Thursday, December 27, 2012

{guest blogger} hoop!

Hi there! I'm Heather, a guest blogger for Mandi while she's taking a technology break for the holidays. Hope you guys enjoy!

First of all, I hate to workout. The thought of having to go to a gym and run on a treadmill makes me want to eat a pizza, I have no idea why. But I found something else, totally by chance, and it's ACTUALLY fun. You want proof that it's fun? It started as a kid's toy.

Before I turned 30, I made a list of things I wanted to do before that big birthday. Things like learn sign language, say the alphabet backwards, go to a hot spring. Honestly, I didn't accomplish most of them. But one I was dedicated to was to relearn how to hula hoop. I spent many hot summer evenings in the front yard as a kid, spinning that hoop around my waist for what seemed like hours. So I went to Target and got a hoop, behind excited to get home and try it again. Well, what happened was nothing. It wouldn't stay up! I was heartbroken. No, literally, I was more sad about that than the year my best friend forget my birthday. So I turned to Google and found out that I needed a larger hoop, since I am no longer the size of a 9 year old. Then I found out there was this whole culture centered around adults hooping, and that you could learn to dance with the hoop. That was it, I fell in love. I ordered a hoop of the right size, started learning tricks, and started forcing everyone from my husband to my mom to hoop with me. I lost 15 pounds in the first 3 months! And I have no previous dance experience. It was time to pass it on.

By my 30th birthday, I was a Hoopnotica Hoop Dance instructor! What started as fun turned into my career, and life's joy. You don't even realize you're working out, because you're just playing around like you did as a kid. That's the beauty of it. 

So are you interested? Awesome! Google “hula hooping, (your town)” to find a class, or Google “Hoopnotica” to get a DVD and a hoop of your own! You can even make them yourself with tools from your local home repair store. Bottom line is this, a new year is coming, don't make insane goals for yourself. Just make a resolution to move more and get happier. It's impossible to frown in the hoop. :)


Heather Says lives in the Houston 'burbs and is a hula hoop dance instructor, blogger, crafter, and listener of 80's pop music. You can find her at and


Sunday, December 23, 2012

{guest blogger} holiday snark

Hi there! I'm Heather, a guest blogger for Mandi while she's taking a technology break for the holidays. Hope you guys enjoy!


What is it about the holidays that makes people so angry and snarky? I mean, I get it, it can be a super tough time of year. Remembering lost family members, the financial strain of it all. Believe me, I've spent much of the morning figuring out the cost of the gifts I still need to buy, and adding in a 6 month car insurance payment (due on Christmas eve, who decided that??) and HOA fees.

But isn't there something about the lights on the houses and sweet songs on the radio that make you want to smile? I miss Christmas as a kid, when the whole world seemed to slow down, and the season lasted forever. I was shocked when I got into high school and realized the break from school was only 2 weeks.

I guess with the invention of FaceBook and Twitter, it gives everyone a chance to get their complaints out to the masses, so it seems like everyone is unhappy. Between the “War on Christmas” and the fiscal cliff, I can't help but feel let down by people who aren't in the spirit. Which seems like everyone.

However, I've got a solution! Just be sweet to someone. Someone you don't know. Talk up the cashier at Target. Buy coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks. Settle a grudge with someone by sending a holiday card. You'll feel better and they'll feel better. You'll be shocked how the tiny things will up your mood. Lets be honest, so much of the rest of the year sucks (like Houston summers!), don't let the holiday season fall into that category.


Heather Says lives in the Houston 'burbs and is a hula hoop dance instructor, blogger, crafter, and listener of 80's pop music. You can find her at and


Thursday, December 20, 2012

so long for the holidays!

Well, folks, vacation time is here and I intend to take a sabbatical from the blog, and pretty much everything else social media related. I’ll be back after the New Year and fill you in on my goings on, whether you welcome it or not. Hopefully the earlier.

I love my family. I love people. I love helping people and loving on people. And though I love writing, too, I often find it hard to balance it all.

You see, even though I’m home with my husband and kids…playing or whatever…it’s important that I’m present in the moment. Engaging with them, playing with them, loving on them. And I feel this is one of the reasons I especially cherish my closest friends and family members – because they get this. They support the fact that I prioritize my little brood at home. Our values are the same. We can talk once every three-four weeks and simply pick up where we last left off. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but not all friendships survive motherhood…fatherhood…er, parenthood.

Pete and I try to be intentional with each of our children. We want them to feel important within our family as individuals, so we live life together, rarely getting babysitters for them and running off to do our own thing. Occasionally, we’ll play hooky while the kids are in school, but we get several hours of free time to ourselves at night after they’ve gone to bed. All in all, we know that these guys are little for such a short while; that their childhood days will soon enough be something of the past.

I just feel incredibly undeserving and humbled and grateful for that which I’ve been given. And being the best version of myself…to my kids and to my husband…is the only significant way I know how to give God thanks for all that He’s done for me.

You will be missed! Enjoy the few upcoming guest blogs I’ll host in my absence…



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

{too good to pass up}

This post is only for some of you. For the elite, super special group of ladies out there who have had their ever-living butts kicked in the month of December and still haven’t sent out Christmas cards. To those of you who managed to get your cards ordered, neatly addressed and in the mail already (i.e. most of my girlfriends) - move along, you little holiday over-achievers! I’m sure you’ve probably finished your Christmas shopping and have everything wrapped and under the tree too! I’m not even going to try and hide my jealousy over your superior time management skills.

But here’s the good news for those of you, who like me, are still getting their act together -- my friends at have you covered. I created and ordered our Christmas cards only 2 days ago and I just got a notice that they were already shipped and headed to my door. (How’s that for fast turnaround?!)

They even have Happy New Year cards which I seriously (SERIOUSLY) considered ordering instead of Christmas ones, as I’m only semi-sure that I’m going to be able to address these bad boys before December 25th.


Monday, December 17, 2012

in the darkness

Our corporate office had just concluded the annual holiday celebration, and provided all employees the remainder of the day off. There’s only one thing Pete and I miss from our pre-baby days, and that’s going to a real, brick and mortar, movie theater. During our courtship, that’s something we did nearly every Sunday morning. So, while fellow colleagues were rushing off to the nearest bar, Pete and I headed over to Tinseltown to catch the new, Hobbit.

While the previews were playing, I scavenged for my phone in the dark, in attempt to silence it. Yet someone I subscribe to on Facebook posted something which caught my eye – something to the effect of, “those poor babies in CT didn’t deserve what happened to them…” There forward, my phone started blowing up with tweets and texts and emails, people commenting on some tragic incident in Newtown, CT. The words, “children” and “shooting” and “gunman” stood out and I immediately went to the internet to search out the details.

After only a few minutes of digesting what I had just read, I resorted to sobbing. Right there in the theater. Off and on throughout the movie. I even strived to get lost in the story line, to push out the reality, but every so often the story line would lull, and I would think on those littles who lost their lives and the parents left behind in anguish.

It felt similar to the moment 9-11 happened. And that of the New York area nanny who murdered the two small children she was responsible for. Heavy. Pain as real as the sun on our cheeks. And all I wanted to do was go home to my children…look into their eyes…listen to their voices…hold them a little longer than usual.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of loving a child, this unconscionable event breaks your heart as it does mine. And statistically -- every day -- a child’s voice is silenced too soon.

No mother or father should have to bury their child. I mean, how does a parent survive this kind of loss?

I expected the tears would have subsided by now, but they still produce a steady trickle. And for all the moments I’ve smiled since Friday, won’t you believe I’ve felt guilt in the pit of my stomach…aware that 20 mommies writhe in agony in CT, along with many others around the world experiencing similar losses.

If you’re battling an internal struggle much like I am, perhaps you’re asking how we as a people rise above this. I’ve thought about this all weekend, the ebb and flow of my emotions – the revolving sadness and anger and fear and overall hopelessness for humanity.

We live in a world riddled with unspeakable violence. For which there is no fix. On the heels of that, we are all facing some type of heaviness. Each of us represent circumstances that are too much for us to bear alone.  

...we need each other.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."Martin Luther King, Jr.

Song: If I Rise   Artist: Dido & A.R. Rahman


Friday, December 14, 2012

yet to come

Believe that. Speak that. Think on that. 

Your best is yet to come. 

God has awesome things in store for you. May you find peace and rest in knowing that your future in Him looks bright. He loves you and believes in you more then you will ever know. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

{wordless wednesday} life in pictures


Monday, December 10, 2012

no more apologies

In recent weeks…months…I’ve been told the most cherished of words. These 3 texts/emails in particular are at the forefront of my memory lately. I think it’s because these words have struck with me the need to be the person they think I am. It’s as though a new standard has been set, and I’ve got to strive to reach it or I’m not worthy of such compliments.

“I hope that when I’m a mother one day, that I’m just like you.”

“You and Pete have enriched our lives in so many ways. We can’t imagine not having you guys as friends.”

“You inspire me to be a better woman…a better mother. You’re exactly the person I want to be.”

Friends, there is no white picket fence around my life. There are no pretty bows tying up the package that is my life. I’m so very real…and raw…and flawed. If I haven’t been honest and transparent on my blog before, that’s my goal here forward.

I should be allowing people to really know my life. It's intimidating having everyone I know read so much about me. But why should it?
So, no more apologies, this is me…

I am NOT a mother/wife that cooks elaborate meals every night. Or every other night for that matter. Pete does a lot of cooking, or we eat on-the-go.

I AM a girl who hurts easily. I’m not bullet-proof -- that isn’t the case at all.

I am NOT on time for most things. But AM reliable when I tell you I will be there.

I am NOT someone who balances her time wisely. I cram entirely too many tasks in a short period of time. “Amok, amok, amok!”

I AM someone who strives to speak in love and act with tenderness. But I fail. Almost daily.

I AM a people pleaser and can be insecure at times.

I am NOT always happy about obligations. Sometimes I first grumble about the annoyance, and then later gush with thankfulness.

I am NOT over the pain of having lost my mom. My grief is ripped open anew with every box of ornaments. She should be here, being a mom to me and a grandmother to my kids.

I AM that mother who’ll let her kids eat a ridiculously large bowl of ice cream and call it “dinner.”

I AM that women who loves with all her heart, but I am NOT that woman who can comfortably express it.

I AM that woman that laughs during inopportune times.

From her blog, Top of the Page, Leslie puts it into words that I couldn’t:

"If you haven't already gathered, or happen to be reading this blog for the first time in your life, I am a melancholy girl through and through. I find beauty in not only the beautiful things in life, but the bittersweet and sad as well. To me, there is something poignantly lovely about the human experience from its splendor to its grief. God created all our emotions, not just the happy ones, and for His good purposes. That's why a good cry can feel so good. And hitting our limits forces us to look outside ourselves for a Savior. It is in the plea, when we're at our end, that we can find that which is truly life-giving. Personally, my moments of deepest grief, deepest pain, have resulted in the most beautiful seasons in my heart. I've met God more intimately in those moments than in all the other pleasant ones combined. What isn't completely lovely about that?"

Right?! What isn’t completely lovely about that?!

I want to be that person, that blogger, that conveys positivity and love and joy and inspiration. But I think it’s also important that I relay substance -- how my life has also consisted of heartaches and challenges. Life is hard. And I want to go down that road with you, alongside you.

Seeming to have it all together and always posting beautiful pictures of people smiling – who does that help?

So, while I rave on about my wonderful pregnancy experience, I might add that of my miscarriage. When you prod me for tricks for staying in shape, I will tell you about my c-section scars. Next time you mention how put together and manicured my home is, I will share that my kids loathed on Sundays for dedicating the day to cleaning rooms and organizing closets. When you speculate that I have really nice THINGS, I will disclose that my designer purse serves also as my diaper bag and that my Land Rover is used and that I often shop vintage/thrift stores – we are rather frugal people. Additionally, as beautiful and near-perfect as our relationship is nowadays, let me divulge that it didn’t at all whatsoever begin out that way. Had Pete not tied me down while I attempted to kick and scream my way out, continually encouraging me to open my heart, I may have missed out on this remarkable life we share…with my best friend. And while we’re on the topic of friends, let’s be honest about our 700+ Facebook friends – the reality is that there are probably only 10-15 that would help me hide the body if I murdered someone (metaphorically speaking).

Life is harder than what we often perceive. And many of you know of my motto, “you must experience the bad so you can appreciate the good.” So, I’ve been where many of you currently are in your life. And I would love nothing more than to encourage you to be strong and have faith. To give you the hope and inspiration I wish I had been given during my struggles – of which was no fault of anyone but mine, carrying burdens deep down inside so no one could see them.

Song: Beautiful Things   Artist: Gungor


Friday, December 7, 2012

whose birthday is it?

Our church pastor has really been pushing the “whose birthday is it this Christmas? Yes, Jesus’, not yours. So, why should YOU get gifts for Christmas?” And I completely understand where he’s coming from. How I identify may be something completely different than what you take away from it. He’s insinuating that we should give Jesus gifts.

But how do we give Jesus gifts?

It’s a gift to God when we act or respond in a Godly manner, so I would believe that  anything pleasing to our Lord will be considered a gift unto Him. Don’t you think so? After all, it’s better to GIVE than RECEIVE. People have the natural tendency to want to help, they just don’t know how. I’ve composed a short list, but welcome any suggestions that you may have.

·    Leave a quarter in a gum-ball machine with a note on it that says Merry Christmas – God bless!

·    Make a Christmas card for a homeless person(s) on the street or in a shelter.

·    Drop a “thank you” card with the bell-ringing Salvation Army volunteer(s), your fire department, your neighborhood patrol or police patrol, your garbage man.

·    Have you heard of Threads? Your contribution will directly impact an at-risk student, giving them the hope they need to succeed. “By wearing Threads, you’re wearing more than a bracelet, you’re wearing change.”

·    Make a monetary contribution to the order behind you in the drive-thru line.

·    Let someone with fewer groceries or packages to move ahead of you in the check-out line.

·    Clean out closets and take your gently used winter clothing to homeless shelters.

·    Ask your family members to commit to helping someone or volunteering to a charity for at least a week. Share with one another your experiences and watch everyone smile and/or cry happy tears.

·    Make a no-sew tie blanket and donate to the local homeless shelter and/or nursing home. Tutorial here.

·   Decorate the halls of a children’s hospital.

·   Donate gently used books to a children's hospital.

·    Buy the person's drink behind you at Starbucks.

·    Go out of your way to meet someone new. Discover their needs and help meet them.

·    Invite someone to dinner who you know is going to be alone on the holidays.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I read this quote from one my favorite blogs, Top of the Page:

"Living your life to get that deep God-like validation from your peers is a scary place to be in. If someone threatens your sense of self and questions your choices, watch out. "On Christ the SOLID ROCK I stand. All other ground is sinking sand..." Basing one's self-worth on the opinions of the masses is nothing but sinking sand."

What happened to the me that didn’t care what people thought? Some days, I wish I could be her again. I was so “out there” then. Paved my own path. Created my own style. Nothing of mine was like that of my peers. I allowed myself to be free. And think freely. To be ME.

I’m on a mission again to gain some of that independent thought back into my daily life. This round, a little wiser, a bit more educated, and more in tune with my faith.

On the heels of that, Pete and I often cringe at the thought of someone seeing our son drink from his bottle. Given that he’s 16 months now. Apparently, in the big book of parenting that’s a “no-no.”

I was completely textbook raising both our “bigs” – and partly because they cooperated soundly. Reef has, also -- around 6-8 months started drinking water from sippy cups, and around one year old began drinking from real cups. He uses both forks and spoons (preferably on his part) and feeds himself. So, I just don’t think it’s much of a big deal for him to stop drinking milk from a bottle if it makes him happy. We don't let them him drink from bottles in the night, but he sure considers it a real treat to snuggle one of us and sooth himself with a warm bottle of milk just before bedtime. Back in the "old days" they didn’t have sippy cups, so why is it a big deal now?! I know he won’t be 5 years old drinking from a for now…I am just letting him be little.


Song: Whatever You're Doing   Artist: Sanctus Real


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

more time

Our precious little niece and nephew turn 1 today. I realized that upon my arrival to work this morning, and my jaw sorta fell open and I slowly sat back in my chair.

I’m feeling very emotional today. I suppose I tend to do this every Christmas season. Oh, let’s be honest…I do this sporadically throughout the year. Okay…a lot.

With our children, we welcome the next milestone with anticipation. Naturally. But I’m feeling this overwhelming desire to push back. My “bigs” are pre-teens…on their way to becoming a young lady and a young man. Not that I’ve given up on keeping them young and innocent, because I do still try, but they simply won’t let themselves be babied anymore. So, my hope for Reef, is that he continues being my baby for a really…really long time. I want a million more open-mouthed kisses. I want to hold his chubby wee hand in the palm of mine a gazillion more times. Hear his high-pitched little giggle…well, forever.

When the “bigs” were babies, I would wake in the middle of the night to watch them sleep. To hear them breathe. I was, also, so incredibly caught up in fear that someone might take them from me. Not so much a someone. But, the world. Therefore, I didn’t want to miss a second of their completely amazing existence.

I had heard "Sunrise, Sunset." I'd been warned there would be a time to let go and that the moment would be bittersweet. But I pictured this letting-go happening once, maybe twice: on my child's first day of school, and the day he drove off to college.

But in fact the act of letting go is gradual. Every year, I find myself mourning my son's slow exit from childhood. I can hardly look at photos of our now-12-year-old as a toddler without a lump forming in my throat. I miss the child he was; I want to hold on to the kid he is now. And just when I think I grasp who he is this second, he changes again.

Years have passed. Flewn by, in fact. And I believe in my heart that I absorbed every waking moment with them during their infancy and throughout their toddler years. But between the ages of 6-9 it’s somewhat of a blur. Divorce happened. We moved around 2-3 times, changed schools, changed friends…changed routines. Sometimes, I think to myself that I might even have lost focus during those years. The focus for what was most important…togetherness. Looking back, I somewhat remember one kid in the office on the computer, another kid in her bedroom playing with toys, and I lounging, reading a book or doing some other independent task. We weren’t engaging with one another as much as we should have been. And that’s entirely my fault. As a single mom, I felt I had to run a pretty tight ship. Or so I thought. This mother, formerly a tender voice and gentle touch, turned into a ship captain, marking orders and managing my crew. It was all about proving to myself and everyone else that “I totally got this.” I needed nothing and NO ONE. But working late nights and weekends as a Finance Controller and coming home to cook dinner and clean house and catch up on laundry and feed animals and help with homework and chauffeur kids to & from sports and paying bills, and then waking up the next day to do it all over again, became a routine that left little or no time for chatting it up with the kids and wrestling and crafts and snuggling and game night and just simply immersing myself in their world. THEIR world. Because I was too caught up in mine. Regularly stressed, often exhausted and void of true joy. This lie of being in control is insidious.

Writing that makes me weepy.

Knowing the pure desire of my heart, God blessed me again with another “little.” A new “sunrise.” In so many ways, he’s awakened the loving, free-spirited woman of my twenties. I find myself trying to see the world through his eyes…the complexity and size of everything around him, the love he possesses for his family all the way down to his “silky”, that locking himself in a pitch black bathroom is scary because it’s the absence of everything he knows and loves, that even the Chewbaca and rhinocerous and musical Santa Claus sitting on the shelves are as real as our friends, that the opportunity to go outside and run is what real freedom feels like…unlike our adult selves, these “littles” take nothing for granted.

The bigs are at an age where I find myself pleading, “Wait, please, I'm not ready!” I want to say. “Give me a couple more years, at least.”

But every now and then they forget we're connected, or pretend to, and they’ll morph into a slightly younger version of themselves. On those days, I’m usually quiet, taking it all in, but sometimes we’ll talk about the future and what it might bring. They’ll tell me about all the adventures he/she can't wait to begin, and while talking I notice how much taller he/she seems, or how much more grown-up his/her face is beginning to look. It's as if I can already see the next older version of them, somewhere up ahead.

I listen, and I hold on a little tighter.

wordless wednesday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The last couple years have been barreling down a track that seems to be getting smaller and smaller while my caboose is overflowing.

I gotta get off the crazy train!


Oh I am SO there. Time to re-learn how to pronounce the word NO. Extras, work, friends, church, school, even children and family need to get a priority check at some point. I don’t even know what order any of that should come in these days. And that’s kinda sad?

I read a [virtual] friend’s blog on what meekness really is. I was surprised to come away understanding that it’s not about giving in or becoming powerless. What’s the opposite of meek? PRIDE. Vanity. What a new thought! Embracing my inner meek seems impossible, but losing a little pride, vanity? Totally doable. The part where it mentioned a meek person listens more than talks? Yeah…I’m working on that.

So do I have to enjoy the mundane to enjoy the journey? Cuz. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Maybe I just need to tolerate the routine better?


Monday, December 3, 2012

message to the world

"Your life is your message to world"...that struck me pretty hard this past weekend. 

What message am I sending to those around me -- my husband, my family, my friends, my co-workers, and the people who cross my path every day?

I want to be intentional in how I live my life. I so desire for the people in my life to see Jesus in me, to see a woman of God who can laugh at the days to come, to see a giver and not a taker, and to be inspired. 

I don't want to waste days just working 8-5 -- realistically, 9-5 -- and wishing for better ones ahead. 

Today, I choose to live fully. I choose to live a life that is inspiring. I choose to be intentional about the message my life is sending.

Have you thought about the message your life is sending lately??


Sunday, December 2, 2012

conversations at home

[Walking into Michael's, I stop to look at the poinsettias. I look up and Pete is walking towards me with a passionate eye and slight grin. Leans in for a kiss.]

Me: "Whoa, what gives with that stuff stuck in your teeth?"

Pete: "What stuff?"

Me: "I don't know. But it's green and gross."

Pete: [digs it out with nail and giggles. I walked slightly ahead, afraid that what it was just might get wiped off on my skirt.]

Pete: "You know, I was going to say something really sweet."

Me: "So, I ruined a romantic moment? What were you going to say?"

Pete: "How happy I am and how much I love our life together."

Me: [head hangs in shame but heart smiles]

Song: I Found You   Artist: Alabama Shakes


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