Merry Christmas?!

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How was your Christmas, friends?

I have a tendency of putting waaayyyyyy too much stress upon myself. School finished yet I still had to go in on my non-teaching duty day to do some paperwork and tidy up my classroom. By choice, though, as I could have just left it but then it would have awaited me in January. In the meantime a students’ book order came in, unfortunately not in time for me to give them to her on her last day of class, but yet since I knew she wanted them for Winter Break I got in touch with her Dad to get them to him. Did I mention that I work on the opposite side of town?

Did I mention that my stepdaughter was getting married that Friday? So the decorating, rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner was Thursday night. Although I haven’t known Abby and her fiance very long, they are very important part of my life, and other events have happened that have estranged her from her birth mother. Combine that with planning for a wedding and not having her mom involved would be hard on any daughter. I, for one, couldn’t imagine it, as I have a wonderfully, amazing relationship with my own mother. But yet as a stepmom, where do you draw the line as to where not to butt in where it’s not your role and keep the peace? I did my best to stay respectful in my role and help out the best way I could, a challenge, as I was super conscious of not sticking my nose in where it shouldn’t have been. Fortunately, it went off well, there weren’t any hurt feelings and I don’t think I did anything I shouldn’t have and intentionally offend anyone.

Attempting to plan around two different parenting plans as well as adult children made coordinating Christmas a little more difficult. We eventually settled on us hosting a Christmas lunch. Some of the children had their Christmas presents in the morning, others had them later in the afternoon once my 3 came home, and even more were later in the evening at the grandparents’ house. Unfortunately, Mike’s youngest wasn’t feeling well and by mid-afternoon was running a fever, putting a damper on his day, I’m sure. I guess I shouldn’t put as much pressure on myself but I put so much thought and effort into gifts and meals and making sure that everyone’s needs are met that I struggle with keeping my own head above water. By the time we were done volunteering in the nursery at church and home, I was in tears, overwhelmed with the many aspects of, well, everything!

Standing over the frying pan making pancakes Christmas morning, I prayed for God to change my heart. It was all so . . . different . . . After all, this time last year I was preparing for Christmas and my own out-of-town elopement ceremony. This year has been tumultuous but happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to change, and some changes are good but I wondered if Mike’s children were feeling the same as I was. This isn’t the way things have been. Blending families is challenge enough and for whatever reason, Christmas seems harder than other holidays. I tend to take things too personally. The reason why one of the boys was in a bad mood was because of me, not because they weren’t feeling well. The reason why the plates weren’t full was because they didn’t like what I had cooked, not because they’d eaten too many pancakes that morning. The reason why they didn’t say anything about their gift was because they didn’t like what I had picked, not because they were side-tracked by something else. See what I mean? Perception is something else.

I survived Christmas. There were no tears or arguing. There was lots of laughter and smiles with some reminiscing. Even playing Wii and competitive personalities didn’t dampen spirits! My overly sensitive smoke alarm only went off a few times when I was baking the apple pie but yet not because I was burning it. The food was delicious and I actually coordinated it all coming together at the same time (thank heavens for microwaves to help with potatoes that didn’t cook through in the crock pot even after being on for hours!). Everyone got along with everyone else. Who could ask for more? I am indeed blessed.

 

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A Pinterest 4th

It was both mine and my husband’s year to have the children for the 4th of July this year and I wanted to do something special with food. Where do you get such inspiration? Why Pinterest, of course!! When you put something in the search section, a plethora of fabulous ideas pop up! Now, several years ago I did a Jell-o concoction and spent waaaayyyyy too long cutting out watermelon with a star cookie cutter so I wanted something different – and easier – this year. I did need to watch my budget, though, as holiday food can get very expensive, particularly if you’re buying fireworks too!

I opted for something healthy and did wood skewers, mini marshmallows, blueberries and raspberries. The raspberries were a little pricey in my opinion ($5.98) but wow, were they yummy! Absolutely delicious and incredibly easy! I also made a cake (only a box mix) but although I wanted to decorate it with red, white and blue M&M’s, I couldn’t due to my stepson’s severe peanut allergy. That’s okay, though, as I had left over blueberries and found some red crystal toppings I could add to it and the family size was nearly $9 – gulp!! I forgot to take a picture of the stripes of the crackers and cheese that I made as well, leftovers from a party that we had a couple of weeks ago so that helped with the budget!

Here a couple of pics of what actually turned out . .

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So not as pretty as the M&M cake but no allergic reactions!

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Fresh blueberries, raspberries and mini marshmallows. Yum!

We cooked out (jumbo pack of turkey franks were very reasonable and tasted much better than the beef ones, in my opinion!), visited, played soccer, and made s’mores (already had these when they had a buy 1 get 2 free of the ingredients) around the fire pit before shooting off some fireworks that we had bought.

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Even Buddy enjoyed playing soccer!

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The fireworks all around us were beautiful!

The downside? Well, my older children had their own agendas, understandable at 18 and 21,¬† and didn’t even stop by. My youngest preferred to hang out with his girlfriend so I didn’t even have my own children with me in which to celebrate the holiday and partake in my yummy special food! At least my parents came over for a bit to help us celebrate! ūüėČ

Our Wedding Elopement

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Ahh . . . true love . . . until you try to plan a wedding around work schedules, parenting schedules, kids, and holidays!¬† If that was the case, there would never be a “good time” to tie the knot! So Mike and I planned an elopement ceremony in Bella Vista, AR at the Cooper Memorial Chapel.

December 27th was cloudy and cold, below freezing, even in the afternoon of our ceremony. My Dad and I walked into a beautiful orchestrated rendition of “Unchained Melody” where I met my love at the altar to exchange vows and rings. Our¬†Reverend Dee¬†even choked up with the amount of love energy between the two of us! Our photographer, Lacey Whitmer Photography, did an amazing job capturing our elopement. After taking pictures inside the chapel, we went out onto the grounds and ended up at the waterfall where we have taken many other pictures. (Yes, I was traipsing around in the dirt in my wedding gown! I did bring my old running shoes, though, as my toes were freezing!!) There was a lot of love and laughter (and kisses!) at our intimate event. I have too many favorites to show here so I narrowed it down to just a few.¬† God has indeed blessed me in giving me another chance at love and marriage. On December 27th, 2017 I married my best friend. I truly feel that “I have found the one whom my soul loves” and look forward to a wonderful life of love with this man!

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My One Word for 2018

Over the past few years I’ve heard about choosing a single word for a New Year’s focus, instead of a long list of resolutions that could potentially bomb after the first few weeks.¬† I don’t usually fall into the failure category of my goals, but simplifying things sounded appealing. The question was, what word should I choose?

I mulled over some words that others had used . . . faith, believe, courage, brave, love, joy, heal, forgive, be, cleanse . . . but I wanted something that stood out to me. My inspiration came when I was pounding out some miles on the treadmill at the local Y during Christmas break. Interestingly enough, I can get some of my best ideas when I’m running.

~ STRENGTH ~

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So, why strength?

Strength can fall into many categories. Looking ahead at 2018 I know I have some goals and some potential challenges and the common thread through it all was STRENGTH.

  • Health – As a runner, I need to be in good health and plan my workouts accordingly to ensure I don’t injure myself. Easier said than done, obviously, as last year I struggled with knee issues on top of IT band issues. Although I was lucky enough to PR in my last 1/2 marathon, I need to rebuild my base and start over after a lack of training at the end of 2017.
  • Diet? Yep. Maintain a healthy one! I believe in moderation, none of this drastic stuff. Just healthy unprocessed food.
  • Relationships – My children are growing up which brings parental relationships to a different level. I don’t have a good relationship with my ex although not by choice. As a new wife and stepmom, I will need strength to integrate families.
  • Work – I teach 3rd graders as well as serve on the Leadership Team and am State Assessment Coordinator for my building. State testing is right around the corner!
  • Faith – You might think this should be my word but my relationship with God is super important to me. My faith needs strength to continue to commit my life to Christ and maintain His will as my focus.

Yes, STRENGTH is a word that will work well for me.

Did you choose a list of resolutions? Or did you also choose a single word? Please share what you did!

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Tis the Season

I must admit that although I love Jesus, I find the holidays to be a bit of a downer. Well, maybe not a bit, a lot might be more like it. How can I possibly be feeling funky at the most wondrous time of the year when my Savior was born? Hmmm. . . I don’t know. I honestly struggle to interpret the emotional roller coaster I’m on at this time of the year.

Life itself continues to be a challenge but things have changed, mostly for good this past year. The relationship that began the year prior blossomed and I’ll be marrying this wonderful man next week.¬† I did some traveling to Sanibel Island with my parents and children as well as Colorado and Nebraska.¬† I accomplished many things – 3 half-marathons and a personal best, hiking my first 14’er, moving not once but twice, volunteering in a new section at church¬† – just to name a few. Challenges? Knee issues running, significant ocular migraines, strep throat, relationship issues, my oldest son moving not only out but out of town, family/friends death and health issues, my youngest son’s back issues from weight lifting . . . But I prefer not to dwell on the negative. Or at least I try not to anyway!So, what does one do when they’re struggling? Although sometimes difficult to let go, God’s got it. Even though I can’t put into words why I’m crying, He’s got me. When I want to sleep and never wake up, He’s holding me in His arms. When social media is too overwhelming, He gives me the strength to focus on what matters. When those that I love make poor decisions and my heart is hurting, He’s there. God is good.

I’ve mentioned before that God speaks to me through music. I was mesmerized by Tenth Avenue North’s song, Control¬†that I heard about a month ago. I can’t seem to get enough of it! Here are some of the lyrics:

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go, oh …
I pray that you’re able to give God control of your life. If you’re struggling with the holidays like I am, lean on Him. He cares for you. He wants you. Allow Him to fill the voids in your life. He’s got you.

I Surrender

He did it again. On my way home from a sports chiropractor appointment following work last night I was praying about how some issues in my life weren’t going the way I wanted them to and apologizing for not giving it to Him. I’d been playing Josh Groban’s Closer CD in my classroom prior to the beginning of the school day and the tune of ¬†“Confession” came to mind as I was drifting off to sleep last night. The words themselves, however, escaped me.

This morning as I was climbing into my car to go to work, another song came to mind – Hillsong United’s “I Surrender”. I’ve always wished that God would speak to me with huge neon signs so that I can’t miss what He’s trying to tell me. Between these two songs, He’s encouraging me to surrender it all to Him. The illnesses I’ve struggled with this summer. The fatigue. The worries of my training and inability to run due to my knee issues. Untimely deaths. Family in weather related destruction areas. Raising children worries. Body image. Allergies. Relationships. Rejection that just won’t seem to let me go. Forgiveness. Lack of sleep. Stress from my job. Car problems. The ability to handle certain situations.¬†LET. IT. GO.

Psalm 86:7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

“Confession” lyrics: (partial)

I have been blind//Unwilling//To see the true love//You’re giving//I have ignored//Every blessing//I’m on my knees//Confessing//That I feel myself surrender//Each time I see your face//I am staggered by your beauty//Your unassuming grace//And I feel my heart is turning//Falling into place//I can’t hide it//Now hear my confession//I have been wrong about you//I thought I was strong without you//For so long//Nothing could move me//For so long//Nothing could change me

“I Surrender” lyrics: (partial)

Here I am//Down on my knees again//Surrendering all//Surrendering all//And find me here//Lord as You draw me near//Desperate for you//Desperate for You//I surrender//Drench my soul//As mercy and grace unfold//I hunger and thirst//I hunger and thirst//With arms stretched wide//I know You hear my cry//Speak to me now//Speak to me now//I surrender//

Thank you, Father, for my neon sign through music. I surrender it all to you. May your will be done in my life according to your timing and your purpose. Amen.

It’s been quite a year . . .

I had such plans for my blog this year. I had great thoughts of what I was going to write about, how life was going to go, and then things started to spiral in all sorts of directions. Hmmm. . . I guess that’s how life works, isn’t it?

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A run-down:

January: After nearly 14 years of living in the same home, it was time to move. There were too many not-so-good memories in that house and I wanted to downsize. I met with a realtor, determined a time-line in which to get her recommended improvements done, and started the work.

February:¬† The goal was to have the house on the market by the end of February. I had to repaint the entire ceiling (kitchen/dining/living room/hall/entry way) due to changing out the light fixture in the kitchen. ¬†It took 6 GALLONS of paint and a lot of time & energy. I didn’t meet the deadline. I wasn’t even going to even start looking at other homes yet as I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case my own home didn’t sell in a timely manner. My teenage son didn’t help matters any when the hallway had to be patched, as well as his bedroom wall, and the bedroom door replaced. Ugh.

March: House finally hit the market after spring break and a lot of sweat equity!

April:¬†Let me tell you that trying to have a house ready for viewing with 3 kids, 2 dogs, 3 guinea pigs and working full time was just crazy. ¬†However, on our 3rd last minute showing, the house sold — ¬†in only 4 days!! Uh-oh, now I have to find somewhere else to live AND pack! I had already started purging things left and right and even managed a yard sale in an attempt to earn some $ instead of just giving it all away. That was a nice surprise as I earned about $300 for one day! Then there was CraigsList and Facebook Marketplace to help get rid of some of the other stuff. . .

May:¬†I ran the Spring Prairie Fire Half Marathon and, amazingly, somehow managed a PR in spite of all of the craziness! I finished in 186th place, 4th in my age group out of 67 women with a time of 1:53:49. Soon after, my nephew graduated from high school. We found somewhere else to live but the home inspection came back with horrible issues so we backed out of that deal and luckily didn’t lose my earnest money. In the meantime, my teenage son got angry in the bathroom and punched a hole in the bathtub. Another costly repair. Closing on my existing home was scheduled for May 15 and I didn’t have anywhere to live! ¬†The rush was on to find another home! This entire time I’m praying for God’s guidance and his direction on all of the plans. After all, He’s got this under control, right?! My stress levels were off the charts . . .

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trust in god

May continued . . . I found another home but they couldn’t close in time with mine so we moved all of our house into a storage unit and moved in with my parents. A week after closing, school finished up for the year and we headed to Sanibel Island, FL for a week with my parents. Perfect timing for a break, that’s for sure! I ran miles on the beach, biked across the island, relaxed poolside, and enjoyed time with my parents and children. I also got to see my aunt and uncle that I hadn’t seen in ten years! The very next day that we returned from FL, my oldest son moved to Lawrence, KS. Well, he IS 20, but nothing can prepare you for your children leaving home. ¬†And it’s not like he was just around the corner — it’s a little over 2 hours away!!

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Bikes and beaches. Ahhhh . . .

 

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I loved running on the beach!

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My beautiful children at various locations on Sanibel. But then again, I’m biased!

June: My mortgage company was giving me issues and dropped the ball on the purchase of my new home, delaying the closing date to mid-June. Praise God, though, as the sellers were willing to let me move in on our original closing date! If that hadn’t have happened, I would have had NO help to move all of our belongings AGAIN, this time from the storage unit to the new house. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in my mortgage company. ¬†What makes it even worse is it’s the same company that carried my previous loan! Crazy. In the meantime, my younger brother and his family were planning a move out of state. They had put their house on the market and my sister-in-law had already moved to FL. We settled nicely into our new home and it didn’t take me hardly any time at all to unpack. I still have work to do with it (the previous owners REALLY liked the color gray and couldn’t paint worth a darn) but it was mine with fresh memories ready to be made in it. Refreshing, I tell you! I also managed a quick weekend trip to my parents’ lake house. A change of scenery can do one good, that’s for sure, especially with someone you love!

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Here we go again! Between moving from 1 house to the storage unit, Taylor moving out, then moving all of this out again into a new home, I was sick of moving!

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In the outdoor gardens at Crystal Bridges. We couldn’t resist having our picture taken by the LOVE art!

July: Even though I was feeling less stress than I had all year, my ocular migraines returned. I have been suffering with these migraines for more than 6 years and they’re actually quite strange. ¬†They come on suddenly, rolling in behind my right eye, feeling like a knife is piercing me. I had already had an MRI in the past and tried medication, to no avail. After more than a week of excruciating and debilitating pain, I opted for daith piercings.¬†¬†My niece also suffers from migraines and she said they really helped her. Once I got through the pain of the actual piercing and the healing of the cartilage, I am pleased to say that they have most definitely helped. I would highly recommend them! By July 7th, my brother and his family left for their new home in FL. In the meantime, I’m supposed to be training for 2 more half marathons and a 10-miler so my training has been suffering.

Still July:¬† I spent two days taking a class working for graduate credit in order to renew my teaching license by January. Next up? Homework! Then I went to my parents’ lake house and enjoyed time with my younger two children as well as my boyfriend and his children. The water was lovely and floating around in the hot sun was refreshing!

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Still July: Fast forward a week and I awoke with a sore throat. No big deal, right? Except for it got progressively worse. And worse. And worse. The Dr. visit said mono or strep, yet all of the strep tests came back negative! The white sores in my mouth told me otherwise, however, so after waiting too long on test results, I finally got a prescription for an antibiotic. Let the healing begin! Once again my training was derailed and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Argh!

So, what do you do during all of these types of fiascos? Dare I say that I’m actually glad that it’s now August and I’ll soon be back at work? Well, maybe I’m not THAT desperate. Cling tightly to His hand. I do believe in what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! God always has a plan. . .