I have really enjoyed writing this blog, and may continue to do it on and off, but I wanted to let you all know that I am not going to be keeping it as my primary blog.  Part of the reason is that the title feels a little disingenuous (and maybe a bit corny).  We all strive to be happy and healthy.  But the title seems a little too serious for my taste.  So I am changing, yet again, and am playing around with a new name.  Once I feel comfortable with how it looks, I will start posting on Facebook and Twitter, but for now, I am just going to work on writing the best blog I can.

Any tips, tricks, or suggestions as to how to go about the nuts ad bolts of making a new blog look fabulous are more than welcome!

 

Grocery Price Lists

Apples, and Yogurt, and Eggs, oh my!

These are just a few of the things that I find myself returning to the store again and again to purchase, because we seem to go through them like crazy.  And because I no longer have a second refrigerator, I am really having to watch my grocery dollars.  No longer can I take advantage of the awesome bulk sales of refrigerated items.  So I am having to find a new strategy for shopping smart.

Money-Clip-Art

Now I don’t mind clipping coupons, but I am NOT going to buy four bags of cat food in order to get one free (especially since I don’t have a cat).  (What IS it with the folks on those Extreme Couponing shows?)

I digress…

Coupons-clip-art1

In addition to clipping the rare coupon that I can find for an item that I will actually use, I have decided to start keeping a Grocery Price List.  Now this requires a lot of work in the beginning, but I am hopeful that it will save me money in the long run and make my grocery dollars stretch.  (Living in the D. C. area with a husband and 6 ravenous kids, 3 of whom are teenagers, and 4 of whom are in private school, is NOT cheap.)

Plus, we really try to eat as healthy as possible.  I’m not into having to have organic everything or grass-fed this, and free-range that.  But we do try to keep things as close to “whole” foods as possible, while keeping it fun and simple.  Still, meal planning can be quite the task when you have to please body-conscious teenage girls, protein-craving boys, little kids who don’t like “green things”, and a husband who would gladly eat frozen pizza every night.

I am kind of making up my price list as I go along, using categories such as date, store, brand, unit price, size, etc.  And I am entering it into a Numbers spreadsheet to keep it nice and neat.  I’ll let you know how it fares and if, after a few months, it seems to be worth the effort.

I would love to know any tips and/or tricks that you use to keep your grocery bills reasonable.  Feel free to share in the comments!

The Royal Baby…Who Cares?

There is a new future King of England.  He was born just a few short hours ago.  And already on Facebook and Twitter, I see multiple posts saying “Who cares?”  or “Why is this news in America?”

Well, I think this indeed should be news.

We spend hours of our lives listening to multiple accounts of crimes, scandals, and deaths of celebrities.  We analyze every aspect of the sad and depressing events in the world.  In fact, we seem to be a bloodthirsty culture…”if it bleeds, it leads” is  a well-known cliche.  The death of the future King’s own grandmother, Lady Diana, was a leading story for months.

In the midst of constant negative news such as murder trials, cities going bankrupt, political discord, and economic woes, it is a breath of fresh air to be able to celebrate a joyous event.

And frankly, if you don’t care about it, that’s fine…why take the time to comment about it on facebook?  And what would you rather see?  Another headline about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman?  More stories about how Congress can’t seem to get anything done?  This stuff is NOT news.

Here is something that is newsworthy:  God still sees enough hope and promise in humanity to continue blessing us with babies.  He keeps giving us more chances to “get it right”.

And even if you don’t look at things through a religious lens, you might be able to appreciate the humanity that joins us all, royalty and common folks alike…the welcoming of a new member of the family.

Those of us who are parents felt the excitement and anxiety along with the Royal couple as they awaited the birth.  We could imagine the Duchess laboring along, squeezing the Duke’s knuckles until they were about to explode.  (I don’t know whether she had an epidural or not, but from my experience, labor is never completely pain-free!)  We could imagine his helplessness as he watched the woman he loves perform the toughest task of her life.

Of course there are thousands of babies born around the world every day.  Most of these babies are born into socioeconomic circumstances that cannot even match a fraction of that which the new Prince will enjoy.  But family is family.  And it is nice to know that in a world of uncertainty and struggle, there is hope and promise for the future.  And nothing symbolizes that hope more than the birth of a new baby.

And so I say “Congratulations!” to the Royal family, and “Welcome to the world, Little Prince!”

 

My Upcoming 20-Year Reunion: Have I “Succeeded”?

This summer, my 20 year high school reunion is taking place in a little town in southern Alabama.  I am still not sure if I will be able to attend, but I really hope to go.

I did not have the best high school experience, but it was not terrible either.  I had friends and boyfriends.  I participated in extracurricular activities.  I was an excellent student.  In fact, I was a Valedictorian and gave the Commencement speech at graduation.  And I was even voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in my high school yearbook.

Wow, that last sentence hit me like a ton of bricks as I typed it just now.  What will people think if/when I return this summer?  Being “Most Likely to Succeed” and Valedictorian seemed like such a big deal back then.  I had so much life ahead of me.  All I had to do was go out and stake my claim.

Senior Yearbook Pic

But I look at myself now and wonder, what happened?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a happily married Army wife and mother to 6 AH-MAZING children.  I get to see miracles happen every day as my little ones discover new things about the world around them and my teenagers make profound statements (amid the umms, uhs, and whatevers).

I am proud of my husband’s accomplishments in his military career.  He even attributes much of his own success to me…he says things like “When we get promoted,” or “When  we take command,” even though he is the one being promoted or taking command.  But I am fortunate that he recognizes my efforts.

Still, there is a small twinge that pinches deep in my gut when I imagine where I thought I would be by now as compared to where I really am.  I thought I would have have attained some level of mastery at something by now.  But I still feel like the 18-year-old graduate who is not sure what she wants to do with her life.

And I feel like I still have not mastered even the mostbasic tasks of my “job.”  I am not very organized, and my housekeeping definitely leaves something to be desired.  I don’t volunteer much at the kids’ school, and I don’t spend a lot of time working for charities or other causes.  I sort of play with my kids by acting silly and dancing with them when their favorite songs come on the radio or t.v.  But I don’t plan out a lot of structured developmental activities for them.  I cook delicious meals, but not always the healthiest.

So, if my 18-year-old self were to look at the woman I have become, what would she think?  Would she consider me successful?

Sadly, I have to say that she probably would not.  But that is because of her limited view of success.

The average 18-year-old knows how hard it is to study for days on end for finals.  She does not know how hard it is for a woman to stay on bed rest for weeks just trying to get her twin babies to be viable before she goes into labor and delivers two precious premies.

NICU with Mary

She knows the heartbreak of a boy leaving her at a dance for another girl.  She does not know the heartbreak of sending her husband of 15 years off to war for the 3rd time as she stays behind on a military post far from family with 4 small children to care for.

IMG_0946

She knows the pressure of finishing a term paper on time and hoping that it “makes the grade.”  She does not know the pressure of paying household bills and hoping that no major emergency occurs in the near future, since she does not yet have a strong emergency fund.

She understands having to go to work even though she is tired from staying out too late with friends the night before.  She does not understand having to be “on” for her older children even though the sick baby was up crying nonstop for more than two hours straight the night before.

Silly Kids

No, she would not look at me and say that I am successful.  She would think that I am “just a wife and mother”.  But she would be wrong.  And I do not blame her for that.  She grew up in a society that patronizingly told her that being a stay-at-home-mom was honorable, but it did not reflect that sentiment in the values it forced upon her.  It was something that was for some folks, but not for her.  Society had told her that she was “more.”

Well, having teenage daughters of my own now, I can look back at that sweet young lady and smile.  She was indeed naive.  She had no idea what skills she would have to acquire to make her life work.  And she could not have pictured where life would take her.

I have many years ahead of me to pursue my dreams.  But as I grow older, I find that my dreams are changing.  They are evolving.  I am thankful for the last 20 years, and I look forward to the next two decades.

I still have a lot of growing and maturing to do (don’t we all?)  I have not yet mastered the parts of my life that I want to master.  And I am not sure that I ever really will.  But as long as I am moving forward, refusing to repeat mistakes from the past, and remaining open to the life God wants to place before me, then I know I am on the right path.

And if I am able to attend that reunion, even with my “mommy body” and less than impressive professional resume, I will hold my head high, and know that I am a success.

Don’t believe the “Voices”

I used to love the t.v. show “The Voice.”  (I probably would still like it, I just don’t ever have time to watch t.v. these days)  I loved the idea that average people could come on this show, sing in front of some of today’s most successful musicians, and get the opportunity to follow their dreams.  The judges could not see the contestants (they sat it chairs with their backs to the singers)…they had to judge them on their voices alone.  The best part of the show was when the judges turned around and saw the contestants.

The person standing before them often looked NOTHING like what they expected.  It might be a heavyset “plain Jane” belting out an amazing version of a Celine Dion song or a young African-American man whose voice was eerliy similar to George Strait’s (I’m not saying that these were actual contestants…these are just examples of the kinds of surprises the judges would face.)

Now there is a different “voice” that is not nearly so entertaining.  I struggle with all kinds of “inner voices.”  (Before you lock me up in a psychiatric ward, please understand that I am not talking about “voices” that are telling me to do harmful or scary things.)

Now that we have that cleared up, let me tell you about the voices.

They are the inner whisperings in my head that tell me that I am not doing things well enough.  They try to convince me that my work is unimportant, insignificant, or somehow menial, especially when compared to my husband’s fast-paced career of service to our nation.  They tell me that I am helpless…that I cannot ever hope to support myself should something happen to my husband.  They tell me that I am a fraud…that my husband is the talented one in the family and that I am just “riding his coattails.”  They try to tell me that I should do a better job at taking care of my things, that I should invite people over more often, that I should get involved in more service projects, that I should spend more time playing with my children.  And there may be some truth to “some” (but not all) of the things they say.

I have learned that “voices” are not there to help.  They have no intention of trying to open my eyes to areas that need improvement and inspire me to do better.  Their only mission is to tear me down and try to tear down my family at the same time.

The thing is, when I speak these things out loud or write them down, they sound just plain silly.  OK, sure, I probably need to take better care of my belongings, but even if I never improve in this area, I can still say that I have had a successful, happy life.

As for riding my husband’s coattails, I never really realized that this was bothering me so much until I typed it just now.  It kind of came out of nowhere.  (Well, not “nowhere”…someone close to me once told me something to this effect, and apparently it has been “festering”.)

Once we identify our voices, what do we do?  Now I completely believe in the power of visualization.  So I have decided to start using the image of the Voice judges’ red chairs when my “inner voices” start to belt out their tunes.  Maybe this will work for you, too.

When they first start “singing,” you can hear them.  You might even be tempted to believe them.  But then, as you visualize yourself turning around in your judges’ chair, you will “face” them (in other words, you will write them down and read them.)  At that point, you will be able to get the “whole picture.”  You will be able to see if this is really something that you need to address or if it is just a “clanging gong” that is trying to distract you from the important stuff of life.

Another solution for dealing with the “voices” came to me through my new favorite author/blogger, Jon Acuff.  He has a website where you can go and type in whatever message your “voices” are trying to tell you.  http://www.nomorevoices.com/  It is completely anonymous.  Other people can read it and click on a “me too” button if they share that voice.  I am not sure if it is helpful or not.  It is nice to see that other people share my concerns, but as I read other peoples’ “voices” it is easy to get “bogged down” in the negativity.  However, the point is to focus on the community aspect…the fact that you are not alone in your feelings and to actually get the voices out of your head and “on to paper” so-to-speak.

Struggling with motherhood? Me too.

Fellow moms: for some reason, I struggle with my role as a mom from time to time.  I love being a mom, but often do not feel up to the challenge.  It often amazes me that my children are turning out to be such amazing people, because I know that I am rarely bringing my  “A Game”.

I’m tired.  I’m sleep-deprived.  I try to stay up to chat with the teenagers and get up early enough to have some alone time before the toddlers are up (which is usually between 5:30 and 6am).

I don’t have the biggest support system.  Oh sure, I have wonderful friends and family, but we live States away from each other, and correspond mostly on Facebook.  My immediate surroundings are about to change for the second time in a year (as we move from Pennsylvania to D.C.), so I feel pretty lonely these days.

And in this society, where motherhood seems to be “graded” by how many hours you volunteer at the kids’ school, the creativeness with which you pack their lunches (as if good ol’ PB&J is the sign of a slacker mom), and the cuteness of your mommy blog, I often feel like an absolute failure.

Now, I normally don’t try to write “Debbie Downer” posts.  And I apologize that this has been one.  But I did promise myself one thing when I started this blog.  I would tell the truth.  Pretending to be something I am not is of little benefit to anyone…least of all to me.

If nothing else, I hope that those of you who are struggling with your own motherhood roles can find some comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Now, with all that being said, I would like to link you up with a wonderful website that I have found to be a great resource.  I have only just discovered it, but I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Please take a minute to look at it and then come back here and tell me what you think.  The name of the site is http://powerofmoms.com/.  I think you will find it to be a great source of help and hope.

Advice for Moms – Power of Moms

And the following article really spoke to me today.

http://powerofmoms.com/2012/06/six-reasons-to-never-give-up-on-motherhood/

Writer’s Block

I don’t know how many of you are writers.  But for those of you who are, I need to commiserate for a moment.

Don’t you hate it when, you have worked to find the perfect time to sit down, undisturbed, with a hot cup of coffee or tea, and write in solitude…only to realize that you basically have nothing to say at that moment?

Ugh!  That’s what happened to me this morning.  The whole family is asleep.  I have probably a good half an hour to myself (which, is an eternity when you have 6 children!)  And I have nothing to say!

So, this got me to thinking:  I need to be prepared for times like this.  I need to have a list of topics and/or ideas to share.  Like anything else in life, I need to “be prepared.” (Hey, you can’t really blame me…I was never a Boy Scout, and I never had any brothers, so there were no Boy Scouts in our family.  The only scouting I grew up with involved Thin Mints and having a “smile in my pocket”.)

Anyway, I am off to start “brainstorming” for my next post.  I promise, it will be far more riveting than this one was 🙂

Have a fabulous day!

Quitter

I am reading a very interesting book.

Quitter. by Jon Acuff

Now my husband likes to tease me because I have the tendency to “weave” any book that I am currently reading into whatever conversation we are having.  For example:

Him: “Hey Sweetie, next time you go to the commissary, could you pick up some razors for me?”

Me:  “You know, that reminds me…I am reading a book about time management.  According to Dr. So-and-So, I need to free up more time for the things that are important to me by having you and the kids take more ownership in the areas of your lives that you ask me to handle.  Therefore, I have posted the commissary list on the refrigerator.  If you need something, it is up to you to write it on the list.  When you simply mention things to me in passing, you abdicate responsibility for the task and it somehow becomes my responsibility.  This makes me feel undervalued, because I am running around trying to meet all of your needs, the kids’ needs, and my own needs.  I simply can’t do it all, and I really need you to step up and take responsibility.”

I think he was expecting me to say, “Oh sure, no problem.”

So, every time I start a sentence with “Hey honey, I am reading a great book…” hubby gets that glazed-over, deer-in-headlights look, and I know that he has retreated into his mental man-cave until the danger of amateur spousal psychoanalysis has passed.

However, I really am enjoying this book, so rather than torture my husband with my thoughts on it, I decided to discuss it here.

No one wants to be a “quitter.”  In American society, it is considered an act of cowardice or failure to “quit” something.  We are brought up to believe that “winners never quit, and quitters never win.”  What a load of crap!

Now, it is true that we cannot expect to hop around from thing to thing, or idea to idea, constantly giving up when obstacles present themselves.

But, when it is obvious that something is not a “fit” for you, are you expected to stay with it, indefinitely?  Of course not.

And this is the main crux of this book.  We all have dreams, passions, interests, and goals that we would like to pursue.  And somehow, our society has romanticized those people who give up everything to follow said dreams, etc.  But that is not the way it should be.

There has to be a bridge between living your life as it is right now, and living the life you desire to live in the land of “someday.”

The best way to do this is not to hate your current situation and daydream about a better life (although yours truly is quite guilty of this from time to time).  Rather, you should embrace your current state and begin to perform with excellence, looking for opportunities to incorporate the skills necessary to accomplish your long-term goals.

Become intentional about how you perform in life.  Don’t see your current job or situation as an obstacle.  Rather, use it as a stepping stone or a building block to where you want to go.

Even if your current job has nothing to do with your passion, you can figure out ways to become “excellent.”

Now I am only about a third of the way through this book, but I gather that part of Acuff’s message is that excellence is a habit.  It must be cultivated and developed intentionally.  It does not happen by accident.

Let me repeat that:

Excellence does not happen by accident.

You can’t go through your daily life being lazy, sloppy, and uncommitted and expect to turn into a creative, energetic ball of excellence on the weekend when you are working on your passion.  No…you must make excellence a habit.  Not perfection…excellence.

OK, so in order to be an excellent mother, I need to get up out of this chair and get my day started, otherwise I will be sending my kids off to school in questionable clothing choices and lunches consisting primarily of chemicals I cannot spell not pronounce.  (Which does not really jive with the whole “Healthy Mom” part of this blog’s title.)

Have an excellent day, and don’t quit your day job! (just yet)

 

Senior Spouses (Part 1)

This week I have had the great fortune to attend a seminar for “Senior Spouses” here at the United States Army War College.  It has been a great few days of networking, relationship-building, learning, and reflecting.

Now, if you are not familiar with the military, you are probably thinking “What the heck is a ‘Senior Spouse’?”

Basically, a Senior Spouse is a military spouse whose Soldier has been in the military for many years and has attained a certain level of rank and/or responsibility.  The military understands that, in most cases, the Spouse has had to make many sacrifices to support his or her Soldier’s career over the years.  And many times the success of the Soldier has been, in no small part, due to the Spouse’s ability to keep “the home fires burning” and maintain an incredible sense of flexibility.  The Spouse has, undoubtedly, learned many skills and techniques for dealing with military life and she (or he) often has a wealth of knowledge about military life to share with younger Spouses.

While it is true that we military Spouses do not “wear” our Soldiers’ ranks (although some make an attempt to do so), we are “aware” of our Soldiers’ ranks and how that causes the rest of the world (especially within the military community) to see us.  Whether we like it or not, by virtue of being “Colonel So-and-So’s wife” or “Command Sergeant Major So-and-So’s husband,” we are ambassadors for the military.  Whether or not we want to have anything to do with our Soldiers’ careers, the rest of the world still sees us as representatives of the military.

Now, just because we are military spouses, it does not mean that we cannot (or should not) have lives and/or careers of our own.  There used to be a joke that “If the Army wanted you to have a wife, it would have issued one to you.”  In some circles, this attitude still prevails to an extent, but it is rapidly dying out.

The military has come to understand that, as an all-volunteer force, if they want to retain talent, they have to make sure that the families have a certain quality of life.  Spouses need and want to have opportunities to pursue their careers, passions, interests, etc.  The idea that the Spouse should just put her (or his) career on hold is no longer acceptable or realistic.  Finding the balance between supporting the military member’s career and having the Spouse sustain and grow a career of her (or his) own can be quite a challenge (especially in the midst of moving every few years, sometimes to foreign countries.)

The military is making an effort to ease such transitions.  And in the past few years, they have made an attempt to improve the amenities available to military families…more youth activities, tuition assistance programs, better housing, career counseling for Spouses, etc.

But, here’s the kicker:

We are in a time of budget cuts.  As a whole, the military is being required to find areas where it can “cut fat” and reduce spending.  And let’s face it…family programs are not immune to these cuts.  Nor should they be.

The mission of the Army, as one example, is essentially “to fight and win our Nation’s wars.”

The mission is not to make sure that military Spouses all achieve “self-actualization”  or to make sure that free child care is provided for every meeting that a spouse may want to attend.  While these things are nice, when it comes down to it, they are “extras.”  Important extras, but extras nonetheless.  And I give them kudos for having made an attempt to provide many of these things while we have been at war over the past decade.

So we, as Senior Spouses, need to help the younger spouses to manage expectations and empower them to find solutions to their dilemmas rather than simply ask the military to provide everything.  This is a time when we need to come together, get creative, and lift each other up.

While the military has tried to create programs to address many different needs, one of its greatest resources has always been (and I hope continues to be) the families and the way they help each other spontaneously…looking to each other rather than expecting the military to supply the answers and resources to meet our every need.

I am curious…if you have experience with military programs, which ones do you think are important to keep, and which ones do you think would be able to be cut from the budget?

I will address these issues more in the future, but for now (like a good military Spouse)I need to go play “reveille” for my kids in order to get them up and going for the day!

 

 

 

 

Pinterest…Facebook…Twitter, Oh My

Who doesn’t love social media?

I know, I know…not EVERYONE loves social media.  Older generations got along just fine without it.

But younger generations cannot imagine a world devoid of tweets or posts.  (Although, if you ask my teenagers, Facebook and  Twitter are becoming almost passe.  They spend more time on Snapchat and Instagram.)

I find myself in that “grey area”.  My peers grew up without social media or the internet.  Heck, we didn’t even have text messaging.  If we wanted to talk to someone outside of school hours, we actually had to pick up the house phone (no one had cell phones…never mind smart phones) and dial the person’s phone number.   We risked having his or her parents answer the phone, and, using the best manners we could muster, we had to ask if we could please speak to our friend.  I don’t know that I have ever had one of my kids’ friends call and ask to talk to one of my kids.

I digress.

Anyway, as I said, I am in that grey area between the generations of social media and no social media.  I can clearly see the differences in the way people interact and how social media has changed our abilities to engage with other humans.  I even notice that when I spend too much time on social media, I find myself feeling a bit depressed and disengaged with my family.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some Facebook and Pinterest!  And, while I am not a huge Twitter fan, I check it probably once a day just to skim the headlines.

But I think we have to be careful.  Most of us complain about not having enough time to complete the tasks that we need to complete.  We say there are not enough hours in the day.  We are sleep deprived.  Our homes are a mess.  And the quality of our work (if we are truly honest) is nothing close to what it should be.

And yet, somehow, we find time to read and re-post Facebook posts that promote our favored political or social agendas.  We find time to re-tweet funny sayings or memes.  We find time to re-Pin that amazing peanut-butter-fudge recipe or handprint craft project that our kids would love (but never find time to actually make it with them).

Even though each of these things only takes a few seconds, these seconds quickly add up to minutes and hours.  I cannot imagine that, on my deathbed, I will say “Gee, I wish I had tweeted more.” or “I really regret not having had a bigger Pin Board.”

Social media has its place in our lives.  I believe it is here to stay.  It can play a positive role in our modern world.  It is vital in today’s business community and is great for small business.  It helps us to maintain connections that would otherwise be very difficult to maintain (especially for those of us with transient lifestyles).

But like any tool, we have to be careful that we use it correctly so we don’t end up “hurt”.  We have to make sure that it does not dominate our lives and move into the realm of addiction.

I am curious, how do you manage your social media time?  Do you find it to be a help, or a time-waster?