Giving It All without Ending Up with Nothing

When I couldn’t lift the toothbrush high enough to touch my teeth, I knew I had damaged my shoulder. The cause of the injury was the usual suspect: doing too much, too fast. My newest love in the fitness world, Crossfit, made me feel like I was suffering from a bad relationship: it hurt, but I loved it too much to let go.

With me, exercise is all or nothing. I’m either sweating and pounding my body into exhaustion or I’m laying on the couch with a carton of ice cream resting conveniently on my chest. I’m either letting my BMI creep up to an unhealthy level or I’m giving it everything I have to bring it back down. So when I was introduced to Crossfit workouts through CaliFit Mamas, my first thought was, “There’s no way in heck I could do that.” (Obviously, that was the ice cream talking.) My next thought was, “I’m going to do that.”

Crossfit is intense. Each morning, I’ll read the workout of the day (WOD), and I’ll think, “5 rounds for time of 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, 20 deadlifts, 20 burpees, and 20 knees to elbows? Sounds easy enough.” And fourteen minutes later, I’m bent over, trying not to pass out as sweat drips from my face to my shoes like a leaky faucet. Whether it was during a billion reps of burpees or power snatches, somehow I damaged my shoulder last week. Sure, my whole body is sore and achy, but it all hurts so good–except for this wonky shoulder. Between my husband begging me, “Do NOT workout today,” and not being able to lift my arm high enough to apply deodorant, I decided to skip last Thursday’s WOD.

My all-or-nothing mentality was ready to abandon Crossfit. “It just isn’t for me,” I thought. “I’m not tough enough.” But I was so in love with the high that those intense workouts gave me, that I decided to do something rather unheard of for me: I went to the doctor. I felt pretty embarrassed to be there for “exercising too hard.” Surely they had people with real health problems to attend to. However, the doctor reassured me that it was smart to get it checked, and she gave me the simple advice that I needed to hear: keep doing it, just don’t overdo it.

I’m learning to find a balance between all and nothing. I’m backing off on the areas that need a little time to heal without neglecting the rest of my body. I might have to take a rest day, modify the exercise, or reduce the intensity, but I’m not breaking up with Crossfit. And the strength I’m gaining in the process is evident inside and out.

20130611-112439.jpgPictured: My two favorite workout buddies 😉

Garden 2013: (Finally) Getting In the Ground

I haven’t posted about our garden lately… mostly because it hadn’t changed since the last post. Despite my incredible soreness from the CaliFit Mamas workouts that I have been following PAINstakingly, I decided I needed to get something accomplished in the garden today. If we don’t get the rest of the seeds planted this month, we may not see much happen, and that would be such a shame (and another failure on my part, which my ego just can’t handle!). So today, I planted the tomatoes in the garden area. My husband borrowed a really nice gas-powered tiller from his co-worker, and all the rain we have had in the Midwest lately made it a pretty easy task. I was able to plant all the little seedlings in a half hour. Some of them are already in need of support, so we will get them tied up soon!



Of course, it helps if you’re not worried about your one-year-old yanking the plants out of the ground as fast as you can get them in soil. So I went for an easy fifteen-minute run/walk before I started gardening, and he slept in the shade while I planted. Tomorrow I plan on doing the same routine so that I can get our peppers in the ground.


After nearly three years of living in a home with many fruit trees, this is the first year that we were able to pick our cherries from the cherry tree before the birds devoured them. We learned (the hard way) that we have to pick them as soon as we see red. If we wait even a day longer for them to ripen more, the birds will have their fill of them and we’d be left cherry-less. Again. We picked about a pound of them last night, and they are delicious.


There is nothing that says sustainable-living more than being able to pick fresh fruits and vegetables from your own backyard.

How is your garden growing this year? We are a little behind schedule, but it’s getting there!

Making Decisions: When Is It a Good Time to Become a Mom?

Growing up, being a mom was always a dream of mine. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was always “a mommy.” Maybe a marine biologist… and a mommy. Or maybe a teacher… and a mommy. But I hadn’t planned on having children as young as I did. I was still in my last year of college when I became pregnant with my first son. His dad (now my husband) and I were 21 and 22 years old, respectively (I’m the older woman!). At the time, having children didn’t mesh well with our carefree, late-night rendezvous in his parents’ basement. I had plans to finish my English degree and find a job as a writer or an editor. Then I would get married. Buy a house. Have a baby. Become a mom. Maybe when I was 30.

Life doesn’t always work as planned (especially when you don’t use birth control), but I’m so thankful that in this case, it didn’t. My son may not have been in my plans at the time, but being a mother always had been. And because of that–scared though we were–abortion wasn’t an option. Adoption wasn’t an option. Somehow, we would find a way to care for this unexpected baby boy.

Flash forward through a lot of hardships and struggles to getting married to my son’s father, picking out our first house as a family, and making plans for another child. But this time, it didn’t seem like having another child was going to happen as we had planned. It took nearly two years of on-purpose trying to get pregnant before my second son was finally a reality. And although this child was planned and desperately longed and prayed for, finding out that I was pregnant a second time gave me that same, scared feeling that I had the first time.

My story of becoming a mom, twice, leads me to believe that there is no “right time” when it comes to having children. While I do recommend using birth control until you’re “ready” to have children, I am also writing to say that whether it’s a part of your plans or not, becoming a mom is elating, terrifying, and rewarding in ways I could have never imagined. And in the 6 1/2 years of being a mother, I know that the only thing that you really need to make a decision to become a mom, whether the pregnancy was planned or unplanned, is the ability to love.

Although being a mom was always in my plans, I am blessed by both of my children beyond anything I could have ever dreamed. And I wouldn’t trade either of my unique and drastically different experiences of becoming a mom for any other dream I’ve had.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all my family, friends, and followers!Image

Guest Post: “The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer” with Heather Von St James

I have a powerful story to share with you today. I have a guest post from an incredibly inspiring woman named Heather Von St James. Heather contacted me earlier this week, asking so genuinely and graciously if I could share her story on Close Families. She needs to tell it. She needs you to hear it. I could not wait to share with you the story of this woman, her supportive husband, and their beautiful daughter. Please visit Heather’s website,, to learn more about her family, her life, her courage, and the cancer that she has beat all odds against today. You won’t regret your time spent over there; it’s a beautiful blog. And here’s her story:

The Power of Hope in Treating Cancer

When someone asks my daughter about my cancer, she always tells people that she saved my life. This is my 7-year-old’s automatic response. It is as natural for her as it is to say that she feels sick or tired. People may not understand what she says, but I will be the first one to explain how true it is.

My husband Cameron and I were married for seven years until we thought about having children. At the time, I was 35 years old and nervous that my age would cause issues. Luckily, we became pregnant within three months and my pregnancy progressed wonderfully. After having an emergency C-section, I was finally able to hold my daughter for the first time and the experience was unmatched by any I have ever felt. In my arms was this perfect, beautiful creature. All I could think of was loving and nurturing the adorable child in my arms.

Within a few months, my life changed for the worse. A few months after my daughter’s birth, I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. This type of cancer is especially dangerous and kills 95 percent of the people who are diagnosed. According to my doctor, I would die in 15 months if I did not immediately start treatment. I knew I had to decide what to do, but I could not. I was paralyzed with fear as I sat absorbing the news. My husband decided for us and we began to travel to Boston for treatment.

The treatment process began with a risky surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In it, they removed my left lung, and part of the lining of my heart and my diaphragm. The surgery was so traumatic that I had to spend a month recuperating at the hospital and in an outpatient facility. Afterward, I spent another two months at my parents’ house in South Dakota where my daughter was being taken care of throughout the entire ordeal. Due to all the time spent in treatment, I was forced to spend a month without seeing my newborn daughter. The only thing that helped me get through it was the thought of Lily growing up without a mother.

Once I had recovered enough, I returned to our home in Minnesota. At home I started chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Through all of the pain and suffering, I kept strong because I knew my daughter needed me. She needed a mother to take care of her and guide her as she grew up. I could not allow myself to give into cancer no matter how painful or long my recovery was. Today, my daughter tells people that she saved my life and that couldn’t be more true.



A Single Step

While I feel the time is near that a post with this title could be talking about my ten-month-old (can you believe it?) taking his first steps, this particular post is a little more self-centered than child-centered. We all deserve to take a good, long look at ourselves from time to time, and this post is the result of my own recent self-reflection.

We’ve all heard a phrase similar to this one:

Every journey begins with a single step.

While this is true, what I’ve found about myself is this. More often than not, I take a lot of single steps. I take a step into writing. I take a step into educational enrichments for my children. I take a step into healthy living. I take a step into more efficient home organization. And so forth. Here is an illustration, however poorly drawn, to show you where all of those single steps have taken me so far:


I’m right smack dab where I began. It’s like trying to clean the house by washing a bathroom sink, folding a load of laundry, neatly stacking the books on the bookshelves, and taking out the kitchen trash. Sure you’ve accomplished some things, but the house still looks messy because the beds still aren’t made, the kitchen sink is full of dishes, and the stack of paperwork on the desk hasn’t been filed.

So while a journey starts with a single step, to really gain the benefits by reaching the end of that journey, your next step needs to be in the same direction as the first.

If you’re like me, and you have so many different interests in your life, it’s sometimes hard to get a clear picture of where you want your journey to take you. I often ask myself: which is most important? Maintaining a clean, organized home? Giving my children opportunities for learning? Volunteering my time to help find a cure for cystic fibrosis? Living a healthy lifestyle focused on exercise and a balanced diet? Finding a deep, spiritual connection with God? Writing a brilliant, insightful blog? 😉 And of course, I would never have started a blog about “Close Families” if creating memories of love and closeness with my husband and children wasn’t a top priority.

I still don’t have the clearest picture of where I want my journey to take me, but I know that all of the above have to be a part of it, eventually. I think the key to success–to finishing a journey–is to choose one direction, and stay focused. For instance, if I choose to focus on my relationships with my family, family time should come before anything else. I would read books and articles about building stronger parent-child or marriage relationships. We would schedule more family time. Take a vacation together. Play together. Eat together. And then, when we feel as if we’ve never been closer, that we’ve reached our goal of establishing those healthy, lasting bonds, then I could move on to the next journey. Only this time, I would have the benefit of a strong family unit to support me. The same goes for any path I chose. A deeper spiritual connection will help in all other aspects of my life. Establishing more organized home will free up more time for family and writing and volunteering.

Of course life will always throw us a few bumps and detours, no matter which direction we choose. But if I can just stay focused on where I’m placing every single step, I know that I can achieve any goal I have for my life. And then make room for more.

How do you stay focused?

A Liebster Award Nomination!

I’ve been given the widely coveted (okay, truthfully I’d never heard of it before, but I’m sure people want this) Liebster Award nomination by the funny mom blogger Cristyl at CHill Thoughts. I’m so honored, and even more grateful that it introduced me to not only Cristyl and her blog, but the others that she nominated as well! Be sure to check out CHill Thoughts for more from Cristyl!

On to the award nomination details:


11 Randoms:

  1. I crave sweets so often that every tooth in my mouth must be a sweet one. It’s my biggest struggle when it comes to trying to maintain a healthy diet.
  2. Dancing is my favorite form of exercise. I used to still like to watch myself dance in a mirror or window reflection… It needs to look good to be beneficial, right??
  3. My favorite shape is a heart, even though it always makes me think, “Why is it called a ‘heart’ when a real, blood-pumping heart is not shaped the same as the shape?”
  4. I spend way too much time on social media websites. Anyone know of a ten-step program for that?
  5. I often (as in daily) come up with AWESOME ideas… that rarely are put into action.
  6. My favorite TV show is Project Runway. This season, my favorite designer is Patricia, even though she seems a bit difficult to work with.
  7. I’m currently reading four different books: The Bible. More Build It Big (a direct-sales self-help book). Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. And I just started Hunger Games. I like to read my Bible first thing in the morning, and the others I rotate and read during my little CFer’s breathing treatments times or when my husband is watching something on the History channel.
  8. I met my husband in a bowling alley. It’s really not a glamorous beginning to our story, but I love the middle is going. 🙂
  9. My favorite superhero is Iron Man (the fact that he’s played by Robert Downey Jr probably has something to do with that.)
  10. I am one of those people who can find the good in just about every situation, and I like to think about other people’s point of view when it comes to a disagreement. Sometimes people feel like that means I’m not taking their side. I guess I tend to take everyone’s side.
  11. My favorite thing to do with my children is color in coloring books. I’m not great at drawing, but I love making things colorful (maybe that’s why I chose to sell makeup for a living??).

Answers to the 11 Questions from Cristyl:

  1. What is your favorite color? Any particular reason why? Green. I think because of my Irish heritage and the fact that it’s a good color for redheads.
  2. If you had to name a defining moment in your life, what would it be? Sounds cheesy, but when I became a mom. I was young, and it was unplanned and changed my life so much for the better.
  3. If you could choose a super-hero power, what would you pick? Why? Even though Aquaman gets a bad rap for having a weak superpower, I always wanted to be a mermaid when I was little and be able to swim in the ocean just like the dolphins. I’d still love that!
  4. What is your favorite book? For someone who has a B.A. in English and reads up to four books at any given time, this is an extremely difficult question to answer. However, I can definitely say that my favorite modern series is Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, and Mark Twain is my favorite classic American author.
  5. Do you have a hobby/hobbies? What is it? Blogging, reading, scrap-booking.
  6. What’s the farthest from home you’ve ever travelled? Las Vegas, NV or the Grand Canyon, whichever is further west!
  7. What’s the most important thing to you on your bucket list? To be a published author.
  8. Could you live as a vegetarian? Vegetarians and vegans: Would you ever choose to eat meat? Why? I probably could be a vegetarian. The only meat I would truly miss is chicken. I don’t think I could ever do vegan though.
  9. What’s your favorite website? This is another hard question! There are so many websites that I love! One new website that I enjoy is called Happify, where you do activities and games that are supposed to help promote happiness. It’s fun and interesting.
  10. Are you right or left handed? If you could change, would you? I’m a righty, and I don’t see any reason to change.
  11. If you could pick your own name, what would it be? OR, what is your nickname? I was named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, and it just so happens that I looked a lot like Melissa Gilbert who played Laura in The Little House on the Prarie TV show when I was little (and some say I look like her now, although I don’t see that as much), so I really don’t think I would change my name. My nickname from my hubby is “Red.”

And my nominees are….

  1. Be An Acorn
  2. Making Changes for Me
  3. The Voice from the Backseat
  4. Restraint Unfettered (I believe Emma also nominated me for an award some time ago, but I never got around to posting about it! Thank you, Emma!) 🙂
  5. Home Is What You Make It
  6. Bella’s Blog
  7. My First Blog 2013
  8. Keep It Neat
  9. This Is Eli
  10. The Diary of a CF Grizzly Mama
  11. Many Hats of a Mom

(I apologize in advance if some of you have more than 200 followers. For some, the total was not listed!)

11 Questions for New Nominees:

  1. What is your favorite city?
  2. What is your favorite workout/exercise?
  3. What is your favorite family activity?
  4. How would you spend $1,000,000?
  5. What current goal are you working on?
  6. Pinterest: Time-waster or Life-saver?
  7. What is your favorite book?
  8. Name one thing you’re proud of.
  9. What kind of music do you enjoy?
  10. On average, how much sleep do you get each day?
  11. What is one thing you’re going to miss about winter (or whichever season you’re currently in)?

Thanks again to Cristyl for nominating me, and for all of my nominees who want to participate! And to my readers who had nothing to do with this post, but who stuck it out to the end anyway. 😉

A New Start

I’m so excited to tell you all that I have started a new opportunity. While I love blogging and will continue to do so, it doesn’t help pay the bills!

So today, I’m sharing with you the new adventure I have begun as a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant! Before you click away from this page!!… Haha! Close Families is NOT going to become a blog about makeup or skin care or fashion. It’s purpose will stay the same. However, when I feel that there is an opportunity to share with you all some family-friendly information, and tell you about some great products that go along with that info, it would be a waste on my part not to do so!

For now, you can help me get off on a great start by checking out my brand new website and letting me know what you think!

In the future, I plan on a post here and there like offering a quick morning skin care/beauty routine for busy moms, an informative post about the importance of sunscreen this summer, and maybe even an occasional giveaway or great deals for my Close Families readers. I’m so excited about this opportunity, and I think it’s going to be a great fit for me, and a great next step for my family.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

**If you would like to place an order (Valentine’s Day is coming up after all… Why not treat yourself or your spouse!), I also want you to know that all of our products have a 100% satisfaction guarantee and you can order and pay online through my secure website via ProPay!**

Spiritual Sunday: Love One Another

The Connecticut school shooting on Friday was devastating to parents and teachers throughout the country. I can not begin to imagine the amount of hurt and fear that it has created among Newtown, CT community, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and teachers and emergency professionals (especially those children that survived and witnessed that horrible, shocking tragedy). I pray for their healing and strength to move forward that will likely be a slow and difficult process.

I’m still finding difficulty wrapping my head around what happened and why and how, and from several states away, my perspective is hardly important or relevant. However, one thought keeps coming to mind that I felt the need to share: We need love.

Our world seems to be increasingly violent, hateful, impatient, and intolerant towards one another. So much so that it’s being taken out on innocent and precious children. Because I know that God is so good, these kinds of gut-wrenching, terrible tragedies leave me no doubt that today’s world belongs to Satan and his evils that can creep into the minds of people and take seed.

We can argue all we want about gun control or the amount of security implemented in schools, but one thing for certain is that as long as this is Satan’s world, there will be wicked people who will find a way to do wicked things.

The only way I know to counteract such evil acts is through love. It won’t make the damage go away or take away the pain that those families and school staff are feeling in Newtown today, but if we demonstrate love to as many people as we can, as often as we can, we can show the world (and Satan) that we will not succumb to such wicked ways. We won’t let us break us. We will keep on loving and finding the good that still exists in this world. We won’t find a better example of that love than we found in Jesus Christ:

A new command I give: Love one another. As I have loved you,

so must you love one another. -John 13:34 (NIV)

It doesn’t matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs are. Just love your neighbors. It’s what the world desperately needs in these sad and wicked times.

Show someone a little love today.

I Wave at Strangers

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I drove towards our home along the main street of our new-to-us, rural town. It was the street where all of the local businesses–churches, flea markets, and bars–centered themselves; the street with all the action. It was quaint, I thought. It was rustic and authentic compared to the big city suburbs that we had always called home. I had always imagined living in a small country town like this, raising our family on God and gravel roads and home-grown produce.

As I turned the car away from the main road towards our new home, we passed another car. My husband picked up his hand in a “hi-how-ya-doin?” sort of way. The stranger in the car did the same.

“Who was that?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Does he know you?”

“I don’t think so.”

I processed the non-information and then asked, “Well then why did you wave to him?”

“It’s what people do out here.”

“Oh. That’s weird.”

“It’s not weird. It’s just how people are in the country. They’re friendly.”

“It’s still weird.”

“And you always wave to the cops,” he said.


“Because everyone does.”

“What, are they going to pull me over if I don’t?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“That’s weird.”

The only time I had ever waved at someone I didn’t know–except for those awkward moments when I waved to someone thinking I knew them, when embarrassingly it turned out that, no, I did not–was when I accidentally cut them off. I would be driving and singing away with the radio, until I realized at the last moment that I needed to be in the other lane. And then I would do the obligatory “Whoops! Didn’t see you there!” half-wave that probably just pissed off the other driver as I slipped our car in front of theirs. There was certainly no time in the mad dash on highway 70 between home and work to gawk around and wave to people that I would likely never meet. And given said bad habit of cutting people off, calling the cops to my attention just seemed like asking for trouble.

As it turns out, my husband was right. People who live in the country will wave to you, for seemingly no reason at all and whether they know you or not. Especially the old guys in trucks. Especially the folks who drive by and spot you reading a book in the peace and quiet of your front porch. It felt like such a heavy, uncomfortable effort to lift my hand and wave in return. But I did.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, I started initiating the wave. Lifting my hand a few inches off the steering wheel and aiming an open palm at a stranger passing by just felt like the natural thing to do. Sometimes the other person waves back. Sometimes they don’t. And if they don’t, I always hope that eventually the local hospitality rubs off on them too.


**If they’ll have me again, I’m linking up with the other talented bloggers-who-write at Yeah Write! Come and join us on the grid!**

Cards for Dalton

There is a nine-year-old boy in Kentucky who has cystic fibrosis, and his name is Dalton. Dalton’s health has declined drastically, and although I do not know the details, I do know that the doctors have said that his body does not have much longer to live.

He needs a Christmas miracle.

I also know that his one wish is a big one: to break the world record for receiving Christmas cards.

When you’re filling out your Christmas cards, send an extra one to Dalton this year and be a part of something big. Not just the world record, but fulfilling what could possibly be this little boy’s last wish.

Send your cards to:

Dalton Dingus

HC 62 Box 1249

Salyersville, KY 41465

Thank you and God’s blessings to you and your family!