family

Journey to Gratitude: Days 30-35

Life happens. While I made a note of my gratitude items each day, I did not get a chance to post them. So here’s the past week:

Day 30:
Today, I saw AMERICAN SNIPER (which was excellent, by the way). I am always amazed by those who have the courage and passion to serve this country, as I don’t think I could stand on the battle lines. So today I am thankful for those who serve our country to protect our freedom.

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Day 31:
Bella just turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. While the time is going by so very quickly, I am also thankful for this age. She can finally communicate with words her needs and wants, she understands commands from me, and best of all, we can go “play”! She is at such a fun age where she is curious about everything and has such a great awareness of the world around her. I can now take her to playgrounds and kids’ museums and the zoo – so many fun places!

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Day 32:
This weekend, Blaine and I stumbled upon an amazing deal on a foreclosed house for ourselves. In talking about the possibility of pursuing it, I decided to bring up my credit score. For those who haven’t followed my story, I filed bankruptcy during the peak of the recession (following job loss and all that comes with that). Four years later, I am in a much better place, and have managed to pay off all remaining debt (the car and my hefty student loans were excluded from the bankruptcy). Today, I am thankful for second chances and the ability to rebuild after tragedy, as my credit score is the highest it has ever been!

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Day 33:
My work team has seen A LOT of changes over the past year. Namely, we have gone through an entire culture change, nearly a complete turnover of our HPLT (high performance leadership team), and turnover of a third or so of our team members. It was a tough road, but we are in SUCH a better place now as a result, and 2015 is already off to an amazing start! Today, I am thankful for the new faces at our HPLT table, as I think we have a strong, cohesive team to propel us to the next level!

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Day 34:
Blaine and I put in an offer for the house we found over the weekend, and I became so excited and fixated on it that I was already imagining where we would put things. I could just *see* and *FEEL* us in this house. Alas, it was not in God’s plan, as someone swooped in with a cash offer well above our financed offer. I was heartbroken. And yet, it was a reminder that I need to learn to trust in God’s plan for us. This house or this time just wasn’t right, and there is other business we need to take care of before we settle into our dream home. Today, as hard as it is to swallow, I am thankful for that reminder.

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Day 35:
I was pretty disappointed about not getting that house. Blaine was trying to be encouraging that we would one day have our house, but maybe the timing wasn’t right and we need to get some other business aligned first. This loss gave us an opportunity to discuss many things – our present, our future, and most of all, how fortunate we are to have all that we currently have. I love theses moments when we can really connect with emotional intimacy and have a great chat about life. We don’t get those moments often – mostly because life is so busy and we don’t take (or make) the time to pause and have these discussions. So today, I am thankful for this rare gem that has the power to refuel our marriage and remind us why we have chosen each other.

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Journey to Gratitude: Day 9

One year ago, I said “goodbye” to my mother for the last time. Sometime around 9pm, she finally let go and slipped away into heaven, where she was greeted by my baby girl, Bristol, as well as my Aunt Lynne, my dad, and others who had passed before her. This day is especially bittersweet, because it is also the eve of Bella’s second birthday. So exactly a year before my mom passed, I was preparing to give birth to my baby girls at just 28 weeks into pregnancy. This date is a tough one, as it is now marked with two major events.

So what on earth could I be grateful for on a day like today. Well, as I sat at home today with my head swarming with memories, a beautiful bouquet of flowers showed up at my door. I opened the card to find a sweet message from my work family. So today, I am thankful for such a wonderful job and an awesome, caring team. What a sweet gesture on such an otherwise sad day! It reminded me that I am not alone, and that I have folks who not only care about me, but remembered that this was a special day. I am blessed to be a part of Chick-fil-A Bristol!

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A Mother’s Memory

To meet me now, you would never know that I have just been through one of the toughest years of my life.  I have a beautiful, healthy 8-month-old daughter, an amazing husband and life partner, a nice house, a great dog, and – as of last week – a great job.  No, to meet me now, you would think I have the perfect life.  And I do…..now.  But just six months ago today, we had to say goodbye to our baby girl.

I may never know why we had to go through all that we did.  Why are there so many babies born to families that don’t want them?  Why are healthy babies born to ladies who smoke or drink – or worse?  Why did my body reject my precious babies when I did everything right?  I don’t know.  I may never know.  But I am thankful that we got to have 9 weeks with our precious baby – enough time to make memories to last a lifetime.  In fact, when choosing the words for her headstone, we wanted to capture that sentiment.  After reading countless phrases, we finally found the perfect one:

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Bristol touched so many people in her short time.  Her story is one that will be remembered and told for years to come.  She was so tough and so brave.  I have no doubt that she would have been sassy and spunky just like her sister.  The Lord surely got “the best” when He called her back home.  This poem gave us great comfort when we were grieving:

God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be,
So He put His arms around you and whispered, “Come to me”.
With tearful eyes we watched you and saw you pass away,
And although we love you dearly we could not make you stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hardworking hands at rest,
God broke our hearts to prove to us He only takes the best.
—-Unknown

The other poem that spoke to us during that time:

When God calls little children to dwell with Him above,
We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love.
For no heartache compares with the death of one small child,
Who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild.
Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold,
So He picks a rosebud before it can grow old.
God knows how much we need them and so He takes but a few,
To make the land of Heaven more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult, still somehow we must try.
The saddest word mankind knows will always be “Goodbye”.
So when a child departs, we who are left behind,
Must realize God loves children.
Angels are hard to find.
—-Unknown

Finally, for those unable to make Bristol’s memorial service, I wanted to share the letter I wrote for her:

letter to Bristol

We are so very lucky to have such an amazing angel watching over us!  We miss you, baby girl!

Making Your Goals Attainable: A Real-Life Example of an Action Plan

On a previous post, I shared how I walk clients through the process of creating a SMART Action Plan.  To read that post, CLICK HERE.

Goals Concept

So many times we make promises to ourselves:

  • “I need to lose weight.”
  • “I want to start eating healthier.”
  • “I need to get organized.”
  • “I need a new job.”

The problem is that we fail to be specific enough or assign a timeline for getting things accomplished.  A perfect example of putting something off because of lack of an action plan is my desire to obtain my Personal Training certification.  I have been thinking about getting this certification for at least 5 or 6 years, and yet, here I sit with no certification.  I even bought the study books and materials for a nationally accredited certification about 4 years ago, and I think I made it about 6 pages into the manual before I tossed it aside.

My failure to achieve my goal boils down to a lack of a SMART Action Plan, the most important step being that I didn’t assign a timeline.  “One day” is not a specific timeline.  In order to achieve your goals, you have to have a realistic, specific timeline to achieve those goals.  I decided it was time to give myself a taste of my own medicine and put an Action Plan in place!

GOAL:  Obtain Personal Training certification
DEADLINE:  By Thanksgiving  (November 28)
START DATE: August 28
*13 weeks to achieve goal*

STEPS:
1.  Study
Personal Trainer Manual and Workbook  (18 chapters; 2 chapters per week for 9 weeks)
Program Design Handbook  (4 sections; 2 sections per week for 2 weeks)
Anatomy Workbook  (1 week)
2.  Practice Test and Re-visit problem areas  (1 week)
3.  CPR certification  (deadline:  November 1)
4.  Take Final Exam for certification  (may take place in December, depending on test dates available; absolute deadline of January 1st)

By assigning deadlines and dates, as well as being specific about the steps to achieve my goal, I can now hold myself accountable and keep myself on track to meet that goal.  Reaching the goal is no longer a “one day” type of goal, but should be attained by the end of the year.

Given that I am already working on a goal of losing weight (and I’m a third of the way to my goal on my progress), a second goal of achieving this certification is probably my limit for now.  Another reason folks tend to get frustrated and give up on goals is because they overwhelm themselves by trying to accomplish too many things at one time.  In order to be successful in achieving your goals, you should only start one action plan at a time, and limit yourself to 2-3 major goals at one time.  Because I have already been working on losing weight for about 6 weeks and am successfully sticking to my action plan, I feel confident in adding another goal at this time.  However, deciding to work on this certification at the same time that I was starting my action plan for losing weight would not have been a smart choice, as I probably would have abandoned one (or both) goals.

I have put my action plan out there for two reasons: 1) to show that, even I as the Coach, need to practice what I preach (and yes, I make mistakes too), and 2) to hold myself more accountable by putting it in writing (not to mention putting it out there for an audience who can also keep me accountable).  Additionally, I have written out these steps and posted them in a location in my house where I will see the Action Plan every day (it’s harder to play “out of sight, out of mind” when it’s staring you right in the face on a regular basis).

What goals have you not achieved because you failed to be specific and assign a timeline?

HOW TO: Stretch Your Groceries and Plan Family Meals

I don’t claim to be an expert who has “the” answers, as I recognize that there are many people out there with lots of great ideas.  Just check Pinterest to see all the crafty moms out there with beautifully decorated homes who still find time to make ornate food that looks like it should be on display somewhere versus being eaten by their families.  I am not that mom/wife.  Our baby’s room is a hodgepodge of themes, wall hangings, and furniture – all of them very practical, but not worthy of being posted on Pinterest.  The food I prepare tastes good (or so I am told), but is not Top Chef worthy, nor am I crafty enough to make cute displays that look like little animals or my daughter’s favorite Bubble Guppy.

What I can offer, however, is practicality and frugality.  My forte is organization that makes sense in a world that is busy.  I don’t have the time or energy to comb over coupons or sale ads for hours on end, nor am I crafty enough to make cute charts that look like that belong in a teacher’s elementary school classroom.  My husband and I are pretty simple people.  What I bring to you are tips from our simple, frugal life that I hope you will find helpful.

Today, I bring you tips on stretching your dollars in your family meals.  I do “big” grocery shopping twice per month, with some smaller trips in between to get fresh produce or other small items that may pop up.  We do have a monthly allotment budgeted for our grocery items, and I work very hard to stick to that.  If I happen to have coupons (and remember to take them), I will use them, but most of the time I do NOT have coupons.  If you have time and enjoy sifting through coupons, more power to you – extra savings, woohoo!  My version of couponing is checking my local grocer’s ad for the meat and produce specials and planning my meals around those.  I then get my other goods – boxed items, household goods, etc – from WalMart or Sam’s Club.  I know the average prices of my regular items, and I watch for them to be on sale.  When they are on a good special, I stock up.

Here are some of my little tricks for stretching our groceries:

1.  Based on the meat specials at the grocery store, make a list of what meals you will make with those meats.
I list out first which meats I will buy, and then think of what I can do with those meats.  For example, this week I may plan to get a roast, cubed steak, chicken breasts, ground beef, and pork chops.  From there, I may decide to do a roast with potatoes and carrots, cubed steak with mashed potatoes, chicken casserole with the chicken breasts, sloppy joes with tater tots with the ground beef, and BBQ baked pork chops with some veggies.

2.  Complete the grocery list with sides, other needed ingredients, snacks, and lunch and breakfast items.
It should be noted here that I keep a running grocery list on my fridge, where I list items that are running low (or in some cases, have run out) as I discover them.  I HATE to run completely out of anything, so I usually add it to my list when it gets low.  If it is an item that goes quickly, I add it when it gets about halfway used, but if it’s an item that goes more slowly, I wait until there is maybe a quarter of it left.  So when I get ready to do my grocery shopping, I already have a list started.  I add the meats on special, then the sides to go with those, and then any special ingredients I may need (e.g. cream of chicken soup, BBQ sauce, tortillas, etc).  I finish off my list with snacks, lunch items (e.g. lunch meat, cheese, bread, Hot Pockets, soups, salad stuff, etc), and breakfast items (we eat cereal or oatmeal most mornings during the week, but I prepare a big breakfast on the weekends).  The most important takeaway here is that EVERYTHING goes on the list.  Sure, there may be an item or two that you forgot about and remember it when you get to the store, but otherwise stick to the list.  NO IMPULSE PURCHASES.
SIDE NOTE:  Plan for the unexpected.  Have 2 or 3 meal options that are easy but flexible for those “just in case” nights.  One of our go-to meals is tuna salad with mac and cheese.  It’s quick and easy, but also keeps on the shelf, so we pull it out if we need something fast, or if other meals have run out.  It’s also a good go-to if you have a night where you maybe have plans to go out the next night, and therefore will not be eating leftovers (you can make just enough for that night’s dinner, or eat any leftover tuna for the next day’s lunch).

3.  Learn to love leftovers.
I love to cook, but I don’t love to cook everyday.  Our rules for meals are as follows: each meal lasts for two dinners, and after two days, you may then – and only then – eat those leftovers for a lunch.  When planning my meals, I keep this in mind, so I buy enough ingredients to make a large meal to last two days.  Sometimes that means doubling or even tripling a recipe.  It also means observing portion control (which will also be good for your waistline).  I always remember my mom saying things like, “It’s a shame that I spend all this time in the kitchen for everyone to eat and be done in 20 minutes”.  I guess I don’t feel it has to be that way.  If you really enjoy a meal, why not enjoy it two or three times?  To me, it makes it more worth my effort to be able to enjoy a meal for longer than 20 minutes.  It also gives me two or three nights a week where I don’t have to stress about cooking – winning!  Extra bonus: it’s typically cheaper to make a larger batch of one meal than to make two separate meals.

4.  Make a meals list, and cross them off as you make/use them.     015
Once home from the store, I make a list of all the meals I’ve acquired.  I don’t like to assign them to specific days.  I know some people do meal assignments for the week or even the month, and that’s cool.  I just personally prefer to have more flexibility in my choices.  Sometimes things come up and I need a quicker meal.  Other times I feel like being a gourmet chef and spending a couple of hours in the kitchen.  I like options.  So I make a list of what all I have – just go down and say “#1 – Roast with potatoes & carrots, #2 – Sloppy joes with tater tots” and so on.  At the bottom, I make another small list of all of the sides I have on hand – corn, broccoli, salad stuff, mixed vegetables, etc.  Again, I like options, so this allows me to see what all I have – at a glance, and without digging through the freezer – and I can just pick which sides/veggies I want to have with each meal.  I buy a variety of veggies when I do my grocery shopping – both fresh and frozen – and I try to have at least one vegetable with each meal, sometimes two.
RULE OF THUMB – When choosing which meal to make, choose the ones with fresher ingredients FIRST, so that you don’t get stuck with produce and such that is going bad.  Once you have worked through all the ones requiring fresh produce/ingredients, you can move onto your frozen or boxed options.

Using the tips above, I am usually able to make our groceries last for about 2-2 1/2 weeks.  Again, I may have to make a weekly quick run to refresh produce or grab an ingredient I forgot, but the bulk of our groceries lasts from major trip to major trip.  Not only does it save time not having to go to the store all the time, but it saves money because I am sticking to a plan versus making impulse purchases.

What tips/tricks have you found to help make your groceries stretch?

An Unbelievable Story

8.15.12 first ultrasound

You know how there are some people who seem to have everything, or to whom everything seems to come so easily?  I am not one of those people.  While I have certainly had some triumphs and victories in my life, they seem to be short-lived or overshadowed by the fight that follows it.

I have always had to negotiate or fight for everything I’ve attained, or I’ve had to prove myself before given a chance.  I wasn’t the most popular girl in school, but I was friends with those girls.  I wasn’t the smartest kid in the class, but I got close.  I wasn’t the best athlete or most talented singer or dancer, but I held my own and might be considered “above average” in some circumstances.  The most recent fight was a few years ago with losing my job during the recession and the financial struggles that followed, including filing bankruptcy.  After going through that, I finally met my life partner, and things began to fall into place.  We moved in together, and a year later I found out I was pregnant – with twins.  He then proposed to me at Thanksgiving.  I felt as though I could FINALLY begin to enjoy life!  Maybe – just maybe – the Lord wanted me to go through all that I had been through so that I could appreciate the blessings when they finally came.  “Everything happens for a reason”, right?  I could swallow that logic, because Lord knows I had learned a lot about myself and others, and felt I was a much better – and stronger – person for having been through it all.

Then preeclampsia happened.

If you’ve never heard of preeclampsia, it is a condition that can occur during pregnancy.  I’ve seen statistics that say it happens in about 5-8% of all pregnancies.  Leave it to me to fall into such a rare statistic.  No one is really sure what causes preeclampsia, but they have identified some factors that tend to make some women more likely to develop preeclampsia, including having your first child after the age of 35 (check), carrying multiples (check), and having a pre-existing condition with the heart (check).  So what is preeclampsia?  In short, the body begins to reject the pregnancy.  The condition develops after 20 weeks, and is diagnosed by sudden onset of high blood pressure and protein in the urine.  From there, things can escalate very quickly and include severe swelling of the body, fatigue, headaches, visual disturbances (i.e. seeing spots or auras and/or having sensitivity to light), and even higher blood pressure and higher protein counts in the urine.  If not caught soon enough, preeclampsia can escalate to full eclampsia, which includes seizures and can be potentially fatal for the mother and/or baby.

Mine was caught by doctors at 25 weeks, but in hindsight, I think I had early symptoms at about 21 weeks (the week of Thanksgiving).  After 3 weeks of bedrest and missing out on much of the Christmas season, I went into the hospital on January 7th and delivered my twin girls on January 10 at 28 weeks and 1 day.  Today marks two weeks since delivery, and my girls still have a long haul in the NICU.  My oldest, Bella, has been doing well from day one, is breathing on her own with only a nasal cannula on minimal settings to give her a little boost of oxygen, and continues to increase her feedings of breast milk.  However, my youngest baby girl, Bristol, has been struggling since about day two or three – unable to breathe on her own and relying on a jet ventilator which beats her lungs with puffs of air at a rate of about 400 breaths per minute.

Because I like to write, and because we have so many out there that are praying for us and asking for updates, I decided to begin telling my story here on my blog.  Our family and friends have already been receiving updates via Facebook, but even many of them haven’t heard the whole story, or understand what preeclampsia is and what it did to me (and my new little family).  Stay tuned for our story….

6w vs 26w4d