Bye, 2017. Hello 2018.

2017 was an uncertain beast with a few highs and lots of lows. Bye. Glad you’re gone.

The year gave us trouble from the very start until the very end. My aunt, the matriarch of my mom’s side, fell ill and the cold the lingered much longer than anticipated. Given that she is mid seventies, lives alone, and is hours away, my mom and I decided to visit a couple days to brighten her spirits and care for her any way we could. We left Friday and had a great time with her. She was definitely getting better, but hadn’t ever dealt with so much congestion. On Sunday, New Years Eve, we packed up and drove back to town.

On the way home, we got a call that my brother was feeling some pain near his belly button. We thought it might be something gallbladder related. He said he’d go to urgent care and get it sorted. Urgent care told him go to the ER, so they ended up there. He asked if my mom and I could come down and bring food for my SIL and nephew since the wait was long. I just drove 5.5 hours. We got into town around 4:45, grabbed gas and food, and quickly ate and made food to bring to them.

No joke, the ER was packed. There was maybe *A* spare chair and we were warned to wear masks as people were quite ill inside. We gave my SIL food, grabbed my nephew, and spent most of the night in the hospital waiting area entertaining a 15 month old. After an hour, we became “those people.” Kai was not about that sitting still life and we figured it was better he was ambulatory rather than vocally shrieking so we chased him around, let him climb the chairs, and carried him around. Around 10:50, my brother and SIL finally appeared. He didn’t have gallbladder issues: he had a hernia from the appendix removal he had years ago! Grrrrreeeat. On the bright side, his gallbladder was good and no emergency surgery was needed. On the bad side, they told him no heavy lifting including his son, and that surgery still might be on the table. Since he still has a concussion, that comes with risks. So, we wait and pray in the meantime.

My mom and I got home in time to watch the ball drop and I sipped a smidgen of wine and excitedly welcomed 2018. Phew. I can only hope for brighter days for me and my family.

My resolution this year is three small but powerful phrases borrowed from Athena International:

“Live Authentically.
Learn Constantly.
Advocate Fiercely.”

Live Authentically: Being free to be me. Owning messes, admitting flaws, embracing my good qualities and areas of growth. Not allowing other’s opinions to pollute my outlook of self and self worth. Understanding that my voice resonates and has the power to do good or harm and it is worth speaking up when there is injustice or I am not represented correctly.

Learn Constantly: Wanting to know more and desiring new experiences so that I can improve my outlook, myself, and how I see the world around me. Enlightening my thoughts so that I can be more knowledgeable, wise, well rounded, and ask more questions and generate more curiosity. Being open, not ignorant or cautious, while understanding my intrinsic values and morals.

Advocate Fiercely: Continue contributing my efforts towards awareness and funds raising for foster youth in my area. Be respectful but vocal of what is important to me and be a voice for the helpless. Be more knowledgeable in how politics impact daily life not just for me, but for my fellow people. Dispel negativity, help shed light where I can, and lift others up so they can also be fierce and empowered.

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Trips, Fires, Holiday Spirit

Where do I begin this whirlwind of post-Thanksgiving happenings until now? Now being days before Christmas, house a mess, fall decor still around, and not a tree in sight?

My parents decided to take a trip to Asia to visit my mom’s relatives and visit Thailand as well. Days, maybe a literal day before their actual flight, there was so much political unrest in my mom’s birth country that they had to call all the relatives and airlines and let them know they could not go for their safety. This meant cancelling tickets, finding new tickets just to Thailand, cutting losses, and replanning in a couple day’s time.

So my parents exit the country, and my brother and his family enter the home for the extended weekend. Him. His wife. His toddler son. Their two dogs. We are gung-ho to clear out the darn garage for my parents as a blessing and “gift” for their return. They stay Friday through Sunday to help make that happen. On Sunday, to celebrate a clean-er garage and friendship, we had a small gathering with some close friends, soup, s’mores, and a nice fire pit. My lungs were already abused from the dust in the garage but I figured one day of a little campfire smoke wouldn’t hurt. (That became laughable. There is still smoke in the air today and my asthma flare ups remind me of it.)

Sunday night went long and so my brother and his family crashed there another night. At dinner out Monday evening, we found out a fire had broken out near my brother’s home. By the time we got back from dining, it was dangerously close to the point of possible evacuation. With their two dogs and a small suitcase already here, they braved the fire around them to collect documents, my SIL’s midwifery supplies, and a few more necessities.

Tomorrow marks a month that my brother and family has lived here. The fire has spanned over three weeks and is still only at 60% containment. It was one of many fires, and at one point, my town was sort of surrounded and also in danger of evacuation due to high winds. There were nights we hardly slept not knowing if we’d have to escape in a minute’s notice and wondering which relatives could house the four of us and the three dogs between us. Teething toddler, tired parents, worried aunt, and the homeowners out of the country all the way in Asia.

I remember packing some things for my parents and putting a carry-on suitcase together for me of belongings and thinking through the what-ifs. So much of the house’s items became so worthless in those moments. I had albums, medications, dog food, and necessities. That was enough.

Now that my parents are back, there are six of us and three dogs. My nephew is constantly getting “No!”-d at as he runs destructively through a not-baby-proofed home. I just acquired part of a baby gate to section off the oven and possibly a tree. He has no sense of schedule anymore and no safe room to play in. Dishes are piled as twice as many of us are there and in this month’s time my parent’s brought home a cold and my SIL brought home a stomach bug. It has not been easy. On any of us.

Through it all, it’s been hard to sit down and meditate on the true meaning of the season, but we are living it out just a little. A husband, wife, and child displaced from their town seeking shelter. That’s just a tidbit of the Christmas story but in it all I’ve seen love, hope, and strength.

I’m grateful neither one of our homes burned down. I’m grateful we got to be there for one another. I’ll be grateful when we both go back to our “normal.”

My priority tonight is get that Christmas tree up. I think we could all use a little cheer. Who knows how much longer they’ll be living with us as they work to clear up the smoke damage, but I’m thankful for family all the same.

NYR’s and PR’s

NYRs = New Year Resolutions
PRs= Personal Record

I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year! I’m feeling refreshed and ready to make the most of 2017. I’m also humbled and feel like my selfish desire to hide out for a week was wrong. I truly enjoyed the company of the relatives that came for Christmas and the relatives I saw in Arizona during my week off.

I ate horribly this holiday season. I didn’t really follow any guidelines for food or exercise and I sweet-ed myself out. All that to say when I was in AZ with my cousins and they were obsessing talking about logging calories into myfitnesspal, going to the gym religiously, and breaking all types of weight-lifting PRs, it made me feel super crummy. Some of the crummy I deserved to feel because I was making poor choices. But a lot of the crummy felt like shame, incompetence, and worthlessness — and I’m not okay with that.

They have all worked hard and I can’t discredit their efforts. I’m PROUD of them. I will say that they started out as healthy individuals of ideal weight and physical ability when they started so they didn’t have weight or health issues and were able to hit the ground running. Trying to compare myself with them isn’t fair. We have different goals even though we’re both working on our health.

We went out for a hike one of the days there and I needed to prove to my own self that I was capable. As we hiked (it was an easy trail, btw) I kept the lead most of the way up and down. Some of them weren’t wearing proper shoes or clothes, and I was in snug jeans, so none of us had ideal attire, but I pushed myself to keep ahead. It didn’t matter if they were casually hiking and I was putting in 110%, it mattered to me that I was able to keep up and feel good about what I was able to do. That hike dissolved a lot of the mucky feelings I was having and set my mind straight for 2017.

Here are my 2017 resolutions:

1. A healthy body, mind, and spirit. First and foremost.

Learning to rest/de-stress myself physically and mentally because I’m HORRIBLE at it. And leaning on Jesus. Also working on this body of mine, one day at a time, with new focus.

2. Working on patience instead frenzy, kindness instead of aggravation, and helpfulness instead of frustration. Especially with family members.

3. Minimizing belongings and unnecessary thoughts/feelings that cloud my outlook, rob my time, and prevent me from seeing my potential. Dwelling on/owning what truly brings me joy.

4. Being better friend. Finding new local friends organically.

5. Giving myself a heck of a lot more grace than I did in 2016. But also push myself harder with healthy motivators.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Holiday Focus

This holiday season has been rough for me. Mostly because I am trying so hard to keep it centered on Christ and I feel like I’m failing. There’s been bouts of sadness, bickering, you name it – and it makes it hard to feel the true joy that is at the heart of Christmas.

I wonder if trying harder this year makes me more conscientious that I could do better. I don’t feel like it’s a trial or that I need to “blame Satan” for interfering. No, this is just because I’m an imperfect person in a busy secular world and interactions with others and distractions get in my way.

I hope my effort despite recent failures pleases God. I’m not trying to guilt myself or fit a certain mode of worship, I’m just trying to take the steps I can, because that’s the right thing to do.

One of the hardest parts with my living situation right now is that we have a guest room and it is constantly occupied. This weekend relatives are staying to go to a Sweet 16. Then, next weekend, one of my cousins and her family will be here for Christmas. And then, immediately after, my family is caravan-ing to a neighboring state for a big birthday party.

That precious week of vacation time I saved for the week of Christmas? Now gone to hosting people and traveling out of town. Is it wasted? No. But is it what I wanted? No.

I wanted a week of low key relaxing, wrapping up the Christmas season in the comfort of my home and preparing for the new year by taking care of personal things. Now I’ll be hosting people, driving 7-8 hours out one way and then back, and returning to work in the new year exhausted instead of rested.

Is it selfish to just want some darn peace and quiet? Is it cruel to not appreciate seeing relatives and getting to spend more time with them? I don’t know. I’m just running on empty.

DIY Advent Calendar

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to do something extra special for my nephews to help them remember all the reasons they celebrate Christmas. Well, here it is!

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There were a few things I had to take into consideration as I made this. The first being this would have to be shipped halfway across the country and last several years. The lesser being that Mom and Dad could hang this where curious little hands couldn’t reach or open them and try to cash in on all the treats at once, ha!

On a scale of difficulty from 1-10, this is like, a 2. Looking back, I’d ideally use coin envelopes instead of my method, but smaller packs weren’t available in stores and I needed to send this out ASAP. I’d also take more time to decorate the outside of the envelope. I’ll do that next year.

I used:

– A wooden plaque with hanging already built in from Michaels.com (Use a larger size for larger trinkets)

Craft wood clothespins from the scrapbook section. They’re shorter than regular ones.

– Wood stain

– Short Envelopes

– Assorted candy, toys, stickers, and quarters

– A printout with verses about the Christmas story. I used this one.

Step One: Stain the wood plaque

(Optional, but it wasn’t hard and adds richness)

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Step Two: Use wood glue to glue clothespins ( I laid them out and lifted as I went)

The beautiful hand model is my boyfriend. Haha.

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Step 3:  Wood glue tells you to clamp as it dries.

Instead of clamping 24 pins, I used cans. I know, I know. Genius. 😉

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Step 4: Print the verses, trim them, prep the envelopes. 

If I had enough time to order coin envelopes I would have used them. Instead I cut short envelopes in half, folded the cut edge over, taped it, and use those as my coin envelope.

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Step 5: Prep your goodies

This was a challenging part. I have three nephews which means three of something in each tiny envelope. It made some of the envelopes look really bulky and I chose to give more quarters and opt out of the second candy choice. I know my best friend is grateful for less sugar. 😉 For the last day, I wrote 24/25. Since it’s the grand finale, I gave them all a light saber light up thingy. And on the back of the envelope I wrote, ” The Light of the world is born to save us.” Quarters not pictured.

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Overall, this was a very time consuming but worthwhile project! I have to give Josh a shoutout for helping me with staining and glueing. I hope my nephews enjoy it and think of their auntie when they see it each year. Auntie thinks she’ll be sending new envelopes each year to keep them interested in new treats and bible verses.

I can’t wait to make one for Kai when he’s older. ❤

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I stood at church this Sunday and watched the light on the first advent candle [hope] flicker. Considering that I had no clue what an advent wreath was 5 years ago, I am quite thankful my church has one! The first week of advent, with three remaining. And here I am still detoxing from Thanksgiving gorging and family feels. As I see each candle lit consecutively it reminds me to reflect and shows me how short Christmas season really is.

I feel like holiday seasons pass by so much quicker as an adult. Does anyone else feel the same? And with Christmas being a time we give gifts, it can easily become more consumer focused than Christ focused.

I’m working on getting decorations up this week because they help remind me that there is more to this season, even if it’s just awe as I watch the Christmas lights sparkle and ponder Jesus taking human form (fully man, fully God) as I gaze at the nativity set.

I’m also working on an advent calendar for my nephews. I thought about my small but important part in their lives right now and how this Christmas I could make a spiritual impact rather than just giving a toy. I’ve decided to hand make an advent calendar for them with verses each day about the Christmas story with room for reflection and their parents to make it more of a devotion if they wish. I’ll also include some fun, of course. I have candies, stickers, and dollar bills to stuff in there as little gifts as they open one each day. I feel like this is the perfect year to give it now that the eldest is a great reader and the littlest is able to sit still and engage in the activity.

I need to clarify that I am doing this with their parents’ permission. I feel it very important, especially regarding spiritual things, that I get permission and that I do not overstep the parent’s spiritual instruction in their children’s lives as they are the main source and have a big responsibility before God to keep. But in this way, I can do my part this season to share Christ with them in a very special way.

Do you or your family have special traditions that help you remember the reason for the season?