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Three Steps to Great Friends

Me with my two besties of over a decade and spanning three states and four time zones.

Transitions are hard. From deployment to moves to the “new normal” after COVID-19 quarantines, you can expect challenges to come at you left and right. Sometimes it feels like us versus the world. Sometimes that is true. But there is a way to push through, fight back, and end up on the other side better, stronger, and happier.

I watched a great movie with my best friend and husband recently, TAG. I laughed so hard! But, more importantly, it reminded me of my great friends who developed across the country and for years. It helped me realize the importance of friendship in transition (be that deployment, move, health diagnosis, or something else entirely). Here are three things I have learned about creating friendships that last a lifetime.

Photo by Creative Vix on Pexels.com

Strength in Community

In life, support makes or breaks you. Without it, you walk a tight rope with no safety net. With it, you walk a tight rope with a smile. A good support system includes people who are willing to walk with you in your best and worst moments; people who know when to check in because they know you; people who know when to let you figure it out because they know you and when to hold you accountable.

Ever notice how the most influential leaders surrounded themselves with a quality support system? Abraham Lincoln had his wife and Joshua Fry Speed. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his wife and Ralph David Abernathy. Gandhi had Charles Freer Abernathy. Jesus had the twelve, but within the twelve he had the inner circle of three. If they could not face the challenges of this world alone, why do we think we can?

As we walk through life, we must remember we do not do so alone. Every part of our life touches another’s. It is ok to ask for help. It is ok to let people in. It is ok to spend the afternoon enjoying a cup of tea with a friend. Do life together. For more ideas on community, check out my blog on thriving during transitions.

Build a strong community

I won’t fool you – building community is hard. Letting someone in to see the real you is difficult. But it is SO important to a quality life. But there are so many people out there in it for themselves, how do you know where to start?

  • Start by choosing the people you want in your community. This could be family or friends. Church, community organizations, and volunteer groups are a wonderful place to start because you know the values and things that interest people from the start.
  • Serve. Serving is a terrific way to see people for who they are. Are they someone who genuinely cares about the cause or people? Or are they someone who wants the limelight? Is Instagram selfies how they spend time or do they invest in the people in from of them? Is this someone you want to invest in or have invest in you?
  • Spend time with people. My favorite way to spend time with people is by strolling a farmers’ market, playing games, or having a nice cup of tea/coffee/wine (depending on circumstance). It is in the conversation you get to know people. If you cannot do these things, write letters (I love getting mail that is not a bill) or Zoom/Skype someone. Just take the time. As for plants and a good wine, time makes relationships sweet.
  • Don’t tell everything about yourself at the very start. Take time getting to know each other. Be honest (but smart). Not everyone is going to be quality; not everyone is going to be in your life forever; not everyone is going to safe with your information. If you wouldn’t want it blasted virally on social media, keep it to yourself until trust and need-to-know have been established.
  • Don’t think a no is a no forever. Sometimes people are just busy (or stressed). They want to hang out and invest but have no idea where to start in the chaos of their mind and life. Keep the door open for future invites and be sure to check in on them to see if you can serve them. Sometimes knowing someone is out there who cares is just as important as spending time over a cup of Joe.

Be the Person You Want to Be Friends With

I have lived everywhere from CA to MD, in big cities and small (having moved 25+ times in 20 years). I can say (without hesitation) people are guarded, wary, and skeptical. They have every right to be. Today’s world is infested with social media telling us what we should look like, act like, be like. Let’s face it: magazines are photo-shopped -NOT REAL. Let’s own it: we put on social media the best of our lives and hide the not-so-great. Let’s take accountability: We prefer looking down at a screen than straight across at the face of who we speak to because…here is the killer….it is easier. Then we complain we have no real friends.

Tough love, but true. If we want genuine friends, we must, as Jesus said, “love our neighbors as ourselves.”  What that looks like is different for everyone (because we are all uniquely and wonderfully made). But the basic principle is the same: treat people with respect and you will have respect. Treat people with love (thinking of them above yourself), and you will be surrounded by love. The best part of this, when you treat people the way you want to be treated, it opens doors to new people, possibilities, and brings so much joy. So, why not?

Friendships enrich your life and improve your health. You can find so much strength in quality communities. Building strong communities can help in transitions from life-changing moves to life-changing diagnoses. They provide places to laugh, cry, and be real in. Being wise in developing community and friends can ensure you have lasting friendships for life.

For more on developing friendships and community, check out my Facebook page.

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Quick Easy Thanksgiving Recipes

I love Thanksgiving. I love that we take time out of the craziness that is life to be grateful; to say thank you; to enjoy our family, friends, and loved ones. This is something I have purposed to do throughout the year but love that I get a day to do just that. What a wonderful tradition!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I hope you do take time to slow down, reflect, and give thanks this Thanksgiving. For some steps on how to get a gratitude attitude (or just some good family ideas), check out my blog on 6 easy steps to a gratitude attitude

But today, I want to talk about food! Although I love the family, memories, and time to slow down, I love (and my whole family) love the food!

My husband and son love the holiday for the delicious tastes and aromas that flood our home. I love the day for the family, the downtime, and the movies. I love snuggling by the fire after a delicious meal and enjoying time with family, friends, and loved ones.

In that spirit, today I wanted to share some good recipes for the big day. I am lucky and Hubby does the turkey (and sometimes ham depending on the number of guests we have). Sides, however, are typically up to me. Here are the top recipes we use that get an ovation every year.

APPETIZERS

Appetizers are so fun! But can be so time-consuming. They are the unsung heroes of the holiday. They waken the pallet and give something for little hands to do while they wait. But kids are fussy (and so are adults around this time of year). Here are a couple of easy appetizers we use for Thanksgiving that add color and are still healthy and easy.

  • Onion Dip (sometimes we make our own, sometimes we buy – depending on the time we have) or Hummus (there is a great recipe in Brain Food Cookbook) with sliced bell pepper, snap peas, broccoli, and carrots
  • Yogurt (we use the Brain Food recipe for ferments which takes 24 hours; if you do not have that time, use almond or coconut yogurt from the store) with sliced apples of all colors coated in a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Tortilla Rolls: As the GIF above shows, this is so good, quick, and brings color to what can easily become a brown table. Just some spinach tortilla rols, sliced bell pepers, spinach, carrots, and I use red onion with a touch of hummas (or your favorite spread), rolled, sliced into one-inch pieces, and set out beautifully. This is easy finger food that will make even the fussiest people happy.

SIDES

Sides can make or break a meal. Ever have a fantastic main dish that only found the accompanying side lacks luster? It can be what drops a review from five stars to three. Here are a few of my favorite unsung heroes of Thanksgiving:

  • Carrots are amazing! But become the ugly duckling next to green beans each year. Although I have grown to like green beans, carrots are my go-to for sides. I use them in everything from carrot fries (as I discovered in this gem for Autism/ADD recovering as well as Paleo/SCD/GAPS dieters) to quick on-the-go snacks without the mess.  
  • When oven and stovetop space is limited, I love this slow cooker recipe for cinnamon sugar-glazed carrots.  I use ghee or plant-based butter instead of regular butter. If I have the space, I truly enjoy this quick brown butter garlic honey-roasted carrots recipe. 20 minutes tops and you have a great yummy side that everyone will talk about.
  • I love mashed potatoes (and so do most of my friends and family). This staple is easy to make with a touch of almond milk. I dress mine up (depending on the day) with herbs and spices including. I like to throw in a touch of garlic and thyme for extra spice. I have also enjoyed replacing potatoes with cauliflower. This is an easy quick recipe for those who do not do potatoes.

SALADS

You cannot go wrong with a good salad. For those traveling and needing to bring a dish, these are quick tasty dishes. With all the treats around the day, a healthy salad is, not only welcome, but needed, colorful, and can tie a meal together. Here are our quick recipes:

  • Chicken Salad:  All you need is to cut lettuce, apples, strawberries, and red onion. Combine that with roasted or baked chicken cut into one-inch slices and your choice of dressing (we like the brand G Hughes and Skinny Girl) and voila! Colorful dish everyone will like.
  • Broccoli Cranberry: This is a fun twist on the traditional salad. Mix steamed broccoli heads, almonds (optional), and cranberries. Sometimes we add chicken or bacon bits (these are easy and do not require additional cook time). We sometimes add onion and sometimes add bell pepper for color. Mix and you are done.   
  • If I am feeling super fun, I use a broccoli grapefruit, and avocado salad. All these mixed with a touch of green onion or shallots and yum yum!

DESSERTS

Now to my favorite thing about the Thanksgiving meal – desserts! I love a nice warm cup of coffee or tea and a sweet dessert. Add in a fireplace and great company and you get a touch of Heaven. Here are just a few desserts (because I do love all things sweet) that I enjoy for Thanksgiving. Oh, who am I kidding? All year round!

  • I like pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I have loved this recipe from Betty Crocker for Pumpkin Cream Cheese pie.  It is easy but prepare to have the pie sit in your fridge for 4 hours before you can cut into it.
  • If you are like me, sweet things are the Achilles heel. So, I love to make individual size things so the sweet is there without the regret later. This is a great recipe for apple pie bites that do not take a lot of time.
  • What good is warm without ice cream? I love to blend frozen bananas, almond milk, and frozen strawberries (no green), vanilla, or melted chocolate (the flavors are limitless) to have a fun tasty dairy-free option. Using a blender, this delicious treat is ready in minutes and does not require the bulkiness of traditional ice cream makers.

There are so many delightful things to enjoy at Thanksgiving. I hope this small list can help make things a bit easier when planning to be at home or travel.

I do hope you have a great Thanksgiving. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face (Luke 1:78); the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand (John 10:27-28). Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

For more on Thanksgiving treats and ways to celebrate, check out my Facebook page.

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Three Steps to Thriving During Transitions

Welcome back! For those who have been following, this past year included deployment and a permanent change of station (PCS) move. In the crazy times of being a single parent to moving, tons of transition takes place. And, if you have kids, you know transition means growth. Growth means stretching, growing pains, and (sometimes) regression.

So, I took the past year to focus on my family and ensure we are set up for success in the new city.

This past year has seen deployment and moving for our family. If you have ever had to one or both, you know how stressful it can be. So how do you make it through? Where do you start? How do you face this giant change?

Here are three things I have learned in the process of deployments and moving that I think might help you too.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Bh failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
  • Be Prepared.

As with any change, the more prep work you do the better. Having a member of your family move or deploy is a huge shift in daily living. The balance of daily life changes. Who takes out the garbage? Mows the lawn? Makes dinner? Add into this crazy shift, kids. Kids ask questions (often the ones parents do not have the answers to). Kids act out because they see the unfair nature of sending a family member away for a significant length of time. All this can – and will – lead to disaster if we are not careful.

You have to prep. Spend time talking about the transition with your kids. Let them be a part of the planning process. Let them know you are all on the same team working for the same goal. Let them know where they can partner with you and how they might be able to step up (especially great for pre-teens and teenagers). Let them know how you plan to help them and ask them for ideas on how you can help them.

  • Be honest.

It is easy to get into the mind frame that you can do it all. Be everything to all people. But that is a myth. We all know it. We must be honest – with ourselves and those around us. It is ok to admit you need help. I am so thankful to my friends the Nelsons who came over multiple times to help me fix broken things while Hubby was gone. I am thankful to the Speers who would fix my car when it broke. I am thankful to Keiffers who let us enjoy holidays with them (and the occasional hang out).

Being honest when I asked for help made all the difference in how I processed the day. I knew that there were resources and people out there who wanted to see me succeed.

But honesty with yourself (and those who ask if you need anything) is not enough. You must be honest with your kids and spouse. Kids notice things (usually the stuff you do not want them to). So be honest. Let them the reality of the deployment. Let them know what to expect while the spouse is gone or what to expect when they get to the new house. Just like you do not like to be blindsided by change, kids hate it more. Be honest with them and the doors for open communication. Remember, sometimes just knowing there is someone out there who understands what you are going through is enough to make a world of difference.

  • Be Happy. Do Good.

In America, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  There is a Will Smith movie that shows the struggle on this pursuit of happiness. King Solomon (credited as the wisest man who ever lived) said in Ecclesiastes 3:12-15, “’I know there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live,” and in Proverbs 17:22 he states, “A joyful heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.”  Happiness and joy are innate in us.

However, today more people are plagued with depression, fear, and anxiety than any other time in history. (I honestly find this ironic since we live in the healthiest, richest, and safest time ever). So how do we stay out of this negative mindset when faced with deployments, moves, and sometimes worse? Follow Solomon’s advice.

Laugh. Laugh often. Enjoy the small things so you can appreciate the big ones. Do good. Get out of your own head and help someone else. Volunteer. Write a letter of encouragement. Have a cup of tea with your elderly neighbor. Be happy. Do Good.

Deployments and moves are hard. That is reality. But they do not have to be destructive or tough. Remember, you got this. All you need is to be prepared; be honest; be happy and do good.

For more on deployments and PCS moves, check out my Facebook page.