Follow by Email

Monday, March 26, 2012

About Me

For my audition tape I need five minutes or less about me for the producers...gracious! That's a short amount of time to squeeze me into!

Well, I thought I would get y'all opinion, I'm thinking something like this:

Hi, I'm Niki Nikolopoulos, yes, it's a tongue you can't say it 10 times fast? I hail from Mooresville, NC and no I wasn't born and raised here. But Race City USA has my heart & my soul so it's my forever home. I am a jack of all trades, master of many. Besides singing I love to write, in fact I'm revising my first novel at the moment. Truth be told, I have many passions, family, friends, church, baking and cooking to name a few. I left a 12 year career in banking to become a stay at home mom last year. It wasn't until a few months after I did that I finally started meeting the real me. I am a goofy, fun loving, eternally optimistic lady who also happens to be a die hard NASCAR fan and a bit of a Twitter addict. I'm ready to rock this! Let's go!

Okay, so honest feedback, what did I miss? What could I do without?

My Thankful Today: the journey that life has taken me on so far!
Second Thanks: Not getting hit in the head with a tire or two!

Lessons Learned:
*When sitting outside the mechanic's reading your book it is important to stay alert!
*If presented with an opportunity for a Bill Engvall joke don't hold back!
*Soak up some sun every chance you get! (Remember your SPF!)
*Once I'm on a water kick it's easy to stay there! YAY!
*Sneak in some time for your favorite hobby as often as possible!

What's Your Perspective?

There is a local church that hosts an event for the community's school children every August for the past few years. Our church has participated with support and volunteers. This is a free event offering school supplies, shoes and haircuts for all children in the community. It's a party atmosphere. There are game booths, food and beverages. It's an amazing effort to help out with no questions asked.

Coming from the perspective of someone who struggles living paycheck to paycheck or thinner, this is an event my family has been incredibly grateful for. I have personally also volunteered and the reward of watching these children come through and choose their supplies is indescribable. They are thankful, humble, relieved. The parents are the same and more. I did not witness one person come through that seemed insincere.

So it came as a huge shock to me today to learn that this event and more specifically our church's support of it has been a touchy topic with some people. I had to step out of my own perspective and try to see it. I think from years of working with the public in retail and then in banking I have an ability to see things from both sides of the fence. This morning as I contemplated the other side it saddened me. The only things I could think of were not very Christian mindsets.

I could see how maybe some could be critical that the supplies are being offered with no questions asked. We know that in this world there are opportunists who would take advantage of free no matter what, I guess. But I like to give people the benefit of doubt and say that there are few and far between who would do this. If I had encountered a naysayer I would have put it this way: if background information on their finances were required think of how many fewer children would be helped because their parents are too proud to admit they need help. Or how many would stay away for fear that someone they know would see them and instantly know their income was below $XYZ? In truth there are many more reasons why this should be offered the way it is rather than any requirements being fulfilled. It's not about the money. It's about serving our fellow man, no strings, no questions, just love. Unconditional love. That's what we are called to give to all men.

Perspective is a funny thing, no two people have exactly the same one. They may have similar views across many topics but we are all unique. To an overweight person it may be a flippant thing to call themselves fat or plump. To an obese individual these words hurt to even think about. Terms like that are a ball and chain that weigh them down and make them feel hopeless, worthless and unwanted.

Sports fans have different perspectives too. They have perspectives on who the best of the best are. They have perspective on what is being done wrongly. They have perspectives on the cost of everything. To one fan the behind the scenes people are just that, out of sight out of mind. To another, those folks who don't get as much recognition are the real superstars. Best teams, best athletes, what makes a real sport, the list could go on and you'd have just as many people on one side as you would on the other in almost every debate.

Life. There are tons of perspectives on life! Good, bad and in between we all see life differently. We all see our lives differently. To the outsider, our lives may appear perfect when the truth may be our family is breaking, someone is sick or the mortgage can't get paid this month. There are realists who look at the situation and say well this could happen but the likelihood is more this. While the pessimist in the room will say, that will never happen. In pipes the optimist who promptly smiles and says of course it can happen and we're gonna help it along. 

I could keep going, in fact in my head I had to cut at least two more topics to show perspectives on! I think the bottom line I'm reaching for has to do with compromising our perspective. If everyone took a moment to step back and see the issue at hand from the other side I think we would find the road to compromise would be come a less rocky path. Sure sometimes we would still have to agree to disagree on a few points but overall, can you even try to imagine a world where we embraced opposing perspectives and learned from them?

Thankful for: Excedrin Migraine. Or the Wal-Mart version anyway! 
Second thanks: my wonderful family who spoiled me while I was down & out.

Lessons Learned: 
*When Momma Bear is sick the house does not get cleaned. This is a sad fact.
*A Sunday afternoon nap is wonderful until you can't get to sleep Sunday night.
*Working out is not a good idea when you already can't sleep.
*A good work out gets my brain flowing and the writing comes naturally and quickly. 
*Saying music is a part of my soul is like saying I need oxygen to breath. It's not just soothing, it doesn't just touch my heart, it's a feeling I get through my entire existence that I wish I could share with the world!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Real Love and Real Life Are Hard Work!

For those who don't already know, I've been married to George for thirteen years as of a month from tomorrow.  Our life together has been up, down and taken us hundreds of miles from where we each grew up. We've moved six times across three different states. George has tattoo for each one. I have shot glasses. We disagree on football, finances and God. We share a love for each other, our kids and NASCAR.

George has a plethora of bad habits. He belches and passes gas without saying, 'excuse me,' He wears a hat to the supper table. He goes off on crazy ideas like paramedic courses or Harley riding classes but doesn't finish them. He cusses a little too much for me. He's addicted to junk food & soda.

George has a good side. He has been there for me through the birth of our two children, held my hand the entire time. He makes our kids laugh. He helps out friends and neighbors without a thought. He never makes me mow the lawn. He puts up with me and my wacky mood swings. He believes in me and makes me feel beautiful no matter what I actually may look like. 

I bet if you ask him he has his own lists about me! We live in the real world where we don't always see eye to eye. We talk through things. We walk away from talking when it's needed. We come back to it and find a compromise. We love each other no matter what. It gets us through. Real life love takes more than 100% commitment from both people to work. And it is work. But it is so worth it. 

Marriage isn't the only relationship that takes work, love and compromise. True friends love you because of your imperfections, not in spite of them. Cherish those in your life who see you heart and adore you for every part of who you are. Remember to laugh as often as possible. Take each other by the hand and find the silver linings in life together.

Thankful for: A marriage blessed by love, compromise and my soul's true mate.
Second thanks: My true friends, ALL of them, who take my life to new and amazing places daily.

Lessons Learned: 
*Too much sleep makes me cranky. This means my recent insomnia has been my good friend.
*When Momma Bear is cranky the kids go berserk. This does not improve Momma's mood.
*Finding a way to channel your energy into something positive is the only way to really live in this, "crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life."
*Life's lemons make good lemonade, but its limes make fantabulous margaritas! Best shared with friends!
*Emergen-C and Lysol ROCK at battling Flu germs! Fingers crossed we dodged the bullet!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Humble or Not? You Decide!

Humility. How can you tell if it is sincere? How can you maintain your own? Where is the line between humbly confident and egotistical? And if I say I am humble is that actually boasting?

What does it mean to you to be humble? The definition includes, "not proud or arrogant; modest; having a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, subservience,etc.; low in rank, importance, status, quality, etc.; lowly; courteously respectful."

Respect is a big deal. You've got to give it in order to earn it. It's a piece of the puzzle that leads to what true humility is, don't you think? I think that truly being humble is more than a state of mind or a way of speaking. It's a whole body experience! In other words your actions will speak to whether you are truly humble or just wanting to be humble.

I think it's like the golden rule on steroids. It reads like this, 'Do unto others better than you would have done to you.' If you're constantly giving others over and above what you would expect in their shoes than it has to be on the right track, right?

I've had the most amazing response to my singing over the past few weeks. Every compliment wow's me more than the last one. If I had received only one positive feedback it would have been one more than I was expecting. I'm in awe of the overwhelming support and affection I've received, and from people I've never met! I feel blessed to the point where my heart is bursting with love and gratitude every moment of the day. Does that make me humble? I couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is that it is my honor to share with you. Whether it be this blog, my singing videos, Niki's Thoughts devotions or just a candid conversation, it has been and continues to be my honor.

It comes down to this: being humble means different things to different people. Search your soul and find what it means to you. Then, don't buy into lip service, live your whole life that way and watch your little corner of the world light up with goodness and smiles!

Thankful for: the talents God has blessed me with and the opportunity to share those talents, in any form.
Second thanks: my kids! Their craziness is either hereditary, contagious or both! But it just makes me love them all the more for it!

Lessons Learned: 
*When others have faith in you it can boost your faith in yourself and push you to do things you never dreamed you would!
*A small amount of encouragement can go a long way!
*When you stand your ground you can get your kids to eat Green Peppers instead of popsicles. 
*If you smile the world smiles with you, if you frown you can bring them down. It's all contagious so be conscience and share the smiles!!!
*Peanut Butter & Nutella sandwiches can be a great compromise, as long as you spread the Nutella very thin and slather all of it on a wholesome wholegrain bread ;o)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do You Really Listen?

Self esteem. It's a funny thing. It can be high, or low. Healthy or warped. It can feed a raging ego or spiral one into depression. It can be completely on our own weird perceptions or it can be formed by what we hear others say.

We hear what people say to us but are we really listening? When we receive constructive criticism do we act upon it to make self improvements? If we are given a compliment do we take it to heart with a humble, accepting  spirit? Are we wise enough to discern the truth from the words we hear?

I battled with whether to make this about me, share my experience in order to help you find yours...I don't want to sound like I'm 'all about me' so I'm going to keep it vague for now. IF you want me to elaborate on my own self esteem levels and how they've changed  plus how I've grown then you'll have to comment below and I'll work it into another blog. :o)

What I will say is a quote from an old college I have always adored: God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason! We should listen, not just hear, what people are saying to us. How we react to what is being said is our choice. We can turn everything into a positive. Even negative comments because they can help our practice with choosing to react positively no matter what. 

So, we may hear, but do we really listen? Here's how you can tell...if you're thinking about what you want to say next before the talker is finished speaking then you are merely hearing sounds. If you want to truly listen you must focus 100% on the other person when they are speaking. You may surprise yourself with what you'll learn!

Thankful today: for my amazing kids! They may be a lil crazy but that's b/c they're mine! :o) Don't fall far from the tree, bless their lil hearts! 
Second Thanks: Forgiveness. It is a blessing to receive and to give. Life is WAY too short to hold onto any negativity. Let it go. :o)

Lessons Learned: 
*I have Twitter fans and they think I'm funny and I think that's amazing! They are all amazing! :o)
*I am humbled and honored every time I receive a compliment, it's amazing how a heart that feels so full can keep growing inside me. <3
*My daughter says I have learned it takes her 3 hours to clean her room. Honey child if you kept up with it this would have taken 5 minutes!
*My husband does not take lightly to my safety, virtual or otherwise. LOVE him! :o)
*I am not a fan of basketball unless I'm there in person. BORING on TV to me. Sorry. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Do You Define Family?

Y'all may very well laugh at me but the phrase, "blood is thicker than water," never made a whole lick of sense to me. Of course it is! Have you seen blood? Have you seen water? 

I guess from the context of how it's used I would surmise it to mean something like family is a stronger bond than any other relationship we encounter. I think that's true. But how do you define family?

Family to me is more a feeling than a definition. Does that sound odd? Well, if you know me by now than you know I'm a little off the wall like that. Just roll with it! 

I grew up with relatives and family being sometimes different categories. That's not to say I don't love all of my relatives, it's just I'm not as close with some as I am with others. However, in my family category there are plenty of non-blood members! There are even subcategories filled with these amazing people. 

I think relatives who are family in the sense that you feel that unbreakable closeness are a sweet blessing to thank God for. I believe that family who aren't 'blood' are a double blessing because it's family you've chosen and they choose you back. You have a bond of some kind that bring a feeling of togetherness.

It may be a friend you made back in school, one from work, it can even be an online friend you've never met in person. Doesn't matter how you met. There's a feeling that covers your heart and lets you know that there's a kinship which is more special than just a passing ship in the night. It's wanting to stick up for them if someone attacks, it's sharing in their joy, comforting them through their pain. Family is love, unconditionally unique. 

Thankful For: Family! All my families, you know who you are and I love you!
Second Thanks: Warm weather days! I love getting outside & feeling the sun on my skin!

Lessons Learned:
*Jack of all trades can lead to too many irons in the fire to keep productive at times.
*Prioritizing, lists, focus are all good tools to get any job done!
*You can find family in all sorts of places!
*I am easily drawn to people, fast trusting and sometimes fragile but I've got a good support network to fall back on.
*Sometimes you can scare people off if you're too friendly too soon! LOL

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dream Big & Plan Ahead

So, if you've been on this blogging journey with me than you already know I am working on an audition tape for Season 3 of NBC's The Voice...I have finalized the song selection! I have to prepare 2 and I've chosen Melissa Etheridge's "Chrome Plated Heart" and Chely Wright's "Shut Up and Drive" for mine. Now I need to have a 5 min or less 'about me', choose my outfit and record!

I started a conversation on Twitter about what to sing. It was a lot of fun to interact with people. It is heartwarming the amount of support I've received from people I've never met in real life! I got two really good suggestions for my second choice. I was torn.

I'm dreaming big here, right? I'm not expecting a call but at the same time I'm picturing myself on that stage for the finale waiting to hear who won. In oder to be ready, I must plan ahead, right? So instead of choosing to sing one and not the other I made a compromise. I'm singing one as my second audition tape song. The other I am hiding in my back pocket for the Blind Auditions.

If you never dream big than how will you push yourself towards better things? Or different ones? Dreams are important! They help foster hope. Hope gives us a reason to wake up even on those mornings we feel like stale toast. So once you achieve your current dream form a new one fast!

Thankful for: Emergen-C! This stuff rocks some awesome vitamins and helps kick the caffeine addiction!
Second Thanks: Imagination! What would things look like if no one ever imagined different and better things? Goes together well with dreams!!

Lessons Learned:
*Sparkles on my shirt make me feel like a rock star :o)
*It's okay to go for several dreams at once just don't over extend. You'll burn out and risk giving up on one or all of them!
*I enjoy making people smile. Gives me the warm fuzzies! :o)
*I'm kind of shy, I need to work on this, it's a self confidence thing that we so won't go into right now! lol
*My inner cheerleader loves a challenge but needs to be loved <3

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Will Not Apologize

I thought about this a lot Saturday night. Then off and on again on Sunday I tried to make a decision on how I wanted to address my last blog post. For those of you not on Twitter, the drunk driving death was someone's twisted, sick idea of a prank. I still stand behind what I wrote because the emotions I felt for the faux-victims family were real. 

I try to live positive. I try to be true to me. Please don't let it ever be said of me that I was phony or two-faced! I'd like to think that I have a big heart, I don't know how true that is until I am faced with someone I don't get along with. That doesn't happen much at all! The few people I've encountered that I had difficulties with I prayed for. Even if it wasn't a gut reaction I did it anyway.

There's a reason the phrase, "kill 'em with kindness" is used often. It's so true!  There is nothing that will throw someone off worse than you going out of your way to be nice to them when they are attacking you. Get creative with it too! Look for ways to surprise them. Wear them down with never giving up on being caring. If nothing else, you will feel good about your actions!

So, I will not apologize for writing about a hoax with true emotions and real warnings about the dangers of drunk driving.  I wasn't being fake. I wasn't seeking attention. (Well, I'm a writer so on some level I'm always seeking attention but...I digress.) I wrote from the heart, as I always do and for that I will have no regrets. Ever.

Thankful today: breathtaking sunrises and even the subtle ones too! I've always been drawn to sunrises, since I'm not a morning person I need the motivation to start out my day right!
My second thanks: my husband. I may repeat this one often b/c truthfully, I am thankful for him everyday. No matter what. I am SO blessed!

Lessons Learned:
*You should be cautious what you believe but don't live with regrets. Ever!
*I can live without coffee. It's been almost a week. Crazy! Crazy! Crazy! :oP
*The smallest kind word has a big impact on my heart. Y'all are too good to me! Much love!!! <3 <3 <3
*I'm never going to be good at daily exercise. It's not even that I don't like it so I'm not quite sure the lack of motivation here.
*Stress can wig you out don't let it drag you down though! Remember: refocus!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Do NOT Drink And Drive!!!

Twitter is an amazing place. Especially if you're a NASCAR fan. We connect. We bond. We laugh together. Today, we cried together.

Last night a fellow Tweeter who went by the handle of @Jennjadedpink got in her car to drive home but never made it. She was hit head on by a drunk driver. She was airlifted to a trauma center and rushed into surgery. Her brother updated her followers on her condition. We all prayed for Jenn, for her family. Sadly, Jenn did not make it through the night. Two hours after the update that she was in surgery her brother tweeted from her account that he had lost his sister.

Sometimes we think we are invincible. This is usually a phase people go through when their a teenager. I can't speak from experience because I skipped that phase but I saw some friends or acquaintances go there. Some people never grow out of that phase. But what all the invincible-thinking people don't consider is there are others they may encounter who most definitely are not possessors of this super-power. If you drive drunk you just might get home in one piece. Or you might crash and come away practically unscathed. What about the other guy.

There was a time when I used to keep a bowl of hidden keys for all my friends who came over to party. If you had a drink you had to first relinquish your keys to the bowl. No amount of begging would give you those keys back until the next morning when you were stone cold sober. Period. It's easier to do that when you're young. Now my few friends who come to my house would look at me like I had three heads or something.  I can't dictate what another adult does, but I'm mindful of how much they drink. If it's more than one beer or glass of wine I bug them about whether they're okay to drive.

I adopted a personal policy shortly after my daughter was born. I NEVER get behind the wheel of any vehicle if I've had even one drink. Am I a lightweight who can't drink? By no means, I can hold my own with the best of them. But I refuse to drive if there is even a less than 1% chance I'm not 100% alert in that driver's seat. We have options! For me it's my wonderful husband. We take turns being the designated driver. Buddy up with a friend. Use a taxi. Drink somewhere you can safely walk home from. Just please, I beg you, don't get in that car if you've been drinking.

Thankful for: Today I am thankful for each day I have been blessed with, they are gifts and I hope I've used them well
My second thankful: The outpouring of love that I've seen over the past several hours from total strangers. Like myself. In honor of a beautiful woman whose life was cut short.

Lessons Learned: 
*NASCAR fans are the most loving, supporting, genuine group of people I have ever interacted with.
*You can not tell your loved ones often enough how much they mean to you. You truly don't know when the last time you will see them is.
*Every day must be lived to its fullest potential! Our days are numbered!
*Even driving one time drunk is one too many. 
*There is still a drunk driving problem in this country and it breaks my heart to think how people are so uninformed and/or uncaring of the consequences.

Please pray for the family and friends of Jenn, I can't imgaine their pain right now.

Thankful Thoughts Week Three!

So, are you still with me on giving thanks every day? Did you save your list? Take a look at those wants and needs. Do you still want the same things you did 2 weeks ago? Are your needs different now? 

By the way, how did you do with two things to be thankful for per day? I just about made it until I got distracted and didn't finish this entry last night. I'll post this for Friday and something different for today. :o) The whole idea is to really sit back and put some thought into what you have been blessed with in your life. Take a moment for being thankful. Let the gratefulness wash over you and bring you peace about your life.

I can't make you be thankful, I don't intend that if you're not willing. But if you want to spend each day with a little more peace in your life I hope these few posts about being thankful have helped. If it's something you haven't done in you life, or maybe strayed far from, it can be a long road to peace. Just remember every step you take brings you closer to your goal.

Maybe today you make a new list. Maybe today you remember more than two things you're thankful for. Just go out and live your life to its fullest. Find peace wherever you can. Cling to thankfulness, happiness and your loved ones. They are the real blessings that make you rich!

Thankful today: for every moment I've spent w/ my grandma, and every conversation we have left
My second thankful: prayer. Its power is miraculous!

Lessons Learned:
*The more you talk about tragedy the easier it gets. But that does not mean you forget.
*You are stronger than you know, but sometimes it's not till tragedy strikes that you realize your full potential
*Sunshine and warm temps can do a lot to lift your mood!
*The more you try something that scares you (like singing in front of a 'crowd') the easier it gets!
*People will surprise, good or bad they will always find a way to surprise you

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Go For It!

Do you have a secret dream? Is there something you've always wanted to try or to do? What's holding you back? Okay, good. Now......

What's really holding you back?

Sometimes in life we have to take big risks! We take risks everyday without thinking much of it. I could go all paranoid and tell you how you could get maimed on the way to your mailbox by a pack of wild coyotes...and many other unlikely dangers...but I won't! ;o)

Sometimes one big risk can lead to another, and another and another. We have to find our comfort level and push the boundaries of it a little bit. We'll never know our full potential if we don't step outside the lines sometimes. We'll always wonder 'what if' if we do not take some big risks in our life. 

I took a risk resigning from my job last August to stay home with my kids. I've learned more about myself in the months since I took that risk than I had my whole life. I found I am stronger than I know. I found I didn't really have a passion for what I had been doing. I learned that I am full of passion and eventually learned what my passions are!

I took another risk a couple months ago. I wrote a novel. I have learned that writing it is easy, editing it is a bear and I dread the submission process (if I ever get there!!). I also learned to push myself to write everyday, I learned it feels like a piece of me is missing if I don't write each day.

Last night I took another risk! I have always loved music, particularly singing. I  adore many genres and I have dreamed of singing on a big stage since I was a girl. Ha, that made me think of my cousins and I singing on the fireplace as a pseudo stage! At the urging of one of my best friends, I agreed I will submit an audition tape for the third season of NBC's The Voice. Last night I decided on one of the two songs I will sing for my audition...then I posted a video of me singing on YouTube for all the world to weigh in!! (I was terrified!)

Bottom line: You cannot do anything at all unless you're willing to put yourself out there. Give your lifelong dream a try! Be willing to stumble! Be open for criticism - use it to challenge yourself more! Just take a deep breath and go for it!

Thankful for: all my online friends who gave me such wonderful support last night, your encouragement means the world to me! *virtual hugs* all around!
My second thankful: the semi-unexpected weight-loss benefits of large quantities of water added to nerves and a spoonful of honey!

Lessons Learned:
*We can be motivated by the most unlikely people or events!
*My toddler has mood swings that rival mine in ways I never imagined possible
*My tween has a heart of gold hiding behind the sarcasm and attitude
*It's never too late to go after your dream & you can pursue more than one dream at a time! Just stay focused!
*My husband is my rock and without his love and support I would not be the woman I am today!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sometimes You Need To Refocus Your Emotions

Strong emotions are like a power source. I believe you can choose to direct the flow of that power source in whatever direction you choose. It's not that easy you say? You're right and you're wrong...

Easy is not the word to describe the amount of will power it may take to channel anger or hurt emotions into positive results. The fact that it is your choice is the simple truth. Everything we do, our reactions to every situation we encounter it is our choice. The choices may be easy at times or they may be the most difficult we've faced...but they're still ours to make.

I received some shattering news about a beloved family member Monday night. I chose to let my emotions run free for a few hours. I gave in to anger, then pain. I made a deal with myself through my tears: I would not allow myself to dwell in self-pity! I granted myself one good cry and formulated a plan.

I know the next few months, maybe longer, will be tumultuous in my life. I expect to use this to fuel my energy for my writing, for serving others and for becoming a strong example for my family to lean on. Will I stumble? Most definitely! Will I backtrack? Most likely. But will I succeed? Yes, because I will refocus all my emotions to become the power behind the positive I want to exude. 

Thankful for: the sunshine! It makes everything seem brighter!
My second thanks: my family, how we stick together when it matters most!

Lessons Learned: 
*Talking about choices made is only powerful if you lead by example, as the old song says, "more than words"
*It's okay to stumble, even to long as you don't stay down too long!
*Strength is gathered from many sources, some unlikely, some obvious :o)
*Prayer really can move mountains, mountains of worry, doubt, fear & pain
*Once you've successfully refocused your emotions you'll be addicted and want to route them positively time and time again! :o)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Pay It Forward"

If you read last night's post you know I had a rough night. I am addicted to Twitter and usually cut up with some new online friends but last night I said I was not up for it. One friend made it their personal mission to cheer me up. There was nothing in it for them but to help a new friend end the night on a better note. They gave without expecting in return.

I never saw the movie but I get the concept. Today I kind of did my own.  I needed to focus on others, keep my mind off my worries. I wanted needed to focus on positive things. So I drove around town bringing homemade fudge to some sweet people I know (and/or kinda know). I even got the chance to "sneak drop" treats, it was fun. It wasn't about me, it was about giving. 

It's addicting, doing for others. I find once I do one thing I want to do more. I wish I had the resources to bless others abundantly. And often. If you don't believe me I challenge you to try it! You'll see! And if I'm wrong than you can tell me so. I think you'll find yourself wanting to do more. But maybe it's just me.

What will you do for someone else this week? Without expecting anything in return?

Thankful for: opportunities to be the blessing ;o)
My second thankful: simple things that can make a big impact!

Lessons Learned:
*I need to speak up more and faster when appropriate
*Prayer is powerful and should be used often
*It's okay to have a good cry now & again, just don't dwell on the bad, get it out and get 'er done!
*When an opportunity is presented don't fall asleep at the wheel!
*You don't have to meet someone in person to become friends with them!

From The Mountain To The Ditch

Disclaimer: I'm typing through my tears tonight, please excuse all run-ons, etc... :o/

If you have been following me long enough than you know in my devotionals I have talked a time or two about peaks and valleys. I've speculated that maybe we experience the mountaintop to lessen the blow of the ditch. Today I lived that spectrum.

I started out this morning in a great mood. Leftover positive vibes from tweeting with new online friends, kids pretty well behaving and dinner with some awesome real life friends who we are blessed to live next door to. I had a good day cleaning, baking, fiddling around on the computer. I've got a new dream on the job front and hope to pursue some leads. Life was good!

Best day in a while and not for any special reason, just because. And a just because kind of good mood is the best kind. So when I got some pretty world shattering news (my world, shattering miles away) I was sucker punched. I was angry. I was in pain. I still am. To fall so far so fast took my breath away. Then I thought, "Wow, God, if You hadn't lifted me up first I would have never survived this one."

I know God has a plan. I know that somehow He will hold us together. But I just wanna yell, and cuss, and throw something heavy. But I'm a chicken. I can't even make a decision about going after another dream without a big push. (See my Twitter followers challenge.) So I write. I write because it calms me. I write because I need words. I write because I hope that somewhere, someday someone will read this and it will help them hold their head up.

Thankful for: the power of prayer, need lots of it for my family.
My second thankful: good friends in unexpected places

Lessons Learned:
*I can cry long after I thought I was finished
*I have a great support network in place
*I need to take a trip (somehow) VERY soon
*I may not have a spirit of fear but sometimes I wrestle with it till my knuckles bleed

Monday, March 5, 2012

Super Simple Peach Crisp

I had a lot of people tell me they loved my Peach Crisp on Sunday so I thought I'd share the recipe. Props to Aunt Donna on this one, she gave me the recipe like 11 years ago and it's still a hit!

What You Need:
* Box of cake mix (white, yellow or butter pecan)
*29 oz can of peaches - Do Not Drain
*1 stick margarine
*chopped pecans
*flaked coconut
9 x 13 Baking Dish/Cake Pan

What You'll Do:
Plop those peaches, juice included, into the bottom of your baking dish and spread them out evenly. Open up that cake mix and shake it over the top, again you'll want to keep things even. Melt your margarine and drizzle  it all over the mix. Sprinkle with some pecans. Top with flaked coconut. I toss it in the oven at 350 degrees. About an hour. Give or take. You'll want to keep it covered for about half of that or your coconut will burn.

Enjoy! Comment below if you tried it and tell me how it turned out!

What a Weekend...What Next?

Ever have a string of days thrown together that are so awesome the positive energy carries you into a marvelous Monday morning? There's not one thing that was spectacular more just a vibe that's sticks with you. Yea, I got that this morning. ;o)

So how do you channel that continually? How do you keep the momentum flowing in that upbeat environment long term? 

I think most importantly you don't waste it! Push into that pizzazz with all you've got! Whether you clean your house, write a blog, spread the cheer at the office, smile at a stranger or throw yourself into the workout of a lifetime just keep the drive alive. (Could not resist! NASCAR! Yay!)

I'm multitasking mine today, splitting time between playing with my toddler, writing and power scrubbing my house. A girl's gotta be flexible ya know! ;o) Maybe I'll get in some yoga at nap time! How about you? How will you carry the happy weekend feelings through your week?

No happy feelings? Try this link I got from Google+ friend +Joe Hullett:

Thankful for: A strong fence, I think a tree 'fell' on it but it's a small tree so the fence looks unscathed...will wait for wind to calm down before we investigate!
My Second Thankful: Possibilities! They help keep the light at the end of the tunnel from extinguishing!

Lessons Learned:
*Stick to one glass of merlot when 3 hours sleep is what you're running on
*Twitter friends make otherwise quiet nights at home a lot more fun!
*Cleaning ADD still strikes even when you're in a great mood w/ a lot of energy
*The wind can move a FULL trash can up to 4 feet across a curb and the neighbors lawn!
*I need to make time with my IRL friends a priority! I miss them too much!!!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Passion, Addiction or Loneliness?

Social media. 

I spend some days feeling like I have a passion for sharing all sorts of tidbits with my online friends. These are some amazing people that I would have never met otherwise. We share some interests, we share some differences. We banter friendly rivalries. We have a bond that makes me even want to stick up for them if someone else starts acting rude. I am passionate about different things too so I really feel like I have a wide circle of internet pals. It's a fun and free way to have some kind of contact to the outside world when I spend most of my days at home with a temperamental toddler.

There are other days when I wonder if I have an addiction. I don't go more than a can't go a day without some type of social media time. I will tweet while I watch tv. I will check my Facebook hourly. (Usually it does not change that often but why take the chance?) I spend time on my Tumblr & Google+ multiple times daily. If I still had a cell phone I would tweet while I shopped, or at the park, or maybe even from the man cave. (You know, when hubby lets me in!)

Today I started to worry that maybe I'm just lonely. I have a limited social circle in real life. I have great neighbors next door but we only see each other once a week or so, sometimes less. My husband works odd hours so he sleeps at weird times too. I have a couple of really close friends who each live a good thirty minute drive away. Even when I worked full time it wasn't a lot of meaningful interaction with a ton of don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the people I worked with didn't mean anything to me, I miss those gals every day! But it was just a few of us and we rarely saw each other outside of work. 

So, am I just a passionate person who loves to connect with tons of great people? Am I a Twitter addict who needs to find a TA meeting stat? Or am I just a lonely mom looking for a link to civilization? What about you?

Thankful for: A semi-part-time job! Even if they only call me in once or twice a month, every bit helps!
My second thankful: My online friends. They cheer me up when I'm having an off day, celebrate with me when our driver wins and give me +K on Klout so I can feel cool!

Lessons Learned:
*I may be passionate/addicted/lonely but social media doesn't come before family!
*I think the bonds of an online friendship are unique and a wonderful upside to technology :o)
*Passion takes many forms, creativity fuels passion to great heights and addiction can be a side effect!
*Wal-Mart is a MADHOUSE on Saturdays! (Totally unrelated but important info!)
*I honestly think no one reads my blog but I'm okay with that b/c the writing is good practice. :o)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Just For Fun: Diary of a Mom With Cleaning ADD

That's me, I have cleaning ADD. Here's how I figured it out.

6:00 - put whites in washer 
6:30 - washer complete, as I walk towards it I see dirty dish from dinner on kitchen counter
6:35 - dirty dish and washer forgotten I start picking up toys in family room
6:45 - bring toys upstairs, pick up toddler's room
6:50 - stand in hallway wondering what I was going to clean next
6:55 - remember forgotten washed clothes, head back downstairs
7:00 - open laundry room doors, see bleach on dryer, bring bleach to kitchen to put away under the sink
7:05 - leaving kitchen I notice dirty dish, still on counter, remove tin foil, toss in garbage, wipe dish clean and put away
7:10 - notice toaster, junk mail, nesquik, olive oil & hawaiian punch on counters, stack junk mail, put toaster back under counter
7:15 - run upstairs to mediate kids argument over toys, pick up more toys, agree to let kids watch DVD before bed
7:20 - check Twitter, tweet & RT, check Google+, repost, +1 & comments, check Facebook, nothing new, check Tumblr, nothing new, setup new About Me page, check Twitter
8:00 - talk to kids about going to bed after DVD, I think they listened...kind of
8:15 - wipe down kitchen counters, pour glass of Hawaiian punch, look at olive oil & nesquik
8:25 - check weather, freak out, check tornado closet, add extra blanket
8:30 - remember wet clothes in washer, clean lint trap from dryer
8:35 - pick up more toddler toys
8:40 - look at Reba on NBC, she looks pretty good, tornado watch info scrolls, stomach turns over
8:45 - contemplate glass of Merlot vs. FireFly Sweet Tea Vodka
8:50 - remember wet clothes, finally get them into dryer
8:55 - think about putting away nesquik, hawaiian punch & olive oil
9:00 - check twitter, write blog

Maybe tomorrow I'll even fold those clothes, after I sweep the kitchen, and maybe I should vacuum the dining room, who carpets a dining room anyways? Did I tell you the bedroom needs to get dusted and that guest room...oh, where's that drink?

No Regrets!

I never went to college. I imagine as you read that one of a dozen or more things race through your mind. I've heard most of them, I've thought even more of them. I realized this morning that nothing is going to change how I feel: I have no regrets.

Every decision we make shapes our life and guides our path. So how can I regret the decision that brought me to the beautiful family I have? My husband and I have been married nearly thirteen years, and yes, I'm more in love now than I was the day I married him. I have two amazing children with personalities bigger than our house! I wouldn't change a thing in life because then they wouldn't be who they are today.

Has my life been a cornucopia of good times, goals achieved and loads of love? No, not so much. We've had plenty of ups and downs. Some might look at the past thirteen years and say we've had more downs than ups. How we face every situation, how we choose to react also shapes how we look back on everything! When you think back on the hard times in your past do you see despair? Or do you see the people who helped you through it? 

Instead of remembering your decisions with regret, remorse or disgust, try to see the lessons you learned from the direction those decisions took you. Think back on who you grew closer to, who you realized was not a true friend and who you learned you cannot live without. Life lessons learned are priceless and as long as we use every twist in our path to teach us something than we should be able to travel memory lane with no regrets!

Thankful for: My family! I am blessed to be surrounded by a husband, daughter & son who wouldn't trade this crazy lady for anyone else in the world!
My second thankful: weather technology! As strong storms spread across the middle and southeast portions of the US today I am thankful our meteorologists have great tools to help keep us weather aware!

Lessons learned:
*Looking back can take a certain amount of thinking outside the box to keep a 'no regrets' policy in place but it's more than worth the effort!
*Creativity counts! Sometimes life requires a heavy dose of creativity to see the bright side :o)
*Appreciating the calm between the storms of life helps weathering those storms to be a little more bearable :o)
*Sometimes habits fight our lessons learned and mistakes repeat - we can use these to form self-discipline for next time!
*When all else fails: DANCE! :o) Like nobody's watching!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wants vs. Needs Check-Up

Last Thursday I challenged you (my one lone reader, yes, I know who you are!) to make a Needs and Wants list. Did you hang on to yours? Did you reflect back on it this week? Okay, no show and tell, I promised and I keep my word.

The goal of the exercise was getting back to thankful, right? Turning around and finding our way back to the path where we remember to give thanks daily? My other challenge was about this thankfulness stuff. Did you come up with one thing per day? Did you miss any days? (Migraine headaches made me miss TWO!)

Alright, think about this: if you made a new list today, wants vs. needs, would it be different in any way? Don't make a new list just yet, I'd like us to work with last week's list for four weeks and see what transitions we go through. One week isn't usually long enough to make a lasting change.

New challenge? I'm so glad you asked!! This week I want you to add one additional thing your thankful for each day. So if you were shooting for one a day, this week go for two...and so on and so on. :o) Let's compare notes again next week and make Thursdays known for thankfulness! :o)

Thankful for: Coffee - I seriously consider this a NEED!
My second thankful for: the calm between the storms! Severe weather sandwiches aren't fun but at least we can enjoy today in between them!

Lessons Learned:
*I'm impatient on days like this, I want the ground to be instantly dried up so we can go play!
*When I slow down and concentrate I can knock out 40 pages of editing & revising in one day!
*I'm hopelessly addicted to social media but I think that could be some way...right?
*There's nothing quite like the genuine laughter of your kids at the most unexpected times to make your day a lot brighter
*There is such a thing as "writer's block" but it is NOT a fatal disease!! :o)