Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Menu Monday: Mexican Lasagna

I am always looking for something new to try. I have eaten several good Mexican Lasagnas. I have made a couple before that we merely "Ok." But, Friday night, I made this concoction and it was declared to be "really good" by both my hubby and youngest son.

Anyway, last week I saw a recipe on Facebook for Mexican Lasagna that sounded good. But, after reading several reviews I decided to make some massive changes.  As in, so massive it was a totally different recipe.

This link will take you to the recipe which inspired me. http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/mexican-lasagna?keycode=ZFB0314&utm_content=buffer43886&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer


I like to give credit where it is due. In this case, credit goes to the reviewers.  But, hey, I'm still giving credit.  Read the recipe. Read the reviews. Read my recipe. Then, go cook!! You'll be glad you did.



MEXICAN LASAGNA

10 Yellow Corn Tortillas
1 pound extra lean ground beef
Onions, chopped  - fresh OR the dried minced kind
Taco Seasoning - 1 pack OR  2-3 Tbsp. of homemade
1 small can chopped green chilies (I use mild)
2 Tbsp salsa (whatever heat your family likes)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese - OR MORE, I err on the side of more. :)
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed OR black beans, drained and rinsed.
2 cans Green Enchilada Sauce
Chili Powder

1.  Preheat oven to 350.
2.  Brown ground beef with onions. 
3.  Sprinkle in about 1/2 - 3/4 of the taco seasoning and green chilis.  Stir.
4.  Add about 1/2 can of enchilada sauce.  Mix well.
5.  Rinse the beans.  Put in a bowl.
6.  Sprinkle the remaining taco seasoning over the beans.  Add some onions and salsa.  Mix.
7.  Put the enchilada sauce in a shallow dish for dunking the tortillas.
8.  Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with non-stick spray.  Dunk 3 tortillas and put on the bottom of the dish, overlapping and covering the bottom of the dish.
9.  Spread half the meat mixture over the tortillas. 
10.  Put 1/3 of the cheese over the meat.
11.  Repeat with another layer of dunked tortillas.
12.  Spread the bean mixture over this layer of tortillas, top with 1/3 of the cheese.
13.   Another layer of dunked tortillas.
14.  Spread the remaining meat mixture.  Spoon the last of the enchilada sauce over the top of the casserole.   
15.  Top with the remaining cheese. 
16.  Cut the last tortilla into tiny strips and spread over the top of the casserole.
17.  Sprinkle with Chili powder.
18.  Bake for about 30 minutes.  Casserole is done when cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly around the sides.
19.  Serve with your favorite toppings.  May I recommend chopped tomatoes, green onions, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, extra cheese, etc.

***Some notes for next time.  The family and I agree that next time I make this, I should add fresh chopped cilantro, maybe a couple tablespoons, chopped.  I will update and let you know how wonderful it was.  Or wasn't.  :)  If you aren't a fan of cilantro, don't worry.  It's delicious without it. 

I will probably use black beans next time also.  Actually, that was the plan today, but when I went to the pantry No. Black. Beans.  So, I substituted pintos.

Now, time for a cup of coffee.  Typing all this made me very thirsty....   


Friday, March 28, 2014

How Will You Choose?

This has been a hard week for me.

Nothing in particular has happened to make it  a "bad" one. Just life in general. Well, that and a lack of proper focus brought on by what I call "Social Media-itis." 

I have seen so many people posting on Facebook and Twitter about things I want. Places they are going, things they are doing, special events....and I have been having a pity party for myself. 

All. Week. Long.

Until tonight, that is.

Tonight, I was reading a dear friend's status update where she referenced some things her family has had to deal with over the past few months. Then she mentioned discussing with her children that their response to this was UP TO THEM.

They had a choice.  Were these circumstances going to make them Better Or Bitter?

Oh. Wow.  Can we say "Light Bulb Moment" for Susan?  Because it most certainly was.  I can be bitter about things in my life not being as I wish they were.  Things that are totally and completely out of my control.  I can moan and groan and wish for different outcomes for the ones I do control. 

OR....

I can be better.  I can choose to see the positives, the many positives in the things I do have. I can choose to work harder and smarter to achieve my dreams.  I can choose to let my light shine. 

What is your choice today? 

My choice right now, today, is to choose JOY.  I choose to be Better. 

And, I choose to have another cup of coffee. 


 


As my children's middle school counsellor used to say on the announcements every morning.  "Make it a great day. Or not. The choice is UP TO YOU."

Choose well, my friends. 

Oh, if you are wondering, my friend's children are choosing to be better.  I'm so proud of them. They went with the hard choice. But, the right choice. They are growing and maturing and becoming wonderful Godly people - just like their parents. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cooking 101: How to make delicious Southern Mashed Potatoes

As usual, I am writing Monday's blog on Sunday evening since I have obligations on Monday morning. Plus, I like working ahead of schedule as much as possible to prevent not posting - which happened Friday. I am still not sure why I didn't get around to writing then.

Anyway.... back on topic. Again. Today it is cold and rainy. For dinner I made chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, peppered gravy (from a mix) and biscuits. It was delicious.

Since mashed potatoes are wonderfully easy and great comfort foods, I thought I would share with you how I make mine.  This is my version of my Mother's mashed potatoes. And, as we all know, Southern Moms are the BEST cooks in the world.  Mine in particular. I may or may not be biased.

So, with no further ado, here is how to make perfectly wonderful Southern Mashed Potatoes that are light and fluffy and perfect in every way like these.

 

 
Yum. 
Don't they look absolutely delicious.
Makes you want to dip into the screen with a spoon and have a bite, right?
Or is it just me?
 
 
 
Since we are now a family of four at our house, I only used 6 small potatoes.
These are Yukon Gold potatoes.
I prefer them for mashed potatoes.
Wash, peel and quarter them, then put them in a pot, cover them with water, and add salt.
Turn them on, cover and boil.
Just like below.

 
Once the potatoes have boiled and are nice and soft, it's time to drain off the hot water,
add butter, softened cream cheese and milk.

 
Looks like the beginnings of wonderful, don't you think?

 
Now that you have everything in there, put the pot back over low heat.
I like to do this so the butter and cream cheese melt into the potatoes nicely.
It also warms the milk so everything blends together beautifully.
 
 
Mash, mix, adding additional milk as necessary until the potatoes
are at your families preferred consistency. 
Salt and pepper.
Put in a bowl and serve.
 
 
Susan's Southern Mashed Potatoes
 
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 Tbsp cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup milk
Salt
Pepper
 
1. Put the potatoes in a pot, cover with water. Add salt (not too much).
2. Boil potatoes until soft. About 20 minutes.
3. Test with a fork.
4. When the potatoes are soft, drain.
5. Return potatoes in the pot back over low heat, add butter, cream cheese and a little milk to the pot.
6. Use a fork and begin to mash the potatoes, mixing in the butter, cheese and milk.
7. Continue mashing and mixing until all lumps are gone.
8. Add more milk as necessary to reach desired consistency.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
10. Serve and enjoy!!
 
 
**Note - Only keep over heat for as long as needed to melt the butter. Otherwise, you are going to burn the potatoes. Not very tasty. So, work relatively quickly or go ahead and turn off the heat. Better safe than sorry. 
 
Hope your family enjoys these potatoes as much as we do!!
 
***OOPS!!  Sorry I didn't get Monday's blog out until Wednesday. What can I say, life got in the way. I've barely opened my computer since writing this Sunday. Please forgive?

 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Doggie Days..

Bailey's world has been turned upside down today.



There are two men here working on our new HVAC system.  They are going in and out of the house, using power tools and making lots of noise.



Personally, I am thrilled our landlord decided to replace the system. Hopefully, it will be energy efficient.  Please, let the electric bill be lower this summer... 

Oops, back on topic.

Bailey does not know whether to be glad to see them or upset.  She isn't sure if she should protect me or if she should sit in my lap so I can protect her.  Most of the time she is sitting by me on the couch  as I blog, but when they are working on the front porch, she watches out the window and "talks" to them.



I'm not sure what the growls and barks mean, but I'm hoping it's friendly. She's wagging her tail, so I assume she is using nice doggie language.

Since she is still a puppy and unaccustomed to strangers, I am using this time for some intensive training. Especially the command "Stay."

Sam is also having problems dealing with the work being done. It's almost disturbing his sleep.

Almost.
If only you could hear him snoring...
 
 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Menu Monday - Banana Pudding

Pi/Pie day, also known as March 14, was a good day to make dessert. But, I made a pudding, not a pie. Not just any pudding, my hubby's favorite pudding - banana pudding. 

I will be truthful. His mother makes THE BEST banana pudding in the entire world. Over the years, I have tried to duplicate hers....and failed repeatedly. Mine are good.  They just aren't as good as hers. 



Recipe after recipe has been close, but not quite. Finally, I combined elements of my favorite recipes  to develop this recipe. It is the one my hubby requests now. If I put meringue on top, it would be really close to THE BEST. But, my meringue is awful, so I don't make it. 

We all have our Achilles Heel's.  Meringue is mine.  So I top my banana pudding with Whipped Cream, either from a can (like this) or if I'm really channeling Susie Homemaker, I make my own.


 
Here is how I make "My Banana Pudding"....
 
 
First, I crush vanilla wafers.  Some really tiny and some bigger pieces and put them in the bottom of this bowl.

 
Next, I thinly slice some bananas. My hubby loves bananas and he loves banana pudding, but he doesn't like a lot of bananas IN his pudding.  Go figure. Anyway, today I sliced 1.5 bananas for the pudding.  If the bananas are small, I slice two.

 
Next, mix the bananas with the vanilla wafers. It makes it easier later when I stir in the pudding. 

 
Then, I follow my Grandmother's pudding recipe for the pudding. Well, almost. I rarely have cornstarch. So, I substitute all purpose flour for the cornstarch.  
 
I would love to tell you where Grandmother got her recipe, but I have no idea.  She had a box of recipes that she used frequently. She pulled them out of cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, etc.  This is a copy of one of those pages.

 
When I make the pudding, I assemble everything by the stove so I can grab it quickly.  First, mix sugar, flour and salt, add the milk and heat. 

 
When the mixture starts to thicken, put a spoonful in the beaten eggs to temper them.  Scrambled eggs spoil pudding, so this is the best way to do it.  I add a spoonful at a time, until the eggs are warm.  Then, I stir the egg mixture into the pudding.

 
Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until it thickens.  Then, remove from heat and add butter and vanilla flavoring. Stir until the butter melts.

 
Now it's time to pour the pudding over the bananas and wafers.  Sorry for the out of focus picture. It was hard to snap a picture AND pour the pudding at the same time. 


 
Stir pudding into the mixture, smoothing out the top and cleaning off the sides of the bowl.  Doesn't that look yummy?

 
Time to finish by placing vanilla wafers on top.  Or, if you prefer, top with meringue and broil until the peaks are golden brown.
 
 
Serve and enjoy!!

 
 
 
Here are the step by step directions.
 
 
Susan's Banana Pudding
 
1 cup vanilla wafers, crushed
1.5 medium bananas sliced thin
3/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp all purpose flour (or 2 Tbsp cornstarch)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
2 slightly beaten egg yolks OR 1 well beaten egg (I use a whole egg)

2 Tbsp butter (Use the real thing, you'll be glad you did.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla wafers for topping
Meringue, optional
Whipped topping, optional

Crush the vanilla wafers and put in bottom of a bowl. Slice the banana and mix with wafers.

Next, prepare the pudding.  In a  saucepan, blend sugar, flour and salt; add milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir 1 Tbsp of hot mixture into eggs, adding 1-2 more Tbsp and stirring to temper the eggs.  Then, stir the egg mixture into the hot mixture. Return to heat and cook 2 minutes. 

Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla.  Stir to combine and melt butter.

Pour over banana and wafer mixture, stir. 

Top with vanilla wafers.  Or, if preferred, top with meringue and broil until golden brown.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Refrigerate left overs.

Friday, March 14, 2014

'Tis the "Achoo!!" Season...

Ahhh.... Spring is doing it's best to arrive in the Heart of Texas. The cold fronts aren't as cold and the warm fronts are getting warmer and lasting longer. 

It's raining - and pouring - enough for the grass to be growing.

Did you just sing that line? I did. 

And, growing grass means one thing at my house.  Allergies.  Lots of allergies.  Sniffling, sneezing, being tired and generally feeling "icky". 

Today, The Mr. and the teens mowed the yard. 



It took a lot of work, but they did a nice job. It's good to be able to see the squirrels as they are scampering across the yard.  Before they were getting lost in the jungle grass out there.

While they were cutting the yard and for a while afterwards, I ran away from home, in hopes of keeping my allergies from going into a full blown attack.

Panera is a great place to escape allergens. Coffee, food and lots of people to watch. Today, I was busy with the people in my mind though. It was writing day. In the midst of the commotion around me, I managed to write a respectable 1,137 words in just under two hours.

However, I discovered I have several minor characters who do not have names.  I need to name two husbands, a teen boy and a teen girl.

Do you know naming fictional characters is as difficult as naming your own children? At least, I find it to be so. Not going to speak for other author's on this point. But, it seems so important for them to have just the right name. You don't want a nice guy with a bad guy's name and vice versa. 

And, what do you name an attorney? I need to name one and nothing is coming to mind. My plan is for him to be a real jerk. Every book needs at least one, right? Or, maybe the management guy should be the jerk and the attorney should be a nice guy....  Who knows.

Writing is difficult. Can you tell?  So many different scenarios. So many different people. So many different ways they can act and react.

It boggles my mind.

But, I love it. Just give me another cup of coffee and let the ideas begin. 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Break Week

Well, we are halfway through Spring Break week. I have been looking at Facebook and seeing what other families are doing this week.

I am a tad bit jealous.

Disney World looks like a lot of fun. Until I remember the two sons who still live at home do not like amusement parks. Going to one is a study in torture rather than fun.

I see pictures of the beach, the sun, the sand, the waves. These pictures make me jealous too. Then, I remember what it's like to go to the beach. The time it takes to get there and the fact that an hour later, everyone is ready to leave.  It's just not worth it.

The mountains are too far away. Camping is a joke with my city bred boys. I enjoy it more than they do! None of the usual things appeal to my family when it comes to this week break.

The Mr. and I have discussed cleaning our garage. It is in disarray and has been since we moved here almost two years ago. Finding something in the myriad of boxes is an adventure in frustration.


 
Our plan was to begin on Monday morning.  By now it was to be clean, organized and ready for the next move. Whenever that may be.  The Mr. and I are prone to wander. Doesn't that line make you want to break out in song?



Anyway, back on topic.  So far, all we have managed is discussing cleaning. One day we slept late. Another we had other things to do.  Today it is too cold. I don't have high hopes for tomorrow either.  But, who knows.



Maybe we will clean it out this summer. If it isn't too hot.  In Texas.  Excuse me while I laugh myself silly. 

What have we done so far this week of Spring Break 2014? The short answer is relax.

We have barely stirred from home. There have been days where we merely took showers to put on clean jammies so we could watch television and play video games. It's sad, but true. I have managed to cook and do laundry. 

Oh, and The Mr. and I took a walk around the neighborhood yesterday before the cold front blew in. It was nice. We were selfish and didn't take the four legged creatures along so we could amble along slowly, looking at the flowers and trees in our neighbors yards.

I predict the second half of this break to be similar. With the exception of the garage. I really hope we do at least a little work out there. But, if it doesn't happen, I am not going to stress out about it. It's been that way almost two years. What's another year?  Right?

I do have another project I am just about to work on. Right now. As soon as I publish this post. I am going to attempt - yet again - to get my new (from Christmas) camera to work with my computer.  The iPhone pictures are okay, but I could be using ones that are SOOOOOO much better...

Btw, if you are wondering about my lack of ambition today, it's because I have only had one cup of coffee all day...and I didn't manage to drink all of it!  Seriously low on coffee.  Wonder if I can convince the Mr. to make more? 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Menu Monday - Famous Butter Chicken

Menu Monday!!

Do you do menus for your family?  Weekly? Bi-weekly?  Monthly?  Per pay period?

Or, do you cook whatever sounds good that day? 

I have done all of the above. 

Currently, I am making monthly menus and shopping once a month to have everything I need on hand, with the exception of milk, bread and fresh veggies.  I buy those once a week. 

Yes, you read that right.  A months worth of menus in an Excel spreadsheet.  The top part of the spreadsheet has the proposed meals, the bottom part is what I cooked each day also noting the days we ate left overs.

Recently, I made an easy recipe from Allrecipes.com.  Since my family enjoyed it so much, I am including it for you to try too.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Famous Butter Chicken

4 Boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1/2 - 1 stack Ritz Crackers, crushed
1 Egg, beaten with a splash of Half and Half or water
Garlic Powder to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Seasoned Salt to taste
Italian Seasoning to taste
2 Tbsp Butter, cut into small pats

1.  Pre-heat oven to 375.

2.  Lightly spray baking dish with oil.

3. Mix seasonings with cracker crumbs.  I used about 1/2 tsp of each spice.

4.  Dredge chicken breasts in egg wash and then coat with cracker crumbs.

5.  Place in baking dish.

6.  Put a pat of butter on top of each chicken breast.  Arrange the remaining butter around and between the chicken.  If you have any crumbs remaining, add them to the dish - optional.  We like lots of crunchies.  :)

7.  Put in oven and bake until done.  About 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken and heat of your oven.  Chicken is done when juices run clear. 

8.  Enjoy!

This is a link to the original recipe.   http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Famous-Butter-Chicken/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=famous%20butter%20chicken&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i1

I changed the recipe slightly by adding more spices and less butter than the original recipe. 

Please note, this is not a "to die for" recipe.  But, it is moist, juicy and with the addition of Italian seasoning has a nice flavor.  It's a BASIC recipe and is child friendly.  Depending on what you family likes, you can change the spices to reflect what your family enjoys. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

It's All About Passion.

When I was in second grade my teacher introduced the class to writing with an assignment to write a made up story about Halloween. The best part? It was a contest!  The winner received a dime. Second place, a nickel.

It was exciting when Mrs. Gilbreath announced the top stories, beginning with third place, then second. Imagine my shock, surprise and delight when she began to read the winner's story and it was mine. I remember the day clearly. It was the day my passion for writing began.

Somewhere in my parents attic in a box of treasured papers, is that story with the dime still taped to the top of the page. Every now and then, I dig out the box and read my favorite stories, poems and papers from my years in school. I laugh. I cry. I sigh.

Those treasures, the dime, the poems, the A's on college papers "no one" got A's for writing from difficult professors, were what made me want to write. There was always a story whirling in my brain. I had a secret desire to become an actress.  Then I discovered I had no acting talent even though I loved and felt alive on stage.

In college, reality set in.  I gave up my dreams of acting or writing the next Great American Novel. Instead, I chose to direct my artistic talents to a more normal career path, public relations. I have never worked a day in this field.  But, my first job out of college was as a reporter for my hometown newspaper.

Writing again.  I was in heaven. I loved it. Writing the news in an interesting way, communicating to my fellow citizens, was incredible. I often reminded myself of what one of my professors called newspaper reporting.  She dubbed it "literature in a hurry."  I'm sure she was quoting someone else, but I do not remember who.

Literature in a hurry. Ahhhhh, literature.  I loved reporting the facts, but to write literature.  I could only dream.  And, for many years, dreaming of writing is all I did.  Until two years ago when my husband and I had a candid conversation about our life goals and dreams. He encouraged me to pursue my dream.  I began writing the next day.

My usual writing spot, complete with my writing buddy, Bailey.


In my mind, a group of fictional people became real. They walk, talk and demand their stories be told. Nuances of their personalities come to life as I watch and listen strangers in stores, restaurants and cars driving down the road. A snippet of a song can spark an idea that sends me running to my computer to capture the essence of the story while it is fresh in my mind. 

The name of a ranch spurs me to write a Western. The story formulates as I drive to and from Dallas. It haunts me as I work on other stories that are also pressing to get out. The new story demands research to get the facts right. How did they ranch in the 1800's? I will soon know.

In my almost completed manuscript, Doug and Julie overcome numerous obstacles as they repair their marriage in the midst of a new home, new jobs, and a new puppy.

In the book, Doug gives Julie a Black Mouth Cur puppy,
just like Bailey.


The ideas flow as I write their story.  Ideas not only for them, but for secondary characters who demand I tell their story in future books.  Beginning manuscripts for future stories, filled with beginning dialog, scenes, and possible conflicts, are waiting for me to finish.

Somehow, in the midst of it all, I clean house, cook dinner, keep the laundry caught up, play with the dogs and spend time with my family.

But, always in a corner of my mind, my characters are waiting, watching and whispering, calling me back to my manuscripts.  Insisting I tell their story.  Now. While it is fresh and new.  Now.  While the fire is burning hot in my heart. Now. While I have time to enjoy the luxury of being an unknown author.

Now.

Now, I need another hot cup of coffee as I return to the saga of Doug and Julie. I wonder what will happen today?

You've heard about my passion, where it began and how it burns to get out.  It's your turn.  Grab a cup of coffee and tell me about your passion. When did it begin? Do you have that defining moment where you knew this  was what you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

When Life Intervenes

I am driven by schedules and to do lists.

The sense of accomplishment I feel when everything goes according to schedule and the last item is crossed off my list is like a runner's high as they push through the wall and run that last mile.  It is indeed a beautiful feeling.

When real life intervenes throwing off my schedule and preventing me from finishing my list, I get frustrated and angry.  It doesn't take much to ruin my day.

Sometimes it is from bad choices on my part. I have a bad habit of sitting down for "just a few minutes" on line or to watch a show I DVRed the night before and lose track of time. Hours later, I am behind schedule and angry.

Sometimes it is from necessity.  A doctor's appointment. A veterinarian appointment. An excessively long phone call. A 120 mile round trip to the commissary for the big grocery shopping once a month. Errands that must be run. A volunteer opportunity. A Bible study. A conference. A lunch meeting.

The list of distractions, of life, is endless.  And endlessly frustrating.

It is also indicative of a good life. We have a home. We have clean water, indoor plumbing. Electricity. Food. Phones. The freedom to come and go at will - to another city, to a Bible study, to meet with friends.

I recently realized something very important.  My sense of frustration, my anger when things go off schedule, is an attitude problem.

I have a bad attitude when things don't go my way. I blame everyone and everything for upsetting me. Rather than recognize my many blessings, I focuse on the negative.

So what if I had a long phone call. I got to talk with someone important in my life. That is a blessing. So what if they said something that upset me. I don't have to let it ruin my day. It is my choice how I react to what they said. 

Easier said than done. But, I'm a work in progress. I'm taking it one day at a time. Some days I take it an hour at a time. That's okay. Change is hard. Internal change is harder. It's worth the time and energy it will take.  I'm sure of it.

Do you deal with becoming easily frustrated too when your day doesn't go according to schedule? How do you cope? What helps you?  My coping mechanisms are music, prayer and deep cleaning.

And coffee. Lots of coffee. Speaking of which, my cup is empty. Time to pour more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where is My Muse?

This is becoming a habit. A bad habit.

Blog day rolls around and I have nothing to say.  Nothing.

Having nothing to say is highly unusual for me. Typically, I can rattle on for hours about nothing, or everything. But, suddenly, trying to find something to write about 3 times a week is causing my creativity to stop.

Complete and total halt.

No ideas.

No inspiration.

No intentional topics.

Nothing.

My brain turns into a blank. 

A zero.

I attempt to stimulate the creative juices. I send out pleas on Facebook asking what people want to read about. I tweet about it. I text my husband.

In desperation, I watch DVDs of my favorite tv show to see if that will jump start my brain. After all, Castle is a writer.  I am a writer. That should help, right?

After a few episodes, I consider watching Julie and Julia, the movie that inspired me to begin my blog. Of course, her blog was about cooking her way through Julia Child's cookbook. Um, sorry. Not even going to attempt that one. I can't do aspics. Or duck.

Oops, got distracted for a second. Back to the topic.

I need a muse. Someone or something to inspire me. To help me with that continual flow of inspiration to keep writing, to make the writing mean something, to have the words flow quickly and easily.

Yesterday, writing by the fire seemed to help. So, I built a fire. Do you know getting a fire going with wet kindling is not easily accomplished?  A topic for another day. Let's just say I have no junk mail now. 

What I do have is a roaring fire and a blog post written about nothing.  But, ideas are rolling about in my head for my novel. That is a good thing.

Now to keep them at the forefront until I can get them out of my head and in black and white. 

Where is my coffee? I need a cup. And another log for the fire.

Hmmm, I wonder if my husband will be okay if I use the fireplace this summer when the muse refuses to come?  Somehow, I doubt it....

Monday, February 24, 2014

I'll Do It.....Eventually.

That has been my mantra for the weekend leading into today. 

On Friday, I began thinking about what to write about, finally deciding to write about procrastination. Not only do I watch my kids procrastinate on a daily basis, they learned it from a master. Me.

I thought about writing it on Saturday, but I was busy. Saturday night, I put it off  to rest my weary bones. I told myself I would be refreshed and ready to write Sunday afternoon. But, then, I was tired and sore.

Plus, what is there to say about procrastination. Especially something new and witty. I thought of lists of what to do to procrastinate. Lists of how to recognize when you are procrastinating. Lists of how to stay on task so you don't procrastinate.

And, then I procrastinated writing down the lists, subsequently forgetting them.

Suddenly, in the midst of all my mental blogging, the calendar changed from Sunday to Monday.  My blog was due. 

Insert a loud gasp of despair here. 

What was a writer to do?

It's obvious, isn't it?  Continue to procrastinate.

Off to Bible study, then the grocery store. Home to unload and put away everything and eat lunch.

Laundry. Oh, my. Laundry must be done. Now. We will have nothing to wear, if I don't wash the clothes immediately. After all, I didn't do any laundry this weekend.

Then the house needed to be cleaned. The bathrooms, the beds, the floors. Ninety minutes later, the house looked and smelled great and I was tired. Who can write when exhausted?  Not me. It was necessary to refresh my mind by watching Castle episodes on DVD.

A writer watching a tv show about a writer. Quite inspirational, don't you think?

After two Castle episodes, and a nap, it was necessary to open the laptop and write something.  Somehow, someway, I managed to procrastinate writing today's blog while writing today's blog.  Diagram that sentence making sense of it if you can. :)

I think I need a cup or two or ten of coffee. I will get up and make some....later. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

10 Tips to Look and Feel Young

If you don't know me, can you accurately guess my age? Try. :)

Go ahead. I dare you. 



Most people are wrong by 10-15 years.  They are surprised to learn I four sons ages 16, 17, 20 and 21. The comment I frequently hear is "I thought you little kids. You barely look 30."

Either they are lying or I look young. Quite honestly, I don't care either way.  I LOVE hearing how young I look.  When I was 21 and people thought I was 14 it was a different matter. I was often offended.  Now, I will take any young year people want to assign me. 

I'm afraid part of staying young isn't just appearance, it is how I act.  Is that bad? Or good?  Who knows. 

How do I stay young?  Read on for my Top Ten Steps to Stay Young.

1.  Good genes. 

I must give credit where it is due.  My parents look younger than their years.  My grandparents did too.  So, part of my youthful appearance is genetics. I can take no credit for winning the genetic lottery.  But, I'm thankful for it every day.

Okay, so this step was unfair as you have no control over your genetics.  But, you can work with what nature gave you. 

2.  Eat Right.



Truth:  We are what we eat. Fuel your body with good nutrition on a daily basis and it will give you energy, keep you healthy and ultimately help you feel younger.  I strive to eat a healthy diet most of the time. To me, this means eating food which has been processed as little as possible.  Fresh meats. I love going to the butcher shop. Fresh fruits and veggies.  If fresh isn't possible, frozen works. If it's canned, I want it to come from my parents garden, canned by my Mother. I know what goes in those jars...and it's all good.

3.  Get enough sleep.

Yes, I know. Easier said than done. I have decided it's a matter of routine for me. Also easier said than done.

I am trying to go to bed at 10:00 every night. I fail most nights. But, when I do get to bed on time the next day is so much better as I am rested and ready to take on the world. Darken your room as much as possible. No tv while falling asleep.  Instead play white noise, music, a fan, etc., as you fall asleep.  Reading is a good tool too. Darken your e-reader though so it isn't giving off the dreaded "blue light".  No computer.  Put down the phone. 

4.  Moisturize!!

From the inside out. 

What? 

In other words, drink plenty of water. Your body needs it. Your internal organs are thirsty.  Go get a glass and start sipping.  Plus, the more water you drink, the better your skin looks.  Trust me.



And, while you are at it, use a good facial moisturizer.  Preferably one with sun protection. It makes a difference!

A good body lotion is good too. Why have dry skin if you don't have to?

5.  Don't Sit Down.

My parents are in their 80s and are two of the most active, youthful people I know. They don't sit down.  They have too much to do! They are working in the garden, growing vegetables. My Mom has an incredible flower filled yard. They cut and haul their own firewood! They are up and out and about, staying young by doing. What a great example they are to everyone who knows them. 



And, if my Mother sits down, she's piecing quilts and then quilting them by hand, sewing intricate patterns into the design.  Or, she is crocheting. Or cooking.  Or reading cook books for something new to make for dinner.  She is always busy.  Always.

*When Daddy sits down, he sleeps.

6.  Keep Learning. 

Just because your school days are over doesn't mean you should stop learning.  Our brains need to remain active too. Read.  Watch the news.  Stay current with what is happening locally, nationally and internationally. Take a class. Stretch your horizons. The more you open your mind to new thoughts, ideas and experiences, the younger you feel.

7. Relationships! 

Invest in the people around you, building and maintaining healthy relationships. Life isn't meant to be lived alone, but in community. Family, friends, acquaintances all have a place in our lives. In person, over the phone, on-line.  Reach out and reconnect with those you care about.  It is worth it.

If you are one of those people who "hates people," fine.  Get a dog.  Or a cat.  Something alive.  It's not good for people to be alone.



Haven't studies shown that people with a pet live longer, fuller lives?  Hmmm... Sounds like "Relationship."  They may not talk, but those furry four legged babies make a difference.
 
8.  Healthy Habits.

We all have habits.  Some good, some not so good.  Work on developing healthy habits. Like eating right, exercise, not smoking, etc. You know the drill. 

Add regular doctor's visits, medical and dental. 

And, positive mental habits. Stop talking to yourself in a way you wouldn't talk to others. Life is hard enough without being mean to yourself.

9.  Faith.

My faith is an integral part of who I am.  I know in whom I have placed my trust, who has saved me and cares for me.  Daily. Hourly. Sometimes Jesus is the only way I make it from one minute to the next. My faith sustains me through hard times and keeps things in perspective during the good times. I can't do it alone. I don't have to because I have a higher power carry me.



I'm not saying you have to believe as I do.  My point is humans are physical, emotional and spiritual beings.  To be truly healthy, we must care for all aspects of ourselves.

10.  Age is an ATTITUDE.

If you think you are old, and say you are old, you begin to act old.  Next thing you know, you are old.  Stop it!  You are only as old as you feel. 

My brain is stuck somewhere in my mid to late 20s.  I still feel that age.  Frequently I am surprised when I look in the mirror. Really! What do I do? I put on some make up, fix my hair and smile.  It's hard to look and feel old when you think you are young.

Anti-aging tip: 

Please don't make the mistake of thinking you can dress or act like someone who is 16 - or like you did when you were 16. Nothing ages you quicker than trying too hard to look young. Watch re-runs of What Not to Wear. When dressed age appropriately, with appropriate hair and make up, the "victims" suddenly looked younger!  Amazing! 

Bonus:  Forget Diamonds - Make up is a girl's Best Friend. 

I can't believe I am sharing this, but here goes.  Pictures of me today before and after make up. 



I use minimal make up.  Moisturizer, foundation, mascara, eye shadow and brow pencil.  Sometimes light pink or coral lip stick.  That's all.  But, what a difference, huh?


Youth is wonderful.  Looking and feeling young are great.  But, I wouldn't change my age, the wisdom I have gained, for anything. As I have aged, I have learned to accept the changes and the challenges, with grace.  I hope you are learning this too.

Much love, and another cup of coffee,
Susan

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rewind That, Please

I love my DVR. 

I'm talking, seriously love my DVR.  

I can pause tv if someone is talking so I can pay attention to what they are saying.  I can rewind things I missed, or didn't hear because someone was talking, etc.  I can pause a show and begin watching it 15 minutes in to skip commercials.  I can set it to record so I don't miss any of my favorite shows. 

The case could be made that I am addicted to my DVR.  Considering what I did this morning, I would be found guilty and convicted of this addiction.

Let me set the scene. 

It was 7:30.  The two teens and I were in the car on our short 2 mile drive to their school.  The radio was on.  We were talking.  Traffic was heavy and we were behind a bus.  Traffic was moving slowly, as usual and we were stopping at every light.  Every.  Single.  Light.

"Did you hear that?" I say, looking at both boys.

"Hear what?"  Patrick looks up from his cell phone.

"No," Daniel says from the back seat.

"The bus in front of us has crazy loud brakes.  Listen,"  My hand fumbled around the console looking for the remote. 

So I can rewind what just happened.



Yes.  That's right.  I was trying to rewind real life.  While driving.  In traffic. 

I felt silly. 

I admitted what I had done. 

We laughed about it and the teens admitted they often attempted to do the same thing.  Either to replay something great or something incredibly stupid. 

Technology is a great thing.  I love technology.  It makes my day so much easier and more enjoyable in many ways. 

But, this morning made me question how technology has taken control of me being "in the moment" with my family, friends, and life in general.  Am I only half way paying attention because I am so accustomed to being able to pause, rewind and replay practically everything except real life? 

I don't know about you, but I am committing to being present, truly present with the people in my life so I can record all the wonderful, silly and everyday moments in the dvr of my heart and mind.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Great Lost Art of Conversation

Valentine's Day was Friday.  A day for love, for romance, for spending time with the person you want to be with.

Some call it a "forced" holiday.  I've have frequently lamented the commercialism of the day.  But, I have never discounted taking a day to recognize someone special in my life.  And, I admit I enjoy being the recipient of Valentine's Day presents.  Like the ones in the picture below.



 I left out the candy and card from my husband.  But, aren't these bears adorable? 
The flowers are so pretty and fragrant.
Ahhhh....  Bliss. I do love a mixed arrangement. 

If Valentine's Day was the ONLY time he ever acknowledged our love, I would not be a happily married woman.  But, he shows me every day how much he cares and treasures our relationship. 

It's in the everyday things, like taking the trash to the curb, getting up early on Saturday morning to take a teen somewhere and letting me sleep in, making coffee and bringing me a cup in bed on Sunday morning to help me wake up, the kiss goodbye before he leaves, the kiss hello as soon as he comes home or a surprise hug while I am cooking.   

But, most of all, he takes time for me.  To talk with me.  To really listen.  We have great conversations.  It's one of the many reasons I fell in love with him.  I love talking to him, listening to his ideas and sharing mine.  Talking about our hopes and dreams.  Sharing our past adventures and misadventures. 

Friday night, he left his phone in the car, mine stayed in my purse available if the boys had a cooking question or emergency.  As we waited for our turn to be seated in the restaurant, we held hands and chatted and enjoyed one of our favorite pastimes, people watching. 

We noticed something about almost every couple there.  They walked up hand in hand, looking so loving and happy, wearing their Valentine's Day best.  Almost as soon as they sat down in the waiting area prior to being seated in the restaurant, they separated almost turning back to back as they pulled out their smart phones and began to "talk" to other people. 

Once inside, we watched people at the surrounding tables.  Almost, without exception, the younger the couples, the more likely they were to have their phones out and less time was spent talking with their real live, in person companion. Not only were they not engaging with their date, they didn't seem happy. 

However, the older the couple, the more engaged they were with each other.  The happier they seemed.  And, no phones or other electronics were seen.  They talked to each other.  They seemed to enjoy each other's company.  They smiled more.  They looked in each other's eyes while talking.  They were having a great time together. 

My hubby and I watched and discussed what we were seeing around us.  It made us glad we have made it a point to ban our phones and other electronic devices at certain times, not only with each other, but with our family as a whole. 

How do we do this? 

We have an electronic free dinner table. We sit at the table, eat and talk together as a family, discussing our day, politics, religion and everything in between. 

Some days we will gather in front of the tv for dinner, but those are generally few and far between.  And, even then, the tv is the only electronic device allowed.  We still engage each other in  conversation. 

Our weekends aren't electronics free.  But, we do make an effort to spend less time on-line. It's our family time and we guard it closely. 

Do you have times when you ban electronics from your life?  How do you continue to grow with your family?  Do you feel like conversation is a lost art in your home? your relationships? you life in general?  Do you plan to make changes?  How?  When? 

Time for a cup of coffee and conversation.   

Friday, February 14, 2014

Breakfast, the Meal of Champions?

Happy Valentine's Day! 

In thinking about the people I love most, my family, and remembering I had an idea about feeding them waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote this last night.  Since then, I have been to the grocery store, read labels and cooked a "from scratch" breakfast this morning.  Chocolate chip scones and scrambled eggs.  It was a perfect "Valentine's Day" way to wake up.  Not necessarily the most nutritious, but it was at least not pre-packaged and totally filled with preservatives....well, except for the ones in the flour, sugar and chocolate chips....  Great, I have failed in my objective already.  But, onto the post!



As usual, a few weeks ago I was scrambling for a blog post when I saw a Facebook status that sparked my interest.  I didn't write the post that day, but I did save it for future reference.

With permission, this is what it said: 

"Thought I had this morning as I had a few cookies for breakfast: Momma would fix pancakes, waffles, toaster pastries, or biscuits and Karo syrup, but wouldn't let me eat a piece of cake or pie for breakfast because it was too early for sweets.  LOL!"

Sandie's post made me think about things I frequently make for my family for breakfast.

I know you are curious about what you will find on my breakfast table.  Here is a partial list:

Biscuits
Eggs
Bacon
Sausage
Breakfast Sandwiches - English muffin with Canadian bacon, eggs, cheese and bacon
Pancakes
Waffles
Biscuits and Chocolate Gravy
Biscuits and Sausage Gravy
Hash browns
Scones
Muffins - chocolate chip, blue berry, strawberry, wild berry, lemon
Cereal
French Toast Sticks
French Toast
Cinnamon Rolls
Toast
Fruit
Yogurt
Breakfast casserole
Kolaches with sausage and cheese
and, on special occasions, Donuts 

The meal I make most often is bacon, eggs and biscuits.  It is quick and easy to fix.  Everyone likes it.  Very little left, so I feel pretty good about sending them off for the day.  At least, I did until I took a good look at the list and realized a lot of the things on there are from pre-packaged mixes (muffins, gravy) or cans (biscuits, cinnamon rolls) or a store/restaurant (kolaches, donuts, yogurt, cereal) or frozen (hash browns, French toast sticks) or full of preservatives (sausage, bacon, Canadian bacon). 

Suddenly, I'm not feeling too great about what I serve my family.  What is a Mom to do?  Especially one who refers to herself only half jokingly as "Susie Homemaker?"

So, I'm challenging myself for a week to try to do better. To cook nutritious breakfasts for my family.  From scratch, as much as possible.  Here are the "rules" I will follow over the next week.

1.  No canned stuff - biscuits, cinnamon rolls
2.  No eating out - kolaches, donuts
3.  No pre-packaged food - cereal, French toast sticks
4.  "Reasonable" portions of sausage and bacon. 
5.  No packaged mixes - muffins, gravy

I'm wondering if this change will make a difference in how we feel this week.  Will the kids feel better?  Will we have more energy?  Will we be mentally alert?  Will we stay full until lunch or crash mid morning?

Anyone willing to join me in this ambitious challenge for a week?  Sign up in the comments below and report back next Friday how you felt after a week of "real" food for breakfast. 

Take a deep breath, a big sip of coffee and join me in this challenge!  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Behind Schedule...

Is there anything more delicious than finding out at 9:00 pm that school is delayed 2 hours the following morning?


Yes!


Sleeping in two extra hours the following morning! 


This was what happened here last night.  It was great to have a leisurely morning, making pancakes for the family before realizing we were *this close* to being late. 


What is it about school starting at 10:00 that puts you behind schedule?  You sleep in, you feel like you have all morning ahead of you and then suddenly, you are in a rush, trying to get ready to go in time. 


Once home from dropping the boys at school, I realized this now put me 2 hours behind for cleaning and writing.  What to do... 


Stick to the schedule!  Instead of sitting down to Facebook and Twitter this morning, I did a quick post, closed the Kindle, put down my phone and got busy. 


Laundry.  Beds.  Vacuum.  Kitchen.  Bathrooms.  Shower.


Now, I am finally kicking back, finishing my second bottle of water, watching pairs figure skating which I DVRed yesterday.  It's time to grab some lunch, take my vitamins and have a second cup of coffee. 


Then, I can move onto the rest of my schedule:  making dinner and writing. 


Thankfully, dinner is basically ready.  We had roast last night.  After lunch, I will shred the remaining beef and warm it in the crockpot this afternoon.  I will cut a green pepper and onion to saute before time to eat. Last I will grate some Swiss cheese and split the rolls I bought yesterday.  All we have to do, is build our sandwiches and broil them a bit to melt the cheese.  Yummy! 


Writing.  Wow, I am so behind there.  I have been working on writing Chapter 11 for a while now.  Actually, I haven't been writing, because I wasn't sure how I wanted/needed it to end.  It took a few days of letting it marinate in my brain.  Now, I know what needs to happen to take me into the next chapter.  Whew.  Now, to write it.  :)


Hope you are having a fantastic day.  I need coffee....

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rainy and Monday....How to get thru it, Susan Style. :)

Cold cloudy, rainy days make me want to do certain things.






Like..... 






Cook!  Especially baking yummy desserts or bread.  Don't you love the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or warm bread.  Ahhhhh.....  I can practically smell them now.


Read!  I love a good book on a cold rainy day.  There is something so satisfying about curling up in front of the fire with a book and a dog or two and reading.  Add a cup of coffee and a freshly baked cookie and I am in heaven. 


Stay in my jammies!   As soon as I don't have to be anywhere else for the day, you can almost be certain to find me wearing my comfy jammies as I sit in front of the fire, drinking coffee and reading. 






Write!  Writers are readers, but we are also writers.  After a reading vacation, sometimes my fingers are itching to get back to my story.  Plus, the laptop actually in my lap helps me stay warm.  Win win!






Eat!  Well, if I'm going to cook, I am certainly going to eat.  Comfort foods are the best.  One of my favorites is breakfast for dinner.  Yummy.  Love pancakes with maple syrup, sausage and bacon on a cold winter's evening.  Is there anything better?  Other than a pot of soup, that is?


What do you like to do when it's cold and icky outside?  Comment and let me know.  You can be sure I'll be drinking coffee and reading as I wait to find out.  :) 


Sorry there are no pictures today.  For some reason, I couldn't get them to load.  Maybe Wednesday.  :)



Friday, February 7, 2014

Housecleaning, Susan Style

Okay y'all, today I am keeping it real. I am debating including pictures.  Not sure I want it to be that real.  :)


Today's confession:  I love a clean house.  Squeaky, sparkly, wonderfully clean.  Once, long ago, I had one.  My mantra was "A place for everything and everything in it's place."  Always.  I lived alone with no pets.  Not even a fish. 


Then I got married.  But it was easy to maintain my high standards. I planned to work, but we found out I was pregnant.  Together we made the BEST decision of my life - to be a Stay at Home Mommy.


Over the first 6 years, one month and seven days of marriage we added 4 sons to our family.  No joke.  Our 6th anniversary was Dec 21, son #4 was born on January 28.  Nice, huh? 


The not so nice part:  The house went from sparkling and squeaky clean to a dirty disaster zone.  It was a slow, but steady decline.


Me, the girl who prided herself on having a spotless home, was now barely able keep the dishes washed and a clear area in the floor for the kids to play.  I tried, spending all day, picking up stuff and fussing at the kids.  Or yelling in frustration.  Or crying. 


I was as big a mess as my house.


Enter a good friend who saw me struggling, trying to keep things clean and basically losing my mind in the never ending chaos of my life.   She asked if I had heard of The Flylady and suggested I check it out her website, www.Flylady.net.  So, I did. I didn't think it would work for me. But, what I was doing wasn't working, so I decided to try it.  I printed a bunch of lists and cleaned my sink.


Long story short, the routines worked. It took a while to turn my chaotic, messy house back into a clean and happy home.  But, it happened.  Slowly, but surely. The kids even got involved.  It was fun. 


What?  We were having fun cleaning house???


Yes, indeed!  Turning on music and making it a game changed my perspective.  Racing to beat the clock?  Genius idea.  We would work for 15 minutes then play for 45.  The timer became our best friend.  The house was clean.  I was a nice Mommy again. 


Fast forward 15 years.  What does my house look like now?


It is relatively clean.  Certainly not the spotless abode of my early years living alone, but it's acceptable.   


The bathrooms are clean, the kitchen is clean enough.  We have dogs, so fur adorns our furniture and clothing.  We have clutter.  Laundry is on-going, but not overwhelming.  The baseboards need cleaning.  My refrigerator is clear of science projects, but has drips that need cleaned.  There are finger prints on walls, doors and light switches.  The furniture is dusty.  The carpets are okay and the tile has been swept, but needs mopped.  The beds are made.  Stacks of clean laundry need to be put away.


Told you I was keeping it real.  :) 


How do I keep my home in this state of lived in "clean enough?"  This is my daily routine when I get home from dropping the kids at school:


Gather any stray dirty clothes, sort and start a load of laundry. 
Patrick's bedroom:  make the bed, vacuum and leave. 
Daniel's room: make the bed, vacuum, feed his fish and leave. 
The office (our guest room):  vacuum, straighten the desk and leave. 
Hallway bathroom: spray the tub.  Clean toilet.  Wipe the sink and counter. Wash  hands and leave. 
My room: make the bed, put away clean clothes and vacuum.  Deal with clutter and leave. 
Living room:  Clean out the fireplace and sweep the hearth.  Start a fire.  Pick up the dog toys.  Pick up and deal with any clutter.  Vacuum the carpet, concentrating on the area rug where the dogs lay most of the time.  Fold the afghans, put over the back of the couch.  Put my purse, keys and sunglasses by the door so I can find them when it's time to leave again.  Think about dusting.  Laugh.
Grab the broom:  Sweep the kitchen, bathrooms and hallway. 
Kitchen:  Put away clean dishes from the counter.  Stack dirty dishes in the sink.  I have people (teens) who load and unload the dishwasher and hand wash.  Clear the clutter from the breakfast bar and table, tossing trash and putting things where they belong.  Think about dinner.  Start it in the crock pot or check for ingredients for later.
My bathroom: clean the toilet, sink and counters.  Take a shower. Spray shower with cleaner.  Put on make up and do hair. 
Laundry room:  Move clothes to dryer, start washing another load. Take folded clean clothes to boys bedrooms, add to their stacks and leave. 


By this time I have done the above it is between 11-12.   The house is reasonably clean. I am showered, dressed, hair is done, make up is on and I am ready to write.  I still need to dust and mop.  But, we do those on the weekend with everyone pitching in. 


Yes, my baseboards and dirty and the tops of my doors would not pass a white glove inspection more often than one day a year.  The house could use a deep cleaning.  That's what a week of Spring Cleaning is for, right? :)


And, we live here.  We really LIVE here.  We laugh, we love, we play games.  We talk.  We watch football.  We eat.  We sleep.  You get the idea.  This is our home.  It isn't a museum.  It isn't a model house.  It's a comfortable place to be.  And, we like it this way.


So, if dirty baseboards, dusty blinds and fingerprints bother you, don't come to my house.  But, if you can overlook them and want to enjoy some homemade brownies and conversation with my dogs snoring under our feet, come on over.  I have a freshly brewed pot of coffee ready and waiting. Come on over.  :)


Um, yeah, I thought about it.  No pictures.  
   

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Boundaries

Last night, I was reading Facebook status updates and comments and noticed a trend.  People have trouble drawing boundaries....

...with our friends.
...with our co-workers.
...with our families.
...with people on-line.

Why? 

Why do we try to please everyone?  To make them happy at the expense of our happiness?  To always let them win?

Is it ever okay to do those things?  Sure.  Sometimes.

When it doesn't really matter. 
When it isn't a priority. 
When it doesn't hurt someone else. 
When it doesn't hurt you or make you feel less than. 

When is it NOT okay?

When it matters, deeply, to you. 
When it is a priority. 
When it hurts someone. 
When it makes you feel less than, or not good enough, or unwanted. 
When you feel like you have to be perfect to keep them from saying nasty things to you. 
When you walk on egg shells afraid of setting them off.....again.

I don't know about you, but there are people in my life who require me to put up boundaries.

Many times these people do not know their words or actions affect me negatively.  Or, if they do, they think it's okay because they are "just telling the truth" or if I tell them they hurt me they say I'm "too sensitive."

So, I have drawn boundaries.  

How?

Depends on the situation, person, etc.  If it's Facebook, I unfriend or block them.  Remember, you don't have to accept friend requests.  And, if you do and it turns toxic, you can delete or block them.  If you have people who are there to get information so they can talk about you behind your back. 

Delete! 

Block! 

Seriously. Clean up your friends list.  I promise, you will feel so much better.  Just. Do. It.

In real life it's more difficult, but it can be done. 

If it is a friend or family member who doesn't live with you, be unavailable. 

"Sorry, I can't go."  You don't have to say WHY.  You just say no.  Don't invite them over.  If they arrive uninvited or without calling, either don't answer the door or keep them at the door.  Seriously!!  Chat a moment and then say goodbye.  Close the door.  Unless they have a key, they aren't getting inside.  If they do have a key, ask for it back.  People who hurt you do not get an all access pass to your home.  Ever.

Keep conversations to a minimum and over the phone.  It's easy to get off the phone.  You hang up!  If they call back, you don't have to answer.  Especially if they are being mean and nasty that day.  If you have to see them, go to their house. You get to decide when to leave. 

Master the art of
*walking away. 
*refusing to discuss certain topics. 
*changing the subject. 

If they live with you, I'm sorry.  Walking away, changing the subject and leaving the room aren't always possible.  Or easy.  You may need to consider counselling either together or separate.   

About 10 years ago I had a situation and needed guidance so I spoke with my pastor.  He listened.  He let me cry.  He asked questions.  Then, he pulled a book from the shelf behind him and handed it to me.  

The book was "Boundaries" by Drs. Cloud and Townsend.  When I got over being angry at the pastor for not telling me what I wanted to hear, I read the book.  I thought about it.  I read it again.  Then I put it into practice.  It took 2 years to truly establish them, but now I have healthy boundaries. 

And, the pastor did say if the book didn't help, counselling might be in order to learn how to set boundaries so others will respect my feelings, my emotions, etc.    

Whew, I need a cup of coffee now. 

*This is not a paid endorsement.  Also, I am not a doctor, counsellor or otherwise authorized to give emotional, personal or relationship advice.  I'm simply telling what worked for me.*
 
**For the curious people reading this, the person requiring a boundary was not my husband or one of our sons.  It was someone outside my home.**

Friday, January 31, 2014

Saying "No" Gracefully

I was recently given an opportunity to do something I truly want to do but didn't expect to have the chance to do.

But, included in the offer were things I most certainly did not want to do.

Hello internal conflict. 

Was I supposed to take this offer?  Should I say yes?  Should I say no?  Everything in my being screamed "SAY NO!!!"

But....it was a church thing.  Aren't you 'supposed' to say yes to church things?  I mean, it's like a requirement, right?

 




Hello Guilt.

I really should say yes.  It's the right thing to do.  I may not be asked again if I say no.  Is saying no to the opportunity saying no to God?  Is saying yes the right thing when I don't feel like it is the right thing?  Do I trust my feelings?  Do I trust myself?  Do I trust my prayers?  Have they been answered by my internal conflict telling me "Don't do it!!"???

Two days I my mind whirled.  My stomach hurt.  My heart ached.  What should I do? 

Finally, I made the decision.  I was going to say "No."

Oh great.  HOW am I supposed to say "No" to church?

I sat at my computer.  I stared at the blank email.  I prayed.  Really, I did.  Then, I started to type. 

Do you know the verse about God giving you the words to speak when you don't know what to say?  It is true.  The words had to come from him because I am not this graceful. 

I began with a sincere thank you for the opportunity.  I expressed a desire to help.  Then I transitioned into the fact that this particular opportunity was not one I felt was correct for me at this time.  I gave my reasons.  And, then I ended it with, "I feel I should step aside and give someone else the opportunity to serve."

Deep breath in.  Hold it.  Hit "Send" and exhale loudly.

I prayed my answer would be read and received in the manner I intended.

It was. 

WHEW! 

Included was a comment about how much they appreciated me feeling comfortable enough to be honest with my reasons for turning it down and that I would be considered in the future for other things. 

Who knows, saying "No" to a good thing may lead to eventually saying "Yes" to a great thing.  It's all in how you go about it.  Be graceful.  Honey really is more attractive than vinegar.  Unless you are cleaning.  But, that's a post for another day.  :)

This picture was taken when I returned home from Bible study Monday. 
To me, its beauty symbolized that I had made the right choice.