Accepting The Skin I’m In

Having been married for 92% of my adult life, it is not surprising that trying to figure out the single journey is confusing and uncertain.  The things I took for granted for so many years are now gone.  The simple pleasure of sharing a morning coffee, having someone to pick up the kids or dinner when I’m running behind, or 24/7 access to hugs and reassurance when I’m having a bad day are things that make me shift uncomfortably in the skin I now wear.  As I live in this single “skin” I realize it just doesn’t fit me well.  I also realize that if I make the adjustments needed to be comfortable in this skin, I will become resistant to donning the married skin again.   And so I navigate this life the best that I can with my faith, some courage, and a hope for a new future.

WHO CHANGED THE RULES?

The rules of dating have certainly changed since I was a teenager.   Now we “meet” people online, read their profile, and exchange versions of how we see ourselves.  If we get to a point where it seems like we are a good match, we might talk on the phone, text, and exchange Facebook addresses.  If there is an actual date I’m left to wonder if I’m supposed to split the check, should I wait for him to open the door, and should I tell him his socks don’t match (should I just be glad he’s wearing socks?).

The dating world after 30 is like a bad zombie movie.  The walking wounded are everywhere dragging their emotional baggage behind them.  Adultery, abandonment, rejection, loss, and maliciousness of former partners have left their scars deep in the hearts of the single-again community.  Some are able to heal and forgive through a strong faith, while others remain in denial that their history has any impact on them.  It seems that dating has come down to figuring out who is ready for love, and who are just desperate to take off that tight uncomfortable skin of singleness.

CAN WE JUST GET ON THE SAME PAGE, PLEASE?

When we started out our adult journey we carried with us a fresh blank page.  As we moved through life, we filled up our page based on experiences, traditions, and life directions. When we married we filled up our pages together with ideas about love, home, and raising children.  Now our pages are full and we have the added complication of trying to find someone with a page similar enough to our own for an attempted partnership to even make sense.  Even when we find that person, we are challenged to decide which things on our page are not open to compromise (the deal-breakers), what concerns us (red flags), and what is, in fact, negotiable.

ACCEPTING THE SKIN I’M IN

I am choosing to accept the skin I’m in…for now.  I will try and accept this season as a time to learn and grow.  I will take personal inventory of my faults and seek to become a better person.

…and, I will read this blog as a reminder every time hugging the pillow just doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Busting the Super Parent Myth (though the cape is still an option)

So you want to be a… SUUUUUPER PAREEEEEEEENT [echoing booming voice].  Congratulations on having an aspiration.  Now let’s get real.  That mom or dad you see with the “perfect” kids at the park were not so together the night before when bedtime turned into a scene worthy of calling in a certain reality show for assistance.  We all have some work to do in the parenting department… and we always will.  But before you turn in your cape in despair, read on and discover five simple do’s and don’ts that can help you achieve a little time in the coveted spandex suit.

DON’T – MAKE THREATS:  “If you do that again, I’ll…”  You’ll what? Your kids know you’re not serious.  You are only damaging your credibility with those empty threats.  And, it’s likely they are even laughing at you behind that angelic face.  If you are not going to follow through on a statement, don’t say it in the first place.  Consequences for behavior should already be laid out for your kids so there is no need to keep saying it in the form of hollow threats over and over.

DO – SAY WHAT YOU MEAN:  If you want your children to believe what you say, then say what mean and mean what you say.  If you want to give them a warning, ask them once to correct their behavior, then immediately follow through with the consequences if they don’t.  Put some substance on your words and your kids are less likely to ignore them.

DON’T – PUT THEM DOWN:  Words hurt.  Listen to how you speak to your kids.  Do you use phrases like “What’s wrong with you?” “You make me so mad…” “I can’t believe you did that!” or something similar?  These kinds of statement are sending the wrong messages and are born out of frustration and not discipline.  The fact is that kids are going to make bad decisions and make mistakes.  It’s time to stopped being surprised when it happens and just learn how to deal with it when they do.

DO – DEVELOP POSITIVE PHRASES:  In the heat of the moment, words are spoken which are first to mind.  For that reason you need to develop some positive alternatives that you can draw from when you are feeling angry or frustrated with your child.  Phrases such as “Do you wish you had made a better choice there?” “I think we better talk about this one.” “How could you have done that differently?” or whatever suits your personality as a parent.  The difference is that that you are teaching your child to think through what happened and find a better choice for the next time.

DON’T – YELL OR LOSE YOUR TEMPER:  When you yell, scream, or lose control, your kids no longer hear your words.  All they hear is anger and now they are processing that instead of what you are shouting at them.  It raises their anxiety and whatever lesson, however brilliant, that you might be spewing has been completely lost in the noise.  It’s ineffective and it will leave YOU feeling stressed out.

DO – MODEL SELF CONTROL:  The bottom line is your anger is irrelevant.  Kids can SEE you are angry, frustrated, or annoyed without having to witness you coming unglued.  It is not a bad thing for them to see that you are having emotions.  However, this is your opportunity to model the kind of behavior that you want your children to use when they have those feelings.  Do you want them to lose their temper with their little sister when she does something to make them angry?  Probably not.  Most parents would agree that they want to see their children learn conflict resolution skills – so that begins with you SHOWING them it in action.

DON’T – BE A RESCUER:  You know who you are… the parent who swoops down and saves little Johnny every time he makes a mistake.  He forgets his lunch and you bring it to him.  He gets in trouble at school and you insist to the Administrator there must be some kind of mistake.  He gets benched at soccer and you have words with the coach.  I have a friend who fired a 26 year old man for missing days without calling in and being chronically late to work.  His mother called later that day to demand an explanation.  There is no nice way to tell you this.  If you are a rescuer – Butt Out!  Little Johnny is one day going to spread his wings and fly into this cold cruel world and if you keep rescuing him he will not make it.

DO – PROTECT AND SUPPORT:  Natural consequences provide some of life’s best lessons.  If you interfere, you have robbed your child of the experience.  It is much better than you allow minor consequences to happen, so that your child will become a responsible and careful adult.  If he forgets his lunch, let him go hungry for one day.  Chances are the hunger pains will be the only lesson he needs and he will not likely forget it again…for awhile anyway.  Introduce a new phrase into your vocabulary: “Gee, that’s a bummer, Johnny.  What are you going to do?” Let them figure it out. If they are younger give two or three suggestions how you would handle it and then let them decide.  If they are older, just let them decide.  However, there ARE times when you must interfere to protect your children from consequences that are dangerous.  Knowing when to act is the balancing act that we must all learn as parents.

DON’T – SHOOT FROM THE HIP:  So many parents just deal with kid issues as they come. They have no real plan or strategy and consequences are usually dealt on whim and during emotional duress.  If you operated like this on your job you’d probably get fired.

DO – DEVELOP A PLAN FOR EVERYTHING:  Yes, it will be a bit of work to get implemented but it’s an investment in your children and in your own sanity.  If you have a plan you will easily know how to handle almost every situation.  No plan is a perfect plan for every child.  Every child is unique and special.  You need a customized plan.  Go ahead and read all the parenting books – then put them back on the shelf while you create a plan especially for your family.

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God Will Take Care of You (…and why this is written in the fog on my bathroom window)

To set this up properly, I need to give you a little background.  I’m a single mom who has home schooled for 11 years.  I am able to do this by being self-employed and working from home.  This has been a very tough year financially for a number of reasons.  The combination of large unexpected expenses, coupled with losing other sources of income, has created the perfect recipe for worry and stress.

Lately I’ve been praying through decisions like selling my home or going back into the corporate world.  With my youngest in her senior year, both of these have serious implications.

Tonight I was feeling the stress more than usual.  I was doing some monthly invoicing to clients and reviewing work in the pipeline.  I’m looking at accounts receivable and trying to decide how secure I feel about what I see there for the next few months.  This is how it goes when you are self-employed.  It is often feast or famine and income can be rather inconsistent.

With all of this on my mind, I decided I needed a break.  So I ran a hot bubble bath, lit some candles, and started the music playlist on my Droid entitled “Relax.”  I sank into my luxurious cocoon of soapy paradise and watched the birds jump from branch to branch in the tree outside the window.  I was reminded of the Scripture that says “So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31).  As I’m lost in my thoughts I realized that the song now playing on my phone was “God Will Take Care of You” by Plumb.  I thought, “Well, how fitting is that?”

Since I was waiting on an email of a design proof, I decided to check my email (yes, I’m still in the tub).  I found 3 emails all with new business referrals.  So, here I am.  In the tub, watching the birds and thinking about Matthew 10:31, listening to “God Will Take Care of You,” and now I have 3 emails with what looks like new business.  At this point, I began to cry.  Not because I was worried.  Not because I was stressed. I cried because I realized how much I have been trying to do things myself.  How God just wanted to me to rely on Him and I was too busy running around being worried to feel His peace.

But God wasn’t done with His lesson yet.  My playlist was set to run one song after another until the list was completed.  The list ran in order up until “God Will Take Care of You” and then something weird happened.  With no explanation I can give, that song repeated itself a few songs later.  It was if God was making sure that I knew He was speaking to me.  Talk about a humbling moment!!

To my precious Mom and Dad who are struggling with the recent news of Dad’s prostate cancer; To my oldest daughter, who struggles to meet her rent every month while she finishes her education; To my second oldest daughter, who is trying to find her own way in the world; To my second youngest daughter, who is leaving for missionary school this Saturday; To my youngest daughter, who wonders sometimes if her mother is losing her mind; To everyone reading this blog who wonders about that health diagnosis, that financial concern, or whatever you struggle with… I just wanted you all to know what God shared with me tonight – God Will Take Care of You.

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Why Parenting Objectives Change Everything.

Somewhere along the way, many of us bought into the idea that parenting would just come naturally.  You know, the suggestion that we are all born with the instincts needed to successfully raise our brood.  I’ve got news for you.  That idea may be true for monkeys and gophers where instincts are essential to survival of the species, but here in our human reality nothing could be further from the truth.

The problem with that idea is that we possess more than just instincts.  Our existence goes beyond survival.  God created man with a higher purpose and with that comes a responsibility to raise our children to know and appreciate His plan and calling on their lives.

Many parents have never taken the time to consider their parenting objectives.  You know – the things we strive to teach our children before they are grown.  If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there.  However, if you develop goals and objectives, you become intentional about devising a plan or strategy that will bring those purposes to fruition.

Of course, we all want our children to be well-behaved, happy, and successful.  However, within every family those terms are bound to be defined in very different ways.  I believe parenting objectives need to be specific and the strategy for attaining them uncompromising.

What are your parenting objectives?

Take a moment to consider what is really important to you for your children right now.  Is it that they are the most popular at school, the best player on the team, or that they hit the honor roll every semester?  Let’s try again.  What is really important to you for your children that will continue to impact their lives 10, 20 and 50 years from now?  Did that change your answer?

With the long term in mind, try and develop at least five specific parenting objectives for your children.  The following include some ideas to help get you started in your thought process:

a)      To own an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness

b)      To find joy regardless of their circumstances, and not just pursue happiness

c)       To understand that forgiveness and mercy are gifts to be given generously

d)      To know how to compromise without being a doormat

e)      To honor God’s wisdom and filter man’s teachings through His Word

f)       To place a priority on family and taking care of each other’s needs

g)      To understand that sometimes being a leader means being a servant

h)      That it is good to work hard and with excellence

Having parenting objectives changes everything.

When we understand our true long term objectives as a parent, it changes the way we choose to spend our time and resources.  Our priorities shift as we focus on things that truly matter in the long run, and put less emphasis on the here and now.  Are you ready to start raising a generation that will change the world or are you content with giving them the status quo?

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Managing Stress Instead of It Managing You


Stress has been a part of my life for so long that I wouldn’t know what it feels like to have it absent.  I see stress as falling into two categories – positive or negative.  There are some things that stress us but have a positive result.  Things like deadlines that help keep us accountable, or a difficult problem at work that allows us to feel fulfilled when we solve it.  However, when stress increases above a level that we are used to, it can have some pretty serious adverse affects.

When you are stressed your body has a similar reaction as to when it senses you are in danger.  It speeds up your heart and your breathing by releasing hormones into your system.  All of this will lead to an instinctive response to either stand-and-fight or run-and-hide depending on the individual.

If stress is allowed to continue for too long or too often in your life, your health can suffer.  Headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, and muscle pain are all common physical responses to stress.  In addition, it can weaken your immune system making you vulnerable to other health conditions as well.

I’m writing this blog entry because my stress level has been extraordinarily high during the past five years.  While I consider myself someone who handles stressful situations well, I recognize that it has impacted me in significant ways.  I have learned that rarely do the things I face only apply to me.  So I’d like to share some strategies that have helped me through some very trying circumstances.

Three Strategies for Taking Back Control

Strategy #1 – Just say NO.  Learn that it is ok NOT to volunteer to bring the snacks, to organize the car pool, or to teach that Sunday School class.  We live in an age and culture of busy.  In fact, I think sometimes we need to be busy just to feel important.  If you get a group of women together, often it seems like they are bragging about all the things they are involved in as if the more they do, the more important they become in their circle.  How about we start bragging about how we are saying “no” to the things that don’t really matter in the end, and demonstrate an ability to manage our lives more effectively??

Strategy #2 – Manage time.  There are only 24 hours in a day.  Try removing things from your life that waste one of your most precious commodities.  For example, we are currently choosing to not have cable TV.  Television consumes our precious time without an adequate return for the investment.  We DO have Netflix and are purposeful about what we watch and when.  What is sucking up your time? Get rid of it or reduce its impact on your time.

Strategy #3 – Identify priorities.  Trying to cram in as much stuff as possible leaves no time to clear your head or relax.  When my kids were younger I tried to involve us only in things we could do as a family.  Instead of each child having their own pursuits, we hosted study groups, took Tae Kwon Do classes as a family, and went to the park or spent the weekend camping.  While dance and soccer are nice for a time, I feel like we reduced everyone’s stress while improving our connection as a family by focusing on our time together.  If one of the kids did do something on their own like soccer, they each took turns to help reduce the mania, and the entire family supported them by attending every game and cheering them on.

What About the Stress Caused By Things
That You Do Not Have Control Over?

Whether it’s divorce, death, or a significant loss, if you are walking this earth for any period of time you are going to have to deal with a heart-breaking situation at some point and time.

When I first learned that my husband of 17 years was having an affair, the shock of it hit me like freight train.  Unless you’ve walked that particular path, I could never adequately explain the pain, the anxiety, and the stress that it causes.  When he left to pursue and ultimately marry the object of his affection, the resulting stress caused rapid and significant weight loss, about a third of my hair fell out, and my brain lost memory and the ability to focus on anything longer than 5 minutes.  While you may never experience this exact situation (and I hope you don’t), life WILL throw us a curve ball every now and then.  The following is what I learned in my personal journey that helped me get through a very difficult and stressful situation.  I pray that you might find them useful if you ever find yourself facing down your own curve ball.

  • Forgive – often stress caused by things outside of our control are the result of the actions of someone else.  Staying angry and becoming bitter will only hurt your ability to move past it.  Or perhaps you need to forgive yourself for a mistake or bad decision.  You’re human – cut yourself some slack.  If you struggle to forgive, seek some counseling to help you.
  • Ask a trusted friend for help – This one has always been hard for me.  Pride generally gets in the way of reaching out.  If not for the good friend that walked me through this dark time, I know that I would not have made it to the other side with my heart intact.
  • Get professional attention, if needed – If you are unable to sleep, are experiencing fluttering in your chest, have the sensation that your heart is in your throat, are finding it hard to take a deep breath (shallow breathing), or are having trouble keeping food down it is time to get to a doctor.  There is help and if left untreated they can become a real and serious threat to your health.
  • Write it down – Within 24 hours of learning about the affair, I began writing a journal.  I wrote down everything that came to mind whether it made sense in the moment or not.  Sometimes I stayed up all night writing in that journal. It became a close confidant and was a very healthy way for me to express the tidal wave of emotion that was threatening to wash me away.
  • Focus on the future – Circumstances are temporary.  True joy comes from knowing that our God is bigger than our problems and that He cares for us.  Some nights I feel asleep singing Jesus Loves Me over and over (a suggestion from the friend I mentioned above).  The lyrics to this simple children’s song were so affirming that they soothed and healed my wounded spirit with every note.
  • Be courageous – Do not allow fear to take over.  In difficult circumstances you will no doubt be facing some hard decisions.  Gather your courage and do what you need to do.  Guard yourself from having wrong motives or making a bad decision out of fear, anger, or revenge.  At the end of the day, do what is right and good for you, your children, and anyone else affected.  Do not adopt a victim mentality.  Claim victory over your problems and move forward.

If you have been through a difficult time and have a strategy for managing stress that worked for you, please share it with a comment.

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Moving Beyond the Boogie Man – Conquering Your Fears

“Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” — Yoda

Over the years I often found myself comforting my children from their fears.  Fear of failure, fear of something new, or fear of rejection was usually the culprit.  With children, fear is often borne of their inexperience or insecurity and with time their confidence begins to override those fears.  

One of my daughters in particular struggled with fear and anxiety. When I first became her mother, she was already 8 years old. She had learned the hard way that the world is a scary place.  She was afraid of the dark, of being alone, of being lost in public, of strangers, and more.  With God’s help, she has grown into a beautiful young woman who is facing the world with confidence.

My mother is ALWAYS worrying about me. It’s her God-given job I suppose to express concern to make me stop and consider if I’m taking on too much, if I’m taking care of myself, or with standard (yet embarrassing) clean underwear reminder…just in case I’m in an accident.  I have often begged my mom to stop her worrying ways and suggest that her worry is distracting her from her true purpose (which I’m pretty sure, by the way, is NOT worrying about me).

The fact is I have given my mother good reason to worry about me many times.  I have experienced serious and profound fear in my life.  It is not a sensation that I particularly enjoy to say the least.  Fear is not a sin or necessarily a bad thing.  On the contrary, we have all been given the emotion of fear to help keep us in balance and to provide protection.  Without fear, what would stop us from driving too fast, eating too much, or singing in the middle of the grocery store.  Yes, fear can be good (have you ever heard me sing?).

However, fear can also be unhealthy and lead us into poor decisions or just plain keep us from living a full and abundant life.  The following are two examples of unhealthy fear in that if left unchecked can lead us in the wrong direction.

1)      ANGER AS A CHILD OF FEAR – As a mother I have admittedly spoken to my children at times in an angry tone of voice. In almost every instance it was because they did something that just scared the “whooey” out of me.  Out of fear for their safety, their future, or their character, I birthed a burst of anger in the moment.  For most of us mere mortals this is not likely something we ever completely master, but with time and God’s help we can certainly learn to count to ten before reacting and keep our anger under control.

(Psalm 4:8 – In your anger, do not sin…)

2)      FEAR DERIVED FROM THE ENEMY – Fear is a powerful weapon that the enemy uses to paralyze the life of a believer.  Playing upon our fears of public speaking, sharing our testimony with a friend, fear of rejection, and more, Satan can effectively keep us from the plan and purpose God intends for us.  To remove this fear from your life, claim 2 Timothy 1:7 as a personal verse and face those fears head on that you know are inhibiting you.  Throughout the Bible we see countless examples of how God used the ordinary to achieve extraordinary purposes so that He might be glorified instead of man.  I call them “Moses excuses” in my own life and they are usually uncovered the minute I start make excuses why I can’t do something I know I feel led to do. 

(2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.)

If you are struggling with fear in your life, please remember that the difference between the hero and the coward is not whether they experienced fear but rather what they did about it.  Go ahead and have fear – but render it powerless with God’s promises found in His Word.

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You’re From Where? A God Story

When I was young I felt nurtured by a doting mother, as a teenager “suffocated” by her, and as an adult cherished and loved in a way that words would never do justice.

As an adult, I see and appreciate things about my mom that I never understood as a child.  She is truly a woman of God.  I am awed by the way she quietly serves behind the scenes with the fruit of the Spirit so abundant in her life.  She plays ping pong with lonely widows, takes others to the doctor, or just sits for hours listening to their stories and being a friend.

I could tell you many stories about my mom (and my dad for that matter) and the selfless way she (they) gives to others.  However, one recent event really stands out as evidence of the way my mom (& dad) are being used by God in powerful ways.

Each year, my parents take a migratory trip to the south (they are Canadian snowbirds, eh).  This past winter they chose Destin, FL for their annual sunshine break from the brutal Canadian winter.  In her usual fashion, my mother quickly connected with a lonely widow who had traveled south from Kocomo, Indiana (pop. 46,113).  The widow was struggling with some health issues and wasn’t able to get around well.  My mom walked her dog, did her laundry, and checked in on her daily for a visit.

Consequently, when my mom invited her to join them one Sunday morning at their church, the woman heartily agreed.  The message was powerful and directed right to the heart of this woman.  Afterward my mom took her out for lunch, shared her testimony, and led her to a saving relationship with the Lord.

The story is a fantastic example of how showing God’s love brings others to understand and accept it in a personal way.  But it only gets better from here.

Concerned about the woman leaving to go home without any local church connection, my parents began to pray and search the internet for a church they could call and get their new friend plugged in.  This went on all afternoon that day but no church or connection was to be found.

Later that evening my parents took the woman to a Gospel music concert at a local church.  In my dad’s usual fashion, they arrived quite early in order to secure a good seat.  As time when on the church began to fill with a growing crowd.  Soon the choir loft was opened to make room for even more people. Strange enough though, during this time two seats remained empty next to my parents and the woman.  It was odd because people looking for seats just kept walking right by.

Finally, seeing that the church was almost completely full and the two seats still remaining empty, my mother suggested to my dad that he wave over the next two people who came in the auditorium.  So turning in his seat, my dad saw a couple enter and immediately started waving at them.  Through hand signals he indicated they had two seats.  The couple looked puzzled but came down the aisle to where they were seated.

The couple took their seats next to the woman and soon struck up a friendly conversation.  Suddenly, the woman leans over to my mother and announces, “You’ll never guess where this couple is from!!”  You guessed it…Kocomo, Indiana.  Even more fantastically, this couple runs a church ministry for widows.  And the two empty seats?  The couple said that they couldn’t see any empty seats until they had walked all the way down the aisle, which no doubt explained their puzzled looks.

There is no denying that when we allow ourselves to become a vessel in God’s hands – HE shows up in big ways.

Mom, I’m proud of you for many reasons but none more than the fact that you are a beautiful example of what it means to personify the love of Christ.

My parents visiting their new friends in Kocomo, IN this past Spring. (My parents are the couple on the left.)

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Camping 101 – Discovering a New Family Tradition

A friend recently revealed that she is taking her family camping for the very first time.  Her anxiety was increased when she told the campground staffer that this was going to be her first time camping and they burst into laughter.  She asked me, “Should I be worried?”

If taking your family camping fills you with terror, not to worry.  With a little planning, organization, and an adventurous spirit, you will soon be on your way to building new family traditions and memories.

Leaving all the comforts of our modern kitchens behind does present a few challenges.  However, some basic equipment such as a propane stove, several coolers, and a large family-sized griddle will have you whipping up some tasty vittles in no time. Here are a few more tips to keep you on track:

  1. Unless you’re in a RV or trailer, use paper and plastic and bring lots of garbage bags.  Go ahead and give up being green just for a few days.  There is no point in “getting away from it all” if you spend most of your time cooking and cleaning.
  2. Plan your menu in advance and cook the messy stuff before you leave and freeze it. When you load the cooler you won’t need ice for the first day or so because the frozen food will keep everything nice and cold. The pre-cooked food will warm up faster than cooking from scratch with less mess.
  3. Designate a drinks-only cooler for bottled water, juice with twist tops, and sodas with screw caps. Keeping drinks covered while they are sitting around the campsite will keep you from attracting bees and other insects. Make the food cooler off limits to the kids so you can lower ice consumption and avoid spoiled food from the lid not being sealed properly.
  4. Store your coolers in the shade as much as possible – under the car works if it’s high enough and you have no other option (just don’t forget to move it before driving away somewhere as this is kind of messy).
  5. Keep the menu easy yet delicious. Remember that you won’t have access to on-demand hot water for scrubbing greasy or stuck on pans so consider that when making food choices.  Ideas for a simple camping menu might include:
  • Breakfast – cereal, muffins, pop tarts, pancakes, pre-cooked bacon, eggs
  • Lunch – cold meat and cheese subs, PB&J, tuna salad, canned pasta, chips, fruit
  • Dinner – hot dogs (cooked on campfire), hamburgers (pre-cooked and frozen), fried chicken (purchased at the local deli the day you want to eat it), cold pasta salads, jello salads, canned BBQ beans, canned potatoes, pulled pork sandwiches (or cook a pot roast in the crock pot, pull the meat and freeze)
  • Snacks – granola bars, Nutri-Grain bars, apples, oranges, watermelon cut in advance and stored in Ziploc bags or hard container (no bananas – they get nasty and attract flies).

If you want to get creative, make recipes in advance that you can warm up in a frying pan.  My family loves when I make Monkey Bread at home and freeze it to be warmed up in a frying pan for breakfast.  The cinnamon and sugar make a memorable camping breakfast.  Other favorites include making toast over a morning fire stuffed with bacon and raspberry preserves (my childhood favorite).  Make your own food traditions that the kids will remember and pass to their children.

SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • Lots of baggies in various sizes – everything gets wet in the cooler so even plastic containers (i.e. margarine tubs) or wrapped items (i.e. cheese slices) will need to be sealed in a Ziploc bag.
  • Aluminum foil, plastic wrap, 13 gal garbage bags (you will want to toss the trash EVERY meal so you don’t get critters so the smaller trash bags are better).
  • Plastic containers for items you don’t want to get crushed in the cooler.  A hard container large enough for bread items will also keep your bread, buns, and rolls from becoming bird food.
  • 2 towels for each person – one for the pool and one for the shower.  There is nothing worse than a wet or sandy towel when you just get out of the shower after a day at the pool or lake.
  • Ample clothesline for drying towels and bathing suits.  If a towel gets too dirty for use, hand wash it in the sink or shower (most campgrounds have laundry tubs if not a laundry mat on site) and hang it up to dry.  Items will dry quickly outside in the sun.  If it’s raining too much for anything to dry, cut your losses and go home.
  • Bring rolls of paper towels (double as napkins, dry dishes) and antibacterial wet wipes.
  • One good small sharp knife, a wooden spoon, a silicone spatula. I can cook and prepare just about anything with just these three kitchen tools.
  • Have a centralized bathroom bag – two bathroom bags (female and male) if you have a larger family.  Include in each bag a shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.
  • Use Rubbermaids with locking lids for non-perishables items such as food, dishes, etc.  They will store great outside and are water and pest proof (other than a really smart raccoon).
  • Tell your family that they can have one backpack or small duffel each. Unless you have a ton of room in your vehicle (which you probably won’t after the camp chairs, tents, coolers, stove, sleeping bags, etc) they may have to carry their stuff on their lap for the drive to the campground. Pack for camping – this is different than packing for a hotel. For example, wear your sneakers in the car and pack the sandals which take up less room; leave the “good” clothes at home; and pack items that condense well. Streamlining is the name of the game – not only is there limited room to transport it – there is nowhere to keep it once you are there. After jamming the tents full of sleeping gear there will be NO room for luggage.  If you are gone longer than a long weekend, plan to hit the local laundry mat.
  • If your campsite has electricity, bring several extension cords to operate a radio, lighting, fans or whatever else you need (no TV!).  If you are going primitive, then bring lots of batteries and/or fuel for these items instead.  Make sure you either have electricity for your air mattress pump or find one with a battery option.  Having to blow up even one air mattress will leave you blue in the face and searching for the Advil.
  • Bug spray and sunscreen are the only makeup needed.  Bring a hat and don’t worry about the hair.  You are on vacation – your family already knows you look scary in the morning so don’t worry about it.
  • Two bathing suits are nice if you have them.  There is nothing worse than putting on a wet bathing suit. Icky.
  • Instead of pj’s pack sporty shorts and a tank top to sleep in so you can run to the bathroom in the middle of the night if needed without having to get dressed.  Remind everyone to put their shoes where they can find them in the dark if needed. And speaking of shoes, shake them out before putting them on to avoid any painful surprises…just saying.
  • Have a trial run on putting up the tents BEFORE the trip. This will allow you to do whatever clean up is needed and ensure you have all the poles, tarps, etc.  Consider what tools you will need and make sure you pack them for the trip.  Trying to pound tent pegs with your shoe will not only look ridiculous but it’s not effective either.
  • Bedrolls take up less space than sleeping bags. If you are using air mattresses just take a fitted sheet and a light throw blanket for each person. If you don’t have air mattresses, the sleeping bags are good for sleeping ON rather than IN.  Personally I have a double high queen size mattress with a built in electric pump.  Roughing it shouldn’t mean not getting a good night’s sleep in my book.
  • Put together a basic first-aid kit or purchase one for your local pharmacy.  Somebody’s going to need at least a Band-aid and Neosporin every trip.  Advil, Tums, and allergy medications are also wise additions.  They don’t take up a lot of room and will save you a trip to the local Wal-Mart when you’d rather be heading to the lake.

Finally, remember these three things – keep it simple, focus on fun, and build those family memories.  Before you know it, the kids will be grown and gone.  There will be plenty of time for worrying about the hotel’s sheet thread count when you’re booking your senior citizen cruise or Branson music festival.

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Meeting the needs of others – through Facebook?

I recently realized that it has only been just over a year since I finally broke down and created a personal Facebook page.  My motives were similar to other woman my age – to spy on my kids.  However, after experiencing the wonders of social media first hand I was hooked.  In fact, it is now part of my livelihood in that I manage 5 separate company pages as well.

The first thing that strikes most of us who enter Facebook for the first time is the speed at which you suddenly reconnect with your history.  Friends from elementary school that you haven’t seen in 30 years will somehow locate you and make a friend request.  It’s like a blast from the past as old boyfriends, girls you hated, teachers you loved, and the neighborhood bully are all again part of life in this new context of social media.

Facebook is a “safe” way to maintain a relationship with someone that would otherwise be strange or awkward in any other forum (remember your first love and all the secrets you told him?).  Somehow we can now easily transcend the unspoken baggage or memories that would keep us from re-friending these people face-to-face.  Now we can see them completely different as adults with spouses and children of their own.

I see Facebook as an opportunity to let others get to know me better.  Although I’m outgoing and open, I don’t make friends easily, mostly because I’m too busy to invest in the process.  I gain a sense of community as I read postings which make me laugh, cry, or reaffirm my thoughts or values. This is all good stuff.

However, I do believe that we are missing the proverbial boat.  In a hurting world, especially during tough economic times, there are those who are angry, discouraged, mistreated, or just plain done.  While most keep their “profiles” to what they want us to believe, it is often possible to read between the lines.  It’s like having a mood thermometer for hundreds of people on a daily basis.  The caution is whether the endless roll of status feedbacks desensitizes us to the point that we just don’t notice or care.

How many times have you seen a post requesting prayer and you either scrolled by it, or simply left a comment saying you would pray?  What if instead we actually called to pray with them over the phone, or found a way to fill a small need in their life whether it is food, companionship, or just a big ol’ hug?

Facebook is a great way to learn about the needs of others.  What a waste it would be if we didn’t take advantage.

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The Prodigal Child

From the moment they are born they are destined to push the envelope of every boundary they encounter.  They have siblings raised by the same parents who make good decisions, yet they insist on touching the proverbial hot stove every chance they get.

I was a prodigal child.  I was head strong and determined to make my own way in this world.  While it serves me well now, as a teenager… well, let’s just say I was a handful for my parents.

I believe that God has a great sense of irony as I now have a prodigal child.  I watch her decisions and thought processes with the realization that I’m seeing myself at her age.  I know that I will not be successful in forcing her to change.  Rather I love her unconditionally.  I hold her accountable with words of truth and consistent boundaries.  I pray, and pray, and pray some more.

I feel a special kinship with her.  Whether she realizes it or not, I understand her better than she knows herself.  I admire her tenacity, work ethic, and compassion for others.  I smile knowing that those qualities will take her a long way in this life.  I see a maturity in her that I know I never had at her age.  Her willingness to admit when she’s wrong (eventually) and the way she honors my wisdom (even if she doesn’t seem to accept it when given) are two examples.

The prodigal is not easy to parent.  They often make dangerous decisions without regard to life consequences.  It can be quite the task just to keep them safe.  My prodigal jumped out a three-story window because I wouldn’t let her leave the house after curfew.  The subsequent hospital visit was humiliating (“you did what?”) and with both ankles severely sprained, she spent the next two weeks confined to the house crawling on her hands and knees.  I’m pretty sure she won’t be jumping out of any windows any time soon.

It is important for the prodigal to be hit in the face with their consequences.  Having the wisdom to know when and how much to allow is the daily struggle that I take to the Lord on my knees.

Perspective is a powerful filter – instead of stubbornness, we can choose to see determination; instead of defiance, we can choose to see their ability to stand by their convictions; instead of thinking they are stupid (aka hot stove), we can choose to see that they test and learn for themselves instead of accepting status quo.

I love my prodigal child. I believe that she will make a difference in this world… just as soon as she stops jumping out of windows.

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