Approaching

The Christmas tree is now beside the curb, the new year lingers, and Chet’s birthday is less than a week away. With Christmas decorations put away, the house feels renewed. It’s a blank slate ready for a new year. From my rocking chair in the corner where the Christmas tree once stood, I watch Chet play. An excavator gracefully scoops uno cards into a dump truck to be transported to the landfill strategically placed on the front door mat.

I’ve been off work since last Tuesday. I still have six more days at home to enjoy these morning hours with my children. Mornings are best for Chet. He is well rested and the overtired, over stimulated meltdowns don’t begin until closer to dinner time. During the other fifty weeks of the year, my time during the weekdays with Chet are during the overtired, over stimulated meltdowns. Weekdays are filled with work and school, hurried efforts to get dinner made, and trying to make the most of our few hours together. Most of these evenings are spent tip toeing around Chet’s meltdowns.  These two weeks off from work have been my greatest gift.

As I watch Chet play and explore his imagination, I still can’t believe he is going to be three. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting at home anxiously awaiting his arrival. The look on my husband’s face as we sat in the delivery room when Chet refused to join us in the world is still fresh in my memory. Christian’s words still ring in my ears. The feeling of letting go still washes over my body. It’s a memory I’ll always hold close to my heart. As we navigated his birth, I had so much fear: what if it didn’t go according to my plan. Chet sensed it. He knew. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to welcome him into the world in the most peaceful way I could imagine. It was when I let go of the fear of the unknown, the things I can’t control, that Chet’s birth became about his peaceful welcoming.

Nothing has changed since that day. My hope for raising both Cole and Chet is to guide them down their own path in a peaceful world. As I watch them playing together now to build train tracks in the Christmas-less room, I realize that the only thing that gets in my way is my own fear and my own desire to control day to day outcomes. I forget to trust. I forget to breath. I forget to let go. I forget that life is about the process not the details each day.

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.” ~Wayne Dyer

2015 is two days away. Chet’s birthday is in less than a week. We have a blank slate to write our story. So many changes are waiting for us: middle school, Christian working closer to home, and work possibilities that remind me that dreams come true….when you trust, when you let go, and  when you fill your day with love.

family

Breathing Room, December Edition

December has felt very much like the past few months: a lot of gratitude, time spent on the things I love, and still very little sleep (oh Chet!). As the year comes to end, I feel confident that it’s time to let go my 2014 mantra to find breathing room in my life and time to embrace my new mantra for 2015. It’s time to for me to thrive. It’s time to push out of my comfort zone to new areas of growth. I’m ready for new goals and new experiences. 2015 already has amazing things planned. For the first time in possibly my entire life, I am overwhelmed by the sense that every detail of my life has been significant to getting me to this place. The memories I’ve wished to erase are now memories I’m grateful for in my life. The good ones, the bad one, the ugly ones, the embarrassing ones, the silly ones, the magical ones…

I’m exactly where I’m meant to be.

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Soup-er Sunday: White bean, Chicken and Corn Chowder

It’s the last weekend in our household that the entire family will be together for Christmas. Cole is taking a road trip to New York City for a few days before Christmas, so I felt the pressure to get festive. All the things I keep putting off, some really important things like getting a Christmas tree, needed to happen. True to everything I do, I over plan the weekend and then abandoned 90% of it when I start to get overwhelmed. All the important stuff still happened: Santa was visited, a Christmas tree was bought, the house is decorated (as decorated as it is going to get with a hurricane for a (almost) 3-year-old living in our house), shopping started (yes! started!), and Christmas movies watched. To accompany the festive spirit, soup was a must.

Let me introduce you to my new favorite food blog and my new favorite comfort food: White bean, chicken and corn chowder by Cooking and Beer.

I highly encourage you to add this soup to your holiday routine. There is even enough left over to feed me lunch this week.

White bean, chicken and corn chowder

Ingredients

  • 3 cups frozen corn kernels, divided
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 14.5 ounces canned creamed corn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups boneless and skinless chicken breast, cooked through and shredded
  • 14.5 ounces canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups half and half
  • 6 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and chopped
  • micro greens, for garnish

Instructions

  • Add two cups of the frozen corn kernels to a blender. Set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, heat the chicken broth over medium heat until warm. Add the chicken broth to the blender with the corn and blend until smooth and creamy. Be careful when blending as the mixture is hot. Cover the top of the blender with a dish towel as you blend. Set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven or stock pot, add the butter. Melt it over medium heat and add the onion. Cook the onion until translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the flour. Continue stirring and cook for 1-2 minutes or until the flour turns a golden color. Add the blended chicken broth and corn mixture to the pot and whisk as you add it. Continue whisking as you turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the creamed corn and continue to whisk. If you find that the soup is too thick, you may add water or additional chicken broth until you reach a consistency you desire.
  • Add the bay leaves, celery salt, a dash of salt and pepper and the potatoes to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes.
  • Add the chicken breast, beans, remaining 1 cup of frozen corn, and half and half and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the bay leaves from the pot and adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Serve the soup topped with bacon crumbles and micro greens. Enjoy!

The only modification I made was to add cheese and avocado on top.

soup

Breathing Room, November Edition

During the month of November, I had the opportunity to sit around the table with nine Operation Smile foundations from around the world. Countries from Cambodia to South Africa to Brazil were present in the week long meetings. In the list of the millions reasons why I love my job connecting with people from other walks of life is high on the list. Every day the world feels smaller and smaller. At a dinner one of the evenings I sat across the table from a colleague (now friend) from South Africa. She took my mala in her hands and told me it need to be cleansed. It was cold. The conversation flowed and we talked about my boys. She asked questions. I shared stories. As we talked more and more, she told me my boys are here for a reason. My heart sung as I heard these words. I’ve always believed that our children bring with them a lesson for us to learn. Cole taught me to love. Chet is teaching me to let go. My new friend has a different perspective. Cole is my healer. Chet has something even greater to teach me. He is my root.

This conversation has echoed in my heart in the days since we have met. I believe with my whole heart that Cole is a healer, but how in the world is Chet my root? He is the chaos in my world. He brings out the ugly in me. At the end of the day when I am exhausted and he refuses to sleep, he knocks me out of comfort zone. If anything he has uprooted all normalcy in our household.

This past Saturday I ran my favorite trails. As the miles went by I felt myself shed all thought. It was just me, the sound of the leaves under my shoes, and my breath. I felt free. My heart was floating in my body. As I ran, I stretched my arms out wide. I wanted to fly. I ran down the path and pretended to be plane. I high-fived the Spanish moss. I felt like a child again. I felt free. As I lifted my head to the sky, it started to rain. In that moment, the world and I were one. I understood. Life is about keeping your heart open and spreading your arms out wide to accept all that life has to offer. It’s also about opening up and letting go. My heart continued to soar as I ran down the trail. Why can’t I carry this feeling around with me always? Why can’t my heart always be this open?

It was when I asked myself that question that I understood the words of my friend from South Africa. Chet is my root. In his chaos, in his determination to own his own world, he is teaching me to stay true to my core even when the world spins around me. The lesson isn’t to teach him to sleep or to contain his temper tantrum. The lesson is to trust. The lesson is to know that it is safe to stay open and free in the midst of chaos. I don’t know how to do this yet, but I now know it is my lesson to learn.

It has nothing to do with late bedtimes or two year old tantrums. That is life. That is a normal transition of a child. Learning to remain open has everything to do with me being uncomfortable when I don’t have a solution. It has everything to do with me holding on to tightly to something I can’t control. Hasn’t he been teaching me this since before he was born? Chet’s exploration of life isn’t a problem. How I react to these moments is where I have room to grow.

“This is what the things can teach us: to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

November

Reflecting on Yes

My return to 40 day goals has come to an end. Say Yes! was a wrap on November 12th. Bring these goals back into my life reminded me of one very important detail. My outlook on life determines everything.

“Energy follows thought; no matter how hard we work or how much we know, we tend to rise to our assumed limits, and no higher.” ~Dan Millman

Saying yes to opportunities as they presented themselves pulled me forward. Saying yes to the things I love most about daily living brought me comfort. Saying yes to the dreams that float around my head brought me closer to my heart. When life got challenging, I did my best to think positive. My brain tried many times to tell me I couldn’t. But I always responded by saying yes I can. On nights where Chet is being especially difficult at bedtime (visualize 10:30pm requests for more tractors), I can collapse into myself. I often think “I can’t do this anymore.” But the reality is I can do it, and I do it. Choosing to say “Yes” instead of “I can’t” changes my whole approach to the exhausting never ending problem. As I work towards building my mileage again, I found myself in a habit of saying “I can’t” or thinking that this run was doomed. Instead I’ve focusing on thinking that I can indeed run to that light pole. I can indeed run to the next turn in the trail. By the time arrive, I’m back to being mentally engaged.

Did I check everything of my list? No. But that isn’t the point of this exercise. Setting goals for 40 days to saying yes made me consciously aware of how I react to life.

As I start a new year in my own life, saying yes has to be my priority. The only way to thrive is to say yes. I know the reason I’ve been able to transition out of survival mode into thriving mode is because I’m making myself available in my own life. For the next 40 days, I will continue to say yes to the things that make me thrive. I will continue to say yes to living the life I love.

A new set of goals coming soon! Say Yes to Thriving!

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Soup-er Sunday: Quinoa and Black Bean Chili

I wasn’t planning on posting this recipe. I’ve made my fair share of quinoa chili recipes. There is a chili battle in our household. My boys love chili, but I have an extreme dislike of ground meat. It’s a terrible combination. I’ve tried so many vegetarian recipes. Some have been good. Some have been quickly forgotten.

In order to fill my need for a fall adventure, me and my boys headed to Colonial Williamsburg today. Before we left, I quickly tossed all the ingredients in the crock pot, set it to low, and we ventured out. After a fun-filled day, we got home to a prepared dinner.

And this chili…it’s a winner (hence why I’m posting it!). Both Christian and I were happy.

Recipe modified from Jessica in the Kitchen:

Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 15 oz can black beans
  • ½ container 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 shredded carrot
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ cup corn kernels

Directions

Add vegetable broth, quinoa, black beans and crushed tomatoes to slow cooker. Stir. Add peppers, onion, carrots, and garlic. Stir. Add seasoning and corn. Stir. Cook on low for approximately six hours.

We topped our chili with cheese, avocado and fritos.

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Thriving

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” ~Maya Angelou

These days I find myself pinching my own arm. I start every day feeling grateful – grateful for the work I get to do every day, grateful for the smiling eyes that wake me up every morning, grateful for exactly where I’m at in life. My heart is full.

As temperatures drop and the leaves fall off the trees, I’ve been drawn to the trails more and more. Running through the leaves, up and over sand dunes, and around the trees, my love of running has come back with a rush. I’m not worried about pace or mileage. I’m running until my legs burn and then I’m a running a little more. I’ve had a hard time finding words to define this new space, and then I read an article in Women’s Running Magazine where Lauren Kleppin reflected on her experience at the New York City Marathon.

I was hoping to be an inspiration! I definitely survived, but I wanted to thrive.” ~Lauren Kleppin

That’s when it hit me. I’ve been in survival mode for so long. I survived five years at a job I didn’t enjoy. I survived my running slump this summer. Now I’m thriving. As I look forward to life and running, this is the space I want to exist in. I want to thrive. I am thriving. If I back myself into a corner where I’m just surviving again, I know exactly what I need to do. I need to step back. I need to find breathing room. I need to change paths.

I’m so thankful for this year, a year I decided to focus on finding breathing room in my life. I could never imagine the opportunities that currently exist in my life. I never knew my heart could feel so full.

The new year isn’t here yet, but this fall feels like a new start for me. It’s time to embrace the breathing room I’ve created. It’s time to thrive. Welcome to my new year!

Happy Heart

Happy Heart