A Is For Alphabet

001 (2)Part 1 of the Series “Writing From ‘A To Z'”

I read a wonderful blog post about failure recently. I have been reading so many blogs, reciprocating comments as I try to build my traffic, that I, sadly cannot remember where I saw it.  The blogger had attempted to meet a challenge to write a post every single day that was about something that started with each letter of the alphabet.  In the end, she decided she couldn’t keep up with it, and, in her opinion, the quality of her posts was suffering.  She had a great attitude about learning from failure that I agree with wholeheartedly.  Her experience made me think of this C.S. Lewis quote:  “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

But, I have been thinking about this challenge quite a bit.  While I have not received this challenge, I have decided to do a series of posts based on the letters of the alphabet.  I recall, many years ago, reading that a famous author (I don’t remember who it was now . . . do you see that my poor memory is a bit of a challenge?), said that, in order to be successful, you must commit to writing five hours per day.  Of course, writing was his full-time job, and I don’t have that luxury.  But, I do agree with some of his comments that you can’t always wait for inspiration.  You see, you may be waiting a very long time.  I think, with blogging, if you have long periods of no content, you lose your audience.  On the other hand, as that blogger found, if you force it too much, quality suffers.

So, I am not going to try for one post a day.  In addition, I may interrupt the series if I do feel a stroke of inspiration that does not follow the alphabet.  If I decide it’s not working, I may abandon the idea altogether.  How’s that for lack of commitment?! Maybe that is why I didn’t get married until I was 36 and “Perhaps” has become my favorite response to every question!

However, in thinking about it for several days, I believe this is something that could stretch me a bit (always good for growth) and I have several blog ideas that I have been kicking around that I can incorporate into this challenge for myself.

And now, this gives me an opportunity for a Mommy story that ties in nicely with the alphabet, and Mommy stories have been lacking on this (Not Just Another) Mommy Blog.

My 6 year old son and I have had a tradition for years, where I read him books before bed, and then sing some songs.  His 3 year old baby sister joined our ritual many months ago.  I tried something different two or three weeks ago that I thought would be kind of fun.  My son is in Kindergarten, learning to read and write.  He is a little obsessed with learning to spell words.  So, I suggested, instead of songs, we play a game.  We each say a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet.  A few nights later, his sister joined us.

My son was very good at this game from the start.  It has been fun to hear the different words he thinks of.  His sister, on the other hand, didn’t quite get it.  So, for “A”, I might say “alphabet”.  My son would say “amazing”.  My daughter would say, “unicorn!” with great enthusiasm.  We tried correcting her and explaining the game.  We would get to “D” and I might say “door”, my son might say, “dark” and my daughter would say “basketball!”.  This tickled me so, and she loved hearing me giggle when she strayed from the rules of the game.  I decided to stop correcting her, and just let her play it her way, because I knew she would learn it all too soon and the amusement of her saying whatever she wanted would fade much too quickly.

Sure enough, it was only about three nights later that she began playing correctly, and I was a little sad.  But, joyously, that only lasted a few nights.  She has now decided to make up nonsense words.  As usual, my son and I say a word that fits in the with rules, but when we get to “G”, she says “Galockula”!  Her brother, who is very much a follow-the-rules-to-a-fault kind of a kid (a little too much like is mother in worrying about doing everything right) has started following his sister’s lead and making up words.  Unfortunately both of their nonsense words often end in “poopy” or “butt” because that, of course, makes everything funnier to 6 and 3 year olds.  Or, is it fortunately?  I don’t know.  I’m just enjoying the ride.

This Very Strange Blogging World

IMG_1920I started blogging about six weeks ago, and it has been quite a journey already.

Did you know there is a blogging sub-community out there? I didn’t, but I sure do now! It is very active and it is full of wonderful people, users, braggers, helpers and people who try to put in minimum input for maximum rewards. It’s just like real life, full of unwanted drama and beautiful surprises.

I had been thinking about starting a blog for quite some time.  When I finally took the plunge,  I jumped in and posted, with a rather amateurish looking site (still is. . . I’m learning as I go along), and an unclear picture of what would develop.

I thought, if I wrote thoughtful posts that inspired, traffic would come.  I still do.  But, it is much more work than I realized!  I mistakenly believed that I could pin my posts on Pinterest and, like many of my other original pins, my posts would be re-pinned and I would have instant traffic!  How wrong I was!

Trying to build traffic quickly is beyond a full-time job, and some people take it very seriously.  I, however, have another full-time job, a husband, and two small children.  So, I have to accept that my blog will have to grow slowly, if it grows at all.

My group of followers can hardly be called a group.  You see, it includes myself, my mother-in-law, and the very kind blogger who nominated me for Liebster Award.  Need I say more?  Part of the problem could be that I did not have a place on my blog where people could sign up to follow me (thank you very much to my mother-in-law for alerting me to this fact!). The other problem is that I just have not yet figured out the best way to build traffic.  But, all learning experiences are good, right?

In six weeks, I have had over 400 visits to my blog.  More importantly, currently I have had 123 visitors.  To me, that’s not too bad.  But, then I see others who say they have 10,000 followers in their first month and I feel a little discouraged.  This is when the little lesson I’ve learned called, “Don’t Compare Yourself To Others”, comes in handy.

Now, on to some really excellent things that have happened in this journey.  I have had personal contact with people from all over the United States, and a few from other countries because of this blog.  I have been asked to help some people and contribute.  I have had visitors from over 20 countries, including Greece, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, France, and the Czech Republic.  I find it amazing and terrifying that people all over the world have read my thoughts about my insecurities and triumphs.  I have already succeeded in expressing myself, touching some people, and from some comments, even inspiring, which is my ultimate goal.

I have learned about blogging groups on facebook, and that I need to maintain my integrity, by following through with commitments.  I have learned that, as with everything, I need to pray before and during every post. . . that if it’s meant to be something, then it will be.

My biggest failure so far is that my posts are currently only reaching other bloggers, for the most part.  So, the next step is making my blog known to the “real” people in my life.  Here goes nothing . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is A Dream Job Everything?

IMG_3791I finished my Master’s Degree by 24, and landed my first “dream job” as a Human Resources Manager shortly before my 25th birthday.  My life seemed to be right on track.  My career progressed as I wanted, and I eventually became a regional manager.  I was in that job for nine years, and there was a lot about it I loved, most of all the fact that I could pretty much make my own schedule and I was using and developing my skills in training and coaching.  I held that job when I got married and for the first two years of my son’s life.  While I could make my own schedule when things were going well, when things weren’t, I had to pick up the slack or go out of town without notice to handle an employee situation.  Most of the time, those instances were rare.

My position was eliminated after almost 12 years with the company, and I took another management role, this time with a national retailer.  The hours were awful, and I had zero input about my schedule.  I also became pregnant in between receiving the job offer and starting in the position.  My husband and I were thrilled, as we wanted one more child, and I wasn’t getting any younger (I was 40), but I wasn’t sure how our good news would be received by my boss!  The 10 hour days took their toll on my ankles as I continued to get larger!  About 6 months into my pregnancy, I was informed that, due to a company-wide restructure, this job would also be eliminated!  They offered me an outstanding severance package, and frankly, I was happy to walk away.  We had broken ground on our new house about 10 days earlier, and while I was relieved to be done with working every weekend, I couldn’t believe I had lost two jobs within a year’s time.

I decided to become a Financial Advisor because I thought I would be good at financial planning and I loved the idea of setting my own schedule.  Unfortunately, I didn’t make my fourth quarter quota, and I once again found myself looking for a job in 2014.  I had interviews for two very good Human Resources positions and got second interviews for both jobs.  I didn’t land either job.  After selling myself for a year as a Financial Advisor, and now selling myself for a new job, I was emotionally exhausted.

So, I decided it was time to just get a plain old job.  I went through a temporary service and eventually landed the job I am in now.  I have been in a job as an Administrative Assistant for over a year and a half.

I’ve had to do some soul searching in continuing in a position that pays far less than what I have been used to, and certainly does not come with the “clout” I once had.  I came to the realization that often what I was seeking was more due to my pride than the financial needs of my family, and more importantly, the need my family has for my presence.

While I miss my old pay check and the influence I used to have, I have gained some great gifts through this job.

I have been humbled by some of the work I have been asked to do and the lack of authority I have.  I’m not saying this as a negative.  Often, being humbled is an opportunity for growth.  For one thing, if I ever become a manager again, while I feel I was generally respectful to my employees as a manager, perhaps I will have a different perspective.

I have flexibility in my schedule to attend my son’s school events.

My boss treats me well and was very understanding and accommodating during a devastating personal loss I experienced this year.

My co-workers are like family and I can be myself.  I have usually been the boss.  While I feel I forged some strong relationships with my reports in the past, I always had to keep a little distance.  Now I’m the low person on the totem pole, so I can be more real.

I have been able to exceed expectations.  Because I have experience in multi-tasking and getting things done working with people with a variety of personalities and work styles, I have been able to achieve things beyond what has been expected.  I have been asked to help out with projects and in other departments.

I’ve learned that any job is truly what you make it.  When I feel my pride getting in the way, I remind myself that I am being paid to do a job, I’m not “too good” for what I am being asked to do, and what is being requested is not illegal or unethical, so why have a bad attitude?  There is no reason, so I just do the best job I can.

I believe the old saying, that particularly applies to women, “You can have it all.  You just can’t have it all at once.”  Am I in my dream job?  No.  I have some talents that I don’t feel I’m using right now.  But, I don’t get phone calls after I have left work, and I am able to spend uninterrupted time with my family.  I can’t think of a dream sweeter than that.

 

 

Liebster Award

liebster awardMy nominator put this so well, I have simply copied her description: “The purpose of the virtual award is to welcome new bloggers to the blogging community. It is given by fellow new bloggers who have been in the blog world for less than 2 years and have fewer than 1000 followers. It is a great way for us to connect and support each other while introducing readers to awesome new blogs!”

Thank you very much to Deanndra for nominating me! She even became my very first “Follower”! Her blog is Sunshine. Daisies. Messy Babies. Check it out.

I am to answer a list of questions, provided by Deanndra, and to nominate five others.  I will list their blogs and my list of questions for them at the end.  Please take a moment to view their blogs.  You’ll be glad you did.  Perhaps I’ll gain a little inspiration for a future post in answering Deanndra’s great questions!

What is your dream vacation?

Before I got married, and during our first year of marriage, I managed to travel quite a bit.  The kids make that a little more difficult.  However, we got our first flight with the kids under out belt in December, and we have another one booked in June.

I’ll have to answer this in two categories:  with the kids, and without the kids.

When the kids get a little older, I would like to go back to Washington D.C.  I went there for a few days in my early 30’s, but didn’t get to see everything I wanted.  There is so much to see, and I found it to be very humbling.

The hubby and I have been dreaming about going to Jerusalem for a while.  Hopefully that dream will become a reality one of these days.

What are 3 things you never leave home without?

Cell phone.  Water.  Breath mints.

What is your dream job?

Goodness.  This is a loaded question.  This could be the inspiration for a post.  For now, I’ll just say, after having the jobs I thought I was aspiring to, changing jobs, and having two jobs eliminated within a year, I am now in a job that I am over-qualified for.  However, it is relatively stress-free and gives me lots of flexibility to attend my kids’ events.  So, I’ll stick with it for a while.  But, lately, I’ve been feeling like I might be getting a calling to be a Biblical Counselor.  At 44, I’m still figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up!

Red or white wine?

Both! (In moderation, of course!)

Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years?

As far as where I’ll physically be – I hope to live in my Midwest home for the rest of my life!  Regarding where I’ll be job-wise – please see my response to the “dream job” question!

Whats one thing your reader might not know about you?

I am an introvert.  I like people, but I find small talk exhausting at times.  Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing!

Whats your tv guilty pleasure?

All  of the “Real Housewives” shows, “Southern Charm” and “Dancing with the Stars”.

If you could move to a new country, where would you go?

Perhaps New Zealand or Australia.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would buy?

I would pay off my house.

What is one piece of advice you would give your 16 year old self?

Value yourself and honor God in your actions.

What is the biggest hurdle you’ve had to face as a new blogger and how did you overcome it?

The same hurdle everyone has – getting views and followers!  I’ve joined a number of groups and finally got my facebook page started.

Personally, I struggle in putting myself out there and keeping it real, without getting too personal or sharing to much personal information about the people in my life.

And the nominees are. . .

Jon at The Wilds:  Exploring the Wilderness

Chani at Chani Gets Healthyy

Yana at careerchickturnedmom

Bechaza at Hugs Homemade

Shanna at RHF Media

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to answer these questions on your blog, nominate 5 others and develop 11 questions for them.

Why did you decide to start blogging?

Who is the most important person in your life?

What is the most important thing in your life?

What are some things you have found that have inspired you in your writing?

What was a mistake you have made, and what did you learn from it?

What are your life goals?

What has been your most satisfying success related to blogging so far?

Where is the most interesting place you have been?

What is your favorite book and why?

What are some of your favorite blogs?

If you could be any kind of tree, what tree would you be?  Just kidding.  What are a few blogs you follow and why?

Thank you very much and best wishes to you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anxiety of Putting Yourself Out There

SAM_0450I started this blog for a number of reasons. Full disclosure – yes, I would like to gain a big enough following to get advertisers and make some extra money. That would be awesome! But, I also wanted a place to write, because it does seem to be therapeutic for me. Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to connect with others and offer help, hope, and inspiration.

But, as I mentioned in a previous post, I wondered what I would have to offer that would be unique and worthwhile.  My family situation is a little unique, but perhaps it’s really our commonalities that make us most appealing.

Even though I have only been doing this a short time, I have already doubted myself and some of my posts.  The next day at work, I find myself questioning if I should have said this or that.  But, then I remind myself that the times that I have allowed myself to be most vulnerable have been most rewarding.

I was discussing this with a friend the other day (free plug to her business here:  http://www.tina-rina.com/).  I told her that I had started blogging and it is kind of scary.  But, that I knew if I wanted it to amount to anything, that I was going to have to take the risk and be real (mixed in with some recipes!  But I figure those are real too because I plan to only post things that are extremely easy for those of us who are busy and sometimes just plain worn out).  She was there during a presentation I gave a few months ago where I talked about overcoming anxiety.  In my presentation, I didn’t hold back about some of the unhealthy ways I had tried to cope and some of the negative thoughts I had during that difficult time in my life.  The topic was so well received and participation so active, that I only got through half of my material.  She and I agreed that the reason is because people want to know they are not alone. . . that we are normal in our weirdness.

So, I’ll put my weirdo light out there to find the other weirdos whenever I feel moved to.  And, I guess if I feel some anxiety about it, I’ll take that to mean I have put out something real and hopefully that means it has the potential to be worthwhile.

All of this deep thought got me to thinking about how important it is to put ourselves out there, in big and small ways.  A couple years ago, I went through a season of doing what I thought were really thoughtful things for others, and getting zero acknowledgement for any of it, not even small thank yous.  I tried to stay positive, reminding myself that God saw my efforts, even if they weren’t noticed by others.  And, the things we do for people shouldn’t be for the “thanks”, but it still hurt, and I still got a little down about it.  Then, out of the blue, I got a very sincere thank you for something I did not expect to be noticed.

One thing I learned from this is to take that moment to thank someone if they have touched me positively in some way.  To take that moment to send an email to let someone know what they did or said made a difference, that it mattered to me.  I also know that the negative things we say make a difference too, so we must choose our words wisely and kindly.

I have gifts to offer, and so do you.  What you say and do matters, even if it’s not acknowledged right away.  You may surprised by the rewards you receive in unexpected places.

 

Pinterest Successes

You have probably seen some “Pinterest Fail” posts.  They are quite amusing, and I can certainly relate.  But, I had a thought that it might be helpful to people to provide links to some pins that actually worked well, the first time.

When I started using Pinterest regularly, I became rather hooked, and pinned like crazy.  A few months had passed when I realized that I had not actually used a single one!  This Baked Ravioli recipe was the first thing I tried, and it was a hit!  So easy too.  I’ve since shared this recipe with many people and they all love it.  My cousin pointed out that, in addition to being easy and delicious, this recipe also consists of three basic ingredients that you can have on hand and put together at the last minute, if necessary.

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/main-courses/baked-ravioli/

I’ve brought this Mexican Layered Salad to gatherings a number of times and have received many compliments on it.  I use a Trifle Bowl, and it looks very pretty if you choose colorful vegetables.  I’ve made a couple of changes.  I don’t like onions, so I don’t include them.  I usually include squash.  The first time I made it, I made the homemade dressing included in the recipe.  I’ve since substituted that with a Chipotle flavored vegetable dip I have purchased at Wal-Mart.  I prefer this because it’s easier, of course, but also because it is thicker and stays on top of the salad instead of running down through the salad – which looks messy and not very pretty.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/mexican-layered-salad

This Sweet and Savory BBQ Meatball recipe is pretty easy, and really delicious.  I eliminated the onions, of course.

Sweet and Savory BBQ Meatballs

I used this Goodbye to Yellow Armpit Stains concoction when I wanted to give away some of my nicer maternity clothes, but no matter how many times I washed the blouses, the armpits still stunk!  I think my chemistry was different when I was pregnant.  This did the trick!

Goodbye to Yellow Armpit Stains!

I actually did not do a Scrapbook Ornament: Baby’s 1st, even though I do think it’s a cute idea.  Instead, this pin gave me an idea for a Christmas gift for my husband that he loved.  The post uses plastic ornaments that open.  I used a glass ornament that did not open.  I bought a set of four a few days before Christmas.  Bonus – they were on sale and came out to about $1 each!  I then created a tiny scroll where I listed “12 Things I Love About You For The 12 Days of Christmas”.  I left the scroll out and wrapped it with the ornament, so he could read it and then roll it up and place inside the ornament.  It was probably the least expensive gift I have ever given him, but one of his favorites.

Scrapbook Ornament: Baby’s 1st

The kids and I did this “Fizzy Hearts Science” experiment a week or two before Valentine’s Day and several times since.  They ask to do the “explosion experiment” about every other night.

Fizzy Hearts Science for Kids

I made these frog cupcakes for my son’s 4th birthday.  Not exactly restaurant quality, but they were fun to make and my son loved them.  My only warning – don’t store them overnight in a cake carrier!  Some of the tongues (made of fruit roll-ups) melted and broke off!

Frog cupcakes

http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/frog-cupcakes.html#c2

This cupcake butterfly turned out pretty cute, but it was a lot of work

Butterfly cupcakes

 

https://www.facebook.com/MagnusCupcakes/photos

I’ll save most Christmas related posts until late November.  But, this was so easy, and worked well enough that I used it the last two Christmases.  I used three ribbons on the closet door in the foyer.  When I ran out of space, I hung them on the kitchen cabinets, and that worked just fine too.

http://southerncolor.blogspot.com/2012/12/diy-christmas-card-holder.html

Marriage and Money

IMG_1705I didn’t get married until I was 36. Many people tell me I was smart to wait. But, in some ways, I think getting married older made for a more difficult transition. I had been finished with my education and had been working in my field for 12 years by the time I got married. I had lived by myself during most of that time. I came and went as I pleased and spent my money as I liked.

I know couples who keep separate accounts, and divvy up the bills. But, I believe Dave Ramsey gives good advice, and he says you should combine your money to have a real partnership. This was important for us because giving up some independence and becoming part of a couple, and eventually a family, required that I jump in with both feet in some areas.

But I didn’t want us to have to discuss every little purchase, so I had an idea that we tried early in our marriage (I think the very first month!) and we are still using 7+ years later.

I suggested that we share accounts and pay all bills and make family purchases from that shared money, but that we each get a monthly allowance. As you know, money is one of the biggest areas of conflict in a marriage. While this helped us to avoid many arguments, in the beginning, we still frequently argued about what we should have to use our allowance for, and what warranted using our joint resources. But, as trust has built over time, these arguments have become rare.

In addition to minimizing conflict over money, I found that I was much more frugal. When I was single, I went out to eat frequently. With limited money for those luxuries, I started to really do the math and realized what a tremendous waste that was!

I’ve told people about this system and they sometimes ask the amount of our allowance. In the beginning, we were each getting $300 per month. We realized pretty quickly that was too much to set aside for personal spending, so we cut back. After two job eliminations within a year, and now living on a more modest income, we each get an allowance of $150 per month. This is pretty lean. . . if we come into some extra money (a tax return, for example) we usually get a little extra that we agree on. I find that about $200 per month works best.

This works quite well for us, and over time, having the majority of our resources combined has forced us to discuss how we spend our money as a married couple, and even helped us to articulate our values (how much we set aside for charity, etc.).

Taco Bake

IMG_17621 lb. ground beef

5 oz. Old EL Paso Medium Enchilada Sauce

6 flour tortillas torn into 1″ to 2″ squares

1 can tomato soup (I used Campbell’s 100% natural Harvest Tomato with Basil)

1/2 c. milk (I used whole milk)

1 1/2 c. shredded Mexican cheese (I used a Sargento combo – Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso Quesadilla and Asadero.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brown the ground beef.  Drain.  Mix in all of the liquid, tortilla squares (I tore them up as I threw them in the skillet) and about 1/2 cup of the cheese.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Spoon into a casserole dish and cover the top with the remaining cheese.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  This recipe is really easy and delicious!

 

 

 

Why Blog?

DSC03804

There are tons of Mom blogs out there, and I enjoy and have used many tips from them. I’ve been told I am a decent writer, and I have often thought about starting my own blog. But then, I have wondered, what do I have to offer that is unique? Many of the Moms on the blogs stay at home. That’s commendable, and it’s wonderful that they are able to do that. But, many of us must, or choose to work outside of the home. In my case, my husband is on disability and stays at home. So, I guess my situation is somewhat different than most. But, perhaps this means I can relate to many people in all sorts of situations. After all, we women find ourselves in a number of different roles, don’t we? Fortunately, my current job offers me some flexibility, so I consider myself a hands on Mom, thus the title of the blog (that, and the first domain name I selected was already taken!).

What is this blog about? Faith, parenthood, marriage, cleaning, organizing, cooking, scrapbooking, work, volunteering, church, juggling it all, encouragement, and maybe a little whining on occasion. I don’t claim to be an expert at any of these things (well, maybe the whining), but hopefully I can offer some tips about things that have worked for me (mostly through trial and error). My real aspiration is to give you some inspiration.