What Makes a Long Marriage? (No, really. I’m asking.) – My Messy Beautiful

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Marriage, partnership, coupledom- whatever you want to call it, it’s been on my mind a lot lately. This post will probably give you a glimpse of me that you haven’t seen before. (Oh, and there’s a giveaway at the end for those who make it through.)

I got married for the first time at 22. I was still in college and probably had no business making such a big decision. At the time I wasn’t even sure about my choice of majors. But we married and had some good times and some not so good times.

At 28 I decided it probably wasn’t going to work for the long haul and not-so-elegantly jumped ship. Being divorced is not something I like to think about, and nearly a decade later I still carry a lot of guilt.

My grandparents stayed together their whole lives- more than 60 years of marriage. And while my first marriage lasted longer than most celebrity weddings (probably combined), it was less than a tenth of my grandparents time together.

At 31 I married for a second time. My husband Jeff and I embraced our impulsive tendencies and exchanged vows in Rome. We were touring Italy for two weeks as a sort of combination elopement and honeymoon before returning home to a small ceremony and reception with family and friends (where we embraced our procrastinator tendencies by not signing a caterer until the day before our flight out).

Prior to our trip we had arranged (via email) an officiant and a date. That’s it. No place. No photographer. Nothing. Jeff and I are the kind of people that trust that things will work out. (I’m not endorsing that philosophy, just saying that’s how we roll.)

While driving from Sorrento to Rome the day before our scheduled ceremony, we called the officiant and asked, “Can we do this tonight instead?” Because why not get this show on the road already?

He said yes, so we turned to a couple in our tour van (Mike and Jordanne) and asked if they would be our witnesses and photographer and videographer. They got all excited and said yes.

When I came down to the lobby of our hotel, Mike and Jordanne surprised me with Gerber daisies. Little did they know that was my favorite flower. They just thought I should carry some flowers and they went in search of a corner stand to make it happen. Did we choose the right people or what?

The officiant and his coordinator came to pick us up and we began discussing location. The beautiful Borghese Gardens were nearby (well, I didn’t know they were beautiful until we arrived because we hadn’t been there yet) and we wandered until we found a spot Jeff and I liked, then we exchanged vows in tragic Italian. Why Italian? When in Rome…

Who knows what we even agreed to really. To this day we joke with each other: “Oh, you don’t remember that? It was in the Italian vows.”

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It was a beautiful, peaceful ceremony and somehow so perfectly imperfect that it suited us, well, perfectly. It turns out Jordanne had studied photography for a while and was super excited to try out my camera. Her photos were amazing. See? Things work out.

Now here we are with a teenager (my full-time stepson) and a toddler, and we’re coming up on our six year anniversary- just the time when things reached their breaking point for me last time.

There are certainly days where we like each other and days where we don’t like each other very much. Days when we say things to each other that we wouldn’t say to people we don’t like. It’s hard.

There are days when I think maybe I’m bad at marriage. Then there are days where I think marriage must suck in general because there are so many couples who bicker with each other or make offhanded remarks to each other or spend excessive amounts of time outside of the home just to avoid each other.

Where are the happily married couples? Or at least the not unhappily married couples? Where are the people who get through the tough days knowing that there are enough good days to make it all worthwhile?

Because the good days are so good. There are days Jeff and I just click. Days when we make other people sick with our sweetness toward one another. Days where we put on music and dance around the kitchen while cooking together (and man, do I wish there were more of those days!). There are days where we giggle and smile and hold hands and make googly eyes.

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Somehow we keep showing up. We keep coming together. And maybe that’s what they mean when they ask you to be together for better or for worse (if they even said that in Italy- who knows).

I guess there will be good days and bad days. Maybe the key is to keep the balance tipped in favor of more good days. Jeff and I call it the credit/debit system. He has freely admitted there will be days when he will screw up and his goal is to build up enough credit to outweigh the debits. I definitely strive to do the same.

Maybe it’s the practice of coming back together day after day, racking up credit and acknowledging that there will be debit, that gets people to 60 years together. For now, I’ll keep taking it one day at a time and fiercely celebrate our soon-to-be six years.

Oh, and for the record, we returned to Italy with Mike and Jordanne in 2012 when they exchanged vows. I was their photographer and Jeff was their officiant.

See? Things have a way of working out.

Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project and Giveaway:

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — Learn more or join in at Momastery.com. Also, be sure to check out Glennon Doyle Melton’s Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.

Now for some exciting news. Glennon has given me one paperback copy of Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life to giveaway to a Live Wonderstruck reader. So cool. I read this book when it came out in hardcover and it is one of my favorites. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads (and no, I don’t hand that rating out lightly).

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Sorry for the scary picture. I promise I didn’t eat the book.

Anyhow, to enter, simply leave a comment on this post by midnight (Eastern time) this Thursday, April 17. I will announce the winner in Friday’s Flecks post. I think I’ll select the name out of a hat this time (or more likely a bowl). Good luck!

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Flecks #20

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As in flecks of reflection from the week: what I’m learning and celebrating.

So, let’s talk about this week.

Things I learned this week:

  • If a banana peel flies through the air and lands in your lap, you may need to watch your toddler more closely.
  • Our ducks have gotten brazen in their exploration of our yard, the neighbor’s yard and, as of this morning, the neighbor’s neighbor’s yard. So… we need a fence or something I think.
  • That I don’t need to have a vegetable garden area. That I can use some weird, slim strips of yard for “edible landscaping.”

Things I’m celebrating this week:

  • A visit with my best friend. She drove four hours each way to see me last weekend (reason number 1,426,792 that she is awesome).
  • Feeling good.
  • Progress.
  • Spring weather!
  • Buds on the trees!
  • Beginning a new journal.
  • Newsletter and Wonder Seeker challenge sign-ups! Thank you to all wonder seekers! (Want in? Details and sign-up are here.)

Things that are resonating with me this week:


This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart by Susannah Conway. I started to write about it here, but I had more to say than I realized, so I moved it to its own post (coming soon).

For now I’ll say that this has joined just a few other books that I consider to be amazing. I loved everything about it and will be revisiting it again and again.

soap box and {in.body} by Robin Sandomirsky at Soyala – A reminder to breathe and live and do at your own pace, not the one being set for you.

Little Girls, Get Up! Get Up and Eat by Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery – Our kids want us to be happy, not perfect or thinner or cooler. So what makes you happy? More of that please!

What We’ve Got to Tell Kids About Living Extraordinary by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience – Wherein she says, ”The realest extraordinary is always found in the ordinary. The ordinary becomes the extraordinary when the eyes see the extra glory right here.”

How to Come Back to Your Dream After Heartbreak by Victoria Brouhard – With this wisdom: “What allowed me to reconnect with my dream was being willing to let it go, and to put my own needs before the needs of my dream. (The truth, though, is that your dream’s number one need is for you to get what you need.)”

Alisha Sommer’s writing process – Because sometimes as moms we have to squeeze it in where we can.

Your turn:

What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I’ll share a “Woohoo!”

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Interview: Ksenia Closson

Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

This week’s interviewee is Ksenia Closson, founder and publisher of Simply Happy Me, an online magazine devoted to fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

My daughter. She surprises me every day. She is genuine, clever, talented and wise. She is also sarcastic, but not intentionally. When I look at her I see my kid, but when I look at her actions I see a mature, intelligent person with her own thoughts and amazing skills.

For example, she loves making pancakes on the weekends. It’s kind of a tradition – making pancakes together as a family. On the weekdays I don’t have time, so we usually have a quick breakfast like cereal. She kept asking for pancakes on weekdays. One of these weekday mornings she got tired of waiting. She crawled into my bed at 7:00 in the morning saying: “I made the batter, you just have to bake the pancakes now.” My daughter is 6-years-old. You can imagine my surprise followed by my request to repeat what she said with one of my eyes still closed. She repeated it without blinking. I was speechless.

When I came downstairs, there it was – a bowl-full of pancake batter, perfectly whisked. It was a nice light shade of green. She explained she added food coloring to make it interesting. She can’t read directions yet, her reading is at Kindergarten level, so she made this by memory. Let me tell you those pancakes were better than mine- sweet, tasty and healthy. She used Agave syrup instead of sugar. Here is a funny thing, because she can’t read the ingredients labels, she added a dash of cumin to the batter instead of cinnamon (lol), but I couldn’t taste it. I was impressed. My eyes were tearing. I was wonderstruck.

What part of your day are you grateful for?

The night. It’s the only time I can be alone with myself. The night allows me to be truly creative and create something that comes from the inner me, without any distractions or the noise from the outside world.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

Ugh! The mornings. I am not a morning person. (I am more like a grumpy bear awoken from a pleasant afternoon nap, haha).

How do I deal with my mornings? It depends on the night I had prior to the morning. If I had to stay up all night to meet a deadline, than waking up in the morning is rough. First I get a cup of strong aromatic coffee – trivial but makes a huge impact. I lounge on my beautiful sofa by an open window and enjoy a few breaths of crisp morning air. I feel good when my surroundings are pleasant. I lean back and do something that requires zero physical or mental effort – relax. I multitask constantly throughout the day. It can be overwhelming. This ritual allows me to gather my thoughts, acknowledge myself and think about my goals for the day. I like to plan major tasks and build my day like a puzzle. A few follow-up calls can be made out of the car, while I’m driving. Articles can be written at night. Serious tasks are done around midday when it’s everybody’s “go-go-go” time. There is a saying “If you want something done, give it to the busy person” – that actually works. Busy people tend to get in this mode when they are on a roll. So the more you give them, the more they will get done. I try to squeeze my interactions with people in those windows. It works wonders.

The other kind of mornings that I experience is when the deadline is met and my tasks become more of an administrative nature. Those days usually flow a little smoother. I try to avoid coffee on the mornings when I had enough sleep. I am a fan of yoga. If I went to bed in a decent hour, I am excited to attend a 6:00 a.m. session. It creates powerful results. Those days tend to be very productive. I can clearly see the difference between the days I started off with yoga and the days I didn’t. I wish I could do these sessions every day, but due to my busy schedule it is not possible. Sometimes I practice yoga by myself, but I feel that rejuvenation I experience after the class led by an experienced instructor is much more beneficial.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

Time. We all need more time.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

Professionally speaking: I have an enormous white board in my office. It has my short-term and my long-term goals. Spreadsheets help too. I write down everything I think about. If I decided to write an article on a subject, I will write down a few words and create a catchy name for it. It will help me to define the direction of article in the future. Those little notes get filed in a particular folder, so I know where this article should go. If I see somebody I want to interview in a particular issue of Simply Happy Me, I will write their name down and add them to our editorial calendar.

Tracking helps to know where I am with the small goals and tasks. These small tasks support my big goals. Keeping my eyes on the details is what helps me see the bigger picture and how it’s coming along.

As far as my personal life goes: There is really no effort required. If something is important to you, your focus will be there. No work, no friends, no other kind of commitments are going to stand in the way. The most important thing in my personal life is my family. The rest naturally falls into place.

Ksenia-yogacropAbout Ksenia:

Ksenia has a positive outlook on life and a genuine interest in a healthy lifestyle. She is founder and publisher of Simply Happy Me, an online magazine devoted to fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being. She loves helping people to get answers and make better choices. She believes that happiness is the key to success.

Where to find Ksenia:

You’ll find Ksenia at Simply Happy Me:

Gray Day for Working on My Work

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Gray days are mood changing. Yesterday’s gray had me feeling a little sad, a little introspective, and a lot sleepy.

Today’s gray is different. Today’s gray feels just the right amount of hunker-down-in-my-office-while-everyone-is-out-of-the-house-and-work-on-my-work. (Yes, I know I said “work” twice, but that’s what I’m doing.)

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Because no one can do my work but me. And because I have a Wonder Seeker Challenge to polish. (If you don’t yet know about the Wonder Seeker, seek the details and sign up here.)

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And if I get stuck, I can look out the window and watch Squackers and Buttons explore.

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How could a scene like that leave anyone feeling sad?

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I’m thankful for this space and for these precious quiet two hours of just me.

Wishing you a wonderstruck day and a moment of quiet with just you.

Growing Green Onions

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I heard you could re-grow green onions from your grocery store leftovers. It sounded easy enough, almost like magic.

Well, I’ve had people tell me things are easy before and it doesn’t always turn out to be true for me. This, however, actually was super easy, so I’m sharing. Here is what you do:

Step 1: After using the green ends from your onions, take the leftover root parts and put them in a glass of water on your windowsill.

Step 2: That’s it. There is no step two. (Okay, maybe step two is to change the water every few days. It will evaporate or be soaked up anyway, so you’ll see it needs refilling.)

I did just that and here is what happened over the next week…

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That’s all there was to it. Within one week of going in the water they looked nearly like what I originally brought home from the store.

Since then I cut them again to add to one night’s dinner, then stuck them right back in the water. So far, they are growing again.

Perhaps re-growing green onions really is like magic.

Flecks #19

Mended ebbokAs in flecks of reflection from the week: what I’m learning and celebrating.

This week on the blog has been so much fun for me! First, I want to thank Anna White for (1) giving me an early e-copy of her new memoir Mended to review, (2) doing a wonderstruck interview, and (3) offering another free ebook to one Live Wonderstruck reader.

THANK YOU, ANNA!

To see the winner, keep reading. (Hint: It’s in the Things I’m Celebrating section.)

So, let’s talk about this week.

Things I learned this week:

  • Feeling healthy (or at least healthy-ish) feels sooooo good.
  • Spring might actually be a real season. This week I’ve witnessed warmer temperatures, April rain, and buds on a few of my trees. You know what I haven’t witnessed this week? Snow. Hooray!

Things I’m celebrating this week:

  • The Mended giveaway winner! Congratulations, Jenika Conboy! I will send you an email and put you in touch with Anna for your ebook. Enjoy! And thank you, Jenika, for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
  • A dreaming & scheming session with that left me with answers, ideas, and a plan.
  • Healing.
  • Noticing.
  • Cuddling.

wonderseekerWhat’s New:

Speaking of ideas and plans, I am starting up a monthly email newsletter with short and sweet wonderstruck inspiration to start your month off right. Want in? Look for the sign up at the top of my sidebar.

Speaking of signing up, if you sign up before the first edition in May, you will also get to join my new 3-day Wonder Seeker Photo Challenge for free. It’s three days of prompts emailed to you challenging you to look at your surroundings with fresh eyes and share what you see on Instagram.

Things that are resonating with me this week:

Sorry Zuckerberg, I’m Giving You Up by Phoebe Hook. I just discovered Phoebe and her website this week and loved this post. Be sure to watch the video. It will make you think twice about picking up your phone. Ever.

How I Do My Business + Why by Jennifer Louden. She talks about boundaries, serving, platforms, and more. Her tips are short and honest. I love that.

In case you missed it…

My last ”Doing Good” article for Grandmother Hen appeared last week. I love this series. The topic this time around was Doing Good: Wildlife Conservation.

I also had a few articles launch this week on Simply Happy Me including Make Your Body Happy: S-T-R-E-T-C-H!, a review of the book The Serious Pursuit of Happiness, and an interview with its author Henry S. Miller. You may remember Henry from his interview on Live Wonderstruck earlier this year.

Your turn:

What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I’ll share a “Woohoo!”

Interview: Anna White

Hearing other people’s stories is a great way to see things from a different perspective and perhaps find something new to apply to our own lives.

Following on Monday’s book review and giveaway post for Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith, today our wonderstruck guest is author Anna White.

Remember, we have a giveaway going on this week for a copy of Mended. To enter, leave a comment on Monday’s post: Mended Book Review and Giveaway. But be sure to leave a comment here, too, to welcome Anna.

AnnaWhiteWhat have you been wonderstruck by recently?

I drive my husband to work every morning and I am often wonderstruck by the rays of filtered morning sun shining through the dusky clouds and the dark little birds that are still clustered on the wires trying to sleep. This is a small thing, but it makes me smile every time!

What part of your day are you grateful for?

At the risk of sounding like bad-mommy, I am grateful when my kids finally go to bed. That means that I get to spend a little time by myself and with my husband and a bath or a book or a cup of tea or painting. Actually there a lots of things I’d like to do in this time-so many that I usually get overwhelmed and just go to sleep.

What part of your day is tough? How do you move through it?

Mealtimes are tough for me. It’s the whole planning, preparing, trying to serve something vaguely healthy, and then having the kids refuse to eat it. Or if they love it they channel cookie monster with a plate of cookies and it’s crumbs flung over the entire floor. 3 times a day. Every day. I don’t know how I move through it honestly. We’ve all survived mealtimes so far by the grace of God.

What do you wish your were more conscious of?

I wish I were more conscious of the presence of God in our everyday lives. I write in Mended about thin places where God hovers near, but I know when I’m taking the time to focus on God and his calling for me I feel completely raw and thin all the time. It’s hard to maintain that, but I know that is the realness behind it all.

How do you stay focused on what is truly important to you?

I took a leave from my full-time job this year to stay home with my two preschoolers. I wanted to take time to focus on them and spend time with them without being exhausted. But now that I’m home, ironically, I’m still working, just on different projects and at different times. This has really shown me that I can’t ever blame a particular job or circumstance for my lack of attention to what I say is important. I try to block out certain hours and times where I will be focused on them and on my husband. It is so easy to work, because I can control that. There’s always a clear goal and an end and something to show for my time. Family, not so much. I have to remind myself to get a little uncomfortable and out of control with them.

About Anna White:

Anna is a recovering perfectionist that writes stuff, paints stuff, and spends way too much time on Twitter. Her passion is helping women embrace their imperfections and find meaning through creativity. She’s emotionally attached to her art supplies and loves making old things new.

Where to find Anna:

Mended Book Review and Giveaway

I like memoirs. There’s something about reading other people’s stories that makes me feel like we’re all in this crazy life together.

So when Anna White offered me the opportunity to review an early copy of her new memoir Mended: Thoughts on Life, Love, and Leaps of Faith, I was excited.

It didn’t take long for me to settle in with my Kindle and a blanket and soak up her stories.

In her first essay “Mended” Anna invited me right in with a few simple words: “I am enough. And so are you.”

It’s a notion that takes some of us a long time to realize and there, in the first few pages of the book, was a gentle reminder.

Later in “Worn” it was these words that caught my attention:

I write about the same things over and over again. Death. Uncertainty. Fear. Faith. The hard and fierce goodness of life.

“The hard fierce goodness of life”- I love that. And aren’t those big, recurring topics for many of us? Death, uncertainty, fear, and faith. While Mended covers these topics, it’s also about being a wife and a mother and, simply a person.

She admits that her story “isn’t any harder or more dramatic than any of the other millions of hard stories that mothers share.” Her stories are relatable because as humans and, further as women, our stories are familiar, almost entwined.

As I read Mended I felt like I understood Anna and, though we’ve never met, she understood me, too.

She also talks about writing and how, to writers, it is both necessary and difficult, healing and scary.

Anna White has written a memoir that feels honest. I zipped through it quickly because I wanted to keep reading and the essays were short enough to keep lying to myself with “just one more.”

Find it on Amazon available in paperback and for Kindle.

P.S. Be sure to stop by this Wednesday to see a wonderstruck interview with Anna!

The Giveaway

Now for some great news: Anna has offered one ebook copy of Mended to a Live Wonderstruck reader. She’s so generous!

So, if this sounds like your kind of book, leave a comment on this post by midnight Eastern time this Thursday (April 3).

I will use a random number generator to select the winner. Watch Friday’s Flecks post for the winner to be announced. Then Anna will be in touch. Good luck!

The Trailer

Want to know more about the book? Here is a trailer of Anna talking about it.

Disclaimer: I received the advanced reader’s copy for free from Anna herself (thank you, Anna!). That doesn’t affect my actual opinions written here in any way. I wrote what I think.

Flecks #18

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As in flecks of reflection from the week: what I’m learning and celebrating.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for the last few days, but I’m feeling much lighter today- happier and maybe even a little bit badass. I’m ready once again to take on the world.

Little lows happen all the time and they help us appreciate the little everyday highs. As has become a little tradition here at Live Wonderstruck, I’m reflecting on the week with all its little highs and lows. (Hint: See that little sleeping angel at the top of this post? He’s one of my highs.)

Here we go…

Things I learned this week:

  • There are certain days I shouldn’t attempt life analysis, big dreams, or make any major decisions. If I’m in a funk, I need to be okay with all of the not knowing and divert my attention to NOT swirling myself into confusion and despair. Despair! (Is it just me or do you envision the Pit of Despair from The Princess Bride when you hear that word?)
  • When I’m in a funk, finding just the right piece of music and dancing to it helps so much. It doesn’t matter if I’m making up moves as I go or if the motions are weird, clunky, jumpy, or my best impression of a flamenco dancer. The point is to feel the music and move. This week, the piece of music that worked its magic was Never Been To Spain by Three Dog Night. (Singing along – albeit, somewhat badly – to Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes album also helped.)
  • Once again, having a meal plan for the week was enormously helpful because it meant I didn’t have to think at the end of the day when I was tired and run down. (It helped even more that this week’s meal plan was pretty much ready to go thanks to my overzealous recipe picking the week prior.)
  • A little food goes a long way when you share. I attended a meeting to talk about building a community garden and we were asked to bring a dish to share. I didn’t have time to prepare in advance or even to get to the store on the way there, so I searched my fridge and pulled out leftover cucumber and tomato salad I had made the day before. To me it looked like such a small container that might only have one or two servings in, but when combined with the egg salad, bread, fruit cocktail, brownies, chips, guacamole, and edamame brought by others, it was perfect. In fact, there was even a little left over to bring back home.
  • I’m learning right now as I type this that I’m more prolific than I realize when I’m in a good mood. Interesting.

Things I’m celebrating this week:

  • Getting out of a funk.
  • Further clarifying.
  • Big dreams.
  • Dancing in the kitchen.
  • Meeting a wonderful garden educator and designer named Eve. Perfect.
  • Girlfriends who will listen when I call and say, “I’m feeling like a grump, so I called for a little girl time,” then don’t mind a slow conversation riddled with short silences.
  • Zerby Derby is now on demand. (This is a new children’s television show that runs for just 10 minutes at 11:00 a.m. on Sprout. It is created by filming remote control cars. My toddler loves it, but we almost never get to see it. This will make him happy.)

Things that are resonating with me this week:

This week’s Creative Living with Jamie podcast in which she answers a question that I asked her: What is the difference between core values and focus areas?

I don’t own any St. Patrick’s day decorations. I didn’t realize that a leprechaun visit was customary. I don’t dye food or drinks or toilet water green. That being said, I loved Kristen Howerton’s article Can We Bring the Holidays Down a Notch?

5 Ways to Get Your Body Moving Even When You Don’t Want To from Real Fit Mama because this feels doable and potentially even fun.

What is Simplicity? by Ginny Lennox because simplicity means different things to different people, but also can mean different things to us at different times.

Every Child is Gifted & Talented. Every Single One. by Glennon Doyle Melton at Momastery.

In case you missed it…

My latest article is up at Grandmother Hen: a review of the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Your turn:

What did you learn this week? What are you celebrating? Leave a comment and I’ll share a “Woohoo!”