A Refreshing Summer Bucket List

It’s that time again!  Our local weather keeps teasing us with hot days that make it clear that summer is just around the corner!  I’m depending on my Summer Bucket List more than ever this year, as my children have reached a whole new level of fighting that I am certain will send me to the loony-bin if I don’t have a clear plan of attack.  That clear plan of attack comes in the form of my Refreshing Summer Bucket List. Continue reading


Run with Patience

A new year is upon us, so I took a moment to re-read my post stating my resolution for 2014, Bright New Year.  By the end of the post I found myself getting choked up.  I’m positively awful at keeping resolutions, to the point that sometimes I don’t make them at all.  But, for the first time ever, I can confidently say that I kept my new year’s resolution.  I’m not one to toot my own horn, but gosh darn it, I’m going to on this one.  I made my year bright not because of fortunate circumstances, but because I made it bright in all circumstances.  As a result, I have beautiful memories to show for it, despite the setbacks with health issues we encountered.

While I do have desires for a healthier body and financial situation, I’m going to make this year’s resolution broader, as I did last year.  This year my goal is to have greater patience.  I heard a very inspiring talk in church this past Sunday and it helped me better understand patience and my desire for more of it in my life.  The speaker was referencing the scripture found in Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. She then went on to discuss her confusion with the “run with patience” portion of the scripture.  She spoke of her knowledge of the word patience meaning “to wait” and how running to wait didn’t make much sense to her.  I happen to agree.  But patience is more than that.  Patience isn’t just about waiting.  She went on to include a definition she had found in the book Word Meaning in the New Testament, which stated that, “patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstance or succumb under trial.”  Patience is strength and endurance.  The reason this definition hit me is because it speaks of patience not being affected by circumstance.  This echoes my 2014 resolution.  It wasn’t just that I wanted a bright new year with ease.  I wanted to make my new year bright despite the ease, because let’s face it, life is not easy.  The same goes with patience.  I don’t want to get greater patience by things being handed to me, I want to truly gain the strength and endurance that comes from being patient in all things.  I say that now and I already fear what may come my way.  In 2014, I had resolved to keep a bright outlook in all circumstances and I got challenged with having a stroke and finding a tumor.  Who knows what may come with my desire to become more patient?  I can’t help thinking of the meme I saw regarding patience, which read, “Bless me with patience…Not opportunities to be patient, I’ve had plenty of those and they don’t seem to be working.  The actual patience…”  And here I am hoping to gain true patience, which requires opportunities to exercise the attribute.

Without knowing what’s in store for 2015, my guess is that I will have to exercise patience predominantly with myself.  I’m the type of person to do one workout and then race to the scale in hopes that I’ve magically gone down 5 lbs.  Logical Sara knows that’s not how it works, but pathetically desperate Sara hopes that it is.  I need to realize that becoming healthier physically and financially are not sprints, they are long distance runs.  I guess that means I need to long-distance-run with patience.  HAHAHA!  I crack myself up.  Seriously though, this is going to be quite the challenge for me.  Patience has never been my strong suit, just ask my husband.  Then, when 2015 comes to a close, we can ask him again and see if I’ve made any improvement.

If you are a patient person, please teach me your ways by leaving a comment of enlightenment.  I know my husband is a patient person, but I have yet to figure out how he does it.  He’s so laid back in general that it’s hard for me to comprehend.  I wonder, are men generally more patient?  Is greater patience only accomplished by greater opportunities to exercise it?  I sure hope I’m not opening a can of worms in my efforts to be a little stronger this year than last.

Whatever your resolution is this coming year, I imagine it would be better accomplished with a little bit of patience on your side.  So, be patient with yourself, with others, and with all circumstances.  And remember, patience isn’t just about happily waiting but rather, “a quality that does not surrender to circumstance or succumb under trial.”

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In Dreams Awake

‘Twas a night in December of 2011, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that my BFF soon would be there.  The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while I anxiously awaited to start a horrifically cheesy Christmas movie that ABC Family had put out called 12 Dates of Christmas.  Sigh.  I was never good at poetry, so I’ll leave it for Clement Clark Moore.  Seriously though, I really wanted to see this movie and I knew my BFF, who has an equally pathetic love for cheesy rom-coms, was the perfect person to have by my side.  It had everything you would expect of a magoo made-for-TV-movie; discontinuity, plot holes, everybody growing together as people, cheesy lines, and a male lead character saving the world one wayward teenager at a time.  And, sadly, my BFF and I loved every second of it.  We even watched parts of it over again when we realized there were some hidden gems we had missed.  I may have liked it so much that I convinced another friend of mine to watch it with me again this year.  And even though we both laughed at all the corny lines, poor acting, and plot holes, we both found ourselves sighing, as smitten women do, at the tender predictable ending.

Watching the movie a second time, I found myself appreciating the concept of making the most of our lives.  If you didn’t watch the trailer in the link above, the lead actress lives Christmas Eve over and over again until she gets everything just right.  Think of the movie Groundhog Day with less humor and more magoo.  I got caught up in the message of living to our full potential in an effort to create a happier and fuller life.  They drive the message home in one scene when they use Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.”  What a beautiful concept, right?  It reignited my desire to make sure my life matched my values, my righteous desires, and my dreams, as that’s how I interpret that quote.  I feel like the message is that we are to be active participants in creating a life that exemplifies who we aspire to be.

I think that’s why I like the idea of bucket lists so much.  They are like the blueprints of my dreams.  I think back to my 30th birthday and my husband’s gift to me.  My Life Bucket List has “Ride a Zamboni” on it.  My guess is that had I not put it out there as a sincere desire it would not have come to pass.  That February night in 2011, I was in dreams awake.  Or even something simpler I did this past week from my Christmas Season Bucket List.  I had on there to take cards to a retirement home.  As much as I genuinely wanted to do it, I could have easily justified not doing it.  The Saturday was cold and rainy and my husband would not be with me to help with the kids.  However, because of the list and having put it out there as something I wanted to do, I made the extra effort to do it.  How glad I am that we did.  It felt so good to brighten the day of so many people.  Plus, it was darling to see the pictures and notes my children created for the residents.  Seeing my children brighten someone else’s day is me living in dreams awake.

But it’s not just about bucket lists.  It’s about making the effort to live your dreams, whether they be small or large.  To live in the moment, to make the most of that moment.  That’s the message that 12 Dates of Christmas and Henry David Thoreau are trying to make, I think.  We have this glorious opportunity to change the world around us for the better merely by making a commitment to ourselves to live to our full potential.

In some ways I’m great at this and in other ways I fail to accomplish my dreams.  Perfect example: I dream of being healthier.  Not thinner, though that would inadvertently happen, but healthier.  I hope that one day I can live in dreams awake with a fit body.  In the meantime, cheeseburgers beat out vegetables every time.  Thankfully, I have not completely given up on myself.  My determination to accomplish my Life Bucket List may be all I need to make this a reality since several items on there require a healthier body.

Each of us has our strengths and our weaknesses.  And while Amy Smart got to live Christmas Eve 12 times over before getting it right, we also have another day to give it our best effort.  So, here’s to embracing our strengths and challenging ourselves on our weaknesses in the hopes of living in dreams awake; our truest life, or rather, to our full potential.

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A Modest Christmas Plan

Many of us have vivid memories from our youth of Christmas mornings.  Growing up, in my home, we first gathered in my parents room for family prayer.  Then, once my mom had gone downstairs and turned on all of the lights and sat in the optimal position for picture taking, we were allowed to come downstairs and look at the splendor that had magically arrived overnight.  My mom loved to spoil us, particularly on Christmas, so we always came down to a plethora of presents, whether we had the money for it or not.  Rumor has it, that on one Christmas, my brothers actually asked if they could take a break from opening gifts since they had so many.  In short, we wanted for nothing.  As I grew older, Christmases changed.  The more I understood about money, the less I expected to see under the tree.  But there were some growing pains for a few Christmases between the all-you-can-open Christmas and the it’s-not-just-about-presents Christmas.  I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that during my teens, I had longed for the Christmases I had come to expect at a very young age.  This provided a conundrum when it came to the Christmases that I provided for our family.  Should I give them the all-you-can-open Christmas I had missed during my teenage years?  Or do I give them something more, by giving them less?

I opted to give them something more on Christmas morning, by giving them less.  However, this was not the case during the first Christmases of our marriage.  This plan has evolved from other’s examples.  I have a friend who gets each of her kids just one gift.  I was astonished.  She told me that their grandparents get them so much that it would be crazy for she and her husband to buy any more than that.  I wasn’t bold enough to limit Christmas morning to one gift per child, but once I heard the idea of getting each child a want, a need, a wear, and a read, I was sold!  Thankfully, I heard of this while my eldest was still young enough not to recall those very first Christmases when this rule did not apply.  We started this tradition a couple years ago and now my kids know the drill.  They can ask for one thing that they want, I usually know of one thing that they need, and one thing to wear, and one thing to read.  Of course, I cheat a little, since they believe Santa also brings them one thing.  And their stockings are usually filled with some goofy little $1 toy, candy, and a new toothbrush.  Why I give a toothbrush for Christmas is beyond me, but it was always in my stocking, so it will be in theirs.

I really feel like this helps keep my kids expectations realistic and my checking account in the black.  Plus, it helps keep a balance between each child’s gifts.  My second oldest has asked for a princess doll set, she stands in need of snow boots, she loves to wear maxi skirts to church, and we all love the book Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea, so I buy those four and we move on to the next kiddo.  It’s a glorious plan that helps my sanity and my pocketbook.  Best of all, it’s a tradition that doesn’t over-indulge my children.

My hope is that they will always have warm memories of Christmas that will not be based on the amount of presents around the tree, but rather the amount of love shared with friends and family.

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Free Printable Christmas Season Bucket List

I’m a firm believer in holding off on all things Christmas until Thanksgiving has been fully celebrated and appreciated.  So, here I am, on the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season!  I decided I would put together a fun little Christmas Season Bucket List, as I’m sure comes as no surprise.  Sadly, I only completed 16 of my 20 items on my Awesome Autumn Bucket List.  The following list is sure to be completed, as it is filled with all the things that our family loves to do every year around this beautiful time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

I like to post bucket lists on our refrigerator for reference!  This means that today the Awesome Autumn Bucket List comes down and this one goes up!  Feel free to download your own copy of this Christmas Season Bucket List!  May it help make your Christmas season merry and bright!

I love this time of year and I’m excited to spread the love and joy that it brings me!


After publishing, I discovered typos in the Printable Christmas Season Bucket List.  In my effort to not take more time away from my infant son who patiently waited while I put this together, I will not be redoing this printable.  I apologize in advance if you decide to print this out and the typos bug you, as they do me.  Alas, my role as a mother takes priority.  Thank you in advance for understanding.

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Fall Craft: Leaf Mason Jars

Here in our neck of the woods, Fall is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  Winter greeted us with a significant snow storm that served as a reminder to get cracking on my Awesome Autumn Bucket List before I embrace the next season.  So, when I was walking the girls home from school, I told them to grab all the leaves they could find so that we could work on our Fall Craft, which was an item on our bucket list.  Sadly, we started this project too late in the season for it to be a complete success.  However, it still turned out pretty cute, so I thought I would share.

You may be asking yourself, “Hey, didn’t she say that she isn’t crafty?”  You are correct, I did say that.  But for some reason, if you put some sort of brush in my hand, it somehow seems easier for me to tackle.  This time it was a sponge brush to pull off the DIY Leaf Mason Jars that I found on Pinterest through the website Plan Provision.  It doesn’t provide much of a how-to on the site, but it does tell you what you’ll need.  The problem in our results was that I wasn’t aware that the leaves this late in the season would prove to be too crispy and therefore would not stick properly to the mason jars.  We had to cut up the leaves a bit to make them stick at all.  While I still think they turned out nice, I plan to do this project again next year earlier in the season for a more professional looking final product.

If you still have a bit off Fall hanging on where you live, you may want to give this project a go during your Thanksgiving break.  If, like us, winter is upon you, then keep this in mind for next year!  It really did add a beautiful effect to our dining room.  Even better, it left us one bucket list item closer to completing our goal of creating the most Awesome Autumn yet!

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Bright New Year!

At the start of this bright new year, I can’t help but find it funny that we create all these resolutions for a new year and most involve better health, yet we stay up so late the night before that we throw out our good intentions before noon on New Year’s Day.  I think the reason this really hit home for me today was that my toddler was up until 11:45 last night.  I have no clue how he didn’t pass out sooner.  Of course his late bedtime had no bearing on his usual wake-up time and he was a disaster until I put him down for an early nap.  We were all so tired this morning that I was throwing out all the usual rules just to keep The Boy from screaming and me from losing my mind.  That’s when I thought to myself, “How is this the right way to start off a New Year?”

I think that’s the part that makes me panic about resolutions.  The moment I don’t fulfill them perfectly is the moment I consider myself a failure and give up altogether.  Is this a healthy way of handling resolutions?  Heck, a healthy way of handling anything in life?  Nope and nope.  I’m reminded of a pin I saw this week –

I’m so afraid of failing at my resolutions that one year I started my New Year’s Resolution on January 17, when I figured the majority of other’s resolutions had already been thrown aside.  I had a goal of losing 50 lbs. and there were 50 weeks remaining in the year so my goal was to lose one pound a week.  I did lose some weight under my plan and then I got pregnant.  And, if you’re wondering if I got pregnant just to avoid the resolution, I’m not 100% certain that I could dispute you on the matter.

But this year, I’m starting my year off with a resolution that I won’t be able to measure in calories, pages, miles, or dollars.  My resolution is to Find Happiness Amongst Trials and happiness in general.  Not just find happiness, but bring happiness.  My resolution is to bring the light and joy with me.  We can get so caught up in the ugly of the world that we fail to realize that sometimes we’re promoting it by continually giving it talk-time.  It seems to me that our natural instinct is often to feed the negative and starve the positive, when it ought to be the other way around.

The most emotionally healthy people that I know have optimism written in their hearts.  They are aware of their thoughts and actions and the impact they have on their own lives and those around them.  They choose to find the silver lining in life and brighten the world with their outlook and demeanor.  That’s what I want for 2014.  I want to illuminate my surroundings.  I want to be Living A Life With Laughter, be Saving by Serving, and Be the Hero in [My] Story.

In short, I want to have a bright new year; not because of fortunate circumstances, but because I made it bright in all circumstances.


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One Holiday at a Time

While millions of Americans are traveling on this the busiest travel day of the year, my family and I have arrived back home from our pre-holiday travels.  I must say that it’s kind of refreshing to have the stress of travel behind us while we enjoy our Thanksgiving at home with friends.  Less refreshing has been trying to fight the urge to listen to Christmas music and get a head start on our myriad of Christmas traditions.  I know there are more and more people out there that have all but brushed Thanksgiving aside, but I will hold on to my belief that we should celebrate one holiday at a time.

It seems a little sad to me that the one holiday that seems to get the short end of the stick is one centered around having thankful hearts.  I get that listening to Christmas music, starting your shopping, and decorating your home beforehand does not mean that you are not grateful. But it still seems a shame that we give it less and less of our focus. I actually love Christmas music and have often wondered why we don’t listen to it year round.  But I think the special feelings I feel about Christmas music, and all things Christmas, are that they are held aside for a special time of year.  My problem with all the Christmas activity before Thanksgiving is that I don’t feel like it is done to lengthen the experience of the Joy of Christmas but rather to lengthen the ability to “get it all done.”

Black Friday Shopping is the biggest culprit of Thanksgiving being robbed of it’s own separate day.  While I never participated in Black Friday shopping when it was actually on Friday, I could at least respect it’s placement AFTER Thanksgiving.  Now I can’t even do that.  It starts earlier and earlier every year.  Early enough now that it’s becoming known as “gray Thursday.”  I know several people that dislike the stores opening on Thanksgiving, but that’s still not deterring their Black “Friday” shopping experience from happening.  My concern, and history proves this, is that as long as you give a retailer a customer then most retailers are going to take advantage of that opportunity to have their doors open earlier and longer.

There is the argument that we do the shopping out of the need for a good deal, but I can’t imagine that our need is so great that it means robbing workers of their holiday time with family.  My husband is in the medical field and, as a result, we fight to spend our holidays together.  I respect that my husband is needed at the hospital, but are we losing sight when we believe that retailers are needed earlier and earlier for us to snag the best deal?

For many, Black Friday Shopping is also a tradition.  And a rather fun one, I’m told.  I hear people-watching alone is epic.  But I imagine you can still line up outside of the retailers that are making a point to give their workers Thanksgiving off and stay true to Black Friday.  What a wonderful tradition it would be to carry as it was intended on Friday and allow the workers to carry on their traditions of a Thanksgiving meal with their loved ones.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it’s one of the few holidays where there are no obligations to give gifts.  The only obligation is to eat, enjoy yourself, have a grateful heart, and spend time with loved ones.  The irony of Black Friday and it’s focus on materialism immediately following, and now infringing on, Thanksgiving is a little disheartening to me.

I suppose it’s easy for me to have my opinion since I have yet to take part in Black Friday Shopping.  Although, as a lover of Christmas music, I can say that I do not listen to the radio stations playing Christmas music prior to Thanksgiving.  It’s no easy task, but I do it in my effort to celebrate one holiday at a time.  I may be one girl with little impact, but I feel better knowing that I believe in this principle enough that I won’t allow myself to be a contributor in Thanksgiving becoming a minor holiday.

To each of you, regardless of your Thanksgiving plans, may you have grateful hearts tomorrow and everyday.  There is always, always, always something to be thankful for in our lives.

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Meaningful Traditions

I am a big supporter of traditions.  My Mom did an amazing job of having all sorts of fun things to look forward to at various times of year.  One of my favorites was our first day of school tradition.  When our first day ended, we would return home to the delicious smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven.  Those chocolate chip cookies were amazing.  My Mom used the Nestle Toll House recipe.  However, she must have added a heavy dose of Love in there, as they never taste as good when I try to replicate them.  Regardless of my abilities, I make chocolate chip cookies for my girls every year for their first day of school.

Another tradition that has been carried on in our home due to it’s memorable role in my childhood is my Mom’s Halloween Sugar Cookies.  I still have the cookie cutter she used.  It’s such a pain to use since it’s not just an outline cut-out.  It’s a cookie cutter that pushes in a darling little pumpkin face, which then gets covered up by frosting.  It’s such a shame that nobody can see the detail of the cutout, but I still use it because my Mom did.  I also still use raisins to make the Jack-o-Lantern face since that’s what my Mom used.  Even though most people prefer and suggest that I use chocolate chips instead, I stick with tradition.  I really am painfully loyal to the tradition.

That all being said, I think it’s important that we reevaluate the traditions we carry on in our lives.  I make my Mom’s sugar cookies using her cutout for half of the batch and then finish the dough off making cookies that are smaller and easier to produce.  I honor the tradition but I also strive to prevent the tradition from overwhelming me to the point of unnecessary stress.
Sometimes we risk traditions losing their meaning when we get carried away with them.  I’m not sure who is to blame for this epidemic of quantity and perfection over meaning and reflection when it comes to traditions.  My guess would be that Pinterest had a hand in it.  While I am a supporter of Pinterest, I fear many women feel this need to do every tradition, craft, and holiday treat posted on there.  I often become a victim myself.  I almost have to avoid Pinterest completely during the holidays to protect myself from feeling like a failure of a Mom for not doing Elf on a Shelf, the Advent Calendar, Gingerbread Houses, homemade Christmas ornaments, Secret Santa, Caroling, the 12 Days of Christmas, and the like in the course of 25 days.  I love traditions, especially the Christmas ones, but sometimes I feel like we overdo it and lose the spirit of the season or tradition.
Let me reiterate that I truly cherish traditions.  I baked the Halloween cookies, we took the kids to a real Pumpkin Patch (a first for me), we carved pumpkins, and we’ll be dining on chili, cornbread, and hot dogs tomorrow evening, per tradition.  I love providing meaningful traditions for my children.


But I wanted to remind readers, and myself, that we don’t have to do it all to prove ourselves in anyway.  Sometimes beginning involves minimizing and being okay with ourselves for knowing our limits.  I think Elf on a Shelf is a darling idea, but if I add that to my list of traditions, my children are going to wake up to one angry elf everyday in December.
As we continue through this fun holiday season, remember it’s okay to have your child come home with 20+ holiday goodie bags that other Moms made for the class when your accomplishment for the day consisted of getting your child to school with a warm jacket on.  Embrace the traditions that have real meaning to you and your family.  Begin letting go of the excess and treasure the simple traditions that beget warm memories rather than stress.
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