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Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts on Purpose and Motivation

It's Monday!

For me, Monday brings a fresh start, a new beginning, a clean slate. It's the day I need to remind myself to take a deep breath, both literally and figuratively, define or re-define my priorities, adjust and clarify my mission (or just re-focus on my mission) and determine my strategies for getting done what needs to be done over the course of the next seven days.

It sounds so easy, doesn't it? OHMYWORD. It's next to impossible! Life refuses to stand still around here to let me to sit and ponder and plan very long at a time. Yet when I don't make the effort to consciously focus myself on these simple, life-ordering, necessary activities, I tend to get totally lost under the mental landslide of daily responsibilities and distractions. I feel like to stay on track - to maintain some sense of order and accomplishment - I need to continually tie the bustle of my every-day activities back to a framework of my own inner purpose and passion. Otherwise, even with a packed agenda and a lengthy to-do list, I'm quickly swept away in the current of needs-right-now, and many days end with me feeling like I stayed ridiculously busy all day long but accomplished exactly nothing.

I need to motivate myself by constantly connecting my routine and occasionally mundane daily responsibilities and work to my deepest core values and purpose, as doing so brings meaning to my work and helps me weed out the time-wasting stuff, so that I focus my attention and efforts to do what really matters, first and best.

My current missions of being an amazing wife to Al, raising my children to know they're loved and uniquely gifted, running an efficient, cozy household, and blessing my neighbors and family and friends (including the lovely friends I continue to make here on the blog) as I'm led, stem from my overall life purpose which is to be a source of comfort, joy, and inspiration to the people God brings into my life.

In always keeping my eyes on what I believe I've been put on earth and into this particular life to do, and in keeping that mission as my basis for determining goals and measuring my progress, I'm able to stay focused, find fulfillment, and ultimately, be successful. When I allow my purpose to grow murky (and I do, oh, how I do, time and time again!), I become unmotivated, and my activity/productivity levels drop, I waste tons of time seeking external STUFF to fill up my empty mind and soul. I feel bored and unfulfilled, and I end days and weeks and sometimes months feeling guilty and tired and disappointed in myself.

Do you think about your overall purpose in life? What's your source of motivation for everything you have to do every day? Are you starting this week with a renewed spark of passion, a flexible plan and a healthy dose of positivity and determination?


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Thursday, April 26, 2012

neon (your ways)

I loved the ideas y'all had for incorporating neons into our wardrobes a bit more subtly, and also I ma-a-ay be a wee tiny bit addicted to Polyvore, so I bopped around last night while Al was in his man cave and put together a few more outfits that rock the brights in a way that won't burn anybody's retinas or dent anyone's dignity.

bright bottoms



Bright isn't quite as scary if it's really far from the face. I like the way this keeps some flattering colors around the face but then goes off the chain from the waist down. I could do this, I think. If I were to get uncomfortable once out and about, it'd be easy for me to hide the brilliance under the tablecloth. Or, you know, just sit in my car.

bright top



"d" suggested trying neon under a cardigan, and I like that idea. I went for this neon shade of turquoise, because turquoise is a universally flattering color. That is, it's flattering for women of any coloring. Coral is the other universally flattering color. Isn't that good to know? Anyway, yes d, I like this suggestion. Is this what you had in mind?

bright with white



And then Megan also suggested trying neon jewelry/accessories with a crisp white blouse, and I immediately started thinking how neat that would look, and how easy it'd be to pull together. I love love love crisp white shirts with jeans and a statement shoe... so here I toned down the shoe a little bit and added pops of bright with neon bangles, a necklace and a precious Girl Scouty envelope clutch.

So now I'm thinking, well yes... neon. I can do this! What about you?





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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: I Did Polka Dots the Hard Way

I missed last week's What I Wore post because of the stinkin' chicken pox. (What I Wore last week was all about Soft, Loose, Whatever Won't Scrape Off the Scabs on the Pox. EW!) But I do have outfits from the week before that, you know, way back when I had the will to live. (I have it again. Still not much in the way of a will to actually get dressed, but I finally made myself do it anyway yesterday and it felt kinda good. I might even get dressed again today!)

Wednesday's ootd: J Crew toothpick jeans in Bright Papaya, Old Navy chambray shirt, Talbots cardi, J Crew belt, turquoise necklace Target, Bandolino leopard pumps which badly need replacing.  I've worn these babies into the ground.

Wednesday's ootd: J Crew toothpick jeans in Bright Papaya, Old Navy chambray shirt, Talbots cardi, J Crew belt, turquoise necklace Target, Bandolino leopard pumps which badly need replacing. I've worn these babies into the ground.

Thursday's ootd: (HOW is it Thursday?) Merona cropped trench, (I am a walking Target billboard lately.  They just really nailed it this spring, for me), white matchstick jeans J Crew, navy/white striped top, Old Navy, orange belt J Crew, orange/multi scar

Thursday's ootd: Merona cropped trench, (I am a walking Target billboard lately. They just really nailed it this spring, for me), white matchstick jeans J. Crew, navy/white striped top, Old Navy, orange belt J. Crew, orange/multi scarf, Target, but years ago.

Friday's ootd: Casualidocious!  Beat up old Lucky Brand Jeans, black cord jacket LOFT, floral top TJ Maxx, red sandals B.O.C, braided leather belt thrifted.  Facebook friends (/friedokra4me) click LIKE if the while cute pigeon-toed movement in the fashion

Friday's ootd: Casualidocious! Beat up old Lucky Brand Jeans, black cord jacket LOFT, floral top TJ Maxx, red sandals B.O.C, braided leather belt thrifted. I really liked this one.  The jeans with the sandals felt sexy and fun.  I think I need to include my handbags and purses with these shots, though, don't you?  I always feel like something's missing when they aren't included.
Saturday ootd: VS sequinned tank dress, vintage Levi's denim shirt, Guess sandals.  I think I'm gonna be cold!

Saturday ootd: Victoria's Secret sequinned tank dress, vintage Levi's denim shirt, Guess sandals.

Tuesday's ootd: Finally getting my sparkle back.  Warm soft pastels are good for what ails a girl.  Winter white cords and sparkly beaded necklace-White House Black Market, baby cable sweater - Eddie Bauer, scarf - etsy, trench -Target, sparkle flats - Ch

Tuesday's (yesterday) ootd: Finally getting my sparkle back. Warm soft pastels are good for what ails a girl. Winter white cords and sparkly beaded necklace - White House Black Market, baby cable sweater - Eddie Bauer, scarf - etsy shop, trench - Target, sparkle flats - Chinese Laundry

I'm linking up to What I Wore Wednesday. I thought Lindsey's (The Pleated Poppy) own looks were extra adorable this week, so if you haven't, do go see her. She's such a cutie!



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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

neons (elegantly)

So, this crazy 80s-flashback neon trend? Yes or no?

I ... I just don't know. I have really fair coloring, so if it's not exactly the right bold shade, I look limp and washed out. And I'm really a more classic dresser, tossing in a tip-of-my-hat to extreme fashion-forwardness here and there. I find I need to go easy or feel awkward and not-like-myself when it comes to the really out-there trends. But I want to play along, so I fiddled around with neons and came up with this simple combination for a day of sightseeing this weekend in Chicago. (Al and I have a date, and we're hosting some dear old friends from our Atlanta days. I absolutely can't wait... I think it's exactly what I need, and what Al needs, and what WE need together, as us.)

neons elegantly



The sweater is a lightweight wool to stave off the chill, but I think I've kept it light enough to give it a bright, springy look and vibe. I may have to switch out the electric blue pumps for my trusty Bass dirty bucks if the sightseeing gets beyond a block from the hotel. (I stupid-love those shoes anyway so I'm good with either.)

Are y'all doing neon this season? Tell me how you see it working with your current wardrobe and lifestyle.


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Monday, April 23, 2012

Heart Bounce

Good gosh.

It's been quite the few months. So much sadness lately. I'm digging out now (I hope) from the depths of it all.

You know how your soul gets overwhelmed, and you need to surrender to it all, everything, and just sink down, down, and down into this abyss, the emotional depths, the dark murky bottom of yourself to lick wounds and bind up your heart and find your hope again? But there's all this stuff that holds you back from being allowed to just let the suckiness suck you down, all these people who need you in the here and now, and all the responsibilities only you can handle and all the minutes of daily life ticking away at you, ticking right into your eyes, holding you captive like a school teacher waiting for your answer? (And it's probably a good thing, but it feels like captivity.)

That's where I've been. Being ticked at, while the sucky sucked. I clung to crumby countertops and neighborhood sidewalks and daylight and small voices clinging back. It almost rips you apart, the wishing to bottom out, go dark, shut down, versus the greedy, needy pull of life-keeps-going. If I didn't have to, I wouldn't. That's it, plain and simple. And some things I've let go (that I shouldn't have, probably) but releasing anything at all sometimes seems like a small, downward escape.

My nephew Owen is sick again. I didn't say anything because what do you say when you've been preaching the hopeful word to yourself and anyone who listens, and Dark Scary Bad walks up behind you, large and mean, and taps you hard on your small shoulder and you turn around and there It is again and it's not a nightmare and it's not going away? But now he's improving and though there's no wide, pretty bow yet with which I can tie it all up, these fair, light strings of hope float again around him, maybe we'll tie those up one day. He's still in the hospital and sick, but out of immediate danger. A million friends and family pray for him. His parents. My sister ... I just can't do what I want to do. My words stutter out, frail, "Do you need anything?" Even when my mind knows there's only one thing they need, and it's nothing I can give them.

And Al was out of town, and I got chickenpox. And the sadness felt even sadder laying heavy over that grainy, achey, hazy sickness, and I let go of more that I probably shouldn't have, and felt my grip loosen, but kept my fingernails embedded in spelling words that needed practicing and puddles that needed wiping up and bellies that needed filling. Even words got too hard and finally I only spoke the bare necessities. My hands and feet did what they had to do, my heart abandoned everything and everyone else.

I felt it wanting to ask for something it needed, but the words had already gone. And so in one instant, when I couldn't not anymore, I let my heart just go. Down and down, darkness into black.

I never heard it hit bottom.

But now I feel it on its way back up. I don't even know how that happens, but it does.




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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spirit Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year

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I met my friend Megan Tietz in mid-summer 2007, when our elder children (both daughters) were still toddlers, and have loved sharing with this genuine, loving, talented lady all of the joy and confusion inherent in mothering your first child. We've both gone on to add second kids to our families, and Megan subsequently labored to deliver one more -- the beautiful book I want to share with you today.

Co-authored with fellow mom and writer, Laura Oyer, Spirit Led Parenting is truly Megan's labor of love. Spirit-Led Parenting is not a prescribed set of practices that govern the care of a new baby, nor is it a series of mandates loosely based on Scripture. Instead, it is a mind-set, a way of living, and an attitude of the soul that seeks the heart of God rather than the wisdom of man.

After devouring the book in an afternoon, I was excited to talk with Megan about how this mind-set applies to parenting kids beyond their babyhood. I'm so happy to be able share our conversation with you.

Me:  So Megan, I DEVOURED Sprit-Led Parenting in a few hours, and immediately wanted to have another baby, or to make my babies tiny again and start over with them (well, almost). The philosophy you and Laura share, your stories of redemption after realizing you could shake off the shackles of convention and parent in FREEDOM, and the really spiritual partnerships you were able to form with not only your husbands but your babies themselves, leave me longing for a way to apply spirit-led parenting in my family's life NOW. I know you have two beautiful daughters very close in ages to Bean and Peabody, and I would love to hear how what you learned in Dacey's first year has shaped your and Kyle's approach to parenting her and AJ as they've grown into toddlerhood and their school years.    

Author Megan Tietz:  Thank you so much for the kind words on the book, Megan. If I'm being honest, I came down with a really bad case of Baby Fever as I wrote my parts of the book. Those squishy, cuddly, gummy-smile days of babyhood are so enchanting!

Laura and I both believe that the concept of spirit-led parenting absolutely applies beyond infancy. In fact, in some ways it becomes even more applicable as a child's personality develops. The approach to parenting that works wonderfully for one child  may be completely ineffective for another child, and so as parents, the journey continues as we seek God's heart on how to raise confident, disciplined, healthy, and successful people.

Because parenting books caused me so much pain and heartache when Dacey was a baby, I find that I don't read many parenting resources with prescriptive instructions. Filling my head with too much "As a parent, you must" and "your child should" caused me so much distress in my earliest months of parenting that I tend to avoid those kinds of resources even today. In the heat of a parenting moment, I don't need a mental playback of what the experts say I should do; I need to hear what the Spirit of God is saying.

Here's one example of how that has played out: Dacey, my oldest, was going through a phase of having some major meltdowns when things didn't go her way. I think she was four and a half or so at the time. I was at a complete loss as to what to do and how to respond to her out-of-control emotions. I remember one afternoon, she was in the midst of a meltdown and I had carried her to her room. She was wailing and thrashing and just could not get a hold of herself, and predictably, my own emotions were becoming more and more intense.

I closed the door to her room and sat outside to calm myself down, and I remember just praying, "God! What do I DO?!" And with absolute clarity, I heard Him say to my heart, "How do I parent you when you are melting down?" I thought about the number of times that even as an adult, I've thrown myself on my bed in tears over an upsetting circumstance and how it was in those moments of anguish, I knew I could run to the safety of my Father's arms. He is always a safe place for me. I had to rely on Him to give me the strength to be a safe place for Dacey when she was overcome with emotion.

I guess that's the biggest thing I've learned from parenting to babies in a spirit-led way to parenting older children in a spirit-led way, that in the moment, you can't dig up a parenting book or run to the internet to see how you should handle a situation. But you can always, always, always ask for wisdom and God is faithful to supply it.

And can you tell me briefly about how you and Kyle work together as parents? 

This plays out differently for us a couple. We are quite different in our approaches to parenting, and to be honest, it has brought a lot of issues to the surface in our marriage that we have been forced to deal with in lots of honest conversation. He is a former football coach who is no-nonsense when it comes to parenting. I find it a little amusing that God sent him two daughters to soften him up a bit. He can get quite smooshy over them, even to this day. But he is much more efficiency-minded whereas I am much more relationship-minded.

We try to play to our strengths. Though coaching is no longer his profession, he is still a great coach. When they need to clean up their room, he turns it into a relay race game. When one of them is being particularly whiny or complain-y, he'll say "suck it up, buttercup!" and find a way to distract them. Because he doesn't get as emotionally entangled in a situation as I do, he is much more effective at playful parenting than I am. He'll get them laughing or make a game or act silly to get them back on track.

Kyle's a really great and really effective parent, but he also sees things as very black-and-white, whereas I tend to operate better in the gray. My strength is in helping them learn how to manage their Big Feelings, teaching them to make a repair to the relationship when one hurts the other, and settling the (constant) property disputes.

What have you done to resolve and move forward together if/when the two of you have conflicting views on a certain aspect of your girls' upbringing?


Of all of the issues we've worked through as a couple, no issue has caused more conflict than parenting choices. We come from very different places philosophically, so this has been an area of significant growth for us, and we are still very much in the trenches of finding common ground. In a lot of ways, the baby phase wasn't nearly as challenging as this preschool/elementary age is, but it has provided many opportunities to continue to seek after God individually and as a couple.

And so I suppose, as cheesy as it may sound, our heart is for us to be a spirit-led family. We want to be open to the movement of God in our hearts as we relate to one another in marriage as well as in parenting. We want to teach our children that they can trust God to give us all the wisdom, grace, and strength we need in any circumstance. That, more than anything, is greatest redemption that God has brought to our rocky start to parenting. We learned early on and still find it to be true that the only expert we need is Him.

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Megan and Laura are heating up the interwebs with conversations about their philosophies and passion for showing new parents another way to care for their little ones on a bloggy tour de force at some of my favorite blogs (see links below).  If you'd like to hold freedom in your hands and read all of their wisdom, or share it with friends and family who are new parents or expecting precious bundles, you can find Spirit Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year on Amazon.com.


















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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Weekend Wishes: Mint & Coral

Have you gotten into the mint trend yet? I think I thought I was gonna be a hold-out, but then I bought this tiered skirt (below) from Garnet Hill, and it's all "Get me a mint sweater, lady." (It's rare, but when my skirts talk, I listen.)

Mint & Coral





Did you hear? I've created an actual FriedOkra Facebook page where I'll be sharing photos, links to blog posts (mine and those of my own favorite writers/bloggers) and other goodies I've found on the internet, my Instagram feed, recipes, decorating ideas and some looks I love from Pinterest, and whatever else strikes my fancy and out of which I think y'all might get a kick. (Say huh?)

I'm excited to see how and where this will go. My hope is that we can have some fun and build a little community-ish feel and just keep all kinds of conversations going there.

Check out and LIKE the FriedOkra page at http://www.facebook.com/friedokra4me. Or just click on the big old computer screen below, and you'll be all set. (You may be asked to log in to your Facebook account when you click on these links. If so, just log in as usual, head to the page and click LIKE.)

Diptic

And have a wonderful weekend!


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Friday, April 13, 2012

FriedOkra's New Facebook Page

Happy Friday!

Hope y'all have had a fantastic week and that an equally fantastic weekend lies ahead for each of you.

I just wanted to pop in and let you know that I've created an actual FriedOkra Facebook page where I'll be sharing photos, links to blog posts (mine and those of my own favorite writers/bloggers) and other goodies I've found on the internet, my Instagram feed, recipes, decorating ideas and some looks I love from Pinterest, and whatever else strikes my fancy and out of which I think y'all might get a kick. (Say huh?)

I'm excited to see how and where this will go. My hope is that we can have some fun and build a little community-ish feel and just keep all kinds of conversations going there.

Check out and LIKE the FriedOkra page at http://www.facebook.com/friedokra4me. Or just click on the big old computer screen below, and you'll be all set. (You may be asked to log in to your Facebook account when you click on these links. If so, just log in as usual, head to the page and click LIKE.)

Diptic



Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.