Let’s Talk Christmas Cards

Christmas cards
All the goodies for Christmas cards

How do you feel about Christmas cards?  Are they a nuisance?  Are they stupid?  Do they make you smile?  I am one of those people who loves to get and send Christmas cards.  That being said, I often have years where life gets busy, and they never materialize.  I realized recently it’s because I don’t have a system for getting them done.  I know what to do, but I didn’t have it laid out in simple, easy to follow steps. 

The Joy of a Good System

 I love a good system and when I get one in place, it’s amazing how well life works.  I have a system for maintaining my home, my finances and my holiday prep.  We are in the process of refining our financial accounting system to accommodate my blogging business and our system to stay healthy to help my husband and I get healthier.  Why not have a system for sending Christmas cards that breaks the process down into steps I can follow easily and prevent overwhelm in the process?  So here’s what I’ve come up with.  I do one step at a time over several weeks, and there’s little to no stress involved.  What’s really cool is that most of the steps, except for assembling, sealing and mailing the cards are flexible to my schedule.  Isn’t that awesome?  So here are the steps:

Simple Steps for Sending Christmas Cards

1. Edit your address list. 

I keep mine in an excel spreadsheet that I print onto labels.  It may not be as personal as hand writing each address, but it makes my life so much easier and with 80+ cards to send, I’m all about making the process easier.  With texting and messaging, getting updated addresses is so much easier than it used to be.  I also do this first because then you know how many cards you want to send.

2.  Purchase your cards. 

I’ve purchased online and in stores.  This year Costco had great looking cards that were reasonably priced.  Bonus was getting step 2 done at the same time.

3. Buy stamps. 

Costco happened to have holiday stamps, so I purchased my cards and stamps at the same time.

4. Christmas letter paper. 

This year when I opened my Holiday Joy Journal, I found paper I purchased on sale after Christmas last year.  Yay me!  One of my favorite places to purchase cute stationary for Christmas letters is through Current.  There are also deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday if you want or need to buy in the current year.

5. Christmas letter writing. 

I know some people think the purpose of the annual Christmas letter is to brag, but I see it more as a highlight reel and sometimes the most important events aren’t the happiest.  This year my letter includes a part about my mom’s only sibling passing.  It’s not happy, but it’s important.  Other than that, I give a condensed version of what’s happening with my children, my husband and me.

6. Christmas letter printing. 

Because I use special paper, I adjust my printing to match the paper.  This usually takes a few tries to get it right.  I print my letter on a plain sheet of paper, which I place on top of a piece of stationery and hold it in front of a light.  It helps me see how the letter will print on the stationery without wasting any of it.  I recycle each test sheet out as I print the next one until I get it just right.  I also take my letter somewhere to print because it’s more cost effective to pay a few cents to print 80+ letters at a store than to use my own ink.

7. Pick and print a photo. 

Some years I order cards with our pictures on them.  One year I even found a card that I could write my letter and upload our photos.  Sadly, I’ve not found that option in a few years, but I do add a photo because I keep the photos people send me and add them to my wall of fame.  My wall of fame is now on the back of my front door.  I display all of the cards and pictures people send through the holidays and then keep all of the pictures through the year.  Each time I look at the pictures, I pray for the people in them.  I think it’s a good practice, and it makes me very happy to do it.

8. Print address labels. 

I love this step because it saves a ton of time and effort.  Some people prefer to hand address and that’s fine.  I will take the printed labels and be happy with the efficiency.

9. Address the envelopes. 

Peel those labels and place them on the envelopes. I use clear labels so the color of the envelop show through, and I have a stamp for our return address which makes that process easy as well.  This is when I add the stamps too

10. Assemble the cards. 

This is when I’ll take the time to add a personal note to some of the cards, especially if I know someone has struggled or achieved something wonderful that particular year.  Not every card gets a note, but many do.

11. Mail the cards. 

I have mailed cards as early as December 1st and as late as December 26th.  I much prefer December 1st, although it’s looking like it will be closer to the 5th or 6th for me this year.

There you have it, eleven steps to sending Christmas cards and stay sane in the process.  The best part is that you can remove a step or two if it suits you.  Make photo cards.  Skip the letter.  It’s up to you.  Is there a particular step that stops you or you want help with?  I would love to hear about it.  Sign up for my newsletter, send me an email and maybe we can work it out together.  Is there any other part of the holiday season you would like a system for?  For more tips like this, order your copy of Happiest Holidays on Amazon and have your best holiday season ever.

Holiday Pantry Planning and Almost Homemade Soup Recipe

Amost Homemade Soup is a pantry staple
One of my favorite easy recipes. Look for the video link below

 

Christmas is less than six weeks away.  Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away.  You might want to run away and hide from the holidays because of the stress, but if you’ve busted your budget or run out of a needed ingredient at the worst possible time in past years, it’s time to talk pantry supplies.  I know.  Most people are talking about how to take care of yourself through the holidays, including me.  But, having your pantry well stocked is a great way to alleviate holiday stress.  It’s a simple thing to do, and the return on your time investment is huge.

 Take recipes you know

Here’s the deal.  Most people have traditional recipes they make every year.  For me, those recipes include the easiest fudge ever, 100s of Christmas cookies, pumpkin muffins, stuffing, baked apples, ham, turkey and Christmas Bread. I know the ingredients of all of them without looking at a recipe and most of them store for a long time.  I buy them over a period of time and/or when they’re on sale, so I can save money and time later and have everything I need in my pantry and/or fridge and freezer.

How to save $25.00 on butter 

For example, a couple of weeks ago our local grocery store ran a sale on the brand of butter we bake with most often.  This brand normally runs $5.00 per pound but was on sale for $2.50 per pound that week.  I purchased ten pounds.  I froze it, and it is available whenever I need it.  The best part is I saved $25.00 just on butter.  Who doesn’t love a bargain like that? I’ll do the same with sugar, brown sugar, flour, muffin liners and other pantry staples if I get the chance.  I purchase things like cream cheese, chipped beef and items that store for a long time as well over the next several weeks.

 Easy pantry meals

The other thing I do is stock my pantry with ingredients for easy to make meals on those nights when the dinner plan gets thwarted or I need something simple to make.  One of my favorite recipes is something we call dump soup.  You can find this recipe and several more in my Happiest Holidays book.  Click here to order your copy.  (Note:  It’s called Almost Homemade in the book because it sounded better at the time.)  The easy part of this soup is that you dump the items in a slow cooker, Instant Pot or a soup pot on top of the stove and you have an easy, quick meal.  It’s a basic recipe you can change up to suit your taste using two boxes of readymade soup.  My favorite combines corn chowder and a roasted red pepper and tomato soup with veggies and a protein source.  I use frozen mixed veggie, a can of diced potatoes and diced ham.  Heat and serve.

 To see a video of me making this soup click here

Variations for the soup include changing the base.  I’ve used Southwestern Corn Chowder, Potato Leek Soup, or you could use a squash or carrot and ginger soup. The veggies can be premixed, single or mixed any way you choose.  You can use any protein source.  We’ve used diced, canned and rotisserie chicken, as well as ground beef taco meat.  You can use a nonmeat protein source to give yourself a vegetarian meal.  Add some nice bread and/or sprinkle with cheese or some freshly chopped herbs if that’s part of your diet, and you’ve got delicious, easy meal.  The possibilities are endless.  If you have a family like mine that prefers more than just soup for dinner, a grilled cheese or Panini sandwich is the perfect complement and will satisfy the biggest of appetites.

 Last tips for a stocked pantry

So, what does your perpetual grocery list for the holidays include?  Are you a spice person who needs cinnamon, ginger, garlic or dried citrus peel?  Are you a baker who needs fresh baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar or corn starch for your holiday delicacies?  Do you need to check your basics like salt, pepper, sugar, flour, brown sugar or powdered sugar?  Is there an item you always seem to forget like almond extract?  Now is the time to make that list and make sure you have everything you need for the holidays.  Comment below or send us an email to let us know what items you may have forgotten in the past that this post reminded you to get this year or your best tip for remembering all your supplies.  While the holidays are upon us, we can still be prepared for them.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Join our email list to get the latest updates and freebies like our holiday timeline coming this week and click here to order your own copy of Happiest Holidays.

Thirty Days of Thanks and the Search for Holiday Happiness

30 Days of Thanks
How to begin a life of gratitude

I know talking about the holidays this early makes some people’s skin crawl and maybe you’re one of them. Thanksgiving in the US is three weeks away and maybe you feel anything but thankful. Christmas is a little over seven weeks and perhaps you feel anything but jolly. You wonder how some people are so freaking happy during the holidays while others are miserable. You want to be one of the thankful, but right now, you’re one of the stressed. That’s part of the reason I began 30 Days of Thanks every day of November. It makes me look at life differently and it can do the same for you.

How do you respond to challenges?

Believe it or not, everyone has challenges. Some rise to them. Some whine through them and some run from them entirely. The problem with whining and running is that nothing changes. The same challenges show up over and over until we figure out how to master them. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We envision a perfect holiday, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize perfection is out of reach, and that sends us spiraling downward emotionally. No one is challenge free, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace, joy and thanks and one of stress and angst.

What is failure?

Difference good day bad dayI understand failure, stress and angst. It took me three tries to write my book Happiest Holidays after years of learning how NOT to do the holidays. Am I a failure? Some might say yes, but the vision for the book got bigger each time I attempted writing it, so I postponed it. Other books got written instead, and I honed my holiday skills. That’s real life. I give thanks for it, and the book is better because of it.

The blessing of challenges

Sometimes, our greatest gifts come from challenges we face and show up as compassion and gratitude later. We face our own challenges and then look at others facing the same challenge with grace and thanks that we can help them. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down into others’ suffering. It means you understand. The holiday blues can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season filled with hope and thanks. To help those who want to boost their holiday joy, I created a list to improve your mood and avoid the abyss this holiday season.  Sign up below for my email list to get support every week to have a better holiday and for reminders like the ones below.

Ways to Give Thanks this Holiday Season

  1. Take care of yourself. I know you’re sick of hearing it, but listen up. Give thanks for a shower, for having in nice clothes, for makeup or nail polish that makes you feel pretty.  Be grateful for enough water to drink and healthy food to eat and maybe even for the food that isn’t so healthy .
  2. Meditate. Take a few minutes or even a few breaths to pay attention to your body, mind and spirit, and be thankful for that break, no matter how small. Focus on your breath and relaxing your shoulders and releasing tension from your forehead, your jaw, your neck and your back. It’s a simple exercise of breathing and paying attention.
  3. Listen to happy music. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like, especially those from your childhood and look for the soundtrack. Then you can appreciate where you and where you’ve been.
  4. Perform an act of kindness. Rake your neighbor’s leaves while they’re gone. Bake cupcakes for someone. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you do have a sick friend. Send a gift card anonymously to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. When you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you create ways for others to give thanks as well.
  5. Become a gracious receiver. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it wears us out. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? If you don’t allow others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming better. Stop it! Be willing to receive so you can find out that people care. They really, really care. Start with compliments. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate it. If someone compliments your look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say that. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one for them. If someone compliments your talent, say thanks and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t mention flaws or mistakes. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful. People like to make others feel good. Let them!
  6. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Schedule time to do what brings you joy. If you parent young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because of the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of thankfully having that peaceful moment. If your children are older like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them.
  7. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I think this quote by Gandhi is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. It goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy.
  8. Stop being offended and taking things personally. This is one I still work on. Someone wrote something I considered mean on Facebook recently. Imagine that. It appeared to be a response to something I said, and I wondered if it was a veiled insult. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings, that we must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other is that I have no problems. Honestly, the Facebook post I referred to suggested both and actually inspired me to write this. So it doesn’t matter whether that post was intended to insult or offend me.  Only I can decide if that happens, and today I choose to be thankful for the inspiration.
  9. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act and think the way you do? If not, become the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. Have you ever thought your mountains might be someone else’s molehills? Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They were the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed.
  10. Take the focus off of what you “have” to do and put it on who and how you want to be. You will approach everything differently. Clean up your home to create a peaceful space. Buy gifts to bless others instead of checking names off a list.

I hope you find peace, joy, love and a reason to give thanks every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but hopefully not as much or as badly. This season is about you having your best holiday season so far. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next several weeks, but for the rest of your life. Want a step by step guide to get you through the holidays? Click here to purchase my book Happiest Holidays on Amazon. If you haven’t signed up for our email list, do that and look for the awesome freebies to come during the holidays and beyond. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Welcome to Mama K’s Kitchen and How to Chop an Onion

kitchen onion
Time to learn how to chop an onion

I enjoy cooking.  When I was a teenager, I bargained my way out of doing yard work by offering to do laundry and cook dinner.  My mom, who would much rather do yard work than housework, always agreed.  I learned some by watching my mom cook during the week, but I also felt comfortable in the kitchen from the time I was small.  To this day I feel like the kitchen is the heart of my home. Nothing makes me happier than having a family meal and seeing those I love around the table.

 Keeping it Simple in the Kitchen

While I love to cook, I prefer to keep things simple in the kitchen, especially when the calendar is full.  I’m not one for complicated recipes.  I’ve made them, and there are a few I repeat.  Mostly, I leave those recipes to others.  I cook delicious, easy to prepare food.  Just recently, a family member reminded me that “easy” is a relative term.  This particular family member struggles with chopping an onion.  She shared a picture of her struggle on social media, and I thought, “Sweetie, there’s a much easier way to do that.” I promised her a video of how to chop an onion.  I know there are many ways to do this, but this is the one that works the best for me.  Click here to watch the video.

 Changes are coming

For those who follow my blogging journey, you’ll start to notice a change in the subjects of my posts.  I want to share practical knowledge as well as talk about life.  The public posts will share the knowledge.  Newsletters to my email list will share thoughts about life.  The kitchen is one of my favorite places so it’s only natural to start there.  I know that learning how to chop an onion doesn’t change the world, but if it saves you time and burning eyes, it makes way for you to live a bit better and who doesn’t want more of that especially with the holiday season nearly upon us?

 Welcome to the heart of my home

A few years ago, a dear, friend I call the daughter of my heart nicknamed me Mama K.   Since we share a love of cooking, it seems only natural to call the heart of my home Mama K’s Kitchen.  I hope by visiting my kitchen in the virtual world, you’ll find more success and happier days in your own kitchen. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting about ways to make Thanksgiving and Christmas less stressful, recipes that are easy and delicious, and gift giving ideas that will save your holiday budget.  You can find several of the tips and recipes in my Happiest Holidays book available on Amazon.

 How can we make your kitchen a happier place?

For those who struggle in the kitchen, it would help to know what would help you most.  What do you struggle with?  What would you like to learn how to do?  I have over 40 years of experience in the kitchen and over twenty years cooking for a family.  I learned so much, and if I can save you time, money and frustration so you can enjoy your family more and stress less, I call that a huge success for both of us.  You can do this, and I am excited to help.  Comment below or better yet, sign up for the newsletter to get all the best information, and we can have fun in the kitchen.  Let’s do this!  As always, if you found this useful, please share.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.

 

Meal planning magic

Magic Menu Planning

Meal planning magic
The daily dreaded mom question

 “Mom! What’s for dinner?”

Nearly every mom I know dreads the question.  I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.  When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.  I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.  I found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of those secrets is menu planning.  Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.It all adds up

How to Start

What’s important to you when it comes to getting meals on the table?  For me it has always been making simple meals that taste great and don’t break my budget.  Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper and better than you can buy it already made.  Pinterest is full of amazing recipes, and I’ll be sharing more and more of my own recipes over the next few months to help with holiday madness.  If you’re menu planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.

Where you shop is part of menu planning

Decide where to shop 

This is a big decision.  Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.  Some prefer patronizing local businesses.  Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.  Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.  Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.  For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.  Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.  Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.  Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.  All of these factors help me menu plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.

 Meal planning tools

Coupons and circulars

Some people love coupons.  Others hate them.  Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.  Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).  Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.  There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.  I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.  I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.  This is where the meat of menu planning takes place for me (pardon the pun).  Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.  The circulars help me decide which proteins to buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make our favorite recipes.

Post your menu planThe weekly plan

I ask my family every week if there is a meal that they want.  If they don’t have any suggestions, I scour the circulars.  For example, let’s say roast is on sale.  The temperatures are on the cooler side this time of year and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.  To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.  I check my supplies then add the ones I’m missing to the grocery list.  The best part about a roast is leftovers.  My husband shreds the leftover meat and makes shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunches.  I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup. 

The big success secret

Do you have a family calendar?  If you do, it is your best resource for menu planning.  If not, get one.  Menu planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.  Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.  Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.  You can prep a slow cooker or pressure cooker meal (affiliate) the night before and either dump all the ingredients in the cooker before you leave in the morning or wait until you get home and cook them in the pressure cooker.  Either way, you’re prepared for a quick meal.

Running grocery list
Paper lists work well too

 

Make a list

Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.  When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.  Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.  That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.  Thank goodness they don’t expire.  Having a list made a huge difference in keeping my grocery bills in check.  To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator for my family to write items we want or run out of on the list.  Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.  That also makes it easier to have several lists for various stores. 

Keep a running total

Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?  I certainly have, and it’s not a fun moment.  To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.

 Shopping is done                                                                                        

You have the food.  You have a plan.  Now what?  First, post your plan where everyone can see it.  For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never worked out.  I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.  Post the menu so it holds you accountable as well as reminding you what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.  Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.  Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.  Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.  Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.  Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil.  Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.  It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends, and an hour of prep on Sunday will save you hours of aggravation later.  Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!  What’s for dinner?”

 

If you enjoy what you’ve read, please share and subscribe for our newsletter starting soon.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Follow Your Calling No Matter What

This has one heck of a week in my world.  A gunman opened fire on a group of concert goers in my country.  A nineteen year old son of someone I know took his own life.  An online friend had a baby born too soon in her family, and he is fighting for his life.  My uncle is in the process of dying in hospice care and the preschool age nephew of a friend may need lifesaving surgery.  There’s actually more, but I think you get the picture.  It’s one of those weeks where you find out what you’re made of and how true you are to your life’s calling. 

 Shut down, step up or both

Look for the helpers
In times of crisis, look for the helpers

When I heard about the gunman in Las Vegas earlier this week, my writing seemed so trivial and unimportant, and in the grand scheme of most people’s lives, it is.  What I realized the next day, though, kept me going.  it inspired me to write more because that’s what I’m called to do.  You see, every time something like this happens, we have choices.  We can shut down or step up.  Sometimes we have to shut down for a moment or a day or longer to regroup.  That is certainly understandable, but there is always an ultimate choice to shrink or grow through tragedy, especially when we are not directly affected.  I choose to grow

Regrouping and rededicating to your calling

Follow your highest calling
Follow your highest calling

After regrouping, I know I am called to help people.  While it may seem trivial to help people with meal planning, keeping their home livable and thinking about life differently, we all have to navigate life even when tragedy strikes.  Moms still have to follow their calling by feeding their babies, keeping clothes clean and keeping their homes as safe as they can for their family.  Those moms may also need someone to say to them that as tired and scared as they might be, what they do matters.  So if you’re one of those moms, let me be clear.  What you do matters.  Every meal you put on the table whether fast food or homemade matters.  Every load of laundry you wash, and every toy you pick up and put away matters.  If you take a whole day to do nothing but watch movies with your kids from a blanket fort, that also matters because you’re making happy memories for your babies, and they need that too.

 

There are more good people than bad

Something else that struck me this week is this:  we can do what we’re called to do in spite of what’s happening in the world or because of it.  I believe in my heart of hearts that there are more good people in this world than bad.  I believe the media tries to get us to believe otherwise because it’s good for ratings.  By stripping away the labels and the name calling and the divisiveness in our hearts, we’ll find we’re more alike than different, and we can live in peace.  If something disturbs your peace, perhaps that’s your calling nudging you to do something different with your life.  It’s your choice how to answer that call, but I hope you’ll do it in the spirit of peace and of making the world a more loving place.  If I can help with that, let me know and we can work together.  Things that scare us will still happen, but maybe we can prevent one or two and we can certainly help others get through it.

 Changes are coming

Commitments to constant improvement
Website and blog improvements coming soon

For those who follow the blog regularly, big changes are coming.  This is the last single post that will be sent directly to your inbox.  Starting next week, a weekly newsletter with these more personal stories will replace the weekly blog post and will include links to other valuable information from the website.  The blog name and format are changing and will be revealed soon, so stay tuned for that,.  Also, with the holidays approaching, there will be several resources available for free and for purchase to help you have your most peaceful holiday season possible.  This is all part of my calling, to help you live your best life possible because we’re all in this together, so why not help each other out?  As always, if you like what you’ve read, please share and make sure you subscribe to get the latest and best tips and inspiration.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.

 

 

Your best life

Change Some Things in Your Life

Change some things
The best change comes when we change

One of my favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you want to change some things in your life, you have to change some things in your life.”  When I first heard it, it seemed ridiculous because everyone knows that, but when you think about it, there’s genius in it because so many times we wish for things to be different, but we refuse to change.  We want a better finances, but instead of following a budget, getting a second job, using coupons or selling some of our things, we wish to win the lottery.  We want a better body, but rather than creating a fitness plan, we wish we didn’t love doughnuts, chips or ice cream. Our house is a wreck, and we want it to be a place of peace and comfort, but instead of creating a plan that will get us there, we blame our messy family and wish we could afford better furniture or a maid. It took me a long time to figure it out, but life doesn’t work that way.

 Simple but not always easy

If we want change in our lives, we have to change what we do or how we do it.  It’s that simple, but it isn’t always easy, or at least it seems that way in the beginning.  Take finances for example.  My husband and I have been fans of Dave Ramsey for some time.  We bought Financial Peace University a few years before our oldest son entered college.  By following his simple but not always easy steps, we changed our financial life.  At the time we made about $70,000 yearly but had $36,000 in credit card debt.  Within thirty days, we made back what we paid for the course.  Within 90 days, we had a $1,000 emergency fund, and within two years, we paid off all of our credit cards and began saving for college.  Our oldest son graduated with zero loan debt from college and our middle son is over halfway through college without debt .  Was it easy?  Some days, no, but it was definitely worth it and easier than watching our children struggle financially.  Besides, we learned sound financial principles and taught them to our children at the same time.  That’s a win-win for sure

Your best life
Live your best life

Changing perspective changes everything

One of the most difficult changes I made was learning how to take care of a home.  I don’t use the word hate often, but I hated to clean.  I didn’t see the point of cleaning.  It never ended and wasn’t fun, and when I did clean, I was not pleasant.  In fact, the more I cleaned, the angrier I got, and Heaven help anyone who dared to upset me even more while I was cleaning.  With that attitude, is it any wonder no one in my family ever offered to help?  They would do what I shamed or screamed at them to do, but it was not pleasant, ever.   Then I found FlyLady and Pam Young.  These ladies taught me about changing my attitude and perspective about cleaning, and I can never repay them.  The amazing part is that I’ve never met either one, but, they gave me simple way to change my home, my life and my relationship with my family.

More changes to make

While I’ve made great strides in both of those areas of my life, one area I’m still learning to master is taking care of my body.  I know what to do, but I am still learning.  You see, I love some of the foods that now make my body feel bad when I eat them.   It’s time to change my diet, for good.  If you’ve been following my blog over the past few weeks, you know I’ve been reading The Twelve Week Year, and it’s helping me make those changes in my life.  I’ll be sharing some of them in the newsletter that will go to subscribers of the blog.  It will include invitations to special promotions and freebies in the upcoming months to improve all aspects of our lives.  Part of the goal of the newsletter will be to help everyone have the best possible last quarter/holiday season possible.  I am so excited to do this with a group of like-minded people who want to have fun, stay sane and enjoy the holidays more than they ever have. 

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

 Making change easier

One of the most important things I’ve learned through the process of improving my life is that change isn’t as scary as we make it in our heads.  By making it big and scary and overwhelming, we give ourselves permission to be angry and self-sabotaging.  We fight out best life at every turn and blame other people or circumstances for our failure.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Over the next few months I will share the best tips I have for living happier and with more joy through the holidays and beyond.  While this time of year used to be my most challenging, it’s now become my favorite time to enjoy every day as much as possible.  My goal for everyone is to live happily through the holidays and get to the New Year feeling better about their finances, home and body than they ever have.  The steps will be simple and as easy as I can make them. I’ll include affordable and fun gift ideas, healthy and delicious recipes and tips to get your home holiday ready spending less than 15 minutes per day.

 

If that sounds like something that would help you, subscribe below, and we’ll get started in early October.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Following Your Dreams

Everyone has dreams.  I’m not talking wishing to win the lottery, world peace, or for people to be nice to each other. I’m not even talking about the dreams of traveling the world, building a school in a struggling community or funding research to find a cure for a disease.   I’m talking about the simple dreams of getting your life on track, dreams of having a home you love, being debt free, paying for your kids’ college or having enough money to get through the month.  Some days it all feels like an uphill battle, especially when you watch the news and the world seems to be falling apart in front of our eyes.

 Different types of dreamers

Live the dream
We all have dreams, some big and some small

From my years of reading books, listening to speakers and watching videos, the people that follow their dreams seem to fall into two camps.  One camp is all about putting on blinders and going for it.  They ignore everything else and just get it done.  These are people like JK Rowling who admitted to living in squalor for four years while writing the first Harry Potter book.  They ignore everything around them, get to the task at hand and wrestle their dream to the ground. While I admire their fortitude I am not that person.

 

Then there are the people who let life, the Divine or God direct them and go with the flow of life.  They set an intention and see where it leads them.  They know if they focus on one thing and ignore everything else, they set themselves up for failure so they prefer to go with the flow and let the Divine take the lead.  People like Jim Carrey who wrote himself a million dollar check that he put in his wallet fall into that camp.  I am more like that person.

 

There are potential problems with both groups.  In the focused group, while they often achieve everything they set out to achieve, when they arrive, they have no one to share the joy with because they never invested time in building relationships so the achievement pales.  A wealthy friend of mine told me once that there are more depressed rich people than you can imagine.  Think of people like Steve Jobs and Howard Hughes who were cash rich and relationship poor.  These people were so busy building their portfolio that they forgot to build a life.

 

For the people who let the Divine take the lead, the problem is different.  These people often have friends and family who love them, but they are the embodiment of unrealized goals and potential.  They are the woulda, coulda, shoulda people who end up wishing they had more time to be the person they aspired to be.  Because I tend to be this person, even writing this makes me sad.

 Pushing through the fear

The beauty of dreams
Learning to live your dreams is powerful

This past weekend I went to my first blogging conference In Portland Oregon.  Unlike other ventures that I invested a large chunk of money in, I left this conference with my head spinning with new ideas and a confidence I’ve never felt before about my blog and it’s future.  I only got about an hour of sleep as I flew a red-eye from the West Coast back to the Midwest.  In the past, that meant taking several days to recuperate before I would drag myself to the notes and try to figure out what to do next.  With this conference, I already knew what to do, and began implementing what I learned immediately.  I found the direction and guidance I was looking for, and I’m doing the work while still being a great wife and mother, which will always be at the top of my priority list.

 

Why am I telling you this?  Because I know you have dreams, and I want you to follow them.  Keep looking and keep trying until you find what works for you.  It may not be the right time, but you can learn and grow and be prepared for when the time is right.  I want you to take the steps to make your life better each day so that when the opportunity arises you can do that and feel good about what you’re doing, and if you need help with that, I’ll be posting about that over the next couple of months as I refine and redirect the blog.  There will be so much good information coming to help you live a better life and follow your dreams, whatever they are, and I’m excited to see where it takes you.

 

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

It can be scary following your dreams.  I know because that’s how I feel, but I’m reading a book right now titled, The Twelve Week Year, and it’s changing how I look at my past mistakes and failures.  The view this book says your mistakes and failures have valuable input toward your future success. Get rid of the guilt and shame and use your past as fuel for your future.  I love that and plan to use it as I work through the last twelve weeks of this year building a better experience for my readers.  One of the new features that is already in place is a new subscribe experience.  If you already subscribe to emails, great!  If not, beginning in October I’ll be adding a newsletter with additional tips and information especially for the holidays, including recipes, planning tips and maybe a video or two.

 

So, are you ready to rock the rest of this year?  Are you ready to set yourself up for a great holiday season and 2018?  I hope you are because you deserve to live your best life possible, and I can hardly wait to see you achieve everything you dream of and more.  If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share and subscribe and as always, thanks for being your and have a great day.

Reasons Choices and Excuses

Choices, Reasons and Excuses, Which are You Making?

Do you make good choices or do you make excuses?  Most days I think I make good choices.  I choose to be kind.  I choose to let things go.  I choose to take care of my home and my family, and my future writing, speaking and blogging career.  These things make me happy, and when I focus on them, life seems to have a way of working out.

 How bad do you want it?

Choices aren't always excuses
Is everything that slows you down an excuse?

Lately I’ve been thinking about this quote.  I love quotes and usually find them inspirational and uplifting.  Recently, I’ve begun to take issue with this one.  I used to think it was an indictment of people like me who choose to stay at home while raising my children rather than balance that with a career.  If you think I have a problem with women who work while raising children, think again.  In my book, Everyday Heroes of Motherhood, I talk about ending the mommy wars, and I deeply admire several women who choose to live their truth and mother how it best suits them and their family.  As one wise mom once said, children thrive best when their mom is happy with her life. I agree with that wholeheartedly, and it’s why I chose the life I have.

In support of all moms 

Part of the reason I made the choice to stay home is because I would suck at being a full time working mom.  We’ve thrived as a busy family because I can focus on family; split loyalties are debilitating for me.  Even the few part time jobs I had, other than sports officiating with my husband, never seemed worth the time away from my family.  Add to that, ADHD on my part and my son’s, life threatening medical conditions that require regular doctor and hospital visits, and my personal abilities would stretch beyond what I could handle with a job.  Other women thrive because they have full or part time work to balance their lives.  Some also work because they have to, and I’ve been there too, but as soon as I could, I stepped away from outside work and focused again on my family.

 The Sacrifices of our Choices

Sometimes I wondered if the reasons I listed were excuses, but I can honestly say that my worst days at home never made me wish I had a full time or part time job.  While working, though, I often thought about being home with the ones I love.  Was I lucky to be able to stay home?  In some regards, yes, but we also live a different life than most to provide for our family.  I’ve shared before we drive cars until they die, I shop thrift stores and discount stores, use coupons and shop sales.  Our children go to state universities, but my oldest graduated with no loan debt and my second is will do the same.  Those choices help me to stay home.  I understand not everyone has or wants that opportunity, and I acknowledge our family makes sacrifices for mine.  For that I will always be grateful.

Reasons Choices and Excuses
Reasons are Choices. Choose well.

 The Advantages of our Choices

In addition to sacrifices, my family also has advantages.  I’m there for them when they come home from school and activities.  They eat home cooked food most evenings for dinner.  The house is mostly picked up, and the laundry is mostly caught up.  Mom is happy.  Dad is happy, and occasionally there are homemade treats, partly because mom loves to bake, partly because it’s more cost effective and usually healthier to bake than buy from the store.  Please understand I don’t care if other women eat every meal out and only buy store made goodies.  I don’t care if their homes are messy and the laundry is piled up, unless that makes them miserable in which case I would love to help them conquer that.  We make these choices because they make our home a wonderful place to be, and we’re happy.  

 Hobby to Career

Seven years ago I started blogging because I prefer nonfiction to fiction.  I tried writing for a digital newspaper but I left journalism years ago and remembered quickly why.  Blogging allowed me to write about interesting subjects with a genuine and authentic voice.  It’s been a lovely hobby, but now, as my daily parenting journey is ending, I want more.  I want a career, so I choose to invest in learning about technology and professional blogging.  I choose to go to a blogging conference later this month, and I am scared.  Blogging as a career option is foreign to this mom who’s been out of the work force for over twenty years.  Fear makes choosing more difficult, but not trying because I’m afraid is the worst excuse of all.  I don’t know if I’m ready or if my family is, but I owe it to all of us to try. 

 Following your Dreams

I believe in following your dreams, and I’ve taught my children to do that.  Each has a dream that they are following and are learning that those dreams often change as we move through the world.  I’ve learned the same thing.  My dream originally was to have two children, return to work when the youngest was five and live the American Dream life.  My reality is that I have three children, one with extra needs, and no desire to return to the “regular” work force if I can help it.  For now that’s a choice I make, and my family, especially my husband, support it, so I can follow my dream. 

Choices inform our decisions
One of the most empowering exercises I learned.

 Your dreams and choices

If you have a dream, are you following it?  Are you making choices or excuses?  Only you can answer that and most people know which they’re doing.  One of the greatest things I learned in life was to replace the phrases “I have to”, “I should”, “I need to” and “I ought to” with the phrase “I choose to”.  I learned everything is a choice, including making excuses.  The difference between reasons and excuses is in how we live every day.  I choose to commit to my family because my dream was to give them my best until they leave my home.  That means being present physically as well as mentally and emotionally to do my noble and sacred work and I’m ok with that choice.  The rest will wait.  Make the right choice for you and whoever you love because that is how you make dreams come true.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, share this post and subscribe to get all blog posts and extras sent directly to your inbox by entering your email into the subscribe box on this page.  Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and if you would like to read more, check out my books 101 Parenting TipsEveryday Heroes of Motherhood and Happiest Holidays.