November 17 and how is that possible?

Not only are we in the last half of the month, but there are only 45 days until the New Year. Twenty-nineteen will see me twenty years into my job, my husband completes his last year in his 50’s, and we will celebrate 25 years in our home. This time of year has my thoughts, emotions, and heart all over the dang place. I try to really really focus more on gratitude and less on perfection. More just enjoying the moment and less running all over the place. Which is why I do the bulk of my Christmas shopping online. Which I’ve hardly begun this year. I don’t even have my Christmas list up and running yet. It is what it is this year, and every year is different, but I’m feeling like I could use another month to get ready for Christmas, anyone else?

It will all work out. It always does. Russell is all about giving the kiddos hard, cold, cash at Christmas and I’m a gift girl. Not that money for Christmas isn’t a gift, but along with being a gift girl is spending time thinking about the person and what they like, what they might need, and then finding that perfect thing or things for them. Being a gift girl means I love to give gifts, not just receive them. Although I love that part too!

At the Smith’s it isn’t really Christmas until we hear this song. And it just came on as I’m working on this post. Russell just hollered out, “Okay! It’s officially Christmas!” He’s cleaning the kitchen for me because The Chef was cooking this week and only spot cleaned. Cooking is his gift, cleaning up after himself not so much.

For all that I push the envelope on when Christmas officially begins (it could easily be year-round in my book), I resist the beginning of a new year. I don’t wanna think about it until we are just upon it. Like December 31 at 11:00 pm. While September heralds a welcome new beginning in my mind, going back to a new school year I suppose, for me, January brings a ton of pressure. The ultimate do-over, start over, put the past to rest, and gotta do better starting now kind of pressure. That’s just me and what I do to myself. This year I’m trying to think of January 1 a little differently.

Because 2019 is bringing a lot of changes with it. A lot of stepping out of my comfort zone; doing some things that, while I know I am supposed to do, are going to be hard and scary. My BFF, Miss Edie’s response to that is, “GOOD.” The hard and the scary means I am looking beyond where I am now, all snuggled in a comfy, cozy blanket, running on autopilot for the most part. And to be honest, I’ve begged God to just make it all easy and the same and, well, comfortable. Or at the very least, make the path clear and easily seen and navigated.¬† And I keep receiving from Him a resounding, “No.” From my quiet time, bible study, random people, and even social media, to what is happening in my actual life, I’m being shaken. Sifted. Set aside. My focus is no longer on the same things. And when I do try to focus on them, I am unable to. And I’ve fought it. For months. This week has been the worst. I’ve really struggled. Tried to ease back into the mainstream that has been my life for years. And at every turn, I’ve hit a wall. Yesterday, I just felt crushed under all of it. And I raged, and I cried, and I gave in, and I fought back. And even allowed myself to embrace my old friend, the darkness of depression. And it sucked. The entire day and all of it. And I knew I was not supposed to be doing any of it.

Imagine being my husband right now. That poor man. We went out to dinner last night, to our fave local joint, where we are known by name and greeted with a hug from the owner and sat so we can be with our favorite server. She said to me at one point, “what is wrong with you today, Susan?” and so I unloaded on her a bit. And we had a little cry sesh together because she struggles too. Losing her husband last year and now having no one to do for her what my husband has to endure from me…being The Shoulder. The one that gets slammed with all of the pain and the hurt and the anger and the tears. The one who knows her the best in this world is gone. Remember those who are beyond hurting this time of year. Who have lost loved ones and are missing them every day, but even more so right now.

Anyway. I had planned this post today to be an encouraging one. Full of the joy and triumph. Not so much, eh? I’ll save it for tomorrow’s post.

See you then.


November 16 and habits and all the junk in my life


Yesterday was an awesome snow day. Shawn cooked stuff and then we ate it. Disclaimer: I was at work all day. And I also feel like crap today from all the stuff I ate yesterday. Which brings me to habits and all the junk.

Good habit or bad, it takes a while to build. Getting up at 4:40 am every morning, getting dressed, grabbing my gear, and heading to the gym is still not a habit for me. I’ve still not disciplined myself to make it happen every morning and until I do that, it won’t become something that happens without thinking aka habit. (Let’s be honest, who wants to make getting up at 4:40 am to be at the gym by 5:00 am a habit?) Well, actually, I do. And here’s why:

the gym at 5 -> home with coffee at 6 -> quiet time/bible study -> time to do a load of laundry, fix breakfast, and a little cleaning -> shower and to work by 9 -> everything is done at work and home before 5 -> on time dinner -> time and energy to do things in the evening -> tired and ready for bed early -> sleep well -> energized to get up at 4:40 am -> the gym at 5

I was easily sidetracked from the early morning gym time by all the junk in my life. Bad eating (habit), not getting to bed early enough (habit), not putting my gear out the night before (habit), and staying up late to (not) work on the projects (habit) (see the pic above? pulled all of the stuff from our dining room that has been piling up from shopping and trips and “remember to do this” stacks and it still sits in the living room this morning as I’m writing this.)

So what to do first? This morning I jotted down a list of my “whys.” Why do I want to go to the gym early? By the way, I’m using the gym as the model, but really, this applies to all the habits we want to create. Here’s my list: (in no particular order, because my lists are basically brain dumped.)


Two comments on my list I want to make: 1. I know some of y’all are going to comment that I have to do this for me, not for Russell. You are 100% correct. The fact that it makes Russell happy is pure gravy. 2. As I re-read my list, I realized that losing weight and building muscle was at the bottom of the list! Even tho this is a total brain dump list, I was really surprised that those two things were at the bottom. But they are huge motivators for me.

I’m not just talking junk as actual stuff, by the way. The junk in my life includes negative thinking, unhealthy food and drink, unsupportive people, habits that aren’t good for me (too much time on the sofa binge-watching The Office for the 100th time), retaining all the things I need to let go of, but definitely actual stuff in my house. Which, by the way, Brett & Rachel, our minimalist minions, are determined to help me with next week. #yay? I suppose I should admit that one of my habits, and I’m not saying it is a bad one, is that I like things…especially things handed down from our family. But it has totally gotten out of control. We, including me, are cleaning out our home of 25 years and getting it ready to sell. Gutting the basement and redoing that is #1 on the list. The basement is also where I have positioned all of the stuff. I’m already preparing myself to let it go. I’ve set the following criteria for keeping anything down in the basement:

  1. Was it something handed down that meant a lot to that person?
  2. Does it mean something to me and do I love it?
  3. Even if I do love it, can it be replaced?
  4. When was the last time I actually used it or displayed it?

Not all criteria must be met, it’s just a place to start and to get me thinking about whether or not I’m going to keep it. I wish Mrs. D and Mrs. A were here to help me along with my thinking. They were instrumental in getting me this far with comments like, “Susan. No.” And my personal favorite when I insisted on keeping something, “I’ll allow it.” Seriously, this is what I need. Brett assures me he is going to be just as tough on me. Which means it is going to be ugly. #prayersrequested

So that’s it for today. Trying to wrap my head around making this stick in my brain and just do the thing.

See Y’all tomorrow, and let’s see those lists!

November 15 and a snow day

November 15, 2018

Straight out of the iPhone

My alarm went off at 6 this morning, per usual if I’m not going to the gym. I started to get up and then remembered we had a two-hour delay this morning (which turned into an actual school canceling SNOW DAY!) So I rolled over and went back to sleep. My children are 28, 27, and 22. The only one this really impacted was Shawn, who is a teacher. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the first snow day of the season. And, when your teacher-son is also an excellent chef and makes you poached eggs and ham for breakfast? #win

Social media is blown up about this snow day with leaves still on the trees. All I have to say is…it’s Northern Virginia…it will be in the 70’s in a week. But I did love the snow today. I wandered around the parking lot at church and checked out the critter prints in the snow. There were a lot of them. And it was quiet. Everything-has-a-gorgeous-blanket-of-white quiet. I stood out in the middle of it and let the stillness seep into my bones to carry with me.

Cuz y’all, it’s been tough lately. This whole change thing that I’ve been talking about that God has been talking to me about is hard. And scary. And frustrating. And moving too quickly. And taking forever. And I keep losing my cool over it. I needed the snow today. To remind me that it’s all good. And it’s all going to work out just fine.

In the meantime, I am working on all my lists for Christmas: gifts, food, decorating, parties, outings, all of it. I’m finding a peace in the all the lists. Lists make my heart calm and happy. How about you? List person? If so, handwritten or on some sort of a device? Surprisingly enough, I’m a handwritten note girl. As I work on my notes this week, I’ll share some. Would love to see some of your notes and planning sheets and ideas, too. Until then…

See Y’all tomorrow.



November 14 and the mornings


Christmas Tree Farm, circa 1999

Anyone else distracted by all the things this week? Seriously can not focus on anything when I am home or out and about. Work is easier…I just close my office door and dig in. But home…I keep wanting to pull out all the Christmas decorations and get on it. We get our tree a week from tomorrow. (!!) The kiddos and family all roll in Tuesday night and Wednesday. Normally by this time of the year, I am well into my Christmas shopping list, if not done. I started strong but only have a couple items marked off. #Iwillnotpanic#Iwillnotpanic#panic

Along with all the distractions, comes a lot of stress. Talking with some girlfriends yesterday and into the night who all said the same things…not sleeping; stressed; can’t focus; achy; grumpy. ‘Tis the season. So what do we do about it?

Sunday’s sermon at Elevation Church was on worry. I’m a world-class, Olympic size worrier. Always have been. It takes me some worrying before I remember that 1) I’m not really in charge, and 2) turn to the One who is. That was me Monday. And especially Monday night. But yesterday, after mentioning my anxiety and worry to my husband, he reminded me of the sermon topic from Sunday and to do what I knew I needed to do. I’m going to give 99% of the credit to Jesus, but thanks for the 1% reminder, babe. Worry = gone. You wanna be there, too? Stop and listen to the One who is in charge. I laid it out…and then I listened. He was quite articulate on my next steps. I feel like I am not silent enough during the day. My “quiet time” is anything but. And I need to get back to it, the way I know it needs to be. Early. No phone or computer (my excuses to “help me with my quiet time”). And a lot more listening. Coffee in hand. And I feel like a new person this morning as I write this.

I’ve been sidelined from the gym for physical and mental reasons. Mostly mental that causes the physical. I was thinking I would be back on it today, but lack of sleep, the electric mattress pad, and snuggly kitties kept me from joining my spouse for our 5:00 am date. Weights and abs at home for the win. But honestly, I do seem to get more accomplished during the day after that 5am kick-my-booty call.

Off to hit those weights and work those abs, but first, I challenge you to encourage someone today. To stop and listen more.

See Y’all tomorrow…



November 13 and home

Photos: Travis J. Arnold

Technically, we were home yesterday, but I spent the day pulling little bits of memories from the weekend and storing them in my heart. And a couple of hours at the barn. That was pretty much my day.

My night, however, was dark and long. Isn’t that the way so often? You are coming off a great weekend filled with love, laughter, and your people or maybe you have finally completed a huge goal that has taken months (or years), or maybe a victory that you just need to settle in on soak it all in? And then the dark thoughts creep in. The doubts. The “what if’s” and “if only’s.” No? Maybe I am the only one that happens to.

I crashed hard last night and slept like the dead for about 3.5 hours. I awoke with a start, not sure if a sound, or movement (hello two kitties and a spouse in the bed with me), or maybe the darkness had already invaded my dreams. It was another 3 hours before I fell back asleep, right before the alarm went off. Those 3 hours were spent trying to escape the anxiety creeping in. The worry. The fears. The doubts. They swirled around me, pressing deeper and deeper upon me like a thick layer of suffocation. I (finally) remembered to cry out to God. Yeah…that should be the first thing, right? My go to. It rarely is…thirty-two years into this walk with Him and I’m still blindsided by the darkness, allowing it to completely cover me before I remember how and Who to dig me out. Once I turned it all over to Him, I was able to fall back asleep, still restless. Still fighting the demons in my sleep, except this time I had the same one-word response to every dark, anxious thought: Jesus.

Nope. I didn’t get up to go to the gym. I snuggled deeper under the warm blankets and let the kitties settle in closer. I needed that sleep after a mostly sleepless night. The battle isn’t over. It’s probably just begun if my past is any indication of my future. Heading into these last six weeks of the year will be busy. For a time, I’ll forget Who is going before me and clearing the path and laying the foundation. And I’ll continue to lose some sleep, Today will be spent in some reflection, prayer, planning, and mostly, a refresher course on each and every time He has come through for me in the past.

See Y’all tomorrow. Praying some Light over each of you.


November 10 from somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Not exactly in the mountains, but we have a gorgeous view. There was a herd of deer in our front yard last night. It is cold. It is quiet. All our people are here.

I am in Heaven.

I’m writing this from the dining room table, sipping coffee, while Russell takes some pictures of the view for me. Shawn is asleep in the living room. Sarah and Travis are sound asleep. I know this because the coffee grinder, announcing freshly brewed coffee to Travis, would have had him in the kitchen. He’s not. Brett and Rachel have gone down to Radford, where they met at college, fell in love in an instant, and have gone back to soak up some nostalgia from that era. Because nothing says lets revisit the place of our love like an early, cold morning spent at the shooting range.

Did I mention it is quiet this morning?

We are all here for no particular reason. What began as a Russell and Susan weekend to Roanoke to visit family quickly escalated to a “we want to come, too!’ event that sees us in an Airbnb, 20 minutes from town. Russell and I got here several hours earlier than all The Kids so we were settled in by the time they arrived bringing with them hugs and kisses, overnight bags and six-packs, hollers for help and car doors slamming. It was an instant healing balm to the open wound my heart has been this last year.

And then the arguing began…who got the other king size bed. Russell had put out the first-come, first-served word, but like Brett said, everyone knows their pecking order. Brett and Rachel are on the double. Which really doesn’t signify the true pecking order as Shawn is on the couch. Pro Tip to Shawn: find a wife and the other king is yours.

Late night snack-making, drinking fixing, laughter, and pushing and shoving in the kitchen, signaled it was time to gather at this same table to play Uno with the never-ending deck of Uno cards.  Over the years about 10 decks of Uno cards have ended up in the same plastic bag we took to and from the beach every summer. It means less shuffling and no card counting. When I threw out the idea that we would just pick up a new deck of Uno cards on our way into Roanoke and just play with that, there was stunned silence. The plastic bag made the trip.

As the Draw Twos, Skips, Reverses, and not-so-occasional Draw Fours (see the previous paragraph) were thrown down with in-your-face glee, it was hard for me to stay focused on the game. (Wait…does one really have to focus playing Uno?) because my heart was burstin’ at the seams with contentment and joy. How quickly it came to pass that the kiddos have grown and left the nest to come back together for snippets in time like this weekend. We now get to experience the results of our handiwork. And a whole lot of God’s grace and blessing. Thankful they still want to come together, for no real reason other than to be in the same place for a few days, as they pick right back up from where they left off, five of them now instead of three, juggling for the one bathroom assigned to The Kids.

As the laughing and door slammings began to die down, I realized that we, too, pick right back up where we ended, as Russell shouts out from our room, “time to settle down and go to bed!” and a lone voice says in the quiet, “seriously? we’re adults now.” And then complete silence.

Dad’s voice still shuts down the masses.

See y’all tomorrow…or Monday. I’m kinda busy this weekend…I can hear Sarah’s laughter from the back of the house…another day of amazing grace is about to begin.

November 8 and bringing order to (my) chaos


(My current phone screen)

When you are 57 years old and you decide to change it all up. Cuz it is about time.

Have I mentioned that I am super OCD? A perfectionist? A keeper of habits and routines? Lover of tradition? Back when the littles were, well, little, I had to let a lot of that go. Because, and let me use kind and gentle lingo here, I was angry all the time. My husband will tell you that is an understatement. My children can recant some rages. Or maybe they have suppressed that. Waiting for it to come all out on the psych couch. In any case, I had to let it go. And let my kiddos be kiddos. Free to make messes in the kitchen when “helping” me cook and bake. That one, by the way, has served us all well…all three of my children can cook, and I’m not just talking simple stuff that anyone can do. They cook and bake like Ina married Guy. (Watch HGTV and you will get that.)

Now, though, it is time to (re)embrace the craziness that is my strong Enneagram 1. But because of all of these tendencies, I really really struggle with doing one thing at a time, getting that down, and moving on to the next thing. For me, it is more of a plate-spinning act with 20 plates spinning at the same time. Gonna be a lot of crashes. When I jumped into no-social-media-August with all the intentions, it all came crashing down pretty quickly. There was some heavy outside of my control things crushing me then too so it was no wonder I couldn’t sustain it.

November has been different. Here’s the thing. When you have something totally out of your control happening to you, making choices and changes that are usually hard to make, let’s you take charge of at least your response to what is happening to you. It has been a long time coming, but I finally was able to do that. Wise counsel, tons of prayer and meditation, and maybe most importantly, getting my family on board, sees me on the other end of that situation. People…it is soooooo freeing. I wish I had made this call a year and a half ago, but now I feel like my entire world has opened up. Which means I am trying to run with it. Holding it together and doing one step at a time (okay, maybe three steps at a time…that’s the best I can do!) has been and has to be a daily, hourly even, conscious decision.

My point is, you can make change happen. Hang in there. Get good counsel (or counseling). Talk to your people and listen to what they say. And pray. Journal. Scream. Listen. Repeat.

More on all of this tomorrow.



November 7 and I can’t think of a thing to say

Well, that’s actually not true, because I have a lot to say. Just not sure how to share it here in an, um, palatable way.

So I’m just gonna start typing and see how it goes.

My heart hurts that our country is so divided. And I’m wondering what it will take to bring us back together. I think it is going to take me. And it’s going to take you. And it is going to her. And it is going to take him. Doing what we were created to do. To encourage. To listen. To help. To love.

Does anyone actually eat candy corn? There always seems to be a shit-ton of it left after Halloween in the “clearance” section. I don’t ever see M&M’s or Kit Kats or Reece’s Peanut Butter cups in the clearance section. And Peeps…Peeps are on the clearance shelf year round. #justsayin

Does anyone else leave up some sort of stringed lights year round? Not the Christmas lights…this isn’t West Virginia, but the soft white lights? We do. On our fireplace mantle and our deck and porch. They are calming to me. And festive. And remind me of the constellations. And how teeny tiny we humans really are in the grand scheme of life. And eternity.

Wine? or beer? Or maybe a girlie drink (no judgment here.) Or maybe just a soft drink? Which do you prefer? Comment below.

I love this time of year. The weather temps and humidity go down and frankly, my hair is at it’s happiest. And if you have hair like mine (curly, prone to frizz, thick) you know exactly what I am talking about. It’s not about vanity; it’s about time and containment of all the hair.

I know that this time of year is difficult for some. And, if I allow myself to focus on it, painful for me, too. Of course, I miss the generations that are no longer here with us, and I miss them, and I still embrace and practice a lot of their traditions. It’s the ones that left us too soon. That break our hearts over and over, every day, but even more so at this time of year. That has us wondering, “what if?” That has us missing not just them, but all that they would be now.


I love Y’all.


November 5 and doing the thing


Pro tip: don’t let 10 years go by before you decide to take control of your health again. I mean, it was fun while it lasted, but now? Reining in my eating, my wine consumption, my lazy-lack-of-exercising behavior? #sucks

Also, though…I am feeling so much better. Yeah…this weekend I ate the biscuit and sausage gravy at Oh George!…but only one of them. And oh yes…this weekend I consumed all the wine. Because it was good. And as I am beginning to write this on Sunday evening, yep…I’m sipping a glass of red in front of the fireplace after an absolutely amazing Sunday. And I’m working on my plan for the week and I’ve already called it on going to the gym in the morning. Not because of the time that we have been going (hello 5:00 am…I don’t even wanna think about ya), but because it will be raining and cold and wet and icky and because I have eaten all the things and I drank all the things and it’s gonna be painful.

So I did blow off heading out to the gym with Russell this morning. But I got up anyway and I’m finishing up my plan for the week, my food and exercise, my blog ideas, all with a mug of coffee and in front of the fireplace. In my workout clothes. Because the workout is still happening. It’s Monday. There is no skipping Monday workout. It will be strength training, my five-minute plank challenge (thanks, Karen McGavin), and the hip opening exercises my personal trainer insists I do every stinking day and to be honest…I’ve noticed a huge difference. My hips are loosening up and are super duper sore. Does the old #nopainnogain still apply?

So back to the eating and the workouts. I’ve focused on getting back into the habit of daily morning workouts the last couple weeks. This week, I’m focusing on the foods I eat and drink. I read somewhere that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Now that I’m done trying to prove that wrong, it’s time to get the eating on track and for me, that requires a plan. One thing I have been doing the last 6 weeks is drinking a 2 oz serving of Young Living NingXia Red every day between breakfast and lunch. It takes a couple weeks of a daily dose to really feel a difference, but the difference is huge. My energy level is off the charts, without any caffeine jitters or heart palps; my joints aren’t as stiff and sore, and my gut is definitely on the mend. Sure, I attribute some of that to working out 5 days a week and the stretching I’ve been doing pretty much daily, except that I began the daily serving of this supplement well before I got back to the gym. Here is some of the scoop on this powerful supplement¬† – I borrowed this from bff, Edie:


So I’ve wanted to get back into working out and eating better for a while now and hadn’t because I left out something: just do the thing. Put it on your calendar. Don’t overthink it. Recognize that it is really going to suck initially. And then it won’t. Something I keep reminding myself: I don’t have to work out today; I get to work out today. I am able to. And I’m starting to push my body a little more each time. And when I’m done…man, it is such a great feeling.

So what are you going to do today? Bag it or just do the thing?

See y’all tomorrow.

P.S. Want to get a hold of a bottle of NingXia Red? Let me know by clicking Tell me about NingXia Red!.