I have my heart of flesh {2015 recap}

Hey now friends! Welcome to the Blogging Besties’ 2015: A Year in Review Link-Up Party! 
We are ready to show 2o16 who's the boss, but before we do, we want to give 2015 a proper send-off. The highs, the lows, the smiles, the tears, the trips, the holidays, the birthdays, the anniversaries, the babies…whatever it is that made 2015 special, we want to know about it! Grab a button, visit the hosts, and link up your post about what 2015 meant to you!

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Hosts: Kristine: The Foley Fam // Megan: Absolute Mommy // Kate: The Colbert Clan // Lena: Lena B, Actually // Renee: coffee-n-ink // Kara: Chasing Zoie // Laura: Bits of Sweetness // Kassi and Kayli: Kassarie & Kayliray

I ended twenty fourteen raw and brokenhearted. I spent the year in a terrible place, filled with negativity and resentment. I was mad about so many things. Mad because I had to return to the workforce. Mad because I wasn't home on the weekends anymore. Mad because I missed my family. Mad because I was mad. Was I being a spoiled brat? Possibly. Was I a crybaby and a whiner? Probably. I realized at the end of twenty fourteen that I had taken advantage of all the blessings of the previous years. That I had never really appreciated or valued being a Stay at Home Mom. I had the privilege of being home with my kids, and I took it all for granted.

As twenty fourteen ended, quietly and melancholy, I was in search of something to lead me into the next year. I was searching for something, a quote, a word, an idea, that would take my negativity and renew me. One night, in early January, I came across this quote on Pinterest;

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; 
I will remove from you your heart of stone 
and give you a heart of flesh".
- Ezekiel 36:26

And it was perfect. It was exactly what I needed. So I began on that night to pray for my heart of flesh. I prayed for my new spirit, and I prayed that my heart of stone would be removed. Some night I prayed tearfully. Some nights I prayed joyously. But the biggest thing is that I prayed. Consistently, for probably the first time in my life.

I went back and read two posts from the end of last year, and I'll be honest they were tough to read. They brought fresh tears and sharp memories. Still, they were a reminder of how much changed in twenty fifteen. Not just my spirit, but my life as a whole. I learned so many new things about myself. I learned so many things about my children and motherhood, more lessons on marriage and being a wife. I welcomed the lessons, and I welcomed my new spirit. Today, when I set down to write this post, I realized, I found my heart of flesh. This prayer, my sometimes daily mantra, was answered in the most surprising of ways. My life didn't change instantly. My spirit wasn't renewed overnight. But my heart, my heart of stone is gone, and my heart of flesh beats strong.

Here are some of the things that renewed my spirit.

A New Year's spent with friends and family. Caitlin looking like a teenager on New Year's Eve. Losing teeth, and Mac's zombie face. Nerd glasses. Fresno State Basketball games. Fro-Yo with Grams.
A Valentine's Day for the record books, complete with champagne and a night away from home. Selfies and Girl Scout cookies. Best Friends that moved away, but still feel like they never left. Emoji candies for cupcakes.

The Hubbs on a Merry Go Round with Mac. Pedis with my girls. Shopping at Forever 21 because it's Caitlin's favorite. Turning thirty-seven. Lunches and dinners out with my family. Mac's little face. Selfies with the Hubbs.

Mac turned five! John and I celebrated TEN years of marriage!! Spring Break and Easter parties. Fun with the Hubbs and of course more fro-yo after school. Trips to Monterey. Donuts at school.
Finding a restaurant in town that makes gluten free pancakes!

Friends that feel like family. Finding your tribe. Taking #ootd pictures and no one laughs at you. Driving my girls to Southern California solo, for the first time and surviving!

The happiest place on Earth for so many reasons. Seeing Disneyland through the eyes of my children. Riding Dumbo and It's a Small World like it was the first time. Selfies everywhere. Breakfast with Mickey and Friends. Pictures in the tea cups. The Cars ride at Night! Caitlin's adventure with Peter Pan. Celebrating 60 years of Disney with one Magical Trip!

Caitlin turned eight! Summer finally arrived so we could sleep in late. I started a new job that allowed me to be more present. Mac graduated from preschool. Caitlin's birthday party at the movies with eight friends. And my girl Jess moved back to the neighborhood.

Fourth of July fun. Date days to see Trainwrecked. More fro-yo because it was over 100 degrees. Selfies and movie dates. A days spent in Monterey, enjoying cooler temps, sweatshirts, and gluten free cinnamon rolls. Yes! GF cinnamon rolls!!

Saying goodbye to summer vacation. Starting dance again. Mac lost a tooth, but still found time to fall asleep on my chest. Finding out our class room assignments and celebrating with Starbucks! First day of school, third grade and kindergarten!

Tailgates and School Spirit days. Walking little sister to class in the morning. Running with my neighbor and achieving new personal records.
My parents wedding anniversary. Sundays spent at home. Bliss.

Changing our Halloween costumes last minute. Red Ribbon dress up days. School picture day out takes and more tailgating. The Hubbs had his class reunion and
I got dressed up and found some body confidence along the way.

Family pictures and game day selfies. My bestie at home for a visit. Movies with grandma. Donuts with dad. Shopping at Walmart for Thanksgiving and Paleo legal chocolate chip cookies. Having your bloggy bestie show up at your work! Going to grab breakfast in our jammies, because Sundays. Sundays are my favorite.

A season that always ends too quickly. Kinder Christmas programs. Shopping with my mama like the old days. Enough gingerbread reindeer for an entire fleet. Selfies with my Grandpa. Date nights to go to holiday parties. Baking cookies again and again with little hands ready to decorate. Hot cocoa stands in the driveway. Dance recitals with fancy make up.
Buddy the elf made an appearance, and Ellie the new elf came to stay.

I ended twenty fourteen with a heart of stone, and today I'm sure that there was good reason for that. At the time, I was just too heartbroken to notice. I've always believed in the power of prayer, but for others. The others that go to church every Sunday, for those with unwavering faith. Twenty fifteen taught me so many things, but the biggest was my renewed spirit, my heart of flesh. That I was capable of prayer, and worthy of the power it had. For someone who doesn't worship in a specific place, twenty fifteen now holds a powerful statement about faith and grace.

Because all I wanted was a renewed spirit. All I wanted was a heart of flesh. 

I have my heart of flesh. 

Happy New Year. 

Grab the Button!

Gold Coins and Christmas Memories {life lately 12.13.15}

Last week Mackenzie came home from school with a small bag of chocolate coins. She showed them off in the car as we drove home from school.

"I won these", she said proudly, holding them above her head.

"How'd you do that?", asked Caitlin as she eyed her sister's prize.

"I won at Dreidel", Mackenzie announced matter of fact.

"Wow, Mac, that's awesome", I replied. "How do you play Dreidel? I don't think I've ever played".

"It's easy. You spin the Dreidel and whatever it stops on that's what you do. When I spun, it said take all, so that's what I did".

I'm sure Dreidel isn't that easy, I'm sure there are other rules, but to my five year old, it was as easy as "take all". Later that day, as I made dinner, I thought about Mac and her Dreidel. I wondered how much she would remember about this day in kindergarten. Would she always remember that time she won at Dreidel? Would she grow up and look at chocolate coins and have a soft spot in her heart about the time she "took all"? Would she one day tell her own children her Dreidel story as they shopped for Christmas presents and found little mesh bags of chocolate coins?

I can only hope. I hope that my girls make great Christmas memories as our life happens around us. Because we have yet to walk the lights this year. We still haven't made sugar cookies. We didn't make it to the Nutcracker. With such pressure to "make memories", what happens when you just let those mundane and simple acts of the season become memories?

My own Christmas memories run deep. They are tactile, like velveteen and green felt cut into the shapes of trees remind me of Christmas dance performances of yesteryear. How red grosgrain ribbon will forever remind me of perfectly decorated gift boxes that we received from our dance company director. My Christmas memories are fragrant. They smell like my mother's famous chocolate cake and sugar cookie frosting. They smell like McDonald's Happy Meals since we spent many a Christmas on the road to dance performances and late night Christmas shopping adventures. So many dinners eaten on the road with my mother after work as we drove to our next stop. They smell like coffee and tamales in my grandmother's kitchen. My Christmas memories have flavor, they taste like Coca-Cola classic on ice,peppermint candy canes, the Nestle Tollhouse Cookies that I ate too many of the year I went with a school friend to her church choir performance. So many memories that can seem forgotten under all the everyday monotony. Until you unwrap a chocolate coin. Until you walk into your mother's house and smell the Christmas cake baking.

It's easy for me to get wrapped up in making memories. Making sure we make those Pinterstly perfect crafts. Making sure we take the complicated desserts to the class parties. I get wrapped up in what is going to go under the tree, trying to out do myself (and Santa) year after year. I worry so much about what we will remember about this Christmas. Will these memories stand the test of time? And will it even matter? At thirty seven, I can say that I've had happy Christmases, but I can't tell you exactly what I got every year. I know that there was a Victorian Doll House that was magical. There was the Barbie Camper and the Strawberry Shortcake Villa. One year there was a Game Boy, and one year there was a pair of Bongo Jeans that I was dying over. Still, despite all those gifts, the nights I spent shopping with my mom in search of the perfect gift for her mom stick out the most. The two of us sweaty and irritable, only taking a time out for a coke and a cookie in the food court are what cue my happy memories. The year I baked the famous chocolate cake and forgot the baking soda is now a fond memory, even if it wasn't then. I was probably twelve at the time and so embarrassed I cried a little, all while my Aunt Marilyn took bite after bite trying to convince me that while the cake was flat as a pancake, it still tasted good. To this day, I can still hear her say, "It's good Megs, see".

Some of my memories are distorted, by age and failing memory. I don't remember a lot about the Christmas when I was eight, but I do remember best friends, Melanie and Sandy. They received a package from their grandma who lived in Germany. It was an entire box of chocolates, and I'm not kidding when I say, I've never tasted another thing as heavenly as those German chocolates. They were kind enough to give me an egg, wrapped in brightly colored foil. It seemed odd, chocolate eggs at Christmas, but once unwrapped, the real surprise was inside. Under a light robe of chocolate was a plastic egg, and inside the egg was a toy. A small car, a tiny figure of a doll or animal, even a pencil. I don't remember what I got, but I remember being delighted. It seemed magical and foreign an even exotic. We didn't have cool things like that here in America. Not that I had seen at eight years old.

Then there are the memories that have become sweeter over time, Like the year I was eighteen, and my family our first Christmas away from home. We had just recently moved and made Fresno our new home, but wanting to keep with tradition, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning at my grandma's. "Santa" knew where to find me, and when I opened my stocking I found my usual fare, but I also found an orange. My first orange in my stocking. Later, on the way home, my mom mentioned that my grandma insisted that I get an orange, because that was always Grandma's favorite thing about Christmas. They always got an orange in their stocking, because it was the only time they could splurge for such things. At eighteen I brushed it off, but now that I'm a mother, it gets me every time. Just how significant that orange is in my grandmothers life. In all my years of hoping for baubles and gift cards in my stocking, my grandma still finds joy in a simple orange. It's not unusual for her to offer a couple of oranges to me before I leave her house on Christmas Eve, just in case I need them. I'm always happy to take them.

These memories and so many more flooded back to me that day as Mackenzie proudly held her Dreidel winnings. Like my own Christmas memories, very few of them have a price tag. Most of them are about the experience. They are about how our hearts felt and how good those chocolate coins tasted after such a victory. Christmas memories that are set to a song, have their own fragrance, memories that take you back to your eighth Christmas or your twenty third. Christmas memories that have nothing to do with an iPad, an Xbox, or a two headed Monster High doll that is sold out until February. I forget that my sweetest Christmas memories are the ones that happened when we were just living.

Heres to a Christmas that are filled with memories that are priceless. The ones that can't be bought, but just experienced through the eyes of that child who still lives in your heart. It's not too late to make wonderful memories that are free, and will stay with you and your family for a lifetime.

4 Gifts {Read}

I'm hooking up with Alyson M for her "4 Gifts" series. 
If you are visiting from the link up, Welcome.

Can you believe it's week four of "4 Gifts"? I mean, it's almost Christmas! And while I wanted my Christmas shopping complete by Thanksgiving weekend, I'll confess and let you know that it didn't happen. I'm still shopping and will most likely be shopping right up until the end. I know, fail, but I love this time of year and the excitement of shopping with the hustle and bustle of the holiday crowds. I'm weird like that considering I'm a retail warrior!

This week is my favorite part of four gifts. Today's gift is, Read. I love to give the gift of reading. If you came to my house you would probably have to move books before you could sit on the couch or in a chair. When I was growing up my mom had books all over the house, on her night table, on the end tables, and even a floor to ceiling book shelf in the dining room. I love, love, love being surrounded by books. The only problem with this gift in the "4 Gifts" series, is that I want to buy all the new books that are out. I want to buy all the reissues of old books I read as a kid. I want to buy all the books about Christmas and winter. Trust me when I tell you that I have to stop myself. It helps that every year Parents Magazine will review the top books for the holiday season in their December issue. I love that because it narrows down our choices, and I always find books the kids love. This year I've narrowed it down to the following:

The Day the Crayons Came Home is the sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit. That book was an instant hit in our house. If you haven't read these, get them quick. Our favorite is the peach crayon that ends up naked and afraid to leave the box! 

Wolfie the Bunny is about a wolf raised by Bunnies. I mean, what is cuter than that?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the illustrated edition is as much for me as it is for the kiddos. I think they are still a little young for the regular version, so with the beautiful illustrations I feel it will be easier to follow along.  

The Story of Diva and Flea,  a friendship blossoms between a stray dog and a well taken care of cat in Paris France. Caitlin is obsessed with Paris and all things France at the moment so this one is definitely on the list. 

Now there was no way I could write about great books to give at Christmas and leave out a wish list of my own...

Here are my top picks for this "4 Gifts" series.

Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. Let me tell you that I had huge reservations about Wild. I wasn't sure that I would be into a book about one woman's hiking trip. I was so wrong. Wild is one of the best books I have ever read. Now Strayed has released a book of quotes from her many writings. If you know someone who loved Wild, this would make a fantastic gift.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. If you read this blog at all then you know that I love all things Shonda Rhimes. I love her shows, I love her as a writer, I love her as a human. I can't wait to dive into this book and start a year of yes of my own!

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. I know the last think I need is another book on writing, but this one from an award winning writing teacher is going on my must read list for 2016.

Like I said, this gift, in the "4 Gifts" series is my favorite. Will you be giving the gift of reading this season? If so share your titles in the comments. I'm always looking to add books to my reading list. And be sure to check out the fantastic giveaway below! 

Christmas Giveaway!
$165 Target Gift Card  ||  $25 World Market Gift Card  ||  Lace Arm Warmers - Forgotten Cotton  ||  Personalized Cutting Board (9x12") - Laserworkz  ||  Gypsy Dreamcatcher Necklace - Gypsies Box Jewelry  ||  $30 Credit for Keep Collective with Kassie  ||  Adult Coloring Book - This Girl's Doodles