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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Our Technology Contract!

If you’re like our family, Christmas brought presents in the form of technology. (Hallelujah, the boy proclaims – you finally got me a phone!)

With a fresh year upon us, it’s a perfect time to review the tech rules are in this house. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve all had to evolve, discuss, negotiate.

Our contract for Brynne (7th grade, iPod only) looks different than her high school siblings. She has to ask before she uses her iPod, which is kept in my bedside drawer. It’s more like an after school snack rather than a permanent fixture on her body.

The older, high school kids carry phones and do homework on iPads. Their tech contract:

Dear _________________________________

Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology. With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.

As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:

  1. Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Other than homework and seminary, you must ask permission to use your iPad (not your phone.)
  2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen, not in bedrooms or behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place, we will discuss.
  3. All apps must be approved.
  4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. 
  5. We will be able to read your texts and conversations at any time.
  6. Technology is put away and off your body at meal times.
  7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. 
  8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.
  9. Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! If someone shows you pornography, FLEE.
  10. At 8 p.m. phones are to be turned in.
  11. At night, after homework is done, iPads are to be turned in.
  12. On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!
  13. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations.
  14. When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).
  15. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. Ask: How does this make me feel?
  16. If you break your device  (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
  17. If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time.  They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.
  18. There will be times when we ask you to put your technology away for an extended period of time. Taking breaks are good for your brain! (See HERE and enter @maisymak for 20% off.)

Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you.

Love, Mom and Dad

Signed:

Signed:

We had quite a negotiation session regarding this contract. Honestly, they think it’s super strict and totally unnecessary (go ahead, submit an eye roll 🙂 ). But we parents take tech really seriously. It is a WONDERFUL tool, but it can also be dangerous and addictive on young, growing brains. So we have rules because we love the darlings. The end.

Make your own contract by cutting and pasting the one above, or using the original tech mama’s TEMPLATE.

Kelle Hampton’s, PDA With Your Device? Get a Room idea is hilarious and adorable. I might get crafty and make one! Check out the Unplugged Motel, where family tech spends the night:featured1-1024x683It was especially hilarious to see the expression on my boy’s face when I suggested making the tech motel for the family. Still laughing.

Also, check out THIS LINK, or better yet, watch it with your kids!

Here’s another cute idea: crate your phone!

crateToday, all of my students put their phone in this cute crate and focus abounded – one girl even thanked me! Which goes to show…they need us on that wall 🙂

Want a cute crate for 20% off? Visit http://www.crateyourphone.com/ and enter the coupon code maisymak.

Enjoy technology, make some rules, stay strong.

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My One-Word Theme For the Year

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Last year my word was “Focus.” I quickly realized I couldn’t focus until I simplified some things. But what? I’m honestly not sure where to start with this. What do I cut out? What do I say No to?

It’s an exciting challenge!

My friend Megan’s word is: Reduce. I like that one. Haunani’s is: Lead. Glennon’s is: Resistance.

What’s your word?

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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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A 2016 Recap and a Merry Christmas!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

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Charles Dickens summed up how I feel about this year.

Highlights and lowlights:

Low: Our Hearts BrokeTwice.

High: Love doesn’t die.

Low: My children don’t like the above Christmas card

High: I don’t really care 🙂

Low: We emptied and sold a house, hauling and selling stuff every weekend for four months

Saying goodbye to Grandma's house

Saying goodbye to Grandma’s house

High: We became a multi-generational family. It’s better than I ever thought it could be

Low: Four major appliances broke

High: We have Brendaen img_8339

High: We almost have a finished basement!

High: We didn’t get divorced during this process 🙂

High: I shocked myself and hired a woman to clean our home for two hours during the month of December. And I have all sorts of thoughts about this. It shall be written! #2017post

Low: Grief is not linear. Loss hangs over you and hits hard at the oddest times.

High: Friends and family. You hold me together.

Low: So many well-intentioned blog posts didn’t get written.

because :

Poor time management?

No, the other one.

Higher than a kite: In April, New York ICM literary agent Zoe Sandler called and made all my dreams come true. I have not written about this publicly yet. Hold on to your earrings, ’cause I’m still freaking out.

Low: Publishing houses apparently aren’t worried about my self-esteem #boatloadofrejection

High: Zoe is the best.

High: This is the book deal year. I can feel it . #please?

Low: “Mom, no more hashtags!”

High: #whatevs

Low: “And stop with the emoji’s!”

High:

visage_avec_des_larmes_de_joie_emoji_sticker_rond-r8efa1045719143db81c284357ea6ef17_v9waf_8byvr_512 #can’tstop

 

High: Fantastic books here and here. More coming!

Low: Read some duds, too.

High: There was soccer and basketball and swimming and running and piano and singing and chores and Netflix and cows and driving and did I mention soccer?nelson7

Low: My running suffered.img_8379

High: Running saved me.

Shout out to good health and running buddies!

Low: Faith was tested

High: Staying in the boat

Low or a High? Our country voted Donald Trump as our next president. #what?! If we’re Facebook friends, you know how I feel 🙂

High: I get to teach the best A&P class ever. We dissect pickles.

#Dissectionofadillpickle

#Dissectionofadillpickle

High: Fallimg_9461

Life was good and life was hard. The year felt short and some days felt forever long. I cried a lot. And laughed a lot, too.

If 2016 taught me anything, it’s that tomorrow can change in a second. SEE. FEEL. HEAR. TOUCH. RIGHT NOW, in the present, all that you love most.

Questions swirl in my brain as I look forward to a new year:

Will Cope go to college?

Will my boy like me again?

Are all teens surly while seeking independence from their mothers? Theoretically speaking…

Is Brynne growing up too fast?

Will Paige still hold my hand?

Will I get a book deal?

Am I good enough? #sayyes

Should I let my hair go gray? #chicken

Will I master a consistently clean house?

That was a joke.

Tonight is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Tomorrow the earth will begin to spin toward greater light. Literally. This makes me giddy. There is light ahead! As a born and often unrealistic optimist (my best quality 🙂 ) I’m holding out hope.

“… it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period…”– Charles DickensA Tale of Two Cities

Merry Christmas, friends. See you in the new year!

 

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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!

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-22-25-pm

A LINK to the following advent calendar

25-days_summary_02-1small

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-40-02-pm screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-40-22-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-22-57-pm

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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Thankful in Our Hearts

This fall. Well, it’s been good and really hard and full of transitions. My brother said that his grief over losing his wife has not been linear at all. Those five stages are all over the place. It hits at strange times; the first time I saw a mum for sale at the grocery store I almost burst into tears. I couldn’t tell you why.

This week we had a guest who told us of an experiment: for two weeks, instead of asking God for anything, the only thing he did was thank God for all the things he had. I looked around the family and thought we had a splendid idea!

Many things have gone by the wayside this fall. I can’t keep up. When I forgot to make a Halloween breakfast, Paige thought the world had ended. When we didn’t go apple picking even ONE TIME this fall, Brynne was appalled. Even our lame tooth fairy has been extra lame. Boo.

But – hark! I did find the Thanksgiving tree. We made our leaves, wrote down what we were grateful for, and burned our fingers with the glue gun while gluing them on.

unnamed-1Do you pray? We don’t talk much about praying, it seems, but I pray all the time. And it usually begins and ends with please…(ie: me asking.)

Being thankful instead of asking seemed especially appropriate as my inbox has been inundated with BLACK FRIDAY SALES! GET IT NOW OR YOU’RE A BIG LOSER! I have to admit, when I see those emails pop up in my inbox my heart does a little pitter patter and I simply MUST HAVE. No, no, no. Be patient, young one. This is the season of gratitude! Should we not be thankful before we start asking??? Can’t we at least wait until Friday?

So, the experiment began. While praying, we would only thank and not ask. It’s only been a few days, but an interesting change has occurred in my heart: I’m sincerely grateful.

Even with challenges, when it was really hard not to ask, I found myself grasping for reasons to be grateful, and also thinking, maybe if I word this just right God will know what I’m really trying to ask. Am I warped?

For instance, Paige was really sick. She’s got these humongous tonsils that trap all the germs from all the places. She constantly gets strep and is constantly on antibiotics. So when Paige was crying and her throat was burning, I said, “Let’s say a prayer together.”

But I was a bit stumped. If I wasn’t going to ask, what could I say? After a long pause, I began, “We’re thankful for…our health, and good medicine, and…our warm beds, and prayer…and faith.” I wondered if I wasn’t asking, would she get better anyway?

She’s better. She ate a Thanksgiving feast tonight and smiled. And we gave our thanks.

I found myself saying “thank you” in my mind over many things that went wrong.

We are cleaning out my father-in-laws house and it’s a monster job, with multiple trips to the transfer station. Instead of asking for strength, which I’m always asking for, I said, “I’m thankful for this strong, healthy body, that I can move these heavy bags and that we are almost done…”

It became almost a  game to turn every situation into a Thankful Moment.

I became calmer when I might have been impatient, like when Nelson was painting the bathroom with a roller for the first time, and driving me down the road for the first time, and both were a little terrifying. “We are thankful we didn’t crash and made it home safely and I have a boy who can paint the bathroom! Hallelujah.”

The challenge was on tonight, when I sat down to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner after a long day of working and cooking, and a child who shall not be named, spilled a full glass of water right in front of my plate and I ate the entire meal with water dripping down on my lap. All I could think was…”I’m thankful we have water.”

The holidays are hard without the ones you love. But because I’ve lost, I was especially grateful this evening to be surrounded by the ones I still have. Like many of you, I know things I didn’t know before. It’s given me more empathy for those who have lost more than I have. I’m thankful for that, even though it makes me sad.

As we ate our turkey and mashed potatoes and this strange delicacy canned by my one and only mother-in-law, Heather, we laughed and cried a little, too. “We’re so thankful for our family, for the ones here at this table, for those who have come before us, and for those who are far away and no longer with us. We are grateful for eternal families.”

Thankful. Even when it’s not perfect. Even with cold water dripping on your lap 🙂

Tonight, I did not ask for anything. I only said thank you. And it felt just right.  unnamed

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we remember the many blessings you’ve asked for and received. xoxo.

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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.

14993573_10211597144023419_526944804417536894_n

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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