Progress

I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while because it is impossible for me to write without talking about the thoughts and feelings at the forefront of my mind…but that hasn’t been an option until now.

As I announced on Facebook a few days ago, we will be moving away from Tuscaloosa in the coming weeks (or months, depending on how long our house takes to sell). Michael was promoted at work, and he will be taking over the management of maintenance operations for a plant that is a few hours from here on October 1. We have been working through the application, interview, and testing process for what seems like forever. The whole time was spent in this land of “don’t talk about the elephant in the room” which usually accompanies these things.

I wrote the following a few weeks ago, when I needed to put into words the struggle and chaos inside of me. I couldn’t hit “publish”–in fact I couldn’t even write past what you see here–because everything was so jumbled and uncertain.Ā 

Progress.
I am in a strange season of my life right now where things aren’t changing at all, but are always one step away from changing dramatically.
This kind of constant limbo has a quicksand-like effect on me. I have real trouble keeping myself moving forward and accomplishing even the normal tasks of daily life.

This small spurt of introspection did, however, help me to push past the temporary paralysis I had been experiencing. I began working to make progress in whatever small way I could – regardless of what news (or lack of) the day might hold. I prayed for the grace to get through the day without being bogged down with worry. I didn’t force decisions that were creating stumbling blocks… I just tried to work around them.

I decided to work on projects which I would enjoy having finished regardless of whether we were to sell the house in the end.

I patched the walls and painted my laundry room a soothing green, reorganizing and reducing the pantry area as I went.

I refinished the chest of drawers in my bedroom instead of throwing it out and starting over. šŸ™‚

We rearranged the kitchen and added cabinets/counters where there had been none. (I’ll have a few posts about this process soon–it deserves it.)

I purged so much junk from my house that Michael started hiding his tools and hunting gear in self-defense.

I fixed lingering minor cosmetic issues in the house which I usually just dealt with or overlooked–the broken hinge on the cupboard door, the missing knob on the drawer, the broken sprayer nozzle, etc.

I looked at my house and began to live in it intentionally, instead of by happenstance. The toaster, mixer, crock pot, blender, and food processor all found forever-homes instead of bouncing between surfaces. Things which had never really had a “place” were either given one or disposed of. If it isn’t TRULY useful or loved, it has to go.

Mainly though, I prayed–and I made progress. Little by little, day by day, sometimes hour by hour.

Then…the job was his. The waiting was over. The possibility is the reality.

And I’m still focused making progress. Thankfully, I’ve got a lot less ground left to cover now than if I had stayed in that quicksand. I am so grateful for God’s grace and peace which allowed me to push through this season of waiting and for His perfect timing with this blessing.

I don’t know what you are struggling against–a health issue, a sick family member, a job opportunity or loss, depression, or even just the weight of all the “little” things. I just want you to know that you don’t have to do it all, know the answer, or even have a plan. All you have to do is take a step.

Pray for the grace for today–for right this moment. He is faithful to give you just what you need, although it might not be all you want. Allow yourself to be content with the small victories, and just focus on trying every day to make progress of some kind. It adds up, and it makes a difference in both your home and your spirit.

Blueberry Picking

About a year ago, I found out that there is a U-Pick Blueberry Farm in our area–Leavelle Farms! I was so excited…until I realized that it was already closed for the year. šŸ˜¦ Bummer. I was determined not to miss it again, though, so I “liked” their Facebook page to make sure I was notified when they reopened.

They opened in mid-June, and I kept trying to schedule a trip out there…and keptĀ having conflicts come up. I’m actually glad that I didn’t get to go sooner, because Michael was able to go with us when we finally got to go! Woohoo! I love a family adventure!

We headed out mid-morning on Saturday. We arrived to find the weather pleasant and theĀ sky overcast–perfect berry-picking weather!Ā Ā The farm was perfect–plenty of bushes with lots of berries, easily accessible bathroom (essential for a pleasant outing with kids), friendly owners, and only $6 per GALLON of berries you pick! We picked and picked…even through a rain shower. We all got a bit wet, but we also left with a fullĀ gallon of berries to enjoy.

It was a wonderful day, but I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves…

(I apologize for the focus issues in some my pictures. I’m still working on getting used to my camera, and I get in too much of a hurry sometimes.)

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Note that the focus here is on the bush, not the adorable face…should’ve switched to manual mode… šŸ˜‰

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Note that NOTHING is in focus here…I like to call this one “auto-UNfocus”

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Marked improvement. I love this shot.

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All of my guys working together…smile.

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And finally, my little drowned rat. šŸ™‚ Sweet boys, sweet berries, and sweet memories. You can’t beat that.

We had so much fun that I gathered up my mom, my niece and nephew, and our awesome neighbor friends and went backĀ on Monday! We gathered another 4 gallons between the three families!Ā There areĀ now 12 quarts of berries in the freezer to get us ALLĀ through the winter with muffins, cobblers, and other blueberry dishes. šŸ™‚

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I’ll have to share my recipe for blueberry cobbler that came out of this adventure soon, too. šŸ™‚ Yum!!

 

 

Photography Adventure

EEEEEEEEK! My precious husband encouraged me to jump in and buy a new camera yesterday. It is a combination 10th anniversary, birthday, Christmas, Mothers Day (and any other holiday you can throw in) gift. It has lenses and gadgetry and enough tweakable things to keep me busy for months! I read the basics of how to use it without breaking it, and I was off…shooting everything in sight.

I have pictures of…

Marbles

Marbles

a monkey

annnnnd…a monkey.

Tiny flower's close-up shot. :)

Tiny flower’s close-up shot. šŸ™‚

 

Crushed Sidewalk Chalk

Crushed Sidewalk Chalk

The chalk and marbles are going to be printed out and used as artwork for the monkey’s bedroom. They’re both his, and their destruction was by his hand. I think they’re a good reflection of him. šŸ™‚ The tiny flower is just my favorite nature shot thus far.

I also took some GREAT shots of my two boys and my niece. I’m hoping to get my nephew tied down long enough to get a similar shot of him ASAP so that I can print them as a matched set for the walls.

This is so much fun, and maybe it’ll be the ticket to making money from home. Oh the possibilities!

 

But I Made a Committment!

Hey! We are working on something really worthwhile, and we are one person short for our leadership team. Is there anyone who would be interested in helping out?

I see you there.

With your hand up.

Yeah…you.

The automatic-overvolunteering expert. You don’t even know what the worthwhile project entails, or WHY this project is sooooo important (aren’t they all?), but your hand is in the air because you’re NEEDED.

Here’s the thing–you’re needed elsewhere too. In fact, your talents and energy are needed in pretty much everyĀ volunteerĀ role in every organization in your life. EVERY. ONE.

Don’t believe me? Just go to a PTA meeting and utter the words, “I’mĀ available to help.” You’ll be on 6 committees and have a fundraiser to plan before you can say,Ā “where do IĀ sign in?”

The sameĀ exercise can be performed at your church, yourĀ alumni groups, your youth sports leagues, or at a variety of other venues. It’s like magic–people need people who have time, talents, and resources to donate. You can literally quit your full-time job and go into full- time volunteering only to find that you have LESS time for your outside life than you had beforeĀ making the switch. Ask me how I know. I dare you. šŸ™‚

I can write this because I am a chronic overvolunteer. I’m currently in recovery, butĀ relapse isĀ never farther away than a phone call. All it takes is one, “we REALLY need someone to…” to drag me right back in. Maybe with a, “it won’t take much time at all!” thrown in for good measure.

IĀ know there’s not much room left on your plate for another project, but ifĀ I just pile this a little closer to that…..

Once I’m in, I’m hooked. I know that I made a commitment–people are depending on me. So I adjust my schedule.

I ask my mom to keep the kids, try to make a supper that will still be edible when my husband gets home in two hours, and fly out the door to another meeting. Yeah, it’s the third night this week that I’ve had to do this, but I made a commitment.Ā IĀ feel guilty because I don’t have ALL of the skills that the position really requires, so I try to push myself to develop in that area. Yeah, I may have to stay up a couple hours after my husband goes to bed to fit it all in, but at least I’m honoring the commitment I made, right?

Wait…no? But I made it to every meeting! I fielded every email and phone call that came in! I soothed the angry parents, I paid the vendors, I made sure the reports were filed, and IĀ wrote those three recommendation letters.Ā I balanced the PTA checkbook, figured out that tax code problem, and designed a new system for expense tracking.Ā What did I miss?!?

Oh…the soccer practice.Ā The class party. The shared meal time. The evenings at home with my kids.Ā The quiet conversations with my life partner before sleep. The precious moments that you never realize you’re missing until two years has gone by, and you have no idea whereĀ they went.

Yeah…I did miss those. But I made a commitment, and I have to honor it.

What about the other commitments I made? Before PTA…before leadership roles…before all of this.

IĀ made a commitment to God to love and serve Him. I made a commitment to my husband to beĀ his wife and life partner. I made a commitment to my children to be there to love, support and train them. I made a commitment to my family toĀ have our home as my first priority when I became a stay-at-home-mom.

What about those commitments?

So, I’m freezing my volunteer availabilityĀ indefinitely. Just like an alcoholic can’t haveĀ “just one drink,” I can’t allow myself to “justĀ serve on this committee.” I know my weaknesses–or at least I do NOW. I’ve seen them wreak havoc on my house, family, and relationships.Ā For this season in my life,Ā I will not be available for yourĀ committee/project/office.Ā I am going to commit to focusing in onĀ developing into theĀ best and most intentional wife/mother/homemaker that I can be. I am going to pour my time, talents, and resources into the precious life I have been given…

Because I made a commitment.

Christmas Pictures with the Kids

My mom and I spent a fun hour in my backyard today with the four kids. We were trying to get a picture of them together that would be good to blow up into a print for my grandmother and father’s Christmas gift. There were a lot of out takes, and a lot of giggles. We finally found the perfect shot, but I wanted to share a few of those other precious moments that we were able to capture.

This is the one that won the prize. A bit blurry for my graphic design heart, but the subject matter is too good to pass up.

This is the one that won the prize. A bit blurry for my graphic design heart, but the subject matter is too good to pass up.

Annnd there's that personality jumping out in Mr. Wyatt. :)

Annnd there’s that personality jumping out in Mr. Wyatt. šŸ™‚

This pretty much sums up the group...

This pretty much sums up the group energy level alright…

One of the last trips into this tree house. It is coming down soon to be ready to rebuild this spring!

One of the last trips into this tree house. It is coming down soon to be ready to rebuild this spring!

Kids in the Kitchen

My guys and I had a great afternoon in the kitchen. Things have been really hectic lately, and I haven’t gotten to spend very much time just hanging out with them in a while. Since Zander’s progress report was really good (including a 7 point jump in his lowest score from his last report card!), I had promised to make monkey bread as a treat.

As I was gathering all of the ingredients, Wyatt popped open his step ladder to join me. He was determined to help me cook, and instead of trying to get him out from under foot…I found him a job. In fact, I let him do a job that he’s never gotten to do before–using a knife to cut something up! He got to use a table knife to cut the biscuit dough into quarters before dropping them into the bag of cinnamon sugar. Zander got in on some of the cutting action too, and we had the whole pack cut up before long.

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A few shakes of the bag in each set of hands, and we were ready to dump the dough pieces into the Bundt pan, pour the butter and brown sugar goo on the top, and bake it!

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I tried to let itĀ  cool a bit before serving, but it already looked like this before I was able to snap a shot. šŸ™‚

A half eaten loaf of monkey bread.

This is how the monkey bread looked after I tried to let it cool enough to eat. I had to put it out of reach (notice it is sitting on the coffee pot) so the kids couldn’t grab any more before supper. It didn’t help at all to keep MY hands off of it.

This project wasn’t anything fancy, and we just used the recipe on the 4-count package of small Pillsbury Biscuits. It was the time and focus and fun that really made this one special.

Broccoli Cheese Soup Success

I love the idea of includingĀ an occasional meatless meal into your weekly meal plans. The idea is great–but I married a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. If it doesn’t have meat, it isn’t a meal.

I have tried several different approaches to meatless dishes: adding lentils to “beef up” a stew, scrambling tofu (which thenĀ resembled shredded chicken) in a skillet meal, throwing so many ingredients into a casserole that you wouldn’t be able to spot meat anyway, and more. Nothing worked. One bite in Michael would say, “Does this have meat in it?” If the answer was no, that was that. He would either pick at it or fix a sandwich instead.

It isn’t that he doesn’t want me to try new things or support my culinary endeavors…he just wants them to include recognizable ingredients and meat. šŸ™‚

For about a week I’ve been wanting to tryĀ cooking broccoli cheese soup. Potato soup with smoked sausage has been a big hit with my guys, so I thought that the broccoli soup with likely succeed as well. I planned to make this soupĀ pass the “meat test” by tossing in someĀ chicken at the end, butĀ when I mentioned it, Michael surprised me by suggesting that we leaveĀ it out!

ItĀ brings me great pride, therefore, toĀ present the FIRSTĀ  EVER meatless* meal from the Purser household!

*The recipe does contain bacon, but any nutritionist will tell you that bacon is not considered a meat in dietary terms–itĀ is a fat.Ā I’ll split hairs if I have to, since it has taken us 10 years to get this far. šŸ˜‰

Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • Ā 3-4 strips of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock (I use homemade)
  • 1 large crown of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1-2 cups milk (you need enough stock + milk to cover the broccoli)
  • 1/2-1 TĀ  sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/2-1 t black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used mild cheddar, but I might try sharp next time)
  • additional bacon and/or cheese for garnish

Cook the bacon until crisp and browning. Add onion and cook until pieces begin to soften (about 2 min). Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, taking care not to let it scorch. Add in stock, milk, broccoli, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil then simmer 15 minutes (or until broccoli is tender).

At this point, you have a choice–you can use your spoon to chop/mush up the broccoli a bit, use a potato masher to do the job, or blend the soup with either an immersion blender (which I don’t have but would love) or a regular old blender. I was in a hurry to get supper on the table, and my crew isn’t really picky on the texture of their soups, so I just mushed my broccoli a bit with my spoon.

Mix in the cream and cheese until combined, then check the seasoning levels. I had to add a bit more cheese, salt, and pepper to get mine just right (hence the range of amounts in the instructions).

I served mine with a loaf of Peasant Bread, and it was awesome!

In fact, this is all that was left of the whole big pot of soup:

Enough soup for two (small) lunch servings.

Enough soup for two (small) lunch servings.

I sent the Thermos with Zander today–at his request. The other bowl will go with Michael for lunch tomorrow.

That’s it! Every other bit was gobbled up by those lucky enough to be at my house last night. šŸ™‚

In all, it made 5 adult + 3 child sized servings. This isn’t a low-fat meal, and it wasn’t intended to be.Ā It is, however,Ā full of good, fresh, real ingredients and plenty of nutrients from those foods. I know everything that was put into it, and I think that’s pretty cool.

Plus, it has bacon. Enough said.

Do you have a favorite soup on a chilly night?