More Myself

Let’s go back to 2001 when the album songs in A minor came out. I remember sitting in the backyard of a friend’s house. There were about ten of us sitting around. I don’t recall if it was late spring or early summer, but it was chilly. I was talking with a friend of a friend about cd’s we had purchased recently. I was that person that looked forward to what new cd I could buy each Tuesday. For whatever reason I had bypassed buying songs in A minor that week. This friend of a friend could not stop raving about it. Guess who headed to Target soon after to pick it up? The whole cd was just as good as her first single, Fallin’. I recently grabbed the cd and have been listening to it in my car. Her voice is just as smooth now as it was back then.

I have bought almost every cd of hers since songs in A minor was released. Those albums I do not own on cd I have certainly listened to now via Spotify or Apple Music. There was no question of purchasing her book, More Myself. Reading her book was like watching VH1’s Behind the Music or watching the extras on your favorite movie- only better- the book is always better. I believe that most celebrities understand that privacy is not the same for them as it is for “normal” people. I believe that they have a right to not share parts of their life with the rest of the world if they do not want to. I am so glad Alicia decided to write this book. It provided insight into the music she has created. It shows how hard she works. Her positive energy flows through the pages of this book just as it does on her Instagram page. The sense of calm that radiates from her voice when you listen to her sing live ran through my veins. I connect with her wanting to grow and improve. On page 254 Alicia says “I want to know who I am and accept ever part of that identity. I am frightened and I am fearless. I am weak and a warrior. I am uncertain and I am confident. And by learning to embrace the paradox in all of it, I am more myself.” How powerful.

I hope that someday I can be present at one of her concerts. I think tears of joy would flow from soul.

2020 Booklist

Here lies the list of books I have read for 2020.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Book review here

How Yoga Works by Michael Roach

Mentioned in The Struggle to Accept Others

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Mentioned in The Struggle to Accept Others

Daughter of Molokai by Alan Brennert

Mentioned in Two Weeks into Lent

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Mentioned in Two Weeks into Lent

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

More Myself by Alicia Keys

Personal book review here

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Quarantine Day 26

How are all of you doing? Stay at Home orders have been in place for far too long and we are all going a bit crazy. Please don’t take that the wrong way. I 100% agree with the order and understand why it’s in place. What will the world look like when we go back to “normal”? It will be a new normal that is for sure. Will we look people in the eye and shake their hand? Will we lean in for a hug! I picture it will look like the opening scene of Love Actually and I pray that I am envisioning this correctly.

Pray. This is one of those times you either lean stronger into your faith or you doubt God for the large amount of sadness that is happening. I choose to believe. I choose to pray. I choose, most of the time, to look at the good that is coming out of this. There are enough emotions flowing in and out of me so quickly that I can not focus on the bad and the sad. It is not that I am in denial of the lives we are losing. The numbers overwhelm me. My chest tightens and it makes me wonder what if…I chose to not go there for my mental health. My family needs me on top of my game. I am all ready struggling so I chose to turn to God.

There is good happening all around us. I am thankful that at the end of the day, or in the middle when I just need a break, that my Facebook and Instagram feed is full of Goodness. Kindness. Love. Live music. If your feed is not like that and social media is causing you angst I suggest you get off of it. Or take this time to unfollow some people. A warning though, emotions are running high, even the good things may make you cry.

Some have this new found time. Me? I feel more wiped at 7:00 PM than I did pre Covid-19! I think it is the multitasking between work, teacher and being mom all at once all day long. I am blessed to be at home and working. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I would not change it. I practically see the lightbulbs turn on above the girls’ heads as they work through schoolwork. It warms my heart and soul- I may have teared up some too. When schoolwork is complete it’s time to keep them busy, happy and fed while I tend to my paying job. It’s no wonder I have no energy once the day is over. I am not complaining that I am not re-organizing our closets or deep cleaning the refrigerator. This is what I am supposed to be doing at this moment. If my closets are not tidy it is ok. If my clean laundry is not put away it is ok. If there are Barbie toys are literally all over the living room, kitchen, porch, hallway and the deck…it is ok. IT IS ALL OK.

Sanity? What is keeping me sane at this moment? Seeing the positive ways that people are coming together. WE are ALL in this TOGETHER. How cool is that? Why does it take something so awful to bring us together. WE NEED to keep this up after this settles down, NOT SHOULD, it is a NEED (The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna). What are you doing to do to remember what we are learning from this? I am still figuring this out. It probably will incorporate a list *smile*

What is working for you to keep smiling during this time? Here are things helping me feel whole:

Cooking meals in our kitchen

Communication with family and friends FaceTime, snail mail (sending and receiving), reading Bible devotions through the YouBible app

Listening to music- May I recommend Alicia Keys’ Underdog as a super motivational song. Or search Covid-19 in iTunes or Spotify for some great playlists.

Walking through fresh air (and mud)

Escaping into a book

A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler was my latest read from Book of the Month. Well written however not quite the ending I was hoping for.

Minnesota has not hits its peak yet. They say maybe mid-June this will happen. That sounds so far away. Yet the last 26 days have gone by “quickly”. I pray for our health. I pray we have all learned and are learning positive things from this and I pray we don’t lose site of those things. I am going to end there as I can feel the tears forming once again. I have not cried like this since prior to having kids. Life has been a whirlwind since then. I felt plenty of emotions in the past (almost) 8 years, but its been difficult to really feel them and take time for them.

Love to all who reads this.

Quarantine Day 4

Hello World! Oh my goodness, you have changed drastically. This is the first time I am sitting down and reflecting over it and I am certain it is not the last. I am not going to let my mind travel to the statistics. They are quickly changing. If I think too deeply about the negative stats my anxiety kicks in. My head wanders to the what ifs. I can’t go there. That does not mean that I am not aware or that I am in denial. To keep this quarantine as positive as I can at home I have to focus on the good. I check on the news throughout the day, but then I try to focus on the positives. Below I am sharing a few of them.

I am continuously in awe of how some books come into our lives when they are most needed. I downloaded Oprah and Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth Podcasts a while back, I don’t recall when, but I tried to listen to the first one and then put them on the back burner- I just wasn’t read for “it”. I was visiting with my hair stylist a couple of weeks ago and she suggested I read Tolle’s book by the same name. Once I got home and Googled him I made the connection with the podcasts. I ordered his book and couldn’t get into the first chapter quick enough. I was on the verge of tears! It was like something opened up inside me. I am only on chapter 2 as it is not something I can rush through. I felt this way with How Yoga Works too. I am going to provide you with Oprah’s quote about the book:

Winfrey calls the book ‘a wake up call for the entire planet, one reader at a time. It helps us to distance ourselves from our egos…and to open ourselves to a higher self…It helps us to stop creating our own suffering and obsessing over the past and what the future ought to be, and to put ourselves in the now.

“Wake up call for the entire planet.”

“It helps us to distance ourselves.”

What more of a sign does a person need?

Ok, enough of the heavy feelings. Let’s talk about what has gotten us through the past 3 days. Yes, it is has only been 3 days. So many more ahead of us I am certain.

• Uplifting Apps: Spotify, Podcasts, YouVersion Bible, Calm •

Find some new music to listen to on Spotify. It lets you find pre made mixes of music depending on what mood you are in or you can make our own “mixed tapes”. Acoustic Pilates, Kindie, Dreamy Vibes are a few that have been on rotation. Kindie is a nice mix of kid friendly music that won’t drive a parent completely nuts. Armchair Expert is one podcast that is guaranteed to make me laugh. Even if Dax Shepard has a serious topic to discuss with his guest he still find a way to bring you to out loud laughter. You can find podcasts on any topic. Simply Google a topic. YouVersion Bible app has been great. I have tried different Bible studies over the past year. This gives you various Bible studies depending on the topic and depending on how long you want the study to last. 5 days? 7 days? 21 days? It is so versatile. You can do them with friends or alone. I am so thankful I learned about this from a new friend at work. I downloaded the Calm app for the second time. I downloaded this just before the COVID-19 outbreak. It gives you daily meditations, calm music, sounds to sleep to and simple yoga guides. It is all things calm.

• Keeping the kids busy: Daily Devotion, Legos, Educational Websites, Play

It has not been easy to juggle working from home, making sure kids are happy and just not letting the current state of the world freak me out. I know our schools are working on a plan with more direction and school work. This may make things easier or it may make it more difficult. Probably both. Another change and we will work through it. For another week though, the kiddos will do a daily devotional reading followed by drawing a picture and writing about what they learned. Emmy’s kindergarten teacher did a 30 Days of Lego Play challenge that both girls have found to be fun. If you follow Instagram watch for #30daysoflegoplay. We have access to the following websites for educational play:

Prodigy math game

Lalio phonics game

Reflex math game

Abdo online library

Audio children’s books

They are also reading some each day. Stella is reading Star Girl and then we plan I’m watching it on Disney+. We do what we can. We have to be patient with them and ourselves. After all, many of us are not professional teachers. I am most certain that we are to learn patience from the COVID-19. I have lost my cool the past few days, and more than once. But I quickly crouch down to their level, tell them we are in this together and that we will get through this. I remind them this is not easy for any of us. We make sure to apologize to one another. We are working on respect. It’s a work in progress for us all.

Move

Get outside if it’s nice. We make it a goal to get out twice a day. We were not successful yesterday as we only made it out in the afternoon. Fresh air is good and this is not the time to get lazy, at least for us. It’s a time to focus on health. Try the Aaptiv app, FitBit premium has some great videos, FitOn is free and has videos. Search YouTube fitness videos. There are options. Just make the choice to move!

As our family finds things that work I will make sure to share. We are in this together. Besides patience and being present I am most certain that the higher powers above want us to work together. I pray for your health- mind, body and spirit. *hugs+

Two Weeks into Lent

We are exactly two weeks into Lent. It feels great to say I have been away from Facebook and Instagram for that length of time. To be honest, I quickly went on tonight to check in with my bookclub to see if we are still planning on meeting next week, and I will have to check in periodically over the next few days to see what the plan is. However, I have not gone on to scroll through either of the social platforms. It feels amazing! So amazing, that at this point, I may give up one of them. Now, who is to say that I will still feel that way when this is all said and done, but two weeks in, I just may! Or at least, I will scale down who I follow. Time will tell.

What have these past two weeks taught me? Tonight, my oldest out of nowhere said “mom, I am glad you gave up Facebook, I feel like you were on it too much”. Yes, Stella, I probably was on it too much. I am not proud of it. I could have been on it much more, or much less. Now, what she doesn’t realize though, is that everything is on my phone so I am not always on social media. Text communication about friend get togethers, music that she loves to listen to, email correspondence about her extracurricular activities, and shopping for things we actually need all take place on this time consuming device. The phone is with me and is a part of me. That is the way of the world. I can be better though. We all can be, right?

What have I done with this extra time? I have gotten back on board with some much needed self improvement. I have felt like I had fallen off of the train with my healthier lifestyle. It had only been a few weeks, but I was not happy to feel and see the results start to diminish. I had a friend ask me what my “why” was. What is the “why” behind my weight goals. I knew a little bit about my why, but I had A) lost site of it and B) had to dig a little deeper to provide me with some much needed motivation. I think that discussion is for another post as I am still processing through that why.

A friend at work introduced me to the YouVersion Bible app. It appeared I had downloaded the app about three years ago, so I guess she re-introduced me to it. My morning routine has welcomed some new found Bible studies and has brought a college friend back into my circle. I would say a triple win so far! I have ebbed and flowed through starting my morning with some spiritual words and I am not quite certain why it is easy to drift away from this routine as it does bring me a sense of calm. I have brought back my journal too. There is something therapeutic about writing for me. There are a few topics that I have declared off limits for this blog. I need to remind myself that a journal and a pen are just as good.

I have finished two phenomenal books in the past couple of weeks too. Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano and Daughter of Molokai by Alan Brennert. This is not a sales pitch by any means, but if you love to read and you love to get new books in the mail I highly suggest subscribing to Book of the Month. Maybe with leaving Facebook and Instagram I will find enough time to catch up on my pile of books. They all sound so good, it is hard to make a decision each month. Daughter of Molokai was not part of the Book of the Month subscription. I read Molokai by the same author years ago. It by far is my favorite book. I have not been to that particular Hawaiian island, but reading it brought me back to Maui and the heart warming feelings it brought to my senses while I was there. I have read a lot of good books by authors that bring great detail to their writing. Those authors make you feel like you know the characters. They make you feel like you sitting there next to them. This author exceeds all of my expectations with his level of detail. I lent Molokai to someone once and didn’t get it back. I ran across it at a 2nd hand store and bought it again. Honolulu is another book by Alan. Again, I lent this out and never got it back. At some point I will want to purchase it again. It was that good. Daughter of Molokai is a sequel to Molokai. You don’t have to read them in order, but I would recommend it. Alan makes learning about history fun again for me. If you have a fear of flying or are taking a trip soon I would suggest not reading Dear Edward. I didn’t know what to expect out of Ann’s story, but it brought a sense of warmth to my heart after a tragic situation occurred. I couldn’t help but feel for Edward and is family. They all struggled in their own way, yet being family they made it through together. Life is not perfect, however we have to work together.


I am excited to see what else come from the next few weeks of peace.

The Struggle to Accept Others

I have been struggling lately. After reading some of the books I have over the past year it has opened my mind and heart even more to the way the world is. If I were to rate myself on a scale I would say I am more open to other’s differences than many people. I am not perfect and my mind wanders at times when I have certain gut feelings, however, I yearn to learn about how other people differ from myself and accept them for who they are. I feel like I have been like this since I was a child.

So where do I struggle? When others do not feel that way. When I feel others are being closed minded to people that are not part of our norm.

The story in Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, took place throughout the past few decades. It saddened me to see that things have not really changed that much. Sure, we have made strides, but still, it embarrasses me to see how we have so far to go. People, it is 2020. Ugh, to type that, and see where we still struggle. It makes me want to literally cry. I am currently listening to the audiobook, Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. Sure we don’t have scaled down concentration camps in the US for the Japanese Americans anymore, but so many American’s still fight against letting others come to our country. These people come here in hopes to have a safer environment than what they left behind.

I get it, we are crowded.

I get it, some come here and can’t speak our language so how are they to be successful? How are they to work and make money to live?I get it, our tax money needs to help those that are already living here and have “put in their time”.

But what I question is, what if America was not the land of the free? What if we lived our life in constant fear of terrorists? What if women could not walk around with their heads held high? Would we not want a place to escape to in hopes for a better life? Would we not dream of better opportunities for our children?

While I was reading How Yoga Works by Michael Roach, I was also reading the book of Matthew in the Bible. So many parallel teachings between the two. Christianity and Buddhism teaching how to be good people. How to be loving people. How to be accepting people. It made my heart feel warm and happy.

This brings me back to where I struggle. I need to be more patient with those that are not open to things like I am. Maybe my way is not necessarily the right way. Only God knows. I need to ask more questions when people disagree with my thoughts. I need to revert back to the 3 year old I once was and ask “why” more often. I need to continue challenging people to see if they have looked at situations from all sides. I need to focus on myself and on broadening my understanding of others. I need to accept those I struggle with for who they are, just as I accept those that are different from me in other ways.

Life is hard. Love is not always easy. Learning new ways takes time. May you find peace with the acceptance of those around you and with those that come across your path.

Books that have opened my eyes can be found here.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

What makes good co-workers great? Ones that make you feel welcome, that are patient and kind, help keep you accountable and…share great recipes!

I have always been fortunate to work with people that know how to hold tasty potlucks and share their recipes. This can come with challenges, like over eating or unhealthy options. But food is what holds people together! Really! It does!

Enjoy this “Very Yummy” recipe!

Green Bean recipe is found here