a good life | intentional self care

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I was perusing Modern Mrs. Darcy's website (one of my top 5 favorite blogs these days), plowing through her older posts and came across a post titled 2 things you love, 1 thing you treasure, and 1 thing you'll never forget. It began from a comment to her blog that went like this: "Someone once told me that women should do two things every day they love, one thing every week they treasure, and one bigger thing every month they will never forget. Because we’re worth the effort.”

I have a hard time with self care. It often feels - well - selfish. Whenever I am spending time on me something, or someone else does not have my time. The closest I get to self care is giving time to my hobby, scrapbooking. Even though scrapbooking is akin to life blood - I know this because the season I went without scrapbooking was horrendous on my mental health - there are other self care routines, daily, weekly, and monthly that would be so good for my heart, mind, body, and soul.

Deciding to become more intentional with self care beginning in September, with maybe a trial run the remaining days of this week, I believe I just might be able to find every day loves that are more present in my life than I thought; or I do that one thing that I treasure; and I experience a monthly something I'll never forget: (like that one Saturday recently that began early in the morning [after a very late night of dinner and watching Star Trek: Beyond] with a trip out to Tybee Island for breakfast at our favorite spot: The Breakfast Club, followed by a long morning and afternoon trip to Jeff's worksite for a tour of the just-finished high-end, Inn at Palmetto Bluff [simply gorgeous and in awe of my husband's accomplishments as a key member of the build team...and so proud of him and excited for his success], followed even more by a dinner out with all the people we volunteer with at a really cool place). 

Yeah, that kind of memorable experience...

Definitely, some self care happening that day.

But, maybe a bit more intentionality - and recording - my self care daily loves, weekly treasures for my health and well-being, and monthly experiences I'll never forget, and that might sustain me.

And, it seems to me that if I give nothing to myself, if I don't keep me healthy, then it isn't very likely I'll have much strength to care for others. Ultimately, that is where self care should end...right where caring for others begins. That's a good life.


a good life | traditions.

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I recently read a blog post over at Becky Higgins' blog, on small traditions. As I read through the lengthy post of her families traditions, her teams various daily, weekly, and annual traditions, and even her readers' traditions it sparked thoughts and memories and feelings surrounding our own family traditions. Some traditions currently in use and some we used to have but in this season of life they've been set aside - for whatever reason. Some of those traditions I read about were intriguing, exciting, thought-provoking, left me wondering, could we do that? Would that be something that would resonate with my current family dynamic and strengthening our family bond, or would it just be - burdensome? Anyways, I wanted to put pen to paper, figuratively, wanting to remember some of the traditions we've had as a family that, thinking about them, have meant so much to me, to us, and have created lasting memories.

Eating Dinner together Every Night. I think because I grew up eating dinner at the table every night, even if everyone wasn't around the table, this is something that came naturally for me and for us. Sure, there are those occasions when we skip the table like on December 31st when we do a pig out feast and eat in the living room with a movie marathon or a television binge (but that's another tradition). Especially when it was all four kids at home, and even if our jobs meant one or the other couldn't be at the table we still would sit down and eat together. From that blog post someone shared a tradition of playing High and Low at the dinner table, where each person shares what was a highlight of their day and low point of their day. What a great conversation started! 

Date Night. For quite sometime now, probably 6 years or so, Jeff and I have regularly been going on dates. When we first started putting them on our calendars, literally inserting a date night into our menu plan calendar, it was once or twice a month. Over the past couple of years it has grown to weekly. This is sacred business for our marriage. We have been struggling for the past year and a half and yet, those date nights continue. I am so glad they have. 

Family Movie and Pizza Night. Once a month we make homemade pizza and buy a movie or pick an old one out of our huge pile of DVDs and eat pizza in the living room while watching a movie. Our homemade pizza has become an art form and usually takes a couple hours to prepare from start to finish so pizza night is usually on a Saturday night. When the boys were younger they'd always have to eat at the folding snack tables (and leave their drinks on the dining room table). It would take the boys forever to eat one slice of pizza because they'd be so engrossed in the movie. 

Taco Tuesday. This tradition is an older tradition that now is a once-a-month tradition on a Saturday. Remember, seasons of life sometimes transform traditions or even removes them all together. It's ok. But, Taco Tuesday holds such amazing memories. These aren't just any 'ole tacos. These are my homemade tacos (that my mom used to make, a recipe she acquired in the 60's), my decadent, delightful, albeit fattening tacos. They are a deep-fried folded taco filled with cheese as soon as they come out of the oil and served with all the fixings, plus a homemade taco sauce dubbed Parent Sauce because when my boys were little the homemade taco sauce was just a bit too spicy for their young palettes so they called it 'Parent' sauce - as in 'the taco sauce for the parents'. We still call it Parent sauce. 

Taco Tuesday, for a couple seasons, was especially special because our dear surrogate daughter Stacia would come over and share tacos with us. Stacia was a college student on a volleyball scholarship and went to our church. We first befriended her when she and a couple other volleyball players attended our small group for a season. Stacia stayed the longest with the small group, but she also shared our home many times. We became her extended family while she was here for school. We even moved Taco Tuesday's to Thursday's for a couple years because of Stacia's volleyball schedule.

Reading aloud. For five years of homeschooling from 7th grade through 11th grade all of the literature pieces John and Jarrod were required to read from the large history selection of shorter novels in 7th grade, to the American history works in 10th grade, through the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I read the aloud. Because both boys read individually on their own and liked to read their own books I had zero qualms about reading aloud all of their required reading - and then some. I seriously miss this side of our homeschooling!

For a short season, maybe a few years, when the boys were pretty little, 5 or 6, and the girls were still secure at home, I would read aloud at the dinner table after dinner, usually I'd begin when I finished eating. We read through the Chronicles of Narnia. It wasn't an every night read aloud session but if time permitted I'd at least read a chapter or two.

Tucking the boys in with a book and prayers. For years when the boys were little until well into their elementary ages, at least through 6th grade, we tucked John and Jarrod into bed with a book and prayers. Life happens and this has gone away but that time, whether it was just me or just Jeff, or both of us together, reading a book, saying prayers, and tucking them in, I don't remember one time when we had difficulty with our sons' going to sleep. Sometimes we'd read the same books over and over again. 

New Years Eve Binge Watch and Eat. For a couple years now we've created a favorite appetizer/snack food spread, watched a series of favorite movies or binge watched a television show on New Years Eve (sometimes New Years day depending on work schedules). It is how we ring in the new year. Jeff and I, as a couple, have never done the partying thing, and now that the boys are older we sure want them to know it isn't about booze that makes a party. It's the food! Just kidding. 

Fireworks on River Street. Downtown Savannah, historic district, snuggled against the Savannah River is River Street, blocks-long row of hotels, restaurants, shops, and a long river walk ending at the Marriott hotel. Across the river each year on the 4th of July the city puts on a stunning fireworks display. When the boys were 1 year old we began the tradition of heading down to River Street early in the evening, setting up chairs along the river, totting a cooler full of snacks and drinks, sporting a DVD player (when the boys were bit older), sat watching the boats meander up the water, or the people leisurely walking the river walk behind us, sometimes reading a book, waiting on the fireworks display. At some point Jeff and the girls (and the boys) would walk to the Savannah candy store for a bag - or two - of sweets to share - or not - and a sampling of pralines for me. John and Jarrod are 18 now and over the years we've only missed a few trips down to River Street for fireworks. 

Good Morning, Gorgeous! Friday mornings I anxiously await my morning text from Jeff as he heads to work after his very early morning helping to make breakfast for the Band of Brothers, a men's Friday morning breakfast and Bible study. It's become a little tradition.

Saturday morning Waffle House. We are blessed to have a Waffle House a mile from our house. For the past couple of years, on some Saturday's Jeff and the boys, or Jeff, the boys, and I, or Jeff and I can be found fairly early on at least a couple Saturday's a month at the local Waffle House down the street before we start our Saturday - day. Whether it is a Saturday filled with errands, or serving somewhere, or a Boy scout activity, or just work around the house, a Waffle House breakfast of our traditional favorites always starts the day off right. Awesome is our favorite waitress and as soon as she sees us come in she puts our order in and brings us coffee as we're sitting down. It's such a good thing.

Christmas Gift-giving: One Gift from Each Person. For years now, because Christmas shopping had gotten out of control, overwhelmed by the commercialism surrounding Christmas, and we wanted to instill in our kids the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season, and the reason we celebrate Christmas, we initiated the one gift from each person Christmas gift exchange. It meant for us more thoughtful and meaningful gift giving. Gifts that someone wanted and needed rather than filler or unnecessary gifts. It has truly made Christmas more liberating, fulfilling, and real celebration.

Tree Hunting. Another Christmas tradition is our annual tree hunt at Brewers Tree Farm in Midway, Georgia. Each year we set out on our chosen date for the 45 minute drive to the sprawling Brewers Tree Farm. Since the boys were about 4 years old we've hunted for a live Christmas tree. While it used to be a lengthy event, because the boys little legs couldn't move fast and cutting down the tree required many grunts and subtle help from dad, both boys with sweat running down their faces dragging the tree, now only takes us a half an hour, or so, to pick a tree, snap a few pictures, one of the boys runs the saw through the base a couple of times, with zero grunts, and the other boy picks the tree up hoisting it over his head and saunters leisurely toward the check out.

Serving together. Each Sunday morning we serve together as a family in the Children's ministry at our church. We each fill different roles but we all serve together. 

Annual Family Camping trips. Although we haven't been every year, we have camped enough years as a family that I'd categorize these events as a tradition. We started them when the girls still lived at home, but more often when the boys were older, and the girls had already left home. We've found some wonderful camping grounds and state parks filled with memories for a lifetime.


symmetry

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sym·me·try
/'simətrē/ noun
 1. the quality of being made up of exactly similar parts facing each other
These front steps have a line of symmetry through its center.
 
 2. correct or pleasing proportion of the parts of a thing
Building a new front porch with shorter steps to accommodate his wife's physical disabilities, a husband improves the symmetry of his wife's love language. 
 
Jeff has this habit of interjecting an out of left field comment, generally during a lull in the conversation. We call it shifting gears. Years ago, when we'd visit his mom and dad I figured out it is a learned trait. Yep, what do you know? He got it from his parents. He shifts gears in the conversation and I'm supposed to keep up with the new conversation, understand immediately where he's coming from, or going to, and be able to interject into that new conversation currently in progress. With a dog in the headlights look for a second or two - sometimes three - he'll realize he 'shifted gears', and like the other morning in the darkness before the dawn time of the morning, as we were getting ready for work, chatting, me on the computer, he preparing his lunch, getting coffee, after a lull in the conversation I looked up when he came in from outside, said, "they add symmetry - I like that!", I had that dog in the headlights look and he, dripping with laughing unabashed sarcasm said, 'what? you didn't just know what I meant?' WOMAN! Keep up! (The whole WOMAN thing is another funny story but, kinda, sorta, fits into this story).
 
Because of my rheumatoid arthritis and an assortment of other ailments climbing stairs is a chore at best...
 
Oh, wait! Did I shift gears too?
 
Au contraire.
 
When drawing up plans for new front steps a couple weeks ago, Jeff designed the front steps with a much shorter step. The shorter step meant I'd be able to step normal, one step after the other without having to use the railing to haul myself up, planting both feet on one step at a time. Now, except for the railings, the front steps are completed. 
 
When Jeff and I went to Lowes, the home improvement center, to pick up the remaining pieces to finish out the steps we picked up a package of two copper coated solar powered LED step lights. He attached the lights on the left side posts, one at the top of the steps and one at the bottom of the steps, temporarily. Temporarily, because he had to go back to Lowes, the home improvement center, for bottom fittings that I decided I loved and wanted. Heading to work each morning in the dark, the lighted steps would provide us a sure-footing. Unbeknownst to me, when Jeff returned to Lowes, the home improvement center, to pick up the last pieces to finish the steps (those bottom fittings I wanted) he picked up another package of copper coated solar powered LED step lights and attached them to the right side posts, one at the top of the steps and one at the bottom of the steps, permanently.
 
So, the other morning when we were getting ready for work and he came in from outside and said he liked the symmetry, after I shifted gears. And caught up, I secretly said, 'Yes!' Pumping my fist (to myself), because I was hoping he'd come up with it on his own and put up the other set of lights and really like it too - like I did. And the whole shorter steps to accommodate me is meeting one of my major love languages.
 
See.
 
Symmetry. 

our good life.

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Becky Higgins' tag line is Cultivating a Good LifeTM. While she may have trademarked the phrase, she has not cornered the market on a good life. But, she does have some really good advice on cultivating a good life - and I enjoy every bit of her blog and love the success she has garnered through Project Life.

So many pieces of our own lives all combine to make it a really good life. In this new blog series I'm going to share those pieces that make up our good life and how we've cultivated a really good life. Some of these ideas are super simple to implement, some take forththought and planning, some just require some follow-through and some have fallen into our laps. First up is:

Cultivate a good life by reading aloud to our kids.

I imagine pretty much every family can say they've regularly read to their kids when they are little, and even through grade school. But, somewhere along the time kids learn to read and they move into lengthy chapter books, and find their own niche reads, or favorite types of books to read, reading aloud to their kids pretty much stops.

For a lengthy season I used to read to the family out loud at the dinner table. John and Jarrod were probably between the ages of 4-7 and the girls from maybe 12-16 or so. We read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series as a family. I think my family will remember those times forever. Those times solidified my love of reading out loud, but,

then nothing.

When we began homeschooling our twin boys in the 7th grade the main curriculum we used included a large selection of read-a-louds and readers of historical nature, both of which became read-a-louds. This began one of the ways we have cultivated a good life over the past three and a half years. 7th grade moved into 8th grade and I continued reading aloud to my boys. The boys moved into high school and I read our way around the world. This year we are in American History and American Literature so we are reading some very interesting books.

Typically, we read in the morning, depending on their other studies, I grab at least one book, sometimes two, and even three books reading aloud at one time. John and Jarrod grab blankets and snuggle in on the couch or chair ready to listen intently. I will read one of the books on their list of American Literature list and I've compiled a lengthy list of American History readers of historical nature and I read aloud one, or two of those. Our reading time can take anywhere from 1-2 hours of time. I'm always dry mouthed and in need of water by the time we are done but I wouldn't change it for the world.

If you were to ask John and Jarrod what their favorite time of homeschool is I know without a doubt they would say our reading aloud time with Mom. But, you know what? I treasure this time also.

It's all about cultivating a really good life.