Civilized living….and a little blog hop

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home maker from 50sHello everyone! I am doing a blog hop this month inspired by my dear high school and life friend AMY KRANCE-WENDT. See the end of the blog to visit her musings and also Emily McHargue’s thoughts on being a Farm Wife. But, we’ll start with my thoughts of today—-today’s topic is………Civilized.

Corin and I were discussing life tonight with classical music playing, candles lit and Scarlett making contented doggy sounds. And, we both looked at each other and said, “Civilized”.  I realized at this moment that he had caught the way of life I had hoped to teach him as a small person. And, this discussion flooded my mind with memories of sleepless weeks, sticky fingers, eager helpers and just a little too much chaos to handle most days! Oh those days of early family life! Not for the faint of heart.

In the midst of this, Steve and I made it our purpose to raise our kids to live a life of  family not just chaos. We wanted our home to be hospitable, warm, caring, simple, organized and focused. We read books, tried many things—failed at MORE!  And, in the end we found out what worked for our style and personality types.

I want to share some of my favorites with you. The concept of homemaking was HEAVILY inspired by our parents who exhibited lifestyles of embracing people and providing a rest stop in the busy days of life. THANK YOU for your wonderful examples. My mom also introduced me to a very good book by Edith Schaffer called, “The Hidden Art of Homemaking.” This treasure was filled with ideas to inspire and challenge my eager heart. I also appreciate Carol Brazo’s book and her views on Sabbath which is a whole story for another day!

Here’s the Big Rocks…

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1. Civilized: This concept is all about taking the every day and elevating it to a place of peace and beauty. And, in our house it meant every night we lit candles for dinner, laid out the plates and napkins, turned on classical or jazz music…or 80s hair bands if needed! Let’s be real! And, we enjoyed our meal time together. We talked, laughed and enjoyed our feast of pb and j or whatever else I could manage at dinner time! We finished with washing all of the dishes up with the candles still burning and the lights low. Some nights we took turns reading as we washed up. It always made it go faster!  We also would make a dessert on Sunday night and would invite people over for dessert and hanging out or games.  It was a great way to keep entertaining casual and not so stressful.

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2. Couch time: I found the storm of 4-5 pm every day with small people to be overwhelming.  Kids were hungry, Steve and I tired and just utter chaos.  Too many needs hit at once and we brainstormed COUCH TIME! Steve would greet the kids, set them up with their veggies for dinner and a movie or favorite toy. Then, they played in the family room and we went to the couches in the living room uninterrupted for 30 minutes to catch up on the day and check in. They had strict instructions to leave us alone unless blood was involved and it usually worked! We also used this when we had meetings in the house that needed privacy or adult time. I kept a box of toys and movies on hand that could only be played with during couch time and that really helped.

hand in hand

3. Interrupt rule: We used this rule to make sure our children know they always can be heard by Mom and Dad—yet, not interrupt adult conversation with the 5,000 mommy mommy mommy chants. Here’s the rule—the child lays his/her hand on the parents forearm. The parent covers the childs hand with his/her own to acknowledge them. As soon as there is a break in the adult conversation the parents requests a minute and quickly sees what the child needs. The child scampers off with needs met and without interrupting adults and what needs to be done. It is GENIOUS!!!!!!! And, I love knowing my kids can get my attention in a healthy way without dominating the environment they are in! YES YES YES! It’s really funny when my 16 and 22 year old use the interrupt rule today!!!!! My oh my this one stuck.

4. Partial obedience is disobedience. Said it 1,000 times and will 1,000 more. And, what’s unattractive at 2 is really unattractive at 16 or 45. Just 2 thoughts to keep us all keepin’ on in this parenting journey.  I work hard on only asking my kids what I will enforce.  And, I don’t make empty threats or promises.  If there is a consequence—-it happens.  If they do 1/2 the work—or obey partially, we discuss why that doesn’t work and how important it is to obey COMPLETELY.

Now get ready to hop on and read————
Amy’s inspires me with her passion, her creativity and her dedication to becoming what she wants to be in life. She takes life and wrestles it into the image of God and the vision He has for her. Go girl! You can find her musings at……http://myincredibleblessedlife.blogspot.com/
Another writer that inspires me married my nephew and just loves being a farm wife. All of my early memories of my nephew Andrew are of him ‘farming’ something. He even turned his baby blankets into hay and strings to care for his farm. His beautiful wife Emily shares his passion for life, their son and their farming lifestyle. It is so fun to watch them together—her blog is: http://diariesofafarmerswife.wordpress.com/
She wants me to answer the following questions as part of our Blog Hop:
1. What am I writing on? I write whatever God brings to mind to chat about and it seems to be about doing the right thing no matter how hard.
2. How do I write? Curled up in a pile of pillows , free form until it takes shape. Then I lightly edit. I don’t want to over think my writing and I want to keep it fairly raw.
3. I want to be real when I write in hopes that it might encourage someone and I also have a wicked wit that creeps into whatever I’m writing—regardless of topic.

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Into the New Normal

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 It’s the middle of the night and the house still smells like the beautiful rich rolls my daughter made earlier.  It’s her Grandma McHargue’s recipe (she went home to the Lord June 11, 2012).  Izzy’s missing her right now and when my girl hurts, she cooks.  The process of scooping out flour, capturing the essence of memories and the focus of the project help her soul when words fail.  It’s a tough season with lots of memories and deep ache. 

It’s hard to watch her hurt.  And, sometimes, it’s hard to be around when she’s hurting because in her pain, she strikes out like a wounded animal.  We’ve been talking a lot about this topic in our house.  How do you hurt and still go on, why can’t you just rip off heads and why does it hurt more some days than others.

I will never be able to fix her hurt or put on a pretty sparkly unicorn bandage to make it all better.  But, we can go forward and do this well.  At our house, we call it the ‘new normal’ and we remind ourselves that we are forging into new territory and making it ours.

Here’s our recipe for dealing with the hard places in life:

  1.  Say it hurts.  Own it, accept it and get on with it.  We can’t sit in crabby sauce all day—there is life to live and we will miss out on amazing days if we take a bath in pain all day.  Some days it takes longer to walk through the pain into the manageable.  Just keep moving towards that place.  The more you practice the, the easier it becomes.
  2. In the bible, I Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”  I do this every day.  I deal with horrible chronic pain and I make a choice to push through the pain to have a great life.  It’s not easy, but, it’s much better than lying in bed feeling every ache and pain in my joints.  I use my imagination to picture moving a suitcase full of pain to the dusty dark corner where it isn’t in the way.  Then, I picture stretching out and enjoying the space it occupied.  Your brain is a powerful tool.  You can also use memorization of poetry, bible verses or other statements to take victory over the pain.    
  3. Don’t focus on the loss, focus on what is yet to come.  Yes, losing Steve was a nightmare and I miss him every day.  Yes, being in a wheelchair and dealing with crazy illness is challenging.  But, it’s not the boss of me.
  4. Instead of focusing on my loss, I focus on the amazing buffet of activities I can still do.  I still have GREAT kids, amazing family, friends, hobbies, jobs and so much.  I try to be thankful for each incredible bite of life. 

Last year as we approached the anniversary of Steve’s death we talked about how to remember it well.  We decided to take the adventure of a lifetime!  We saved all year and in the summer we drove to Las Vegas for our National Dance Competition, to New York to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine and even made it to Toronto, Canada and Niagra Falls.  Steve loved the powerful beauty of Niagra Falls and it was perfect to mark this date standing in a place he loved.  This year we will again celebrate with his favorite food, telling funny stories and remembering a loving man who embraced people and loved them well.  Yes, we’ll cry and hurt a bit.  But, mostly we will remember his deep love for us.  And, that’s a reason to celebrate.

Life moves on.  It’s your choice what it looks like.  What will your memories be in 1 year?  Will they be a blur of darkened rooms, torture and agony.  Or will you dare to take a risk and choose to embrace your new normal.  Make a start today.   

*Remind me to share how to travel on a dime in a future post!  It is a blast. 

Teach them to see

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kid in glassesI spend a lot of my life giving glasses to children. Not actual glasses, but, glasses that give them the ability to see beyond peoples outsides.

I love sharing with kids that I am more than the outside. I am a loving mom, I breathe like a super hero through my oxygen tube,I am creative , silly and much more. It’s so important to show them there is more to life than the initial impression.

I want the next generation to learn to think outside of the box and see abilities not disabilities. I want them to see that there is value in every person and each person brings something to their family that is irreplaceable.

My niece Charis brings me so much joy and she is one of the CLEAREST communicators I know. Without language she communicates her preferences clearly and undeniably. I learn from her to watch peoples non-verbal signals and be more aware of what they are saying without words. That is a gift! She is also very chill—another great thing to add to my life.

As you meet people that need ‘glasses’ take time to help them see what people are really worth and the gift they bring to the world. It’s time to stop being ok with people living life without the glasses they really need! IF we don’t learn this lesson, we are in danger of losing many gifts in our lives.

Dare to dream

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I have a DREAM!

Favorite part of Martin Luther King Day?  No school! And, that makes me profoundly sad.  We are missing an opportunity to remember a series of country changing events that people of my generation can barely comprehend.  My dream is that people take a minute today to remember a time that was vastly different…and yet, shockingly present.  A time where respect was not extended to all and daring to speak your mind or show your intelligence was enough to end your life.  This is the climate of fear that Dr. King ended on some levels.

How did Dr. King and his contemporaries do this?  They told the brave souls involved to, “face their worst fears and go do it.”  Go to the drinking fountain and drink, register to vote, push into the ugly and do it. Accept the whippings, the slurs, the ugly that I can’t even write, let alone experience. Any wise person would have thought this was crazy!  Why risk more abuse when life was precarious anyway!  One by one people began to conquer their fears and learned they could live with the ugly.

People trusted the leadership and did this collectively and stood up to the ugliest that people could dish out!  There is one account of a jail full of people singing spirituals at the top of their lungs and shaking the walls with their passion!  Now that is living free in the midst of horror!

Yes, all of the public marches, rallies and events propelled the movement.  But, the war was won each time someone faced their worst fear and stood up singing.  That is truly living FREE.  Thousands of people came together doing this and their bravery ended the ugly.  I see it across our nation and in children who are unaware of how difficult life was just a few generations ago.  I see it in the sadness that crossed Izzy’s face when we watched the Help and she realized for the first time a taste of what life used to be like. She was shocked.

Whatever your worst fear is let that sink in.  Your worst nightmare….. yes, that one.  Grasp it, face it and determine to choose to wrestle it down by singing in FREEDOM.  Nothing is worse than the wiry and ugly clawing of fear.  But, fear only has power when we stop holding onto the one power source that counts. 

I have faced my darkest fears and found that I can live freely.  I have a dream….and it is for all to be truly free and rising above their darkest pain.

Cheers to a simple New Year!

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My New Year kicks off with a series of ONES. I like to keep my goals and thoughts simple and easy to maintain.   I’ll share a few that you might enjoy.

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One Word:

Since 1997 I have avoided the pages of New Year’s resolutions and I choose a word for the year.  One year it was peace-I used this word to anchor my decisions, thoughts etc.  I would ask myself if the decision brought me more or less peace etc.  It can be anything really—I heard an author on the Today show that uses this practice and he recommends, “Look in (personal growth), look up (to God) and Look out (how you will serve/give)” as you choose your word.

The next step is very important:  CLAIM THIS WORD!  Write it on your mirror, paint a picture, journal it, put it in your wallet and more.  Make sure you run into the word a lot—use it as a compass to measure how you’re doing!

I have noticed that without telling people my word, they begin describing me using my word of the year.  We plan a special dinner and share our words with each other and use them to form our family mission for the year.  A few years ago our mission was:   Live a QUIET life, SERVING others, CHEERFULLY working and living with WISDOM.  As we look back on the year, it is amazing how our words come to life.  I’m excited to see what this year brings.

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One in and one out:

If something new arrives, something old must go away!  This simple rule keeps the cupboards from overflowing and prevents the creep of stuff that needs to be managed.  It also keeps us from over-buying things.  A few weeks ago I wanted some new drinking cups—but, I wasn’t willing to part with what I had.  So, I walked away!  It has saved me money and excess purchasing over the years.  I always keep a laundry basket in the garage for our one out items.  When it is full, we take it to the thrift shop.

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One Touch

Look at your everyday patterns and life.  Try to touch mail, kid’s backpacks, dishes etc. ONCE.  Instead of moving the dishes from one counter to another, move them once to the sink or dishwasher to wash.  Create storage or filing boxes for each thing that you regularly deal with.  Limiting how often you move/touch things helps with clutter and organization.

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One System

For anyone who struggles with traditional budget systems, I have a suggestion.  Try mint.com.  This website will allow you to enter your budget in a variety of areas AND it will send an alert to your phone when you are almost out of funds in that category.  It makes it very simple to stay on track with your budget and see where you are over spending.  My kids use this to track their spending and budget their money.  They self-manage their budgets and make plans that line up with their goals.

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One Room

There are times in life when all of the systems break down and it is time for a major excavation!  Start with one room.  I recommend the cleanest room so you can feel a sense of accomplishment.  Dig out one corner, then the next and keep going until you have purged all of the extra things, thrown out paper monsters and tamed the dust bunnies!  Tackle one room a day/week or month until the house is back on track.  We recently did this—it took 3 months and the help of several family and friends to get us back to our baseline.  It was hard to invite people into the chaos but, the benefit is we have an organized home again!  And, everything has a home so it’s easier to maintain.

Cheers to a healthy and simple 2014!  May your life be filled with joy and laughter!

BONUS ONE….

One Pot Meal

In 6 quart crock pot combine:

1 Pork Roast seasoned with salt and pepper

1 Bottle of your favorite BBQ Sauce (large bottle)

1 small onion sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic minced and mixed into BBQ

Cook on High 2-3 hours and turn to low

Cook a total of 6-8 hours.  Shred meat and mix in BBQ sauce.  Add more sauce if desired–for a sweeter mix you can add 1/2 cup brown sugar when you add the BBQ sauce

Serve on buns with pickles and a salad!  Enjoy.

A Change of Plans

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Yosemite, CA

Today I planned to write on simplicity.  Everything changed when I opened Facebook and found that my niece had just lost her dear sweet niece out of the blue.

The first question in hard times always seems to be-why me?  There are no easy answers when waves of pain rock your soul and you feel like time is frozen and you might explode if you exhale.  You are numb, hypersensitive, aching for the touch of your love and yet unable to comprehend what to process.  Grief.  It’s an unwelcome friend that stalks you day and night.  Your brain creates phantoms that taunt your ragged soul.

So where do you start?  I think it’s changing the question-instead of why me…why NOT me.  We aren’t promised a life free from pain and abrupt endings.  The only thing we can do in the midst of  soul crushing pain is change our perspective.

Aslan painting by Sally BrestinC.S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia describles Aslan this way, “He is never safe, yet, always good.”  This captures how God works through the pain of suffering and loss.  It isn’t a safe or fun experience.  But, it is so good for our character, our growth and our greater good in life.  We are more like Him if we choose to embrace the journey of suffering and learn along the way.  

I compare it to an around the world journey in a very small row boat.  Once you are in, there is no way out.  So, you can choose to sit in the boat and experience the ride in relative comfort, jump into shark infested waters, or hang on to the outside and get battered against the boat!  When storms come, and I’ve seen a few..almost lost my life to a rare illness when my daughter was 15 months old, loss of physical health, loss of jobs and financial security, hospitalization for 40 days, learning to walk, talk and eat 3 times, loss of my husband, living in a wheelchair, chronic pain and more!  I’ll share more on that as we do life together!  Throughout all of this God made it so clear that He was there for me and we could do this all about Him or all about me.  And, my choices would impact the outcome,  

Storms, right.  The small boat won’t change the storms but it will protect you and keep you on track

You have a choice—

  1.  Embrace your new normal.  It’s hard but, choose to square your shoulders and walk…no RUN into what God has for you in your new normal.
  2. Refuse to look back and give up.  This doesn’t mean don’t remember or grieve—just don’t lose your life by only looking back.  God still has amazing plans for you that include walking you through the current pain and loss.
  3. Hang on to the boat and trust that God will meet you in the dark nights and even when the sun starts to shine again.  Being happy doesn’t mean you are forgetting your loss.  It just means, you are happy.
  4. Serve someone else.  I know this sound impossible and it might be.  Serving others that are in any kind of need moves you from self focus to thinking of others.  I find that doing this really breaks the cycle of self-pity and anxiety.  It’s very easy to think too much about loss and your own life.  I think this helped me the most.

If you have a friend who is dealing with grief, I love this quote.  It’s an honest and helpful way to be a good friend and great support in times of crisis.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey

Practical ideas for helping someone during a hard time

1.  Offer to clean their house while the family is at the visitation.  With so many people around, the house gets messy and it’s very encouraging to come home to a fresh home.  Best of all–arrive after they leave and leave before they get home so it’s truly just a blessing.

2.  If the lawn is long or driveway needs scooped—DO IT!  We had amazing friends sneak in and just care for our lawn the summer Steve died it was truly a miracle and gift to us.

4.  Gift cards to their favorite restaurants so they can choose what to eat.

5.  Buy bottled water, favorite drinks, etc.

6.  Ask what food to bring they may get a lot of the hot pintrest recipe of the week.  Bring enough for the extra people that will be there.

7.  Take laundry to your house to wash and return clean and folded.

Follow your heart and listen to what they need.  Each person is different.

 

Of Sherpas and winter days

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 Snow swirled outside the kitchen window and the smell of homemade burritos drifted through the house.  It could only mean one thing…it was time for Corin and I to snuggle in for a Mt. Everest marathon.  It was years ago—in the dark ages before cable and on demand.   We timed our week to the minute so we could see every episode.

The Sherpas of Mt. Everest was followed by hours of other stories of Everest.  We were hooked!  We knew the Sherpa’s by name, we watched them grow up on the mountain, we cried when one of the elder Sherpa’s was killed on a particularly deadly climb.   And, we replayed every episode detail by detail.  Years later we found the series on Netflix and revived our tradition. 

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Each Sherpa and Climber climbed Everest many times before they attempted to Summit.  They spent weeks or months at Base Camp as they conditioned their bodies and waited for the perfect weather.  They would hike to Camp One and then back to Base Camp.  They repeated this and added new camps each time until they were ready to tackle the final attempt.  Each attempt was treacherous in its own right.  The dangers of Everest are very real and unforgiving. Many people spent all season preparing and didn’t even get a chance to summit because of weather or a fluke illness. 

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What I learned from the Sherpa’s of Everest:

  1.  We all have a Mt. Everest-a big dream or obstacle that needs to be conquered.  Sitting around is not going to get the job done.  You have to choose to start walking.
  2. It’s important to bring the right people on the journey.  I always found that the Sherpa people were energized, positive and activity driven.  Their belief drove the climbers to tackle more on the mountain than they thought they could.  Find your personal Sherpa’s and ask them to hold you accountable to work it out and believe in your ability to conquer your Mt. Everest.
  3. It’s going to take lots of trips, trials, repeating to make this happen!  Climbers don’t fail when they train their way through the camps, they are doing what they have to do to stay alive.  They fail when they give up and stop.
  4. It takes a mountain sized faith to conquer something this big.  You really need deep faith outside of yourself to begin this journey.  I am a big God person—I believe He is at work all of the time and this makes huge adventures  possible.

Today, look at your Everest and take a minute to breathe (use oxygen if you have to!) and see where your journey can begin.  I know there is a place…and a Sherpa to help.  Personally, I’ve had to climb some pretty big mountains…but, that’s another blog….and a lot of Sherpas to talk about!  

Everest Burrito Recipe—These freeze great too!Image

2 cans vegetarian refried beans

½ cup favorite salsa

Large wheat tortilla shells

Cheese and Browned Hamburger/Turkey with taco seasoning optional

Mix beans and salsa in a bowl—add browned meat with seasoning if you are using this.  Spread mixture in the middle of the shells and add cheese if using.  Fold ends of the shell towards the middle–  Roll up.  Place on a cookie sheet and Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until lightly browned and crunchy.  Serve with lettuce, tomato, black olive, sour cream or other fav toppings.  

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