Monday: From Groggy to Gratitude

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The room is dark and cool. The bed is warm.  Surely my head is too heavy to lift off the pillow.  I hear the kids stirring and know it is time to rise, but OH how much easier Monday morning is from the vantage point of Sunday night!  Being up a little too late seemed like the perfect way to stretch out the weekend.

The lights seem harsh when we flip them on.  Even the dogs blink repeatedly as if they, too, are groggy from the full weekend. The promise of a warm cup of tea at least gets me dressed and downstairs. The conversation in my head is more like an argument with myself about whether or not to go back to bed when the kids get off to school.

But a few moments of family conversation over breakfast reminds me of all the good that the weekend held – music, beautiful meals together (and, sure, a few leftovers), late nights and sleeping in, laughter, even a bit of time to do the things that charge our individual batteries like reading, creating, laughing at favorite shows and, for my son and his buddy, deconstructing an old broken piano.

Suddenly Monday feels less dark, less cold… more full of reasons to be thankful.  Rather than anticipating all that will be required of me this week I choose to take in this moment, cradling a cup of tea and remembering our weekend.  I silently offer up a prayer of thanks for these tired-but-healthy kids at the table, who are rising to the occasion…bravely taking on a new week of school with all its stresses and proverbial landmines.

Gratitude keeps rising up from deep down. I think about how blessed we are for air in our lungs and I focus on taking deep, refreshing breaths and it feels good.  There is so much good to remember on a Monday: a roof over our heads, people who love us, cars that start. I notice this sweet man of mine pushing through his sleepy-mind to help me get breakfast on the table and kids delivered to school. More gratitude bubbles to the surface.

Last week’s bad news now reminds me of new opportunities to witness the miracles that happen when we understand that our life is in larger, more capable hands.

20131014-083423.jpgThe horizon shows off only the trees’ silhouettes on the drive to school. The school bus lights cast their glow through the neighborhood, I focus on absorbing all that is good and beautiful.  And I breath a prayer of thanks for Monday.

Following the gratitude comes hope. So much hope!  Yep. Even Monday is overflowing with goodness.

And the gratitude continues.

When Authenticity Hurts

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On a recent Monday, my family had one of THOSE days.  It almost seemed we were destined for miscommunication from the moment we woke up.  Everyone was tired and frazzled.  Our raw edges were showing.  By the time we had eaten breakfast, there were angry words, tears, and for the rest of the day we carried that dull ache in the bottom of our hearts that feels physically painful.

On those days, I want to ask myself, “What are we doing wrong?”  Or, “How did that simple conversation turn into this?”

My husband and I have spent years studying our hearts and excavating our minds for the things that set us off.  We have worked tirelessly (okay, sometimes wearily) on our “stuff” and we are in touch with our triggers.  We have prayed for wisdom, and eyes to see things from an eternal perspective.  Yet, in spite of all the mental, emotional and spiritual health we work toward every day… we still blow it.

We still react.  We still feel.

With two very unique teenagers in the house, we have fears about our kids’ future. More than 16 years after our parenting journey began, we still doubt how we are doing as parents.  On those gut-wrenching days when we feel like we are going backward rather than forward, we have to be careful not to turn on ourselves (or our kids).  Our years of hard work and learning to lead our family well were not spent in vain, certainly.

After all, without a full spectrum of feelings – the good ones and the uncomfortable ones – how can we ever be authentic?  We say we want to be authentic, but when it turns messy sometimes being real feels “less right.”  We straddle that blurry line between honest and hurtful.  And, because the truth can feel hurtful, it is tedious business maneuvering those difficult moments when the truth needs to be told but is not well-received.

Finally, late in the evening, after the simmering silence that often follows difficult conversations, I made a warm loaf of pumpkin bread – a peace offering, I suppose.  As I sliced and buttered it and set it on plates, I tried to let my attitude match the mellow warmth of my fresh-baked gift. We all chose our words more carefully than we had earlier.  We expressed our love – and our talking points – from the perspective of a fellow-team member rather than an opponent.  After all, we all want the best for each other at the end of the day.pumpkin bread

That conversation over pumpkin bread went much better.  There were more tears, but this time they were better tears.  Healing tears.  Apologies were made, however reluctantly.  A greater understanding of one another’s complicated hearts and minds resulted and we tried to make sure our kids understood that we are fighting for them, not against them, even when our efforts are clumsy and imperfect.  And at the end… “This is the best pumpkin bread you’ve ever made, mom.”

I don’t believe in running to food to solve anything.  But the experience of breaking bread together after a bad day drew us to the kitchen table and kept us there long enough to come to a resolution. And that felt like a win.  I desperately needed to feel a win that day.

Then it was time to put that rough Monday to bed. We woke up Tuesday and tried it again – one foot in front of the other. That’s all we can do. If we live in yesterday, we waste today’s new opportunity to get it right. Or at least to try.

The next time your family has one of THOSE days, please know that it happens to everyone. When honesty hurts, or when conversations take a painful turn… that is the price we pay for living authentically with other imperfect human beings. The only other options are: complete isolation, or shallow relationships that never touch on the deep places inside us.  I’ll take authenticity over loneliness any day.

So keep telling the truth.  Keep bathing that truth in love.  And, if things unravel… give it some time.  Keep working on your stuff.  And maybe make this pumpkin bread, which I have on good authority is the best ever (only use the whole can of pumpkin instead of just half).

Fast, Healthy, Beautiful Breakfast Parfaits

At my house, we have a problem each morning. It’s called “breakfast.”

Because school starts SO VERY EARLY (why, oh why, does it start so early?), we don’t have time for anything requiring much prep. Plus, we have another little factor… one of my kids doesn’t like breakfast food. The other kid just started liking breakfast food after a long stint of not liking breakfast food.

Everyone likes doughnuts, but on school days they are just a bad idea. These kids don’t eat lunch for another five hours. They would crash from that sugar high by the end of first period. They need serious nourishment!

So, for now, I have found a solution: Greek Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits! They aren’t technically breakfast food, like eggs or oatmeal; yet, these delicious little miracles are filled with nourishing protein, vitamins and antioxidants.

Also importantly, these parfaits are beautiful to look at! Kids love pretty food. Just look at them!

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In case you can’t tell how to make them from the picture, all you do is layer up sliced strawberries and blueberries with yogurt and add granola to the top! (Peaches might be a delicious option, too, instead of berries. I intend to try that soon so we don’t get tired of the same ol’ combo.)

I only use Greek Gods Honey yogurt, because that is the smoothest, most delicious, not-overly-tart yogurt I have ever put into my mouth. This is not a paid endorsement. I just can’t overemphasize HOW incredibly yummy Greek Gods Honey yogurt is compared to any other yogurt that has ever dared to exist.

And here’s an added bonus: you can make up a few parfaits at night and put them in the fridge with plastic wrap over them, and BOOM… all you have to do in the morning is grab, eat, and go!

For now, this simple little idea is helping our mornings get off to a good start. And let’s face it, our kids (and we, too) face enough negativity during the day. Why not send the family off into the world with a thoughtful, delicious, nutritious (and super easy) breakfast? No need to start the day with anyone  whining about how there’s nothing to eat for breakfast that sounds good! Can I get a what-what?!

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