You Are Worthy!!!

If you have never heard about the Five Love Languages, then you absolutely HAVE to read the book.  Gary Chapman has done an excellent job explaining how people best receive and give love.

The five love languages that he describes are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.  They are all pretty self-explanatory.

You feel the most love based on how people show you love using your primary love language.  I found it very insightful to read because it shows how someone whose primary love language is Acts of Service may show love to their wife (whose primary love language is Quality Time) by getting her car serviced or washing the dishes or making the bed.  The problem is that since his wife’s primary love language is Quality Time, she spends most of her time hurt because her husband doesn’t spend any time with her.  She doesn’t even recognize that he is showing love the way that HE best feels loved.

I took the test years ago and recently took it again.  Both times I took the test it showed that I am pretty much an even split between two – Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation.

So basically to feel loved, I need my husband to hug me and tell me how wonderful I am!

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Feeling LOVED

The great part about my marriage is that I have found a man who is ALSO split between Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation, so it’s very easy for us to show our love for each other.  We were both previously with Acts of Service people, so although we try to do stuff for each other to show our love, at the end of the day we just want to hug and tell each other how much we appreciate each other.  It makes it very easy to understand what the other person needs when you know how they feel.

For people like us, the biggest punishment you can give is to withdraw physically (and for the record, physical touch encompasses ALL physical touch, it is NOT just about sex) and/or criticize us.  That’s why saying, “I appreciate you” is so important to us.

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We saw this couple at a concert up at North Hills recently… let’s hope their baby’s love language is not Quality Time or they will need to learn to put their phones down!!!

Yesterday in church I had such an overwhelming joy in my heart, even more than usual.   I realized that it was because my love languages are completely nurtured and my love tank is filled while in church.

Only in church do my children fight to be pressed right up next to me.  I couldn’t sit next to Joe because they both wanted to be able to lean on me.  Throughout the service they were holding my hands, playing with my rings, laying their heads on my shoulder, putting their arms around me.  Even while singing songs, they were touching me and hugging on me – which equates to me as “LOVING ME.”  Even Joe had his arm around the back of my son’s chair and he was rubbing my shoulder.  So my need for Physical Touch was getting absolutely filled.

Church is also the perfect place for someone whose primary love language is Words of Affirmation, because think about every sermon you hear???  HOPE, LOVE, GOD FILLING YOUR NEEDS, TRUST, DEPENDING ON HIM, etc.  Think about it… every church sermon (at least in our Methodist Church) is basically affirming that God is Good and that He will take care of us.  It’s the words spoken by the Pastor that say, “YOU ARE WORTHY.”

Joe and I had only been dating for a few weeks when he stopped by my office for one of his daily visits.  We had some serious discussions prior to the visit about how he felt a little “less than” in an area of his life that was a struggle for him.  It involved treatment of him by another person so there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him.  So right before he came for his visit, I wrote “You are worthy!!!” on a sticky note and stuck it on the side of my desk next to the chair where he sat whenever he came by.  It pretty much brought him to tears and he showed me that sticky note recently… he has kept it all this time!  Those three simple words affirmed him and made him know my love.

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Sticky notes have been a big part of our relationship – bathroom mirrors, overnight bags, kitchen counter, etc.

God knows our love language and so He knew that I was having a tough weekend this past weekend.  There have been some troubling situations in my life recently that have been hard on my heart.  Plus my children witnessed an interaction I had with someone over the weekend and actually asked me why I continued to be nice to someone who doesn’t want to be nice to me (a hard thing to hear your child ask you but a good learning lesson for them about how we should love everyone no matter what).  So I absolutely NEEDED to get my love tank filled yesterday.  My love thermometer was dangerously low due to the outside forces attacking me.

After getting my love tank filled up at church and then going to my step-daughter’s soccer game, I made my grocery list and went to work in the kitchen.  I poured a glass of wine and turned up the music and just CREATED.  I took a lot of pics and I will publish my creation on Thursday.  It was absolutely amazing and I know that I would not have had the emotional energy to even do what I love best if I had not gotten filled with love at church.

So go take the test!! It could really help you better understand what YOU NEED to feel loved and it can also help you to understand how your spouse shows and receives love.  It’s a great asset with children also because it can help you more effectively discipline them if you know their primary love language.  I try my best to understand all of my family and best friends’ love languages so that I can show them (like they NEED to be shown) how much I love them each and every day.

Worth the time to read...

Worth the time to read…

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Feeling Loved… Oh, and Here’s a Recipe.

Have I mentioned today just how much I love my husband?  My birthday was earlier this week and he gave me a new MacBook Pro to help facilitate my writing.

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I can’t tell you the joy I feel right this moment since I am sitting on my sun porch with my Snuggie around me (yes, I am a big girl and can admit that I am wearing a Snuggie!!!) with an Oceanside scented candle my sweet friend Leslie gave me and a glass of wine… typing this on my new laptop which is sitting atop my new cushioned lap board which my wonderful sister-in-law Renee gave me.

Do you see the trend?  I have encouragement from all of those around me who know that writing is my passion.  Joe even just turned off the television to come out on the porch and sit with me as I write.  The man is my rock.

Enough of the mushy talk.

Today in our office we held a luncheon to honor one of our attorneys who is leaving to go into private practice.  As with every luncheon we have, a sign up sheet is posted in the break room so that everyone can coordinate what they are bringing.  I am usually on the ball, with my dish on the sheet as soon as the pin is pushed through the paper to hold it to the bulletin board!  Not this time.

After I got home from work last night I was still at a loss as to what I should make.  After searching the pantry and the refrigerator and looking through all of my favorite cookbooks, I decided to make a wild rice chicken salad recipe that my mother gave me years ago that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC always makes to put in the box lunches for the Christmas Homes Tour.  Of course, Crawford and I had to run to the grocery store to get all of the items, but thankfully the recipe is very simple and easy to make so I was not up all night slaving away in the kitchen.

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The salad was a tremendous hit!! I always decide on the success of a dish by the amount of people who request the recipe… and there were a lot.  Even my daughter tasted it before school and asked me to put some aside for her to eat as her after school snack! YES, it is THAT good.

So here it is!!!  Enjoy on this Tasty Thursday!

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This is so easy and amazing… Just cook the box of wild rice by following the directions on the box and let the rice cool.  Add diced chicken to it (and admittedly, last night I used a large can of chicken breast in mine because I didn’t feel like taking the time to cook… people still LOVED IT!) and the water chestnuts.

In another bowl, mix the mayo, lemon juice and onion.  Then add the two together!!!!

Right before serving, add the grapes and nuts.

HEAVENLY!!!!  ALMOST as heavenly as the sandwich I had with my handsome husband and my sweet bonus babies the other day at a new restaurant in downtown Raleigh, Pogo.  I had the Hammy Sammy which is seared ham, collard greens with bacon and hoop cheese on a cornbread sandwich.  Yes, I’m serious.

It’s hard for me to even type that because it was SO AMAZING.  I can’t wait to go back… and it was only $7.50 with a side of sweet potato fries.

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YOU CAN’T GET MUCH MORE SOUTHERN THAN THAT!!!!

I’ve Got to RAZZLE DAZZLE Him…

My kids are at such a good age.  They love their independence, so I don’t have to feel like I always have to do a song and dance to keep them entertained.   Jazz hands are only saved for special occasions.

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Doing a little song and dance…

Thankfully my kids have always been self sufficient like that.  They FIND something to do and are happy.

My mother is always completely exhausted after having any grandkids stay with her for a night or two.  And not because she is old or anything… because she is young and gorgeous!!!

My Mom - aka "Dandy"

My Mom – aka “Dandy”

But she is exhausted because she feels like she is supposed to always entertain the kids.  She is constantly in their presence – playing games, taking them to the pool, going to the Dollar Store, watching kids shows, sitting with them while they play in a big bubble bath, and staying with them until they fall asleep.  It makes me exhausted just to think about!!!

It’s the RAZZLE DAZZLE… like in the musical Chicago.  She assumes they may get bored, which will make them sad, which will make them miss their mom and dad.  So she razzle dazzles them into being happy.

I thought that was one of the benefits of having older children???? NO MORE RAZZLE DAZZLE!

Just like everything in life though, times change.  People grow up.  Relationships begin and relationships end.  Divorce.  Remarriage.  Life. Death. New Babies in homes with older children.  Why do you think third and fourth children tend to be more independent and self-sufficient than those earlier in the birth line?  It’s because the parents are tired of doing the song and dance, so they just DON’T.

So now here I sit in a completely unexpected position.  I am remarried and my kids are very self-sufficient, but my stepkids, who have been with us for two weeks straight due to track out, left yesterday to spend two weeks with their mom.  Rather than the kids needing me to give them a song and dance, it’s someone completely unexpected who needs the RAZZLE DAZZLE……………………………….

Sweet, sensitive fella...

Sweet, sensitive fella…

I don’t think Joe has ever gone two weeks without his kids… ever.  It’s going to be a tough two weeks for that sweet man.

Joe’s love for his kids was clear from the moment we went on our first lunch “non-date” at Piper’s Tavern in early Spring 2012.  He made sure that I understood his deep love for his children and how heartbreaking it was for him to not be with them half of the time.  I can’t tell you how many times over the past year and a half I have heard him say, “I have NEVER been a 50 percent dad.”

And that is SO TRUE.   Since I reconnected with Joe I have continuously been impressed with the man that he is.  We waited about six months to introduce the kids to my kids and me.  They didn’t even know about me during that time because he spent his custodial time completely focused on his kids and I respected that.  That was tough on us because he has 50% custody.  He wanted to make sure they were emotionally ready before he introduced us into his nest.  That in and of itself is something you rarely see.  Most people are quick to jump feet first into a relationship and have all but moved in together in a month.  His priority was the kids.

Since his divorce, his main concern has been to keep daily contact with his kids even during the time when they are with their mom. I hope and pray all will go smoothly.  And even though we won’t have my stepkids for two weeks, we will still go to cross country meets and soccer games and do everything we can to continue to support them and shower them with love even though they are not with us.  But I know that I am going to need to do a lot of work to keep Joe’s mind off of the length of time away from the kids.  It’s going to be a struggle for him because he loves them so much, but hopefully they will have a wonderful time and we will be back to our normal schedule before we know it!

Until then I will do my RAZZLE DAZZLE and distract him from thinking about it.  The old bait and switch… I will do the same things to refocus him and distract him that I would do when the kids would get upset about something when they were little.

I will flash a shiny object and get him to, even for just a moment, forget about that apparent hole in his heart while they are not with us.

WISH ME LUCK!!!!!!

You Ask… I Deliver.

I am not one of those people who hoards recipes and shares with no one.  Not my thing.  If someone likes something I make, then I gladly share the recipe.  Hell, I’ve been known to share my entire personal cookbook when asked!

I posted on Facebook yesterday that I was spending the afternoon making my famous Brunswick Stew.  I had several friends request my tried and true recipe.  Then I took some to our monthly supper club last night and got more requests for my recipe… SO HERE IT GOES!  I can’t take total credit for this recipe because I did use a recipe the first time I made this, but it has changed so much over the years that it is completely mine now.

VAL’S BRUNSWICK STEW

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Very involved, but worth the time!

I personally like to start with two very important ingredients that you will not find on the recipe…  I pour myself a glass of wine and turn on my Bose speaker.  You just can’t possibly cook for five hours straight without these two ingredients.  A sous chef would help too to chop everything up, but if I can do it, then you can do it!

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1) Pour chicken stock into a Dutch oven.  Then, using a mesh strainer, pour canned lima beans and liquid through strainer into chicken stock.  Reserve the beans.  Process canned tomatoes and pour into Dutch Oven.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook (stirring often) for 40 minutes or until liquid is reduced by 1/3.

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2) Mash reserved beans with a potato masher.

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3) Add frozen beans…

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4) Dice potatoes and onions and add to lima beans.

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5)  I make my own barbecue the night before I make Brunswick Stew… everytime.  I like to add BBQ and I tried some stuff I bought at the grocery store once and it ruined my stew.  So I just take about a three pound pork tenderloin and put it in the crock pot with about half a bottle of Harris Teeter brand Eastern NC BBQ sauce (vinegar based).  Cook until you can shred up.

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I choose to get my chicken from a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because it’s much easier than cooking my own.

Add shredded chicken, BBQ, mashed & frozen beans, potatoes and onion to the Dutch Oven.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 3 hours and 30 minutes.

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6) Stir in corn and remaining ingredients.

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7) Cook over low heat, stirring often, for an additional hour.

This is truly a crowd-pleaser!!!  Every time I make it people go crazy over it and thankfully it makes so much that you can easily divide it in plastic bags and freeze to pull out some other time.  It’s an easy recipe, but it is time consuming because you have to be nearby the entire time.  It can be ruined quickly if allowed to stick, so I like to stir it every five minutes throughout the entire five hour process.

photo(3)Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!!!!

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FINISHED PRODUCT!!

Choose Your Own Life…

The alarm jolted me awake at 6:25am, but my body was just not ready to get up.  I reached over and hit the 9 minute snooze button and rolled back over right into the arms of my handsome husband.  We laid there silently embracing while I thought about the day ahead of me and listened to the rain outside.  The cloudy weather made it darker than normal in our bedroom which made it even more difficult to venture out of our warm cocoon.

It’s sad that at 6:25am when I had not even spoken aloud yet and my feet had not even touched the floor, I was already trying to figure out when I would be able to go back to bed.  I verbalized my thoughts to my husband, who laughed at me (while probably looking forward to getting back in bed with me too, but for other reasons).  Men…

I reluctantly fought my way out of the sheets and went to wake up my 13 year old son.  He had obviously had a restless night because his head was where his feet had been when he went to sleep.  He sat up and said, “I don’t feel so good.”   Not a great way to start the day.

My step-son was asleep in the other bed, so I whispered to my son to get up and shower and that it would make him feel better (yes, mothers always tell you that if you get up/shower/eat then you will feel better).

After rushing around to get ready and pack lunches, we were ready to head out the door to school promptly at 7:45am.   RAIN?  I was not expecting rain.  Obviously I was not expecting rain since my umbrella was IN my car and my car was in the driveway… in the rain.  We ran to the car trying to protect our “i-stuff” in the process.

Not even two blocks away we encountered a very long trailer that was having a hard time turning onto Glenwood from Anderson.  He had the intersection blocked and there were cars just sitting around everywhere.  I remember sitting there thinking that I had not even been awake for two hours and my day was already MISERABLE.

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Yes, that is the back of the truck that is basically scraping the telephone pole on the right…

After a lot of trouble and waiting and sitting in the carpool line, I was headed into work.  With my music playing, I tried to think about happy thoughts but was overcome with thinking about the difficulties I have been facing with a negative force in my life and I started just getting ANGRY.

By the time I parked my car I was just mad and tired.  And it was only 8am.

As I was walking to work from the parking garage, I heard a weird crack coming from the ground and I noticed my shoe felt strange.  I looked down and realized that my heel had broken.   So now I was tired, mad and wet with a broken heel.  It was almost more than my head could handle which made me feel like breaking something, well, other than my heel.

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In Joan & David’s defense, I have only had these shoes for EIGHTEEN YEARS!!!!!!! Gotta love well made shoes!

So thoughts were bombarding my brain as they so often do during that short walk from my car to my office.   It came to my mind that life is just like those books I used to enjoy reading when I was a child – the books where you got to choose which direction the story takes next.

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Our lives are our own “Choose Your Own Adventure” book!

I realized I was CHOOSING to allow these negative thoughts to take over.  I was choosing to allow a difficult morning to take happy time out of my life.  I was choosing to let a little bit of difficulty caused by an unhappy person to take my focus off the 99% of AMAZINGNESS I have in my life every single day.

I made up my mind at that moment that the gloves were coming off in regards to unhappy thoughts.  I was not going to give control to something that deserves NO control.  Negative people too.  DONE.

And it worked!  When Warren called me to pick him up from school because he couldn’t make it through the day, I was walking out the door for a birthday lunch with a friend.  Instead of my birthday lunch, I had to rush to the middle school to get my baby.  I could have been upset about missing my lunch date, but I focused on how thankful I am to have a job that allows me to just leave when necessary to care for my babies.

Anytime a negative thought tried to creep into my head (which let me tell you with some of the stupid in my life at times, it’s hard NOT to let it creep in) I replaced it with happy thoughts.  I thought about how blessed I am to have such a wonderful family.  I thought about how lucky I am to wake up every single morning next to a man with whom I am madly in love.  I thought about how much I love sharing soccer with my stepdaughter when I can and watching my son play basketball.

There are so many more happy thoughts than negative in my life, but it does often feel like the negative thoughts are so much heavier on the brain and heart.  So DON’T LET THEM IN!!!

This is also a great point for families in a divorce situation.  Too many parents focus on the one or two “bad things” their ex does rather than just trust in them to make the right decisions regarding the children.

Now don’t get me wrong, if your ex is doing something that is harmful to the children – getting drunk to the point of passing out with them around, leaving them alone at night to hit the bars/clubs, hurting them in any way physically or emotionally – then fight, fight fight for your kids.  If, however, your ex is just not doing things in her/his house like YOU would do, then replace the bad thoughts with good thoughts and MOVE ON.

I got a comment from a reader earlier this week about this very subject.  Here is a copy of her comment:

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As I said in a previous post, we can only control what we can control.  And we cannot control our ex.  And no matter how much we beg and plead to them to change something that we may not agree with, we are NO LONGER MARRIED.  So basically your viewpoint means nothing to him/her and you are wasting your breath.  As a matter of fact, he will probably fight you on it and do whatever it is more in an attempt to prove you wrong in some way.

IF YOU COULD AGREE ON EVERYTHING, THEN YOU WOULD STILL BE MARRIED.

I read a lot about this subject because it’s common for married parents to disagree about parenting issues.  AND THEY LOVE EACH OTHER!  So if you two are divorced, then you can’t expect to agree on things.  And the only time you have a right to get involved is when it is detrimental to your children.  And not that YOU BELIEVE it is detrimental to your children, but you have valid proof that it is indeed harming your kids in some way.  Unless you have that, then there is absolutely nothing you should do to try to change what happens at your ex’s house.  Because it’s pointless and it only makes you and everyone around you miserable.

I tell friends who are dealing with this the same thing EVERY TIME.  You have to CHOOSE how to deal with this and rather than trying to force your goals and views on your ex, choose to live the best life you can and be the best role model that you can in YOUR HOME.  You can control what happens in your own home and the beauty of it is that if your children are old enough, then they will be able to choose parts of each of you that they want to emulate as they mature.  They will see one parent who is living life in such a way that is not admirable and they will the see you living the best life you can and being a good role model.  Which one do you think they will want to emulate when they have children of their own??

EXACTLY.

And that’s what our goal has to be.  They may learn behavior at the other parent’s home that you will not allow in your home.  I can’t tell you how many times with four kids we say, “You won’t do that in OUR home” when they try to convince us that they should be able to do something since they do it at the other parent’s house.   If they are old enough, then they will be mad, but they will also think about why it is allowed at one home and not the other.   And hopefully they will learn something in the process.

It’s the same thing on the flipside too.  If you happily encourage your kids to love the other parent and encourage them to be a daily part of the other parent’s life even when they are with you, they will remember it when they grow older and respect you more for it.  As I have said in previous posts, the kids will remember which parent truly respected their love for the other parent.  It’s the parent who is not threatened by the child loving the other parent.  It’s the parent who is mature enough to know that the child has enough love to go around so they encourage the children to view themselves as having ONE LARGE FAMILY rather than separate lives with either parent.

So, choose your own adventure!  Choose to be happy!  And choose to always put the kids first!  That should be your new normal.  And you won’t have to even talk to your kids about it, because they will know what just feels right… and they will know who truly had their best interests at heart every step of the way.

THIS is how I choose to live my life... (20th class reunion last summer)

THIS is how I choose to live my life… (20th class reunion last summer)

 

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Update – After posting this blog this morning, I ran to the grocery store to get the ingredients to make my famous Brunswick Stew.  What I thought would be a quick trip to the grocery store took a lot longer than expected because there was a little old lady in front of me in line who wanted to run back and get some ice cream that was on sale.  Then she had a rain check item to talk about.  Then she used coupons.  Then she wrote a check.  The entire time she was just smiling and chatting with the young cashier and the young bagger (both looked like they were in high school).   She looked at me and apologized for taking so long and I smiled at her and said, “Not a problem.  Have a nice day.”

After she walked out, the cashier said, “I am SO sorry she took so long.  Thank you for your patience.”  She looked at me with a genuinely apologetic look.  I thought about my blog and I said, “I could choose to be in a rush and be angry, but who would that help?  It would have hurt her feelings, it would have made you unhappy and it would have just made me feel bad.  So I might as well be patient and enjoy my day.”  Both of them looked at me like I was crazy.  After a pregnant pause the young cashier said, “And it wouldn’t make it go any quicker.  I wish more people thought that way.”

She got it.

We smiled at each other and I told her to have a wonderful day.  I truly hope she does…

Fall in the South

There is just something about Fall in the South….

It’s the smell in the air when the weather is cool at night, but still scorching most days.  The kind of weather where you thinks it’s an awesome idea to wear your riding boots to work, but regret it terribly when your feet are on fire when you walk two blocks to lunch.

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It’s the sounds of college football and tailgating at the crack-o-dawn for an evening game – with mimosas, screwdrivers, sausage balls, low country boil – but then not making it to the game because you were “over-served” with booze or food, or both… WHO CARES?!?

I JUST LOVE FALL…. I mean, absolutely, hard core love love love it.  I know it can bring about those pesky welcome back to school lice and the ragweed is enough to make your head want to explode, but the absolute fantabulousness of the season completely outweighs the negative.

I know that a lot of people love fall for football and cool weather and changing leaves, but here are some special things about fall that are important to me.

Watching the Gamecocks play outside in my Jadeveon Clowney jersey!

Watching the Gamecocks play outside in my Jadeveon Clowney jersey!

I figured it was appropriate to choose my 7 favorite things since my favorite South Carolina Gamecock football player wears the #7 jersey!

1) Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks

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I love my extra hot Salted Caramel Mocha!

They’re back!!!!  Have you ever in your life wondered what it would taste like to melt a candy bar in a mug, spray whipped cream on top and sprinkle it with salt?

WONDER NO MORE.

I’m telling you this is the richest, most heavenly drink I have ever had in my entire life.  Sure, it may have more calories and fat grams than the USDA recommends for, well, like A LIFETIME… but HOLY HELL.  Worth every pound you pack on.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Starbucks sends me a “free drink” card for my birthday?  And it’s in September?  Nope.  They love me.

2) My Ever-changing Seasonal Wine Selection

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As the weather changes, so does my taste in wine.  I spend all spring and summer craving the crisp, light taste of my favorite St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc.  I CANNOT GET ENOUGH.

But as soon as the weather begins to cool at night, I want something with a little more weight… a little more substance.  I start craving a nice Chardonnay.  And let me tell you something!  After a whole summer of drinking Sauvignon Blanc or Prosecco, Chardonnay tastes like drinking butter.   Thick and creamy butter…  But it is thick and creamy butter that keeps me warm!

I may even take a chance and drink some Pinot Noir during the Fall.  It just feels right.

3) Fall Comfort Food

As if I need to remind you all, I LOVE FOOD.  There are some foods that just taste better in the Fall.  They fill your belly with all kinds of hot yumminess – which is why I think we wear so much clothes in the Winter.  It’s God’s way of apologizing to us for letting us eat so much good food that we gained 15 pounds in the Fall.  We then have to work our bottoms off (LITERALLY) all Spring to get ready for bathing suit weather!

These are two of my favorite dishes to cook and they compliment each other beautifully.  I have even combined the recipes and made a Black-eyed Pea and Collard soup (I personally think it was even better than what they sell at Whole Foods).  These two pots cooking are black-eyed peas with sausage and collard greens with ham hocks.

Just beginning to cook...

Just beginning to cook…

4) Tacky Yard Decor

It just would be Fall in the South without yard decor galore!!!  Hay stacks and pumpkins and Mums out the wazoo.  And if you are lucky enough, you can actually find Mums in the colors of your favorite football team!  Double points for that score!

It looks like Fall threw up in my car...

It looks like Fall threw up in my car…

In the South, we love a “vignette.”  It’s even just fun to say.  All around the inside of our homes we have vignettes – in the parlor, in the formal living room, in the formal dining room.  We love a little vignette.  During the Fall, we have a change to do small vignettes in our yard.  A little vignette of Fall around the light post out front, another little vignette by the back door.

5) Sun Porch Weather!!!!!

My sun porch is absolutely amazing.  For like two months a year.  Seriously, it is a great room – very relaxing and calming with a ton of windows that look out into the yard.  The problem is the sun porch has its own AC unit, which doesn’t work.  So the room is not functional for a majority of the year in North Carolina.  It could be useable in the winter, but the heat out there is electric and it does a MAJOR NUMBER on my power bill.

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Seriously, how could you NOT love this room???

I plan to enjoy the porch for the next month until it gets too cold to sit out there.  Tonight, my sweet husband even offered to bring the big screen TV onto the sun porch so I could enjoy three of my FAVORITE things – the sun porch, wine and football.

He sure does love me….

It’s also an amazing place to write.  Even in this large home, I have a hard time finding my quiet space.  But this porch has become a little piece of solitude for me.  And Lord knows I need some solitude every once in a while.   It seems like over the past month it has been ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER.

6) Camellias

A close sixth would be the flower that I literally squealed about when I drove up the driveway today.  CAMELLIAS!!!  I live in a sixty year old home with a yard FULL of magnolia trees, camellia bushes, and azaleas.  And every fall I get so excited about the camellias blooming.

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A pretty bloom in my driveway

Although the blooms don’t last long, they are still a POP of color that is fun to have inside the house.

7) HOT CHOCOLATE STANDS!!!!

All summer long we have lemonade stand after lemonade stand.  The girls make a killing because they wait until they know the men are leaving the golf course for the afternoon and they strike while it’s hot.  They have learned the art of negotiation and sales so that when a customer pulls up and asks how much it is for a cup of lemonade, they say, “You name your price.”  The person ends up giving them a LOT MORE than $.50!

But during the Fall, we like to get wrapped up in our warm clothes and UGGs and sell hot chocolate as the golfers are GOING to play golf.  I thought it was a questionable concept before we did it for the first time, but then I realized that it was really working for them!

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My daughter (on the right) and her best friend selling hot chocolate and cookies on a crisp, Fall day!

And if you click on the picture above, please notice my amazing fall vignette around the lamp post in the front yard… Yep, hay, pumpkins and mums!!!

So there you have it… my seven unconventional favorite things about Fall in the South.

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*** Edit – I have had some people email me regarding the recipes I use for my black-eyes peas and collards.  I have not found anything better than Emeril’s Smoked Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas.  ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! And some people are scared of collards because they think they stink up the house, but I use the Magnolia’s restaurant (in yummy Charleston, SC) collard green recipe.  I think it’s the vinegar or cooking them in chicken broth that makes them taste heavenly and they DO NOT stink up my house!  I highly recommend the Magnolia’s cookbook also…

Hot Topic Tuesday – When did the switch flip?

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This is a tough question for me because it really makes me look back at and analyze my past behavior.  Who likes to do that?  I am not perfect, nor have I ever claimed to be.  My answer to this question may be more honest and forthright than I am comfortable with admitting.

When we got divorced, I had a very hard time separating my feelings from my behavior.  Although I was the one who left, I still had glimmers of hope that he would fight for the kids and me.  I would dream about him showing up at the front door like a character in a Nicholas Sparks novel and “make things right again.”  That never happened.

Obviously, we didn’t get along.  If we HAD been able to get along, then maybe we would have stayed together.  Although we didn’t get along, I think we were always child-centric on certain things.  I believe the small child-centric things we did are just common sense, but it seems that most people who are newly divorced do not do these simple little things..

When we moved into our new house, the first thing my ex did when he brought the kids home was to let them give him a tour of the house.  He spent time looking at their rooms and swinging in the backyard.  So immediately they were comfortable in their new home because Daddy approved.  He may not have supported my new home, but he came and showed his solidarity because it was in the best interest of our kids.

We were also always good about sitting next to each other (or at least very near each other) at events so that the kids would not have to divide their attentions.  It would also prevent the other child from having to choose which parents to sit with which would only cause the kids anxiety.

The kids have pretty much always had one birthday party too.  One of us would have the party and the other parent would come.  Again, common sense.  Kids only have one birthday, so why have more than one party unless the priority is the comfort of the parents and not the child with the birthday.

With that being said, even through all of that I do not believe I was truly child-centric.  We just did what was right in front of the kids, but my heart was ANGRY.  I was mad that my ex called the house multiple times a day to talk to the kids.  I felt like he was imposing on MY custodial time (although they were with me all week, every week).  THAT was me being selfish and wanting to punish him for not coming to bring us home.  I didn’t give him extra time because I was afraid he would someday use it against me like I didn’t want the kids.  I printed out every email for years and argued about everything I could argue with him about – haircuts, money, his girlfriend, etc.

I would still cry every single time I dropped the kids off at his house (our former marital residence).  Even after he remarried, I would cry when I pulled out of the driveway.  It was like my life had moved on without me and I had to see what it looked like.  I would see my kids with my ex and his wife and my dog and I would feel REPLACED.  That was a miserable feeling that I think that most first wives can understand.  And not only would I feel replaced, but it would make me acutely aware of how alone I was.

It was not until my ex and his wife bought their current home that I truly felt like it was no longer about me.  They bought a log home out on a farm in the country and my kids wanted me to come see their new home.  I called my mom en route to the house and told her what I was doing and she said, “WHAT are you thinking??? You know that will only upset you!”  She was right… I knew that it would upset me, but I knew it would upset my kids even more if I did not show interest in their new home.

I drove up the long gravel driveway and let the kids walk me all around the house and the pool and the gardens.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Their rooms were cute and well decorated and even though some of my old furniture was in the home, it didn’t feel at all like it was mine anymore.  I hugged my kids good-bye and I got in my car to drive out the long driveway.

I remember thinking, “Here we go… the tears will come now,” as I pulled away.  Instead, I realized that I had a huge smile on my face.  I was seriously grinning from ear to ear.  It was in that moment that I realized that I could never in my life be happy living out there, no matter how beautiful it all was.  I am a city girl and I would have been miserable for the rest of my life.  At the same time I recognized that my ex finally had everything he had always wanted…

In that moment, the switch flipped.  I knew that he was where he needed to be and I was where I needed to be…

AND I WAS HAPPY FOR HIM.

From that point on, I never thought any more about custodial times and schedules and questioning his intentions.  If I needed a night to myself, I would ask him if the kids could stay.  No trades, no calendar negotiations.  We just did it.  I tried to establish a friendship with my ex’s wife, which has been positive since that time.  We are even friends on Facebook!  I would have never dreamed of that back when I thought he was “out to get me.”  We always try to sit together at games and during football season we would even all go out to eat together after the games.  I would ask the kids if they had talked to their dad and have them call if they had not.

After that point, I think life improved for all of us.  And I know in my heart it is because I stopped thinking about how all of this was affecting me and I stopped protecting what I considered to be MINE.  We started living life as one family all in support of and focused upon those amazing children.

And the kids are better for it too.  There is no playing one parent off the other in our family.  It used to be that the kids would tell me something about what happened at dad’s house and I would automatically believe the kids at their word.  Now I pick up the phone and call their dad, because most of the time they are trying to pull something over on us.

We may not be married, but we have a successful business partnership… and our business is making sure our kids grow up to be happy and healthy.  There can still be stability in a family, even if the family resides in two separate homes.  We are proof of that.

Even at the Orthodontist’s Office…

Yes, it’s official… I started writing my first novel last week.  I had no idea just how much fun writing a novel could be!

Ever since I was a child, I felt the calling to write.  It is especially fun to write this blog because I am so passionate about the blending of families.  Because of that passion, I have always just assumed that I would write a non-fiction book about getting divorced “the right way.”  I did not think that I would be writing a seductive thriller… but here I am!

Instead of writing about how NOT to screw up your kids through the divorce process, I am writing a novel of intrigue and temptation and murder.  I would have never believed it…

Writing a novel has given me an escape when things are tough around our sometimes chaotic house.  I have found that rather than worrying about the drama of the day on my way home from work, I am calculating the next chapter in my book.  I’m asking questions of the characters and trying to truly understand their motives and their beliefs.  What is it that my main character is passionate about and to what lengths will she go to achieve her goals?

Interestingly enough, those same questions come up when I am talking to people about divorce and co-parenting.

This morning I took my handsome son to the orthodontist to get his braces put on.  When they were done, Warren went to the car and I texted with his dad regarding the bill.   Since we split the orthodontist bills 50/50, I wanted to make sure we agreed on the downpayment and monthly payment before I committed to anything.  He was on a call, so I sat there chatting with the receptionist.

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All smiles before the pain kicked in…

My phone rang and I answered and we discussed the money specifics and decided which way we wanted to go.  We laughed about Warren’s metal mouth and I promised to send a picture when I got out to the car.  When I hung up the phone, the receptionist was staring at me with a funny look.  She said, “It is really great that you two can work together like that for your kids.  That seemed easy and pleasant.  How do you do it?”

As I always do, I quickly told her that we had nine years of water under our bridge, so THAT made it easy.  I then proceeded to tell her that we are great business partners when it comes to raising our kids and that as long as the kids are always the priority, then everything else seems to fall into place.

She told me that she had seen a lot of people who were just not capable of that.  I agreed and we then spent a few minutes telling our own horror stories.  And interestingly enough, the same kinds of questions I ask of my characters in my novel I found myself asking about an angry ex.  What are her motives in being so difficult?  To what length will he go to get the kids to believe his vindictive agenda?  She and I both agreed (yes, standing in the orthodontist’s office) that too many parents are driven by their own needs, wants and boundary issues, so they fail to see what damage they are doing to their own children.

The receptionist seemed fascinated with the depth of knowledge I had from both sides, so I told her about my blog and how this is such a passion of mine.  She had a look that kind of said, “Boy, I could use some help…”  I wished her luck and headed out with my mind spinning a million miles per hour.

That little happenstance conversation made me realize that I still need to spend the time to write my blended family book as well.  There are people EVERYWHERE who need guidance on how to “divorce well.”  The humorous part of that is I barely have time to even breathe with four kids at home and a husband.  So I have no idea how I could write a non-fiction and a novel at the same time.  One will most likely have to wait, but the fires are burning inside me to write, so who am I to put them out??????

It Tastes Like a Cinnamon Roll Casserole…

I love a birthday!!! My friends know that I have never just celebrated my birthDAY… but I celebrate my birthWEEK and my birthMONTH.  September is the MONTH OF VAL... I don’t just do this for myself, but I also like to celebrate birthdays (and even half-birthdays) of those I love.

One of my favorite things to do is to have a fun breakfast celebration on the morning of the birthday.  My kids still joke about the time I learned that you shouldn’t stick birthday candles in hot pancakes or you will have to pick wax all out of your pancakes!

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I have always had an affinity for cheese danishes.  You know, the delicate little pastries that you find most often at breakfast buffets in hotels?  They don’t need to be a fancy variety – no strawberries or chocolate – just a plain cheese danish.

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I crave them at times and my co-workers laugh at me.  I mean, we have a BAKERY in the bottom of our office building and they don’t have cheese danishes?!?!?  SO NOT COOL.

This obsession with cheese danishes goes way back for me.  I will never forget the one AWFUL time that I decided to buy a cheese danish wrapped nicely in plastic from a gas station on my drive back from Athens, Georgia.  I was 17 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday.  I bit into the danish and the cheese actually crumbled like powdered cheese in my mouth.  I almost threw up in my car.

Thankfully, I have grown past that moment and appreciate more than ever a truly YUMMY cheese danish.

For Crawford’s birthday celebration last year I decided to try another Pinterest recipe.  I admittedly had selfish motives because it sounded so heavenly that I couldn’t wait to try it.  It was a wild success with the kids at the sleepover and it was a wild success in my office when I made one and took it to work.

The girls at the sleepover said it tasted like a cinnamon roll in a casserole dish.  I think that’s a pretty fabulous description.  Add a little fruit on the side and some bacon and you have a great (and easy) breakfast to try this weekend!

ENJOY!!!!

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Sopapilla Cheesecake

Ingredients:
-2 cans pillsbury butter crescent rolls
-2 (8oz) packages cream cheese (softened)
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1/4 cup butter (melted)
-Cinnamon & sugar

Instructions:
Unroll and spread 1 can crescent rolls on bottom of un-greased pan. Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla. Spread mixture over crescent rolls. Unroll and spread remaining crescent rolls over mixture. Spread melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

This is HOME.

It has been a tough week for me… and I AM TIRED.  And it’s only Wednesday.  I think we all experience these back to school blues to an extent.  We crave the structure and routine that starting school brings, but it takes a few weeks to really get back in the swing of it all.

 

Considering it is “Hump Day” (which by the way, if you have not seen the Hump Day Geico commercial above, you have GOT to see it to get a laugh), I thought it appropriate to write about the lows and highs of my week thus far.  The ups AND the downs…

This week definitely started out with a low.  TWO WORDS – head lice.   My sweet daughter had her obligatory case of “welcome back to school” head lice.  My heart again goes out to her stepmom because it was once again discovered while she was at her dad’s house for the weekend, so I only had to deal with the stuff at our house and not the actual creepy crawlies…

So my weekend was spent washing sheets and pillowcases, bagging up stuffed animals from her bed, boiling brushes, etc.  Thankfully I am very OCD when it comes to sharing any kind of hair stuff (since this has become the norm once a year in our house) so it appears for now that the rest of us are clean.

But WHAT IS IT ABOUT LICE that make everyone itch like crazy just talking about them?????  I have not stopped itching since she made the call to me to tell me that they had found a bug.  BLAHHHHHHHHH… We were sitting up at North Hills watching a Johnny Cash Tribute Band when she called me and my friends who were with us can tell you that I went downhill FAST.  I hate that I have such a weak stomach that the mere discussion of lice made us have to cut our night short.

And then we had to send the dreaded text to Joe’s ex to make sure everyone there was clean, which they thankfully were.  Then I had to call her best friends’ moms and tell them so they could check their girls (always a FUN call to make) and email the teacher so she could send a letter home with everyone.  I also had to go to Ulta and buy some lice repellant shampoo.  Hey, ANYTHING like that is worth a try!!!!

With that being said, it infuriates me that obviously she got it from somewhere and if other parents knew their child had lice and didn’t report it, then it is just NOT OK.  Checking their hair is not something I do daily, but apparently I need to make it a part of my routine.  Thankfully, it appears we have it taken care of… and I will re-treat her hair on Friday and continue to check her hair daily.

On Monday, my son had to go to the dentist and have four permanent teeth extracted so that he can get his braces put on next week.  He has my teeth (bless his sweet heart) and since his teeth are so big his poor mouth just can’t hold them all!  I had a headache all day Monday worrying about his anxiety over going to the dentist.  It’s hard to know that our children are upset and know that there really is nothing that we can do about it.

I had to miss work on Tuesday because he was so swollen and still had quite a bit of pain when he woke up (not to mention the bloody mess he left behind on his pillow).  Right before he went to bed on Monday he also pulled his final baby molar out – so he lost FIVE TEETH!!!  That is a crazy amount of teeth to lose in one day.

I found myself feeling bad for being so concerned with my daughter’s head lice and my son’s teeth since the daughter of one of my best friends from growing up was in an accident this past weekend and fractured her skull.  Worrying about lice when your friend is worrying that her daughter won’t wake up makes you feel quite silly.

Please please please warn your children that they can get hurt for their inattention.  Children these days are so glued to their phones that they can find them in the hospital just like my friend’s daughter.  She was on a golf cart and was looking at her phone.  I assume the driver made a sudden move that she was unprepared for and she fell out head first and fractured her skull.  Thank the Lord her prognosis is good now and she is recovering, but with any brain injury it will be a long road ahead for them all.

There have been some high notes in my week as well and I need to remember Philippians 4:8 (the verse read at our wedding day four months ago today), “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Rather than be consumed with head lice and dry socket I need to think about all of the good we have had happen this week.

My mother came to visit yesterday which was a major bright spot in the week!!!  She came to town and walked my daughter home from school and went with us to piano practice while Joe went to my step-daughter’s choral performance.  We then did a girls only dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant (think, “where everybody knows your name….”).  We love it there because the sushi is good and they know what we want without us having to order.

After dinner, my daughter went to her room to do her homework and mom, Joe and I sat on the sun porch (my favorite room in the house) and drank wine and laughed for hours.  It was so refreshing to have her here.  I often wish that we lived close again.  When I lived in Greenville it was so nice to be able to drive across town for a quick dinner with my parents.  It’s important to me that my kids spend as much time with their grandparents as they can.  They are blessed with many wonderful grandparents and they can learn so much from each one of them.

Our kids are each a blessing in their own way also.  I am amazed every day by all four of them.  My son is such a loyal and honest young man.  I am so proud of his dedication to working out two hours a day, while making sure to finish his homework first.  It blows my mind that we don’t have to hang over him to make sure he does what he is supposed to do.  He does it because he is supposed to.  My step-son is such a kind-hearted soul.  He wants everyone to be happy and he tries to make sure that he doesn’t do anything to cause anyone to be unhappy.  He’s so extremely talented as well.  He has just recently started playing the piano at my house and I am so impressed by his amazing talent.   My daughter is so crazy tall and athletic.  She can truly excel at any sport that she puts her mind to and really seems to enjoy it.  She is also a talented piano player and is loved by everyone in her class.  She impresses me with her strength and her ability to ignore negativity thrown her way.  That will be a huge asset as she grows into a teenager.  Finally, my sweet step-daughter.  She is so focused when it comes to her homework.  It’s so nice to have a child who sits to do her work and just knocks it out without having to be put back on task.  She is very talented at singing and seems to get better all the time.  She is a definite leader and will no doubt do great things as an adult.  She will MAKE things happen.

And the biggest blessing of all to me is my handsome husband Joe.  He works so hard in every way to make me a priority and is quick to jump to my defense in any situation.  He is also my biggest cheerleader and he encourages me to do what I love – write a novel, coach soccer, spend time with my friends and family.

I have to keep my focus on him whenever I have a week like I have had.  He is my North Star.  He is my home.

When we started dating we marveled at how often the idea of “home” would come up – in church, on the radio, through Joe’s stepdad in his advanced Parkinson’s disease.  Because we grew up in the same hometown, we couldn’t ignore the fact that we had the same home. Greenville, NC was “home.”

But we quickly realized that the “home” we were hearing about went much deeper than our hometown.  Our “home” is together.  It’s no coincidence that we both wept a little when the offering song at church this past Sunday was, “This is Home.”  We know where we belong… and I am so thankful to have him as my HOME.

“And I got my heart set on what happens next
I’ve got my eyes wide, it’s not over yet
We are miracles
And we’re not alone

Yeah, this is home
Now I’m finally where I belong, where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I’ve been searching for a place of my own
Now I’ve found it, maybe, this is home
Yeah, this is home”

– Switchfoot