Menu Monday (10/9-10/13)

Here’s what we’re enjoying this week. May your table be filled with good food and friends to share it.

Monday- Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Tuesday- White Bean and Kale Soup, Homemade Rolls (use the Twice a Week Bread recipe)

Wednesday- Leftovers

Thursday-Cheddar French Toast with Sizzled Tomatoes (Recipe coming! Check back soon)

Friday-Beef Stew Ala Julia, Crusty Bread

 

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Nikki’s 2015 Book Reviews

Since Kris posted about the books he read or skimmed this last year I thought I’d do the same. I do love reading and so don’t count books if I’ve just skimmed or not finished them. ūüôā

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers¬†by Mary Roach–I heard about this book on NPR over a year ago and thought it sounded interesting. What a delightful surprise it turned out to be! For what could have been a very grizzly and uncomfortable topic, the author perfectly balances humor with the somberness to keep the reader interested without being disgusted. She is careful to not come across as calloused.
I learned so much about the history of human interaction with death and cadavers. Many, many of the advances we benefit from today are somehow connected to research done with bodies donated to science.
I would recommend this book with some reservation. Anyone who is squeamish might find some of the research described as overwhelming. However, anyone with a fascination with science or the human body will love this book. It’s a fast and informative read, entertaining while you learn something.

How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill–Years and years ago this book was recommended by an instructor during a Perspectives class. I think if I were to title this book I would have gone with: Why Civilization Fell and How the Irish Saved It. A large portion of the book is spent explaining the condition and mentality of the Roman Empire just before it fell. It’s not a pretty or flattering picture. What was once great, refined and outward focused became trivial and perversely inward focused. The civilized world stood to lose nearly all its advances, most of which were recorded in writing, were it not for their savage, uneducated, heathen neighbors, the Irish…and the life-long service of a few extraordinary individuals.
This is a great, great read. It’s a little dry in places but worth pushing through.There’s much to be learned from this book, not just about our history, but also our future.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo–This summer while we tore out and remodeled our kitchen I spent a lot of hours in the garage stripping, sanding, and painting cupboards. During that time I listened to Les Miserables read aloud. I knew the story and already loved it but I was surprised at just how much I loved this book. Hugo’s observations about humanity, poverty, and inequality feel like they could have been written yesterday, not over 150 years ago.
I will confess that I don’t know if I could have finished this book had I actually been reading and not listening to it. There are many, many passages and whole chapter even that discuss French politics which¬†went way over my head. There are many references to French individuals, locations, and even events that were obviously significant at the time Hugo wrote this but that I didn’t understand.
However the classic story of poverty, crime, corruption, grace, sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption is so beautifully portrayed that it is well worth struggling through the difficult parts. No wonder this book is a classic.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin–Twelve year old Suzanne has lost her best friend and is trying to make sense of a senseless death. To add to this trauma, her last encounter with her friend was terrible, certainly not the last way you want to relate with anyone you love.
This is a quick read–written at a middle school level-but that does not detract from the beauty of this well written story. Kids (and adults) will be able to relate to Suzanne’s grieving process as she tried to find a way to make sense of this death. Suzanne may have mild autism. At any rate she is a very concrete thinker; she likes numbers and lists. Yet she has these strong emotions that she cannot ignore or reason away…but she has no idea what to do with them. I think most of us can relate to that feeling. As the reader we get to join her, see her thought process, while all those in her life are shut out and worried about her.
This is a wonderful story about growing up, people changing, feeling awkward and like everything is wrong with you (who hasn’t felt this way!) and ultimately about grieving and regrets. This will be a book my kids will read when they reach that weird preteen age.

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker–I loved Jen’s previous book, Se7en and had cautiously high hopes about this, her newest book. Yet I’m always a little wary of books that everyone raves about. How can something with any real substance appeal to the masses? Jaded, I know.
It took a little while for this book to convince me that it was worth the time. The first few chapters are entertaining and funny, but not much more than that. However, after about chapter five, I feel like Jen settled down into the meat of the book. The small talk is out of the way and now she can really share her heart. She is a gifted writer with really good insights for any Christ-follower, not just women and moms.
If you decide to read this book I suggest really choosing to invest some time and thought into it. Don’t just read it because everyone is talking about it or because she makes you laugh. She really is very funny and there is an appropriate time and place for that. But don’t miss the important things Jen has to say. She says some hard things and some really encouraging things. Don’t skip over these parts for the next funny section.
As a side note this book has the BEST recipe for Beef Bourguignon I’ve ever had.

Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist–This is 100% my kind of book. I’ve never read anything by Shauna but really loved her writing style. Each chapter is like a little vignette into her life, experiences, and what God is showing her. She shares some very hard experiences as well as the rewarding ones.¬†I loved her heart for community, for authentic, real, equal relationships that challenge, encourage, and cause each of us to grow in Christ. She talks about the sweet times together over food, how that is where people relax, open up and are real. Good food feed our physical bodies while good relationships feed our soul and spirit. After reading her book I felt so encouraged to see my love of hospitality and good food no longer as a silly insignificant hobby but as a real gift that can minister to others. I’ve been challenged to open up my home more and be intentional about feeding both the body and soul.
As an added gift at the end of nearly every chapter she shares a beloved recipe. I always love a tried and true recipe.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler–Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows so I was excited when this book came out. I wanted to see how authentically funny Poehler is. Her book is entertaining but writing a book is not something that seems to easily flow for her. There are parts that are clever, witty, and insightful but this book is nowhere near as well written or entertaining as Tina Fey’s book.
I did really appreciate Poehler’s down to earth style. It’s clear that she has worked really hard to achieve her goals and she doesn’t seem to be blinded by the glitz and glam of fame. She remains one of my favorite comedians, even if is isn’t that great of a author.

The Seventh Child by Erik Valeur–I read this while on vacation and it’s a good thing because this book frustrated me and wasted my time. Maybe something was lost in translation for me. I feel like I missed out on something. The plot is excellent, a well thought-out web that drew me is. But that was part of the problem. I got restless with the length (600 pages!) and (I felt) needless telling and retelling of the same plot. I also found the many, many references to Fate and God tiresome. They felt cliche-ish and were more a distraction than an addition to the plot.
The author clearly loved Denmark and I assume those native or familiar with the towns and cities found the details descriptions enjoyable. I found them to be long and mostly meaningless, or like perhaps they were referring to a theme or allusion I should have understood but didn’t.
Finally, and again this may be a translation issue more than anything else, I found it confusing to have two major character have such similar names: Ole and Orla and then further confused by often only referring to them by nickname.
In conclusion, had this book been a mere 300 pages instead of double that I would have enjoyed it so much more.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail¬†by Cheryl Strayed–This was made into a movie a couple years ago but I wanted to read the book before I saw it. I had high hopes for this book just because of the parts of the PCT that I’ve hiked. Many people have hiked the full length of the PCT before, she wasn’t the first to do it. But she may have been the first to do it with absolutely no prior hiking experience and very little preparation or research. Grief makes people do funny things, I get that, but her story is crazy to the point that it almost felt like she did these crazy things simply for a good story. She makes a series of bad choices that lead to more grief and regret and her solution is to go hike… for months. Even while hiking her choices were often unwise and could have gotten her hurt or placed her and others in danger. I found it interesting that her way of dealing with the grief in her life was so extreme and unhealthy (not the hiking part, hiking is good for you, but some of her other choices that came along with the hike weren’t so great), especially after I’d read The Thing About Jellyfish which was such a realistic, graceful look a grief.
Anyway I wouldn’t recommend the book, or the movie for that matter, they are both disappointing.

Harry Potter Series¬†by J.K. Rowling–I was never allowed to read these books growing up (they were banned from our household) but my daughter has mentioned them a few¬†times. Several of her peers are reading them and ¬†I am anticipating the day that she asks if she can read them too. So I thought I’d read through the series first and be prepared to answer that question.
I’ve read three of seven so far and, like everyone else, have found them to be entertaining and well written. I do plan to read all seven, mostly because they are fun reads. I don’t see a lot of dark allusions in the books that make me uncomfortable. The central theme is good verses evil and love and courage verses selfishness and hate. There are good lessons to be learned and there is a pretty clear picture throughout about how dark and powerful hate and the love of self can become. In general, these are good lessons. Yes, there’s magic, lots of it. But I guess it doesn’t bother me because I never feel like the book tries to sell it as real. It’s all very fictitious and as much as some of us would like to travel by broom or cast a spell on that annoying acquaintance, it is all very clearly just make believe.
Having said that, however, I will tell you that it will be quite a few years before Jennika will be allowed to read these books. The scary parts are scary and I while I won’t object to her reading them when she is able to handle that level of intensity, I certainly don’t think she, or most 8-year-olds, are ready to handle such heavy themes.

I think that’s the extent of it for 2015. I am excited about what’s on my reading list for 2016 and sharing it with you next year.

Adventures in Transition, Part 2

As I wrote previously, our faith family is in a time of major transition. It is both an exciting and scary adventure. It is also very insightful and as we move from one phase of this transition to another I feel like we have grown both individually and collectively. Just like an individual, a faith family should never stop growing or¬†become stagnant. Change itself is uncomfortable and not something we will all voluntarily choose. I also don’t think that most of us voluntarily choose to settle into a rut. It is something that just happens over time.¬†Things that you might have thought more about at one time become common, habitual and once in a while it is good to have things shaken up a little bit. While change¬†isn’t comfortable, if we respond to it in the right way it can lead to healthy growth. And pardon me as rant for a moment, by growth I DO NOT¬†mean people filling seats, which is probably the most common way to measure the growth of a church. What I have seen in our family is growth in spiritual maturity, in relationships, and in serving others. I’d much rather have this kind of growth than be part of a faith family that is big in attendance but shallow when it comes to the essentials of spiritual life. Rant over. ūüėČ
Here are a few of the gems that I’ve observed in our faith family:

1.) A healthy faith family¬†prays, lots. They pray both together and individually. ¬†One of the best results of this transition for us is a campaign called “Take Fifteen” that encourages every person to commit 15 minutes each day to praying for our body. It’s an easy commitment and we were even given specific prayer requests so it was not hard to fill that time. I hope this continues even after this transition. Prayer is powerful! This isn’t rocket science but is always a good reminder.

2.) A healthy faith family communicates properly. Gossip can do terrible, terrible damage more quickly than I think most realize. When a complaint or rumor has come up rather than spread it to neighbors and close friends the party concerned has been encouraged to take these concerns directly to the leadership or individuals involved. It has meant a LOT of meetings but it has also meant a lot of misunderstandings cleared up and further hurt avoided. Again, not a novel idea but it’s so easy to fall into gossip if we aren’t careful.

3.) A healthy faith family is quick to forgive. As I mentioned in my last post people respond to change in different ways. This is bound to cause misunderstand and assumptions to be made. As people are learning to communicate properly they are also learning to be quick to forgive and quick to ask for forgiveness. This has been one of my favorite things to observe.

4.) A healthy faith family respects other points of views. In any group with more than, well, one person you are bound to have disagreements and conflicting points of view. When it comes to the non-deal breaking theological issues we have seen many views expressed in our faith family. I have appreciated the way that we as a group have respected each other. While we might not all agree, we still love and respect each other and really, we will not know the answers to some of these questions until we can ask God directly so why cause strife in a relationship about it?

5.)¬†A healthy faith family encourages each individual to use their gifts to bless the whole. We all have different talents. Not all of us can play the guitar, preach a sermon, say an eloquent prayer, or lead a bible study. However cleaning the upstairs bathrooms, coordinating the speaking schedule, and keeping the driveway from icing over are all just as important and it has been wonderful to see so many step up and say, “I can help out by doing that.”

6.) A healthy faith family remembers who its true leader is. At the end of this transition we will have some new leadership but really, our true leader has never changed and this whole process has been such a good reminder of that. No one individual makes up the whole faith family or should ever be the face of it. We are all members with Christ as our head and he never changes.

When I Want…May I

Friends, as we start a fresh¬†week here is what’s on my mind, in my heart and in my prayers:¬†

When I  feel like yelling, may I whisper.

When I want to push THAT person away because they are driving me crazy, may I draw them closer (maybe physically, maybe relationally).

When I want to judge, may I try to look at it from their perspective.

When I want to vent (aka gossip), may I keep my mouth closed.

When I want to assume, may I look for the best.

When I want to criticize, may I compliment.

When I want to give advise, may I slow down to listen and empathize.

When I want to compare, may I choose to be thankful.

When I want to respond emotionally, may I consider their emotions first.

When I want to complain, may I consider what I am willing to do to fix the problem.

When I want to indulge, may I consider those who don’t have enough.

When I want to worry, may I instead pray.

I pray that this week is a week of peace, healing, and steadiness for you as well as for myself. 

 

On My Nightstand

AKA: What I’m reading

The great thing about good friends is they tell you about books they are reading, what they are learning and it makes you want to read the same book. That is how I came to have TWO books titled Right Here, Right Now, on my nightstand. After hearing all my friend was learning from this book I decided I wanted to join in. So I went online, found the book by that title and ordered it. Then I excitedly texted my friend to let her know.
Her responding text: The book I mentioned is free. Did you get that one or the other with the same title?
Uh, I paid for it. ūüė¶ BUT since the real one was free online I promptly ordered it. Both sound interesting and I paid for one, so I’ll be reading them both.
One Thousand Gifts is like the Christian world’s ¬†most popular books right now. I actually received it as a gift in March. Started it and then left it behind after a summer vacation. So I’m hoping to finally finish it.
The Mission Minded Family is a very practical, easy to apply book on teaching your kids how to look at their world from a more global perspective. I don’t love everything in the book but there’s lots of great ideas.
Loving the Little Years is a fun little book that my mom sent me after hearing the author speak at a conference. I have really, REALLY enjoyed it and find myself highlight much of it. One of my favorite things about it is that each chapter is short, like a page and a half. So I can sit down for 5 minutes and read and actually feel like I’m getting somewhere before I have to jump up and pay attention to the kids. This girl does not claim to have all the answers, she is in the absolute midst of parenting in the little years with five children under the age of 5! But she writes well and hits hard. Here’s a sample:

¬† ¬† “…the state of your heart is the state of your home. You cannot harbor resentment¬†secretly¬†toward your children ¬†and expect their hearts to be¬†submissive¬†and¬†tender. You cannot be greedy with your time and expect them to share their toys. And…you cannot resist your opportunities to be corrected by God and expect them to¬†receive¬†correction from you.”

Good stuff.

Remember when you were first married and you and your man would stay up late laying in bed talking passionately about things? It could be about anything from politics to how you raise children to how you load the dishwasher but it was exciting and frustrating and challenging and stimulating and just wonderful. Well I’m not sure what happened, kids and early morning runs I suspect, but I’ve realized that I almost never make it past, “Good night, I love you” before I am asleep. Those days of excited discussion came largely in part because we had so much in common. We read books together, read the same websites, told each other about other stuff we were seeing. In general we had lots more time to read and talk than we do now days. But I miss those days, I miss those connections. So, Kris recently finished¬†Healing for a Broken World and suggested it. So I’m reading it so that we can talk about it. I may not be able to stay up late talking about it, but maybe we can have afternoon discussions. ūüôā

So that’s what I’m reading. Nothing terribly deep and NO FICTION ūüė¶ but still some good stuff.

Why I Cry At Sporting Events

Before you read any further, let me just say this post has nothing to do with the Super Bowl.

Last week my daughter and I attended a college gymnastics competition. We, through a great deal, got season tickets to watch “our” college team compete any time they are in town. So most Friday nights my daughter and I drive downtown, sit with friends, and watch these amazing college age girls tumble, balance, and awe us.

This time we arrived right on time but I had to take Jennika to the bathroom before we got to our seats….okay, actually I had to go to the bathroom and just used her as my excuse.:-) ¬†After the bathroom we stepped into the arena just as the lights went down. They won’t let you go to your seats when it’s dark so Jennika and I stood in the back as both teams were introduced and then we all rose and we sang the national anthem.

Now, call me crazy, but for some reason 12,000 people singing together makes me cry. I was choking down sobs as I held my daughter and sang “…O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

It has nothing really to do with the national anthem, we could be singing Amazing Grace together and I would still be in tears. I cry too when a basketball team makes an amazing, last second point and wins the game. Its not so much the players who make me cry, it’s all the people around me, cheering, laughing, hugging, filled with joy.

It’s not limited to sports either. I’ve found myself emotional at the end of a play as the audience¬†applauded¬†the cast. The look of joy, relief, and completion on the actors’ faces paired with the cheers from the audience is just too much for me.

And finally, the same thing happens to me every time I watch this stupid video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it but I hate watching it when others are around because I feel so silly crying ¬†over people dancing and singing!

Why does this happen to me? Can anybody else relate to this weird outpouring of emotion at such times? I have to admit it is embarrassing for me because it is hard for me to explain to my husband, daughter, or friends why I have tears running down my face.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot the last few weeks, probably because I am crying nearly every week at the gymnastic meet. Here’s my theory on why I cry:

There is power in numbers. This really isn’t so much a theory as a proven fact. There are times when people in a group, charged by emotion, can do so much more than individuals. The¬†emotion¬†is strong. ¬†Sometimes it can be great, powerful and wonderful (example: the protests in Egypt) ¬†and sometimes it can be horrible (example: stampedes on Black Friday).

Emotion is contagious. I think this one goes hand and hand with the above idea. Ideas catch on fast in groups, again sometimes leading to good things but also, often leading to very bad things.

And the primary reason….

We were made for this. As a Christ-follower I believe that we are all made to worship, together. When I am with a group of people, or even just watching a group of people, experience joy together I think I am getting a tiny taste of what I was made for. Now of course our “praise” in these setting is misplaced, but just feeling corporate joy gives me an idea of what Heaven may be like.

Perspective and Cookies

I missed Menu Monday and Wordless Wednesday. ūüė¶ BUT I am caught up on my laundry and the ridiculous amount of emails in my inbox…for now.

In the quite of the afternoon, while my kids were napping, I pulled up my Itunes Holiday play list and pulled out an old favorite¬†Christmas¬†recipe. I’d like to share this old favorite with you. Shall I?

But first I have to tell you about my mom.

I didn’t know when I was growing up that we were poor. Kids don’t usually notice that kind of stuff. I actually thought the pork chops in the butcher isle that were covered with paprika (to hide the discoloration as they aged) were the BEST, not the reduced-to-sell ones. I remember requesting for them for my birthday dinner.

My mom had a way of protecting us from some of the harsher realities of life. She would see things through a different lens so that they were no longer cast-offs or cheap things but adventures, great deals, or adventures. For example, Dump Cake. I’m sure we’ve all seen some version of this cake/dessert in those church cookbooks. It basically contains a cake mix, a can of cherry pie filling, a can of crushed pineapple, and a stick of butter. You dump everything in a cake pan and bake it. Out comes a wonderful cake that cost less than $3.00 and took less than 10 minutes to prepare! I guess a more fitting name for this cake could be, White Trash Cake :-). Well my mother didn’t find the name “Dump Cake” very appealing so she changed the name….to Elephant Toes. Don’t ask me why, that’s just what she called it. I didn’t learn that Elephant Toes was a common recipe with a different name until I was nearly 20 and saw this cake at a potluck. ¬†I exclaimed, “Oh I LOVE Elephant Toes!” ¬†Yeah, I got some funny looks.

I was thinking about my mom and how a different name or a different perspective can really change the way that people see and receive things. This cookie recipe I am about to share with you is also pretty common. But I doubt most people call it what I grew up calling it. Seven layer bars is not only an uncreative name, but it usually isn’t¬†accurate. There usually aren’t seven layers! So my mom always called this recipe, Hello Dolly Cookies. As a kids, making this every Christmas, as I was pressing the layers together and pouring the milk over it all, I would think of creative stories for the origination of these cookies and their name…most of my stories included Dolly Parton.

So if you make this recipe, I encourage you to think of these wonderful bar cookies not as Seven Layer Cookies but Hello Dolly Cookies. I guarantee you they will taste better. ūüôā And as you are consuming them, think of the other things in your life that, with a little perspective shift, could look a whole lot better.

Hello Dolly Cookies

1/2 cups butter, melted

1 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1 cup nuts (optional), butterscotch or peanut butter chips can be subsituted

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup sugar

Grease a 9×9 pan and heat the oven to 325 degrees. ¬†Mix the butter and graham cracker crumbs together and spread evenly into the bottom of the pan. Then in alternating layers add the chocolate chips, coconut, and nut (or other goodies) until they are gone. Press firmly. Pour the whole can of milk over the pan. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. When cool, cut into squares. Enjoy.

Thoughts on a Sleepless Night

It’s 3:36 a.m. and I can’t sleep. It doesn’t happen very often but some nights I wake up thinking and just can’t get my brain to stop. So I debate staying in bed, cuddled next to my husband, staying perfectly still and willing myself to go back to sleep, or getting up and actually doing something about all the things I am thinking about. ¬†Usually the staying in bed wins out and after an hour or so I fall back asleep. Tonight, I just couldn’t do it. I was having too many good ideas to just stay in bed.

So in the stillness of the night, in the absolute quiet of our house (something that is quite rare in this shared household of eight), I am getting lots done. I’ve already found (online) and ordered four wonderful, favorite children’s books of ours as gifts for Christmas and upcoming baby showers. I’ve also written a long reply to an email that was waiting for me in the morning.

And now, I get to blog. Sigh, Smile. It’s been too long since I last got to actually write something here. I’ve missed it. But, what shall I share with you? Insights from my recent eye procedure (no pun intended)? New challenges and adventures that are sprouting up with the end of summer and the beginning of autumn? Or maybe what I’ve been learning about poverty. How about that? It doesn’t sound like that riveting a topic but stick with me, it’s worth it.

Recently my SIL has been writing some¬†terrific¬†posts about about being wise with money. They aren’t your typical guilt-trip, you-should-be-spending=less-and-saving-more posts about money. They are more about her journey and she invites her readers to join her as she discovers ways to save and insights in being a good steward of all our resources. I suggest you check her out.

We also recently started a new series at church called The Hole in Our Gospel. This series is more than just another sermon series, it is a small group study, a daily journal, and a book, written by Richard Sterns, head of the reputable charity, World Vision. Most importantly this isn’t just another sermon in a long line of sermons heard, and then usually forgotten, throughout the years, this is a call to change. Change what, you ask? Well, our perspective on being a Christ follower, which in turn will change the way we give, the way we see the poor, the way we spend, and the way we change the world.

I have been overseas. I’ve been to third world countries. I’ve seen kids in rags, with infections and parasites. I’ve been exposed to poverty, on some level. But I’ve also grown calloused to it. This series is helping to remove those calloused scales from my eyes. It is making me cry and rethink some of my values. As I read and see and hear about young girls selling themselves for 25 cents(!) or children dying every 21 seconds due to waterborne illnesses I keep asking myself, what if those were my kids? As I put my own precious children’s faces to statistics I am asking what would I want done about it? What would I say to the big, rich, self-focused Western church today?

“Thanks for your 2% giving that went outside your own¬†congregation, demonination, community, and country. It’s really making a difference. You should feel great about yourself, now go buy that iced latte in your foyer for you and your friend. The cost of that alone would nearly purchase a reliable food and income source for me. But hey, don’t feel guilty, you deserve that coffee!”

No, that’s not what I would say, and okay, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic and extreme. What I would say and am learning to say to myself is this:

“You Christ-followers claim to know the hope of the world. Prove it. You claim to have given your life to one who healed, loved, and spent time with the poor and sick. You claim he is your example. Prove it. You claim that Jesus has and will continue to change this world. Prove it.”

I think those are harder words than my first response. Yet they are true. Millions of people who have no hope and no future are asking us to prove our faith. Put our money and our very lives where our words have been for years.It is time to start proving it.

Some statistics I’ve learned in the last week*:

  • Every three seconds a child dies because he or she was hungry.
  • Americans spend an estimated $20 billion¬†annually¬†on ice cream. An amount that could fee 83 million hungry children for an entire year.
  • Contaminated water kills a child every 15 seconds.

*All taken from the Hole in Our Gospel study.

Kick that Attitude!

We all have bad days, days when nothing seems to go like we’d choose. We all have days where we’ve felt misunderstood or mistreated. Hard days are part of this life, we have little (or no) control over that. However, letting those days effect our mentality, worldview, and actions is completely in our control, and sadly all too common.

My mom called them the poor me’s. Some people call them pity parties or the blues. If they last long enough, like years, ¬†they can be called a victim mentality. You know what I’m talking about…that attitude that occasionally plagues us all. When this nasty attitude settles into my mind I feel like the most unloved, unfortunate person in the world. I seem to see everything through a veil of grey and can’t find the bright side of any situation or conversation. When I’m feeling this way, I think everything bad happens to me and that I don’t have any control on anything or a way to change my situation. Basically when I’m feeling this way I am stuck feeling sorry for myself.

Some people are more  prone to this attitude than others.  However we all have our days. The problem is when those days turn onto weeks, and then months and then years. I know people who have a gloomy, pessimistic outlook on EVERYTHING. Even their attempts to be positive seem weak. Bad things happen and yes, life can be hard, but living in such a dark hole is not really living.

I am not an expert on depression or on changing my bad attitude. However, here’s what I’ve found to help me on those dark days.

1. Change your thoughts.
My mom used to tell me, garbage in, garbage out. ¬†I HATED it when she’d say this because I didn’t want to change my thoughts or the things that were influencing my thoughts. However, she was right. When I had yucky thoughts, my words and responses were yucky, even when I didn’t want them to be. If I dwell on good things, and as cliche as this sounds, think positive thoughts, I was more optimistic and willing to be cheered up.

2. Change your actions…or lack of action.
Dance to fun music (I suggestion “I Will Survive” by Cake), go for a walk, make a healthy dinner, play with your kids. Basically just DO SOMETHING that will get your mind off yourself and your troubles and maybe even make you smile. From personal experience I have found that if I get up early and run in the mornings my days feel so much better. For me exercise equals healthy thoughts and stress relief. Find what will do this for you.
Equally important is to make changes in your actions. If you find that you respond to stress or negativity by turning on a movie and just vegging out, or maybe by posting negative comments on Facebook, then may I suggest you STOP?! ¬†Don’t do the things that you know don’t make you feel better. Don’t eat that bag of Hersey’s Kisses,¬†because¬†you know they will just make you feel disgusted with yourself afterwards…okay, eat three and then be done. ūüôā

3. Change your company.
There are people in our lives that, despite their words, are not good friends. They may be surface friends or sucker friends. They will listen to you whine and complain and¬†commiserate¬†with you, and that’s nice. They will justify your feelings and actions, but they won’t ever tell you to move on and get over it. They won’t ever tell you that it could be worse or that you are being too dramatic. They won’t tell you this because you make them feel good about themselves.When you’re in a funk these are NOT the types of friends you need.
Choose to be around people who will listen to you, love you, and push you. Place yourself with people who are positive, who challenge and inspire you to be better yourself. Chose people who will tell you the truth, even if it’s hard for them and who will hope for and fight for better in your life.

4.  Ask for help.
Sometimes we need people to know that we’re struggling. We need help, accountability. There’s no shame in admitting that cloud over your head just won’t go away.