Nature, Nurture and Me.

We’ve all seen this meme.

ExcuseTheMessChalk-KeyLime

Honestly,  I’ve always wanted to adopt this mantra. I love it; but nature has interfered with my ability to do so.

About ten years ago I had a quaint little apartment with my bed made every day, fresh flowers on the table every Sunday and my clothes folded and hung in their place, daily. (ugh, just writing it out is exhausting) Fast forward to this very moment and from my current station planted on the couch, I can see spots on the TV, a pillow that needs to be sewn, walls and baseboards that need to be wiped down, a laundry basket reminding me to get folding and I’m pretty sure that’s “sprinkle cheese” in my child’s hair. None of which is enough to make me move. Who was that girl?

Instantly I replace all of that negativity with justifications (er.., I mean) positive reminders of what I did get done. Today I accomplished a great deal at the office, Madz’ homework is complete, dinner was made for all, dinner and dessert are prepped for tomorrow; little faces are clean. (side note: I will not let the child go to bed with cheese in her hair) and soon stories will be read. Until then snuggles and chats about our day are the priority. Conversations and the fulfillment of teaching my children what it is like to simply -be.

The older I get the faster time goes by, why should I stress to strive for perfection in the things that don’t really matter? All of which will eventually get done. I’ve learned, mainly through being tired, that it doesn’t have to be at this very moment. Existentially, my being won’t really allow for big messes to sustain. I can’t sleep if the house is in COMPLETE disarray- for this I blame genetics. That’s nature. From a perspective embracing nurture, I’ve gained an acceptance of control and letting go. Simple exhaustion has brought me to a place of chaotic bliss. Possibly the best management in dealing with my perfectionist tendencies. It’s also the path of one very tired of mama- Main Street, Mommywood, USA- but I’m okay with it.

I look over, they smile. I ask, they tell.  I reach for a hand and I have three reaching back. None of which really care whether or not I am perfect. I can handle that.

ox

“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Three weeks ago I sat in my car, embarrassed and melting in a puddle of tears. I was beyond disappointed in myself. I knew when I registered for my second half marathon that training was going to be hard. My schedule was booked crazy for weeks. I didn’t have time to properly train. I knew this and still I thought, per usual, “I’ll just make it work.”

The thing is, that doesn’t work so well when you’re not really a runner. It was pathetic. I had just completed probably the hardest-short-run since my first 5 miles two years ago and it didn’t take me long to realize I was completely void of self-care. I had physical pain and a huge mental block. I didn’t feel strong. I so badly wanted to give up, and I tried. Fortunately, unfortunately, I had paid my registration fee and there were no refunds. No way, no how, am I losing out on that kind of money. Race entries are no joke. The race goes on.

Once my self-loathing and pity-party wrapped up, I reinstated my commitment to 13.1. I’ve never run for time, I run for me. I run for the feeling of pushing personal boundaries and for the sense of accomplishment that comes with stepping across the finish line. But this time I was running for my family, too. This was the first time they’d ever been to anything like this. In the past there has always been some sort of conflict in schedules or travel so it just hasn’t worked out. This time they were going to be waiting at the finish line for me. Come hell or high water I was going to do it.

Race day arrived and it was ridiculously cold…for Raleigh in April. As well, it was a super early morning and there were multiple conversations of stopping even before the start. After mile marker 1 I began creating strategies and excuses for getting out of this utterly dumb decision. If I trip and need stitches it’s not reallllyy quitting. My family will still love me either way. Not being well trained is a perfectly adequate excuse. Here’s the thing, running is one challenge, running a race, yet another; but running in Raleigh, the City of Oaks …and hills…well that just completely sucks. By mile 5, I was still not in “my stride” (haha this makes me laugh to assume I’d ever get one) but I felt okay. I did a mind and body check. Nothing hurt, it was slowly warming up, I had no muscle cramping and I was doing it. In another mile or so I’d be more than half way. I’m not a quitter and my girls will be there in the end. All worth it, just keep going.   :::and step, repeat, step, repeat::::

Then something wonderful happened, mile marker 10. It was a beautiful sight. I loved it and I felt really good, okay, good-no, but not bad. I was in the home stretch and somehow I felt better this go around then I did my first half marathon. In Kiawah mile 11 just about sent me packing. Not today. Today, I sailed through and felt stronger and better at the finish line than I did at the start. I had a cheesy grin the whole last leg. Man! Who knew? And if I had actually trained appropriately I would’ve killed the time (that I don’t run for lol).

Here’s the coolest part, for the first time ever I understood what it meant to feel strong. Instantly my mommy-mode defaulted to the thought of childbirth, but this was (respectfully) better. Of course the end result doesn’t compare, our girls are my everything and those 16 and 30 hrs of labor were hard and strong work, but that was my body being taken over my another being forcing through me. Today, was 13.1 miles of me. I had no reason to go and every reason to quit, but I didn’t and it felt so, so good.

As I left the race I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of one of the volunteer groups, the Jimmy V foundation. Of course! It made perfect sense…it had to be Jimmy V.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

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-ox-

Putting Faith Forward.

A few weeks ago I took a group of young women to West Virginia to participate in the Appalachia Service Project. An experience that I can only describe as transformative. I saw things I never expected to see on domestic soil. I did things I never thought I could do, we are talking hard hats and circular saws; and I returned home just as one should, better than I left.

It was 7am on a Sunday, the morning after a slumber party  of preparations took place at the Fowler Farm. Six of us, all females, ages 18-31, loaded up a 15 passenger van and hit the road on what only could be called an unpredictable adventure.

We made (what was supposed to be) a scenic stop, but turned into a microhike (the first of many mini-adventures throughout the week) at Pilot mountain. I got my first taste of “life fear” for these five ladies that were 100% my responsibility. If only I was being paid, by the statement, to remind them to “stay away from the ledge” and to “not go down the slope” or my favorite “too close.” We toured through back roads and went over some significant terrain to get to our final destination. Perhaps my favorite moment was when all of our fancy-phones lost service at just about the same time. We were officially disconnected. It felt awkward but amazing. No phone, no wi-fi, no social media, no text messaging, we couldn’t even make a call, which really wasn’t all that bad.  We bunked up with a few other schools, kind of like a grown-up camp. It was pretty cool. Since the neutralizer was the lack of service available in the mining country, we played games, asked questions, we (GASP) interacted with one another. In true Spring Break fashion we had to do something that would gain a bit of shock and awe and we certainly did. Wait for it…we actually had conversations using those things called words, and making that little thing called eye-contact…with people we didn’t even know and with those we did… it was amazing!

Tech connection and communication aside, we were there for a task. And ours for the week would be to initiate the safety and home improvements for a family of four. With a laminated set of instructions and one very (and thankfully experienced) construction-minded student leader, we built the structural support to the home’s addition and enclosed the backside of the home with underpinning. We spent the whole week rolling around in the dirt beneath the home digging up coal, okay really 16x16x16 holes, but lots of coal was found. We mixed and poured cement, cut wood and built supports, we even got in a little unforeseen plumbing experience. Who knew I could do that? Not me…

Realistically, I couldn’t have done it without my team. These young ladies inspired me and it was without question or reservation, I /we just went to work, taking on one project at a time. We were a unit, and I can easily say I’ve never been part of a better group. The dynamic, the work ethic, the tasks achieved, the communication, it was all above and beyond any best-case-scenario I would’ve imagined. I could go on and on about the team but the week was about the work. It was about the family. It was about this community that truly has nothing and yet, to them, they have everything. They were so kind, so honest, so raw and real. It was humbling to be in the presence of true gratitude. Bold honesty without apology; and sincere contentment. The kind that makes people live long, happy and fulfilled lives without greed or selfishness. It was inspiring in every sense of the word. To the outsider the lives lived inside this community seemed like suffering. The homes would be condemned instead of improved. The level of poverty being experienced was unfathomable, especially in the US. For those living it, they were happy. They had no complaints. They wanted for nothing because they had each other. The level of love>greed that we witnessed is, in my opinion, what we are missing in the rest of this world. What a better place this would be…

What’s interesting, and makes my heart ache a bit, is that this trip is one that not a lot of people opt to go on. It tends to be a second or third choice for students. Granted, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of traveling to Alaska or South America. It is a much smaller team compared to some of the other groups; and only a quick five-hour drive north as opposed to an overnight flight; but it was an experience that each of us agreed, without reservation, we were proud to have been a part of and wouldn’t have traded.

IMG_2081For me, this opportunity helped to reawaken many things inside of me. Things that were always there before, but unbeknownst to me, dormant in my being. The motto of ASP is to aim for warmer, safer, and drier homes in their community, but what they do to achieve this is their tagline, putting faith forward. This is exactly what they did for me. My faith was there but it needed to come more to the surface. Not in a preach and project manner, but one of self-recognition. One to reinforce my faith and bring forth new lenses in a way that manifests a grateful heart as our God so desired for his followers.

Disconnecting from the tech world allowed me to reconnect with myself. The insight to this community brought to the surface a whole new level of empathy and gratitude. I have found myself more calm and content with life and let’s be real, I came home with some major Mrs. Fix-It skills so Brent’s certainly not complaining. 😉 The love and life we were welcomed to join for those five days will remain with me and will be my reminder of what putting faith, love and compassion forward can truly do for one’s being.

Last but not least, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel compelled to make this post today. Regardless of whether or not today is more about bunnies and eggs instead of the tomb or cross, let it be about family and self-preservation. If ever there was a day to disconnect and resurrect one’s self let it be today.

Happy Easter. ox

All the feels and none of the thoughts.

This blog has been many things for me, an outlet, an accountability-buddy, a mirror, a challenge and an honest extension of some of my biggest challenges. In short, it has been a layer of self-transparency. All to assist me in identifying personal challenge and initiating the necessary steps of growth.

At present I feel like I am bursting at the seams. I need to deconstruct my thoughts, one topic at a time. I have lots to explore and even more to reconnect with and I’m ready. As I begin my plan to unfold and identify I am taking to the keys to utilize the same the same medium that has helped me so many other times in these more recent years. Not for validation or exploitation but for that freeing feeling of not hiding, anything-from anyone but especially from myself.

Instantly my thought is…ugh-ick-feels-ew. It is a pretty real reaction. This is how I really feel about it all. For a moment I want to hit delete and shut it all down but maybe by documenting this fun roller-coaster of life, it will help my own little ladies as they begin their own ebbs and flows of growing up. Who knows…but here goes…

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Yes, I’m exhausted.

Today I was approached with the question, “has daylight savings affected your children?”

I couldn’t tell if this was a question from an inquiring mind or if it was a gentle “bless your heart and those giant bags under your eyes” either way, I took the bait.

HA! Has it affected my children?! The simple answer, yes, is an understatement of gigantic proportion. Moreover, it has affected me! I am so tired and run down from that measly one-hr time loss that I am probably worse-off than they are. Getting up in the morning is a struggle, which very much goes against my nature. I am a morning person most weeks, but this one-no bueno. Also, the evenings! Getting the girls to bed on time has been rough. How do you explain to a child that they need to go to bed when the sun is still shining through their window and the ice cream truck is driving by? Which reminds me…

Side note to the local ice cream truck: It is spring, it is not summer. Your old-school melody playing loudly through the neighborhood is truly unnecessary during the weeknight hours. When I hear you coming I go into mama-bear mode for both the safety of my wallet and my children. There is something unnerving about your not-so-modern approach to sales. Please take your business elsewhere, I hear stationary food trucks are an up and coming industry. Then perhaps you won’t get the side from parents hiding their children from you. #sorrynotsorry

Anyhow, my conversation about DST was not a long one but it was thought provoking. How did Hawaii and Alaska get out of this little time change? I understand that back in the day it was necessary to maximize work days for various industries, but is that really applicable in 2016? Shouldn’t Americans learn to work less? Isn’t that the whole better work-life balance argument? Furthermore, if we trust mother nature (aka: a groundhog) to still predict spring, shouldn’t we trust her to gradually increase and decrease the length of our days? This seems to make more sense to me than abruptly  interfering with my  (and my children’s) sleep cycle every spring and fall. Much like our age, the days will naturally lengthen every year, just as they were intended, we do not need any help with this.

So in response to the popular idea circulating about eliminating DST from our calendar, I say go for it! Or if nothing else, leave it to the Owl to make the decision for us.

Happy Sleeping. ox

 

Romance-Schmomance

FullSizeRenderIt may not make sense, but here goes…

I’ve never understood the hype for V-day. I’m not a romantical-type and I hate cliché’s. To be completely honest romance, to me, is corny. I get a weird awkward feeling when I see the traditional down-on-the knee proposal. It is so unnatural. And rose petals? Really? That’s a lose-lose. The real ones die and the fake ones are just that, you can’t win! Simply put, I don’t do cheesy; Nicholas Sparks kind of makes me want to gag, but before you take away my female-card. I have a few good reasons. So hear me out…

The first, why the pressure? On men particularly. Not to sound sexist but let’s call a spade a spade, this holiday is kind of sexist. Here’s one for the researchers out there, how many couples break up on February 15 because of unmet expectations?

Second, why the need for a holiday where the entire population of uncoupled individuals, either by choice or by circumstance, are isolated and even highlighted? Way to go cupid! Maybe your naked little rear should send extra arrows of love to them instead of putting pressure on the rest of us to “get it right.” Seriously, who wants to be reminded of their Facebook status one way or the other? We are all pretty well aware. #notcool 

And lastly, yep I had to go there, this is a frugal blog…why the $$$$? Prices on everything and anything pink or red are completely inflated. It is insane! I certainly don’t need my husband to spend a ridiculous amount of money on this silly little holiday, in fact I can’t think of a single bigger turn-off. How about putting all the money in the bank ..hubba, hubba.

However, I am not a complete cynic. I fully admit my house is festive and my children are excited, as am I, but not for the obvious reasons. Sure, I plan to indulge in pink and red chocolates until they’re gone, even some wine and all completely without shame, but…we do go a step farther. No matter the holiday, we make it a point in our home to find little things around the house to highlight the months/seasons. For example, I recycle tissue paper, so for Vday we take the pink and white and cut out hearts, decorate cards and do small DIY projects. Another fun tip is to save all the red leftover from Christmas, candies, sprinkles, art supplies, etc. The timing is both convenient and cost effective. It brings an extra bit of fun to a busy, scheduled household. We try to mix it up however we can. Fun and love are two mantras for the Fowler farm. And if there is one thing I can fully get on board with for this holiday, it’s this idea of love.

I may not be a historian but the optimist in me thinks it could just be the more accurate foundation of said celebration, love. But not just any love, the kind of love from deep down within us, the heart and soul that binds us. Not just “us” in the traditional courting, married, or relationship-type either; but all of us. As a family. As friends, those near and far. The connection of all those who matter the most.

This Sunday when my girls wake up they will be excited, a true reaction of love. The sincerest form, straight from the heart of a child. Sure, the little treats are fun but they don’t know what to expect and therefore have no expectations. Rather these are moments of which they are reminded just how loved they are. Yes, this is something we tell them every single day, something we show them every single day, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded and Valentine’s Day is good for just that. This, IMO, is the point of V-day. We don’t need to go above and beyond, no need for extravagance. We just need to take a moment to savor the good. As humans no matter how hard we try, sometimes we need reminding to not only tell someone how loved they are but to also hear it. Sometimes in the midst of chaos, a holiday is a good reminder to set the monotony of life aside and remind those nearest to us how loved they are.

Save your wallet, the headache, and the stress. Have more than one Valentine, yes your partner is a given but what about your children? Your parents? Your dog? Maybe your Grandpa? What about your best friend who lives 15 hours away? You love them all, no? Tell them! It doesn’t cost a penny to hug someone, to ‘cuggle, or to say I love you.

Hmmmm…maybe this is my kind of holiday after all 😉

-ox-

February has my heart.

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There are a number of reasons why I love February; and it’s not the chocolate hearts either. A few years ago I couldn’t say this but it is far and away better than January, although probably not as exciting as March, nonetheless, it is a favorite of mine.

I feel like February is when the new year actually begins for me. January is so much a curveball month. The physical and emotional feeling is like a roller-coaster. Coming off the high of the holidays feels so bittersweet. January is a month of special dates but not all ones I’d like to celebrate; it feels much like an evening of listening to Delilah. An intoxication of warm and fuzzy, followed by a sadness that is paralyzing and physical feeling that completely ruins my happy-high, yet somehow ends with a pick me up of happy thoughts and far-off-wishes. She is one crazy ride let me tell you; just as the month of January is to me. This may be why I have unintentionally made it a tradition to head home every January since we left; and this year was my favorite trip yet. My family and friends, okay, well they are all my family, made this year so special and I’m entirely grateful. Yet nothing compares to the relief that comes on 2/1.

When February (finally) rolls around I feel like I’ve gained a grip back on life. My balance ensues and I LOVE it. Sure I may have a gained a few other things in the meantime, a few grey hairs, some LBS, maybe a wrinkle, but the best thing about February is that it’s my January. My time to get the routine back in action. Time to look ahead and get back to my grind. Evenings that are balanced, to-do lists that are long, yet oh-so-fun to check off, cooking, coloring, and a long sigh of relief. It is refreshing.

My lesson in this is a personal pick me up from me to you: if you haven’t yet found your new year reset button, don’t give up! Don’t slide farther. It’s there. When you’re ready, I encourage you to hit it, but of course, only when you’re ready. Annnddd if needed, grab some chocolate; that never hurts ❤

 

Let 2016 Begin…

Happy New Year from the Fowlers.

For some, a New Year means New Beginnings. In the past, this was for me as well, but now more than ever I cannot express how much I recognize just how individual this sentiment is. To each their own, of course, but for the Fowlers in 2016 it is merely a continuation. One that comes with an annual mind-game, this year I’ll do my best to only write 2015 for the next thirty days as opposed to ninety. We’ll see about that…

In all seriousness though, looking back at 2015 there was a great deal of laughter and love, some sadness, some loss, many celebrations, amazing family and friends; even better moments frozen in our hearts, some bitter, some sweet, but overall 2015 was a good year. Our babies grew leaps and bounds, our home was filled multiple times with our nearest and dearest celebrating, playing games, sharing heart-to-hearts, and making memories over meals and copious amounts of coffee and wine. We took adventures, we learned lessons, some perhaps the hard way, but we learned to love even harder; and we made incredible memories on awesome journeys.

Our littles developed a heart and empathy for animals, a notable accomplishment for the youngest; and our eldest has become quite the independent “southern” little lady (one with a hoarding and organization problem nonetheless, but we are working on that). Brent and I continue to grind away at the American dream but honestly we wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure the days can be long, but we both are beyond blessed to have jobs we love with people we enjoy working with. It makes our time away from the home and family much more worth it and easier to manage.

Speaking of manage, on a FFP note, B and I have started the following 2016 savings project. I found it on Pinterest and it’s a penny a day, so far it’s been easy 😉 Here’s the link http://www.savingadvice.com/articles/2014/01/01/1019727_365-day-money-challenge.html for those interested.

We’ll see how this goes!

365-Day-Saving-Money-ChallengeFilled-in.pngIt’s always fun to try something new and if Brent and I learned anything in 2015 it was that we are both pretty adventurous and it does us both well to take on such challenges together.

Of course 2016 does signify a new calendar year, so there is of course a start there, and calendars are one of my favorite things so while we aren’t starting from scratch it is a welcome refresh, one sometimes needed by all. I suppose as I lookout over what 2016 could be I see a landscape of possibility. A canyon filled with an abundance of love and faith. If I am as grateful in 365 days to be sitting quietly in my warm home, with a cheap but oh-so-comfy pair of mucklucks, after a solid hour of bedtime wars, with all my babies sleeping soundly with warm beds and full tummies, healthy and safe; getting ready for a busy week ahead; and exchanging friendly football banter with a loving husband, who annoyingly cannot stop picking and poking at me…then 2016 will have been a success. ❤

As a period is place on 2015, another chapter is closed and although I have no idea what will be written in 2016, I do look forward to another chapter in our story. Let it begin…

 

What is the most important thing I want to teach my children?

As a parent there are things I hope to teach my children, faith, patience, love, understanding, empathy, independence, the importance of a dollar, work ethic, communication, coping mechanisms, MATH, the list goes on and on. Yet as I sit considering the posed question there is not much to consider and only one obvious answer in my heart, and that is kindness.

In a world of incredulous pain and evil there are so many things to be fearful of, there is so much bad going on around us. I find myself constantly battling the timeline of when, and to what degree, is appropriate to share, so that they hear things from us first. Part of me wonders if the world in which we live is getting worse or if the access to information is inflating our fear. In short, do we simply know too much? Bad things have always happened in their own right all over the world. Evil has always been present, increased technology and immediate access is what the change is. Sure, the types of things occurring are unfathomable and certainly haven’t always been going on, but decades ago it was something different that was unimaginable that our generation cannot relate to. Regardless of then or now, there is one consistency, evil, and in my opinion, it can truly only be combatted with one weapon, kindness.

The argument, and I can hear it from my own father now, is that the “fluff” of kindness will not protect them. I disagree. I believe we can teach children to be kind but still be strong. To act before reacting. And understanding the balance of tact, appropriateness and timing, all very valuable tools for growth and survival in an increasingly scary world. This is the profound change that will make a difference, perhaps not across continents but maybe into lesson two, never underestimate the power of the person.

For me, I feel strongly that if we (Brent and I) are able to instill in our children the true act of kindness from the heart, everything else (empathy, understanding, communication, etc.) will follow suit. If they can learn to seek to understand out of kindness for those around them first, this will help to measure reaction. If they can learn to contribute from the heart before any other modality (money, pride, emotion, etc.) they will have an impact on this world that is one of change. It may not contribute across continents in their lifetime but their footprint will be one of the heart.

IMG_4936b&w.jpg-ox-