When Setbacks Become Comebacks

It can be said that for the last nearly three years, I’ve been “soul searching”. I emphasize the soul searching because I don’t mean it in the sense of “I don’t know who I am”. My identity is in Christ. I know to whom I belong, and the ultimate purpose of my being. No, I’ve more been searching for the passion, purpose, and earthly freedom that’s been implanted in me by my Lord and Savior, that had become buried beneath the struggles, failures, and misguided paths of earthly living. I’ve spent the last three years “trying”: new things, new motivations, new purposes, new directions, new lifestyles, new methods, new connections, etc. Some worked. Some didn’t. Some propelled me forward toward the direction I’ve since envisioned, some set me back. It’s been a season of learning and exploring. Understanding what brings me joy and happiness was my goal this year. And eight months into the year I have an ALMOST crystal clear idea. I’ve begun lovingly and gratefully (for the most part ) releasing anything and anyone that is not in line with this path. I’m still fine tuning most of the minute details of what I want, but what I don’t want is clear. This has been a mental health journey for me, as well. I was lost in the chaos and bondage of clinging to things, people, personal ideologies that were either incompatible or did not serve the purpose in my heart. I wasn’t happy. No matter how deeply I prayed, I thought I was not heard, left alone to navigate this life and my purpose. It’s been a WILD 3 years. I’ve made decisions that left people questioning my sanity and my competency. But, today, I’m better for it. I see where God was working, what He was allowing, how he was preparing me (and my family)… for a comeback…Like the muscle in our bodies, sometimes we must to be torn down to be rebuilt tougher, stronger. I believe that’s what these last three years have been for me. I say for me, but this isn’t, and hasn’t been, just about me. It’s been me, my love, Mike, our children… 2 that have joined us during this crazy time period, and who have helped shape and clarify this direction in some way or another (ahem… wild, crazy, postpartum hormone-driven decisions.. hello? 🤪).

I see the workings coming together… and though all the pieces are not yet together in completion (they probably won’t be either… for when the pieces are all completed, I believe that is when my time in this earth will be complete, as well), I have a better vision, a better understanding, and a newfound motivation to give everything I’ve got in this life… I look forward to all that is coming our way. My family will be better for it, and therefore, so will I.

I am so thankful to anyone and everyone that has played a role at some point in my journey, over the last 3 years as I’ve evolved, and over the last 10+ years as my journey to who I am today truly began … Not everyone may have a role in the present day, because I do believe that God puts many in our lives JUST for a season for a specific reason, to work through His purpose for THAT time. Nonetheless, that does not make me any less grateful for those times and their roles.

I am continuously growing, on the cusp of accomplishing goals that I had lost sight of, and/or that I allowed myself to believe that I would never achieve. Seeing what is unfolding has ignited a new flame, a new motivation, within me. I feel more capable of facing down my fears and not letting circumstances or lies from the enemy (or people) determine what I can (or cannot) do.

My hope is that anyone out there reading this who has given up on a dream, or on the verge of doing so, will keep pushing forward. Don’t be afraid to fail, don’t let setbacks take you out of this game called life, completely. Know there is Someone intricately weaving the fabric of your life for a greater good, and you just have to keep moving… you’ll be put on that path eventually, as long as you allow yourself to be by moving, praying, and holding on to faith.

We are always a work in progress, and that is okay! Embrace it, be thankful, and continue moving in the direction of growth and greater purpose.

❤️

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Happiness 2019: January Reflection

Happy January 30th!

Today is my little son, David’s 4th birthday and we are planning for a fun filled day of celebrating! With a full schedule ahead aside from my daily list of goals, it will definitely take some committed, focused discipline to accomplish everything I set out to do. Then we spend the second half of the day with the kids for a few fun hours at one of their favorite places! Can I get everything done? I am determined!

For now, I’ve set aside a dedicated amount of time to write my blog post. I have been reflecting on the first month 2019, all of my goals (I realize now that the intended post of sharing my 2019 goals was never written! Oops! I’ll share them here!), and my progress, so far, as I prepare to continue on in February!

This is my accountability chart, which I am so glad to have done, because it has helped me keep track of my progress while keeping me accountable. There have been a handful of times that I’ve gone to fill in completed goals, only to realize that I haven’t done something, so I’d make sure to do it quickly before bed. It’s probably not clear on photo, but let me share my 2019 goals with you!

DAILY

Wake up by 6:30am/Go to bed by 10:30pm: Being uncomfortably pregnant, and with a 2 year old that only recently began sleeping through the night in her own bed- for the most part- has made this goal difficult, but I continue on, working toward consistency. I tend to wake earlier when I go to bed at a decent time, so I’ve put aside my night owl ways and made the effort to go to sleep earlier to help encourage early rising. Next year, I plan on setting a 5:30am wake up goal. One step at a time!

-Ten minutes of tidying: Mess and chaos overwhelms and stresses me, and with my physical pregnancy pains and limited energy, I can’t always spend hours cleaning the house. Martin Luther King said “If you can’t do great things, do small things greatly“, right? Well, this is my small thing that has made a great difference. I discuss it in detail on my post about decluttering, but in summary, I spend a few minutes a day cleaning what I can within that timeframe. I’ve also made sure the kids do their part with their toys, which has helped me. It’s a huge accomplishment for me to be able to say that, so far, our home with 3 very busy, active kids with lots of toys, has been pretty tidy for the last 30 days! #winning

-Bible devotional: I’d like to be that virtuous person who reads chapters in their bible each day, going from Genesis to Revelation every year. But, honestly, I’m not, and I’ve tried. I can start with what I know I can do- insert my handy dandy YouVersion bible app. I really enjoy the topic focused devotion plans on the app, so I am doing one daily devotional reading each morning when I wake. It’s a great way to start my day!

-Share one positive message a day: Because, positivity is contagious! Why not share that with others?

-Listen & Share a Daily Song: I love music. Music can uplift and energize when I’m feeling tired and unmotivated. So, picking a song I really like is part of my morning routine!

-Hug my family daily: I get so caught up in the day and that I will end the day realizing that I had not given any of the most important people in my life affection! I’ve read that a hug that last at least 6 seconds helps people relax, decrease stress, and increase happiness through the release of dopamine. Therefore, my daily goal list includes giving my husband and children at least one good, long hug when they say good morning. My kids now come in looking for their morning hugs when they wake up! It warms my heart that it means so much to them!

-Laugh daily: This one tends to be one of the easier ones, because I live with a man who makes me laugh all the time. But, we all have those days. The gloomier days, when nothing seems to go well, and you just feel down. On those days, I make sure I do not go to bed without laughing- whether it be a YouTube video of one of my favorite comics, or a few short clips by one of the hilarious social media personalities I follow. Laughter is the best medicine!

-Work on blog: Initially, my intention for this goal was to POST daily (I must have subconsciously known that wouldn’t work out when I wrote it on my chart as “work on” blog). I now know that it isn’t easy to post one daily, especially if you want them to be purposeful. It takes me easily an hour or more WHEN I have a complete plan and idea for my post. Some days, I have nothing to give, and I don’t see the point of pouring from an empty cup. I now focused on doing something for my blog daily. Whether it be noting down post ideas, start writing and noting down thoughts or quotes for a post that are relevant or important to share, etc. If I have a full post idea (like today’s), I will dedicate the time to complete it.

-Journaling: I suppress my thoughts, feelings, and emotions internally often, especially the negative ones. One aspect of the happiness goal for this year that I am committed to is releasing all of my thoughts and feelings from the day, so that I don’t hold on to them. I love writing, but have never been consistent in doing so with journaling. This journal has been such an effective solution. I reflect on the day, nightly. I choose and write down a bible verse in relation to the emotion or thought of the day (more time in the word!), I release it all on paper, and then I end my journaling by writing down things I’m grateful for and my personal prayer requests to the Lord. I always feel better after journal time, and I haven’t missed a day yet! I don’t want to!

-Daily Fitness: Four days a week, this is an easy box to fill, because I am teaching at the gym. The other three days, not so much. Especially being in the final and most difficult trimester of all of my pregnancies. However, this daily goal makes me mindful of my physical activity. So, I try to do SOMETHING on the days that I’m not teaching; whether that be stretching to help with the nerve pain, or making sure I’m not sitting/laying for extended periods of time.

-School time: I’m back in school and committed to my success! Since I’m taking 3 classes, all online, it is so important to keep myself accountable in this area, because no one else will and failure is not an option! This is why it’s on my chart, AND my regular daily to do list. Focusing on school daily at some level, I am less likely to fall behind, or miss upcoming assignments/deadlines. So far, it is working!

-Track Nutrition: The purpose behind this goal will change once the baby arrives, but for now, it is to get in the habit of tracking my caloric intake to see where I can improve , and to hold myself accountable. Post-baby, this will be the 80 in my 80/20 plan to release all of the baby weight as soon as possible, and fuel my body for the fitness goals that are set for the “post-baby” part of the year!

-Floss daily: I know flossing is a very important part of oral hygiene, but I’ve never done it consistently enough to make it a daily habit. Yet, it’s one habit I’ve always wanted to incorporate! So far, I haven’t missed a night!

Those are my daily goals, and the greatest chunk of my 2019 goals. I’ve also set 3 monthly goals:

-Read 1 book a month: I love reading, but reading time is a luxury that I can’t always afford. I’ve made it a priority by setting this goal. I know that even with my full schedule, I can dedicate a few pages a day to a book I enjoy. January’s book was Michelle Obama’s Becoming. In reading her story, I was surprised to have connected with her in a way I’d never have thought I would! I highly recommend it!

-Have 1 date night a month: It hasn’t been easy for us to schedule one-on-one time as a married couple since having our youngest two kids. Mike and I have a very close marriage, and we connect as much as we can throughout each day, but the childless bonding moments have become far and few in between! To change that, we have committed to carving out at least a couple of hours each month with no kids, away from home, and doing things we enjoy doing together. JUST US! It’s difficult because we don’t have family nearby, and I have deep trust issues with hiring babysitters. That is something I hope I can be released from by doing this. After baby Caleb comes, I believe may be more of a challenge, but I am committed! My marriage, and my husband, deserve and need it!

-Zumba choreography: I love dance. Zumba is my current dance outlet, and I love creating choreography to songs I love. Yet, I don’t. I rarely “have the time” to even learn existing choreography for songs I want to use in class, so I stick to what I already know. I want to change that. This was a monthly goal for January, but it will, instead, be a post-baby monthly goal, because of the difficulty I have with pregnancy nerve pain. I’ve promised my students videos to follow online for years, and this is the year I will commit to deliver!

I’ve mentioned “Post-baby” goals a few times, so far. Those are the goals that I have set for the year, but will start working on after I deliver! Those include these last few:

-Attend at least 3 dance workshops: I want to brush up and improve on my dance skills. One of the goals I’ve set for “Happiness 2019” is to do more of what brings me joy, and dance has been a love of mine since I was a little girl. I don’t plan on being some high profile celebrity dancer anytime soon (or ever), so I have found other avenues to express my love for dance, through master classes and workshops!

-Train for a 13.1: I enjoy running but have never done it with a purpose. Participating in races has been a goal of mine since my firstborn joined us. This year just seems to be the year that I ACT on long-standing dreams and goals of mine, the 13.1 no different from the rest! This goal is set between April and October, with the 2nd part of this goal being that I need to actually sign up and RUN in a race by December!

-Isabody Challenge: I found a company 2 years ago that promotes health and wellness through nutritional supplementation, and I was hooked from the start. As someone who is health and fitness-conscious, I appreciate the added benefits to supplementing good nutrition with great supplementation (Note: NOT IN PLACE OF IT. I’m not one of those people who think you can supplement your way completely to a healthy fit lifestyle! Healthy living through fitness and proper nutrition is my passion and my career focus. The misleading messages and marketing out there by those who are looking to make a buck are beyond frustrating to me). The company I personally prefer to buy from rewards those dedicated to breaking barriers and shattering their fitness goals with a 16-week challenge, the Isabody challenge, where they have a multiple chances to win cash prizes, trips, and great perks just for completing the challenge. I’ve attempted this challenge twice before, never completing it. Third time’s the charm right?

These goals mean the world to me. They are all connected to areas of my life that I’ve neglected, and interests that bring me joy, but have been dormant due to life and all its obstacles and distractions. If you’ve looked at the chart, you’ll see some blank squares. I haven’t perfectly executed all of these goals, but I will not quit pursuing consistency. Seeing the improvement in my mood and outlook, in my home, my relationship with my children and husband, my ability to be consistent- seeing all of these positive additions in my life- motivates me to keep pushing forward, and working daily to achieve success. Each month may not be perfect, but I strongly believe that at the end of this year, I will be a better, HAPPIER person, wife, mother, friend because of these small daily and monthly actions. I will not stay down if I fall! Too often, people set yearly goals/resolutions, only to give up when they slip up. You don’t fail when you fall, as long as you get back up. The failure comes when you give up and quit!

Are you working toward personal goals in 2019? What are they? (Please share in comments! I love connecting with other goal minded people and learning what they strive for!). Please, don’t give up on your goals! You owe it to yourself to keep moving forward!

Have a great Wednesday!

Family Time is Great, But Date Nights Are Needed

When Mike and I first started our relationship, we were inseparable and always enjoyed each other’s company. We’d always go out to eat together ( we immediately made the connection that we both loved food! ), and we had long enjoyable conversations about anything and everything. I still laugh whenever I think about one of the very first dates we had. I had invited him to go with me to the AMA’s, and this would be the first time we would be in the car together for over an hour drive before arriving at the Nokia Theater. I was concerned ( more like freaking out ) about what we would talk about the whole way there. I mean, that was a long drive! What if we had nothing to talk about? What if it became awkward? I don’t handle awkward very well! If this turned out to be a disaster, I was stuck with him in LA AND the drive back home! I’m not the kind of person to leave someone stranded, but I won’t lie and say it didn’t cross my mind at that moment! Thankfully, no needed to be left stranded, and the drive to and from Los Angeles was better than I expected. We would go on to develop an amazing, solid relationship. I loved spending time with him, and even more so, talking to him about anything and everything. Those were the days of uninterrupted, meaningful conversation that bonded us even closer and closer in our budding romance.

Those were also the days before kids. Ten years ago. Before all of the things that usually begin weighing on relationships got in the way: financial stresses, work obligations, parenthood. Especially, parenthood. Our dating life has gone from nearly every day or night of the week, to once in a blue moon, while the pigs are flying and the clock strikes thirteen. Don’t get me wrong. We still have a wonderful relationship, but the romance department definitely looks like an abandoned building engulfed in cobwebs and a musty, stale fragrance. We’ve let life and children take control, while putting the priority of nurturing our marriage relationship on the back burner. Financial obligations, work obligations, health issues, three children, a fourth pregnancy, sports practices, sports games, elementary activities, preschool school activities, homework, cooking, cleaning, a night owl daughter who would not go to sleep until we did; all of those, and more, has created an obstacle for us over time to be able to focus on nurturing our marriage. I am thankful for our children and the ability to be involved in their lives, our jobs, and everything we have. But it saddens me that it is so difficult to find some time to have one on one time with my love, my best friend, my lifelong companion. We don’t have family nearby to just drop the kids and run when we need kid-free time to ourselves, I struggle with asking friends, and I find the idea of hiring a babysitter difficult to embrace. I don’t trust many people with my babies, and with the going rates of a sitter watching 3 kids for 2-3 hours, we’d rather just stay home and order a couple of pizzas and a movie with the entire family. Eventually they’ll grow up and move out, right? We can rekindle our love then!

No, I am just kidding. I know that is not the way to keep a marriage going. Sadly, we have a high divorce rate in our country, and all of the reasons that have kept Mike and I from having quality time can be found on causes of divorce on any report you find. Both of us come from “broken homes”, if you will. So, we are both equally determined to not allow our marriage to go that direction. But, what do we do to solve our current dilemma?

Well, I decided to make one small change for 2019. I’m a firm believer in making small sustainable changes over time, rather than trying to accomplish complete overhauls in short periods. One of my monthly goals is to commit to ONE date night a month, uninterrupted, kid-free, with my husband. My husband is too important to not make the effort, and I know he feels the same way about me. I would have to step outside of my comfort zone and ASK for help to make this possible.

Thankfully, my sister came through for month 1 of my monthly date night goal. She had bought us Fandango gift cards for Christmas and offered up some of her time to watch the kids. I know she has a busy schedule, and doesn’t live very close to us, so I appreciate her willingness to help us get some quality time together. Especially, because my awesome sister accepts payment in the form of gas and her choice of dinner in exchange for hanging out with her niece and nephews! Winning!

We had a great night watching The Upside with Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston (a film I would definitely recommend! I laughed, I cried, it was great!). We got some time to talk during the drive without kids screaming, fighting or inserting themselves into our conversations. It was really special to have this time with my love, after not having it in so long. One date a month may not sound like much if you have the opportunity to do it more often. For us, it was invaluable, and worth waiting another month to do it again. I don’t know if, or HOW, we will accomplish this monthly goal after our newest addition arrives this March. I do know that it’s worth the effort to figure out a way to make it happen. Our marriage is worth it!

Speaking of marriage, Happy Anniversary to the love of my life. Nine years ago, today, you made me your wife. Each year gets better and better, and I look forward to all the Lord has in store for us.

Happiness is: Time Management a la Mom Style

Back in high school, my AP Spanish teacher would jokingly ask me (he addressed everyone by last name) “Toledo, were you born late!?!” every time I’d come rushing into class late-and it being my first class period, it happened often. I’ve always struggled with time management. I always left myself just enough time to go rushing out the door, racing the clock by SECONDS to get to whatever destination right. on. time. It’s no wonder I was a very big financial supporter of the city of Corona, California Highway Patrol, various areas in Los Angeles, and maybe a couple of other locales. I was always getting pulled over for speeding. Years later, I still struggled with time management, and more so with having to manage three children. I no longer like to speed, so I’ve really embraced the motto “better late than never”. My husband, who likes to arrive early wherever he goes, has (for his own sanity’s sake, I suppose) raised the white flag of surrender after over a decade of dealing with my lateness. God, bless him and his patience!

Getting to places on time is not my only struggle. Consistency with managing responsibilities and obligations in a timely manner is another challenge. Add in pregnancy symptoms and what do you get? Basically, my husband doing everything to keep order in our home and food in everyone’s bellies so that they don’t starve. I do not share that proudly. This pregnancy has been the most difficult one I’ve experienced, and I’ve often tapped out of adulting and parenting more times than I can count. I have endured morning sickness, severe fatigue due to anemia, major brain fog, a progressively worsening case of sciatica that came much sooner than my previous pregnancies. As a result, I have battled feelings of failure as a wife and mother because my husband had to take on the entire operations- cooking, cleaning, caring for the kids- while quietly dealing with his own physical pain, injury/surgery recovery, and physical therapy. The guilt has been a heavy weight on my shoulders, especially because he would never tell me if he feels overwhelmed with it all. I’m grateful for the amazing, selfless husband the Lord has given me, and whom I’ve too often felt deserves so much better.

As part of my new year goals, I decided I would work to improve this bad habit of time management, as well as find ways to do more without overdoing it physically. Two of the most important behavioral shifts that have created a positive change are:

1. Get better sleep- I set the goal of waking up by 6:30am, and going to sleep by 10:30pm. This one has not been easy, but the impact it’s made on my productivity and mood have motivated me to stick to it. Mike is naturally an early riser, so he has been my wake up call a couple of times, and has been so helpful by bringing coffee up to assist with the waking up process. As my circadian rhythm has adjusted to waking up earlier, I’ve been able to enjoy quiet time for both leisure and devotional reading, as well as accomplishing other morning goals. The only struggle I’ve encountered with consistently achieving this daily goal is that I can’t fall asleep until my dears little miss night owl does. Also, I’m at the point in my pregnancy where it takes ten to fifteen seconds to roll from one side to the other, everything hurts so I wake up often with hip pains or some other discomfort, and my bladder & I are on unfriendly terms.

2. Commit to around 10 minutes of tidying every day- This small move has been so effective! Now, I did do a full clean before the new year began. However, since the first, I don’t spend much more than the set time frame to tidy up. I must note, I’ve also made the kids fully responsible for picking up their toys. It’s funny how motivated they become to pick up when tablet/screen time depends on their productivity! Not having to constantly pick up after them has really helped cut down on cleaning time. I don’t count my bedroom, which I tidy up daily as part of my morning routine (it is not a place I spend a lot of time in, so it hardly gets messy). I also don’t count laundry, which is done about once a week (sometimes twice, depending on activities). I’ve embraced a minimalist wardrobe, so 2 loads is usually the max that I’m doing). I have a daily to do list of other focused activities that I add to as necessary so that I don’t forget any tasks I want to complete. I can’t take credit for the awesome idea of focused, 10 minute tidying. I gleaned this nugget of wisdom from Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project. It has really helped free up time to do more with my family, which is the most important part for me. It’s been a huge blessing!

Those two small changes have directly and positively impacted my daily life, and my husband’s as well. During a recent “discussion” (more like me throwing a temper tantrum) about my frustration that we don’t get any time to just sit and talk without any distractions (especially the blessed ones we call our children!). He pointed out (to my dismay) that he is doing the cooking, cleaning and child rearing- on top of his own obligations- since I haven’t been able to with the way I’ve been feeling. Instead of being grateful that he was doing everything so that I could try to rest, I was pouting about him not giving me enough attention! After making these small changes, we’ve been able to share more quality time together. The lack of pileups throughout the house has allowed him to be able to just sit and relax more, which gives us more opportunities to talk and bond when the kids are doing other things!

It has taken years to feel like I have control over my day and household! I have more learning and growing to do in this area (I still tend to fall into this “where did the time go?!” time warp that results in me rushing out the front door to get to my classes on time. 2020 goals, anyone?), but these small changes have made a big difference in my mood, peace, and the amount of time I have in my day. I’m so thankful for all of the wonderful authors and bloggers who’ve played a part by sharing these small changes that have brought more happiness to my life!

God bless!

What are some small (or big) changes you’ve made that have resulted in a happier, more peaceful life for you and your loved ones?

Silencing Doubt with Faith

This is the new verse I’m clinging to this week, this year, and especially, the next 18 weeks. Yesterday was the first day of Spring semester, and my first semester back in school in almost a decade. I was bombarded with a plethora of information, class syllabus’, orientation week discussions, reading, and assignments. I had a chance to get a complete overview for each class of what I needed to achieve to successfully complete this Spring semester. I spent approximately 4 hours, combined, going through all 3 course pages, and beginning the immediate activity they each required.

I also achieved everything on my to-do list and daily goal sheet, while taking care of the two kiddos as my sweet hubby took our eldest to school, handled his appointments, and then did the grocery shopping. Last night, as I reflected on my day and everything to come as part of my nightly journal entry (a 2019 daily goal- reflection/gratitude journaling), a tinge of panic set in. I compiled the next 18 weeks of History-English-Kinesiology, each daily/weekly/monthly goals I’ve committed myself to achieving this year, the next 5 weeks of teaching classes at the gym before going on maternity leave, taking care of my husband and children, and then having this baby in just over 9 weeks, and I heard a familiar little voice say “Carmen, you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. There’s no way you are going to keep all of this up.” The worry, overwhelm, and anxiety began to set in. I choose a bible verse for each nightly journal entry that reflects how I feel after each day before I begin my writing. The verse I came across for tonight’s entry initially, a favorite of mine (It’s also the screen saver on my phone), was Philippians 4:6-

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done (NLT)

It seemed like the right verse for this reflection, until I began hearing the doubt-inducing words that instilled anxiety in my mind. I needed a word powerful enough to shut out the noise that threatened my peace, especially because I partially believed what I was hearing. So, I searched deeper and came across the verse on my post graphic. It was exactly what I needed to combat the voice of fear and doubt seeking to destroy all hope and enthusiasm within. I was able to respond with God’s armor of truth. Yes, it IS unlikely, even humanly impossible, to successfully juggle everything I am looking to accomplish this year entirely on my own strength. But, with God’s strength and His victorious hand leading the way, it CAN be done.

Surprisingly (though it shouldn’t be, but oh me of little faith), reading and accepting that verse for myself in that moment was sufficient enough to silence my anxious mind. I was able to mentally end the day in a positive, victorious note. I tend to get overwhelmed easily just by overthinking, but filling my mind with God’s promises helps tremendously. If I’m going to be successful in my endeavors, I need to take each day, one at a time, clinging to my Lord. Not by my strength, but yours alone, Lord. I look forward to seeing how He will stretch me and strengthen me over the course of this year, but especially, these next 18 weeks!

Happiness Is: Fighting Fear of Failure

I’m a college student again!

I have officially re-entered student life, beginning today, for what feels like the 100th time in my life. I hope for better results this time. No, I WILL have better results this time. I’m 32 years old with 3 kids and a 4th on the way. My family is also currently experiencing some emotional and financial concern, due to my husband’s injury and physical rehabilitation, which has shown to be a longer process than expected. Meanwhile, I’m trying to master my responsibilities and obligations as a wife, mother of active children, homemaker, and fitness instructor who less than 10 weeks away from having a baby and working with some very unpleasant pregnancy pains and symptoms. So, what better time than now to go back, right!?

I am excited, yet apprehensive about going back to school NOW, with anxiety due to my fear of failing- again. It’s been a long time, and this starting over thing is getting old (like me!)

I graduated high school in the Summer of 2004, and chose the route of community college because I was determined on achieving priority #1- my immediate freedom. There were plans of moving out with my best friend at the time, so somehow that translated into going the community college route. I had a falling out with said friend, so the plan to move out was scrapped, but my first semester of college was a great one! I made some awesome new friends, participated in clubs, and then realized that my intended major maybe was not for me (nursing, the first of many major-changes.. which was another part of my downfall and path to eventual drop-out). Things were fairly good. My social life was a big priority, and I was working a little more than part-time, but life was mostly in balance.

Then, I met someone. The next few years of my life would be heavily influenced by this person’s presence, and my inability to control my heart. Anyone who’s been head over heels in love (or so you think at the time), knows how easily the heart is persuaded to do things that our logical mind would objectively dissuade. Ultimately, I am the sole person responsible for my own choices. That winter, the start of 2005, as I prepared to start my 2nd semester of college, the balanced scales would end up tipping, with him outweighing every other area of my life. My hours of lecture and study time suddenly because an inconvenient burden that infringed on the countless hours I “needed” to be with this person to live (seriously… I was that pathetically immersed in this person, emotionally). If I were able to come up to breathe long enough to remember to drop out of a class, it was a good semester. But that didn’t always happen. Yet, semester after after semester for those few years, I would still convince myself that “this time will be different” and “I’ll focus on school this time”. There actually WERE some courses taken throughout that time that actually held my interest enough that I made it through the entire semester ( or, were those just the courses he took with me?). Those few weren’t enough to avoid what would eventually occur. I ended up on both academic (bad grades) AND progress (not completing courses attempted) probation. I decided to focus on working full-time (I had left my previous job in retail and entered property management already by this time…), and ended up moving in with him, so school no longer fit in my life at this time. It wasn’t the right time, but I told myself “one day” I’d go back.

That time in my life was an emotional rollercoaster of instability, and when it ended, I was left even shaken, unsure, and dealing with a lost sense of self/identity. I spent three years putting everything and everyone on the back burner, including myself and who I was. For three years, I tried to morph into the puzzle piece that would fit into the puzzle of someone else’s life, one in which -I know now- I did not belong. It was a difficult realization, one that resulted in nearly the next year of my life tumbling down this sloped emotional hill, completely out of control. I cringe at the fact that I gave one person so much power and influence over my life that their absence would result in this massive dysfunction, but if I’m going to be real, that means admitting to my mistakes. Less than 2 years after, I was able to begin a healing process that would take YEARS to achieve closure. To this day, there are triggers that cause a relapse of the emotional pain felt in my heart from like a permanent scar that occasionally feels like a phantom wound, but I feel it less and less with each passing year.

There’s a bright side to that story. It comes in the form of another person (the irony, right?). However, this person was sent from God as an instrument of healing. His name is Mike, but I sometimes call him my love, my best friend, my baby daddy (okay, not really that one… even though he is!)…or just simply, my husband. He was the puzzle piece that I fit perfectly with, a continued source of encouragement from the moment he entered my life. Now, his love and support has led to today’s step forward. He was the one that turned a thought, a silent desire, into a tangible action. He spoke the words that would result in me taking the big step to re-enroll- but that wasn’t the first time he’d done that.

From the beginning, even during the wild stage of life that I was in at the start of our relationship, he made me want to be better. After dating a few months, I actually attempted to return to the school I had been attending. I don’t remember the details, or what classes I had enrolled in. I just remember sitting in my car, the campus parking lot, talking to him on the phone as I was waiting for my class time to arrive. I remember asking him if he wanted me to skip class and go spend time with him (old habits die hard). I will never forget him telling me that I shouldn’t skip class just for him. The chronological order of my feelings regarding us and our future are hazy these days, but I can tell you, if it hadn’t yet crossed my mind that this was the man I was going to marry, it did right then! I didn’t complete that semester (bad habits die VERY hard), but not because of him. I was still working out a lot of emotional issues, and I knew I couldn’t commit to following through with school (I dropped early enough to avoid any more damage to my already pathetic academic resume). That was early 2009. Approximately a year later, January 2010, we were married, and a couple of months later, we’d find out we were expecting our firstborn son (Honeymoon period? What’s that? Ha!).

That Summer would be the next time he would encourage me, when I decided to enroll and take two classes. I completed both classes, and did well. This was HUGE for me. A small success in a pool of failures. I would go on to attempt, and immediately drop, the semester right after Andrew was born. A first-time, completely clueless, and sleep-deprived mom, I immediately felt like I was biting off more than I could chew, so I decided to wait for the right time. “One day”. He is now 8 years old. We also have a soon to be 4 year old, a 2 1/2 year old, and I’m 2 months away from giving birth to our newest edition. And yet, “someday”, has turned into “today”.

One day, as mike and I discussed the “what if’s”, “when thens” and “what nexts” of this journey with his physical health and unknown future in his career-a field he has spent decades in, and what I’ve always considered his gift-, he suggested I use this time that he was home to go back to school. I’d thought about it, but did not have the confidence to act on it, or even speak about it to him. Yet, he saw it, and said what I was afraid to speak into life. It was time for me to go back to school. If I waited for “the right time”, I’d never go back. Life is always crazy. So, with him home for the time being to help with the kids, there was no denying that there was no better time than NOW. So, I enrolled, followed the process, and anxiously waited.

Now, here we are. The day I’ve so nervously and excitedly waited for has arrived. This may sound premature, but I believe this time will be different. It is different. I’m not the same person I was all those years ago. I have such a strong support system in my wonderful husband. I also have the motivation in the form of 3 little ones, a 4th to come; a family whom I want to make proud and who encourages me to want to be better, and a clear direction of the path I want to go (for the first time since I started college and after years of being molded and shaped through life experiences that would draw out a passion that was not present in 18 year old me). This is Day 1 of the next 18 weeks of my life. I don’t know how it will end on May 23rd, but I do know that with the motivation, love and support I have in my life, I’ve got everything I need to cross that finish line. Here’s to the first of many little successes in my redemptive journey to finally finishing what I started 14 years ago. Cheers!

Happiness is: Freedom from Mental, Emotional, and Physical Clutter

Minimalism. A concept that has blown up in recent years. Yet, surprisingly, countless have either not yet jumped on board, or have not taken an interest in what this lifestyle can mean for them. There are also those who don’t know what minimalism is, or do, but are intimidated because they have only been exposed to extremist forms of minimalism. I’ve read many books on this lifestyle, and have subscribed to bloggers who practice it. One size does not fit all, because they vary in their methods and practices , so don’t be intimidated! Each approach is based on the individual, or family, practicing it. No matter where you fall in the minimalist lifestyle spectrum, the benefits are exponentially positive. For me, adopting minimalism was a matter of mental and emotional health, and it was a much needed blessing in my life.

My experience with minimalism began around Fall of 2016. I was living an emotional rollercoaster, and my mind was cluttered and overwhelmed. I had a newly turned six year old, a twenty month old, and a two month old. We had also just recently moved into the two-story home that we were going to buy from my father in-law (which, I was not at all thrilled about.. but that’s a hard lesson to share some other day). I was constantly in a state of exhaustion, frustration, and overwhelm. With my history of (self-diagnosed) severe postpartum depression, I would assumed that depression was a factor in my state of mind at the time. I was lacking adequate sleep, juggling three young children, school and sport activities, a husband who worked 50+ hours a week, our home; and dealing with an out of shape, recovering body, and pressure of bouncing back quickly as a fitness instructor. There were not enough hours in my day, and I had not yet taken up coffee drinking (if only I had known better! Ha!). It felt like being pulled in a hundred different directions. Throw in the stress of the “paycheck to paycheck” lifestyle that we were living, and you would get the heightened frustration and hopelessness that I struggled with daily. My marriage was taking a big hit, and I hated the angry person I was becoming. I needed to find a way to make things better, before they got worse!

I began searching Google and Pinterest for solutions on how to eliminate stress when I came across a blog post from Allie Casazza. I cannot remember the exact post, but I do recall immediately becoming a subscriber to her blog, because she offered a solution I had not yet tried, minimalism/decluttering. Around this time, I also came across her post about her family leaving their house and moving into an RV for a period of time. That, and my new obsession with Tiny House Hunters (I was really determined to eliminate this stress and depression I was feeling!), led to my bright idea of doing the same with my family. That’s a post for another day, but it definitely has made me thankful to be within four normal walls, again! The move into the RV did come with some positive aspects! Being such a small, confined space, I was “encouraged” to really take minimalism to heart, which translates to we had to get rid of A LOT of our stuff! Before we made the move into the RV, I had slowly begun the process of decluttering, which we sped up had to prepare for the big move! This is where minimalist tips really helped us:

Clothes: We had ONE drawer under this couch, and NO other drawer space for our three kids’ wardrobe. My sweet husband ended up getting some wood to create dividers in the drawer, which was sectioned into three small compartments. We had to fit ALL of their clothes in that drawer, so that meant downsizing to essentials. Did Andrew really need a dozen plus t-shirts, anyway? Mike has 2 very small compartments- or, umm, closets?- on each side of our bed. There were no drawers for ya to put folded garments so I had to make use of two fabric storage cubes I had. How did we make everything fit neatly with so little space? Pinterest for the win, as that was where I found Marie Kondo’s KonMari decluttering and folding method. If you haven’t heard of Marie, and her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I strongly recommend it! She even has a new series on Netflix that’s I’ve really enjoyed, so far!

Toys: This one was a tough one for me, because I wanted the kids to feel as normal as possible with this new transition. I didn’t NOT want them to feel like we were taking everything away from them, but we had bins and bins of toys, with nowhere to put them. So, we had to consolidate. I incorporated a few of Allie’s tips on decluttering kids’ toys, and let the kids know that they were going to be doing something specially kind by picking toys they no longer use to give away so that other kids that don’t have anything may have some toys to play. My Andrew has a very caring and giving heart, so this helped encourage him to part was with some of the toys. We let them pick the toys they felt a special connection to (apparently, all ten thousand hot wheels. Just kidding, some of those were dad’s! Ha!), and whatever fit in the single bin we’d be keeping would be able to stay. That part wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be.

Books And Other Miscellaneous: Everything was eliminated with one thing in mind (and we had to be honest with ourselves): Do we really need this? Papers, books, household items, furniture, kitchenware, personal care products, you name it. With the limited amount of space, and my knowledge of how clutter affected me mentally, I knew there was no room for excuses in keeping things. At the time, we expected to be in the RV for about two years, and hoped to be able to start fresh when we move back into a home (IF we ever decided to… it was new and exciting at the time, so I actually considered this being a new normal for us!), so the attachment to household and furniture items was easily released. Books that would not be read again, that I didn’t LOVE, and cookbooks (because, honestly, I pin the recipes I want, anyway) were sent off to the donation pile. Whatever stayed was neatly stored in a small bin or boxes, and put away in the large storage compartment under the RV living space.

When we moved back into a regular home, I was shocked at the realization of how much we had eliminated just before, and right after, moving into the RV. It was both saddening (because I had felt the move into the RV was a mistake) and, also, freeing (because we didn’t have clutter and excess stuff to find a place for in our home). Since then, it has taken some work to maintain a clutter-free environment, but I’ve grown to work at it with joy because of what I’ve learned from this experience.

1) You truly don’t need things to be happy. Yes, having certain things can make living easier, but happiness itself doesn’t come from what you have.

2) Expectations and standards of living can be considered excess clutter. When we have all these ideas and needs to maintain these standards, we no longer leave room for the things that truly matter, and then we can struggle with appreciating the little things because of the excess.

3) You can easily replace things when needed. You can’t get time or special moments back once they are gone.

4) As cliché as it sounds, less truly is more. The less things you have to think about and maintain; the less stress you allow into your life; the less needs you require- the more room you create in your life for time to share with those you love, happiness, peace, love, and gratitude.

The last one was probably the most needed realization. I’m still learning and growing in the area of my life, but the best takeaway I’ve received was the understanding that more is not always better. I still have a long way to go, but I am developing more and more, with time and growth, into a person that can say:

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

Philippians‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

My hope is that if you can relate to my struggles, you will find some encouragement in what I’ve shared! Blessings!

It’s the last day of 2018! I started off this year with one word that I wanted to reflect my desired growth. Transparency.

I had set out to do daily posts on my Instagram page that reflected this goal. Though I did not complete the entire year of posting, I did achieve the goal of being more open and transparent. I’ve always struggled with being closed off and untrusting, as well as very private. I shared things that I never would have before, and I’ve learned to love and accept me, despite what anyone else may feel or think. It’s helped me become more authentic, and less concerned with trying to hold up any kind of outward appearances to impress or gain the approval of people. I’ve grown tremendously in this area this past year. Now, as I look forward to this next year, I’ve set my new focus:

HAPPINESS, which is my word for 2019.

“One is not always happy when one is good; but one is always good when one is happy”- Oscar Wilde

“To be happy, I needed to generate more positive emotions, so that I increased the amount of joy, pleasure, enthusiasm, gratitude, intimacy, and friendship in my life- Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

It’s something I’ve struggled with the last few years, and I’ve come to realize that my perspective holds far greater responsibility for any lackthereof that I’ve experienced. Happiness is a choice- one that is to be made daily, weekly, monthly, etc. One that has to be made despite circumstances. I may not control everything that happens in our life, but I do have control over how I respond to it. I also control-for the most part- how I spend each day. I can spend my days focused on the negative, all that’s going wrong, my discontentment, etc; or I can spend each day proactively creating happiness through my own actions. I can choose to be happy by doing things that bring me joy and happiness.

So in 2019, I’ve set goals for each area of my life (spiritual, family, physical, professional, educational, interests, etc) focused on creating happiness. If I’ve been unhappy, it’s because I’ve chosen to neglect myself and the things that create happiness. That ends today. I look forward to sharing this new journey with you!

Here’s to a HAPPY 2019.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🎉

New Year, Happier Me

A Juggling Act On Steroids

Happy June!

This month is a BIG month for us, and boy, is it a BUSY month! I don’t say that proudly. I am most definitely not one of those people that pride themselves on always being busy. On the contrary, I continually strive to keep life simple and open to moments that are meaningful and enjoyable. Not saying people who are busy don’t have enjoyable and meaningful moments. I’m just saying I love my best life when I’m not “so busy”.

That being said… this month is going to be a busy one. These next 6 months, actually, but for now we will focus on June.

I started my Summer term today. Two online courses- American Politics, and Probability and Statistics. I’m freaking out here a bit, because the Stats course was added onto the online campus platform a week ago, so I’ve had time to get acquainted with this course. There’s SO MUCH TO DO! That class alone is going to be demanding. But, wait! There’s more. The politics course showed up last night. I check out the equally demanding course load, and has me panicking. I signed up for a short term course. Yes. Summer courses are demanding enough with their 9 week timelines, and I unknowingly signed up for a 5 week American Politics course.

Goodbye, sleep.

Seriously, though. I could technically back out of one now and lighten up my load. That would be the easy way out, and I am determined to stay on schedule to complete my AA by the end of the 2020 school year. I like to live on the edge…. of sanity. Ha!

Onward. My eldest gets out for Summer at the end of this week. The boys just finished up baseball, and I do not want the three kiddos to spend their Summer days at home, stuck in their tablets and continuously harassing me about watching television. So, I’m enrolling them in swimming. Not only do they need to learn how to swim (yes, I am way behind and slacking as a Mom), but I want them to become strong, proficient swimmers. It’s a great full body workout, and who knows if one of them will end up wanting to pursue it competitively. Am I stretching myself thin? Most likely. But these are the sacrifices I live for, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. My little Ms. will also be starting some form of dance this summer. I would really like to also expose them to some gymnastics and/or tumbling … see, there I go.. stretch Armstrong thin… I can’t help it. I find joy through their happiness, and seeing them engaged in positive habits and activities! Needless to say, busy summer ahead!

Andrew is our this Friday, and then I have a weekend of fitness format workshops and trainings. I limit what I teach during pregnancy, and it’s been so long since I’ve taught some of the formats at the gym, so I need to refresh. I also want to expand my teaching, so I’m taking on additional fitness formats. I can take a wider variety and I’m getting a great variety of workouts in, myself. Win-win! I wish it were another weekend though. Because that’ll be two days and 8 hours worth of high and low intensity exercise trainings (we have to participate in the class experience as part of the training) and I’m still not fully back to a conditioned state of fitness. I hope I survive…

…Because the next day, Monday, we take off to Texas for another 9 days. I was excited about this trip… that is, until I saw what my classes were going to entail. I guess I thought it’d be as manageable as this last trip with the 3 courses I was taking. Nope. This one will be a challenge to enjoy with the amount of work I need to stay on top of while on vacation. I am hoping I can get ahead over the next few days to lighten the load during the trip.

Finally, after we return, I jump right back into my work routine and actually have to take a proctored exam on my first full day home following our return. Mike will begin actively looking for a new job (wrote a little about that here, and more on that later), and I may be a part time single Mom while trying to juggle a full load Fall semester, depending on what his options are. I’m not looking forward to that. Praying for a better solution!

I feel like I need to grow extra arms to juggle all of the balls I’m trying to control, currently, and to be able to add the ones that are to come soon. I question my ability to successfully do so, but I trust that if my Lord put this on my heart to achieve, He will see me through it. Therefore, I most stand steadfast, remain focused, and have faith that it will work out for good.

…And when I doubt, I can look at my home screen and be reminded of what I need to do!

I am holding on to that promise!

Keeping The Peace When Chaos Attack

The Bible has a lot to say about toxic people, and keeping the peace. For example:

“For evil people can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day. They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble.” -Proverbs‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” -Hebrews‬ ‭12:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

But sometimes that is not easy eat all. Especially when the people you are trying to remain peaceful with are constantly antagonizing you, whether it be intentionally or just by some obnoxious nature that they have. I’ve been told more than once that I am/can a confrontational person. Now, although I don’t say that proudly, I also have no shame in her fact that I am not afraid or hesitant to stand up for myself or what I believe is right. So, I cringe at times when I read God’s word telling me to turn the other cheek when someone (offends me). I’d compare me doing that to what I would assume to be the pain of pulling your own tooth out without an anesthetic to ease the pain. Difficult is an understatement.

And there is one person in my life, whom I (surprisingly) love dearly despite the fact that they create strive, stress, and anxiety in my life. There are some people that we cannot so easily just push out when we know they are toxic, even though we’d like to for my own sanity’s sake). Unfortunately, this person is someone so close to me that pushing them away or out of my life completely hurts just as much as the words and actions that cause me such strife.

I have to pray to deal with them, and sometimes that just does not feel like enough. The reason I’m writing about this right now despite having two other posts that I need to finish and share is because I’ve had to interact with this person the last few days. Not just me, my husband and my children, as well. That is another point of frustration. it’s one thing to have to deal with someone who likes to get under your bones; it’s another level of frustrating when they try to use your children to do so, or to put them in uncomfortable situations where they feel like they are up against a wall. Venting without going into details about who this person is makes it difficult to really illustrate why it’s so frustrating for me to have these constant negative interactions. So, I will focus on this.

What I’ve learned about toxic people:

1. You will never be able to change them. No matter what you say or do. Attempting to confront them or change them, will likely only result in an even more frustrating situation.

2. It’s best to cut them out. No matter how much we may want to keep someone in our lives, we need to be willing to put our mental and emotionally health high enough in priority to be able to say “No more!” to anyone who is jeopardizing our well-being.

3. There are those, like family members, that are not as easy to completely cut out. In those days, keep your distance, at arms length, engage only when necessary, and it’s better to just breathe, stay quiet, and walk away if need be during difficult circumstances.

4. I found a quote image online and saved it:

5. “Misery loves company”. It’s a cliche saying, but it’s true. Unhappy people try to spread their misery like a contagion because being around happy people reminds them of what they are lacking. They don’t want others to be happier than they are.

6. No matter how much you want someone to change, YOU cannot change them.

7. Sometimes it’s better to distance yourself from the toxic person, as painful as that may be. Your mental health depends on it.

8. Other times, it isn’t so simple to because of who they are (like family members, for example). In those cases, you have to set your boundaries and let them know that although you want them in your life, you will have to distance yourself if they cannot respect those boundaries (and mean it, too!).

9. You have to pray for strength to act on distancing yourself if they aren’t willing to respect those boundaries, especially if they are negatively affecting you, or your family.

10. Lastly, this one isn’t so much about those toxic people, as it is about how we respond to them. Eleanor Roosevelt once said,

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

I would apply this to the influence that toxic people have over our day, week, month, life, PERIOD!

I know. It’s easier said than done. Sometimes I pray for the Lord’s strength to take the high road, and to love certain people, despite how unloveable they may be. Other times I just have to bite my tongue to keep myself from placing myself down to their level and letting them know what’s up.

At the end of the day, we are better off keeping the peace, and even “killing them with kindness”, more for our own sake and sanity.

You just have to brush your should off when dealing with the toxic people in your life!

A New Chapter, A Great Unknown

Life is crazy in the Wardwell family household these days.

Mike has spent the last 10 months at home, recovering from surgery, going through countless physical therapies, having to get another surgery, more therapy, and then realizing that there are more surgeries he needs, which results in the realization that his career in automotive no longer serves him from a physical health standpoint.

(Right after his first surgery, last summer)

I know that had to be a difficult truth to accept for my husband, who’s love of cars, and his seriously amazing gift of diagnosing, understanding, and fixing them for so long, has blessed our family, as well as others for so long.

In the end, he was left having to decide “what, next?”, and the unknown was scary… for all of us…

There are are positives. We’ve had this amazing man home us for the last 10 months, after having always worked 50+ hours a week since we’ve had kids. This last year he was able to make every game and practice for both soccer and baseball, sometimes being the only one at the practices because I was dealing with severe nausea. He got to take our son on class field trips, somethings he’s never really been able to do. Mike has been home since a couple of weeks after finding out we were expecting, and all throughout my severe nausea, pregnancy, and recovery. His presence has meant so much to all of us. I’m honestly concerned with not only how the kids are going to respond when he goes back to work, but how I will be able to function without him home. He has made such a difference in being home (and I’m getting super emotional just writing this). I know it’s meant a lot to Mike, as well, to be able to be present in every way needed for him family this last year. I’d keep him home forever if I could.

But now, that may all be coming to an end. Today is was bittersweet day. Upon making the decision to no longer return to automotive (because continuing to do the same thing that put him in this position would result in a repeat of the same circumstances down the line, and he is not a sales type), Mike has to decide on what he would be doing next. The answer was commercial driving, a career he said he wanted to have when he was a little boy, watching his Dad, a newly retired commercial driver of 30+ years. But, like anything new and unknown, he was nervous about this move. And so was I. New drivers generally have to start off driving “Other the Road”, which means cross country, a guaranteed 12-14 days away at a time. That thought alone puts the fear of God in me for so many reasons, like having to hold down the fort alone, thinking about his safety, and the limitations and struggles his being gone would bring. Above all, we’ve never been away from each other for more than a couple of days, when I’d have to go to out of state conferences. I miss him so much my heart hurts just thinking about him being gone, and he hasn’t even left!

Well, it’s time to consider the possibility. Because he has passed his text, and will begin the job search soon, which leads to the next big unknown for me and our family.

I’m days away from completing my first semester of college since the last time I was enrolled, about a decade ago! And, I’m so proud to say that with I’m currently holding on strong with all A’s, with one class completely done (Kinesiology), and one essay assignment left in each of the two remaining (History and English)!

However, I am both excited and nervous for what’s to come. I am enrolled in courses for, both, Summer and Fall. Fall will me the first semester since this return that I cannot take all online courses. Four out of the Six I’m enrolled in are on campus, and I have NO idea whether my husband will be there. And we have never had someone who wasn’t a close family friend or family member babysit our children… But, this will likely be the case come Fall, and I’m still try to accept that. Being away from the kids for hours, four days a week, and the possibility of not having my husband home either makes me very nervous (I’m a worrier). Should I just quit on my dreams of finally finishing the first part of my dreams? This fall, 2019, I’m finally eligible to apply for transfer to my intended University. After I complete this fall semester, I will have less than a handful of courses left to take to complete THREE associates degrees, two of which I plan on taking further, with Kinesiology being my major and History, most likely my minor. No.. I can’t give up on my dreams. These dreams are not just for me, they are also for my family and our future.

So I will figure out a way. I am SO close! I’m praying for wisdom, for guidance, and for the Red Sea of all obstacles and complications to be parted away from us.

It’s going to be a crazy, hectic year for Mike and I. But everything we do is for the betterment of our family. We have to do what we don’t want to do now, so that we can do whatever we want later on.

My Favorite Kind of Hood…

(Written on Mother’s Day on IG, but I delayed in sharing it here… but here it is…)

Is…

Motherhood.

The job that has me looking like this most days, lately.

Yes, this is me currently.

It’s not always as easy to fix myself up as it was before I became a mother, and some days, like today, I’m just so tired that I don’t really want to. This role/job, whatever you want to call it, is not for the weak, LOL. It’s emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing. It can make you feel ugly, lost, unappreciated, invisible, tired, incompetent, insecure… And Yet… It is the most amazing feeling every other moment. To feel so unconditionally loved, needed, appreciated. The joy and the pride. The gut-aching laughter that you so often experience. The strength and endurance that grows within to meet the demands of these little people… I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I have love and passion for a few things in life, but none come close to my love, and the passion I have, for my family.

(My babies)

My role of “mom” is one I do not take for granted. And, of course, I could not be the mother I am, without the love and support of my love, Mike…

.. He’s the real MVP here 🤪

So thankful to be a Mom. And so thankful for the sweet children the Lord has entrusted us with to love, nurture, discipline, and guide in this life. It’s worth all the crazy, wild hair, extra caffeinated, tired days I will ever experience.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms❤️

Happiness 2019 Update: The Fun Really Begins!

It’s May! Are you excited about this month as much as I am? I am! Here’s why:

  • First of all, it’s my birthday month! I will be 33 years going on the 3rd, and I am so happy to have been able to just grow and change in the Lord this last year. I am excited for what the Lord has in store over this next year, God willing.
  • I went back to the gym yesterday, May 1st and I am so happy to be moving again, and helping others keep active, as well!
  • The 1st also marks the start of my 16 week Isabody challenge. This is the 3rd time I’ve done this challenge, but the previous two were never completed because I’d allow my struggles derail me, which would result in quitting. This year, I refuse to let that be the case. So it WILL be my 1st year completing it! I can’t wait to see my “after” photos!
  • My physical health is a priority this year, and now that my little guy is out of my belly, and my body is continuing to heal, I’m going forward with one of my goals for the year: 1/2 marathon training! This month I am starting slow, but I am starting! That’s what matters and I am so excited!
  • All other goals are now in play for the rest of the Year! You can read about them (HERE)!

I’m kicking things into high gear this month! A stronger, fitted, healthier, happier ME!

Here’s a sneak peak! I will post the “uncensored ” before shots with my after shots in 16 weeks, so stay tuned!

Texas Road Trip Chronicles

Home, sweet home!

I woke up in my semi-uncomfortable bed this past Sunday morning, and it felt amazing!

We had just spent the last 8 days driving to, from, or around Texas! At least that’s what it felt like! I’m exhausted.

But I loved it! (Texas… not the driving).

It was Andrew’s Spring Break, so there was no bette time to go visit my in-laws, who moved north of Houston this past winter. I was really excited. Texas was in my “places to consider calling home” radar a few years back. Then, Harvey happened, and fear took it off the list. But, after last year’s Idaho disappointment, I began giving it another look.

And, that we did. We made the most of the short time in Texas. What an experience!

We know more about what we want, what we don’t, and we’ve pick a few options to call home. It really felt like it could become home!

My father in law got to meet his newest little grandson, and got to spend some time with his other 3 grandkids. The kids really cherished being able to spend the week with their beloved grandpa. It broke my heart when it was time to leave because none of them wanted to leave!

We were in the town of Conroe, we fell in love with The Woodlands, we explored Houston, stopped in Waco, and then experienced a bit of San Antonio. We went to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, drove by Minute Maid Park, got a taste of Magnolia Farms at the Silos (my favorite part!!), and noted all of the other aspects Texas had to offer.

First of all, I was genuinely and pleasantly SHOCKED by the diversity I saw. I guess I pictured a lack of before going and was concerned that our little interracial family would stand out (like we did in Idaho). I am so happy to say that I was wrong!

I expected “the looks” from strangers, which I did not see (or it wasn’t noticeable!). I saw mixed couples with mixed babies (which always makes me extra happy), and various ethnic groups interacted with each other so happily (I’ve become ultra sensitive to the race thing… but I will save that for another day).

My overall impression was that the food was great, the housing market is amazing compared to CA!, people were so nice (also compared to CA), and there’s much Texas has to offer and things to do!

I fell in love and if it weren’t for the fact that it’s more reasonable for me to finish my degree here from a financial aspect, we’d be planning our move to Texas for this summer. Plus, my husband has his own commitments that he needs to complete here.

I will always be a California girl, but I look forward to the big changes and opportunities that Texas seems to have in store for us. So for now, we will continue to call California home, while preparing ourselves for the big day when we will become Texans 🤪.

Full Circle: Our Crazy Birth Stories- Firstborn

If there’s anything I’ve learned about having kids, it’s that each one of them comes with their own unique personalities. Also, they can come with equally unique stories about how they are welcomed to the world outside of their comfortable and safe womb. You eventually forget the pains of labor (and thankfully so!), but you never forget the way they entered this world. Each of my sweet littles has given me a memorable birth story to carry dearly for the rest of my life.

I have four kids (I’ve had five pregnancies but we miscarried our 2nd when our firstborn was 2) over a span of nine years. Each has had its own experiences, challenges, and special moments. It’s been so long since we first learned that we were going to be parents with our firstborn, now 8 years old. We’ve learned so much since then, and yet, we are still learning new things with each one!

(The night before we found out we were going to be parents for the very first time. We actually went to buy a test upon leaving this family party, but I wanted to wait until morning to take it. And it was positive!)

Andrew, or firstborn, was born late 2010. He was our honeymoon baby, so you can say honeymoon period didn’t last very long! I would dare say, he was my easiest pregnancy experience of all. That may be because he was the first one, and every experience was exciting and new. I did not experience morning sickness at all- actually, I did have a few bouts of nausea, but it was ONLY when I was at work, during my short career as a bank teller. I think that was more so caused by being at the bank than being pregnant.

Andrew’s pregnancy was comfortable. So comfortable that I was not very active, and I partook in the “seafood diet”- I’d see food… and I’d eat it! I missed the memo that stated that you only increase your caloric intake by 300-500 calories 😳. Then, during my 3rd trimester, I was told that I had a Placenta Previa, which is when the placenta is blocking the exit. That meant that if I went into labor, I risked hemorrhaging due to the potential tearing of the blood vessels connecting the placenta to the uterus. This is dangerous for both mom and baby.

So I had to have a Cesarean.

I cried. A lot.

Then, even when I came to accept it, someone in my life who liked to get under my skin, told me that I wasn’t experiencing real motherhood because I was not having the baby naturally, as if I had a choice. Seriously.

Thankfully, I have such a loving and supportive husband, who’s always been there to respond to outside negativity with love and encouragement.

It was love at first sight.

I could not believe that I was a mother, that we were parents. But, there he was, this new little baby boy who would look to us to care for, love, train, and nurture him from that day forward. It was exciting and overwhelming.

The C-section was done fairly quickly, once our doctor arrived (he had gone to the wrong hospital, so it started an hour later than scheduled 😂). I don’t remember much about the initial recovery except that I had to be taken to a separate recovery room from postpartum room my husband was waiting for me in with our new baby. I remember not liking that I was alone, and then I fell asleep.

I stayed at that hospital for two days. The first night was difficult. I could not move much without discomfort due to the surgery, and my husband could not stay the night with me at this hospital. I made the mistake of skipping a dosage of my pain meds because I THOUGHT I could handle it. Big mistake. The pain was excruciating! That was the last time I missed a dose. I also felt helpless, because I couldn’t care for my newborn without assistance. I’d never had a major surgery of any kind before that day, and after, I hoped to never have one again!

Recovery at home was gradual. I recall it taking a couple of weeks before I felt like I could function fairly well on my own. Getting to that point was a major relief.

One of the most difficult parts of that first birth, aside from the physical recovery, was the emotional recovery. I went through a serious postpartum depression with Andrew, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I felt like I was going crazy, like I had lost control of my life and my emotions, and my marriage was on the edge of ruin because of it. But, that chapter is being saved for another day. Just know, we made it through this rough time, and came out stronger because of it.

I will never forget those first couple of years as new parents with our first little guy. He taught us so much about being parents, caring for another human being, and about unconditional love. However, he- being the very easy baby that he was (I call him our false advertisement)- did NOT prepare us well for what was to come just over 4 years after his birth:

Our wild child second born, David!

(To be continued!)

Welcome to the World, Little Man.

These last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, and me just trying to keep up.baseball season began, and this season we have TWO little sluggers. So, that in itself has been an adjustment, especially since both of them have practice at the same exact time ( which makes me even more thankful that hubs is home right now ). Couple that with just the immense discomfort I was feeling: sciatic nerve pain and other unmentionable pregnancy induced pains that made walking-or, just moving, period- almost unbearable. Oh, yeah, and I’m taking three classes this semester, and each class had a workload of assignments due the last week leading up to spring break (which officially just ended as of yesterday.. I didn’t get any breaks, in case you were wondering).

It was hectic. Then, a bomb was dropped on us last week that someone Mike and I hold dear in our hearts passed away. Let me pause to say this. Reach out to the people you care about. Sometimes we think because we are SEMI-connected through social media, that this in itself is sufficient enough for our social relationships. You can have someone you care for on your friends list and not know that they are going through pain. Such is the case for our dear friends, a couple that we adore, and who are such a blessing to Mike and I in the early days of our marriage. I have the wife on my friends list, and yet, had no idea the husband was in his last days of life, until I saw the post from a family member-tagging her- sharing of his passing (I am thankful for social media in this sense. Otherwise, we would not have known).

Death really wakes you up about life itself. It keeps track of how far you are in life, or how close you are to it. It’s a reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one, and that in a blink of an eye, the lives of those we love can change. It’s a sobering, but necessary, truth.

We went to the funeral service, which was beautiful. Filled with so much love- a love that I know has grown tremendously from the love these two beautiful people gave to so many. Our friend was as genuine, as caring, and godly as they come. They were one of the few in the days of our fellowship with them that we felt were not trying to keep up with an image of earned merit. We need more people in the world like them. I only wish we had been able to pry ourselves away from our life on the other side of the world (we live about an hour and a half drive away… but that may as well be the other side of the world, it seems) to visit, to say hello and catch up. I plan on doing that with his wife, but I wish we had done that when he was still here. You never know what tomorrow brings for those you care about. Stop by and say hi today.

This is the most processing I’ve been able to really do since his funeral service. The next morning, I was woken up to a consistent flurry of contractions. I’d had a few false alarms in the last week, so I didn’t think much of them at first. After the third one, I had to start tracking them to see if there was a pattern. There was. But, they were also fairly spread apart, so I wasn’t as concerned. They continued on, and I kept tracking.

Then, just after lunch time, I begun tracking a contraction, when about ten seconds into it, I felt a POP! My mind suddenly stopped working, as I rushed to the bathroom to confirm what I immediately realized: my water just broke, and I’m going into labor!

For the sake of time- we have opening ceremonies this morning, as well as two games- and length, I will share the birth story next time.

I went into labor Monday the 11th around noon, and we welcome our sweet baby boy, our 4th little blessing, into the world at 12:50am on Tuesday, March 12th.

And it’s now Saturday. This week has been a BLUR. I’m pretty sure we were driving to the hospital to deliver one second- and then I blinked- and now here we are five days later.

I’m mostly in a fog, but a joyful one filled with an overwhelming amount of love. I’ve been waiting for this day to come, and the wait-with all of its pains and discomforts-was worth every single second.

He is a beautiful little thing (I’m not saying this just because I’m his mom!) and I look forward to sharing so much more of our new journey as a family of six, as parents to for amazing little people!

Happy Saturday!

Hello, Maternity Leave!

I taught my last aerobics class Monday night, and today I’m officially beginning my maternity vacation! It was somewhat bittersweet, because I LOVE my students and my classes. However, the last couple of months have been a grueling task of trying to just get through each hour with minimal pain, and being able to move the next day. I was ready to go. More than that, I’ve been praying for this day to come quickly!

I have four weeks until my due date, and I have hope that our little guy will decide it’s time to enter the world sooner than that. So these next few weeks, I need to make sure that we are ready. Once, I hit full term next week, I would happily welcome him at any time! But, at this very moment, I’ve yet to take full inventory of what we need!

If you are a parent of more than one child, you know the drill: when you find you are expecting the first time, you begin planning the minute you walk out of the doctor’s office. By the time you start showing, you’ve already started building much of the gender neutral items you’ve been told you’ll need by your friends, parents, cousins, baby magazines, baby registry pamphlets, etc. Then, after baby’s gender is revealed? Hold on to your hats! By seven months, the baby already has their own fully furnished apartment! They come out with everything they’ll need for the next five years waiting for them!

And then you get to baby number four (and if you’re like me..). Four weeks prior to due date, you’re just trying to remember where you are, your name, and how to put on your own socks and squeeze your pillsbury dough feet into your shoes; the other baby stuff can wait, right? Maybe I’m the only one?

I know I will love this little guy with all my heart, like I do my three other babies. However, I have not given this pregnancy the attention and planning that I gave the others. For that, I can’t help but feel a little bit of guilt. I have this obsessive need to make sure all of my children have equal time, equal experiences, equal opportunities (I’m a good boss, LOL). I am very much afraid of one of them coming to me one day saying “You showed such and such more love/attention/care/concern/you name it. I never want one to feel left out. I don’t even want one to feel that we invested in another more than them in any way. I’m probably paranoid and overthinking this whole parenting thing, but I guess I am just ultra-sensitive when it comes to my kids.

Being a mom is hard. In the best way possible. But still, very hard. Anyone who says it’s easy, I’d wonder if they are actually doing the work. Having three, is even harder. They say once you’ve had three, you can handle more than that because it’s not any harder. Having our third really threw us off balance, and we immediately felt the difference and struggle of being outnumbered when it came to balancing the attention needs. Much of my mom-guilt started then. And here we are, about to have our fourth! I wouldn’t give up having all of our kids for anything, though. The best thing I can do is pray for wisdom and guidance in my walk as a parent, love and nurture them, train up my children in the way they should go, and entrust them to the Lord. For someone tho likes to be in control of circumstances, that’s all easier said and done!

Despite the mom-guilt, I am fairly co Disney that this little one is going to be as loved and well-balanced as his siblings. I’m excited to meet him, and see what unique characteristics he adds to our crazy family dynamic. It never ceases to amaze me how extremely different each one of our children are, even though we’ve basically raised them all the same way! Personalities, temperaments, sociabilities. They are all so different. Our newest little addition will just add to the fun and loving chaos that our family has come to know as normal! I look forward to every moment of it!

So as I embark on the final stretch of this journey, and what I believe to be my last pregnancy, I am making an attempt to cherish these moments. It’s so easy to focus on the discomfort associate with pregnancy, especially when you are dealing with some major pains, as I have this time around. I really want to focus and enjoy the parts of pregnancy that we tend to miss after we are no longer pregnant, like feeling the baby moving, the excitement of not knowing what they will look like, or grow up to be, or the duties of preparing to welcome a new little person into our home, hearts, and family. I know the kids are excited to meet their little brother. We are going to be a family of six very soon! We will have four sweet children that, I pray, we will watch grow up, become happy, responsible, loving, godly, and giving adults; who will, hopefully, find the person God has for them, get married, and start families of their own. I don’t want to rush any of that, because Lord knows, as crazy as they drive me sometimes, I don’t look forward to the day any of my sweet babies leave me to start their own lives. However, that’s just the selfish part of me talking. The logical part prays for that all to come to fruition, and for Mike and I to be able to experience the blessing of seeing it all come together! It’ll be a blessing if we can one day enjoy the blessing of getting promoted from Mom and Dad, to Grandma and Grandpa, and see all of our children live happy, complete and fulfilling lives. I couldn’t ask for more. Until then, I will continue doing all that I can do as a mom: loving, praying, and trusting God for the lives of the four indescribable blessings he has given us.

Oh, and counting down the days until this little guy joins the pack. Hopefully SOON!!!