Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Exciting News!!

I'm so thankful and grateful to each one of my blog readers and it is because of you and your support that I decided to take the plunge and get a dot com!

You can now access my site at!!! ( you can also still acess it thru blogspot). Or better yet subscribe by email and have my posts delivered to your inbox.

I so strongly desire to grow a community on my blog of people who can learn from each other, encourage each other and pray for one another. I especially want to have a place of support for people with chronic conditions-whether you have Fibromyalgia like me, or Lupus, Lyme disease, RA, MS, Parkinson's, etc. I want you to know that you are not alone. Having chronic pain, at least for me, has been at times a very isolating experience. You see everyone else going on with their daily lives and you are stuck praying everyday just to have the strength to get up, get dressed and go to work. It can be so hard when even the closest people in your life have no idea how you truly feel. I want this site to be your soft place to land. A place where you can grow in your walk with the Lord. I'm excited to have you on this journey with me!

So now it's your turn invite your family, facebook friends, neighbors and twitter followers to join me at While chronic pain is a huge part of my daily life it's not all I blog at all-I also love to blog about my adventures as a nanny, frugal & debt free living, homeschooling preschoolers, my heart for the least of these and whatever else the Lord prompt me to share.

So whether you're a regular reader or a new friend leave me a comment and say hello. I look forward to getting to know you better!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chronic Pain & the Holidays

If it wasn't for the cold weather December would be my favorite month! I love everything about Christmas-the music, decorations, parties, lights, and smells. My birthday is also 4 days before Christmas which only adds to the celebration. But the holidays can also be stressful for a lot of people and having chronic pain only adds additional stress to the mix. Here are my tips for dealing with chronic pain & the holidays.

Pick your favorite activities and make a plan to do them-I've found that with everything in life, making a plan makes all the difference! At the beginning of December I get out my planner and write down my favorite Christmas activities that I definitely don't want to miss-like performing in Handel's Messiah, hosting a Christmas party at my house, and going to my church Christmas concert and my old high school's alumni concert. To be able to do these activities I know I will need to be well rested and in little pain so I make sure to schedule times of rest around these activities. I write these rest times down in my planner and don't let anything interfere with them. If you're looking for a great way to get organized and plan out your Christmas schedule check out this blog by Courtney of Women Living Well.

Learn to say no! I know this is hard for some people. But when you have chronic conditions you have to consider with every decision you make if doing that activity or going to one more Christmas party will set your pain off. And if it will then you have to learn to say no. Just be honest and explain to that person why you can't attend and most likely they will understand. Every year my extended family gets together for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I absolutely love seeing everyone. But traveling 2 1/2 hours there and 2 1/2 hours back in the same day is very difficult for my pain. With Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve only being 4 weeks apart it is really hard for me to make 2 trips up there in a month. At this point I am debating if I should go for Christmas Eve (in past years I've gone and regretted it because of the pain I was in). I really do want to but at the same time if that will set off a pain flare up that could last a month or more throughout the winter I'm just going to have to say no and accept my limitations.

Shop early and online- Shopping for a bunch of people in one month's time when the stores are crazy packed is stressful. For that reason I always shop early. The majority of the Christmas gifts I'm giving this year, I got last year the week after Christmas at a steep discount. This also helps to not have to put out a big chunk of money once a year. But obviously if you haven't already done that this year you can always shop online to avoid the stress of stores.

Be content with what you can handle- If only half the decorations get up or you miss your neighbor's swanky party because you in too much pain just let it go. Don't feel pressured to have the perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas. Christmas isn't about perfection. In fact, we are celebrating the birth of our Savior who came to save us because we are not perfect. Choose to be joyful with whatever Christmas you have.

And lastly remember the reason for the season- Whenever I get stressed or overwhelmed at the holidays, I just stop myself and remember why I am celebrating this time- the birth of Jesus! This time should be joyful, relaxing fun with family and friends. So go grab some hot chocolate, put on you favorite Christmas movie, light the lights on your Christmas tree, take a deep breath and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!

How do you cope with the holidays and chronic pain? Or even if you don't have a chronic condition what are your tips for a less stressful December?

Growing Home

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My Thanksgiving in Pictures!

I had an awesome Thanksgiving with my extended family in Cleveland. We had 21 people-a pretty small group for our family. It was fun and relaxing and the food was awesome!

Turkey Butter

Caramelizing the brown sugar on the sweet potatoes

Everyone had a nametag (this used to be my job when I was a kid:)

Not quite sure why my cousins were lighting their name tags on fire?!

Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, sweet potatoes, cranberry relish & sauce, asparagus & a buttered roll-AMAZING!

Dessert anyone?

My dessert plate-homemade pumpkin pie with homemade whipped cream, baked brie with raspberry preserves and a chocolate brownie truffle!

My aunt and cousin wanted to make sure no one threw away their food & drink:)

Every year after dinner is the annual turkey bowl for all the crazy people who like to play football in the cold!

Yes my 80 year Grandpa still plays tackle football every year!

My mom and I


Me, my sister Kelly and her husband Jon

My cousin Ashley, my sister Kelly and I

It was a great Thanksgiving! How was yours?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

I love Black Friday! For years my mom and sister would get up early for all the deals and I would sleep in and think they were crazy. That is until I went myself a couple years ago and realized how fun it is! The mood is festive at every store, there's free stuff everywhere, amazing deals and when else can you see the mall packed with a happy shoppers at 4am?

2 years ago I got 4 nice dresses for myself for less than $40 and last year I literally did all my Christmas shopping in that one day! This year I have been shopping more throughout the year and only have a couple things to pick up that I will hopefully get today.

What about you? Do you shop on Black Friday? Comment and share your best deals and stories of the day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let's give Him fame!

It's interesting how the Lord uses new experiences in life to show us the junk in our heart that still needs worked on. He has done that recently with me & blogging. Blogging has been a wonderful blessing in my life as I've shared before. But it has also revealed areas I need to work on like pride.

Blogger confession-I love checking the stats on my blog oh about a million times a day! I truly desire for my blog to grow and develop into a ministry that blesses, challenges and encourages others and I get so excited with every new reader. But the Lord is reminding that this blog is about giving Him fame not me.

So keeping that in mind today I want to use this post to give Him fame. Especially with Thanksgiving tomorrow there isn't a better time to thank God. So please comment and share your favorite praise of the week-big or small. Let's give Him fame!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life is Painful

I am sitting in the doctor's office writing this post ( or at least I was by the time you are reading this). I've been nervously waiting for the doctor to see me for over an hour all the while praying that whatever he does to try to help the pain I'm in won't be too painful itself. I can't help but think of how painful life can be. To have a chronic condition that leaves you in daily pain and then to go to the doctor for treatment that hurts even more is cruel irony.

I know not all of you experience daily physical pain, maybe yours is emotional pain-depression, anxiety, loneliness or relationship conflicts. Life is painful. And if that were the end of this post there isn't much hope. But I tell you from experience there is someone who you can go to when life is painful and overwhelming.

Someone who will give you peace when all around you is chaos.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Someone who will give you hope when you have no reason to hope.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Someone who will love you when everyone else has abandoned you.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

Life is painful but Christ is able!
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Life is painful but there will be a day when it's gone.

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

Friday, November 18, 2011

While I'm Waiting

I went shopping a couple weeks ago with my friend and her little boy. Somehow the conversation got around to my birthday next month. I told her I wasn't so happy to be turning 29 because 29 is awfully close to 30. I've always been weird about getting older. Even as a kid I would cry before every birthday because I didn't want to get older. It's a funny thing because I'm also the person who celebrates my birthday like it's a national holiday!

When I was younger I didn't want to get older because I thought it would mean things would change and I've never been a huge fan of change because it's scary & unknown. But some changes are amazing and wonderful and not worth missing just because I'm scared. I've always been one of those people who looks toward the future. I'll go here on my next vacation. I'll do this if I get married. I'll do that if I have more money. I wrote about this state of living while waiting a couple years ago. But I've found that place to not be joyful. Always longing for something takes away from focusing on and being grateful for the blessings right in front of me

So whether I get older, or get married or not, or an rich or poor, or in pain or not in the future doesn't matter now. Instead while I'm waiting to see what my future will be I choose joy for today.

I love my family & friends and spending time with them.

I love the kids I nanny for.

I love my church and Bible study friends.

I love living in Ohio from May to November;)

I love being able to travel.

I love being single-being able to sleep in on Saturdays, be independent and have space to myself.

I love blogging & social networking & the new friends I've made thru it.

What about you? Are you waiting for something-longing for it so much that you're missing out on the blessings today?

Today I encourage all of us, myself included, to stop waiting, leave the future to Him and enjoy today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Easy Thanksgiving Crafts for the Not So Crafty!

I love doing activities and crafts with the kids I nanny for especially if they correspond with upcoming seasons or holidays. But I've got a confession to make if that craft requires more than about 2 steps I'm not interested. See I love being creative-coloring, painting, drawing, making little holiday knick knacks-I just happen to be terrible at it! As in so terrible my family is still laughing at me over a Pictionary game we played 10 years ago!

So when it comes to crafts with the kids it has to be cute and kept to about a 5 year old skill level-not just so the kids can particpate but so I can too. So while some of you are busy finding your next holiday craft on Pinterest (note the jealousy!) I'm keeping it real basic around here.

If you're glue gun challenged like me, try these easy, no fail, Thanksgiving crafts!

1. What is thanksgiving without a good old turkey handprint- all you need is a hand & markers:)

2. Ok so in Elementary school ( a million years ago!) we made Native American (we called it Indian) vests. So of course I had to attempt that again with the little guy I watch. I'm sure they're are more fancy ways of making it but we simply took a paper grocery bag cut out arms and head holes & decorated with markers.

Yes it even fit me!

3. Still have mini pumpkins or gourds laying around from Halloween? Give your kids markers, let them decorate and you have a fun centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.

4. And last but not least a thankful tree. I think it is so important to remember what Thanksgiving is truly about so we cut out a tree and leaves from construction paper and I let the little guy I watch tell me what to write on the leaves that he is thankful for.

So what about you? Do you have an fun, easy Thanksgiving crafts?

Growing Home

Monday, November 14, 2011

I did nothing

Last week my mom and I went to lunch after church & my eye was caught by a woman with a sign asking for money outside. I couldn't read her sign from where we sat but I thought it had the word homeless on it. In our community we rarely see homeless people and I wondered what her story was and felt bad to see her out there begging for money. I couldn't stop thinking about her as we left and felt I should stop and at least talk with her, invite her to church, buy her lunch, tell her about the Lord-something.

But I did nothing.

I was with my mom and we had places to go and I felt a little embarrassed not knowing exactly what I would say. So I said nothing. And I feel terrible about it. Like God had given me the opportunity to obey Him and I didn't. Even though I'm ashamed to share this story I think it's important because I know I'm not alone. We've all missed opportunities to obey the Lord. It's easier to understand direct commands from God in the Bible-do not murder for example. It's much harder to discern & obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

My reason for sharing this story is that I pray that from my mistake-my sin-that hopefully one of you will look differently about an opportunity the Lord places in front of you this week. To not brush it aside and assume it's not from God but to choose to step out in faith & boldness and obey. I'm praying for the Lord in His mercy to give me a next time & that next time I will practice what I preach!

Can anyone relate to my story? I'd love to hear about the opportunities the Lord gives you this week & how you choose to step out in obedience!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dealing with Setbacks

The last few weeks I've been dealing with a setback in terms of my fibromyalgia pain. Fibromyalgia is widespread nerve pain which means at one time or another I've had chronic pain almost everywhere in my body. 2 years ago at this time I dealt with 1 year of constant, intense bladder pain. After several unpleasant procedures at the urologist my pain went away for an entire year and just returned a few weeks ago. Honestly I've been really bummed about it. I thought after a year of relief that maybe the pain would never return. I feel afraid that I will have to endure another painful season. The relentless nature of this particular pain left me so depressed last time and honestly I just can't go through that again. But today in my Bible study reading this was the passage:

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14: 26-27

When I apply this verse to my current setback I know everything will be ok. The Holy Spirit, the Counselor, will be with me. He will teach me through this trial and remind me of everything Jesus said just when I need it most. I can be at peace-not troubled and unafraid of what will happen because the Lord is with me.

Are you dealing with a setback right now? Maybe it's financial, marital conflict or health issues like me? Are you troubled and afraid? Remember the words of Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Great Grandpa's Authentic Italian Spaghetti & Meatballs

My Grandpa Lee Lee & I 1983

My Grandpa Lee Lee & I 1984

My Great Grandpa Phillip Viscounte, or Grandpa Lee Lee as I called him, was born in Riano, Italy in 1903 and immigrated to this country as a child. He lived a long, interesting life and died at the age of 99. I was blessed to have him in my life for 19 years. He left our large family with many memories including his famous sauce. His recipe for spaghetti sauce & meatballs is so easy to make & yummy I had to share it all with you.

Here's what you need: Note this serves 12-16. We usually make half & freeze half for another day!

2 large cans (28oz) of Contadina Tomato Puree or whatever brand you prefer
3 large cans (15oz) of Contadina Tomato Sauce or whatever brand you prefer
1 can of Contadina Paste (not the roasted garlic kind just the regular)-12 oz
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
6-8 stems of fresh parsley
4 bayleaves
Salt-to taste
Pepper- to taste
1/3 cup Sugar
Combine all the above in a large saucepan. Once almost boiling, turn down to simmer. Simmer 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove fresh parsley, garlic cloves and bayleaves before serving.

FOR MEATBALLS- makes approx 26 walnut sized meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Salt- to taste
Pepper- to taste
Garlic Powder- to taste
1/4 cup milk
Mix all well and form into the size of meatballs you want. Cook thoroughly in a fry pan and transfer to the saucepan to cook with the sauce

My Grandpa also sometimes cooked Italian sausage (links cut up into 2-3 inch pieces) and put it in the sauce, as well as spare ribs, and/or stew meat. He always precooked the meat in a pan and then put it in the sauce to cook.

Add your favorite pasta & Viola!

Delicious spaghetti and meatballs! Let me know what you think:)

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Blessing of Blogging

Many weeks ago somewhere, I think Twitter, I read Beth Moore say, referring to her many speaking events, "When I go out to speak if God doesn't show up, I've got nothing. "

Her statement immediately resonated with me & how I've tried to approach blogging. This blog was God's idea and as far as I'm concerned it's His. I don't want to write anything except what He tells me to write.

Blogging these last few months has helped me grow hugely in my faith, trust and relationship with the Lord. 3 times a week I have time set aside for reading my Bible and planning blogs for the next week. As I enter into that time I pray for the Lord to lead me, guide me and tell me what to write. Almost every week I never get anything on that first day. By the 2nd or 3rd day I get a little more desperate that I won't have anything to write but that's when I remember what Beth Moore said and I'm at peace. If God shows up and reveals to me something to write I will write it, if not I've got nothing. It has increased my faith to trust and depend on the Lord to tell me what to write and each time He does reveal something my faith grows that much more. Sometimes He just gives me a cute little story or fun topic & other times it's a deep spiritual truth He's teaching me that I know He wants me to share with others.

Writing itself has been a great teacher for me. The act of writing out what the Lord is teaching me has made those lessons so much more tangible for me. Now of course I'm not perfect (or anywhere close to perfect!). I know I've said things on this blog that He probably didn't want me to say, I've let my ego get in the way at times or I just didn't communicate things the way I intended. But I know my deep down intention and heart's desire for this blog is for it to be what Jesus wants it to be. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I'm so thankful to Him for giving me this opportunity at this time in my life to seek Him, trust Him, depend on Him, learn from Him, hear Him and grow in my walk with Him through blogging. We serve a mighty God!

For you bloggers out there what has God been teaching you through blogging?

Growing Home

Friday, November 4, 2011

Our new favorite toys!

I was so excited last weekend when my friend Melissa sent toys from her Christian toy company Alphabet Alley to bless the 4 kids I watch. We have spent all week playing with the games she sent & the Little Guy I watch was so excited he had me send Melissa a thank you message from him on Facebook that day;)

Little Guy especially LOVED the Memory Games.

We spent all of Wednesday afternoon playing with the Journey to the First Christmas memory game, book and puzzle. I loved having 3 different activities that centered around the same Bible story, in this case the 1st Christmas. The repetition of playing the memory game, reading the book and putting together the puzzle really reinforced the story.

Little Guy was nervous about putting together the puzzle but so proud when he got it all together.

On Thursday we spent the afternoon playing Noah's Ark Go Fish. This was our favorite game & I'm pretty sure Little Guy would have played it all day if I let him! We also enjoyed the Noah's Ark Matching Game & he loved that he beat me each time we played.

With Christmas right around the corner I wanted to share this company with all of you because I know these toys will bless your little ones as well. I'm so proud of Melissa and her husband Jason and the work they are doing. It is truly changing little lives!

Thank you:)

Hip Homeschool Hop Button

Growing Home

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Light Bulb Moment

A couple weeks ago I had a few really rough pain days. My dr has had me try several medications and all of them gave me terrible side effects and reactions. There were days when it was hard for me to think of anything else except the pain and intense fatigue I was in. In the midst of this struggle God has given me an illustration that has greatly encouraged me and I hope will be of encouragement to those of you who also live with chronic conditions or even just have something else in your life that seems all consuming.

Each of our lives is a mosaic made up of many different squares that make you-you! There is personality, spiritual gifts, relationships, career, ministry and experiences, just to name a few This is how the Lord sees us. He can see the whole picture of who we are. And He knows every single thing about us-past, present and future. The problem is most days when I look at myself I don't see a mosaic at all. I see one giant square-my pain. Chronic conditions rob us of the ability to see our lives as a whole. When you are so beat down daily with pain, fatigue, sickness, drs appts, medicines and insurance claims, it can be hard to see anything but your condition. Our perspective on life is skewed by our sickness.

When God pointed this all out to me a light bulb went off. I've been living my life as one square forgetting that it's only a small part of who I am. And the most amazing thing of all is that God is the master artist putting together the mosaic of our lives. Taking all those squares and working them all out for good. I can trust Him completely with my life because He sees the big picture. So now in those moments when the pain is overwhelming me, I am praying and the asking the Lord to remind me that this pain is one square and to reveal to me the bigger picture of what He's doing. What about you? Is your perspective skewed by your chronic condition or another all consuming struggle in your life? Are you ready to surrender that to God?