Why I’m A Horrible Valentine


love valentine

This past Saturday I attended a gathering where the ice breaker was to share about a memorable Valentine’s Day. Some stories were touching, others were humorous, and others admitted they didn’t really have a memorable Valentine’s Day.

When I got home later that morning, I shared with Hubs what the ice breaker was. He laughed and said, “Well you only have one.” Continue reading “Why I’m A Horrible Valentine”

Stop Fighting And Start Serving

I waited tables for five years, and have shared before how grateful I am for everything that experience taught me about life.

The first two years I waited tables, I loved it. LOVED it. I was ready to quit college and retire waiting tables. It was fun work for easy money and the people absolutely filled my tank. It was a honeymoon stage, if you will.

Something shifted in year three and my perspective changed to it being not enough money for hard work and the people made me want to spit. I resented it and I grew bitter and another b-word in a hurry.

Push pause on that story and work with me here. Continue reading “Stop Fighting And Start Serving”

Ma vs. Mama: A Comparison

We have a longstanding rule in our home, and for the almost-14 years we’ve been married, I believe it has helped our marriage.

But now I’m questioning the rule. And my degree of personal selfishness.

The rule is: whoever cooks dinner does not have to clean up after dinner. This translates to: Hubs does the dishes.

As I stated already, I believe it’s done a great deal in helping alleviate potential intense fellowship (read: fighting) in our marriage. For years, I was working full-time, outside of the home, cleaning the home (except for the bathroom because Hubs doesn’t like the job I do in there, and I’m okay with passing that baton…er, wand, as it were…), cooking the meals, managing our checkbook, organizing our social calendar, etc. etc.

Yesterday, as we were driving home from church, I finally verbalized a thought I’ve been having for the last few weeks. “I’m a selfish, entitled brat.”

To take our Little House on the Prairie revelations to another level, I realized there are so many things I do (and have) Ma Ingalls wouldn’t have known what to do with.

My husband works full-time, outside of the home, and I expect him to do the dishes every night because I cooked. If he doesn’t do the dishes, they don’t get done. They get stacked on the counter. EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE A MACHINE THAT WASHES THEM FOR US. If Hubs doesn’t put the dishes into the machine that washes them and turn it on, the dishes don’t get done.

Granted, we have more dishes than Ma Ingalls ever imagined having. But simply because we use more doesn’t give us credit in washing them less often. We have to push a button to clean our dishes, and I deemed myself spent in order to relieve myself of that responsibility. I mean, really.

We also have more outfits than any member of the Ingalls family could have imagined wearing, so we have the luxury of utilizing a clothes hamper to collect our dirty clothes. And collect, and collect, and collect. Until someone needs something in said hamper, and I have to put the clothes INTO A MACHINE THAT WASHES THEM FOR US.

I’ve griped for years about putting clothes away once they’re folded because (stamps foot) I don’t want to! I have never minded washing, drying, or folding clothes, but when it comes to putting them away, it’s something I only do when I absolutely have to.

Ma had to get a tub of water from the creek, use a washboard and a clothesline, and take extra care of the few clothes they had in order to make them last longer. The girls got a new dress each year if they were lucky. And I am griping about taking my clothes out of a basket and putting them into a drawer or onto a hanger.

Ma baked her own bread, made her own hominy, sewed their own clothes, homeschooled her girls when they couldn’t go to school, taught them from the Bible, cleaned her home, fed her chickens, raised her girls, and took care of her husband every day and the only buttons she had to push were the ones she sewed on to her own hand-made garments. (She also buried a son, by the way. That isn’t talked about in Laura’s books, but baby boy Charles died as an infant. As if Ma didn’t  have enough to deal with already.)

The ridiculousness of it all struck me pretty intensely the other day.

I work my share, to be sure. I have a client I work for, and I’m building my own business in addition. I help keep Harlynn’s Heart running, I co-facilitate a support group for bereaved parents, and I write for my blog, our local paper, and any freelancing I can acquire.

Granted – we live in different times. Our responsibilities are different. Our conveniences are far greater. Our demands are more and our skills are niche-based compared to 200 years ago. I know. I get it.

But still.

Hey Hubs? You’re off dishes duty. I promise I’ll fold the clothes I dumped out on our bed today, and I’ll even put them away. Dinner’s in the oven, and I’ll even try my hand with the toilet wand later if you need me to.

I will not be remembered for teaching my kids to be stubborn enough to get your way when you don’t want to do something. I refuse to be remembered for endorsing a lack of willpower to roll up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty.

I can’t expect everything to be done for me, simply because I’d rather be doing anything else. 

Thanks, Ma. I’m hiking up my big girl bloomers, and owning my Mamahood.

Money Mumbles: The Reality of Financial Fear

money finances

When Hubs and I came back from our honeymoon, we dove head-first into the struggles of married life. He had to get up to be at his job by 6:00 am, and I was just starting a job as a part-time teller at a bank, to supplement my part-time waitressing job.

When I got the mail that first day in our new normal life, the first piece I opened was a collections notice. Hubs had, at one point, become a member of a CD-of-the-month club, had missed a payment or two, and here I was, his brand new wife, staring at a piece of paper that threatened to ruin our lives. (They use such frightening language in those letters, don’t they?)

I was a gal who paid cash for everything, and only purchased items if I absolutely had to. I only had a checking account so I could pay rent. One of Hubs’ first order of business as my beloved betrothed was to get me a debit card, and I was terrified of that little plastic rectangle.

You can probably imagine, then, the painful pit in my stomach when I, as a bride for all of 72 hours, opened a letter from a collections agency.

Oh the fight that ensued… I don’t remember the words we exchanged, but I remember wondering if I had made a terrible mistake. All because of a piece of paper. My security and sense of worth was under intense scrutiny in that moment. Money meant security. Collections letter meant chaotic instability. My world was rattled.

We got it paid in short order but our financial woes weren’t over.

Hubs had a good job, driving a lengthy route for FedEx Ground, and I was working two jobs, yet somehow we weren’t gaining ground financially. I remember several occasions sitting down to balance our checkbook and shedding tear after tear for all the minus signs in front of the numbers. More than once, we were too broke to buy even a loaf of bread. God provided for us in really creative ways during that time, but the strain on our marriage was serious.

I was constantly putting pressure on my husband to make me feel more secure (make and manage more money). He was constantly being made to feel like a failure. I was constantly crying into the checkbook register. And the fights… mercy, the fights…

Things didn’t change for us financially until we moved away and really changed our views and our handling of money. I don’t remember the last time Hubs and I have had a fight about money. We simply don’t worry about it anymore. We’re responsible with what and how we spend, and we treat money as a resource rather than a saving grace. More than that, though, we have faith God will always provide for our needs. He has never not provided for us.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on those early days and how miserable I was. I was completely driven by fear with regard to finances. Fear prevented me from having a debit card until I was married. Fear prevented me from seeing how to best manage and grow our resources, and kept me only experiencing the security of what I knew. Fear made me miserable on a daily basis. Fear strained our marriage.

Fear kept us broke.

It was only a couple of days ago I apologized to my husband for all those years I was miserable about money. Spoiler alert: he readily forgave me.

You see, my misery didn’t make us any wealthier. My misery didn’t make us any more responsible. My misery only questioned the promise of God providing for us, and made us miserable.

We have a choice. We can function in fear, or in faith. We can be miserable, or multiplied. Today, I choose faith.

We still have opportunities for growth, but I’m so beyond thankful we’re not constantly spinning our wheels fighting over finances.

If you’re in an emotional tailspin as a result of financial fear, here’s what we started doing differently to really propel us:

  1. Tithing/giving regularly. It really is better to give than receive. By the measure you give, it will be measured to you. You never know what’s waiting for you on the other side of sacrifice.
  2. Investing in ourselves. Just one example: Were it not for me going to a painting party 2 1/2 years ago, I wouldn’t have the entrepreneurial opportunities I have today. That painting ticket cost me $26 dollars, but earned me a lifetime of purpose.
  3. Prioritizing paying off debt. There is no freer feeling than not having debt. If you need a proven framework, check out Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Applying what you learn will change your life – and your family tree, as Dave puts it.

If I can, allow me to stress once more: choose faith over fear every time. You won’t be sorry.

Happy birthday, Babe!


As you all know, I’m crazy.

About my husband, I mean. Crazy about my husband. Slow down.

Almost 16 years ago, this shy, handsome fellow stepped out of his car to meet me for the first time. He’s been letting me disturb his life ever since.


I’m so thankful for a special day each year to celebrate him for who he is. Not just celebrating him as a dad (though he’s the best there is), not just celebrating he’s still married to me (but seriously, phew!), but celebrating the day God brought him into this world and filled his spirit with dreams, (way too much) logic, tenderness, and just enough stubbornness to be my match.

Yes, on September 30th, some number of years ago, Hubs – or as some of you know him, Brent – was born. Say it with me: Happy birthday!

So the entire rest of this special birthday week (all three days of it), I celebrate you, Babe.

I celebrate your commitment. You stand behind your word, you do what you say you will, and you know your word is just as valuable as your intentions. Your promises are as good as gold, and I love your dedication to me, to your kids, and to your God.

I celebrate your sense of humor. My favorite thing is making you laugh, and sometimes even if I make you laugh by screwing up, it’s worth it to to see you put your hand over your chest, and raise your eyebrows as your shoulders heave from laughing.

I celebrate your values. You’ve overcome things in life that would turn others to the dark side. You, however, used them as stepping stones instead of road blocks, and you’ve based your priorities and placed your values on what matters. You have tremendous discernment in determining what does and does not need space in your life, and you go after them with the right intentions.

I celebrate your sacrifice. The kids and I always know we’re loved and appreciated by you, you work your tail off to provide for us, and you sacrifice your time and interests to make sure we’re all nurtured in the ways we need it. How many times have you come home from work to see a look on my face (or a twitch in my eye) and you simply hand me the car keys and kiss my forehead? You do so much for me I don’t repay, you do so much for the kids they can’t repay, and you never hold it against any of us. You simply keep sacrificing. I can’t tell you how much I admire your selfless expressions of love for us.

I celebrate your friendship. Not just with me, though you are the best friend I’ve ever had. The friendships you’ve maintained for the majority of your life are with people who know the real you, and see you’re a friend they want to keep by their side. I’m not alone in noticing your attributes. Your friends will attest to these same character traits I’m celebrating here, and I can tell you they celebrate them all with me.

I celebrate your practicality. Yes, I said I celebrate it. Just for these three days, though, because most of the rest of the year it drives me bonkers. It is, however, one of your traits that makes you you, and there have been multiple occasions it’s helped me determine some of life’s most elusive answers. So let’s celebrate it. One time.

I celebrate your strengths. You have so many. In addition to the obvious physical strength you harbor (opening jar lids, carrying our Costco contraband, holding the kids and their belongings, and anything else I can stack in your arms), you have tremendous mental strength as well. I especially love when both come together to kill a spider (or a moth, or some other ferocious, disgusting creature with more than four legs). When you set your mind to something, though, you dig in. Even if you don’t like it, you want to see it through. You’re tougher than me, in so many ways, and I celebrate you for that.

I celebrate your quirks. Maybe I should say I celebrate your uniqueness. Quirks like leaving wet towels in the living room, or leaving dirty dishes on the counter cannot – and will not – be celebrated. But I celebrate how very different you are from me, and how very uniquely God created, gifted, and assigned you. And you are so very gifted, Babe!

I celebrate, most selfishly, He assigned you to me. For life. There is no one else strong enough to carry me through the darkest days of my life. No one else brave enough to walk beside me and pull me back in when I started to chase a wild goose or two. No one else patient enough to remain tender and still when I simply needed time and assurance. No one else crazy enough to handle my quirks, bad habits, or snark, and still want to give me a kiss each night and an “I love you” before bed.

Today, and every day, I celebrate you. Happy birthday, Babe. I love you, I’m so grateful for you, and I’m blessed to have married my hero. Here’s to your next year, and everything you’ll accomplish.

Starting with not leaving wet towels in the living room.

How To Be A Camping Family



For those of you who want to know how to be a camping family, here’s your helpful list:

Go camping.


That’s it. That’s seriously all you have to do. For some reason, however, it has been Y E A R S since I went camping last. This is wrong on so many levels.

I grew up camping. We camped all along the California coast and Wyoming mountains, and several of my near-and-dear memories are from camping as a family. Up into my early 20s, I was even organizing camping trips with others. The time I almost died hiking to the top of Boulder Basin was a camping trip I organized. Then, we just…didn’t camp.

It isn’t like we didn’t have camping equipment, either. We did. Even after we had Little Miss and I vowed to give her a childhood of outdoor experiences, we never went camping. It’s a little tougher to find decent camping areas close to home here than it was when we lived in Wyoming, but even living in Wyoming wasn’t enough to get us out of our married home and into the wilderness.

This year, I decided, was going to be different. Little Miss and Little Man were going to grow up with as many camping memories as I could give them, and it was going to start now.

Except somewhere between our move last year and organizing storage, we lost our tent. Or “lost” it. I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly broken up over the fact we couldn’t find our tent.

We borrowed a tent (and a couple of bed rolls) from some friends of ours, though, and we forged ahead with planning. Well, I forged ahead. My husband couldn’t understand why my camping desire, which had been dormant for so many years, suddenly seemed insatiable. “We’re not a camping family.” he said.

Au contraire.

I did as much of the prep work myself as I could, to alleviate any burden from anyone else having to wear themselves out before leaving for the campground. I was so proud of myself for everything I remembered and packed. I also couldn’t find my husband’s sleeping bag. Turns out it was “lost” somewhere with the missing tent.

After I loaded up our minivan with our essentials, we had to make a pit stop at the store to buy my husband a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it ended up being less than even what the sale sticker said it would be.

We chose a campground close to home. For our first excursion as a family, not knowing how the kids would do, I thought we’d better be able to get home if we absolutely needed to. Once we arrived and found our reserved spot, we got the kids out and set to work.

This is where our first crucial lesson was learned. In the future, we cannot let Little Man out of his car seat until we have set up the tent. As soon as his feet hit the ground, that kid was gone. Every direction, in, around, on top of, or through every single thing he could get to. Had it not been for the good Lord providing a very friendly family with outgoing children camping right next to us, who could help us corral our children, Brent and I might still be trying to set up the tent in between our tag-team efforts of rounding up Little Man.

After the tent was set up, I got everything we needed situated inside of it, and easy-as-that TWO HOURS HAD PASSED. I couldn’t believe it. Between chasing the kids, setting up, and getting everything ready to prepare our dinner, it was well past our normal dinner time. I roasted some hot dogs and while Little Miss praised my camp-cooking abilities, hubs was disappointed I didn’t bring ketchup. But YOU’RE WELCOME FOR ME COOKING YOUR DINNER OVER AN OPEN FIRE.

The kids ran. And ran. And we chased. And chased. Finally, when story time by the fire wrapped up at 9:30, it was time to call it a night. We got the kids and ourselves inside the tent seconds before the heavens opened up and poured rain for the next several hours. The rain was noisy, the trains passing the campground were noisy, and the snores in the tent were noisy. I think – if I did my math correctly – I got seven minutes of sleep that night. Coincidentally, while I slept those seven minutes, I had a dream we were all being evacuated to a Century 21 realty office (which doesn’t exist anywhere near the campground in real life) because tornadoes were about to rip through the campground.

It wasn’t the most restful night I’ve ever had.

The next morning was freezing cold, misty, and windy. We dressed in layers and I cooked us breakfast over the fire again. Hashbrowns, eggs, mushrooms, and cheese. It was delicious. I boiled water so we could burn our mouths on sub-par camping instant coffee, and it was a big success. I’m just now feeling the roof of my mouth again.

That morning, my bathroom visit introduced me to an entire herd of daddy long leg spiders, most of which were congregating by the one and only hand dryer in the restroom. If you know anything about me, you know I struggle mightily with anything that has more than four legs and/or wings.

I can’t.

I won’t even go into detail about how I maniacally lit a tick on fire after it fell from a tree on my hand at the campsite. Die, devil bug! 

I let my hands air dry in the freezing cold wind that morning. After breakfast, we didn’t see much point in sticking around to suffer in the cold much longer and started the process of packing up. As we buckled our seatbelts to leave I exclaimed, “We did it!” and hubs replied, “Yay!” I added, “One night!” He laughed.

I assure you, however, this was the first of many camping trips we’ll be taking as a family. You can’t beat the memories made or the times shared, and I’m thrilled and excited to be able to do this with my kiddos.

We ARE a camping family.

But I am keeping a ready-flame with me at all times. Beware, devil bugs. Beware.

Lucky 13: A Post About My Husband



I can’t help myself. Every year, on or around my anniversary, I have to write a post about my husband. Because how else will the masses know how amazing he is unless I put it in writing and publish it on the world-wide web?

Today is our 13th wedding anniversary. Thirteen years married, and we’ve been together most of the last 15 years of our lives. I say most, because I broke up with him twice during our dating time. I haven’t always been the rock-solid, emotionally stable woman I am today. Ahem.

We’ve been through it all. We’ve been broke. There were tear stains in our first-ever checkbook register as a couple, because I was circling all the negative signs in front of the numbers when I would balance it. There were several stretches we couldn’t afford groceries, and ate creative meals of whatever we had available in the backs of our cupboards. I remember stocking up on Kool-Aid packets as a treat for us to drink with dinner, and halving the sugar. (which is probably a good idea, anyway.) We were poor. And angry. And hungry. And angry hungry.

We’ve moved furniture together. I don’t know how you were raised, but I witnessed my parents nearly end their marriage every time they had to help each other carry something in the house together. I used to laugh about it afterward, until I had to carry something and move it with Brent holding on to the other end. There is something about lifting heavy objects and moving them from one place to another (through a doorway for added difficulty) that sends all your love and admiration for one another to the deepest pits of the earth. Yet, somehow, we’ve stayed together.

We’ve been on the brink of divorce. Thank God Almighty we never acted upon those distressed, strained, distraught seasons in our marriage. Otherwise I wouldn’t be enjoying the fruit of our lives we have today. Marriage is hard. And no one prepares you for the reality of just how difficult living with another human being is. We have dealt with selfishness and sin on a level we never anticipated, and it nearly broke us up once and for all. Our God is bigger than us, though, and He’s bigger than our egos. He brought and kept us together, and if that isn’t proof He is still a God of miracles, I’m not sure what is.

We’ve buried a child. There aren’t enough words, nor is there enough time, to aptly describe everything we’ve been through as parents. We’ve had to hold one another up through the darkest, deepest sorrows life can throw at a person. Sometimes I feel guilty that he had to endure this because he married me. If he had married someone who was built for birthing children, his heart would never carry this pain. But he married me. And rational or not, it’s a guilt my head has to deal with from time to time. All of that aside, I can’t imagine having anyone else by my side. No one knows me more intimately, no one knows my heart, head, or hurt more accurately than my husband. I hate the fact we’ve had to walk through this at all, but I find comfort in having Brent as the one by my side each step of the way.

We’re not crazy romantics, and I’m sure the last time I gave Brent butterflies in his stomach was when I made dinner using konjac noodles and he nearly gagged to death. But we love each other with a commitment and resolve that took us 13 years to achieve. Each year our love will be different. Our lives will ebb and flow through good and bad, and we’ll adjust and learn and forge ahead. We don’t always like each other, and we’re not always thrilled to be in one another’s company. But we’d be devastated if our company had to part ways for any reason. We still argue. We still disagree. But we also still have fun, still kiss every morning, and still trust God to lead us in life and love until the rest of time.

I believe we serve a God who wants the very best for us, and who loves us more than anything. I believe God put Brent in my life as an act of that outright love. I couldn’t have picked a better person to spend the rest of my life with. I wouldn’t want to try. Brent is my one. Brent is my husband. For better, for worse. In good times, in bad. Till death do us part.

Happy Anniversary, Brent Ryan. I love you more than coffee.

Making Moments Count: A Manifesto

MakingMomentsCount-A Manifesto

Prior to 2013, I thought I had life figured out. My marriage had overcome some serious obstacles, our oldest daughter had overcome her dramatic entrance into the world two months prematurely, I was (slowly) climbing the corporate ladder, building skills and leadership capabilities, and knew our life was headed toward a picture-perfect happy ending.

Then in April of 2013, our second daughter was stillborn.

No warning. No idea. No explanation. No realization it was possible.

Everything I thought I knew became obsolete and our priorities, dreams, and desires took a dramatic shift.

I quickly realized I didn’t have much of anything figured out and in reality, was barely getting by. I thought I was successful, but I had only fit into the corporate mold others had created for me. I believed my marriage had overcome obstacles, but in hindsight, we had simply dismissed resolving them. I thought I had been working toward the life of my dreams, but instead, I had been working toward the fruition of someone else’s dreams for me.

It took the death of our daughter to make me realize my marriage, my relationship with Little Miss, and any relationship or successful venture I was working on building and maintaining, was a façade. I was ill-equipped to leave any lasting legacy because I believed I had reached my ceiling in my life’s potential.

And still, after my entire world had been turned upsidedown, I was expected to fit into the mold that had been created for me. Life was not certain or guaranteed, and what was supposed to be a celebratory season in our lives was wrought with tragedy and despair. When my world came crashing down, it exposed the weakest points of the foundation I had built my life upon. It also revealed, however, the ways I could strengthen and rebuild.

Life and its precious moments were too important. I realized – after intense mourning, continual grieving, and whole-hearted seeking – I hadn’t been living. None of us had been living. Our family was surviving. One grueling day at a time.

Some things got worse before they got better. I had to learn to fight for a better marriage, rather than accept fighting as the way to be married. I understood my husband and our relationship was the foundation of our family, and of our future. If our relationship was broken, so were the lives of our kids, the legacy of our stillborn daughter, and the promises we vowed to one another when we said, “I do.”

I realized if I claimed to believe God is the giver of life, I needed to start living as such. If I wanted to get anything out of the life He could make possible for me, I had to start investing in it. I might not have the chance to do what made me happy later on – as “later on” may never come.

It became my mission and passion, then, to guide others in seeking and finding the life they were designed to live, embracing the freedom that comes from fulfilling our calling, and making each moment count. I want to equip others to make moments count in the ways I never realized they could. I want to help pave the way for strong marriages, strong families, and stronger faith.

This is what I write. This is how I teach. This is why I’m making moments count.

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