Monday, October 31, 2011

End of the Month Report... not nearly as boring as it sounds!

especially since I have some good news to report!

In this month:
1. I found out I am multi-published! All this time I've been writing free gratis for my local paper hoping to get picked up, only to have my editor help me in that quest and discover I have been! Picked up that is! My VAN article has gotten a TON of feedback! People have stopped me for weeks to tell me how much they enjoyed that piece! (And I enjoyed writing it! I admit I even made myself laugh out loud while writing the bit about the spontaneous demolition derby...if you haven't read it, stop and do so. I think you'll think it's worth the extra click!) Anyway, back to multi-published... so this therapist who's in our school building one day a week stopped me to ask me who Amanda Sikorski was. We live in a town with 9,000 people. I'm certain me and my offspring are the only Sikorski's (polish isn't very common in our neck of the corn stalks) in town so I tell her there is no Amanda Sikorski. She says she doesn't think so. She goes on to tell me her husband was reading the Oquawka Current and a hilarious article about a van was written by Amanda Sikorski. I assured her it's me and we continue to banter about my 15 passenger van. I wasn't even upset that the Current got my name wrong. I was too excited to discover they are publishing my articles once a month! Yeah for me!

2. Twitter is just awkward for me.
a. I have made no virtual friends and
b. all I do is constantly promote myself. and while I think I'm kinda cool even I would get annoyed with my own tweets about "read my this..." and "check out my blog that..."
however, I do it faithfully and one day it paid off!

More good news right?!

3. but most importantly, I have a sense that my writing is making a difference for a few. Which is really the icing on the cake. I write because I must. I write because it's a bit therapeutic. I write because I have a hope that your world could be better because I put my words out there. And every once in awhile I get a little feedback that it is. I want you to know I read the comments and emails that some of you send me after a blog goes out! I hear you and so appreciate the time that you take to let me know you liked a blog or were uplifted by one of my entries.

So now, here I sit on the verge of November, a new month which will certainly usher in the new season of winter and cold. I look forward to it with great expectation. I look forward to more writing and even beginning my query quest!

So forgive me for forgoing my usual Menu Monday today ... truth is last week was CrAzY busy and we ate a lot of sandwiches and cereal... and thank you for letting me give you a quick update on my journey To Write a Better Story!

May you use this day and your gifts and your talents and your abilities to create a story where you are not only the leading character but one who's story is full of depth and love and respect. Who's presence makes other peoples lives better. Not worse.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Picture to remind us ....

Life is better when you have a hand to hold.
Be somebody's friend.

Life is gentler when you say kind things.
Tell someone they look great today.

Life gets messy.
Dance in the puddles. 

Life is stressful.
Take a deep breath.

Hearts are fragile.
Be gentle.

And family is everything.
Love who you've been given.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Preschool? Please!

When most women find out they are expecting they have one date in mind; the due date. But not me! I had my sights set on September 1st. Why? Because that's the cutoff date for children in the State of Illinios. Kids must be 3 years of age on or before September 1st in order to go to school.

You see it was 2004 and I was expecting my 4th and 5th child simultaneously. Twins. And I planned to do everything in my maternal power to make sure they were born before September 1st.

I'll never forget the day I was in the sonographer's room watching her face as she watched the screen. She rolled the wand this way across my belly. She rolled the wand that way. Her face scrunched up and her eyes got squinty. I could tell immediately that something was up. She excused herself to go get the doctor who took his turn with the wand. He promptly turned to me and proclaimed, "Congratulations! You're having twins!"

Did he really just offer me congratulations? This wasn't sounding like good news to me! He of course, was thrilled as my fruitful womb continued to financially support his family.

I'm not proud to admit what happened next. I came up off of that exam table and pointed my finger at the good news doctor while a slur of random, completely inappropriate accusations flowed freely from my lips. I'm pretty sure I blamed the doctor for my condition saying "This is all your fault!" and demanding he suggest how we were going to pay for college tuition and 2 weddings. I think I even said something about the demands of nursing and dairy cows.

He took it all in stride, bless his heart. He assured me my condition was not of his making and he gave me a card for my next appointment and on the back side he scribbled the number to a psychiatrist.

Ok, that's not true but the nurse did ask if she should call someone to come talk to me. Seeing rubber rooms on my horizon if I didn't pull it together, I gathered every shred of dignity I had left, which was essentially none, and left the exam room.

But I never let go of that magical date. September 1.

All early childhood professionals agree that the most imperative time in children's growth and development happens in the earliest years of life. And while I agree with that statement I admit I had ulterior motives in sending my little twins off to preschool.

Sure there is a ton kids learn from the socialization of a preschool setting. Of course they learned important life skills like waiting their turn, sharing toys, listening to and following directions. Preschool is also a fantastic place for children to practice those often despised messy play activities like play dough, cutting with scissors and drawing with markers of which my children had minimal experience.

Before you judge me you must remember I had twins. Why would any mother in her right mind give two toddlers markers? Or play dough or scissors? Can you imagine the destruction twins could cause with such weapons, er, I mean tools? If they went unsupervised for a nano-second my entire house could have gone up in smoke.

Truth is I wasn't quite that manical but the mess the two of them made did get on my nerves. I woefully admit I preferred the two of them have such learning experiences in the confines of a classroom where someone else had to deal with the ensuing mess. My dining room table thanked me personally for that decision.

So in short, it turns out preschool was a win-win for the three of us. The twins, who were born eight days before the cutoff, went bounding off to preschool with oversized book bags waiting to experience all the wonderful art crafts preschool had to offer. I dropped them off with a hug and a smile and headed immediately back to bed. I was sort of sleep deprived for 3 solid years. Cut me some slack will ya?

Because our young children learn by doing, playing with new toys and new friends and yes, even new finger paints causes a wonderful neuronic connection to form in their brains. Therefore I am, and continue to be an advocate of quality preschool programming. Not all mothers need preschool like I did. I recognize some begrudgingly send their wee ones off worried about the care they'll receive outside of mama's arms of nurture, but let me assure you preschools can be wonderful places for children. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and is accepting appointments to enroll children in the prekindergarten program at Lincoln School. Call (309)734-2222 to schedule an appointment.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Menu Monday

I love Menu Mondays....I have no idea whether you do or not but I sure do! I love to cook (when I have the time) and I really, really love to cook when it makes people happy. I've had a handful of friends tell me this week they've tried some of the recipes I've posted! That makes me so happy! Menu Monday started because I take the task of feeding my family seriously. I want healthy food that's simple and not expensive.

Our family of 7 consumes a lot of food but I can shop and feed us for $200 bucks a week! (more if you count my nonfood items)
but for the sake of food consumption calculations it looks like this:

7 people x 2 meals a day x 7 days a week=
$2.04 per person per meal

I think that's amazing!

SIDE NOTE: Me, Aaron and our teenager are the only ones who eat at home for lunch. We usually eat leftovers, PB&J or simply scrounge around for whatever.I've not figured that into my calculations, although if I did I could lower my per person number significantly.

So here's what was on my most recent menu. It was heavy on the cooking but it paid off as I had lots of leftovers to enjoy! I hope that you enjoy making food for your loved ones as well. Cooking isn't nearly as hard as some make it out to be! Relax and give a new recipe a try!

Brunch day! The night before I made pumpkin bread & applesauce bread (it made the house smell wonderful!!) and for brunch I paired it with cheesy scrambled eggs, biscuits n gravy and potatoes! I cooked up twice as much sausage as I needed for the pasta recipe later in the week.

Tacos - my kids never ever complain about having this for dinner. I fried up extra ground beef and saved some for the cheeseburger soup recipe later.

Rachel Ray's Deconstructed Lasagna - truth is my kids didn't love this, although I did. I allowed them to open a jar of spaghetti sauce and add it to the concoction. Then, magically, it was delicious again! Go figure! I paired it with a loaf of french bread.

Knorr's Chili con carne Rice - I almost didn't make this new recipe because I hated the name. But turns out it was wonderful! My kids don't love chili so I was super hesitant about serving it to them but I pair chili with hot dogs and usually it keeps everyone happy. This rice dish was awesome with shredded cheese, ranch and tortilla chips. (note: I altered the recipe a little to match what was in my pantry: I used leftover taco meat, a can of chili beans - juice and all, and a can of Rotel instead of tomatoes)

Cheeseburger Soup a tried and true favorite at our home! Plus it's better the next day!

Yo-Yo aka Your On Your Own to dig through leftovers!

No dinner today. I organized a team breakfast for the soccer boys before they headed out to Sectionals. Although they didn't score a win (it was sudden death double overtime - a real nail biter!) we had a great time supporting the team.

I also made snack foods for the long drive: Scrabble, a box of brownies and Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I also love this site! Check it out for more recipe inspirations!

Good News should travel fast ... don'tcha think? Please forward my blog if you think you know someone who would enjoy it! Sharing is nice isn't it?
Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

MaMa Wants This!!!!!!!

I have never in my life lusted for an Apple product.
All the Apple device owners seemed kinda.... well, cultish
(and I mean that in the nicest of ways)
and I'm a bit of a, a-hem, contrarian.
I won't do something just because the masses are doing it.
I'm weird wired like that!

You see I'm in love with my Blackberry.
I'm very satisfied with my Zune.
You don't even know what a Zune is?
No surprise there as a quick Google search indicates Apple has sold 200 million devices versus Microsoft's 2 million music players.

But I just saw this:


Because it will listen to me.
Nobody listens to me.
My children talk over me.
My DH finishes my sentences for me
which sounds romantic except he's often mistakenly predicting
what I'll say!

But this...
this phone will listen to me
it won't interrupt me
it will follow my directions!
It's every mother's dream!

Oh my!
This is what I want!
iPhone4s COME TO MAMA!!!

Thanks for reading!
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Finance Friday - The Grocery Game

Recently someone suggested I read "Bitter is the New Black" by Jen Lancaster. They said she tells a regaling story about why one should not carry their Prada Bag to the unemployment office. Lancaster says this is a bad idea.

Ya think?!?

I can totally relate. Thankfully I've not been in the unemployment line, per se, but I have had my share of very similar experiences.

Take last week at the grocery store, for example.
I ran to the store after work but before picking up the kids from school.
I looked like ... well, me. You know...  my look.
I love to pair jeans, boots, jackets & scarves.
I'm sure I looked respectable.
Maybe even a touch hot ... ok, probably not
but I'm sure I looked typically, middle class & completely employed.

So there I stood at the checkout with my cereal, bread, eggs & milk waiting.
And waiting.
And waiting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wish I could garner media coverage ...

Have you heard about the Monmouth-Roseville soccer team? They have an amazing story, one that despite its hardship, tells a tale of overcoming and victory on and off the field.

They’ve overcome amazing odds, both as individuals and as a team this season. In it’s 5th year, the team is on their way to play in Class 1A sectionals at Warrensburg-Latham school on Saturday, October 22, 2011.
This is their first sectional championship competition and they enter it with a 14-7 record.

The team has overcome supersized odds this season, the biggest of which being the scandal of senior Chino Ayala. He was penalized earlier this year for breaking IHSA rules stating he cannot play soccer for another team during the season. Caught by an opposing team’s coach on video Ayala’s punishment for playing in a Quad Cities men’s league was, of course, a kick in the gut for the whole team.

Despite his suspension of games during the remainder of regular season play and low morale, the team continued to score goals and win games.

And that’s just the beginning. The team also faces on a regular basis a language barrier and a lack of community and district support. They have no field to practice on, they’ve lost coaching staff to budget cuts and they have an embarrassingly low fan base. On many away games it’s near impossible to spot a single fan that has traveled in support of their team. Getting any media, even local attention, is near impossible.

This team is an amazing group of kids. Their coach is an unbelievably committed individual. These kids, some of whom never considered studying, now strive to remain academically eligible and it’s amazing to witness the bridges that are being built between parents despite cultural and language differences. Administration admits the development of a soccer program has been the best thing for some students who were more than likely on a path to become a dropout statistic.

This team, whether they win sectional or not, deserves to have their story told. I hope you will help spread the word. It’s amazing how far heart and determination will get you. The Monmouth-Roseville varsity soccer team is a living example.

Thank you for letting me share about them.

you can reach
Coach Aaron Sikorski

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm a Hypocrite but you probably are too!

image from

When I do something stupid I laugh at myself, come up with a really good excuse for said stupidity and cut myself some slack. If you were to do the same exact, stupid thing however, I would probably think you an idiot. Oh the hypocrisy! Good news though, turns out I'm not the only one to behave in such an inexcusable manner. According to Gretchen Rubin's memoir, The Happiness Project, there is a "psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people's actions as reflections of their characters ... whereas with ourselves, we recognize the pressures of circumstance."

In other words, when others screw up we think they are idiots but when we screw up we tend to give ourselves grace.

What's up with that?

I recently had an eye opening experience with this concept. I was the ding-a -ling who didn't silence her ringer at a conference I was recently attending despite the fact that the speaker gave us a verbal prompt to turn off our phones. I was mortified when just minutes into his presentation The Black Eyed Peas sang "tonight's gonna be a good night" from deep inside my purse.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Shrimp Scampi w Angel Hair Pasta

image from
1 onion finely chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
melt 1 stick of butter in a pan and add onion and garlic
cook until translucent
add 25 peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 dry wine or chicken broth
the juice of 1 lemon (of if you're me you just sprinkle in some lemon juice from the jar I use 4 times a year in the door of my fridge)
Cook until shrimp are no longer icky grey but pretty n pink
Toss with angel hair pasta
Add parsley, basil and Parmesan cheese if desired!

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1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
add 1 package of taco seasoning
& 1 8 ounce can of tomato sauce
Mix well.

Place a large spoonful of meat into tortillas and sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese. Roll and place seam side down in a 9x13 greased pan. Pour remaining hamburger (if you have any) mixture over pan of burritos and top with remaining cheese and 1 jar of taco sauce. Bake @ 350 until cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, chips n cheese!


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Menu Monday

Hey guys! I missed ya! How have you been? What have you been cooking? Are you into soups and pumpkin bars yet? I love fall! I went on a baking frenzy yesterday simply because I wanted my house to smell yummy! Isn't that insane? But the family got applesauce bread, pumpkin bread and apple crisp out of it so they're not complaining! Here's another Menu Monday aka pretty simple, definitely inexpensive recipes to feed a Tribe, er, family!

Sloppy Cheeseburgers & Fries
Sloppy Cheeseburgers are just like Sloppy Joes but without the tomato sauce. Instead use a can of condensed cheddar soup and a little milk. 
(fry extra ground beef for burritos later in the week to save time)

Grilled hot dogs/sausages, potato salad & chips
You can make potato salad or just pick some up at the deli counter! This meal is a snap!


BLT Sandwiches & leftover potato salad
(premade bacon is a time saver on nights when you need something quick!)

Angel Hair Pasta with (jar of spaghetti sauce for kids) garlic shrimp sauce (for grownups), salad & bread sticks

Sweet n Sour Pork Stir Fry

Sunday Brunch
Ham egg n cheese biscuits, gravy & fresh fruit
I buy a can of refrigerated biscuits and add a slice of ham, a pile of scrambled eggs and a slice of cheese! My kids love it! I, however, love biscuits n gravy. I found premade gravy in the frozen section!

Have you tried any of the recipes I've listed or even a full menu? I'd love to hear back from you! Please leave a comment....

I also participate in Menu Plan Monday from this site! Great recipes from all over! Check it out!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

When I arrived at work on Wednesday, my 40th birthday, I found this on my keyboard...
So with much embarrassment I was off on my scavenger hunt.
Off I went to kindergarten where I collected:
40 "something(s) to help you brush up"

Then I collected 40 "something smart" from a bulletin board:

Then I headed to 1st grade where I received 40 "something(s) to hold me together"
I was told these would come in handy for the medicare papers I'll have to file someday soon!

In Mrs. Y's class I was serenaded with the birthday song and was given 40 "something(s) to aid me"

In Mrs. Q's class my name was proudly displayed on the board with a birthday wish!
I was given 40 "something(s) sticky"

Then the real payoff came when my scavenger hunt led me to the library where I received chocolate!
Oh! er, I mean 40 "something(s) to melt my heart"

Last, and least I was given 40 "something(s) hairy". I was quite afraid to collect this part of my scavenger hunt and my instincts proved me correct. Thanks to the PreK for giving me 40 lice sticks....

(look'll see they even added "critters" for my enjoyment!

But the payoff was huge! Not only was I given flowers, pumpkin bars and birthday cards, I was given the greatest gift of all .... the gift of speciality. I felt special. I felt loved. I felt celebrated. I felt happy. It was a Happy Birthday and many thanks to my coworkers at school who certainly went above and beyond to make my day awesome! xo to karen & kendra!!

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Finance Friday

a banner from NLI EuroSummit Conference last week
 Starting the Finance Friday themed blog has been the most therapeutic thing for me. I've learned a very important, yet personal lesson in this process. Had I kept quiet, shame and embarrassment may have eaten me alive from the inside out. I think it's quite possible to lock a secret inside so far that it begins to alter your belief system and damage (possibly irreparably) any shred of self confidence you have. Secrets when held inside have nothing to do but float around your brain. And an untamed thought can wreak havoc. Holding in things creates a one sided conversation. You think about what you know and you imagine what others would say if they knew what you held inside. We imagine and pretend how others would perceive us and almost all the time we imagine people being harsher with us than they really would be. So we begin to believe that othes will shame and reject us. These thoughts swim around in our mind constantly. And we begin to believe what we think people would think about us, rather than give them a chance. You might find if given a chance, people, especially those who love you, will rise to the occasion, love you for who you are, not what you've done or how much money you don't make.
If you keep your secret you'll drown in your forecasts of rejection.
But if you have a friend for which you can unburden yourself, you'll be swallowed up in love and acceptance.
I think that's a chance worth taking.

Finance Fridays was a big risk for me.
But the payoff was huge.
Suddenly I'm not embarrassed.
Not ashamed.
I was mortified to be so forthcoming about our current financial situation but I've received nothing but love because of it.
And that's huge.
It means a lot!

Today, though, it was hard for me to come up with a Finance Friday blog. I've had a wicked combination of jet leg and re-entry shock the last few days since returning from a missions trip abroad. Then the week before that I wasn't writing two weeks ahead of time.

But as I was out walking the dog this morning I was thinking and pondering my life & a Finance Friday entry. And at 6 in the morning, in the complete stillness of the neighborhood, I examined my heart and felt




and dare I say .... well-off?

Has our finances changed?
Nah! In fact, my job search continues to fall flat.
Did I receive and inheritance?
Of course not.
Our finances are still where they were when Finance Friday blog started. Nothing has broke through for us. Our numbers still land on the bottom of every chart and income graph.

But because I didn't let my shame consume my inner being, because you showed me love in the times when I was down and because I hold onto the belief a person's worth is not equivalent to their bank account I feel very rich today.

I think the bible is full of life enhancing guidelines for how I should live my life. And when I think in terms of rich and poor I remembered something Jesus said in the book of Matthew chapter 6. He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit"
and while I'm certainly not sure exactly what that means I'm pretty certain it's important. Notice he didn't say poor in finances or poor in livestock, he said poor in spirit.

And then I got to wondering, if you can be poor in spirit, couldn't you be rich in spirit?
And what does that mean?
To be rich in spirit?
Does it mean rich in money?
I don't think so.
Does it mean rich in stocks & bonds?
Probably not.
Is a man who has many friends rich in spirit?
A man who is loved?
Who has favor at his job with his boss?
Who's best friends stick closer than a brother?
Who's spouse loves them well and is committed to them?
Who's children are thriving and bring him great pleasure?
Who's pantry doesn't empty out?
and has his health?
A man who sleeps well at night
and who's heart is content with life?
A man who has received great generosity
and witnesses the faithfulness of supporters?

my kids collected money to give to Haiti
Is this person rich in spirit?
And could that be more valuable than being rich in money?

Having tasted the sour sting of poverty
I speak from my heart when I say
poor is hard.
But I am not poor.
What I am is rich in many, many ways.
Ways that count.
Ways that are eternal.
Ways that make my heart smile when the times are tough.

So you dear friend, as you find yourself today may you discover you too are rich. Rich with relationships and friendships. Rich with health and happiness. And if you are not, may you have the strength of heart to go out and claim that unique wealth that makes your life rich.

1 Timothy 6:18 " good and be rich in good works, be ready to give and willing to share..."  (paraphrased)

If you believe that good news should travel fast would you consider sending my blog onto a friend? maybe their heart would be encouraged as yours has!

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Thursday, October 13, 2011


Of all the lessons I try and teach my kids, the ones that they most understand are the lessons they witness for themselves. Lectures hardly ever work. I know because I've talked until I'm blue in the face with no favorable results.

Take for instance, we recently learned (with much disappointment) about the oxymoron 'personal decision'. I am of the opinion, there is no such thing unless you live like Tom Hanks on a marooned island and your best friend is a volleyball. If you live in a family, if you have friends or if you're a part of a team your decisions are not ever personal. You may make them in private. Maybe you don't think anyone is watching but I’m trying to raise my kids to understand that if your life is in anyway intertwined with other people, it is virtually impossible for your decision to only affect you.

For example, I need to write my article today. I can choose to work at home or I can choose to sit at the local coffee shop, spend a few bucks on coffee and plunk out the words. Is that a life changing decision? Of course not! It seems quite personal, doesn't it? I didn't need to consult my family's schedule or seek the counsel of any wise individuals in order to make this basic decision about a routine task. But what if my decision to sit in a local business encourages the owner? What if my decision today gives the small business entrepreneur a surge of hope that he is gaining new customers?

Where I get gas, does it matter? What about whether I choose to be kind when I return my package to the customer service desk at the store? And from a parenting aspect, can I expect my kids to tell me the truth when I they overhear my dishonest excuses for missing an appointment? Or what about the law? Does it matter if I choose to only obey the laws that I deem weighty? If I do what are my actions conveying to my children?

Let's look at something as simple as the rules of the road. Pretend with me that I chronically roll through stop signs? How can I expect my children, when riding around on their bicycles, to be careful and stop before crossing the street? Haven't I set a precedent that it's not really that important to stop when the sign lawfully commands it? Or that being in a hurry is an ok excuse to not obey rules? What if my kids do as I do and they run stop signs and end up getting hit? We could certainly deduct therefore, that my decision to ignore marked intersections affects others.

I became harshly aware of this when recently I was stopped at an intersection where a man in a wheel chair sat propped with a sign asking for money. I pretended I didn't see him, instead I prayed for the light to turn green as quick as possible. My daughters, who also witnessed the man's public begging, asked me why I didn't help him. In their innocence they believed the man needed our gift. Right or wrong, I questioned the validity of his situation and choose to ignore him. And that choice conveyed the message to my children that their mom doesn't help others.

Make no mistake our everyday, minor and major decisions convey messages and directly affect those around us.

I'm certainly not suggesting that we weigh each decision as if the axis of the planet depends on it. Nobody has time for that and quite frankly it's unrealistic. I'm simply calling for an awareness that our lives are affected by and have the ability to affect others. Something as simple as choosing to wake my children up with a smile and a good attitude on school mornings can make their whole day go better. Isn't that a choice being aware of? A choice worth making?

What would happen if we all became more aware of our decisions? What if we choose to be happier? Choose to live healthier or choose to work harder? Not all the time but what if we choose to be 10% more helpful? What if we picked up the trash blowing down our neighborhood street rather than cursing the neighbor who let it go? What if we choose to get off Facebook at work and get that report finished? Wouldn't that lead to a better choice, which could lead to another better choice and then another? Would we be better people? Would our community be kinder? Safer?

If nothing else, may we come to realize that our decisions - no matter how big or small - are effectual. May we be a people that look up from our little screens and our little tweets and make a decision to participate in life, make a decision to enhance the lives of those who live and work and play where we do. Wouldn't that be a step in the right direction? I certainly think so! Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(This article originally appeared in the 10/3/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Birthday Blog

Today is my birthday.
I'm now 40 years old.
Which is also synonomous with the fact that my face is sagging, people no longer recognize me in my own wedding portrait and I've recently noticed that I appear to be frowning even though I'm not. Also, every once in awhile I wake up in a cold sweat and the time between color appointments is decreasing while the volume of grey hair on my head is increasing.
I am 40. I am aging.
I'm doing it right this very second.
I've been doing it every since I was born.
What's funny is when I was a child I wanted so desperately to grow up and be 16.
When I was 16 I wanted to be in college.
When I was in college I wanted to be married
and when I was married all I wanted to was make a life for myself.
And now, here I sit at 40, sitting smack dab in the middle of the life I've created.

But it doesn't work like that does it?
How come I don't feel like a 40 year old woman?
What does a 40 year old woman feel like anyway?
I still have inclinations to want to run and play. Jump off swings. Play H.O.R.S.E. with my kids in the driveway and eat what ever I want at ten at night. But then my knees protest, I can't stay up past 10 p.m. anymore and my kids are too old to think basketball with mom is even remotely cool.

I guess what I'm realizing is my head is failing to register what my eyes are telling me. I see the sagging face and greying temples but I don't feel like that's me. Honestly, sometimes I see myself in the mirror and am surprised at the person staring back.

But I'm 40. And next year, God willing, I'll be 41. And then 42.....
The clock doesn't move backwards.
I'm here.
This is my life.
And whether I can wrap my head about "middle" age or not is irrelevant to the fact that time is marching ahead at a fervent rate.
What have I done?
What am I going to do?
Am I proud of the life I've created?
of the little people I've created?
of my family?
of my ethics?
of my how I spend my time?

Am I making a difference in anyone's life? Are my friends better people because of me? Am I asking too many questions ;)

All I know is this ... despite the fact I am naively stunned to discover middle age has found me despite my negligent attitude of it's presence ... I realize I must continue to strive to be my most authentic self.

And I hope that I have become the woman I want to be. I trust I'll be brave and wise when I need to be. Fun and funny. A good friend, sister and listener. Someone who's name makes people smile. An addition to, not the life of the party. I want to be trustworthy. I want people to say I am a woman of my word. I want to write. I want my name on a book. I want my words to encourage your heart. I want my children to say they had a happy home and I want them to bring their children back to sit on grandma's lap or cook with me in my kitchen.

I wanted to feel 40 on my birthday but I gotta be honest and say I don't know what I expected it to feel like ... other than my disappointment regarding my crow's feet and loose neck. Therefore, I can only surmise that feeling 40 feels like "I can't believe I'm 40." 

So happy birthday to me.
May God grant me many more.
And may gravity be kind to my face.

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My Sweet Ride

Hey! Just FYI: I am the only person allowed to make fun of myself. Not you. Unless of course you are my BFF and then you can but that's it. It's not hard to see that there are a lot of hilarious things about my life, my family or about my vehicle but it's only funny when I joke about it. When you make wise cracks it just feels harsh. My therapist says I have to work on that. (See that's a joke. I don't have a therapist. I may need one, but I don't have one.)
Case in point; my van. My van is not cool. I know it's not cool. In fact it's uberly-uncool and I am completely aware of this. Please don't point it out to me. I know it's going to be hard because after all, it's not your typical mini van. I could never be cool enough to be mistaken for a soccer mom in my van. Why? Because it's white. And it's a 15 passenger van. And I look more like a plumber, electrician or delivery guy when I'm behind the wheel. At first, when the van was new, it was a real boost to my ego to be waved at by so many men but it didn't take long to realize they were waving mistakenly. They thought I was a fellow handyman van joining them on a job site, not a mother of a tribe.
I have no anonymity in my van either. Since I live in a small town, once you figure out I'm not the cable guy rumbling down your street, you know it's me. Almost perfect strangers have stopped me in public to tell me they knew I was at the library, bank or burger joint because they noticed where my van was parked.

And just for the record it does not have a beeping mechanism that engages when I go in reverse. That's reserved for ambulances and other public service vehicles.

And for your information, neither do I need a special driver's license to drive it. I hear Warren Achievement drivers need their CDL but I don't. Yes, I too admit I have been mistaken for the WAC bus. I overheard the father of my daughter's friends call out, "Halee, either Warren Achievement or your mom is here to pick you up!" And that's not all, I've also been mistaken for a church van and a newspaper delivery guy.

Once, while Christmas Shopping with my husband, I sent him out to pull up the van and help with the packages. While he was idling at the curb an elderly woman approached him and asked if he was her ride back to the home.

I even submitted my van to MTV's now canceled television show, Pimp My Ride. I thought with some cool decals, big base speakers and extra power outlets I could transform my van from not to hot. But MTV never called back and now it's too bad because my passenger side window won't roll down and only one kid can plug in their portable device at a time (which makes for really long, long distance drives to grandmas house). I'm doomed to be uncool forever.

Once, I thought about selling advertising space on my van. I know you all notice my van anyway and maybe you're small business would like to pay me to drive around with your company's logo. I recognize it won't help my alleviate my cool factor but it will offset rising gas prices. And that's a plus, right?

I even considered getting business cards printed up and advertising with the Amish when I heard they hire van drivers for their gatherings and quilting bees. I got a call once to drive a group of ladies to a Tupperware party in Iowa but they cancelled due to an outbreak of Chicken Pox in their community. They never called me back to reschedule. That's a true story.

Oh, and one other thing, if you drive a car that is cool, please don't park next to me. I'm still dealing with the disappointment that comes with the realization I am mistakenly waved at all day long by the hard working men of white van brigade, don't heap coal on the fire by sliding your little convertible up next to me at the soccer game. Because you and I both know that if a demolition derby spontaneously broke out, my van could eat your car for lunch.

I know in our western culture judgments are made about a person based on what car they drive. And if you adhere to those standards I am the most uncool person you could possible ever know. But the truth is I am brutally aware of it and trying to rise above it. So please hold your tongue the next time your tempted to poke fun at my van. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!

(this article appeared in the 10/11/11 edition of The Review Atlas as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series)

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