Menu Plan: Conference Madness


Well, hey there! It’s Tuesday, which used to always be my “menu posting day”, so I feel like I’m actually on a track a bit. How ’bout that? :)


This is our “off” week in terms of activities. Don’t get me wrong– we still have gymnastics, karate, art class, chorus, orchestra, beginner band, and a host of church-related activities, but we’re still down four activities from the OTHER week. So, we consider this a break!


It’s conference week, so my kids have early dismissal from school. That makes the schedule kind of weird, but I’m not complaining. I actually kind of love conference week. We really like our kids’ teachers and I like having a chance to chat with them. Honestly, I just really like talking with people! And it’s fun to hear about how your kids are when they’re away from you. :)


So, with all that said, here’s what we’re eating this week. You’ll note some “specialty” breads on their– those are all things I snagged at a major grocery store bakery early one morning last week. It was all “day old” and marked down 90%. Garlic breadsticks for 19 cents? I’ll take ‘em!

you gotta eat




B–Cereal, Apples, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Ham & Eggs with Cheese, Maple Cinnamon Toast, Fruit

Mid-afternoon Snack– Sausage, Cheese, & Crackers

D–Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa’s– Hawaiian Pork over Cabbage



B–Bagels /w PB, Apples, Milk

D–Crab & Pepper Jack Rotini, Broccoli, Garlic Breadsticks



B–Cinnamon Roll Bread, Scrambled Eggs, Apples

D–Beef & Rice Burritos, Salad




B–Cereal, Apples, Milk

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night)




B–Cinnamon Maple Toast, Applesauce, Milk

D–Chicken & Veggies with Teriyaki Noodles




B–Egg Wraps, Orange Slices

D–Pizza (The yeast arrived! And my family was delighted. Once again, my two giant pizzas were demolished. What can I say? We won’t be giving up yeast anytime soon…)




breakfast pizza

B–Breakfast Pizza

D–Carnitas Haystacks w/ oodles of toppings




And that should do it!  





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3 Things I Wish I Hadn’t Done with Essential Oils



I honestly thought I would save this part of my “oily experience” until later in the conversation but, the more I thought about it, the more important I thought it was to just get it out there. I’m going to tell you about a few ways in which I used my oils early in my journey that I now regret.


I want to be clear about a few things before I even get into this:


  1. I was not harmed, to my knowledge, by doing any of these things. In my opinion, being okay doesn’t mean it was a good choice. However, I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that I’ve suffered horrible ill-effects from these choices– I have not.
  2. There are people, LOTS of people, who will disagree with me about some of these having any potential danger. That’s okay. Disagreeing is not a sign that either party is unintelligent. I have concrete reasons for feeling the way that I do and that is enough for me. You need to make your own decisions, of course.
  3. I do not judge others for making different choices for themselves, but I DO take issue with people insisting that their choices are appropriate for everyone.
  4. In ALL instances, I will be referring to essential oils that are pure and unadulterated– please note that this does NOT mean that I am speaking of only one brand, since there are multiple companies who meet very high standards in the oils they produce. It does mean that I’m never talking about contaminated, corrupted, or otherwise inferior product. This is important to note so that no one attempts to make the “Oh, but it’s okay with XYZ brand!” argument. Fair enough?


Okie dokey.


Let's talk about essential oils


So, when I got my first set of essential oils, I was super duper excited and I was very eager to try them. They smelled amazing and I’d read a ton and I couldn’t wait to apply them in all sorts of wonderful ways. So I did.


I added oils to my water.


Now, listen. If I read that sentence out loud, I immediately see why I should have questioned this decision for myself. Oil and water simply do not mix. The oil floats on the top of the water, rather than mixing in. Sure, you can shake the heck out of it before each sip and that might work. Here’s what I know– essential oils are wonderful and powerful and I don’t really want to risk having them hit my sensitive mucous membranes undiluted. While I did not notice any issues (other than tingly lips when I added a drop of peppermint), it’s something I just choose not to risk anymore. For me, it’s a better, safer choice to just squeeze ACTUAL citrus in my water or throw in few a mint leaves. Honestly, it’s also cheaper. And there are vitamins in the fruit. So there you go. I still use and adore my citrus oils (lemon, lime, sweet orange, blood orange, grapefruit, tangerine– I love them all) and my mints (peppermint, spearmint, and wintergreen.) I just don’t put them in my water.


I dumped undiluted oils on my skin.


Shortly after I got started using my oils, I tore my meniscus. I was in SUCH pain and I was eager to avoid surgery. I started doing some (not thorough enough) research and came across wintergreen and lemongrass as oils that might help. I was thrilled to give it a shot.


Here’s the thing– both of those oils? Are real powerhouses. Wintergreen is amazing for pain and inflammation and lemongrass has a long history of being helpful for tendon and ligament issues. I wasn’t completely off-base in what I was doing. However, instead of mixing the essential oils with an appropriate carrier to get it to a safe dilution level (which varies based on oil, age, health, and usage, for the record), I just sprinkled on some drops and hoped for the best.


The potential for skin irritation increases greatly when oils are used undiluted, also called “neat.” Furthermore, a carrier oil helps spread and “hold” the EO on the skin which enables it to more effectively do its job.


Again, I was not knowingly injured from this and I’m not an alarmist– however, I do wish I’d been more careful and appropriate when using those oils.



I took oils internally for a cough.


Again, early in my journey, I had a nasty cough. It was keeping me from sleeping and I was over it. I read the testimony of several bloggers who said that lemon, orange, and peppermint, either by capsule or mixed into honey, would quiet a cough. I was sold! After all, those are all oils from stuff we eat anyway, right?


I mixed a drop of each in a spoonful of honey, swallowed it down, and finally experienced some relief. Truth be told, I think the honey did as much as the oils and the peppermint kind of numbed my sore, irritated throat.


So, if it worked and I didn’t notice any harm, why do I regret it? Well, plain and simple, I’ve found better ways to treat cold symptoms since then– steams and (diluted) rubs have proven far more effective and, in my opinion, carry fewer potential risks or side-effects. Additionally, I’ve learned a lot more about how to tweak the oil combinations to best treat our symptoms while being safe for whichever member of the family I’m treating– e.g. there’s no reason for me to use peppermint on my five-year-old when multiple aromatherapists caution against its use on children under 10 (or 6, depending on who you ask.) Spearmint is a safer, and still effective, choice for her. I know more, now. And I know better. So I try to do better.



So, there you go. There’s a short list of some ways I used my oils that I now regret. I’m sharing these not to incite panic and not to virtually scold anyone who chooses to use their own oils in these ways. I’m sharing them simply to show how knowledge is fluid. And that’s okay. It is truly okay if you change your mind about what is best or safest for yourself or your family.


I think about when my oldest was a baby. Back then, they marketed “Tylenol Cold- Infant” formula. This is sort of mind-boggling to us now, since recommendations for appropriate ages to receive cold medicine have since changed. Of course, when I was a child, we took baby aspirin– and now everyone knows aspirin for children is a huge no-no!


Should we feel awful about the things we ate, drank, or took when we didn’t have any reason to believe it wasn’t a good choice? I don’t think so. But I do believe we should commit to being life-long learners…


and that applies to essential oils, too.




(Note: If you love and are passionate about a certain brand of oils, that’s awesome! Glad you found a good fit. Feel free to share your experiences using oils, but please do not mention brands or solicit sales here. Any comments doing so will be deleted or I’ll ask you to edit it. Thanks for understanding!)

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Menu Plan: Shamrockin’ It


This week is an exciting one! Not only do we get to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, but we get to celebrate the official first day of Spring come Friday. Woo hoo to THAT!


I am the only non-Irish one in this household (though my fake red hair fools a fair number of people ;) ), but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in celebrating! I like these “little” holidays, to be honest. I’m not a fan of going all over the top but, let’s face it– it doesn’t take a whole lot to bring smiles and delight. I love that!


So here’s the plan for this fun and happy week:

you gotta eat




B–Cereal, Appkes, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Pancakes, Sausages, Grapefruit

Mid-afternoon Snack– Shamrock Shakes

D–Turkey & Pinto Burritos with homemade salsa



B–Breakfast Burritos, Juice

D–Beef & Tomato Soup (in the slow cooker), Garlic Breadsticks


Tuesday: (St. Patrick’s Day)

B–Bagels w/ Green Cream Cheese, Green Grapes, Green Milk

D–Hot Dogs, French Fries, Pickles, Salad (What can I say? I did not produce cabbage lovers! ;) )




B–Breakfast Burritos, Apples

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night)




B–Applesauce Muffins, Bananas, Milk

D–Slow-cooker Chicken Legs, Egg Noodles, & Carrots <– This is a meal that *I* do not like. My family, however, loves it and it is both simple and frugal. Soooo… it makes it on the menu plan every month or so. It’s good to model eating something that’s not your favorite every now and again. ;)




B–Cereal, Grapes

D–Pizza! (I bought yeast. I’ve made 5 different yeast-free recipes from bloggers whose recipes I’ve adored in the past– not a single one was worth repeating, in our opinion. So… I ordered yeast via Amazon Prime and it’ll be here by then. My family will rejoice. Ha!)




B–Scrambled Eggs w/ Bacon, Cinnamon Rolls

D–Spaghetti, Green Beans




And that should do it!  





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Reading to Myself



He said it so off-hand. That’s what made it so profound for me, actually. Those simple little words: “I was reading to myself.”




Let me remind you for just a second that, as a preschooler, A. was labeled “profoundly delayed.” The fact that he didn’t speak– and I mean didn’t speak AT ALL– until nearly three years old was at the crux of that. We can argue about the benefits and limitations of such labels all day long but, no matter what you think about it, that’s what the paperwork said.


Of course, once A. figured out how to talk, it was an odd process to get to fluency. It’s not that he lacked any sounds or vocabulary– it’s that he would TALK like he was READING. He would sound out each and every letter— cuh-uh-puh. Cup. It was sometimes tempting to just go back to sign language because it was so much faster, but we were so darn thrilled he was speaking, we patiently waited through his painstakingly slow sentences.


Eventually, he got much faster and smoother and, about that time, he started reading anything and everything to us. He’d pick up a book, magazine, article, cereal box, WHATEVER and read it. I’m not talking about simple board books or familiar stories here– I’m talking about technical magazines and full-length novels.


At 3.


Mere months after uttering his very first word.


Interesting, right?


And it was. Honestly, we still weren’t going all nuts about it because we were still working to catch up on the areas where he’d been found lacking.


So, that was then and this is now. He’s ten now, and, realistically, pretty much every one of his peers is a competent reader at this point. Sure, they have different reading levels and interests and proficiencies, but reading is certainly nothing uncommon in 4th grade.


The other day, we were, again, joking about how incredibly talkative A. is and how funny that is, given his start. Then we recalled how he started reading well before 3 1/2.


I smiled at my boy, “It was so funny, A, because you didn’t even talk until you were three and then– boom!– you started reading!”


He looked up at me, a curious look on his face.


“You mean reading out loud?”


“Well, yes,” I replied. It seemed an odd thing to ask.


And then he added, in the most off-hand way…


“Before I could talk, I was just reading to myself.”


* * * * *


My mind was blown.


I had never even considered that possibility.


But… it makes sense.


And, if it’s true, can you imagine???


I’ve said it before and I”ll say it again– raising this kiddo is a fun and crazy ride.

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Let’s Talk About Essential Oils, pt. 1



Opening the Conversation


Let's talk about essential oils


1. Where it all started:


Let me take you all back in time to when I was, oh, about eleven years old. I was obsessed with a series of books called Sunfire and I was especially obsessed with one called Cassie. Anyway, long story short, that book had me captivated with the ideas of beading moccasins, subsisting on corn meal, and, perhaps most of all, creating poultices to heal wounds. I can remember sitting in the sand outside of a cottage in Newport, Rhode Island, weaving long seagrass together and mashing random plants on a slab of slate, certain I was concocting some healing wonder. Obviously, I was not.


Still, those seeds were planted and never really fully went away.


A few years ago, my husband and I were watching a documentary and, in it, they spoke of a birch tree and how it has been used since ancient times for pain– that it contains the same compounds we use in aspirin. My fascination was rekindled and I confessed to my husband that I had always been interested in the healing powers of plants and herbs and that I wished I knew more about them. He may have been more amused than intrigued, but he encouraged me to pursue it and research it, then.


2.  Read, read, and read some more.


I’m a tad skeptical by nature (though I won’t claim to be “the world’s greatest skeptic.”) I can also be cynical in some circumstances. Still, I won’t deny that I was fascinated to read some of the tales about successes people were having with herbs and essential oils. Quite frankly. some of them sounded downright… miraculous! And that’s what made me cynical.


I never doubted the power of plants, however. I mean– I’ve known since I was a child that peppermint soothed a queasy tummy and ginger helped keep nausea at bay. Wintergreen relieves pain and inflammation and has long been used in certain pain creams. Some of my family members joke that I recommend peppermint tea for almost anything that ails you.


So, when I considered possibly branching out beyond herbal teas, I knew I needed to read. And, as much as I love a good anecdotal story, I needed to read material from SCIENTISTS and AROMATHERAPISTS. Sure, I kept reading the accounts from my friends and fellow bloggers and that was interesting enough. But it wasn’t enough to convince me that I wanted to slather these things all over my body.


My number one recommendation if you, too, like to “know your stuff” before dipping your toe in? Be sure you’re reading some impartial research. Deliberately seek out the works of people who are NOT affiliated with a particular company. Here’s the thing– I have a brand I love most of all, too. But I don’t blindly trust everything they publish. Anytime someone stands to gain money from you following their specific advice, it pays to be a tad skeptical. Their words might turn out to be true! But it’s better to do a little research and be sure.


3. Making mistakes, despite my research.


So, here’s where I get all upfront and honest with you all– although I had read, read, and read some more, I still did some things with my essential oils that I now regret. I’ll tell you more about those as time goes on, but I think it’s important to admit that I’m definitely in the “do the best you can until you know better” camp on this one (<– thanks, Maya Angelou.) I engaged in a couple of potentially risky usage behaviors, thankfully on myself and not my children, that I now choose to avoid. The good news about that is this– I’m not incredibly judgy about how people use their oils. I mean, there are things that make me a bit nervous, but I also know that I made some choices that would probably make others cringe. Learning is fluid and what I know today may not be all that I know tomorrow. And that’s okay.


4. Why talk about it?


Essential oils have blown up in crazy ways. I am 100% positive that some of you reading this are of hearing about them. I get that. And, you know what? I’m totally cool with you ignoring any of the posts I write on the topic. I am definitely not here to waste your time or add noise to the conversation.


But I do want to share some of the successes we’ve seen. I will warn you– mine are not stories of miracles. Mine are stories of our lives being made better thanks to essential oils. Most of my happiest successes actually involve the synergy of natural healing and modern medicine. I have not completely overhauled our lives. The ibuprofen is still in our medicine cabinet! I still have a bottle of peroxide on the shelf. And I still make my peppermint tea with herbal tea bags.


Maybe a few of you are more like me– you love the idea of learning something new and you welcome adding something beneficial into your life, but you’re not looking to abandon everything else. You’re not looking for a whole new lifestyle or a new marketing job. You just want to explore and experience what essential oils can perhaps do for you.


And if that statement rings at all true for you? Then you’re in a safe place. Let’s chat about some stuff, free from brand names and sales pitches, and see where it leads us, okay?


Let me know what YOU want to know. And we’ll dive in. :)



(Note: If you love and are passionate about a certain brand of oils, that’s awesome! Glad you found a good fit. Feel free to share your experiences using oils, but please do not mention brands or solicit sales here. Any comments doing so will be deleted or I’ll ask you to edit it. Thanks for understanding!)

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Irish by Marriage



I’m German.


And Norwegian.


A bit of Czechoslovakian thrown in there, too.


March Lovin'



I am not Irish.


Despite my fair skin.


Despite my green-blue eyes.


Despite my never-ending supply of green in my wardrobe.


But, hey!


I’m Irish by marriage!


So bring on the shamrocks and rainbows and blarney!


And Shamrock Shakes.


Definitely the shamrock shakes.




How about you? Are you Irish? Or Irish-by-marriage? 




More fun festive stuff for this time of year:



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I love them, too.



I had the opportunity to sub for a first grade class for five days in a row so their teacher could go spend some time with her father whose health was failing.


I had a chance to read one-on-one with each and every one of them multiple times. I taught about measurement over several math lessons. I introduced the letter Y as a vowel and we explored those sounds and patterns. Every single day, I had a half hour to just gather them around a rocking chair and read aloud.


Yesterday was the last day and I ran into a couple of the children’s parents throughout the day. “Oh, YOU’RE Mrs. S!’ they would exclaim.


When you sub in the same classroom for five days running, you have to expect the parents are going to hear all about you.


That was followed with, “I kept hearing all these stories with Mrs. S. in them! I asked Matt*, ‘So, is she nice?’ and he said, ‘Mom– we LOVE Mrs. S!!!’”


* * * * *


I want to be honest with you all…


When I signed up to substitute teach? I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or be any good at it. All I knew was that I enjoyed teaching church school, I liked volunteering in the classroom, and the substitute schedule worked well with my current life situation. So I went for it.



But, as I carefully packed St. Patrick’s Day stickers from home to use on the behavior chart of a defiant child once the calendar flipped to March…


As I smiled teaching them all about the word “symbiotic” so they could share the word with their parents and show them what clever six year olds they are…


As I found myself in the public library, looking for a book on funny stories of symbiosis in the animal kingdom just to share with them…


And, yes, even as I heard one of them declare, “Mrs. S… you’re BREAKING MY HEART!” when I told him his behavior had shown me he wasn’t ready to join us in a game of 7-Up…


I realized…


I love them, too.


I love their tight squeezes on the way out the door. I love their sweet “thank yous” over some of the the smallest things. I love when something clicks and I love watching them work hard to try to figure it out.


This list could go on and on forever, to be honest.


There are so many things I enjoy about these little people.


I worried that I wouldn’t be any good at subbing and that I wouldn’t really enjoy it.


Now I worry about how many classes it might take me one day to get certified in elementary ed. ;)



*Name changed. Obviously.
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Menu Plan: Craving the lamb!


Today’s post title might have you thinking I’m craving a big ol’ leg of lamb or rack of lamb– perhaps for an Easter feast. I’m not actually a lamb-eater, however, and the title has more to with the weather than food cravings.


What’s that they say? “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb”? Well, I am READY for that lamb! The Northeast has had a very snowy, very cold winter and it’s time to move on, I say! (Of course, I say that as I sit on my couch surrounded by children who are hanging out during yet another two hour delay due to trecherous roads… but I digress.)


Anyway, in the meantime, while I dream of sunnier, balmier days, we gotta eat, right?


So here’s the plan:

you gotta eat




B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk ( before 7:30AM Mass)

Brunch– Ham, Egg, Cheese, & Fried Potato breakfast skillets, Fruit

D–Burger King. True story: a BK opened in our town over six months ago. Since then, our children have thought it would be the most amazing thing to get to go there sometime. So this was it. More truth: they wound up enjoying the paper crowns far more than the food, but they still enjoyed the experience. :)



B–PB Raisin Toast, Milk

D–Macaroni & Veggie Soup (in the slow cooker)



B–Cereal, Grapes, Milk

D–Pepper Jack Pasta, Carrot sticks




B–Strawberry Muffins, Cheese

D–Cheesy Beans & Rice (date night)




B–Strawberry Muffins, Apples, Milk


D–Hot & Sour Peanut Noodles w/ broccoli & carrots




B–Egg Sandwiches, Strawberry-Pink Grapefruit Slush

D–Pizza! (I’ve been out of yeast for two weeks. I refuse to buy those pricey packets, so I’m waiting on a friend with a Costco membership to nab me some. In the meantime, I’ve been making a yeast-less crust that I’m working on tweaking to make the family happy. I’m getting there! I’ll share if I ever perfect it. ;) )




B–Fried Potatoes & Eggs, mixed fruit

D–Buffalo Chicken Chili, Corn Bread




And that should do it!  





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The Forgotten Prayer Friend Card




I am a believer in natural consequences.


I’m not one to rush off with a forgotten item. I’m not one to do a procrastinator’s project for him or her. I do not flinch if someone must wear a less desirable garment because he or she failed to take care of the preferred one.


I am the mom who, when one of my children forgot– for the second night in a row– to bring home a spelling list, sent in a note stating bluntly that I offered no excuses for the behavior and to please feel free to have the child complete the work during any free time, such as recess or the Valentine’s exchange.


The teacher caught up with me in the hallway and expressed gratitude for my note. That forgetful child of mine? Hustled to work hard and get that assignment done when fun stuff was on the line. And I’m okay with that.


* * * * * * * * * *


And so on Sunday, I found myself standing there with my girls, A. up at the altar, remembering that it was “Prayer Friend Sunday.” This is the Sunday when our First Communicants bring a special card they’ve filled out to Mass and get to choose a person (from those willing) to pray for them as they prepare for their First Communion day in May.


This year, like last, I am the parent of a First Communicant.


This year, list last, I gave my child the card and offered reminders to fill it out and put it somewhere it wouldn’t be forgotten.


Last year, this was no problem.


This year, I knew she had forgotten.


At first, I got a nervous and upset feeling in my stomach– I really, really don’t like forgetting things. It’s kind of like being late, for me. It’s not common and I feel queasy and icky when it happens.


Then, I felt kind of annoyed. I mean– I had done my part, hadn’t I? It’s not like I expect these little people to do and remember everything on their own! Surely, she could have just listened when I told her to put it with her coat so she wouldn’t forget!


I leaned over and murmured, “Did you remember your Prayer Friend card?”


And I saw the panic in her eyes.


* * * * * * * *


Now, some might say that the panic was merited, that it’s an example of those “natural consequences” about which I spoke earlier.


But, as I walked up the aisle with my little First Communicant– the only one at the entire 7:30AM Mass– I felt her bird-slim shoulder tremble a bit under my hand. Father Larry smiled warmly at her and asked the congregation who would be willing to pray for my C.


About one hundred and seventy-five hands shot in the air.


The trembling grew. The panic increased. And I realized something–


C. is so small. She is a little fish in a big pond when she’s there. Added to that, her vision challenges make that sea of raised hands difficult to even process.


She didn’t need to feel added pressure over a piece of paper she forgot simply because she was too busy making a homemade card that read, “I love Jesus because He loved me first” (and featured an illustration of her high-fiving Jesus) to give the older man who sits in front of her.


And, so, I quietly told Father that we had mistakenly left the card at home. It was an error very easily remedied when he simply handed her the sample one he was holding.


I felt her narrow hands grow slippery in mind and watched her narrow eyes dart around the room as she attempted to chooose someone, anyone, and be done with this whole charade.


* * * * * * * *


In the end, she chose the older man who sits in front of her. The one for whom she’d made the hand-drawn card.


In the end, they ate donuts together after Mass and had a good chat.


I’d say that’s better than any Prayer Friend card.

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They’re inconvenient, these New England winters. The snow… it just FALLS. Sometimes in heaps and piles. Added to that, days and days can go by with cloudy skies and low temps and the piles of white stuff go nowhere. Well, nowhere but UP when, inevitably, another winter storm rolls in.





Winter is just such a demanding season, isn’t it? While summer calls to me, “Yank your hair in a ponytail, slide on the flip-flops and roll! We can go ANYWHERE together!”, winter murmurs in quieter tones, “Don’t forget a hat. And eight gloves for the hands of you and your little ones. Step slowly– it’s icy. Plan your trip carefully– only the main roads will likely be treated.” So much needs to be done before a simple trip to church or the store can be accomplished.


I am a lover of the light, a lover of the quick. Give me sunburned cheeks and legs scraped by brambles over wind-chapped lips and ankles turned on slippery walkways.


But as I take in the world around me– this New England winter that, while colder than usual, is not really that atypically snowy– and, if I let it, I feel my mind slow down. I am able to choose the errands that really matter. We’re never without something to fill our bellies, but if some silvery roots get a little longer than I’d like on the top of my head? So be it. Our Sunday suppers with my parents have been fewer and farther between, but, when we DO manage to get together? It feels all the more special and we can just enjoy one another’s company without feeling the need to come up with grand plans of any kind.


It’s inconvenient to be asked to plan so much, to prepare so much, and, frankly, to rest with my own thoughts so much. Jobs I think should be wildly simple require careful orchestration when the world is covered in a couple feet of white.


This inconvenience, this demand… it stretches me. It challenges me. At the end of the day, it helps me grow.


And, if you think about…


True growth is almost always inconvenient.


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