Monday, February 27, 2017

Let's Go To The Hop ...

I know - I'm late. This is the first time I've missed a deadline all year, and much as it pains me to think of anyone who may have woken up looking for a post that wasn't yet posted, it was worth it.

Yesterday I took my daughters to visit my mother for the day; we took a few little things over to her house, threw it all together in a pot, and by the start of the afternoon, she had a delicious pot of meaty vegetable soup bubbling on her stove.

Vegetable soup. Inexpensive, simple, Delicious.
When the soup had finished cooking to my satisfaction and was well seasoned to my mother's tastes and health limitations, I turned the burner off, let it rest a while too cool, and spent some time just hanging out. Later, I separated the entire pot into eight two-cup freezer bowls, seven of which went into the freezer - I put one in the fridge so that she could have it for dinner. Mom and I munched on fresh strawberries together with the kids, she laughed when she saw how much Chance loves berries too, and we packed up in the van to head over (the river and through the woods) to my grandmother's house.

It was good to see her too, despite how heartwrenching it is to see how very little of my Grandmother is left living in the person we visited yesterday. She doesn't recognize people as much anymore, and although she usually remembers me once she's been told who I am (or pretends to?), she rarely recognizes my children, and despite their obvious femininity, she often refers to them as "he" or "the little boy there." My children have been instructed not to react, but only to say perhaps something like, "But I'm a girl, Nana. Remember?"

It makes my heart ache.

My grandmother is the strongest person I've ever known - she has lived through both poverty and abundance, through the deaths of her mother, her husband, all but one of her siblings, her first grandchild. She was born during the Great Depression, lived through World War II. She saw the surge of homes updating to indoor plumbing in the 40's, saw the inventions of the Slinky, the Frisbee, Velcro.

My grandmother at 13, the same age as my oldest daughter now.
The Kingsley Series' matriarch is named after her, Eva.
She saw the beginning of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, read the stories when Rosa Parks caught headlines for standing her ground. My grandmother saw the end of segregation, and the beginning of what Americans began to hope would be a new unity. When she is gone, Americans will STILL be hoping for unity.

She raised children, she fought battles, she survived. My family through the generations has known literally every possible kind of dysfunction, but through it all she always strove to keep on keeping on, to put one foot in front of the other, to hold her head high and give it her all. She taught me determination and a sense of justice, she taught me fire and passion. Through her example, I learned steadfastness, and realism. I learned exasperation from her, but also humor. I learned to love sarcasm and pranking from her - but also quiet mornings and the joy of music.

Now that her life is winding down and she's becoming what will likely be the last iteration of herself as she journeys through this life, I hope that my life and my career will become a legacy in gratitude of the strength and perseverance I learned largely from her.

Yesterday was a good day - it was good to see her, bittersweet as it always is. When I got home last night with the girls and got them put into bed, I simply didn't have the energy in that moment to prep today's post - all I wanted in the world just then was to close my eyes and rest. Thus, the lateness of this post:

"Let's Go To The Hop"

Many of you will remember the post I wrote earlier this month, thanking one of my street team members for setting up a blog hop for me as a birthday gift: a blog hop is like a promotional tour, where a series of blogs takes turns featuring a singular artist, single, book, record, ect. Each post is usually similar to the next with roughly the same content, allowing for minimal adjustments in wording, fonts, graphics, etc., for the sake of the blogger's own character and style.

But life happens and things come up, so I've adjusted the following link list to reflect the actual posts that were published for this month's blog hop; I've also taken the liberty of removing from the list bloggers who for various reasons were unable to get their posts put up. I would appreciate if you would take just a moment to choose one of these links and head over to leave a comment, thanking the blogger for hosting me on their site. It would be a great additional way to help me appreciate the bloggers who signed up to promote me:
I still say this is one of the sweetest birthday gifts I've ever received - thank you again, Jodie, from the very bottom of my heart.

Questions For the Comments Section:
  • Does your family have a strong matriarch like my grandmother? If so, tell me about her in the comments!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

February Lately: My First Collab!

So, I'm super excited to write this post today, because it's my FIRST blog collab! Today I'm working with Divya, the blogger behind - and together, we're bringing you the roundup of what we've been loving most lately.

I first connected with Divya through a Facebook group we're both in, and through that group, I found her blog. She's a special education teacher and she works closely with autistic kids (and other challenged kids, too?) on a daily basis, helping them to up their skills in the social arena so that they can do better in other ways along the line. I love her blog especially because Eden actually has A LOT in common with officially-diagnosed autistic children - I've actually thought for several years now that she is probably on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, not only because of her behaviors and quirks but also because tactics that work for autistic kids also often work for her. I haven't sought the official label for her, but as her mother, I'm fairly certain it's there.

Anyway, Divya's blog has been a great resource for me on several occasions, and while every single trick she mentions isn't always a perfect fit for my particular family, many of her ideas are sound and well-researched, not to mention being greatly backed up by her work history with kids like mine:

In the end though, she's much more than a teacher, and I love her blog for the other things it has to offer as well ... just like with my blog, Divya's place is a walk through a life, from food to travel to marriage and family, working out, body-and-self acceptance, etc.

And in keeping with Divya's "Lately" posts, here's a walk through MY life:

Cooking Lately:
Recently, my family has been loving this Bourbon Chicken, which is so easy to throw together in the crockpot. It's delicious and affordable, which is great; I serve it over rice, usually with steamed broccoli on the side Yum!

Craving Lately:
Popeye's Chicken. I seriously am all about some chicken these days, and there's nothing quite as good as some spicy Popeyes tenders with cole slaw. And fries. And maybe some of their tea - half sweet and half unsweet. Okay, enough about food - moving on.

Discovering Lately:
I have further to go in my self-love journey than I thought. The other day when I was crying my way through a therapy session, I asked my therapist how I can cry while feeling pretty much nothing. No pain, no sadness (in that moment) ... just ... nothing. And yet, so many tears, especially when covering that particular topic. She said something to the effect of, "Because it's not you really, it's more like the little girl you used to be, the inner child. The part of you that's still hurting." I'm not even kidding when I say that my literal first thought/response to that - to the idea that there's a sad, scared, hurt little girl still hiding somewhere inside me - was, "Man, she's a sissy."

No wonder she's still crying, huh?

Drinking Lately:
Water, mostly. One of my goals for this quarter was to do better with that, and while I am in general failing miserably at this goal, I am still actively trying. About three or four times a week, I skip coffee to go easy on my reflux, and instead I drink water with a packet of Strike Force mixed in. Works like a charm, no side effects, and it tastes good too. Perfect. (You can get some for less than $1 per packet - just click here and make sure to use AFLBRANDI8634 in the discount code to get 20% off.)

Listening Lately:
Demi Lovato's "Warrior" is still my favorite song at the moment - I can put this song on repeat and never get sick of listening to it. I've also been listening to the Build Your Tribe Podcast with Chalene Johnson, the Your Kick-Ass Life Podcast with Andrea Owen, and the Good Trash Podcast, which I turn on on YouTube but don't actually (always) sit down to watch. Instead, I just listen to Sarah Rae Vargas joke around with her brother Jason Vargas, who sounds like the smoothest, most yoga-certified radio-host ever. His voice is somehow deliriously sleepy and deliciously smooth, and when paired with his upbeat and raucous sister ... well, it's entertaining, for sure.

Playing Lately:
Fashion Story. It's kindof a pointless game, but I like it nonetheless. My daughter Josephine started it first, and she was sad that she didn't have a neighbor to send and receive gifts with, so I set it up on my tablet, and then ended up liking it. Eventually, Eden got jealous that Joey and I were playing together, so now she's playing it on her Nabi and we're all neighbors. See? Technology doesn't HAVE to be a deterrent to bonding. Sometimes it's better to admit when you can't BEAT 'em, and just JOIN 'em instead.

Reading Lately:
Mostly, I've been enjoying the shorter, non-fiction form to be found in blogs and memoirs. But when I settle down with some comfort fiction, it's always the Ourlander Series by Diana Gabaldon (Yes, I do read other books, just not usually on repeat like with these.) - right now, I'm working my way through Written In My Own Heart's Blood, which is the 8th book in the series. When I finish, I'll spend a few days pouting about book 9 not being finished yet, I'll read a few other books, then I'll go back to the first Outlander book and start over. They're that good. Seriously - go check them out here.

Smelling Lately:
I know you guys are probably sick to death of hearing about this stuff, but I'm still digging the bottle of Febreze ONE that came in my Resolution VoxBox from Influenster in January. The box was packed with several items, all of which I got for free just to try the products, and this was my favorite by far (except for maybe the PopChips ... yum.) because it's such a fresh, light smell, but it's floral enough to make my space feel girly again. I've got the Orchid scent, but it also comes in Bamboo scent. You can find it at, or just head out to pick it up at your local store.

Thanking Lately:
My cousin, who went out of her way to help make sure my birthday was awesome. She brought me teacup roses, cupcakes, and Japanese food for lunch, and it really made my birthday a special one. The flowers are still holding out beautifully, too!

Trying Lately:
Last weekend, I tried this Freeman Cucumber Facial Peel-Off Mask with Joey, and it was FABULOUS. We loved how happy our faces felt when we peeled it off, how it smelled on our skin, everything about it. And then just now when I was looking for the link to the mask, I found a variety 4-pack, and I. AM. SO. EXCITED. Look:

I also tried a vegetable sushi roll this weekend. There's no way in hell I'm ever gonna sit down and willingly eat raw meat or fish, but I like veggies just fine, and I thought it might be fun to give it a try. The roll I got had cucumber, carrots, and avocado, wrapped in nori seaweed, which was then wrapped in sticky rice. Which was then wrapped in black and tan sesame seeds. I think maybe I'm not crazy about avocados, and I definitely could have done without the sesame seeds, but all in all, it was a decent experience. And it's nice to know that if I ever found myself in a world where only sushi was edible, I wouldn't have to starve to death.

Watching Lately:
Did you know the White House has a YouTube channel now? No? Well, they do, and I'm loving it. Watching this channel has been a great way to keep up with what's going on in my country, and I've been loving watching so much personality ooze out of my President and his people. But Sean Spicer needs to slow down when he's reading those press briefings, because ... well. He's good at lots of things, I'm sure, but reading aloud REALLYFAST is not exactly one of those things.

Which is okay, I guess. Because I just read this post out loud to Dana to proofread it, and I'm not any better than Sean. So there's that.

So there you have it. Thanks for spending part of your morning walking through my life! Make sure you head over to check out Divya's post at, and if you're a blogger too, feel free to link your February Latelys at the end of this post so we can come check them out!

Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Not a blogger? That's alright, that's what the comments section is for! Tell me, what have you been up to lately?

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!