Happy Valentine’s Day

What does Valentine’s Day mean to you? Flowers? Chocolate? A special dinner out?

This year it takes on a whole new meaning.  Why? As a result of my relapse and changing healthy issues, I am learning to love again.  So it is a day to celebrate the gift of love in my life which I sometimes take for granted

Parents – I know you are thinking of course, they love us they are our parents, right?  I have learned over the years many do not have this gift.  Missing my dad BUT I am blessed to be able to spend time with my momma.  Through good times and bad, she loved me even when I didn’t love myself.  I’m grateful for her love and support.

My Daughter – Belinda.  The day she was born, I finally GOT it!  The 6 months on bed rest, the struggles with her biological dad, the days of being a struggling single mom – I got it!  I understood about the sacrifices a parent makes for their child no matter how it hurts.  I LOVE she has grown up to be an independent, strong married woman.  I admire her strength.

My hubby, Rob – a love story for the ages.  When we met back in high school, he was a blond haired, guitar playing guy whose smile gave me chills. He was from Neptune and I was Ocean Township. Our schools were rivals and it didn’t take long for me to succumb to peer pressure. I was and still am a people pleaser ( a HUGE character defect)! We went our separate ways.

The summer of 2002, he reentered my life. I long for the memories which flashed before me back then. Belinda was (and still is) a little protective of her mom. A roadside memorial with the name “HOPE” on it sent him on a hunt to be sure it wasn’t me. We emailed for months and then one Saturday, he showed up at a craft show to see me. To say the least, the rest is history.

We have had our ups and downs over the years. There are some days, I think he got the raw end of the deal. An overly independent woman, with a ton of baggage. Through it all, he has stuck around.  There are days he is my caregiver when the MS flares.  There are days when my lack of memories have him sharing tales of things he have done since 2002.

My recovery has taught me so much in just a few short months.  I am no longer the self-centered woman who doesn’t need anyone.  I have learned to trust again.  I am enjoying him being my best friend. He is my Ying to my Yang. He keeps me grounded when I am ready to fly in the wind.

Today is the day I honor LOVE. Remember LOVE is an intense feeling with deep affection and we are meant to share it with others – family, friends and random acts of kindness to a stranger.  I challenge you to put a smile on someone’s face to day.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

How to Transform Under Your Sink?

I never thought under my sink needed a makeover… I mean who sees it but the two of us, right?  Then hubby installed a water filter system and I had to clean out underneath for him to install it.  UGH!!!!  Of course doing this triggered all kinds of thoughts on how I wanted to revamp the entire kitchen.  Funny how a simple task can get you thinking in the BIG picture, right?

But let’s start with revamping your sub-sink storage in a single afternoon so it’s as fresh as the cleaning supplies you keep there.

Step #1 – Clear the cupboard

I was amazed at the things under the kitchen sink!  So let’s start with a clean slate.

Empty your under-the-sink cupboard and place everything on a nearby counter. Yes, we mean everything! Throw out the empty bottles. Get rid of the supplies you never really use.  You know the one everyone said was so good but it doesn’t touch the dirt in your kitchen.  Now decide the best storage solutions for your space.

Step #2 – Gather supplies together

Separate the rest of the supplies into groups based on how or where you use them. For example, a Your Way Rectangle or two can hold everything you need to wash the dishes. Use a Your Way Rectangle Basket with a liner to contain polishes, detergents and other bottles. Turn a Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote into a mobile cleaning station with rubber gloves, multi-surface cleaners and a duster.  You can personalize them to keep your supplies neatly labeled and simple to find.  You’ve the “I can’t find it so I can’t do it” excuse, right?  No more excuses for anyone to shrug off cleaning duty!  Guess it means me too!  LOL.

Step #3 – Use empty space

If you are anything like me, you have a handful of supplies items which don’t quite fit into any category – or maybe they are used so much they defy categorization. A few tools and a few minutes can give you easy access to these items whenever you need them.

Add a tension rod to hang spray bottles so they’re always a cinch to reach. Fasten hangers inside the doors to store scrubbers, dusters, towels and other frequently-used supplies.

Cleaning up is far less of a chore when your tools are organized and easy to find. A fresh new look under the sink may be all you need to spark your own cleaning expedition!

Check out this makeover video:

Need help?  How about snapping a picture of your problem area, send it to me and I will help you get organized?  Live close enough and I will be happy to come to you with tips and tricks (not only Thirty One solutions) to help you get organized.

Let’s start today to tackle your “get organized” New Year’s Resolution…..

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Simple Things

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Now as they went on their way, He entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home  (Luke 10:38, NIV)

Balance always requires a fierce and ruthless examination of priorities. Our true priorities are not just lists of activities. They are candid reflections of our heart desires. What we deem important receives the most time, energy, attention and resources. The importance of right and balanced priorities is illustrated by the life of Martha.

Jesus knew that He was always welcome in the home of Martha. Scripture tells us that Jesus “had no place to lay His head,” but He often came to this home when He needed to rest or get away from the demanding crowds. At the age of thirty, the Son of God left His natural home and there is no record of His ever returning to live there. He often went to Bethany, to the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and even spent His final week on earth there. Jesus didn’t have to wonder if He was welcome in this home or if Martha was “ready” for His presence. He knew she was. Can He say the same about us?

Seeking God begins with recognizing who He is and then inviting Him into our lives as Lord and Savior. If He is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all. For some of us, the problem is not that we lack a personal relationship with God. Our problem is that we are not “making room” for that relationship. Balance comes when we yield to His plan in the everyday moments of life

One summer our family went to Pennsylvania where we visited Amish country. I have always been fascinated by the Amish people and enjoyed every minute spent in their beautiful and carefully ordered world. As our visit came to an end, I wanted to buy a souvenir to remind me of the peaceful days we had spent there, but everything I picked up was too expensive. Being a committed shopper, I was not about to let that stop me.

We travelled up and down the small hidden back roads of each community, looking for the Amish products known only to a few and to those relentless shoppers who were willing to persevere. I was beginning to lose hope when I spotted the small, white sign posted on the fence of a quaint and absolutely perfect house. “Amish Crafts” it said. This was it!

As we climbed out of the car, a sense of peace settled around us like an old familiar blanket. Our voices immediately dropped to a whisper as we tiptoed up the narrow stone path and gently opened the screen door. When we stepped onto the porch filled with beautiful Amish crafts, a woman welcomed us with a beautiful smile and introduced herself as Mary. She invited us to browse and to let her know if we needed any help. I have to admit that I was almost rude in my pathetic attempts to catch a glimpse of her home through the porch windows. Reading my mind, she graciously offered, “Would you like to come in and look around?” I thought she’d never ask!

Mary’s home revealed a world very different from mine and an uncommonly simplistic lifestyle I desperately longed to experience. The house was sparsely furnished with only the necessities. Mary described her life and daily routine with words like “calm, uncomplicated, peaceful and serene.” When I asked why she had chosen such a lifestyle, she sweetly responded with words of wisdom I will never forget, “I have discovered that when my life and my heart get too crowded, there is not enough room for God.” Exactly!

An unbalanced life is too crowded for God. It is so easy to relegate our spirituality to religious activity when all He really wants is to spend time with us. He wants to wipe away every tear.  God longs to share every hurt and celebrate every victory. The Father yearns to wrap His strong arms around us, bringing the peace and balance we so desperately need.

Instead, we often relinquish control of our life to unworthy demands dictated by a world that operates in “urgent” gear. We forget what is really important. The important rarely barges in while the urgent is always an offensive intruder. Certainly, there are times when the important is also urgent – but we must learn to discern between the two. We wrongly conclude that a busy life is automatically a productive life and think that a full schedule will surely produce a full heart.

I have great news! He loves who you are more than He loves what you do. Seek Him today. Make room for Him. He is waiting.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

Tasty Tuesday: Chewy Coconut Almond Cookies

Thank you Celebrating Sweets for today’s recipe…

I will admit, I haven’t made them YET!  I have never been much of a baker, I always left it up to everyone else.  It was something Belinda liked to do especially during the holidays.  This recipe actually doesn’t seem too hard.  I LOVE almond cookies BUT was never a huge fan of coconut until recently.  The whole gluten free thing got me to try it and I actually liked it!

This recipe is courtesy of the author of “Simply Gluten Free Desserts” Caral Kicinski:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup plus1 tablespoon coconut oil melted (not hot)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional for drizzling)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl whisk almond flour, coconut, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar until no lumps remain.
  2. In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk eggs for 1 full minute. Add coconut oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir until thoroughly combined; use your hands if necessary. Tightly cover and place in the back of your fridge (where it’s really cold) for 2 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Roll or scoop the dough into 2 tablespoon portions (about golf ball size) and place them a couple inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Press down on each ball of dough to flatten (they will spread very little when baking). Bake for about 9 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to turn golden brown. Place the baking sheets on wire racks to cool completely.

OPTIONAL CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE:

  1. Melt chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Drizzle the top of the cookies with melted chocolate (I put the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and snipped the corner for easy drizzling). Allow the chocolate to firm up at room temperature or speed it along by placing the cookies in the fridge. 

This may sound CRAZY but if you want to take some of these with you in your purse as you are running errands, why not use a mini zipper pouch or a cute case to keep your cookies safe.  

The Cute Case is the perfect little storage solution for jewelry, change, hair accessories, push pins, paper clips, gift cards, business cards, and countless other items. Keep it on your dresser, in a drawer, in the office or in the bathroom at home to keep things tidy and together, or pop it in your purse, backpack, travel bag or car when you’re on the go!

The Mini Zipper Pouch is a great carryall for all those loose little items in need of a place. Featuring a zipper closure, the Mini Zipper Pouch was designed to accessorize many of our other larger totes, thermals, backpacks and purses, it’s perfect size to keep smaller items secure, such as cash, change, lip stick, IDs, gift cards, small snacks, gum, mints and receipts.

 

Remember to send me your recipe for a chance to receive a FREE ThirtyOne product.

Hae a ThirtyOne-derful day!

HIV/AIDS Still Exists

Today December 1st is World AIDS Day.  For some, it is just another day.  For others, it is a time to remember those who have fought the battle and lost, encourage those who continue to fight and educate to end AIDS in our lifetime.  Since leaving the field of HIV/AIDS many years ago, I seem to have become complacent about what was a passion.

Living with a chronic illness has brought back many memories for me. So today, I am reflecting on the lessons I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” who stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, it is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.  I didn’t see any of the people who walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I had made many bad choices over the years.  So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart wanting to save them all.  In those early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers.  Moms and dads from their kids.  It took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  This was the world I dedicated many years of my professional life too.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people which I admire.

Fast forward to today when little is spoken about HIV/AIDS.  It is a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines to keep you going, so why worry, right?  The theme for World AIDS Day 2017 is “Now Let’s End It”

Globally, there are an estimated 36.7 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.  Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

996657_10202615369409102_212599425_n

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds us and government HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

What are you willing to do to help?  Today, I remember those who fought a great fight – Jackie Wise, Matt McCrossen, Sam, Maria and all of the others who walked through the doors of my office in Bridgeton and the other SJAA offices.  I honor those who continue to fight especially Jeff, Donna and Veronica.  They continue to inspire me with their strength and determination after 26 years.

Honor someone you know who is living with HIV/AIDS or who has lost the fight.  Share their names so we too can honor them.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!