Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My husband rocks

Literally. My husband can rock a guitar wearing a v-neck, dark washed denim, and Toms or Chuck Taylors. He is an incredibly talented worship leader and I love listening to him sing around the house. But that's not what I'm talking about today...Today I'm linking up with Amanda at A Royal Daughter and Rachael at The Growing Tree to talk about why my husband rocks.

Because he is so funny.
One of the first things I noticed about my husband is his humor. He's witty and has a smart sense of humor. Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by biting sarcastic humor. Jarrod's humor is edifying and intelligent. He makes me laugh all the time but never attacks through humor.

Because he heals my past.
Jarrod's parents are still married but mine divorced 15 years ago. They were unhappily married long enough that it created some scars in me. While I've worked hard to overcome that, it creeps into my marriage every once and a while. We all have a tendency to do what we know and a lot of what I know is broken. Jarrod acknowledges that but helps me move past it. He doesn't see me as broken. It's a tough place to live - between acknowledging the hurt but not living there - and Jarrod does a perfect job.

Because he supports me.
Before we started dating I had all but given up on finding the one that I could fall into. I'd dated seriously before, thought I'd get married, and it didn't work. So I made a mental list of the qualities I was looking for in a life partner. The list included a lot of higher education, comfort in my career drive, progressive theology, membership in the United Methodist Church, and a plethora of other qualities including age, attractiveness, and personality. Jarrod knocked all of my expectations out of the park. The biggest being - he supports my career. He comes with me when he can, assists when asked, and plays the role of Mr. Leanne with grace.

Because he's the best father.
Wesley adores his daddy. Jarrod has patience and firmness with Wesley, but knows when it's time to play. Wesley has learned what it means when Jarrod says, "I'm going to get you!" Wesley's response is a lot of giggling and "running" as fast as his little legs will carry him. Jarrod will chase Wesley until Wesley falls over in a fit of giggles. There is tickling, laughter, and it warms my heart.

Jarrod also cares for Welsey in practical ways. We cloth diaper which means every day Wesley brings home a wetbag of dirty diapers from school. They are incredibly gross and my gag reflex cannot handle it. I could suck it up and empty the bag, but I don't have to. 9 times out of 10, Jarrod takes care of it. He makes sure that Wesley's backpack is packed for school each morning, knows the names of each of Wesley's teachers and classmates, and makes sure that Wesley is cared for during the day at school.

Because he's a great life partner.
Jarrod makes sure that I relax. I struggle with downtime because there's always something left to do. The house is never clean enough, work is never done, and there's always something I feel I should be doing. So Jarrod forces me to set boundaries so that I relax from time to time. He lets me watch what I want to watch on TV and doesn't subject me to the UFC or zombie shows. He's been known to watch the Bachelor, Bachelorette, and even enjoys Bachelor Pad because he knows it's brainless downtime for me.

Although not often enough, at least every few days I take an inventory of how fantastic my life is. I take a mental snapshot of Wesley and Jarrod and thank God for my beautiful life. It's not perfect, it's incredibly chaotic, and it's moving way to fast, but it's awesome!
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Monday, April 29, 2013

Breastfeeding - A Journey

If the title of this post is confusing, let me be clear - this post is about breastfeeding. If you aren't comfortable with that (or if you're my dad) find something else to read. How about Wesley's birthday celebration?  Or perhaps candied bacon? Yes, try that.

If you're still reading, that means you're okay with me talking about breastfeeding. I'm sharing my story because everyone's journey is different. There is already a lot of breastfeeding stories but hopefully I can shed some different light on the subject. Recently I enjoyed Heather's post over at Cookies for Breakfast. I am also breastfeeding a toddler.

Before I got married, I knew lots of mamas with precious children. They either couldn't or didn't breastfeed, or just didn't talk to me about it. I knew very little about breastfeeding and what I did know, I wasn't interested in. It's amazing how education, experience, and time can change your perspective!

Fast forward many years. When Jarrod and I were ready to start our family, I began to I read stories about mamas who could not breastfeed for various reasons, continued breastfeeding until the child was well into toddlerhood, and decide not to breastfeed. I know and love mamas who never had the opportunity to breastfeed, made the decision not to, exclusively pumped, and exclusively breastfed. I love all of these mamas and enjoy their stories. I love when a mama gets what she wants. That's my favorite.

After reading, researching, and speaking with people specifically, I decided I was going to give breastfeeding a go. I set no expectations for myself, but begin to plan to breastfeed for as long as I was able. I researched breast pumps so that I would be able to continue to feed Wesley milk even after I went back to work. The whole process completely overwhelmed me in the beginning, but I set my mind on breastfeeding and I'm an incredibly stubborn girl. I even watched a breastfeeding DVD. Everything made it look easy. I knew in my head that it wasn't, but I was determined to give it all I had.

Our breastfeeding journey began shortly after Wesley's birth. I was able to nurse him almost immediately. It was a beautiful experience. He was little and perfect and didn't have teeth. It seemed very natural to me. I met with a lactation consultant and she was delightful. I knew most of what she told me, but it was nice to have someone to talk to about it. She even called one week after Wesley was born to check up on me. I told her everything was beautiful. It wasn't, but that's what I told her. It was supposed to be beautiful, so that's what I said.

Everything said that if you're doing it correctly, breastfeeding shouldn't hurt. That's crap. It hurts. I was doing it right, but it still hurts. It hurt to take a shower, sleep on my stomach and take off my bra. Not to mention every time I nursed Wesley it hurt. After about 4 weeks or so, the pain was lessening and eventually went away, but for a while it hurt a lot.

When Wesley was 9 weeks old I went back to work. I made the mistake of only pumping once a day. This caused my milk supply to go down temporarily. I started taking fenugreek and increased my pumping schedule to 2-3 times per work-day. It was challenging - my office didn't have a door and finding a private corner to pump was nearly impossible sometimes. I traveled for work and would pump in my car between workshops. I nearly crumbled under the stress. Working fulltime, commuting, lack of sleep, maintaining relationships, and daily life was taxing. Looking back, I'm not sure how I made it.

I stopped pumping by the time Wesley was about 1 year old. I was thrilled to put that pump in storage! Wesley nursed first thing in the morning and before bed nearly everyday. He skips a session every now and them - sometimes even days in a row. I keep thinking the end is here, but I think we have a few more weeks left. Our freezer is empty - when I travel overnight for work, Wesley gets soymilk before bed and seems perfectly content. Sometimes after I'm gone for a while he will snuggle up next to me and cry. He enjoys nursing for comfort.

I don't talk about this much. In fact, many of my closest friends probably don't even know I'm still nursing. It feels taboo, but I know I'm not alone. I never thought I'd be nursing a baby, let alone a toddler...with teeth!

Did you nurse your babies? What were your struggles or triumphs?

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Wesley, the walking ninja!

A few months ago Jarrod was home with Wesley while I was at a meeting. I received a text message from him that said, 
Wesley just walked 10 feet because he thought I wasn't watching!
We knew our kid had the ability to walk, but we'd only seen him take a step or two. Turns out, he's a Walking Ninja! Unlike with most things, Wesley doesn't like attention on him when he's walking. He loves attention when doing just about anything else, but not walking!  

My kid can out crawl any baby I've ever seen. It's an incredible effective and efficient mode of transportation for Wesley. If I turn my back for a moment, or heaven forbid need to use the bathroom, Wesley will crawl through the whole house and end up playing with shoes in our closet before I can locate him! I thought that because he was such a quick crawler, that he would be a fast walker. I expected him to walk by 11 months or so. I was wrong!

When he hit his first birthday and was still not walking, I was concerned. He was pulling up on things and was developmentally average, but my mama-heart was breaking because he wasn't "advanced." I know I shouldn't rush walking, but I want my boy to be the best at everything! Jarrod and I started practicing with him and giving him opportunities to walk assisted - with a walker, push toys, our hand, etc. 

He quickly found games in pushing chairs around the room, but was not walking unassisted. Crawling was simply the quickest option! We weren't "concerned" but we were trying to do the best we could to assist Wesley in walking when he was ready. I addressed it with his precious teachers at school. At first they didn't tell me anything - they'd learned the hard way that mamas can get hurt if they aren't the first one to see their baby walk... Around this time Wesley started taking steps here and there. Nothing consistent, but we knew he was capable of walking.

His teachers started talking about Wesley walking at school. One day he spent his time playing soccer at school - walking and kicking a ball all over his class. If you gave him a lot of attention, he wouldn't perform, but he was perfectly capable and comfortable walking at school...just not at home.

It took him several weeks before he began walking unassisted at home. Our boy, who is normally one to seek out attention, was practicing when no one was looking. He didn't want the cheers when we'd catch him and definitely didn't want attention until he'd perfected his steps. We started calling him the walking ninja.

Thankfully, he's no longer a ninja and now walks everywhere we go. He is learning the importance of holding a hand, but really prefers his freedom. He walks the full hallways to his classroom at school and when he falls, he pushes himself right back up again. We are so proud. 

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Because everyone deserves a lifetime

The tagline for the Susan G. Komen 3-day for the Cure is "because everyone deserves a lifetime." Over the past few weeks I lost count of the number of people I'm praying for who are battling cancer. I have a list on my phone so that I can pray for them by name, but the list is getting incredibly long.
A sister battling ovarian cancer, a mother diagnosed with breast cancer, and a grandfather who learns he has prostate cancer, a mother who lost her battle and leaves behind 4 beautiful children...
In 2007 I decided that I was going to walk 60 miles in 3 days in memory of my grandmother who passed away before I was born. I knew a small handful of women who were also battling breast cancer.  I've walked in 6 Komen 3-day events since then, met hundreds of survivors and friends, and lost all of those women I initially started walking for. There are a beautiful group of pink angels looking out for me.

Since 2008 when I officially joined the Komen 3-day family, I have met countless fighters, survivors, and those who walk with purpose because they lost someone special. It breaks my heart each time I see a picture on someone's shirt with dates on the bottom. That represents a life cut short. Someone lost their lifetime.

This month two people in my world have lost their fight with cancer. One was Bridget Spence, a former coworker and incredible inspiration. Diagnosed with breast cancer at just 21 years old, Bridget spent 8 years fighting and living. She married her Big Man just a few months after Jarrod and I were married. She was never healthy enough to have a child. When I think about Bridget I live my life with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. She lost her lifetime just a few weeks ago and the world will never be the same because of her life.

I hug my little man tighter when I hear the news of diagnosis or death. I pray that we can find a cure before he ever loses someone in his life. I pray he won't have to live without his mama, Momo, Mimi, Nana, or friends because of cancer. I pray he will never worry about his wife losing her hair or breasts because of cancer. I pray for a cure.

And while praying is great, fighting is necessary too. You all know that the way I fight is to walk. Each year I make the commitment to walk 60 miles over 3 days while covering an entire city in pink because I believe everyone deserves a lifetime. Each year I am committed to walking and raising money to do something about cancer. In order to participate, each walker raises $2,300. This is not recommended, it's mandatory. Each year I've been able to do that because of you.

This year I'm asking for your help again. Would you please consider making a donation to join the fight against breast cancer? It's tax deductible and completely easy - you can make the donation online! I need to raise almost $2,000 and I know with your help I can do it.

  • If each of my facebook friends donates $2.11 today, I will meet my goal.
  • If each blog reader donates $4.80 today, I'll meet my goal.
  • If you donate what you can, you'll be part of the fight against breast cancer.
I believe in a world without breast cancer. Please join me in making sure everyone gets a lifetime. 

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Birthday Celebration

Yesterday I should have posted the next few chapters from Jon Acuff's book Start. It was a very special day because it was the official release of the book. It was also a special day because it was my birthday yesterday! I took the weekend off from reading and writing and spent time with my aunt and uncle who are in town visiting from Arizona.

Yesterday instead of writing a post for you, I took the day off. I woke up and shared homemade waffles made with love by my sweet husband. He woke up very early to be sure that we all had waffles before we had to leave the house.

After breakfast, we packed up and left the house. I got my hair cut while the family killed some time. Before long, we were on our way to the Fort Worth Zoo!
We spent the better part of the day watching the animals. It was the most beautiful day. I love that my birthday is in late April because nearly every year the weather is perfection. This year was no different.
Our time at the zoo ended with a merry go 'round ride for Wesley and I. It was hands down the highlight of my day.
 Wesley crashed on the way home from the zoo. When we got home we all took naps and it was awesome.
The day ended with cupcakes and singing, but I didn't get any pictures of that.

Thanks for letting me take a lazy day with my family!
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Friday, April 19, 2013

Leanne's Wish List

In honor of my birthday next Monday I will be sharing some interesting wish lists this week. On Tuesday I shared some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that either we have or we want. Wednesday you got Wesley's wish list, toys and useful items for a toddler. Yesterday it was Jarrod's turn to share what is on his wish list. Finally it's my turn! I know you've been waiting on the edge of your seat for my wish list. The wait is over!

1. Shoes

I'm still wearing walking shoes I purchased before I was pregnant. Since then, they've seen hundreds of miles. That is embarrassing since I've written about how important new shoes are. It's beyond time for new shoes and while I'll likely get fitted before purchasing, I'm fairly confident that these will be my new shoes.

2. Energy Saving Outlet

I've been talking about getting one of these for years. I'd love energy saving outlets for the whole house - cell phone chargers, computers, TV, and accessories. This one looks awesome for the entertainment center. 

3. Maxi Dress - something like this with sleeves or like this without sleeves (from the Gap)

I've been toying with the idea of a maxi dress for several years and I think this is the year. Jarrod and I are headed to France later this year and I think a maxi dress will be the perfect way to travel in comfort and style. These look pretty but also comfortable enough to wear all day walking, traveling, and being outside. I could layer with a sweater or a jacket and flip flops or ballet flats.

4. Kindle Fire

Jarrod has one and I want one. I think I'm too thrifty for an iPad, although that would really be my preference of tablet. I already have a MacBook Air, so an iPad seems silly. In fact, so does a Kindle. ;-)

5. Travel Smart Adapter

As I said, Jarrod and I are headed to France and we will need at least one of these adapters for our electronics. We aren't going to travel with much, so we won't need one for everything, but we will need to be able to charge our phones a few times while we're traveling. 

My list revolves around a lot of our travel plans. Anyone have experience traveling in Europe to share? It's a business trip for me so we don't have a lot of time to sight-see or do things on our own. But we're excited and I'll share our experiences once we are back!

Links are Amazon Affiliate links, but all opinions are completely mine. I was not provided with any products but would be happy to review something if you want to send it! ;-)
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jarrod's Wish List

In honor of my birthday next Monday I will be sharing some interesting wish lists this week. On Tuesday I shared some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that either we have or we want. Yesterday you got Wesley's wish list, toys and useful items for a toddler. Today it's Jarrod's turn to share what is on his wish list. By Friday you'll be waiting on the edge of your seat for my wish list. And I promise that you won't be disappointed!

1. Smallville: The Complete Series on Bluray - AKA the greatest show that ever was.

Jarrod loves super hero TV shows. I know I should appreciate that, but I don't really. I try, but I just don't get it. That's okay. This is his wish list. :-) 

2. Guy Fieri Knuckle Sandwich Block Set

We have knives but they are from Jarrod's bachelor days. I've read about Guy's knives and agree that they would probably be awesome to have. 

3. All of Bobby Flay's grilling tools - mostly the pans

Jarrod loves to grill. He is slowing accumulating more and more tools to go with his love of grilling. While it confuses me that these tools are only at Kohl's, I'm in favor of more grill cooking because it means less mess and Jarrod does all the hard work... And delicious food!

4. Microsoft Surface Pro with all the bells and whistles

Jarrod recently started a new job. His previous job furnished him a laptop and while it was insanely old and incredibly slow, it gave him the ability to work from home. He only have a desktop at his new job and is trying to figure out a way to get one of these so that he can work and remote in from home, a coffee shop, etc. I'm trying to talk him into a Macbook Air, but that's because I'm a Mac girl. 

5. Debt Freedom.

Jarrod practically Jesus Juked me on this one. We're very close to being debt free, but it is taking longer than we anticipated. Life has thrown some pretty intense and expensive curve balls at us this year. Jarrod's ready to be debt free because he has some awesome things in mind that would slightly change our budget each month... He says he would like more money for the following.
  • Raising the grocery budget to buy better wine, cheese, and fish. Better quality ingredients so I can experiment more with cooking.
  • More money for dates so that we can go out and try new foods but we don't give ourselves a lot of leeway to try new things.

Links are Amazon Affiliate links, but all opinions are completely mine. I was not provided with any products but would be happy to review something if you want to send it! ;-)
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wesley's Wish List

In honor of my birthday next Monday I will be sharing some interesting wish lists this week. Yesterday I shared some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that either we have or we want. Today you get Wesley's wish list, toys and useful items for a toddler. On Thursday it's Jarrod's turn to share what is on his wish list. By Friday you'll be waiting on the edge of your seat for my wish list. And I promise that you won't be disappointed!
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1. Play Kitchen

If you've spent any time around here you know that Jarrod and I love to cook. We hope to pass this love down to Wesley and a play kitchen is the best way to do that. Because we don't have the incredible skills that John and Sherry do, I imagine we'll need to purchase a play kitchen. We want some neutral that won't make our house look like Toys R Us. 

2. Learning Tower

Many years ago I was a nanny for an 18 month old boy. He had one of these learning towers and it was fantastic. He'd play at the counter while I made him a snack. It was one of the best things I'd ever seen. I definitely want one for Wesley sooner than later. Perhaps we'll make one like Heather did!

3. ABC Blocks

Wesley LOVES balls but I think it's time for him to have some fun blocks to play with. These wooden blocks look like they'd be awesome for stacking and throwing. Let's be honest, Wesley is going to throw them. Maybe he'll learn how to spell in the process...

4. Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Apptivity Case

The first time I saw this Wesley was about 5-6 months old. A friend of mind had a 1 year old and he played with her phone quietly in this case while we had coffee. I couldn't believe how entertained he was! I came home and immediately told Jarrod we needed to get one of these. He vetoed saying that Wesley didn't need any "screen time." Wesley wasn't interested in our phones at that time so I dropped the issue. Fast forward 6 months or so and Jarrod teaches Wesley to watch cartoons (PBS) on his Kindle. This toy is now fair game because Jarrod uses screen time way more than I do!

5. Wagon for Two

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I took our kids to the zoo. We talked about how we wished we had a wagon so we could pull them in that rather than using two strollers. This one looks like it would be great for the zoo, walks to the park, or other outings. It'd be a good size for Wesley and a friend or Wesley alone with a bag of his stuff! 

Links are Amazon Affiliate links, but all opinions are completely mine. I was not provided with any products but would be happy to review something if you want to send it! ;-)
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kitchen Wish List

In honor of my birthday next Monday I will be sharing some interesting wish lists this week. Today I'll share some of our favorite kitchen gadgets that either we have or we want. Tomorrow you'll get Wesley's wish list, toys and useful items for a toddler. On Thursday it's Jarrod's turn to share what is on his wish list. By Friday you'll be waiting on the edge of your seat for my wish list. And I promise that you won't be disappointed!
Click on each item to be taken to a link with more information. Links are affiliate.
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1. Cuisinart Greenware

We didn't get new cookware when we got married, so we're still using Jarrod's almost 10 year old set he got as a bachelor. I'd love non-stick but eco-friendly cookware and this one looks like one of the best! It has just about everything we'd need, including a steamer. Plus, it doesn't emit harmful gases. When we opt to replace our cookware, this is likely the set we'll purchase.

2. Stoneware Oval Casserole dish, loaf pan, and aluminum baking sheets (with more Silpats!)

If we are going to go green with our cookware, we should definitely go green with our bakeware too! I love the colors and styles of the Rachael Ray Stoneware casserole dishes. They are funky, colorful, and functional. I especially love the ones with the lids! And I think they would match our fiestaware also. The glass loaf pan isn't sexy, but it is necessary. Our non-stick ones are not only bad for us but they no longer non-stick and our bread gets stuck. Finally, aluminum is environmentally friendly and the silpats eliminate the need for non-stick!

3. Black and Decker Blender

Our old KitchenAid blender died a few weeks ago and I was forced to hunt for another one. While I'd love a Blendtec or vitamix, I just wasn't ready to shell out that kind of cash. After reading this post from Dusty, I decided the Black and Decker blender was the one for me. Not only is it much quieter than our old KitchenAid, but it's sleek and works quickly!  

4. Food Processor

We got a food processor when we got married and I loved it. It sliced, shredded, and chopped. It was amazing. But after several moves, a few drops, and lots of cooking, it eventually saw it's end. Although we have a small chopper and a mandoline , I'm itching for a new food processor. This one is very pricey, but I think it could do everything I'd want it to and hopefully would last us more than 4 years. I love that this one has a nesting bowl and could see that being incredibly useful!

5. Ice Cream Maker

I've wanted an ice cream maker since before Jarrod and I got married. I love ice cream and think it would be so fun to make our own. Jarrod wouldn't even let me register for one...I think it's just because I wouldn't let him register for a frydaddy. Anyway, I think I've finally convinced him that an ice cream maker is an excellent idea and now that we have the KitchenAid mixer, this attachment is a no brainer.

Links are Amazon Affiliate links, but all opinions are completely mine. I was not provided with any products but would be happy to review something if you want to send it! ;-)
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Monday, April 15, 2013

Start: Paring down and figuring out

Every Monday in April I will be writing a recap, review, or thoughts on the book Start by John Acuff. I'll cover about 2 chapters each week. I received an advanced copy of the book so I don't expect you to follow along (if you have one too, please join me!) but by April 22nd - in honor of my 31st birthday - you can have your very own copy. Pre-order it now and you'll also get $250 worth of other awesome goodies from Jon Acuff. All opinions are mine.
Start by Jon Acuff

We are already on post #3 in my series reviewing the book Start. If you haven't read posts 1 and 2, I invite you to head over there now. The two chapters we'll cover today are about Editing and Mastering. In order to be awesome, it's important to scale back on what is most important and then practice that until you've mastered it!

My mom has always told me how scary change is. I grew up thinking change was a terrifying thing. I fought it for a long time. I hated change, introspection, or doing things differently than I'm used to. I imagine I'm not alone in this fear. But in order to be awesome and enjoy what you are doing with your life, change is inevitable.
We tend to add complexities to our challenges because if the problem is simple to solve, then we have to change. And change is scary (105). 
If there is an area of your life that you want to change, identifying it is easy, but changing is harder.  Jon Acuff compares this concept to hoarding. The hoarders made popular thanks to TLC clutter their lives with stuff, but we often clutter our lives with unrealized dreams. "The hopes you refuse to edit and learn to master don't rot so tangibly - at least at first" (106). Years pass while dreams remain ignored and eventually you'll wonder, how did I get here?

I will be 31 next week. I often look back on the past 10 years of my life and wonder "how did I get here?" In a lot of ways I wonder this with explanation points, not question marks - How did I get here!!! At 21 I had no idea I'd get my masters degree, land a fantastic job, have a wonderful husband, and a beautiful and healthy son. I am literally living a lot of my dreams. At the same time, in a lot of ways, I know exactly how I got here. I worked hard, aimed high, and didn't give up. While this section of the book deals a lot with jobs and vocations, it can be applied to all areas of your life. I'm working the job I love but there are many areas of my life that are not what I'm dreaming of. I want to do the things that I love both at work and at home. Identifying what brings you the most joy is crucial in being awesome.

In a fantastic analogy, Jon Acuff compares the valuables in our lives with diamonds. Diamonds are more valuable than ordinary rocks because we've assigned value to them. Throughout the day, I assign value to different things - choosing to give my time to them. Sometimes it's brainless TV, facebook, or gossip. That's not smart and something I have complete control over. What might happen if I assigned the most time to the things that I found to have the most importance in my life?

  • I'd spend more quality time with my son and husband
  • I would spend more time at work helping people and building relationships
  • I'd stop watching trashy TV and start reading more books
  • I'd give up on relationships that are toxic and focus on the ones that are life-giving
In short, I'd be awesome. Well, I'd be the most awesome Leanne that I possible could be. I'd be assigning value to the things that are really most important to me. 
Want to find the rocks and diamonds in your life? Look at your calendar. Don't like what you find? Edit it. You own the calendar. (123)
One thing that can paralyze me in this phase is deciding what to focus on. My self-imposed to-do list is long. Master photography, read lots of books, exercise, cook meals, learn more about healthy living, etc. This is how I spend my free time and it can be exhausting. How do I know what the most important things are?
I think that's an awesome problem to have. There are too many things you enjoy in life. Boom! Congratulations. There is a danger with that, though, because people with too many passions tend to do something nobody ever says out loud. Out loud they say, "I have too many passions. I don't know which one to start on first." But what they really mean is, "I have too many passions. So I won't start on any."(129)
Deciding what you're most passionate, the things that bring you the most joy, is a challenge. But once you've found something you love to do, it's time to master being awesome. Mastering is scary to me. When I interviewed for my current job the title was "director." By the time I started, they'd changed the title to "specialist." I immediately pushed for a change. I felt incredibly inadequate - my nametag was off-putting. No one wants to listen to someone who refers to themselves as a specialist! It made me feel much more arrogant than I was. I am still mastering, there's no way that I could possibly be a specialist. Turns out, no one else had issues with it like I did. Thankfully, my title was changed again and now my nametag says coordinator. Much more fitting.

If you're dream is to write, write, get feedback, and talk to other writers. If you're dream is to be a business owner, learn from business owners. Shadow someone doing what you love. This process solves two issues - it helps you master your skill and it helps you decide whether your dream is really something that you want to do.
We're so desperate to be "the man" or "the woman" right away. We're so eager to chart our own course that we don't think we need to be led. We say, "...I've been called to this, and nobody in the history of mankind has ever done it like this! Who could possibly give me advice? Being an apprentice would be failure. This is my time!"
If you don't want to spend the time learning from others, prepare to fail. If you don't want to spend the time practicing because you just don't enjoy it that much, celebrate and move on to something you love even more! Learning from others and spending time mastering is your key to even more awesome. But it's also a magnet for criticism.

Learning about critics math from Jon Acuff is worth the price of the book. I cannot do it justice so I'll give you a teaser.

1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult

That's right. Worth the price of admission. If you deal with criticism or you plan to, go buy the book. If you want to be awesome, you'll need to deal with criticism. It's bound to happen. As much as I want to run from criticism, I've learned that if I want to change the world, people are going to be negative around me. It can be loud sometimes, but I'm learning to tune it out. 

The final key in mastering is creating sabbath in your life. Jon Acuff tells a story about building in a little Central Park in your life. If New York City built up every square inch of the city, we'd miss out on a beautiful and peaceful park. I tend to build up things in my life until I completely run out of room. In order to be awesome we need to disconnect, schedule peace, and have sabbath. 
Make sure that in the midst of this adventure you don't confuse "building up your dream" with "burning out your dream." (158)
Believe it or not, but I pared this post down a lot. In fact, I edited out a lot of material. I didn't write about a much of awesomeness in these two chapters. I hope in the next few weeks I'll be able to share more - more of my fears, dreams, and how I'm incorporating sabbath into my life.

In the mean time, I'd love to hear about what you think of the book based on my small pictures. Are you intrigued? What are your fears and dreams?

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are uniquely mine.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How I met the love of my life...

In 2007 I visited my future graduate school as a prospective student. I wore a brown corduroy skirt, leather boots, and a sweater. I carried a big brown bag from the Gap. I was too cool for school. Rather than join the other prospective students for lunch, I skipped out and went to lunch with my best friend and her classmates. I wanted to meet some new people. (Read: I wanted to meet some cute boys.)

We left campus and walked on an overpass to get to a restaurant across the busy highway. It was my best friend, a friend of her's named Jarrod, and me. I was anxious to get to the restaurant a cute guy was meeting us there, paying very little attention to the cute guy walking with me. Graduate school is really just about the cute guys. We ate lunch together and I was too focused on being awesome than I was about learning more about Jarrod.

Fast forward a few weeks. My best friend, my roommate, and I threw a party. We invited all of our friends. We drank sangria and beer while paying board games.
That's me in the white hoodie and teal t-shirt. Evidently when I was single I thought dressing like that was hot. I don't know why I didn't have a boyfriend... Right next to me, staring at me with lust, is Jarrod. He's wearing contacts, which he never wears, and chuck taylors. He still wears chuck taylors.

In 2008 I started seminary. I had a boyfriend at the time, but after my first year of school I was single again. I poured myself into schoolwork. I spent my free time in the basement of the library - my books spread out over a huge table. Jarrod was in his final year of seminary and he was often in the library at the same time. He chose a cushy gray chair also in the basement and would sleep between 12:30pm and 2pm when classes started again.

I judged him. Why would he pay money to attend classes and sleep in the library? Isn't school important to him? He must not love Jesus as much as I do. Perhaps I'm the only one who judges people...especially my future spouse.
That's Jarrod in the blue shirt on the left and me in the black dress on the right.
Turns out, he was working very hard and had a really tough semester. He graduated that May. In July, our best friend got married. We flirted the whole weekend we spent at her wedding. I gave him every test I could think of and he passed with flying colors. He made me laugh and didn't care that I was a huge nerd. He loved that I enjoyed my Sunday school class and I loved that he was a professional worshipper. It didn't even matter that he was living in Louisiana and I was living in Dallas. Something exciting was happening and we wanted to see what God was doing with us.

After that weekend, we talked, texted, and continued flirting. We spent time on the phone and a few days later I was driving 8 hours to spend time with him face to face. We prayed together and talked about important issues in our lives. Within a week we were "facebook official," which was terrifying to me. By Halloween we were engaged and we were married the following 4th of July.

How did you meet your spouse or significant other? How do you hope to meet your future partner? 
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marriage and Prayer - How to lower stress and stop a fight

For those that don’t know, my sweet husband started a new job this past week, a job that is going to drastically change the trajectory of our family. We are moving in a few weeks and he will go back to graduate school again in the fall. All these changes have caused my anxiety level to sky rocket. In response to this, Jarrod offered that we share access to our virtual calendars. While we have a paper family calendar, we can only check it when we are at home. We made a promise to put everything on our calendars.
Jarrod’s a wonderful human, a fantastic husband, and seriously the best dada that I’ve ever seen. But he’s forgetful and disorganized. And unfortunately keeping a calendar wasn’t second nature for him. He forgot to add evening practices and weekend meetings on his calendar. One particularly stressful night I decided to overlook Jarrod’s wonderful assets and focus on his flaws. Am I the only one who does this? I become fixated on silly little faults and ignore the big, beautiful picture. My poor husband didn’t know what to do. He acknowledged that he messed up, promised he would try harder in the future, and apologized. But I couldn’t let it go. I was getting more and more angry, picking at little things and pushing because I wanted to "win." 
I always want to win. I fight the urge to win all the time, even at the sacrifice of relationships. It's a huge flaw in my personality that I'm constantly working on. My husband, unfortunately gets the brunt of this flaw.  
Rather than continue the argument, Jarrod sat down and said he wanted to pray. While we pray together twice each evening, once with our son and once just the two of us, we have not used prayer in the midst of an argument. While it made sense and is something I’d suggest other people do, it felt somewhat foreign to me. I agreed because I knew it was what we needed to do. We prayed for our marriage, for peace, and for each other. We centered ourselves around the one thing that makes sense in our lives - our Creator.
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. - Matthew 7:1-5 CEB
 He prayed and I sobbed. I was immediately aware of the bigger picture in our marriage. God brought comfort and reminded me of why I’m married to Jarrod. I was also overwhelmed with my own shortcomings. In the midst of an argument, I was unable to see my own sin because I was focused so much on Jarrod’s. Praying reminded me how incredibly blessed I am and how I should probably focus on my own sin before trying to fix Jarrod's.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Start: Taking time to be awesome

Every Monday in April I will be writing a recap, review, or thoughts on the book Start by John Acuff. I'll cover about 2 chapters each week. I received an advanced copy of the book so I don't expect you to follow along (if you have one too, please join me!) but by April 22nd - in honor of my 31st birthday - you can have your very own copy. Pre-order it now and you'll also get $250 worth of other awesome goodies from Jon Acuff. All opinions are mine.
Start by Jon Acuff

Last Monday I started writing about my experience with the book Start by Jon Acuff. This past week I read and lived into chapters 3 and 4. One thing I've struggled with in my life and career is the idea of finding a purpose. I'm 30 years old, working in a job I adore, living with my beautiful family that I love, but I have no idea how exactly I got where I am...except by the grace of God and a whole lot of hard work! There is a lot of intentionality in my life, but I cannot give you a 5-word purpose statement that defines how I ended up in this exact spot in my life.
...out of nowhere, five words popped into my head. And they were the words that would forever ruin my ability to tel you how to find your perfect purpose in life: 'How did I get here?' (47)
Discussing purpose in a low-stress way is very freeing. Purpose isn't the key, it's simply a door that is already unlocked. "Push the door open and take the next step into awesome" (52). Some may say that Jon Acuff stumbled into success. He created a successful blog, wrote a successful book, and BAM was picked up by Dave Ramsey and skyrocketed into another realm of stardom.
I'd already kicked down the door of purpose and started traveling the road of awesome when I met Dave. He met me when I was already in motion. My relationship with Dave wasn't a by-product of luck. Luck is a word people who are lazy use to describe people who are hustling. 
Like I said earlier, and have said several times on this blog and say nearly everyday in life, I have a job I absolutely adore. It's a great fit for me in my life right now. I get to work with incredible people, do something that challenges me, and feel like I'm making a difference on the planet. It's a job I've been dreaming of and preparing for since at least 2007, if not 1982. I didn't just land in this job as a miracle of luck. I worked hard. I took jobs that weren't my dream job. I made connections, put myself out there, and took a lot of risks. Am I awesome at my job? Not yet, but I'm striving towards awesome.

Start doesn't just tell you that you should be awesome, by chapter 4 Jon Acuff begins to lay out some habits to implement that will help you get there. It will cost you - not dollars, but time. Are you ready to spend some time becoming awesome? At Blissdom Jon Acuff hosted a 5am club. He gathered at 5am with anyone who was willing to get up that early and shared all of his secrets to success. I signed up to go. It sounded like a great opportunity that I may never have again - time with someone awesome. When I met Jon Acuff the night before, he said to show up as you are - he'd be in the same shirt! Did I show up? Nope. I wanted my sleep.

I've gotten lazy over the past few months. I make excuses and this has made me lazy and unproductive. Jon Acuff discusses the 5am club in chapter 4 and I wanted to stop reading immediately. Because of you and the commitment I made to give this book a solid effort, I decided to give his concept a try. I'm intentionally carving time into my schedule to do something for myself. Everyday this past week I woke up and was out of bed by 6am. This gave me 45 minutes of uninterrupted time each morning. Each day I did something different - I either walked several miles or had quiet time getting things done. I even got out of bed when it was pouring rain and I knew walking wasn't going to be an option!

Because I was waking up earlier I was able to exercise, clear my head, center myself, and adequately prepare for the day. By the time Wesley was up, I had already been up for over an hour and was able to spend quality time with him rather than rushing around to get out the door on time for work. Jarrod, Wesley, and I were all on time to work and school every day this week without panic. It was glorious. I'm actually excited about continuing the habit this week.

Waking up earlier is giving me more time to learn, practice, and perfect the things that are meaningful to me. I am given 45 minutes extra each day to live with intention. I don't want to live with regret and the seasons of my life most filled with regret are lacking intention. Think about being a survivor of a plane crash - what is one thing you'd want to do with your life as a survivor? Watch more TV? Get more sleep? Doubtful. When I think about this question I immediately think about my family. I want to spend quality time with my husband and son. I want to make the world a better place because of my creativity, ideas, and compassion. I want to write, read, and learn more. Asking this slightly morbid question gets to the heart of intentionality. This is how I want to live my life.

At some point I'll share more that I learned in these two chapters. I'm wrestling with some areas of my life that lack awesome. I'm wrestling with some dreams that seem far away and fears that look like road blocks. That's a post for another day, but know that it's coming. And if you have fears about being awesome, I'm right there with you!

What are some of your dreams about being awesome? How do you think you can accomplish them? Are your fears standing in your way?

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are uniquely mine. 
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Friday, April 5, 2013

Better Mom Shots

Rewind to January of 2011. Jarrod and I decided to stop trying not to have a baby. The top of my wishlist was a fancy DSLR camera and a bicycle. I decided that if I got pregnant, I'd buy a camera and if I didn't, I'd buy a bicycle. Long story short, I bought a DSLR and that's how I told Jarrod that I was pregnant. As soon as I got it I began reading about how to use it.

I've read enough tutorials to know how to shoot in aperature or shutter priority rather than manual. Before having Wesley I practiced on flowers, our animals, and other people. I know how to adjust settings so that I don't use my flash. I know how to manage white balance and ISO. I know what shutter speed is and if I take 500 pictures I can end up with 1-2 that are decent. This is especially true because I'm fairly proficient in Photoshop. It can cover a multitude of sins. ;-)

I've always considered taking a photography class. I love taking pictures and love when I get it right - I'd love it even more if I could raise my ability to get it right! I almost bought a groupon for a class in Fort Worth. I almost signed up for an online class. I don't know why I didn't, but now I'm glad that I didn't...because I've found the perfect class for me!

One of the best things to come from Blissdom for me was a great new friend. I actually met Monica via a Google hangout with my sweet friend Skye the week before Blissdom. We were both newbies and were looking to Skye for wisdom and extroversion. I checked out Monica's website Flying Photo School before Blissdom and while it looked really cool it didn't tell me much about her. Then I met her in person and knew she was my kind of people.

Monica is passionate about helping people use their camera. She knows that moms (present company included!) buy expensive cameras but then struggle to use them beyond the automatic mode. She knows that is frustrating and wants to teach people to take the best photos possible. She developed a class especially for moms (but anyone can benefit from it!) who want to take better photos of their children. It's also the perfect class for bloggers who hope to take better photos of food or life.

I am so excited to call Monica my friend. I'm also incredibly excited to learn how to take even better photos. Obviously I think my kid is gorgeous but I'd love to capture more of his childhood, funny antics, and our family with my fancy camera. Here are some topics covered in Better Mom Shots that I'm especially excited about:
  • RAW vs. JPEG
  • Manual Mode
  • Metering (I don't even know what that means!)
  • Burst
  • Exposure triangle
Listen to Monica tell you about the course:

You don't have to be a mom to enjoy and benefit from this course! I encourage you to join along with me as I learn how to best use my DSLR! Check out Better Mom Shots!

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

The Monday after Easter my mom used to chop the leftover ham into cubes and toss it with a box of scalloped potatoes for dinner. It was a delicious way to use the leftover ham without eating ham sandwiches for weeks.
This Easter when Jarrod and I were talking about what we'd do and eat, I knew immediately I wanted to make scalloped potatoes and ham. Jarrod said he wasn't a scalloped potato fan (something about the texture...) but I convinced him that ham, potatoes, cheese, and butter was delicious no matter what the texture. Couple that with the fact that I don't have a lot of family traditions and I convinced him it was a great idea.

I scoured pinterest for good recipes and finally settled on this one. I adapted it slightly - I made it gluten-free, added ham (and bacon!) and used gouda with the cheddar. What I didn't do was add salt. I should have known better - potatoes beg for salt! We salted after it was done, but it would have been much better if the potatoes were salted before baking.

Here's what I did...

To make the sauce I used bacon. First I cooked 4 slices of bacon, retaining the fat for later. Once it was cooked to crispy, I removed it from the pan. I put the fat back in the pan and added 2 tablespoons of butter. Once that was melted, I added a whole chopped onion. I usually chop the onion in the food processor and to make things easier, I added the garlic to that as well. Worked just fine!
I cooked the onions in the fat for about 3-4 minutes before added 3 tablespoons of corn starch. This began to thicken the sauce. Once it was mixed well, I added two cups of 2% milk. I continued to stir the sauce as it started to bubble. As it thickened, I removed it from the heat and added 2 cups of shredded cheese.
It's time to layer the potatoes! I used about 2 small potatoes for each layer, overlapping slightly. At this point you should add salt - just a pinch after the first and last layer.
Between each potato layer, add chopped chives. I copped them with scissors right into the dish. You can add sparingly or liberally depending on your taste.

I added the ham on the third layer and the chopped bacon after the fourth (and final) layer. Once I had the potatoes, chives, ham, and bacon layered, I poured on the sauce. I shook it up a little bit to distribute the sauce. It seemed very thick and I was worried that it wouldn't make it to the bottom of the pan, but it did!
I added about 1/4 cup of cheese to the top and baked at 350 for one hour.

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Adapted from Family Feedbag

4 pieces of bacon, cooked with fat reserved
7 ounces of ham steak or leftover ham
2 tablespoons of butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced 
2 tbsp corn starch
2 cups 2% milk
2 1/4 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar and gouda), divided
1/3 cup chives, snipped
8 small yukon gold potatoes, skins on, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13" casserole dish.

Heat the bacon fat and butter in a large pan. When hot, add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add corn starch to thicken the sauce and whisk well. Add milk and stir until thick. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of cheese. Set aside.

Layer potato slices in the 9x13" pan. Between each layer of potatoes, add a few pinches of chives. After the first layer and the last layer, add a pinch of salt. Add bacon and ham before final layer. Pour cheese sauce over potatoes and shake slightly. Top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and bake for 1 hour or until cheese is brown and bubbling. Enjoy!
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