“Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”

I ordered the book “Nice Girls Don’t Change The World” last week thinking that I would add it to my stack of books I’d like to read someday.  It arrived the day before my husband and I were heading out of town for a weekend away.  And in typical fashion, I was throwing my airplane bag together approximately 16 seconds before walking out the door (note: when I’m 40, I’m so going to pack at least 1 hour before I leave….#grownupgoals).  When I realized the book’s petite size, it instantly found its way into the bag and it met all my requirements. The book was small.  The lines were double spaced.  And, there were pictures.  Folks, this was going to be a quick read and I love a quick read. Waiting on the tarmac, I opened it up and realized good things were in store for me. By the end of the first page it was clear Hybel was going to give me a glimpse into her life, personal thoughts and emotions. Cue Happy Katie in an airplane.

Hybel opens by describing herself as a nice girl for the first half of her life.  Her self description included being a people pleaser, a hard worker, a rule follower and someone always pressuring herself to be better.  This is when I checked the front cover to make sure I had not authored the book.

When Hybel turned 39, coincidentally the same age I am now, she ran out of steam.  Her internal and external selves were not in sync and she sought help.  She discovered:

The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.”  Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness.  It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood.

She began to recognize how God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibilities versus the false assumptions we make about God and unknowingly live out.  And she uncovered the force of fear and all its debilitating power.  Ultimately she saw through the muck of her actions and thoughts, finally getting to the core of her purpose.

As soon as I finished the book, I mentally added this to my list of books I’d like to pass on to my daughters someday.  First I love that it is written by a woman in a different stage of life than me.  She is able to reflect and offer wisdom through her own experiences.  Reading her story and seeing how God used her struggles gives hope.  Second, life is hard.  And sometimes our own struggles seem to dominate our thoughts.  Or worse, we believe the lie that we are the only people who might be suffering because the world likes us to think that perfection is attainable.  And perfection and suffering do not exist together.  Reading about another person’s troubles helps people connect on a genuine human level and inspires us to better ourselves and help those around us.  And third, Hybel is vulnerable enough to share that when she was in pain, she reached out for help.  And at some point in my children’s lives, chances are they will need support.  I have repeatedly talked with my girls about the importance of healthy relationships and how there are professionals able to help in times of distress.  Oftentimes, we humans react by keeping pain bottled up rather than reaching out for assistance which can provide relief and guidance.  Reading stories about others who have received help lessens the stigma associated with seeking professional assistance from mental pain.

I recommend adding this book to your reading list.  Or even better, purchasing it, reading it and then passing it along as a gift of inspiration to another woman you know that could use encouragement as she navigates life.  Plus, my favorite part of the book was towards the end.  Hybel does not end her story by being content with her knowledge of what comprises a good woman.  She takes this truth, mixes in some passion and energy and describes her transformation into a downright dangerous woman.  And this is the type of woman I hope to be someday and I that I wish for my girls too.

Here is the link to the book if you are interested!

https://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Dont-Change-World/dp/0310272319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423024101&sr=1-1&keywords=nice+girls+don%27t+change+the+world

 

Decluttering: A Post to Make You Feel Better About Your Home

This summer I will both turn 40 and celebrate a 15 year wedding anniversary. And I am finding this phase of life to be a pretty beautiful spot, although sometimes the minivan still smarts a bit. And with what is clearly a midlife crisis slapping me straight across the face these milestones hitting, I now feel a strong inclination to shed excess physical and mental clutter from my family’s life. And I have learned the mental and physical do overlap in numerous ways. During this next stretch in life, I want to place more focus on what’s valuable and essential, and less on any literal or mental junk standing in the way of achieving that goal. The mental clutter, let’s just say I am working on it. But today I will talk about the physical decluttering.  

As with most things, I considered easier alternatives. I stood in the doorway of cluttered rooms and prayed for the rapture. But I feared God might facepalm after glimpsing at this abundance of crap and say “OMG, Amanda.” As it turns out, decluttering is like any area of life in which you seek transformation. You have to do the work. It’s annoying.

Starting the process felt much less overwhelming after I began following the work of The Minimalists, who believe decluttering improves life on every level. I have tried, on a beginner’s level, to adopt a minimalistic approach for decluttering our home. In case you are wondering, minimalistic approach is fancy suburban lingo for “tossing junk out.” It challenges people to keep only what is needed and life-giving.  And additionally, minimalism encourages putting more thought into purchases with the goal of buying fewer, better things. Our parents just called this process “getting rid of stuff.” But we like All Of The Meaning.

Let me walk you through some of what I’ve experienced thus far. It will be fun. You can screenshot my pictures and send them to friends along with the screaming emoji in place of text because it will say everything that needs to be said. I like helping you with your friendships.

 

First of all, you learn interesting facts about yourself when you declutter. For instance, apparently, the part of my brain meant for organizing was being used to obsess over cinnamon.

I think we can now picture the trailer for my Hoarders episode…

The camera pans around a room littered with ground cinnamon spice bottles stacked straight up to the rafters (I don’t really know what rafters are). Finally, the camera comes to rest on me, sitting on a couch clutching cinnamon sticks. Then it will cut to a therapist reminding me that spices will never bring me love, but his words will be drowned out by the meows of all my cats named Cinnamon.

 

Tupperware has proven to be an integral part of my personal non-minimalistic hell. Nevertheless, I conquered my Goliath with grace and dignity. My husband, inspired by my “can do” attitude, captured this moment.

#ShutUpTupperwareIHateYouSoHard  

PS: I did not know we had a wok. That’s kind of fun

 

And here is the Regas family sock basket. It is the actual worst.

Fix it, Jesus.

One of our goals with this blog is to provide our daughters with something they can read in the future that will normalize their feelings since few people voice their personal truths due to their desire to appear perfect. So, eventually, they will read every word we write.  

I tell you this not to be deep, but so you understand why I can’t use all the freaking four letter words to talk about this sock basket and the pain it brings me. But just know in your heart, the swears I’ve invented because of these socks would make grown men flee from locker rooms. %&*$!

 

Children add unique challenges to organizing. And little girls seem particularly drawn towards collections of toys where each one is the size of a pinky nail.

Shopkins creator, you SOB. Whoops, forgot about our daughters already.

 

Remember Monica’s secret closet on Friends? Hi, this is mine.

Apparently, glue is hot on cinnamon’s tail in a race to my Hoarder’s episode.

 

My question is not just why did I hold onto these things…but how? I can not keep track of my children’s birth certificates. I lost my engagement ring. I know I had gerbils as a kid, but I am nervous because I don’t remember them dying. 

In all seriousness, having less stuff and more order has already brought an increased sense of peace and calm to my life. When I fix the clutter, it has such an impact on my mental state. This impact is a huge deal because inside my brain lives a pinball machine. Stuff shoots around and sets off other stuff that shoots around, and there are lots of flashing lights and music. Decluttering cuts the noise.

The process of purging has proven to be cathartic as letting go can be profound. We need to hold onto our past, but probably loosen the grip a little. Some of the physical stuff can go. Going through this process is certainly more intense than paring down your drinkware. But it helps you work through things, which is a gift.

My house remains full of junk that must go. Becoming Aminimalanda will always be a work in progress. My most recent efforts have included participating in the Black Shutters White House 40 Bags in 40 days declutter challenge. I was a little uncertain we would have enough stuff to fill bags for 40 days because I have been working on decluttering for a while. But I think as we reflect on the few pictures I have shared, you won’t be surprised to know I have found plenty more to purge.

So, check out the 40 Day Challenge, it’s a good place to start. I have not done it perfectly. I had to fill five bags today to make up for lost time. No one died. Maybe the gerbils if they were in there. And take a look at  Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things by The Minimalists.

And also, please watch this video by JP Sears. And then all of his others. We need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.

Being a Minimalist – Ultra Spiritual Life episode 55

 

40 Bags in 40 Days

Over the next 40 days, our families will be participating in a decluttering project designed by our friends over at White House Black Shutters. The challenge begins March 1 and extends through April 15.  It coincides with the 40 days of Lent, which makes it extra meaningful for any Christian participants looking for a spiritual exercise to practice this Lenten season.

According to upperroom.org, the season of Lent is a time to return to God and refocus our lives to be more like Jesus.  It is 40 days where we can change our lifestyle and allow God to do a work in our heart as we prepare for Easter. We want to pare down excess and free our minds to focus on life as God intended. For these reasons, this Lent our families will be participating in the 40 Bags in 40 Days DeCluttering Challenge.

The idea is to declutter an area in your house by filling up one bag per day. However, you can change that to meet individual family needs and goals. The website provides links to printables, ideas for decluttering both stuff and “non-stuff,” a Facebook page for support and a daily email course.

Click here for all the information and here to join the official group Facebook page.

We would love if you joined us in this challenge, whether you participate in Lent or not. Please let us know if you decide to partake. We will update the blog as we go. We expect there will be ups and downs. And by “ups and downs” we mean we are going to start out strong and then probably there will be some crying.

-Amanda and Katie

A Parenting Fail

Evie, my happy, charismatic fireball baby, moped into the house after kindergarten one day completely deflated. She walked in quietly next to Nora, who promptly launched into recounting how she prodded Evie the entire bus ride home because something was obviously wrong. Her dad and I mentally scrolled through possibilities…a fight with a friend, someone said something cruel, conflict on the bus. I was ready to throw down; not many people bring my Evelyn down.

I quickly learned the cause of her heartbreak. And it was the worst-case scenario for a mother. It was me. “Mom forgot to come to lunch with me today,” she said. And then she just melted down.

The truth is, we had talked about having lunch together the previous night. And I learned that she had excitedly taken a spot at the parent table, waiting for me. And after a few minutes went by, she described to me and G.R. how she finally stood up and decided to buy herself a hot lunch since I had not arrived. She’s six so that whole process, even her initial excitement, was more intense for her than it would have been for an older kid. During dinner that night, we did our usual routine of discussing the highs and lows of the day. Evie’s low was that though she fought it, she cried in front of everyone, and it was embarrassing.

One of the worst parts is that she was not dramatic. This was bona fide hurt. Her mom had utterly gutted her. I let down my kid.  Who does that? I don’t know. I guess I sometimes do.

Ironically, I had missed lunch with Evie because I was driving all over Texas looking for everything her heart desired for the next day’s 50’s theme school day and family Sock Hop dance. We had gone out as a family the previous night, but could not find Evie’s poodle skirt. I guess it goes to show they need time and not more stuff, but I swear sometimes you just can not win.

Giving my girls consistency, stability and the capability to trust are my driving forces as a parent. And it feels all the good I do in these areas can be erased by a single act that becomes lodged in their memory. They say you have to say a certain amount of positive words to a kid to make up for one negative one. My God, how many actions do you think it will take to make up for this one? And who are ‘they’? I hate them.

Anyone that knows me well describes me as being hard on myself. If I could tattoo “Cut yourself a freaking break, fool” onto my arm and just read it all the time, it would be a big timesaver for my friends. But this time I fought my tendency to shut down and be hard on myself and instead took pause, thinking about this moment for my girls. I could not change what I did, but I could change how the memory lived in their brains and impacted their thought processes. I want my girls to be kind to themselves. I want them to cut themselves the precious slack desperately needed in motherhood and marriage. I want them to understand they are human. Lord knows, they will experience some version of this scenario with their kids someday. And I can tell you that while they make me a little batty, they are both good people. But as missteps happen to all of us, this will, unfortunately, happen to them.

So, this situation gave me a shot at modeling how to make a mistake, be upset, talk about it and both ask for and receive forgiveness. This is very difficult for me. It involves a lot of intentional effort. Even though this “talking it out and not blaming myself” business does not come naturally nor easily to me, I am hoping, for my girls’ sake, I can fake it until I make it and then it will come more quickly to them.

In the end, I did not shut down and dwell. Instead, we did away with our regular schedule and made cupcakes. Evie handled the liners, Nora handled the ingredients. They both handled spilling everything everywhere, and the dogs handled hovering around us hoping I would screw up in a different and more exciting way for them. Evie and I talked, and she perked right up, because fortunately for all of us, kids are resilient. It’s just a matter of how many times we make them tap into that resilience. And as much as I want to create a life for them where they have to tap into it a lot less than I did, I will make mistakes.

I went out of town the day after the 2017 lunch debacle and was still aching some from the event.  But, Evie’s sweet dad surprised her with a milkshake and lunch in the cafeteria the next day. And Evie greeted him saying, “I had a feeling this might happen!”. And I received a picture of my girl beaming from ear to ear.

As I let myself off the hook from screwing up with my six-year-old, I am going to focus on the fact that she knew we would show up the next day.

As I tell my girls: try, try again.

-Amanda

Straight Pepper Diet

Sometimes you just crave a memoir about a recovering alcoholic/sex addict and former lawyer who has been disbarred for felony charges and is now a registered sex offender. When that happens, Joseph Naus has your back with Straight Pepper Diet.  

From his biography:

Joseph W. Naus was born in 1971. He graduated from Pepperdine Law and passed the Bar in 1997. As related in his harrowing yet hopeful memoir, Straight Pepper Diet, Joseph was raised by his mom, a heroin addict turned shut-in depressive, amidst crime and poverty.  At age 32, Joseph’s American Dream life became a nightmare when his addictions to sex and alcohol collided and exploded.

A plethora of things haunt me from the time I spent working in child welfare. Topping the list are my fears regarding what present day looks like for the children that I worked with, knowing full well that cycles and systems repeat themselves. When I exited their lives, society still accepted these children as innocent victims.  They were young enough for their troubled behavior issues, which stemmed from abuse and neglect, to be connected more to the adults in their lives rather than being the fault of these children.

Now, over a decade later, I am left wondering when society’s acceptance crashed to a halt. What day did my past clients “behaviors” become actions with consequences for which they were held personally accountable? It pains me to know that those kids likely became adults with significant issues with no one aware that they were once a vulnerable kid repeatedly moved from one foster home to the next. Way too often, these kids had the sum of their life’s possessions packed into a garbage bag. Each child had a story, some horrific. And I have a strange desire to have those stories be known. The frustrating and complicated truth is that actions, even when heinous and unforgivable, are often more comprehensible after knowing someone’s story. It makes the whole thing more tragic.

In Straight Pepper Diet, Naus offers a perfect example of how knowing someone’s backstory can take black and white and muddle it into gray.

Naus grew up in extreme poverty and violence, raised by a mother who struggled terribly and was drawn to abusive relationships. The seeds of his alcohol and sex addiction were planted early and grew until finally overtaking everything he had ever worked towards in his adult life. As he says “On Tuesday, I was a respected civil trial lawyer making six-figures. On Wednesday, I woke up handcuffed to a hospital bed charged with attempted murder…and then it got worse.”

At first, I was cringing at the candid accounts of his lifestyle, thoughts and disturbing behavior. I could not fathom reading an entire book about this man.  By the end I wanted people to understand him, and I respected him completely for airing every bit of his dirty laundry. He painted a picture of the daily inner conflict and mental torture people afflicted with addiction face. Rock bottom is different for everyone but necessary for all. It was interesting to see how his intelligence, adaptability and drive allowed him to weather the first part of his life, while he survived the second part solely because he finally faced the parts of him created during the first.

Naus lays it bare in this memoir, hiding nothing. Straight Pepper Diet, a term used on page 69 in the Big Book of Alcoholics by Bill Wilson, is dark, funny, and many times straight up revolting. It is about humility and redemption. And as you read about Naus sorting out his demons, you will contemplate your own. And we all have them.

Audio book lovers be warned, this is not a book you can play whilst rolling in your swagger wagons.

When I like a book, I tend to Google podcasts about the author like a good little nerd. Here are some great ones about Naus’s story:

Rich Roll Podcast 213 How A Sex Addicted Lawyer Who Lost Everything Found Salvation

The Shair Podcast 072 With Joseph W. Naus

For more information visit straightpepperdietmemoir.com

-Amanda

Ready, Set, BREAK!

Approximately one week ago, Amanda and I were lounging outside together near the laid-back Austin, Texas.  The high was 85.  It was February and we former midwestern girls had multiple conversations about our shock over how warm and lovely winter weather can be in Texas.  We spent one afternoon hiking at a nature preserve and enjoyed fresh air while investing in activities outside the routine of our normal day to day life.  The majority of time was directed towards writing for the blog.  And we may have used up a weeeeee (meaning an entire afternoon) bit of time at a spa trying to relax “for work purposes.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my day to day life.  My house has transitioned through many phases including infant land, toddler zone, and little kid haven.  Currently, we are in the tween and elementary arena.  It’s glorious.  Everyone can converse and listen to each other and laugh and play games together.  We have replaced repetitive knock-knock jokes with riddles THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE.  Everyone can clean their rooms, put away their laundry, and help do their share in the household.  All the kids still enjoy being with the family over friends most of the time and I am so thankful for that.

However, I needed a break.

And I knew I needed out.  Inside of myself, I felt trapped in the routine of day to day life.  The winter illnesses have taken a swing at each member of our family.  The hubby has been on an epic run of work travel.  The puppy is precious.  But if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know they look precious because they take a lot of work to train them to become fabulous 2 year old dogs.  It seems like my body has been “on duty” constantly.  I could go on and on about why I needed out, but honestly, I feel guilty about getting that feeling of wanting to escape.

And why is that?  Why is it that I have trained myself to think that I should never need time off from everyone?  I know some women who have told me they never take personal time away from their kids and husbands.  I have heard some say things like, “my kids are growing up so fast that I cannot miss anything.”  I’ve talked to women whose kids are now adults, and they say they never even thought about leaving their kids when they were little.

So when my insides are screaming, TIME OUT!  NEED…TIME…OUT…TO…BREATHE,  I often become overwhelmed with guilt.  I tell my gut to pipe down because good moms do not ever need to escape.  Good moms look at the laundry as a blessing because there are bodies to clothe in the house.  Good moms are always engaged with their kids and know their every thought and need.  Good moms look at school projects as a time to bond rather than wanting to stab their eyeballs out.  Good moms look forward to the bedtime routine rather than thinking “oh my good gravy I love you so much, but you have got to go to bed so my brain can listen to silence otherwise I’m certain it is going to explode.” Good moms this.  Good moms that.

As I get older, I have learned that my gut and the truth are not necessarily connected all the time.  For some reason, I hold myself to different standards than others, especially within my family.  And to quote Leo Buscaglia, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.”  I wasn’t idealizing others, I was idealizing motherhood and what I thought every other mother was doing.  Insert waving white flag once I made this realization.  I suspect many moms suffer from this.  We often stifle our personal needs while we play backup to all of the loves in our families, and all because we have this incorrect notion of what constitutes being the perfect mom. And by doing this, we gyp ourselves and even our families from getting the best version of us.  And so, I’ve been trying to take on a different perspective in recent times.

I am starting to ask questions with this thought in mind: how do I want my children to care for themselves as adults?  For example, when I think, “do I REALLY need a break?”  That answer is almost always going to be “no,” along with a “suck it up, Katie.”  But, when I ask myself, “if Reese was a mother completely run down and in need of a weekend away to refuel through writing, hiking, sleeping, hanging with her friend and getting a massage, would I want that for her?” the answer to that would be an emphatic “HECK YES, and furthermore, give me your children.”  It’s absurd to think that my children should be everything to all people.  It’s unrealistic.  It’s ridiculous.  Rest is healthy and so is getting outside of our routine.

There is one more piece to the puzzle.  And that involves one incredibly supportive husband.  When I told him that this goose was cooked and I wanted a bit of time off, he not only immediately approved, but he encouraged me to go.  And every time that I hemmed and hawed, he told me he was glad I was getting away and that he had the home front covered.  No guilt trips, no IOU’s, no complaints whatsoever…..just a desire to help and support me.  Without his backing, I am not certain that I would ever get away.

And there we have it.  That is how I ultimately I ended up lounging together with Amanda in the beautiful Texas hill country where I accidentally slept 13 hours the first night and then 10 the next. I still fight the guilt every single time I leave the family.  However, last weekend allowed me to have a conversation with my kids about how I needed out to enjoy nature and to spend time doing things that refill my personal cup too.  I want them to grow up and know that this is healthy.  We work hard in our family, and it was time to rest hard too.  And let’s be honest, it was also time for dessert….with every meal.

And so, I give you a few glimpses into the weekend that allowed me to think straight again and filled up my patience cup when I returned to my crew…

What this sign meant to Katie was “nahhhh, you don’t mean for us.” What it meant for Amanda was instant hand flapping.

 

 

Amanda took about 400 pictures of this giant dead tree. Because nothing says “refill my cup” quite as beautifully as a big dead tree.
We found where the Braverman’s hold their dinners. #whereiscrosby
Here we looked on in horror as a man was forced to vacate this spot on a beautiful 85 degree day by his girlfriend who said, “We have to go visit the Longhorns now, I already Instagrammed it.” In a show of silent solidarity for the man we stayed and did nothing for hours.

Eye Of The Storm

While showering the other day, I decided to play some music to start my day off right.  And then I heard the lyrics from Ryan Stevenson’s song “Eye of the Storm.”  In it, he references God maintaining control, protecting us, and being our anchor when life is spinning.  I immediately felt tears well up inside of me and did the most therapeutic thing possible.  I took over as lead vocalist for Ryan and let my inner Celine shine.  Within 5 seconds, Millie discovered how to throw her 7 pound body into the bathroom doors and bust out of there as if her life depended on it.  And once again, I was left alone. This time by the puppy whom, for weeks, I have been patiently letting use my house as her personal potty training zone.

The tears came unexpectedly, yet right on time.  I have been in the throes of a storm as of late.  And when Mr. Anger knocks on my door and brings his jerk friends Loneliness, Heartache, Doubt and Frustration, I typically attempt to politely introduce myself and quickly figure out why they have arrived all while simultaneously turning around and high-tailing it out of there. Only this time, I didn’t escape them. And they stuck around and put on a display that could rival Disney World fireworks. Except it was the opposite of anything magical.

It’s so gut-wrenchingly hard to watch your kids struggle.  They are no longer in my protected cocoon while at home with me all day. Those early years may have been physically hard as a momma, but these years are a new kind of difficult on the emotions.  I want so badly to make everything ok for them.  I want to put a little bitty earpiece in their cute auditory canal every morning, so I can whisper truth to them when some other kid is a turd or when I see them shouldering self-doubt or internalizing the weight of their world.  But more than wanting to protect them, I want them to stand up for themselves with confidence and to believe in themselves.  And to get there requires them learning to overcome adversity.  My head gets it.  My heart, though….fuh-get about it, it just hurts.

And balancing work-life and family-life and engaging in quality-time-with-each-other-life while being individuals who have our unique-interests-life is a constant challenge.  It reminds me a bit of a game of bowling.  There are lots of pins to take care of to win.  You try to line your life up right.  Sometimes you’re covering it all well and bowling strikes, and sometimes, well, you’re in the gutter.  And recently, I kind of feel like I let the ball go too early, tried to chase it down the alley, slipped in the lane and slid head first into the pin-clearing bar.  

And once I feel like I’m failing in one area of life, I tend to spiral and feel like a failure as a mom and wife too.  And why stop there when my brain can continue the dogpile and tell me how alone I am, and that everyone seems to be getting things right except for me and that it’s never going to get better.  Who’s having fun reading this yet?  

I debated writing this because, for real, who wants to read an article from Debbie Downer?  But then Amanda reminded me that we promised ourselves we would be authentic and honest along with our light-hearted stuff.  I hope you can relate to this moment of struggle; it is just not a part of life we like to show to each other.

Then I doubted whether or not I should share it, as I am well aware of people struggling with more challenging and even tragic situations. And once I start comparing, I end up believing I should just suck it up.  But then I remembered reading what Brené Brown wrote in Rising Strong about comparing our sufferings with others.  

Falling down, screwing up, and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgement, our self-trust, and even our worthiness.  I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough?  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked…. Yes, perspective is critical.  But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective.  Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.

So if you’re struggling, I want you to know that I am so sorry.  And also, that I am with you. I want a quick fix for you and me because that makes me feel good, but there are no guarantees for that on this earth. This was part of the reason that Fear got an invite to my party too. Not having the ability to solve our loved ones’ problems or get the upper hand on proper “balance” (whatever that maybe) or ensure the safety and security of the future isn’t likely either.  And it is scary to have no control over these things.

But you know what I am doing?  I’m committed to waking up every day and trying my best.  That does not mean I will be the best, but I’ll give whatever I can that day.  And I want to be brave.  And I want to be courageous.  And I want to be vulnerable.  Brown also states, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.  Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”  It’s true that coming out of my deepest valleys have led to my most significant areas of emotional growth.  But that doesn’t mean that the new struggles give me instant perspective or feel any less horrible.  All valleys stink.

But our loved ones don’t stink.  They will support us.  And God definitely has our back.  We need a foundation to go to when we spiral.  And we have One.  The book of Matthew tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV).  He will comfort us, protect us, guard us and love us through the storms.  And I know I am so thankful that my heavy times are not hopeless times.

http://www.kimberlygeswein.com

Mammograms: Let’s Pretend They Are Fun

I know it is not October when everything, including the NFL, turns pink. But it is necessary to spread breast cancer awareness throughout the year. So, this year I documented the process of my recent mammogram in a light-hearted way, in hopes of making it a less ominous procedure, particularly for those who have not yet experienced the process. And when I say that I documented the process, I do not mean the actual event. Let’s all remain calm.

Men, this is about mammograms, so you might think you are off the hook with this post. But, no, you get to read too and encourage your wife to go. In fact, have you read our previous article about Day Dating? Here is what you do: Go with your wife to the appointment, have a handful of distracting, hilarious YouTube videos ready to pull out in the waiting room, and then take her on a day date. And let’s be honest, you can not swing a dead cat without hitting a Hooters in this country; that is how I know you are capable of reading about and discussing breast health.

If you have never had one, you should know mammograms are not physically painful. When women ask if they are painful, I imagine everything they have endured as a woman and want to ask if putting slight pressure on an area of their body hurts as much as childbirth, getting their tattoo, waxing or having chemical peels done on their face. I want to ask which takes more time and effort; the Beach Body diet plan they have stuck to for months, or a 10-minute mammogram. Because if this process promised to make us thinner or younger, it could hurt ten times more and we would all go 12 times a year.

The first step, you walk through the door.

Given my druthers, I would deliver a roundhouse kick to the door and enter Superwoman style, but knowing that would be terrifying for everyone else, I selflessly walk in the regular boring way.

Next, you will fill out paperwork.

Know what took the sting out of my paperwork? Being given the opportunity to complete it using this sweet Bic pen tricked out with ribbon tassels. Then they upped the good times by strapping an ID bracelet on my wrist proclaiming me a zebra. I excitedly told the check in lady that I had by chance worn a black and white patterned sweater that day, and she said, “Oh. It’s nice.” I like to think it sunk in 5 minutes after I walked away.

Paperwork complete, you can absorb the room’s decor. An appreciated distraction because waiting rooms tend to usher in unwelcome memories of sitting in oncology waiting rooms with my mom as a teenager. Luckily, offices oriented towards women are my favorite. Every ad features an absurdly happy woman playing tennis, while a beaming toddler, holding a kitten, rests on her hip. It sums up every day of my life, and when I am around these pictures, I finally feel understood. But today was extra special. Today, there was this lady:

You know this woman throws down hard in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble.  

And let me just say this to marketers everywhere. If you want people I know to attend a “women’s health event,” you need to use a picture depicting friends in the throes of an intense nerf gun war placed directly above an announcement that a 90’s gangsta rapper will be the headliner. And, if one of the ladies shown in the bottom row of headshots were rolling her eyes, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. Furthermore, tacos. Because I am going to tell you right now, that free breakfast mentioned is going to be honeydew melon and cantaloupe, with an occasional grape kicker. I won’t stand for it.

Next, you will be beckoned to the changing room.

It’s pretty glam. It holds a hospital gown, a bench, a People magazine, and this sign:

“WOMEN ABOUT TO BE X-RAYED?” Why is there a question mark on this? It is reminiscent of my 11-year-old telling a story. “Today, at school? We were in the cafeteria? And my friend, Sam? Milk shot of his nose? And it was funny!”

And once again, I found myself wishing the seven years of Spanish classes I took had culminated in me understanding Spanish. I kind of wonder if the bottom half of the sign announced something fun, like an invitation to a fiesta celebrating the completion of my 2017 ¡mammogram! I can, however, safely rule out that the sign says,”I play the guitar while drinking beer in the shower,” because that sentence I do know.

This next move separates the amateurs from the professionals.

You must steal these deodorant wipes.

Deodorant and lotion during a mammogram are a big nope, so they supply these to accommodate after the exam. Any fool knows taking coffee and bottled water from a waiting area instantly knocks $2-3 off any appointment. Well, pilfering deodorant wipes will get you back on your feet financially after upgrading to the 3D mammogram that insurance will turn down even though it would be more prudent to pay for preventative care than treatment. And you know I took two extra because I am nobody’s fool.

Now, throw on your gown. Delight in your glory. And also, in the fact that you get to keep on your pants. You just feel emotionally attached to your pants now. Some places provide heated gowns. When this happens, you are experiencing life as royalty.

I did not want to post this picture. It gives me vulnerability hives. I took it to be funny and send to friends. But when I looked I saw the worry on my face, which makes it very real. Until I filtered the ever-loving hell out of it. But let’s focus on my very real worry, so you know I can relate to your feelings. #intouchwithmypeople

Next, head into the exam room. Be sensitive to the fact that the technician is vying for the weirdest patient of the day story and that you alone can help her achieve this dream. Make strange jokes about the mammography machine being a Transformer, and say things like “I am one bad mammo-jamma!” until uncomfortable silence floods the room.

Transformers, more than meets the eye.

Your exam is now complete, and you nailed it. Leave and immediately buy yourself a celebratory overpriced coffee. But not the Starbucks cold brew, because you will be awake until your next annual mammogram.

I realize that I’ve spent an entire blog post taking a lighthearted approach to a heavy topic.  On our blog, we tend to use humor as a defense mechanism.  And when it comes to the issue of breast cancer, Katie and I are very well aware of how hellish the disease is. A few hours after my appointment I got the glorious call saying everything looked fine, which afforded me the ability to write this in a playful manner. It also allowed me to let out my yearly exhale of relief. More than once, I have received THE call. The one where I’ve had to go back for further testing. It’s nerve wracking. And not just for women, but for our family members too.

I want you all to know that it is not easy for me to go. It involves reliving the past and taps into some of my deepest fears for the future. But it is so incredibly important to remember that getting a mammogram does not give you cancer. It will just reveal any sneaky stuff that has already been going on in your body.  My mom did not have her first mammogram until she had already found a lump. We live in a day and age where early detection gives us women a real advantage and I want to help protect the lives of women. Any reason you have for not getting a mammogram is just not sufficient. Thankfully, low-cost and free mammograms are available.

If you are scared of going, call a family member, or friend to go with you. If you are in need of distraction and grown adults that use inappropriate behavior and humor to muscle through awkwardness, call Katie or me. But, just go. We can do hard things together. But let’s have the upper hand by making those hard things a bit easier by taking advantage of early detection.

Click here to find mammography facilities near you.

FAQ about mammograms.

Call the Komen breast care specialist helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) to help find low-cost options in your area.

Millie and Phoebe

When we work on the blog together, we tend to become distracted.  This is probably shocking news to no one.  And this could also be the reason our blog finally came together once Katie moved 5 hours away. During one particular “business meeting,”  when we were probably discussing the basics of computer application programming interface, we somehow found ourselves looking up Goldendoodle puppies. We decided Amanda needed a Goldendoodle named Wrigley to pay homage to G.R.’s long time love of the Chicago Cubs (that might have been a ploy to get him to go along with puppy). And over time, we’ve joked about that cute imaginary puppy that would likely never actually exist.  Until…..

A few weeks ago, one of our dear friends discovered some puppies were born. And the puppies were going to be ready for their new homes around Christmas. And there were only two girl puppies left. And if we wanted them, quick decisions were necessary because we weren’t the only people that thought these puppies were cute.  And our friend started dropping texts to Trey and then SOMEHOW those got passed along to G.R….NATURALLY.  And next thing we knew…..all of us adults completely lost our minds and said yes to getting SISTER PUPPIES!

And then we all met up, picked up our puppies and we’ve lived in complete bliss ever since.  JUST KIDDING!

In actuality, the day after Christmas the Smith and Regas families met up in Ranger, Texas to pick up our new Goldendoodle puppies, Millie and Phoebe. Or as we sometimes refer to them, Chaos and Homewrecker. Actually, both girls are super sweet and affectionate.  And both immediately requested a picture together with their new fathers.

Trey and G.R. are thrilled to be adding more girls to their homes! They hope these girls will have strong personalities and lots of feelings.
The fool in this picture smugly believed she just scored the world’s most mellow dog. That’s cute.

Wanting to set appropriate expectations about their new lives right away we took them directly to a Dairy Queen by a gas station and ate on the ground next to a garbage can while clutching them. We should mention, this was after we got kicked out of the DQ for bringing in dogs. The DQ owners apparently don’t understand we have a blog with upwards of 20 followers.

Moments later things went bananas when bees swarmed our children and Amanda learned she was sitting on gum.

We’ve now had the pups in our homes for a week and a half or so.  Personalities have emerged.  The dogs have some quirks. Which, of course they do. Because why would we have normal animals?  We compared puppy notes recently

According to Amanda:

Phoebe enjoys savoring the bitter spray purchased to make her stop chewing on all of the things ever. She longs to eat anything doused with this and now opens her mouth so it can be sprayed directly into her mouth. Now I can only hope the salt from my tears will act as a future chewing repellant after she eats our baseboards.

Phoebe also prefers to sleep in ways that seem horrible and assure the need for an expensive spinal surgery within three years.

And the report from Katie…

Millie, well she holds the title as the first dog or first anything for that matter, that has inspired me to pick up a new morning habit of coffee.  That’s right, I never felt the need to drink it in college, or while teaching, or while raising three small children, or caring for multiple other pets.  But Millie, she didn’t place a high level of importance on the day/night cycle for a bit.  And no matter how close or far away we put her at night, she used that gifted voice to let us know she wasn’t happy about the attempted force of sleep.  Of course, with her stellar puppy-like ability to fall into a peaceful dead-to-the-world slumber during the day, she did not lack for beauty rest.  Just look at her….

In the past week and a half, I “may” have held a family vote one night at dinner to see if any Smiths thought we had made the world’s biggest mistake. Luckily it was a unanimous no. And I’ve possibly thanked my husband for telling me that our family was complete after three children because being up at night for just one week brought back repressed memories of what it was like to have newborn babies in the house and feeling like I’d never run on a schedule or sleep again.  

Thankfully, Smith family life has finally clicked with this sweet little lady, and she’s fallen right in line.  Except when she has the puppy crazies and her head looks like it might spin off her body from the twisting to chew anything on her puppy teeth.  She is quite enamored with her VERY big brother, Tucker.  And Charlie the cat is completely obsessed with her.  Or thinks she’s prey….TBD.

Hey puppy, you see my paw? Watch how it whacks you over and over again!
“Hey Tucker, I love you.” -Millie

Just look at Mosby telling Amanda his initial thoughts on the new family addition.

Stop trying to shame me, Mosby.

And so, it’s entirely possible that The Adventures of Phoebe and Millie will be making quite a few appearances on Sprained Funny Bone. I mean, who doesn’t love cute puppy pics? And we know these puppies are going to be trouble. And what frustrates us with these teensy monsters will be your ticket to mock us. So join us at @sprainedfunnyboneoninsta on Insta, because you are not going to want to miss this hot mess.

 

PUPPIES!!!

Christmas Lights: Someone Help Us

The night after Thanksgiving we decided to check out Christmas lights. The location was 45 minutes away but drew us in with its unique setting: four million lights placed along a 2-mile path through a park.  

What you are about to read is the story of our 2 hour and 45-minute voyage, just to start that 2-mile path. It is a tale of struggle and survival, and ultimately overcoming insurmountable odds to experience the magic of Christmas. As narrated in my head.

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Man, it took 45 minutes to get here!  But that’s totally fine. The memory will be worth it. First Christmas outing of the season! Going to be awesome. I guess we just sit in this line for a minute.  Turning on Christmas music. Yay!

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We have been waiting awhile. None of these cars are moving. It’s fine. I have pretzels. I’ll pull them out if this takes much longer

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Passing the time by playing “Guess the Character.” My six year old just gave clues to describe Dumbo by saying “He’s a boy. He has a very long front tail”, and I was able to restrain myself from giggling. I handled it like a boss. (That’s what she said.)

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Mother. It just dawned on me that porta potties line this road. They knew about the waiting. Dear God. They knew. What have we done?

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Evie has cried, laughed, whined and cried again. All within the last minute.

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We live here now. It’s fine. We will combine Christmas cards and change of address cards. It’s cute when people do that.

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The tone in the car keeps vacillating between joy and Hunger Games

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To use this time wisely, I have mentally devised the perfect house staff. Tony Macelli as our nanny, friend, and confidant, Sookie St. James for the chef, Mr. Belvedere as our butler.

Our driver: David Hasselhoff and the Knight Rider car, KITT

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My family has begun turning on one another. As matriarch, I remain steadfast. I will now role model a positive attitude amidst the negativity

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It will be a cold day in hell before I tell these fools about the pretzels I’m packing.

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If one more version of Jingle Bell Rock comes on, as God is my witness, I will lob this iPhone and its Christmas Pandora station straight at that Snoopy inflatable.  

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Mary gave birth in a barn without an epidural after traversing afar on a donkey while in labor. I can wait in this line.

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I hate Santa.

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My husband just pointed at one lit up house in an otherwise empty subdivision and tried to convince the girls it was the light show. I swear I saw them considering the option of going along with his deception

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I have started choosing people to do life with if we need to form alliances.

My picks:

1: Cargo Van family is my top choice because I am imagining the Von Trapps. The Von Trapps make a fun song out of everyday occurrences and clothes out of anything. They also escape their enemies like a boss. This family will make us matching alliance bandanas from their car seat fabric. 

2: The Christmas group traveling in the Hummer limo because I am not that strong, so I will need a place to rest while the others do whatever happens in an alliance. Plus it probably has a fridge with snacks. No alliance is complete without snacks.

3: The bearded guy in the car with the smashed-up side. We are going to need that kind of grit.

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Santa Baby is on. Again. We get it. You’re seductive

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Common law marriage has now kicked in for anyone sitting in this line that brought a date.  

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Police lights are coming up behind us! A rescue effort! It’s a Christmas miracle!

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The worst has happened. It turns out the police came to create a second lane. People who have not been waiting at all are being allowed to merge in and form a new line. This act has defeated and shattered my husband. Rocked him to his core. He can only whisper “This doesn’t make any sense. None of it makes sense.”

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Christmas music hurts my feelings. Everything is hard. I miss my old life

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This line is moving! Our cars are moving! Sweet mother of all that is holy and pure. We are moving! I will never take not being in line for granted again. I am going to start living my life differently. More generously. You never know when you will be stuck in standstill traffic. We must live every day like this might happen again.

Aw, man these lights are beautiful. Just look at our happy kids. All four of us will always remember the quality family time we set aside tonight to foster family bonding. We nailed this. I love this family. Christmas is the best. 

We are so doing this again next year.

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