Out With the Old, In With the New!

Hey guys! It’s here! I finally have a new website for my blog, and this girl is soooooo happy about that!

Over the past few weeks, my web designer, Abraham, and I have poured many hours of creative energy into creating something that you guys will LOVE, and I’m so thrilled to present you with this new format! One of the main goals in this change was to make it more fun and more interactive for you, and to make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for.

One of the things I am personally excited about is the new “photo contest” section, because as we all know, I am a weakling for a good photo. I will be announcing our first photo contest on my Facebook page in a few days, so be on the lookout for that. Also, I love a good quote, and that’s why I’ve included some of my favorites in a section called “happy quotes.” Check ’em out!

Another thing I’m excited about is the new recipe format, because well, who doesn’t love a good recipe?? Hopefully this one will make it easier (and, FASTER!) for me to post, and even easier for you to follow, print, and make the recipes (aka, FOOD).

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So there ya go, my beautiful peeps…welcome! I hope you kick around a bit and get to know your cozy new “home”!

It’s been fun creating it, and I hope you have fun exploring it! Many thanks to Abraham at Fort Collins Design for putting up with me spilling my coffee on his laptop, not  once but TWICE, and spilling my big ideas all over his neatly organized,  html brain! You rocked it, Abe!

And to all you readers, who continue to stretch and grow and stick it out with me, you are beautiful and you make it all fun, and sooo WORTH it!

I want you to remind you that you are always welcome here, to bring your stories, to give your feedback, or just simply relax and be inspired!

Cheers to you…and to the new!

Thirty Five Reasons to Celebrate 35.

This week I am celebrating thirty-five years of life. THIRTY-FIVE years, my people. This is craziness!

I remember looking at thirty-five year olds, thinking they were…well, mature. Like, REALLY mature.

Ha!

Not this girl. I am still a twenty-two-year-old in so many ways. I still think of myself as the young, flirtatious, fun twenty year old that I once was. Even though my life, and my lines tell me something different.

Those tell me that I could, quite possibly, have lived half of my life already. Or at least enough to become a Mom and to appreciate my own parents. (Isn’t that something??!!) I’ve lived enough to know that I don’t know anything. To realize that life is truly a gift.

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And that every day is an opportunity for love, for beauty, for deep joy and random adventure.

Some might call it getting older. I call it getting smarter.

Because, really, that’s what it is. I’m much smarter than I used to be, when I thought that life was disposable, and that I was indestructable. Now I know that one moment, one day can change everything, and that every single breath I breathe deserves to be celebrated.

Yes, I’m turning 35.

But instead of bemoaning that fact, I have decided that this birthday, I am going to truly celebrate myself and the years and the times I have experienced.

So I’ve come up with a list of reasons why I should dance on this birthday. Why I should smile instead of mope about the fact that I’m getting older smarter.

And when I started writing it, I could barely stop. There are sooo many!

Seriously. I’ve had an incredibly weird and wonderful life. I eventually cut myself off at 35.

And…

Here it is! My thirty-five reasons to celebrate 35:

1. Driving a horse and buggy home from my grandparents’ place.

2. Getting dragged across a field by a pony.

3. Bottle-feeding orphaned baby raccoons till they could be on their own.

4. Getting “shocked” by an electric livestock fence. (I blame this fully on my younger brother, who convinced me, not once, but many times, that if I touched it with various long objects, such as a blade of grass, a wooden stick, etc. it would not shock me. Aahahem. It’s a wonder I still love him.:))

5. Learning how to ride “wild” horses with my dad.

6. Taking the salt shaker out to my family’s garden and eating kohlrabi right off the plant and tomatoes straight off the vine.

7. Making up songs while sitting in the branches of my family’s very tall Spruce tree.

8. Fishing and catching a frog, instead of a fish!

9. Surviving a high-speed, rollover car crash.

10. Milking cows on my Grandpa’s farm.

11. MUSHROOM HUNTING! (Lately I’ve been missing this so much. There’s nothing like the smell of those Ohio woods in the fall, and the rush of finding those wrinkly, spear-headed shrooms, and then Mama frying them for dinner. YUM!!)

12. Living without electricity, t.v., or a phone for the first ten years of my life.

13. Being a nanny for a family whose set of triplets made twelve kids.:)

14. Running out of gas in the middle of the night, in the boonies of Colorado. Oh, and that reminds me…

15. Running out of gas in the ghetto of Nashville! In the cold and the dark. (I see a trend here!)

16. Taking a boat ride across a massive, critter-infested river in Cambodia.

17. Being chased off of a scenic mountain trail, by armed men in that same country.

18. Meeting my now-husband on a tour bus in South Carolina.

19. Shopping alongside Keith and Nicole and chatting with Martina Mcbride in the checkout line at Whole Foods, which reminds me…

20. Receiving a (tiny!) piece of Nicole Kidman’s lingerie as a gift, handed down, through a friend of hers and mine.

21. Camping with black bears in Southern Colorado.

22. Falling asleep to the sound of coyotes howling, every night, while living at my parents’ home near Wyoming.

23. Giving birth twice, without medicine or intervention of any sort. (YEAH! Go, you crazy awesome body of mine!)

24. Watching whales breach and swimming with sea turtles in Hawaii.

25. Rattlesnake hunting with friends in Montana.

26. Honky-tonkin on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee. (Need I say more?? I could fill a book on this one alone!)

27. Helping a homeless “druggie,” after my dad picked him up off the streets and gave him a place to live, in our barn! (There was no more room in that double-wide, with six kids, ok?!) He stayed for a few months, got clean, became a part of our family, and then moved on to become a successful business man and live a happy, fulfilled life, and still calls home to my mom, frequently.

28. Rescuing three small children from a burning car.

29. Parasailing in the Bahamas.

30. Skinny-dipping in the Pacific ocean.

31. Riding an elephant through the jungles of Thailand. And…

32. Getting the worst “blonde” dye job ever! in said country. (Let’s just say my hair was not blonde when the Asians got done with it. It was a very special kind of orange.:))

33. Dancing on stage at a drag queen show in Charleston.

34. Discovering a black snake in the drawer of mine and my roommates’ kitchen, and then using cooking utensils and bare hands to capture it. OH BOY. That was a circus, if I ever saw one.

35. Communicating with a Cambodian family inside their tiny bamboo hut, without understanding their language, AT ALL.

Aaah. There’s so much more!

These are just some of the things that have made these thirty-five years, so rich and full, so adventurous and amazing.

And it’s only the beginning! This is only the first half quarter of my life.:) And I am just now starting to enjoy it! Pretty sure it’s only gonna get better. And weirder. And more wonderful from here!

Good thing I have 35 years to write my next thirty-five.

Cuz I’ve gotta go celebrate now.

Cheers!

To getting older, oops, I mean, smarter. And never, ever becoming “mature.”

 

The Chaotic. And a Few Things I know.

It’s been a bit chaotic around here.

Baby boy’s been squealing from bellyaches, Beanstalk’s been asking “why” and I’ve been jostling and juggling and answering questions. I’ve been chopping veggies, packing lunches, and buttoning up princess dresses with one hand, bouncing baby in the other….Holding and swaddling, explaining and swaying.

I’ve been returning phone calls, taking orders, and running a business, ALL while nursing an infant. Rushing one child to school while keeping the other one calm. Getting one up. Putting the other one down…

You know. That kind of chaotic.

The kind of chaotic that dangles you over the edge of insanity if you don’t quickly learn to accept the mess. The kind that leaves you in a constant state of desperation, if you don’t soon learn to let go of your ideals and your boxes and the way that life “should be.”

And so I am learning.

I am learning that it is better to embrace the chaos, than to fight it. To enjoy it, rather than to resist it.

I am learning to laugh in the face of frustration. To breathe through the crying and the not sleeping and the not knowing, because there are still a lot of reasons to smile. And there are still a few things I know.

I know that this won’t last forever.

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I know that this stressful, sleep-less season of our lives is only temporary and that eventually the bouncing and the bellyaches end and our babies will grow up.

I know that ten years from now, we will hardly remember the screaming and the stress of these chaotic times.

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We will only remember the smiles.

We won’t remember the nights spent in rest-less pacing or the hours in anxious praying. Only the kisses and the chatter and the joy that came in the morning. Every morning.

When I see the present in light of the future, I know that I am okay.

I know that I have the best of friends and the dearest of family who are there to help me, to bring me chocolate, and to make me laugh.

I know that I love my children more than anything, and that I would not survive without the man that they call Daddy.

I know that love is all we have and it will triumph a thousand sleep-less nights.

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At the end of the day, I know that life is not meant to be thoroughly planned out or even prepared for. It is only to be received as a gift, no matter how challenging or amazing it is.

Through it all, I know that God is still good and life is still beautiful. No matter how chaotic it gets.

My Journey to Health: Before, After and Beyond.

Well. We’ve reached the end of this series. (YAY! We did it!)

We’ve made it through the good and the bad of my close-up encounter with cancer, and the ugly of losing my father. We’ve lived through the not-so-pretty parts of my tango with weight gain and migraines and miscarriage. We’ve re-visited the pain of infidelity and the horrors of suicide. And now we’ve come face-to-face with our worst fear, the coffee enema!:)

You have, in essence, watched me go from this:

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To this:

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And from this:

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To this:

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Now before you get too excited, let me just say that these are not the most accurate “before/after” pictures. Apparently I tried hard NOT to be in pictures when I was at my worst. And for some reason I can’t find any of when I was at my best and healthiest, pre-pregnancy. I am already three months along, in this one.

Oh well.

I think you can see at least some of the progression that I’ve made. Perhaps in looking at these pictures, you can identify at least a few of the positive changes that have taken place in my life. Ones in which the details of my body don’t matter as much as my attitude towards it. Progression in which my size does not matter nearly as much as how healthy I feel…and how happy I am.

At any rate, I want to say thank you for your presence and support on this journey! I feel truly honored that you would come along with me on this walk through the pathways of my past. You have given me the faith to keep going. You have given me courage. Courage to live out my passion. To write. To help. To dream. And to tell my story. I sincerely thank you for that!

So while this may be the end of this particular series, it is definitely not the end of my writing or blogging, nor is it the end of my journey to health!

In many ways, THIS is just the beginning!! As much as I discover new things and new ways to keep me and my family healthy, I will be passing it on to you. The pursuit of health and happiness, is for me, a fun and exciting one, and I am thrilled that I get to share it with you!

I feel beyond blessed that I get to spill my knowledge and experience with you in this way.

Having said all that, I must let you know that I will be taking a little rest from this blog…I will be taking a small break from this and all weekly series, while I bring another human into this world! I say “small break” but you never know how it goes with babies. It could be weeks. It could be months till I get that figured out and get back to a resemblance of a schedule. I might go quiet on you for a month, or I might get an urge to blog in the middle of the night when those after-baby hormones keep me awake. Like I said, ya never know with babies…

But rest assured and be excited that there will be MORE.

When it comes to the topic of health, I’m only geting started! I haven’t even touched the subject of water or coconut oil or the benefits of chiropractic. I’ve only begun to expound on the healing I am currently experiencing with essential oils.

And when it comes to happiness…well. There is no end to the many ways in which I find it, in my daily life. I am constantly discovering small stuff that makes me smile. And I will never stop sharing those with you!

I pray that somewhere in my continuing story, you will find new depths of joy in yours. I hope that somewhere in my ongoing journey, you will find the courage to walk your own. But more than anything, I pray we live our lives fully as God intended.

May we all remember that no matter where we are in our process, there is always hope. There is always LOVE.

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And where there is love, there is ALWAYS a way!

Health and blessings and peace (and babies!!)…till next time.

Happy Little Finds. An Exciting New Series!

This whole blog thing started out as a creative outlet for me to express my dreams, meditations, and ideas. It’s been so much fun to bring you along and to watch it grow into something more. More of a community. More of a global coffee shop. More you and me, coming together with ideas on how to change our world, our health, and our lives.

I am loving it all! I love the e-mails, messages, and comments. I love the friendship and the bonding that is happening with followers and fellow bloggers.

I have sincerely enjoyed sharing “my journey to health” with you, even with all of the deep and dark soul searching it has evoked in me, and apparently in some of you as well. It’s been amazing, and I look forward to a few more weeks of that series.

However. As much as I love what it has become lately, I feel the need to change it up a little and have some MORE FUN around here. It’s time to put the “happy” back into this blog!

So…after listening to your feedback and your interests, I’ve decided to start another weekly column (I just can’t get enough of this place!) which will highlight some the small things that I discover on an everyday basis that bring me happiness. I am going to call it “Happy Little Finds.”

It will be interactive and spontaneous and will certainly bring more fun back to this blog!

Here’s what I’d like for you to do: tell me what you’re finding that makes you happy! It could be a saying, a picture, a quote, a re-purposed door knob, a purchase, or a new-found passion. E-mail, or send a message on facebook with your “finds” and then, at least once a month, I will feature them in a post here.

I am so excited about this series, I am starting it today!

Recently I have been going through boxes and getting rid of things I no longer need, such as my four-year-old daughter’s “baby” clothes. I had previously hung onto them, for mostly obvious reasons, but now that we are having a boy, it’s high time to let them go.

I have to admit I’ve been more sentimental than I thought I would be. Something about those tiny pink shoes that just hold so many wonderful memories and happy moments. Something about the smell of those satin blankets that take me straight back to those early days of my daughter’s life.

Nevertheless, it’s time to move on. It’s time to embrace the new and the present and the bundle of blue that’s coming!

Yard sales help me do that best. They provide a big, grand release of old stuff that no longer serves me. A cleansing, of sorts. They clear my head of the clutter that tends to build in our garage, and they help to simplify my life. Not to mention, someone else gets something they WANT, for a great deal!

I had one on Saturday. And I already feel so much better.

The side beauty of it all, is that I find some really cool things I have either been looking for, or had packed away and forgotten about.

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Like this fancy vintage number that my Mom gave to me, several years ago. She knew how much I adored the details and the size of this saucepan, and decided that I should have it for my own. Isn’t it glorious??

I instantly became happy when I pulled it out of the rubbermaid tote it had been hiding in for the past two years. I got even happier when I used it to make our oatmeal this morning. It was extra good, coming from this pretty little thing.

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And then I found this! Such a cute mini crock, I feel I must find something to put in it. Sugar for our coffee, perhaps? Or as a planter for some ivy?

One of the great things about getting rid of stuff, is it makes room for items you really love. The things you REALLY want.

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Like this french door from the next-door neighbor’s pile of stuff. I have beeen wanting a door like this to put in my garden-themed guest room. It was propped up against her side of the fence for a few days before I finally inquired about it. And to my great delight, she told me I could have it, in exchange for some empty totes.

Now it’s propped up against my side of the fence. (Don’t you just LOVE when that happens??!!) Like a canvas of wonderous character, just waiting for my touch. A few strokes of the paintbrush, perhaps? Put some artwork in the windows and you’ve got yourself a treasure for years to come.

Oh…there’s so much more! My life is full of these kinds of gifts and discoveries, and I imagine, so is yours. I can’t wait to share more of them with you and to celebrate your “finds” here on this blog!

(Check back every Monday for more “Happy Little Finds.”)

A Tea-Stained Valentine.

My little beanstalk has been talking about Valentine’s Day for weeks now.

“Mama, I made something for you. It’s for Valentime’s…Mama, when is it going to be Valentime’s…?? Mama…are you going to make something for me?” You would think it was Christmas or something.

I knew when I drug my half-nauseous pregnant self out of bed this morning, that I would do whatever it takes to make this day special for her. She was delighted when I suggested that the two of us would have tea together. I pushed through the achy morning sickness, and made us the only non-caffeinated tea I had in the cupboard: Tulsi Rose. I was hoping for peppermint or something otherwise soothing to my churning stomach. But whatev. Tea is TEA, I thought.

Then, while still on a quest to make this day special, I began to look for “special” cups, you know those ones with flowers, or red hearts? And pretty little saucers? I was sure I had a set somewhere…probably in a rubbermaid tote, that hasn’t been touched, since we moved. So I tiptoed on bare feet across the frozen concrete of our garage, trying to find that set of pretty cups I was sure I had. I found many other things, but not those.

Finally I resorted to using what I had in my cupboard. I was going to give her my favorite one, this vintage garfield. How cute is this?

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But she insisted on her Thomas cup, instead.

So I just went with it, and she promptly added the tropical stir sticks, to make it a “perfect Valentime’s tea party.”

Everything was lovely and beautiful until she got a little too happy with the stir sticks and spilled her tea. All over her shirt, table, floor. She gasped in utter disappointment, as my Kodak moment quickly came to an end and I set the camera down to help her.

I told her that I would get some more tea for her. About that time, “Daddy” heard our distress and came to the rescue with towels and clean clothes. I stripped some dry clothes over my beanstalk, and she slurped down what little tea was left in her cup, and then went on her merry way.

I was tempted to think about my effort, and my sacrifice that I had just made…all for HER! And now, she just hopped away, and went to play as if it was nothing!

But then another thought intervened. What does love really mean? What is it to my four-year old? Is it represented in the amount of effort that I put forth to make a certain day “special?” Or how pretty I make the table for her?

Does love to her not just simply mean a safe place? One where she can come and go, spill tea, have a chat, and play, in the confidence that she IS special, that she IS valued? Is it not simply an atmosphere in which she is appreciated for who she IS? One where she does not need to perform, in order to feel accepted, or approved?

I believe it’s all of the latter.

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The more I think, the more I believe it is actually confidence in my love for her, that gives my daughter the freedom to come and go, to bounce in and out of my presense and be fully happy just being herself.

She is my child, and in all fairness, loving her in this way comes fairly natural to me.

But what about others whom I say that I love? Do they feel that same freedom to come to my table and “spill their tea” and then be on their way? Do they experience that same grace, in and out of my presence? Do I provide a safe place for them to just simply be who they are?

Those are the questions I ask myself, as I leave the table to clean up the kitchen and throw another load of laundry into the dryer.

I am suddenly less concerned about making this a special day. And more about giving the people in my world, the freedom to be their own special selves.

Today I want them to know that they are loved, just simply for who they are.

Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, or not.

Gingerbread Houses and Priceless Moments.

This was going to be my previous post. But then a bunch of school children were killed by a gunman, and I couldn’t stop crying long enough to write about gingerbread houses.

Now that I have momentarily composed myself, I am going to attempt it today. This is the stuff that helps us heal, anyway, isn’t it? It is good to mourn with those who mourn. But then it is also good to look around and find joy in the moments we spend with those we still have. It helps me to look at these pictures, and remember the reasons why I am beyond thankful for these, my littlest loves, and how I want to savor every moment I get, with them.

Last week, one day, I rounded them up, herded them into my van, and took them to their Grandma’s house, where we decorated and adorned miniature gingerbread houses, with all manner of food coloring and sugar-laden delights. Can we say, FUN?!

Two of them were my sister’s kids, whom I adore, and one of them was my very own Beanstalk, whom, well. We all know how I feel about her!

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I assembled the miniature houses, the night before, so that it would be easier and less mess for all of us. I purchased four, pint-sized containers of whipping cream, (Hey. It was the only thing I could find in that size!) and dumped out the cream, washed them real good, (cuz the last thing we want is gingerbread houses that reek of sour milk!) and then pasted graham cracker squares onto them, using this royal icing:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/royal-icing-recipe/index.html to hold them in place. Turns out it was the perfect consistency for the job and the frames held up really well to the bumping and poking and sticking they endured, later.

I should mention that I cut about an inch off of the bottoms of the cartons, so that a half cracker fit perfectly on each side, which also gave it a better proportion and made it cuter. I was a bit hazy on the the actual assembly, when I started on these things. All I had to go off of, was the one that Ari had brought home from school, a week earlier, and then promptly ate, before I had the chance to inspect it closer. So, of course I learned all this by trial and error: at first cutting the crackers to fit into the odd size, pasting, ripping off, then cutting the carton, and starting over.

By this point, I was already relieved that I had decided to do the assembly ahead of time, and not while all three kids were waiting impatiently to decorate their houses. I highly recommend doing it this way, for that reason! All they really want anyway, is to squish the frosting and plop the candy onto their “house. ”

So…that’s what we did!

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Well, first we stuffed our bellies full of soup, to try and put a damper on the amount of sugar we would ingest or otherwise “get high” on, while we did the other.

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Oh my. Look at all that candy! And look at those smiles! I gave them each a pastry bag, filled with vegan buttercream frosting. I figured that at the very least, my child might not have a stuffy nose for two weeks, if I kept the dairy out of the frosting. Nevermind all the “stuff” that’s in the candy! But hey, at some point, it becomes more about damage control, than actually making it healthy!:)

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Some of them needed a little help from me, to get things started.

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And others, needed NO help, at all!

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I am quite positive that I had just as much fun as the kids did.

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Even this guy couldn’t resist, jumping in! (He just so happened to be “working” there!)

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We squished alot of frosting and ate way too much candy.

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But here we are, with our finished gingerbread houses!

P.S. All of this happened while “Maggie” was galavanting around other parts of the country, and while we missed her, we sure made some good memories at her house, while she was gone.:)