My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

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My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

Was I always a little flaky? I don’t know. For years, I could get away with being very loosy-goosy with my planning because I was a stay-at-home mom of preschoolers. We moved all the time too, so by the time people developed expectations of me, we were off and away to the next town.

Over the years, I have slipped into a routine of planning as little as I can get away with planning. I’ll procrastinate decisions until they are made for me. Yep. Guilty of that. Sometimes I get this fear of commitment. If I sign up for things, I’m going to have to figure out how to actually accomplish those things with toddlers in tow.

And I never knew when my husband would be here or not be here, so making plans felt like shooting darts– real darts–in a room full of people, blindfolded.

No thanks.

So friends, that is how I became the version of April you have today.

April, are you going to the yada yada yada meeting?

**Total deer in the headlights**

Ummmm. Uhhhhhh.  Umm, yeah, you know, I might…

(Inside my head I’m thinking……IF all 4 kids are well, IF Alan is in town, IF I have energy left that day…..IF I am not supposed to actually be at Dan’s tee-ball game or some Army function that I can’t remember the exact dates for…..If, If, If…..)

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

I love to rock me some babies. Go away, world, until I finish this.

 

Actually, for the past 11 years those were all perfectly good reasons to be flaky, indecisive, unprepared, uncommitted, and unsure. Did I shut the world out a little bit? Yes, yes, I definitely did.

In fact, I had to google the word “twerking” not too long ago. I’m so out of touch with pop culture, and I kept hearing that word. All I can say to that one is ew, girl! Ew. Somebody get that poor girl a sweater and some capri pants.

But things keep popping up on our calendars, and I’ve re-entered the world of work with my blog. I actually HAVE to FORCE myself to plan and be less free-spirited, more grown-up like.

You people who have a plan amaze me, and I mean that in a good way. You totally have my respect.

You know when you are going on vacation. You’ve actually committed to specific dates, and you probably even know how you are gong to pay for that.

You have a budget.

You know when people’s birthdays are, and you plan for that accordingly.

You keep some sort of planner or calendar.

 My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan
About that….Y’all! I have purchased TWO different “planners” this year. They are both mostly blank. I have a calendar hanging in my kitchen too, which makes 3 planners, really. All I’ve written on that one is what the kids are doing for lunch and when their dentist appointments are.

I even downloaded an editorial calendar plug-in to try and start planning my blog posts. (It’s actually extremely helpful, fellow bloggers, check it out. It’s called “editorial calendar.”)

Only I’m so anti-structured in my thinking, I can rarely bring myself to write about what I’m ‘scheduled’ to write about.

I also have 2 different e-books I’ve written half of, and now they are just sitting on my hard-drive taking up space. My hard drive is so full, my computer has actually stopped letting me download or upload new things.

And suddenly I find myself wanting to change.

See, I bought all those planners. That’s the first step. I WANT to do the right thing and be all responsible again. I always was one-half responsible and one-half not at all, even back in high school and college. I used to make myself plans and stick to them, sort of. Well, I used to make plans. Maybe I never did really stick to them. I almost always turn in everything on time, actually, but I live in fear of signing up for extra things.

So I decided to pray about this today.

And this was my answer:  If you can plan out each day by making a list and crossing things off, then you can apply that same strategy to weeks. Then apply it to months. Then do that for years. Do it at the start of each week, each month, and each year, just like you are doing now for days.

Huh. Brilliant. Maybe even doable?

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

My planning tends to never go past the day that I’m on. This is the typical extent of my planning.

 

What I do now for each day is this. After I have safely delivered all of my children to school, I come home and have a little time for Bible study and prayer. You have to pour inspiration in to yourself if you expect to pour any out, right?

I close with prayer, and I ask God to help me make my to-do list for that day. I write the list out on the wipe-off board in the kitchen. Then I mentally prioritize the things that HAVE to get done.

That’s why I usually cook supper in the morning, by 12:00, because I know everyone HAS to eat, and I don’t want that task hanging over my head. Also, I have no energy left at 5:00pm.

I see no reason why this method for planning each day could not be applied to my weeks, months, and years, with one of the 3 planners I’ve purchased laying open on my lap.

My Brilliant Plan for How to Plan

And don’t even say that I should use my phone as my planner. I can’t do it. This falls under scatter-brained people problems. The minute I open my phone to use the calendar or some other useful, productive app, I immediately forget what I was doing and end up reading Instagram or my email or something.

So watch out, world! I now have a plan for how to plan!!!! Who knows? Maybe next week I will make a budget, a meal plan, or catch up on my 2,809 emails…….nahhhhh…

Please share your best planning tips in the comment section! We would love to hear more ideas! Thanks, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Place to Write Out Answered Prayers

 

Yesterday we sang this song at church:

It starts quiet and gets louder. That’s not my church, just one I found on You Tube. This song is powerful, and even more so when you are there in person, singing it with other believers.

I could not stop my tears while singing this song. I have this problem that once my water works start it feels impossible to turn them off!! All of a sudden, I lose all ability to be tough or cool. I become total mush. Does that happen to you? It’s embarrassing, but it’s healing, and sometimes you have no choice really.

So today, why don’t we take time to remember? Do we remember?

There was this movie called The War Room, which starred Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore even had a small role in it. In the movie, an elderly woman served as Priscilla Shirer’s mentor. She had something hanging on her wall that I’d never seen before: a list of answered prayers.

It was a powerful film. I hope you get a chance to watch the whole thing later, but for now, here’s a dramatic clip:

This movie was GOOD, but because it was Christian you didn’t hear about it much. Go digging for it on the internet. It’s well worth your time. I mean I saw it a YEAR ago, and I’m still remembering things I learned in this movie!

Amazon sells it for $10, or if you have Starz, you can watch it for free:

The other big thing that stuck with me was having a closet to go pray in. Here at my new house I finally have both a list and a closet to pray in, and I am loving that.

I even made a pretty list to write my lists of answered prayers on. In only 30 minutes, I filled up four of these sheets, so if you want to use this, you may want to print 5, not just one. Yep. I turned it into a free printable, so I can share it with you.
Free Printable for Answered Prayer ListEach list is the size of a sheet of copy paper. Click here to print it. : answeredprayerWord

I have a black and white printer, so mine didn’t have the pretty colors after all. Sad! But yours can so long as you have a color printer.

I feel like I’m living the longest answered prayer ever this year. My list was long, and I won’t bore you with my list, but I do want to share this one with you.

I want to tell you about my support system this year. The hardest months were November 2015-April 2016. It felt like my physical body was crumbling. There were days I limped around with hip pain, and no one could tell me why. I would toss and turn, and I could not sleep because of that obnoxious hip, but no one could fix it. But the worst part was the fevers, because they would zap my energy and leave me feeling useless. Oh! And then the heart problem started. Then when they told me it was v-tach, and I read about v-tach, I thought, “Oh, great. I’m dying? I could just die any night in my sleep?”

Since my doctors couldn’t figure out my hip problem, they labeled me as having “many somatic complaints,” and they sent me to a counselor. Nice. So basically, if you have a sickness that docs don’t know how to fix they decide you need counseling. And there are lots of problems doctors cannot fix.

Many women would fall back on family during times like these, but when you live on the other side of the country from your family, you’d better hope you’ve made some friends.

It felt like a recipe for depression, my friends.

But that wasn’t how it turned out. Sometimes God sends people who are the answers to our prayers. That’s what happened for me. I want to tell you about three people who were answers to my prayers.

analise

Analise, my substitute

Analise

I hired Analise to watch the boys each Friday while I went to my weekly doctor visits and tests at the cardiologist, the rheumatologist, the counselor, the physical therapist, and the chiropractor.

Ladies, don’t ever feel like you are “just a nanny.” Analise was 1000 times more than just a nanny. That is a noble calling. I could not have made it through this year without her, and she was a source of happiness for my boys who were having to cope with having a mom that was “always sick.” She was fun and energetic, but she was also mature enough to handle two boys who were supposed to be doing their schoolwork, along with two pre-schoolers.

Analise was a gift from God. She was the answer to my literal cry for help.

laura

My unofficial support group of friends: Every single one is a blessing. Laura is the one on the far right.

Laura

Laura was Daniel’s best friend’s mother. She had Daniel at her house about as much as I had him at mine, and I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t. I would also come home to little gifts from her all the time: bath fizzies, Bama cupcakes, and her signature sidewalk art.

Laura offered that touch that reminded me that I was still a person of value, even when I was sick and confused.

answered prayers

The incredible women in my home school support group. Paola is the second from the end on the right, on the sofa. Man, I miss these ladies!!

Paola

What you might not know about me is that I have this need to follow the rules and …..win. I like winning. That’s right. I too want to win and win biggly. (Hehe!) I crave success. So when I started failing, it was quite the avalanche of pride. Oh, what a humbling year it was.

I could not keep up as Joshua’s grammar/writing teacher. He had his computer program for math, but grammar was on me. But our grammar/writing tutoring sessions were every Monday afternoon. No matter how hard I tried, doctor appointments kept falling on Monday afternoon. And fevers. And just my general mess!

Fail. Fail. Fail. I felt like I was constantly failing. Joshua actually had to direct himself for most of his school work for most of that school year. I felt like I was setting him up for failure.

When we would make it on Monday afternoons, we’d be behind on assignments, because of me. Plus, JD’s entire day would be thrown off from the lack of nap at daycare, and Joshua would be in misery because he wasn’t getting much out of that class as unprepared as he was.

I didn’t have it in me to stay for Monday afternoons any longer. It took so much of my energy reserves to finish a Monday that I finally realized I could not keep it up.

We could handle the three-hour Monday morning tutoring sessions, but packing a lunch for all of us and staying for the afternoon became too much.

So it was with great humility that I wrote Paola (the Essentials tutor, Joshua’s teacher for the 2 hour afternoon session) a long note explaining why we had to drop Essentials with only five or so weeks left in the program.

And what I got from Paola was something I won’t forget. I’d back that woman up for any battle she may ever need help with. Paola gave me grace. 

She agreed that our course of action was best for us. She sympathized with all we were going through. She allowed Joshua to continue turning in his grammar charts to her, but she didn’t pressure us for anything at all. In fact, when the year was over, she congratulated me on persevering to the finish.

Have you ever known someone who gave you the exact encouragement that you needed and more? I felt like such a flake that whole semester because of all the “no’s” I was having to say. But Paola and the other CC moms accepted us right where we were in life.

It wasn’t just Paola that gave me support last school year. All of my fellow Classical Conversations moms were understanding and helpful. If only I could have brought my California friends with me to the South!

Sometimes God uses people to answer our prayers, and truly even to teach us what grace feels like. Grace, hope, and love. I hope that he will use me to bless others as greatly as my friends and family have blessed me.

What a year of answered prayers. I can’t wait to see what God does next. I want you to all know that I am doing much better now. Thank you so much for loving us through the hard times.

Be sure to get the printable and share what God has done in your life.

 

 

An Unexpected Blessing and Friend

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Something special happened to me this week.

We have been on such an emotional roller coaster this year, and we’ve had new obstacles to manage the past couple of weeks. When one member of a family meets a set-back, the whole family meets it too because we are each other’s support. I cannot write about it because it wasn’t mine to write about, but I felt it almost as much as he did. Don’t worry. Everyone is safe and sound, but not all of life’s battles are physical.

Meanwhile, there is so much going on in our hearts, both exciting and hard, as we settle into our new community here, but we are so thankful that we are never alone.

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friends

Woody has been a friend of ours for a long time.

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Batteries, schmatteries. Woody swims.

friends

Before this he was buried in the sand, so he deserved this swim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even if we didn’t have each other, which thankfully we do, we are never alone. Even if it were just me here with no family at all, I would not be truly alone. No one HAS to be.

When you believe in God the Father and Creator, and Jesus His Son, there is no reason to ever be alone. He promises he is always with us. He has given us a Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

16And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever — 17the Spirit of truth.                    John 14:16-17

When I move, I usually pray that we will all make friends. We are not alone, but there is something extra special about having flesh and blood friends who comfort and cheer us, and in turn we do the same for them.

I love how friends often come in unexpected ways, like Fran.

Now I’m not referring to Alan’s Aunt Fran. We love her too, but this is another, much older Fran that we just met.

Wednesday night we met her at church, and she said to Alan, “I’d like to have your names and your phone number. As I was sitting here, and I saw y’all, such a lovely new family, and we’re glad to have you, I thought, ‘I’d like to help them.’ We did that for a family with little boys in the past, but then I realized, ‘Wait, now I’m 85 years old, I can’t help them quite the same as I could back then, but I can pray for them.”

Ah. She is doing exactly what she can do in the place that she is. What a sweet, sweet blessing. I’ve never felt so special.

We gave her our number. We didn’t really expect that she’d call us.

This morning I went to MOPS. (Moms of Preschoolers) I’ve never been to one before, but I like to be social, and I’m not so burdened down here as I was in California, so I was finally able to go.

John David and I were on our way home from MOPS, about to turn into my driveway, when my cell phone rang, and it was Fran. She said again how she is praying for us, and she asked for the boys’ names and ages and asked how she can pray for each of our little boys.

I was happy to give her all of that information, and one of our boys has had an especially rough start here. He hasn’t been in any trouble, but he has faced difficult things, and on top of that he has medical tests ahead of him with a cardiologist, and I told Fran a little bit about all of that.

I asked about her too, and this sweet lady has lived all over the world. Her story is very interesting.

I got off the phone with tears in my eyes. It seems like tears are always in my eyes lately. Again, there have been no great, horrible things that have happened, it’s just that it’s an overwhelming year of many changes. Sometimes the tears just sort of brim over and leak out.

But today I feel blessed. We are loved. God is with us. We can meet whatever we must meet. We are all never truly alone.

Have you ever met a friend like Fran? Or have you ever thought of being a friend to a younger family or person, as she is for us? I’d love to hear about it.

 

10 Things to Try When You’re Feeling Achy

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Have you ever felt old before your time or just achy all over the place?  I keep wondering. Is this just getting older? Or is this a problem that can be fixed? And how do you know which is which?

Several of my readers liked the video with the stretching tips for hip pain, so today I’m including a stretching video for heel/foot pain and swelling. This is another nuisance that I deal with that I think is very common.

So I’ve learned a few things, for those of you on the age-speed-train with me.

#1. For the heart as well as the back: Walking. Just walk everyday. It’s good for every single thing about you, so as long as your body allows you to do so, walk.

 

#2. For the shoulder: I’m ordering this book:

 

They say that not taking time to do relaxing things can actually cause strained muscles and tendonitis, which my body has in multiple places. Stress could actually be killing us. Who knows? It’s worth a shot!

#3. Swollen heels are often caused by tight calf muscles, so my physical therapist gave me this exercise:

#4. CONSTANTLY monitor your posture. Sit and stand as straight as you possibly can. 

#5. Do something relaxing. Today I am going shoe shopping and eating lunch BY MYSELF. Some of you may not find that relaxing, but for me it is perfect.

Or maybe I should have JD give me a head rub.

Here’s a perfect example of #5, doing something relaxing. JD calmed his cousin ever-so-easily with a little head rub:

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Crying baby, meet John David.

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calming baby

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His work here is done.  

 

#6. Buy bigger shoes. Never wear uncomfortable shoes or high heels.

IMG_1576

my tired, achy, red-arround-the-edges feet…(Truth is, I’m a stay-at- home mom. I mostly don’t even wear shoes.)

Did I just post a photo of feet!!??  I’m seriously all girl, so this one is terribly sad for me. I mostly gave up high heels around 5 years ago, and that kept my feet problems at bay for a long time, but that alone is no longer cutting it. Today I’m buying bigger tennis shoes. It’s important for shoes to fit.

#7. Become a better friend.

I received my very first get well card in the mail last week, and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me. Several people have come up to me at church to tell me that they are praying for me and ask how I’m doing. Wow! How encouraging to know!

I’ve always said that I have the best friends.

From this, I am learning how to be a better friend. This goes back to that lesson about not over-scheduling yourself too because if we are so busy with all of our own obligations, how can we ever take time to encourage anyone else?

#8. Pray and read your Bible! Allow the Lord to go to the mat for you.

The other week, I was at yet another doctor appointment, for even more medical tests. There was some confusion about my appointment time, which threw off my whole schedule, and getting an appointment with this cardiologist is difficult. My results appointment was for Tuesday, so the tests needed to be done before that, or there would be no results to share.

The receptionist said, “There’s no way we can get you in before Tuesday. Well, we could have it done at the hospital, but then that might be hard with billing….”

I was so finished caring, or maybe I cared too much. Either way, I leveled with her, staying as calm as I could, though I’m sure I had tears in my voice.  “I have been through so much this year, I do not care. I don’t care what you do or when you do it, or how. You just tell me where to be, and I’ll be there. I’m going to go sit down in the waiting room.” (I still had another test to do.)

I know, I wasn’t easy going. I was not breezy.  I’m afraid I’m becoming Maxine, way before my time.

OKay. So you’re wondering what this story has to do with prayer. Hang with me.

I sat back down in the waiting room, and I prayed, “Lord, I’m so done dealing with this! I don’t even want to go to any more of these stupid appointments, but Lord, if you could just help me. You fix it. I can’t. I give up.”

It didn’t take long for the desk girl to reappear. “April?”

I slowly walked back to the desk.

“You can come tomorrow. Anytime you want.”

Prayer, people. I’m telling you. Prayer.

“Can I come at 4:00?”

“Yes.”
“Great! Thanks!”

Glory.

#9. Hang out with people who make you laugh.

My people are funny. (Don’t worry. He’s doing the crossed-eyes on purpose.)

Laughter is healing.

#10. Get more sleep.

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…because that’s my answer to everything..

 

 

 

 

My Chronic Pain Battle: Fake Sciatica, Tendonitis, Muscle Strain, Whatever

Note: Chronic pain blogs are mostly only interesting to other people with chronic pain. We eat this stuff up. Soooooo, friends, do not feel like you have to sit through this one.  Ha! Or feel free to scan and read only the one line paragraphs. I do that a lot too.

sciatica

Pregnancy induced sciatica: a little preview of my future, but I had no idea.

My Chronic Pain Battle: Fake Sciatica, Tendonitis, Bursitis, Muscle Strain, Whatever it is!

The first time I developed “sciatica”, whether it ever actually was sciatica or not, I have no idea…..I was pregnant with my very first baby. “It’ll go away once you have the baby,” they said. It hurt exactly the way it does now: across my lower back, down one side of my rear, down my leg, all the way to my foot.

Horrifying stuff, always at its worst when you’re lying in bed.

I couldn’t wait to go into labor. I knew they were handing out free epidurals (with insurance) there. That’s right. I didn’t see any trophies for delivering babies without an epidural, so I was sure to sign up. I’d give anything to finally not feel my hip.

But the joke was on me. The epidural didn’t work properly. I ended up with dead legs, but my uterus was not so much….I got to experience the pain of natural childbirth after all. Only, my legs were dead, so I couldn’t even move around to cope with it.

16 hours, and a great deal of vomiting and shaking later, and they finally ripped Joshua out of my pelvis with one of those baby vacuums.

The good news is that the ob/gyn folks were right about the pregnancy sciatica. It went away the day I gave birth.

Phew! I approached the next pregnancy, only one year later, with great fear and trepidation. Please don’t let it come back. Please oh please. That sciatica stuff was terrifying.

And it didn’t!

preggo

happy, healthy pregnancy

And then wonder of wonders, my epidural WORKED! This baby was stuck in my pelvis too, though. It took me 12 weeks to recover from that one, but still no sciatica. Yay!

Then two years after Caleb was born, out of the clear friggin blue sky, it did come back. Only this time I wasn’t pregnant. It was sudden, and I think it was brought on from this incident where Joshua jumped on my back. However, as I looked back at my records, I noticed that I reported it to the doctor as “gradual onset.” Who knows. My memory isn’t so hot anymore.

I just woke up one day and could not put a lick of weight on my left leg. It just buckled! This was different. With the pregnancy sciatica, it hurt to walk, but at least I could do it. I called my mom, she drove me to my doctor’s office while the boys went to preschool.

I took every shot they offered me, I did a little physical therapy, they ran blood work and an MRI, but no one really knew what was wrong. My chart said “tenosynovitis.”

My physical therapist said that I should not have any more children.

I wasn’t too worried. I was 28. I’d get better. Four months later, it was nothing more than a mild pinch that occasionally came and went. I was eventually able to even walk normally.

snow day

Feeling pretty good between babies 2 and 3. I figured the hip thing was a problem of the past, with just a little pinch leftover as a reminder.

I decided to have another baby. I gained a whopping 55 pounds, but still there was no sciatica. I was good.

I’m not sure when exactly, but somewhere between Daniel’s birth and Alan’s return from Afghanistan, the occasional pinch grew. It appeared more often and stayed longer.

Then there was another big event. I’ve noticed people in the chronic pain community call this a “flare up”. I use that phrase with reluctance, as no one has ever, as yet, been able to figure out what exactly is flaring up. Six years later, this now irritates me to no end.

This was around the time of the 3rd flare up.

This was around the time of the 3rd flare up. Cute pic, though!

The third major flare up occurred after Alan had just returned from Afghanistan, and the boys and I had just returned to Virginia. But this time my shoulder, back (It felt like my ribcage), and neck decided to join in the fun.

It was like the entire right side of my body and my neck were trying to kill me. And right at that time, my pinky nail went white. Solid white and loose. Was I losing my nail??? Weird!!!! Why?????

I could hardly turn my neck because of the pain between my neck and my shoulder, and worst of all, it hurt to inhale. I had to breathe carefully. Breathe too deeply, and I’d pay for that.

The military clinics were useless. U-s-e-l-e-s-s. The first doctor that I saw handed me a prescription for muscle relaxers, said, “Everyone has back pain,” and sent me on my way.

Thanks.

The second time, because you’ll try even a useless clinic when you can’t inhale all the way, the doctor was a little better. She told me not to take the muscle relaxers, referred me to physical therapy, and took x-rays. She also did this periformis release technique on my rear end, and all of the pain moved a little to the left. That was sort of promising.

She said the neck/ inhaling/ shoulder pain thing was strained muscles.

I tried the physical therapy clinic. They never had any available appointments during the hours that I could get childcare for my two pre-schoolers, so that was a dead end.

I’ll never forget my low point. It was 2012. I put Daniel to bed for a nap, and I put in a movie to keep the kids occupied but safe. There were three little boys at this point, and I laid on my bed, stared at the ceiling, cried, and prayed for help.

Then the doorbell rang.

To be continued……You can’t do this story justice in one post!

 

Read Part II here.

 

 

 

 

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