Category Archives: Purple Crayon

Go Ahead, Rouse that Mama Bear


I saw it in my sister this week.  She had to go up against the experts on behalf of her child.  It wasn’t a fight she was looking for or one that she relished.  She got all “Mama Bear” because her daughter needed an advocate.

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  At no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will go to support this site.)

I’ve had to play the role occasionally myself.  It’s the needs of kids that propels moms into the unnatural state of fighter.

Before we had kids, my husband thought he would be up with the babies at night because I slept like a rock.  He had to drag me out of bed during a five point something earthquake aftershock because I slept through it.

But, after the birth of our first baby, the slight sound of an infant in distress was enough to wake me.  Of course, we all sleep on alert when listening for an alarm clock for fear of sleeping through it.  But, I believe it goes deeper than that.  That miraculous maternal instinct.  That sleeping mama bear that is roused in time of need.

We watched the movie, Miracles from Heaven last weekend.  I was so intrigued by the story I had to read the book to find out what was true and what was Hollywood.  (Read my book review here.)  Christy Wilson Beam, the mother in the story had to go up against the doctors on behalf of her daughter when they weren’t taking her symptoms seriously.  She referred to herself as Mama Bear when she had to fight to get the medical help her daughter needed.

What is it that turns mild-mannered mamas into to fighters?  I guess if you look at nature, it’s anything that threatens the well-being of the off-spring.  In our lives today, sometimes it’s the experts. They may know their field, but mamas know their kids.


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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Mindful gratitude gives me perspective.

It’s easy and natural for me to focus on the negative.

I’m thankful for the practice of pausing to be grateful.

Joining other bloggers on Modern Mrs Darcy who are sharing their life-savers.

What’s Saving My Life 2016 

500 Words a Day

I got the idea from Jeff Goins.  He says to be a writer you have to write.  The man has a keen sense of the the obvious.  His point is: be consistent.  Five hundred words a day.  Every day.  So I took the challenge.  I determined at that pace, plus a little more, I could write 50,000 words in three months.  Amazingly, I hit that goal.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the coliseum.  I was writing more and blogging less.  How is that possible?  I used up my time and energy getting my 500 words down and spent very little time editing, polishing, choosing photos, posting and promoting.  So, this quarter, I’m spending another 20 minutes a day doing those things while still drafting 500 words a day.

In order to get 500 words a day recorded in as short as time as possible, I was just “brain dumping”— stream of consciousness writing, without  focus or a plan.  I’m shifting this strategy a little to be more productive to write something that’s worth editing, polishing and posting.

Here’s the thing:  writing 500 words a day on whatever comes into my head has been good for my emotional health.  I don’t want to lose that.  It’s been a slow realization over that past few years that I NEED to write.  I don’t even necessarily need to be read.  It’s the way I process.  The way I make sense of things.  Once in a while I churn out something that helps someone besides myself.

There you go.

500 words a day is saving my life.

Ah, the therapy of fingers on the keyboard, thoughts untangled, conclusions that bring peace. 


Best of 2016 Book Lists

I admit it.

I’m a fiction snob.

It’s hard for me to find novels I love.  So, I scour the book lists, always on the prowl for wholesome novels, brilliantly written.  Sometimes I strike gold.

I did another round up this year of my favorite Best of 16 Book Lists.  This is a survival strategy for me.  I need great books like I need air, so I’m highly motivated to find them.

Crash Course in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis by Dr. Wentz

Izabella Wentz, PharmD., the Thyroid Pharmacist.

Last year I discovered I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.  I searched the web for advice, hoping to avoid medication.

Izabella’s website has been the most helpful.

I cut out gluten from my diet.  I added some supplements— vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc plus a daily multi-vitamin.  My migraines have all but disappeared.  I think my energy levels are up, but it’s hard to gage.  My face doesn’t break out as long as I’m taking zinc supplements.

I know one thing:  It feels good to be feeling better.  I’m thankful for Izabella.

The bottom line is bloggers are saving my life.

I am grateful.

What’s Saving Your Life?

What’s Saving My Life, 2016 edition

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The Ties That Bind: Understanding the MK Connection


A classmate of mine is no longer walking this earth.

I feel the loss deeply.

I wonder for the umpteenth time why the bonds between third culture kids are so strong.  After all, it’s been decades since we shared a campus.  Only a small fraction of my life was spent building friendships in that arena.  And, yet, the impact is inexplicably profound.

I’ve pondered it again this week as I have before.   But, this time, I’ve come to some new conclusions.

The pyschological explanation is that we all met during impressionable, vulnerable years when our identities were in formation. We all experienced two or more cultures and were trying to decide which culture we personally identified with.  “Who am I?”  just became more complicated.  And here we are surrounded by a group facing this same challenge.

Most of us were not living in our passport country and far from extended family.  Into that vacuum emerges a third culture.  A group of expats on the same journey.  Kindred spirits who knew what it was like to be transplanted.  To be dropped into an island of English speakers surrounded by foreign languages, food and ways.  In this context, we struggle to answer the questions: Who am I?  Which culture will I choose?  Who are my people? Where is my tribe?  Where do I belong and how do I get there?

Those same fundamental questions we were all facing and answering, mostly oblivious to the process, but mindful that we were not alone.

The spiritual explanation took me by surprise.  I woke up one morning with verses from Mark 10 on my mind.  “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, who will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age  (houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields– and with them  persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The bonds are strong, the connection is deep because Jesus promised to provide family to those who had given up family.  He hard-wired the bonds to be stronger than passing friendships.  Many in that expat community were missionaries.  They had made sacrifices for the sake of the gospel.  Jesus promised to recompense those sacrifices.  Not only in the life to come, but in this life as well.  Inexplicable.

Related posts:

When Your Family Tree is Grafted

The Itch I Couldn’t Reach

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What I’ve Learned, July 2016: Night and Day, Change is Hard


Morning Tasks and Evening Tasks Make a Difference of Night and Day

In the ongoing drama to manage my life, it’s recently become clear to me the difference been morning tasks and evening tasks.

Really, managing my life isn’t a matter of managing my time.  It’s a matter of managing my energy.  It’s even more complicated than that, though.  It also has to do with managing my will power and my finite decision making ability.

Case in point:  processing mail at home.  At the end of the work day, my energy, my will power and my decision making ability were all depleted.  I couldn’t face sorting through the mail every evening so it would stack up, day after day.

Not until I switched that to a morning task–one that took 3 minutes or less daily, was I able to get on top of the paper clutter piled up in my kitchen that resulted from incoming mail. It made a night and day difference.  Ha.

Pairing that three minutes with a task I did every morning–cooking breakfast–meant I had a mental trigger every morning that reminded me it was time to process mail.  I found turning the heat down under my eggs down and setting the stove timer for three minutes worked well.  In three minutes or less I could pitch the junk, file the kids’ mail and prepare bills for payment.

Granted, I’m in a stage in my life when I’m not fixing breakfast for the family any more.  It’s every man for himself at our house at breakfast time.  I also fix eggs for my breakfast almost every morning.  This plan would still work with oatmeal in the microwave.


I could beat myself up for not figuring this out till I was 49, but I’ll give myself a break.  During the time we lived in Mexico, we didn’t have regular mail delivery.  There was lots of other stuff to adjust to, but daily mail processing wasn’t included.

That’s more than you wanted to know about my routines, but I’ve found other people’s experience helps me.  Maybe you’ll find this helpful.  I love figuring myself and my life out and making things work better.

On the flip side, exercising consistently in the evening is working for me.  I’m shocked.  I figured the depleted will power would work against me.  I don’t know if it’s the summer schedule or what, but it’s actually working.  Go figure.


Change is an Uphill Climb

Every time I try to implement change in my life, I learn something whether I succeed or fail.  Here’s a few insights I’ve gained recently:

  • Disappointments are closely tied to expectations.
  • It’s hard to set realistic goals.
  • Sixty six times in a row to establish a habit.  Not 21.
  • Trying to implement too much at once causes loss of focus.
  • Gaining insight into yourself is always a win
  • Don’t forget to reward yourself.  (I do, a lot)penguins
  • Celebrate the small wins.
  • When you’re making progress in one area, don’t beat yourself up for areas you can’t concentrate on.
  • Setting yourself up to win is critical.  Understand what your obstacles are.  Work to get the people around you on board.
  • Be patient.  There’s lots of time to implement slow change.
  • Don’t lose heart.  This is one of my hubby’s theme songs.  He doesn’t get discouraged very often and he repeatedly reminds others not to lose heart.

I’m about to launch into the umpteenth “life improvement plan” .

Gonna take my own advice to heart.

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What I’ve Learned: My Family Tree is Grafted and Going Slow

Linking up with Emily Freeman to share what I’ve learned this month.

Love the slower pace of a summer schedule.  Less rushing.  More time to catch up with people.  Best of all, more time for uninterrupted reading and more time for ruminating. I could get used to this.


The discoveries I make while writing are its own reward.

It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve realized I have to write to make sense out of my life.  I had one of those moments this week when a phrase echoed in my brain.  It made me ponder the unique friendships we forged during the sixteen years we spent with a non-profit assigned to Mexico.  I puzzled through it for days and it finally became the post When Your Family Tree is Grafted.

It’s gratifying and satisfying to analyze and come to some conclusions: to articulate the fuzzy, to make sense of my convoluted life.


How to Make Exercise a Daily Habit.

There’s SO much I want to accomplish.  There’s SO many areas in my life I want to improve.  It’s hard to slow down and only focus on  one area at a time.

During the Spring months, I was frustrated that my exercise routine was hit and miss.  I was focusing on my morning routine.  Now that exercise is becoming a daily habit, I’m frustrated with lack of consistency in blogging.  Patience. Patience.  It’s hard to go slow.

Taking small bites is critical to my success.  I do a 15 minute walking video every day.  That’s small.  Believe it or not, the very difficult, but critical element was deciding when in the day to do it.  It finally came down to after supper.  This is challenging when we have evening plans– it either happens late at night or in the afternoon before meal prep.

My mornings were too unpredictable to add another daily habit.

And so, it’s working.  Due in part to our summer schedule. Due in part to focus and willingness to let other things slide. Thank God for small wins.


What have you learned this month?



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When Your Family Tree is Grafted


For sixteen years, my husband and I and our kids were ex-pats assigned to Mexico.  One of the interesting things about living as foreigners in another country is your relationship with other ex-pats.  It hit home this week when were catching up with a former co-worker from those days and I heard my kids call him “Uncle”.  It was common in our ex-pat community for the kids to call the other adults Aunt and Uncle.

But it gave me pause, thinking about those unusual relationships. My kids have great relationships with their blood relatives.  Their grandparents, aunts and uncles are encouraging and supportive in tangible ways.  So, I’m a little stymied to put my finger on what makes these relationships unique.

Maybe the critical element is being geographically far away from your extended family.  So these Aunts and Uncles step into the vacuum.  It fills that need for the family connections that go unmet for months or years at a time.  But, there also exists an element of choice.  You can choose who to get together with for Christmas dinner or the Super Bowl. You can choose who comes to the kids’ birthday parties and who you ask to help you move.  Back in your hometown, you know who your relatives are.  You know how the pecking order plays out.  There’s a clear distinction between friends and family.  There’s no blurring of the lines.

Away from home, the line between friends and family gets blurred.

I’m grateful for the people that stepped into the extended family gap that was created by the logistics of geography.  Our lives are richer because of it.



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Slow and Steady Wins



It’s hard to go slow.

I want a perfectly clean, smartly decorated house. Now.  The perfectly toned body. Now. The burgeoning blog. Financial goals met.  The holy life attained.  All relationships in harmony. Now. Now. Now.

Going slow highlights the discontentment of where I am versus where I want to be.

But here’s the thing:  a scattered focus means that I don’t achieve success in any area.

So, I am forcing myself to focus on only a couple of things this summer: exercise every evening plus healthy meal planning and prep (including desserts!).

In the spring, my exercise routine was hit and miss because I was focusing on being consistent with my wake-up routine.  Now that is established, it’s time to move on to something else.

So, now my blogging is hit and miss.  I’ll try to focus on that in the fall.

I’m shooting for 66 days in a row to establish new habits, based on the latest understanding of habit formation.  (Thanks to Michael Hyatt for bringing this to my attention.)

It can be discouraging to move slowly.  So I’m pep talking myself into staying the course and celebrating small wins.

Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations is Queen of slow and steady.  I’m inspired by her.  Check out her blog and see where slow and steady gets you!

Power of Habit was one of my favorite reads of last year.  Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin also tackles establishing habits.  Both books are helpful and practical if you’re working on your habits.

Stay the course, friends!  Slow and steady wins.

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What I’ve Learned: Lazy Meal Planning, treating Hashimoto’s


I love learning.

I like learning about myself.

I like learning how to make my life better.  It’s encouraging to put into words every month what I’m learning.  Self-awareness is so helpful, because it’s discouraging when life isn’t working.

Linking up with Emily Freeman for another month to share what we’ve learned.

pillsVitamin and mineral supplements plus dietary changes works for treating Hashimoto’s.

Since I found out I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I changed my diet by going gluten-free and added supplements. My headaches have almost been eliminated.  I also having been drinking kefir more in an effort to heal my gut.  I have seen an increase in energy, although I’d love to see more improvement there.

I’ve added iron pills and liquid zinc to my supplement routine.  Wow, is liquid zinc nasty.  I’m going to have to be really convinced that it’s helping or I won’t be able to keep up with it for long.

Make Over Your Evening with Crystal Paine.

This is the first time I’ve ever bought a course like this.  I watched all the videos in the course and read the ebook, but didn’t do all the homework.   Even though I petered out towards the end, I implemented two tweaks (#3 and #5) that have made a huge difference.  One thing I loved about this course was the time spent evaluating and assessing before coming up with a new evening routine.

Five things I’ve learned about making over my evening routine:

  1. Count the cost before purchasing a course.  This means money.  This means time.  This means focus. Honestly, I got my money’s worth with Make Over Your Evening.
  2. I’ve learned from other people’s stories:  Sarah Wright at the Orthodox Mama has impressive discipline and daily routines.  Victoria at Snail Pace Transformations has been insightful and encouraging too, especially when my blog didn’t grow as fast as I’d hoped it would.letters
  3. Little tweaks make a difference, but sometimes you have to do them with a lot of understanding. One thing that emerged was how much I hated the paper clutter on my counter.  Mail tends to stack up there and I can’t ever seem to get on top of it.  Two simple changes have made all the difference: processing mail in the morning instead of the evening plus setting the timer for three minutes.   I just don’t have what it takes to deal with the mail in the evening.  It’s too overwhelming.  Instead, I set my timer for three minutes while my eggs are cooking in the morning. (I turn down the eggs so they cook slower).  I use that time to process the mail and put away paper clutter.  Presto!  What an easy solution, but one that has eluded me for years.
  4. I also pinpointed a frustration and a resolve to change it.  It bothers me when my environment is not beautiful.  Especially when I don’t have the energy or resources to change it and I just have to put up with it.  Just identifying this frustration has helped.  Slowly I can make the changes.  One small thing at a time.
  5. Another thing that emerged was that I wanted dessert to be part of my evening.  When life is overwhelming and getting supper on the table and cleaned up is all that you can handle, dessert gets nixed.  But, my work hours are changing for the summer: I’m getting off earlier.  So, I’m planning to invest that time in making supper and dessert.  Healthy desserts, of course.  This a plan I can get into.

Get Crystal Paine’s Make Over Your Evening course here.  (Affiliate link–at no extra cost to you, a percentage of your purchase will support this site)


How to do the laziest meal planning ever:

I’ve been struggling and failing at meal planning for months now.  I used to be good at it.  I used to enjoy it.  But, lately, I haven’t been force myself to do it at all.  So here’s the compromise:  I got down our big wall calendar and wrote down the meat or protein for every supper of the month.  Then, the next day, I got out all the meat for the month from our chest freezer in the laundry room and arranged it in the bottom section of our refrigerator freezer.  Now, when I leave for work in the morning, I pull out the meat to thaw.  I don’t always know what to do with it when I get home, or what my sides will be.  But, in a pinch, I can fry it on the stove, add rice, pasta, potatoes, vegetables or salad.  Boom.  Lazy meal planning.

What are have you learned this month?

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What I’m Reading May 2016

whatI'mreading516Although we’ve had a few days of sunshine, May has been mostly cool and rainy here. Since I turned 49 this month, I got out the time capsule to send messages back to my younger self:  advice to my 19-year-old self, my 29-year-old self and my 39-year-old self.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and May’s Quick Lit.

PenderwicksinSpring Buy now on Amazon

The Penderwicks in Spring

Number four in the Penderwicks series is not as light-hearted as the first three.  But I felt the more serious themes were handled well and the characters were just as charming and engaging as the rest of the series.  Thumbs up for Jeanne Birdsall and the Penderwicks.

FatalGrace Buy now on Amazon

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

This is my third Inspector Gamache mystery and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other two.  I’m not sure if there was more language in this one or if it just bothered me more.  Lots of twists and turns, good complexity of human nature, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep reading this series or not.

MyNameisLucy Buy now on Amazon

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

Quick read.  Very literary but kind of depressing.  It did get me thinking about family relationships, though, especially about dysfunction and marriage and inter-generational relationships.  I guess any book that gets you thinking has some redemptive qualities, right?

BoysintheBoatYoung Buy now on Amazon

Boys in the Boat, Young Readers edition, by Daniel James Brown

I originally checked out the print version of Boys in the Boat from the library to read to my 16-year-old. When that had to go back, I checked out the e-version.  When that was returned, there were no more available copies of the book.  So, I checked out the young readers edition.  I liked it even better than the original.

A huge takeaway for me from this book was the critical element of trust in teamwork.  I already believed it.  But it was re-inforced in a new way.

BetterThanBefore Buy now on Amazon

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

There are two types of people in the world: those who divide everyone up in groups and those who don’t.  Rubin definitely does her homework.  The groups she divides people up into rings true.  I find myself wandering through the store thinking, “My husband’s an overbuyer and I’m an underbuyer.”  She has influenced my thinking.

Priceless Buy now on Amazon

Priceless by Robert Wittman

Our family loves watching Psych, Sherlock and the Mentalist.  I’ve wondered how true detective stories stacked up again the fiction.  In Priceless, Robert Wittman chronicled his years as an FBI agent pursuing international art thieves.

Of course I love that Wittman is a devoted family man.  I liked reading the behind the scenes and true life stories.  I liked the psychological aspects–the good guy being the con man to entice the villain in.

My favorite part was the congratulatory email Wittman received from a man he put behind bars.  They had come to like and respect each other, even when it was discovered that they played for different teams.

Bread&Wine Buy now on Amazon

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

This has been on my TBR list for months.  I snagged it on a $1.99 kindle sale, which pushed it to the top of my list.

Each short chapter has a reflection on hospitality, life around the table or friendships and ends with a recipe.

Even though I don’t have the gift of hospitality, the idea of food and cooking as a way to build friendships resonated with me.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to Shauna’s life, but I found that I did.

So glad I finally got around to this book.

What are you reading this month?

(Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links: at no extra cost to you, a small portion of your purchase goes to support this site.)


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Birthday Series: Advice to my 39-year-old self

Since I turned 49 this month, I got out the time capsule to send messages back to my 19-year-old self, my 29-year-old self and my 39-year-old self.


It’s okay to pursue more of your own interests, since the kids no longer need you 24/7. Revel in the work that makes you feel alive.


Extend grace to yourself when you can’t get it all done. There’s more rubber balls than glass.  It’s okay to drop a few rubber ones.

Your children will forgive you for mistakes.  Don’t hesitate to ask.

Differentiate between “my child did a bad thing” and “I have a bad child”. Communicate that difference to your child.  Let them know that a one time offense doesn’t define their character.  They can make better choices.

Weekly dates and family night are your lifelines.  Fight to protect them.

Enjoy your new house.  You will miss it.  Appreciate the moment and the blessings of today.  Each season has it’s advantages. Don’t live in the utopian future.


Take charge of your physical health.  Doctors don’t know everything.  Trust your instincts.  Educate yourself through reputable sources.  Don’t stop looking for answers until you’ve achieved optimum health.


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