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Olivers Labels Agent, Sara Panza

Little Blessings.

I haven’t talked about this in ages, which was just in passing when I said it, but I teach Sunday school. Crazy right? Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because my mom used to teach and she started the Children’s Liturgy program at our church. (when the kids go hear the readings on their level while the grownups listen to the readings in the church)

Anyway, this Sunday we talked about the Beatitudes. Basically it’s the way to be blessings and be happy.

To keep the kids busy, they’re in kinder and there’s only so much talking we can do before they space out–think like 5 minutes–we do crafts. Since we talked about the Beatitudes, you can guess what we did. Beeeee-atitudes. Bee a blessing. Bee happy.

It was a fun little craft and even though most of our class ends up a fun arts and craft session, I hope that drilling our concept in while we work on the project gets them to take it with them. But it stuck with me too.

We talked about the blessings all around us. Have you ever really stopped to think about your blessings? Seriously. Your house, your clothes, your heat, your vehicle, your job (or not, if you get to stay home), the soap you washed your face with. EVERYTHING. We often forget about every little thing till we see someone without. Till our kids call it out and we have to explain why the man on the corner is holding the sign and why doesn’t he have a job? Till we talk to our kids about why no one at school says hi to the janitors or knows them by name, but how we do.

none

We talked about how we could be blessings to others. Giving a hug, cleaning our room, writing a note.

Ava and I went to get groceries together on Sunday afternoon. Usual chore, nothing extraordinary about it. Until she asked if we could get Gma a balloon.

Gma is my mom, if you’re new here. I lost her to cancer 9 years this year. Gah, it’s jarring to say that. Wow. Sometimes we send up a balloon to her just to say hi, and our local grocery store used to have free balloons so we’d grab one and go on our way. Ava wanted to get one to say Happy Valentines Day.

We’re always in a rush and I usually say no. It’s usually after work, it’s night time. It’s raining. It’s something or something or something else. Allie never understands and she just gets upset that we’ve let go of the balloon. Even though neither of them knew her, for some reason I’ve done a better job of teaching Ava about Gma. Allie knows, and sometimes she surprises me with the things she says about her. But it’s not the same.

Today I said yes, we could get a balloon. She picked the balloon thoughtfully from the bunch. We walked to the car on that warm afternoon and she told me we had to be sure we weren’t near a tree. We had to be sure it got to her.

I always take a pic of her when she does this. For some reason I just have to. It’s just a special thing for us.

As she let it go, we both watched as it slowly climbed up, up, and away. The groceries waited and we gazed with awe as it just seemed to float up with purpose till it magically disappeared. Not into a tree, or behind a building, but just into the clouds. She knew that it would get to her. She knew  that she’d get it and be so happy.

I love that she believes. I love that she loves her.

I left with a smile and thanked her for asking me to send up this reminder.

She was my blessing that regular old Sunday afternoon, and she didn’t even know it.

She is Me

My baby is getting older. But she’s just not a baby anymore.

Every night, I put her to bed and we say prayers and I get sad, every night. I look at her and don’t see the baby face I used to. I don’t see the little girl in the little pajamas under the flowery little bedspread. She’s under her lovely quilt in her tee or something else that doesn’t have a picture of Frozen. Sometimes, I get lucky and she’s wearing her princess night gown. Only because she’s hot.

She’s 9 going on 15. That’s probably the worst part. We butt heads. All the time.

There is yelling. Back and forth. We’re both yelling. She has feelings. All of the feelings and sometimes she just can’t control herself and I just have to remind myself (usually after the blowups on both sides) that it’s probably hormones. *Tears and Yikes*

But then my sweet girl comes back and I breathe a sigh of relief.

Then there’s the arguments she makes when she’s exasperated and making her case for why we’re accusing her of something she didn’t do (she usually did it).

click the image to link to original post for bookmarks

click the image to link to original post for bookmarks

Then during our most recent drama, preparations for Valentines Day cards. She desparately wanted to finish her Valentine bookmarks without allowing me time to get her a hole punch to add ribbon to the top. That would mean an extra day before she got to finish them. She wanted them done on Sunday. She wanted to tape the candy on and pack them up for Friday’s party. Then it hit me. I give up the fight because I understand.

I’m Type A, I’m a bit OCD, and I like to control a conversation. I interrupt, I have to say what I’m thinking as soon as I’m thinking it (think unfiltered), and that gets me into trouble sometimes, aside from the fact that it’s rude. I know that. Once I put my mind to something, I have to make it happen. It has to happen then, there, now, yesterday. I can’t wait and I’ll do anything to make it happen.

As she interrupted me during each and every word (I know it’s not ok and we told her it wasn’t), I called her out and told her how much she was like me when I was younger. J even called ME out and told me I still do it today and he has to tell me to stop it.

Ava started her project and she could not wait to finish. Her mind was set and she had to finish, there would be no waiting for a tiny detail that, to her, did not even matter. They looked awesome and that was good enough for her.

This is just the beginning. I’ll have to remind myself as we’re in the thick of things, that she is me.

She. Is. Me.

I look back on me when I was a kid. I loved to read, write, and to this day, I love notebooks, stationery and pens. I love for things to look perfect beautiful and I love colors. I wanted in on the grown ups’ conversations and wanted to be independent. Times were different and I was mature enough to be in charge and watch out for everyone–even cooking for the family.

She has so many of my personality characteristics. She knows everyone and smiles and stops to talk to them all.  She has a big heart and wants to care for everyone. She’s the opposite of Allie, who’s rambunctious and crazy–Allie, who is actually my mini-me (in looks only).

Ava is just trying to speak her mind and she is wise beyond her years. She’s smarter than most and has a thirst for knowledge. She wants to be independent and as we fight her for being “immature,” but really she’s trying to find her voice to advocate for herself, even if it comes off in the wrong way.

Now we just need to find that happy medium for all of us.

And I just need to remember to stop and breathe before I react–or at least quickly respond after acting. Because she is a tiny version of what I was and I need to be remember what that time was like, and be patient with her. All she wants is to be treated like the amazing little wonder lady she is.

The Little Place I Forgot

I used to write here. A lot.

This blog used to be a lot of things to me. It started as just a place to write about the random things Ava did. Then it morphed into, I’m not sure what. Then I got caught up in watching all the “big kid bloggers” and I thought how cool it would be to like that. As a blogger, I think we all at some point go through that phase. I wrote. And I wrote.

I even went to a blogging conference where I got to meet some of my favorite writers and my favorite ladies who only lived in my computer, before then.

My blog has morphed. I’ve changed URLs, logos, backgrounds, themes.

But for a long while, as I struggled, it went dormant. I had no words. There was absolutely nothing that I could possibly think that I thought was worth sharing with the world. Or that I wanted to say. I couldn’t (wouldn’t) share what was going on and that left me with little to say after that.  Why would anyone really care what I have to say? How self-centered is that to think that people really give a crap about me and the words on my screen? I nearly shut down my blog when I was in my lows and gave it all up–even as recent as this fall. I couldn’t share what was going on and that left me with little more to say after that. The rest was fluff. I left it up, with months of blankness, because even so, it was still my little place in the world.

I had friends who were so kind as to tell me that when I did write (as sporadic as it was), they did like to read it. It made them happy to share. That piqued my interest in writing.  It really did. Thanks, KT–really.

Now I have the words. Lots of words. But I don’t have the time.  I don’t make the time.

There is so much I have to say but I don’t take the time to write it. The blog posts are writing themselves in my head but they don’t make it to the screen then the words and the concepts escape me.

I miss the days of the blogger.

Times have changed so much in the blog world. Before you got daily glimpses into the world of someone across the country or around the corner. They shared things intimate to their being that affect their lives, their struggles, their sorrows, and their joys and happiness. They shared the random funny story about something stupid they did at work. It was enough.

The blog world is different. It’s so “mainstream” now.  It’s funny to see posts by the “big bloggers” pinned by random people on the neighborhood Facebook page. How do they know about those bloggers? They’re in my circle!

Regardless of what a blog is or isn’t, big or small, for many (and let me be clear, this is not all), storytelling and life is going by the wayside–replaced by hits and ads and analytics.

I still have my favorites that I read (I need to work on making time for that too–I don’t like to read without commenting. It’s like showing up but not talking to your host). The cool thing about the blogs I read that they are all written by people who I now consider my friends. That’s the funny thing about the blog world. It’s kind of awesome like that.

I will continue to grow and change. This blog will come with me and I will be able to look back, month by month and year by year and see where I’ve been.

So here I am, waving to say I’m still here and I’m going to be checking in more often.

So thanks for hanging on and not forgetting about me, either.

I’m a Pinterest Winner!

Before we get started:  I’m not going to post any recipes here because it drives me NUTS when people blog and say “oh I just got this recipe from so-and-so but I modified it” (and therefore it is implied that it’s modified so much that it is now their own).  Then they proceed to lay out an entire recipe as if they were created it and don’t link to the original when really, they just left out an ingredient or added a shot of vanilla. People: not cool!

I don’t come up with recipes, I just follow them. So you’ll have to click on the link to go back to the creators’ websites.

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Pioneer Woman Chocolate Chunk Cookies Pioneer Woman Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This weekend I was all about the Pinterest. I blame it on the Pioneer Woman. For some odd reason, I had commandeered the TV and was able to watch her show on Saturday morning and had escaped Disney Jr. (I still love you Mickey!!!). She was doing a football show and was making some chocolate chunk (not chips) cookies for her crew. I was sold. They looked like sheer perfection and I knew I had to make them. She made them with “browned butter.” No clue what that was and had never heard of it before.

Ok. So browned butter.

It’s exactly what it sounds like it is. You take a stick of butter, put it in the skillet and stir it up for a good 3-4 minutes until it’s brown. You’ve gotta keep a good eye on it! No texting, Facebooking, wrangling a child who is stealing your other child’s Legos. I wasn’t doing that so I didn’t burn any butter. I mean business when it comes to cookies.  It smells AMAZING. It does get brown and it does leave little brown bits in the pan. As soon as the 4 minutes are up, you turn it off and remove from heat. Set aside for 30 seconds, then pour into a heat-proof bowl. Let set for 30 minutes while you go on your way getting the rest of the cookie stuff set up.

Back to the cookies. So instead of creaming 2 stick s of butter with the sugar, you only do 1 since you’ve browned one. The rest of the recipe is the same, but you add the browned butter further on down the line. I normally use chocolate chips, so chocolate chunks was different. Of course, Ree was right. Chocolate chunks do melt so much more nicely and taste amazing.

These looked exactly like the ones on TV! And taste butterly delicious. I did not walk, I RAN to pin this on Pinterest so I would never forget where I put this recipe. I’m never making Nes-lay Toll-ooz (Phoebe on Friends? Anyone?) cookies again.

Forever and Ever Amen.

RECIPE.

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Mason Jar Salads Mason Jar Salads

Next up, a balance to my butter filled sugar explosion.

I’ve seen mason jar salads all over Pinterest (<<my “sandwiches and such” Pinterest board). Sure, they seem like a great idea. But 1) who keeps mason jars at their houses? 2) who really makes that much salad and eats it?

So you know I’m trying to eat healthier. I’ve decided to try and get on board with this smoothie/juicer business because I think the idea of having something fresh and delicious in the morning sounds great-and quite honestly, far more appealing than coffee.  I rarely drink it anyway. We usually have random fruits in the house, but eating them is another thing. You can only eat so many grapes and apples, or blueberries in your cereal. Plus I want to get the girls eating a rainbow. I figure, why not try to trick them into drinking the goods?

ANYWAY, back to the salads–blender/smoothie post to come later.

So I’d been cruising Pinterest and figured why not try this? I had bought a ton of salad stuff and it’s delicious at home, but just not feasible for work, and not something I’d commit to preparing nightly. So this is what I did–and it made for a delicious lunch!

So based on the millions of pins I saw (I never really read any one post, mostly looked at the pics), you layer like this:

  • Greens
  • Protein (meats)
  • softer veggies (I put my mushrooms here)
  • garbanzo beans
  • Cherry tomatoes (whole–some cut them up but I still think that’s mushy)
  • Harder veggies (peppers, cucumbers, carrots)
  • Dressing (I didn’t put any in the jar)

I brought a container of dressing (see below) to leave at work, so I didn’t put any in the jar. I guess if your jar is upright, there’s no issue, but I’d rather it just not be in there. This is awesome and they look so pretty! Now I have a healthy lunch packed for the next three days!  There are a lot of other options, too. Not just garden salad, but pesto, Greek, and other types to explore. I’m sure I’ll troll around on Pinterest and find others, but for now, this is where I’m starting.

Pin Win #2.

 

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Chuy's Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

Chuy’s Jalapeno Ranch Dressing

Then there was the other famous Pinterest pin (if you live in Texas or near a Chuy’s). Chuy’s Jalapeno Ranch Dip/Dressing. SO good. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A spicy ranch dressing. The recipe can be found HERE. But it’s seriously so simple, that you only need a handful of ingredients and a blender.  The ingredient basics are (see the recipe for the deets):

  • green chiles (canned Hatch green chiles–I’ll definitely buy fresh ones during Hatch green chile season and freeze them)
  • jalapenos (I used some amazing jarred ones from the Hill Country here near Austin)
  • sour cream
  • Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix
  • cilantro (and I HATE cilantro)

SO good. I have a really crappy blender and this was so basic that it still came out with a great consistency with no chunks or lumps.

I’ve seen a lot of variations on that recipe too.

I’d probably add a bit more jalapenos because it wasn’t super spicy (or maybe depending on the type it may be more or less spicy). It all depends on your audience and what you’re going for. I didn’t use garlic because I just don’t keep it in the house and also I forgot. And also, it wasn’t that important to me. Also? I don’t think that the Chuy’s recipe even has garlic in it…if we’re being true to their recipe.

She does call for 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk or Half & Half to thin down the dressing. I used 1/4 cup of Half & Half because I was afraid it would be too watery. It was really watery when it was done, but I poured it into the containers and once set, it was a perfect dressing consistency. It’s probably a bit thicker than Chuy’s has it, but for salad dressing, I think it worked out really well. If you want it for a chip dip, you may want to add a bit more Half & Half or maybe use milk. But why use milk? This is all about the CREAMY.

Really good on my Mason Jar Salad ;)

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So there you have it! My weekend on Pinterest. Definitely a delicious WIN.

Be Inspired.

Recently, a friend posted this on a forum and I loved it. Danielle LaPorte has a ton of these amazing #TruthBombs. Check out her website for more. Be inspired by the one that speaks to you.

But for now, read this one. We forget this as women. I’m incredibly guilty of NOT practicing self care and always have been. So today, remember:

self care

Why you need to see American Sniper

Photography by Brandon Thibodeaux-D Magazine (Click for link)

Photography by Brandon Thibodeaux-D Magazine (Click for link)

We went out last night and saw American Sniper.

Wow. All I could leave the theater saying, was wow.

I knew the movie was about a soldier (actually he’s a sailor, to be precise) who had the most recorded kills in history. I was uninformed and didn’t know the full story.  I won’t share it all here, but there was so much more to it and the movie laid it all.

Chris Kyle, the U.S. Navy Seal who the movie is about, is a Texas cowboy–a legit roping, riding, hunting, cowboy from Texas who joined the military to make a difference and join the war on terror because it was something he believed was his duty.

The movie goes from his beginnings in the military through his time overseas, his personal life, and the implications of his duties on his mental health. What a story. What a burden to bear on one’s soul. On one’s family.  If you want to read more about him, D Magazine did a great story, here.

I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to give anything away, but let me just say, go see it. We walked out of a sold out theater in utter silence. Many of the others around us had tears running down their faces, like I did.  I can’t even watch the previews for the movie anymore, without thinking about Chris’s story.

Why should you see this? Besides that fact that it’s won 6 Academy Awards and had an opening box office of over $90 MILLION, it’s a story as Americans you need to know.

The battle that troops who have served and fought in war zones doesn’t end when they board a plane home.

My brother did his tours in Iraq.

The movie revealed a glimpse into some of the things that the Marines and the Seals did in Iraq.

When I think about my brother, the few things he’s told me, the things I saw in this movie, my heart aches. I think of these young men and women who are eager to fight for something they believe in, at all costs. This isn’t a job to be taken lightly and you can’t just leave your work at the office when you click out-if you get to clock out.

There is a toll taken on the mental health of these brave men and women. I’ve talked about this with my brother. I remember what it was like when he came back from Iraq.

At the end of the day, these heroes are fundamentally changed for life. It would be impossible not to be, for better and worse. With the bad there is the good–the stories of the people they did help. The horrors that there are on the extreme other side and can never be forgotten, no matter how hard they try.

We go through the motions of our daily lives without missing a beat–school, work, errands, home, dinner, bed. We don’t realize the full magnitude of what it means to be active duty military, especially in a war zone. We can’t fully appreciate the commitment that is made to protect us thousands of miles away so that we can have the safety for ourselves and our children. It may sound silly and overly patriotic, but it’s true. This movie is the reminder we all need.

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So next time you see a sailor, a Marine, a soldier or someone who has on military clothing, say “THANK YOU.” To their spouses and families, say “THANK YOU.” Whether they’ve set foot overseas or not, they signed up knowing full well that they could. And that’s reason enough.

Jacob: You will always be a Marine, enlisted or not. 12 years of sacrifice, you will always be my hero.  THANK YOU. Oorah.

Friday v.2

Yeah so I missed a Friday. But here I am.

What a week! I had #satansstomachbug and it was horrible. I was sick from Monday till mostly Thursday morning when I finally ate. I even gave up and went to urgent care on Wednesday because I realized I hadn’t had any water (or food-oatmeal) since Monday. Not good. It was sheer misery. But I’m back up and running and was working like a mad woman to catch up at the office.

So what’s going on here?

IMG_1232

*Well, my new boss got sworn into office last week. Yes, he’s elected. I got to attend and also got to work the event. So I got all dressed up. Gotta say, it’s kinda nice sometimes. Ava picked a new dress for me and it was kinda awesome. She was so proud that she picked it out. I may try and do this dressier thing. I’ve been sporting the redder lipstick lately, too.

*So my cousin, B (my John Mayer-lovin’ partner in crime) and I signed up for a 10k to be held on April 12. We’ve got a lot of time to get ready but need to get training. We’re not gonna walk at all, because that’s how we roll. I have no doubt we can do it. The awesome? Our bibs will say #JCMclarityJB. John C. Mayer-Clarity (song)-Jess/Brandon. Yup. That’s us.  John Mayer lovin’ fools.

*Speaking of training, I’m not running yet, but I’ve started doing yoga. I’m using an amazing app called Yoga Studio for iPad. It’s $4 and it’s unlimited access to a ton of videos for every level, every length, every type of class you want. And you can download them (small files) and do them whenever you want.

*See next frame: my favorite John Mayer song came on iTunes radio after a long night of animal acting children when I just needed to relax. Also, you can’t tell but I cracked the corner of my iPad. UGH. Speaks for why you need a good case. I have a Tech21 on my iPhone and I’ve dropped it, no exaggeration, at least 20 times (oops). Knock on wood, no issues yet. My iPad tipped over and fell on the wood floor and cracked. Needless to say, I bought a new completely protective case to keep it from further cracking or chipping away.

*Last week it was cold in Austin. Ha, see how I said “last week” because it doesn’t actually stay cold around here. It was 60 and sunny today even though it was 40s and drizzly earlier in the week. So anyway, the cold. It was so cold last Saturday that we had “ice warnings” and all types of stuff was cancelled. That pic was taken when we were supposed to be at dance class. I didn’t check email so I didn’t know it was cancelled because of the potential for ice. That’s Allie enthralled by the “ice” on the rails. It was teeny weeny little icicles that really weren’t even icicles, but more of freezing dripping water. This is Texas.

*I was featured on Postpartum Progress last week. I wrote about my experience with postpartum anxiety. It was pretty terrifying but also something I was pretty proud of. Coming out with everything I’ve been through in my depression/anxiety journey to the people in my real world is scary. The thought of being judged and looked at differently is not something that anyone wants, least of all someone who’s already paranoid about what people think of what I do or say.

And now it’s a 3 day weekend. HOORAY!

So to all of you who have the long weekend, enjoy it and be safe. We’ll be catching American Sniper, so you’ll probably be able to hear my crying from wherever you are. With my brother being a former Marine, and the fact I cry during movies, I will have all the tears and will be packing Kleenex.

Friday v.1

I’m gonna try this thing where I sum up my week and how my healthy aspirations are going. So here’s Friday v.1. 

So apparently everyone on my Instagram feed is starting the Whole30. I won’t even pretend that I’m jumping on that bandwagon because, have you met me? It’s enough that I’m shooting for not eating out and stocking the house with fresh fruits and veggies.

I’m still browsing Pinterest to see what I see. Am I the only person still on Pinterest? It’s become my nightly relax thing while I watch Friends.

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I didn’t run today. To be fair, I was shooting for January 4, but I did mop the entire downstairs and holy cow, that’s exhausting! I’m calling that my workout.

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Which reminded me that even though I have my shiny new work calendar that’s titled “Zen,” it’s pretty much just for major board meetings and stuff that I need to know for school.

I don’t actually have one that I can record workouts in. Something tangible that isn’t an iPhone that I can flip through and see my progress in beautiful colored ink.

Which made me think, what else could I be doing that I could be recording in this calendar?

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I’ve seen friends doing She Reads Truth. I want to be more engaged with my faith. I really do. We’ve talked about this; I believe in God but I’m just not feeling the church right now. I would like to be more connected and feel great things.

imageUnfortunately we all had the plague while we were in El Paso for Christmas, so I tried to avoid seeing all human people. I was bummed because I would have loved to meet with Diana to catch up, see how huge Bella has gotten, and ask her how she’s grown her faith despite her painful trials the past couple of years. She inspires me. She’s faithful but still raw and honest.

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I think I was moved when I was cleaning out my iPhone pictures and saw this. I took this on our drive to El Paso and I was so close to deleting it after I took it because it just wasn’t Instagram worthy to show the beauty of the mountains. I stopped and really looked at it the night we got home and was in awe.

If you can’t see it, to me, it looks like a cross standing out among the clouds in a blue sky. Pretty amazing if I do say so.

Project Lifestyle. v2015

I’m not one for resolutions. I never have been. I scoff at the people who flood the gyms after January 1, and when I was a member, I used to get annoyed when they would take over my machines and watch as they fell like flies as the weeks passed.

But I do believe in kick starting things whenever you need to, any time of the year.

This week, even though New Years is Thursday, I’m going out with a bang and eating like crap. Aim high, friends. There won’t be any lifestyle changes started on January 1 here.

I like things that are even. Symmetrical. Clean. I like starting fresh. I like a shiny new calendar with perfectly written plans.

So starting Sunday, January 4, 2015, I’ll get real and start Project Eat In and See Jess Run.

We’re a big junk food house and that’s a bad thing, obviously. Going into the new year, I want to get whole again. Fresh foods. Eat out less. Right now I’m on overload and my body is craving it.

So this week I’ll let myself eat what I want. Buy breakfast and lunch at work if I want. Oooooh breakfast tacos. I’ll eat the biscocho cookies my dad’s girlfriend generously sent home and enjoy them with milk. Then I’ll reign it in.

I’m realistic. I’ve never been one for eating salads or going all grilled and all healthy. That’s not me and it’ll never be. I believe in moderation.

A couple years ago, I took the month of January and decided I would not eat out (Project Eat In). I didn’t eat out, not even one meal. Even on weekends. Not sure how I did that, but I did. I’m shooting for that, but if we go out with friends for dinner or eat with the kids at a real restaurant (not Chick Fil A), I’ll enjoy a meal–a modest one.

Eating in changes your diet. You save money, which is awesome, but you eat less crap because you obviously don’t pack a cheeseburger and fries for lunch. Facebook friends have helped me choose Tupperware and silicone cupcake liners–and I’ll be packing lunch. Nothing fancy (think protein boxes), but stuff to fill the void when there’s not enough leftovers from the night before.

Cooking more means we all eat better. Less crap for everyone. Hooray! I’m aspiring to make less boxed stuff, despite the fact my kids actually prefer it. 21 days for a habit, right?

I’m also hoping and planning for this to kickstart my running. A year ago I was gearing up for the Walt Disney World marathon. 26.2 miles. I did that. I DID THAT. I will do that again.

But for now, I just want to get back into race shape–even if it’s just 10k. I want to say “I’m a runner” and feel like I deserve to say it and not be embarrassed when people ask me how my running is going.

I’ll start small. I’ll pack my bag and make plans to run at lunch. No excuses, no interruptions to my time at home.

It’s time to See Jess run.

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2015.

Lifestyle.

Not resolution.

Life.

Jess.

The Sign

I was never really a person to believe in signs. I’m still not. I think I try to pull for straws though when it comes to signs and my mom.

I pick up pennies whenever I see them and call them “pennies from heaven” and consider them my mom’s way to say hi. Usually I see them when I’m rushing or when I somehow seem to need them.

This morning I had my Sunday school class Christmas party. Still funny thinking that I’m the teacher in charge of 11 little kindergarteners. We had a fun little craft while listening to iTunes Radio Kids Christmas. We talked about the real meaning of Christmas, Jesus’s birthday. Also we talked about giving–not getting presents. I was a proud mama hen when they all told me their ideas. One of my favorites was my kiddo who said, “it’s like when you get socks and you don’t really want them but you say thank you anyway.” Sometimes they’re pretty funny.

IMG_0915.JPGWe talked about giving without buying because Christmas is about showing how much you care for others, even without spending a dime.

Then we sang “happy birthday” to Jesus before I gave them each a little book and a cross necklace. I’m a book girl. It was a little thing but I somehow felt full, like my mom was there. It seemed like something she would’ve done for her kids.

Tonight, after a long exhausting week of travel, after school stuff and fun weekend activities, I started picking up Allie’s room while she played in the tub. Let’s listen to some fun kids’ Christmas music. “Dominic the Donkey” came on. Alright then.

Then this came on. Far, far from a Christmas song. Far, far from a kids’ artist. But there it was: “Be Not Afraid.” The song that I always associate with my mom. Absolutely no reason for it to be on iTunes Kids’ Christmas radio.

I used to hate her music growing up. My brother and I used to protest listening to it in the car. But as she got older and after she was gone, I appreciated it. It was the comfort of her being there.

Christmas isn’t my favorite time of year. I don’t like the commercialism. I miss my mom.

But then there are signs like this to remind me she’s here and how much she loved the season for what it stands for, So I allow myself the tears as I sing along and for a minute after, and I’m thankful that I had my mom while I did–because there’s no one like your mom.

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