My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Room for Doubt

My faith has become a center for my life.  My marriage, the way I raise my children, my friendships and even my career are heavily shaped by my faith and where I feel I fit into God’s world.  I have talked friends through times of crisis.  I have pushed myself and my family through times of grief all on the back of my sturdy and solid faith.  But I have to share that I’ve had moments where my faith fell.

I hesitate to write on this because it feels a bit taboo as a Christian. Is it okay to say I have moments of doubt? Is it okay to admit that in my life’s darkest moments, I have felt the terror of wondering if I am alone? Does this make me a bad Christian?   

It was nearly a month ago that I found myself in this dark place. It hit me like a ton of bricks. My happy, peaceful little life was turned on its head. My plans were interrupted. The things that had been important the day before, suddenly had no significance. And with this swift turn of events, I felt incredibly weak in my faith.

I struggled in my pain and confusion and I wondered, is my God real? This idea of a soul, is it more than an elaborate, hard-wiring in our brains? Are we nothing more than the most amazing computer that biology ever evolved? The feelings I had in those moments with my thoughts are hard to describe. I don’t think I can find a way to write the emptiness of doubt.

I have heard of people hearing an answer from God. I mean actually hearing. There are Biblical stories and those experiences my friends have shared. But those have always been just stories. Something that happened for someone else, but not me. I have cried out in loss to God and felt resentful at the return of silence. But this time, in the silence of my doubt, I could hear for the first time.

I received an answer.  I heard a clear, calm voice and it told me, 

“No. This life is not it.  You are more than your personality.  You are more than your intelligence. You are more than the way you feel about one another.  There is more to you than the way the world perceives you.  You. Are. More. Than. The. World. Can. See.”  

I was astounded in my heartbreak.  How did I never understand this?  I had thought the soul was so simple. I have explained it to my children time and time again saying, “Our soul makes us who we are…why Jace is funny…why Jera is stubborn…why we feel and cry and think.”

But suddenly I knew with absolute certainty that that isn’t it at all. We can change the way the world sees us.  We can mimic another’s behavior.  We can pretend to be someone we’re not.  We can fool the world. We can make the world love us. We can make the world hate us.  But only God sees who we truly are…only God has access to our souls.  Only God knows us, the deep down, secret parts of us.  The parts that we don’t show our lovers and our friends.  The parts that our family never knows.  The part that we might not even recognize.  The part that is tucked away and is only for God, our Creator.  

This part of us knows only God. Our soul doesn’t create a persona. It doesn’t design an interesting human being.  Our personality is certainly a gift to us. It is a tool that can be used to do God’s work.  And our relationships and the way we relate to one another, again, are separate from our soul. These bonds are again, a way for us to show God’s love to one another in this life.  But our personality and our relationships are not US.  They do not determine who we are and without them, we are still us.  

If tomorrow something happens in this life, my memories are taken from me and you can’t recognize me as the often bubbly, sometimes overly serious, too guilible and always passionate person, wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend that I have always been….God will still know me. He can see past all of the qualities that the world uses to define me. He can see what I’m made of. 

This is my answer. This was my experience. My gift in my time of doubt. I’ve never felt so certain of anything in my life.  In my darkest moment, in my doubt, God was listening and he provided my answer.

I still went to sleep that night with a troubled and heavy heart.  But I knew I was not alone.  Difficult times are not over for my family. Over the past month, God has shown himself to my family and to me…little, undeserving, doubting me…again and again.  I hope to tell the world about God’s work in my life.  It is my greatest responsibility to share it with you. 

I hope you read this and know that if you doubt, it’s okay. We are only human. I never thought I would react with doubt in a time of desperation…but I did. And my faith grew in leaps and bounds from this experience. Our faith can grow from our human experience. It should. I’m starting to realize, that’s the whole point. And when you doubt, God will love you anyway.

Case Closed

I finally returned to work on Wednesday morning. After my son’s tonsillectomy and finding a lump in my breast over the previous seven days, it felt like I had been gone from the office for forever. But it wasn’t forever…it was five business days. Which goes to show you just how quickly life can turn. The morning dragged on and on as I anticipated whether my results would come in from my biopsy the previous day.

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Around 10:30 that morning my phone rang and I immediately recognized the number. It was the hospital! I jumped up from my seat and grabbed my phone heading for a more private setting. I answered to a cheery voice that shared that I would be able to come in that day anytime before 2:30. I asked if noon or 1:00 would work and the voice answered, “I’ll put you in for a biopsy check at 1:00.” Anxiously I asked, “Will I get my results then too?” “Yes, you will” she answered. I had secretly hoped she would just reveal my results over the phone but I’m sure that is outside of protocol…so I silently retreated to the fact that I’d have to wait until my appointment.

While the minutes dragged by, I was surprisingly calm. I realized the woman from the hospital had not suggested that I bring someone with me. That had to be a good sign. I felt very optimistic but tried to hold back. It’s an errie feeling to be so close to the answer but still not know.

1:00 finally rolled around. My sister had planned to come with me already and I was glad to have her there. My pastor met us at the hospital as well. I entered the Women’s Center and didn’t wait more than three minutes before my name was called. The nurse asked me to have a seat in a small office. Her name was Kelly and she had a sweet, friendly demeanor that immediately put me at ease. She removed my bandaging and checked my incision. She asked if I was having pain and I answered that the pain was very mild. Nurse Kelly reported that everything looked good on my incision and I should expect the tape to start to peel away over the next five to seven days as my wound heals. She then took a step back from me and said “Oh, and your results came back fine so you’re good!”

And that was it. I was a little in shock. Thankful. But in shock. It was so simple. Nurse Kelly explained that I had a fibroadenoma (non-cancerous tumor) and it would require no further intervention. I had about a billion questions running through my mind. I asked if the tumor could continue to grow but she was unsure. She gave me an information sheet with some basic information on fibroadenomas and let me know if I had any problems going forward to contact my doctor.

I stepped out of the hospital into a beautiful March day. I was relieved. I was thankful. I was also a little numb. The influx of emotion over the last two days was catching up with me and it would take some time to fully digest that I was okay.

I shared the good news with my friends and family and I went back to work. Back to my normal life. Back to routine. Back to being a normal, regular 31-year old, healthy mom of two.

That evening I visited my uncle who is in his final stages of life. He has battled cancer for the past eight months. He is on his journey to heaven and hospice is telling us that he is down to days. I don’t know my uncle as well as I wish I would have. What I do know about him is that he is a Vietnam vet who fought for our country, he is a fisherman and he loves the outdoors, and most of all he is a kind man. He is sleeping a lot at this point but we were lucky to find him quite alert. He was however in severe pain. When I went to hug him, he winced at my touch…but he still wanted a hug. When I told him that I wished there was something I could do for him, he said I already was doing something for him by just being there. He talked about an eagle he saw from his window in the past few days, told a fisherman’s story and spoke of relatives that have passed on many, many years ago.

As we left, I was sure of one thing…God is with Charlie now as he continues to make his journey. I had told my sister earlier in the day, after we got the good news on my biopsy, that the one thing that resonates with me about the previous 48 hours…the thing that I come back to when I ask why I just went through this…I cannot shake the feeling from that first day, Day One. When I came home from the doctor who had confirmed that there was something growing inside of me that needed further testing, after I had learned that there was a chance that I could have breast cancer, I prayed to God and asked for his help to be strong and I truly felt him surround me. I felt closer to God in that moment than anytime I can remember. So that feeling, that knowledge, that God is closest to us when we need him the most…that he carries us when we’re too weak to carry ourselves…that he is standing beside and carrying the weak, the sick, the poor and broken-hearted…that’s the greatest promise I can imagine.

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I’m back to life as usual…mad-rush around in the morning, work, mad-dash for dinner and bedtime in the evening and then do it all over again the next day. I feel so blessed to be given the grace to continue on and I will try to hold on to the memory of that “Day One Prayer” but I know it will fade as I get lost in the hustle and bustle of life. But I take peace in knowing that when life throws me my next curve, there is nothing I will ever have to face on my own.

Lenten Lessons Learned

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With Lenten season in full swing, I’m in the throes of day two of my sacrifice (giving up my snooze button on my alarm clock). Over the past few years, Lenten season has become more and more special to me. I love everything about it. I love the idea of sacrificing in order to better focus on Christ and what he did for us. In past years I gave up social media and found that it truly helped me stay focused on the important things in my life. Until you unplug entirely, it’s hard to see just how distracted we all are. Since I know I can do without social media now, this year I decided to switch gears and give up the snooze button on my alarm. While I write this I have to just stop and be thankful to live in a world where FB and snoozing are the things that mean sacrifice. It hardly seems meaningful when I think about God giving the life of his only son for me. Just another reminder of why it’s so important to slow down and concentrate on our faith. We have a mid-week evening church service throughout Lent and I love this too. There’s something about ending my day with a church service that leaves me feeling calm, clean and rejuvenated…most of the time anyway.

Thanks to my daughter, my 2016 Lenten season started off with a bang. Jera is three (by Easter she’ll be four). In past years, I let her stay at home with my husband since the evening services went beyond her bedtime. This year though, I thought it would be nice to share this experience with her. So I put on my big mommy pants, loaded up a couple of Barbies and matchbox cars and headed off for Ash Wednesday service with my three and seven-year olds. They’ve both set through plenty of church services, although on most church days Jera, my three year old, spends some portion of the service in the play room burning off that three-year-old-ants-in-my-pants energy. However, the  services she has attended are in the morning…NOT AT BEDTIME….let that sink in….NOT AT BEDTIME!

Everything started out innocently enough. Jera was full of liveliness, driving my son’s matchbox cars up and down the pews. Without a doubt, she was distracting.  But kids will be kids and I try not to get overly excited as long as she isn’t burning down the building. I began to sense trouble when Jera eyed the bread and wine for communion and started to fixate on the “body and blood” stating to me how hungry and thirsty she was. No, I’m not starving her. She did have dinner immediately before church service although you wouldn’t know it from talking to her.

We attend a church that practices open communion. I don’t believe there are any hard rules or age requirements on when a child should take communion at our church (but I’m not sure about that!!). Personally, I think a child should have an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and the symbolism of it all. Soooo….let me preface this by saying that introducing my daughter to communion at 3 was probably a mistake. As she sat with me in service last month and communion made its way around, I allowed her to partake, talking her through it step by step. She was overjoyed to share in communion and I was proud that it meant so much to her. Hmmm…hind sight really is 20/20.

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Fast forward to Ash Wednesday service…it was time for communion but it wasn’t our normal communion routine where we pass the bread and wine through the pews. No, this was a “stand in line in front of the whole church and take communion one at a time” type of communion. I immediately became nervous. No other children were taking communion….this was not good for the home team. My children and I made our way through the line and Jace and Jera arrived to our Pastor in front of me. Pastor Jane leaned down and blessed my son which he accepted sweetly. Whew, he is fine with being passed over for communion. Then the Pastor leans down to bless my daughter and again, she sweetly accepts….but then….oh no….Jera just reached up with her little bitty hand and grabbed a chunk out of the bread. My 3-year old just stole a chunk of the body of Christ! The Pastor couldn’t help but notice what the little thief had just done so she smiled kindly at Jera and said “Well there you go.” Crisis adverted.

Then we hastily moved along to the wine. I quickly grabbed my cup and moved along hoping my kids were following me. Sure enough Jace was tagging right along behind me…but not Jera. No, definitely not Jera. I turn around in time to see her staring expectantly at the gentleman passing out the blood of Christ. He is looking uncertainly at her and then to me. He motions to ask if he should give her some…to which I responded, “No, that’s okay.” Jera caught wind of this denial and immediately…loudly…began to whine, “WHAT ABOUT MY BLOOOOODD??? WHERE’S MY BLOOOODDDD???? I’M THIRSTY!!!!!”

Really? Really. If I could have hidden beneath a pew, I would have. It felt like an eternity to me that I stood there in horror…and then I did the only thing I could, I moved along with my child whimpering for “blood” and took her on a trip to the water fountain to quench her undying thirst. I tried to explain to her that communion is not snack time. I tried to explain to her that it is a sacred time. I tried to explain it all but again…she is THREE.

So, needless to say, lesson learned. Three is too young to understand the miracle of communion. Duh. I’m not sure what I was thinking but leave it to my beautiful, rambunctious, kind-hearted Jera to teach me.

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As I proceed through the rest of this season, I hope to stay focused on my faith, on what has been sacrificed for me, for all of us. I hope to continue sharing my love for this season with my children (although hopefully in a less embarrassing way!).

Have you stopped to think about what this season means to you? I’d love to hear about what you’ve decided to sacrifice this Lenten season and what Lent means to you. I hope you enjoy this Lenten season with those who mean the most to you… even if it leads to a moment of total humiliation.

Make Your Husband a Cup of Coffee (and other essentials for a happy marriage)!

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So my husband and I have been together for a while now; we have 14 years under our joint, blissful belt. Take a look at us here…this is the beginning. We’re so skinny…we’re so tan…we’re so young. Sigh! A couple of hot little numbers…it’s no wonder our start was so passionate and exciting.

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I hate to get ahead of myself but let’s jump ahead four years. We have a lot of ground to cover and you don’t have all day. Phil popped the question  on Easter in 2005. We were lying in bed, pigging out on massive amounts of Easter candy like a couple of kids (which we were). The next thing I knew, he was holding a ring and saying “Do you want to get married to me?” Spoiler alert…I said YES. And that was it. In all honesty, the day he first stepped into Kouch Potato Video to return his mom’s movie rental, and I, earning my keep as a video store clerk, laid eyes on him, that moment, that was IT. The rest is history, as they say.

This year marks ten years of marriage for me and my husband. After reading my last blog, a friend asked me, “How do you do it; how do you and Phil find time for each other?” At first I wasn’t sure how to answer. I thought about my marriage and how my relationship has changed and evolved over the years. I thought about how deeply I love my husband today and how different that love is in many ways than the love I felt at 17. I started to think about why. Why am I so devoted to this man? Why do I love him so much?What is it that makes me so happy in my marriage?And the answers began to roll in.

I hesitate to hand out marriage advice. Do I qualify??? Does ten years give me the stamina to really talk about marriage???? As cliche as it may sound, I can honestly say, if I could go back, do it all again, I would choose him all over again (in a heartbeat!). I choose him every single day and I am HAPPY to do it. And I have full faith that, God willing, I will still be choosing him 50 years from now. So yes, I’m going to dish on what makes my marriage happy in the hopes that maybe it will bring a little extra happiness to some of yours.

I think love is pretty simple so I’m going to break it down to the basics:

  1. Touch each other. No, not like that you little pervert!! Okay, yes, like that…but in other ways too! Every single day there should be hugs. Real hugs, the kind where you just stop for a moment and squeeze each other, breath each other in, take a moment to physically connect. My favorite time of the day to hug my husband is when I get home from work. It is my way to say, “I missed you today.” It sets the tone for the rest of the evening. It’s so simple but so meaningful (P.S. inserting a little kiss here doesn’t hurt either 😘) Also, very important, don’t just pass each other by throughout the day. Take these little meetings as opportunities in the hallway, squeezing through the bathroom, passing on the stairs, to reach out and touch each other. For example, a touch on the arm, a hand on the small of her back, the holding of a hand or even a little pat on the back end. It’s just a playful, sweet, quick way to be physically close when you’re going 100 mph in opposite directions. My daughter has picked up on the “pat on the rear” move from my husband and now smacks me on the bottom randomly in public (not nearly as endearing!) But seriously, let’s get physical! Reach out and touch the one you love, often, all the time, every day.
  2. Work for a living and appreciate that your spouse does the same. I work hard. I do it because I want to make a better life for my family. When I come home to my worn out husband, who’s had a long day at work himself, I remember that he is working to provide for me and our children. I appreciate all that he does for us financially and around our home. All of the ways he helps me with the house work. All of the ways he cares for the kids. I tell him thank you as often as I can and I mean it. I am thankful for all that he does. I appreciate that he puts so much of himself into this life we created together. I feel so blessed that he is my partner. Don’t forget to appreciate what your spouse does every day to make your world go round. Be thankful and appreciate them.
  3. Make your husband a cup of coffee. Draw your wife a bubble bath. Put a note in each other’s lunch box. Do you see where I’m going with this??? It is in the little things that we make each other feel loved in my marriage. The small considerations for one another. We’re busy. We’re can’t-stop-won’t-stop-break-your-neck-or-maybe-your-back kind of busy. It’s so easy to not think of each other. So when we do stop, take a minute out of the busy day, and just do something nice for each other, it reminds us not only that we’re loved, but also that were on the same team. So every morning, when I wake up and my husband is still pressing snooze, I make his coffee with way too much sugar and two ice cubes (just the way he likes it) and I hope that when he grabs it on his way out the door, he feels loved.
  4. Give each other a break. Sometimes I think I love my husband the most right after I get back from a run. How lucky am I to have this wonderful man who stays with the kids so I can get out and get my feel-good going??!!! I like to think he’s thinking about how much he loves me when he’s out on the golf course too. He totally is, don’t you think?! But yes, one vital thing that makes my marriage strong and happy is that we support each other and give one another the opportunity to follow our separate passions. We are stronger individually for this and we are stronger as a married couple.
  5. For goodness sake, put your kids to bed. Give them a decent bedtime. In their own beds! This is a win-win. Kids need sleep. Parents need a break. Take this time, this tiny sliver of time between being super parents and catching your zzz’s and make it your husband/wife time. Put down the phones and do something together. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are tucked in by 9 every night and I’m usually snoring by 10 (noooo….I don’t snore, I’m just writing creatively 😉). In that hour, my husband and I are usually tuned in to a 48  Hours Mystery but we’re tuned in together. And this miraculous thing happens. When no one is yapping “MOMMY” in my ear or “DAD, GUESS WHAT?” in his, even with the TV on, we talk. It is so nice. There are no words to express what that hour of non-competed for attention is like. You might be thinking, “Why put the phone down if your just going to be watching TV.” Being distracted on a phone is very isolating. You’re doing your thing on your phone and your spouse is completely on their own. At least when you watch something together, your focus is on the same thing at the same time. But hey, someday if you’re really feeling adventurous, you could even shut off the TV!

So that’s it. So simple. I left something pretty important off my short list. I thought about adding a #6 for “Get a Babysitter”. Alone time is so important. My husband and I do occasionally get a sitter and spend some adult time together. But I leave this off my list for a very specific reason. If we wait for these special occasions to make each other feel loved, we’re going to end up very lonely. Kids, work, hobbies, friends, family, volunteering, etc., etc., this is life. You have to, YOU MUST, stay focused on your marriage during and throughout all of the chaos. You can’t wait for a break, wait for quiet time, wait for a perfect opportunity, to show your love to your partner. For example, I had to go back almost two years to find the photo below of just me and my husband.

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Most of our pictures look more like this…

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Which just reiterates my point. When we start a family, alone time, the perfect opportunities, the right mood or setting, those moments just don’t come along. We have to create those loving moments whenever, wherever.

Some of you might be in a rough patch in your marriage and you’re thinking “If only it was really as easy as she says.” Just know, we’ve been there too. No relationship is immune to struggles. We’re imperfect human beings. In a marriage, you’re going to be thoughtless, you’re going to get lazy, you’ll hurt one another and you’ll go through pain in life that will change and transform you as a person and in turn, you’re marriage will change too. As long as your partner isn’t doing anything in your marriage that risks the safety of you or your children, I challenge you to hang in there. I really believe it is the bumps in the road that make your marriage stronger in the end. Remember that this is the person that God put in your life. You are where He wants you to be. As painful as that can be at times, have faith that your life is in the middle of a transformation and brighter days are ahead. Be quick to forgive.  Do the little things that make your spouse smile, appreciate them, be filled with gratitude. Do this without expecting anything in return. Marriage is not tit for tat. Show your love to your partner because you want to, not because you expect the same in return. You’ll be surprised by what happens. When you put love out into the world, it will be returned. You’ll take the first step in building a stronger, more loving marriage.

That is it. At this point in my life, these are the things I have learned about marriage. I’m sure my perspective will continue to change as the road that my husband and I travel together twists and turns. But today I’m so grateful for my marriage and regardless of what life brings us, with my husband by my side, I’m ready to face it.

I am the Tickler of Toes…Among Other Things

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After my first blog, I was talking with a friend who also blogs. She said to me “I’m not a writer”…to which I responded “I’m not a writer either.” That sentence, that thought, that discredit, stuck with me. Why do we do this to ourselves? True…blogging, practicing my writing, exercising this rarely used art form of prose, is very new to me. But what would I have to accomplish to make me a writer??

I came across this same quandary when I began running 3 years ago. I’d repeatedly tell people “oh, I’m not a runner…” What I was thinking and feeling is “please don’t judge my running…I’m not fast…it’s not pretty…I look and feel like I’m dying when my feet are pounding the ground…so don’t call me a runner and don’t measure me by this high standard.” Today, I’m still not the fastest and I can’t run the farthest. Look at me in the pic below with this fancy little medal (…I still didn’t consider myself a runner even at this point). I was still discrediting myself saying “All of the good runners were participating in the half today…that’s why I was able to win the 5k.” When I look at myself and know those thoughts run through my mind, I can’t deny that’s it’s disappointing. We have to believe in ourselves. Love ourselves. Today I consider myself a runner. So what has changed???

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I began thinking (super scary, I know). The primary thing that has changed in my running is my perspective. I have the same tiny frame, the same slender muscles, the same excruciatingly pained face (lol)…but my perspective has changed. I haven’t  changed; my mind has changed.

Who would we be if we stopped discrediting ourselves and discounting our abilities? If our minds stopped telling us what we can’t do? I decided to try an exercise and list everything, every single thing, that I am. This is what I came up with:

  1. a Christian
  2. wife
  3. mother
  4. daughter
  5. daughter-in-law
  6. sister
  7. sister-in-law
  8. friend
  9. Godmother
  10. aunt
  11. niece
  12. granddaughter
  13. employee
  14. executive assistant
  15. ….this is where I started to have more fun with this exercise…you’ll see
  16. Runner (YES!)
  17. Writer (really…I changed my mind on this one)
  18. cook
  19. financial guru
  20. motivational speaker
  21. church council member
  22. scout den leader
  23. volunteer
  24. dog mommy (to my Rusty-Roo)
  25. carer for the sick
  26. tickler of the toes, arms, bellies, underarms, necks…you get the idea
  27. dancer (in my kitchen at least)
  28. singer (also in my kitchen/sometimes shower)
  29. music enthusiast
  30. bath lover
  31. love lover 😉
  32. Over-sharer (refer to #31)
  33. cleaner
  34. bedtime tucker
  35. Reader of stories
  36. Hair obsesser
  37. smile giver

And this is where I ended. I’m really quite terrible at some of these things (totally referring to singing). But these things make me feel alive. These things bring me joy. What if I start focusing on all of the things that I am and stop discounting myself by stating what I am not? You don’t have to be the best at something to BE IT. You just have to do it. From your gut, do it and love it. And there you are, the writer, the runner, the singer, the [enter the thing you desire/fear here].

That’s it. It’s simple really. Forget “I’m not”….it’s a pretty useless statement. Let’s be what we set out to be. Let’s challenge ourselves and love ourselves. I challenge you  to get out your pen and paper and make your “I Am” list. When you do it, ignore the fear. No one is seeing this list but you (unless you decide to blog about it!). You’ll be glad you did it. My last piece of advice, once you’ve written these things on your list, be them. Don’t step back, don’t discount, don’t discredit, and don’t be modest. Get out there and take life by the reigns. BE IT.