Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tickled Pink with My Girly Girl

Sierra Leigh and me
Memorial Day 2016 on Monroe Mountain

When I gave birth to Sierra, I had doubts of being an adequate mother for my little pink bundle of joy. I didn't even know how to do hairstyles for a daughter. I worried over silly things because she was a very different little girl than I had been. Sierra loved dresses, frills, lace, sparkly sequins and glitter, and all things girly. 

We're similarly dressed. I'm in jeans and a jean jacket, and Sisi is in a denim dress. Close enough.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had been a tomboy. I cried when I had to wear a dress, and whenever my mom tried to curl my hair, I would douse my head in the sink, preferring my hair plastered to my skull than dolled up with those ridiculous curls. I wondered how I could possibly meet her needs because I couldn't relate to my little girly-girl who wanted to wear dresses, and have her hair curled with ribbons and bows. 

When I was little, I had played touch football and Army guys with the neighbor boys. Sisi loved Barbies and dolls. My favorite color had been blue, and I enjoyed the rough and tumble play of the boys my age. Her room always looked like a war zone of pink and tulle; her organizational skills wouldn't become apparent until she became an adult. Sisi took dance lessons, and she became a cheerleader. Our childhoods were very different. 

One day after a big summer downpour, my little princess wanted to join her big brother and his friends catching pollywogs. As usual, she was dressed to the nines in her dress, frilly socks, and patent leather shoes. I told her there was no way she could go play in the mud in that outfit; she had to change into play clothes. Her face brightened, and she scurried down the hall to her bedroom. 

My face fell when she emerged, dressed from head-to-toe as a ballerina, complete with pink tights and leotard, tutu, and leather ballet slippers. We had a quick discussion as to what constitutes appropriate play clothes for tadpole hunting. There were tears; I'm sure. Sierra just loved to dress up and look pretty.

When she was a preschooler, I wanted to have a professional portrait done. I couldn't let her know of my plan until the last minute because I knew she would balk. 

It was near Easter, and baby chicks were arriving at the local Intermountain Farmers' store. I thought she would look adorable in bare feet with a pair of cut-off jeans and a white t-shirt, surrounded by fluffy, yellow chicks. 

Long story short, she hated the idea. Again, there were tears. I had to do some fast negotiating to make things happen. No, she couldn't wear her frilly socks or patent leather shoes, but I would curl her hair the way she liked. No, she couldn't have her new Easter purse in the picture, but she could take it to the studio. By the time I had talked her into doing the picture, I was afraid I'd never get a smile out of her during the session. 

I shouldn't have worried. She was a trouper, and the pictures are still some of my favorites. I'd like to say she doesn't have any bad memories of that day, but that would be a lie. It took a long time, but I think I've finally been forgiven for the baby chick pic. 

There was no convincing her to wear pants, even in the snow.

Sisi wore dresses whenever she could get away with it, until the day she wanted to try riding our new horse when she was a second grader. I sent her marching back upstairs to change clothes when she came down in a dress. I suggested she wear jeans; she was mortified. We compromised with some leggings she could wear under her dress. Her solution was to peel off the leggings at the back door as soon as she was done riding, so she could get back to looking pretty as soon as possible. 

During this Memorial Day weekend, Chuck did a few photo sessions with all of our Utah kids. As you might expect, I wore slacks; Sierra wore a skirt. When we went up Monroe Mountain, she wore her favorite "pants," Lycra workout capris, without a dress, I might add. She'll probably never be comfortable in jeans, but at least she outgrew wearing tutus for casual occasions. 

Sierra will always be my girly-girl, and I'm okay with that. I'm more than okay; I'm tickled pink that she's my little princess.

Sierra is pretty in blue, too.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Miss Hap of Snapchat

Am I ready for Snapchat?
Snapchat? I know what you're thinking. "She's too old for Snapchat." And you know what? You are probably right.


Using the app was awkward at first. It took me a week to realize two of my contacts weren't being rude by ignoring my invitation; I had sent the invites to the wrong addresses. The two times I've received a video, by the time I realized what's happening, it was over, and I never even had the sound on. I accidentally deleted pics I'd taken that I wanted to share with Chuck, and I saved pics I probably shouldn't have. 

Initially, I took screen shots of every picture I received, worrying I would miss something if I didn't. My kids received a notification every time I took a screen shot. They were not always pleased.  You could call me the Miss Hap of Snapchat. 

In an entertaining article written by Will Oremus called "Is Snapchat Really Confusing, Or Am I Just Old?", the author said, 
"This is not to say that learning to use Snapchat is hard for old people, any more than it’s hard to learn Russian by being dropped onto a Moscow street and forced to navigate the city by trial and error. Let’s say instead that it takes a little practice." -Will Oremus 


Why Snapchat? There is only one reason. My 18-year-old son asked me to sign up. Let me tell you, that is quite an honor. I am WAAAY older than the average Snapchatter, who is 18. That my son even considered allowing his Shrink into his online world made me feel pretty special. 

Unlike Facebook where I have accepted hundreds of friend requests from online acquaintances and readers of my blog, I have limited my Snapchat contacts to immediate family and one persistent friend who begged me to join. The app allows this mom to have one more line of communication with her busy kids. They don't always have time for a call, or an extended texting session, but it's easy enough to add me to their list of friends when they are sharing a Snapchat picture or video.


If you are unfamiliar with Snapchat, basically, it is an app that allows you to send pics or videos to your closest friends, and the data sent disappears after a few seconds. The Snapchat video feature is similar to FaceTime or Skype, but in my experience, the connection is faster, with less dropped calls. (For more detailed information, you might want to check this out by J.J. Colao at Forbes.) 


While the kids and I have sent our share of silly selfies, the things I love most about Snapchat are the video calls, and the updates we send each other to show where we are or what we're doing. I am learning that my kids are pretty creative, showing me projects they're working on, things their pets do, recipes they've made, and a quick greeting that lets me know they're thinking of me. 

Living halfway across the country from my kids who are in Utah, I always wonder what they're up to, and how they're doing. My youngest sent pictures in his mortarboard, and a picture of the medal he earned as an honor graduate. He has just started to learn blacksmithing, leather tooling, and wood burning, and it is great to see his examples of his work.  My daughter sends pictures of her furniture refinishing projects, and we do video chats. 

With Snapchat, I never have to wonder for long what my children are up to. They know how much I miss them, and how much their pictures and texts mean to me. I feel connected to them despite the miles between us, and that makes my mishaps on Snapchat worth it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Finding Ourselves in the Empty Nest

I think for awhile, I was feeling a little lost. When considering the future of an empty nest, I thought I was going to be a misplaced mother, with no one to parent when all of the baby birds learned to fly, but I can see now that I was mistaken. I will still be their mama, and they will always be my babies, but instead of managing and overseeing the lives of my children, I will enjoy them as equals and friends. 

When the kids were little, my world revolved around them. As a teacher, I lived for weekends and summer vacation to spend more time together. As they got older, first Dylan, and then, Sierra, left home to try out their wings. I have always been so proud of them, and I missed having them at home. Bridger is ten years younger than his brother, and eight years younger than his sister. I could see the writing on the wall; my days as a mama bird with chicks in the nest were numbered. And now, in the blink of an eye, it seems, it is Bridger's turn to spread his wings, and fly away.

It is easy to think that all is lost as this last child leaves home, and yet, I'm finding there is much more that has been found. 

What is lost? The things that I miss are the giggles and laughter that rang throughout the house; the long nights, rocking my babies until they finally fell asleep; knowing every detail of the kids' days; hearing the blow-by-blow descriptions of their favorite movies, video games, or something that happened at school; the crazy, hectic schedules of practices, games, and concerts. My identity as a mom may not be considered lost, but it has changed so much. 

What I have found is so much more: the easy conversations with amazing adults who make me think and laugh; falling asleep easily, knowing our kids are strong, independent, healthy, and happy; getting updates about their adventures, successes, and dreams; opportunities for family gatherings for special events and holidays. One of the more important things I have discovered is my identity is no longer dependent on any outside circumstance or person.

I'm learning there is more than one way to interpret the phrase finding ourselves in the empty nest. It is so much more than the moment we realize all of the kids are gone. At that point, it is critical to remember who we are, and the goals we have, and to spread our own wings. I have the support of an amazing husband, who reminds me daily of my worth, just as I am. He has told me so many times that I am more than enough, I can actually believe it. 

Luckily, the same wings that allow the children to fly away, are the ones that they use to fly back to the nest. Tonight, all three of my kids will return home. I'm looking forward to our time together as we celebrate Bridger's graduation this weekend. 

The nest isn't really empty, after all: Chuck and I are still here. We will be busy feathering our nest, and spreading our wings very soon. I'm so grateful we get to share our nest with six of the greatest people we know, whenever they fly back to visit. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Discovering the Beauty of the Empty Nest

It may seem ridiculous that I would give any energy to worrying about the empty nest, when technically, we aren't exactly to that stage yet. As a matter of fact, when this post goes live, Chuck and I will be on our way to Utah, and all of our kids there will be on their way to the cozy cottage. We will be experiencing the bulging nest, if only temporarily. I cannot wait.
The Utah family in Saint George, Utah (2015)

We will spend a glorious ten days of vacation, and every possible moment with as many of the kids as are available at any given time. And then it's back to Illinois, where we hope to have visits with our Illinois boys, and from a couple of the Utah kids in Chicagoland. 

And then...and then...well, all of the older kids will be working, and the youngest will be off to college. Then what do we have to look forward to? 

Just like the bird's nest we found a couple of days ago in the back yard, that question requires some closer examination. The day I was taking pictures of the nest, I noticed the delicate details that had been woven into the beautiful elliptical shape. There were strips of bark, strands of hair, slender grasses, tender reeds, and dried flowers. Each side of the nest was a thing of beauty. I loved the shadows the nest cast, and the way all of the pieces had been woven to create a safe nest for the eggs, and later, the baby birds. It was lightweight, but surprisingly sturdy.

My husband and I realized as we talked that we most certainly have some things we will enjoy during this empty nest phase. Chuck and I started making a list. We came up with some definite perks of having adult children, and things we are happily anticipating. Focusing on the positives seems like a much healthier thing to do  than worry about the unknowns.

The Beauty of the Empty Nest

  • We have the house to ourselves. The whole place. Every room. 
  • We have the freedom to travel when we want, where we want, at our own leisurely pace, without worrying about entertaining the younger crowd.
  • We can live without worrying about conflicts in scheduling in day-to-day living. (Holidays are another story.)
  • While we live in Illinois, we will get to travel to vacation destinations visiting our kids in Florida and Utah.
  • Through our kids, we meet new people, and add new people to our family: fianc├ęs, spouses, grandchildren.
  • And thanks to our kids, we are exposed to new experiences: hiking national parks, shooting ranges, photography in new locations, new television series, music, dance, restaurants, and foods. 
  • I think Chuck and I let out a huge sigh of relief when Bridger was awarded full tuition to school, and qualified for federal grant money to cover expenses. There will be more of our budget allotted to us, and the things we want to do. 
  • That being said, it's time to fix up the house: a coat of fresh paint and new flooring will be a great start. 
  • We still look forward to any time we get to spend with the kids: going out to dinner, phone calls, visits, and Skype video chats.
There are many opportunities available to us. We look forward to discovering more of the possibilities as time goes on. This empty nest may not be so bad after all. 

Starting to Rethink the Empty Nest

As Chuck and I sat in a shady spot on the deck, taking a break from yard work in the hot sun, Chuck asked what thoughts I'd been having about the empty nest

He knows there have been days I have been sad as I have watched Bridger become more independent, and I realize his childhood has come to a close. I am so proud of who our boy is, and what he does, and I know that he is more than ready to live life on his terms. Sometimes it's hard for this mama to let go. 

"I've been thinking a lot lately about the importance of reframing my thoughts. There are things I complain about, or worry about, that if I simply changed my perspective, they would no longer be problems," I told Chuck.

We talked a little more before resuming our attack on the back yard, and we continue to explore our thoughts about the next stage of our life during our early morning talks.
Dylan & Jamie

Reframing thoughts is not a new concept to me. Dylan, my oldest, gave me a plaque that I had in my kitchen, and later, in my fifth grade classroom. It was a black wooden plank that was lettered in a creamy beige with this quote: 

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." 

I love that saying. It became my battle cry at school whenever we started a new unit in math, and the kids inevitably protested that the topic was too hard. As soon as the whining began, I would simply point to the plaque in the front of the room, and have them read it to me. And each time I would have them finish this phrase for me, "Math's not hard..."  

"IT JUST TAKES TIME,"  my students would recite, in unison.

It's time to change the way I look at things. Reframing my thoughts could also be considered an attitude adjustment. One of my current worries that nibbles away at my peace of mind is realizing our youngest child is heading off to college in just a couple of months. 

The difference this time is that this is feeling so final. Bridger is our youngest, my baby boy. We live 1400 miles away from where he will be going to college. When he gets a break from his studies, he can't pop in for a weekend without a lot of planning in advance and a plane ticket. Our visits will not be like they were when he was in high school, with two week stretches at a time. 
Bridge and I visited Sisi in La Jolla.

It's not just Bridger I will miss while living so far away in Illinois. During our monthly these last several years, B and I took road trips to visit Sierra in Denver, and later, La Jolla, since she moved out on her own. We enjoyed our weekends with Dylan and Jamie in Saint George or at our house, going out to eat, hiking, and hanging out. Things will be different now.

Is there another way to think about this? Instead of seeing these changes as challenges, can't I look at this next phase of life as one filled with new opportunities? While our children are busy living their lives with agendas of their own, Chuck and I will continue living our lives to the fullest.

Change is not bad; I know that. Rather than focusing on a childhood lost, I need to redirect my attention to the positives of having our last child experiencing "adulthood found."  I just need to change the way I've been looking at this. There are some hidden gems here I am overlooking. It's up to me to find them.

Monday, May 23, 2016

An Empty Nest, Literally and Figuratively

Maybe I should have told my husband I have been on the lookout for an empty bird's nest. Not that I'm looking forward to the condition known as the empty nest; I simply want to find an actual twiggy nest without any inhabitants. Bird nests are so adorable. I love examining them up close, admiring their craftsmanship. I really want a nest. So I can take pictures of it. For my blog. When I finally muster up the courage to write about the figurative empty nest. And I just think it would be fun to have a nest on display.

Over the weekend, Chuck and I finally tackled the yard work we both love to postpone. The time had come. We cut, and sawed, and trimmed every wayward limb in sight. We dragged felled trees out of the backyard to a growing pile awaiting the city crew's next pickup date. We "lifted that barge, and toted that bale" for a few hours. Guess whose muscles are screaming now?

While Chuck was attacking an eyesore of a bush, he stopped the trimmer, and told me, "Hey, there's a nest in here." 

"STOP!" I said. "I want it." I was afraid he'd already slashed through it with his trimmer. 

He looked at me strangely, as he handed me the nest, still intact. "You're not going to put that in the house, right?"

"I'm going to take pictures of it." I paused. "Would it be a problem if I DID put it in the house?" Hm. I hadn't considered he might object. When I taught school, I usually had a supply of nests in my classroom, and saved the especially pretty ones for decor in my family room. But that was a long time ago.

"Who knows what's inside that thing!" was his response. I sighed. I agreed to store it in the garage, and not in the house. For now.

Chuck is good to put up with me and my wacky ideas. He will do just about anything to encourage my writing, even agree to storing dirty, old bird nests in the garage. 

I'm thinking if I seal it in a Ziploc bag, any undesirable critters will not survive the ordeal, and I will be free to use the nest as I wish. Even in the house. (Let's not tell Chuck about this just yet. I need some time to let him warm up to the idea.)

I think it would be beautifully meaningful to display the bird's nest on a shelf in our home. 

An empty nest in the empty nest, if you will. 

I realize not everyone I know will appreciate the nest as decor, a-hem, but we could certainly give it a try, couldn't we?

As the realization of all of our children leaving home is weighing heavy on my mind (the youngest heads to college this fall), in these next few posts, I will grapple with my thoughts of our impending days as empty nesters. Chuck might have a harder time coming to terms with the literal empty nest than I do with the figurative one. 

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Chuck's Favorite Cookie: Buttery Sugar Jumbles

Chuck's Favorite Cookie 
(Recipe Card Below)

These are the simplest cookies ever, and one of my husband's favorite memories from childhood. They are buttery and chewy, and the chunky sugar granules baked on top of them give the cookies a crisp outer layer. This is the go-to cookie at our house; a Bennorth favorite.

When I am being a super-duper wife, I make sure to keep a supply of Sugar Jumbles in our freezer at all times. And yes, the cookies are good frozen, too, if you're in too much of a hurry to wait for them to thaw. Just ask Chuck. 

This was Chuck's favorite recipe his mom made during Christmas when her sons were growing up. It works for Valentine's and every other day, too. 

I've never met a recipe I couldn't alter. 

First of all, I doubled it. I also eliminated the sifting step, and replaced the shortening with butter because I never have shortening on hand. And who doesn't like buttery yumminess in a soft, chewy cookie?

Sugar Jumbles

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream these ingredients together in the mixer on a low speed.

1 cup butter 
1 cup white sugar

Add these to the mixture: 

2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Stir in:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Form 1 inch balls of dough, and roll in raw or colored sugar, and bake on lightly greased cookie sheet until lightly browned. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Cookies should be soft. Cool cookies on a baker's rack before storing in an airtight container.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Happily Ever After Takes a Lot of Work

Is it even possible to have a fairy tale romance, one where the prince sweeps the girl off her feet, marries her, takes her off to his kingdom, and they live happily ever after? Isn't that the way this marriage stuff works?

I'm embarrassed to say that up until very recently, I believed that a good marriage was one devoid of conflict. I blame my Pollyanna personality. I had assumed if you were with the right person, you would always agree on the way life should be lived, and the way things should be done, and there would never be discord. 

Happy, happy, happy, all the time. 

The never-ending honeymoon.

A year and a half ago, I met the most wonderful man. We share the same faith, values, and passions. He is everything I ever wanted in a partner. Chuck is handsome, intelligent, funny, creative, gentle, and kind. When he asked me to marry him, I could hardly believe my good fortune. I couldn't wait for our fairy tale romance to move to the next level as husband and wife.  I was all about that happily ever after thing. I wanted to get right to that part. 

While I do believe we are a perfect match for each other; the reality is we are not perfect people. Not long after we were married, I was so surprised to discover that we were facing conflict. How could that be? We were perfect for each other. He was my Prince Charming, after all, and I was his Princess Bride. 

Chuck took things in stride. Although he is very romantic, he isn't caught up in some fairy tale fantasy, and takes a realistic approach when it comes to communication and problem-solving. Yes, he is emotionally mature. I had so much to learn.

Guess what I had to accept? We are not characters in a fairy tale. We are living, breathing humans struggling to make sense of this life, just like everyone else. We are not the same person; we don't have the same heart or mind or spirit, and so we approach life differently. Not that either way is necessarily wrong; it's just different. And when two people, even good people who love each other very much, are in a partnership, there will be times when problems need to be solved, compromises need to be reached, and apologies need to be given. Conflict is part of the human condition, including marriage.

My whole life, I avoided conflict like the plague. My mom called me her little peacemaker. I even tried to anticipate problems, and did whatever I could to see that they never occurred. I tried to predict others' preferences, moods, and requests so there wouldn't even be a ripple of dissatisfaction. And I nearly went crazy trying to do it. 

I found myself in uncharted territory as Mrs. Bennorth. I'm only a year and a half in as Chuck's bride, and I am just starting to understand how important honest communication is. Chuck has been so patient, giving me a safe place to express myself. He actually wants to know what I'm thinking, what I believe, and what worries me. His unwavering love and support have been vital to my feeling secure enough to speak the truth, as I know it.  

I am finally willing to be seen and heard. If I have an opinion, I will share it. If I disagree, I am learning to say so. If something bugs me, but it just isn't that big a deal, I keep it to myself because I don't think I get to be the "boss of everything." 

Every relationship will face difficulties. Seeing your partner suffer is hard. Learning that you do things that upset or hurt your partner is hard. Facing the tough stuff (illness, the death of loved ones, employment challenges, setting up a budget, unexpected expenses, worrying about children) is hard. Basically, marriage is waaay harder than I had realized. But being willing to face conflicts together, and having a loving, supportive partner, makes the hard stuff worth it. 

When Chuck and I confront something important, we both know that we can trust the other to hear us out, and help us sort through our thoughts. There's nothing either one of us could say that would be a deal breaker. We try to listen and speak with love and respect. Even though our feelings have been hurt when we have felt misunderstood, we know that we'll give each other the time and space to heal, and then we come together again, growing closer and having a better understanding of each other. 

When it comes to conflict, do I still get anxious? Yes. Is it awkward and uncomfortable? Oh, my, yes. Do I get nervous right before I bring up an item for discussion? Sometimes, I still do. Being completely honest and sharing my deepest thoughts weren't things I believed I could do without negative repercussions, until this last year or so. I've had to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits. 

If there is going to be a Happily (Most of the Time) Ever After, we have to keep talking. I can't shut down, and keep things to myself. Even when it's hard. Even when it's awkward and uncomfortable. 

No one ever said marriage would be easy. They just never told me it would be so hard and take so much work. There is no one else with whom I would rather face the inevitable conflicts, though. This much I know for sure; my Handsome Prince and I may not be perfect, but we are perfect for each other. And that's "happily ever after" enough for me. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tube Steak Mistakes

One of the first foods Chuck introduced me to when I moved to the Chicago area, right after Giordano's pizza, was Chicago-style hot dogs from Portillos. 

I'm assuming the thing that makes the hot dogs "Chicago-style" is the absence of ketchup, and an abundance of everything else. Portillos loads their hot dogs with relish, kosher pickle, onions, sport peppers, mustard...and sliced red ripe tomatoes. The tomatoes are an unusual addition, if you ask me. I suppose tomatoes are like raw ketchup.

It's bad form here to ask for ketchup for anything other than fries, and even with French fries, everyone seems to prefer dipping theirs in melted cheese. I'll stick to ketchup or fry sauce. (Fry sauce is a Utah thing: mayo mixed with ketchup. Sounds disgusting, until you put it in your mouth, and then it's hard to go back to plain old ketchup.)

One time Chuck's folks took me to Portillos for lunch. (Did I tell you their names are Dick and Jane? Isn't that the cutest? This school teacher loves that little fact!) ANYWAY... I was surprised when Dick said he was going to get a red hot. Red hots? Those are the little red cinnamon candies, right?

Um, no. That was my first mistake regarding the many meats sold in casings in Illinois. A red hot is a hot dog. (Well, why didn't he just say so!) Dick was dumbfounded that I didn't already know this important piece of information. They take their hot dogs red hots seriously here. 

Portillos with some of our favorite people. 
One of Chuck's favorite foods is bratwursts, which he calls brats, for short. Whenever I see the word spelled out, I pronounce it brat, like a naughty child, in my head. Brat rhymes with brought. So weird. I never knew how little I knew about food until I moved to Illinois. I could try a new food everyday for the rest of my life, I think.

"Do you want me to pick up some of those hotdogs when I go shopping?" I would ask my husband as I worked on my grocery list. His face always fell. "What? I thought you liked hotdogs."

"Hotdogs are okay," Chuck would explain, "but what I really like is brats."

I'd never eaten brats before we got married, and much to Chuck's dismay, I kept calling them hotdogs. I now know, after a year and a half of living in Chicagoland, there is a difference between brats and hotdogs, but I'm still hazy about the difference between Italian sausages and brats. They both look the same to me. I'd be hard-pressed to identify either correctly in a police lineup, if there were such a thing.  

All of these popular meats are encased in a tube, but in Chicago, they are very particular about calling them by their correct names. The lowly "tube steak" is revered here, in all its forms. My mistakes in identifying the local cuisine are decreasing, and hopefully my tube steak cred will keep increasing. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dear One (Yes, You...)

Dear One,

Yes, YOU. You know who you are. You have been wrestling with conflicting thoughts, and I want you to know, I have been where you are. It is a terrible place to be, this in-between place of where you used to be, and where you want to be, that is somehow so far from where you thought you would be.

Should you stay this course, or should you head in another direction? Should you just accept this fate you seem to have grown accustomed to, or should you question everything?

Let me ask you this. Is your soul being fed, or is it always looking for something more? Do you feel more alive each morning when you wake up, or do you feel somehow less? When you breathe, does air fill your lungs with satisfying breath, or are you panting the quick, shallow breaths of anxiety?

When nights seem endless because sleep won't come; when days are dark with troubled thoughts; when the heaviness inside fills you with dread, you can be sure that it is time for change. Your body senses when your spirit is shriveling, and alerts you it is time to get back to who you really are; to be true to yourself.

Have you forgotten how big your dreams are? Have you forgotten that little girl inside you who lives her life so big there's no time for a day that isn't full of spontaneous joy, laughter and sparkles?

Your heart and spirit already know what your mind is slower to accept. You will have brief moments of self-doubt and second-guessing. You might think you cannot do the very thing you must. But you would be wrong.

When you wonder whether you are enough; know this: you are so much more than just enough. You are strong. Full of faith. Beautiful. Full of hope. Smart. Full of love. Compassionate. Full of life. Amazing. You are brave.

Do not lose sight of the vision you have for your life. Return to the path you were traveling; your path. Not everyone will understand and appreciate your journey, but those who love you will understand and appreciate your need to take care of yourself. 

Don't settle, dear one. Don't you dare settle. You are meant to live your life with fierce love and joy, never lose sight of your purpose. Follow your heart; it will take you where you need to be.

You've got this.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Hacked and Highjacked

One advantage of having older kids is they know how to use devices like iPads, cell phones, and computers. It's helpful when I'm busy driving or cooking to have them respond to my messages for me. One disadvantage of having older kids is they know how to use those same devices to wreak havoc when you're not looking. 

Sierra and Bridger have found a new pastime: highjacking my phone's text messages and my Facebook account. Sometimes I even give them permission to do so. I know; my bad. Those times are all on me.

As I was driving Bridger into town one afternoon, his sister started texting me. I told him to let her know where we were ,and what we were doing. Here is how that little conversation went down.

MY PHONE: We are going to Boo's doctor appointment at 4.

Sierra: Okay, I need to go to the gym at some point. Should I go now or around 7?

MY PHONE: I'm with the favorite child right now, so you can go now rather than later.

Sierra: Really funny, BRIDGER.

MY PHONE: Bridger? This is Mama Llama.

Sierra: Not that other text.

It's all in good fun. Lots of my friends seem to have running gags with their kids posting on their Facebook pages. I don't know how I've lived this long and not had one of the kids do that to me. Until just recently, that is. 

Computer security is pretty lax at our house. I leave my computer on, my account open, and never bother logging out of programs. I'd never had any issues. Until February 21, 2016. (Date stamps allow for this level of specificity.)

When Chuck noticed the strange post below in his newsfeed, his and Sierra's conversation reminded me of an old Barney episode, sounding like a whacky version of "Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?"

It looked like I had posted some random comments about cheese:

"Cheese. Cheese. The magical dairy. Tooth fairy! Go!"

Sierra strikes again.

Some confusing banter ensues:

Karin: I love cheese!! Any kind.

Denise (ME): Chuck, I have been hacked. Sierra is a naughty girl.

Sierra: Who, me?

Chuck: Couldn't be.

Sierra: I don't even like cookies.

Chuck: Then who?

Denise (ME): This thread has been highjacked.

When I fly from Illinois to Utah, I like to bring my iPad so I can use it during my flights, and I use it when I don't have access to Bridger's laptop (which I have never hacked into OR highjacked, by the way). 

One night, I was typing on B's laptop, and Sierra asked if she could use my iPad. I didn't give it a second thought. After awhile I started getting notifications from Facebook that there had been activity on one of "my" posts. Perhaps I should think things through more carefully should the situation arise in the future.

My Facebook post late that night was:

"I love hanging out with my favorite child Sierra Leigh Waters. Who needs sons when you have her?"

Niiice, Sierra. Really nice.

Roslynn: Hah!

Ashley: Somebody's gonna be in trouble...

Denise (ME): I only post things like this when I loan out my iPad. 

Ashley: And send out messages about cheese?

There is never a dull moment at our house; in Illinois OR Utah. Chuck and my kids keep me laughing.