Friday, March 11, 2016

I've been thinking {Keepin' It Real Series}

It's been almost two months since Mom died.

I still don't feel like I'm completely "here". I still feel like I'm going through the motions of what is expected of me in life. I'm just existing.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Eat. Work. Sleep. Sleep some more. Can I have more sleep please?

The truth is, I could sleep all day. I don't want to deal with life because life is really hard right now. I want to check out. I want my pillow, my blanket and my comfy bed. I'm sorry. Iva can't come out and do life right now. Please leave a message at the beep. She won't be getting back to you.


 I'm seeing a doctor. I'm not ashamed to admit this. I'm a huge fan of talking and believe that most problems can be talked out. So, we talk every month. Well, I talk - he listens. But then he talks and I listen.

 And I've been doing a lot of listening. I've been trying to make sense of the noise that is going on in my head. Is it normal? I don't know what normal is right now because:

1) nobody really talks, really talks, about what they are going through. Put on a happy face because nobody really wants to be around a sad face. Sad faces make people uncomfortable. Especially when they can't fix them or don't understand what you're going through.
2) I'm treading new ground. I've never been here before. 
I'm turning 40 in a couple of months. I also started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

These two sentences are not unrelated.

At least I don't think they are.

I'm feeling a shift in how I'm feeling about everything in my life. I don't know if it's because I'm dealing with mom's death (I can't really use the past tense dealt. Will I ever truly get over this?) I don't know if it's because I'm turning 40 or if it's because I've been reading this amazing book about simplifying life.

The truth is: I'm tired of the noise. I'm tired of the insignificant. I cannot be bothered by things that I feel are not worth my time, my energy, or my emotion.

I've put myself out there for a long time. I am the classic People Pleaser. I bend so that others don't break. I've always put myself on the back burner while I give everyone else the best of me.

This is what good people do.

However, when that's not reciprocated, you're left with an injured spirit. You begin to give because you want to avoid the unpleasantness. After giving that way for 40 years of life, when the primary person who has hurt you over and over (and over) again is gone, your mind begins to shift. Suddenly, you wake up from a nightmare and what you discover is that who you've always been is not who you really are.

Who am I?

I am a wife, mother, sister, friend. I am a teacher, a nurturer, a healer. I am a writer, a thinker, and an inquisitive mind. I am a lot of good things. These things I do not want to change about myself. I like these things. I want these things. I don't want to lose these things. These things are at the root of who I am and I enjoy being those things.

Who am I not?

I'm not a doormat, a scapegoat, the cause of someone elses misery. I'm not a second thought, a pot on the back burner, or someone to be discarded at a whim.

I am learning that life is short. God might call me home tonight. He might call my husband or one of my children home (Please, God - don't take them now). When you are at your lowest, you find out who your true friends and family are.

Who are these people?

They are people with integrity, who can see through your walls and your pain and hurt and push through. The harder you push away, the harder they push back. They are the people who tell you the truth: words you don't always want to hear, but words you need to hear. They are people who allow you to be your own true self - full of fault, bruises, and a little darkness - and love you all the while. In short, they love you when you are unloveable. When you can't love yourself, they wrap you in their arms and love you more.

These are the type of people I want to make time for in this next chapter of my life. Not because I'm narcissistic but because this is how I love. This is how I've always loved and this is how I will continue to love. This is the only love I know how to give.

I'll love you during your highs and celebrate with you, but I'll especially love you in your lows and weep with you. I'll walk through the door when everyone else is walking out because that's who I am.

But this paradigm shift comes at a cost. You see, when you start changing, people aren't always open to your change. Why? They might like it when you're in a rut so they can feel superior to you. They might like it when you're in a rut so they can have company. They might like when you're in a rut because it means leaving them behind when you dig yourself out.

Whatever the reason, however good the change might be for me, it's painful.

But as my doctor said - change and growth, even if they are good things, hurt. Sometimes a lot.

And this is where I am currently. I'm trying to find my new balance. What does life look like right now?

I'm just trying to draw a map.

Until next time...Pin It
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Friday, December 25, 2015

{Planners for the Rest of Us} Unboxing: Uncalendar Lifestyles Pro

Since my mother's diagnosis three months ago, my life feels like it has gone off the rails. Friends, colleagues and family have assured me that on the outside, I'm holding it all together. But I know differently.

I know I can do better. {Read: I am a perfectionist.}

So, a couple of weeks ago, I was on Facebook, chatting with fellow You Need a Budget (YNAB) users and the discussion was: "How do you get it all done?"

Ever the student, I eagerly read comment and after comment (there were several) about how different people "got it done".

Someone mentioned the Uncalendar. Having never heard of it, I went on a search.

The website led to a pretty basic layout of an undated planner. What seemed unique about this undated calendar was 1) you could start at any time and 2) the creators broke it down that provided enough parameters for people to meet their goal while, simultaneously (and this is the genius part) allowing it to be completely customizable.

I was intrigued.

The next stop is where everyone goes to learn everything about nothing at all: YouTube.

What I discovered was that while there were tons of videos on planners (for every planner under the sun, including but not limited to, making your own from a dollar notebook), there weren't a whole lot for Uncalendars. But they were there, so I devoured everything I could on the subject. I even found (joy!) a Uncalendar Users Facebook group.

So, naturally with it being the Christmas season, I asked for it for Christmas. I asked for the Lifestyles Full-Size version and received the Lifestyles Pro Full-Size version. When I shared this on the Facebook group, I had several people beg for pictures of the planner (and even an unboxing. You can view it here, but I'm warning you - as my first video it is beyond rough. This why I've created this blog post. It's much, much less painful.)

I will be unboxing the Uncalendar exactly as I received it. I did spend a couple of hours this afternoon customizing it for my use. I will share that as a later date.

One thing I did mention in my video was the idea of creating a series for planners who were anything but natural planners. Certainly, I cannot be the only person who is grasping at straws trying to find something that works for her. If the interwebs has taught me anything, it's that whenever you think you're alone or unique, you are not. There are millions of people just like you. As such, whenever I write about the Uncalendar, I will label it Planners for the Rest of Us. Being new to the Uncalendar, I know that I'm going to be constantly tweaking my system. And I want to be transparent in my journey in hopes of it helps someone out there. If it does, great. If it doesn't, well that's okay, too.

Uncalendar Unboxing

The Uncalendar Lifestyles Pro Full Size comes in a 1 inch textured vinyl three-ring binder. There is a pocket inside the front cover. The planner comes divided into four tabs: Day/Week, Month/Goals, Notes/Techs and Data. Each tab is printed on durable card stock with suggested uses for each section.
First page of planner

Overview of planner

Suggested weekly schedule w/ example day



Suggested mantras for different areas of your life: Interacting w/ Others, Family, Personal Efficiency, Diet and Exercise

NOTEsystemPAPER (notes) suggestions

At the very back - and I believe this is what sets the Lifestyle Pro apart from the regular Lifestyle is a phone book/contacts log. As I mentioned in my video, most of my contacts are stored in my phone or on my various emails, however, as The Man Beast pointed out - if I'm ever in a training and I need to jot down contact information, this would be a good place to put it.
Index at the beginning of the address/contact log

Address/contact log (there are 40 contacts per page - front and back; contacts are divided up alphabetically: AB, CD, EF, GH, IJ, KL, MN, OPQ, RS, TU, VW, XYW)

Index at the back of address/index log (I'm not sure why - unless these are frequently used numbers/contacts OR these are the contacts you will carry into your next year's Uncalendar. Honestly, I see this part of my Uncalendar physically being moved to my new Uncalendar next year. This might change.
The Uncalendar is color-code with primary colors: red, yellow, blue, green and sometimes black (depending on the section).  While there are suggestions throughout, the general blocking of the planner is very empty (and thus customizable). 
Weekly planning page which is adjacent to Weekly page (52 of each)

Weekly layouts begin on Monday and end on Friday (with the weekends underneath in large blocks). Each day is divided into three sections. What these are used for is up to the user's discretion: morning/afternoon/evening; work, home, personal; home, personal, finance - options are endless)

Monthly goal planner sheet

Bottom of goal planner sheet (complete with larger grid for monthly tracking)

Monthly planning

Monthly layout (12)

Projection for the next year (appointments, planning, goals, etc)

Notes Section w/ blocking and large tracking grid

Full sheet, numbered (45 lines) note page

Data sheet (very large tracking grid) w/ boxed-out areas

Frequently used numbers (data sheet)

Three-year at-a-glance (data)

The Uncalendar comes in two sizes (half and full) with three color options (black, blue, and red). The Lifestyle (full and half size) come coiled-bound. All Lifestyle Pro planners come in three ring binders. The company also offers full and half size refill planners.

Prices are as follows: (Please note that since I received this planner as a gift, I do not have working knowledge of shipping cost, how the product is packaged or how long delivery takes - my apologies)

Lifestyle Pro

Lifestyle Pro Refill

I will get into how I am planning on using the planner in another blog post. This one is just to get readers a general idea of what the Uncalendar Lifestyles Pro entails.
While many product reviews found on the web offer paid compensation, I want readers to know that I in no way, shape, or form received any compensation of any kind for completely this unboxing. Like most people on the interwebs, I just like sharing.
Until next time,Pin It

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Healthy Outlets

Yesterday, I cried. 

I was on the brink of tears all day and managed to keep it together - because, you know, it's unprofessional to cry at work - right? My emotions didn't get the memo. A professional planning meeting and dropping the Littles off at PE were two such instances where I did not keep my emotions in check.

But yesterday, I did.

But I wasn't fooling anybody. I could never be in a position where I would have to lie (or not tell the whole truth) to protect a secret because, apparently, I wear my heart on my sleeve. At the very least, my eyes are an open window to my soul. They are a spiritual TMZ of the body. They know all. They tell all. All they don't care when it's appropriate.

So, even when I think I'm keeping it together; I'm really not. At least to those who have my figured out. And man! Do I hate that! On one hand, it's extremely comforting knowing that there are a select few on this planet that really understand how I work (and probably a little bit more than myself). This is comforting. However, it's extremely frustrating having these people in your space when you feel like you don't want to share what is going on in your head - either because you just don't want to share or because you don't know what's going on.

And yesterday was one such day. I didn't know what was going on. I didn't know what I was feeling exactly.

Magenta. That was me.

And I hid it well. Not really. But I managed.

Until I got home and TMB saw it all and asked those all-too-imposing questions that get the waterworks flowing.

What's wrong?

Everything. Nothing. I don't know.

And then I did. And then we talked. And then he said something extremely profound:

"You need to find a healthy outlet."

And I do. But what? What can I do that will relieve all the magenta feelings that well up inside of me, day after day?

And he's not the only person to say this. Several people who love me very much have said I need to find a healthy outlet. Recently, I was told that I give and give and give and if I don't take time for myself, all my giving is going to use me up. (It was a little bit more eloquent that that, but that was the general gist.)

I enjoy reading and now, since I'm on break, I feel almost certain that I can finish a book I started two weeks ago but haven't quite gotten through. I'm also pretty certain I can make it to the library before Thanksgiving to borrow the third book in the series (I love series, don't you?)

But the problem is, I don't feel refreshed when I read. If anything, it makes me feel more anxious - especially if a main character is going through something dramatic and I want to see him or her through to the very end.

My readers will understand that all readers go through this. It's just what we do.

But the problem is, it does not really renew anything. I can't even say it relaxes me. I do enjoy it and I will continue to enjoy it and will continue doing it (although not as much as I'd really hoped because I choose not to take time to read.) Still, that is not my healthy outlet.

Which brings me to writing.  Is writing my healthy outlet?

I believe that yes, it can be. I recently wrote a loved one an eight page letter, pouring out my love and support to them. (They will be receiving it soon, so I cannot reveal to whom the letter is addressed, lest they read my blog - and I really hope they do.) I remember having a great pen pal relationship with a friend in California. We would take a week or two to write to one another and we'd end up emailing pages and page of general chit chat to one another.

And I loved keeping in touch with my friend this way. I loved connecting with her trials and her joys. The "voice" in which we each wrote to one another was almost like we were talking face-to-face. I would laugh. I would cry. I used to devour those letters.

As I write this, I think I've discovered what my healthy outlet is. It is writing but more than that, it's connecting with people I love and cherish.

And it's the one thing that's really been missing in my life.

Once upon a time, I used to write. I wrote letters. I wrote stories. I wrote little anecdotes. Most of my writing was never read by anyone. And to be honest, putting some of my "stuffs" out in the open is very scary. I want to share but I'm afraid of what you will think about what I have to share. Will you like it? Will you agree with me? Will I insult you? Anger you? Will you reject me?

The People Pleaser in me shines through.

But despite it all, I still have that urge - that need - to connect with people. I'm not as eloquent live and in person as I tend to be on paper. Once upon a time, I was great on paper. I look back over past things I've written and I feel they were really well formulated. I feel I've lost that. No, "lost" is the wrong word. I've placed in the back burner - so much so that it's been collecting dust. It's still there. I just need to dust.

Ultimately, I feel the need to get my thoughts on paper (or screen). It's even more therapeutic when it's read and enjoyed by someone. Hence the letter writing.
I could be doing another type of writing. Every November, writers spend 30 days at their computers, at their desk or in coffee shops, pecking out 50,000-word documents for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I competed one year. I finished a manuscript. I have been meaning to flesh it out (50,000 words hardly constitutes a novel). Yet, there it sits, printed out in six manila envelopes, unedited. 
I contemplated participating this year, but thought with everything going on, I probably shouldn't add something else to my plate. I even commented on Facebook that while I couldn't do it this year, as a 40th birthday present to myself, I'd do it next. 
I still want to do that. But this morning, while I was taking a shower, I thought of two sequels to the novella I wrote in 2007. And I just know if I don't put something down on paper (or screen), I'm going to completely lose the ideas. I already lost a flash drive that had several stories on it. I really should get some ideas down and save them in a place where they won't accidentally get lost. (I suspect there was a rip in one of my purses and when I donated the purse, I didn't check the hole. 
For all I know, the person who bought the purse doesn't know that the flash drive is in there. Wouldn't it be spectacular if the person, tiring of the purse, donated it to the same store she bought it from and then on whim, I went to the store, found the purse, bought the purse, and found my flash drive?)
What a story that would make!
Until next time,
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Friday, October 9, 2015

Funerals are the for the living

Pin ItIt's been quite awhile since I've written anything on my blog. But seeing as how today marks the first day of a five-day weekend (Fall Break) and I have something I want to say, now is as good of time as any to get back to it.

My mom is dying.

There. I said it. Out loud. Well, in print. I've said it in my head a million times. I've said it to my mom in conversations. I've said it to my husband. I've said it to friends. But I don't think I've ever put it in print. I just did. And if it's on the internet, it's true.

Only, in this case, it really does happen to be true. No Google search will tell me what my mother's doctors haven't already.


A lot of cancer.

My mother and I have been pretty transparent about her passing. As time goes by, she has shared with me what she wants as her final wishes. I suspect I'm not the only one she's told, so I won't really be going through this alone. My husband is going through it. My children are going through it. My brother is going through it. My aunts and uncles and cousins are going through it.

But I'm the only daughter going through it.

Part of my mother's funeral includes readings from the old and new testaments as well as one psalm and one gospel. And my mother wants me to choose them.

As I'm reading through all of them, trying to find the perfect one, it suddenly dawns on me that funerals aren't for the dead.

They are for the living.

Once my mother is dead, she is dead. I do not believe in people coming back as spirits or angels. And to be honest, I really don't believe loved ones watch over us. So I do not believe my mother will be "hanging around" at her funeral.

As a believer, I believe my mother will be healed and she will no longer be in any kind of pain once she dies. I do believe in a Heaven and if what people tell me is true, I believe she will be there.

But one place I do not believe she will be is at her funeral.

But, that said, it's nice that God is giving her time to plan for her funeral. This saves loved ones the agonizing experience of choosing things when they are clouded by their grief and really don't know what the loved would have liked or wanted.

So, I'm reading through these verses and I feel like I'm just going through the motions. My mother is a new believer and unless she's studied the books of Isiah, Lamentations, Job, Psalms, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans or Revelation in detail, I don't think she's going to be familiar with many of them. I think the people in the congregation may have studied from these books, and as such, will be familiar with and comforted by them.

But mom? I don't think so.

I have contemplated if I wanted to speak at my mother's funeral or not. I wasn't sure what I would say. What I could say. Or what I wanted to say. (Maybe some things are better left unsaid.)

But then I had a revelation of sorts. I do believe in divine intervention and I do not believe in luck or coincidence.

I will speak at my mother's service.

But I will not read a verse from the Bible. I will let the minister do that.

Instead, I will read something that will mean the most to mom. The one constant that has kept her grounded, even if only by a thread at times.

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
- by Mary Stevenson
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Baby, it's hot outside!

Is it hot where you live? It's hot here. Not as hot as it has been, but it's still pretty toasty.

Add to the fact that we live in GA and we have humidity on top of it all.

People say humidity makes it hotter.

Does anyone really believe that?

 Sauna or over, hot is hot!

Being that it has been so hot, I haven't been keeping up with my walking like I should. But, I've decided that hot or not, I need to walk. During the winter and fall times, I don't walk with water. During the summer, I cannot walk without my water. So, I've been drinking quite a bit  more than I usually drink. And because I'm drinking more, I'm noticing how much my family is drinking. Which isn't a lot.

The Man Beast was really starting to notice that Baby Girl hasn't been drinking hardly any. He wanted to create a chart to help her chart her water.

Today, after coming home from my walk, I did a quick search for some charts that I could print out to get her started while TMB solidified his idea of a water chart.

And I found this one:
photo credit: Kids Food Fest
 It's absolutely perfect! Here's how I made it my own:
  • I added The Boy and Baby Girl's names to the chart
  • I labeled each glass of water for the days of the week
  • For the last glass of water, I labeled it "weekly total". The person who drinks the most for the week gets bragging rights
  • I added an over-all goal of 8 glasses of water a day/56 glasses of water for the week
Here is my personalized version:
But I've already altered it - even after putting it on my fridge!

It dawned on me that the cup TMB uses to drink his tea (now water, because tea doesn't count) is different than the cup I use to drink my tea (now water, because tea doesn't count) is different from the cup the kids use to drink their milk at dinner.


We're sticking with ounces. We are all going to try to get as close to 64 ounces a day (eight 8 ounce cups) with our own cups. That means that the kids technically only have to drink four of their cups a day. The Man Beast and I have to drink a little over three. If we go over - great!

Why the game/competative aspect? Shouldn't water have it's own rewards? Why would a non-competative family choose to do something so...competative?


Baby Girl gets a kick out of bragging rights. She's not a braggart, but she does enjoy winning.

As a family, we all need to drink more water. But as a family, we're supporting Baby Girl who isn't drinking hardly any water at all.

I can tell right now that The Boy and I are just along for the ride. We're going to settle for our four and three cups a day, respectively, and call it a day.

But it's on with the other two.

Until next time...
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Day I Cleaned Up My Friends List

Today, I went through my friends list and cleaned it up a bit.

 I unfriended a few - but not many (at least, not yet).

 I also played with a few Facebook settings. 

 You see, you can not only categorize your friends (so you can post content specific to that group - useful if you're sharing information with co-workers or family that is not pertinent to everyone on your friends list) and you can also choose to follow and/or get notificatoins when your friends post something.

 This is useful if you have a friend who is a heavy Facebook user who might flood your page with pictures and videos, preventing you from really seeing any other content from your other friends unless you scroll aaaaaalllll the way down on your page.

 And since it's a general consensus that Facebook can be a huge time suck, this feature is very beneficial.

 But I went through my friends list for a different reason. It dawned on me, that while I have over 350 friends, I rarely interact with any of them outside of Facebook. I can count on one hand the number of people who text me or call me. You might wonder why I would keep 300+ friends on my friends list if I only get contacted by five.

 There's a very real purpose.

 This is the breakdown of my friends list:
  • Family
  • Church Family
  • Co-Workers (Past and Present)
  • Friends (elementary, high school, and college)
  • Scouts
 It would appear that Facebook has become more of a bulletin board of happenings. Birthdays. Weddings. Prayer meetings. Yard sales. 
 It is not for social interaction. In fact, I get more social interaction from the groups I belong to than actual interaction from human beings I actually know. It's networking.
 That's not to say that I don't have anyone interacting with me on Facebook. I do. Especially when I post about hot button topics or ask hot button questions. Which is good. I have a wide range of friends - liberal, conservative, believers, non-believers. It's good to get discussions going.
 But it is not the platform to hold a conversation that could easily be held via text, over the phone, or (even better!) in person.
 So, while it's true that I have 300+ "friends", I don't *really* have 300+ friends - and that's okay.
 Family and friends are there when you need them. And some connections are stronger than others. If I had a flat tire, I know who I would call. If I needed help for other things, I knew I would call. Different friends serve different purposes and I think that's okay.
 So, I will keep my Facebook active because it's a great way to stay in touch with people (especially those who live far away). It's a great way to share pictures, recipes, and cute/funny/sad/emotional stories.
 I'm not dissing Facebook.
 I just need to be a better friend.
 Until next time, 
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