The pain of loosing someone you love Tuesday, February 28

February is kind of a big month for me, my birthday, Valentines Day and The Oscars of course! It is also the month my dad passed away February 24, 1993, 19 years ago.  I was reminded again of the immense pain of loosing someone when I heard the news about Brenda Gutierrez, 16, and Thalia Arredondo, 16, who lost their lives on this past Friday the 24th in a fatal car accident right behind our home.  Two best friends, beautiful girls. Their love for each other was so clear in this video they made together about best friends. "The Perfect Two"   

When you loose someone you love you are left with feelings and emotions that your body cannot physically handle.  The state of shock, the deep aching kind of pain.  The pain that cannot even be expressed in words. I know it's been a long time since my dad passed, but if you have ever lost someone you love, you know that the heartache doesn't fully go away, just slowly shifts from the front window to the rear view. 

 Leading up to the 24th I usually get extra emotional, or more insecure, nervous that maybe my husband will not be here for our family or simply an unexplainable sadness.  I thought it would fitting to share my experience with pain, my "story."  The one life that each of us lives.  The life that sums up who we are and have become.  I believe your "story" is a beautiful legacy, the imprint of who you are and what you will be remembered for.

My first experience with this kind of pain was at age 12 when my parents told us they were separating. Up until this point, we were a regular family busy with school, church, dance, gymnastics etc. I didn't fully understand what was going on and my mom was intentional about protecting us from too many details, so as hard as it was we began to move forward.

At Age 14 is when we got the knock on our door telling us that our dad had passed away.  He was found in his car at his apartment and died from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Life stood still for several minutes as I was trying to process what was just said. You can only imagine the days, weeks, months and even years after that major loss in our family and the pain that came along with it.  Being only 14, it was very hard to even know what to do with the pain or if I would ever get through it.  Not only had I been dealing with the separation but now my dad is gone.  I remember the trip to the coroners office to see him one last time.  It is a visual I will never forget. I began to do things like sleep with his gloves and the tie he had been wearing to feel comfort from his scent.  I really struggled and even went through some very dark seasons where I tried numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol.  I found myself pulling out my hair and eyebrows and even cut myself a few times thinking the pain of the cut didn't compare to what i was feeling inside. 

I am so thankful for a strong mother, who recognized my struggle and got me into counseling.  Who kept our family connected into a church family and youth group creating positive relationships to help us begin healing. This was pinnacle to my grieving and making the decision to move through the pain. Both of my parents had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This foundation and knowledge helped me to understand how to receive God's love.  A love that knew no limits and withheld nothing. A love that is transformational and healing.  A love that could fill the empty places.  I realized then that even with faith, we are still human and with that comes imperfect people, tragedy and real pain. 

The most important decision we have when dealing with pain is ...what we choose to do with it? Will you let it destroy you or motivate you?  Cripple you or drive you? Weaken your conscience or strengthen your conviction? Give you a will to fight or allow a reason for apathy? What I have learned over these 19 years is even with Christ, we are not promised tomorrow.  Even if we are doing it all right, tragedy without reason still comes knocking.  That in our best efforts to be "good people" we are ultimately not guaranteed a perfect life. In fact, we are sometimes called to weather the storm and build our character and faith through trial. After years of trying to figure out the "why"I began to see the "how" how can this make me stronger, wiser, bolder, more intuitive, selfless, and mission driven?

I have also learned that we fail, I fail, and we hurt those we love and make choices that altar the life you thought you had or change the course of your future.  We are human,  "saved" by grace but not without flaw or free will.  The will to choose life or destruction. The law of consequences. Although we are extended mercy and forgiveness, it is not without pain. Without it would we still choose to cling, I mean literally hold on to "his truths?" Or trust that in the middle of the storm he has a plan and purpose and can somehow, even though unimaginable, use our pain for a glorious reason. To help someone who may just need our pain to heal from theirs.  I don't have the answers or the resolve to "why" but I don't need the why. Because this is not our end, or forever. It is the beginning... the beginning to a new "story."

What is your story? 

My Fav Oscars + What's For Dinner Monday, February 27

We had a terrific time last night watching the Oscars with some of our close friends!  We had ballads and everything... pretty impressive.  I thought I would share my favs from the evening and a couple "uh ohs" too.  Oh and the menu so you know "What's For Dinner" tonight! 

Michelle is my winner!  She is such a little pixie! The hair, the dress the styling are all on point and it is obvious she really knows herself and her style.  Love this coral color and the shape is stunning!

Glenn is one of my favorite celebs.  What a timeless beauty and she is always making the right choices in fashion. This year is no different.  This hunter green is amazing and I love that she was smart enough to pair it with a blazer.  Flawless!

J Lo, I love you but the hair is not working

Milla did this perfectly.... your hair has to compliment the dress and she looks beautiful. Love the red lips too!

Octavia looks stunning in this figure flattering gown

 I also like Kristen's dress on her.  Pretty color and flattering, the simplicity of her hair and make up allows the dress to be the focal

My friend Lindsay was the host and she did it up good when it comes to food!  She made some delicious chicken buffalo sandwiches and a sweet slaw.

Buffalo Chicken
Lindsay Sherbondy

4 Chicken breasts 

3/4 bottle Buffalo Sauce - Pick your favorite kind or make your own.  I will try to find a natural sauce with no high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch or hydrogenated oil. 

Packet of ranch seasoning - You can also get an organic pac of ranch seasoning 

Place all of this in the slow cooker and simmer on low for 6 to 7 hrs.  When done you can add 2 tbs of butter and mix if you want to make it a little buttery. *Top with mozz, pepper jack, or white cheddar, sweet pickled peppers, ranch, blue cheese etc.  

Or top with this delicious SLAW

Sweet Slaw
Lindsay Sherbondy

1 bag coleslaw
1 pkg slivered almonds
1 can manderine oranges

1 cup helmans mayo
2 tbs white vinegar
3 tbs sugar or 2 tbs raw honey

mix and refrigerate an hour, Top with oranges before serving 

Dreamer... Ashley McNary Thursday, February 23

This weeks dreamer I have known for most of my life.  My first memories of her, were as a little girl with the cutest face and the most beautiful curly hair!  She has grown into an amazing women... introducing Ashley McNary, a wife, mother and passionate dreamer who is clearly making her stamp on this world and in her community.  Be encouraged~

I get to be the wife of an amazing man,  Jon and I will have been married for 8 years in May! We have three awesome kids: Beckam (boy, age 4), Easton (boy, age 2), and Braylin (girl, 9 months).  Growing up, I always figured that I would be a stay at home mom.  My mom stayed home with us, and did a great job, so I didn't see that I would do anything different.  I graduated with a degree in Middle School Education, but took a job doing high school and college ministry at Heartland Community Church right after I graduated. I didn't realize that I would love ministry so much.  I had my son, Beckam, and while I LOVED spending time with Him, I had this desire to continue to pour into God's kingdom.  I continued to work for Heartland in various roles for the next couple years, while getting to be a mom and it was wonderful! It wasn't until after my second son was born that I really struggled with my choice to work or stay at home.  I knew that I loved my job, it provided me with a chance to use my God given gifts, but also flexible hours to still be the mom I wanted to be.  I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear about life change and be a small part of watching God do His thing.  But I struggled because I saw so many of my friends making the choice to stay at home, and wondered "Am I a bad mom because I want to continue doing my job?" Through some deep processing with God, a series at church, and many conversations with my husband, I finally felt the freedom to say that I love my kids, and I love doing ministry, and I can do both.  I love it.  

Currently, I am the Programming Director at our campus in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin as well as our Children's Ministry Curriculum Coordinator, which is a new role for me.  But due to the fact of having young kids, and knowing how important spiritual wisdom and conversation is at these early years, I have been having a blast! And I am having a blast, well most days, being the mom of two crazy active boys and a sweet, smiley little girl.  They are my joy! Recently however, I have felt this stirring in my heart that it is becoming harder and harder for women to be honest about parenthood.  Due to the world of facebook and blogs (which I love both) we are so tempted to continue to compare ourselves to other mom's posts about fun activities, sweet moments, funny stories, creative ideas.  Women don't post things like "I lost my temper today and acted in a way I am not proud of." We post "My son came and cuddled up to me and said 'I love you so much mommy!".  Women don't post pictures of their children watching a cartoon for the 3rd time that day, we post pictures of us doing a fun craft with all homemade ingredients and everyone smiling.  There is more temptation than ever to compare our "day to day" life to everyone else's best experience and feel guilty, less-than, or just feel like a bad mom.  

So as a group of women at Heartland in Sun Prairie identified this in our own lives, we wanted to offer that same freedom to other women. Because while I love my children with everything in me, there are many moments in a day that are not pretty.  And from every conversation with other moms, I know I am not the only one. But instead of us all feeling like we are the only one, let's get together admit that our lives aren't picture perfect, then move on.  Let's equip ourselves with more tools to embrace the moms that we were created to be and strive to be even more intentional with those that God has given us to nurture.  We won't be supermom, not even close, but we can be great moms.  Let's just redefine what that means. 

Lindsay Letters

If your in the Illinois/Wisconsin area this conference is for you! With amazing speakers like Shauna Niequist and Jodi Hickerson you are bound to be motivated, encouraged and challenged with a good bit of humor in-between. You can register here Hot Mess Mom Conference

Live Chat with Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan Tuesday, February 21

I found out this morning that I was chosen to be a part of The Honest Company's first online video chat via Vokle.  Needless to say I was freaking out and running around the house trying to think through what questions I would ask, make sure the babies were fed and try to pull myself together in 10 min! Thankfully Nate was here and helped me with all the computer stuff, or I would have been in trouble.  This was the first of many conversations around providing moms with quality, affordable, toxin and chemical free products.  As you will hear, both Jessica and Christopher are grounded and so easy to talk too.  The Honest Company launched this January and it is a hit!  Resonating with millions of moms around the world who want to give their children the most healthy options! This is the beginning of an wonderful partnership and I am so excited for the journey!  Stay tuned for more info, free trial details and tips on getting educated.

You can view by question.

Throw That Tantrum Girl!


There are just days when I would love to throw myself on the floor kicking and screaming... and to be honest, I have!  When my son, Anden was around 2, he was really good at creating huge scene, I mean the more dramatic the better.  So one day, I really just could not think of what to do with him so i decided to show him what it would look like if mommy threw a temper tantrum.  There I was in all my glory, rolling around, whining and crying like a maniac. To my surprise, Anden had stopped throwing his fit and was completely fixated on me!  I then quickly turned it into a "teaching moment" and said.  "Doesn't mommy look silly throwing a fit?  You can't hear what I'm trying to say with all that yelling and crying ugh?  He began to laugh and actually understood me.  Needless to say we have had many tantrums since then, but I now have the freedom to throw myself around if necessary! And truthfully, it felt really good!  Good in a sense of releasing energy and anger and all the pent up emotions inside.  Since I am a 33 year old grown woman, it is probably not a good practice to do regularly, so I guess that means I need another "outlet."

I am one of those who loves to exercise. Killing myself at the gym has helped me overcome many stresses in my life along the way.  Since the twins, this is the longest stint I have ever gone without hitting the gym! I am beginning to have a bipolar relationship with this situation.  One minute I love just doing some dvd's at home and embracing the 20 pounds I still need to loose.  The next minute I am feeling frustrated that I can't control it and kick it into high gear.  One minute, I love nursing the girls and overlooking the layer of fat i have over my entire body as i am producing over 50 oz of milk per day! And the next minute, I am crying and shoving chocolate in my mouth surrendering my body over for the next 6 months!

In all reality, it is ridiculous to even be concerned about such a short season of my life where I am giving what is "best" for the babes, but I have to admit my shortcomings and confess I would love to throw tantrums every now and again too! Not to mention I think I am still on a hormone overload, which his not helping here!

What do you do to release your stress?  Any good advice or tips for "healthy stress relievers?"  Ok, lets avoid the elephant in the room, if your married SEX, yes I said SEX, is definitely a great option. But when you have 5 children around indefinitely that is not the easiest one to accomplish on demand!  I love to DANCE DANCE DANCE until my legs are like jell-o! Some like to journal or read, listen to teachers or inspiring music. I would also love to become more disciplined with reading positive and influential books and focusing on a little food for the soul.

I will be sharing some ways to "Refresh" your mind as I am blessed to have some wonderful people in my world who have written books, are leaders in their churches or communities, or are just wise and can offer some "What I've Learned" advice.

So although we cannot "literally" throw tantrums, unless we are in our closet, we certainly should find a "healthy outlet" to relieve our stresses.

President's Day Sales! Monday, February 20

Here are a few really great President's Day Sales!

Nine West

Anthro Sale

Shop Children's Place

Shop Forever 21

Shop Macy's

Shop Kohl's

Shop Express

Pretty Socks Thursday, February 16

I am determined to put some outfits together this spring with SOCKS! I love a cute feminine dress with little socks and sandals, which is so against the trend 10 years ago, right?  Remember when people would wear sock with their addidas slide on sandals or Birkenstocks with socks... we said "No Way."  And I would still say that now by the way... it is truly all about styling!

This is the closest I have gotten to the socks... wearing mustard tights!  This was my valentines dress!  $15 from Old Navy

Dreamer - Lis Dunn + Giveaway Wednesday, February 15

As I shared with you in the "Dream" segment, I will be featuring some amazing and talented women who are mothers, wives, career women, stay at home moms, writers, and most importantly creatives. This week I am featuring my new friend Lis Dunn.   She has been crafting for years and makes beautiful things like this...

Lis Dunn Designs

And she also is the creator of this...


And if that's not enough, she is a blogger too!  I asked her to write a few words about herself and her passion for creativity...

Hi, my name is Lis and I am SO honored to be a guest blogger today!
I am the wife to my best friend and prince charming, Dennis and the lucky momma of 4 super cool kiddos, Mel, Mikah, Mason and Maximus, that constantly keep me on my toes!

I knew at a very young age that I wanted, no NEEDED, to express myself creatively.  My grandmother was a seamstress and dress shop owner, so time at her house always included sewing.  I remember her letting me go through all of her scraps and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted with them.  I also loved drawing at that age, so I would sketch out new looks for my Barbie’s and create clothing from those scraps.  Those were the beginning moments that instilled in me a love for creating something out of nothing.

Fast forward several years and I have dabbled in just about anything that I could get my hands on… painting, jewelry making, sewing, crocheting, woodworking, scrapbooking and card making.  Trying different mediums and allowing myself that time are like water for my soul.  I feel alive when I am working with my hands and creating something beautiful! 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really begun to recognize {and embrace} the me that I was created to be.  I’ve learned that I am a much better version of me when I give myself that permission and allow my heart to dream and create.  Not only am I a better wife and mommy, but I am showing my children what it means to follow your heart and that you are never too old to dream;)  I pray that in this journey, I would inspire another woman to be honest about who she is and what her hearts real passion is and not be afraid to take a leap of faith and explore what that dream has in store for her life!

 Hope this inspires you today as you keep pressing after your "Dreams!"  Lis was kind enough to make us a Giveaway..  This beauty could be worn in your hair for a fun night on the town, on a jacket or sweater, it could even be added to a peacock blue pillow as an accent piece... kind of like this one!  

Here is how you can win this! 

1. "Share" This blog post by clicking on right side and putting it on your Facebook Wall
2. Go to either one of Lis's Etsy shops and tell us your favs by commenting on this post

Extra Entries  

1. Tweet this post
2. Subscribe to both of our blogs

*** Make sure to tell me what you did in your comments***

The winner will be announced next Friday February 24th 

What's For Dinner - Southwest Stuffed Peppers Tuesday, February 14

These look fantastic and can be made vegetarian or with ground beef or ground turkey with fennel!  

Southwest Stuffed Peppers - Deena Driskel

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

1 cup cooked quinoa
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white & green parts separated
1 can seasoned black beans, drained mostly
1 cup frozen corn
1 4.5oz. Can chopped green chilies
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt & Pepper
Salsa of choice
4oz. Monterey Jack , grated cheese (1 cup)
4 large bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs & seeds removed
1/2 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt salsa, for serving

Heat oven 375
Heat oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Add the scallion whites & saute for 3-5 min. Add can of blk. beans, corn, chilies, cumin, cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup cheese, 1/2 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. pepper
Arrange bell peppers, cut side up, in 9x13 Pyrex. Divide mixture among the 8 pepper halves, add 1/4-1/2 cup water to the dish, tightly cover the dish with foil & bake until peppers are soft, 
30-40 min. Uncover, sprinkle with remaining cheese & bake til browned, 5-7 min.
In small bowl, mix yogurt & salsa together & Drizzle over peppers. Top with green scallions. 

Soooo yummy!

Tribute To My First Music Icon Monday, February 13

Every channel on tv this morning is talking about the sudden death of Whitney Houston.  The Barbra Walters interview from 1993 brought me to tears as she Whitney sang for the first time publicly at 11 years old in church "Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah."  Her roots began in church and her songs were sung out of her love for Jesus. In the interview, Whitney talked about the point when she realized that God had given her such a "gift."  Even her long time producer, Percy Bady,  said "It was as though God just placed his hand a little longer on her shoulder." He went on to talk about the importance of having "humility with the gift" and "grace with the success," "this gift is like dust on a wing of a month and when the dust comes off it can no longer fly."  When you begin to focus on the why you loose the whimsy of the flight.

I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to balance the fame with a normal life and staying centered in the process.  Her intention was to use the gift God had blessed her with to reach others and it did!  My dad passed away in 1993 and her music became a huge part of my healing as a young adolescent dealing with immense pain and grieving, I have clear memories of belting out her songs from Bodyguard with tear filled eyes.  Singing Joy To The World  on her Christmas cd and dancing for hours to Dace With Somebody. 

There are so many life lessons in the loss of Whitney Houston. One, is the importance of who you choose to live your life with.  It is no secret that Bobby and Whitney had a volatile relationship.  Years of unhealthy disfunction. It became clear to the world that Bobby was not the sail under her wings but the very thing that would suffocate it.  History would prove that being in a toxic relationship can become addicting and the codependence feels like a drug, an addiction.  We saw this with Tina Turner and Ike. It seems so easy to say just leave, but after you have ignored the red flags and gut promptings so many times, it becomes your new reality.  This breaks my heart and challenges me as a mother of 4 girls to instill the importance of positive relationships.

Drugs are really so common these days and especially in the celebrity world.  We have seen many talented actors and musicians succumb to overdose in the last 5 years.  I'm not sure if it is the drugs they are addicted to or the emotions, pain, and unhappiness they are trying to numb.  Sometimes rather than dealing with our lives we avoid it by dulling our conscience.  If you don't have to deal with reality it won't be so hard to live.  But the point is... there are consequences and they will catch up to you.  Eventually your life will be shortened or the person you intended to be for your family disappears and that can be just as damaging as dying.

I was refreshed last night watching the Grammys.  LL did such a great job of opening in prayer and paying tribute to Whitney.  But the best part for me was the achievement of Adele.  She was just stunning. A raw talent a REAL PERSON! She is normal.  She is a breath of fresh air when what we consider talent is performing "The Exorcist." It is just sobering and to focus on the true meaning of the Grammys... music,  songs written from life and experiences.  Emotion and heart.  Real People like us, who can use their music and God given talent to relate, inspire and heal.

We Heart It

On a lighter note, here are some "looks I Love" from the Grammys.

The Band Perry! Love this skirt

Carrie Underwood

Creative Style - Kids Edition Friday, February 10

Samuel Photography

Now that I have 4 girls I am certainly going to love dressing them and creating fun stylish outfits! And because I have 4 girls I will need to learn to do this on a dime!  I am a believer that it is "all in how you put it together." You can collect pieces from Walmart, TJ Maxx, Target, and now Forever 21 Kids.  And come up with the looks you see in Crew Cuts and Nordstrom. Check out all these adorable styles.


Crew Cuts

H&M Kids