Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!

The House on High Street

Wood Stain Color? Kitchen Tile or Hardwood? Granite counter top design? Colors?

I am not afraid of color. Scott tends to stick to neutral colors. This house looks big, but when you are in one of the room you realize that they are not big…just high ceilings and windows! Color will add warmth and a cozy feel…which is very important to us, both.

We are getting better at compromising! We even have a great system going. (I was never expecting my husband to be so opinionated with picking out colors, furniture,curtains…you name it! But,I am learning to appreciate this and work with it.) The best news is that we always end up making home decisions that we never regret.

We have reached consensus with the lay-out of the kitchen. No matter how much Scott thinks he knows about kitchens,I have been cooking in kitchens since I was a nanny in college and catered Rachel Maria’s Delicacies. So, I know how to design a space that will flow, make me happy, AND allow guests to feel comfortable.  This is why we will have a Beverage Bar (away from my cooking space).  I am even considering those rope-offs so I will not be tripping over people (my family and husband can be a little helicopter-ish!) when I am serving a meal.

My theory is, I like my space and I respect yours, too.  If you say you’re going to do something, I will leave you alone and trust that you’ll ask for help if needed.  So, I am hoping that the kitchen design will give me the space I need to do what I do best.

Here are the other areas we have reached consensus: White Cabinets. Dark Espresso-colored Island. A Not-too-red & Not-too-brown wood stain on hard-wood floors. (We are looking at mahogany colors.) The Master Bath will be light & bright. The Powder Bath will be a darker-rustic (slate tile & cinnamon/browns/taupe colors).

I’m also narrowing down interior decorating/color palettes. When it comes to decorating, I’ll give Scott a few options to give it a Yay or Nay. When it comes to landscaping, man-cave, contractor-decisions, etc.  Scott will do the homework, narrow choices, and then run then by me. This way, we are both doing what we do best but still working together!

Here are a few of my Favorite Interior Color Palettes. Waiting on Scott’s OK.

Master Bedroom

 

Dining & Living Room ACCENT ONLY Colors (Taupe, Cinnamon, Browns, Navy)

 

Spare Bedroom – The BLUE ROOM

 

Spare Bedroom – The ROSE ROOM

 

FAMILY ROOM

 

FAMILY ROOM

 

Sun-Room Kitchen Eating Area

EXTRA Ordinarily Yours

The Road to RECOVERY vs. The Road to DISASTER

Foster Care & Family

This past weekend, a friend that I had spent  time with several years ago, made a surprise visit. We had some great laughs and enjoyed sharing memories from the days in our recent past (before she had kids and before I met my husband, Scott). While I enjoyed the stories and was able to recall a few scenarios, there were several instances my friend had mentioned, that I could barely remember. A part of me felt dismayed. Was I asleep or on autopilot during this time in my life?

After some thought, I realized that these stories took place during an encounter with a perfect storm of infirmity which caused a major state of flux. In addition to ending a marriage, I was displaced in leaving my home and my job (for a temporary medical leave). I was physically off-kilter with health symptoms I was too preoccupied to deal with.

I do recall after packing up a few years worth of marital memories and household belongings, my loving parents asked for me to move back home. They said, “We want to take care of you, Rachel.  You need to recover.”  My dad also gave me a note that was intended to serve as a reminder for me. It listed the affects of divorce. A loss of identity, purpose, and foundation. Lord, bless my parents for being there and wanting to help me during this state of flux.

I disregarded dad’s note and turned down my parent’s offer. Perhaps I was too proud or stubborn to stop, rest, and allow someone else to take care of me. I didn’t want to give any time or effort to my health issues. I was more concerned with moving forward in my lifestyle and my relationships so I could convince everyone, including myself, that I was 100% F-I-N-E. The last thing that I wanted was to be referenced as divorcee, motherless, homeless, ill, living at home with mom and dad, and unemployed.  That’s pretty pathetic!

But, on the inside I was not fine.

I was frustrated, uncomfortable, numb, and tired. I was aggravated that my brain was overloaded with legal divorce-jargon, real estate transactions, and confusing medical prognoses (plural).

And so, I chose a different path than the road to recovery.

I moved into my brother’s beautiful rental property. It was the perfect environment for me to become completely self-absorbed. I dove into insincere relationships with men whom were more interested in my vulnerability rather than how unhealthy I was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I rushed into advancing my career with part-time schooling figuring when I was well enough to return to work, I would be one step ahead rather than one step behind. And, I even pushed my body to “appear” strong and healthy with ridiculous diets, weight lifting, and participating in mixed martial arts. I remember one time, getting elbowed, near my eye, while sparring a girl who had twice my strength (and anger). I received a golf-sized lump, and yet felt no pain.

Somehow my pursuits began to take precedence over my faith. My self-absorbedness caused me to make unreasonable decisions. I ended up wasting time, effort, and energy. And, I hurt a lot of people that tried to get close to me.

I did learn something significant from my experiences back then. Adrenaline does not just hit in a physical sense. For me, I had a surge of physical, emotional, and mental adrenaline. It’s like getting punched in the face and rather than retreating and walking in the direction to get help…You retaliate with crazy force.  Your nerve endings are so stimulated (in a bad way) that you become engrossed with maintaining that level of intensity.  You respond recklessly. Before stopping.  Before thinking. You behave in a way that you will not be able to sustain.

There is another piece of paper that fell into my hands back then. It was a stress list distributed by one of my professors during a Master’s-level class. It contained some scientific formula in which you could add up points to help determine your level of stress. Items such as divorce, job-loss, a new health diagnosis, selling/buying a home, and heartbreak carried the most weight. I qualified in over 80% of the items mentioned on this list! And what was my response? I bragged about it to my colleagues. “Hey look at this. I am off the charts! Hysterical, huh? I know. I should be getting medical attention…seeing a therapist…taking anti-depressants….moving in with mom and dad. Funny! Isn’t it?” 

Friends, if this sounds like you, you are not on the road to recovery. You are on the road to DISASTER.

Recently, I came across an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal referencing a minimum of 2-years to recover from a life-altering setback such as a divorce. Not sure how many years would have been reasonable for the many setbacks I had encountered all at one time. Yet, chances are I would have ignored this advice when I needed it most, as well.

My story is not an ordinary story. (I’m guessing yours is not, either.) Events, scenarios, places of residency, relationships, health issues, and places of employment did not come or settle in any typical way for me, whatsoever. Perhaps this is why my memory cannot keep up with the events in my past.

Although I was in desperate need of recovery, I chased worldly pursuits that had me on a road to disaster. It actually took years and sporadic events here and there before getting on the road to recovery.

So, where was God in all this? Before I can explain this, let’s first reference WHO God is in the the example of Christ in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and/or John.

  • Jesus did NOT chase people or things in the world. Crowds were magnetically drawn to Him. Those who came (or were brought) to Him in faith were HEALED.
  • Jesus rebuked worldly temptations even upon being tempted by the devil.
  • Jesus did not RUN around all crazy and fanatical. He was cool, calm, and collective. He walked. He rested. (For crying out loud, he even slept during a storm that had his disciples in a tizzy!)
  • Jesus ate when He was hungry. He took care of His body.

SO, GOD WAS THERE ALL ALONG IN THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.

He was telling me to rest, take care of my body, resist the temptations of the world, and go to HIM for healing and everything else I needed. There were so many other things to notice along the way, but I was too self-absorbed and looking to the world rather than choosing to recognize God through it all. But now, I see it.

  • I see it in the unwavering and unconditional love and support that my family gives me every single day. NO MATTER WHAT.
  • I see it in the people I meet.
  • I experience it in the extraordinary relationships I have with my female powerhouse friends. The ones who are not afraid to give me a loving smack upside the head. (Yes, I have friends that are unbelievably effective in getting my attention.)
  • I recognize it in the MIRACLE in how I met my husband, Scott, (years after my divorce) when we both were not looking. And, the miracle in how I love Scott. I was beginning to fear that my heart would never recover nor allow me to love a man, unconditionally, until I met the one who would capture my heart forever.

Also, these verses in scripture are spot on:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:30

If you can relate to my story or if you are currently going through a state of flux, will you please consider waiting for God to heal you, empower you, and re-establish you?

Hopefully, after reading this today, you are on the road to recovery. And, not the road to disaster.

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The Serenity Prayer - On Paper or In Action?

Foster Care & Family

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I have this prayer in quite a few places. Perhaps you do, too. I like it because it’s fairly easy to memorize and relevant in our day-to-day struggles. However, for me, it’s easy to recite the words on paper, but so difficult to put them into action.

I have a difficult time with change. And, I have an even harder time with accepting things I cannot change

Once, I became extremely frustrated with this so-called Serenity (which means peace and calm) Prayer. It was during a time that I was not feeling peace, and I was not feeling calm. In fact, I was starting to believe that perhaps my handwritten version of this annoying Prayer would be more effective as a paper airplane.

In my opinion, I had already exceeded my threshold in accepting things. I accepted the endometriosis and the debilitating pain that came with it every 3 weeks. I was accepting my lonely battle with PMDD and dealt with at least 2 weeks of emotional instability, lack of mental clarity, and the inevitable consequences that occurred as a result of these symptoms. I was accepting prescriptions for medications I could barely pronounce. Not to mention, after my primary care physician declared that I was unable to handle the stress in the workplace, as much as I hated to admit it, I chose to accept this.

I think that’s a fair share to accept.

However, there was one thing that I would never, ever willingly concede to. This wake-up call came about a year ago from my infertility specialist after an exhausting round of infertility treatments. “Sorry, Rachel, but… it did not work. Please don’t despair.”

Okay, hold the phone.

You may think by this time, I had already come to terms with the issue of infertility, especially by my late 30s, but I always had something to temporarily refer to as the scapegoat. My first marriage didn’t work out, so that was the reason I did not conceive. After that, I was doing well in my career, which I could partly contribute to having zero dependents at home to worry about! And then, after Scott and I eloped only after 8 months of knowing one another, we had so many differences to work out. This was yet another reason why this hadn’t happened… YET.

Friends, I was not ready to accept the once-and-for-all-ness of NEVER, as opposed to NOT YET.

According to the experts, my ovaries, the same ovaries that gave me unnecessary and agonizing pain every single month for years and years and YEARS, were basically closing up shop.  Oh, no, the menstrual cycles would continue (hip, hip, hooray!)… but the pregnancy mechanism, you know, the entire reason for going through these awful cycles, THAT was NEVER going to happen.  So it was time to say goodbye to the idea of a biological pregnancy.

Well, let me tell you.  I was not willing to accept this.  I took it up with God, immediately.

“Hello, God.  So, how’s it going up there? Yeah, I’m sure you’re busy. I know that. I need to bring something to your attention. 

Um, well… I think you made a little mistake. (sarcastic chuckle) Yeah, just a teensy one, but I wanted to do the right thing and bring it to your attention right away. 

Apparently, there is a mistake in your Big Old Plan Book you have up there. Yeah, you see, I think you have me down in the “INFERTILE” column. And um… well, that is not where I belong. Remember?  I’m the one who has been praying for my unborn children for a long time. So, there’s obviously a mistake. 

Oh, I don’t know… maybe one of your angels had a rough day and accidentally mixed up my name with someone else’s. 

Look, can you please just check into this oversight for me? I don’t mind waiting while you double check this for me.  And, just so you know, I will not tell anyone. It will be our secret. I mean, you have forgiven me for all of my mistakes, so I can forgive you for this little mess up. You do have a lot more on your plate. 

OF COURSE I REALIZE THAT THIS PRAYER IS A LITTLE PATHETIC. 

I just cannot believe that you are keeping this from me! You can fix this! 

WHY ARE YOU NOT LISTENING? PLEASE! HURRY UP AND FIX THIS!’   

Well, eventually God did begin to speak to my heart. Things had to get a little worse for me before they got better. However, after I had exhausted every attempt to change the inevitable, I finally decided to accept God’s will no matter what. It was only after this that I began to truly experience the peace and the calm in the Serenity Prayer.

Friends, this is the pinnacle of faith. This is when and how we can start living an EXTRAordinary Life, when we choose to trust in God’s plan over our own plans.

A few promises in Scripture that have helped me:

  • God does not make mistakes. God takes OUR mistakes and works them all together for good. That’s what HE DOES.  (Romans 8:28)
  • We are wonderfully made and God created us with unique qualities, gifts, and desires. (Psalm 139)
  • God promises to give us the desires of our heart. (Psalm 37:4)
  • Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)
  • God gives the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother.  (Psalm 113:9)

Thanks to the wisdom and promises in His word, I found myself yielding more and more to faith. I made a decision to live an EXTRAordinary life in spite of not having my own biological baby.

I realize that I have so much to be grateful for! 

Scott and I have recently purchased a fixer upper home with several (hint, hint) spare bedrooms. I KNOW God will help us make use of these bedrooms according to HIS perfect plan.

I am blessed to be a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and an AUNT! (Have I mentioned how unbelievably AWESOME it is to be an AUNT? I get to love babies and children…kiss and hug them…spoil them a little…But whenever I need a break I can easily say to Brother or Sis, “Here ya go! I had fun. I’m going home now with the hubbs to watch a movie and get to bed early.”

It turns out some of the things I did not plan, manipulate, or change have become some wonderful blessings!

Are you currently longing for something that is a desire in your heart? Are you trusting that God will fulfill this in HIS timing and HIS way? Are you willing to accept the things you cannot change and the courage to change the things that you can?

The Living EXTRAordinary Woman chooses to put the Serenity Prayer in action. She chooses to accept the things she cannot change or change the things she can.

May God continue to give us the wisdom to know the difference.

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Learning to Sew

The House on High Street
Ok, it’s official. I finally purchased my Birthday Gift from Mom and Dad…a sewing machine. After months of research, reading, email dialogues, visiting manufacturers, etc…

I decided upon the Brother Innov’is 1250D. This machine sews, quilts, and performs embroidery. Yes, Disney embroidery. So, my goal is to be making quilts, window treatments, clothes, and adding uniquely embroidered designs to my creations. I am more than excited!

For those of you who know me, you understand that I have a tendency to advance rather quickly in the domestic department. A gift I shall attribute to God. I’m thankful because it will certainly come in handy now that I am making more things by hand.

Sewing has been on my bucket list for many, many years. I have always wanted to design clothes. I have always felt a bit disgruntled whenever I purchased an item that was merely the closest I could find to the idea and quality I would have preferred. I’m not trying to discredit my favorite retailers and brands. There are some really good ones out there! But, it seems like more often than not, I am settling.

So, here I am…at 41. Not sure if I’m taking on this hobby a little too late…or a little too soon??

Last night, my brother-in-law called me “old lady” when I mentioned how excited I was to get a sewing machine. Don’t worry, seamstresses. I put him in his place. And, I promised myself that I WILL create a beautiful velvet dress for his daughter next year. My brother-in-law HATES velvet.  It makes him cringe. LOL

Also, I know my husband will be critically looking over my shoulder for the next several months keeping me accountable to produce quality garments, window treatments, etc. that will justify the cost of this piece of merchandise.

Hey, it’s my birthday money! I could have used it to buy clothes or jewelry. At least I invested in a gift that will keep on giving!

Ok, wish me luck. I know I have my work cut out for me. It all begins with opening this ever-so -intimidating, over-sized box glaring at me on our kitchen table. Well, I shouldn’t say “glaring”…I mean, Mickey looks fairly harmless and somewhat inviting.

Here goes nothing…

Rachel Maria's Oh So Tender Short-Braised Ribs

Rachel Maria's Recipes

Recipe Yields 2-4 Servings

Ingredients

*3 lbs. (4-6) Beef Short Ribs (Cut 2″ thick)
* 2-3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* Kosher Salt
* Ground Black Pepper
* 1 Medium Yellow Onion – Chopped
* 2-3 Carrots – Chopped
* 3 Cloves Garlic – Chopped
* 2 Tbs. Tomato Paste
* 1 Cup Dry Red Wine (Cabernet Sauvignon)
* 16 oz. Beef Stock
* 1 Sprig Fresh Thyme
* 2 Bay Leaves

Recipe

* Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
* Season Ribs on both sides with Salt and Pepper.
* Add Olive Oil to coat bottom of a Dutch Oven over a Medium High Flame.
* Sear Ribs on for approximately 5-8 minutes on each side.
* Remove with tongs and set aside until all ribs are seared.
* Add more oil to the pan.  Saute’ Onion and Carrot for 3-5 minutes over Medium High Flame.  Continue stirring and gently scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to pick up brownings and flavor from the meat.
* Add Garlic (chopped in smaller pieces) and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes.
* Add Tomato Paste. Continue to gently scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
* After a few minutes add wine and stir together on Medium flame. Cook a few more minutes.
* Gently arrange ribs back into the Dutch Oven.
* Pour Beef Stock over the ribs.
* Add Thyme Sprig and Bay Leaf.
* Transfer to your oven & Cook for 2-3 hours.
* Remove the ribs (they may be falling apart, off the bone) and set aside.
* Use liquid as is, strain it, or add a little corn starch mixed with hot water and heat over a medium flame (stirring) until reduced.
* Serve over mashed potatoes topped with your preferred style of gravy.

*I use a Dutch Oven. However, a Crock Pot works just as well. Simply transfer the meat and liquid (created by sauteing vegetables, adding tomato paste, wine, stock and seasonings) – to a crock pot and cook on Low for 5-6 hours or High for about 3 hours. You will know when these ribs are ready as they are falling off the bone! Enjoy.  

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