Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Holiday Miracle

At the beginning of the Christmas season I had a meltdown. I was tired of all my bah humbug grinchy family members ruining my Christmas cheer year and year. The kids and I had been fighting about them not wanting to go to Thanksgiving dinner and they were already being brats about Christmas. My husband was moping around about the holidays. I haven't had as much energy, physically or mentally, since I had major surgery in July. School was very homework heavy this semester and I was just feeling generally overwhelmed with the stresses of being a mom and caregiver. I couldn't take any more fighting over something like the holidays. This should be the happiest time of the year. It used to be. I needed it to be again.

I wanted to go to a small town Christmas festival early in the season and my suggestion was being met with complaints and grumbling. My kids said no way. My husband said he'd go if I went, but he didn't want to. After the month long fight over Thanksgiving and the complaints I was already hearing about Christmas, I had enough. "FINE! I AM DONE. I'M NOT MAKING ANYONE DO ANYTHING CHRISTMASSY. IF PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO DO CHRISTMAS THINGS I'M NOT MAKING YOU DO THEM. I'M NOT FORCING YOU. I'M NOT GOING WITHOUT YOU. I'M JUST DONE." I may have shed a tear or two. After years and years of being the queen of Christmas, with three kids and a husband who hate the holidays, I finally broke. My Christmas spirit was gone.

Something happened to my family after I had my outburst. They all decided we should go to the Christmas festival. I was pouting and not even dressed and they told me I should get ready. We went and no one complained about anything, even though there wasn't as much to do as I had hoped. We stood in long lines out in the cold, and no one said an single negative thing. They even agreed to get our picture taken with Santa for the first time since they were little.

But it wasn't just that night. They were enthusiastic about taking Christmas card pictures. They laughed and posed and had fun with it. Alyssa spent the evening helping me pick out the picture to use as our Christmas card and choosing which card design to order.

My husband has watched many Christmas movies with me this month. He wore silly socks  to our family party even though he doesn't like attention.

Alyssa came home from her dad's house for our family Christmas party. She wore a Christmas sweater and socialized the whole night, which is very unlike her.

We've watched Christmas movies, listened to Christmas music, made gingerbread houses and my family hasn't complained at all. Alyssa has asked to do things I hadn't even planned this year, like going on a Christmas light scavenger hunt last night.

Caleb didn't want to go look at lights with us and I was disappointed, but I wasn't going to say anything about it since they've been so good all month. Alyssa jumped on his case and told him he had to go. He said, "Alyssa, you don't even like Christmas." She responded, "I know, but I'm really trying to this year.". I got a tear in my eye and told her, "Christmas is magical and life is hard. We should look for any magic we can find in this world." She said, "You're not wrong." and yelled at her brother to get in the car.

We drove around for hours last night, listening to Christmas music and trying to find all the hard things on Alyssa's list (Mrs. Claus and the Grinch escaped us). We all had fun and we laughed and laughed.

I have truly seen the magic of Christmas and giving in my family this year. They could see I was struggling because life IS hard and I needed the happiness of the holidays and positive family time. They gave that to me. I think they needed it too, especially Alyssa. As my kids are getting older, family time is the most precious gift in the world to me. My heart has grown three times its normal size this December. There have been no stresses this week, only JOY. I'm looking forward to Christmas eve festivities tonight and opening presents tomorrow morning with all three of my kids. I'm feeling Christmas excitement like I haven't felt in years. It's a holiday miracle!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Instant Pot Sweet Italian Soup

(may contain aff links)

My husband said this is the best meal I've ever made in the Instant Pot and I use my Instant Pot almost daily! It was super good! This could be made on the stove top as well. 

Grilled chicken, diced
Seeds of Change quinoa & brown rice pouch (I buy mine at Costco)
Can diced tomatoes w/sweet onion
2 cans water
Diced yellow bell pepper
Diced red onion
Italian seasoning 

Cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. You can quick or natural release. Serve with feta cheese.

To cook on a stove top, just simmer until peppers and onion are soft. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Cherry Cream Pie

Having a cherry tree in my yard means I often have canned cherries on my shelf. I needed a last minute dessert for Father's Day dinner tonight and this cherry pie came out amazing! I will be making it again, for sure!

Cherry Cream Pie

1 quart canned cherries, drained or fresh cherries, pitted

homemade or store-bought graham cracker crust

3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
dash salt
1/2 tsp corn starch
2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. cold butter

Pour the cherries into the pie pan lined with graham cracker crust. Mix your cream ingredients well.  Pour over cherries, moving cherries around as needed to allow the cream mixture to settle in. For topping, cut butter into the sugar and flour until it resembles crumbs. Sprinkle topping over cherries and cream.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.  If edges of graham cracker crust start to darken, cover edges with tin foil. Serve warm with ice cream.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


My kids now call me the "Crazy Jello Lady" and people at church sing the Jello song to me when I pass because I happened to be featured on a fun KSL news segment about Jello in Utah last month!  You can watch it HERE!  It was a lot of fun!  This is the Jello salad recipe I make more than any other.  It's so delicious!

Overnight Jello Salad

1 small pkg vanilla pudding (not instant)
1 small pkg orange jello
12 oz carton of cool whip (extra creamy, if possible)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
2-3 bananas, sliced

Cook pudding according to package directions using water instead of milk. Add the dry jello powder and boil until dissolved. Cover and let set overnight. In the morning, whip jello-pudding mixture and cool whip in a large bowl together. Fold in fruit. Let chill.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mental Illness Through the Eyes of a 16 Year Old Girl

Mental illness is not beautiful.  It's not romantic. Depression isn't just being sad.  I don't know what sad feels like. Anxiety isn't just being nervous.  Bipolar isn't just mood swings. Self harm isn't just attention seeking.

Depression is feeling empty, numb, hopeless. It's staring at the ceiling at 4 am with burning eyes because your thoughts won't stop telling you that you're better off dead.

It's not getting out of bed for days because you don't see the point. It's leaving piles of homework in the corner because you lack any motivation. It's being told you're selfish and lazy when really you want so desperately to be able to go outside and hang our with friends but your depression keeps you in your basement all day.

Anxiety is not being able to pay for your food at a restaurant.  It's the constant feeling of almost falling off a cliff. It's having panic attacks in the middle of class. Hiding in the bathroom as your chest doesn't allow you to breathe and the tears don't stop. You can't speak or stand and you can physically feel the walls caving in around you. It's the feeling someone would get when they're just about to take the most important test of their lives, only instead of a test, it's just asking for a takeout box.

Bipolar Disorder isn't just an over-emotional girl on her period. It's wanting to kill yourself for days as you suffer a rock-bottom depression and then all of a sudden you're so high you can't see yourself ever coming down. Mania is terrifying, not happy.  It's laughing at the most dire situations. It's loud and chaotic. It's like spinning around in circles as fast as you can and not being able to stop, only to stumble into a pit and plummet back to that crippling depression. It's not being able to trust your emotions because you only feel in extremes.

Self harm is ugly. There's no one who is kissing your scars. It's feeling so bad about yourself and who your illness has made you become that the self hatred boils over, spilling out into hysterical crying and the urge to destroy yourself. Or feeling so numb and empty that you bleed to feel something again. It's pain. It's stinging. It's fear. It's regret. It's shame. And it's not being able to stop even when you want to.

None of these things are beautiful. They're ugly. They're destruction. They're chaos. They make you forget what it ever felt like to be happy. Mental illness consumes you. It is hell.

But if not for these illnesses taking over my life, I wouldn't be the artist I am. No one would be able to feel the emotion radiating off of my paintings. I would lose my creativity. To create is to survive. And the only things that is beautiful out of any of this is what I am now able to create. The most important thing I've ever learned is how to take all of the pain and negativity and channel it into a piece of artwork. Out of my suffering I have created beauty.

My paintings may be sloppy and dark, and difficult to understand, but they are beautiful and they are me.

A note from her mom:

I've been surrounded by mental illnesses most of my life, but it is so different to watch your babies struggle. Even though I can understand what someone with a mental illness is going through, I can't truly understand how it feels to them.  In our home I have worked hard to completely normalize mental illnesses.  In fact, my daughter will mockingly call me "neurotypical", meaning I'm one of the only people in our family without a diagnosed mental disorder.  I'm the odd-ball, which also means I'm the caregiver and carry a lot of stress due to doctor's appointments, medications, psychiatrist's appointments, counseling appointments and the day-to-day of helping those who are not-so-neurotypical. It's an exhausting life.  

This piece titled "A Beautiful Mess" was written by my daughter last year, which was a low point in her life.  She has since made a lot of progress, thanks largely to finding a good bipolar medication, but she still struggles daily. I tease her all the time about being so high maintenance.  I am very proud of her for finding healthy outlets to cope, such as painting and writing and I'm even more proud that she is allowing me to share her thoughts with the world. Please, parents, make your home a safe place for your teenagers to share their feelings with you, no matter how dark they may be.

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: A Year in Picture Review

2016 was a year of MAGIC!
When I chose magic as my word of the year for 2016, I had no idea what would transpire, but it truly was a magical year.  Here are a few of the amazing things that happened last year!

We visited the ice castles in Midway!
It was our first time and WOW!  Beautiful!

I hosted a 1950s themed dinner party.  Everyone dressed up, the food was perfect and we all had so much fun!
This will be a tradition for sure.

We went bobsledding in Park City!  It was crazy, but so fun!

I attended my first blogging conference.
I met so many fabulous ladies and really had an incredible time!

We went to our first Utah Jazz game and got to go down on the court to high-five the players as they came out.  I'm not really a sports person, but Caleb and my husband really had a great time!

I built a craft room!  Ok, I hired someone to build it, but it's pink and girly and has a chandelier!

I threw myself the most amazing pink princess party for my birthday.  This was such a magical event!

We went to Lava Hot Springs for the first time.
So much fun!

Our annual trip to Yuba Lake was as great as ever!

We saw Lita Ford, Ratt, Warrant, Dokken and Bret Michaels in concert!  Bret Michaels was a blast!  He checked Poison off my concert bucket list!

Costa Rica!!!
Visiting Costa Rica had been a goal of mine since I was a little kid.
I got to spend two amazing weeks there!  I can't wait to go back again!

Weezer was another band on my concert bucket list.  CHECK!
They played with Panic! at the Disco, which is a favorite of Alyssa's.

It was a summer of concerts!  We also saw Kansas and Lynyrd Skynyrd!
Alyssa is a great concert buddy!

Crystal Pepsi made a limited time comeback in 2016!
I can't even tell you how many I drank!

I flew to Virginia for the first time for a
Pinups for Patriots conference!
I joined this fun organization in 2016 and really love it, even though I'm slow to get things going!
We attended the Modern Marine Expo at Quantico.

NYC!  We toured the beautiful historic library and attended a Thank You for your Service documentary showing and reception on the USS Intrepid.  So cool!

We took the family to the Witchapalooza dinner theater for the first time in October.
I had always wanted to go!  So fun!

I entered a Halloween-themed pinup competition.

A weekend at Bear Lake with these fabulous ladies was just what I needed!
This is also going to become a tradition.

My husband and I celebrated our (early) anniversary at the Roof Restaurant and the Anniversary Inn... both incredible places!

I did an hour-long podcast interview for the new Pinups and Patriots show.

The very same week I had an article published on Time Magazine's Motto website!

I couldn't include photos of all the time I've spent with fellow veteran's wives/caregivers over the last year, but this photo sums it up!  This was a Wounded Warrior Project activity.  We decided we needed to match in our pink castle dresses... you know, as people do.

Over the last couple of years, most media interviews I've done have been very heavy, dealing with veteran's and caregiver's issues.  It was so much fun to do a Jello interview!  Yes, Jello!  So random.  Take a minute to watch it.  You'll see what a crazy Jello lady I am!

We spent a fun night on Fremont Street in Vegas listened to live music and watching the light show!

My first cruise was fabulous!

Holding a baby panther in Mexico was seriously a highlight of my life!  It was the most amazing experience!  What's really adorable is when people ask my husband what his favorite part of our vacation was, he says it was watching me hold the baby panther because I was so, so happy!

It was cold and rainy during our California trip, but the kids rode the ferris wheel on Balboa Island and we all had a lot of fun playing in the arcade together.  I got beat at air hockey by one of my kids for the first time.  It was so nice having some good old fashioned family fun time.

I can't wait to see what JOY 2017 brings!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: The Best is Yet to Come!

It's New Year's Day!  I've been pondering on my goals and my word for 2017 over the last couple of weeks.  I've decided my word of the year will be JOY!  Last year my word was MAGIC and so many magical things happened! I held a baby panther!!! You can't get much more magical than that! This year I want pure JOY in my life!

Each year there are so many things I want to improve on.  This year I feel like I have a mix of big goals I want to accomplish and maintaining I need to do:

Spiritual-  Spiritual comes first on my list because God is number one in my life.  My spiritual goal for 2017 is once again to attend the temple at least four times during the year.  I think the first step in this goal is to find a good friend to go with me.  I'm not motivated to go all by myself. 

Physical-  My physical goal is to focus on a healthier lifestyle.  I want to avoid eating out as much as possible, go to water aerobics at least once a week and cut most soda pop out of my life.  

Intellectual-  My intellectual goal for the year is to complete 4-5 classes at the local community college in 2017 and get straight As in all my classes.  I've enrolled in two fashion design classes and start school in a week!  I'm pretty nervous, but also excited for this new adventure!  

Emotional-  My emotional goal is to continue to attend support group meetings and Relief Society meetings, even though I'm going to be busier with school.  I need the emotional support that comes from these types of meetings. 

Social-  My social goal for 2017 is to socialize more as a couple.  My husband is not a fan of socializing. At all. Under any circumstances.  I miss hanging out with other couples, so I'm setting a goal for more double dates and couple parties.  

Financial-   My financial goal is to make and sell 50 skirts and/or aprons this year... This one seems a little overwhelming to me, but I think I can do it!

Adventure-  It wouldn't be a New Year's resolution list for me without a travel goal!  My goal is once again to visit at least one state I've never been to before.  I also plan to go on a couple of camping trips!  We didn't take our camper out one single time last year, so I need to clean the dust off and go have some camping fun!

What about you?  Have you made any goals for the new year?