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MATH.

Does just reading that word stir up negative feelings? I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. I have never been good at or a fan of math (unless you’re talking Statistics), and I don’t know many people who are.

My lack of math skills worried me when I first started homeschooling my son about 3 months ago. While I loved the idea of homeschooling, my mindset was still that of someone who had been indoctrinated into believing the “traditional school myths.”

You know those right?

You have to have a teaching degree to be qualified to teach.

Kids need to be in school to be socialized (this one actually brings out my prickly side when I hear it now).

Homeschool kids won’t get the best education.

Homeschool kids won’t be prepared for the real world.

I could go on, but I’m already digressing.

Teaching math scared me. At first. My son was already struggling with it. In fact, he was starting to be in danger of failing for the year.

After he had missed 6 days of school from being sick, I knew he was behind. His teacher told him to watch the videos online to get caught up. I contacted this teacher asking if he could go in for extra help, and she just made him take the test and quiz he had missed. He was stressed out, and that was my final straw with public school for him.

How would I be able to teach my child math? It played over and over again in my mind. We tried a few different math curriculums, but it was still stressful at home.

Then I watched a few TEDx Talks on Math, and my perspective changed. I didn’t want to teach my son just a traditional math curriculum anymore. I wanted him to learn how to apply math to the real world.

Other homeschool moms get it. You want to teach fractions? Get in the kitchen and bake. Percentages can be taught at a restaurant. Planting a garden helps in various ways, too.

We go over the concepts and then apply them to real world examples. It helps best that way.

The truth is, with all the hours he spent at traditional schools under the instruction of teachers with college degrees there is zero reason why he shouldn’t have mastered math by now. I realized that a teaching degree isn’t necessary. Teachers with degrees failed my son. Is that too harsh to say? Well, if he’s picking up on math in 5 minutes under my instruction, is there any other logical conclusion to be made?

It’s truly crazy to think that the best way to teach math is the way it’s done in traditional schools. Most kids shouldn’t be struggling with math the way they do based on the hours upon hours spent learning the concepts and doing the repetitive busy work. Watch some TEDx Talks about it.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love teachers. They are necessary and don’t get paid enough or get enough credit for all they do. But they aren’t perfect and the systems in place are outdated and arbitrary as the grades progress. It’s mostly busy work, as is most of school these days. There are homeschool curricula that are the same way. And yes, it works for many. But no one should try to tell a mom she isn’t qualified to teach her child at home.

My son hasn’t mastered math yet, but he gets it, and he’s learning. It’s coming much easier to him now that he’s at home. Now that the pressure is off. Now that he can solve the equations the way his mind works best instead of the way the teacher demands.

Once he knows the concept and how to apply it, I even let him use a calculator. I mean why not? Name a career that uses math, but doesn’t use a calculator and I’ll take it away, but until then we’ll stick to this way.

I suppose as a new homeschool mom, I’m just so glad I finally understand and have confidence in the fact that one does not need a teaching degree to be a teacher.

When traditional school fails, it’s likely not the student or at least not “just.” Sometimes it’s a teacher or the system or the environment – or a combination. Either way, while homeschooling isn’t best for everyone, it’s clearly right for us.

My son even asks to do math sometimes. He wants to learn and doesn’t see it as a burden anymore. I hope to encourage anyone who feels they aren’t qualified to teach their own children to really evaluate that. I think for most of us, that just isn’t the case.

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An Unexpected Homeschool Journey

I pulled my oldest child out of public school a few weeks ago, and now I’m homeschooling him. Don’t choke, or spit out your drink. No one is more surprised by this than I am. Sure, I’ve talked about it for a while, but I’ve also talked about a lot of things that never happened. I assumed this would end up on that list, too.

More than a couple of people have voiced their opinions on it, and not everyone is supportive. Some have shared this with me directly, while for others it’s been filtered in. However, no one else’s opinions carry any weight on my decision. Though, I do understand why they have them. For one thing, a few years ago, I couldn’t have handled it, and I assume some people think my life hasn’t changed much from the days I was still in the midst grief after my husband’s death. But as time moves forward, people change. Most importantly is that when God calls us to something, He also equips us.

Besides that, not everyone is a fan of homeshcooling in general. There can be quite the stigma attached to it, but stigma has never stopped me from anything. The most common topics coming to me seem to be:

What about socialization?
My son was concerned about this one himself, wondering if he would still be able to have friends. Not only does he get to keep his old friends, there is a Huge homeschool community around us that is very active, so getting plugged in isn’t going to be hard. I don’t what it’s like in other areas, but I’ve already heard moms talk about this being a great place for homeschool families. There are so many activities and groups. The welcome and support I’ve gotten already has been incredible!

Homeschool kids are weird!
Okay, let’s get real here. There are weird kids who are homeschooled. But have you honestly never met a weird kid in traditional school? Of course you have. More than one. I’m confident of that. There are weird people everywhere. (Judge me for calling kids weird, I’m not going to lose any sleep.) Heck, anyone who doesn’t act the way society deems as “normal” can easily get that label anyway.
But can we also discuss for a moment what “weird” means in society today anyway? Not always, but often, children who are homeschooled are more respectful, follow the rules, and have better manners. Just the other day, I heard a doctor say that social media is causing children to be socially awkward by allowing them so much time on their devices and not interacting face to face.

What about the quality of education?
This one depends. I have spent HOURS researching curricula and hybrid schools. We have toured several hybrids, and I’m leaning towards that for next year. I have gotten tons of feed back from other moms, too. The quality is out there. It really depends on what each family uses. But the beauty of homeschool is that you can pick and choose what works best for your child(ren), and if one thing isn’t working you can stop using it and pick something else (except for most of the hybrids, as they have a set curriculum).

Common Core has not served my children well for different reasons. My daughter is in the gifted program at her school, but she only goes for half a day each week. That’s not enough to challenge her, so it’s dependent on the teacher. Some years have been good, others have not. She gets bored easily and loses ground when she’s not challenged. No one really has a leg to stand on in my experience when talking quality in terms of Common Core.

As for my son? Let me use this year as a example since it was one of the final straws. He seemed to pick up every bug there is this school year, got the flu, and then he ended up with bronchitis. He missed 6 days of school in a row shortly before I pulled him out. One of his teachers told him the lessons he missed were online and to look there. When I told her he needed extra help she said for him to come in early one morning. All she did was give him a make up test. I’m sure you can guess how that went. I wasn’t happy about it, but I let it go because I was ready to just be done with public school for him anyway.

My son is smart, yet his grades don’t reflect that in every subject. He has to work really hard at some things. That’s pretty typical, but he’s one of those kids who was slipping through the cracks. He was getting by, but he was struggling in some areas. He wasn’t getting what he needed to catch up and keep up with his peers, and I was worried about what next year would look like for him. One of his teachers said he should be in the Advanced class for that subject, but because he struggled in another area it kept him back.

The beauty of homeschooling is that we can work at his pace and be on the level he should be on. He doesn’t have to be held back in some classes and struggle to keep up in other classes.

Why do we send our children to school anyway? Is it free child care while parents work, or is it for them to get the best education they can so that they can succeed as adults? Homeschool isn’t a good fit for everyone, and it may not be the best fit for our family forever, but it certainly is right now, at least with my son. My daughter wants to homeschool because she doesn’t want to be held back by her peers and grade level. I’m praying about it because there is one teacher at her school whom I know would be a good fit next year, but there’s no guarantee she will get her.

Are you qualified to teach your children?
There is no one better qualified to influence and teach my children than me. I teach them all the time really, just not in a structured setting.
Now, if you’re asking if I have a teaching degree (those who have said this using other words know the answer), no I do not. I could sit here an tell you how many times I made the Dean’s List in college and my GPA while I pursued a Master’s degree, and you’d likely be impressed. However, my good grades and intelligence shouldn’t be on trail, nor are they completely relevant. Some wonderful moms out there who never went to college are great at creating their own curriculum. I couldn’t do it. And thankfully I don’t have have to. I get the privilege of using a curriculum already proven to work and teach my children what they need to know.

In just the few weeks that my son has been home, I have seen him become a completely different child. He’s happy and smiling almost all the time. The stress from school isn’t there, and a weight has been lifted off of him. He is more obedient, respectful, and thoughtful; his true nature and character are shining through once again. He’s sleeping better, too. He’s also nicer and more loving towards his sister.
But here’s the real kicker for all the skeptics and naysayers out there who are anti-homeschooling – my son is learning. We had to fall back a bit in a couple of subjects, and are working to get him caught up where he needs to be, but it’s amazing how quickly it’s sinking in.

For me, the best part is seeing that he wants to learn. Maybe it’s because he’s seeing his successes instead of being frustrated with a system that was failing him. Public schools are overcrowded, so it’s not that the teachers don’t care. Sometimes they just don’t have the time to give, but that’s not acceptable to leave my child in that situation when I have the ability to give him what he needs.

We are still adjusting and it’s still a bit overwhelming, but not like it was the first week. I’ve been blessed to have several other homeschool moms help guide me along this new journey. I’m so thankful for the amazing community that we are getting to know. I’m seeing people who are kind and go out of their way to make others feel welcomed. I see smart kids – I don’t see weird ones. I see different perspectives of how to homeschool and people who want to help you find the right one for your family even if it’s different than theirs.

One mom said, “Homeschool is not meant to be public school done at home.” When I realized that it was as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. That environment isn’t a good fit for our family right now, so I shouldn’t try to replicate it. It’s a breath of fresh air knowing I can do this on our terms. I feel such peace about being on this journey even while I’m still working on getting my footing, and that’s how I know it’s the right decision for us.

An Unexpected Homeschool Journey

I pulled my oldest child out of public school a few weeks ago, and now I’m homeschooling him. Don’t choke, or spit out your drink. No one is more surprised by this than I am. Sure, I’ve talked about it for a while, but I’ve also talked about a lot of things that never happened. I assumed this would end up on that list, too.

More than a couple of people have voiced their opinions on it, and not everyone is supportive. Some have shared this with me directly, while for others it’s been filtered in. However, no one else’s opinions carry any weight on my decision. Though, I do understand why they have them. For one thing, a few years ago, I couldn’t have handled it, and I assume some people think my life hasn’t changed much from the days I was still in the midst grief after my husband’s death. But as time moves forward, people change. Most importantly is that when God calls us to something, He also equips us.

Besides that, not everyone is a fan of homeshcooling in general. There can be quite the stigma attached to it, but stigma has never stopped me from anything. The most common topics coming to me seem to be:

What about socialization?
My son was concerned about this one himself, wondering if he would still be able to have friends. Not only does he get to keep his old friends, there is a Huge homeschool community around us that is very active, so getting plugged in isn’t going to be hard. I don’t what it’s like in other areas, but I’ve already heard moms talk about this being a great place for homeschool families. There are so many activities and groups. The welcome and support I’ve gotten already has been incredible!

Homeschool kids are weird!
Okay, let’s get real here. There are weird kids who are homeschooled. But have you honestly never met a weird kid in traditional school? Of course you have. More than one. I’m confident of that. There are weird people everywhere. (Judge me for calling kids weird, I’m not going to lose any sleep.) Heck, anyone who doesn’t act the way society deems as “normal” can easily get that label anyway.
But can we also discuss for a moment what “weird” means in society today anyway? Not always, but often, children who are homeschooled are more respectful, follow the rules, and have better manners. Just the other day, I heard a doctor say that social media is causing children to be socially awkward by allowing them so much time on their devices and not interacting face to face.

What about the quality of education?
This one depends. I have spent HOURS researching curricula and hybrid schools. We have toured several hybrids, and I’m leaning towards that for next year. I have gotten tons of feed back from other moms, too. The quality is out there. It really depends on what each family uses. But the beauty of homeschool is that you can pick and choose what works best for your child(ren), and if one thing isn’t working you can stop using it and pick something else (except for most of the hybrids, as they have a set curriculum).

Common Core has not served my children well for different reasons. My daughter is in the gifted program at her school, but she only goes for half a day each week. That’s not enough to challenge her, so it’s dependent on the teacher. Some years have been good, others have not. She gets bored easily and loses ground when she’s not challenged. No one really has a leg to stand on in my experience when talking quality in terms of Common Core.

As for my son? Let me use this year as a example since it was one of the final straws. He seemed to pick up every bug there is this school year, got the flu, and then he ended up with bronchitis. He missed 6 days of school in a row shortly before I pulled him out. One of his teachers told him the lessons he missed were online and to look there. When I told her he needed extra help she said for him to come in early one morning. All she did was give him a make up test. I’m sure you can guess how that went. I wasn’t happy about it, but I let it go because I was ready to just be done with public school for him anyway.

My son is smart, yet his grades don’t reflect that in every subject. He has to work really hard at some things. That’s pretty typical, but he’s one of those kids who was slipping through the cracks. He was getting by, but he was struggling in some areas. He wasn’t getting what he needed to catch up and keep up with his peers, and I was worried about what next year would look like for him. One of his teachers said he should be in the Advanced class for that subject, but because he struggled in another area it kept him back.

The beauty of homeschooling is that we can work at his pace and be on the level he should be on. He doesn’t have to be held back in some classes and struggle to keep up in other classes.

Why do we send our children to school anyway? Is it free child care while parents work, or is it for them to get the best education they can so that they can succeed as adults? Homeschool isn’t a good fit for everyone, and it may not be the best fit for our family forever, but it certainly is right now, at least with my son. My daughter wants to homeschool because she doesn’t want to be held back by her peers and grade level. I’m praying about it because there is one teacher at her school whom I know would be a good fit next year, but there’s no guarantee she will get her.

Are you qualified to teach your children?
There is no one better qualified to influence and teach my children than me. I teach them all the time really, just not in a structured setting.
Now, if you’re asking if I have a teaching degree (those who have said this using other words know the answer), no I do not. I could sit here an tell you how many times I made the Dean’s List in college and my GPA while I pursued a Master’s degree, and you’d likely be impressed. However, my good grades and intelligence shouldn’t be on trail, nor are they completely relevant. Some wonderful moms out there who never went to college are great at creating their own curriculum. I couldn’t do it. And thankfully I don’t have have to. I get the privilege of using a curriculum already proven to work and teach my children what they need to know.

In just the few weeks that my son has been home, I have seen him become a completely different child. He’s happy and smiling almost all the time. The stress from school isn’t there, and a weight has been lifted off of him. He is more obedient, respectful, and thoughtful; his true nature and character are shining through once again. He’s sleeping better, too. He’s also nicer and more loving towards his sister.
But here’s the real kicker for all the skeptics and naysayers out there who are anti-homeschooling – my son is learning. We had to fall back a bit in a couple of subjects, and are working to get him caught up where he needs to be, but it’s amazing how quickly it’s sinking in.

For me, the best part is seeing that he wants to learn. Maybe it’s because he’s seeing his successes instead of being frustrated with a system that was failing him. Public schools are overcrowded, so it’s not that the teachers don’t care. Sometimes they just don’t have the time to give, but that’s not acceptable to leave my child in that situation when I have the ability to give him what he needs.

We are still adjusting and it’s still a bit overwhelming, but not like it was the first week. I’ve been blessed to have several other homeschool moms help guide me along this new journey. I’m so thankful for the amazing community that we are getting to know. I’m seeing people who are kind and go out of their way to make others feel welcomed. I see smart kids – I don’t see weird ones. I see different perspectives of how to homeschool and people who want to help you find the right one for your family even if it’s different than theirs.

One mom said, “Homeschool is not meant to be public school done at home.” When I realized that it was as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. That environment isn’t a good fit for our family right now, so I shouldn’t try to replicate it. It’s a breath of fresh air knowing I can do this on our terms. I feel such peace about being on this journey even while I’m still working on getting my footing, and that’s how I know it’s the right decision for us.

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Truth is Not Trendy Part 2

Truth is not trendy, but it is necessary especially in the Christian faith.

With the seemingly growing desire to be relevant, often times churches and pastors are compromising the truth because let’s be honest, truth isn’t trendy. They want to pack the seats and they want the people in those seats to love Jesus. Unfortunately, often the greater focus is on packing the seats.

To ensure that, many are teaching about “Trendy Jesus” these days. The Jesus they are selling isn’t the true Jesus because the true Jesus isn’t trendy. But He is always relevant.

Trendy Jesus says that you should be happy no matter what. In fact, Trendy Jesus wants you to be happy – that’s his greatest desire for your life. He doesn’t care what you do or with whom you do it. As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else and it makes you happy then it’s a good thing.

Trendy Jesus says that the greatest thing you can do is show love to other people, and the best way to do that is to support and promote whatever it is that makes them happy.

Trendy Jesus won’t touch “hot topics” that are “political issues.” He leaves those issues to the politicians.

Trendy Jesus won’t tell you that you have sinned. Trendy Jesus doesn’t care if you sin as long as the sin isn’t “that bad.” You know those sins don’t you? Rape and murder are pretty much the biggies. Anything else is a mistake, at least according to Trendy Jesus.

But that’s not the Biblical Jesus.

We are told we will suffer if we follow Jesus. Remember the apostles and how they died?

God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. We are told to count it great joy to suffer for the cause. There’s a lot of theology to unpack in that, which I may do at a later time, but the point for now is that we are not to seek happiness above all else.

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. That is above all else. If you love God then you will love His Word.

The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. To show that love we should show compassion, take care of their needs and help them, but if we are encouraging them to sin that is not love.

Love God first and all else will flow from that including loving people.

If you read all of the words of Jesus, he actually addressed politics and all sins. He didn’t have to spell out every last sin because the Jewish people knew the law. In fact, some of the things we are addressing today wouldn’t have even been necessary to spell out; they went without say. To be fair, He may have addressed some things more specifically, but the writers of Scripture didn’t include them. Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.

Not long ago there was a well known Pastor on a well known show who made a comment to the effect of it’s not for him to decide what sin is, and he believes it’s more important to get to know the person first.

I heard him try to clean it up later, so I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to a missed opportunity. I also think it serves as a great teaching moment.

It’s vital not to throw condemnation at someone and push them away from Christ. I’m guilty of this, and it still grieves me to think about the damage I’ve done. I pray for someone else to come along and repair that.

We must first show love and compassion, but we should never compromise on God’s truth. No, it is not for us to determine what sin is, but we surely can and should share with others what God says is sinful. How else can someone repent?

We need to make sure everyone knows that Jesus loves them so much, no matter what they have done – even if it was only yesterday – that He died for them. Jesus wouldn’t say “Eh, that’s not THAT bad of a sin, so it’s no big deal; just forget about it.” He would say, “Go, and sin no more.”

We need to walk along side of each other and help each other, but don’t chalk it up to a mistake and brush it off. We will also be held accountable for leading people away from Christ.

So why are pastors and Christians turning towards Trendy Jesus to lead their lives? Several reasons come to mind.

The first is that they really do love Jesus, and they really do love people, and they want other people to love Jesus, too. It’s noble. It’s what our hearts desire should be. In fact, the great commission is to go and make disciples. But they are feeding hungry people a false Jesus, and my fear is that they are leading many straight to Jesus only to hear, “I never knew you. Away from me,” on judgement day.

Culture is very influential on people’s beliefs and perceptions, and if we aren’t careful (as Scripture warns over and over), we will turn from God’s truth. Christianity is counter-cultural, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true and accurate. Society changes the norms all the time, but we are assured that God never changes.

I heard a fantastic quote the other day, “God will not rewrite the Bible for your generation.” I think that many pastors, leaders, and Christians alike have lost sight of this. They think the only way to reach the non-believers are to become like them. They have lost sight of what is important and traded the best things for lesser things.

It’s true that some are deliberately turning their back on Scripture, too. It baffles me really. How can you pick and choose what parts are “true for you” and still claim Christ as your Savior? I’ll be honest, there are things I would do differently. There are things I wish weren’t so. There are things that I don’t understand. There are certainly things I think are unfair. But none of my opinions matter. Nothing I say changes who God is, what He says, or why He has chosen for it to be the way it is. But since God is the Creator, my opinion is moot. And so are the opinions of those who are promoting Trendy Jesus.

Our opinions don’t change God. And that’s a good thing especially considering how often our opinions seem to change.

I’ve heard Christians say things such as “Jesus never even mentioned…” Except if you read the Bible, He did. But people aren’t in the Word enough to know what Jesus actually said. We don’t get to pick and choose what is a sin or not. The only thing we get to choose is if we are going to follow Christ or not. We need the pastors and churches to stop selling Trendy Jesus and start sharing the authentic Jesus.

Please hear me: I’m not talking about all churches, pastors, or Christians. I’m not even talking all of the mega churches that may have popped into your mind. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t love people because we absolutely should. We should reach out the weakest, most broken, hurting, lost souls and share with them that Jesus died for them and loves them. That’s exactly why He died – because he loves us sinners. We just need to make sure we are loving God first and be honest about what He says to us through Scripture. If what you’re hearing doesn’t line up with Scripture then what is being said is wrong.

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Truth is Not Trendy: Part 1

If you were ever looking for a word to describe me one of the last to be chosen would be “trendy.”

I can recall exactly two times in my life when I have been trendy. Both were by accident. It’s not that I’m against following trends (depending on what we’re talking about), it’s just that I don’t have a trendy bone in my body.

Growing up one of my best friends and I made quite the odd pair. She has always been drop dead gorgeous and very fashionable. And I was pretty dorky and dressed like a grandma even in middle school.

Once, after college she commented on how impressed she was that the sweater I was wearing was actually cute. I laughed and mentioned she had teased me about that exact sweater a few years earlier. She replied that it hadn’t been in style then.

The other time I recall being trendy was something very similar with a pair of shoes and another dear friend of mine.

I do appreciate my fashionable friends because on days when yoga pants are a no-no, I totally need them.

Clothes aren’t the only things that come in and out of fashion. Right now, one of the least trendy things seems to be truthfulness. Look at our political leaders, our media, and our culture in general. It doesn’t matter which “side” you find yourself on, truth seems to the exception to the rule these days. And this, is dangerous for all of us.

Years ago someone told me to watch The Invention or Lying, and afterwards I joked that someday they will make a movie about me called The Invention of Telling the Truth.

Certainly no one tells the truth all the time, but lying seems not only to be second nature in our culture, but also promoted. Common statements that can be heard today include things such as: Truth is relative. What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me. We all have our own truth. All roads lead to the same place. But these just aren’t logical. Not only that, they pose the possibility of a great deal of harm and damage.

As an example, let me use an important issue in the forefront of our current national conversation. Women are coming out of the woodwork with allegations of sexual misconduct of varying degrees in both Hollywood and our government. And it’s about time we start tackling the seriousness of this. But let’s apply the post-truth ideology to it for a moment.

If a woman accuses a man of sexual assault, either she’s telling the truth or she’s not. If he says it was consensual, either he’s telling the truth or he’s not. These encounters couldn’t have been both assault and consensual. One’s perspective doesn’t erase facts or make them disappear. By definition, one must be right and the other wrong. One must be telling the truth, while the other is being dishonest.

They cannot each have their own separate truth. That’s not how reality works, and I believe this example exemplifies that truth isn’t relative. We need to apply the same logic across the board.

But if we keep muddying the waters of truth we risk unintended consequences that will hurt many.

Truth is not relative. By definition, truth is an absolute.

But that’s not trendy. It’s trendy to let people think whatever they believe to be true is true. Can you see the danger in saying that one’s perspective is their own truth?

The media and our politicians are so deceitful, but when we don’t demand honesty and transparency because we ourselves as a nation have pushed aside the importance of truth what else can we expect?

Perhaps I shouldn’t have such high expectations of the secular world, but I do. I have even higher standards for the church, though. I mean they must be better at this truth thing… right??

Sadly, in many cases the church is failing here as well. Truth isn’t trendy in the church either, but I’ll save that for another post.

I for one cannot wait until truth is trendy and people recognize reality for what it is again.

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The Good and Bad Days

This weekend my son asked me what the happiest day of my life was. I told him I don’t know what the happiest day was, but that one of them was his Dad’s birthday last year, which knowing our circumstances may seem puzzling at first.

My husband spent his last birthday alive in Afghanistan. That year my son was only 3 and my daughter was an infant. I thought it would be good to celebrate it for my son’s sake anyway. I let him pick out a cake and we sang Happy Birthday. If memory serves, Tom called home that day and we sang it to him.

Ten months later, he was gone. His birthday has always been one of the hardest days for me and the first couple of years after his death I spent that day sobbing. I can’t imagine how painful a day it is for his Mom.

A few years ago I decided that instead of being depressed we should use the day to celebrate his life and do something fun to honor him.

Last year we took a day trip to Chattanooga. We had an amazing time with laughter and stories and exploring – and only one or two small sad moments. We talked about fun memories keeping the trip upbeat. The whole day felt as perfect as possible. Our server even had a frog tattoo as if Tom was letting us know he was there – like he was sending us a gift on his special day.

Even with missing Tom, it truly was one of my favorite days for so many reasons.

But after we talked about the best day, I later started thinking about some of the worst days. If I’m honest, it scares me to think that I may not have already been through the worst experiences of my life, and if I live long enough, I likely will endure more painful events. But I can’t dwell on that. It’s not healthy. So when those thoughts come to mind, I acknowledge them and send them away.

What helps me to rest easy is that even if I go through the wilderness again, I won’t stay there forever. I will get through it just as I did before. Now, I may need someone to remind me that the wilderness doesn’t last forever if I do find myself there in the future because when we are in it it’s hard to remember it’s only temporary.

I’m not saying that all the pain is temporary, and once someone is on the other side they will never feel pain again.

The wilderness is brutal. That’s just reality. I don’t know anyone who has arrived at the other side totally unscathed. But I also know many who have come out stronger even with all the bruises, scars, and thorns that stay with them.

Some thorns get so embedded that you carry them with you the rest of your life. If you’re lucky most days you won’t even notice the thorns. Other days there will be a dull ache. And then there are those days when you bump into something familiar – a smell, a song, a person, or a memory that seems to come out of nowhere, and in an instant you’re transported back to the middle of the wilderness, and pain floods your heart as if you had never left to begin with.

It’s consuming, but there’s some solace knowing that the overwhelming pain will subside just as it has in the past, and once again you can take a deep breath and move forward knowing there are brighter days to come.

Everyone’s journey is different and we can’t compare the details. We need to just be there for those who are in the midst of the wilderness as best we can. And remember if you’re in the middle of it, brighter days will come and they will be worth the struggle to get there.

I met and heard Vice President Biden speak on what would have been my 7th wedding anniversary. The words he spoke years ago have rooted themselves in my mind, “Eventually there will be more good days than bad days.” That’s sound advice from a man whose experienced tremendous grief in his life. Hold on to that as you journey along.

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Lessons on Love Learned from Cats

I once heard that the average person dated 100 people before getting married. I joke that with that statistic, I should be on my 4th marriage. Honestly, though, I’ve done a bit of dating, and there are plenty of lessons I’ve learned along the way. I could write an entire book on online dating, but can sum it up in 3 words: Don’t do it.

I’ve happily become a crazy cat lady. I think it was inevitable as I became a widow in my 20’s, and well, cats are as addicting as tattoos. In some ways they also offer a parallel to some of the lessons I’ve learned about love. And since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I thought it’d be a fun post, but to be fair, it might end up being more about my cats.

You Can’t Fill The Void:

One thing that has been consistent in my life is that when my heart breaks, I try my best not to feel the pain. When my husband died, I jumped into a relationship with someone entirely too quickly. And when that relationship ended, as it was doomed from the start for a multitude of reasons, I found someone else.

I always tried to fill the void, and it never worked. I knew I did this, but it wasn’t until my son’s kitten, Marvin died that I truly realized what I was doing, and that it’s impossible to fill that void.

You see, I spent nearly $1,000 trying to save this amazing little guy’s life, but 6 days after the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death, I got the call that Marvin wasn’t going to make it.

The tears are forming in my eyes as I write about him. He was such a special kitten, and in the 5 months we had him, he left a lifetime impression on our hearts and in our lives.

My daughter’s kitten was utterly depressed and so were we. I thought a new kitten would help Coco snap out of her depression, and about 5 weeks later we adopted 2 new kittens. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my crazy boys (they are off the charts crazy), and they have a special place in my heart.

But they aren’t Marvin; 2 new boys couldn’t take his place – 200 couldn’t either. I will always miss him. I could write for days about that sweet tabby who was only on this earth for a short 9 months. His impact can’t be unfelt, and while I love cats – my goodness I’m a proud card-carrying Crazy Cat Lady – no one can be replaced.

Each one is unique and plays a significant role. But trying to fill that role with another won’t make the ache go away.

I couldn’t replace my husband, and it wasn’t that I was trying to replace him. I just didn’t want to feel the pain so intensely and thought that someone else could ease that pain, but it didn’t work.

I tried that over and over in my love life. Everyone fell short because when love is deep and intense it can’t be replaced.

First Impressions Aren’t Always Accurste:

After Marvin died and we welcomed Mortimer and Creamer into our home, the dynamics were a little off. Our resident cat, Coco probably would have done better with just one male in the home. Bringing in two boys sent the testosterone levels through the roof. Coco was still grieving Marvin (it was heartbreaking to watch her), and she was overwhelmed. I had no idea animals experienced grief the way humans do.

My brilliant solution to the problem was to adopted another female kitten to even things out. So we went on a search for the right kitten.

The Humane Society was going to allow us to adopt another kitten for free because Marvin was already sick when we got him, but one day my daughter and I stopped by PetSmart just to look at kittens.

There was one tiny little girl, fittingly named Ity Bitty. I picked her up and she purred. Then she fell asleep in my arms. It didn’t take much begging from my daughter to shell out $120. Ity Bitty was the sweetest little thing ever.

Until we got her home. Then she wasn’t. The feral, bottle-fed kitten was, well, feral. Have you ever seen a feral kitten? I felt duped. It’s not like that hasn’t happened in real life relationships either.

Oh, the pretty boys who seem so sweet and nice and charming usually (and pretty much always in my case) end up being the complete opposite. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve fallen for it. It’s one reason I enjoy the single life now. I don’t trust my own judgement. 

A year later she still attacks us and runs around like a crazy squirrel, but sometimes she let’s us hold her, and with the colder weather she even snuggles in bed at night. Of course it’s to stay warm and not because she likes me – story of my life. 😉

It takes time to get to know someone – a cat or a person, and sometimes who we think they are when we first meet them isn’t the real them, or at least not the whole picture. It’s always wise not to fall too hard or too fast when deciding if you should take someone home with you because you may end up disappointed.

Similarly, Looks Can be Deceiving:

When we were looking for kittens online at the different shelters we came across a litter with some beautiful cats, but one of them was on the less than attractive side. My thought was ‘I’d never pick that one out of the litter.’ But when we got to FurKids, he ended up being the first one we held. And he totally melted into my daughters arms. His purr was loud and he was the sweetest thing. I held him and instantly knew he was going home with us.

(I’m sure you can see a theme here: if you purr for me, I’m taking you home with me.)

Initially I didn’t think he was a cute kitty, but that quickly changed. I judged him on his looks alone, and if we hadn’t have given him a chance because I was being 100% shallow at the time, then we would have missed out on the most snuggly, cuddly cat ever. He (like Marvin before him) allows us to pick him up and carry him all over the place. He’s a lap kitty, too. And if there’s a book nearby he will try to lay on it, so now I have two books with me when I read. The one I’m reading, and one for him to lay on next to me.

He’s still super crazy and makes a huge mess, but those stories are for another day. But he’s the most lovable kitty.

Sure, looks matter in romantic relationships, I’m not saying otherwise. But they certainly aren’t everything. We all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but we often still do. My Mom always told me that people become more attractive when you get to know them and fall in love with them, and she’s right. I definitely have experienced that, not just with Mortimer either. One person in particular comes to mind.

I wasn’t really attracted to him when we first met, but there was something different about him from the beginning. I fell in love him faster than I had with anyone else, and the attraction I had for him was a surprise.

He ended up being such an important and life changing part of my journey, and I can’t imagine where I’d be without his part in my story.

Don’t miss out on something great because at first glance it’s not wrapped in the prettiest package.

Loyalty:

Mortimer. Again. So like I said, Mortimer is snuggly. We call him the snuggle-buddy, but honestly he was my snuggle-buddy until last summer. Then all of a sudden with my daughter home from school he became her snuggle-buddy.

One night when I was putting her to bed, Mortimer was laying on her and she kind of got upset that one of the others laid down on me. I made a joke about Creamer still being loyal to me, and her response was epic. She said, “If Mortimer isn’t loyal to you now then he never was. That’s not loyalty. You can’t lose loyalty.” It’s worth noting she was 8 years old at the time. Pretty deep stuff there from one so young.

And yes, there are certainly times in life when loyalty can be lost, but that’s if the other person has done something to lose it. If nothing has been done to lose the loyalty, then she’s right.

If someone isn’t loyal to you now then they weren’t from the start. I don’t think that one needs explaining on the human side. My kiddo is wise, and I hope that serves her well as she gets older.

Hearts Expand:

My first lesson was that you can’t fill the void, and that’s very true. But that’s not the end of the story.

When we don’t compare what was to what is we make room in our hearts for more love. Not all loves are comparable, but that’s okay. The heart is ever expanding to love more. There is no limit on how many can fill the space, or how much love our hearts can hold. And that’s the greatest lesson of all. No matter what, there’s room to love. Another cat, a new significant other, another child. There’s enough love to go around. I wish I could make my kids understand this so they’d stop asking who I love more. 😉

Lessons on Love Learned from Cats

I once heard that the average person dated 100 people before getting married. I joke that with that statistic, I should be on my 4th marriage. Honestly, though, I’ve done a bit of dating, and there are plenty of lessons I’ve learned along the way. I could write an entire book on online dating, but can sum it up in 3 words: Don’t do it.

I’ve happily become a crazy cat lady. I think it was inevitable as I became a widow in my 20’s, and well, cats are as addicting as tattoos. In some ways they also offer a parallel to some of the lessons I’ve learned about love. And since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I thought it’d be a fun post, but to be fair, it might end up being more about my cats.

You Can’t Fill The Void:

One thing that has been consistent in my life is that when my heart breaks, I try my best not to feel the pain. When my husband died, I jumped into a relationship with someone entirely too quickly. And when that relationship ended, as it was doomed from the start for a multitude of reasons, I found someone else.

I always tried to fill the void, and it never worked. I knew I did this, but it wasn’t until my son’s kitten, Marvin died that I truly realized what I was doing, and that it’s impossible to fill that void.

You see, I spent nearly $1,000 trying to save this amazing little guy’s life, but 6 days after the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death, I got the call that Marvin wasn’t going to make it.

The tears are forming in my eyes as I write about him. He was such a special kitten, and in the 5 months we had him, he left a lifetime impression on our hearts and in our lives.

My daughter’s kitten was utterly depressed and so were we. I thought a new kitten would help Coco snap out of her depression, and about 5 weeks later we adopted 2 new kittens. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my crazy boys (they are off the charts crazy), and they have a special place in my heart.

But they aren’t Marvin; 2 new boys couldn’t take his place – 200 couldn’t either. I will always miss him. I could write for days about that sweet tabby who was only on this earth for a short 9 months. His impact can’t be unfelt, and while I love cats – my goodness I’m a proud card-carrying Crazy Cat Lady – no one can be replaced.

Each one is unique and plays a significant role. But trying to fill that role with another won’t make the ache go away.

I couldn’t replace my husband, and it wasn’t that I was trying to replace him. I just didn’t want to feel the pain so intensely and thought that someone else could ease that pain, but it didn’t work.

I tried that over and over in my love life. Everyone fell short because when love is deep and intense it can’t be replaced.

First Impressions Aren’t Always Accurste:

After Marvin died and we welcomed Mortimer and Creamer into our home, the dynamics were a little off. Our resident cat, Coco probably would have done better with just one male in the home. Bringing in two boys sent the testosterone levels through the roof. Coco was still grieving Marvin (it was heartbreaking to watch her), and she was overwhelmed. I had no idea animals experienced grief the way humans do.

My brilliant solution to the problem was to adopted another female kitten to even things out. So we went on a search for the right kitten.

The Humane Society was going to allow us to adopt another kitten for free because Marvin was already sick when we got him, but one day my daughter and I stopped by PetSmart just to look at kittens.

There was one tiny little girl, fittingly named Ity Bitty. I picked her up and she purred. Then she fell asleep in my arms. It didn’t take much begging from my daughter to shell out $120. Ity Bitty was the sweetest little thing ever.

Until we got her home. Then she wasn’t. The feral, bottle-fed kitten was, well, feral. Have you ever seen a feral kitten? I felt duped. It’s not like that hasn’t happened in real life relationships either.

Oh, the pretty boys who seem so sweet and nice and charming usually (and pretty much always in my case) end up being the complete opposite. I can’t believe the number of times I’ve fallen for it. It’s one reason I enjoy the single life now. I don’t trust my own judgement. 

A year later she still attacks us and runs around like a crazy squirrel, but sometimes she let’s us hold her, and with the colder weather she even snuggles in bed at night. Of course it’s to stay warm and not because she likes me – story of my life. 😉

It takes time to get to know someone – a cat or a person, and sometimes who we think they are when we first meet them isn’t the real them, or at least not the whole picture. It’s always wise not to fall too hard or too fast when deciding if you should take someone home with you because you may end up disappointed.

Similarly, Looks Can be Deceiving:

When we were looking for kittens online at the different shelters we came across a litter with some beautiful cats, but one of them was on the less than attractive side. My thought was ‘I’d never pick that one out of the litter.’ But when we got to FurKids, he ended up being the first one we held. And he totally melted into my daughters arms. His purr was loud and he was the sweetest thing. I held him and instantly knew he was going home with us.

(I’m sure you can see a theme here: if you purr for me, I’m taking you home with me.)

Initially I didn’t think he was a cute kitty, but that quickly changed. I judged him on his looks alone, and if we hadn’t have given him a chance because I was being 100% shallow at the time, then we would have missed out on the most snuggly, cuddly cat ever. He (like Marvin before him) allows us to pick him up and carry him all over the place. He’s a lap kitty, too. And if there’s a book nearby he will try to lay on it, so now I have two books with me when I read. The one I’m reading, and one for him to lay on next to me.

He’s still super crazy and makes a huge mess, but those stories are for another day. But he’s the most lovable kitty.

Sure, looks matter in romantic relationships, I’m not saying otherwise. But they certainly aren’t everything. We all know you should never judge a book by its cover, but we often still do. My Mom always told me that people become more attractive when you get to know them and fall in love with them, and she’s right. I definitely have experienced that, not just with Mortimer either. One person in particular comes to mind.

I wasn’t really attracted to him when we first met, but there was something different about him from the beginning. I fell in love him faster than I had with anyone else, and the attraction I had for him was a surprise.

He ended up being such an important and life changing part of my journey, and I can’t imagine where I’d be without his part in my story.

Don’t miss out on something great because at first glance it’s not wrapped in the prettiest package.

Loyalty:

Mortimer. Again. So like I said, Mortimer is snuggly. We call him the snuggle-buddy, but honestly he was my snuggle-buddy until last summer. Then all of a sudden with my daughter home from school he became her snuggle-buddy.

One night when I was putting her to bed, Mortimer was laying on her and she kind of got upset that one of the others laid down on me. I made a joke about Creamer still being loyal to me, and her response was epic. She said, “If Mortimer isn’t loyal to you now then he never was. That’s not loyalty. You can’t lose loyalty.” It’s worth noting she was 8 years old at the time. Pretty deep stuff there from one so young.

And yes, there are certainly times in life when loyalty can be lost, but that’s if the other person has done something to lose it. If nothing has been done to lose the loyalty, then she’s right.

If someone isn’t loyal to you now then they weren’t from the start. I don’t think that one needs explaining on the human side. My kiddo is wise, and I hope that serves her well as she gets older.

Hearts Expand:

My first lesson was that you can’t fill the void, and that’s very true. But that’s not the end of the story.

When we don’t compare what was to what is we make room in our hearts for more love. Not all loves are comparable, but that’s okay. The heart is ever expanding to love more. There is no limit on how many can fill the space, or how much love our hearts can hold. And that’s the greatest lesson of all. No matter what, there’s room to love. Another cat, a new significant other, another child. There’s enough love to go around. I wish I could make my kids understand this so they’d stop asking who I love more. 😉

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On the Verge of Vegan

Last week my children and I watched the documentary “Food Choices,” and since then we have started to make some changes. I’ve tried to do a vegan/plant-based diet a few times before, but was motivated by the desire to loose weight and/or wanting to detox from all the junk I’d been putting into my body.


It was always so complex to me that I’d eat like a rabbit, and only last a week or. Plus, I never included my kids. A lot of what was shared on “Food Choices” wasn’t brand-new to me, but there was also plenty of information I didn’t know, such as grass-fed beef leaving a high carbon footprint and how the ratio of Omegas was adjusted.  

As a single mom who isn’t a good cook to begin with and has two picky children who like completely different foods, I dread mealtime. I find dinner particularly overwhelming. I usually go for easy and pleasing, which typically equates to unhealthy. I have felt guilt and shame for feeding my children the accepted American diet, and feel like I’m poisoning my own children. In essences, I kind of have been. Most of us are. But that’s okay because it’s all FDA approved right? Wrong. We are setting them up for failure, but for some reason, “Food Choices” was my turning point.

I suppose I’ve been working our way to healthier already, though. My kids were starting to get a little chubby, and I realized we were eating out entirely too often. Not only was our healthy being depleted, so was my bank account. I started cooking at home more. Their weight improved in a very short amount of time (oh to be young again). But our meals revolved around meat. And more times than I’d like to admit, we’d skip the veggies. 

I’ve known a large amount of meat isn’t good, but I also felt stuck. When I say I’m not a good cook, I am not exaggerating. My children used to suggest I should go on “Worst Cooks in America.” And let’s discuss how many times my smoke alarm has gone off when I do cook. Actually, on second thought, let’s not discuss that at all. 😉 When my husband was alive he stopped a fire or two in the kitchen. 

I finally learn how to cook a handful of chicken dishes that my children absolutely love, so that has been our go-to. And it felt good to be feeding my children home-cooked meals they enjoyed. I think I needed that confidence in myself before I could even consider making such a big change to a plant-based diet. 

My son has decided that he still wants to eat meat, but he understands that it will only be a couple of times a week if it fits in with whatever else I’m cooking. For example, last night was lentil tacos, but he had ground beef, and tonight he had a hamburger, while we had vegan burgers with lentils, rice, and oats. 

My daughter on the other hand doesn’t want to eat meat because she saw how animals are treated and slaughtered. Technically, she looked away for the “bad parts,” but it was enough to have her in tears the next day asking why God made her an empath because her heart hurt so much for the animals.

While I’m disturbed by the treatment of animals, too, I think watching that would only make me cut back on my meat consumption. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are what sold me. I would say that right now we have more of a vegetarian thing going on, but I believe that my family needs to take it slowly if we are to sustain this as a lifestyle change. And I can’t say I won’t ever eat meat again, but it will not be my primary source of food. 

What I have realized in the past week-ish of trying to cook plant-based meals is that there are so many alternative options out there. Sure, many of them are complicated for me, but there are also some simple recipes, so that’s where I’m starting. Cooking right now takes more time to plan and make, but it’s so empowering to be taking these steps and making our health a priority. I feel so accomplished. And goodness, the fact that my super picky eater is enjoying most of it is such a relief and a blessing. 

It’s not just about cutting out meat, though. Sugar is a poison. It’s a drug, and like all drugs it is addictive. It affects people’s health and moods. We have been cutting down on the processed sugar, too. And honestly, I have seen a positive change in my mood and my daughter’s mood (my son doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth to being with). 

It’s really quite amazing how quickly things start to change when you put the right things into your body and remove the bad things. Some people can make complete lifestyle changes overnight, but going slowly is working for us. And I’m not knocking those who eat meat and sugar, because they are still in my house and likely always will be to some degree. It’s a personal choice, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan because everyone’s nutritional needs will vary depending on many factors. I just know that working my way towards being a vegan is what makes sense here. The bonus is, I can already see how it’s going to be saving me money to eat a plant-based diet. 

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