Monday, February 27, 2017

Divorce: Sunday Sisterhood Week 1

Welcome to #SundaySisterhood! This 6-week Instagram chat series is all about women supporting women through life's toughest times. Last week was our first chat on divorce, and I wanted to summarize all of the powerful thoughts and perspectives of the women who participated.

Have you ever known someone going through a divorce, and didn't know what you could say or do to help? Have you ever been through a divorce yourself and felt completely alone? So many of us have been impacted by divorce in some way, either first-hand or as a child of divorce, or through someone we know among our friends, extended family, coworkers, or church. This chat was a chance for women to come together, speak up, and lift each other. I was so touched by what each person shared from her heart, and you can read each of the comments below. (I've also included some of my comments as moderator.)

By the way, I hope you'll continue to follow along on my Instagram feed each Sunday night! Last night we chatted about infertility, and we'll be continuing through the week to talk and share stories of women who've struggled to conceive or experienced pregnancy loss. Next Sunday night, we'll be chatting about depression, followed by loss of a loved one, then loss of a child, and cancer. (If you'd like to help host one or more of these chats, message me on Instagram!)

UPDATE 4/3/17: Now that our series is complete, find the links to recaps on all 6 chats here

What can you say to show love and support for women going through a divorce? (And what should you avoid saying?)

I've had some close friends who've gone through divorce, and even when it's the best thing, it still hurts. I just kept saying, "I know this is hard. I'm so sorry. I'm here for you. I believe you in you. I love you." I realized quickly that criticizing their ex-spouses (even if I was agreeing with them) was not always helpful, and trying to give advice wasn't what they needed, either. A lot of times, not saying anything and just listening was best.
- Jenny

What are some things I can actually *do* to help a woman going through a divorce and lighten her load?

I went through a divorce when I was 22. I have never felt more alone and isolated than in that time of my life. The stark aloneness was a very unexpected part, that and the grief of mourning someone that had not died, mourning the end of dreams and plans. The biggest thing someone can do is just be there for her. Invite her to dinner in a home. Sit with her in her grief (sometimes no words are just fine) and speak her love language to her in little ways to show her that she matters and is loved.
- Nili

Nili, this rings so true. I've seen that grief in friends too. How do you grieve the loss of someone who's still living? I love what you said about being there, even in silence, and doing little things to help her feel loved.
- Jenny

I don't have anyone close to me who has experienced divorce while our friendship was present but if this was to happen, I would be sure that she knew my ears, heart and home were open to her.
- Stephanie

Beautifully said, Stephanie. I couldn't agree more! It's the simple ways we show love that matter.
- Jenny

These are such great questions! I think one thing you can do for someone who is going through a divorce is be their friend, it might seem simple but I feel like taking them out to dinner, having a fun night out where they can talk, or not, whatever they need! If they have kids it would be nice to offer to babysit or take them over a meal...just making sure that they know that you truly are "there" for them.
- Justine

I think child care is a big one for moms going through a divorce--it seems there are so many meetings and errands that have to happen when you're right in the middle of it. Knowing a few people to call on at anytime to take your kids can be such a relief. 
- Jenny

I haven't been through a divorce but I have many friends who have. I think just being there for them and listening when they need you has helped.
- Michaela

Perfectly said, Michaela!
- Jenny

This is great. I know someone who could benefit from this.
- Sophie

Sophie, thanks so much, please feel free to pass this along! I'll also be compiling all the answers into a blog post at the end of the week if you'd like to share that with her. Just keep your eyes open!
- Jenny

If you've been through a divorce or experienced it through a close friend or family member, what was the most unexpected part of divorce?

My sister had a 6-month abusive marriage that ended in divorce. I can't believe how many thousands it cost her, not to mention the emotional damage piled on by being abused by someone you love. My heart goes out to any woman in this situation!
- Emily

Thank you sharing, Emily! I had a similar experience with a friend; it's heartbreaking on so many levels. I'm hoping this chat will makes us all feel less helpless when someone we know goes through that! I was surprised how many decisions had to be made, and how little information was available. I'd love to know what kind of resources are available for finding a good lawyer, for example.
- Jenny

How can I support a single mom after divorce?

Brings her a few meals, take the kids out for a while or for the weekend, so the mother can have some much-needed downtime! And just being there sometimes is the best thing to do.
- Kiesha

My friends who have gone through it seem to need extra help watching their kids and bringing their kids places--things that they used to share with their partner, but now on their week, they don't want to ask for their partner's help.
- Dara

Thank you, Dara! That's been my experience too; helping fill in the gaps for the partner she no longer has is so important. You are an amazing friend for stepping up! Also, Finding time to keep in touch and hang out with friends is hard for any mom, but it's go to be even harder for busy single moms! We can come to them--their house, their offices, their side of town. Going out of our way for our friends is just one way to say, "I really care about you."
- Jenny

How can I encourage a child impacted by divorce?

As a child of divorce, I couldn't believe how many people would be so intrusive asking questions about what happened between my parents, to me, a child! I know there's an inquisitive nature in us all, but being a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and being willing and able to shoulder the burden as needed goes a long way!!
- Patricia

Wow, I never thought of asking a child to explain their parents' divorce! I can't believe it either; thank you so much for sharing that perspective. That's so helpful!
- Jenny

I'm so glad you brought this up! I have so, so many words about this, but I'll try to keep it short. For background: My parents divorced when I had just graduated from college, so I was 22 at the time. The most unexpected part was just that -- it was so unexpected! My parents had been married my whole life, so I thought their marriage was, while not perfect, secure. It shook me to my core and made me wonder if anything is ever really secure or safe or strong. I'd say it's important to remember that children are children of divorce forever after that. There's no field guide for adult children of divorce, and so just being aware and helping children process those emotions is so important.
- Brittany

Wow Brittany, thank you so much for sharing your experience! That would be SO hard; divorce has a way of turning your world upside down, no matter how old you are. And that's such good advice; I hope we can all be the friends who are there for others when they need to process, and that we can all have friends like that, too. I also think love and friendship are key--helping young kids feel at home and safe with you can make all the difference in their lives, especially kids who might be hurting from a divorce.
- Jenny

Jennifer's Story

"I never understood the weight of divorce and single motherhood. Here are a few things people have done for me that helped. My dad took my daughter to the park so I could cry and take a shower. A lady from my church invited me to a movie and just said, through tears, 'We only have to talk about this once, but I am so sorry and I will do what ever I can to help you.' When she sees me she always ask, 'When's our next movie?' She doesn't pity me or pry into my divorce, or treat me like I'm a broken family. She's my movie buddy, and this helps me to just relax and be normal. There are times when my sister said the things I didn't feel like I could say. I really appreciated her being mad for me in that moment, and she was able to say it in her own choice way, but I also know you have to be careful with that one. Anger doesn't bring healing. My sister-in-law helped me know that I am strong and important, and that I can do this. Her encouragement reminds me I can move forward and no longer let that pain hold me back. My very best friend always lets me know how special I am, how God would not abandon us, and that I can expect happiness in my future. My own view of myself has been shattered, but her perspective of me and my future gives me hope." 

Comments on Jennifer's Story:

So beautiful, in every way!!!
- Bonnie

Hey Beautiful! You've got this, Know that GOD loves you with an unfailing love, He has a plan for you..even in this pain and loss, He has a plan.
- Nili

Love this!
- Erin

Wow, love this.
- Annalea

This is the sweetest!
- Whitney

My divorce came very abruptly and was full of mental, physical, and financial abuse. As a mother of 4 I knew I had to leave however never felt I would make it on my own. Scared and unsure of my future. Long story short, and many court cases later, the kids and I got a home of our own. So at that time with no family local for support I really leaned on friends to vent to, cry on their shoulder, and check on me. The best were quick outings with a friend while the kids were in school. But, mostly what I needed was guidance from my church family because my kids were not taking the divorce well. I also needed them to be around other families who had been through divorce so they could talk with other children who related to them. And many, many prayers. I always knew God had a plan and a path ahead he would take us down but I couldn't see it. Trust and faith kept me searching and believing, hope gave me a new perspective. It hurts me to hear stories such as yours, be strong in the Lord. I know God allows seasons in our life to occur to draw us closer to Him. Now...through the pain I feel God is telling me not to let my pain go to waste. But use it to encourage and inspire others. God bless
- Tyra

Tyra's Story

"I had been married for many, many years and never imagined what my future held for my children and me. After about 7 years, I became a very lonely, bitter, and angry wife, being exposed to mental, physical, and financial abuse. It was a horrible season that lasted about 3 years.

Finally, I knew our situation had to change. After many, many court cases later, we ended in divorce and I became a single mother of four. The season of life we were about to enter became even harder.
I was struggling to be a mom and full time nurse, as well as heal the best way I knew how. However, my real concerns were for my children. I’ve listed a few things that can be instrumental for encouraging a child impacted by divorce. I know they were for my children.

• Children understand more than we think they do.
• Honesty is key.
• Allow children to voice their opinion of the situation.
• Everyone heals differently.
• Don't take it personal if they lash at you.
• Encourage them to be around other divorced children.
• Don't rush them.
• Let others know what you're going through.
• Love them unconditionally
• Seek professional help.

I hope these words are an encouragement to anyone that has been through a similar season or may be facing a divorce. It’s a hard season but God will provide and is working ALL things out for your good."

Read Tyra's full blog post here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How I Shop and Plan Meals for a Whole Month

I dread grocery shopping. I mean, if I could pay someone else to do it for me, I probably would. (Any volunteers?) Seriously though, I decided a year ago that I was DONE with weekly shopping trips. Gone are the days of spending a whole morning every week pushing around a cart full of groceries and squirmy, fussy babies. No more ruined nap times and spending hours loading everything into the cart, then onto the checkout stand, then back into the cart, then into the van, then into my house, and then finally putting it all away, all while my kids scream for food and tear into anything they can get their hands on.

Now I do all of my shopping and meal planning for the whole month at once, and it has changed my life.

True, I still dread that one shopping trip, and it's still a huge pain, but I can usually get it done when Ben's home so I don't have to take the kids. And the best part is, of course, I only have to do it once a month! It's honestly a huge load off my shoulders not to have to plan a weekly shopping trip anymore. Even when I do have to run to the store on the corner, it's usually just to pick up more milk or a few things I missed, so it's a much quicker trip. (Plus my corner store has a play area for the kids, so sometimes I go just to let them play...while I sniff all the candle scents and lotions. 😉)

When I posted about my monthly shopping trip to Costco the other day on my Instagram, a lot of people were curious about it. So to answer your questions, here's how it works for us, plus what I like and don't like about it.

But first, I asked my friend Stephanie, who also shops once a month, to share how it works for her. She gives a great run-down:

Basically, I sit down on the last weekend of the month and write down what we're having for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I do the same thing each week for breakfasts and lunches, so every Monday we'll have cereal for breakfast and tuna sandwiches for lunch, but I switch it up each month. Then I decide what we'll have for dinner each night. I try to see what I already have in the fridge and pantry for meals before planning new things I need groceries for. It was hard the first couple months, but after a while, planning that many meals got easier. 
I use frozen veggies at the end of the month and fresh stuff at the beginning. Also, I freeze our bread so it will last the whole month. Milk can be frozen, but I'm not really a fan of how it thaws out, so I actually get milk and eggs from our local grocery store. I started shopping once a month because we live 32 miles from a town with a Walmart and 63 miles from a bigger city with a Sam's Club. I hated dragging the kids that far twice a month--it always ended up being a long day, and the kids and I were always cranky! I just didn't want to go through that more than once a month. Plus, I always ended up forgetting something because I didn't have our meals planned. I would either have to drive 32 miles, or pick something up at the local grocery store, which is always more expensive than Walmart. So I was spending way too much every month and wasting a lot of gas. 
I love going only once a month, and I never forget anything because it's all planned out and I know exactly what I need.

 Amen, Stephanie! So, here's what my monthly meal plan looks like.

As you can see, it's pretty rough. I just jot it all down right in my planner, and like my friend Stephanie, I start with what I already have on hand--here, I wrote down a few things that needed to be used up in the top left corner. I picked what to make each night from a mental list of our favorite meals, and I wrote in a few new meals to try, too. We'll have fresher meals--lettuce wraps and fajitas--within a week or two of shopping, and meals like soups, stir-fry and paninis later on. I made sure to plan easy meals for busy nights, too.

I don't plan out breakfast or lunch, but I'm thinking of trying it out with this awesome re-usable printable from Melissa at Bless This Mess next month. (She has a great post on monthly meal-planning here.)

To sum it up, here are a few pros and cons to consider if you're thinking of trying a monthly approach to meal-planning and shopping. And if you keep scrolling down, I listed what I buy from Costco on a regular basis, just in case you're interested. Happy shopping!

  • I only have to do a big shopping trip once a month instead of once a week.
  • I get to shop at Costco! (The samples, the food court, the's just more fun than the average grocery store!)
  • If I really don't want to make an extra trip to the store for whatever else I need, I can use Walmart free pick-up.
  • Ben can also stop by the store on his way home, again saving me an extra trip to the store with kids in tow.
  • When I do shop at the corner store, it's much quicker.
  • I have a whole month to make sure everything gets used up, instead of buying new stuff when old stuff is still sitting around.
  • It forces me to make do with what I have until the next shopping trip, saving me money.
  • I know exactly what I need to buy when I go shopping, so I don't buy extra stuff I don't need, again saving me money. (I know I'll get this question, so to be straight with you, I shoot to spend under $300 at Costco every month and $100 elsewhere, so that's a monthly budget of $400 for groceries and non-food household items like paper towels and diapers.)
  • With a whole month of meals planned out, I'm not always wondering at 4:30 what I'm going to make for dinner.
  • If I don't want to make whatever I have planned for that night, I can just switch it out with something else from another night, because I know I already have whatever I need on hand.
  • Buying in bulk at Costco means I don't run out of things as quickly--a lot of pantry last month to month, and quite a few items freeze well, too.
  • Produce from Costco comes in large amounts too, so we eat LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies while they last.

  • It took some time to get used to planning our meals for a whole month, and it does take some work. I didn't even attempt it when I dealing with "morning" sickness this fall--we survived on grilled cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes and breakfast cereal. 
  • Costco doesn't carry everything, and some things we prefer to buy in smaller quantities, so I do still have to make an extra shopping trip for those items.
  • Not everything lasts all month (milk, produce), so I either have to run to the store to restock or make do without. 
  • I have to store a lot of food. Before I had spare fridge/freezer in the garage, I was always short on space for frozen items, milk and produce. And without my decent-size pantry, I'd probably be stashing stuff in closets and under beds. 
  • Since we buy a lot of produce at Costco, it can be hard make sure all of it gets used up or frozen before it goes bad.
  • Like my friend Stephanie mentioned, we eat really fresh at the beginning, but we have to get by on canned or frozen fruits and veggies later on.

Starred items (*) I buy pretty much every month. Everything else I buy as needed. I listed the brand for items I'm particular about.

Bell Peppers*
Grapes/Strawberries/Blueberries/Raspberries (at least one of these, depending on the price)*

Kirkland Frozen Chicken Tenderloins*
Kirkland Organic Ground Beef
Pork Chops/Pork Loin
Bacon (freeze)
Sliced Ham or Turkey (freeze)
Kirkland All-Beef Hot Dogs (freeze)
Adelle's Sausage (freeze)

Orange Juice*
Sour Cream*
Cheese Sticks*
Tillamook Cheddar Block (I cut it into thirds and freeze)
Tillamook Shredded Cheddar (freeze)
Kirkland Shredded Mexican Cheese (freeze)
Butter (freeze)
Half and Half
Cottage Cheese
Feta Cheese
Cranberry/Grape Juice

Frozen Tortellini*
Frozen Peas
Frozen Corn
Frozen Broccoli

Tortillas (freeze)*
English muffins (freeze)

Canned/Pantry Items
Annie's Organic Macaroni and Cheese*
Granola Bars
Apple Sauce
Sliced Almonds
Bacon Bits
Annie's Organic Snack Packs
Fruit Squeeze Packs
Fruit Snacks
Canned Black Beans
Canned Diced Tomatoes
Canned Tomato Sauce
Canned Tomato Paste
Canned Pineapple
Chicken Broth
Prego Sauce

Brown Sugar
Olive Oil
Canola Oil
Garlic Powder
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Seasoning Mix
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing
Soy Sauce

Non-Food Grocery Items
Toilet Paper
Facial Tissue
Paper Towels
Aluminum Foil
Tide Laundry Detergent
Clorox 2 Stain Remover
Garbage Bags

Some of these items I could get at Costco, but I prefer to buy them in smaller quantities or from a different brand than what Costco offers. Other items I just can't get at Costco.

Tortilla Chips
Green Onions
Sweet Potatoes
Seasonal fruit
Sauces and condiments (mayo, mustard, etc.)
Baking ingredients and spices
Freezer/sandwich bags
Muffin liners
Hair/Hygiene Products
Cleaning Products

P.S. Jordan at Fun Cheap or Free also has a great post on making the most of your Costco membership. It's worth checking out!

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