A French Press and Life Then

My eyes are blurry at this early hour and I stumble downstairs into the kitchen. I am holding my breath that the girls stay sleeping so I can score this simple solitude.  I set the kettle for hot water to make coffee in our French Press which we love so dearly.  I've only broken it once so far and it has been several years of grinding beans, (almost) boiling hot water and then pouring over, stirring with a wooden spoon and steeping. I am waiting sluggishly for four minutes of steeping to pass.  

I realize I have had the green coffee bean grinder from Starbucks since I lived single and wild in Denver, Colorado.  I bought it on some rare outing for coffee and a breakfast confection in my paycheck to paycheck years. 


I bought it when I was young and unencumbered and had the time and passion to brew special coffee...to grind it too.  

Because the coffee was the biggest thing going in my mornings then.   

Because grinding the beans, the loud pulsing whirr of it reminded me of living in Chicago, Illinois on Wilson Street in the best apartment I ever had.  From my bedroom every morning I could hear my neighbors Art and Steve grinding their own beans like clockwork.  They were an awesome couple and were so cool and artistic and fun that of course they would grind their own coffee beans. 

I've been missing them lately and wish I could track them down but my memory is faulty and even though we spent an elegant Christmas together one year with my dad and their friend Callie, even though they ran to me when in the middle of the night my fish tank caught fire and I was afraid, even though they were probably grown up and I just was not yet....I cannot know their lives today.  

But I have my coffee.  And I will grind it, and pour it and stir it and steep it and that will have to be enough for this morning.



Thanks to the Extraordinary Ordinary for motivating this post as part of her JUST WRITE Tuesday.  I sat down at my cluttered desk at long last.  It has been awhile.

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Mom, I am (Almost) Glad You Died

Dear Mom,

I am (almost) glad that you died when I was thirteen years old.  It is my birthday tomorrow and I am thinking of myself of course, and of my darling girls and of the things I wish I could tell you.  Last night John and I watched the movie "Everybody's Fine" where parenthood and life can go wrong and painful. Afterwards I went up to Libby's bedroom where she was finally asleep, and I lifted her up in to my arms, onto my lap and I held her and rocked her and cried into her soft, sweet neck.  Then I did the same with Portia.  Neither of them woke up, They slept the deep sleep of good living and high adventure and love.  I thought of you.

I thought of how you lived, both laughing and sad.  How I could understand your drinking better now, you being a single mom back before it was normal.  How lonely you must have been despite your friends and family nearby.  They weren't at home with us every night.  Every night when it was just us.  I think about different conversations you and I had, pulling them through the filter of my adulthood.  You were only a few years older than*  the same age as I am right now.  You died without us having a last meaningful conversation.  Although my young life was a bit turbulent, your death left me rootless and lost despite having a good Dad to live with.  At school I was afraid to be left alone in the bathroom, figuring my friends would rush out and leave while I was indisposed.  I always feared being left after you died.  I learned not to trust in the basic relationships of life because they could change in an instant. I could be left behind.  I am often afraid of dying.

Because of you I learned to live.

Even through the angst of loosing you during my painful and ugly adolescence, I learned to live my love out loud.  Even if it was transient.  I took risks.  I spoke my mind.  I had adventures like moving to Chicago to act instead of spending money and time in college learning about acting.  I moved to Denver because I could and I was interested in a scary change. I wanted wilderness of my own with my dog Darby and a blue Honda Civic and 1,000 mile drive.

I inherited some money from you and could move out of an unhealthy situation and into my very own apartment with your cloth napkins on the table.  As I write I realize in flashes it is YOUR table, your tablecloth covered table and cloth napkins that I see just as much as Dad's when I set my table and yearn for family dinners. I can understand more of why good conversation over a meal makes me crazy and controlling.  I cannot explain to my almost three and almost five year old that any meal together could be our last before Something Else happens.  I cannot both inform them and not scare them, so I swallow the fear and try not to yell when what I imagine and need in my head does not unfold at the dinner table.  I try to enjoy the moments for what they are and not what I want them to be.  

Mom, I have felt the loss of you so many times.  I lost the woman in my life who should nurture me through what being woman, a mother, a wife really means.   I've cobbled these life lessons together from other wonderful women in my life instead.  I bask in the love from Monte, my mother in love.  She loves me well, accepts me in my mess and I am not afraid to be honest with her about most of my struggles. I am grateful for her as my Mom in law love  and I know it is a rare relationship to have.  

Sometimes I can speak of you like lines in a play.  Other times just seeing a grown women shopping with her mom brings me to tears so fast I need to turn away. I buy myself things.  I buy myself a gift from you instead of for you.  I pamper myself on your behalf.  

All of this reminds me to make memories for my girls.  I feel a lot of pressure from myself to be memorably awesome just in case on top of being a mother who disciplines and teaches and guides my girls into strong women who love God  and enjoy other people.  I'm so busy teaching them about the world, life, how not to be greedy, to have good manners, to think of others and to ohmylawdstoptakling that I feel wiped out most days.


BUT I am also letting them eat Garrett's cheese popcorn in bed in our Chicago hotel.  I surprise them with cake for breakfast on their birthdays.  We go out for ice-cream in our pajamas. We go on adventures to the craft store and we paint paper plates and boxes and themselves.  We cook and bake together making a heckofa mess.

I give my fear of Something Else to God.  I beg Him to give us all long, healthy lives.  I give him my fears, my loss, my worry, my motherhood mess and try to take peace in the lack of control I truly have.  Even if I was a perfect mom, one of my girls could choose an ugly path for herself and I cannot prevent it.  What I can do is love them when they are in front of me.  Teach them through my example AND my mistakes.  I can be the Mama God has given them by echoing the mom you were, the mothers I know, and the mother my heart yearns to be.  I can forgive myself and move to the next moment.  

I give God my fears and stress and loss and worries over and over  and over again.  I can thank God for you, Mom, for Monte, for all the mothers that have loved me in my life.  I thank God for my two little girls and the man who gave them to me.  I can choose to live my love out loud, in the moment, vibrantly and loud and laughing or crying but REAL.  

Mom, I will always wonder what we would have been like now.  I wonder how you would have lived the rest of your life if there had been more of it.  Because you died I have lived more vibrantly and part of me will always be grateful for your absence.  I love you, I miss you, and thank you for your joy and laughter that lives in me. I live my love out loud because of you.




* On Thanksgiving Day my Dad clarified that  my Mom was 42 when she died.  42 is the age I just turned this month.  I thought she was 46 when she died, and this new information is startling to me.  I've never been good at math.  Huh.

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Blessed is Better than Happy: Day 20 Secret Shopping Tip for Fashionistas and Thrifty Girls Anywhere

Thrifty Girls, listen up!  I have a surprisingly simple money saving  tip  for spending the right amount of money and buying the right amount of things almost every shopping trip.  In this case, it was an Estate Sale in NOVEMBER. An estate sale which makes this Thriftinista's  heart throb like no other mere summertime yard sale.  It is cold  outside and these estate sales are INDOORS!  They usually occur in nicer houses where there is too much stuff for sale to just drag out to the yard for a yard sale, so you are bound to score a deal.  Wait until you hear what happened and the surprising simple money saving  tip I used!

I was on my way to a playdate in my pal Lori's neighborhood. I'd eyed the big beautiful orange "Estate Sale Today!" sign already and planned to drop in before the playdate, then Lori called, breathing heavily as she lugged home treasures from the sale.  

     "You can drop Libby off and walk over to the sale if you want.  It's a madhouse and there are lots of things, the whole house is for sale." She breathed. It was like angels singing.

So I get to go to an Estate Sale in NOVEMBER AND go kid free?  I must have been a good girl this week.  WOW.(Lord, is this to make up for the hard work I cried through; caulking the shower yesterday?  I did say a lot of bad words, surely I do not deserve this!)  I dropped that kidlet off so fast her coat was still on and I was gone.

I wandered through the beautiful house and saw lots of things I liked but didn't need or were too much money.  When I got upstairs and went through the three closets I was pleased to see lots of large and XL clothing, which is what I wear.  I started looking at the many drapey tunic-y items for something to wear over my newly found  and loved leggings with my boots.  I found a black cardigan for $2 and tried it on, liked it and after finishing upstairs went to check out with the lady upstairs.  

I chatted with Barb, the lady checking out upstairs,  that I was newly a leggings convert but didn't have long tunic-y stuff to wear with them.  She asked if I had seen the grey sweater in the closet.  I said I wasn't sure,  but I had gone through all three closets.  She dipped into the first closet and rummaged around, "Oh I think it is gone then. The cowl neck one?"  Another lady digging into the other closet brought out a sweater I had already seen asking if this is what Barb was talking about.  It was a soft smooshie pale grey number I had passed on.  "No, that isn't it." Barb said.  

Then for some reason* Barb went back into the closet to look again.  "HERE IT IS!"  she smiled, pulling out a grey sweatshirt dress with a cowl neck and pockets.  My jaw dropped open and folks, I am not lying, I kissed her.  I hugged that sweet lady and kissed her big in front of all the other Thriftinistas upstairs.  The sweatshirt dress is NONE OTHER than the kind of dress I read about here, and here after reading about a more lux and expensive one here.   In a rare fit of fashionista drive I'd been at Target last month asking if they had the dress, showing them the website picture.  I love "Ain't No Mom Jeans" blog and even though Shana and I are very different body types,  I read to have some clue about fashion.  AND as is my habit, what she deemed fashionable almost one year ago, I am now going to be wearing, ha ha ha!  

"Now that is a lovely story Heather, you may be saying, but we want to tell our own amazing $2 Holy Grail Thrifinista story Ma'am!"  

I know, I know.  

OK.  

Here is my surprisingly simple money saving  tip  for spending the right amount of money and buying the right amount of things almost every shopping trip: Take Jesus Shopping with you.  That guy LOVES to help you make good choices with your moolah, ala stewardship.  As I walked up to the sale, and I do this OFTEN, especially as I am trying to spend less money.  I ask God to guard my heart so I do not buy what I do not really need.  I ask him to help me make good choices.  I ask him to hide anything from my sight that I would later regret buying.  I ask him to help me honor John and our budget goals together by spending less.  I ask him to help me be a blessing.  I just take Jesus shopping with me, and He often saves me from myself.  
Now I WILL wear this kind of sweatpants!


I told all of this to the Lovely Barb, she got goosebumps and we hugged again (was she angling for another smooch???) and the other lady who was listening shared awesome stories too. *I think Barb was a gift to me that day, for honoring God and asking for his guidance.  It was a heart lifting bonding moment there in the closet of the lovely estate sale house.  I left with two awesome items for a total of $4 and a great "God Nod" story to tell.  

How about you? Do you have any simple money saving  tips or God Nod stories to share?  Let's hear them in the comments & take Ol Padnah shopping with you next time!!

For More of this Check out the other Blessed is Better than Happy Posts:








Blessed is Better Than Happy: Day 18 Flannel Pjs Soothe Any Rotten Day

I am really enjoying thinking about how Blessed is better than Happy this month.  Especially since I released myself from my original goal of posting everysingleday.   I just cannot do it, and you know what?  THAT IS GREAT.  It is my blog and I am just trying to have some fun & encourage some folks here. 

My friend Nancy sent me this in an email:

 I'd like to think I'll die a heroic death, but it's more likely I'll trip over my dog and choke on a spoonful of frosting.

Oh my WORD, I enjoy that woman.  Here is her sweet blog "Lucky Lessons" about her dog Lucky who visits schools with her.  Nancy & I met when we spoke together a few years ago and really enjoyed each other.  We make each other happy and I see her as a woman who knows she is blessed and is happy because of it.
Nancy & Lucky!

That is really the deal with Blessed is Better than Happy:  when you recognize you are blessed, it is easier to be happy because you appreciate what is right in front of you.

I may be overwhelmed by whiny children, but at least they are HEALTHY.

I may be frustrated by undone housework, but at least I can do it, have a house, my hubby doesn't complain, etcetera!



I may have yelled at my children and feel like a horrible mother, but God will give me Rebecca in Target to reassure me we all go through this.  And He will give me Marla at the YMCA  who will see my stricken face as I pick my children up from drop off childcare and shares her own troubled parenting journey.  











And God will give me magnificent pity pajamas from Target.  It is my happy place, I know y'all understand.  I looked through the clearance racks for pjs first but didn't score any joy...then my eyes landed on the Nick and Nora pajamas.  With me working hard to curb my spending I felt less guilty snagging these AMAZING perfect flannel Owl pjs that I can snuggle into colorful and deep.  


And so even after a roller coaster day of ups and downs and tears and wallowing in the self pity only I can feel amidst all my blessings....I do know I am blessed, and I am happy again.

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Blessed is Better than Happy: Day Thirteen "Three Lessons to Limit Your Grocery Budget - The Discipline of LESS"


I used a personal (anti) shopper yesterday.  Neither one of us knew it was going to happen, we thought it was just two budget minded gals on a road trip for cheaper whole wheat bread.  I'm at an age where I kind of think I know most things about life, parenting, keeping my home and marriage thriving.  But I do not.  I am foolish and an idiot and my personal shopper gal pal taught me so much yesterday at the budget bread bakery. 

I'm trying to spend less on groceries this month.  I usually blow past our family's generous grocery budget into what can only be deemed as greedy foodie spending.  We have the money to buy expensive food, but when I consider all the poverty and pain in the world, the size of my waistline, and my desire to grow closer to God, I want to make some serious changes.  I think spending less on groceries is a good place to start.


When we arrive at  the bread outlet store Liz was introducing me too, I was thrilled to see the $3.60 bread I usually buy for $1.99!  

FIRST LESSON:  Keep looking.  

In the very next section where Liz buys her bread it was even cheaper, including whole wheat bread for $.75!  I was happy enough with the cheaper version of my bread, but if I looked a little more there was another whole wheat, still good for us but even cheaper.  Am I the only one who gets so used to buying what I buy, that I keep buying what I buy?  I want to start looking around to see what other deals I may be missing.

I grabbed a few of  both kinds of bread to spread out my money a bit and still get the denser, richer bread I prefer.  I got nice bagels, pita bread(YAY! I can barely even find that in the regular grocery store!) and maybe powdered donuts for the girls I ate half the bag.

Then we headed to Meijer on the way home.  It was a last minute choice as I was out of Smart Balance spread, Almond Milk and a few other things.  Liz had time and we were right there so in we went.  It was REALLY NICE to have her help me wrangle the girls through the parking lot.  So we wandered through the produce aisle and in order to be cost conscious I do not buy organic apples.  I figure if I buy even half of my fruit and veggies conventionally grown I could save a bundle. Liz has prices at Aldi's memorized, and even knows apples are going on sale for $1.99 this week, as opposed to the conventional apples here for $3.99.  I'm embarrassed to admit the organic Gala apples I usually  buy cost twice as much. 

I also realized once in the store the "quick trip for a few things"  became "Oh my!  I'm here and we need EVERYTHING!"  It wasn't a planned trip, I had a tiny list, but I started remembering we were not only low on fruit, but needed stuff for a dinner later that week and ooh!  Cookie dough!  Meanwhile, Liz busts out her iPhone calculator and asks if I'd like her to keep a tally for me.  

HUH?

A tally?  I've heard of using a calculator  to mind the grocery budget, but I never have.  I usually just cry a little at the register and hand over the debit card.  I wonder if THAT is why we blow past the budget by several hundred dollars a month.  Every month.  (NOTE: our "grocery budget" includes household items too, not just food. Lest you think we are cretins.) 
Yes I tell her, please tally. I'm starting to use Dave Ramsey style cash only for my groceries this month.  I have to stay with what I have on hand since my debit card now lives in our lockbox.  I've misplaced $20 I put in my pocket that morning so we know I only have $58 cash to work with.  With Liz as a witness I'm certainly not going to swipe the credit card on my first cash only excursion!

SECOND LESSON: Use a calculator.  Even if you are clever and not lazy/bad at math/imaginative in your rational, you cannot lie to a calculator.  As we shopped and Liz kept me aware of my rising tally I had to make the hard choice to put down the new can opener and the mint chocolate chip cookie dough.  Because we used a calculator (and rounded up) the only surprise at the register was coming in under the estimate of $48 for a total of $46.

Some of you cannot trim your grocery budget any closer, I get that.  This post is just about a few simple and obvious tips even those of us who know it all *cough, cough* may be be forgetting.  
Beautiful Liz, Rarely Caught on Camera!

And the THIRD LESSON: There is deep satisfaction in less.  I learned with the help of Liz, my good friend and accidental ANTI personal shopper that not buying anything I wanted to throw into my cart made me feel immensely satisfied.  I chose carefully what was worth buying that day ($5 for a one pound bag of Za'tar Middle Eastern Spice blend I love and can never find/too tricky to make!)and what could wait(mint chocolate chip cookie dough.*sigh*).
Actually being mindful of how much I was spending,  making wiser choices and having money in my hands leftover was so thrilling for me.  I didn't leave the store ashamed for my gluttony.  I wasn't nervous about the high tally on the receipt.  I discovered the obvious benefit of using a calculator and enjoyed the happiness that informed spending can bring.

Thank you Liz, for your time and intelligence.  For your patient friendship with me.  You are a great mother and run a strong household.  Thank you for teaching me these lessons and supporting me without judging or teasing me too much for my shortcomings.  I didn't know how to let you know how much you helped me yesterday, so I figured I would tell the blogosphere instead.  When you start charging for your  Personal Anti Shopping services, I'm going to pay you in cash, OK?  Or will a Diet Coke still do? 

Anyone have questions for Liz about your grocery challenges?  I'll ask her for you when you leave your question in the comments below!

For More of this Check out the other Blessed is Better than Happy Posts:








Customer Service Wow Moment: Heinhold and Feller Mechanic in Valparaiso Indiana

Do you have a good car mechanic in Valparasio, Indiana?  You might like your auto mechanic.  You might think they are fair and honest and effective in their work, a good basic Valparaiso car mechanic.  They may be great, but let me ask you: Have they ever called you after they noticed they overcharged you on work you already had done and had paid for?  Wow.  Who does that?   Heinhold and Feller Mechanic in Valparaiso does.  Not only does  Heinhold and Feller Mechanic  do quality work, the team is trustworthy in their pricing and they look out for their customers.  

We have referred several friends to Heinhold and Feller over the four years we have lived here in Valparaiso.   They also checked out our potential new car before we bought it.  Ken at the desk knows me, and knows I probably want to be more chatty and high maintenance than most of his customers...and he doesn't mind.  Or seem too.  How awesome!  How rare!

Last weekend my husband John took his car in to Heinhold and Feller Mechanic in Valparaiso for starter trouble, figuring it was the battery.  He was right and they needed to replace it.   They took care of it the same day and he went on his merry way.  

Today at work John got a call from Mike at Heinhold and Feller Mechanic in Valparaiso that they had accidentally charged him for the battery core disposal, a $15 charge, but since they recycle those they should not have charged for that.  They asked if we could bring our credit card back in so they could issue the $15 credit!  

WOW!  

We were both surprised and pleased.  Frankly, I might not have bothered if I were in Mike's shoes.  Fifteen dollars isn't really all that much, we would never have known.  (Maybe it is a blessing from 'ol Padnah to reimburse our family for that Gordmans fiasco where we gave up the $12 boots?)

Heinhold and Feller Tire Company, we love you.  Ken & Mike and everyone YOU ROCK!  Thank you for taking such good care of us.  You are a quality mechanic, and have nice folks working there too.  

Our Fav guy Ken on the left & Awesome Mike who caught the over charge.  


Blessed is Better than Happy: Day Four/Six/Whatever Day This Should Have Been - Your Happy List

I have written before about my Happy List, and how high up on it one might find bacon.  It is basically a running tally in my mind about things I enjoy and I am grateful for.  Today I have run out of steam and have gotten back into pjs this afternoon. I wonder if I am getting sick*, or if it is PMS when I feel hit by a truck, or if I just did too much running and taking a woods walk the same morning?  I do not expect much from myself but still there is a Happy List drumming through my thoughts:

I am happy my Husband won't bust my chops for being lazy/down/exhausted/demotivated today.  He is a gracious husband and friend and rarely complains.  SO GRATEFUL.

I am happy we are all healthy, and usually relatively so.



I am happy to have warm slippers, a leopard bathrobe and a child who can snag the bag of pretzels and eat them quietly for who knows how long while I type.

I'm glad to have dinners already made in the freezer, another in the fridge and a family who would find it fun & novel to just have cereal or sandwiches for dinner.

I'm glad for the challenge of blogging daily for a shortish time to do this Blessed is Better than Happy Series. And for the realization I'm not doing it on weekends anymore and I think that is ok!

I'm glad to have enough money to live comfortably, and to have a husband and friends who can help me be a better steward of our money too.  I want to give more money away, and to do that I need to spend less of it.  But I like to spend it.  Trouble.  Glad to have the leisure to work on that.

I am ever blessed to be gently loved by God no matter what I do, think or feel any given day.  And no matter how much wearing happened poor my language choices were.  Hypothetically.

Please forgive me for already falling behind on my 30 Day Challenge.  I will choose to feel Blessed and Happy even though I often miss the mark.  


*I did not, in fact get sick, and the day after I started writing this I was less than pleasant to be around and bought large expensive cupcakes(yes, plural.  I kind of shared.)  so let's call it PMS.  So no one wonders.

I would love to hear YOUR Happy List Today.

For More of this Check out the other Blessed is Better than Happy Posts:






Blessed is Better than Happy: Day Three - Multitasking My Coffee

I am going to tell you about the new discovery I made tonight while washing dishes.  Let me begin with this:  If you enjoy a hot bevvie first thing in the morning to keep you from becoming a serial killer, read on!  Especially, if you happen to have a myriad of interruptions and distractions that *always* keep you from actually drinking that hot beverage before it cools.  And when you reheat it in the microwave you are *ahem* again distracted and forget it is in there.  Until it is no longer hot....and needs to be microwaved again. 

I love my coffee.  I buy whole beans, I prefer Starbucks or small coffee shop blends.  I use a French press and make it strong. It is a ritual and a delight and I love it.  When I can drink it hot.   Repeat all of the above a few times, and that is my typical morning.  

UNTIL. 

I bought my hubby a Contigo mug that keeps stuff hot for FOUR HOURS.  I've tried several other travel mugs, I've tried lovely ceramic mugs with lids that sing to my aesthetic soul but either break (hello, toddler!) or cannot be microwaved or they leak.  Until I took over my Husband's Contigo travel mug.  It says four hours.  It says no spill, no leak.  Contigo DELIVERS, People!  So I use that mug now and microwave my poor coffee a lot less often.  And that is my trouble.  

Whaaaat?

The discovery I made tonight as I washed the dishes was that the trouble I had wasn't with my coffee cooling off.  The trouble was doing too many things without fully being present during any of them.  Like enjoying my coffee.  I was drying a thin porcelain teacup my daughters and I used for tea earlier this afternoon when I realized something.  Porcelain teacups are darling.  They are breakable...I could probably squeeze the cup in my hand and break it.  Hot tea cools off very quickly once poured into it.  They aren't practical at all.


Or are they?  When big thick  mugs or plastic travel mugs were not the norm, people sat and drank their tees or coffee from china teacups and  visited with friends.  They were more likely in the moment and not multitasking.  They could more easily savor the blessing of a beautiful cup and a hot drink to enjoy.

Tea, or in my case coffee is a pleasure.  I enjoy the aesthetics of the whole brewing breathing grinding process.  I breathe it in like a mini spa every morning.  But I also take it for granted and do not slow down to get the full enjoyment available.  If I put my coffee into a teacup I would have to commit to sipping my coffee RIGHT THEN.  I would hold the delicate cup in my hand, then rest it in the impractical but pretty saucer, then lift it again.  I couldn't microwave it. I couldn't  get absorbed with wiping down the counters or checking out Pinterest.  I wouldn't multitask, I would just be.  I would just drink.  I would savor and enjoy and rest.

Here is your Blessed is Better than Happy CHALLENGE: Pour a cup of whatever you drink in the morning into some fine china.  If you don't roll that way, just sit and rest with your bevvie in hand.  Sit and have a little ritual of your own.  A beverage meditation, if you will.  And I would like to hear what you notice.

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Blessed is Better Than Happy: Day Two - Share Your Joy

I had a day a few weeks ago where my cup was so full it overflowed. I was so grateful for all of my life I could barely stand it.  I posted on Facebook the few highlights from my day, and asked if I could bless anybody else.  This wasn't Facebook bragging, just celebrating a moment of thankfulness, and wanting to actively share it by doing a solid for someone else. One friend did drop off her daughter for me to watch.  Another out of town friend joked about baking her cookies.  Now that I think of it, I should have done it and mailed them.  Huh. Maybe...


Anybody need a blessing from me today? Essential Oils? Baked goods? Cup of coffee? I'm full of JOY and need to pass it on. WHY? I ran a second 3.5 miler of the week today, BEEG deal for me to break 3 miles. Thank you God for the great audio book "Unglued" and a pleasant week of satisfying simple life. THRILLED to get a Stephanie DeAnda Hauser haircut this morning thanks to Whitney Hibbitts taking on my bitty baby Libbster. Hot Date tonight w John Novak thanks to Elizabeth Rochon taking my tots an Mothers & More being a fabu group. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you God for this life. AMEN!

So many friends posted beautiful replies saying my words in this innocent Facebook status update inspired them and made their day!  Being joyful blesses me of course, but apparently my overflow blessed other people and I didn't even do anything for them!  Just sharing my general joy made them feel happier.  AWESOME.

Today is Day Two of 30 Days "Blessed is Better than Happy", Could you share a joy with someone today?  Even if it is small.  Some days my 'joys' are simply that Portia or Libby are well and healthy enough to talk until I feel like my ears are bleeding and I shout for quiet.  Some days that is the best I can do.  Other days, I am so full of joy and thankfulness I try to spill it on someone else by sending out a notecard, sharing baked goods or calling to say hello.  I'd love to hear about it if you take me up on today's SHARE JOY challenge.


For More of this Check out the other Blessed is Better than Happy Posts:







30 Days of Blessed is Better Than Happy: Day One Blessed vs. Happy

Do you have a basically great life but still complain?  Yeah, me too.  I want to change that.  I want to enjoy what I have in front of me rightthisminute.  I posted earlier this week about a sermon I heard and how being poor in spirit didn't mean sad or melancholy or poor.  It meant aware of our lack.  AWARE of what we might still need to learn, do , experience.  Aware of that low quiet pull for more.  For God?  Perhaps. And so I decided to do this 30 Day blog post series to challenge myself.  



The month of November is perfect because we are all striving to celebrate and enjoy our families and our lives.  November is my birthday month and also the 10 year anniversary of me giving my tattered, cussing, unfiltered, authentic life to Jesus.  So in a fit of fierce desire for more, I challenged myself to 30 Days of.....what?  I post about twice a week, so now this is 30 days in a row of something meaningful to me, and hopefully to you.  I am not sure I have that much meaningfulness in my staying home with small children addled brain.  So please bear with me.  Talk with me in the comments.  Let me know if something is useful, or particularly unworthy of your time. I want to bless YOU too.

This time together is about how Being Blessed is better than Happy because we take a moment, or many moments strung together, to recognize how we are already blessed in our life.  We do not need more.  Not of anything, no matter how little we may actually have right now.  

Being fully aware of our blessings offers a deep sense of life satisfaction that is longer lasting and more fulfilling than the brief bits of happiness we can find buying a new pair of shoes or new decorative thing for our homes.  Being aware that we are blessed is a richer way to fill up our souls than the momentary pleasure that a chocolate donut can offer.  But when you enjoy your blessings and they do include a chocolate donut...AH!  Heaven.

Keep checking back throughout this Blessed is Better than Happy 30 day series for challenges you may want to try out for yourself.  Feel free to suggest topics or challenges for me and my readers to try out this month.

See you tomorrow!

For More of this Check out the other Blessed is Better than Happy Posts:






Household Area 51: Where the Lost Socks and Missing Halloween Candy Live

My Dad is great Dad & Grandpa.  He fearlessly watches our two girls once a week when he stays with us on his Honey Hawking route from South Bend, Indiana to Chicago, Illinois.  He feeds them dinner (often an entire container of grape tomatoes...is that a normal side dish?) and bathes them and plays them harmonica before they drift off  about nine o'clock (too late for this mamas taste, but I'm not on duty so GO FOR IT G-PA!!!). 

He really loves his time with the girls and they love him.  (NOTE:  They also adore John's folks Baba & Papa too, lest anyone feel disparaged...and Portia is inviting Baba to come to her school as her special guest when she is the SUPERSTAR...so these two little girls are blessed & covered in love.) BUT.

BUT.  While my Dad is fearless and complaint free when it comes to managing two little wild girls, he isn't perfect.  We share the same chromosomes, so you know it is true.  He can be a little clueless in some little safety areas and we tease the heck out of him for it.  Hey, he is willing and free and full of love for all of us, what is  a nail among family.  Yeah.  He brought an old fashioned nail to share with the girls.  And monogrammed rings for them made out of nails.  

Another time they brought out his (sheathed, but STILL, People!) Crocodile Dundee knife from his overnight bag.  Accessible and dangerous.  YIKES.

And he bought them rope-burn-heaven-rough-scratchy-old-fashioned-sisal jump ropes. They were long enough for toddlers to get into serious trouble with . (Never mind the other normal little kid jump ropes he bought them before;  they strung toys up with those and thus they disappeared into "I think they are somewhere in the basement, have you looked?"). 

You know that  Area 51 every family with children has where the loud toys and odd socks would be found.  Along with the rest of every kid's Halloween Candy Mom and Dad DIDNOTEAT.  Seriously.  Household Area 51.



So here is the jack o'lantern I Tom Sawyered* G-Pa into carving with the Littles for Halloween.  While I went out with my hubby on a date instead.  

*("Oh Boy, carving this pumpkin would be great fun with the girls. Gee, do YOU wanna have this much fun with the girls, Dad?") 

He even roasted the pumpkin seeds for us!   And do you see where he put it? 


Yeah... that is a lit candle inside a jack o'lantern sitting on the arm of my COUCH. 





I was a little verklempt about it.  I asked him why it wasn't OUTSIDE where normal people put their pumpkins when they are on fire.  He said he and the girls weren't quite ready for it to go outside yet.  And he though John & I might get a better view when we got home with it there.  On fire.  On the arm of the couch.  

So in love,  jesting, sugar overload and Halloween festivity, Our family wishes yours a Happy and SAFE Halloween!
P.s. I actually forgot a lot of these examples and had to call my Dad to ask him what safety issues we make fun of him for.  AND he was actually amused!  I love you Dad!  

Blessed is Better Than Happy: "30 Days of Less is More"

My smallest daughter Libby often asks me, "You happy Mama?"  It tears at my heart because sometimes I am not.  When I am frustrated with the girls, I often ask them if they want 'Happy Mama' or 'Yelly Mama'.  I tell them when they follow directions and give me energy I am so happy and it is easier to do fun things with them…but when I have to repeat myself or they are not listening, it drains my energy and I yell and I do not like it.   I tell them I want to be a Happy Mama, a Fun Mama and they understand as they are able.  

But. 

I am wrong to say this to my girls.  I should be able to choose to be happy, joyful no matter how they are acting.  I should be able to choose to be joyful no matter how my life is flowing that moment because I am always blessed.  Blessed is better than Happy because it is choosing to see the positives in my life despite my current feelings.  Focusing on this truth usually changes my current mood.  Circumstances may affect my temporary feelings, but God has blessed me despite any little circumstance. "Blessed" is a fact.



Many of you know I have had trouble finding the right church for me.  My family is easier to please, but me, well, God and I have a tumultuous history.  I want a lot from my church because I want to put a lot into my church.  We have finally landed at First United Methodist Church right downtown in Valparasio.   John and I have quickly dug into serving, a small group, and are planning to officially join next month.  It feels good.  I need a safe place to grow, be authentic, to struggle with my disbelief,  to argue about faith, to fail and start over once again with that growing stuff.  

This weekend Pastor Jacob spoke simply on the Beatitudes.  One of them.  The first one in the bible, the book of Matthew, chapter five, verse three:  "God blesses those who are poor (in spirit) and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs."   Pastor Jacob didn't talk a lot past that one line. He wanted us to understand that 'poor' here meant 'lacking', an awareness we did not know everything.   His point was that when we chose to be AWARE that we are all "poor in spirit" we are BLESSED.  It was very interesting for me.
I often see tiny flaws and make them BIG

This morning as I dug into that scripture, my study bible gave me references for each facet of the Beatitudes and how to live them out.  This "Poor in Sprit" one got my attention, as did "God blesses those who work for peace."  I want to grow in those areas, so I looked up the supporting scriptures and read…took notes.  Then had to share about it here.  

I want to more actively pursue what will benefit OTHERS instead of myself.  (Not always, geez, sometimes a Mama Just Wants, but more often.  And bigger.)  I bake stuff for neighbors here and there, and I most always feed those new mamas…but there is MORE more more I could do with the power I have in life.  With the wealth I have been given.  I could do more than buy another something manufactured cheaply to put in a corner of my house so I get to look at something new.  I can tape the tear in my couch cushion and focus on the beauty and warmth in my home instead of the small flaws or things I would like to change after reading a decorating magazine.   (Hey- I love Pinterest, and some changes are fun and valuable and God loves a DIY project alongside me…but maybe less? What if I spent less time passively, and DID something differently?)

The bigger picture shows breathtaking beauty.
November is my Birthday Month.  On November 25 I turn 42 years old. November is also my spiritual Birthday month; The month I finally got over myself and decided to accept, love and pursue Jesus full on.  That date was November 23rd, about a decade ago.  WHOA, exactly a decade ago!  It is written in my New Believer's Bible: November 23rd,  2003.

I've always been afraid to commit on the blog to doing regular anything.  Like my Sugar Fast Fail, or copying Jen Hatmaker in her book Seven by simplifying BIGTIME.  But let's do this, OK?  For the month of November I will do 30 Days of Less is More.  We can figure out together what that will mean, but I am pretty sure God likes it.  I hope we will both be blessed by it.