Olive Oyl

Weight has been a constant piece of my life since I was a young girl.  It may not be in the way that you would think, either.  I don’t have some kind of unhealthy thoughts about it nor do I have any type of eating disorder, but it still has been a constant piece of me for as long as I can remember.  It’s not just about me either.  It is a big part of one of my children’s lives as well.  Weight is always in the back of my mind every day.  

It all started back in my younger days and throughout high school. I was always the skinny girl.  I was active in basketball and cheerleading throughout middle and high school, but I wouldn’t say that I was super athletic. I wasn’t a kid who liked to work out or run or anything like that. In fact, I hated it (and still do!).  I never really had to even think about exercise back then because I was naturally skinny.  It was simply a part of my genetic makeup.   I was a pretty picky eater back then, but that didn’t have an affect my weight.  I still ate plenty.  I may not have been the healthiest eater, but no matter how much junk I ate, I still didn’t gain weight.  I just got taller.  Some may think how lucky I was or be jealous, but it wasn’t always cool to be the skinny girl.  I often got called “Olive Oyl” from Popeye because I was so tall and skinny.  People even joked about me being anorexic, but I wasn’t.  They would push food at me all the time and tell me I needed to eat.   I really didn’t even care how much I weighed or how skinny I was.  It never crossed my mind until someone said something about it. It wasn’t until I became an adult that it started to impact me.

Not long after I was married, my husband’s commanding officer called him into his office one day and had a talk with him about me.  He told my husband that he and his wife were concerned about me because I was so skinny.  They just “knew” that I was anorexic and wanted to make sure I was being taken care of.  I was furious when my husband came home and told me this.  Of course, my husband assured him that I was fine and was most certainly did not have an eating disorder.  I was so angry that someone would have the nerve to tell my husband that he needed to take better care of me and acted like they knew me better than he did.  I had never deprived myself of food, thrown up something I ate intentionally, or even thought about dieting in my life.  I was just a skinny person. My mom was the same way and so was my grandmother.  You hear about “fat shaming,” but you rarely hear anyone talk about “skinny shaming.” It does exist.  I can’t tell you how many people have been concerned or commented on my weight over the years.  There were even times that I was made to be so self-conscious about my weight that I actually tried to gain weight. I was drinking shakes and things to boost my calorie intake, but it never worked.  In all my years as the skinny girl I was never once told by a doctor or medical professional that I needed to gain weight or that I was underweight. It was only the people around me who made comments or whispered about it. They made me feel like something was wrong with me.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I gained about 30 pounds.  Within a week after I had her, I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans.  Now, keep in mind that my daughter was born 3 weeks early and weighed only 4 lbs. 8 oz.  I had a partial placental abruption, so she wasn’t getting enough nutrients to grow.  People didn’t seem to care about that and only commented on the fact that I must not have eaten enough for her to grow.  Yet again, I was accused of being anorexic and made to feel like I had done something wrong.  My husband can attest to the fact that I actually ate so much Taco Bell when I was pregnant that he thought I might give birth to a taco!  I can assure you that I ate a lot! I also never threw up once while I was pregnant with her.  I had zero morning sickness.  My body and my metabolism just didn’t allow me to gain weight and allowed it to easily come off.  There was nothing wrong with me but people made me feel like there was. I felt like a bad mom.

It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my second child that things changed for me.  I gained about 50 pounds with her.  A big part of that was water weight.  I was so swollen that I looked like a giant puffer fish.  I threw up constantly and could barely keep food down.  My feet grew a whole half size and never went back to my pre-pregnancy shoe size.  Because I was so swollen, sick, and miserable, I was put on bed rest for the last month of my pregnancy and was induced a week early.  My daughter weighed 6 lbs 14 oz.  This time the weight didn’t fall off as fast. In fact, my daughter just turned 13 last week, and I have never been the weight I was before I got pregnant with her again.  I have never once been accused of having an eating disorder since then either.  From the day she was born my focus has been shifted from my weight to hers.  It has gone from me worrying about being too skinny to worrying about her being too skinny but for different reasons.  

If you have been following me for a while, you know that my daughter has had a plethora of medical issues and has been extremely underweight as a result.  As skinny as I was at her age, she is even skinnier and much shorter.  She actually has been diagnosed with an eating disorder because she is literally afraid of food as a result of her disease, Eosinophilic Esophagitis, going undiagnosed for so long.  It is not because she is worried about being overweight, and she certainly isn’t starving herself to keep from gaining weight.  She is afraid of food and what pain it will cause her.  Yes, part of her low weight is due to genetics just like mine.  We simply come from a line of skinny women.  However, her diet is also extremely limited.  She doesn’t even make it onto the growth chart when we go to her doctor appointments.  I walk a very thin line when it comes to her weight.  I don’t want to her to feel judged or self-conscious about her weight like I was, but I also need to make sure she is healthy.  It has gotten so bad at times that her doctors have threatened to put in a g-tube to get more nutrients into her or send her to an inpatient treatment facility.  We have spent years in feeding therapy to get her to expand her diet.  At every doctor appointment, we discuss her weight and whether she is gaining weight, loosing weight, or staying stagnant.  People often think she is way younger than she is because she is so small.  Every day is a battle over food and it has been a very long and bumpy road.  People have gone from commenting on my weight to commenting on my daughter’s.  Some don’t hesitate to tell me how to parent her differently or point out the things they think I have done wrong when it comes to her eating.  I’ve been told to force her to eat, allow her to starve, and so many other unsolicited pieces of advice. It is a never-ending saga.  

Weight is a huge part of my life and has been for its entirety.  I don’t foresee it going away any time soon. Yes, I can probably stand to lose a few pounds these days, but I try really hard not to let it consume me or the opinions of others affect my view of my body or my child’s.  We as women are scrutinized enough as it is already, and we don’t need to add body image issues into the mix.  Instead of judging and criticizing people about their weight whether they weigh a lot or a little, let’s build each other up.  We have to learn to accept the bodies we have been given and love them.  Yes, we need to do things that are healthy and take care of ourselves but loving who you are in the skin you are in is just as important.  Embrace who you are and walk confidently in front of the naysayers. Don’t let them affect how you view yourself.  That’s what I want my child to learn and do most of all.  Your weight doesn’t define you.  It is a part of you, but it doesn’t make up all of who you are inside.  Who you are at your core, is the person everyone should come to see, love, and value.

Anchored,

AKA: Olive Oyl 🙂

Time Well Spent

Last week I wrote about the sudden onset of stress and anxiety in my life.  It was causing the tell-tell signs in my body that I had let it get too far.  It was causing me to lose sleep, and I had a tingling in my face.  I shared how I needed to find ways to release that stress but that I ultimately needed to give it all to God and actually let go of it.  Well, I feel like I was surprisingly able to do that for once.  My sleep has improved, and the tingling has subsided.  I am definitely feeling calmer than I did this time a week ago. If anything, though, I should be really feeling the effects of stress right now because this week is insane for me. We have so much going on with tons of moving parts, and then mother nature has thrown in the threat of snow in the middle of all of it.  It’s like everything that was crazy about our lives before the pandemic and everything that we missed out on has all been thrown into this one week.  

This past weekend, my oldest, along with her high school gymnastics teammates, clinched the Regional Championship and secured their spot at the state competition on Friday of this week.  They are heading to defend their state title for the 4th year in a row.  It is super exciting. However, the competition is approximately 3.5 hours away, and the forecast of snow is threatening to derail their chances of being able to compete, not to mention the difficulties of traveling in the snow if we are allowed to go. The dilemma comes with whether or not she and I travel down on Thursday to get ahead of the snow if the school system doesn’t prevent us from going altogether.  If things go according to plan and the girls are allowed to compete on Friday, my oldest and I will at least be there overnight on Friday night since they won’t get done until late.  My husband and my youngest will be heading to another location on Friday afternoon for cheer where my oldest and I will meet them on Saturday morning sometime.  I will do my youngest’s hair and makeup and then go watch her compete while my husband and oldest wait in the hotel room (only one spectator is allowed per athlete due to COVID).  When that is over, my husband will then take my youngest and drive back home so she can be at practice on Sunday morning.  My oldest and I will stay at the hotel for her to compete on Sunday.  Also, in the middle of all this, we have to drop the dog off for boarding while we are all gone and then pick her back up at some point. If any one thing goes wrong, it will be a domino effect for the whole weekend. 

Crazy, right?  This is when I should be feeling the stress and anxiety, but surprisingly I am not.  I’m fairly calm about the whole thing.  I guess that is a good thing, but it is a little weird to me.  I keep waiting for it to come.  I know that is the wrong attitude to have but years of experience have me skeptical.  Have I really found inner peace and a way to keep my stress and anxiety levels down? I don’t know, but maybe. You may be asking what I am doing differently than all those times in the past.  Well, let me tell you my secret. I am spending time with God every morning.  I truly believe that is what is helping to keep me calm and the anxiety at bay.  I used to do my devotion and daily prayers at night.  I would often forget or would be too tired by the end of the day so I would go days or even weeks without really spending quality time with God. Sometimes I would even fall asleep in the middle of my prayers. I always thought that my mornings were too busy and that I needed to get all things done first before I could truly focus on God.  I was wrong, and I knew that I was wrong. Look…I’m not the perfect Christian, but I’m always willing to grow. Trust me, I have heard sermon after sermon about how you should start your day with God, but I never really put it into practice. Well, I take that back.  When I was teaching, I would pray on my drive into work in the morning sometimes, and I loved how it made me feel.  When I stopped teaching, though, that stopped.  Over the last couple of months, I have slowly been making a switch.  I still don’t do it first thing when I wake up like so many have said you should do.  I have had to find what works best for me.  Instead, I get up, get ready, and do a few household things if needed.  Then I head downstairs to my office to begin working.  Before I open my computer or do anything else, I read a short devotional.  I started with just doing that and then reading the little prayer provided for me and maybe adding in one or two sentences of my own.  Then last week when I felt the effects of my stress, I started closing my eyes and really praying from the heart. I even spent some time in silence just listening for God’s voice.  Some days my prayers are long and sometimes they are short, but I actually take a moment to spend time in the presence of God.  It almost always feel a sense of peace wash over me.  Sometimes I even get chill bumps, and I know that is God laying his hands on me.  It makes me feel rejuvenated and ready to face the day.  I feel more connected with God. When I do this consistently every single day, the stress and anxiety just fade away.  

If you are not beginning your day with God, stop making excuses like I did and do it.  Tune everything else out.  Close your eyes and speak from your heart.  Then sit in silence and let the Holy Spirit wash over you. Get to know God on a personal level.  Build a relationship with him.  I promise you, when you do this consistently, you will notice a difference in your mindset, your attitude, and the way you approach every day.  It will absolutely change your priorities, too. Seek him first above all else, and he will lead you through every step of your day. It will be time well spent!

Anchored in Christ,

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Cast Your Cares

Over the last week or so, I have been feeling stressed and anxious.  I’m not really sure where it is coming from, but it is hitting me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere.  I’ve gotten the tingling twitch back in my cheek at night which is a tell-tell sign that I am stressed.  Competition season is back in full force (different but still a lot) for the girls, and I have been questioning some things in my life lately.  I guess those things could be the cause of the sudden onset of anxiety, but I’m not sure.  Life is not even close to the level of craziness that it was pre-pandemic, but my body is starting to feel like it is.   I’m not sleeping well, and I am getting more headaches.  Those things coupled with the twitch in my face, are all the signs that tell me I need to get it together.  It is funny how are bodies are affected by stress and anxiety.  It is like nature is saying, “Whoa, knock it off!”

This past weekend, we had some crazy, unexpected changes with the cheer schedule due to the snow and a few other things.  It just about sent me over the edge because it was causing conflicts with something I had to do that I had been looking forward to for a long time.  I got upset and even angry about it.  My emotions were definitely all over the place and blown way out of proportion.  It all worked out totally fine so there was no real reason for me to get so upset about it.  Part of that is that I am a serious type A personality.  I like schedule and order, and I don’t like unexpected changes or surprises. It just seems to throw me off my game.  We had another unexpected schedule change yesterday, though, and it didn’t seem to bother me at all.  Why some things send me over the edge and some don’t is a mystery to me.  I wish I had the ability to control it, but I don’t. 

I have to figure out a way or some kind of outlet to keep my stress levels low and to fend off my anxiety.  I guess maybe I need to take some time for myself.  Ultimately, though, I know that I need to spend some time with God.  He tells us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us.  Easier said than done, right? I think this is the biggest thing that I struggle with in my walk of faith.  I have a really hard time giving all my worries and stresses to Him and letting them go.  I can pray about it and say that I am giving it all to him, but I don’t really ever let it go.  I still carry the burden of it on my shoulders.  I wish I knew the secret to letting it go completely, but I don’t.  I don’t know how to stop it from throwing me under the water until I can barely stay afloat.  I don’t want to get to the point where I feel like I am drowning in it all.  I know that I will if I don’t put a stop to it now.  The physiological symptoms are just the first step to me crumbling.  I know this.  It has happened time and time again.  I am grateful that I am more aware of the signs now than I used to be.  Hopefully, that will allow me to not let it get any bigger.  

All I can do is to continue to spend time in prayer, take time for just me, and try to avoid the things that bring me stress.  My apple watch keeps telling me to breathe.  Maybe that will help too.  I’ll try just about anything to relieve my head and my body of all this stress and anxiety, so send your tips and tricks my way.  I will simply keep reminding myself to give it all to God until the day I figure out how to truly do that.  Maybe one day I will be able to let it all go completely.

Side note: I am currently listening to a Bridgerton playlist on Spotify that someone shared with me. I have never watched the show (it’s on my list), but I find it oddly soothing. Music does have that affect on me. Prayer and music! Maybe that’s the secret!

Anchored,

Jump On In

I mentioned yesterday that it is a big week for me with my Trades of Hope business.  It is our yearly national retreat.  Unfortunately, it is all virtual this year, but that doesn’t mean that the content isn’t as great.  One of the quotes that I heard from yesterday that has stuck in my mind was shared by one of our leaders.  She shared a quote by Marie Forleo who said, “One of the most underrated secrets to success is to start before you are ready.” I wrote it down in my notes and spent a lot of my time yesterday pondering it because it really struck a chord with me.  It goes completely against everything in me to jump in when I am not ready.  I am a planner by nature.  I don’t do things spur of the moment because it gives me anxiety.  I think I use the excuse, “I’m not ready yet,” to put things off all the time.  I think a lot of us would admit to doing the same.  We tell ourselves that we can’t start on our dreams because we aren’t ready yet.  We don’t have enough money.  We don’t have enough time. We don’t have enough resources.  We don’t have enough knowledge.  The excuses pile up and prevent us from taking the next step towards reaching our goals or fulfilling our dreams.  As a planner, I tell myself that I can’t go for it yet until A, B, and C are done first.  That may mean that I never even get to working on the goal at all because I haven’t passed step A yet. I have this need to feel like I know everything and that everything is in place before I even think about starting something new.  I am coming to realize that is the wrong way to think because it is only holding me back. 

I think what Marie Forleo was trying to say was to simply go for it.  Put the excuses aside and just do it.  Stop letting things hold you back from going after your goals and dreams.  You really never know if you are ready unless you try.  Easier said than done, right? It is for me, anyway.  Throwing everything that I know out the window and just going for it makes me very uncomfortable.  Simply thinking about it gives me anxiety. However, I am starting to see that I am my own biggest obstacle.  I am the only one holding myself back. It’s not all of the excuses that are preventing me from going for it.  It’s me.  I am the one coming up with the excuses.  I have a need for control and the fear of things getting out of my control are stopping me from moving forward.  

How do I get outside of my head and over the excuses? I think one of the important things to do is to reflect on all those excuses I am giving myself for not going for it.  What is behind those excuses? Is it my insecurity? Is it fear of failure? Is it that it is really not the right goal or dream that God wants me to pursue?   I think that by looking at the reasons behind the excuses, you can maybe attack those excuses head on and get past them quicker.  I also think that self-talk is a good way to move forward.  I know that it works for me.  I’ve mentioned before the power of mantras and of speaking truth to yourself out in the open consistently.  It is a way to remind myself that I am worthy, I can do it, and I’m ready.  It is all about changing your mindset and turning the narrative around in your brain.  Prayer is another way for me to get out of my head.  Being still and listening to God’s voice and ignoring my own voice allows me to hear the truth.   Ultimately, though, I simply have to push it all aside and go for it.   I have to trust myself to make it work and know that God is with me each step of the way.  If I fail, I can use it as a learning experience, but if I succeed….oh, the reward will be so great! 

I can only think of one time in my life that I jumped into something with both feet without being ready.  It was totally out of the ordinary for me and completely out of my comfort zone.  It was starting this blog.  I got the idea in my head and just went for it.  It has turned into one of the biggest blessings in my life that I probably would have never known had I listened to all of the excuses I could have given myself.  I wasn’t ready for it by a long shot. I had no experience and no clue what I was doing.  I am not a writer and make grammatical and spelling errors frequently, but I have not let any of that stop me.  I went for it and I am so glad that I did. I think Marie Forleo is right. I think I will hang this quote in my office to remind me that jumping in before you are ready can sometimes lead to the greatest success. All you have to do is go for it.

Anchored,

Time Cherished

Wow! I don’t know if I could feel more exhausted right now because I haven’t really slept the last few days. I never sleep well in a hotel.   My oldest daughter and I flew to Atlanta on Friday for her first live cheer competition of the season, and we got back late yesterday afternoon.  It was our first time traveling since the pandemic began, and it was quite an experience.  I was nervous about it and our chances of exposure, but I was also excited to be doing something that sort of resembled our old normal.  We took every precaution that we could given the circumstances and will be quarantining ourselves for the next week to make sure we didn’t pick up anything we could spread.  

The trip started out like a normal trip except having to wear a mask.  We got to the airport in plenty of time to get through security and get to our gate.  As we boarded the plane, the flight attendants handed us each an individually packaged sanitizing wipe that we could use to wipe down our area before we sat down.  I had actually brought a small pack to do that myself but didn’t need to use them.  The fact that the flight was full made me a little nervous, but I tried to put it out of my mind.  I felt like most people were being cautious and trying to be safe.  What I did not count on or consider was that since it was a night flight, the lights would be turned off, leaving the plane dark.  This gave some people around us the opportunity to get away with pulling their masks off and not wearing them.  I was pretty upset about it, but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to say anything.   I just kept hoping the flight attendant would notice, but that didn’t happen because the flight attendants had to remain seated for the majority of the flight due to turbulence.  It wasn’t just a little turbulence either.  It was probably the worst I have ever experienced and certainly didn’t help my nerves.  I get bad motion sickness too, so that was fun.  Needless to say, the flight to Atlanta was not pleasant at all. I was so happy to get off that plane and to our hotel.  Thankfully our flight home yesterday was not full or turbulent and everyone kept their masks on! 

Typically, when we travel for competitions, we go out to eat and try new restaurants, do a bit of sightseeing, and hang out with teammates when they aren’t competing.   That was not the case this trip.  In an effort to minimize our interaction with others, we stayed in our hotel room the whole time.  The only time we left was to go to the competition, and then we came right back after it was over.  This was my first experience using Uber Eats, but it actually worked out great for lunch and dinner for the duration of the trip.  The driver brought the food directly to our room and left it outside the door to minimize contact.  It was perfect and super easy.  We watched a lot of TV, experimented with new ways to do her competition hair and makeup, and just hung out together.  It was kind of fun in a way because we just talked and laughed a lot.  I know my opportunities to do that with her are dwindling since she will be off to college soon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I love the young lady she has become, and I found myself really enjoying her company.  Even though there wasn’t much excitement to the trip, it is definitely one that I am going to remember forever.  Time spent with my family is the biggest thing that I have taken away from the pandemic.  It has opened up opportunities to just be together like never before, and I will cherish this time always.  

While we didn’t bring home the win, we came back with memories to last a lifetime.  The girls killed it both days and placed third among a super tough division.  My girl walked away with a renewed confidence in herself and pure happiness for the first time following a competition in a long time.  I saw the same light in her eyes that I used to see when she first started competing in gymnastics return, and it was shining so bright.   She even kept saying to me over and over all weekend that her eyes looked so blue.  I think she was seeing that same light that I saw.  I caught myself several times just staring at her during the trip thinking how beautiful she is and how much she has grown up.  I am so happy that she has found a new sport that she loves and is excited to learn, improve, and give it all she’s got. Although it is a sport that I never saw her doing or ever wanting to do, she is thriving in the midst of it.  I couldn’t be more happy or proud of her. It just goes to show that it is never too late to try something new and that hard work and determination pays off. 

I am happy to be back home and to have gotten a full night of sleep last night snug in my own bed, but I already miss our mom and daughter time together.  Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it is also the most rewarding.  I would give anything to go back and do some things over so that I would have had more moments like this weekend.  We rushed through so much over the years, and I hate that I didn’t take the time to simply just hang out with both girls more.  COVID had taught me such a valuable lesson.  NOTHING is more important or more precious than time spent together.  Going forward I promise myself that I am going to take more of that time and cherish every single second of it.  

Anchored,

The Only Voice That Matters

Necklace/Earrings/Lipstick (Lead the Way)

Do you ever have those days when you feel like you just can’t do anything right? I recently had something practically handed to me on a silver platter, TWICE.  All I had to do was accept it and make it work, but I failed both times. I couldn’t bring it to fruition, and I don’t know why.   I don’t think that it is possible for things to get much easier than it being handed to you, so why couldn’t I make it work?  Why did I let it slip through my fingers, not once but twice?  Is there something wrong with me? Why am I failing? Maybe I am not cut out for this like I thought.  These are all the things that were running through my brain this morning when I learned that the second opportunity didn’t pan out.  That was Satan talking.  It was him trying to get in my head and make me doubt myself and God’s plan for my life.  I know this in my heart, but it still didn’t stop the thoughts from coming.  It didn’t stop me from beating myself up and second guessing every decision I have made.  It didn’t stop the “what if’s” from coming.  

I can tell you that Satan is good at his job.  He knows what he is doing. If we aren’t careful, he can take over.  He can overwhelm us with all this negativity and make us give up.  I have seen it over and over in myself and in those around me.  When you put your heart and soul into something and are constantly getting slapped in the face, it is hard to keep going.  Who likes having the door slammed in your face over and over again? Satan can use it to wear you down.  He will make you believe the lies if you aren’t careful.  It is easy to call it quits when you convince yourself that you aren’t good enough, but that is when Satan wins.  That is when he gets his way.  Trust me, there have been numerous times in my life when I have let that happen.  For years I believed the lies that he was feeding me.  I lived my life never feeling confident, never believing in myself, never feeling worthy.  I was miserable.  It wasn’t until I realized that I had to simply be still that I came to see myself in a different light.  I had to push out Satan’s voice and zoom in on God’s voice. I can only do that by being still and truly listening.  It was when I started doing this regularly that I was able to distinguish between the lies and the truth.  

I am not telling you that I tune out Satan’s voice all the time.  If I did, I wouldn’t have had that brief conversation with myself this morning about what a failure I am for missing out on two incredible opportunities.  What is different about me now from all those years before is that I don’t let those lies sink in and take root.  I don’t let them affect my decisions and actions going forward.  When I catch myself letting them creep in, I stop completely and tune out everything around me.  I consciously push that voice aside and listen to the only one that matters.  That is when I start to hear that I am worthy.  It is when I start to see the path laid out before me may not be an easy one, but it is the one I was called to follow.  That is when I start to see those failures as lessons and opportunities for growth.  It’s not easy, and I don’t expect that it ever will be because Satan will always be there putting those negative thoughts in my head. Just this morning I had to keep shutting those voices down. I will admit that it took me a few minutes to truly be all in this morning and tune out the negativity. I am human. Once I did, though, all the thoughts of failure faded away. Only one voice matters.  It isn’t your voice, it isn’t mine, it isn’t Satan’s.  It is pure and simple.  The only voice that matters is God’s.  I think we all have to learn that the hard way, and it is a lesson that we need reminding over and over, but it is one of the most important lessons of our lives.  

Don’t let yourself be overrun by those negative thoughts. Don’t let them take root inside you and allow you to feel less than you are. Don’t give them power over you or the authority to rule your choices. Don’t allow them to give you permission to quit. Be still and let the only voice that matters wash over you. Allow it the space to come in and change you. Only then will you know the truth about yourself. You are worthy! You aren’t a failure! You are on the right path.

Anchored and Still,

INTENTIONAL

I have never really been one to make new year resolutions.  There is no real reason why other than I am not good at keeping them long term.  I think most people would agree that we always start the new year with good intentions, but then life gets in the way and those resolutions fizzle out.  Instead of new year resolutions, I create small goals for myself all throughout the year that help me to achieve the long-term goals I have for my life.  I have found that to be a much better way for me to stay focused on what I want to accomplish all year long.  At the start of each month, I sit down and think about the things that I want to accomplish that month and I write them down in my calendar and my phone as a constant reminder.  Narrowing down my focus each month, seems to make my goals more manageable and more likely to be accomplished.  This has been a very effective practice for me and is something that I will continue to do. 

Two years ago, I started coming up with a single word that I wanted to focus on throughout the year in addition to my monthly goals.  I saw this idea somewhere, and I really loved it.  I wanted to choose a word that would represent my year as a whole. It was to be a word that I posted around my house and would impact every decision and thought that I had throughout the year.  I wanted to choose a word that would be impactful on my life.  It sort of became my mantra for the year.  My word of the year in 2019 was JOY.  It was something that was really lacking in my life at that time and desperately needed.   I wanted JOY to be my focus for that year as a way to change my mindset and the way that I looked at day to day things going on in my life.  I wanted it to be a constant reminder for me to choose JOY in all circumstances.  It allowed me to focus on the positives instead of the negatives, and by the end of that year, it had become a habit. It was completely freeing.  I feel like it truly made a difference in my life that year and really helped to change the way I looked at everything.  My word for 2020 was RELENTLESS.  My goal was to be RELENTLESS in the pursuit of my goals. That word was placed on my heart after hearing a song that I love.  It was like God turned on that song at the exact moment I was praying about my new word. It turned out to be the perfect word for this past year.   I wanted to focus on being RELENTLESS in multiple areas…relentless in love (for my family and friends), relentless in faith (growing in my relationship with God), relentless in work (making a global impact with my Trades of Hope business), relentless in pursuing my dreams (not giving up on reaching them), relentless in personal growth (becoming a better version of myself), and relentless in joy (continuing to choose joy every day).  While 2020 did not turn out like any of us had planned, I stayed true to my word of the year.  I never gave up and keep pushing forward in all of those areas.  I really was RELENTLESS.  I am proud of myself for continuing to choose joy in the midst of everything that went wrong in 2020.  I chose to see the good that came from it as much as I could, and it brought me so much joy this year.  I also spent more time with my family (thank you COVID) and was really focused in on cultivating my relationships.  My biggest accomplishment of the year, though, was remaining relentless in my work.  I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business in ways I never imagined I could, especially in the middle of a pandemic.  I am very proud of myself for that.  It just proved to me that hard work and persistence are important and can really make a difference.  We should all be relentless in pursuing our goals.

We are already 5 days into a new year, and I have been struggling to find my word of the year for 2021.  The last two came to me so easily and were the perfect fit, but this year’s word has taken a lot of reflection and prayer to find it.  I’ve been toiling around with several words for weeks now.  I’ve had a running list of possible words in my phone since the beginning of December when I started reflecting on the past year and began looking forward to this year.  None of them seemed to be calling to me, though.  If I am being perfectly honest, I still didn’t have the word when I sat down and began writing this post this morning.  It’s true.  I was just kind of hoping that it would come to me as I wrote, and that didn’t happen.  I actually had to stop writing after that last paragraph thinking that I was going to have to postpone this post to another day. I decided to close my computer, close my eyes, and begin praying for the word to come.  I finished my prayer and just sat here with my eyes closed for a few minutes.  I wanted to be still and present.  I wanted to take the time to push out everything around me and just listen to what God had to tell me.  It was in that moment that my word for 2021 appeared in my head.  As I sat here letting the word sink in, it became clear to me that this word was placed on my heart at this very moment because it is exactly the word I need.  It even kind of goes along with my word from last year.  

My word for 2021 is INTENTIONAL.  The Oxford dictionary says that intentional means “done on purpose; deliberate.” I think for me that it ultimately means choosing to make all of my decisions and actions about things that are important to me.  It means taking an active role in my life and with my time versus living my life just reacting to what is happening around me or waiting for the storm to end.  That reminds me of that saying, “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning how to dance in the rain.” I want to dance in the rain.  I want to truly live.  Prior to COVID, my life was crazy.  Most days were spent just going through the motions, trying to make it through.  The pandemic brought with it a much needed break from all that insanity.  It allowed me time to do things that I wanted to do instead of simply doing all the things I thought I had to do.  That is how I was able to grow my Trades of Hope business.  I became more intentional with my time.  I really want to keep that going this year.  I don’t want life to go back to the way it was before this extended break.   I no longer want to live my life reacting and simply surviving as I weather the next storm.  I want to continue to be intentional in my decisions, actions, emotions, and time.  I want to be INTENTIONAL with my quiet time with God—not just asking and repenting but choosing to listen and be still, INTENTIONAL with my work—continuing to be relentless in my pursuit of my goals and using my time wisely, INTENTIONAL with my time—choosing time with family and friends over things that are much less important and keeping my focus on the things that matter, INTENTIONAL with my pursuit of becoming a better version of myself—actively working to become the person I want to be instead of just waiting for it to happen. It is time to take control of my life and start living it the way I want to. It is time to stop merely surviving and start truly living. The more this word is swimming around in my brain, the more excited I am becoming about the future.  This is definitely the right word for me for this time in my life. It came to me when I got INTENTIONAL with my time of prayer. How ironic is that? All I can say is that it is all God! I can’t wait to see how living out my word this year is going to change my life. I just know it is going to be great!

Anchored,

It’s 2020, Ya’ll!

Wow! December 1 hit, and it was like someone hit fast forward on my life.  Things started piling up and life has gotten completely crazy.  It is almost like 2020 wants to go out with a bang here in the last month. Just in case the other 11 months weren’t insane enough, it had to throw a few more punches at us.  COVID cases are on the rise and people are trying to figure out what to do for the holidays.  Should we travel or not? Should we gather with family in small groups? What is Christmas even going to look like this year? I have no answers to these questions as they are things we are trying to figure out ourselves.  Our cheer competitions are being canceled, rescheduled, or going virtual left and right.  Yesterday, they even tried to throw an unexpected competition at us for this coming Saturday, which just about sent me over the edge after the last few days I’ve had.  I already had a commitment and was scrambling to figure out how to get my kids to the venue 3 hours away and find someone to do their hair and makeup.  I had a mini freak-out only to find out that it was all for nothing and the gym had decided we weren’t going because the venue required our kids to have a negative COVID test since we were coming from another state.  I am grateful that they didn’t want to put the girls through that, but, needless to say, my nerves were shot yesterday.  My kids are supposed to return to school at the end of January for 2 days a week, and now that is up in the air as well due to the rise in cases.  It is almost like we are back in March all over again.  The uncertainty is so stressful and causes so much anxiety.  

I have never seen so many pictures on social media of Christmas trees that have fallen down as I have in the last few days.  Many of them have fallen for no apparent reason other than “It’s 2020!”  People keep posting about lost packages too.  A few of my own packages seem to have been lost by FedEx, and I don’t know if or when they will arrive. I spent a long time on the phone with FedEx this morning trying to figure out where they are, and no one seems to be able to help me.  I have also seen an unusually large number of posts from friends who have lost family members in the last few days.  They weren’t a result of COVID either.  It is sad, especially knowing that COVID had kept them apart for months.  People keep saying that the hits just keep on coming this year, and I am starting to believe they are right after the last few days I’ve had.   I have really tried to remain positive through all of this, but some days are hard. I’m human.  Yesterday was one of those days that got to me. I know that I just said last week all the things I was grateful for that this year has brought about, but sometimes I lose sight of those things when one thing after another keeps pounding me. It was like I had taken so many hits (1 literal hit but that is a story for another day) over that past few days that it just got to me yesterday.  When the whole thing happened with the cheer competition, a flood of emotions came out that I had been holding in and caused me to explode.  It was like the last straw.  I don’t like myself when I let things get to me.  I beat myself up for losing control and letting things affect me in that way.  I don’t like spouting negativity, but I sure did that yesterday! (Sorry to those of you that felt the brunt of my frustration!)  The only thing I can do when I reach my limit of frustration like that is to try to step back and breathe.  Then I usually say a long prayer to get myself back together and on track. That is what I did yesterday, and I am doing totally fine today. I just needed to let it all out and pray my way to a better mindset.

I have a feeling that there are going to be more days like that for all of us before this year comes to a close in a few short weeks.  It’s 2020, ya’ll! Buckle up and hang on because it’s not over yet! 

Anchored,

An Attitude of Gratitude

Top/Necklace (sold out)/Earrings

It is hard to believe that December has arrived.  With it comes so much joy and love, as well as, marking the end of a very trying year.  As November, the month of gratitude, came to a close yesterday, I sat and reflected on all the things that I was truly grateful for this year.  I know that was supposed to happen on Thanksgiving, but as 2020 has reminded us time and time again, not everything goes as planned.  I could sit here and tell you about everything that went wrong this year, but I am choosing to see the good that has come from it.  It forced me to slow down which is something that I needed more than anything else.  It allowed my body, mind, and spirit to heal and recharge after years of nonstop insanity.  I cannot even begin to explain how necessary that was for me.  I hate to imagine what would have happened if I had continued life down that crazy path.  I feel certain that my body or my brain would have eventually given out completely.  This year has also helped me realize that all that “extra” that was contributing to my stress isn’t really necessary.  We are doing just fine (and even better) without it all. I am so thankful for time to recharge. 

Another thing this year has given me is so many opportunities to actually have real conversations with my kids.  Much of my youngest daughter’s life has been combative with me.  Her younger years were very trying, and she and I have been like oil and water.  Prior to the last year or so, all we did was yell at each other because she did everything she could to push all my buttons until I had no choice but to lose it. To say it was a rough few years with her is an understatement! Now we have real, intellectual conversations that amaze me at her intuitiveness and that have shown me how much she has grown and matured.  She really is a neat kid.  Don’t get me wrong, she still knows how to push my buttons, but I have learned to remain calm (most of the time) and give her space.  It has made such a huge difference.  I don’t think any of that would have occurred had I still been living the crazy, hectic, stress-filled life.  I am so thankful for time to bond in ways we never have before.

When it comes to my oldest daughter, I am really getting to know who she is as a person. Our mother/daughter bond that the two of us have always had has strengthened this year because we finally have the time to just talk. She was always at practice and very rarely home so there was only time for superficial or necessary conversations. Now we talk about anything and everything because she has all the time in the world.  This year brought about a LOT of change for her.  She made the decision to leave the sport that has consumed her life for 15 years. She started a whole new sport that she had no clue in the world about, and I have seen her blossom through it.  Her confidence has returned, and I see a light in her eyes that has been dim for the past few years.  She also got her driver’s license and gained some independence which has brought about a little maturity that I thought we may never see in her.  She still has a long way to go in the maturity department, but I am hopeful that she may actually be able to survive when she leaves home for college in another year.  I am thankful for time to connect and grow. 

Finally, this year has definitely strengthened my marriage.  I don’t think that my husband and I have spent as much time together in the entire 20 years that we have been married as we have this year.  He has always either been deployed or we have been running every which way with the kids and everything else life throws at us. I think we have both been on our own personal growth and discovery this year, which has allowed us to also rediscover what we love about each other.  We’ve come to appreciate each other more, and I think we have made it a point to really try to meet either other’s needs. I have never seen him more relaxed and chill than I have this year, and I think he would probably say the same about me.  Less stress and chaos lead to less arguments and more time spent just enjoying each other’s company.  We actually have had time to simply “hang out” with each other, and it has been great.   I am thankful for time to love and be loved. 

I am thankful for all that I have received from this strange, insane year, but I am thankful most of all for TIME. It is such a precious thing and something we often take for granted. If this year has taught me anything is is to take time for myself, time for the ones I love, and time to enjoy life. We have such little time on this earth and we shouldn’t waste it. I have seen so many say that they are glad that the end of 2020 is near or can’t wait for this year to be over, but I have to admit that I will be a little sad for it to end.  My prayer for all of you is that you choose to look at 2020 as the year that things slowed down and families came together. Make the choice to look for the good in it all and be thankful. Have an attitude of gratitude instead of one of negativity.  Yes, it was hard for all of us (some more than others), but don’t let the hard days be your focus. Choose to appreciate the little things and be thankful for all you have been given this year alone. I promise it will make this Christmas season so much brighter and will set you up for the start of 2021 with the right mindset.

Anchored in Gratitude,

The Spirit of Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go, and I am loving it.  Did you just sing that like I did as I was typing it? Haha!  I bet you did! There is nothing better than Christmas lights and decorations.  I love that so many people are decorating early this year to try to bring a little joy to this insane year.  I NEVER decorate this early.  I have always done it the weekend after Thanksgiving because that is what we did when I was a kid.  We would load up the truck and head out to the Christmas tree farm in search of the perfect tree.  Oh, how I loved the hayrides through the trees followed by hot chocolate afterwards! I hate that my kids have never experienced that tradition.  All my adult life, we have only had artificial trees.  That was just easier since my husband was deployed for so many Christmases. Plus, there really weren’t tree farms where we lived like we had in the deep southern, country towns growing up.  While I love big city life, it is the little things like those traditions that I do miss about living in the country.  You can’t beat searching for the perfect tree, watching your dad cut it down, and the smell of the fresh pine. 

My youngest has always loved decorating for Christmas.  Her eyes light up the moment the tree goes up.  She loves helping me put everything out on display and hanging all the ornaments.  The more decorations and lights the better for her.  As we have seen other people decorating early this year, she has been begging to get all of ours out for weeks.  I told her I was ok with it, but she had to convince her dad.  I never thought he would agree, but he did.  As soon as church was over on Sunday, he started pulling everything out of the basement.  She was at cheer practice all morning and by the time she got home, all the totes of decorations were out, and the tree was up.  I wish I had a camera on her when she realized the tree was up.  She gasped and got so excited.  We immediately got to work decorating the tree which is my favorite part.  Our tree may not look like one out of a magazine or a Hallmark movie, but it is special to us.  We don’t have matching ornaments or elaborate garland. Each of our ornaments have meaning and memories attached to them.  There are those that the kids have made over the years, some that my husband and I made as kids, and some that belonged to our grandparents.  We also have ornaments from all of our travels.  Every time we go somewhere on vacation, we get an ornament that represents that trip.  Each one holds great memories.  We have so many from our Disney trips that now we have our own mini tree full of just Disney ornaments.  I pull out each ornament one by one, reminiscing about where it came from or who made it. Then I add the hook and pass it on to the girls to hang on the tree.  I love their smiles as they remember where it came from as well.  They even argue over who gets to hang certain ones and which ones get prominent placement.  They also laugh over the ones they made when they were younger and tend to hang those in the back because they are embarrassed by them.  I wouldn’t trade our tree or our ornaments for a fancy tree ever. I love it so much.  

We didn’t get all of the decorations up on Sunday, and still have a few things left to put up, but the important ones are out.  The tree is up and decorated and the stockings are hung on the mantle.  My youngest came downstairs yesterday and I caught her admiring the fireplace.  She said, “It looks so much better with all the stuff on it.” I wish she would remain this in awe of Christmas forever.  I love seeing it through her little eyes.  Now she just has to convince her dad to put up lights and our blow-up Santa in a submarine outside.  She asked me yesterday why I married such a Scrooge when I told her he said he wasn’t putting them up.  I reminded her that she wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t married him, to which she asked me why I hadn’t made him love Christmas in all the years we’ve been married.  When I told my husband what she said, he laughed and told me I missed a prime opportunity to tell her that you can’t change men! LOL! I bet if she were to bat her pretty eyes and beg him a few more times, she could convince him.  He definitely has a soft spot for her. 

Whether you decorate early or not, I think this Christmas is going to not only look a lot different than normal, but I also think it is going to mean a lot more to everyone.  It has been a tough year and I don’t foresee it changing any time soon. I hope that we can all use the holiday season to remember why we are all here and the importance of family and time together. I also hope that we can all find some joy and peace in the midst of the chaos.  Choose to be present in the moment and take time to stop, breathe, and be grateful for all you have. Try to look at the season through the eyes of a child like mine. I promise it will change your perspective.

Anchored in the Spirit of Christmas,