Monday, March 23, 2015

Spiritual Sisters {Guest Post}

Today I am guest posting at Fumbling Toward Grace. The beautiful Sarah is busy moving from one home to another, all with three small children! God bless her! I pray that she and her family have a smooth transition. I was excited when Sarah asked me to guest post for her. I knew what I wanted to write about, how friendship with women has made me a better person. Below is the beginning of my post.





I am an only child. I was born to a teenage mother and absent father. I grew up in my grandparent's home. My grandmother was often depressed and angry. I was her verbal dart board; her words pierced my flesh again and again throughout the years I spent in her home.

The holes of the wounds left me damaged, pocked and ugly. Insecure and unsure, my thin skin let every negative comment and unkind look from others seep into my heart.


Friendships were not easy for me. Through the years, I developed relationships with a handful of girls that I sort of trusted. I enjoyed their company, but I always kept them at a distance, waiting for them to realize how unlikable I was, waiting for them to wound me, too. Often, I struck first by being cold or mouthy, pushing them towards the path that I was so sure they would eventually take. The path that led away from me.


By the grace of God, a couple of these girls stuck with me and through them I added a few more friends to my circle. Most of these girls had grown up in Christian households and faith was a part of their life. I know God placed these girls in my life. He knew I needed them.




You can read the full post at Fumbling Toward Grace.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Snow, Weight-loss, my Cousin's Art, Missing Teeth, and More {SQT}

Life has been busy, so how about a quick update post!

1. First snow day of spring ya'll!



2. I have been (mostly) following the Trim Healthy Mama diet since February 1st, and I have lost 10 pounds. Plus, I feel good, and my energy level is up. I have exercised almost every day. 


3. I made this Cowboy Cookie recipe from Mrs. Criddle's Kitchen yesterday, and I love it. I didn't make cookies though. I baked it in a 9x13 pan and cut into squares. The recipe is not too sweet. Perfect for a breakfast bar. I ate two squares for breakfast this morning. I did adjust the recipe a bit. I used four eggs instead of three. I used 1/2 cup Truvia instead of Sweet Blend, and I replaced the 1/2 cup of ground oats with 1/3 cup oat fiber. I chopped up a Ghirardelli Intense Dark 86% cacao bar in place of the sugar free chips. 



4. My cousin Aaron has an Etsy shop for his art. I was 13 years old when he was born. He was such a cutie (still is). He was the ring bearer in my wedding. He expanded his talent through college, and I am proud that he is continuing with it now that he has graduated. Check out his art at AaronKeithHofferArt. And it would be wonderful if you made a purchase or shared his shop with your friends and family that may be interested in supporting a young artist. He doesn't know that I am giving his shop a shout out! I just want to support my cousin! 


5. A couple weeks ago I shared my list of things that I want to do before I turn 40. One of the things was that I wanted to try Jamberry nail wraps. I placed my first order last week, and I hope they arrive today or tomorrow. I can not wait to try them!


6. Ralph lost both of his top front teeth! Finally! One hung crooked for several weeks, and we could see the tooth behind it, but it was not loose enough on the one side to pull out. The other tooth fell out several days later.



7. I will be guest posting at Fumbling Toward Grace on Monday for the lovely Sarah. I hope you will check it out! 


Joining Kelly and the gang for Seven Quick Takes

Monday, March 9, 2015

Tell Your Story

We all have a story. If you are in the habit of sharing your story through writing, you have probably heard some interesting comments or been asked impertinent questions. 

"Wow! Your life must be more interesting than mine!" 

"You must have more free time than I do to spend so much time writing about yourself." 

"Why do you think anyone cares about your life?" 

"Why do you think your story is important enough to share with strangers?" 

If you are like me, you may not be sure how to answer these questions, but you are pretty sure that the person means to put you in your place. Knock you down a peg or two. But don't let the comments and questions bother you! I encourage you to keep writing. Keep telling your story. 

We all have a story, and we all tell our stories in different ways. 

We tell our stories through words, photographs, melodies, and art. We tell them through movement, action and reaction. We build relationships through our stories. They help us to understand and be understood. 

Our stories help us process the past. They give us insight into what we should do and what we shouldn't. Stories compel us to move forward and (hopefully) live a better life. Stories are what we leave behind for people that we will never meet. They are our history and our heritage. 

Through our stories we teach, inspire, and transform. 



Continue to share your story. It matters. 

If someone gives you a hard time about you telling your story, don't let it get you down or stop you from sharing your story. They are exposing part of their story to you with their comments and questions, and they probably don't even realize it! 

We are our story because the story is life. 

What is your story? 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Before I Turn 40

I am a month away from my 39th birthday.

I celebrated my 35th birthday the year I started this blog. I know it is cliche to say, but time does fly by so fast. Since I started this blog I learned how to knit, had surgery, miscarried several babies, graduated my oldest son from our homeschool, watched my second son receive communion for the first time, lost my grandfather and then my grandmother. I lost weight, gained weight, and suffered through female health problems and hormone issues. I proudly became the godmother of three cute nephews and one sweet niece. I ran more miles than I had in years previous and fell in love with Zumba.

I experienced an abundance of joy, overwhelming grief, and more physical pain than I care to discuss. I overcame some of my fears and am working towards peace. And I can honestly say that I am a happier and more confident woman than I was before I started this blog.

But it would be a lie to tell you that I am excited about my upcoming birthday, that the thought of living my last year in my thirties didn't cause me to feel sad.

It does.

I have spent more than a little bit of time thinking about how to change decades without turning into a mid-life mess of tears. After some time in prayer, I came up with a list of nine things that I want to do before my 40th birthday. Some of them will require a lot of time and effort, but other things will be easier to accomplish. All of them are helping me to feel excited about my upcoming birthday, and that, my friends, makes them worth doing!




1. Join a Bible study.

2. Take a class, like drawing or sewing.

3. Make Eucharistic Adoration a regular part of my life.

4. Walk or run 20 miles a week - every week!

5. Join the library.

6. Commit the St. Michael prayer  and the Prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes to memory. 

7. Hike a part of the Appalachian Trail that I have never hiked before.

8. Try Jamberry nail wraps.

9. Relearn the proper spelling and definition of all the words in 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know. Hey this old brain has forgotten a lot - don't judge. (Amazon Associate link)  



I can't wait to get started, but it will have to wait until after Lent. My birthday is April 6th, the day after Easter. I will celebrate Easter and my birthday with my family, and then I will start working on the things on my list. 

Have you ever looked to a birthday with dread? What steps did you take to turn that sadness into joy? 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yarn Along 2015 {one}


Knitting:

I purchased this lovely lace-weight wool from ewefluffyewe on etsy. The colorway is Mr. Knightley. I am a sucker for Jane Austen inspired anything and love the rich, dark colors in this yarn, so I had to buy it when I saw it listed in the shop. Hannah, the shop owner, will wind the yarn for you for free, which is wonderful for me because I have a ball winder but not a swift. The yarn label includes the names of the sheep and their breeds. Mr. Knightley is 100% wool from Annabelle, Barnaby, Digory, and Dodge. Their breeds include Romney, Blue Faced Leicester, California Variegated Mutant, and Coopworth. Hannah blogs at Redeeming Acres.

The pattern is The Ericka Scarf from Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders: 101 Patterns That Go Way Beyond Socks! It is an easy pattern to memorize and knit. It is perfect for me to knit while schooling the boys, listening to audio books, or while watching a movie. My favorite kind of project these days.


Reading:

I recently finished Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, written by Tara Mohr. Playing Big is not a just book about inspiring women to stop allowing fear to hold them back from their dreams. It also offers tools and guidance on how to move forward (leap as Tara Mohr calls it) and make changes not only in their lives but the world around them. 

I do not work outside of my home, and I do not have any current plans for starting a business. But I am always interested in learning new ways to build confidence, set goals and fulfill them, and create a better, kinder, happier environment for my family, friends, and people I come into contact with throughout my life. 

In the introduction of Playing Big, Tara Mohr writes: 

"Playing Big is about bridging the gap between what we see in you and what you know about yourself. It's a practical guide to moving past self-doubt and creating what you most want to create- whether in your career, community, or in a passion you pursue outside of work. It's not about the old-school notion of playing big- more money, more prestigious title, a bigger empire, or fame. It's about you living with a sense of greater freedom to express your voice and pursue your aspirations."

I enjoyed reading Playing Big. I especially enjoyed defining my inner critic, learning about the two different fears pachad and yirah, and the action of leaping. Playing Big will inspire you to dig deep, define what is important to you, and help you turn your hesitation into action. 


Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along

The Amazon links are Associate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a couple pennies. I appreciate when you do that. Thank you! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Etsy Love {Five Favorites}

My mother gave me a generous Etsy gift card for Christmas. I have enjoyed watching the balance go down with every purchase! Through the years, there have been so many shops that I wanted to purchase items from, but my budget only stretches so thin, if you know what I mean. It is easy to talk myself out of a purchase, except when I have a gift card. I like to indulge myself in a little retail therapy when I have a gift card! 

Here are five of my most recent Etsy purchases. My reviews are short and sweet so you can go visit the shops and indulge in a little retail therapy yourself if the mood hits you! 



1. Flor Larios Art - Beautiful folk art and religious icons.  




2. Expressionary Pendant - Essential oil diffuser necklaces and other lockets and charms. Dr. Who fans check out this Tardis diffuser necklace



3. Valley Girl Designs - Lovely vintage inspired handmade jewelry. The Lucky Shamrock locket is gorgeous! 



4. Signs of Love by Rakstar Designs - Buy something for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. There are prints, mugs, necklaces, and other items and all have a Christian theme. 



5. Happy in Dole Valley - Original knits, natural soap, homemade vanilla and lavender spray, and more. I purchased three soaps earlier this week, so I have not received them yet. But I had to tell you about this shop now because Lisa, the owner, is running a giveaway at her blog for one free item (value up to $15) through Tuesday. She is also offering a coupon code through Saturday, March 7th, for 10% off your order. Read more about the giveaway and get the coupon code at her blog



In case you do not know, Jenna, the host of the Five Favorites link-up, also has a lovely Etsy shop, Call Her Happy. Check it out if you haven't already! Plus, she recently had a sweet baby so take a minute to wish her joy! 

Monday, February 23, 2015

When You are in the Thick

This Bible verse has been on my mind throughout the day, all day, every day for the last week. I read it in a little prayer book that a friend gave me a few years ago. It is not specifically for Lent, just a little coffee table book of God's promises, but it has become a part of my Lenten reading. It is a great reminder to me, and I thought that maybe some of you may be in need of the promise, too.


Have I mentioned before that we are blessed to attend a parish with several priests? I am glad to be able to tell you that I enjoy listening to all of them preach. They speak such wisdom and often it is just what I need to hear. After Mass yesterday, I kept thinking about Father's homily.

Father talked about how the evil one preys upon us when we are at our weakest. Maybe we think God has forgotten us or doesn't hear us. We are unhappy or stressed or lonely, and we are looking for something quick to make us happy and give us pleasure. He encouraged us to stay strong and to see these temptations for what they are, the murmurings of the devil. 

During the season of Lent, we remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting, meditating, and preparing for His ministry. We spend 40 days uniting ourselves to Him through prayer, denying ourselves from certain earthly pleasures by fasting, and loving others by performing good works. As we prepare ourselves for the Easter season and the risen Christ, we may find the devil tempting us away from our present course and back into our old sinful ways. But the pleasure is fleeting, and we desire more than short-lived comforts. We desire to be united with Jesus forever. 

When we align our actions and sufferings with Christ, we can overcome temptation and sin. By emptying ourselves of selfishness and other sins, we allow more room for God to enter and transform us. And at the end of this period of preparation and reconciliation we will rejoice. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In the End, He has to Know I Loved Him



A couple of weeks ago, Chris and were both getting ready for our day side by side. Our bathroom is plenty big for two bodies to move easily around in, with two sinks and open floor space. But Chris likes to move fast while I move a bit slower, and he often feels that I slow him down when we share the bathroom in the mornings. He made a comment about me being in his way, and I replied back that since I had been there first he was the one in the way. Then I reminded him that we have been together for almost 24 years, and that bathroom sharing between two people as in love as we are is part of the deal of our relationship. He stopped shaving and exclaimed, "Twenty-four years! That is a long time!" I replied, "Yep, long enough for you to be used to sharing a bathroom!" 

In 1996, Chris and I made our relationship official after five years of dating. In June of that year, my grandparents celebrated 50 years of marriage. Fifty years of marriage is a huge milestone. In the end, my grandparents were married for 65 years before my grandfather passed away

A few months before he passed, he had a conversation with my husband. Chris later shared part of that conversation with me. He told me that my grandfather turned to him and said, "You know, I think I spent my life married to a woman that didn't love me." 

It kills me every time I time I think of it. Sixty-five years is a long time to spend with someone that you don't think loves you. 

My grandparents raised me. I was a witness daily to their interactions with each other. I know all too well why he would make such a comment to my husband. My grandfather worked six days a week running his business to support my grandmother and their five children, and then later my cousin and me. He came home from work and tried to talk to my grandmother, only to be snapped at and criticized. I remember many times when he would he say something sweet or teasing to her, and she would ignore him. There were so many times she would start yelling at him, and he would ask, "Millicent, why are you yelling at me?" 

The weight of what he must have felt crushes me still. 

The early years of my marriage to Chris were not easy. I came into the relationship with low self-esteem and no knowledge of what a healthy relationship looked like. We have worked hard to make our marriage successful. We always planned to be married forever, like my grandparents and Chris's parents, but we weren't sure how we would be able to love each other forever! We could have easily just gone through the motions of a mutual partnership without any love, affection, or happy feelings for each other. 

I can't speak for Chris, but I can tell you the three things that I needed to understand to help me love him better.

1. He is my husband, and he is my friend. We were so busy the first few years of our marriage with jobs and a baby that we didn't make time to hang out and have fun with each other. The crazy thing is that we made time for our friends! Once we became intentional about date nights (whether in or away from our home), our relationship improved. We remembered how much we enjoyed each other's company. Plus, I learned to like football, and he agreed to eat out occasionally (something that he is not fond of doing). 

2. I have to tell him what I need from him because he can't read my mind. Seriously, I spent many of our early years pouting on the couch because he didn't do x,y, or z. Mind you, I never mentioned that I needed him to do those things, but I was sure that I didn't need to tell him. He should just know! How I expected him to know, I have no idea. 

3. It is important that I tell him not only that I love him, but also what I love about him. It is nice to hear, you know? And although he may or not need a regular reminder of my love for him, there are some days that I need to remember the reasons that I love him. Saying them aloud to him helps us to both feel the love. 

These three things seem like things that every girl should know when she gets married, but I did not. And I am sure that I was not the only one, nor will I be the last. I wish I had known them in the beginning because so much of the hurt and anger could have been avoided. 





This year marks the 24th year of our relationship, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in October. I always look forward to my wedding anniversary. We had a budget wedding, without professional pictures (proof above) or catering (although we did have yummy food thanks to friends of my family). Our wedding was not glamorous, but it was special because it marked the beginning of a lifetime of choosing love. 

I love my children, deeply and truly, as a mother should, but children are meant to leave, to love others and build lives of their own. The love I feel for their father is so very different. The love builds, moves, and soars. It is a promise and a choice. 

I chose love on my wedding day and continue to choose to love every day. At the end of his days, I want my husband to know that he spent his life loving a woman who loved him back. 




 Linking up over at the Blessed is She Blog. Marriage is the topic today. If you haven't checked out Blessed is She yet, you need to do it asap! The daily devotions have made reading scripture easier for me. Seriously, go check it out and sign-up to receive the daily devotions in your inbox!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Busy Being Crafty

Many of the twenty-four hours in my day is filled up with domestic duties, homeschooling, and sleeping. As much as I am glad to be able to do those things (yes, even the housework), I try to make sure that I take time to be active and creative with my hands. I have to be intentional about exercise and crafts, or those things would easily be forgotten for something less fulfilling like watching a show or movie on Netflix. Please don't misunderstand me. I am not knocking the past-time of Netflix watching. I love a good show and enjoy watching them. I especially like when I can combine being crafty with television - a win-win situation. 

This post is not about exercising or Netflix though. It is about the projects I have completed recently and how important working with my hands is to me. It is just as important to me as writing, but the whole twenty-four hour in a day thing keeps me from doing both in a single day, so when things get quiet around here you can safely assume that I am making something with my hands. 




Recently, I gave my friend Renee a bag that I knitted and then felted. I wrote the pattern for this bag. In addition to the bag, I bought a plain white apron and then stitched margarita glasses and the phrase, "I need a DRINK!" on it. I also gave her a journal from Rakhi's Etsy shop and a set of color pens. She loved all of it. 




My sister-in-law and her husband have birthdays that are three days apart from each other and very close to Valentine's Day. I found a tutorial online for confetti heart mugs, so I made a set for them. I also gave them some chocolates and hot chocolates and two books to read. 




Back in December, I finally finished a little dress that had been on my needles for awhile. It was for my niece, Hannah, so I named the pattern Hannah's Dress (I wrote the pattern). We ran into them at Mass last week, and Hannah had the dress on with a pair of leggings. She looked super cute in it. 




Currently, I am knitting a baby vest. I wrote the pattern for this vest two years ago. I am also knitting a throw blanket with a bunch of Merino Wool/Acrylic blend that I have in my stash. It is taking longer than I thought it would as I have made a few changes to the pattern as I have been knitting. The original one that I wrote did not work out quite as I imagined. 




As a wife and mother, my life is full of repetitive days. The work is good and honest, and at the end of my life I know I will not regret working inside my home rather than outside of it. But it is very satisfying to work on a project that has nothing to do with housework or education. I think part of the process that I love the most is seeing something turn from a thought into a usable item. I also enjoy giving people that I love something handmade. 

Do you love to work with your hands? How have you been crafty lately? 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Links, Links, and More Links {Seven Quick Takes}



1. I have had one crazy full and fun week. The fullness continues with a busy schedule today and tomorrow. Instead of writing anything of my own during my free time (totally ignoring all the blogging advice that says write content for yourself before reading other people's blogs), I have been quickly reading through new posts in my Bloglovin feed. I enjoyed several of them, and I wanted to share them here in case you missed them. 


2. Sometimes being blessed abundantly feels messy and unsure. Check out Mary's post My Cup Runneth Over (and it maketh a mess).


3. Rakhi's post You Are Precious To God is a beautiful reminder that every person has value and is loved.


4. The Right to be Comfortable: Sloping Toward a Stepford Society by Julie at These Walls is so, so good. Read it!


5. I hope that you are receiving the Blessed is She devotions in your inbox and that you have already read this morning's devotion by Britt Fisk. If not, please click over and read Letting Go of What others Think.


6. I am hosting a link-up to show some love and support to blogs with smaller readerships. It closes on Monday, February 9th at 11:55 pm est. Check out the post to read about some great blogs! And I would love for you to join the link-up! Here are the rules: 

Rules: 
Write a post featuring you favorite lesser known blogs. You know the ones that I am talking about, the blogs you love to read, but for some reason, the blog just doesn't have a big following. 

In your post list the blog name and author name(s), give an explanation of why you like reading the blog, and share one or two posts that you think are a must read. 

There is no limit to the number of lesser known blogs that you can write about in your post. It doesn't matter if you write about two, five, or ten. 

Bonus: If you have a small readership and you want to link to your favorite post, also, then go for it! 



7. In case you missed my posts last week, I wrote about my nonexistent relationship with my biological father and how I got over it, and  I also wrote about one of my favorite topics: diet, nutrition, and hormones




Linking up with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes
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