Chasing Dreams and Finding the Way Back Home

Often times in our lives, we are prompted to develop a desire. A dream. A longing that keeps us up late at night, dreaming and plotting. Whether it be figuring out a budget over and over to achieve the means with which to chase this dream or planning out the right time in life to pursue this desire. It is not uncommon for anyone to have dreams and goals that may be considered unrealistic by others around them. Or, at the very least some may say that your dreams and plans are not easily obtainable. They will chastise you for such dreams, and even try their best attempt at directing you back into a state of realism in which you will see the insanity of the dream and think more logically on how absurd it is. Then you can settle back into your little life of balance, and structure, and mediocrity.

For some of us, however, the irrationality of the dream is what drives us. The idea that someone, anyone would dare be so brave to tell us that our dream may never be ours to realize, is a mere fuel to the fire that burns within us. The more that people tend to push us in the opposite direction of our dream, the harder we fight to hold on to them. They are, after all, the only thing that is truly ours. The one thing that we hold on to, that no one else gave us, and therefore, no one can take them away from us.

There was a time when I once believed that my life belonged in my tiny little hometown. That I was destined to grow old and eventually die there, without ever knowing anything of the great big world outside of that town. Little did I know that a walk on a sandy beach would one day change everything. The first time I got out of the car and stepped on to the powder soft sand of Gulfport Mississippi, I was forever changed. I quickly developed a love for the feel of the winding knots about my face, and the smell of the salty air. I had always believed myself to be a “mountain girl” and never considered that I would have a life beyond where the North Georgia mountains fell. The ridgeline of the mountains seemed to draw the proverbial line in the sand, and I never even questioned that I would have any desire or reason to cross that line. Yet, here I was, rapidly becoming fond of the beach life, and the more I was around the quaint little beach towns of the Gulf of Mexico, the more I was determined to have more and more of it.

As time went on, and I later found myself in a broken relationship. Facing the death and subsequent ending of my marriage, I longed for something different. It was not that I did not love my little hometown, or the people who dwelled there. I had family and I had friends. They meant a great deal to me. But, at the end of the day, when the world had grown silent, and it was just me alone with my thoughts, I had come to realize just how alone I really was, even in my own town amongst my family and friends. The demons of my past were all around my town. They were among the people that I knew and would encounter on a generally regular basis. I was close with my children, but my son was true and true devoted to our hometown. My daughter, however, she had begun to come of age, moving into her teenage years, and she found herself also wishing for a fresh start in life, far away from our hometown. We had made the decision that once I finished with school, with  my marriage ending, and no better time to make a fresh start, we would pack what we could fit in the car, get rid of what did not fit, and head out west toward Biloxi and Gulfport Mississippi to find us a new place to start over. A clean slate where no one knew our names seemed to be the ideal place for us to start embarking on our new lives.

But, then one day, something happened. Something that would change everything. As I was nearing the end of my degree program at school, and we were making our plans to get away, my son informed me that he and his fiancé were now expecting. My daughter and I concluded that there was no possible way that we could ever leave and miss the birth of my grandchild, and her niece or nephew. It was not even debatable; we would remain in our town and gladly welcome this incredible blessing into our lives. My granddaughter was born in the fall of that year. She was beautiful and an absolute treasure. She gave me a hope and a reason to remain in the place that I had spent so many years trying to get away from. Someone once told me that moving away was no more than running away from my ghosts of the past, and that was not going to solve any of the issues that I had. Perhaps, they were right. But, then again, just perhaps, I had already thought of that. Both my daughter and I had endured a lot of hardship and heartbreak in our hometown. It was never as much about running away from our past as it was just looking for a clean break of those memories that haunted us, and start over in a place where we could have the chance to make new memories without the continual reminders of people and things that had broken us in the past. But, Kenlee had taught us that starting over meant merely to take that first step with an open mind and open heart. We did not have to leave our hometown to get a clean story to write. I was now a grandmother, and she was an aunt. Both roles in which we accepted and leaned into with the reverence and anticipation of a child on Christmas morning.

In so many ways, Kenlee saved me from myself. There were times when I was so broken, I had all but lost my will to function. I lost all hope in ever finding true joy again, let alone, ever knowing love. But one evening, as I sat holding her, it became so apparently clear to me. I had said that I wanted to know what it was like to love again, and to feel the love of another human being felt toward me. For so long, I believed that could only mean to be loved in a romantic sense. I had lost romantic love and had lost all hope of ever feeling passionate toward anyone else again. I thought all the while that I needed to feel the love of a romantic partner to understand and experience true love again. But I could not be farther from the truth. Kenlee showed me. I understood fully what it would feel like to fully love another human being again. Because I loved her so dearly. And, as she grew in herself, with her own little personality and her attachment to others, I felt, for the first time in so long, the unconditional love of another. I had the idea that finding a true love again could only come from a romantic relationship with a man. Yet, true love is perfect and it is unconditional, and when one gets the chance to experience it, no matter the source, it is something that should be held in the  highest regard, never taken for granted, and always, above all, appreciated and valued.

Still, somehow, over the years, I always seemed to still have this inner longing for the Gulf of Mexico. Most people thought I was crazy. I have been thought crazy for most of my life, so this was nothing that was going to deter me. I eventually become obsessed with the idea of living in the Gulf of Mexico. As life and circumstances changed over time, my daughter found herself living in Minnesota with her finance, and my son and daughter in law had talked about moving away to Utah. At this point in my life, I had two beautiful granddaughters, and was crushed at the thought of them moving all the way across the country from me. Yet, my life had changed as well. I had, several years earlier, met someone who I had fallen in love with and we eventually got married. We had talked about taking the plunge and moving to the Gulf, once all of the kids had moved away. Just to get out of this area that had haunted me for so much of my life. As luck would have it, my son and daughter in law changed their mind about moving to Utah. They, instead, moved to Southwest Florida. My husband and I decided that it was an obvious choice, I would be close to the girls, and it was, after all, the Gulf of Mexico. There was no hesitation, the plans were set in motion for us to move down to Florida with my son. Within a few months, we were living in an apartment in the same complex as my son, and with the exception of missing my daughter who was still in Minnesota tremendously, my life was coming together in the most magical way.

However, sometimes, even the best laid plans go to waste. This was one of those times. It turned out that my son and daughter in law, could not fall in love with Florida, and within six months they were packing up to return to Georgia. Only this time, they had one more plot twist to add to the equation, they were now expecting my grandson. When they left, I was devastated. I missed them terribly and thought daily about the times I had spent with the girls while they lived there, and suddenly, it was far from enough. I wanted to make the most of still living my dream come true by being in the Gulf of Mexico, finally, after almost ten years of longing for this moment. Somehow, being there without my family proved to be less than all I had dreamed of in my gulf coast life. In addition to missing my family terrible, I had one other major factor that played into my less than dreamy dream life. My husband had also failed to fall in love with Florida. He missed Georgia and our family and friends terribly, and subsequently became depressed over the whole situation. Adding to the already crushing heartbreak I was already feeling, I knew leaving Florida was the right thing to do.

We have been back in Georgia for a short time now. Everyone is happy to have us back. My heart is still feeling a space of emptiness being that my daughter is in Minnesota and my family is not quite complete without her and her fiancé here with us My husband is happy to be here. It is fall and he is loving the cold weather and is heartily anticipating the first snow we will see. While I have to admit, I do enjoy a nice little snow myself, there are some days when I would still trade snowflakes for sandy beaches. I missed my family terribly and am grateful to be back with them. But I have to admit, there are days when I do miss the spaces where the sea meets the shoreline, especially the sunsets. As it turns out, Southwest Florida has some of the most breathtaking sunsets. I likely always will miss living in the Gulf, at least a little bit. After all, it was my dream for such a long time. But, just like Kenlee had taught me five years ago, sometimes our dreams and plans may take a detour, and starting over does not always have to be in a new or foreign place. Quite the contrary. Often, it is right where you began that you realize was the place you were meant to be all along. I love Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico, of that there is no doubt or question. But Georgia is family. Georgia is home.

Why We Love Fall in Georgia

Fall in Georgia!

Ah, fall in North Georgia. It is an almost magical time of year when the season beings to come alive. People love the south, particularly for the fall season. The landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red, orange, and yellow as the leaves on the trees begin to change colors. By mid-November, just about any establishment you enter seduces you with Christmas music and nostalgia. And the smells. Oh, the smells of fall. There are few places on can go to escape the tantalizing scents of pumpkin, pecan, maple, and apple. Not to mention the scent of fire burning. A most comforting scent that drums up imagery of sipping hot cocoa in front of a roaring fireplace, whilst nestled under a cozy blanket and watching our cherished family favorite classics on the television set.

Mountain runs and car shows are a few favorite fall events for the car enthusiast. With the turning of the leaves, the scenery is beautiful, and many car groups gather up their members to take a stroll over the curvy mountainous roads of north Georgia. The scenery provides a most picturesque backdrop for both group and individual photos of their treasured cars. Generally, the rides will include lunch at some newly discovered local mom and pop eatery that is tucked away in the mountains and, often, only the locals know about. In addition to mountain drives, fall is also a popular time for car shows. While car shows can, and do, take place year-round, the cooler temperatures of fall tend to bring out more people, both participating with their own vehicles as well as more spectators out enjoying browsing the collection of classic beauties on a crisp cool day.

The highlight of fall can be the kickoff to sweater weather, scarfs, flannels, and boots. Fall fashion is one thing that most people in the fall, particularly females, look forward to all year long. Shopping is a favored hobby for all people in the fall, between the holidays and trendy fall fashion, building up to  Black Friday shopping will remain a top shopping day of the fall season.

Another particularly revered and time-honored tradition in the fall for Georgia natives is to enjoy a taste of warm liquor for those chilly nights. Whether it be a shot of spiced rum in your coca cola, warm apple brandy in your coffee, or just a plain old shot of Fireball straight out of the bottle, there is not doubt the warm liquor will heat you up a few degrees. For those daring enough to try it, there is also the occasional opportunity in the south to partake in a “swig” of good old-fashioned moonshine. Generally taken right out of the mason jar it was stored in. Most old-timers around north Georgia, live and die by the healing properties of pure moonshine and will forbid you to leave the house without a good  hefty swallow if you have any sign of a cough or sniffles in their presence.

Hot drinks to warm the soul.

You cannot say fall in north Georgia without talking about football! From the NFL to college rivalries, to high school playoffs, on thing about it, Georgia loves its football. One would be hard pressed to get out and about on a Saturday afternoon without seeing team colors abound and hearing an endless array of fist pumping dog barking sounds, or Roll Tide or even a War Eagle or two, or ten. Sundays are reserved for NFL team gear and an appropriate display of “game day’ snacks. However, no matter how much the people love their college or NFL teams, there is one thing you can bet your bottom dollar on. When it comes to Fridays, there is something that transpires once those Friday night lights turn on that will transform even the most apathetic football fan into a screaming, standing in the bleachers, excited fanatic. The energy that takes place during a high school football game is unlike anything else. Of course, it also is an unwritten rule that you cannot attend a high school football game without enjoying the display of treats offered up at the concession stand. Nothing like a concession stand hot dog or tray of nachos at the football game to get you in the spirit for a good old time on a Friday night.

Hot cocoa is a must, and most often, a staple in homes across north Georgia in the fall. Sipping hot cocoa while curled up on the couch under a fuzzy blanket and binge-watching Hallmark movies is a time-honored tradition. Not only is hot cocoa enjoyed in the comfort of homes all across north Georgia in the fall, but a must in most of the fall outing festivities enjoyed throughout the state. Football games, hayrides, and holiday shopping are all valid excuses to grab a hot cocoa to sip on and warm up one’s insides, not that any excuse is necessary to indulge.  In addition to hot cocoa, no home in north Georgia is absent the fall favorites chili, and a vast array of hearty soups to suit every taste bud one my possibly have.

Pumpkin farms and hayrides are the literal epitome of fall in north Georgia.  It is almost considered a shameful tragedy, almost a sacrilege of sorts, for anyone to make it through an entire fall season and not make a single visit to a pumpkin farm, or apple house to enjoy a nice family hayride. North Georgia fall is pumpkin farms and hayrides, and you will be blessed with an abundance of them on any given weekend day. In addition to all the local farms, local churches also get into the fall spirit by hosting a variety of fall festivals, that almost always include a fun filled hayride.

OH, Halloween. Haunted houses, haunted hayrides, and haunted hikes are abundant in north Georgia. While north Georgia loves all things fall, Halloween is the first official holiday of the fall season, and, well, they go all out. From makeshift graveyards out on the front lawn, to skeletons hanging from their trees, to dancing ghosts swirling across the front of their homes, Georgia folk love a holiday and they love to celebrate. Halloween parties and trunk or treats begin as soon as the first weekend in October. They start buying up Halloween candy for their expected array of trick or treaters, but not too soon. It can be a much too difficult task for many to hold all those delicious candy treats in the house without breaking into them and eating half of the stash before Halloween night.

Some people are known for starting to ramp up for the Christmas season as early as October. But generally, as soon as Halloween has passed, you can begin to find the happy Christmas décor out in abundance. While there are a few who linger in the fall vibe a little longer, at least until Thanksgiving Day, many get all excited and start on their Christmas season early. For everyone else, they will revel in the fall season as long as possible. Sunflowers, Mums, and pumpkin spice everything is the season they have longed for all year, and they are not willing to cut it short. Even so, fall does provide the Segway into the Christmas season, and beginning in November, there marks the kickoff to the season in various towns. Many north Georgia towns will have their Christmas parades, and official lighting of the town tree during mid to late November. Stores will begin playing the festive Christmas music and putting the holiday décor out to get the local patrons in the holiday shopping season mood.

So, no matter what your passion, your hobby, or your taste is, you are sure to find something in North Georgia during the fall to satisfy each. It is an almost guarantee that you can enjoy a most pleasurable and memorable time in North Georgia, and take back with you, laughs and fond recollections of a time well spent in a place well loved.

The Best (Not So Average) Back to School Blog Posts.

Back to school- it’s that time of year again. A time full of hustle and bustle, and schedules. And, let’s face it, it is the second most stressful time of the year. The time of year when we want to pull all our hair out and finish off the last remaining drops of wine from every bottle. But, it doesn’t have to be.

1- 14 Tips for a Successful School Year– In the article, 14 Tips for a Successful School Year, author Joanne Foster provides 14 tried and true tips for strengthening the resilience, creativity, and productivity of children to prepare for a more successful school year. The tips range from fostering creativity through challenges and opportunities to providing abundant resources to promote growth and reflection. The tips also include providing comfort zones that offer encouragement and reinforcement, as well as establishing consistency and routines. Being aware and expressing pride in the accomplishments of the child are also conducive to a successful school year. Joanne also expresses the need for nurturing the children’s need for autonomy and developing the habits of gratitude. I have rounded up four back-to-school blogs that will provide you with enough ammunition to tackle those early mornings and sleepy routines with pride and vigor!

It all begins with a good game plan!

2- The Success Myth– In her article on Psychology Today, The Success Myth, Heidi Grant Halvorson approaches the idea of success. As parents, we naturally want our children to excel in any endeavor they set out to achieve. However, as Heidi explains, not every endeavor will come naturally to every child. We want our children to have the best teachers and the best school curriculum, and we place them in various after-school activities or sports programs so that they can have the best opportunity to go far in life. They say practice makes perfect. And, to some degree is does. For instance, many high profile athletes were not originally very good in their field, but they kept practicing and pushing themselves to achieve their goals. Therefore, as parents, we should always encourage our children to keep practicing. You child may wish to play football or gymnastics, but may not be naturally very athletic. Encouraging them to continue practicing and not give up when things seem hard will not only instill in them the drive to keep going when things get tough in other areas of their lives as they age, but the payoff will be when they make the team that the so eagerly hoped for. The opposite side of this spectrum is when parents push their child to excel at something because it is the parent’s wish for them to be great at it, or the parent uses the loophole of, “I paid for this, now you are going to play.” As parents, we should be encouraging and supportive to help them foster the dreams and goals they envision for their future. Parent involvement is important to a child’s success, both in school academics as well as any after-school activities like sports or music lessons. However, realizing that not every child can catch a fly-ball, or steal home base, or win a championship spelling bee, let them know that is okay too. They will find their niche in the world. They are young. They still have time to try many things to find that niche.

Find ways to combat social anxiety.

3- How to Help Kids With Social Anxiety– In her article, How to Help Kids With Social Anxiety. While many back to school articles will provide you with a plethora tips on how to pick out the best back pack or what lunch box will get you the most bang for your buck, Kate Hurley, LCSW, tackles an under talked about, yet equally important topic- social anxiety. Back to school can be a trying a scary time for kids and teenagers, alike. The stress of back to school can be significantly increased if the child is attending a new school, advancing up from elementary school to middle school or middle school to high school, or even just the thought of getting adjusted to a new teacher or new classmates. Kate breaks down social anxiety to help parents gain a better understanding of why kids can experience it, as well as signs of social anxiety to look for in your child. Kate goes on to provide valuable coping skills and strategies to help your child better manage their social anxiety.

Set up a command center

4- 15 Back-to-School Hacks to Get Your Year Off to a Running Start- Finally, in the Good Housekeeping article, 15 Back-to-School Hacks to Get Your Year Off to a Good Start, we find Marisa Lascala providing 15 do it yourself ideas to help back to school with ease. The tips and hacks she provides can be done relatively easy and will help reduce the amount of stress for both parents and children as you adjust and trek through another school year. She starts her back-to-school hacks list with setting routines. I am a huge fan of routines, and use them myself in my daily life. It is important to keep children on a routine, as much as possible, during school seasons. When they know what is expected of them it helps to avoid, or at least reduce, unnecessary rebellion. Also, given that it takes at least a good two months to form new habits, by by repeating their routine daily, they will have a better chance for adopting this new routine and reduce the amount of time you will have to spend reminding them of their schedules. Routines vary for every family or individual. There are many variables that come in to play when developing a school routine for your children. Marisa also discusses the idea of setting up a command center. The size and layout of your command center can depend greatly on the space and location you have available for one. We live busy lives, coming and going. Some families have two parents who work outside of the home, others have only one. But regardless of parents’ work schedules, setting up a command center is an invaluable back-to-school idea. At any given time, any member of the family can easily access and look over the command center and see upcoming events or the schedule for the day. You can search on Pinterest for ideas and suggests for setting up a functional command center. It can be as simple or as extravagant as you would like for it to be.

Setting routines and fostering an encouraging and supportive environment are key components of any successful school year. Getting back into the school swing, doesn’t have to be an exhaustive and stressful time. I hope these related articles will help provide you with some insight and encouragement as you set out on the new school year. Happy schooling!

What I Look Forward to Most of All, About This Fall.

Ah, Fall! Just the word alone drums up images of vibrant colors abound, the cool, crisp air, and the smells. You can literally smell the pumpkin, just thinking about it. Where I come from, fall is a very prominent season. In fact, it may be the most revered and highly loved season of all. I should dare say, I believe it may well be more loved than summer. I love fall. I always have. But, I believe this year, it may hold a more dear and special meaning than ever before.

For me, no matter how much I loved fall, there was always something not quite fulfilled within me. There had been this unsettled sense of longing for so many years. The first time I stepped out of my car in Biloxi, Mississippi, I learned what that was. The smell of the salty air, the warm coastal Gulf breeze, and the sound of the gentle waves lapping as they made a continual reintroduction of themselves to the shore. I was a beach girl at heart. I had never really been to the beach, save for the local homemade beaches at the lakes around my area, but once in my life. That had been a very long time ago and during a quite tumultuous time in my life, and I do not believe I had to opportunity to really see the beach life for all that it could be. But, after that first trip to Biloxi, it was all over for me. I spend the next nine years obsessing over living in the Gulf of Mexico. It became the status of my ultimate dream life, and eventually, part of my five year plan.

As luck would have it, nine years after I first sank my toes into the sugar sand beach of Biloxi, I had an opportunity presented to me to move to Southwest Florida. It wasn’t exactly the part of the Gulf that I have envisioned living in, but it was still the Gulf. And at that time, given the circumstance, it was the only viable option for me. There was no debate for me. Without even questioning it, I got rid of everything that I could to downsize, packed what I needed to take, and moved to the Gulf of Mexico.

Settling here in my new apartment with its top-notch amenities that included a beautiful fishing lake complete with a walking trail bordering its perimeter, a stunning resort-style pool, grounds around the entire community bathed in the most lush tropical landscaping I had ever seen, and an impeccable gym that featured top of the line workout equipment and windows that overlooked all of the aforementioned, with only a twenty minute drive to the beach, I thought I had it made. Finally, my dream had come to be a reality. I was living life in the Gulf of Mexico. Oddly enough, however, we had made the move here during the last weekend of September and began our official move-in during the first week of October. Up to this point in my life, I had never really had an opportunity for beaches and swimming in October.

Now, it was still relatively warm back home in north Georgia during this time, so it wasn’t initially a huge difference. But as the month progressed, a huge difference was being noted. We made plans to take my granddaughters out to a local farm for some “fall” inspired fun. It was a little difficult to think of pumpkins and fall themed decor, while it was still above ninety degrees here. But we decided to give this a chance. Later that month, we found a local church hosting a trunk or treat just before Halloween, my daughter in law dressed the girls up in their beloved and highly anticipated Halloween costumes and we set out for an evening of fun. Ironically, long before the end of our night, the girls had shed about half of their costume pieces. None of us had ever experienced a ninety degree Halloween before, and we were not acclimating very well. There was still hope for Christmas! Lo and behold, December came around, and things did not change all that much. I knew there had to be some way the South Floridians celebrated the holidays, they deserved fall and Christmas too, right? I found a few local events such as a holiday light show complete with Christmas carols, hot cocoa, and a bonfire. Yes! It was a perfect picture of everything we loved to do back home. The girls were dressed in holiday themed attire and off we went. No one could bear to drink the hot cocoa and we all avoided going anywhere near the bonfire like it was the plague. The temps had begun to fall here in Southwest Florida, but still being in the mid-eighties, it proved far too difficult a task to feel in the holiday vibe. On Christmas day, my husband had the idea to make it a special day and spend our first Christmas here on the beach. After all, that is what we moved to the Gulf for anyway. Well, as luck would have it, we were not even able to get across the bridge to get to the beach. This was the height of “snowbird” season, and everyone in the state seemed to have the same idea. It seemed that living in a beach town was all well and good, until the reality hit that the seasons and the holidays were going to be nothing like they had ever been before. We really missed snow.

As time went on, and luck would have it, there was about to be a shift in our lives that would take us into another direction. Shortly after the beginning of August, and following a recent trip back home to visit family, there was an opportunity for us to go back home. Our family clearly wanted us closer, and Henry was really not as much in love with living the south Florida as I had once hope he would be. Truth be told, I think missing my family began to outweigh the picturesque lifestyle imagery that I had envisioned for myself ten years ago. So, without hesitations, we graciously accepted the offer presented to us and will be making the necessary arrangements to leave the Gulf of Mexico and return home to North Georgia. Our journey home will not be until October, which, ironically, will culminate a year of living the beach life and be at the heart of the Fall season.

It will be with bittersweet emotion that I will bid adieu to the Gulf. Yet, in the same regard, my heart is so happy and full to be returning to my family. And, with that, this year Fall will be so much more special to me this year. In knowing all that I have learned about the value of family and in seeing firsthand what life is like for those who do not get to enjoy a proper fall. What I look forward to most for this fall is taking my grandchildren to the pumpkin farm, and to indulge in hot cocoa or cider to provide a warmth and help knock the chill off. I look forward to getting to wear hoodies. In my entire fall and winter in south Florida, I had to opportunity to wear a hoodie only twice. There is just something about hoodies that are a natural a part of fall as chili and other beloved comfort foods. I look forward to seeing all the children dressed for trick-or-treating on Halloween. I look forward to feeling that first frost, the one that signals snow will be on the horizon. Mostly, I look forward to football. I had to learn the hard way that moving out of state will put you in the network for your new state’s professional sports team, and I missed every single game my football team played last season. But, I really want to bundle up in my favorite hoodie and go out to enjoy a local high school football game. Nothing truly says fall quite like bonfires, pumpkins, and football, and I greatly look forward to getting to experience them all again this fall.

School’s In! Tips for Getting Organized for the New School Year.

It is with a degree of difficulty that we think about giving up that last little slice of the summer pie we have been afforded year after year. But, alas, as summer draws to a close and fall is upon the horizon, it is time to prepare for that ever daunting task of getting back to school The time doesn’t have to be stressful, however. And, I have created some tips to help get you organized and all set for the new school year with a degree of optimism and enthusiasm like never before.

Morning Routine– No matter if you are a busy mom with children heading back off to school, you are a college student, or you are a more non-traditional adult with no small children, but have a full time job and are working on college courses, either online or in a brick and mortar university, having a solid morning routine can substantially set you up for a more successful school year. Morning routines are as varied as the individual that is executing them. Perhaps, you are a stay at home mom who only needs to be mindful of the time in which the children need to be ready for the school bus or time to leave for the school drop off line; or maybe you work outside the home and have a specific time that you have to have everyone ready to leave the house in order to arrive to work on time. It is simply a matter of taking into account any times that have to be allotted for non-negotiable things, such as school times, work times, and commute times. My current morning routine consists of two components- house chores and self care. My morning house routine is to being my day with unloading the dishwasher, swish and swipe the bathrooms, make the bed, and begin a load of laundry. Likewise, my morning self care routine is brushing my teeth, applying my morning power serum, day cream with sunscreen, make up and hair. I’m both cursed and lucky in the regard that my hair is short and thin, so I do not have to allow for extra time for hair straighteners or curlers. My whole morning routine takes me less than thirty minutes to complete. I currently work from home, so I do not have to stick to a rigid time frame for completing my morning routine. However, that was not always the case. I used to work outside of the home and I knew what time I needed to leave to arrive to work on time, taking into account that I was in the heart of the rush hour commute in Atlanta traffic. I made allowances by getting up thirty to forty minutes earlier to provide the time needed to complete my morning chores and maintain my morning routine.

Make a Plan– I cannot stress enough the value of a functional planner. I put emphasis on the word functional, because it is all too common and all too easy to start preparing for a new school year by purchasing a crisp, clean, and gorgeous new planner to keep track of all of your important dates and reminders, yet after a few weeks or so, the planner seems to fall by the way side and gets written in less and less as you find yourself forgetting more important things. The planner system that I currently use is the Happy Planner brand. I chose it for its functionality as well as customization. I have played around with a variety of planners from the generic Walmart planners to Franklin Covey and I have a set up ready for 2020 from the Agenda 52 line to go back to a binder style planner. Regardless of what brand or style of planner you choose, it should be one that is functional for all of your needs and user friendly enough to inspire you to refer to it and write in it daily. The idea is that keeping a planner is essential to tracking appointments and assignment due dates.

Prep for the Evenings– As important as a morning routine is, having an evening routine can be just as vital. Evening routines include tasks such as dinner, cleaning the kitchen, baths, and laying out clothes for the next day. A good way to prepare for the evenings, and alleviate a lot of undue stress is menu planning. By planning out your menus in advance, you can adjust day by day, according to any after work or after school appointments or errands and prep easy to fix meals on the days that you have commitments that would otherwise take away time needed to prepare a complicated recipe dish. For instance, ball practice after school? Toss an easy roast in the crock pot, set on low, and when you arrive home dinner will be ready with only a quick side dish or two. Side note, steam vegetables make a wonderful quick side dish on those busy nights! In an effort to try and have an easy and stress free evening, try to implement planning for the evening and night routines as much as you can early on in the day or on a Sunday evening, to alleviate a lot of the juggling and panic to try and decide on a dinner choice or locate the baseball mitt on the fly.

Delegate- As mothers, we tend to want to do everything for everyone. It is, in essence, in our nature to be nurturers. But, being a nurturer and being a martyr are two completely different things. While we love our families and love taking care of them, we do not have to do it all. It is possible, and essential to delegate our work to the other members of our family. Even small children can benefit from being assigned to pick up their own toys or put their clothes in the hamper for washing. Taking on everything can be stressful and limiting in the amount of quality time we spend with our families. So, take a few items off your to-do list, and graciously gift them to family members who can handle those tasks. The work will get completed much quicker, and you can enjoy a few moments of blissful silence relaxing in the bubble bath with a glass of chilled wine at the end of the evening. Oh yeah, and enjoy time spend with the family as well. Now, the important, and I do me the most important thing to remember when delegating tasks to the other members of your family is – do not expect perfection! Perfection is an illusion best saved for fools. Be grateful to them for the help they provide you. Do not go behind your children and re-make their beds or re-fold their clothes in the drawer. Just enjoy that you had the time freed up and enjoy sitting with them on the couch enjoying a movie before bed time.

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My Favorite Things

As Fall approaches here in beautiful north Georgia, it is a time to reflect on the things that we enjoy most. So, I have compiled a list of five items that are just a few of my favorite things.
1- Books- Oh how I love to read a good book. Sadly, as times have changed, I have given in to the bittersweet progress of digital books. However, nothing is more satisfying than to hold an actual paper laden book in hand. The feel of the paper in hand, and the smell, especially when the book is an old classic, it just has the delectable book smell. I have been recently reading more self-growth books than anything, and one of my particular favorites is “The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins.

2- Music- whether I am driving in my car, or going for a nice little walk, or even working out my frustrations in the gym, music is life. I honestly have said over and over, if I could choose which sense I had to lose between sight and sound, I would opt for sight, because I do not think I could live in a world without music. I listen to a wide range of music, depending on my mood and thoughts at the time. Mostly, though, I listen to the genre of music affectionately referred to as “Emo” music. To me, there is just something so relatable in their raw emotion felt through the song that gives me more of a connection to their music than any other type.

3- Planners- I just love planners. Currently, I am obsessing over The Happy Planner. I like that it is so customizable, and I can set it up to suit whatever needs I may have at the time. I have used many different types of planners in the past, but the key is to find a planner that works for you. After all, the objective is not in the brand of planner, but rather the functionality and whether or not you will use it. I like the feeling of being organized and making lists. My therapist once said that with my adult ADD, I need structure in my life, because chaos and clutter are huge triggers. Thus, began my continual need for planner peace. For an example of The Happy Planner: https://amzn.to/2MNB6Ac

4- The Beach- In reality, who doesn’t love the beach? Well, I suppose there are some people out there who do not. None of which I care to know. The beach is calming, and there is just something about sanding on the verge of such an expanse of sky and ocean that really puts you into perspective. You realize what a small portion of this great world is when you are standing on the heels of something so grand. I can imagine many incredible things in the world can give you that sense of humbleness as well. Such as, the California Redwoods, the Grand Canyon, or Old Faithful. However, I have never seen any of those. Therefore, my wonderment is based solely on my personal experience at the beach.

5- Fall- Ah, Fall. It is the epitome of everything that is great about living in the south. Thinking of fall drums up all kinds of nostalgic imagery of things such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, bonfires, and hayrides, and of course, pumpkin flavored everything! Then, there is football. You see, we take our football very seriously in the south. To properly engage in the watching of football, it is required to attend a local (generally your home town) high school football game on Friday night, then you would spend the better part of Saturday watching college football games, and then, finally, Sunday is for the NFL. It is literally a three-day event. Ironically, even though we are mere days away from the first day of fall on the calendar, it is still nearing in the nineties here in North Georgia. But, I know, just the same, I will miss fall this year, as I will be moving to South Florida in one week. I will most definitely miss the frosty chill in the air, and most of all, the changing of the leaves as the north Georgia landscape becomes awash with vibrant hues of red and orange and yellow.

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