Not Tough Love, Just Love

I sat with a friend as I watched her slip a little further into her anxiety. Gasping for air under the weight that was holding her down, I recognized myself in her stress. It was six years ago; I lived my life — such as it were — paralyzed by the invisible bandit that steals productivity. Before I learned about my disease. Before I understood its magnitude and formed a plan for its treatment.

I don’t tell people how to live their lives (my children excluded). I’m not such a stellar specimen of success that I have any right to tell anyone how to do anything. In that moment, I saw was a hurting friend. In that moment, I knew I needed to do something hard. To speak truth in love.

I found the words coming out of my mouth before I could stop them, “You need to call your doctor.”

There is a moment when anxiety takes over and starts to interfere in your life. It’s different for everyone. Some people can keep their anxiety under control with breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. Other people use mindfulness and mediation. Some sweat it out and balance the chemicals in their brain with physical activity.

Sometimes, however, a medical professional needs to get involved. It’s scary and shameful to feel like you don’t have control of yourself. It shouldn’t be; no one would fault you for seeing a doctor to treat diabetes or cancer. Somehow, mental illness carries such a stigma that seeing a doctor feels like weakness. In reality, it’s one of the strongest steps you can take.

More than likely, someone in your life is struggling with depression, anxiety, or another form of mental illness. When the time is right, when it’s quiet and still, when they are safe, speak truth in love. Remind them that you love them, that you’re proud of how strong they are trying to be. Remind them that it’s okay to struggle, it’s good. Remind them that, when they’re ready, it’s okay to ask for help too.

Not tough love, just love.


Best. Day. Ever.

I don’t even have words. Just photos.

Our amazing photographer Katrina Graham of Katrina Graham Photography send us 671 of the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen. I’d love to upload all of them, but I tried to narrow it down. I ended up with 45. It’s the best I could do.

A few of the Basics
Dress: David’s Bridal
Band: Morton Music Group
Cake: My sister-in-law, Maggie
Flowers: Weaver’s Cut Flowers
Catering: Mission BBQ
Location: Jubilee Farm & Vineyard
Hair & Makeup: Jean & Jo Hair

Meal Plan Mayhem | Return of the Gremlins

I love meal planning.

It takes the stress of weekly cooking down a couple dozen notches. Besides the convenience factor, I find that we eat better and spend less with a plan. With the gremlins back from a summer in Texas this week, planning was a must.

J was a reluctant convert last year when I started demanding  encouraging him to meal plan, but with the help of our neighbor and resident supermom Christina (who had laid the groundwork years before I came on the scene) I soon got him to embrace the idea (and lower his grocery budged by about 40%). Win!

We average about $150 per week for our family of 5, which equates to about $30 per person or roughly $1.43 per person per meal. Not too shabby.  When we’re good about meal planning, we rarely eat out and midweek purchases are usually for specialty produce that wouldn’t have lasted all week for a Thursday or Friday meal.

Or Slurpees. We love slurpees.

We make two stops, Costco and Aldi. Costco is where we stock up on bulk items, while Aldi is for smaller quantities. We have a vacuum-sealer, so we buy bulk, split, and freeze things like cheese and meat. We usually buy meat every 3 or 4 weeks, so while costs are higher those weeks, it evens out over time. Bread and milk holds well, so we buy two weeks worth at a time. We have an extra fridge in the garage, which makes storage a non-issue.

When meal planning, I try to use what we have in the pantry/freezer first instead of buying everything. I also try to diversify our proteins.

The Plan


Wednesday night the gremlins have a youth group activity at church, so a 2-liter of soda, a bag of chips, and some brownie mix were unusual add-ons to our list, but I didn’t have to cook.

We had chicken, ground beef, pork in the freezer, and eggs in the fridge, so the only major protein we had to buy this week was pepperoni for the pizza. We also had a couple unexpected needs: new filters for our Brita pitcher and some power strips/surge protectors. Such is life when married to a computer geek.

The List

Mozzarella Cheese
Bread (4 loaves)
Milk (4 gallons)
Tortilla Chips
Water Filters (10 pack!)
#2 Pencils
Surge Protector Pack
Toilet Paper

2-Liter of Sprite
Brownie Mix
Pizza Crust (couldn’t find, bought biscuit dough instead)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Bell Peppers
Sweet Potatoes

Total Spent: $161.21

The Prep

I’m not a faithful prepper, but I’m trying to do better. To save myself a little time this week, I whipped up my famous spaghetti sauce on Sunday afternoon while J and I were working on some home projects. I let it simmer for a few hours (a rare luxury) and then divided it into two food storage containers: a small container to be used as pizza sauce on Friday and the rest in a large container for Monday’s spaghetti.

I divided the 5 lb bag of mozzarella into smaller, vacuum-sealed  packages and put most of it in the freezer for later. I also peeled and sliced some carrots into sticks and stashed them in a container in the fridge. Miraculously, fruit and veggies that are already washed and cut up disappear in my house at an alarming rate, while unprepped foods waste away in the crisper. Hmmm….

What are you cooking up this week? Comment below!

Put on some lipstick & pull yourself together

“I don’t want to do this, it’s too hard.”

“I’m triggered.”

“Why did you smack him?”
“I thought he took my pencil.”
“Where is the pencil?”
“I found it in my pocket…”

These are direct quotes from my students, middle schoolers who are hormonal and dramatic and lazy. They refuse to learn some days and, in an ironic twist, will go out of their way and work really hard to avoid working. This isn’t a post about “kids these days,” (though I could write a book.)


Change out the words a little and see if it hits closer to home.

“No one will contribute to my GoFundMe, it’s not fair.”

“I need a ‘safe space’.”

“Why are you rioting?”
“My candidate didn’t win.”
“Did you vote?”

Scary isn’t it?

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and I think I have an answer, inasmuch as you can solve a problem with a broad generalization. So here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth:

Grow up.

555f03953cbfdf521b85936cb33166ffThat’s it. Grow up. Get up, get over yourself, and go do something. If you don’t have the life you want, it’s probably because you aren’t making it happen, or you are and you need to be patient. The life of a Pinterest board, the life your parents have, the life you’ve always wanted comes after years of hard work, effort, humility, and perseverance. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything. Earn that nonsense.

Stop talking about how people don’t understand your mission or your meaning or your purpose. Borrowing from Picasso: Your meaning in life is to find your gift. Your purpose in life is to give it away. To act justly love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Period. (That last part was from Micah.)

In the meantime – your purpose is to contribute, in a real way. Stop with the made up niche markets and feeling victimized when people just don’t get you. Stop acting like this broken and imperfect world owes you anything. ANYTHING.

If you find yourself in the same predicament over an over, maybe it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is that you made a bad choice and are dealing with the consequences. These aren’t growing pains, you aren’t misunderstood.

It would be easy to think that I’m calling out the millennials, or the people who are paving a new road, working hard to affect change. But no. Entitlement isn’t generation specific but it is a rampant pandemic. So knock it off.

Get it together: Handling finances like a grownup

*Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I’m receiving no compensation for the opinions expressed.*

So…raise your hand if you have a budget.

*moderately impressed*

Keep your hand up if you actually use your budget.


You’re not alone, my friends. A lot of us seem to be under the impression that we don’t really need a budget. Perhaps you have rough numbers so you make sure you end up in the black each month. But do we really have control of our finances? Or, if we have money to cover all of our bills, do we just call it good enough?

It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to start budgeting. Whether you’re single or have a large family, budgeting can make your life a lot easier and less stressful. I’m a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and have gone through Financial Peace University. One of his mantras is: If you don’t tell your money where to go, you’ll wonder where it went.

Dave advocates the envelope system in which you keep physical cash in envelopes so that you can cut frivolous spending. The idea is that you can’t physically spend money that isn’t in the envelope. I understand what he’s saying, but since I pretty much pay all of my bills online, the cash system is more of a hassle than anything else. Plus, it might just be me, but I spend cash so much faster than if I have to use my debit card. In my head cash is free money, because I’ve already “spent” it out of my checking account. Maybe a generational thing? Or another step on my ever-increasing psychosis…meh.

Anyway. Cash envelopes aren’t practical for me. Enter: GoodBudget.

An app with accompanying online interface, GoodBudget allows you to track expenses and create virtual envelopes so you can put all of your money to good use. It’s free to use, but does come with a premium upgrade option (still only $5 per month or $45 for a whole year.)


Set up takes a little time, as you have to create your budget and allocate your money into envelopes. There are tutorials that help you out, though. I recommend doing your setup online and then logging in with your mobile device. Once you get going, though, it’s super user-friendly and intuitive. You can even set up recurring expenses or income so you don’t have to reenter your regular paycheck or your mortgage every month. The app doesn’t connect to your bank account, so you don’t have to worry about security. It also is an easy way to reconcile your bank account as you go, since you can compare your balance on the app and in your account. I may or may not have been known to go hunting through my expenses to find the missing $0.07 so my balances matched. Just saying.

You fill your envelopes at the beginning of each month, even if you get paid sporadically, or bi-monthly (like I do). That way you can keep track of month’s expenses at a time. There is a reports feature to see your spending habits at a glance.


The app also provides support and advice for debt management. I’m staring down the barrel at a mountain of student loans, but having a plan of action for early payoff makes it a bit less stressful.

I’ve been using the app for about 4 months now and I can honestly say that I’ve been spending less, paying off more of my debt, and much less stressed out about money. Adulting means being responsible (bleh) and GoodBudget makes it a little easier to control your funds.

Let men be men by letting boys be boys.

I have something to say.

I expect J to open doors for me. I expect him to walk me to my car at the end of a date. I expect him to help me with my coat and offer to carry my shopping bags (which, no joke, are usually his shopping bags).

Now, I don’t have to worry about these things. He always opens the door. He comes around to let me out of the car (unless I’m driving, apparently the rules are different then). He walks on the street side of the sidewalk, even if that means moving me to his other arm. Unless I trick him out of it, he always pays for dinner or coffee or tickets to wherever. I tease him a little about his chivalry, but I never dismiss it; I always thank him. Not because I feel obligated to, but because I want him to know how much these small acts mean to me.

e119a73f114933e5619ebda890cfee07In my classroom, when I want an act of physical labor performed, I ask for a young gentleman to help me. Not because I don’t think that the girls in my class could handle it, but because I want to teach my boys to be men. Men who stand when a lady enters the room and hold doors open. Men who grow up to be husbands and fathers and take care of their families no matter what, even if it means working 3 jobs to make ends meet. Men who conduct themselves in a respectable and dignified way.

But I teach middle school.

An expectation of miniature men is unrealistic, even damaging. Boys will be boys. I see it every day. Boys smirk and laugh about inappropriate things. Boys throw things at each other and tease. Boys are hyper and rowdy and can’t sit still for an 84 minute block. It’s not hate speech when boys taunt each other. It’s not a danger to the school environment when they can’t sit still. It’s childhood playing out in the classroom. But it could be irreversibly detrimental to pigeonhole spirited young men into labels of “defiant” or “hyperactive” while destroying their desire to learn.

I’m not alone on this.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in conjunction with Prager University, put together the following short video about the effects of a “female-centric” academic culture. It’s chilling stuff.

May I let my boys be boys, so that they can grow up to be men…

Happy Weekend!

Stand by Your Man | How to help when there’s nothing you can do

“Sweetheart, I’m exhausted.”

His voice on the phone broke my heart a little. God, how do I make this better? I feel so helpless.

When J is in pain, I’m in pain. It’s as simple as that. Whether it’s physical pain, like his hurt shoulder from a weekend of snow shoveling, or the weight of his responsibilities, I yearn to bear some of the burden. When I can’t make it better, I feel useless. After much consideration (and feedback that makes me feel like this stuff really works) I present 5 things you can do when you can’t do anything for your man. Or, you know, some much shorter, catchier title. Meh.

Pray for him

Get on your knees and plead for him. Pray that he would be strengthened, that God would protect his mind and heart, that he would not be tempted by sin in his time of weakness. Pray that you would have wise and encouraging things to say. Pray that God would use this hardship to bring himself glory. I think often we see prayer as a last resort, but it should really be a first response.

Listen to him

He may not want to vent; be ready to listen if he does. You will likely feel helpless as you are unable to do anything to ease his pain, but listening and standing by him as he walks through the valley are far more influential than you realize. Lend him strength by sharing his struggle; be sure he knows that you are always available to lend an ear.

Woman hugging a manRemind him that you are solid

During a stressful time in your man’s life, the last thing he needs is to worry that you are going to get fed up and walk away. Even if you feel like he “should know” how you feel, make a point to remind him that you are in it for the long haul and you aren’t going anywhere. He’ll know that whatever else may come his way, you’re always in his corner.

Tell him why you respect him

Women need love, men need respect. Make a list of the things you respect about him. It doesn’t have to be long, just a few things will go a long way to restoring his soul. Is he a great provider? Does he work hard? Does he take physical fitness seriously? Is he emotionally available to you? Is he a godly man?

When is that last time you told him how much those qualities mean to you, how much you respect him for all he does?

Be silly with him

No one can be serious all the time. He may be struggling through physical pain or emotional trial, but you can go a long way to lighten his mood. Send him a quick text with a funny meme, share an inside joke, or send him a selfie of a silly face. You’ll bring a smile to his face and remind him that you’re thinking of him in one fell swoop.

The misery of merriment…

Christmas morning started like any other.

My 30-year-old brother allowed me to sleep until 9 am (some kind of record, I’m sure) before decreeing that it was present time. Presents opened, I made Christmas scones and we munched happily while the roast was prepped and went into the oven. Then comes the lull, that time between the flurry of activity in the morning and the mad dash to get Christmas dinner on the table. In a bit, I’ll need to pull my china out of storage and wash it. There will be potatoes to mash, crudités to cut up, and veggies to roast. I’ll get swept up in the rush and the beautiful adrenaline of the holidays will lift my spirits.

But right this moment, I’m sad.

Maybe because there is a great big personality missing. Maybe because the second year is so much harder than the first. Maybe because the weather is unseasonably warm and rainy. Maybe because a small part of my heart is on an island in the middle of the Pacific. Maybe because there seems to be no peace on earth. Whatever the reason, the ennui is real.

I hope this holiday finds you wrapped in warmth and love. If, instead (or additionally,) it finds you feeling a bit sad, my heart goes out to you. Remember, always, that God’s grace is sufficient. He will carry you through this difficult season and hold you up when you lack strength. He is greater than your pain and your sorrow.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Just stop ‘Just’ing | Finding My Voice

As I near my the end of my internship *cue choir of angels*, I find myself in the unique position of needing a teaching job in January. Normally an August to June gig, trying to find a job for the spring is equal parts luck and well-timed maternity leave.

Trying to stay hopeful, I recalled a conversation with the principal of the middle school where I spent my first placement. When last we spoke, she insinuated that there may be an opening earlier than expected, though stopped short of making any promises.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to follow-up and drafted an email to that effect. When perusing for typos, I couldn’t help but notice how passive I sounded. Phrases such as “just checking” and “just wondering” littered the short composition.

I was appalled. When did I start ‘just’ing? It isn’t only me, either. We’ve developed a culture of passivity in which seeking information or *gasp* asking someone to do their job is tantamount to bothering someone. How many times have I apologized to a customer service representative for asking a question, knowing full well that answering questions is the very nature of their profession?

I’m reminded of a spoken word poem I encountered years ago by Lily Myers. The poet, a college student, describes the tradition in her family for men to grow larger as the women shrink in both stature and personality. These silent victims have learned to accommodate, believing themselves unworthy to occupy too much space. Her chilling words describe how this habit has followed her into adulthood:

“I asked five questions in genetics today, and all of them started with the word, ‘Sorry…'”

It’s horrifying to consider that I, a historically confident human being, would devalue my worth to a point that I negate my own words. I rewrote the email, professionally but in no uncertain terms asking for the status on the tentative job offer she extended. I vowed to never again shrink behind a passive voice.

I also got the job.

Drink the coffee and do the things | Leaving your baggage at the door

One morning, I hit a deer on my way to work. Understandably, I was a bit scattered when I walked in the front door of my school. A student immediately cornered me for help on his Atoms and Period Table study guide for the test I’m giving on Wednesday while another student tried to explain why he didn’t have his project to turn in, even after he had all last week in class to work on it.

And I hadn’t even set down my bag yet.

Two of the girls in my home base check in with me before heading off to various early morning commitments (overachievers). In my frazzled state, I was unusually dismissive and shooed the girls off to their activities without taking time for my regular cheery small-talk.  One of the girls, who we’ll call…Melissa (names have been changed so I don’t lose my job) called my bluff. This conversation followed:

“Ms. Alger! That is not how we start our morning! Where is your coffee?”
“Um…on my desk?”
“Drink it! We’ll try this again later.”

Bossy thing, isn’t she? But she was right. I let my frantic rushing about and crammed schedule impact my relationships with my students. They look to me to be consistent and positive. Sure, everyone has bad days, but how often do we use a bad day as an excuse to be snarky or negative to the people around us?

Drink your coffee and start your day again. And watch out for deer.