Monday, August 22, 2016

Be Too Busy to Be Busy

So I pull up to the preschool drop off line this morning and the little one, all of four years old now, starts squirming. She remembers this moment from last year......this is the moment Mama drops the charade and allows her baby girl to do what every young kid was designed to do and craves to do with every fiber of her little being.... amok in a moving vehicle without a seat belt on.

This careless, reckless behavior is our little tradition. We pull up, I unbuckle her, she jumps out of her seat, and she wanders around the truck free from restraints and dictatorship and discipline as we crawl closer and closer to the front of the line. Sometimes I'll tap the breaks and she'll giggle her butt off as she slides back and forth on the seat. Sometimes she'll sit on my lap and steer. Sometimes I let her play with the radio and she'll always end up on a song she knows and she'll look at me with wide, happy eyes and start shakin her little tush. This is her wild child time, guaranteed, every morning before preschool.

Today was particularly exciting because it was the first day of preschool. She was peering out the back window and waving at all of her friends, almost unhinged at the idea that yes, Rosie really still does exist after all this time. Once her buddies got bored and stopped waving back, my little one occupied herself by waving at everyone and anyone who passed by. Some parents. A pastor. The gardener guy. And one man carrying a folder and moving at a purposeful speed.

"Mama," my baby said. "Mama, that man didn't wave at me."

I just looked at her, wanting to see what her reaction would be. Would she cry? Would she smile anyways? Had she become so emotionally developed that her feelings were now capable of being hurt by strangers? I held my commentary, waiting.

Her big blue eyes follow him into the building and she pressed her little lips together. "He's just too busy," she said with a frustrating sigh.

She immediately began hopping up and down on one foot and asking me for chapstick, unfazed, the man already forgotten...but I fixated on her comment. I looked toward the door the man had disappeared into and couldn't help but wonder how many waves I'd missed in my years and years of being busy.

I think all too often we tell ourselves, "Smell the roses? I'll get to it." We let our responsibilities rule our lives and our obligations take up our free time. I still behave as if I'm invincible, walking around with all the time in the world, decades away from my deathbed and that pivotal moment when it's all gonna come down to how many roses I actually stopped to smell.

The balancing act of me time and free time and her time and his time and work time and play time is so exhausting and overwhelming I end up dedicating myself to the most pressing need at the moment...and more often than not, that's making money. I can't tell you how many times this summer I've told my beautiful babies I cannot lay down with them, or read more books, or talk, or play, because Mommy has to work. Or clean. Or cook. Sometimes I feel validated. We all need money, right? My job allows them to have a good, stable, secure life. They need a clean home. They deserve fresh, healthy meals. But I'd be a liar if I didn't tell you I sometimes get horribly stuck on the question, "If this was the last day of my life, would I be happy with how I chose to live it?"

Now, I get it. It's not realistic to live every day like I'm dying because if I did it would be liquor-laced ice cream, dolphin rides, and living out of a van while driving cross-country and singing along to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

But I do believe there are ways to improve our current mentality of being "too busy" to be happy. Being busy doing things you don't enjoy is quite literally the definition of busywork. Busywork isn't as productive as we think it is and at the end we're left feeling like we've wasted so much precious time. I am fairly certain we'd all rather be smelling pretty flowers and waving at children than working and washing clothes and being submerged in the mundane and impossibly trivial parts of our lives...but how do we make that happen? How do we reverse the dynamic? How can we become too busy doing the things we love to be busy doing the things we hate?

Like any good procrastinator and/or slacker, I have to schedule new habits into existence. That's right. If I want to start a new physical fitness program, or write more, or even, yes, spend time with my kids and chickens, I have to place it on my calendar. That's what makes it official, you see. Not my deep desire to make those things happen. Not some otherworldly support or push in the right direction. Nope. For me, new habits only truly begin to take shape when they've got their own little color-coded square on my Google calendar.

You might not like calendars. You might like journaling. You might like refrigerator poetry magnets. You might like affirmations. You might like phone apps. You might be one of those insane highly-regarded internal thinkers who can just make their mind up about something and then whammo, it's your new reality. Whatever your flavor, reversing a habit and creating a new way of interacting with your life requires reminders. Lots and lots of reminders. So get your Tumbler feed ready and your motivational pictures printed and on your'll need them.

Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean every single time) I try and change everything too quickly. Instead of delicately maneuvering myself into a better future, I cannonball into it from 3,000 feet above. I want to spend more time with my kids? No problem. I'll just plan 10 to 50 activities for us to do over Christmas Break and volunteer for every single position available at their schools and spend hours yelling at myself when I don't hit every item on the kid-friendly summertime bucket list. That's the way to do it, Jen. Be a better mom by lighting yourself on fire.

The better way? Think big-picture, act small scale. Realize that the little things, even something as simple as a three-minute conversation with your pre-pre-teen before she goes to bed, can drastically change how connected you feel. You don't need to go crazy making all the changes for all the things all the time....start slowly, with small things, little by little. Take five minutes away from work to make yourself tea or eat a banana without looking at a screen. Actually sit down and focus on your food instead of trying to schedule appointments and check email and check Facebook. Leave your phone in your purse while you pump gas. Let yourself do one thing at a time every now and then. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander. Give yourself permission to become completely engrossed in one simple thing at a time...and let that thing be the thought, person, or activity that means the most to you at that moment. Get busy being simple.

Of course, old habits die hard. I can't even tell you how many times I've revamped my goals and tried to be a better mom, a better gardener, a better friend. I am constantly needing to bring myself back to the roots of who I am and reevaluate what it is that makes me happy. I kinda feel like this is normal....I mean, as we change, we grow, right? And as we grow, our needs evolve....I no longer need to marry Leonardo DiCaprio to die a happy woman, for example. Things change. Things change, Leo. 

Don't stress if you fall back into old habits. When you find yourself again tied down for all the wrong reasons, take it as a sign that it's time to check in with yourself and identify what makes you happy. Maybe you're falling back into old habits because you're sad, or bored, or simply not paying attention. Whatever the reason, forgive yourself, get back on the Busy Living wagon, and roll on.

This little dance called Work-Life Balance is a tough one to learn and an even harder one to practice. We're surrounded by compromised ideals and a slew of propaganda specifically tailored to make us feel bad for not doing it all, all the time. The result? We fight to do it all, all the time, and we miss the important know. Like blue-eyed kid waves. And hott boys at traffic lights. And roses that need sniffing. But hope is not lost. We simply need to teach ourselves how to dance in a world designed for dying. We need to be too busy living to be busy wasting time on things we can't extract joy from. We need to fill our lives with moments where we just take our seat belts off and dance.

What about you, dear readers? How do you find balance? What areas are you trying to work on? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you for reading :)


Sunday, August 14, 2016

How to Deal with Painful People

She talked you down after your first heartbreak. He made you smile in the kitchen that one Christmas when you were so stressed out and sick all you wanted to do was cry. She gave you her cucumbers each and every time because she knew you loved them so much. He listened to your worst, darkest confessions and kissed you anyways. She gently ran her nails up and down your arm for hours and gave you the very best goosebumps. He held your hand and whispered praise while you birthed his children.

And then these people, these moments you once cherished and can still recall with such clarity, they become bathed in red and confusion. The metamorphosis of someone you love becoming someone you do not recognize, someone who would so easily tear at your happiness in a way only they would know to do, that reality tosses you into a place you don't recognize. Sometimes the change is instant, jarring, like a stab wound, deep and wide and open. Sometimes the change is slow, gradual, like an infection that started with something small and seemingly insignificant but then spreads and eats its way through your flesh. Either way, the pain is indescribable. Such betrayal leaves you breathless. Such hate leaves you searching for answers. Such insanity leaves you questioning your judgement.

But you're not crazy. I promise. The presence of painful people in your life does not render you incapable, or weak, or worthless, or disgusting, or stupid, or any of the things you might say to yourself, or the painful people in your life might say with their actions and words.

Painful people, I am realizing, are simply a part of life. They will find you no matter what you do. They could be a stranger. They could be a sibling. They could be someone you married. The random, terrifying ability of someone to change on a dime and become capable of inflicting inexplicable harm is not something we can predict, I don't care how fancy your tarot deck is.

So that's the first step in dealing with painful people: Know that the harm they cause is not your fault. You do not deserve to feel pain. You do not deserve hate. And most importantly, there is nothing you could've done to prevent the painful people in your life from causing harm.

Do you remember when Nancy Kerrigan got whammied by that stupid blonde chick's hitman or whatever? I was a little girl when I watched her on tv screaming again and again, "why, why..." I've done a fantastic impression of that very moment, real-time, way more than I care to admit. It's human nature to want to know why. I want to know why. I want answers.

But there are no answers. Step two: Accept that there are no answers. The painful people in your life made up their mind to act exactly how they are acting and you'll get no help from playing the why and what if game. And if you're anything like me what I just wrote won't stop you from asking those questions anyways so here you go - here are the only answers to be had:

Why are people painful? Because they are miserable.

Why are they miserable? Because they allow themselves to be.

These painful people are not reflections of your abilities. They are not reflections of your judgement. They are not reflections of you. 

Every broken relationship was once whole. And the shattered pieces of every relationship, if you look closely, are speckled with the remnants and hopes and dreams that take us so high, make us think we are invincible, lead us to believe real, lasting destruction is impossible and love will always overcome. And there's only one truth in all of will always overcome. Just very likely not in the way you expect it to.

This is the time to keep your eyes wide open and search for the love. Remember that juxtaposition I talked about a few weeks ago? Every time there's dark, there's light. Find the light. Step three: Seek out the light. Before you even start to think about how you're going to deal with the painful people in your life, hold fast to your light. Find your confidence. Seriously, reread that confidence post. Get back to standing on your own two sexy feet. You're going to need it.

Painful people thrive on inflicting pain. Sometimes they are outwardly proud of it, sometimes they are in denial, sometimes they don't even realize how much they enjoy repeating behaviors that suffocate, stifle, and strangle those around them. Sometimes they are otherwise good people that truly just for whatever reason want to harm you. Whatever their modus operandi, you've gotta realize the results, regardless of the reasons, are always the same: you are in pain, they are thriving off it. Excuses cannot work here. Step four is to cast out your excuses for that person. He may be great at math. She may donate regularly to your favorite charity. You may love his parents. She may be a good person, deep, deep down. Irrelevant. What matters right now is that he is harming you and consequently, is no better than a common criminal (who, in all fairness, would at least outwardly admit he wants to cause you pain).

That's one of the hardest parts, I think....setting fire to those memories and moving past what once was so you can fully accept what actually is. What's actually happening is someone is trying to tear you apart. What's actually happening is you are being threatened and will be eaten alive unless you act defensively. And, dear readers, painful people do not play fair. The more they know you, the deeper they will cut you. The more vulnerable you allowed yourself to be with them, the more open and exposed and trusting you were of them, the quicker they are capable of gutting you. This is a dirty, dirty game that often results in simply cutting the infected person out of your life forever. In some cases, however, cutting the painful people out of your life isn't possible. Game plans are key.

There's a stack of bricks waiting within each of us, piled up in the corners of our heart, patiently holding out for the day we need them for protection. Slowly, surely, these bricks become our internal fortress against those who seek to harm us, tear us down, make us feel like we are nothing. Slowly, surely, one by one, we need to slam these bricks down and knock the dust off our self-worth. The wall doesn't need to exist all the time, or be impenetrable to everybody, but to the painful people in your life, the wall needs to become a reality. No more letting the painful people in and out of your life at their whim. No more answering their cries of change and commitment with love and understanding. Step five is to build your wall. It's a sad step but it needs to be done, lovely readers. You are not this person's friend. They are purposely harming you. Write down your boundaries. Write down topics you will and will not share. Write down what they are and are not allowed to know about you. Create your boundaries and be prepared to defend them. If there's one thing a painful person doesn't like, it's learning they actually really did lose access to you in every way imaginable. It will be game on once they realize what they lost.

And this is where the best step comes into play. What is the most beautiful, serene way to communicate with another person? It's your smile, gorgeous. Your smile lights up the room. It stops hearts. It forces people to pause and wonder. Your smile conveys your strength, your ability to see beyond this trivial, momentary blip on the radar of life. Your smile communicates that these painful people cannot defeat you. You are unstoppable. You are unbreakable. And this person, this person who wishes to see you cry, who wishes to see you fall, will only see you smile as you rise. Step six is to smile. Smile at the painful people in your life and know that despite them and the pain they choose to inflict, you are protected and you are loved and they will never conquer you.

Now, I'm no fool. I know what it means to cry into my pillow and I know that need to call someone you love just to take a few deep breaths. I know what it's like to lose countless hours of sleep and I know what it's like to despise yourself for all the wrong reasons. I know what it's like to smile even though you are literally breaking inside.

But the point is they'll never know one way or another. The painful people in your life don't get that power anymore...the ability to control when you're happy and when you're sad. They don't get to see the results of their efforts; whether executed out of tenderness or spite, their actions will always end with the same reaction - indifference. They cannot phase you. They cannot beat you. Cuz let's face've already won. 

Do you have painful people in your life, dear readers? How do you deal with them? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)


Monday, August 1, 2016

Best Ever Homemade Blueberry Muffins

It's blueberry season. This is a good thing because it is also back-to-school season, aka the mysterious and unavoidable Month of Target Shopping Rage. Everyone needs the same crayons, people. Let's be friends. Blueberry season helps to counterbalance the horror of deciphering supply lists...the little blue orbs are adorable and deliciously healthy. They are great in smoothies, on pancakes, or as I'm about to show you, in these muffins.

Now when I tell you this is the best ever homemade blueberry muffin recipe, I mean this is quite literally the best homemade muffin recipe ever recorded, ever. I've tried many, many recipes, dear readers, and this one takes the cupcake (meheh heh). Bonus - these muffins are very easy, require very little time to make, and store so well. The storage factor is important because I'm no saint in the breakfast department; I rarely make my kids a special breakfast because I am typically wanting to jump off my roof pretty sleepy in the morning. I shouldn't be operating things like skillets and gas stovetops before I've had my tea. These muffins allow me to give my kiddos something special without actually cooking anything. I can practically feel the Mom of the Year award in my hands!

***Quick note about blueberries***
I have some lovely, young blueberry bushes in my backyard. We ate all the berries right right off the bush long before we could gather enough for this recipe. I could buy fresh berries from the grocery store but those buggers are super expensive, especially the organic ones I insist on I buy frozen. The tricky thing about frozen blueberries is that they are all wet and juicy - so I use a little less than 1 cup of them for this recipe. If I used fresh berries I could use up to 1 1/2 cups of them if I wanted, it just depends on berry size and wetness factor (giggity). You don't want your batter too wet or it won't bake right.

(makes 12)

6 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-ish cup blueberries

How to Make 'Em

1. Grease your muffin tins or pop those paper babies in there.

2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust your oven racks so you have one kinda high up - bake higher in the oven to get a more even bake on your stuff. I swear it works. 

3. Melt the butter in a small pan until it is barely melted, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little teeny bit.

4. Combine your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and whisk until fully blended.

5. Add melted butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla and mix gently until combined. This stuff gets stuck to my whisk so sometimes I use a fork or a spoon. Don't overmix or else!

6. Gently fold in blueberries. Stop and admire your blue fingers for a minute, then continue. 

7. Spoon into muffin tins and wipe off any spills. I fill 'em up until they're almost full because I don't like doing half batches with leftover batter because I am lazy. Also, purple batter rules. 

8. This is prime lick time, so if that's as much your thing as it is mine, go to town. 

9. Bake for 18-20 minutes until brown. If you have purple batter like me just poke em a little and pay close attention to the edges, they will show the nice brown color you're looking for. 

10. You can try not to eat them all at once or you can accept that this is heaven in muffin form and just allow yourself to fall into the deliciousness. Feeling competitive? My record is 12 in 2 hours. Bring it. 

Pin this recipe for later:
Recipe adapted from Santa's North Pole Cookbook by Jeff Guinn

I would love to hear your favorite blueberry recipes in the comments down below, dear readers, and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Creating the Best Summer of Your Life

Best summer of our lives, he said. I hadn't spoken to him in over ten years. Our reunion came via Facebook, of course, the almighty finder of long lost friends and faded memories. The little red notification popped up last winter and I thumbed my way through the menu, fully prepared to ignore yet another request from yet another person I didn't really know or want to explain my life to. But then there he was. Hi, Jen. How are you? I saw his picture and memories flittered into my mind like butterfly wings.

I worked on the ranch during summer break from college. I'd just completed freshman year and I wanted the money and I wanted to ride horses and I wanted all the fame and fortune that went with being a wrangler at a summer camp and vacation lodge in small-town Missouri. It was the first time I was bucked off a horse. It was the first time I rode on the back of a flatbed truck, my legs dangling off the edge and my borrowed paddock boots dragging in the dirt. I ate cheesy potatoes for breakfast every morning. I woke up before dawn with a scratchy throat and would walk down the dew-slicked road yawning and rubbing my eyes. I fed horses, saddled horses, rode horses, kept little kids from falling off horses, but mostly I sweat a lot. Eventually the sun would fall and I'd slowly haul myself back up to my cabin, the sound of crickets and frogs cheering me on, or laughing at me, I could never tell which. I'd get there, climb into the shower stall we had tucked into a closet, check for ticks, wash, rinse, and repeat it all the next day.

That was the best summer of our lives, he said.

You know how a manual car feels when you stall out? That neck-breaking jerking motion, back and forth, back and forth? His comment hit me kinda like that.

Best summer of my life? I mean yes, I rode around pretty hills and sang around campfires with pretty people and ran through wildflowers on the backs of beautiful animals....but I also rode around drunk in cars with boys I didn't know and was a free-falling passenger in a camaro that ramped a guardrail and flipped over 3 times before hitting a tree outside a meth trailer in the middle of nowhere. I backtalked my boss and went 110 mph in a 45 and ruined a friendship and got involved with a bad guy and went to work still drunk from the night before and by the time that summer was over, I was glad to be rid of it all. The sludge of a few bad experiences coated my memory of the place and turned it bitter and black.

But to him, it was the best summer of our lives.

He was there, too, he experienced all those things I mentioned above. It was his car that carried everyone from the totaled camaro to the hospital 45 minutes away. It was his smart comebacks I stole to tell my boss off and his foot on the petal that took us to 110 and his girlfriend I hurt so badly and his best friend who treated me like dirt and his ID that bought the beer. He experienced all the things that stained my perspective. But he didn't see black. His memories of that time shone bright, not a smudge in sight. He chose to accept the bad and celebrate the good.

Every element of life has this jarring juxtaposition of light and dark, love and death, peace and anxiety. They turn on each other and cycle around you and can spin you around so badly that you sometimes don't know which way is up. The contrasts in life are everywhere, from the trivial stuff to big time life events.

Eating: Fresh, organic food vs ice cream and beer
You eat healthy to stay strong but then eating healthy becomes deprivation and deprivation overpowers your strength.

Exercise: Strong, healthy body vs finally sitting down
You work out to feel better but then working out becomes a chore and you resent your own health.

Children: Chubby cheek kisses vs freedom
You love holding little hands and kissing boo-boos but there's more to life than playdates and crumbs on your feet and when, oh when, are they ever going to stop screaming.

Relationships: Partnership vs independence
You love your partner and can't do without them but then sometimes, often suddenly, you're forced to do without them and you're angry you ever allowed yourself to need them that badly in the first place.

People: Hatred vs love
You watch towers fall and hear shots ring out and smell the fire of disgust burning but then watch entire nations rally around the fallen and inspire change.

We experience these cycles of good and bad all the time....the outcomes of our day are tossed into the air at random intervals, flipping our lives around with little to no explanation. It is easy to get sucked into the sometimes overwhelming sadness of our routines and surroundings. Same day, same job, same frustration. Same terrorism, same politics, same dying planet.

It's easy to find the darkness. Every time something looks up, something comes crashing down. We finally have a black president but racism is more rampant than ever. We've finally learned that monocropping is killing our nation but our farmers are financially powerless to stop it. My kids can finally talk to me and tell me what they need but now they won't be quiet. That's a lotta sludge leaking onto my perspective, wouldn't you say?

The key is to find the light. Every time something comes crashing down, something looks up. Racism is more rampant than ever but we are finally publicizing, acknowledging, and talking about its existence. Farmers are financially powerless to stop monocropping but communities are noticing this and setting up local, cooperatively-owned grocery stores to allow farmers to save themselves and our food system. My kids won't be quiet but they have voices and healthy bodies and are strong enough to speak and be heard and sing songs and tell me I look pretty when I wake up.

When darkness surrounds the people and places around us, we need to consciously seek out the light.

Allow yourself to feel as much as you need to feel. It's ok to sit in the dark for a little if you want. Embrace it, allow it to envelop you, and then realize to move forward, you need to accept that there will always be darkness to battle. Darkness is what makes the light shine so brightly. We need it.

Find a talisman. It could be a song, a person, a book, a place...hell it could even be one of those "25 Pics That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity" links. Find something or someone that you can embrace and will remind you that pain is temporary, laughter heals everything, and light can always be found. Go to them during moments of darkness.

The more you practice a positive perspective, the easier it becomes. I get swamped by emotion when I feel things....I mean swamped. I get into that accept stage and I just let the feelings wash over my head and I sit there, submerged, for sometimes too long. This is where having a practiced routine helps to pull you out of the blackness. It's easier to find the light switch at night when you've been in the room ahead of time and made a point to look for it. Keep your happy thoughts close by....written down, pinned, frozen in the freezer, or saved on speed dial....and add to them each and every day.

If you look, and I mean really look, you'll see that nature never fights the cycle. Night breaks to dawn. Prey feeds the predator. Life lost is life gained. The cycle never stops, not even when we, as flawed humans, get stuck. Nature follows the rhythm and sets the perfect example for us...there is both comfort and pain in knowing life continues with or without you. Strive to realize that your participation will only make things better, especially for those around you.

Fearing the inevitable is about as wasteful as a Donald Trump cue card. The only certainty in life is that at some point, everyone will return to the earth. So we have a choice......spend our entire lives fearing that the worst will happen until the worst finally does happen, or live each day refusing to be scared of the inevitable and feel the rich, full pleasure of a mind that is freed up and allowed to feel true joy. Might be the easiest choice you have to make all day.

Do like Mister Rogers and look for the helpers. I promise you will find them. Sometimes it's really easy to spot the people who are helping, other times you need to seek them out of the peaceful places they've stashed themselves. Read their books, participate in their conversations, visit with them often, and ask how you can help.

Start a conversation about change. Climb the side of a mountain. Go to a movie. Be someone's kind moment. Leave the house (seriously, get out of the house). Realize that just by being you, you might be making someone's summer the best summer of his life....and consequently, perhaps even the best summer of your own. Be determined to live as if you had only days left to do so...because in all actuality, that's all we're really given. Balance your responsibilities with the gravity of our temporary existence and don't be afraid to take risks and jump every now and then.

I'll end by saying this one last little piece.......when you find your true moments of joy, when you get that crystal-clear perspective that all is going to be ok, relish it without abandon. This eyes-wide-open, big-picture attitude doesn't last long and before you know it, you'll be angry that some guy cut you off and worrying about what to make for dinner again. And that's ok, that's the way it should be. That is that emerges, as always, from darkness.

What do you do to combat despair, dear readers? When you find yourself feeling run down and pushed to the edge by the sadness in our world, where do you go? Who do you talk to? What is your escape and how do you find your light again? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading. 

This post is dedicated to the most balanced seat I've ever seen....Bo, you were taken too soon. To me you'll always be riding the hills of Potosi, singing Rascal Flatts harmonies and making me go first so I catch all the cobwebs. Enjoy your ride in the clouds, darling friend. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Spot a Rooster...and What to Do With Him

It's that time of year again, lovely readers. The time of year when spring chicks start.....showing their true colors. This spring I purchased 10 beautiful pullets, or females, of various winter-hearty breeds and color variations. I knew I had a 10% chance of getting a rooster instead of a hen and I did not care. It wasn't gonna happen to me this year. I just knew it wouldn't.

You see, as some of you may remember, I had this problem last year. The beautiful white rock pullet I bought turned out to be a white rock rooster, complete with crowing and aggressive behavior. Poor Gandalf the White became a most magical stew.

So it couldn't happen to me this year, right? I mean, pssssh, I got that crazy risk of roo realized and over with last year. This year was going to be different.

 Meet Conan, my Easter Egger....rooster.

I had a sneaking suspicion about Conan from the very beginning. I mean, with a name like Conan, how can you fight the power of manliness. He was doomed from the start.

But then today, as I let my babies free range under the glorious July sun, I took a good look at Tater, my Buff Orpington.

 Hmm, I thought. Lookin a little masculine there, Tater. Sure enough, the longer I looked, the longer I realized.....I didn't just get one rooster this year. I got two roosters this year.

I had to formulate a plan....and if you raise chickens, you should have a plan, too. Because roosters happen. 

Let's start with making sure you have a rooster. One of the trickiest things about poultry is that as babies, they all look the same. Chicken sexers (real job, real job title) are incredibly rare and the job is difficult, hence the 10% failure rate in determining boy from girl. Chickens don't really start exhibiting gender-identifying traits until they start getting their feathers...and even then, it can be extremely hard to tell the difference.

Here's what I look for:

1. Size: This is the biggest hint in my experience (see what I did there...). All 3 roosters I've landed were big as chicks; they grew faster and were larger than the other babies born on/around the same day. This trick isn't as helpful when you have a mixed flock...Buff Orpingtons, for example, are almost always larger than Wyandottes. My Easter Egger chicks were huge compared to the Rocks and Wyandottes. That being said, one of my Easter Egger chicks (guess which one!) was larger than the other...and they hatched on the same day. Bigger doesn't always mean roo, but in my case, all of my roosters were larger chicks.

2. Strut: This is another one you just kinda notice. Absolutely nothing scientific about a strut, I get it, but it's a real thing, I swear. Gandalf, my white rock (pictured in crock pot, above, and below, as a chick), held himself above the other chicks from the moment I brought him home. His neck was always high, his chest out. He looked proud 24/7. Conan wasn't as "proud looking" but was noticeably statuesque compared to the other chicks. I mean, look at him (second picture below) at 8 weeks. Proud little struttin boys.

3. Feet: My roosters have enormous feet. In the next picture I circled Conan's foot and the foot of a hen standing directly behind him. Rooster feet are thick and huge and again, when you compare them to the feet of other birds born on/around the same day, they are typically larger.

4. Combs: This one is tricky. I have hens with huge combs. My roosters, however, develop their combs quicker. If you have a rose-comb breed, like Wyandottes or Easter Eggers, a rooster typically has a 3-row-rose comb (see giant, ironically-pink arrow in picture below). Single combs (one line right down the center) are harder to really peg as rooster or hen, but again, my roosters all developed their combs at a faster pace.

5. Saddle Feathers: That area of a chicken's back, right before the tail and a little behind the wings, is where a saddle would sit. Roosters develop saddle feathers that waterfall down and end in points instead of curves. Check it out -  see how Taters feathers are starting to fall down and away from his body? See how they are pointy? Hens have saddle feathers too but they don't do that cascade-thing and they are curved on the edges.

6. Tail feathers: This was the second clue Conan gave me...he developed these gorgeous green feathers that started to fall downward, pointing to the ground. A hen can have long tail feathers, too, but they typically do not arc away from her body all dramatic-like. Conan's tail feathers are huge and long and beautiful, while Triss, the Partridge Rock behind him, has tail feathers that end rather abruptly.

7. Crow: This is the only surefire, 100% accurate way to know you've got a roo. All the other tricks mentioned above are just that...tricks. Sometimes hens have feathers that look pointy. Sometimes roosters are smaller as babies. You will never truly know for sure what gender your bird is until you step back and look at the whole bird....if 4 out of 6 clues point to rooster, then you likely have a roo....but there's always a chance she ends up being a hen. Unless it crows. If it crows, you're done. Rootown.

Let's say you're an Overconfident Jen and you've got a rooster. What can you do with him?

Cook Him
This is my first choice. I love my birds, but it's my job as a responsible chicken owner to provide them with a good, happy, natural life in exchange for their eggs and eventual sacrifice. They work for me, not the other way around. Hens die and roosters happen and I refuse to let that life go to waste.

Gandalf was delicious. He was the first bird I processed myself and it was not pretty or easy. There are lots of YouTube videos and tutorials out there. They are helpful but I can almost guarantee the first time you do it, you'll take a minute to get it done. I've since found a couple places nearby that will process my birds for me, one at a time if needed, for about $5 a bird. I will gladly pay $5 to get the job done quickly and proficiently. If you don't process many birds, this might be a great option for you. Don't know where to start? Ask the farmers selling meat at you local farmer's market where they process their birds. I had two farmers help me find a local processor and one farmer even offered to take my birds along with hers during her monthly run. 

Now before you go throwing your fresh-plucked boy into the oven, understand you can't just cook a rooster like any other chicken. They are big and muscular birds and if you feed them well, they don't typically develop very much their meat is tough. Low and slow is the key to making the meat tender enough to eat. I let my rooster sit for at least 2 days in the fridge before tossing him in the crock pot. Roo meat is perfect for soup and sandwiches. Rest, low temp, slow cooking...these are the keys to a yummy rooster dinner.

Give Him Up
I am a member of about 10 Facebook groups, 2 of which are local chicken groups. People post roosters on the group feeds all the time and depending on your breed, this might be a really great option with a significant number of interested chicken breeders. Posting your "purebred" roosters is also a great way to keep our heritage breeds alive and well. Sometimes 4-H kids need roosters for shows or to start their own flock. Sometimes a farmer needs a rooster because hers kicked the bucket and she needs protection for her remaining flock members. If you aren't looking to butcher your bird, consider finding a local chicken group and offering him up to a good home.

As with any online transaction with strangers, do your homework and try to make sure you're not giving up a good, healthy animal to illegal, immoral, inhumane gambling operations. I would kill a rooster with my bare hands before I sent him into a fighting ring to die a slow and painful death in the name of money. 

Keep Him
Little secret....I am going to try and keep Conan. He is so gorgeous and I would love to breed him with my other Easter Egger and make more Easter Egger babies. His life is in his own hands, however, as I can't keep an aggressive boy around. I also need to figure out a solution for that pesky crowing neighbors are not fans of rooster crows at 4AM. Perhaps some blue eggs would soothe them, hmm? We shall see.

Roosters are fantastic protectors. They are great at telling the hens where to eat and when to hide. Roosters are also very beautiful and can be kind, welcome additions to a flock. They complete a natural hierarchy that operates the way it would in the jungles our lovely chickens originated from. 

But if you want to keep your rooster, be prepared for crowing 24/7, not just in the morning. Be prepared for a potentially aggressive animal that may attack kiddos and other animals. Be prepared for your hens to be mated with - roosters can be selective and hens do show physical signs of wear and tear. You can prevent babies by collecting eggs each day but if you free range, consider the sneaky, sneaky ways a hen can hide her eggs. Keeping a rooster isn't that difficult but it requires some additional planning to keep things running smoothly.

Finding out your rooster is a hen can make you feel like your egg dreams are dashed and your idealistic backyard flock of well-behaved, sweet girls is impossible....but roosters are not all horrible. Some can be very sweet, docile little gentleman who work hard to ensure your girls stay safe and happy. Other roosters....well. They can be damn delicious. 

Do you have chickens? What is your rooster plan? If you don't have birds....tell me....about how many eggs would it take to keep you quiet about a rooster next door? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!

**Can't get enough homesteading? Check out the Homestead Blog Hop, hosted by some of the best and most beautiful bloggers in the self-sufficiency world. This post, and many of my others, are shared on the Homestead Blog Hop each week. From breadmaking to seed selection, home-grown recipes to herbal health, the Homestead Blog Hop has it all! Enjoy! :)


Monday, July 11, 2016

Free Summertime Kid Activities for Moms Who Can't Even

I am a lucky woman. I have two healthy, smart little girls. They are beautiful and funny and they make my world go 'round. Don't know where I would be without them.....maybe a Greenpeace boat fighting whalers, maybe a tropical island establishing irrigation systems for villagers, or maybe on the Serengeti researching endangered species but the point is, I don't know where I would be without my two beautiful girls.

Seriously now, my kids capture and create much of the joy I am privileged to experience. They are my little lights........and they are also my little foghorns. They scream, and cry, and fight fairly consistently during summer break. Do you remember my typical morning sequence as described in my Winter Break post? Yes it's like that....only everyday, earlier, and for much, much longer. Queue Greenpeace-island-Africa daydreams.....

Now I know what you might be thinking. Jen, what is wrong with you. Get on board with the majority of working American parents and send your child to camp. And I have read about those beautiful summer camps and remember my time at camp and think to myself, yes, that would be amazing! They would love that! Then I see the prices and I die a little inside. Not happening. But neither is the work I need to do while my kids are playing "let's see who cries first" for the 100th time.

Hmmmm....where did I place that handy-dandy list of strategic, inexpensive summertime activities.....ah. Here it is.

Give your kiddo a spade, a packet of seeds, a cup, a designated area of the yard or even a pot, and let her go to town. Let her tear out the grass, shovel up dirt, play with spiders, and use the hose. Let her stick worms and leaves and seeds in her mouth. If you're worried about her getting poisoned, take a few minutes to teach her about her backyard flora and fauna. Kids (literally) eat that stuff up and will mimic your attitude. If you're scared of spiders, she will be terrified of them, too. Teach her to grab nature with her bare hands and use her senses to identify safe from dangerous, seedling from weed, food from foe....and watch her love for her garden blossom.

Public Services
Making use of your local parks and recreation centers is a summertime "given"....but I had to mention them anyways because you know what we didn't have when I was little? Splash pads. We had water parks that seemingly cost a billion dollars to go to and were always crowded with camp kids in matching colored t-shirts that clogged the slides and pools like giant rolls of screaming, sunburned toilet paper. We had the beach with its burning hot sand, swarms of poop-filled "swim diapers," and brown lake water that always, always had a hundred warm spots. We had the hose and the sprinkler. But we did not have these incredible, roomy, miracle-like splash pads, complete with towering water daises and interactive misters and sparkling, shooting streams of cool, fresh water. If you can find a free splash pad in or around your town (my town has two), take your children there. Bring a book. Splash pads aren't so large that you've gotta pay a ton of attention but they aren't so small that kids hurt each other trying to sit on the jets. Splash pads, oh how I love you.

Life Skills
So my ten year old, when provided with some simple instructions one or two times, can cook her own dinner. Her new thing lately is scrambled eggs. She wants to cook them all the time. She cracks them, seasons them, cooks them over our gas stove, and even adds chopped spinach. Yep. Knives and fire - and not a single cut, not a single burn, not a single piece of eggshell. I only had to show her once and act as reassurance when she cooked them alone for the first time. Kids love to learn new things....everyone enjoys feeling pride and empowerment. Take some risks and go outside your parental comfort zone to teach your kiddo some life skills. I can't even explain how incredible it is to take a night off from cooking because my kid volunteered to cook - the only thing that's better is the moment I actually get to sit down and enjoy the healthy, delicious dinner she produced.

Tell Their Story
My kids love, love, love to hear their birth stories. I use my suspense voice and hushed tones to describe the days leading up to their birthday and all of the craziness and uniqueness about the nights they took their first breath. My youngest loves to hear about how stormy it was the night she was born; my oldest loves the part of her story when mama's friend made her laugh while she was eating a hoagie. I describe the doctors and the nurses and who was there for each birth and how mama felt before, during, and after. They sit silently, if you can believe it, while I describe how they looked, the noises they made, the first time they opened their eyes. The best part about this activity? It can be as long or as short as you like, as detailed or as general, wherever and whenever you want. Plus I don't know a mom on this planet who doesn't like talking about her birth experience, amirite?

Kid Art
Kids can make art out of maxi pads and tampons, people. We've all seen it. How about we arm them with materials that maybe cost a little less and are a little less....absorbent? It is berry season and whether you grow your own or buy from a store, there's always a handful of berries that go bad before you can eat them. Turn them into art! Let your kids smoosh them on paper plates and squeeze all that bright, beautiful color into a masterpiece. Have some twigs and sticks covering your yard from the most recent summer storm? Task your children with picking the sticks up and allow the kids to build little homes or "fire pits" with their finds. Show them how to pick colorful flower petals, muddle them (smash them) in a little bit of water, and then give them a brush and let them decorate the side of your house with nature's watercolors. Mud, rainwater, grass name it, art can be made.

Freedom to Mess
It's ok for your kids to look like ragamuffins in the summer. I mean it. Knots in their hair, shoes missing laces, mud stains on their clothes, skinned knees, sunburns, mosquito bite rashes....if your kid looks like a woodland hobo at any point this summer, it means she has lived. It means she was allowed to play in the mosquito-larvae-filled mud puddle and sit in her clothes on the wet ground and jump off tree limbs and fall into holes because the uncut grass was too long for her to see and ride around in the truck with both windows down and stay up late eating garbage and watching fireflies wake up instead of taking a bath. It means she is experiencing life in it's purest, rawest form. Look at her face - does she even care that her hair is covered in leaves and she has a random welt over her left eye? No. No she does not. That right there is all any mama can ask for. Let her be free and messy!

Talk Time
I try and sit down with my kids to eat dinner every night. Sometimes it doesn't work out and I need to work late or their dad comes to grab them, but most of the time we share that one important meal together. That being said, it's not like in all the magazines where they tell you about the importance and meaning behind time at the dinner table.....we will talk about our days, sure, but eventually the conversation degrades into a chorus of loud, unintelligible noises. Someone yells at the dog who is chasing the cat and the cat who is eating the food the 4 year old dropped and the 4 year old who is crying because the cat ate her food and the 10-year-old who is saying she is full after one bite of vegetables even though the whole world knows she can put down an entire pizza in under 10 minutes and the mom who wants to be engaged in her kids but is secretly walking through her to-do-list in her head and wondering how long she needs to survive until she can lay in the bathtub with a beer. It's times like these I like to say screw magazines, live real life. Do what works for your family. If dinnertime is too chaotic to connect, take 15 minutes at the end of every night to give your kid undivided attention. She gets 15 minutes to talk your ear off, fill you in, ask any questions, and connect with you one-on-one. It doesn't take long and it does wonders to not only satisfy the needs of your kiddos but also quell that mommy guilt we so often feel when we can't do it all.

Leave Them Be
I saved my favorite free summertime activity for last. Let. Your. Kids. Be. Do not give them activities, or tasks, or playdates....give them nothing. Make them be responsible for finding their own entertainment. I promise I am not crazy - this can, and does, work. Think back to when you were a kid. Did your mom sit down with you each night and play game after game and read book after book and spend every free moment she had taking you places and making sure you had fun things to do? My mama sure didn't. She busted her ass every day to make sure my sister and I had food to eat, a healthy and happy home to live in, clothes on our backs, and presents under the tree at Christmastime. She made everything magical, but not by spending countless hours entertaining me and keeping me occupied. I was told to go outside. I was told to go to my room. I was told to go do something about 50 times a day. So I went outside. I went to my room. And I found something to do. It is not your job as a parent to entertain your children. It is your job to raise them into decent, productive, good human beings. Let them find their own fun. If you leave them alone long enough, they will. You may not like what they end up finding to do, but this is where compromise and boundaries all come full circle - maybe it's ok that they're climbing all over each other, as long as they're outside. Maybe it's ok to have a puzzle piece war, as long as they understand the puzzle may never look the same again. Maybe it's not that big a deal to pull all the pots and pans out, provided everything is cleaned up afterwards. Be flexible and open minded. Even a kid who knows her limits may still try and test them...but a kid who is never allowed to explore the boundaries of her world will never learn what she's fully capable of, either. Let her make mistakes. Let her be unhappy. Let her be responsible for herself. It is so, so hard for me to do this because I am ridiculously impatient.....but I've found when I leave my kids alone, they come up with their own creative ways to play, learn, and experience their world.

Kids are wonderful and terrible and beauty and horror all wrapped into one delicious and stressful bundle of love you would unquestionably die to protect. Summertime isn't always breezy and warm with when the going gets tough, whip up a couple creative, cheap boredom-busting activities and let the sunshine in.

What are your favorite summertime activities? Any foolproof anti-boredom methods you've learned and implemented already this summer? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Building Confidence as an Anxious Single Mama

Do you remember your first date? I remember my first date.

I was an awkward and lanky 13-year-old girl at a church BBQ when I first saw him. He was tall, with dark hair and a beautiful smile. I remember telling my girlfriend I "liked" him (what does that even mean to a 13 year old Jen?) and wouldn't you know it, her mother was good friends with his. Before I even realized what was happening I had plans to go bowling with this 16-year-old boy, his friend, and my girlfriend. A group thing, you know, because....well.....I was 13. And church, people.

He and his friend picked us up from my house. My mom supervised the hand-off. I think I said hello? I might not have said hello. I couldn't for the life of me look at him. I sat in the backseat of that car, silent and sweating, my heart pounding, while my girlfriend and his friend chatted it up. By the time we got to the bowling alley I was in full-blown panic mode, my mind racing between the drive-in scene in Grease and those horrible 1960's sex ed videos they'd started showing us in health class. What am I doing here? What should I say? What does he want to hear? How am I supposed to act? Do I need more lip gloss? Do boys even like lip gloss? Teen Magazine, oh how you've failed me!!

After an hour of me staring at the ground, lips sealed shut, he and his friend gave up and took me home. I practically jumped out of the moving vehicle when it turned down my street and I, of course, never heard from him again.

Dating, I realized right then and there, absolutely sucks.

Flash forward to present day and I can't say I'm any better than my 13 year old self. Here I am, fresh out of a ten year marriage with someone I thought I was going to die next to like in The Notebook (yep, welcome to Jen world), and I am scared shitless. The pain hangs on me like dead weight. It gets me stuck in insecurity, doubt, and shame. It's like quicksand. I am afraid to shake and fight it because all that moving might make me die faster, right? But if I just stand still, I will sink.

The answer, dear readers? The answer is to find the confidence to fight. And risk. And continue pulling upwards and out of that mess of a person who was left behind when her marriage went to shit. We don't need to feel helpless. We don't need to feel like we're not in control. We don't need to stand there and let the sadness and unfairness and disappointment overtake our happiness. Imagine how different my first date would've been had I flashed a smile, been proud of who I was, and stopped questioning myself. The best things that've ever happened in my life happened because I was brave enough to ask for them, pursue them, and grab them.

So let's build some confidence, shall we?

Positive People
The last thing a broken person needs is someone telling her she's broken. People who criticize, complain, can't be satisfied, and otherwise make you feel like garbage have no place in your journey right now. Consciously consider who you surround yourself with and choose to weed out those who cause you pain or anxiety. This is the time to rally your support people. Do yourself a favor and lean on your friends. The good ones will understand and be overjoyed to help.

Be Alone
I talked about some great, frugal ways to be alone a few weeks ago. One of the key components to gaining confidence is knowing you will be ok all by yourself. You will not go crazy. You will not be seen as someone to be pitied. You will be ok....happy, even. This was an especially hard lesson for me to learn (and one I am actually still learning) as I love being with those I love. I love to talk and be with others - I've always felt I was made to be a partner. If that's how you feel, too...kick rocks. Seriously, cram that crap with walnuts, it's time to be your own partner. Figure out how to get stuff down from the top shelf. Learn basic home repairs. Redo your bedding so there's one giant, fluffy pillow right in the middle of your more sides....just you. Wonderful you.

Music Magic
My best dear girlfriend just told me the other day that music is the only thing in the world that lights up the entire brain while listening to it. Can you believe that? It's the only thing that lights up our whole brain at once. Use it. You know all those songs dudes sing about hot girls and summer girls and the loves of their life? Pretend they are singing about you. Dance and sway and sing and feel sexy and desired and love on yourself like you are the only woman in the world that he could possibly be singing about. Then listen and sing along to some Kacey Musgraves and Sia because both those women are power in a bottle.

Mirror, Mirror, on Your Wall
I'm the opposite of a "high-maintenance" woman so hear me when I say you could never wear an ounce of makeup again and you would still be just as beautiful as any woman in Hollywood. That said, even I have to admit I feel different when I leave the house in sweatpants versus cute jeans. When I'm leaving the house and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, there's a certain attitude I get when my reflection smiles all pretty back at me. I'm not saying you need to get all dolled up in the traditional sense with makeup and fancy clothes (although you can if you want to!), but try not to let your feelings of rejection cause you to give up on the things that make you feel beautiful. If you feel beautiful in long dresses and bracelets, wear them even though you're feeling gross. If you feel beautiful in flip flops with crazy hair, wear flip flops with crazy hair every chance you get. Don't let those things go just because someone made you feel worthless. If looking pretty makes you happy, look pretty, embrace it, don't stop, because you are more precious than gold.

Flirt, Flirt, Flirt
So you know the creeper guys who pull up in their cars and you get this weird feeling they're staring at you and trying to mack all up on your stuff? No? Try looking around next time. They are out there....remember me talking about them in my Worst Driving Offenses post? When you're recovering from a bad breakup you need to use these guys. I'm serious. Look their way and smile and blow them kisses. See a hott construction worker? Wave at him. Standing next to a good looking man at the grocery store? Smile at him and say hello. Take every opportunity to flirt your sweet little ass off because the reactions you'll get are priceless and definitely worth the risk of interacting with strangers.

Be Selfish
You likely just spent weeks, months, years putting another person's needs above your own. Now is the time to break free from that for a little while. I have kiddos and they need me, yes....but they need me happy and healthy. If I can find a way to care for them while caring for myself, I'm going to take it. Try doing what you want on the weekend instead of what your friends and family want. Pamper yourself with baths every day and don't feel guilty that you're soaking in a bathtub while your kids watch a movie because you know what....nobody cares. The kids will not remember it....but they will remember your mood, your reactions, and how you treat them. So treat yourself and try not to provide excuses for it. Allow yourself to be happy, explanation-free.

Fake it Till You Make it
There's something to be said about mantras, or the act of repeating something to yourself over and over again until it becomes concrete. New routines become habit, habits become your way of life...and the same can be said for self-perception. Hate a particular part of your body? Stand in front of the mirror and look at it every single day and name at least 3 positive things about your least-favorite feature. My breasts fed my babies. My breasts don't have cancer. My breasts are soft. Over and over and over again until you start to realize that the positives are the truths......and everything else is just noise and conditioned responses. Recondition your brain. I am a good mom. I am enough. I am worth it. Fake it, say it, portray it, until it becomes reality.

The Critical Challenge
This little trick actually came to me via my ex-husband! He suggested it to me after a particularly rough conversation about our future as friends and co-parents. The challenge is to not say anything critical about yourself for one entire week. No negative comments about yourself, no excessive apologizing, no talking down about your behavior or your actions. If you can, stop apologizing all together. This is a super tough one for me. I feel sorry all the time, either by way of empathy or remorse. The first time I did this challenge I failed miserably. I'm hopeful about my second attempt. Think before you speak and don't automatically assume you are to blame and deserve criticism. Chances are you're not and your mouth just needs to catch up to this new way of life.

Got Kids?
Use your children like the rails of a pool table. Before you say something, or react to something, mentally bounce the thought off your children - If my baby were thinking this right now, how would I feel? If my daughter were doubting herself, what would I say? If my son were to react this way, what would the outcome be? I try and use my kids as a baseline for my self-image all the time. I would never want my daughter calling herself fat, so I am careful to not say the same about myself. I would be furious if my babies bent over backwards for someone who didn't appreciate it, so I try and be sure I don't portray the same weakness. Children bring wonderful perspective to life. Use it! They think you are the most beautiful creature in the world, mama. Act like it.

Don't Keep Your Head
If you're anything like me, being single after ending a bad marriage creates this catacomb of caution. Don't let yourself get hurt again. Don't let someone break you again. Don't allow yourself to be that dependent again. Don't lose yourself in love. Keep your head on your shoulders. Take things slow and carefully. Don't make another mistake. Don't, don't, don't......don't what? Allow yourself to feel vulnerable? Allow yourself to take risks? Allow yourself to fall in love? Allow yourself to live? If it makes you happy, if it makes you smile, if it makes you feel good and it doesn't harm your body or those around you really need to keep your head about it? Or can you just let go and free fall for a little bit? Chase dreams? Live in the clouds? Think about and work toward the reality you want to have instead of the one you currently have? If the idea you covet doesn't interfere with your responsibilities, I see nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be terribly, deliciously, irrationally impulsive and indulgent. You are raising kids husband-free, woman. You've earned some time to dance around, play, and lose your head. Go nuts!

There's no easy way to get back to the person you were before. You'll likely never meet her again, to be honest. But do you really want to? Chances are you've grown and are forming new leaves and petals on those pretty flowers of yours. Don't look back and wish for what you once were. Look ahead and see, with renewed, joyful eyes, who you will someday be. Hold tight to her and think about her everyday. Practice, pretend, play, and promote yourself and your confidence each morning. Kiss yourself goodnight every night. And don't worry, mama. You are the most mesmerizing, breathtaking woman in the just need to start believing it.

I'd love to hear from you dear, readers. How do you keep your confidence up when recovering from hardship? Tell me about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)