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Creating Good Habits for 2018

I'm not much of a goal setter or resolution maker so this year I've decided to set some good habits in place for myself.  A good habit may not be a goal, however, it might lead to a goal you have had in mind.  Here's an example:  I have a goal of being able to run a marathon.  My good habit would be that I will start running for 30 minutes each day which might in turn get me to that marathon.  Get it?  Yea...that was just an example because there is no way I ever plan on running a marathon.  But I will share with you a few things I have come up with that will perhaps make my life a little better in this new year.

There's nothing like the death of someone dear to you to make you stand up and take notice of your own life.  After watching my mother fade away in hospice care and eventually pass away during the holiday season, I took stock of where I am in my own life and where I would like to be.  I decided to focus on a well-rounded me and to do that I needed to develop some good habits in several areas of my life:  Physical, Mental and Spiritual.

     I will commit to making healthy choices with food, which includes eating more fresh real food
     than the processed kind.  Also, choosing an exercise that I really enjoy is important because if
     I enjoy it, I am more likely to stay with it.  It is my intention to attend yoga classes at least 3 times
     a week.  And the fact that I am now teaching one of those 3 makes it easier for me to keep that
     good habit.

     Peace of mind is a big thing for me.  I am a worrier so I am going to get into the habit of living
     more day to day and not borrowing trouble from tomorrow.  Yoga will also help me clear my
     mind and meditate on positive things.  I have recently picked up my painting after quite a long
     hiatus and I remember how happy it makes me to paint and create, therefore I am going to make
     it a habit to paint a little every day...and a lot some days!  And to disconnect more from electronics
     and replace them with enjoying the quiet, outdoors,  music and people.

     My spirituality is very important to me.  I'm going to make reading and studying my Bible a
     priority this year.  I want to have some quiet time and meditation every morning.  It is my
     intention to simplify my life.  I want to be concerned less with things and more with people.

Spending time with my mother during her last days here on earth made me realize that there are so many things in life that often times keep us busy or complicate our lives.  However, in the end, it is a life well lived in peace that really matters.  It's the choices you make that lead to your joy and contentment.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Where Dreams Come True: Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Disney Vacation

With Mardi Gras, Easter and summer vacation coming up more quickly than we are ready to admit, families from all over are getting ready to travel.  And where do most families travel with children?  You've got it; "The Happiest Place on Earth...DISNEY!"  Traveling to Disney with children can be a bit overwhelming and quite stressful if you are not fully prepared and organized.  With that being said,  today I have a guest blogger, Henry Moore of Fit Well Traveler , who has agreed to share some really helpful tips for planning a stress-free vacation to Disney.

The point of a vacation is to take a break from everyday life and enjoy yourself. In spite of this, sometimes vacations come with unavoidable stressors. Who will pet sit? Will we have enough time to get everything done? Can I really afford this? Just like every difficult situation, there are solutions to every problem. The following is a list of tips for making sure you have a fun and stress-free Disney vacation.

1. Make concrete plans. As fun as it could be to do everything on a whim, not having a plan when going on your vacation could cause unnecessary stress. Particularly when you’re traveling with kids, it’s important to plan out at least some of your travel and vacation ahead of time. Use an itinerary so that you can plan out where you’ll be each day of your vacation. An itinerary lets you plan out a route so there aren’t any surprises while you’re traveling to Florida or California for your Disney excursion. Google Maps is a great tool for this.

2. Protect your home before you leave no matter how long you’re going to be gone. Although it may seem like a chore to fully prepare your home for when you’re gone, anything could happen while you’re away, so you’ll want to be ready. ASecureLife.com recommends doing whatever you can to make it seem like you’re still home to discourage a break-in. This can be as simple as asking a neighbor to park in your driveway, having a friend stay at your house for a few days, or putting a noise maker by your front and back doors playing a recorded conversation or podcast to make it seem like someone is inside.

3. Don’t try to squeeze everything into one trip. Author Robin Hutson from TravelingMom.com has a great list of things to plan for on your Disney trip, and her best advice by far is to not try to do everything at every park in one trip. Chances are, you’re going to have a great time, so you’ll want to go back for another trip in the future. This means that you don’t have to try to do everything at once, because you’ll return home feeling completely spent. Instead of trying to hit every park, visit one or two of them, then spend time at some other attractions in the area that consume less energy and give you time to relax. If you are traveling with your partner, switch off parenting duties. Have them take the kids down to the pool for an hour or two while you relax, or vice versa.

4. Don’t break the bank. Some of the biggest stressors that people experience during a vacation are money-related. Even if you’ve been saving for what feels like forever and you’re sure you’ve calculated enough money for the trip, there’s still a chance that, at some point, you’re going to be stressed about money. Ease some of your stress by first packing responsibly. Don’t buy anything at the parks that you can bring from home. You’ll be surprised how expensive a poncho is just because it has Mickey’s face on it. Another easy way to save money is to avoid Disney during its peak season. Disneytouristblog.com recommends going the Sunday after Thanksgiving through the first week of December. This is when you can be sure to experience mild weather and low crowds.

There’s a reason that they call Disneyland “The Happiest Place on Earth,” so you should try to avoid stress at all costs during your vacation there. By following this short list and by taking time to relax and enjoy yourself, you’ll be sure to have a fun vacation that you’ll be telling everyone about when you get home.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Don't Let The Grinch Steal Your Christmas...Safely Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping!

Much holiday shopping these days is done online and there nothing worse than completing all of your shopping, giving the gifts and then waking up the day after Christmas to find your credit card has been compromised.  I should know because that very thing happened to me last year to the tune of about $2,000!  Don't worry, I was able to contact my credit card company and get all of it refunded but wow, what a hassle after all of the hectic holiday frenzy.  So, whenever I was asked to post some tips about safe holiday shopping this year I was instantly onboard!

                          Five Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping For Your Family in 2017

We all know how important it is to set good examples for our kids, especially when it comes to internet usage, online information, and shopping habits. This year alone, nearly 72% of holiday shoppers will be making online purchases. With a projected value of $106 billion, online hackers and other cybercriminals have been preparing all year to take advantage of vulnerable individuals and information.

Protecting your family from these unwanted holiday attacks requires a proactive approach. Savvy individuals willing to practice online safety and review their financial information for fraudulent or unauthorized activity are much more prepared to identify and address seasonal internet crime. From reading up on current scams, to actively monitoring internet and account activity, staying safe this season can be easy as long as you follow these helpful tips.

Tip 1:   Check the website's security
With the abundance of fake ecommerce websites, it’s essential to make sure both the product pages and checkout page are secure before authorizing the purchase. Scammers often attract individuals with unbelievable deals, rare merchandise, and other tantalizing offers, however, they’re less likely to have obtained the necessary certifications required to secure the site (but it is possible). Therefore, to be safe, consider checking the URL in question against Google's Transparency Report for the site’s safety rating.

Tip 2: Monitor your account(s) and sensitive information for changes
Individuals should frequently check all active online accounts and billing statements in order to identify and report unauthorized usage or charges as soon as possible. Fraudulent spending or access to sensitive information could seriously damage your current and future financial standing. Therefore, it’s essential to catch issues early and follow the necessary steps required to dispute fraudulent charges or identity theft attempts on your credit report.

Tip 3: Use strong and unique passwords for parental controls and shared accounts
We all know how important it is to keep an eye on the content our children view and the amount of they spend online. Parental controls make it easier to track, limit, or entirely prevent online activity while also filtering websites and protecting your stored information like credit card numbers or other passwords from unauthorized access. Ensuring you have an extremely strong and unique password when activating parental controls is the most effective way to guarantee your kids won’t crack it. Another quick tip is to create entirely new passwords for all new online accounts!

Tip 4: Update your computer’s security software

If you keep clicking “remind me tomorrow” on your computer's update notifications, today’s the day. Installing manufacturer recommended updates ensures that your sensitive information and software is protected against current threats. Although it seems simple, the 30 minutes spent updating could save you hours of headache. Hackers use malware and viruses to penetrate weak or unprotected WiFi networks, programs, or operating systems. To identify and address these vulnerabilities, manufacturers and development teams release and highly recommend installing the most recent security updates to ensure your computer is protected. 

Tip 5: Lead by example and limit online shopping
Although it’s not always possible, limiting your exchange of sensitive information using the internet is the most secure way to stay safe from cyber criminals. Consider leading by example this season in order to teach safe, responsible, and thoughtful purchasing. Instead of shopping online, have a discussion with your kids around the importance of supporting small businesses, security of cash, and value of keeping money in the local system. Try making a new tradition by logging out of the computer, collecting the kids, and exploring your community for unique things and hidden treasures that make the most thoughtful gifts!

 Don't let The Grinch steal your holiday joy by not practicing safe online holiday shopping! 

Reindeer Food Recipe!

Alright, if you're like me and REALLY get into the Christmas spirit then you go all out with the kiddos.  This year I sent them all letters from Santa, complete with maps from the North Pole to their homes.  It was so fun to see their little door hangers that said, "I'm on the Nice List, Santa.  Stop Here!"  Well, if we are in agreement about making this a special time of year for all the little ones in your life then I've got just the DIY project that you need to try!

As we all know, if it weren't for Rudolph and all of his pals, Santa would be in real big trouble getting to all of the houses out there.  And we certainly don't want him losing his way to yours!  So, why not leave a trail of reindeer food for them to follow?  Don't have a recipe, you say?  Well, Personal Creations just happens to have one for you, complete with printable tags that have the cutest little poems!

                                                     CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED!

After making your Reindeer Food, you will want to bag it up and add one of the cute downloadable tags with a poem to it!
                                                   “Sprinkle on the lawn at night,
                                       The moon will make it sparkle bright,
                                         Santa’s Reindeer fly and roam,
                                     This will help them find your home!”

Want a little more hands-on activity for your little ones?  There is even a tag you can download for them to color.

                          And how about one for an elf, Rudolph or even Santa, himself?!

Each of these adorable tags come with their own special poem and they are absolutely FREE for you to download with you kiddos so the countdown fun of waiting for Santa to arrive can officially begin!

DIY Mason Jar Snow Globes Just in Time for Christmas!

Who out there does not love doing arts and crafts projects with their kiddos?  And what kid doesn't love doing arts and crafts projects?  OK, now that we've answered that question I've got one for you that I think everyone will love!  It's a mason jar snow globe with a step-by-step guide from Shutterfly that you and your children can easily construct.  There are so many options to make these snow globes unique that I know you will not want to make just one.  Fill the inside of the globe with any variety of small magical items then sprinkle some glitter for the snowflakes and you've got a charming little keepsake to take out and use year after year or a great gift for friends, neighbors or grandparents!

Here are just a few items you will need to get started on your project:

  • Tree ornament
  • Glitter (2 tablespoons per globe)
  • Clear glue (2 ounces per globe)
  • Warm water (1 cup per globe)
  • Mason jar
  • Spoon
  • Glue gun
                                      SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED!

Use the guide to get you started then let your imagination run wild creating this cute project!  OH...and don't forget to attach a card to your gift!

Tears in a Bottle

With my mother's death just two days ago, I am reminded of a Bible verse:  "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8

This verse paints a lovely picture for me of God's love.  He cares enough about my sorrows to capture each and every tear of mine and put it in a bottle.  Wow.  I wonder how big the bottle is or how many there are.  Because along this journey with my mother I have shed many.

Thursday I made my daily visit with her and each time I left I wondered if it would be the last earthly visit I had with her.  I remember her looking a little worse than the day before but her eyes were opened, although glassed over a bit.  Her chin had turned cooler than usual and I had noticed other signs that her body was beginning to shut down.  As I sat there I talked to her about heaven once again.  She had indicated earlier in the week that she was seeing a light.  I told her how wonderful it would be to see my father who had been deceased for fifty years, how excited he would be to see her again.  And how her blind eyes would finally be able to see again.  She would be able to run and jump and there would be no pain.  I also reminded her that her lovely white hair would most likely be replaced by the striking black mane that she once had.  And her job in heaven would surely be to tend the flower gardens there.  Ones more beautiful that she ever tended here on earth.  I told her, "You have fought the battle, you have finished the race, you have done good."  And then I kissed her on the cheek, told her I loved her and would see her again the next day.

I received a call around 10 pm from the nursing home that evening.  The nurse told me that my mother was not doing well.  I said, "I'm on my way."  I made my husband drive as fast as he could and the entire time I was saying, "Don't let her die before I get there, don't let her die before I get there."  And then my husband turned to me and said, "It will be OK if she does."

Upon arriving, I walked as quickly down the hall as I could, swung the door open and ran to her bedside.  I began saying, "Mama...Mama?"  I touched her hand and then her face. She did not respond and I looked at my husband and told him to get the nurse.  He already knew but turned for the door just as she walked in.  My mother was gone.  Gone from this earth into her heavenly home.  And although I had prayed for months for God to take her, to take her out of her pain and misery, I suddenly felt so sad and overwhelmed and alone.  And that's when fresh tears began to drop.

Those tears have fallen ever since.  Whenever I awake and remember that she is gone, they fall.  Whenever my mind recalls a memory, they fall.  And then I take comfort in knowing that although both of my earthly parents have gone to heaven, I have have a heavenly Father.  One who cares so much for me that he is catching every one of those tears and putting them in a bottle.  And that he knows all of my sorrows.  He knows exactly how I am hurting right now.  And that gives me hope.  Hope that this intense pain will one day get better.  That He will hold my hand not only through the next couple of days that are sure to be unbearable,  but always.  He will walk every step of this next journey I am to take with me.  And He will pick me up and carry me whenever I am too weary to walk.

People have said that on the other side of sadness is joy.  Less than twelve hours after my mother passed into the eternal world, I witnessed the birth of my tenth grandchild.  And as I watched that precious little boy be delivered into our world I thought, what a gift that God has given me.  He has shown me the circle of life; both life and death within just a few hours of each other.  I'm still reeling from all of this and don't understand the mysteries of God.  But I do know He cares for me.  He has shown me that and I am overwhelmed with His love and mercy.  His mercies truly are new every day.

Hospice During the Holidays

Hospice care is never easy.  You know this if you have had a loved one in hospice care.  It means the end is near.  So any time you are dealing with hospice care it is a stressful and emotional time in your life.  During the holiday season I believe even more so because of the stark contrast between the joyful festivities versus the dark reality of an imminent death.

For those of you who are not aware, my mother is currently in hospice care in a nursing home.  This past June she fell out of bed and broke her hip.  People always told me when the elderly broke a hip it was bad.  I'm pretty sure "bad' is not even the word that begins to describe this journey my sister and I have been on with our mother since then.  Following her initial surgery in June she has also had six more surgeries.  That's a lot for anybody but for an 89 years old it is unfathomable how she has even survived.  After the last surgery she was suffering so much from intense pain that we consulted with a palliative care physician and hospice.

I've had time to think these days; probably too much time to do so.  Because as I sit beside my mother's bedside, she unable to eat, drink or speak, I begin thinking of so many things.  How she loved the outdoors and spent almost every waking moment in her beautiful flower gardens.  How during the holidays she spent hours in the kitchen whipping up her traditional foods for the season.  How in her later years whenever she wasn't able to do these things you could find her in her rocking chair in front of the television watching every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made while eating the popcorn she often ate for her evening meal.  Our minds take us back to every nostalgic moment  we have stored in our memory banks.

As the holiday season is officially upon us now, one thing is clear; death has no respect for time.  It doesn't care what time of the year it is or the day or hour.  My sister and I visit our mother every day at least once.  She's usually completely non-responsive.  Sometimes she will open her eyes a bit and attempt to say something but words don't come out.  And I feel helpless, even distraught at times because I can clearly remember her telling us that she never wanted to be in this condition.  Her (and our) hopes were that God would take her quickly.  But He hasn't done that and I don't know why.  We've prayed,  as I'm sure she has,  for Him to show mercy and not allow her to linger in this condition.  But she has.  And I know that God has a plan for everything but I keep asking myself what it is.

As I said before, hospice is hard.  No, it's worse than a simple word like that; it's difficult to explain to anyone who has not experienced it first hand.  It's not just the daily visits where you have to see your loved one in the condition they are in but it is every waking (and often times sleeping) minute of the day.  You may for a moment be doing something and you're suddenly drawn back to what is really going on in your life right now.  You wake up in the morning and go to bed in the evening with the thought of your loved one's impending death on your mind.  You sleep with a phone beside your bed at night and during the day it is always in your hand because you are waiting; waiting for the phone to ring and say they have passed away.  And that makes you so anxious because you are so sad that they will possibly pass away alone.

As I sit in the chair beside my mother's bed I watch her breathe.  Because the nurses have told me about a dying patient's respiration and how it slows down to so many beats per minute.  This is information I want to know but also do not want to know.  It's while watching her breathe that I truly hope she dies while I am there.  While she knows I am there and can feel my hand on her arm and know that she is not alone.  I imagine her taking her last breath and wondering why we aren't there with her.  These things goes through your mind while sitting and watching someone breathe, waiting for their last breath.

I attempt to present myself as "normal" but these are not normal times.  I do not feel normal.  I feel as though I am in limbo with all of this waiting and yet times keeps moving along.  It's the week of Thanksgiving and I have already bought my turkeys and pulled my mother's dressing recipe out.  All of the children are planning to prepare their favorite dishes to bring and the grandchildren are out of school running around playing and excited for Christmas that will soon be here.  It is a combination of happy and sad for me.  I love the holiday season and everything about it.  The sights and smells and sounds. But how can I be happy with my mother dying?  I can't be happy.  But I can be joyful.  Joy is what lives inside you, it is not dependent on circumstances.  Because many times in our lives our circumstances are not happy ones.  And so during this season I will be sad while I wait,  but I will also be joyful because I know that , "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18."