Why You Gotta Be So Mean?

I’ve met a few mean people in my lifetime … my grandmother who raised me … the girls in junior high who laughed behind my back … and the execs of a company I worked at who liked to have scream fests in front of everyone.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been mean myself. Since having kids, I’ve lost my cool over the smallest things and have yelled more times than I care to remember. I know what it’s like to be mean. Do you know the one thing I’ve discovered to be true about people who say and do mean things?

They’re not happy people.

How do I know? Because as in the words of Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, one of my favorite movies: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.”

On the other hand, people who aren’t happy are the ones who lack endorphins. They’re more likely to hurt the people around them. Unhappy people are mean people who make other people unhappy.

Yup.

Sometimes it’s a conscious decision to do so, sometimes it’s not. Regardless, there comes a time when all the yucky stuff in an unhappy person’s heart grows and multiplies. It simmers and sloshes around like poisonous green goo in a bubbling cauldron. And one day it boils over and splashes onto those close by, scalding them with its wrath.

Image courtesy of pixabay

Eeks.

It’s not fun being around a mean person, don’t you agree? Stress-inducing, intimidating, and demeaning though? Those are the words that immediately come to mind when I think about mean and unhappy people.

Lately, it’s not me who has to deal with mean people; it’s hubby. But because he’s my better half and I love him so much, all the poison that’s been burning him has been burning me, too. The protective mama bear in me gets so angry when I hear about everything he’s going through. Even writing these words and thinking about the situation makes me mad to the point of tears.

*Deep breath*

Suffice it to say, we’ve both been struggling. Struggling to push through the challenges of the day to day. Struggling to find a way out of this mess. And struggling to know God’s will through all of this.

So far not much about the situation has changed. It’s still as stressful and hopeless as it has been for the past few months. But the funny this is that God is changing us. Both hubby and I came to the same conclusion on our own this past week.

We both asked God to bless this person who’s being mean.

WHAT?! I know, I don’t get it either. Believe me when I say I did not want to be nice. I’d much rather shoot darts at this person than wish good on them. But doing so would mean I’d be just like them, letting the poison in my heart grow and multiply until it boils over and hurts someone else.

What really helped me change my heart and mind was realizing that this person likely doesn’t want to be mean. There’s stuff under the surface that we don’t fully understand that’s making them unhappy. Maybe they’ve never experienced grace. Maybe no one has ever shown them compassion. And maybe they don’t have anyone who cares enough to pray for them.

So, guess who’s praying for them now? *Raises hand sheepishly* Yep. I can’t believe it myself. But just the fact that God can change my heart gives me hope that He can change their heart, too. And maybe changing their heart will change the situation. But if it doesn’t, it’s okay.

I know God is the ultimate Judge. He sees all and knows all. And as gracious as He’s been to me, even with all the meanness in my heart, I know He is taking care of everything—us, them, the whole situation. There’s probably a dozen things we can’t see, happening right now behind the scenes. Some, okay, most of it doesn’t seem fair or good at the moment. But I’m choosing to put my trust in what I do know. That there’s a good, loving, and all-knowing God who’s in charge of it all.

What mean people have you come across in your life? How did you choose to respond?

The title of this post comes from Taylor Swift’s song, “Mean”. It has a strangely chipper melody with some heartfelt lyrics about facing your bullies. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYa1eI1hpDE

A Sneak Peek at Falling for the Younger Cowboy

I just realized it’s been 2 months since I last blogged, but I have a good reason for my absence! 😉 I’ve been hard at work writing a new book, my first cowboy romance. Here my cover reveal for Falling for the Younger Cowboy!

Here’s a sneak peek at chapter one:

Lexi Turner had never seen a more delicious pot of chili … or maybe it was the gorgeous cowboy stirring the pot who had her mouth watering.

“Can I move now, Lex?”

She blinked quickly behind the lens of her camera and lowered the Nikon DSLR from her eye. The camera strap tugged on the back of her neck as she let the equipment fall from her hands. Clearing her throat, she squeaked out, “Yeah, totally. I got the shots I needed. Thanks, James.”

The tall man wearing dark jeans and a fitted gray T-shirt under a large white apron straightened from the pose he’d been in for the past few minutes. His expression relaxed, adding a sparkle to his blue eyes. He immediately pulled the apron over his head of auburn waves and tossed it onto the metal counter behind him. “Finally. I don’t know how much longer I could’ve held that smile. And I’m pretty sure the chili would’ve turned to mush if I stirred it any more. You know I can’t be caught serving baby food to our ranchers.”

Lexi chuckled to see the right corner of James’s lips curve up in his trademark grin. Her friend always seemed to smile with just one side of his mouth, never fully revealing his straight, white teeth. He was the strong, silent type, like a stereotypical cowboy from the Clint Eastwood movies her dad liked to watch. “You know those guys will eat anything you put on their plates. You’re the best cook in Texas.”

A slight blush crept up James’s neck, adding color to his defined jawline. “You’re much too kind, Lexi. And a sweet talker if I’ve ever met one. I doubt if a year on the ranch has made you an expert on southern cooking, but I’ll take the compliment.” He nodded toward the stainless steel pot sitting on the stove. “Do you want a bowl before you get back to work?”

“Sure. But only if you sit with me and have one, too.”

James checked the clock hanging on the wall. “I can manage that. I’ve got an hour before I need to start on the rest of dinner.” He scooped out two bowls of steaming hot chili, grabbed two metal spoons, and led the way out of the kitchen.

Lexi followed him into the mess hall reserved for the employees. An earthy aroma of dirt mixed with the freshness of spring rain coming in through an open window filled her senses. Half a dozen picnic tables topped with metal napkin dispensers took up the majority of the large room. Several tracks of muddy footprints revealed a path where the ranchers’ boots had walked hours earlier during lunch.

Lexi’s own pair of boots clicked along the concrete floor, feeling foreign and comfortable on her feet at the same time. Sometimes she still couldn’t believe she’d traded in her flip-flops and a life by the beach for country living. But that’s what a semi midlife crisis had prompted her to do when Thomas left her for another woman. Taking a seat on one of the wooden benches, she set her camera on the table. She also cleared her head free from any more thoughts of her ex-husband. She inhaled the savory scent of spices rising from the bowl James set before her and sighed. “This is just what I need. Spice therapy.”

From across the table, James held out his spoon to her and waited for her to clink it with her own before digging into his bowl. In between bites, he met her gaze curiously. “Something tells me you’re not just talking about the Monday blues. Did your mom call again?”

Lexi blinked in surprise. “How’d you know?”

He shrugged. “You’ve been distracted ever since you walked into my kitchen.”

Distracted was right. Lexi didn’t know what had gotten into her today. Seeing her good friend through a camera lens had somehow magnified her view of him. She’d thought he was handsome when they first met, but she had never studied the planes and angles of his face so closely before. Or it could be that she’d been too heartbroken to notice.

After relocating from the Big Island of Hawaii to Sage Valley, she’d spent months grieving the end of her decade-long marriage. It wasn’t until recently that her heart had started to ache less. When the dude ranch owners, the Buchanans, tasked her with the job of taking pictures for their website, she’d rediscovered the joy of photography. And now apparently, she’d also discovered the opposite sex. Lexi winced. She really ought to be acting her age instead of feeling like a hormonal teenager. She was a week from turning forty, for goodness sakes! Midlife crisis or not, she couldn’t be crushing on her much younger friend.

Feeling James’s eyes on her, she swallowed her mouthful of chili and answered quickly. “You guessed right. My mom did call this morning, bright and early at seven—two in the morning her time—just before she turned into bed. She had some big news that couldn’t wait.”

James quirked a brow, his telltale sign urging her to continue speaking.

“Apparently, Thomas got engaged over the weekend.”

“Ouch.”

Lexi ducked her head. The hem of her red flannel shirt skimming the top of her jeans blurred for a second before she blinked away her tears. She sniffled as she looked up. “I couldn’t care less what he does. It’s more the fact that my own flesh and blood still keeps in touch with the guy who broke my heart that gets to me. My mom really loves poking her nose in other people’s business.”

A pained look crossed James’s face as he rubbed his chin. “I’m sorry, Lex. That’s gotta sting. I thought my great-aunt won the award for meddling, but your mom takes the cake.”

She smirked. Sharon Buchanan, or Nanna as everyone called her, had a reputation for playing matchmaker, but at least she had good intentions. Lexi’s typical Asian tiger mom—bless her heart—didn’t have a sensitive bone in her body. Lexi still didn’t know how her fun-loving, Irish father had won her over. “It’s all right. I just keep reminding her that I’ve moved on. I’m happy with my life now. I’ve rediscovered my love of photography, I’ve got the ranch’s store to manage, and”—she gave him a pointed look—“I have amazing friends.”

He narrowed his eyes. “Are you talking about Charlie?” he asked, referring to Lexi’s cousin who had gotten her the job at the ranch.

She licked her spoon before setting it down. “Not just Charlie. I’m talking about you, too, Mr. James Scott. Like I said, your chili is life. Just one bite of it, and the world seems right again.” She glanced down at her empty bowl then pointed a finger at her mouth as she smiled. “See how happy you’ve made me? I hardly remember my conversation with my mom now.”

James chuckled, the throaty sound causing his Adam’s apple to bob. “I’m happy to oblige. I’ve got a whole pot left of this spicy therapy if you want some more.”

Lexi shook her head. “Thanks, but I should get back to the store to relieve Henry.” She had one employee, a part-timer who was in line to get a permanent job as a ranch hand. “I’ll upload these photos and ask Nanna which one she wants to use. If my guess is right, she’ll say all of them. I’m pretty sure you’re her favorite grandnephew,” she added with a wink.

“Naw, I’m just the one she managed to rope into working here.”

“Well, I’m awfully glad she did. If you hadn’t come back to the ranch, we’d never have met. You’ve made this past year so much brighter.”

James gave her a half smile. “You mean tastier?”

“Definitely both.” Feeling grateful, Lexi reached across the table and placed her hand on top of his. A light spark of electricity shot through her fingers the moment they touched. She immediately pulled back and rubbed her palm along her jeans. Had James felt it, too?

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, totally fine,” Lexi replied, lying through her teeth. Her body had never reacted to James this way before. She eyed the camera on the table, wondering if it had cast some sort of spell on her. Before she could dwell any more on the matter, her cell phone vibrated. She pulled it out of her back pocket and swiped it open to reveal a new message.

Lex, are you sitting down?

“It’s Charlie,” she murmured to James as she watched three dots flash across her screen. “She’s probably texting to vent about some crazy request she got from a guest.”

Charlie’s next message popped up. I don’t know how to tell you this, but Thomas is here! With a young blonde thing wearing a huge rock!

The blood drained from Lexi’s face. Her mouth fell open as she stared at the blue text bubble. What were her ex and his new fiancée doing in Sage Valley?

“Lexi? What’s wrong?”

She bit her bottom lip as she met James’s gaze. “I think I’m going to need another bowl of chili.”

Poor Lexi! Don’t worry though, James (and his chili) are gonna make things all better! 

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter HERE for updates on this book and the rest of the Sage Valley Ranch series!

Embracing the “Lasts” of Childhood

I was driving the munchkins to school yesterday when we got stuck in a mile-long traffic jam, thanks to a broken-down train. The road we were on happened to be near a park we used to go to regularly when they were younger. C looked out her window at the empty swings, slide and spinning-thingy and remarked, “It looks so small.”

I laughed and replied, “That’s because you’re bigger now.”

This truth is something I’ve been chewing on lately as a mama. My kids are bigger now, so big that one of them is getting too tall to be my chin rest. They’re heavier now so that when I try to carry them—with one arm under their head and the other under their knees—I can only manage to stay upright for ten seconds. They’re also outgrowing a lot of the activities they enjoyed before: going to the park or playground, holding my hand when we cross the street or having me read them a book (or three!) at bedtime.

As parents, we always look forward to the firsts of childhood: a child’s first word, first step, first time pooping in the potty, first day of school, first performance … the list goes on and on. But what happens when some of these “firsts” start becoming their “lasts”?

I used to complain about reading to them before bed. I was tired, blurry-eyed and, quite honestly, looking forward to my alone time after the family fell asleep. The last thing I wanted to do was crack open a book and narrate it in my most dramatic voice. Just between you and me, I may or may not have only borrowed reeeaaalllly short books from the library to shorten the reading time. 😉

There came a day when the munchkins were in bed, waiting for me to take a shower, so I could read to them afterwards. Except that on this night by the time I was ready to read, they were already asleep! And the same thing happened the day after and the day after that. By the third night, other than realizing I could’ve taken longer showers (haha!), I started to wonder if my job as a bedtime book reader was coming to an end. Maybe the munchkins didn’t want me to read to them anymore?!?! :O Noooo!

That’s when I decided reading to them at bedtime wasn’t such a bad thing. It’s something that takes time and effort, but it’s also a great privilege and—sniff, sniff!—a temporary one.

As much as we long for our kids to grow up, it’s hard when it actually happens. It’s hard to accept that your baby doesn’t need you the same way he did before, but trust me, it’s a good thing. Before you know it, your little one won’t need you to brush their teeth for them. They won’t need you to wipe their bottoms or their noses. There will come a morning when she will shake her hand free from yours when you reach the school gate. An evening when he won’t ask you for another bedtime story. And maybe even a day when your child will be the one showing you neat shortcuts on your phone that you had no idea existed. And it’ll be okay. Because their growth and their independence is our reward. It’s a sign of a job well done. 🙂

So, let’s celebrate the “firsts” of our children, embrace their “lasts”, but most of all, enjoy all the in-betweens.

Here’s a beautiful rendition of “How Far I’ll Go” sung by Voctave, from the movie Moana. Just think, one day we won’t be bombarded by Disney songs (unless of course you choose to be)!

What childhood “lasts” have you learned to embrace?

The Best Personality Test in the World

Have you ever taken a personality test? Whether you answered yes or no to that question, I’ve got one you must take. That’s must with a capital M! A friend of mine just posted it on her Facebook wall, and even though I usually pass these things up (I’ve taken quite a few of them, including an hour-long one when I applied to grad school), I decided to take this one. Quite honestly, it was the site’s cute cartoon that drew me in. 😉 But boy, oh boy, this test is THE personality test of all personality tests. It was quick, easy and, most of all, spot-on accurate. Like creepy goosebump-inducing scary movie soundtrack good. Not only was it accurate, it was eye-opening.

For the first time in my life, I felt like someone got me. Like really, truly understood me because they must’ve been watching me 24/7 and following me around and taking notes of everything I did, felt and thought. But the best part is that I feel like I know myself better. I finally figured out why I feel so much pressure to keep all my balls juggling in the air and why maintaining a happy equilibrium in the home is so important to me. Why I have such a heavy sense of responsibility when I take on different tasks and why I strive to be perfect. How I can be a total introvert, but also value socializing. And that I actually have something in common with people like Vin Diesel, Beyonce and Kate Middleton because they have the same personality type, too! LOL

Image courtesy of https://www.16personalities.com

I think the best part about knowing yourself is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and how those traits play out in the areas of your family, work and social lives (which this test thoroughly explains to you!). It’s like finding a manual about yourself that validates and affirms you and also gives you smart instructions on how to get along with other people. Because a lot of life is about learning to get along with other people who unfortunately were not blessed with the same wonderful personality as you. 😉

This test also works well in helping you understand those other people in your life. I took the test for hubby (who preferred not to take it himself because he tends to overanalyze those kind of questions, haha), and the results were amazingly accurate. Both of the munchkins also took it (with some help from me) and it was a neat experience going over the test and results with them. It gave me the opportunity to understand how they see themselves and to know how self-aware they are. Several times, C answered, “Totally not!” to a question and I had to agree with her assessment. It also gave me insight into how I can work with their strengths and weaknesses and better parent them as individuals. (Their results will likely change as they grow, so it’ll be fun to do the test again with them in the future.)

Bottom line, this is the one personality test you won’t regret taking! Go HERE to take it and comment below to tell me what type you are! 🙂 (Fun fact, hubby’s a Debater and I’m a Defender. Can we say opposites attract?!)

Here’s a sweet cover of “One Day” by Yonina that I shared on Facebook before. I love its hopeful message that one day all people will get along.

5 Keys to Taking Care of Yourself

This aging thing is—excuse the pun—getting old. 😉 Hubby and I were commiserating about how short youth is. I came to the conclusion that the most carefree time of your life is (or should be) your childhood, your 20s and possibly your early 30s. Those are the years when you have enough energy to function after pulling an all-nighter and you can eat almost as much as you want to without paying for the consequences. And most of all, your body can better handle stress.

Once you outgrow youth and start blowing out number candles instead of regular birthday candles on your cake, you know the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of self-care.

What is self-care? Basically, the idea of caring for yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. I’d add in spiritually, too.

The older I get, the more I realize that self-care needs to be near—if not at—the top of my to-do list. Whenever I find myself feeling down or anxious or impatient, I know I’ve reached my limit and neglected to take care of my needs. If you work in a helping profession (all you folks who care for human beings on a daily basis), you’ve probably discovered this, too. And for anyone who is a parent, you definitely need some TLC on a regular basis. And who better to teach your kids about self-care than you? But of course that means you need to master it first.

What does self-care look like? Here are 5 keys to taking care of yourself.

1) Downtime. Make time for yourself. Even if it’s just 5-10 minutes a day, spend some time by yourself without any distractions. Switch off the phone. Go for a walk. Hide out in the bathroom or closet or garage. Take the moment to breathe and to feel.

2) Direction. Think about your priorities or what you want to make a priority. Switch things around on your to-do list so your schedule isn’t so tight or packed. Know why you agreed to do the things on that list. Be mindful of how much and what you add to the list.

3) Drama-free. Say no. Especially if your plate is full. Even if your plate is (for the moment) half-full, you can still say no to a request if it will add stress to your life.

4) Delight. Do things that bring peace and joy to your everyday. Eat healthy and eat yummy. Sleep more. Take advantage of sunny days. Connect with people. Pray often. Give thanks.

5) Dream. If you feel stuck, unproductive, overwhelmed and stressed out, start dreaming. Give yourself permission to think outside the box. Take some chances, make plans, and look forward to living out your dreams.

If you’ve ever taken a plane somewhere, I’m sure you’ve heard the safety spiel they give you before you take off. I love the oxygen mask part of the presentation, not because I ever want to be in a situation where I’ll need to use one, but because of the self-care reminder it provides.

Image courtesy of Barry Schwartz/https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustybrick/5243973465

Image courtesy of Barry Schwartz/https://www.flickr.com/photos/rustybrick/5243973465

Always put on your oxygen mask first before you help others with theirs. That’s also how it is with life. We can only help others when we ourselves are healthy. So let’s start taking care of ourselves.

Speaking of flying, here’s a totally creative and fun video hubby saw on one of his business trips. Yup, it mentions oxygen masks. 😉

What do you do for self-care?