Nature’s beauty abounds as winter gives way to spring

Life in Northwest Arkansas was pretty much one color the last few months. Since December 2013, we’ve had either an ice or snow storm every month through March. The glistening white stuff is both troublesome and breathtaking all at the same time. As much as it makes traveling difficult, especially for someone with a disability, it truly is so peaceful and pretty.

It’s amazing to me how something that is so utterly monochromatic could be so beautiful. Each weather system brought different elements from lots of snow in the first storm (well six inches is a lot for us down in the South!) to the freezing rain/sleet/snow combo we had in March.

In recent weeks however, the world has started to change and many of us are excited! Colorful plants are popping out, grass is coming back to life and the sun is shining. Even the angry storm clouds have their own beauty. Oh, and there have been days warm enough to be outside to enjoy it all!

A snowy winter in photos

First let’s review some of my favorite (or the most telling) photos from this past winter.

This is pretty much my favorite picture of all of them. Flower loves the snow! This was taken December 6, 2013.

This is pretty much my favorite picture of all of them. Flower loves the snow! This was taken December 6, 2013.

 

Check out that snow! This was taken the morning of December 7, 2013. I think we ended up with inches. That was the storm that had all of Northwest Arkansas up in arms because the roads were very poorly managed. I think I was not able to get out for 8 days after this (I have to be extra careful).

Check out that snow! This was taken the morning of December 7, 2013. I think we ended up with  6 inches. You can see the depth on our grill. The rest of the yard was pretty trampled by happy puppy dogs. That was the storm that had all of Northwest Arkansas up in arms because the roads were very poorly managed. I think I was not able to get out for 8 days after this (I have to be extra careful).

 

The first week of January brought more snow but not as much as other storms in the winter. I think we got a couple inches then.

The first week of January brought more snow but not as much as other storms in the winter. I think we got a couple inches then.

 

February's storm packed a little more punch if I remember correctly. Colby found the perfect spot next to our garage where the snow had melted.

February’s storm packed a little more punch if I remember correctly. Colby found the perfect spot next to our garage where the snow had melted.

 

It kept warming up and refreezing, thus creating cool looking icicles from our drain spouts. February 2014.

It kept warming up and refreezing, thus creating cool looking icicles from our drain spouts. February 2014.

 

Do you want to build a snowman? I named this yard decoration Olaf. I got this cute picture of him in real snow in February 2014.

Do you want to build a snowman? I named this yard decoration Olaf. I got this cute picture of him in real snow on an evening in earlyFebruary 2014.

 

Our final (I hope!) storm came in March. It put down a lot of sleet and freezing rain then snow then freezing rain on top. That made the snow pretty hard to the point that our dogs didn't even break through. In this photo you can see the paw print that was made before the final layer of freezing rain hardened every thing. The dog (Jazzy) didn't sink after that!

Our final (I hope!) storm came in March. It put down a lot of sleet and freezing rain then snow then freezing rain on top. That made the snow pretty hard to the point that our dogs didn’t even break through. In this photo you can see the paw print that was made before the final layer of freezing rain hardened every thing. The dog (Jazzy) didn’t sink after that!

 

This one block of ice came from our driveway.  March 2014.

This one block of ice came from our driveway. March 2014.

 

Bring on Spring!

Let’s take a look at some color! These are some more recent views in Northwest Arkansas.

These daffodils come up next to our shed in the backyard. So pretty!

These daffodils come up next to our shed in the backyard. So pretty!

 

 

You can't see them well, but we now have a butterfly wind chime and a bird feeder that looks like a porch swing hanging from our porch.

You can’t see them well, but we now have a butterfly wind chime and a bird feeder that looks like a porch swing hanging from our porch.

Bradford Pears are kind of annoying trees but they are pretty when they bloom!

Bradford Pears are kind of annoying trees but they are pretty when they bloom!

 

 

You know it's spring when you see the giant cutout of a local meteorologist urging you to get a weather radio! The above picture is of a recent storm rolling in.

You know it’s spring when you see the giant cutout of a local meteorologist urging you to get a weather radio! The above picture is of a recent storm rolling in.

 

It wouldn't be spring without yard work!

It wouldn’t be spring without yard work!

 

A view of our front porch. Yes, that's a butterfly wind chime, a butterfly on our door hanging, and three butterfly garden sculpture thingies. I like butterflies but agree I need to find other bugs to decorate! I'm thinking dragonflies and ladybugs.

A view of our front porch. Yes, that’s a butterfly wind chime, a butterfly on our door hanging, and three butterfly garden sculpture thingies. I like butterflies but agree I need to find other bugs to decorate! I’m thinking dragonflies and ladybugs.

 

 

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It’s OK to come into the light

Depression is not a black and white issue. It's a very real thing that affects millions. I'm choosing to shine a light on the subject.

Depression is not a black and white issue. It’s a very real thing that affects millions. I’m choosing to shine a light on the subject.

Anyone who knows me realizes that I’ve received many a diagnoses in my life. I was born with Spina Bifida and I have four auto-immune diseases. What some may not realize is that one of the most profound diagnoses of my life happened when I was 18.

I was diagnosed with depression.

I had known something wasn’t right for a while but didn’t know how to best verbalize it. I was taken to see a mental health professional when I was in high school and finally I had answers for the constant confusion, “dull-headedness,” sadness, anger and even a general achiness.

Various prescriptions have been used to control my physical symptoms since that time, now half my life. I had to stop each one for various reasons but seem stable on the one I’m on now. I’ve also worked through many issues in talk/behavioral therapy over the years with the most successful work happening in the last decade or so. Another major component of this is my involvement in the program Celebrate Recovery.

Why share this story?

I’ve known for a while I was supposed to share my story of living with depression but wasn’t sure what the message was supposed to be. I’ve prayed, considered and tried to listen to God’s voice in this matter. What I believe to be “the message” is not as spiritual or ethereal as one might think.

The truth is, many misconceptions still abound about depression. There’s still a stigma and that means people who need treatment don’t get what they need to heal. We are created by God and I firmly believe we are to take care of our “temple” … be it mind, body or soul. So why are we so afraid to recognize when we have a mental illness and to receive treatment for that ailment?

We as a society and as humans feel the need to ferret out the source of every problem, every issue. Depression has been blamed on sin, on personal decisions, on family history … or treated like it doesn’t even exist.

As we’ve learned more about depression, the physical chemistry component has taken forefront in a growing number of people’s minds. “It has nothing to do with spirituality or emotions. It’s just some misfiring in the brain. You can’t do anything about that” is the common thread.

The whole person

Depression is like being in a fog. It's like having a giant animal sitting on your chest, cutting of your air. It's like losing a piece of who you are.

Depression is like being in a fog. It’s like having a giant animal sitting on your chest, cutting off your air. It’s like losing a piece of who you are.

As someone who has lived with depression and studied it from a medical, behavioral and spiritual standpoint, I firmly believe that depression affects the whole person. God created us to be interconnected human beings both within our own bodies and with each other. When one part of us is out of kilter, the rest of us is “off” too, even if we don’t realize it at the time.

I do believe depression can start as guilt from a bad decision or a sin. But that doesn’t mean that all that needs to take place is a quick trip to confession and reading one’s Bible. That guilt will eat at a person until it affects their ability to function mentally. It will also take a toll on their body and, I believe, lead to chemical imbalances in the brain.

Or, depending on the individual, depression could start as a chemical imbalance in the brain. The effects of that cause confusion, unstable emotions and so much more. This wears on a person after a while and it is not uncommon to doubt one’s faith and to see definite changes in behavior.

My point is that no matter where it originates, depression is a vicious, vicious circle. No matter what the cause, each part of the person needs treatment, needs healing. Just as the body works together (mind, body, soul), so should the treatment plan.

Participating in therapy and seeking spiritual guidance from a trusted person of faith are not going to be as effective if the body’s chemistry is still screwed up. Just like taking medicine is only treating part of the problem if we don’t deal with the mental and spiritual issues.

Join me in the light

sign-of-hope-1400206-mI hope that by sharing my story, someone who secretly lives with depression will realize it’s OK to come into the light. I hope and pray that they will seek ongoing treatment without shame.

My prayer is that whoever is reading this will see there is hope.

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Self-employed? Need to max your tax return? Try Walmart Family Mobile

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

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As most of us in the United States are finishing up our income taxes (they’re due April 15, ya’ll!), I bet most of us are hoping for a bit of a refund. What are you spending your refund on? Let me plant a little bug in your ear about a cost-saving investment I just made that will “max your tax” refund. Thanks to #CollectiveBias and Walmart #FamilyMobile, I’m trying out the Samsung Galaxy Exhibit (less than $100!), which is only one of many phones available through Walmart Family Mobile.

The truth is, I should have tried out this plan a long time if only for the fact that it offers the cheapest of all the unlimited talk/text/web no-contract plans.

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NWA Fashion Week teaches fashion as art, provides awareness for local charity

Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®  Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

 ShopNWAFWHero1

I’m the first to admit, that I’ve not really understood the fashion world. I tend to wear traditional clothes and don’t keep up with the latest trends. So it probably seemed a little weird to my friends that I was so completely excited to attend an event during Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week on behalf of #Collective Bias!

The truth is, I was curious and more importantly, I knew that #NWAFW (check out that hashtag on social media channels to see all kinds of great content) was a major event that raised money and awareness for various nonprofit organizations. Organizations that work hard to make a difference in my community.

After spending an evening at 21C Museum Hotel, I gained both a new appreciation for fashion as a self-expressive art form and a knowledge of some organizations I had never heard of before. Continue Reading →

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Tri-Tip-the perfect cut of beef for all seasons

tritip anchor

When my husband was a kid growing up in California, it was popular to get a “tri-tip,” which is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin. When he moved away from California, he searched high and low for tri-tip in local grocery stores to no avail.

A few months ago, he happened to be looking through the butcher’s section at our local grocery store and discovered they had this cut of meat. I have admit, I was amused at how excited he was! I couldn’t figure out if tri-tip was really that great or if he was just being nostalgic. During research on how to best prepare the tri-tip, we learned that the cut is most popular in Central California and in a lot of other places cut or grind up the tri-tip for other uses. It’s becoming more common, however, and I’ve even had several friends from across the country talk about this amazing cut of meat on Facebook.

Here’s why I think tri-tip is the perfect meat for all seasons:

DSCN0448

  • It’s relatively inexpensive, given the quality (ours is usually about $3.99 a pound)
  • It’s relatively low fat (not greasy but not dry)
  • It tastes amazing …moist and rich…no matter how you cook it. Given the choice, I would almost always choose tri-tip over steak
  • Tri-tip can be baked, roasted, grilled, slow cooked, smoked or braised. That means that no matter what the weather or your cooking skills, you can prepare a tri-tip

We’ve now fixed tri-tip in a couple of different ways and find all of them delicious. We usually season it the same way but cook it using different methods.

How to prepare a tri-tip for cooking

  1. First, you have to thaw it. I know, that’s probably obvious to most of you.
  2. Prepare a rub and coat the tri-tip as evenly as possible (to avoid getting a bite-full of really strong seasoning!
  3. Let the tri-tip soak in the rub for at least a couple of hours or up to a full day (in the fridge of course)

The rub we use is:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Grilling the tri-tip

  1. Depending on how big the tri-tip is, you might want to quarter it before grilling.
  2. Prepare the grill how you normally would to obtain a medium heat.
  3. Sear all sides (2-4 minutes on each side) and then place on the grill fat side up.
  4. Watch for flash overs (according to my husband that means when the fat drips down and makes the flames woosh up)
  5. Don’t let it cook more than 140 degrees in the center and if you want it more rare than that, cook to about 120 degrees in the center. If you want medium-rare try 130 degrees. Do not let it get above 140 or it will be overdone and very tough.
  6. Trim the fat off after grilling (or if you want it leaner, trim it before you start cooking).
Cut new potatoes with olive oil and peppercorn pepper are great on the grill.

Cut new potatoes with olive oil and peppercorn pepper are great on the grill.

Grilled tri-tip is great with new potatoes that have also been grilled. I usually make a “boat” out of several layers of criss-crossed aluminum foil that are rolled up to create sides. Slice or quarter the new potatoes and place them in the aluminum foil “dish.” Drizzle EVOO over all of them then use peppercorn medley pepper over the potatoes. Gently toss them to more evenly coat all the pieces. Cover the dish with another layer of aluminum foil. Place on the grill and let them cook. It might be a good idea to gently turn the potatoes throughout the cooking process so they cook evenly.

Roasting the tri-tip

 

  1. Prep the tri-tip with rub.
  2. Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees.
  3. Place the tri-tip in a roasting pan fat side up (trim some of the fat off).
  4. Place chopped vegetables (new potatoes, sliced carrots and chopped onion) around the roast.
  5. Bake in the oven until it reaches a center temperature of about 120 (rare) to 140 degrees (medium well). Letting your tri-tip get well done will make it way too dry! The fat from the top will help keep the roast moist and the seasonings will permeate the vegetables like a pot roast.

Cooking times will vary based on your oven. Monitor the cooking progress every 20-30 minutes to avoid overcooking the meat.

 

Finding tri-tip

We usually keep a tri-tip in the freezer so when we get a hankering for it we know there is one available. If you can’t find tri-tip in your local grocery store butcher section, ask about it. They might be able to cut it for you. If not, try a specialty butcher shop. I promise it will be worth the slightly higher price you will pay!

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Jamie’s Enchiladas (beef, cheese, olive enchiladas)

Enchiladas

 

Anyone who knows me on Facebook probably realizes by now that our family loves enchiladas. I started making them nearly 10 years ago and have customized the recipe to fit changing tastes, health situations and general preferences.

I blogged my enchilada recipe in 2010 but it’s changed enough and is requested enough that I thought I’d revamp the post (including the much more appetizing picture!).

At the risk of sounding prideful, these enchiladas are pretty darn popular. I usually get requests to make them for potlucks, group meals and well, just at our home. When I make the enchiladas for larger groups, I usually do it casserole style, which I’ll share after the traditional method in this blog.

Like most of my recipes, the measurements are not hard and fast. Depending on your personality, that could make it easier or harder for you to follow!

Enchilada ingredients

  • About 2 pounds of lean beef (if it’s slightly more or less that’s OK. Using ground turkey is also OK)
  • Minced or fresh onion to taste (if you use a real onion I usually use half a large onion, chopped)
  • Garlic powder to taste (I usually just use a few wrist shakes)
  • Black pepper (same amount as the garlic powder)
  • At least a 19 ounce can of enchilada sauce (if you use a smaller can, get two cans. They also have a bigger size that you can also use if you want a more moist dish. We prefer Ole El Paso sauce)
  • 2 small cans of sliced black olives
  • 8-10 taco-sized flour tortillas
  • About 2-3 cups of shredded cheese (I use a Mexican or a colby/jack finely shredded blend. The finely shredded is less greasy when it melts.)
  • Optional: small can of green chilis (I don’t put these in)

Making amazing enchiladas

  1. Preheat oven to 350 or if you’re in more of a hurry, 375 degrees.
  2. Brown the meat and then drain.
  3. Mix in the (drained) olives.
  4. Mix in about 1/3 of the can of enchilada sauce (if you’re using two smaller cans, about half to 2/3 of one can).
  5. Mix in about a handful or two (depending on preference) of the shredded cheese to complete the meat mix (it should be enough cheese that it’s a cohesive but not “cheesy”).
  6. Pour 1/3 of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the 11×17 dish (I use Pyrex. If you use a metal baking pan I recommend either using lots of cooking spray or lining it with aluminum foil).
  7. Place about a half a cup of the meat mix into each tortilla and folding in the ends towards the center then rolling each tortilla (to create a burrito type thing).
  8. Place the enchiladas side by side in the pan as you roll each one. Once you fill up the lengthwise direction, you should be able to fit two more end to end at the top. If you use a bigger size tortilla this will not be the case.
  9. If you have any meat mixture left (I usually have about a cup left), spread it evenly over the rows of enchiladas.
  10. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the entire pan of enchiladas.
  11. Sprinkle shredded cheese (usually about 2-3 handfuls) over the top of the enchiladas
  12. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes. The amount of time largely relies on which temperature you chose. I prefer 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Start checking the enchiladas at about 25-30 minutes and they are done with the cheese is melted, the edges of the exposed tortillas are starting to look crispy, and the sauce is bubbling.
  13. Serve with salad, tortilla chips or whatever!

 

Making enchilada casserole

  1. This version of the recipe is a lot easier to serve to groups because people can cut square servings instead of trying to make sure they get a whole rolled enchilada (it helps avoid the “oops, sorry I cut into your enchilada”).
  2. Make the meat mix just as described above.
  3. Pour the first layer of enchilada sauce along the bottom.
  4. Instead of rolling the enchiladas, place enchiladas flat along the bottom so that small parts of each tortilla overlaps the one next to it.
  5. Place 1/3 of the meat mix along the tortillas.
  6. Make another layer of tortillas over the meat mix.
  7. Spread another 1/3 of the meat mix over the second layer of tortillas.
  8. Place a third layer of tortillas over the meat mix.
  9. Spread the final 1/3 of the meat mix over the last layer of tortillas.
  10. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the meat mix.
  11. Cover the entire casserole with a layer of shredded cheese.
  12. Bake as instructed above.
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Competition is about keeping your eye on the ‘prize’

Race

Competition is an interesting thing. There’s that saying that it makes you better, meaning you makes you strive to do better and excel ahead of your competitor. I’ve learned that overly focusing on competition can be a negative thing, even bringing about your downfall.

For eight years of my newspaper reporter career, I worked in a market that had two competing newspapers. We covered pretty much the exact same stuff and often had the same angles. In a way, it was great because people could have a choice. If they didn’t trust one paper, they had an option to get news somewhere else. On the other hand, it was a little absurd. After all, we were spending money to essentially replicate the exact same thing.

Something occurred to me at that time that competition in business can be a lot like competition in a track race. A smart athlete reviews their competition, learns their strengths and their weaknesses, and plans their strategy accordingly. Then when it comes game time (or race time), I think a smart athlete pushes forward with their own strengths. It does what it knows is right, not always trying to figure out what their competition is doing.

I use this analogy: if you’re running a track race and you keep turning your head to see where your competition is, you will eventually get off track. You will slow down and perhaps even fall flat on your face.

Here’s the thing: this concept is true for more than just business. If I lose track of my goals in life, in faith and in love, I will ultimately fail. It isn’t about what others are doing. If we’re always worried about what other people are doing that we will eventually lose focus and stumble.

What ways do you stay focused in a competitive situation? Do you agree with my assessment?

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Walgreens pharmacy chat to the rescue! (Otherwise known as Jamie needed help at weird times)

Something you should know: So, most of you know that I keep what most consider non-traditional hours, right? And most of you know I have a knack for getting weird aches and pains (usually at non-convenient hours). That’s why I was excited when Collective Bias offered me the opportunity to try out Walgreens’ pharmacy chat service as part of a compensated shoppertunity. While I was compensated for this post, the opinions and experiences I share are entirely my own thoughts. As in yes, it’s what I actually think about using Walgreens pharmacy chat. ShopWalgreensRX3products

A couple of weeks ago, I had kind of a bummer week. First of all, I was going through what I thought was the stomach bug and then I fell out of my wheelchair twice in about 20 minutes, giving me tons of muscle aches and pains. Really, just not a good time.

Just about anyone who knows me knows I keep what most consider weird hours. My husband works second shift and doesn’t get home for dinner until after 11 p.m. With me being self-employed and working from home, I’m blessed to be able to adapt my lifestyle and hours around his schedule. That flexibility also is convenient because it allows me to make choices and take care of various situations from errands to doctor visits without interfering with a traditional job schedule.

The downside? When I need to communicate with people who are on a traditional schedule like, say, doctors or a pharmacist. Wondering ideas for managing the stomach bug that I got a couple weeks ago is not really convenient at 8 p.m. when pretty much the only medical professional available is the emergency room. I’m a firm believer that the ER is only for like….emergencies so I was not about to call and ask for basic advice and reassurance.

Walgreens pharmacy chat great for middle of the night

That’s where the awesome Walgreens pharmacy chat came in. I already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled but I wanted to talk to someone in the medical profession at a time that worked best for my brain and also wanted someone else’s input. I’ve found that pharmacists are a wealth of information and can talk about (in generalities) what symptoms a lot of people are having in the area and what is taking care of them.

The Walgreens pharmacy chat is easy to find once you log into your Walgreens account (which is free).

The Walgreens pharmacy chat is easy to find once you log into your Walgreens account (which is free).

 

I had a very short wait time and was able to go into some gross detail about my stomach bug because I wasn’t actually looking at the person. I’m weird about feeling embarrassed about stuff like that. I can do it, but preferred the anonymous version of the pharmacy chat!

Walgreens chat 2

I scribbled out the gross details of my stomach bug (you’re welcome) but wanted to show you the chat window. It’s pretty easy and you can email it to yourself in case you want to save it for future reference. You can also print it.

The next day I headed out to Walgreens to pick up a few items that were suggested. As you can see from the chat, you pretty much just have to wait out the stomach virus.

ShopWalgreensRXInStore

I did get probiotics to help replace the good bacteria in my gut and got some supplements to keep my waning energy up and help with immunity. I know the pharmacist said replacing my toothbrush wasn’t necessary, but I was paranoid and did it anyways. I also got some supplies to help replace cleaning items I had already used. And what is having the crud without some blandish comfort food? Most go for chicken noodle soup but I like lots of noodles so you can see from my first picture that I got microwaveable chow mein. It was nice to find all the items I needed in a store that is big enough to have what I needed but not so big that I felt overwhelmed when I was already not feeling that great. By having a list from the pharmacy chat, I was able to go in and get what I needed without asking for help in the store. When you’re not feeling that great, human interaction isn’t that fun, you know?

Oops!I fell down. Walgreens pharmacy chat to the rescue

OK so I used the Walgreens pharmacy chat for the stomach bug and thought “oh good, I was able to use the good feature for my shop.” Then last weekend I was walking my dogs and well, they were a little excited and I was not very coordinated. I managed to fall out of my wheelchair twice in one block. Yes, I’m serious. I’m kind of a big girl and you know the saying about “the bigger they are the harder they fall?” Yeah, I fall hard. It hurts. I don’t break anything but it’s a recipe for soreness!

I can’t take NSAIDS including aspirin or Ibruprofen, which most people take in these instances. I didn’t want to overload on Tylenol because really it was just muscle soreness. I asked on Facebook for advice but realized that an actual medical professional might be a good idea. So where am I supposed to get that on a Saturday or Sunday night? Woo hooo! Walgreens pharmacy chat to the rescue again.

Walgreens chat 3They were able to make recommendations for topical muscle relaxers and even sent me a link to some products at Walgreens so I knew what to look for. That was so much more of what I needed than just killing the pain with painkillers. I was instead able to help heal what was hurting. By the way, in case you’re wondering, Icy Hot comes in spray now. I had no idea. Awesome stuff.

Back to life, back to reality

When I don’t feel well or I’m hurting, I have to admit that it interferes with my life. I wish I was some kind of superwoman who could work like normal, manage the house like normal and play with my kids (fur-covered or otherwise) like normal. But I just can’t. Now that I’m feeling better and haven’t had to spend a lot of my day-time hours at the doctor’s office for mundane stuff, I’m able to get back to my life again. Oh, including my blog. That is a great thing!

Time with husbad, my job, my fur kids and cooking feels like a luxury after not being able to manage all of it when I am sick.

Time with husband, my job, my fur kids and cooking feels like a luxury after not being able to manage all of it when I am sick.

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Birthdays are like my new year

936571_10151801491625458_183143269_nA few weeks ago, I enjoyed one of my favorite days of the whole year.

Anyone who knows me knows I love my birthday. As a kid, I used to start slipping hints about my upcoming birthday at least two months in advance. I don’t mean with relatives. I mean with the checkout lady at the grocery store. Or the gas station attendant. Complete strangers. Dude, I had crazy ways of working it into conversation.

Celebrating my age

As I’ve aged (I’m in my mid to late 30s now), I’ve thought that perhaps it’s time to not get so excited about my birthday. After all, as people get older they often get weird about their age. They wish they were younger. They lie about their age. They see getting older as something bad.

This year I decided I never wanted to feel that way. I never want to stop celebrating making it to another year. I want to increase the joy every year. After all, getting older when you’re younger is not as big of an accomplishment. But when you get older and have more health problems, the blessing of celebrating another year of life is incredibly powerful.

To me, it’s not “Oh, woe is me. I’m 36. I’m almost middle aged.” It’s more like “woo hoo! I’m 36. I feel blessed that I’ve made it this long. I never thought I’d live past 35.”

New Year redefined

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Let it Go! A blog from January 8, 2007

One of our first "selfies" from our dating time.

One of our first “selfies” from our dating time.

Yesterday was the last Sunday of 2013 and whenever I hear about it being the last Sunday of the year it always takes me back to the last Sunday of 2006. It was December 31 and that night was of course all the New Year’s celebrations.

I had just decided to give the “God thing” a try (having like a real relationship with him that didn’t involve other people’s rules and expectations) and had contacted someone on MySpace about his faith and church, etc. He invited me to attend the church where his parents pastored and I decided to give it a try.

Brother Mark read the below letter from TD Jakes (I had no idea who that was at the time) and it really resonated with me so I blogged about it. That was over on MySpace and when I decided to switch to this format for blogging and close down my MySpace account, I copied and pasted the blog over here.

On a side note, it was this blog (the MySpace version) that “some guy” read and made a comment on. I ignored him at first because I had such negative experiences with guys who had contacted me via MySpace. I decided I was being rude and answered back. We got to talking and now nearly seven years later John and I still together!

Here is the original blog…thought it was a good reminder for 2014:

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