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About the Author

Jolena Irving

Me.

Jolena Dawn.

That’s my name anyway, but I would like to introduce you to so much more!

I’m going to make this short and sweet. Because part of why I began this blog is so that you can get to know me a little better than you think you do! And maybe those that do will be a bit surprised. Or not.. And for those who have no idea who I am, well.. you will soon enough if you stick around!

I am a happily married wife to my hunk of a husband Andy. We are proud to say we’ve been married for 11 years now. We have 3 beautiful boys: Kinnick 10, Mason 7, and Dudley 4 months. We live in small-town Iowa and we really enjoy it. Though we have dreams to grow, and find an acreage, we adore our tiny home within our little town.

I’m hoping that out of this blog, you’ll see a very vulnerable and honest me: Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister.. not to mention a perfectionist who constantly fails, along with basic content you’d expect to find. Things like recipes, music, recent event commentary, travel etc. I also want to be able to provide you as the reader/viewer a smile, hope in a time of need, and a reassurance to you as a reader that you aren’t alone in your daily struggles and your celebrations. This life is tough and we need one another.

I’ll also dig into my faith here. I love Jesus. I’m not ashamed of The Gospel and you will hear that loud and clear on my page. I hope it brings you inspiration, and a renewed sense of hope to know that there is a God that loves you so much, that he sent His one and only Son to take your place. The same God loves me even when I suck at life as a Christian, Wife, Mom, Friend, family member and all the other hats I wear. Our God is constant, and I’m so grateful for that. He’s called me to bless and love others, and I’m going to do that here.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store; whether He’s renewing dusty dreams or calling me to sit in His grace. I just can’t wait.

All my love with a touch of mustard,
Jo

A Brighter Love

Love Is

This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s been some time since you’ve seen a post here. Thanks for patiently waiting.

I promise you there is good reason. I have several nearly completed blog posts and none of them seemed like they would suffice to post just yet. My heart has been so heavy with so many things going on. Addictions affecting families close to me, my family, and death everywhere. Incomprehensible sadness.

The feeling you get when you can’t help, you can only watch as someone takes themselves down a path of destruction. Or you see catastrophe unfold as you sit in your living room, unable to help those on your television, wondering why in the actual hell someone would do anything like this to another human being.

You’ve been there, you know.

These events impact your core. You’re left in disbelief, saddened, and even angry at this world we have to call home. How can I possibly make a difference, you ask yourself. Is there anything I can do to keep someone from making a life-altering decision? Will they listen to me or tell me to mind business?

Yes you can, but there is a catch. There is always a catch , right?

Listen. This post is a little personal and yet I know you can relate. I felt the urge to post something obvious, but that is a nice reminder for our broken and hurting planet. So this is what I decided on.

Yesterday, I sat pondering the last several weeks. My Mom gave me this sweet smelling candle to take home as a gift during our visit to see her. I’d been lighting it every day for the last four days.  I sat and watched as it burned. On the fourth day,  I noticed that the once white and clean wick had several lumps of soot accumulated at the tip. I’d seen this before on other candles, but that day my mind thought longer on it.

I had heard somewhere that you needed to trim the candle wick so it will burn brighter, smell better, and to minimize the smoke that was created by the burning of the wax. I had never done that before, and quite frankly didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But as I watched the flame burn, that little glob of black mess did seem to keep the candle from burning to it’s full potential.

That tiny little glob of black stuff had such a large impact on the candle itself. That seemed so stupid to me. Hmm. Maybe these people who advised the trimming weren’t so crazy after all. I thought it was a prim and proper thing, you know, like place mats and napkin rings.

But as my thoughts began to pave the way for a deeper realization, I was finally aware of the message I needed to receive: that glob of mess is the hardening of our hearts, heavy on our souls,  and is the very thing that keeps us from living and loving to our full potential. Like the candle, it keeps us from shining a genuine light from within. Our light can burn for hours, even days, but that is diminished by the energy we need to burn through this black mess. We try and we try, but the aroma we leave (decisions we make) are just not thought out, heart felt, or effective. The smoke clouds our judgement by blinding us to what really matters. It creates a fight or flight mentality. We become so selfish. We allow this crud to build up so much that it becomes heavy; we become so tired that it bends our once pure white wicks down to the pool of wax, putting the fire out altogether. We become depressed, sad, and angry. We become selfish.

 

I guess I’ve noticed a manipulation of sorts; a culture that entirely seeks satisfaction, entitlement and honor without offering anything first, not to mention that they’ll hurt anyone around them to get there, at any cost. It makes me physically hurt and nauseated to be around these people. Yet I do push through. I realize they are wicks remain untrimmed. Their lights aren’t as bright and their heart is clouded with fear and with hate, and no hope in sight. Ego drives their unhappy, and unfulfilled lives.

They are searching to heal their pain and torment, making decisions that they normally wouldn’t make if they would just know love in it’s purest form. I know I need to be able to be patient with these people, but it’s frustrating to watch and experience, nonetheless.

This is a list of, for lack of a better word, things that I have compiled based on the events of the last couple of months. It includes  general opinion and action worthy advice.  It won’t save the world, no, but I believe it could have an impact.

And be warned, if you are easily offended don’t read any further.

No.

I take that back. Buck up. Open your mind and your heart to hear something different today. It could change you, or someone you know. I pray it does, this world could sure use some good news. And please know, I am not bitter as I write these, my tone is just very forward. Don’t mistake my tone for a lack of compassion or experience.

So.. on we go :

  • Being physically present (or absent) is NOT an indicator of a genuine love. However, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that you tell people you love them, and when you can, show them. In the wake of the disastrous events in our broken world, it’s a must. We cannot be everywhere at once, but our spiritual response can be anywhere. In other words, how heart, mind and spirit react to an event where we cannot physically be, is still our responsibility. In my opinion, this is a powerful realization. Hold your thoughts captive when you catch yourself being negative. Control your thoughts and you will see change in your life’s outlook. Control the positivity of your non-physical response to life’s situations. Send good vibes.. prayers, whatever it is you believe can shed a positive and loving light.
  • Pushing someone away and then claiming they weren’t there for you is a copout. If you are unwilling to accept the love that is offered, that is yours to own. You cannot put that on the person who’s love you rejected. I suppose you can try, but what a waste of energy that is. And to the one whom offered that love, you don’t have to carry guilt for something you did that was honorable and good. Someone once told me “don’t own what doesn’t belong to you.” You don’t need to own resentment or sorrow or guilt for someones sooty wick and clouded judgement.
  • Because my spiritual or political beliefs do not match yours doesn’t make me less than. Nor does it make me wrong. I am loved, too. Our purpose on this planet shouldn’t revolve around bashing or hurting someone based on their hearts convictions. Because I’m not you, and haven’t walked where you walked, or experienced spiritual moments that match yours doesn’t mean I can’t love and respect you for where you are at in life and who you are. Isn’t that what grace is? Isn’t a love for humanity bigger than that? Are we all so selfish that we disregard all of that? If we spent a lifetime trying to prove we are right about everything, what did you really accomplish? Now give me a respectful, loving debate or conversation, and sure, I’m up for that. But if you are wanting to disagree with me to hurt my heart, please, carry on.
  • Stop lying to one another. Stop lying to yourself. Just stop. Be who you are and hold your chin up high – and hug someone in the process. Lying didn’t get anyone anywhere. I’ve seen so many people tell little white lies so often, they have forgotten what the truth really is. They begin to believe the lies they tell themselves. If you cannot be honest, keep it to yourself. Please. There is no use dragging anyone else into your selfish poison. Your lies don’t allow people to love the real you, and to take it a little further, it doesn’t allow YOU to love the real you.
  • A true conversation occurs when you can  honor one another’s thoughts and opinions. Respect and honesty go a long way. If I don’t agree with you I will tell you, but don’t for one second think that I’m going to go all over social media or behind your back bashing you. I honor your view, and I’ll respect it as well. Don’t mistake that for weakness. I’m as strong as they get. My closest friends and I have very opposing views on many things, but the way they respect and show me their love is why I call them my closest confidants.
  • Enabling bad behavior or contributing to someone’s self harm is not love. Quite the opposite is a great love that refrains and says no in order for someone to find a healthier self; to own their own life and make good, responsible decisions which empower their positive growth.
  • I saw a quote on social media the other day. It said “Listen to understand, not to respond.” Listening isn’t about us. It’s about hearing someone. Maybe they don’t want advice, maybe they want to be heard. It seems like we have lost the art of communicating face-to-face enough to really understand what listening with our ears and our hearts is all about.
  • Manipulative and narcissistic behavior are never ingredients for a good relationship. Get rid of your ego.  Look inward and rid yourself of this. It truly is toxic. This world is infested with these kinds of people. Where did they come from? Since when is it okay to treat people like trash to get what you want? Or even for fun? Lord, Jesus come soon..this world cannot take much more of this. At least I can’t. It is truly testing my patience. BUT even I know that there is a purpose for our pain..even if I don’t clearly understand it right now.
  • Help someone. When someone says ‘hi’ say it back. Get out of your head. Hold a door for someone. Be someone that someone else remembers how kind you were. Do you know what this does? It creates in you a self-confidence no one can take away. You can read as many self-help books as you want, but you’ll never experience real joy or self-worth until you’ve done something kind for someone.
  • If someone did you wrong, or if you are unclear about a situation, GO TALK WITH THEM. I’m so emotionally and physically tired of gossip, and slander, and people not being mature enough or brave enough to confront another person. It’s called respect. Stop hiding behind a keyboard and do hard things. They say usually if it is a difficult task, it is the most rewarding. I believe it. In the last year and a half I was accused of something horrible. It didn’t happen, but the person still believes it did. I hurt for her because she is the one going through pain over nothing. It ruined a friendship and I pray everyday that the unnecessary pain will heal. I’m still working on fully forgiving, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been.  I’m sure in time, it will be just a faint memory, but the point is, if honesty was at the forefront, and there was a mature conversation that happened – if love was modeled – the mess could have been avoided.
  • Own your mistakes. Nothing is more of a turn-off than to play victim and blame others for something YOU did. You’ll have family and friends there to support you and love on you, but being angry at them when they won’t accept the consequence of YOUR behavior is immature. Say your sorry, learn from it – it will make you a wise person.  OR you could continue to blame others and your path of destruction will never get better, and you will hurt so many more people, including yourself, in the process.
  • Remember we are teaching the next generation. I don’t know about you, but I want to see change in this world by the time my kids are grown – before that would be awesome. That cannot happen without leaders who are ladies and gentleman, and parents who are transparent and loving in their responses. I’m not saying perfection is the goal, I’m simply saying that we need to teach our kids values – not how to run an iPad and walk away.
  • Stop holding grudges. If you need professional help dealing with your hurt, get it. Stop hurting other people because you are hurting. Ask someone to pray for you or with you. Let go of the fear and find hope in those you love and who you know love you in return.
  • Stop being so bleepin’ lazy. Support your family. Pay your bills. Work and give with a joyful heart. Give your wife a massage. Clean out your husbands car. Stop complaining that your life is so hard and spend your energy doing something about it. There are far more people that are going through a tougher time that have the right to complain and they are doing more than you. Please.
  • If someone loves you, sometimes they will say things that may not feel good to hear. They’ll push past their, and your comfort zones because that is what love does. Again, wisdom can shut up and listen, or ego can play the victim card and be offended. Look back at those that told you what you didn’t want to hear, but you know they were right. Those are the ones you cling to, those are the people that love you unconditionally and are brave enough to hold you tight when you are trying to run away.
  • It’s ok to say no to things in order to take care of yourself and your family. You have priorities, and people should respect that. That’s not selfish. Being mentally,physically, spiritually and emotionally healthy is important for you and those around you.

 

There are a few common denominators here. Love. Respect. Honor. Wisdom. Peace. Or even the lack of these things.. We can cling to the good ones if we could only trim our wick – heal our hearts.

Love does that.

The thing about love  is that it builds people up even when our flesh wants to retaliate. It’s peaceful. When you experience the enlightened heart, mind and spirit that comes with love, you know it.  We all say we understand love, then why don’t we show it? We say ‘I love you’ like it’s a disposable phrase. Do you really mean it? Do you just say it because it’s what we do? Really feel it. Look someone in the eyes when you tell them. Tell them WHY you love them.  Even when people are jerks sometimes.. do it. Like Mother Theresa stated “love them anyway”.  Hands down this is the hardest thing to do for me sometimes. I know days when I’ve wanted to whack the living  out of people, but I don’t of course or you’d see a lot more news stories of a mad woman running down the streets chasing cars.

We have moments that are teaching moments in our lives. We do learn from them if we are wise. If we are unwise, well, then we are offended all of the time. When we are wise we reflect, we look at the big picture, and we aren’t selfishly seeking to be right all the time. With love at the center of our decisions, and for me God’s Word and His Holy Spirit direction, we can’g go wrong. It may be a tougher road, but looking back it is fulfilling and it was a road of hope and understanding, of grace and mercy, of self-reflection and positive action/reaction. There are moments we take for granted that softly slip away. Of all the choices you you get to make, choose to be present. Choose to respond in love and do it as if it were your last moment. Savor the time you have, our life here is just so fleeting.

I know it sounds cliche, but Love IS a universal language. Some say it’s a state of mind, some a spiritual event, that love is God come down in human form, and others say it’s a chemical response, that it is us… However you define it, there is one thing I know: we all understand it some how. It is a unifying factor this world is missing. Our wold is, resentful, narcissistic, heartless, arrogant… We are missing a big mark here. We’ve become a race centered on ourselves, looking inward for peace and acceptance when the very cure for the disease is an outward OFFERING.

That offering is.. you guessed it. Love.

I want to challenge you today. Take one bullet-point above at a time and ask yourself “Is this me? Do I need to make this part of my life a priority? Do I need help in this area? And if so, take positive action to move your life in an honorable direction. So, trim your wick, open your heart, mind and soul and be courageous. Do what most others won’t. Then you will experience and exude a REAL love and your life, and someone else’s life will be better for it.

Try it. I dare you.

 

Proverbs 4:23

 

Hurricane Harvey | Teachers & Students Among Those Impacted

There are so many catastrophic events that we’ve seen on the news and/or personally experienced lately. We all want to help in so many ways and it’s difficult to pick just one cause.

I found one that caught my eye. 

Having school-aged children myself, I often wonder what the parents of these children will do to try to get their lives back to where they once were, or at least close to it. I am sure it has been challenging financially, emotionally, and mentally to put a foot forward to rebuild, let alone to get their kids back into a school routine. 

The victims of Hurricane Harvey have lost so much: homes, cars, belongings. Right now, their immediate needs are food, water, and shelter, and within the coming days and weeks, they’ll need so much more. That’s where you come in.

When schools are able to re-open, many children, and their teachers,  will be without pens, notebooks, backpacks and many other school supplies. Sydney Paige has partnered with Roonga to change that by running a school supply and backpack drive. Their goal is to provide 3,000 packs to Hurricane Harvey’s school age victims and their teachers.

This is a large anticipated need. Low-income children make up more than 75% of the Houston Independent Public School District. There are also districts in the area that have similar economic conditions making it difficult for families to afford replacing basic school supplies that were lost in their recent hurricane.

A backpack and school supplies certainly won’t fill all of the needs for these victims, but it’s a wonderful start. Letting children know people care can go a long way towards healing while going back to school can provide a small glimpse of normalcy in their world – one that’s been turned completely upside down.

If you want to help, please go to:  https://www.roonga.com/hurricaneharveydrive/

Here you will find options for different age groups of students that you can donate towards. There are also teacher bundles you can select to help them begin to rebuild their classrooms little by little.

Don’t miss out on helping these children and teachers affected by Hurricane Harvey. Getting them back to school to resume their educational endeavors is a headway into normalcy. Any way you can help in the recovery process is so beneficial.

About Sydney Paige: Sydney Paige manufactures high-quality backpacks from eco-friendly materials: 100% cotton canvas, natural leather, nickel free hardware and recycled polyester. Its mission has always been to provide a backpack filled with supplies to a child in need for every backpack purchased.

About Roonga: Roonga partners with non-profits to provide the right quantities of necessary supplies to those who need them.

For more information, please visit www.sydneypaigeinc.com or contact Susana at Susana@chicexecs.com

Thank you for the consideration.

Hebrews 6:10

And the Winner is…. Dusty Dreams & Grace!

OMgoodness!

I’m so excited to be writing this. For some time, I’ve prayed for guidance and have been pondering whether to launch my very own blog. Well,  I’ll take this as reassurance that I’m on the right path!

Here is the announcement!

I’m so very honored to share that I was nominated for the Liebster Award by a peer blogger, the lovely Laura Vaughn at This Mom Blog. If you have a moment please show her some love and support by following her blog! Her page is beautifully set up. She writes about her family and also gives great motherly advice!

What Exactly is The Liebster Award?

The Liebster Award an award dedicated JUST to bloggers. It dates back to 2011. It’s an honorable award given by bloggers to bloggers. It’s such an honor to have peer support in the blogging world, there are so many blogs out there! The Liebster Award allows us to support one another so we can all experience positive growth.

Q/A for My Liebster Award Nomination

  • What has been your biggest challenge with blogging?

My biggest challenge has been regarding technology. I’m fairly savvy as it pertains to the computer, but maintaining and building a site, while expanding a following has been a challenge, but a great learning experience at the same time.

  • What are your hobbies other than blogging?

I love to do a few different things. I LOVE to be outdoors; camping or fishing. I crochet, make home-made bath and body products, play guitar and sing, I love to read.. Let’s just say I have plenty to do to keep me occupied when I’m not actively being a Wife and Mama!

  • Tell us about your blog and why you started blogging.

I’ve always had a love for writing and expression. My main avenue to do that in was in my music. Although I still use music as an outlet, writing allows so much more opportunity to express myself in a genuine way.

  • What and who motivates you to write?

My husband and kids are my drive. I would love to have this be my primary source of financial support in our home. Also, the amount of positive feedback from fellow bloggers and other followers encourages me to keep going.

  • What has been your proudest mommy moment?

Wow. This is such a hard one, so I’m going to cheat here. Mo most recent proud moment has been when my oldest decided to get baptized in July. Nothing could make a Mother more proud than to know her children are positively modeling the life you hope they would live.

  • What has been your biggest mommy fail?

I’m sure I fail daily, as I’m not perfect (not even close!) but I would have to say it was when I missed the end of year graduation/preschool program for my oldest. Ugh. I was so devastated! I thought it was a different day and totally missed it. I cried for a good 2 hours!

  • What is your number one piece of advice for a new mom?

Dear New Mom, you are enough and you’ll get through this. NO ONE can do this better than you, so give yourself some credit. You’ll be tired, you’ll feel like you can’t get anything done – and that is ok! Your baby needs you, and you made just for that baby of yours! Love yourself, and respect the process. Know that it’s okay to ask when you need help, and if you feel like you can’t take anymore, breathe and know you aren’t alone in this Motherhood journey!

Now, for My Nominations!

As a 2017 winner of the Liebster award, I also have the privilege of nominating 5 more deserving bloggers. After a day of reviewing, I’ve decided on my five top blogs:

Tara Frieden’s blog on her professional page here

Emily at Dainty Kicks

Sarah Rogers at This Modern Momma

Valerie at Sunflowers and Mimosas

Stefanie at Free Spirit Blonde

Congratulations goes to you women, and thank you for your well-written, informative and inspirational posts! I always look forward to a new publish from you all!

In response to your nomination, you need to follow the guidelines found here.  Here are your questions that you can give answers to in your post as well:

  1. When do you find time to blog?
  2. What inspired you to begin your blog?
  3. What would you like your readers to get out of reading your posts?
  4. When you have days that it’s hard to sit down and write, what do you do?
  5. What would be your go-to weapon in the case of a zombie apocalypse? (sorry I had to do it!)

I can’t wait to read your responses!

I wish you nothing but the best in your future blogging endeavors!

And thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my posts, send kind words, and support my new journey. I appreciate it so much.

<3 Jo

 

 

Motherhood is an Inconvenience

Yes, you read that correctly.

Motherhood is an inconvenience.

What? Haven’t you felt this way before? Ever?

After I was married, the idea of starting a family was a dream of sweet, smiling babies and teddy bears. I envisioned being a stay-at-home Mom having dinner on the table every evening when my husband got home from work, the kids smiling and playing nicely upon his return and the house so clean it sparkled.

Boy was I wrong. Even in the 10 years since my oldest was born, I still sometimes have a false expectation of what motherhood is.

I catch myself grunting and groaning (to myself) about the inconveniences of motherhood when I’m tired or simply having a bad day.My plans revolve around my kids. Whether it’s a scheduled event or spontaneous sickness, my days are dedicated to respond to their stuff.

Ugh. When do I get me time? There are no ladies nights out, let alone a daily shower. I hardly get any date nights with my husband; our nights consist of determining who has the most patience to put a colicky baby to sleep. Dinner on the table every night is a far off dream and a sparkling house is some kind of bad joke no one told me about.  My 5 month old still wakes up every few hours and hardly naps. All I want to do is have a clean kitchen table for once, but the older two boys can’t seem to master cleaning up after themselves, even with constant reminders. I would absolutely love be able to spend an evening with our friends more than once every 6 months — or 6 years — but that is for later in life, I guess. Oh well. 

Now that I have that all out of my system.. whew.

It sounds like I’m feeling sorry for myself, doesn’t it?

Well, I am.

Or…I was.

Then I recalled something.

I met a Mom who’s baby passed away before she had a chance to be born. She was their first child. I can’t imagine the deep pain and roller coaster of emotions that she and her husband must have experienced.

I met a mother who’s child suffers from cerebral palsy. He’s wheelchair bound and will likely be a full needs child for life. His sweet Mom always makes sure he has the best experiences in life, irregardless of his disability.

I met a mother who’s daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer. This little girl had to learn to do everything all over again at the age of 7. Her Mama is a warrior and an inspiration to many, and so is her daughter.

I met a Mother who lost her children in a custody fight with their Father. She battles an addiction not many will understand. Not seeing them everyday must be so hard. I don’t want to think of what that could be like. It makes my heart ache not only for her but her kids.

I met a mother who wanted more kids. They already had 2 of their own, and also went through more than 7 miscarriages.  It was so hard to watch them come to terms with the fact that God had something more in store for them, and it wasn’t having any more biological children.

And I also know a  Mommy who struggles with an auto-immune disease. She is in constant pain doing even the simplest things at home. Her body is rejecting itself and it won’t get better. She never complains, even though her days of excruciating pain are far worse than she makes it out to be.

I saw a news story of a Mom who’s 7 month old suffocated in his blanket overnight. She won’t ever get to tuck him in again, or kiss him, or hold him. I sobbed reading her Facebook statement days later. Our babies are only a few months apart. I just can’t..

I met a Mom who’s husband died overseas while serving in Iraq, and is now raising their kids alone. Those kids won’t know their Daddy. She’s doing the best she can to not only grieve but give these babies the best life she can without him there.

We lost 2 friends this March in a tragic car accident. These three kids had a Mom and Dad at bedtime, and before breakfast they were gone. This one really makes you think about making the time we spend with our kids count.

Hug them, kiss them, hold them, cherish them. Let’s allow our inconveniences to transform into opportunities.

How about we embrace the challenges as proof that we are alive and well? Let’s begin to believe that we’ve been uniquely equipped to mother our children. That the love that they need can only be modeled by us in just the way they need it. Let’s take our time and our own desires and trade them in for theirs. If we can do that, we then become honored to get up in the middle of the night to tend to our crying baby. We look at the messy dinner table we’re cleaning for the millionth time as an opportunity to serve our family, not an inconvenience, knowing full well we will clean it again in just a few hours.

The truth is, although motherhood may seem like an inconvenience at times, we need to be reminded of how short life is here and how truly blessed we are to have been given the title of Mom.

And me…Well these Mama’s have something to complain about, but they don’t. My attitude needed a readjustment and God stepped in, put His hand on my shoulder, and said “Wait a minute. Let me show you what it could be like.” He stepped in and made me understand the mountains I have cannot compare to some that these other Mama’s have and I need to pray for them, instead of feeling sorry for me. I need to recognize God is showing me grace; giving me way more than I deserve. I have a beautiful family that He’s hand-picked to be mine.  I’m so humbled by the ways He moves in my home, in my kids, and in my marriage. I’m forever fortunate that He gives me new mercies every morning; a compassion I so desperately need in those moments I’m feeling sorry for myself or beat down as a Mom.

I’m truly looking forward to the promise of a new day showered in grace and the opportunity to be the Mama my kids need.

Because motherhood is the best inconvenience I’ll ever know.

Lamentations 3:22-23

20 Must Haves for a River Float & Camping Trip

This post may contain affiliate links.

Many of you may think that there isn’t much to do in little ‘ol Iowa. In fact, you just think we have corn, cows, and pigs; I’ve seen the news and heard the chatter. Iowa is one big corn field, right?! Well, you are greatly mistaken my friend! There is so much to do in my little state, and I’m proud to share with you one of the many adventures we’ve had!

Our [almost] Annual Trip

Every year, when we can, for the past 5 or 6 years, we go to a little town in northern Iowa named Eldora. There you’ll find a little place called Rock ‘N Row Adventures . It’s beautiful country with lush trees, subtle hills and, the lovely Iowa River. The atmosphere is welcoming, and the people are always friendly (in my experience). It’s truly a beautiful part of the state that offers serene views of small town, country living, and timber/river sights alike.

We normally tent camp for 2 nights (usually Friday and Saturday) at RNR’s campgrounds. I would say that the cost is fairly high, but we have so much fun we always pay it. You don’t have to stay, but we like to. That gives us more time to relax and spend time together!

RNR does have a complimentary band that plays every Saturday. Honestly, I’m never impressed in the years we’ve gone, but that’s not why we go. This year was especially NOT GOOD, but it gave us something  to laugh about around the fire.

I should also add that they do have showers and a toilet to use at the main office location as well as port-a-potties throughout the campgrounds. If you are camping, you can choose to have a spot with electrical hook-ups or ones without.  They also offer firewood for you to purchase making it less of a hassle to haul your own. And because there is civilization not far away, If you forget to bring something you can run up to Steam Boat to purchase your items in town. It’s conveniently less than a 10 minute drive.

DISCLAIMER!

Before you consider coming to this place, you’ll need to consider a few things first. Coming  to RNR isn’t for the faint of heart; if you don’t like nature this isn’t for you. You’ll need to get out of your tube occasionally. You may get banged up on rocks and trees in the water. You will encounter bugs and sometimes other wildlife. The temperatures vary from hot and muggy to chilly and damp. Needless to say, if you are squeamish with nature or the great outdoors, it will be a good learning experience for you! I would also like to point out that this place  tends to attract the early-twenty somethings (or any age rather) stuck in their party phase. You’ll be witness to long nights of drinking, bachelor/ette parties, etc. It’s not a bad thing, and seems pretty fun, but you need to know your surroundings before you get settled in. So it’s perhaps not the greatest place to bring your children.

I know I remember those party days well, but I would say our group has grown out of those late nights and sick mornings.  We tolerate the neighbors and their shenanigans and humor the folks that wander into our camp after they’ve had a few too many drinks, it’s kinda fun. All the while we are having a nice time catching up around the fire. We joked this year about how we are the ‘old’ ones of all the groups lately (we are all in our 30’s). We do see older couples there, though, so don’t let that deter you! It’s a fantastic time to meet all kinds of people.

Our Experience

We’ve only missed a couple years coming here just when the river was too high, or the weather was too chilly to manage both tent camping and/or floating the river. For the most part, though, we’ve been pretty lucky to see good weather and ideal river conditions.It’s a good spot to visit if you want to enjoy a nice tube float,  while sipping on your favorite drink, and hanging with your tribe.

Depending on where you get in at, the depth of the water, speed of the current, and how often you stop, your trip could be anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. We’ve had floats where we started around 5 miles further north, near a town called Steam Boat Rock,  and ended in 3 hours (water was SUPER high and fast), and we’ve had a longer float when started just a couple miles north of camp and enjoyed a 4 hour float.

Our August 2017 float was almost perfect. The temp was around 83 degrees, and we took off in the RNR bus around noonish and dropped off at our starting point. There, they provided us with our own tubes, floating garbage bins for every 4 people in our group, and complimentary tubes for the coolers we brought along for the float.

Once we were on the water, we were in for what would be a little over a 5 hour float. The river was a little low so “butt up” and “rock/tree ahead” were common phrases, but in our experience tubing, we’d rather the water be low than be too high.

We had a nice time meeting other people as we stopped on the sandbars, and had a nice time taking pictures and enjoying one-another’s company. The water felt nice and the sun shone just perfectly for our day.

Our float landed back at the campgrounds. We hauled in our tubes, grabbed our coolers and headed back to camp. Just in time to get dinner ready and relax for the evening.

Extra Credit!

Oh, and as a side-note if you have time and aren’t completely wore out, not far away is the Follet Mansion, where the last scene of  the movie Twister was filmed. See! Iowa isn’t that lame after all!  Here is some information on the house that includes a map of how to get there. It’s pretty neat!

Minimal River Floating/Camping Packing List

I wanted to provide just a small list of must-have’s if you decide to go on a short floating/camping trip!  If you bring kids this list may need adjusted, so this simplified list is intended for an adult couple for all intents and purposes.

Floating

  1. Water Shoes 
  2. Dry Bag
  3. Sunglasses
  4. Sunscreen
  5. Drinking Water
  6. Snacks
  7. Ice
  8. Container for garbage
  9. River safe Tube
  10. Life Jacket (optional but highly suggested for non-swimmers especially)

Camping

  1. Camper/Tent
  2. Sleeping Pad/blow-up mattress/Bedding
  3. Iced Cooler of Food
  4. Matches/Lighter
  5. Camp Stove/propane or grate for cooking over your campfire
  6. Cookware/Mess Kit
  7. Flash Light
  8. Bug Spray
  9. Pocket Chairs
  10. Drinking Water

I hope you can use these lists and my experience to help plan your very own camping and/or floating excursion!

Best of luck!

Psalm 96:11-12

Madness – Part 1

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(This was originally written on March 7, 2016. This post is the prequel to Madness Part 2)

I’m so grateful for quite a few things today through the many trials of this week. Number 1: cough syrup for my ailment, and the good timing I’ve been given for having a prescription for codeine during such a hard week – at least I will be able to sleep tonight when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Second: good friends and family who have the right words for me to hear when I’ve all but given up on a circumstance(s) that keep viciously rearing it’s head in our lives. A text message out of the blue from someone I haven’t spoken to in months, whom I love with my whole heart -and still doesn’t know I do, but now I get the opportunity to tell her. And lastly beautiful reminders of why I was given the life I have today posted in photos all over my feed.. I can’t and I wouldn’t change a thing, still. What an awfully beautiful roller coaster this is… Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be ‘strong enough’ to get through the ride every time I’m on one. But looking back I had to have gotten stronger, or I wouldn’t be able to look back and know what it has all taught me, or how to handle the next challenge. ..

This song has been playing over and over in my mind for weeks now. I have only heard it a couple of times in the last year, so I know it has been laid on my heart for just this season in my life. The name of it is ‘Madness’ by Hillsong ..the title is a bit coincidental as my life feels like madness, however … “faith makes a fool of what makes sense” is one of my favorite lyrics to the song. I’m so utterly confused about how things have ended up where they are now… all the work put into family, work, friendships, all to seemingly be shaken up and shattered into bits and pieces just to muster up more energy and perseverance to be rebuilt all over again . But I’m reminded that things really haven’t ‘ended’ up anywhere.

This life isn’t over and although I’m not aware of what’s ahead that doesn’t mean its not the perfect plan. He knows, and it’s going to be ok if I don’t. I need to continue to trust – to be patient – to pray – to have hope – to have faith. Instead of looking at this as a completely new construction from the ground up. Rather, I need to look at this as a remodel; like an addition to the project(s) already built.

I am learning that it doesn’t have to make sense at this moment in order for it to be a miracle in the making. Here’s to never forgetting that tidbit for the future roller coaster ride ♡

Philippians 1:6

(This was originally written on March 7, 2016. This post is the prequel to Madness Part 2)

 

 

Leaving Baby For the First Time – Why is it so Hard?

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As I write this I can’t help but feel a bit of anxiety.

We leave our (almost) 5 month old baby, Dudley,  with his Nana and Papa this weekend so we can attend an annual floating trip with some good friends.  It will be his first overnight anywhere but home (without me) and it will be for two full nights.

I feel sick typing this out.

I’m just a mess.

Not that I don’t trust his grandparents to care for him; they did raise their own two boys, and did a stellar job, I might add. But there is something about Moms and their relationships with their children; specifically when they are babies.

You know what I’m talking about Mama’s.

Will they know when to feed him for sure? And how much? Will he sleep for them? Can I know that they will remember everything I told them (which was A LOT)?

Ugh, why do I worry so much?!

I can tell you why. I know the difference between a hungry cry, a bored cry,  and a tired cry. I can hold him in just a way that he’ll calmly go to sleep; his little head nestled firmly right under my chin against my neck.  I know when he needs to nurse for comfort and when he eats because he’s hungry. I know how to make him laugh that belly laugh everyone loves to hear, especially me. When he’s playing, I know when he’s really interested in that one certain toy, just by the look he gives it. It’s like a special intuition we are given when we become a mother.

Now before you non-mom’s reading this think I’m selfishly bragging about my connection with my child. I’m not gloating, but I am proud of this bond. It’s something everyone will have to live with. This is just the honest truth. It will not change.  I am his Mommy. I was sick while carrying him, yet was still ever so excited to meet him, I felt his first movements, I held him first – after working so hard to bring him earth-side, just like my oldest 2 children. These moments cannot be shared by anyone other than me.

As Mom’s, God let’s us know that we were chosen for our little one specifically. Among all the parent’s in the world, He decided long ago this little one would be held by you. He or she was uniquely brought to you to live life, and to live it well.

It’s interesting, though.

He created this little child to love me unconditionally, like our Father in Heaven loves us.

When Dudley looks at me and smiles he doesn’t see my faults and failures. He sees me for who I am: imperfect, broken, tired and struggling. He doesn’t care if I grumbled a little when he woke up the other night,  as I JUST fell asleep, tired from the day. When he giggles as I tickle him or make silly noises at him, he isn’t laughing to please me, he’s truly experiencing a happy moment together with his Mama.The joy I see in his eyes cannot compare to anything else. When he cries as I hold him, and I’m able to calm him, or even if I am not,  it still gives me the reassurance that I’m what he needs; that God sent him from above to be held in my arms only.

I don’t have to earn his love, or his approval.

I was born with it.

So leaving for 2 days may not seem like a big deal to some, but for a Mother it is so difficult. Especially for that first time.

Until then, husband and friends, while we are on our trip,  please let me check in more times than I need to with the grandparents. Let me hover over the phone, making sure I haven’t missed a call from them,  and let me talk about our boys while we are gone until it’s redundant. I’ll do the best I can to have a little fun in between, but I’ll need you to remind me it will all be okay.

I know it will be okay, but in the waiting, I’m going to be a mess.

I keep imagining what Sunday will be like when we walk through the door to get our kiddos. The older boys will come in and give me great big bear hugs (my favorite!) Then, I know I’ll rush right to the baby, sweep him up, smother him in kisses, hold him tight, smell him. And hopefully he’ll know it’s me.

No…  He will know it’s me.

Because I’m his Mommy.

Proverbs 31:28

 

 

I Created A Vision Board & You Can, Too!

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Why I Wanted a Vision Board

I’ve been taking this really great course called the 30-Day blogging fast track. I signed up for it after joining the FB page called Start a Money Making Blog. Ever since then, I’ve been very moved by the writers and entrepreneurs there. It was just enough to spark some change in my life.

Lately, I have been doing some soul-searching. I’ve also been brainstorming ways that I can manage to be at home and work while attending to a 4 month old baby, and 2 school-aged boys in the afternoon. I’ve recently decided to take the plunge and work towards being a full-time writer. I do have 3 other income-sources, but my hope is to make my blog the primary one after a lot of hard work!

The idea was all fine and dandy, but I was finding it hard to be motivated along with all of the other things racing through my mind..Ugh! Can you relate? It was difficult to start putting everything into forward motion without a fuel source.

I needed inspiration.

On Day 2 of this course we were asked to write our goals. This is a pretty standard process for anyone hoping to do better and/or make significant changes in their work, home, and spiritual life. So I thought, what the heck. I’ve done this so many times, what’s one more time?

I wrote down a list of goals for myself and for the family, but like so many times before, I closed my computer and never looked at that list again. I knew that I needed a way to change this. The Day 2 assignment also said  you could create a vision board instead.

I needed to see what I was working towards for days I felt discouraged and wanted to give up. It allowed me to step outside myself and truly envision what will (not could) be! I know myself too well, and I wanted to be accountable to my goals.

So I thought, what the heck, I’ll try my hand at making my own dream/vision board.

I’m glad I did! Now my kid’s and husband can look at this along with me, and my dreams become theirs. It’s so exciting to know that they are excited for me to reach my goals, too!

How I Did It

Creating this was a lot of fun and it was so very simple!

You’ll only need just a few supplies:

Before you begin, if you haven’t done already, write down your goals. It could be for this year, 3, 5, or 10 years out or a combination! Whatever you do, set a deadline on paper and refer to it often. Also, use this list as a reference as you look for cut-outs to add to your board. You can add to or remake your board as your goals and timelines change, too!

My Vision Board had two parts to it really; one for 2017 goals and another for a bucket list – things that we want to be able to do as a family within the next 5 years.

Now begin to rummage through your magazines for visuals that are a match to your goals/dreams. You can use a combination of words or actual pictures of items. The beauty in this is that YOU are the only one who needs to know what each cut-out means.

If you need any more ideas to help you along, please check out My Pinterest Board.

Make sure you measure the glass on the frame (if you use one) and cut your backing paper/cardboard to match. On most frames the front view is a smaller surface area than the actual size of the frame. If you don’t do this first, you may not see all of your board! Once you have the correct measurements, cut your cut-out backing to fit. I made mine a smidge smaller so I didn’t have to force the board back into the frame.

 

 

Ok, you’re getting closer! Place your cut-outs strategically on your paper/backing  BEFORE you glue. I find this strategy helpful to make sure that everything fits just right.

I also used colored pencils to write on the vision board what I couldn’t find in the magazines. You don’t have to do this, but it’s another crafty option. You can also use your craft markers instead.

And now you are ready to paste! Add your pieces permanently to your board. You can also add flare to your board by gluing buttons, ribbon or using glitter if you want to get really fancy.

It’s getting real, folks! Can’t you see yourself on that beach, already?!

Now, you can let your board dry. The time will vary depending on what type of glue you used. I let mine dry for 20 minutes (well..  it was actually longer because I had a fussy baby!).

Carefully place your board back in the frame and…

Voila! You have yourself your very own Vision Board!

Make sure to put it in a place where you will see it every day. I have mine on the coffee table where I do my daily wok. I can see it throughout the day, and it now keeps me very excited for life’s next chapters!

Do you have a Vision Board?  Post yours in the comments below to share and if you have any tips to offer, drop a note!

Happy Creating,

<3 Jo

 

 

To My Dear Husband

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My Dear Husband,

I see you.

You are the glue that holds our home and our family together. You do your very best to support and supply us, and I couldn’t have asked God for a better mate.

I’ll say it over and over again, you are my rock.

There are days that you may think that no matter what you do, I’m not happy. You help with laundry, the dishes, and are a talented handy man. More than likely, if it’s broken you can fix it.  You do all these things to make sure our family is organized and safe. You’re a great helper, and you never complain. And I don’t say thank you quite enough.

I appreciate you. I really do. You’re doing a wonderful job with our children.. and with me.  And I love you so much. You need to know that I am happy with you.

I’m just not necessarily happy with me. Both inside and out.

I’m doing my best, though.

On the outside what you see is a tired and worn woman. Her hair has been in the same messy bun for 3 days. Her eyes show age from several sleepless nights along with yesterdays smeared makeup. Her clothes reek of body odor,  spit up, and her shirt shows signs of last nights dinner.Her smile is forced, and her voice is optimistic. She doesn’t want you to notice or worry about what she is going through inside.

You have enough on your plate.

You won’t see her sitting much unless it’s to feed the baby, help with homework, eat,or to do work on the computer. The baby only settles with her; she loves it but really wishes she had a little break sometimes. The laundry is spread across the living room floor in an attempt to be folded and put away. The garbage is overflowing into an Amazon box nearby, while fruit flies hover over. The medical bill she said she’d call on weeks ago, still sits in the pile of papers on the table, untouched. The beds haven’t been made and the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed. All the clean dishes in the dishwasher have nearly made their way to join the dirty ones in the sink. There is so much hair in the shower drain, it could be woven into an intricate rug.

The list can go on..and yet you never complain about it. You never ask why it’s not done, or how it is I didn’t get to it today. You know that it may hurt me to know you’ve noticed. You know I don’t want to let you down. I don’t want to feel like a failure today.

Even though, most likely I still will.

My Dear Husband,

I need you to be patient with me; with my sudden bouts of frustration, my irrational emotions and my absentmindedness,  with my slow response time. With my moments of selfishness, and with my anxiousness and with my depressed days. When I snap at you or at the kids – my heart is tired and so am I. It kills me when I’m this way and I’m so hard on my self afterwards…

I’m trying..

I know there are moments when you are at the end of your rope or at your wits end trying to figure out how to help me, how to cheer me up or make me smile when I’m having a hard time.

I want to make it easy for you, husband.

There is only one thing you can do:  I really need you love me harder in these moments. A Jesus kind-of-love. One that’s undeserved but given through grace. Lord knows I don’t deserve it, but I need your friendship, and your honesty. I need you to press your hand up under my chin, look me in the eyes and simply say “I love you.”

When I try to push you away because I’m frustrated with myself, I’m ashamed of my day or who I’ve been, or if I want to be alone, please don’t let me.

Chase after me.

Hug me.

Hold me.

Love me.

Forgive me.

… and please know that I’m becoming more happy inside each day that passes. I’m working on me, God’s working in me, and I know that it’s hard to watch sometimes. I am not there yet, I want to be my best at all these things, and it’s really hard to. I”m learning that perfect isn’t what I need to seek, but purpose.

Please don’t give up on me. I need you to remind me I’m doing a good job. That I’m enough. I know God’s working a new life into me and I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s coming, I promise.

Until then, My Dear Husband, I see you, and I love you.

Sincerely,

Me

Psalms 108:4

 


Buddy Dog

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Our Buddy isn’t doing well.

He is resting on the couch  after Andy had to give him a sedative prescribed by our vet to stop his seizures. He’s had 5 or more episodes in the last 24 hours. I’ve lost track.

Every day he slows down more and more. He can’t run up the stairs, he occasionally falls down them, he needs help getting on the couch and he’s forever thirsty for water. He has begun to wet the bed at night. His sight and hearing are failing as well. It’s so heartbreaking to watch.

I know his days are few.

We’ve had him since he was around 6 months old, in 2004, and he was our first real adventure in caring for someone/something other than ourselves. He was our ‘firstborn’. He’s been by our side through all of our life changes. Marriage, getting our cat, having kids.. you name it. If we can take him with us on trips we do, and if we can’t he gets to go stay at his Nana & Papas just like our boys. He’s our family.

I’m home with him today to watch over him as he continues to have his seizure episodes.  The last one he had today slowed him down so much he couldn’t walk or see straight for over 20 minutes.Typically it lasts only 5 or so.

Everything that was on the to-do list will just need to wait. He needs me today, and he will need all of us until it’s his time to go.  I’m worried about him and I feel completely helpless. The vet offers meds, and reminds us he’s not getting any younger. There really isn’t anything more we can do.

So we wait, because he’s slowly dying.

It’s just not fair. We don’t want to say goodbye. Not just yet.

Shayla nails it in this blog post:

I can never be “ready” to let you go…

Like Shayla, I don’t want to admit that the time is near.. but we need to face it and enjoy the time we have. We love you Buddy Dog!

Credit given to Shayla at  Tiny Toes & Furry Paws Blog – Follow her here or through the above blog post link.

Proverbs 12:10