Category Archives: live better

Happy Monday {when it seems the world is falling apart}

When I told my friend about “signs” and feeling like God gave me little gifts to keep me going, he shook his head. He thought the signs were always there – we were just too busy to see them.

Hmm, maybe he’s right. Do we make our own reality because of how we want to see the world or are there gifts being sent all the time? I think it’s a little of both. But I think Friend has a point: there is great beauty all around us, if we will only SEE.

I read this quote this weekend (and didn’t think it a coincidence:):

“The more often we see things around us – even the beautiful and wonderful things – the more they become invisible to us. That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world: the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds – even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

There is an awful lot of doom and gloom these days. We are upset about politics, taxes, healthcare. There are really sad and horrible things happening that we have no control over. For instance, I’m driving myself mad this evening thinking about how much of teen culture is.so.BAD. Will the kids really be okay?

But I must take deep breaths and think about that another day.

This post is about seeing the sunshine and butterflies.

Anyway, has there ever been a period of time when people on earth felt perfectly content or unafraid?

So. I read this this week, too:

“I am asking that we stop seeing out the storms and enjoy more full the sunlight. I am suggesting that as we go through life we ‘accentuate the positive.’ I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and effort.

I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course.

What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that so permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears.” –Gordon B. Hinckley #lovethisman

I saw this faith and optimism play out over the weekend as we laid my cousin, Andrew, to rest. Andrew was born with many heart defects and Down Syndrome. But the love his family had for him was a great love story. Andrew was a joy, but also…difficult. I don’t know how his parents and sister could turn every broken toilet into a hilarious story, (he had a fascination with flushing things) but they did!

Even his obituary made me laugh. A small piece: “Ever the prankster, Andrew enjoyed breaking household items, hiding things, and telling jokes about setting people’s hair on fire.”

Before he passed away he hid all of his mother’s pants. They are still looking for them. On several occasions I thought, “bless them, I could never do it.”

But they did. So very well.

His father, Ray, said at his funeral: “Happiness is a choice.”

In a prayer, Andrew’s mother said, “Thank you for the great honor of allowing us to raise Andrew.” She didn’t talk about how hard it was, only the great honor.

I’m thinking about this today, on a cold, grey January day when there are many many worries on my mind. I’m looking out the window {’cause it’s not on my phone} and really trying to see it.

Some seasons of life are better than others. And I just thought I’d share this belief of mine, that our lives have meaning. That there are good things all around us if we want to see them. That happiness is a choice.

And like Olivia Pope says, “ALL PROBLEMS HAVE SOLUTIONS!” 🙂

Okay?

Hold on. If you can’t see the light right now, believe. It’s there.

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Happy Monday, friends.

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Auntie Jill’s Sweet Potato Pie {yum!}

It was voted Thanksgiving’s #1 dish, and that’s saying something in this house where we are surrounded by viable Chopped contestants.

It’s also saying something as I have struggled to like sweet potato since I was a wee lass growing up on the plains of Nebraska. The sweet potato has so many virtues and has long been touted as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Why couldn’t I adore it? But this. Love at first bite. The butter, sugar, and pecans might have something to do with it, but you have to start somewhere, right?

This Sweet Potato Pie comes from Auntie Jill, passed down from her mama Nancy in Iowa. The first two Makechnie boys married girls from the midwest. Aren’t we quaint?

Mama Nancy’s recipe sure was delish, but Jill saw the need to healthify it by cutting the sugars in half, using dates instead of white sugar, and fresh sweet potato instead of canned in syrup. Still, we agree it’s more of a dessert to be eaten after a 5k Turkey Trot (or sleeping in, whatevs,) and goes ever so wonderfully with any meat and potatoes meal, like Thanksgiving. Which is why I’m posting this in January. Makes perfect sense, right? unnamed-1You’ll peel, cut, and boil 4-6 sweet potatoes. Mash them with butter. Add sugar, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla.unnamed-2 Now for the topping! Chop 1 cup pecans.unnamed-3 Add brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon to the pecans.unnamed-4 Spread sweet potato in a pretty pie baking dish. Add the nut and sugar topping.unnamed Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Serve and swoon.unnamed-6

Sweet Potato Pie Casserole

Ingredients
4 and 6 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar (*or puree 1/2 cup pitted dates with 1/2 – 1 cup hot water until thick paste forms)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (2% or more is best)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Topping Ingredients
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped (or pecan/walnut combo)
Directions
  • Boil sweet potatoes until soft and mashable. Mash with butter. Add sugar or pureed dates, salt, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix well.
  • Pour into ungreased 9″ glass baking dish or a deep dish pie plate.
  • For topping: in a separate bowl mix brown sugar, butter, flour and cinnamon with fingers or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Stir in nuts.
  • Sprinkle the topping on the sweet potato mixture and bake @ 350 for 40 minutes.
  • Can be made ahead.
Enjoy!
Thanks Auntie Jill and Mama Nancy – we sure do ENJOY!
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Favorite Books of 2016

I didn’t read enough this year, but did discover some gems, both old and new.

The year started out with a big high as I binged on all things Liane Moriarty, (as a side note, guess who’s on the February 2017 cover of  Writer’s Digest???)

But after the summer I went into a reading slump, with just so-so feelings book after book (coinciding with a hard summer, so maybe it was me, not the book 🙂 )

Here are my top picks for the year (and make sure to leave me some recommendations!)

 

The Light Between Oceans
The War that Saved My Life
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Christmas Day in the Morning
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
The Nightingale
When Breath Becomes Air
Waiting for Augusta
Truly Madly Guilty
Hamilton: The Revolution
Writing Irresistible KidLit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
The Hypnotist's Love Story
The Last Anniversary
Three Wishes / The Last Anniversary
Medium Hero
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
God Wants A Powerful People
The Five Love Languages of Children
Crossing to Safety
Ramona the Pest
Alexander Hamilton
Today Will Be Different
Love Warrior
Commonwealth
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#LighttheWorld

Okay, now we can move on to December!

Let’s kick off the season with the best part: LIGHT.

Join me?

Follow Our Savior Jesus Christ. In 25 Ways. Over 25 Days.

Keep it simple, simple, simple.

My friend, Rebekah, copied pasted, and printed out the 25 ideas listed, and put them into an envelope for her children to open every morning. LOVE IT. 15321614_10211192681475802_1883106853_oClick HERE to do the same!

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A LINK to the following advent calendar

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Tonight I showed the video to my family. Tomorrow we begin. No matter how big or small, all service brings light.

He is the light. We are the light.

Merry Christmas – let’s #lighttheworld on fire!

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Best of Fall

I know, I know. We’re on to cyber deals and Christmas parties, but first I must pay homage to our glorious fall.

img_8172 New season, new goals!

img_8326 School starts and she still holds my hand

img_8339 A new fridge. And a brother-in-law who is all in!

img_9340 Lazy lump days

img_8548 img_8796My favorite cows

img_8379Is any running better than fall running? img_8595 A completed piano chart!

img_8640 Girl in a tree

img_9228  img_8707 img_8800 csc_0079img_8906 img_8968 Love this guy.

img_8839 Cousin dabbing

 img_9392-effects img_8847 img_9021 Baby blow that horn! Her siblings love this sound 🙂

img_9048 img_9051 img_9063 Grandpa moves in! We are happy.

img_9150My soccer girls! img_9227 Finishing the basement. So much work. So much satisfaction.

 img_9461-effects Fiery skies atop Maple Street

img_9315 The woods were lonely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep…

nelson7 Bam

img_9394 Early morning drives

img_9643 The boy paints his first bathroom

img_8707-2 unnamed-2 Thanksgiving!  img_9568Our great Goody neighbor cope-singsShe sings  unnamedThe basement is almost livable! The boy’s room.

img_9725Saying good-bye to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. We close today.

img_9539You were glorious.

“Seasons are not only realities that occur outside and around us, in the skies and in the trees. I believe seasons are also internal and personal, interwoven into the fabric of human life. We are designed to transition, to change, and to vary. Our souls have seasons.” -Adam McHugh

Amen.

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How to Feel a Little Happier Tomorrow

About a year ago, in the spirit of trying to be more organized, I mapped out a calendar of posts I wanted to write instead of my usual writing-everything-on-the-fly-however-the-muse-moves-me way of blogging.

Intentions were good. Output was poor.

I also didn’t pay particular attention to particular events, like the election, and how we all might be feeling post-voting. This week I had “laundry post,” slated.

But I’ve been feeling rather despondent post-election. A laundry post seemed rather…trivial. Didn’t our country need more? I could only stare glumly at the black screen…who cares about laundry? Write something important, something meaningful, something big.

So I wrote nothing.

Not to worry, my heart is coming back. How is the state of your heart?

So I unplugged for a bit and boy was it refreshing. Even Hilary went for a walk the day after! Nature is soul cleansing. When I run outside in the woods, breathe in fall air, crunch in leaves, our sweet land of liberty feels good. It’s not what happens to us, but thinking that makes it so.

As always is the case, when you are searching, you find. This gem from Sarah:

There should be less talk, a preaching point is not always a meeting point. What do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. That says enough. All of us are but His instruments who do our little bit and pass joy.

-Mother Theresa here

Isn’t that great? Take a broom and clean someone else’s house! Oh yes, I am 100% positive that if you picked up a broom in my house, I would feel very JOYFUL.

Mother Theresa, oh wise one, also said:

War is the fruit of politics, 

so I don’t involve myself, that’s all. 

If I get stuck in politics, I will stop loving. 

Because I will have to stand by one, and not stand by all.  

This is the difference.

This is the difference. I’ve had a personal political crisis of late, but these words speak to me, reminding that I can only control what is in my circle of influence, and that is enough. In fact, if we all did that a little better with our own families, the world would take care of itself.

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If that feels too big at this very moment, try something smaller: make your bed.

Yes, that’s the advice from happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin. Sounds trivial and small, perhaps, but maybe there’s more to it. The simple act of getting out of bed and pulling up your covers is not only satisfying, it marks the start of the day. It makes our world feel a little more orderly and organized. And every time you walk back into your room, it’s a nicer place to enter.

I think the making of the bed also signifies something bigger for us: It’s time to rise up! A bed made signals a resolve to face the world. You can’t crawl under the sheets and hide anymore. You must rise, and find a way to be good and brave and kind.

So there we go. It’s rather simple. Turn off the news, find Nature, pick up a broom for someone, make the bed. And than all will be well, my friends.

God speed.

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Game Changing Weekend Links – October Edition

Because good cinnamon rolls and a little bit of faith are game changers, right?

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  1. Oh my darlin’, these were a little too tasty. Meaning you can’t eat just one. This King Arthur recipe was a first for me…and it won’t be the last! (No, I did not add any avocados…not even to the frosting.)
  2. I only make cinnamon rolls twice a year for General Conference. Eat a cinnamon roll and listen to a great sermon on what faith is and what is isn’t.
  3. Since we’re eating and watching. Have you seen Poldark? Oh, I swoon! (as does The Professor 🙂 ) If you’ve got Amazon Prime, start with Season 1!81z9ifzcdl-_sl1500_
  4. I LOVE K.M. Weiland! Her posts and podcast on how to write a book are terrific.
  5. Carpool Karaoke with James Cordon always makes me laugh. The First Lady.
  6. Love this weekly newsletter. Especially this one on ancient happiness rituals.

Happy Fall and Happy Weekend! It’s absolutely gorgeous in New Hampshire!

xoxo

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Signs of Fall

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!unnamed-10 We’ve enjoyed the last of the summer tomatoes. Our poor neglected garden gave us the most beautiful harvest. We love you, garden.unnamed-11 Running along country roads I often encounter wildlife. Here is Yurtle.unnamed-9 The turning of the leaves. How I love the color and the crunch.unnamed-8 The “Ugly” tomato variety is our favorite.unnamed-1 First apple pie of the year, courtesy of King Arthur Flour.unnamed-13 I love running/training in the Fall, but don’t love the shorter hours of daylight. Thankfully I have running buddies who keep me going. Our routine: 5 a.m. Monday hills and 5 a.m. Wednesday speed work. It’s so dark we start with headlamps and we end with headlamps. Groovy!unnamed-16 Early morning runs keep the crazy away and give the most beautiful views of the day. unnamed-15 Fog, peace, and sunrises.unnamed-2 My middle school soccer team – I LOVE THEM! My girl is #5. Coaching my children has been of the most valuable and bonding experiences I have had with them. I highly recommend!unnamed Icing with your siblings is also bonding!unnamed-5 Paige is following in her family’s footsteps!unnamed-4 Changing topics…my A&P class has begun. We autopsied Dill Pickle, practiced our suture skills, and determined cause of death (the creativity was hilarious.)unnamed-12 Ah yes, the organization of running a home and the innumerable activities does not happen without much planning. Hence my messy desk and beet smoothies for endurance. YUM.unnamed-17 Fall has once again brought clogged drains. I’m sorry for the disgustingness but hopefully my real life makes your real life feel better. And anyway, this orange thingy drain snake ordered from Amazon is AWESOME! Instead of pouring really horrible and toxic chemicals down the drain we stick this snake thingy down and bring up all the hair. After wretching I’m quite satisfied with once-again clean drains.unnamed-14 Let’s get back to baking some King Arthur Flour hot buttered soft pretzels!unnamed-18 Piano charts!unnamed-3 I’ve always wanted corn stalks on the porch. Yahoo!unnamed-19An attempt at a festive fall welcome, with bonus points of REALLY smelly soccer cleats perched at nose level, atop a cardboard box holding an American Standard toilet. ‘Cause we’re classy like that. Also: I need a wreath.

Well, we try. Therefore, we rock. Right?

Happy Fall, y’all!

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Waiting at the Kitchen Table

And…a new school year begins. As always, we are off and running. Are you running, too? Let’s take slow breaths and think calm thoughts. This helps stave off the frazzled, panicky, snapping mama that is so fun to be around. Or is that just me?

Last year I remember thinking, “There is nothing more I can add to my plate. This pace is insane.” Well, there is more this year, including more emotion as my darling Cope is a senior. Oh dear, I need to change the subject now…

So anyway, a new school year always reminds me to sloooow down. Which is the definition of irony, isn’t it?

I have two mantras at the moment:

Remember: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Remember: Once your direction is clear, you can give attention to pace.

Priorities became very obvious after this summer. In a crisis, family comes to the forefront every time. Perhaps we needn’t wait for the crisis’ to prioritize.

I’m going to tell you about a very special mother who has taught me a lot about priorities: Ginny B.

Ginny B. has a very wonderful son named Benny B.

If you don’t know Benny B, I’m very sorry. For he’s a good boy to know.

He is one of those boys we point to and say, “Try to be like Benny B.” He is kind and honest and funny and always has a big smile that lights up all the space around him. After high school Benny B. went on to study and play basketball at Brandeis University – and he is still a good boy!

Well, good boys don’t get grown by accident now, do they? Just by knowing Benny B., you have to admire the family behind the scenes.

The Professor and I attended Benny B.’s college graduation a few years ago. I had met his mother, Ginny B. before, but I was very struck of how obviously Benny B. loved her.

I felt  – Envy? Longing? Wishing? When my children flew the nest, would we have  that kind of relationship?

“Benny B., you and your mom seem really close.”

“Oh,” Benny B. said. “She’s my best friend. I tell her everything.”

Say what?

I pounced. “How did you do that?” I asked Ginny B. “Tell me all of your secrets!”

“You know, Amy,” she said. “I just always made sure I was waiting at the kitchen table. No matter how old they were or how late it was, I just always tried to be there when they came home.”

I have a pang of guilt every time I think of Ginny B. because there are few things I like more than climbing into my bed…at like, 8. As my children grow older they are not tucked in at 7:30 every night. Darn it. Hmmm. Could the kitchen table be substituted for say…my bed?

I have decided this is a doable substitute.

I’m waiting, baby! (zzzz….)

Benny B. and the great Ginny: IMG_3712

I don’t know a lot about Ginny B. but I know motherhood hasn’t been all honey dew and butterflies. The family has made a lot of sacrifices for Ginny B. to be able to stay home. They make due on one income. Their home is modest and well cared for. There are touches of Ginny everywhere, from the plethora of hostas lining the front walkway, to the homemade quilts hung over furniture. There’s nothing showy about their lifestyle; only comfortable and welcoming (including a lot of delicious homemade food.)

I’m a mom who needs reminders like this. The pull of the world is strong, my young padawans. There are opportunities to be snatched, and of course we need jobs and money to live. But there’s a point where we don’t actually need to accumulate more stuff or more status or more.

Ginny B. made the decision to be waiting when her children came home. Let the chips fall where they may. This is how the chips fell: Her children love their mother. They are best friends. They tell her everything. And I just love that.

IMG_3921Ginny B. even loves my children, too.

Now, I’m sure Ginny B. and Benny B. have had many “moments.” Ginny isn’t, shall we say, a timid or docile flower. For goodness sake, her hair is red. She’s opinionated and fiery! But gosh darn it, she waits and she listens and the children talk.

IMG_4079Here is Benny B. and The Professor. They both have great hair. If you need hair product tips, just sit quietly and listen to their conversations. It’s both hilarious and enlightening.

Back to Ginny B. waiting at the kitchen table.

Remember the most important 9 minutes?

Now listen: this is not a post to cause you motherhood guilt! For goodness sake, if you can’t always be home when the kids walk through the door, they’re not ruined. This story was just good for me to witness. It is good to see a boy with good hair turn out so well. It is really good to see Benny B. love his mother so much and to be reminded that mothers can’t be outsourced. Feel special, gosh darn it. You’re NEEDED.

Carole, a friend of mine, lost her mother many many years ago, and I haphazardly scribbled this down when she spoke – “I couldn’t wait to get off the bus and run to her, even in high school. Even when she was gone I found myself wanting to tell her things – and I can’t wait for the day when I can tell her all the things I want to tell her.”

The thing is, if we’re not around, they can’t tell us all the things.

My mother was a mom who waited for us (and she likes sleep even more than I do.) Growing up, she placed above the entrance to the kitchen: The Gathering Place. (Take heart: my mother hates to cook!)

But even when we are all grown, and my parents moved across the country, she insisted on a home that was big enough for us all to come and gather. And she still drives a minivan! (She says it’s for comfort, but I secretly think she likes to pick up stray grandchildren…:) ) Even now that I’m a pretend grown-up I know she’s waiting. #lucky.

Benny B. and my boy:DSC_0961Wait for them. And they’ll keep coming home.

Thank you, Ginny B.

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