Shepherd’s Pie. It’s What’s For Dinner During The Great Casserole Comeback!

“Where’d you get the shepherd?” – My boyfriend Kevin

“This looks so bad but it tastes so good!” – My Kids

Cooking has been challenging to say the least being at the mercy of what is available at the grocery store and my own pantry. I  never know what will be out of stock next at the grocery store. I was shocked to see that hot dogs and sausages were totally wiped out with a sign that said people could only purchase one. Hot dogs? Is that because they will last until the end of time? That is all I can think of. Anyway, as a result I have tried to buy things that will last and that I can stretch through the week.  I fondly refer to this time as the The Great Casserole Comeback. Oh what I can do with a roast chicken, rice, carrots, potatoes, 5 pounds of ground beef……endless possibilities! My kids look scared to death when they see a 9×13 dish come out of the oven.

Well, much to their chagrin they loved my shepherd’s pie. They ate it all. Only one little bit left for lunch the next day.  It’s not pretty…nooooooo it’s not. But what it lacks in presentation it more than makes up for in taste. And that is why I share it with you here today. The best part…..it’s healthy and very easy to make from scratch.  Use the vegetables you have and don’t worry if you’re missing any. Don’t have fresh veggies but plenty of frozen? Throw them in! It calls for mushrooms but they were sold out like the hot dogs. My kids were thrilled. Don’t eat meat or it’s not stocked? Leave it out – the gravy is so good with the vegetables and mashed potatoes alone. You can make it with ground beef or turkey.

Recipe is as follows – it’s easier than it looks!

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

3 whole cloves

1 tsp thyme

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced onion

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1 cup diced celery

1 cup frozen corn

1 tablespoon, plus ¾ tablespoon all purpose flour

½ cup low sodium beef broth

3-4 chopped, cooked, mashed potatoes

½ cup milk – low fat

1 tablespoon butter

1 -2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown beef in a large skillet and drain when done. Wipe the skillet clean. Return beef to skillet and stir in 1 cup broth, pepper, salt, bay leaves, cloves and thyme. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

While that cooks chop the potatoes and cover in a pan with cold water. Boil the potatoes until tender for 10-12 minutes. Drain in a colander and return to pan. Add butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. I have been known to add a spoonful of sour cream. Mash or mix until fluffy in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Add carrots, onions, mushrooms, celery and corn to the skillet with the beef. Add 1/2 cup or so of more broth if it’s low to cook the veggies. Simmer and cook covered for 7 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Preheat oven to 375. Put flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in broth. Stir until smooth and blended. Add to beef mixture. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

I hope your family loves it! I find that cooking for family is psychologically and spiritually nourishing. Food is love!

Proof that my kids loved it:

This Too Shall Pass. Until Then……

“We fall into despair when the terrible gangs up on us and we forget the world can also be wonderful. We just see terrible everywhere we look. So what you do for your friend is you bring up the wonderful, so both are side by side. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. One doesn’t negate the other, but the wonderful keeps us in the game.”   – Catherine Ryan Hyde, Have You Seen Luis Velez?

How cute is this? Two little girls in my mom’s neighborhood painted and placed these on everyone’s driveway with a different word of hope for each family.

Keep making lemonade! I keep reading posts and articles right now about making lemonade out of the lemons being thrown at us right now. There is so much that is positive out there and people coming together….six feet apart and separated by phone screens and monitors of course. I do feel so much closer to people from so far away. Do you? All the references to lemons make me smile right now. Lemons are a symbol of well-being and positive surroundings. I don’t know about you but I could really use that right now! The stock market is down and the number on my bathroom scale is up. Shelter in place is in effect for the county in which I live. Oh, and the governor in the fine state of Georgia closed school for the rest of the year. It’s necessary I know. My kids miss their classes, teachers and friends. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The number on my bathroom scale is up. Did I mention that already? I think I did.

I have so many questions. Such as…..

  1. Can I get pulled over just driving to the grocery store? I don’t think I would have a problem if I did. One look at my crazed eyes, an ungroomed dirty dog in the back seat and two kids with home given haircuts should get us waved right on.

2. Are other people changing out of daytime pajamas to put on nighttime pajamas when it gets kind of dark? Asking for a friend.

3. Who is staying awake at night worried sick about loved ones getting sick? And keeping jobs and finances intact? Anyone else? I think I already know the answer.

Worries will continue but so will so many good things and lessons we take away from all of this. I see on Facebook and hear from so many about how it’s brought their families back to the kitchen table for dinner each night. I have always insisted on family dinner at the table but sometimes it was a snack at 9:30 after lacrosse practice and we were too tired to really talk. Now we have dinner every night together and talk, walk the dog around the neighborhood (not a rushed somebody please take that poor dog out right now plea), play tennis, cards (we are trying to learn to play poker – $1 buy-in), or just sit and watch television. Together.  It’s not perfect….we bicker, I try to cheat at cards, ghastly inappropriate things are expelled from both kids at the dinner table, I get mad and then laugh. Because I don’t care what anyone says – a fart is funny. And they work so hard at it and we should celebrate everyone’s God given talents during this difficult time.

I have friends making masks, inspirational jewelry with sweet messages to send to those who need it, dropping off desserts, cards, anything to help lift spirits. There was a drive-by birthday celebration for a neighbor in my neighborhood. Singing happy birthday out of the windows of cars. It brought joy to the entire street! My daughter and I went to a very large parking lot, sat six feet apart from dear friends and celebrated a 16th birthday. There were less than 10 people congregating. It was simple – balloons, bubbles, and singing happy birthday. It was awesome! I received this beautiful package on my doorstep. Lemons of course! With lemon macarons – I’ll share the recipe.

We are all in it together! I read this on LinkedIn from businesses, Facebook from friends, and tell my kids that. We will get through this together. From six feet apart, through FaceTime, Zoom, prayer, texts, funny memes, etc…. The memes! Hilarious videos and memes that I love sending to friends. We all need a laugh! Anyone have a favorite? Here’s a few of mine. Share yours in comments. Please!!!

So stand on that blue tape in the grocery store, wash your hands, stay home and I hope you all feel more connected than ever before. Life is precious and I don’t know many who aren’t waking up each day grateful for what they have right now. Our time with our children and loved ones is precious too. We will look back and remember when we had to stay home, play games, and just come together. That’s what I’ll remember about this when it’s over. How we all got through it together.

I can’t sew masks and I don’t make jewelry. I have never been a crafty person. But I love telling stories, writing and cooking. So that’s what I’m going to do! I have made delicious dinners that my kids have actually liked and I’m trying to compile recipes. I have to take time to write them down because I cook without them and I’ll share them soon. I think we all could use easy recipes right now and I hear people are running out of dinner inspiration. I’ll share mine!

I hope you’ll check back for stories, recipes and whatever else I come up with. It’s the least I can do to help us all get through this…..together!

Thanksgiving! Giving Thanks For The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

“And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any longer into a house of sorrow. I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief. What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

This is the time of the year when I turn into a mushy ever flowing fountain of feelings. Anyone who runs into me during the season of thankfulness and merry everything knows they will have to endure listening to me tell them how thankful I am for their friendship and all the love in my heart. I can’t help it! It’s how God made me! My children walk in wide arcs around me avoiding arms reach. As my daughter says, “You’re so extra, mom.” Extra cool! I’m pretty sure that’s what she really means. Lol! My dear friend and neighbor Elizabeth is not a hugger. She is very thankful this Thanksgiving to be miles away or she’d be peeling me off like a fruit roll-up. Hurry home E!

I am literally thankful for every little thing including the misfortunes. In fact, it is misfortune that led me to some of my greatest blessings. Blessings have come into my life that changed me in ways I cannot even describe. Let me tell you that you never know when something amazing will come into your life. Call it a prayer answered, a miracle, blessing, whatever you want. Just don’t stop believing. Hold on to the feeling. Ha! Tell me you don’t have this song in your head right now.

So many people have this thought that if something hasn’t come into their lives at a certain point, it never will. There is a chance that this is true – but there is also a chance that it could happen. I am thankful for so many things especially my children and my family. My amazing boyfriend Kevin is included when I say family. I have the most supportive and loving friends I love with all my heart. I’m always thankful for these people and even though that’s a given, I still make sure to say it out loud. Over and over. So, along with giving thanks for the amazing people in my life, I am also giving thanks that it’s never too late in life to start over. And on top of that for all of the bad things I’ve endured as well.

I have found at the still tender young age of 50 that my life experiences are still unfolding. Not wrapping up. Just because my children are wrapping up childhood (weep! weep! weep!) and soon starting their lives out of the nest doesn’t mean that anything comes to an end for me. It’s a beginning. I’m thankful women at any age can start a new career, new relationship, new beginnings with anything!

I am thankful for closed doors. I am thankful for the things that didn’t work out even if they made me desperately sad. For whatever reason, certain things just weren’t meant to be in my life. As a result, other things, blessings for sure, came into my life. Some I worked hard for, searched for and others just fell into my lap.

I think it’s really important to be thankful for things we sometimes don’t even realize we have been given. Hardships, failures, missed opportunities, a bad day, any inconvenience that led you to something better. I have heard that good things fall apart so better things can fall together. Things happen out of our control and we have to trust that everything happens for a reason. Although, I will say that I can’t think of a reason that makes sense for losing friends at a young age. I know several who have lost their children. The lesson and reasoning will never be clear to me. All I can do is be grateful for the short time they touched my life and remember that life is a gift not to take for granted.

In this season of thankfulness, I am grateful for the good, the bad and the ugly. They all shape who I am, what I have, and the people who are in my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. And for that feeling, I am thankful.

Making Up Isn’t Hard To Do. It’s Easy! And Empowering!

Make-up can only make you look pretty on the outside, but it doesn’t help if you are ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the makeup.

– A very deep and thought provoking quote. Maybe Audrey Hepburn said it or maybe someone just made it up that she said it. I don’t know and I don’t care.

People say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a beautiful makeup palette and if that brings joy then maybe sometimes it can! Anyone one out there besides me who gets a little giddy after mastering a perfect smoky eye? Well, actually I do know someone who is as enthusiastic about it as me. My friend Beth who should be a makeup artist. Her makeup is always perfect. Always! And she watches YouTube tutorials and tells me about them. When I tell her about the 20 / 30 something year old blogger who had the perfect makeup for her skin at her tender young age, Beth knows exactly what products to use to emulate that same look for my 50 year old skin. I love her so much. For so many reasons beyond the fact that she makes me look good. Literally makes me look good. Because she does my makeup.

I even invited her over one day and said “hey Beth, bring your makeup over. I mean, I would like to see you and I have no interest in your makeup, don’t be silly. I just want to talk to you. But bring your makeup just in case. The door is open, come straight to my bathroom.” And she did! We had so much fun. We are both self-proclaimed and proud makeup junkies. I told her that I wanted to learn new ways to apply eyeshadow besides just swirling all the colors together and brushing it over my eyelids. Then we started talking about under eye brighteners and highlighters and blush and before you know it, we were doing a full on makeover. The results were so good that I have purchased the products she uses that have made such a difference. I’m so much glowier and dewier now. I feel pretty. And if that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right! The best part? It’s so easy to do each morning and just takes minutes.

So, I’m sharing this post with you and not just because I want to boast about how great my makeup looks. Many of my friends ask me about makeup. Some of them are going back to work and want to look more polished. Others just feel like wearing it again, but need some tips and tricks. Beth to the rescue!

Often times, makeup and fashion can get pushed to the wayside and some just feel that the importance of it is shallow and trivial. It really is OK to place real value on your appearance. You can be pretty smart, pretty kind, pretty thoughtful, pretty brave AND care about looking your best and just being pretty.

Makeup, hair, and clothes you are confident with can be empowering. Making the choice to wear makeup that is right for you and makes you feel good is a perfect example of confidence and security in who you are!

I don’t know who said these quotes either, but it might have been Coco Chanel or Marilyn Monroe. I think people make stuff up that famous people say. Anyway……these are deep, too, so prepare yourself. “Inner beauty is great but some mascara doesn’t hurt” and “life isn’t perfect but your makeup can be.” Right?!?!? Can I get an amen? I think someone also said “Happiness is the best makeup.” Ummmmm ok. You just keep telling yourself that all the way to Sephora. (I’m sorry if I’ve taken this too far. I am shallow. Everyone is beautiful with or without makeup. But, just a little light gloss never hurts……)..

I am brave enough to say that I love fresh faced pretty makeup. Not too much and just enough to enhance what we already have and hide what we hate – unevenness, splotchy-ness, saggy things that make us a little sad. Life is too short to be sad about anything that can be easily fixed with a tube of something that is less than $20 or slightly more, but lasts a long time and washes off before bed.  So with that, pull out the makeup brushes, eyeshadows, creams, glosses and have some fun creating a look you love. Not sure what that is? Read below for the step-by-step process my gorgeous friend Beth taught me.

Thanks Beth! I love the eyeshadow and it’s easy for me to apply every day.

Here are all the products we used that I now swear by and the steps Beth taught me to apply effortlessly. You can click through the images and purchase on Amazon if you want to.

Sadly, though, one of the eyeshadow palettes we used has been discountinued. It is Urban Decay Naked Smoky palette and it’s my absolute favorite. The good news, though, is that you can still get it on Amazon.com. See below for product links. The other palette we used is my other favorite – Urban Decay Naked 2.

Here are the easy steps for my new go-to fresh faced look!

  1. After moisturizing, I apply Laura Mercier’s Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer all over my face including eyelids. Beth likes Clinique Super Balanced Makeup for more coverage.
  2. Gently apply Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion Eden to eyelids. It’s the best! Eyeshadow does not crease or melt off.
  3. Using the Smoky palette brush Combust all over – or any light beige eyeshadow – from lash to brow line.
  4. Using Naked2, brush Tease (a medium brown) along the crease corner to corner.
  5. Add Whiskey (dark brown) from Smoky in the corner to 1/4 way across your eyelid.
  6. Add High (frosty gold) from Smoky to the inner corner blending in to Whiskey.
  7. Brush Thirteen (matte cream color) from Smoky across the brow bone.
  8. Line the eye across your lashes with your favorite dark liner. I like to use eyeshadow and prefer Blackout from the Smoky palette.
  9. Gently dab and blend BareMinerals Stroke of Light Eye Brightener under the eye. This was new to me introduced by Beth. I’m now an addict and love it! Buy some.
  10. Swipe on dark black mascara – I like L’Oreal Lash Paradise in Blackest Black. It’s just like Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara but less expensive.
  11. Brush FLOWER Heatwave Luminous Bronzer wherever you want to be sunkissed. This is Drew Barrymore’s line and I can only find it by going to flowerbeauty.com.
  12. Brush BECCA Luminous Blush on your cheekbones for an awesome glow. I love BECCA products for highlighting. My daughter introduced me to this line. Thanks SK!
  13. Finish with your favorite lipstick or lipgloss or blend both together. We chose MAC Prrr Lipglass and L’Oreal Julianne Lipstick.

I follow this every morning and it works with any of the eyeshadow palettes I have. I also switch out black liner for colbalt blue or dark green. So pretty! If I’m in a hurry, I skip the eye brightener and bronzer – don’t tell Beth. But, the entire process only takes between 5-8 minutes. This simple effort makes such a difference in how I feel when I leave the house!

And if someone stops you and asks, “Wow! Who are you wearing makeup for?”, you just smile and say “Myself.”

So this is a teeny tiny link to Urban Decay Smoky Palette. I couldn’t figure out how to make it larger. HAHA! It’s hard to find so if you want this gorgeous palette you had better get it now. It’s my favorite!!

BECCA Highlighting Blush – this is Camellia and works for any skin tone. Beautiful illuminating glow!

Peachy-pink neutral that looks great worn alone or over any lipstick color. And I mean ANY color because I gloss it over all of my lipstick colors from bright pink to deep dark red. Just buy it and thank me later.

I’d like to thank my beautiful friend Beth who took the time to come over just to make me look pretty. She truly is so talented in making so many things lovely from home interiors to glowing faces. This post is dedicated to you Beth!

Lemony Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice

Back to School + Cooler Nights = Comfort Food

We also call this Chicken Surprise. Because under the melted cheese……Surprise! Broccoli! Surprise! Lemony Sauce! This is one of my kid’s favorite dishes and it has broccoli in it. They don’t like broccoli on its own just sitting on a plate.  My son does not like rice. Except in this recipe – he eats it up!

With tennis, wrestling, lacrosse and lots of activities my kids need protein and vegetables. So if I have to present it under a blanket of creamy cheese sauce so be it. This is also a very easy recipe to make which is a bonus – especially after a busy day. It’s great for dinner the next night or the night after that and it’s so good heated in the microwave for lunch.

When I find a recipe that my teenagers will eat and it has vegetables in it I have to share it! You are welcome!

Here is the recipe – preheat oven to 350

  1. 2 large chicken breasts about 1.5 pounds. Boil or bake until done. Coarsely chop and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  OR buy a rotisserie chicken and pull it off the bone.
  2. Broccoli florets – about 2 cups. Steam for about 3 – 4 minutes. Squeeze a lemon wedge over it. Set aside.
  3. 2 cups of cooked rice – set aside.
  4. Sauce: 1 can cream of chicken soup, ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 cup sour cream, ¼ cup milk, juice of half of a lemon, and 1 cup of cheddar cheese – mix all of that together in a bowl.
  5. 1 tsp of olive oil spread in bottom of 9×13 baking dish.
  6. Spoon rice in bottom of pan and spread evenly.
  7. Layer broccoli over the rice.
  8. Add the chicken on top of the broccoli.
  9. Pour the sauce over all of it.
  10. Sprinkle 1-2 cups of cheddar cheese on top.
  11. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly.

It is so creamy good and the lemon juice makes such a difference. I hope you like it and that it becomes one of your family’s favorites, too.

50 Things I Finally Know Now That I’m Almost 50.

The first 50 years of childhood are always the hardest.  – Unknown

I don’t feel old. I think aging has taken on a whole new meaning and you are only as old as you feel. It’s very liberating to turn 50 and look back at all the things that happened that have shaped me into who I am today. All of those lessons, good and bad, have led me to choices I have made. These choices are helping me make my dreams a reality to create a new chapter in my story. I have learned a lot about who I am and what I like. The best part….I don’t care what anyone else thinks. That’s the gift you get when you turn 50!

Here’s my list of 50 things I know for sure as I turn 50:

1.I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. Thank you Stuart Smalley. I know you said it back in 1992 and I should have listened but I was dumb then. I miss the muscle tone I had in my legs when I was 22, but not the low self-esteem, over-thinking, and anxiety I had trying to figure out the realities in life.

2. The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Oh Erma. Read one of Erma Bombeck’s books! She is so very funny and her words make me think about what I take for granted. I don’t want to be in competition with anyone and I just want to be happy for the Jones family. You know, those people we all try to keep up with. I am content. It’s taken me 50 years to say that.

3. I will never interview well at Hooters and that’s ok. I don’t have what it takes if you know what I mean. I’m over it. I’m going to love my body as it is. We know we are getting older but it’s like our bodies want to make sure we are aware. My body: Oh hey! Down here! I know I used to be perky up there but I’ve moved! Yep. These are your new knees now. We have folds! I’ve decided that if my knee skin and other areas can shift around then my perceptions can, too. I’m going to be kinder and more accepting to myself.

4. Growing older is a privilege.

5. It’s not scary to put yourself out there. Would I have started a blog when I was 25? No! My instructions for my written thoughts were adamantly told to my sister, “Crawl under my bed and burn everything you find under there.” Try new things, take risks, and don’t be afraid to fail.

6. I can’t rock a Dorothy Hamill haircut. Or a Anna Wintour bob. I have tried both and I looked like Little Boy Blue. I know this now. Stick to what works. Long straight hair it is.

7. Who my people are. Carefully choose who gets your time and heart. Choose those who are beautiful on the inside who let their light shine out. Bask in their glow and give it back!

8. I’m not a runner. That’s all I have to say about that.

9. I don’t like beer. I’m not going to pretend I think it’s good anymore. It’s the beer. It’s definitely not me.

10. There is no shame in asking for help. Never suffer alone. Too many people are willing to listen and help.

11. It really is better to give then receive.

12. I’ll never like quinoa and I won’t die if I don’t eat it. Blech.

13. I’ll never like kale and I won’t die if I don’t eat it. Blech.

14. Sunscreen really is important. Not sure? Come over and I’ll show you my neck. My dermatologist:  “Ummmmm, not much I can do there. Should’ve worn sunscreen.”

15. I like being over-dressed. You wear your cut-off jorts and be happy. I’ll wear my dress and be equally happy. And style has no age.   

16. You can’t say I love you enough.

17. My mom was right. That’s all I have to say about that.

18. Use the good china every day. My grandmother gave me at least three sets of china. They were all to be used every day she said. What good are things if they are hidden away and kept for a special occasion she said. Every day is a special occasion. Wear your good jewelry. Use your china. Eat in the dining room even if it’s not Easter, or Christmas, or Thanksgiving. What are you saving it for?

19. Fear of missing out is a waste of time. Want to stay in? Didn’t get an invite somewhere? So what! Stop sulking, put the phone down and resist false comparisons. Be where you are and enjoy every minute of it. JOMO. Joy of missing out. It’s a thing now.

20. My humor is off-color, inappropriate at times, and some people don’t like it. I’m not sorry. It’s who I am. A fart in church is funny I don’t care who you are.

21. Life really is too short to drink bad coffee.

22. Life is not too short to drink bad wine. Bad wine is better than no wine. And if all that is available is just so-so wine I’ll drink it and be thankful for it. This does not apply to coffee. This is my list. If it doesn’t make sense to you then you make your own list.

23. You can make dreams come true. By doing. Not dreaming.

24. Anxiety and stress is normal. Figuring out how to handle it and manage it for a healthy, happy life is hard but can be done.

25. I know so little. There is still so much to learn and know. I used to think I knew most everything. Because when you’re between the ages of 5 and 29 you just do and you make sure everyone knows it. Now I keep my mouth shut (well, more than I used to anyway) and listen.

26. It’s ok to say no.

27. Pay yourself first. Allocate money to savings, time to yourself, and schedule things that bring you joy FIRST, instead of trying to fit these things in if there’s time or anything left at the end.

28. My kids are going to be all right. Even if they fail at something, get their feelings hurt, don’t get into their dream college, are rejected by who they thought were their friends, get a bad grade, are sad when things don’t work out, etc…….my kids are going to be all right.

29. It’s ok to have 15-20 bottles of perfume and you don’t have to use one up before you buy another. Because I said so.

30. It’s ok to have 15-20 lipsticks / glosses and you don’t have to use one up before you buy another. Because I said so.

31. I don’t have to wear jeans to work on Friday just because it’s casual Friday. I’m wearing the cutest dress I own on a Friday. Unless it’s January. And then I’m wearing jeans. Unless it’s over 55 degrees. Then I might wear a dress and boots. Wear what you want!

32. Friends might not stay your friends. It’s always hurtful when someone decides they don’t want to hang out with you anymore. It happens to all of us throughout our lives and not just in third grade. Sometimes they come back and you pick up just where you left off. Sometimes it just ends. Always be thankful for that friendship and remember it fondly.

33. It’s not too late…..for anything. Ambition, creativity and growth are lifelong journeys.

34. I have the power to shape my future. I am not a victim of any circumstance. Regardless of what happens, the power to change is up to me.

35. Marie Kondo, a capsule wardrobe and minimal anything is not for me. Stay true to who you are. Don’t throw anything out that you will want back. That’s what storage boxes, shelves and bins are for. Don’t be a hoarder either. That’s bad.

36. Quality beats quantity.

37. Learn from the past. Don’t live in the past. Be present here and now.

38. What grace really means. Show grace, be gracious and forgive with grace.

39. My problems are not the worst. Neither are yours. I know now that if I saw everyone else’s problems laid out on the floor along with mine, I’d likely grab mine and run.

40. Everything can be figured out and there is a solution for everything. You may not like what it is but no one is stuck.

41. Yield. Pause. Breathe. Passing time allows for so much to take care of itself and lends clarity for how to easily approach anything.

42. I haven’t had my best days yet. I just think I have! I’ll have this on repeat on my 50th birthday. Say it over and over.

43. Money is crucial but health is the real wealth. I can always make more money, but once health is gone…..it’s gone. Exercise, water, sleep and good nutrition.

44. You can wear white after Labor Day. Open toed shoes, too. Do it! I dare you. Break all the rules.

45. There are no rules in dating. Single women – you can call first, text first, message first and even *gasp* suggest a date first. Make your own rules that fit your personality.

46. Good things may be gone for those who wait. If you want something – go get it! Make it happen! Now go!

47. The senior discount is cool. I will ask for it loud and proud. Movie theater tickets are a gazillion dollars! I’m as old as dirt! Give me the discount!

48. Give more compliments. Now when I see someone in the store or out and about and think to myself “what a cute skirt, pretty hair, skin, blah blah blah” I don’t keep it to myself. I love hearing compliments – I’m so vain! Everybody does and it makes their day a little better.

49. Radiate positivity and let your light shine. Smile more. You will feel happier and it’s such a great feeling knowing those around you feel more at ease and happier because if it.

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50. Have a zest for life! We only get one so make it count!

Hello Fall! Goodbye Heart. And Happy New Year!

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.  – Taken from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Balloon Glow Festival before the start of school.

It really isn’t fall but my kids went back to school and back to school means it is fall in my book. However, it is 96 degrees in the middle of August, which is very much summer. What I mean to say is, Happy New Year! Yes, the heat has gotten to me but I can explain. Back to school feels more like New Year’s Day more than New Year’s Day sometimes. It’s a new beginning! A new school year means new notebooks, sharpened pencils, new clothes, a blank slate and a fresh start. We make goals and look ahead towards all things promising. I make new resolutions as summer turns to fall to make sure I finish the year strong. I ask my kids to make goals appropriate for the grade ahead of them. My son will be a junior and my daughter a sophomore in high school. Each school year I know my kids will change so much between the first day of school and the last. It’s so exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time. Let’s clarify – heartbreaking for me! I have a hard time letting go and loosening the apron strings.

My kids resolutions are typically the same – get good grades, not read any more than required (ughhh), try to not procrastinate, know where socks, shoes, keys, etc…are the night before vs. five minutes before walking out the door already five minutes late. Mine are very different every year because my kids are so different every year. On my list is to start the plan for college admissions for my son. It’s killing me. Because we are talking about college my other resolution involves being true to who we are and making decisions that are right for us – not comparing what others are doing and getting confused and caught up with what we THIINK we should be doing vs. what we KNOW we should be doing because it fits our circumstances. Our circumstances – not our friends, not what we think social media is telling us we should do, and not the rumor mill based on the perception of what is required to make it to college and be successful through adulthood.

My third resolution is to promise not to try to do everything. Balance is going to be my word and theme for the next 12 months.  While my high school kids may sometimes need a micromanager at times, it’s not the right tactic for their growth and my sanity. At 15 and almost 17, they need to figure out how to do things themselves and learn the hard way. I resolve to guide, support, continue to teach them life skills and maintain balance in our home. Did I mention college? College bound kids = stress = pressure. We are going to dial it down in our house so we can succeed. We have started some school years like race horses right out of the gate, overscheduled and with the message of “do your best” but unintentionally phrasing it more like get perfect scores, stay organized, take out the trash, have a great attitude, be social, and stay focused on the sports field. I have found we can’t do it all. Balance. More balance.

I used to compare my kids to others when they were toddlers and elementary aged based on whose kids were taller, shorter, lost their teeth first, their reading level and other things because I was worried about development. I constantly worried if I felt they were “behind” other children. Now I know better. Teachers and pediatricians told me not to compare – they all grow and develop differently and at their own pace. Did I listen? No. But, I remember what they said and now I know they were right. My daughter’s kindergarten teacher told me this after one teary discussion, “My boys were average students at best. They came home and played outside. We knew they would find their way. One is now a pilot and the other a doctor.” The message is this – we give our kids our love, support, and the tools they need to be great adults. They will take that and do exactly what fits best for them.

Now that mine are about to leave the nest in a few years I finally get it. Despite my worries, comparing, fretting, and over analyzing my kids have done exactly as they should. They have grown into who they were destined to be based on their own interests and mindset. Now my attention is turned inwards. I also take solace in talking to parents whose children have graduated from high school or college and are on their own. They don’t talk about AP courses or GPA’s. They tell me the college they are going to or graduated from and how everything worked out exactly how it should. Bumps in the road, delays, failures, successes, lessons – some of it expected and some surprises.  Not much advice just well wishes for the best of luck to all of us and most always this parting message, “It will work out just fine. You’ll see.”

So while my heart aches a lot, I also feel joy knowing that my kids are starting a new year with endless opportunity. I can’t wait to see where that leads them. I also feel like I am learning and building personally and professionally. I’m excited to start this new year along with my kids growing and moving towards the future.  

Cheers to a fresh start and infinite possibilities! I’d love to hear if you feel the same way and if the arrival of autumn has you making resolutions.