Monday, October 15, 2018

Celebrating October in Style

What could be better than this time of year? The colors, smells, and cooler weather are a time to rejoice. It's fun to begin by gathering leaves, nuts, straw, acorns, pine cones, and corn husks to craft into door wreaths.  Fall is a favorite with so many people that we have created holidays and festivals to enjoy throughout the season. Lots of things to do. Places to go. People to meet. 

Hands of Love
Of course, our ancestors didn't need to make special days, it just naturally happened with all the gathering of farm crops; a lot of work for sure! More work than most of us would willingly want to do. Although, obviously, we still have farms to grow our food, sadly, we have much less of them in the 21st century. 

So, whether we are farmers, or not, having time to celebrate the harvest is a very good thing! During October and way into November, we can be thankful for all the blessings we have received by continuing or even creating new traditions for ourselves and our families.

Hearts of Gold
Harvest is a time for celebrating many crops that are grown and picked all over the U.S. at this time of year. Depending on what part of the country we live in, apples, grapes, corn, and pecans are among the many Fall crops that can all be enjoyed. Farmers especially in Virginia, North Carolina, and Washington are busy plucking apples, the Northern Midwest states are knee deep in the Corn Belt, and New England wades in the cranberries. [A bit of disclaimer here: I am definitely not a farmer, so don't shoot the messenger, o.k. - smile!]  

Harvest of Pumpkins
Pumpkins grow best in full sun. So it's a bit curious the Top Five states for pumpkin growing are Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. They are, of course, popular anywhere in the Fall. Many towns have pumpkin farms open to the public so people can pick their own. These are sometimes combined with baking competitions, horseback rides, and hayrides. Most have country stores that sell handcrafted items and yummy homemade goods. It wouldn't be the same without the jams, apple butter, and pumpkin pie. What a delight!  

Combine these for a Quick Treat: Pumpkin Chocolate Yogurt
Greek yogurt
Pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin
Cocoa powder

Enjoy. Nothing easier!

"You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance" (Psalms 65:11 NLT).

Monday, October 8, 2018

Are We Strong Enough to Survive?

Surviving a parachute jump
It might feel oddly strange to find ourselves all alone--a tingling sensation making us want to shiver--maybe for the first time in our lives. Some of us went from our "Drive-in Movie" high school days, Homecoming football games and living with our parents to bunking with three other college roommates four states away. All of a sudden before we could blink an eye, we were madly combing all the wedding magazines looking for the perfect dress, best flowers, and honeymoon destinations! 

We've never been totally alone on our own. Sound familiar? We might call this the "Season of Survival" and it can be scarier than jumping out of a plane into the unknown for the first time. What if we panic? What if our parachute doesn't open? What if the pilot missed the designated spot and we land in the depths of the ocean weighted down and no way out? All the What Ifs rushing into our brain at once can overload our circuits! 

Are We Strong Enough to Survive?
In the wild, survival of the fittest is the rule. There are many, many fascinating TV documentaries from National Geographic that show this harsh reality. Even though we may cringe and have compassion on the smallest babies of the jungle, we surely know it can be no other way. Thankfully, our reality is a bit tamer! 

It would be our educated guess that if you have made it thus far to be reading this week's blog, you have already moved through at least a few (if not numerous) facets of survival. Congratulations! In case no one has pointed it out to you yet, you ARE strong enough to not only exist as a single-again woman but to continue to live and prosper on your own if that is your choice.    

Surviving the Unknown
We are among the many who have had a little taste of the unknown and are still here to tell about it. That's a big deal indeed! And now we can positively continue trying to figure out all the different angles of how to make our lives the best they can be without a hint of giving up. There's no room for that nonsense, right? No matter what your age right now, what would you say is the next most important survival change in your life? What do you want to see happen? (Hint: it will be different for each and every one of us so we are not going to try and answer for you, but really sit and think about this one.)

The Beginning, Middle, and the End
Yes, this really is the beginning of your new life. It is your choice to make it a great one or let it become stale and unproductive which will prevent a Middle from happening. And will then leave no room for a Legacy at the End. Think about it. 

The truth is, only God knows exactly what our Beginning, Middle and End looks like. He can see it all. We can only see a small portion of our lives because we wear blinders much of the time. Our only choice is to ask Him how to survive in the first place. We have only questions. God has all the right answers! 

"No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13 NLT).

Monday, October 1, 2018

Nine Easy Ways to Handle Everyday Stress

How long can you hold your breath? The world record is 22 minutes and 22 seconds underwater. Wow! This is way longer than what the average, healthy person can do at approximately two minutes. Obviously, it is much, much easier to simply take one breath at a time as we are meant to do, even though we might observe a toddler holding her/his breath during a tantrum for a very long time.

Some musicians practice taking deep breaths, so they might play their wind instruments properly and have the sound come out beautifully. Athletes too are required to have great lung capacity for stamina and endurance if they want to succeed. And, of course, it’s common knowledge that taking long, slow breaths and releasing them through the mouth can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress as well as keep us calm.

Life is inherently difficult and learning to deal with stress is a major accomplishment. But just know stress management is an entire world all by itself. Doctors of all kinds have spent their lives studying and writing about this important subject and, since this writer is not a doctor by any means, we are not attempting to cover the curriculum that fills colleges on this matter.

However, we can try and offer some sensible and practical points that may lead us into a better frame of mind on most days. Since we are all humans, we may be familiar with stress just a little bit, right? So, let’s begin here finding some "ah-ha" answers simply based on the fact we naturally have living cells in our bodies called hormones. Of course, we need them to grow but at times they can really get out of control. Oh, yes! We can all relate.

The Why
Understanding stress can help us to deal with its effect. As we mentioned, it starts with hormones but if stress is extreme and severe in your case, then this is a matter to first discuss with your medical doctor. Then what else? Consider if any of the following sounds familiar and may be affecting your situation:

--Wearing too many “hats”
--Trying to please everyone
--Poor nutrition
--Substances, legal or otherwise
--Sleep disorders

These are just a few. The causes of stress can fill volumes of books and do. So, if you are serious about tackling this problem and learning how to reduce stress in your life, start searching for reliable sources. Here are just a couple to start off:

--So Stressed, The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Women by Stephanie McClellan, M.D. and Beth Hamilton, M.D.
--The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook by Martha Davis, Ph.D., Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman, MSW, and Matthew McKay, Ph.D.

The How
There are plenty of ways to de-stress and the books above show us how in detail. Just to give you an idea of some practical methods to make part of your life, think about these:

Time-management. Don’t overdo and try to cram everything into one 24-hour period. We’ve all done this. Experts suggest keeping a log or journal for a week or two to discover where all your time goes. Remember, first things first when it comes to your time [what’s important].

Nutrition/Sleep/Exercise. If your life is not as healthy as you would like, start with small steps and go forward. A lack of these important aspects are roadblocks to de-stressing. Aim for consistency.

Organization. Many women today are taking part in simplifying or downsizing their lives and homes because it has been proven chaos that surrounds us causes stress! It’s worth attempting. Start small.

Nine Answers Right Now

Sometimes we just need an immediate solution. Keep a list of these handy:

1. Visit a flower shop and just smell the blooms or buy a Gerber Daisy for your desk

2. Take a bubble bath while playing music
3. Enjoy a treat of tea and scones, coffee and chocolate muffins, etc.
4. Use an adult coloring book—it’s not silly, it’s very relaxing
5. Turn off all electronics, read a book in bed and you’ll sleep like a baby
6. Go out and photograph nature
7. Plant a garden indoors or outdoors
8. Draw or paint a canvas
9. Continue or start a scrapbook or journal

Add to this list every time you think of something that makes you smile. You might even fill an entire notebook with ideas!

Meet the Counselor
Did you know we have a “live-in” Counselor right in our own homes? It’s true! A tiny baby was born one night in Bethlehem and they called him Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace! That certainly sounds like someone we need on our side, especially in times of stress. His “office” door is always open. Go right on in and talk to Him—you’ll be glad you did.

“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” Luke 12:25-26 NLT.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Seasons of Growing

We all have preferences on how to do certain things, especially in our own homes. Some women want absolutely nothing sitting on top of the bare kitchen counters creating a type of minimalist room, while others might want to put away the small appliances but display their most beautiful canisters for aesthetic reasons. It makes them happy!

Maybe we like decorating with lots of colors and our neighbor next door enjoys a neutral black and white palette. A crazy “fad” in the 1960s showed up in homes to cover all one’s living room furniture in clear plastic! Sticky in the summer and cold in the winter to sit on kept not only the dirt off the couch but also any house guests! Truly, choice makes the world an interesting place, indeed.      

The one personal choice that seems so amusing—or maybe irritating to some—is whether to place bathroom toilet paper in the “over” or the “under” position! How many of us can admit shaking our heads while visiting a home that displayed the opposite of what we prefer in our bathroom? Or the same situation at a place of business. Have you ever actually changed that roll to the other side thinking someone incorrectly placed it? Okay, it’s always great to have something to laugh about. Go right ahead, it will feel great!  

Blooms of Every Kind

The truth is personal choices are not always so humorous. When we were much younger, and maybe not very mature, we all made plenty of mistakes. Everything from skipping classes in college (or even dropping out for no good reason) to reckless drinking and driving, quitting a good job, getting married too young or buying a car or larger house than we could afford. The list is endless.

We’ve all been there in varying degrees and activities. And we learned. Eventually, we learned to do what was right, even if it took us years. Isn’t that where we are right now? As single-again women, we have made necessary decisions to better our lives. Our choices haven’t been easy by any stretch of the imagination, but we can find joy in new beginnings.

Of course, we still have plenty to learn because life is a continual teacher. If we keep an open mind, a warm heart, and an energetic spirit, our lives will flourish like a well-watered garden. This is no time to sit back and do nothing. 

Assuming we want to thrive and prosper, it will require effort every single day. There used to be a lovable saying that appeared on all sorts of decorative items that could apply here: Bloom where you are planted. Our “garden” may be in a different location now, but with tender love and care, we can grow both “annuals” for one season and “perennials” that last for a very long time. Here are some “seeds” to get us going:  
Taking community college classes
Seasonal work to supplement income
Downsizing our home
Visiting a salon and getting a new look

Improving our health
Asking for that promotion
Establishing a monthly budget
Finding/joining a church home

Coming and Going

Whatever choices we need to make to get where we want to go, it can’t and won’t happen by ourselves. If we want our lives to improve at all, we need a Gardener for life. God is the One who cares about us coming and going, over and under, past, present and future, beginning to end. He is the Vine, we are the branches and we need His nourishment every single day: fall, winter, spring, and summer.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more” John 15:1-2 NLT.          

Monday, September 17, 2018

Remember the Good Days

There are many, many reasons for an anniversary including the day we got our first car, started college in another state, moved to a new home after saving for nine years, or traveled to Africa for a safari. And certainly the day(s) our children were born is very special. Hundreds of occasions to remember fondly. We, of course, have boxes of photos and souvenirs to prove it. There may have even been a time when we cherished the day we met our first celebrity in person (Diana Ross, Glen Campbell, and Stevie Nicks immediately come to mind!)

Reaching Your High Point
Many of these days were definitely happy ones we never want to forget. But not all anniversaries are the same. Most of us have had to learn to deal with the loss of a parent, sibling, favorite relative, friend, or our spouse. The grief of that particular occasion may lessen over the years but is always present in our minds. It is a true low point on our lifeline. Thankfully, with help, we can reach a higher point where we remember the good days with that person more often than that one bittersweet day. 

And, yes, there is that day when the "ending" was heart-breaking, to say the least. Our divorce brought up all sorts of unwanted feelings we would rather have never faced but were forced to come to grips with them. Some of us have probably heard that divorce is worse than death in that the person we made vows with is still around. We cringe when we have to see that person again as it brings up all the ugliness. We are never really rid of it. 

But take heart, dear one! We still have a lot of choices in how we handle our lives now. The best part is we can (are able to) build a whole new life from scratch. Nothing is holding us back even if we have to rearrange parts of our lives. And that in itself can be very exciting. The only hurdle is our own hesitation or fear of the unknown. If this is sounding familiar, you are not the only one. So, take a deep breath and jump in! Start with finding one of many support groups for the divorced or for the grieving. 

Join a women's group, volunteer, or find love and support through a local Christian church and Bible study. You will soon discover your true gifts and talents and be on your way! Just know that God understands every minute of your every day. No, He didn't cause your divorce; He was there with you every single minute. He got you here, didn't He? Trust Him because He has a plan for the rest of your life. He always has had your best interest at heart! It's going to be great! 

"Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall" (Psalms 55:22 NLT).  

Note: TOMORROW is the Second Anniversary of the FRESH START MOMENTUM blog and we want to THANK each and every one of you for your support through it all! If you have enjoyed our musings, reflections, and encouragement, please share this with your friends.   


Monday, September 10, 2018

Standing For the Answer

This week in America we are reminded of what it means to be an American. Tomorrow, September 11th is Patriot Day. The time when we stop for at least a bit of time to remember those who died or were injured on our own soil during the terrorist attacks in 2001. Later this month on Friday, September 21st, we do the same thing for National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

It’s never a time to celebrate, of course. However, these are days when we can fly our flag with its red and white stripes and 50 stars against a blue background with pride. Why is it important to observe these days? It’s knowing we still stand to support our country no matter what we have gone through in the past. We are America strong! And the men and women who fight for us each day in our military know that better than anyone. We must not ever forget those who died for us or we have no choice but to repeat the past.

Standing Strong in Conflict
In our own lives, we too may have to fight personal battles to survive. We have already been through the worst possible conflict just getting to this point. Every day can be a struggle, especially when we are on our own. It’s a complicated problem to figure out the best way to do things. So many questions yet to find answers for. What do I do next? Should I change jobs or find a job? Which way do I turn? What city do I want to live in? How do I deal with my ex-in-laws where the kids are concerned? Who gets the kids for vacations? And it goes on and on.     

But we don’t have to fight our skirmishes alone. Believe it or not, the CDC reports there are nearly 814,000 divorces currently. That figure actually seems low considering there are 2.1 million marriages. No longer is it a “secret” to be kept in the closet. Regardless, that is plenty enough to find at least a few other women in our same situation.

Join Your Heart With Others
There is simply no need to wrestle by ourselves constantly fighting battles. Just like our military, no one could possibly survive such odds. So the time is now to talk to someone. It could be a close family member or trusted friend that will just listen while we “vent.” It could be a professional counselor, a pastor/minister, or a support group. The idea is not to “do life” with no one on your side.  

Others who have gone through different stages of a break-up will have ideas, suggestions, things we haven’t thought of yet, and important steps for us to take to re-create a better life. If we choose to retreat and hide-out, so that no one recognizes we are fighting a losing battle, our strength will atrophy like muscles that are never exercised. We can also waste time running around in circles trying to find solutions that will work for us. Or not. And aren’t we plain sick and tired of that kind of life?

Needed R&R
Yes, we have faced personal attacks of humiliation, psychological abuse and maybe even physical abuse, as well as abandonment, loss of affection, and destruction of faithfulness. We faced our Enemy! And now we can raise our flag of endurance, strength of character, and determination. But remember, we didn’t do it alone then. God was right by our side, holding our right hand the entire time. And we can’t go forward alone either!

“Are you tired? Worn out?. . .Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG.

Monday, September 3, 2018

How is that Working for You?

Ever find yourself daydreaming and playing around on the internet rather than getting busy with the project right in front of you that needs completing today? It happens! We’ve all been there. And it is so easy these days to just wander off on some tangent! It seems the world has made “irrelevant searching” its business to distract us.

We can get very busy rearranging the closet and lose track of time when all we did in the first place was go there to find a handbag to match our outfit. The bookshelf in our office calls out to us to dust and organize the books as we are trying to get a report done. Getting up from our desk chair to stretch our legs leads us to the mailbox and we get involved in replying to a silly request of some sort. It’s maddening!

Thinking About How Life Works
We can try implementing a few new tools to help create better and effective habits. If we give it a chance, it’s a way to get the most important things done in our day without stressing. And wouldn’t that be refreshing? Whether we work from home (while some of us are also taking care of our children), or we work outside the home, we all need to develop a better routine that works for us.

As single-again women (and this includes divorced, widowed, and single moms), all the hours in the day belong to us versus sharing the load with a marriage partner. So, we must decide how to use our time the best way possible. And, yes, it can be done! The clue is realizing and accepting that arranging our day may be quite different than we have ever experienced. 

In the past, we have tried changing things and it hasn’t worked, so we gave up. Who can relate? Any hands raised? Sure, but, we were simply missing the last scrap of the 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle! The “picture” of our lives is different now and our methods of finding our way through our own labyrinth could benefit from a new “map.”

Five Tips to Begin a Change

Request. Nothing works better for starting our day than spending Quiet Time with God and requesting His help for the day’s moments. He knows our needs.

Scone anyone?
Comfort. Incorporate into your day a comfortable starting point. For some of us it’s a fresh cup of coffee. Or it could be a chocolate chip scone to go with our cup of tea. Soft, quiet music (especially classical) activates our brains to be creative. Really, it’s proven. Whatever puts us into a great mood, use it!

Design. Have a plan (that you wrote out the night before) for what you want to accomplish that day. That’s one main plan or at the most, two projects. Don’t try to reinvent the world all at once. Even God took six days to create the world!
Break. And then God rested on the seventh day! Once a week get in the habit of leaving the house to do something fun and enjoyable. It will refresh your mind and body; adding something physical to it, like hiking, biking, walking, etc., is an additional boost.

Repeat. End the day by repeating a prayer. It’s the time to thank God for a productive day and for giving us the strength and energy to find that missing puzzle piece!

Your Own Truth
Only you know your own life circumstances. So, we encourage you to experiment and add what works perfectly for you. The idea is to enjoy what time, talent and resources God has given you to make each day count! We can do this!

“I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!” Isaiah 65:24 NLT.