Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Milestones and anniversaries . . .

I started trying to write this post months ago when I had a little epiphany.  But I just couldn't get the words to convey the meaning I was feeling. I didn't understand at the time, but now I realize it was all part of God's timing. Funny how that works sometimes.

This is a long post. If you don't read to the end, at least scroll down and check the link at the bottom. Even if you don't need the info, I can guarantee you know someone who does.

Last year, 2014, marked some pretty important milestones in my life. Like quarter century milestones! In September, my piano man and I celebrated 25 years of marital bliss! Well, it hasn't all been bliss. But we are still madly, deeply, in love, and that says a lot after 25 years in our culture, especially with the baggage we came into marriage with. In February, 2014, we celebrated the month we met, also 25 years ago. I know. You are doing the math now. Yes, we met in February of 1989. We married in September of 1989, seven months after we met. Even more amazed that we are still married now, aren't you? LOL! (We did have an extensive set of mutual friends, but still, I really don't recommend this.)

It dawned on me around January 15th last year that there was another 25 year anniversary that I had completely forgotten about. This is really strange. Mostly because I thought it would always prevalent in my mind. I never would have dreamed it would be merely an afterthought as I was driving down the road, like, oh, yeah, it's been 25 years!

What milestone is this?

Sobriety . . .

25 YEARS . . .


Yes, there's another math thing. I met the man of my dreams almost one month to the day after my commitment to, well, more on that in a minute.

In Jan of 1989, I fell flat on my face before God, broken, empty, and alone. In complete desperation I begged Him to take my ruined life and help me be the person He wanted me to be. No games. No bargains.
No pretense of my own ability to help myself.

And for 25 years, I have been sober. Not one slip in 25 years. Well, except for the time I ordered a cappuccino in an Italian restaurant and didn't realize until I tasted it that it had alcohol in it. Kahlua. Who drinks that stuff anyway? Chocolate flavored alcohol. In coffee. Who knew? Lesson learned.

I don't say any of this to brag. Far from it!

There are a few things I'm always acutely aware of. One is the incredible grace I have been shown, by more people, and by God, than I could ever begin to repay or deserve. I have been blessed with amazing parents and a brother who lovingly tolerated me even at my worst. And the second is that I truly am a living, breathing example of the phrase, 'only by the grace of God.'

I would love to say that my 25 sobriety anniversary is due to my deep abiding faith and my close personal relationship with God. And, although true, it wouldn't really be the whole truth. Yes, I do have a deep abiding faith in God. And I do have a close personal relationship with my heavenly Father. And, yes, that has been the rock that I have leaned on in times of struggle and joy. But there were other factors that had a strong influence on my sobriety as well, especially at first.

Probably the strongest influence at first was abject fear.
Fear of doing damage to my children.
Fear of losing the wonderful man that God had brought into my life.
Fear of disappointing my parents and my brother, again.
Fear of where I might end up if I took just one more drink.
Fear of failing God.

At some point, over time, as I learned new behaviors and made new friends, as my faith grew, my fear turned into trust. But it didn't come easily! I had to work at it constantly, with people and with God. And especially with myself. I had to learn to do what I needed to do, instead of what I wanted to do. It was a slow painful process that my sweet husband, family, and my heavenly Father held my hand and loved me through.

So, I write this from a heart full of humility. And with a note of encouragement to anyone who is struggling with addiction.

Wherever you are, you are not too far from your heavenly Father's reach!
No matter what you've done, you still have value and worth!
And no matter how desperate your situation, your life can be redeemed!

Consequences from poor choices will still be there, but that doesn't mean that you are beyond hope for tomorrow. If I've learned anything on this journey, it is that my gracious God has gone before me time after time, and always will.
. . . to lead me.
. . . to guide me.
. . . to continue making me over into what He created me to be.

Change is hard. Walking away from lifestyles and habits that are ingrained in us is very difficult. But it can be done! It isn't easy. But if any of this describes you, do whatever you have to do to give your life over into His hands. Get involved with a church family that will support you and love you through the difficult days. Walk away from friends who are a bad influence. Change jobs if you need to. Even avoid family members who draw you into behaviors that you need to avoid.

Do whatever you have to do!

Rarely in life do we get fairy tale endings. If you ask anyone who has known me very long, they will tell you my life has been no fairy tale. But I have been blessed beyond measure. And I did get my prince charming. And we are living happily ever after. With a lot of storms and challenges. But I wouldn't trade the journey we have been on for anything else in the world.

And NONE of it would have happened if I hadn't taken that huge step in Jan of 1989.
A step that scared me practically to death.
A step that cost me nearly every friend I had.
A step that removed every social avenue I had known for most of my adult life.

A step that saved my life.

God loves you. 
Don't ever doubt it. 
Don't ever forget it.


We have just started a program in our church called Celebrate Recovery. I highly recommend it, whether you are dealing with addiction or other hurts, habits, and hang-ups from the past. Celebrate Recovery is a way to get the support you need to deal with any of those. And if you ever need someone to talk to, feel free to shoot me an email or message!

If you are in the Jackson metro area, our meetings are on Friday nights. Here is the link to our website with more info:

Our facebook page is

If you are somewhere else in the world, check out the Celebrate Recovery website to find other groups:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Little Word 2015

This is my second year to participate in this One Little Word adventure. I wasn't super active with it last year, but it has been a constant little reminder in the back of my mind throughout the year. I've had a hard time this year coming up with my word, which caused me to really reflect and see if there is even any point to this process for me. And the resounding answer I've come up with is, YES! Looking back I can see how God has used this little word to guide me in some ways that were somewhat vague at the time, but now are more clear.

For 2014, my word was CHOOSE.

In August, 2013, we moved out of our home into our little RV. It was a huge, difficult decision and took a lot of prayer and soul searching for me to be ok with it. When we finally made the decision to move, the adjustment period was even harder than I had expected. Moving into the RV gave us security. We are in a wonderful area, virtually no crime, armed security on the premises at all times, and absolutely no fear of going outside or being inside. Unless you've lived in a high crime area where you never go out the door without being armed and on your guard, you really can't relate to what feeling safe means. Learning to distinguish between the sound of fireworks and automatic gun fire is simply not how people should have to live. My family had felt trapped for so long in a declining neighborhood consumed by crime, and here we were in our RV, completely safe. And I was miserable. I missed my big kitchen. I missed my laundry room. Yes, I really did miss my laundry room. I missed my scrapbook room. I missed my bedroom closet, the one that I hated when I lived in my house. I missed privacy. I just missed my house, period.

There were lots of tears, lots of frustrations, lots of grumpy days.

Then Christmas came. And I grieved. All my decorations were in storage. There was no where to put any out in the RV. There was no where to put wrapped presents. There was no big oven and counter tops to take care of the massive amount of baked goods and candy that I usually make. And I cried. And felt more frustrated. And was more grumpy. 

At some point between Christmas 2013 and New Year's Eve, I decided my word for 2014 was going to be CHOOSE. I was tired of being miserable. And frustrated. And grumpy. I decided that this is my life now. My hubby and I CHOSE this change because it was the best choice available. Now I had to CHOOSE to make the best of it. I did my best in 2014 to stop whining about what I didn't have any more and look at how blessed my life is. I accepted that my perspective is based on what I CHOOSE to see and how I CHOOSE to look at my circumstances. I certainly didn't do it perfectly, but if you look back over my One Little Word posts on this blog you can see that there were changes in my attitude. I decided to CHOOSE to see the good in life.

Sometimes the hardest step to changing is just deciding that you need to.   

And it has been hard. But it's happening. And I am adjusting and much more comfortable with our little, tiny home. So I've decided to continue this journey with One Little Word. 

My word for this year is BUDGET. 

I know that may sound like a strange choice. But this is the year I want to learn to BUDGET my LIFE! Not just my finances, which definitely could use a new budget attitude, but my entire life. My time. My resources. My finances. My talent. Everything. I don't want to be that person who gets to the end of life and regrets how I budgeted my life. I want to focus more on family, friends, ministry, giving. I am a master at wasting time doing things that show absolutely no results. And I'm not off to a great start changing that for this year. But I'm working on it. I want to be able to look back on this year and see that I gave it my all! I want to see that I truly spent time, effort, money, and energy on what really matters. I want to be able to say that I planned well AND executed those plans. I'm great at making lists and coming up with ideas. I'm not so great at follow up.

So, here's to 2015. The year I want to BUDGET my LIFE! I hope your year is off to a great start! And I hope you will join me on this little adventure called One Little Word.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Laundry Detergent DIY

Yes, I am one of those weirdos who makes my own laundry detergent. There are several reasons for this madness. And believe me, about halfway through this batch, I really thought this was madness. Mostly because I didn't write down the instructions last time and forgot one very important crucial step. More on that in a minute. Here are my general reasons for making my own laundry detergent:

1.  It's cheaper.
2. It makes my life much easier.
4. It only takes 1 - 2 tablespoons per load. That's it. And no dryer sheets.
5. Did I mention it's cheaper than buying the pre-made at the store?
(Actual recipe is at the bottom of this post. Just in case you don't want to read my craziness.)

The recipe I use is for the powdered version. If you are looking for a liquid version you'll need to look elsewhere. The liquid recipes just look like way too much trouble to me. For this recipe, basically you just dump everything into a large container and mix, except the Zote. It's a bar of soap. So most of the instructions you'll find online tell you to grate it. I did this once. I nearly lost what's left of my feeble mind. Seriously. All of the recipes call for Zote or Fels Naptha soap - grated. If you want to see the differences in the two, there are several comparison articles you can find through google. I personally like how the Zote smells. And it seems to dissolve fine in hot or cold water. And you can get it in pink. Sold! Last time I made this I found a video on microwaving the Zote to remove the moisture then just crumbling it. I was ecstatic! It works like magic! HOWEVER . . . this is extremely important. And I forgot this step. See that exploding Zote in the picture? Cool, huh? BUT do NOT do that! 
Here's the step I forgot. Cut your soap into about 1 inch squares. THEN put one at a time in the microwave on a plate. Start with 30 seconds to 1 minute. All microwaves are different so experiment to see what works best in yours. Whatever you do, DON'T put the whole thing in the microwave. Because 3 hours later you will still be putting Zote in the microwave, crumbling the edges, putting it back in the microwave. 
And you will hate me. 
And you will hate your dirty clothes, if you don't already. 
And you will hate anyone who is anywhere near you telling you how crazy you are, like your adult daughter who keeps looking at you like you just walked off the funny farm and rolling her eyes. 
And you will hate the very idea that you thought you wanted to make your own laundry detergent in the first place. 
Trust me on this. 

And then you will get impatient and put it in the microwave for too long. And you'll end up with something that looks like this. Burnt soap. Eeeuuuuwwwww. You know what burnt popcorn smells like? Just imagine burnt soap.It isn't pretty. And it doesn't smell nice. I recommend you have 2 plates of Zote going at one time. Let one cool while the other is heating in the microwave. I just used a heavy duty paper plate, you know one of those expensive dollar store kind.  Be WARNED - any moisture that is still in the soap will be really HOT!!! Your microwave may smell like soap for a couple of days. You can get the smell out by heating a cup of white vinegar for a minute then just wiping out the microwave with a damp cloth. Unless you didn't follow instructions and tried doing the whole bar at one time. Then you will need to clean all the soap that fluffed up over the edge of the plate and got all over the microwave. You should trust me on this, too.
So, after you've cut your Zote into squares, and put one square at a time in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, it will grow to this big fluffy thing. I just peel off the part that has dried out and stick any wet pieces back in the microwave for another go. I did end up getting the grater out towards the end. It does grate a lot faster after microwaving so you might want to use a combination of the two, microwave and grate.
Yes, I wear gloves. Not because any of it is toxic, but just because I have super sensitive skin and usually end up mixing the whole batch with my hands. Without gloves I would be washing my hands every 2 minutes. And that would slow down the progress. Patience is not one of my strengths.
Here is a link to a video that breaks it down. They were smart. They used a bowl. Duh. Maybe I will remember next time!

SO . . . 
2 containers of this 7th Gen Oxi stuff - about $5.00 each
I've also used  Oxiclean and the Kroger brand. I think the 7th Gen works a little better, but that could be just because it was cheaper. Or because I'm a sucker for something that says, "Free and Clear." I picked this up at Big Lots. Kroger carries this brand but they have changed the packaging. So if you look for it at Kroger, it won't look quite the same.

One box of 20 Mule Team Borax - about $5.00
Most places that carry laundry detergent carry this.
2 bottles of Purex Crystals, whichever scent you prefer - about $4.00 each
I like the purple. But this time I used one purple and one blue. I guess I wanted more color. If you insist on using dryer sheets, skip this step. I have found I have less static in my clothes by using the Purex and skipping the dryer sheets. It also leaves no oily residue on your clothes that destroys the fire retardant properties of children's pjs. So for me, this is a win/win! And my clothes come out just as soft and fresh. 
Plus it's one less thing to store and remember to do. I'm all about consolidating tasks and storage. Have I mentioned we live in a RV?

2 bars of Zote soap - $.97 each
You will find this in the laundry detergent aisle with the other products used. It comes in pink and white. Kroger used to carry it but this time I was only able to find it at WalMart. And it was in a really odd place, like the middle of the aisle in between several brands of  laundry detergent. I had to look several times before I found it. You can use Fels Naptha soap, also. You would think they would be in the same place on the shelf. But don't count on that. I use the Zote because I just like how it smells. 
And I prefer the pink. Mostly because it's pretty. 
But this time I used one white and one pink, not for any particular reason. It was a weird shopping trip.

One box of this washing soda stuff. About $5.00
Also found in most stores that carry laundry supplies.
2 boxes of Arm and Hammer baking soda, or one large box - about $1.00 each for the regular size box.
If I'm at the grocery store, they usually don't have the large box. So it just depends on where I'm shopping. WalMart usually has the large box in the laundry aisle. But you can also just pick up the regular old baking soda in the baking aisle of your local grocery store.

Once you have all your Zote microwaved and crumbled, or microwaved and grated, or just grated if you are just desperate to build your arm muscles, you just dump everything together and mix. Easy peasy! I wash about 8 loads of clothes a week in a large capacity washer. This mixture lasts me about 9 months. My clothes come out clean and smelling fresh, not like a perfumed laundry soap. 
You only need 1 -2 tablespoons, I promise!
 This is what it looks like all mixed up. Pink and blue and white. Lovely! 

After you mix it all up, just store in a container. I fill a small jar or plastic container to use when I'm doing laundry and store the bigger one in my storage room. This is what my container looks like. It's just a plastic one that I got at the dollar store. It will hold the entire recipe, however, it is easier to mix in a big bucket or large stock pot. And I highly recommend if you live in close quarters, like an RV for example, that you wait until a nice day and do all the dumping and mixing outside. I did this batch inside. I sneezed a lot. Really. A lot. Even with the windows open. Definitely an outside project.

For some stains that I know won't come out in the wash I use plain old peroxide, especially for things like blood or little potty accidents. It only costs about $.60 per bottle and works great! Just pour the peroxide on the stain before washing.

If my calculations are correct, that's approximately 270 loads of laundry for $32.00! Disclaimer - math is not my strong suit. But I can tell you it lasts me about 9 months doing about 6-8 loads a week. 
So don't trust me. You do the math. My math is not known for being reliable.

So here is my recipe:
1 box 20 Mule Team Borax
2 regular boxes of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda OR 1 large box 
          (depending on what's available)
1 box Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
2 containers 7th Generation Natural Oxy Stain Remover Free and Clear 
          (Or OxiClean or a generic of your choice)  
2 bottles Purex Crystals
2 bars Zote Soap 
You will need a large container to mix and store.

Grate the Zote OR cut into approximately one inch pieces and microwave each piece for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Allow to cool then crumble into container. If there is some that didn't crumble, you can also grate what is left or reheat again.

Then just dump everything together and mix with a large spoon or your hands.

Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.