Monday, March 12, 2018

So, About Last Night...At The Well

As my witty Mother-in-law says when she makes a grand entrance, "HOOOOOWWWWWDY!" 

I've been MIA from this here blog since Juan-uary. And it's almost mid-March! We can blame my absence on Instagram stories. It seems the insanity that I would normally blog about is happening over there now. 

Y'all know when I have something really good though that this is where I come. 

So, here's the backstory recap for the new folks... I was raised Catholic - Catholic school, church just about every Sunday and holy days, Catholic wedding, Shan converted, baptized 1 of the 3 boys there, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. We now somewhat regularly attend an Episcopal church, baptized the other 2 boys there, and have been very involved over the last 15 years. However, due to the increasing popularity of a contemporary service - my boys love a good Jesus Jam - we attend the Baptist Mega-Church up the road periodically. We also love to attend several of their special programs and participate in Upward sports there! All this double-dippin' is mainly because I believe you go where you need to to be fed. My super precious great aunt Nita - one of the most hilarious, vibrant, dirty-joke-telling, yet Godly women I have ever known in my life - went to 2 churches for many years until she died at the ripe old age of 98, because she liked the people at one and the pastor at the other. So it happens. 

All that to say, if you're looking for a church, I can point you in the direction of a few different ones. Kidding. Not kidding. But seriously. I've been fortunate to have always known Jesus and his goodness. But like most of us, I sometimes forget how ridonkulously good he really is. And I forget that he can fill the cracks in my bust-up brokenness better than anyone or anything else! When there is someone that good, why do I sometimes forget he's there? Maybe it's my ADD. Or maybe it's just because I'm human. But I have a feeling I'm not alone. As a matter of fact, I know I'm not alone. Which is why I love going to the well...and The Well!

One Sunday last month, I attended a women's program at the Baptist church I was just talking about up there. Unfortunately, I missed the first one in January, but have saved the date for the remaining Sundays for the rest of the year. The program is called The Well. It's a once-a-month opportunity for women of the community to gather for worship, fellowship, and to listen to featured women share their stories and journeys. And the coolest part is that it doesn't matter what your age or stage of life is...the bottom line in every story is his redeeming love and grace. It's not at all whoo-hooey or Branch Davidian-ish, for all you skeptics. It's like being in the audience of a super chic talk show, with a cool set and fabulous music. And you're surrounded by amazing, über groovy gals (like me, of course). Y'all, you can't help but walk away from there with a little bit of super glue on your pieces.

Last month my sweet friend Ellen was the featured speaker. I could identify so much with her story and went home full of hope and feeling not so alone. Ellen is my age-ish, raising 3 kids, and with similar struggles in the body image and worthiness department. Her story is imperfectly beautiful. She reminded us that he loves us even in our darkest places of shame and self-loathing. All the time. And if you know Ellen, you know what an absolutely beautiful person she is on the inside and out. She just exudes his love and grace. That was the first I had heard of her story and knowing the Ellen I know, I would have never guessed her former pain and struggles. I am so thankful for her sharing her heart with us.

Last night a precious girl named Sarah Parker (a good ol' double named southern girl), who I do not know personally, shared her story. And while I cannot relate to being a single almost 30 year old, because I've had an incredible guy by my side since I was 17,  I can most definitely relate to her big personality and her need to fill voids with something other than his goodness. She talked about Jesus meeting us where we are. Not only does he meet us where we are when we first let him scoop us up, he meets us there every single day, minute by minute. We just have to let him! We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So, I've been to the the well a time or two{-thousand} in my life. I feel like I go to the well a lot these days. Anxiety, parenting, body-image, and general inadequacies send me there. And that's ok, because Jesus has the power to redeem and fill us up like nothing else can. If you're not near me and feel like you need this goodness in your life, I urge you to reach out to women you know and share your story or your brokenness. Create your own well and you'll see you're not alone. If you don't feel comfortable doing that, reach out to me! I'd love to share my bucket o' Jesus with you. There's plenty to go around and it doesn't get a whole lot messier than this right here. I think if Jesus were a southern woman he'd shake his head at me on the hourly and say "bless her heart". And if you're in these parts, I invite you to join me at The Well series, monthly for the rest of 2018. I linked it up there. Good stuff is happening there, ladies! Good stuff. 


Monday, January 01, 2018

10 Questions for 2018

Happy New Year! 

(Those glasses made me go cross-eyed. Too much plastic! But a great shot nonetheless.😂)

2017 is in the books and a fresh start is upon us!

2017 wasn't too shabby for the Baker fam. We saw some highs and lows, but in retrospect, our lowest lows were fairly easy to work through and we had some pretty awesome highs that are worth noting.

  • After a miserable 2016 with the loss of my closest friend and a career struggle that made me want to crawl in a hole and never come out, in January 2017 I launched my freelance social media management business And now I work from home, alongside one of my oldest and dearest friends Helen at {who builds some pretty amazing websites, BTW}. With the faith she and Shan have put into me and taught me to put in portfolio is growing! Teamwork makes the dream work, y'all.
  • In May Shannon decided to kick a miserable career situation to the curb and follow his heart back to a company where he's truly happy. While the intense traveling isn't the greatest for our family, we've found a way to manage it with the help of our fabulous counselor
  • In October I made my very first visit to NYC! If you follow me on social media then you know how amazing that was for me.
  • Also in October, I celebrated 3 years with my wonderful side hustle with Beautycounter, and had my best month ever!
  • The boys? Sam's Crohn's disease has been well-managed for over a year now. No hospital visits! A transition that terrifies me, has me happy to report that Fulton has taken to middle school like a duck to water. Oliver? Well, everyday is a high with Oliver. 

2017 was a time of great personal growth for me. It only took me 43 years to gain some really good perspective, but hey! Better now than never.

In an effort to continue that personal growth, I've decided not to set resolutions for 2018. I don't do well with resolutions and I think the only way to get off the defeating spin cycle of life is to start asking yourself questions. Questions that make you think...that make you uncomfortable. I've said before, if life was always comfortable, we'd be JELL-O! Spiritually, physically, mentally, professionally...all the -lys. So I've come up with 10 questions I'm asking myself as I approach this new year, to continue my growth.

1. What are my priorities? 
I recently posted these little slips of paper all over my house that read "Your priorities are your character", as a reminder to my whole family. One child was embarrassed because it makes me look like a "psycho mom", but it made him ask me what it meant and why I was posting them. So now we have a great on-going dialogue between us about priorities and character. So really...what are my priorities?

2.  What am I looking forward to?
What am I looking forward to? Life isn't a whole-lotta fun without some type of joy at the end of the day, week, month, year. I'm making my list of things to looks forward to personally, as a family, and professionally. Even if it's coming home after a long day and putting on my robe and PJs, I'm looking forward to some kind of joy. And who doesn't look forward to their robe and PJS?

3. What makes me well?
As a mom I always put myself on the back burner. I may or may not exercise everyday because of some else's schedule and obligations. I often skip or postpone check ups because it just takes too much time. I don't get my prayer and devotional time in because I'd rather have 30 minutes more sleep. You get me. I feel good now that I've acknowledged what it is that makes me well in all the "-ly" aspects of my life. In 2018 I'm making a point to take care of all that makes me well.

4. How do I leave others?
Is my time with others well-spent? I think we often go through the motions with the people we interact with in our jobs, our family, and strangers. Do we leave them "feeling" anything? I think about the times others left me feeling good, as well as not so good. Positive, negative, or nondescript...we remember it. So I'd like to focus on leaving others better than I found them.

5. What {Who} am I putting too much stock into?
This is a deep one. You know the people and things that you put all your energy into? Sometimes it's mentally and sometimes it's physically. I've discovered that there is healthy stock and unhealthy stock. Relationships and duties have a time and a place in our lives. They are things/people that we once loved and now need to give up. I've never really struggled with taking them on...because I am a bit of a sucker in that aspect. However, once I take them on, I struggle with letting go.
I often find myself still wanting to put stock into friendships that are no longer and I try to keep obligations, for which I once had a fiery passion, burning. When really...they have fizzled. It is important to recognize who and what you're putting stock into that's really worth it. Because it gets exhausting trying to keep something alive that has run its course. So I'm not doing it anymore. Particularly when there are true-blue relationships and new opportunities to fuel my passions in life. Just say no to unhealthy stock.

6. Who {What} inspires me? 
I love reading fashion, lifestyle, and entrepreneurial blogs. I am also a self-help book junkie. Those things are awesome for a little jolt of inspiration. But I find myself wanting inspiration from people I can talk to and meet with. I crave people who make stuff happen. So I'm on the hunt for live-action inspiration!

7. What promises to myself have I fallen down on?
This doesn't need 'splanin'. It's just time to make those promises a priority.

8. What does a realistic day look like, compared to an ideal day?
When it comes to time management, I not only fell off the struggle bus, but I also got backed over.  Ideal days are very few and far between, so this is a challenge for most people, I would imagine. Especially those of us with time management issues. Working from home takes those issues to a whole new level. Taking all must-do responsibilities and would-like-to-dos into account, I must take my excessive and random list making a step further and actually put them into a schedule. Then I need to learn to master the art of making a real day as close as possible to an ideal day. Wish me lots-o'-luck on this one.

9. What is "success" and how will I celebrate it?
I'm not great at acknowledging my accomplishments - big or small. Yet, I find motivation to keep going when I celebrate small victories. So you'd think I'd do it more often. I think success looks a little different to everyone, but celebrating our successes is uber important. Did I keep my children alive today? Then, let's celebrate! Did I finish that proposal? Celebrate! Did I have a great month in retail volume? Boom...celebrate! Defining what success is to me and patting myself on the back for a job-well-done is vital and I am going to start putting it into practice...on the daily.

And finally...

10. What does my life look like in a year?
We aren't promised next year, next month, or even tomorrow. So I can only take life one day at a time. But success doesn't happen in one big chunk. It's all the little bits and pieces leading up to the end result. So when it comes time to reflect on all the "-lys", these are the questions I can ask myself at the end of each day and again at the end of the year.
How am I contributing to my church in a way that I wasn't before? Have I made time for devotions and prayer? Have I started or joined a regular study? Have I been an example to my boys?
Have we made us a priority?
Have I done all I can to reach fitness goals? Have I checked all my wellness boxes?
CBVivid: How many clients do I have? Have I expanded the services I offer?
Beautycounter: How many clients do I have? Have I grown my network and achieved a new title?
Have I maintained accountability with my counselor and myself? What have I done to manage anxiety? Have I prayed about it as much as I've worried about it?
Have I managed our home well? Am I holding my boys accountable? Have we checked off our up-fitting and maintenance priorities?
Have I found my new passion for serving others? What/How have I contributed?

So that's how I plan to get through each day of 2018. And I wish anyone reading this great joy and good health in this new year.

So...Do you set resolutions?  Do you have questions that help you navigate life? I'm curious to hear.

Now off to prepare my collards and black eyed peas!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Scream Mask...Where Trick or Treaters go to Die

Y'all have heard me preach my love for all things costume and Halloween. I have to say I get it honestly. Once upon a time my mom used us as her guinea pigs when she wanted to stitch random materials together and make a costume. And when I say stitch random things together, I mean like the time I stood there being encased in carpet padding, morphing into Gumby. It was like something you would see behind the scenes of a movie. Or remember the movie Splash with Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah?

Well, there was the time she hand stitched a mermaid costume to my body, and I had to hop to trick-or-treat. But I loved every minute of the insanity, and she won the contests!

1985-ish...brilliance by my mom.

Over the last 15 Halloweens, since Sam was born, I've whipped up most of our/their costumes. There were a few years where creativity and time were lacking, and I had to purchase costume pieces {gasp!}, but I was still able to pull off something thematic-ish with fun makeup and hair. 'Cause I love a theme, ya know.

2009-2013: The Mad Scientist, Igor, and Zombie - Cowboys and their pony - Mummies - Zombie Football Team - Fungus Zombie (super fun to make!), Dracula, and Grim Reaper

And then it happened.

Halloween 2014

Sam: "Mom, I just want to wear a scream mask."

Me: "I'm sorry, what? Did you say a Scream Mask?" {Tears. Runs and locks self in room.}

I'd be lying if I said I didn't beg him not to.

But I gave in. I set my son free!

Free to be the Scream jeans. I knew this could only lead to one thing...they're all gonna want store-bought now.

Then, right before my eyes...

Halloween 2015

It had spread. My first all-store-bought-uncreative Halloween since 2002. And The Scream Mask started it all.

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse...

Halloween 2016

I was officially down one trick-or-treater and my favorite holiday of the year was crashing down around me, like a thoughtless, themeless, uncreative, and random tornado. I was bewildered and posted this on Facebook at 5am the next morning.

But I was hanging in there with the other 2, clinging to the hope of next year.

Halloween 2017

This can't be happening.

The Scream jeans emerges again. This time claiming Fulton. I know it won't be long before he shares with me that he doesn't want to trick-or-treat anymore either.

But there's one more! Hopefully, I've got a few years left with Oliver, before he utters those fateful words, "I just want to wear the Scream Mask."

In the meantime, with all creativity crushed and shattered, what's a Halloween-lovin' mom to do?

Old-School Trolls

Take it out on her husband, of course! {Don't let him fool you. I think he secretly loves it.}

So beware when your kids say they want to wear the Scream Mask. It's really the beginning of the end.