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My Inner Peace: Kung Fu Panda Style

   I’m not a big t.v. watcher. I can name my faithful favorites on one hand: Scandal, Mary Mary, Chopped and Wheel of Fortune!  Occasionally I’ll feast on HGTV  or Cooking Channel. Other than that, if the t.v. is on in my house, it’s showing cartoons. And I must admit, I’ve learned more life lessons from watching cartoons that anything else I watch.

       Po from Kung Fu Panda continues to be one of my favorites. The most unlikely (and un-liked) person–panda rather–in the entire village is chosen to be The Master Warrior. Reminds me of Bible stories like David being chosen as King of Israel, Gideon being chosen to defeat a massive army with only 300 men, Rahab the prostitute being spared from death in the victory over Jericho, little insignificant and unknown Mary to birth the Savior into the world. Talk about turning the world on its head! Just when we think we are so unfit to achieve something great, life has a way of showing us that we are the perfect person for the job!

      After Po completes a grueling training to prove he can become The Master Warrior, a sequel is released in which Po is confronted by his unknown past. (If you haven’t seen the movie, sorry that I’m giving away all the details.) So Master Shifu (pronounced She-fu) wants to teach Po how to have inner peace. The meditative chant: Inner Peace, Inner Peace…Inner Inner Peace is repeated throughout the movie, with no luck in helping Po achieve any real peace within himself. It wasn’t until the climax and height of tension that Po realizes the secret to achieving real peace, and this is where I’m hit hard every time:

The Peacock, Po’s enemy says: “How did you do it? I scarred you for life. How did you achieve inner peace?”
Po responds: “Scars heal….what matters is what you choose to be.”

        Peace, happiness, contentment, any of the things we desire in life, come only through our choosing–not by our circumstances. On most days, I think I have many reasons to be bitter: I lost my husband at the age of 24, I live 3 1/2 hours away from all my family, my most frequent places to visit are work, church and the grocery store. Unless I just specifically plan for something else, my “free time” is spent cleaning my house. So many scars…but like The Master Warrior points out to his perpetrator, I am not a victim unless I choose to be.

      Please don’t think I am minimizing hardship. Despite how tragic my story may seem, there are many who face challenges even greater and much more present: rape, homelessness, sickness, joblessness and more plague the lives of too many around us. Too many that are closer than we realize. I know from experience that when you are in the middle of a hard time, you can’t always see that even in these circumstances, you  still have a choice. Life will always be ready to inflict scars. Just don’t forget that scars really do heal: so what do you choose to be?

     Let’s learn from that adorable cartoon panda, whose parents were killed and he ended up being raised by a duck in a noodle shop, that we can truly have Inner, Inner Peace. Challenge yourself to choose magnificence in the midst of your beautiful struggles. 🙂

 

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Wacky Wednesdays: Good Meal Gone Bad!

As a full time working single parent, one consistent goal I have is to provide healthy home cooked meals to my son each day. It is so tempting to eat food from a drive-thru after a long day of work, and I’ll admit that I have given in to this temptation at times. Yet, as I’ve said before, Making Life Magnificent isn’t about perfection, but progress. We are all striving to do better and to be better, so this is one area I am striving in.

But as you know, it takes more than good intentions to achieve a goal like this. Cooking home cooked meals everyday when you also work outside the home everyday can be plain ole’ HARD! You have to think of something to cook, then do the prep work, then actually cook it! I work as a school teacher, so I’m on my feet all day. There are times when the thought of being on my feet more for cooking just isn’t a happy thought for me. So I….well, rush a little and try to cut corners. One day in particular, I had such a good idea for a quick and yummy meal: Broiled Lemon Pepper Chicken with Yellow Rice and Green Beans. Sounds easy and healthy doesn’t it! I came up with this one all on my own. (usually I steal ideas from all the great ones on my Pinterest Food Board!)

Anyway, as I was rushing cooking, I ran out of steam and decided to change it to Broiled BBQ Chicken instead of Lemon Pepper. I slathered the BBQ sauce on the baked chicken and put it under the broiler that was set on high. My plan was to get the outside of the chicken just a little crispy, so while it was “broiling,” I went into the living room with my son to watch a little Wild Kratts. (such a great cartoon!) That’s when I smelled it! No, it wasn’t the sweet aroma of BBQ sauce tickling my nose! I had no idea that sauce would burn rather than broil. Instead of my chicken coming out like this: (which is what I envisioned)

It came out looking more like this:

My burnt chicken

      I can hear you now….OMG, What did she do to that chicken?!? Go ahead and get your laugh on…I was certainly laughing at myself when I stood back and looked at my finished product. I laughed even more when I saw the look on my son’s face! But before you roll over laughing, just think back to your own Good Meal Gone Bad. We all have one if we’re honest with ourselves. Since I am still learning to balance work and motherhood (and it seems a hundred other things), I have more than one Good Meal Gone Bad, but it’s ok. I’m a work in progress 🙂

I’m glad you’ve gotten a good laugh out of this. I know there are other parents out there who are striving to put decent meals on the table each day, and going to a fast-food place all the time just isn’t ideal. Not only is it more costly, but it’s not as healthy. I could look at this chicken meal and feel the urge to just throw in the towel, especially since I have The Triple Threat very near my house (McDonald’s, Zaxby’s and Arby’s). Instead here are some things I now do to make this area of my life less of a struggle:

  1. I make a written meal plan every month
    I don’t use any fancy templates, just a notebook where I write some of our favorite meals (that I know I can cook!) and I match these recipes with the food inventory in my house to make sure I have what I need.
  2. I bulk cook on weekends, then freeze those meals for later
    This one change has made a huge difference in my life! Freezer meals are healthy & convenient! And there are TONS of ideas out there with step-by-step instructions. See here. freezer meals Just don’t forget to take them out ahead of time so they can thaw properly.
  3. I use my Crock-Pot!!
    If you don’t have one of these glorious inventions, please invest in one. It is a life-saver! Great meal ideas here. crock pot
  4. I plan which days will be restaurant days
    Ok, sometimes you do really need to take a break. If your budget allows it, choose at least one day a week to pick up something to eat or go to a restaurant. For my son and I, Fridays are pizza nights; I pick up a pizza instead of cooking to give me a night off. There are lots of restaurants that have kids eat free night. Check them out in your area using this site: www.mykidseatfree.com

      With planning and focus, this area of your life can truly be magnificent! My meals may be wacky at times, but not all the time. My Homemade Blueberry Pancakes were a hit this morning! Homemade Blueberry Pancakes So don’t quit. Keep cooking. Keep smiling.

“The Closet Is All Mine” & Other Things I’d Gladly Give Up As a Single Mother

   On my constant quest to improve and Make Life Magnificent, I often seek out advice on single parenting. I became a single mother when my husband passed away in 2009. My son Caleb was 5 months old at the time and I was terrified at the task of raising him alone. Since then, I’ve read countless books and articles, researched every scripture on parenting, talked to other parents…on and on because–in the simplest way that I can admit–I just want to be a good mother. Yet, motherhood is no easy task. Trying to achieve it alone can seem one hair away from being impossible. But don’t take my words as discouragement or pessimism. I have come to realize that there is true beauty in the struggle of it all.

              Today as I was reading, I found an article by Parents Magazine titled: Benefits to Being a Single Parent. Of course, I was instantly intrigued when I saw this because I couldn’t wait to read what these so-called benefits were. Among the author’s viewpoints on single parenting, there is one “benefit” sited that just jumped out at me: “The Closet Is All Mine.”

                  Ok…just give me a minute here…did I read that right? One “benefit” to raising a child alone is that you don’t have to share your closet with another adult! I do believe in being optimistic and seeing the silver lining in all things, but there are times when we just have to be real. Everyone is different, I get that too, and for me having the closet all to myself doesn’t even come close to being considered a good reason for single parenting. Did I already say that raising children is HARD!?

                  If someone came to me today and said that I could have my husband and the father of my child back in exchange for my closet, I would offer them the entire house with the closet!! Take it and all the other shallow and meaningless things that I’d gladly give up as a single mother. None of them would compare to having my son grow up with both his parents there to love, support and nurture him.

My son Caleb and his dad Eric

2 year old Caleb dressed up for Halloween

Fun With Son                As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan in all things. Even when we can’t understand what He may be trying to teach us or accomplish in our lives, faith requires us to trust God’s sovereignty. I am at a place now where I completely trust God’s plan in allowing me to be a young widow and single mother. So please don’t think I’m complaining about my lot in life. Please don’t think that I resent having to raise my son at all. And PLEASE don’t think I’m downing single parents. We are strong and resilient and able to do much more than we think. Single parenting is an art and science all wrapped into one. My hat goes off to all of you out there!

                It’s just really interesting to me how our perspective can completely color our view of something. Two people, two mothers looking at the same situation, yet we have such a different conclusion about all of it. She seems content about being a single mother because she gets to have her closet all to herself, among other things. I look at my son everyday and come to the conclusion that I’d give everything I own, closet and all, if his dad could be here to see how awesome and adorable this little boy is growing up to be.

   

             I was so taken aback by that listed “benefit” that I actually couldn’t read anymore. I truly can’t think of any benefits to single parenting, but I can think of some Positive Points in Single Parenting:

  • You are forced to do things you would never do (I had to learn to tie a tie because I want to teach my son)
  • You develop the skills of an expert multi-tasker (On any given day, it seems like I have to do about 50 things at once!)
  • You come to see that budgets are actually very sexy (Along with coupons and kids eat free restaurant nights)
  • You learn that perfection is so overrated (Some days you feel like you’re wearing a cape, some days you feel like such a failure, but you still get up the next day to do it all over again the best way you know how)

             When I look over my Positive Points, I think there are some married parents that would also say “Amen” to some of these, which makes me realize that, yes–single parents do have unique challenges–but overall parenting for everyone can be an uphill journey. I’m holding God’s hand as I travel up that hill. And I’m saving lots of space in my closet to share with the man God will provide to travel that journey with Caleb and me. 🙂

Interesting Related Writings:
Confessions of Young Widow: The Little Things I Miss About Being Married

               

Have Tattoos Really Become More Permanent Than Marriage?

This coming April will make 5 years that I’ve been single. (see My Story) 2 years after my husband passed away, I sincerely tried dating, and I learned enough through only 2 bad experiences to write an entire book on the subject. One thing I realized is that I DON’T want to have to think like a man in order to date one. No offense Steve Harvey, but that’s just too many rules to keep up with.

dating

         Dating today can be scary in my opinion. Dating as a Christian and a single parent can feel like you’re walking down Nightmare on Elm Street! Apparently I’m not the only one whose gone through this little horror experience. The numbers are crazy: there are 112 million single (unmarried) people over 18 in the U.S. and for every 88 single men, there are 100 single women. (unmarried.org) I could actually give more numbers that are really interesting, but I’m going to stop there and let that last one sink in. For every 100 single women, there are only 88 single men…soooo basically some single woman out there is going to have to face the reality that she may not get married ever or ever again.

Yet in the midst of the craziness of statistics and numbers and facts, I have hope.
relax in my heart

        Maybe it’s because my marriage was such a great one up until my husband passed away. Or maybe it’s because it was way too short of a marriage in the first place (we were only married 1 year and 6 months). Or maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve had time to realize all the things I’d do differently as a wife if I have the chance to do it all over again.  Whatever the reason, I believe in and hope for another chance to be married. And on that note, I’m no longer ashamed to say that if you know a quality single Christian guy who likes kids…send him my way. Thank you 🙂

       I realize my story may be unique…I don’t know anyone else personally that became a widow at the age of 24. When most females were trying to figure out what to do with their lives, I was figuring out funeral arrangements for my spouse. That may sound really hard, but it was my reality. This reality has made a HUGE impact on how I now see relationships and marriage.  And yet, I’m still optimistic about my future. Things do change whenever I wander into the world wide web!

All around me there are blogs, books and podcasts about how Single Is the NEW Sexy! According to one blogger, if you’re young and aspiring to marriage, you’re a coward. She goes on to say that “…marriage is nothing but a security blanket for people who are too afraid to face the world alone.”

    Then she lists all the things you should do with your life other than think about marriage and one to-do was:

Get a tattoo…it’s more permanent than marriage anyway.

        Really? For someone whose marriage ended too painful, too soon, I want to scream reading this! Is there some shred of truth to this? Please tell me that’s not true of my generation? It may seem lame, weak, or whatever–but I deeply admire the image of family life. I believe in the hope of having a husband and more children. Am I old-fashioned for this?

       Now, I do agree that people should get out in the world and live! Travel, try a new food, volunteer, babysit, learn something new, build your passion, further your education, develop your hobbies or try a new hobby, etc. But am I the only one left who feels that you and your spouse can do all this together as well one day?

      Marriage doesn’t have to mean the end of life, but the chapter to a new beautiful beginning–if it’s with the right person.

      So I’ll keep improving and striving to Make Life Magnificent. But in my heart I hope to one day share this magnificent journey with someone special (other than my sweet little boy who loves animals, climbing and getting dirty!)Caleb at age 2

I’m ready for love again, but as I always say–I’d rather be with nobody than to be forever connected to the wrong somebody, so I’m willing to wait.

Maybe for fun, I’ll go get a tattoo! It’ll have to be one of those sticker tattoos though, because I don’t like needles!

Related Articles:
10 Behaviors That Keep You Single
UPDATE: New Related Article:  12 Things Women Need To Do Before They Marry

Wacky Wednesdays: Kids Really Do Say (and Do) The Funniest Things!

Everyone needs to laugh! Laughter is like medicine. Since we know that life can be a beautiful struggle, we should do ourselves a favor and laugh out loud!  I can tell you for sure that as a parent and teacher, some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen or heard were from KIDS! The thing that makes them so funny is their sincerity in what they say and do. For the most part, they are being as honest and as real as they know how to be.  Remember the show by Bill Cosby from the 90’s Kids Say the Darnest Things? I still remember some of those episodes…cracking up laughing at those cute little kids.

To lighten the load on this “hump day,” I thought I’d revive the spirit of KID COMEDY! I’ve collected (from my own crazy life and from others) funny things kids say and do!

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When my son Caleb was 2 years old, decided he wanted to look like paw paw. So he pulled up his shirt to let his belly out and put on my dad’s shoes, but then he couldn’t stop watching the tv!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Caleb decided to show up for dinner one evening dressed as his favorite character from Super Why!

markers

We get upset when kids draw on walls or on their clothes. What would you do if your child made a work of art out of his siblings?!


ambercrombie kid

poop picture When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” 4 year-old Caleb said, “A daddy in the daytime and a ninja turtle at night.”

7 year old Kayla was outside with her mom when a ladybug landed nearby. With a puzzled look on her face, she turned and asked her mom, “What is the daddy ladybug called?”

As we were riding home from church one day, Caleb (whose now 5) says to me from the backseat, “Mommy I always wanted to pet a squirrel. That’s my real dream.”

A grandmother was in the store with her small grandson and he saw something that he really wanted. He began to plead with his grandmother to get it for him and she kept responding, “Well I don’t have the money right now.” Finally, the little boy–with a puzzled look on his face–said to his grandmother, “If you don’t have any money, why you in the store for?”

  I could go on and on all day with this! I’m sure you have funny stories and pictures to share as well. Keep laughing and keep Making Life Magnificent!

Related Articles:
15 Cringeworthy Things Little Kids Say in Public
Kids Say the Darndest Things (22 Pics)
Wacky Wednesday: My Weird Food Habit

God’s Word Made Visual

             Here at Making Life Magnificent, I strive to motivate and inspire you in every area of your life. The spiritual side of you is no exception. A life without Jesus Christ, in my opinion, is no life at all.  How can we live closer to Jesus without His word? The answer is that we can’t.  So today, I want to feature some of my favorite visual scriptures and quotes that really inspire me and help build up my faith. Enjoy and share some of your own below! prayProverbs 3no eyemy peacelife guardHis planisaiahguard your heartgood couragefear notbeautifulall you have

accomplish

Coupons Aren’t Just For Crazy Ladies!

Save

Now that we are into the New Year, one “resolution” you may be saying or hearing often revolves around being more financially smart. We want to save more, invest more, spend less, but keep our quality of life in the process.

When my son was born, money really needed to be stretched, and the help I needed to stretch those dollars even further came in the form of coupons! Now that I know how to use coupons and I’ve seen first hand how much you can save using them, I will never go back to paying full price for certain items.

Now, before you tune out, hear me out…coupons are not just for crazy ladies taking tons of time in the checkout line. I just recently saw a man in a Bi-Lo grocery store with a stack of coupons and his shopping list. SMART man!  If you are curious about couponing, below I’m featuring a blog post from one of my favorite coupon blogs Southern Savers.

This site features great info about how and where to coupon (and no, I’m not getting paid to say this!) Just click on the picture to get started couponing.

From Southern Savers

     If you want to know more about how to get started with coupons, take a look at their list of how to do that. Then stay tuned as I compile a list of my own with tips for how to Make Life Magnificent with coupons! 🙂