Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Am I Raising A Cheapskate???

My household has been rolling through some changes. As time moves forward, as I spend more time in the workforce, as we buy nicer cars, clothes and homes, I’ve truly come to realize the value of a dollar. I have never been and am not naturally frugal, and unfortunately probably wouldn’t even qualify as frugal today (although I’m trying!). However, my goals and concerns are changing. 

Everyone likes nice things, but I must say those nice things just aren’t as important to me anymore. As I grow and make realizations about money and budgeting, I try to share this cost-conscious mind-set with my children. 

My daughter is five and, for her, “money ain’t a thing.” (Hope you enjoy that Jay-Z reference…I’m a child of the 00’s 😏). She was excitedly talking about the next enormous, ridiculous thing she wanted…it’s hard to recall if it was a horse, helicopter, or mansion. She thinks big. What I do remember very vividly is my son looking at her skeptically and saying, “Do you know how much that costs?!”

 

That was a moment for me. Is it okay that my eight-year-old is thinking about the cost of something instead of dreaming of the biggest and best? I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or a little sad. There are times I wish we didn’t have to worry about budgets and discounts. Times I wish we were in a position to give our children everything they want.

 

But in that moment, and as I reflect now, I choose to be proud. I talk candidly with both my children about money, about spending money and saving money. They earn money for “work” they do. When they choose to spend, I make them put an equal amount of cash into their savings accounts. I’ve even had them begin to choose between big birthday parties or big birthday presents, we don’t do both. I want them to realize the value of not only the tangible things in life, but also the value of experiences. 

My kids don’t suffer for much. We’re extremely fortunate in the fact that they don’t always have what they want, but they do have what they need. I don’t take that lightly and am very grateful for that. I also talk with my kids about this fact. There are people, there are even children, who do not have what they need. We are fortunate to live the life we do.


Today, as I continue to learn about how to make the most of this life, financially and otherwise, I will continue to talk to my children in an honest and frank way about the important money choices we make. I’m interested to hear from my readers if this is something you work on with your kids. What have you found that works? Do you talk about money with your children? 

Also, let’s talk budgets and savings!!!  What works for your family? My family has recently gone sans-satellite and cable and switched to streaming tv only (saving $70 every month). We’ve read and studied Dave Ramsey and are fans of the cash envelope system.  Where else can we improve? I’d love to hear all of your money-saving tips and tricks!

I’m wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday!

MIA Thanks to an MBA

I’m not sure what I thought getting my MBA would be like. Whatever I thought, I’m certain in this moment that the reality of working toward my graduate degree, while working full time and being a mom and wife, Cub Scout leader and Sunday school teacher…is actually much, MUCH worse than I imagined.

I wore Betty Boop Christmas socks to work today. In public. Sure did. My son wore the same pair of pants to school two days this week, unwashed. (Don’t tell him…he doesn’t know.) I’m fairly certain I hear my son coughing down the hall right now, but I would have no idea if he’s sick because I literally haven’t seen him in four days. There are dirty dishes on my counter. 

Today I worked 9 hours. I studied and did my homework for an hour while on my lunch break. I studied for two and a half hours after work….and then took a three hour quiz. I came home with everyone asleep, ate dinner alone, took a shower and now I lie here, exhausted but entirely unable to sleep. My mind is still racing, thinking about alpha and standard deviations and variances. Ugh. 


And this is an ordinary day these days. 

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Five more weeks of Statistics 601 and then one summer session and then…finally, a summer break. I’m thinking baseball, beaches and camping. Sun on my skin. My children’s voices in my ear and their hands in mine. I’m thinking of my husband’s handsome face and seeing him with his eyes open and conscious…that’ll be nice. 

I don’t share to complain. This is my choice, my privilege. My hope is that this work will benefit my family. That my children will learn what grit and determination look like. That I will grow in knowledge and capabilities. That I will learn exactly what I’m made of. This journey is difficult and I truly couldn’t be doing it on my own. My husband, parents, in-laws…without them, an MBA would be impossible for me. 

So tonight, rather than complaining that my house is chaos, my laundry is undone, that I’m utterly drained….I will be thankful. Thankful for my family who are helping me to achieve my goals, thankful for my friends who encourage me every single day, thankful for the capacity and drive to learn. Thankful for technology and education. Thankful that tomorrow is a rare occasion that I get to curl up with my family and relax for our weekly Hafele Family Movie Night. Thankful for another day in this crazy world living this crazy life.

By the way, I’m down to only my fuzzy, penguin striped socks…so when you see me wearing them tomorrow, don’t judge me. 

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Enjoy the time you have with those that mean the most and don’t take a moment for granted!

Priorities Heal Disappointment 

Can we talk just for a moment about priorities? Today is a day that I need to talk about this…about not only making choices about what is important but accepting the consequences of those choices. The logical part of my mind knows that when we realize our priorities, we inevitably miss out on something else (although that doesn’t ever stop me from trying to have it all). But when the inevitable opportunity cost is paid, when I reach my capacity in one form or another, it just about breaks my heart. Does anyone else struggle with this?

This weekend I made choices that ultimately led to a less than desirable grade on my exam today. I know I could have studied harder; I could have taken more time to prepare. I didn’t do anything wrong. I chose to catch up on rest. I chose to spend time with my husband and friends. I chose not to miss my son’s Boy Scout meeting or church with my children. While none of those choices were bad choices, those are the choices that led me to feel disappointment today.

This is my point. There is too much in this life. Too much to do, too many places to be, too many people to please. I come back to the fact that, not only do I have to have my priorities straight, I also have to be okay with the consequences of those priorities. 

I’m learning that our priorities not only can change throughout the stages of our lives, but that they should change. When we take on new responsibilities our priorities must shift. We must take inventory of our to-do’s and make decisions about what falls where. I’ve recently taken on the responsibility of earning my MBA and it’s radically changed my life (and the lives of those I love). Things that used to be important to me (exercise, rest, fun) have taken a backseat and I’ve reorganized my life to meet this goal. 

For me always, God comes first, then my family, then my job. But now, after those absolutes, comes school. It comes before all other responsibilities, wants and needs. It is hard. It is hard to sacrifice and give up so much. But it is what I signed up for, and it is what I have to do.

Today I feel as though I let myself down. But I know I was not prepared because  I spent my afternoon with my son at his Boy Scout meeting. Because I spent the evening with my husband and best friend feeling like a real, actual person for the first time in weeks. Because I went to church and spent time there. Because I wanted to make it to my son’s basketball practice. These are the choices that led to less study time. While it is so disappointing to not meet my own expectations for school, I have to be okay with the choices I made. I have to be okay with the priorities that I set out for my life. I have no one to blame but myself and I have to learn to roll with the punches, knowing that I’ll find a way to make it work better the next time around.

I share this because we all have too much on our plates. We all have sacrifices and we all make choices. Sometimes the consequences of our choices hurt. Sometimes we are limited in our ability. But those moments of hurt are the moments when we have to look back at our priorities. Sometimes what we had because of those priorities…because of the choices our priorities led to (in my case a pie to the face by 4 Boy Scouts and my stinker of a daughter)….the gifts we were given in place of what we missed are actually worth what is sacrificed. 

I hope that makes sense. 

Sometimes coming to terms about what we can’t do is actually about knowing what we did do instead. At the end of the day, if we look back and can’t feel better after this type of review, maybe it’s time to look at our priorities and realign. When our priorities are in order, we know that what we’ve gained with our choice is so great, that we can be okay with what we’ve lost. Our priorities can actually heal our disappointments. That realization is an amazing gift for me. I hope it is for you too.

A Good Day

Today was a good day. We have been anxiously awaiting an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist to discuss our daughter, Jera’s, asymmetrical tonsils. Our family doctor had thrown around the possibility of lymphoma as an underlying cause for the asymmetry, and with Jera’s many health struggles, we have been stressed, holding our breath, and biding our time until we could talk to a specialist about his thoughts on her unusual tonsils. Today, January 10th, my husband’s 34th birthday, was finally the day.

I feel so blessed to have been referred to Dr. Ehrhard. He was friendly, warm and kind. He spoke directly to Jera and allowed her to sit on my lap. We talked through her health issues. His calmness was contagious. He asked Jera to open her mouth and then confirmed what we had already seen. Her right tonsil is enlarged, and while her left tonsil was also enlarged, the right tonsil was considerably larger. 

This is where he paused and took a moment to address all of the thoughts that were running through our heads. He said, “From one parent to another, I want you to know that when these things happen, we think about what could be causing it. I want you to know that in my experience, I’ve never come across this (asymmetrical tonsils) and had the cause be something bad.” There was an audible release in the room, as Phil and I both sighed out all of the tension that had been building.  I told him we had been so worried. He told me he understood, that your child being in danger is a parent’s worst fear. I checked with him again, “You’ve seen this before?” “Yes,” he told me, “and in my experience, I’ve never found a bad cause.” 

He wouldn’t even say the c-word…never let it come to his lips…he said “a bad cause/thing”. He knew what we feared. He’s trained to know the signs and symptoms of abnormalities in the throat. But he also knows a parent’s worry. What a tremendous blessing that this compassionate man is Jera’s doctor. 

Jera is scheduled for a tonsillectomy on January 25th. Her tonsils will be biopsied and we will know for certain that our daughter is okay…she’s just a girl with goofy tonsils. Oh…correction, soon she’ll be a girl with NO tonsils, and I’m okay with that! 

I’m praying Jera remains healthy and we’re able have her surgery as planned on the 25th. I’m praying that her recovery is quick and as painless as possible. And I’m praying that following her biopsy, we can confirm that she’s just a girl with goofy tonsils…with the reassurance of her doctor’s previous  experience, I feel optimistic about what is to come.

So tonight we celebrated my husband’s 34 birthday. We lit candles, sang the birthday song and ate some terrible, gluten-free angel food cake. And I mean TERRIBLE cake (Jera still ate it happily, just thankful to have cake). But we celebrated with hearts that were lighter, hopes that were higher and faith that continues to grow.

Thank you to everyone who has held our family, and especially my precious daughter, in your prayers. I believe in the power of prayer. I cannot express how I’ve felt lifted up by the outpowering of support and love from my readers, our friends and our family. We are blessed beyond measure. Please continue to pray for Jera as we move through this journey to a healthier, stronger tomorrow. 

Another Day, Another Diagnosis 

Yesterday I celebrated turning 32 years old…well, sort of. I started out celebrating, but by the end of the day, my birthday had taken a turn for the worse. For those of you following my blog, you know we are anxiously awaiting an appointment with an Ear Nose and Throat specialist next week. The specialist will be investigating my 4 year old daughter’s asymmetrical, enlarged tonsil. We’re not sure what is causing the abnormality but fear the underlying cause could be cancer. Her appointment is on the 10th and we are praying to hear that she just has a big tonsil. 

In the mean time, Jera woke up with a strange rash under her right eye two days ago. With a long history of allergies and eczema, we are no strangers to rashes. So I gave her a dose of Benadryl and we went about our day. However by yesterday morning, the rash had become worse and her eye had begun to swell. Time to get another punch on the old doc card. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect but was utterly shocked to find that my 4 year old has shingles. SHINGLES. Yes, the virus from chicken pox that you normally hear about from your 90 year old grandparent. I left the doctors office in a bit of a daze. Because the shingles rash is so close to her eye we have to get into an eye doctor today to be sure the shingles hasn’t made it into her actual eye. Shingles in the eye can cause many vision problems, even leading to blindness.

So I jumped online to try to understand how my young daughter contracted something that I had never expected. Let me preface this by saying, I realize this is a mistake. I know we should never Google any illness. It’s never good news. But my heart sank when I read that shingles is extremely uncommon outside of the elderly population unless a person has a suppressed immune system due to HIV or cancer. There was that word again. Cancer. 

The tears came fast and hard last night. I am praying my little daughter is fine. I am trying to remain logical and rational. I know it could be and hope it is nothing. But I am scared. The 10th can’t get here fast enough for my little family. 

I continued to peruse online last night and found a blog where another mother has a child with severe eczema, like Jera, whose daughter also had shingles at 4 years old. Jera is prone to skin infections and her immune system is in a constant struggle against her eczema and allergies. She just had the stomach flu two weeks ago and pneumonia a month ago. It makes sense that her immune system would be down. She is bright, cheerful and happy. She doesn’t understand the tears or hugs or worry. 

I am scared but trying to hold fast to my faith that God will guide my family through this crisis. We’ve made it through things I couldn’t have imagined before. This time I lean on Him with my entire being as I struggle to maintain normalcy in a moment where I feel anything but normal. Please continue to pray for Jera. For her strength, health and resiliency. 

I turned 32 yesterday and I continue to learn daily that faith and family are the two things that make this life, not only bearable, but beautiful. Today I choose to believe that anything is possible with the help of God. Today, a year older, I choose to be happy in the face of adversity. I will take it a moment at a time and be thankful for the time I am given with the sweet little monsters I call my children. Speaking of which, I get to wake now and tell my oldest he has a two-hour snow delay…this parenting thing can still be fun! Parenting is both the hardest and most rewarding responsibility I’ve ever known. Today and everyday, I choose to be thankful for it, both the burdensome worry and the great joy. It’s all part of it. Duty calls….off to make the snow day announcement!

Life Ain’t Always Beautiful 

I wrote my first blog a year ago in January. Since that time I’ve shared some funny moments, some sad and some of those moments have been breathtakingly scary. I think about this year and for all of its ups and downs, I don’t think of it as a bad year. I’m not sure if this makes me an optimist or an idiot, but it is what it is.

I’d like to think that the frightening moments are behind us, but I know that’s not the way it works. Life on life’s terms means that your turn is never up. There are no dues to be paid. We aren’t punished. We aren’t given reward after enduring pain. Instead, life continues to be unpredictable and we just hold on for the ride, cherishing the good moments and holding tight to our faith for the bad.


Tonight I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my daughter. She’s four and to say that her health has been a challenge over four short years is an understatement. We’ve battled severe eczema, allergies, five bouts of pneumonia (two of which led to hospitalization)…but through it all, Jera remains a bright ray of joy in our lives. We will visit a pulmonologist for the first time in January for a likely diagnosis of asthma. But all of this I can handle. All of this is manageable. 

Three weeks ago, however, I visited our family doctor for my son’s annual checkup. The nurses overheard Jera wheezing from in the waiting room (her respiratory distress had skyrocketed overnight) and the doctor thought it was wise to see Jera while we were there as well. This was much to my son’s dismay as he did not appreciate sharing his appointment with his kid-sister. During the checkup, the doctor checked Jera’s throat and noticed that her right tonsil was considerably larger than her left. The doctor prescribed a round of antibiotics hoping the swelling  was due to an infection. Three weeks later, there is no change in the abnormality in the tonsil. Jera’s right tonsil is still enlarged with no signs of infection. To my disbelief, to my horror, assymetric tonsils are a symptom of lymphoma.

I can’t even write the word. Just that thought is unreal, horrifying, sickening. But there it is. In print. Lymphoma. It is very rare. I am reassuring myself that my daughter is fine. I’m telling myself that this is one of those things that I’ll look back on in a year and be so thankful that it turned out to be a false alarm. We have an appointment with an ENT on January 10th. From there, we expect to have to a tonsillectomy and then the abnormal tonsil will be biopsied. Then…then we will get confirmation that our daughter is fine.

I’m telling myself not to panic, telling myself to stay positive. I’m sad that things always seem to be so difficult for Jera. That her little body always seems to be in a battle against itself. I wonder if these issues will ever end for her. As a mother, my heart hurts because she struggles. Because she has to take medicine everyday and doesn’t complain about it. Because breathing treatments are routine for her. Because she gladly understands that she can’t eat those cookies, chips, that birthday cake, because she is allergic. I’m sad that I can’t fix this all for her. That I can’t make it better and I can’t make it go away.  And I can’t begin to imagine her having to bear anything more than she already does…


I started writing this blog a year ago. I felt a calling to write and so far it’s been a rewarding experience. With this, the most precious and sacred part of my life, the health of my children, I wonder how much to share with you. At this point, nothing is certain, and hopefully nothing will come of this. But this is real. This is life as a parent, or friend, or child, or sibling. One moment you’re cruising along fine, and the next you’re praying for good test results. One moment you’re at your most joyous and the next your heart has ceased to beat again until you know your child is safe. We’re not guaranteed another day together. 

So I write. I choose to share my experiences, even the most scary, with you. Life is not all funny moments. It’s not all sarcastic wit and heartwarming humor. It can be hard and cruel and unkind. And it is that way for all of us. And even while it’s not okay…it’s okay. 

In a few short days it will be Christmas, and I am reminded that God sent his only son to us so that we could be saved. As a parent, today, I truly understand that sacrifice. For all my worry and angst right now in this moment, I am still grateful. I am still blessed. I am the wife of a wonderful man, I have two amazing children, I am healthy and capable, and I am a child of the most high God. My family and I will be okay.


I encourage you to hold your children tightly tonight. Savor each and every moment of unwrapping and assembling and buying more and more and more batteries. Watch their joy and wonder during your Christmas Eve church service. Pray for them. And please, if it crosses your heart, pray for my Jera too.