After reading these articles that were divinely brought, my focus automatically shifted from myself to my kids. It's a rainy day. They probably had to stay in class all day and will come home wet and tired and bring all of the things, good and bad that happened to them home. I will be ready to meet them with a warm brownie and a hug and a lesson in my heart about the things that are important.

Did I still want to eat the whole batch myself? Of course, I mean they are chocolate chip BROWNIES and I am only human. Although the battle of discontentment will continue to wage in me on certain days, I am reminded that I am not fighting it on my own. My human strength is not enough but my God is enough. All I need to do is be open to shifting my focus and to the opportunities that will present themselves. It won't change the fact that I HATE my bath tubs, but it will keep my focus in check and help me to get over myself. {H}

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wait For It...

A few nights ago as I was tucking in my son, he told me about a friend who was harassed by some classmates during lunch that day. He was understandably upset by what he witnessed but that wasn't the only thing that was bothering him. I could see it in his eyes. I could tell by the tone of his voice. It took some work but after a few probing questions, he confided in me that he felt badly because he didn't do anything.

"I wanted to tell the other boys to stop, but I was afraid," he admitted. "And then when I felt like I was brave enough, two other boys already stopped them." His sigh was heavy and I immediately pulled him in for a hug and told him how proud I was of him.

"But mom, I didn't do anything," he reminded me.

"That's okay, buddy. You thought about it and next time, I bet you'll offer help even sooner."

He snuggled in while processing my statement. We continued to talk about the events of the day. He shared with me which boys stood by and which ones stood up. As we chatted, he agreed that noon-duty aides and teachers and principals are all good resources when we see a classmate in need. We also discussed how important it is to have friends that will stand up for you, and we explored ways to find courage to protect our friends and the many ways that such bravery can unfold. It was a great exchange of lessons and ideas.

Now I'm sure some parents may have left out the "I'm-proud-of-you-for-doing-nothing" hug and that's okay. At the moment, I was thinking more "big picture."

I wanted to acknowledge my son's internal conflict and help him let go of the guilt, the heavy regret he felt for not intervening. In actuality, I was thrilled that he had that reaction in the first place because, had he witnessed the argument, done nothing and felt nothing, I'd have bigger concerns.

I also wanted him to know that it was okay to pause, to observe the situation and then think about how to help. Thoughtful evaluation in the face of conflict does not automatically qualify as cowardice. We live in a society that sensationalizes people who are quick to react and who dramatically lash out before thinking. I was pleased that he paused first, even if it was initially influenced by fear.

And I wanted him to know that I'd always be here to listen first, then help him figure things out, that I would always be on his side. If I had scolded him for not acting sooner, if I had shamed him for being afraid, if I had reacted rashly rather than taking a lesson from him, I might just miss any future chances to influence the unfolding of my son's self confidence and to shape his moral compass.

So parents, when your child confides in you in instances such as this, when they are faced with navigating life's hard decisions as they will undoubtedly be, pause and proceed with care. Remember, they're new at all this and they're learning from you. Be open. Listen. Then help.

{J}

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Writing World

Hi everyone! We took a little unscheduled break from the blog but we are in FULL WRITING MODE so get ready to be dazzled! (or not...) Jenn and I have decided that we are attending a writing conference in San Diego at the end of January...so the 1st draft of our book has to be ready to present and PITCH by January 24th!!! I'm having a little anxiety attack thinking about that...

This writing thing/adventure/whirlwind has been a roller coaster of emotions. So happy to be fulfilling a dream, so scared to be rejected and/or ridiculed, so frustrated that there are not enough hours in the day to write all the ideas that flow through my head, so excited when we have a SOLID 4 HOURS of writing time...the list goes on. This adventure has opened up so many opportunities, and introduced us to a whole new world. A world of editing, publishing, agents, marketing, book signings, writing conferences, and maybe most importantly, the authors inside of us. Finding her, that writer that was hidden deep down inside, has been an amazing and challenging experience for me.

I started out as a Journalism major in college. Hated it. Probably should have switched to English but I loved my Psychology teacher so I majored in Psychology. It has been good to me, but I have found my way into a VERY analytical branch of the profession and a few years ago thought I would D-I-E if I didn't find a creative outlet. The God that loves me intervened and I found a great writing group. It opened my eyes to the possibility of being an author. It changed my focus and made something come alive in me.

When Jenn shared with me her passion for writing after a girls' night out, I invited her to the writing group and the rest is history! We have grand plans for writing retreats all over the world, including but not limited to: a cozy cabin in the mountains of Idaho, a beach hide-a-way in Hawaii, and a moss covered, thatch-roofed cottage in England. Can't you just picture that? A low fog laying over the green covered, rolling hills and a roaring fire in the fireplace. Quaint furniture, warm socks and hot tea. Ahhhh....pure love. I can completely visualize this so that means that it will come true one day, right? Right.

So, along with dreams of our hearts, comes the reality of life. Jenn and I are not in our 20's (thank goodness on so many levels) and we do not have the luxury of devoting hours upon hours in a week to our craft. We rarely both have a few free hours on a Saturday to see if we can fit in some writing time or a networking mixer. A week will go by and I realize I have not put pen to paper except to make a grocery list or fill out papers from my children's school. The discouragement sets in and I feel overwhelmed. Why am I even doing this? Who am I fooling? I suck. My head hangs low and my dreams appear unreachable and out of touch. That is why, if I were giving a seminar to young writers, or even to people who want to be writers, I would recommend having a writing partner. Jenn has the ability to, for lack of a better visual, "light a fire under my ass" and get me motivated to believe in myself again. Maybe it's because she finds herself in the same boat and can relate because her feelings are an identical match to mine. Luckily, we are often on opposite schedules of feeling defeat and despair so we are actually helpful to each other. Writer types are very emotional but often don't wear emotions on their sleeves. It simmers, bubbling right beneath the surface and with a little inspiration it will explode out of us and hopefully resonate with our readers. Our lovely readers.

We are so thankful for you! Many of you have taken the time to stop by our favorite writing spot (you all know where!) and given us encouragement or just shared a kind word and let us know that you have actually read what we have written and you LIKED it. What?? Do you even have the slightest inkling of what that means to us? We are giddy. We appreciate you. You keep us going. Even when we (read I) don't write on this blog as much as I should or want to, I think of you out there clicking on our link and reading the stories that I share. It means something. We are creating something, good or bad, and we are taking a risk. Daring to suck! So while you may not love everything printed here in black and white, (or grey and yellow), it represents something for us. We took a chance and we are running with it. We had a spark of an idea and it has developed into a full-fledged blog and that led to the sentences of an idea for a book that we are weeks away from finishing. Thank you for being on this journey with us. We have no idea where it will lead us or how long it will take to get there, but we are full of hope and determination and the dream of our little thatched cottage in the woods. Sometimes that's what it takes. Plus, someone who will light that fire when needed.

We will be posting snippets of our book for your review, but not until we can push the POST button without feeling sick. Please be patient! We love you!

{H&J}

Monday, November 4, 2013

Reflections on 40

Forty. It used to be labeled "Over the Hill." Now, I hear it's the new 30. Well, it begins today for me and I've gotten mixed reviews. I have some friends on the bright, sunny, grass-all-green side of the hill and they look at 40 as though it's some distant, off-in-the-future age. It'll take a long while to get there and they'll be living it up until then.

I also have some friends meandering down the other, shady, more relaxed side of the hill, and they look back at 40 fondly and say to themselves, "Wow...I thought I was old then..."

As I reach the milestone myself, I am blessed to have a few friends climbing to the peak along with me. They are my sisters-in-arms. We lift each other up when the number gets us down. We commiserate over the new aches and pains and moody blues. And together, we are motivated to soften the numerical blow. But we're all asking the same questions: Where did the time go? How did 40 find us so fast?

I've never been fixated on numbers. Age, weight, bank balance, price, social media "likes", etc., number ratings have never been my go-to for measuring value. But when my husband turned 40 a few years ago, it took me by surprise. I wondered how that could be. It felt as though he'd just sprung it on me, like, "Hi honey, I'm home, and by the way, now I'm 40." Really? Did I think that time marched on with no real impact on his age? He didn't seem 16 years older than when we married. And I surely didn't feel that much older.

Now, as I sit on the cusp, I'm equally perplexed that I didn't see it coming...that 40 crept up on me too. Was I in denial? Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn't. Stick with me...I have a theory.

For the last few weeks, I've been reflecting on what 40 really means to me. Looking back at my past laid out, years lined up one after the other, many memories in snapshot form, I'm proud. It's true what they say, that with age comes wisdom, and I'm a whole lot more comfortable about who I am at 40 than when I was figuring things out in my 20's.

Looking ahead at my future, slightly mysterious and undefined, hopeful for another good 40, I'm excited. It's true what they say, that the future starts today, not tomorrow, and not just mine...my entire family has more living ahead of us than behind us.

From this vantage point, I realize that the "Surprise! You're 40!" can only mean one thing: I've been doing it right! All this time...40 years of growing and learning, of navigating the ups and downs, the heartaches and the triumphs, the smooth sailing and the struggling-with-all-my-might...no wonder 40 crept up on me! It doesn't mean that I'm sad or disappointed or in denial. Quite the opposite, in fact. It just means that as the years have passed, I've been too busy living to stop and count.

{J}

(Picture above: Husband hosted an intimate dinner party to celebrate my 40th. With this group of FABULOUS women by my side, the number doesn't seem so bad.)