Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Joy Revival

This blog of mine has sat abandoned for over a year now. Husband, two children, work, selling and building a house, and two moves later...here I am. Honestly, I don't really have any intention of blogging again any time soon, but I recently planned an event and thought this was the best place to share more about it.  I had been vaguely sharing on Instagram (@amandabricknell) and on Facebook, and wanted to give an update, but this felt like a better place to share in more detail than IG or FB. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned, but there were so many wonderful people who rallied with me, I really wanted to give them credit for their talent and generosity, despite the outcome.

If you're new to my life, let me start by giving some backstory:

I lost my mother, a non-smoker, to lung cancer just over two years ago on September 19, 2014, just nine months after her diagnosis. I had a 2-year-old and was seven months pregnant at the time. As Mother's Day 2015 quickly approached, I was feeling sad of course, but also nervous and anxious about how I would feel and if I would be able to enjoy the day with my own children and the blessings they are to me. That first Mother's Day without my mother was not something I was looking forward to.

Then, I received a message from a photographer friend of mine, Jessica Raney of Raney Day Photography, recognizing how many friends she had who had lost their mothers too soon and how difficult this day must be. She had decided last minute that she would like to host an event for women who have lost their moms, and asked if I would like to be a part of it. There were five of us that year, and Jessica arranged hair and makeup, a photo shoot at Edmonds Beach and we were treated to dinner. King 5 News featured a story, I was interviewed by Rachel Belle on 97.3 KIRO radio, and the story and photos were published on the wedding website Lover.ly. Jessica wanted to bless us, but she also desired for her idea to catch and spread. She wanted others to host similar events so more people could be blessed.
Raney Day Photography
Raney Day Photography
To say that was a blessing to me would be an understatement! I was able to grieve with four other women I met just that day, and connect with them just the way I needed to. I left feeling loved and celebrated and was able to get the grieving "out of the way" before Mother's Day, so I could spend the day with my family the way my mom would have wanted me to; happy and with a full heart! That first year was extremely helpful in my grieving process, last year was fun, but this year felt different. 

I decided to pay it forward to other women who may be grieving this Mother's Day and I decided to call it "The Joy Revival". I wanted a name that embodied the meaning of an event centered around grief. Grief is different for everyone, but for me it never goes away but changes over the years. It can be very difficult to find joy in the early stages of grief, but it is there, and it gets easier for joy to take the driver's seat over the years. However, on a day like Mother's Day, it can be easy for grief to creep back into the spotlight, for someone who has lost a mother or a child. A day that becomes front and center for at least a month, on t.v., the radio, in all stores, in magazines, on social media...we are bombarded with how special and joyful this day should be and how we are "supposed" to celebrate. But it's not that joyful for everyone. I wanted to create an event that brought grieving women together to be pampered, to dine together, to share their grief and not suppress it, to help joy take the spotlight again, even if for just an afternoon.  To bless others just as Jessica blessed me two years ago.

The Joy Revival began as a way for me to bless women who had lost a mom, something I understand deeply. However as women were sent my way to be invited, it turned into an event for women who had lost a child, a pain my heart can't begin to comprehend. Organically, The Joy Revival became a way for me to bless women dealing with a pain I pray to never experience.

As I reached out to local vendors, I was blown away with their generosity and eagerness to help. This was not "my event", this was an event that never would have come together if it were not for others rallying with me and beside me. I will list them all below, but first I want to explain why the event never actually took place. 

I had four women confirmed, and everything lined up to perfectly come together on May 21st, and we were even blessed with perfect weather, a nice surprise for a May in the Pacific Northwest! The morning of the event, I received a message from one of the ladies saying she woke up sick and wouldn't be coming. Then I received another message from a guest saying she had a migraine, still wanted to come, and was hoping she could ride with another guest. As I was opening up my email to coordinated a ride, I saw an email had just come in from one of the women attending with a friend. Her dad passed away that morning and she was going to be with her and (understandably) neither of them would be coming. Both of these ladies have recently lost children to cancer.

I was shocked. My first thoughts were for this gal who woke up excited to attend an event with other women who understand her pain of losing a child, to discovering her dad had passed. I was messaging with her that morning and we were looking forward to meeting each other. My heart was hurting for her so deeply, but I quickly remembered I had volunteers who would begin arriving shortly and I had to call everything off. The phone calls began and, of course, everyone understood.
There have been a lot of emotions floating around me. As I try my best to do, and with everything in life, there is a lesson to be learned. This event coming together so beautifully reminded me that there are so many amazing people all around us, wanting an opportunity to do great things for others. Every act of kindness, big or "small", is a GREAT thing! 
All the planning in the world can't prepare us for life's obstacles. Life happens and unfortunately it's not always happy and pretty. This was a huge learning opportunity for me, and something I am continuously working on. We don't always have a say in the things that happen in our life, as much as we like to think we're in control. Although I might not always understand God's purpose in certain situations, I do understand his purpose for my life: to love Him, love others, to trust He knows more than I ever will, and only He can see the ending. 
So we gave away the flowers to the assisted living home down the road, gave away half of the food and dessert to the owner of Simple Goodness Farm (who was hosting dinner after a memorial service that night), and I will be sending the donated gifts to the guests.
My sister Natalie leaving the flowers and a note at The Heritage House.
Here are the people that made The Joy Revival possible. I know they didn't agree to be a part of this for the purpose of recognition, but I would love to give them credit for their huge hearts, their amazing talents, and for taking their time to bless others:
Venue: Venise with Simple Goodness Farm
Food: Michelle and Eric with EJ's Custom Catering
Drinks: Belinda with Happy Camper Cocktail Co.
Gin for the cocktails: Heritage Distilling Co. (I love their reply to me, "here at HDC, we have a saying, 'every spirit has a story', and we'd love to be a part of yours". They are also a sponsor of the Mariners and are the top-rated distillery in North America!)
Decor: Marion with Sweet Style Merchant
Flowers: Danielle with Dandy Flower Co.
Hair: Staci Knight of Azarra Salon
Makeup: Aja Erickson and Taylor Cura
Photography: Kris Josue
Chalkboard signs: Julianne with Something to Chalk About
Aromatherapy: Lauren with Harper Apothecary
Noonday Collection bracelets: Me :)
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! 

And for those of you reading this, I ask that you consider supporting them. They all offer a great service, and I believe they are deserving of your business. So if you have an upcoming event or need to buy some gifts, will you start your search here?
As I've had time to reflect since May 21st, I've realized The Joy Revival ended up paralleling life. It ended too soon, just like the lives of the ones we love and miss. We can look back and be grateful, see the beauty in every step along the way, and be thankful for the lives it connected and blessed along the way.  The signs from Something to Chalk About are a perfect reminder that life is hard, but "Still, I Rise", and I hope that can bring encouragement to you as well.
Photo by Simple Goodness Farm

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Need-to Vs.Want-to

Today is a day off of work for me, so I get to be home with the kiddos! It's currently nap time, and I'm wrestling between the "need-to's", "want-to's" and "should-do's". I've decided to take this time with both kiddos quiet to share what's been on my mind in regard to Momster Mash. 

I LOVE this blog and the community that we've been building. I have said it before, and I 'll say it a thousand times more...I adore getting to know each Momster of the Month, and sharing her story with you. I have seen the way this platform for mommies has encouraged so many, through so many different emotions, life events, and more. 

While I was home on maternity leave, I had the time pour back into Momster Mash once again. I dreamed up giant visions for what this little blog could continue to grow into, and excitedly began taking steps in the direction I dream (and know!) this blog could go. I made phone calls, I sent emails, I brainstormed with anyone who would listen. I set deadlines, I worked ahead, my excitement continued to grow to keep up with my dreams. 

And the doors keep closing...

I'm not one to give up easily. Shoot, I've been working on slowly growing this blog for the past few years! However, my recent roadblocks have me reconsidering my dreams of this blog at the moment...NOT forever, just at this time.  I want to be very clear, I do not want to stop blogging, interviewing moms, sharing stories with you, or staying connected on Facebook. However, I do feel that at this time, I need to step back and take a break from the commitment. Until blogging can pay our bills, I have to keep my priorities in check. I felt I had plenty of time to devote to Momster Mash (a "want-to"), without cutting into my "have-to's".

And then I went back to work...

I returned to work for a new office, very close to home, with the perfect hours. Unfortunately, this perfectly perceived situation took a turn for the worse when my daughter got lice from childcare and I had no choice but to miss work.  I'll spare you the frustrating details, but I also had no choice but to find new employment. As much as I can see of hindsight at this moment, it seems like it was for the best. My work schedule is very up in the air and all over the place right now; I might work 1 day a week, or I might work 4 days a week. Hubby is also currently on an unpredictable schedule, taking him out of town often. 

And then the roadblocks kept popping up...

Like I said, I'm not one to give up, but with the hectic and uncertain work schedule (and did I mention constant childcare arrangement issues?), I just didn't have the time or energy to devote to getting these roadblocks cleared. I have had Momsters not return their interview to me. I reached out to 4 local business with either no response or no follow through on what was said would be done. I just don't have the time needed, and desired, to address these roadblocks and make my dreams for Momster Mash a reality. 

I came to the realization that I was thinking so much about Momster Mash, and trying to work on my goals for what Momster Mash could be, it was becoming a distraction from what's most important to me in all the world, being a mommy! I sat down and prioritized my life on paper, and Momster Mash just has to take a back seat. Here are some examples:

"Need-to" Priorities: 
  • Work
  • Pay bills
  • Arrange childcare
  • Commute 
"Want-to" Priorities:
  • Wife
  • Mommy
  • Playing and cuddling with my children
  • Outings and play dates on my days off work
  • Household duties such as groceries, cooking meals, cleaning, laundry, etc...These are mostly "want-to's", anyway, cleaning floors is not a favorite of mine! :)
"Want-to's" (when I have the time-to's):
  • Nap (only because both kids have been sick and I've been getting almost no sleep)
  • Barre class or at least a consistent work out routine
  • Read 
  • Pedicure (embarrassingly overdue!)
I have regretfully and prayerfully decided to take a hiatus from Momster Mash, at least in the capacity that it is currently, and with the direction I would like it to go. I will longer be interviewing moms on a regular basis, or posting each week. I will still manage the Facebook page and would love to see that community continue to grow. I will also still share on the blog from time-to-time, but I had to free myself of the deadlines for the time being. Please know ho very much I appreciate each and every one of you! Thank you so much for the words of encouragement, support of my writing and the direction of the blog, and for all of the sharing and connecting.

My dream for Momster Mash was to create a "village". To help mommyhood feel less isolating, by connecting and sharing and empowering and encouraging moms from all walks of life. I have not closed the book on Momster Mash, but instead, think about it like I'm simply placing a bookmark within the perfect place to pause, carry on with other things of this life, and to return again when the time is right to finish the story.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 3

Catch up here:
Part 1
Part 2

Hello again, and happy Momster Monday! When we left off last week, Suzy shared so much with us about her son Simon, and a glimpse into what their days entail with raising a child with autism. To continue on with Autism Awareness Month, I asked Suzy to share more about the organization Better Together, which she created with the help of other moms just over two years ago. Suzy explains: "I had the idea rolling in my head for at least a year. When I was in the waiting room at a therapy session, I sat there getting to know the moms. This was the first time I really connected with other autism moms in a social way, and I told them I had this idea to create a club of sorts...because my son wasn't able to do the things his brothers did, and I wanted that for him...even if I had to create it."

Suzy says that Better Together is a name she "dreamt up" a year before she found a real purpose and meaning for what it would look like, "we were better when we got together". Suzy describes the early days of Better Together, "our kids played all that summer. We did great things, more than just play dates. We focused on the skills our kids lacked and needed to practice."

Since those early days, this original group has changed and grown a lot. Suzy explains, "I found another great mom that was very knowledgeable and had been an autism mom longer than me. We just clicked and our goals were the same. We built projects and webpages and activities so quickly because we wanted to see these things in place for our kids. Soon, we found that the parents were benefiting just as much from being 'better' together as our kids did from the social activities. Our support system online grew and became a constant hotline of sorts...a place to find answers from other parents locally."

What sort of activities is Better Together providing? They have special activities for teens, socials and coffee events for the parents, and the parents offer up their talents for activities such as guitar lessons or craft nights. They also have outings within the community in order to practice dealing with sensory struggles alongside one another. 

This growing local community has "made a world of difference" for Suzy. "It's such a positive place to share knowledge with each other as well as just be there for the hard times. I can't imagine my life without these wonderful families.

The website is BetterTogetherTC.com and serves as a resource to give families access to up-to-date resources in the Tri-Cities, WA area. The website also provides a step-by-step guide for parents who may be new to the world of autism, and Suzy says that they are wanting to get this out to the medical professionals, "so that our families can feel more empowered early on with steps they need to take with their child."

"The best thing about Better Together", says Suzy, "is that we are a parent-run program. We know our community. We know what we need and we try to empower parents to create those opportunities for their kids, if it's not already out there in the community. We don't have time to wait, our kids needs us now."

Suzy, what can we do during Autism Awareness Month (and always) to help bring awareness and support to this community? 
"Ask about autism, be curious, and learn what it means for us to have a child with autism. Learn what it means to be an adult with autism. Listen, even if you don't fully understand. See that parent that needs encouragement to keep bringing her child out...to church, to the library, to the park. Support local causes that are trying to make a real change to bring quality of life for our autism community for the long term. Just be aware that this community shines brightly. All you have to do is want to see it. We are proud of our children, and we want a chance to brag about them too. I only know my own story. There are so many different families that have struggles I only read about. Some are harder stories, some are very brave, sleep-deprived families out there doing the best they can...be kind to them. Be aware that the hidden disabilities are hard to explain and so often we just don't say anything. So remember just to be kind and patient with people out there in the world...some of us are literally just hanging in there, doing the best we can."

What advice, or words of encouragement does Suzy have to offer mothers who may be raising a child with autism?
"It's not easy news at first. Grieve. Allow yourself time to feel that. Some dreams will have to change, but then see the blessings that this child is. You have to accept autism first, though, it's part of them. They see the world differently; it can be almost magical. I love many things about the autism that is a part of my son. some is hard and I don't love...allow yourself to be sad. It will come up again at new stages...seeing the kinders go to school brought it back for me...but only a little. My beautiful, joyful son is here and I'm happy to be his mom. Know that life will be a new normal, and you can be happy."

For resources, of course Suzy recommends Better Together website, and Better Together can also be found on Facebook - just search "Better Together an autism social learning club".

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 1

Instead of waiting for Momster Monday, I've decided to introduce you to the MOM for April today...and there's a reason why. April is Autism Awareness Month and today is World Autism Awareness Day. Today, I'm introducing you to Suzy Higley, who has a son with Autism.  
Suzy is 40-years-old, mom to 3 boys, from my small little hometown of Othello, Washington and she met her husband in 6th grade!
"I met my husband John for the first time in 6th grade. He was annoying and adorable. We were sweethearts in Junior High until I broke his heart on Valentine's Day! Then 3 long years later we reconnected when I got nerve enough to ask him to a dance. We were together ever since...engaged at 19, married at 20. College together. Kids. House. Now we will celebrate 20 really wonderful years married this July 1st."
Suzy and John have 3 sons: Josh, Nathan and Simon. Her oldest son Josh is 16, and suffers from anxiety, depression and ADD. "Something that I wish I had known more about in his early years. It's been a hard transition for him into his teen years, but we are working through it with help from his doctors", she says. 

Nathan is 14 and has mild anxiety and ADHD. Suzy explains that Nathan "has managed well on his own...he found ways to cope well on his own, and is successful in school." 

Simon is 7 and has a more severe form of autism. Suzy further explains, 
"He is minimally verbal; meaning he has a vocabulary he uses for specific things, but struggles to talk. He has a better receptive language but still has Auditory Processing Disorder, so communication is very hard for him. But he is so smart and patient and finds ways to get his point across. He also has ADHD, which means he's a busy body with huge sensory-input needs and a very busy mind that is hard to keep focused. Our children, while all three are much shyer than me or their dad, still don't fall too far from the tree. I am ADHD myself and anxiety has always plagued me...but I manage. My husband as well; so it's in the genes."
As a SAHM, Suzy was able to spend many "years volunteering for preschool co-ops and PTA in the eleentary years for my older two boys. My youngest is now almost 7, and while I'm still busy volunteering, my path has changed a bit from PTA to autism."

I asked Suzy for the opportunity to interview her not only because she has first-hand experience with autism, but she has also been very active within her special needs community.
"Two years ago I started an autism social learning club called Better Together, with some other moms. It grew from a small group of moms trying to create opportunities for their kids, into a full supportive community of more than 245 members. We are now a program of the Arc of Tri-Cities [Washington], where we will be able to do even more for our special needs community."
Since 1954, the Arc of Tri-Cities has been a provider of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and now serves more than 1,400  individuals each year. All of their services help to advance skill levels, promote inclusion, integration, and socialization, and encouraged independence. 
What would Suzy like everyone to know about those with autism?
"Autism IS a spectrum. It's a big broad curve with lots of colors in between. Some on the spectrum can marry and work, some struggle more and need much more support throughout life. All have the same desire to pursue a happy, purposeful life. Never judge a book by its cover. Assume the desire for friendship and ability for higher learning even if the body language fools you."
In regard to the spectrum, Suzy's son Simon is more impacted, so she can only speak from experience with him. Simon doesn't speak much, but she encourages others to:
"Say hi anyway. Slow down and just see him under the anxiety. Assume he's listening and needs time to think it over and decide to trust you or not. Allow him that. Remember that he is working hard every day to fit in to our way of thinking just to be heard. It's a frustrating world, so be patient and understanding."
Today, this month, and always, Suzy encourages everyone to:
"See the complexity and beauty that is autism. It has its difficulties, but their special and unique ways help them see things clearer and more intense than our brains do...and that's why there is brilliance and beauty in the autistic mind. Appreciate the differences that make us ALL human, and make room for us all in school, in work and in life."
Suzy wears many hats, apart from her role as wife, mother, and co-founder of Better Together, she teaches "Exploring Art" at the Arc to adults with special needs, she loves the coast, and enjoys rearranging furniture regularly.
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Click here for PART 2 as we learn more about Simon, 
how and when Suzy discovered he was autistic, and learn more about Better Together.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

MOM Suzy: Autism Awareness Month, Part 2

{Click here for Part 1 of Suzy's interview}

Happy Momster Monday, and welcome back for Part 2 of MOM Suzy's interview. April is Autism Awareness Month, and I am so glad that Suzy allowed me the opportunity to interview her and agreed to share her son Simon with us. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to walk the path of discovering your child has special needs. So many unknowns, so many questions, so many different emotions.  Suzy says she "never knew much about special needs" until their story began when Simon was 12 months old and his doctor began to see some red flags, "which for him were the lack of any words and he didn't point to objects."

At 16 months, Suzy says she "reluctantly had him evaluated and by 18 months he was in early intervention." Autism didn't truly enter the conversation for a while because as Suzy explains, "it is hard to know what are just delays or quirks and what is true autism...but by two I was pretty sure, and by age three he was diagnosed."
Suzy says "Simon was born as he is. I don't ever remember a change and I have learned gradually as he as grown the extent of his struggles, but I have also learned such a great deal about autism and how unique each individual with autism really is. How it affects them each differently. How each responds differently to therapies and diet."

Suzy explains how the special needs community has changed her "in profound ways that I am so thankful for. I never wished for this and I hate seeing my son hurt in a world not built for his way of thinking. But I also feel blessed. There is a pure and honest way of living now. It's liberating to leave the other world behind."

Because of Simon, Suzy feels she has become an even better mom to all her children because she "stopped measuring them against other standards. I see only my handsome, intelligent, creative, kind, open minded and generous boys. I have the family I always wanted."

Suzy says that she's learned to see the world the way Simon sees it, "[he] is a bouncing ball of joyful energy. He has a love for life that makes you happy just being around him. He sees the world through is own autism eyes. I have learned to see the world through his eyes now. It took some time, but it's a beautiful and honest and pure way that he lives."

Suzy, what is a typical day in the life of Simon?
"He has big sensory needs and needs to feel his body move. Not just a lot, but in big ways. He jumps from high places and lands like a gymnast and swings hard and smiles from ear to ear as he pushes his body further. He climbs with upper body strength to be envied. He runs and jumps and rolls and dances and sings all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. He has echolalia, which is the need to repeat words, phrases and sounds often. It's just the background noise of our life when we aren't fully engaged with him. It's just Simon, he chatters. It's a happy, comforting sound to us now. It doesn't always mean he wants us to talk to him about those things, sometimes it's just for him. He can still answer us or do what we say, all while not missing a beat in his repetitive songs...He can, and does do, many things at one time. He is always going, thinking, learning, problem solving."

Suzy explains that the autism becomes a "problem" when other people come into play. "This is the hardest part for us. Or him. He doesn't understand human social nature. The social rules we all abide by without thinking to fit in. He doesn't know these and he doesn't learn these easily...Keeping him safe is the big problem. People can hurt him or take advantage of him. He will be able to care for himself in many ways, but I think he will always need someone to watch out that he isn't taken advantage of. He will assume people are what they appear to be and say what they mean."

"And so a typical day with Simon", Suzy explains, "is learning this and relearning this daily, even everywhere we go, and although it's a huge exhausting daily task, there is so much joy and love in it all. He is an eager student, a lover of life, a fun and carefree spirit that reminds me to let loose and laugh and run and dance like no one is watching...but they do watch...but we just don't care anymore!"

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 Thank you so much Suzy for sharing so much of your Simon with us; he does sound like such a joy! Momsters, be sure to tune in each Momster Monday, as Suzy will be sharing more about her organization Better Together, what we can do during Autism Awareness Month and always to become "more aware", and she will also be offering advice and encouragement to any mothers who may also be raising a child with special needs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hubby and I are currently doing a study developed by Pastor Troy, the lead Pastor of our church.  We meet with a two other married couples on Saturdays, and I meet with a group of women on Fridays to discuss the same study.  The study is called Recalibrate Your Life and revolves around the principle of "recalibrate or stagnate"...you're either moving forward, or your moving backward.  The 5-week study focuses on 5 different areas of life:
Your Soul
Your Relationships
Your Home
Your Finances
Your Legacy

I've been thinking about how I can apply this study to other areas of my life, and thought I would share and ask for your ideas as well. 

Recalibrate my Friendships:
Honestly, friendships take a lot of work.  It takes being intentional in nurturing friendships, especially once I became a mom and had nap time, work schedules, traffic, and swim lessons to work around. It's not necessarily easy, but oh so necessary to maintain those dear friendships.  My hubby and I love each other dearly, but we also think time away with our friends is vital. 

My friend Brooke and I have season tickets to a theater about halfway between where we each live. We meet early for dinner, have time to visit, and then get to enjoy a musical or play; something we both love! The dates are set for us in advance, so we are sure to get together on a regular basis, and we hope to still be doing this when we are old and using walkers.

I have been intentional about phone calls!  I've realized I've done a really bad job at staying in touch with friends via the phone; partly because it's so difficult to find the time to talk on the phone with little ones who instantly and desperately need my attention once I put the phone to my ear...but partly because I've been slacking!

Recalibrate as a Mama:
This also falls under the Friendship category, because for me, taking time away to be with friends who lift me up and fill my cup, freshens up my mama soul and allows me to return home ready for another round. Just like a computer needs to be restarted every once in a while when it "freezes", so do we as mamas.

Sometimes, it's as simple as planning my grocery shopping during a time Hubby will be home to watch the kids. Never underestimate the power of a solo grocery shopping trip. Sure, a trip to Target is nice without kids, but give me Grocery Outlet with just the baby and I'm a happy mama.  Sad how easy I am to please these days.

I have fallen in love with Barre! The isolated, controlled, graceful movements are right up my ally, and new classes have recently been added to my local gym's schedule. I grew up dancing and this class really brings back great memories. Hubby and I have worked out our schedules so I can go at least 1x/week. 

Quiet time with my computer is another way I refresh. Some might see this blog and the Momster Mash Facebook page as "work", but this is a hobby and creative outlet for me that brings me so much joy. I am filled up by connecting with and encouraging other mamas. I encourage you to do what brings you joy; life is too short to rely on "someday".

Making time for the activities that bring me joy, allows me the ability to offer more patience and attention to my children. Knowing that I am guaranteed time in the near future to nurture my passions, apart from my #1 passion and priority of being a mama, helps me to be more present with my children in each precious moment I get with them. 

Recalibrate my Career:
I am a Dental Hygienist, which I love, but had been working in an office for far too long which was sucking me dry.  I made up my mind that I wanted to work less, closer to home, in a wonderful office filled with coworkers who worked well together, and I was going to find this office while on maternity leave. I sent my resume on a whim one Sunday night and was hired that Tuesday...it's 2-3 days a week, 10 minutes from home, and I absolutely love everything about this dental office. The job is a long-term temporary position, but it was clearly an answer to prayer. We prayed hard about what to do, but really felt the choice was easy and I am SO happy in my new office. I often see people working a job they hate for 20 years. Comfort zones might be cozy and familiar, but I believe great things happen when we wisely step outside of those "safety zones", trust God, and try something different.

Recalibrate my Schedule:
Time is precious, and I want to make the most of it. I've always been a task-oriented, list-making, goal-setting lady, but since becoming a mama of two I've found keeping an organized schedule is so vital to my productivity. Mommy-hood is unpredictable, so I know my lists aren't hard and fast when I make them, but it sure helps me stay on track. I was getting so frustrated when maybe one to-do would get crossed off for the day, especially when I used to crush a to-do list like it was an Olympic event. 

I've learned to prioritize my lists to the three most important items and give myself grace with none of those get crossed off by the end of the day. 

I have fallen in love with my Plum Paper planner! It is completely customizable to your needs and style, and is large enough to keep my family, blog and AdvoCare business organized in one place.

These are just some of the areas of my life I've been giving more attention, as a way to continue to recalibrate and grow (GROW is even my "One Little Word" for 2015). What areas of your life are you currently recalibrating, and how are you doing so? Are there any areas you'd like to recalibrate?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wholly Chicken Broth

Since March has unexpectedly turned into a random blog post month, now is the perfect time to share some random nuggets I've been stashing away, waiting for a good place to fit them in.  

When I conducted my survey, I received feedback from almost everyone that you would like to see some more personal posts from me, as well as more recipes.  So, I'm just going to get both of those birds with one stone and share a crock pot favorite of mine involving a whole chicken..."wholly" heavens this is amazing!  

Cook a whole chicken in the crock pot all day for a tender and juicy rotisserie-style chicken for dinner, then cook all remnants overnight for a delicious and nutritious broth you can use for weeks and weeks!  I'll also share my tips for storing my broth. I recommend this process for a Saturday, or a day where you'll be home all day. It's incredibly easy, but a time consuming.

What you need:
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 1 onion, quartered
What you do:
  • Mix all ingredients, except garlic and onion, and rub all over chicken, inside and out, and place in crock pot breast-side down.
  • Place onion and garlic inside chicken cavity.
  • Cook 8 hours on low.
  • The chicken will be so tender, it will fall right off the bone!
  • Eat your delicious chicken for dinner, and then return to the kitchen for part 2...
To make the chicken broth:
  • After the kiddos are in bed, get to work on that chicken. Get all that yummy chicken meat off the bones and EVERYTHING else remains in the crock pot; bones, fat, skin, juices...everything.
  • If you have them on hand, add 1 roughly chopped onion, carrot, celery rib, 1 bay leaf.. Don't worry if you don't have these on hand, the broth turns out great anyway, but these will add extra flavor if you have them.
  • Fill crock pot with water, leaving about 1-inch at the top.
  • Cook on 'low' for 8-10 hours. I like to set it before going to bed and let it cook all night long.
In the morning:
  • Ladle out broth from crock pot and filter through a fine strainer over a bowl.
  • Cover and refrigerate a little bit to cool it off before moving onto the next phase of broth storage, which usually takes place over the course of the day.
Broth storage:
  • Grab your muffin tins!  I use a 4-cup measuring cup with a spout to pour the broth into my muffin tins.  Mine hold 1/4 cup liquid each. Very carefully, with the grace of a prima ballerina, place your broth-filled tins into the freezer. 
  • Once frozen, use a spoon to pop out each "puck" and place into a gallon freezer storage bag to store in the freezer.
  • Repeat until all the broth you want to freeze is in bags. 
  • When I'm in need of broth, I know exactly how many "pucks" to pull from my freezer stash. 4 pucks = 1 cup!
There you have it!  Homemade broth for dayyyzzz, and I don't know about you, but making this always makes me feel like Suzy Homemaker.

Please share your favorite healthy crock pot recipes 
and let's help each other save time in the kitchen!