Stuffed Pepper Casserole…

This casserole was a hit at my house tonight…and my daughter is a very picky eater. It’s even better than actual stuffed peppers in my opinion because it’s all mixed together in one dish! 

Ingredients:

2 green bell peppers 

1 red bell pepper

1 pound ground turkey or beef

1 bag of boil in a bag rice cooked on stove

1 can diced tomatos (any variety)

Onions (optional) I used dry minced

1 bag shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Italian seasoning

Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute (optional)

Directions:

Cook ground turkey or beef on stove and drain. Set aside. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish. Cut out the cores of the peppers. Slice into strips and dice. Put in greased dish. Put the remaining ingredients into the dish and mix well. (only use 1/2 bag of the shredded cheese at this time)

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, top with the rest of the shredded cheese, and put back in the oven. Broil for 5 minutes until cheese bubbles and browns. Remove. Let cool and enjoy. 

Please remember I don’t measure…I just add until I think it looks good…and I am of the opinion, the cheesier the better! You can add other ingredients or seasonings.  If you try it, be sure and let me know what you think.

K

Memories…

Do you remember the first time you stood on the beach and saw nothing but the ocean extending to the horizon and the waves crashing before you?

Do you remember the first time you saw the mountains rise from a distance and how they seemed to go on forever?

Do you remember your first day of school and not wanting to let go of your mother’s hand? Your last day of school and the excitement of going out into the world for the first time on your own?

Do you remember your first crush? Your first kiss? The first time you fell in love? The first time your heart was broken? The first time you broke someone else’s heart? 

Do you remember the first time you found out you were expecting a child? The first time you heard the baby’s heartbeat? The first ultrasound? The first kick? Seeing your baby for the first time and holding it? Hearing your child’s first cry? The first time they crawled and walked? Hearing their first word?

Do you remember your parents being your heros? Remember a time when they knew everything and then for a season they knew nothing at all? Do you remember the first time you realized how much they really loved you..unconditionally? How much they had done for you and sacrificed for you? Do you remember the first time you realized they wouldn’t be with you forever? Watching them get sick and weak? Watching them take their last breath?

There’s so much emphasis on memories, both good and bad that make us who we are. I love to remember and stay awhile inside my yesterdays. Of course it’s not good to stay there too long or we miss out on the present.

Everything and everyone in your life was once a “first time”.

Today I challenge you to appreciate and see everything and everyone you encounter as is it were the first time.

Really look at that sunrise or sunset. Listen to your children as if it were the first time you heard them speak. See the world around you as if it were the first time. Your home. Your neighborhood. The trees. The birds singing. Your pets. Your parents. Your friends. 

Oh, and don’t forget yourself! Really look at yourself and see who you are, inside and out. Forget the mistakes and heartache. The disappointments. Even the bad experiences and choices have made you who you are. Let it all go and see yourself… not only for who you are now, but for who you can become.

K❤

Christmas Memories…

There is nothing more magical than decorated trees, lights, Christmas music, presents, and family and friends to brighten up your life.

Christmas tree ornaments have meaning beyond decoration. Each one tells a story of a time, person, or place and marks years and decades of special memories. The ornaments I bought to mark something special for that particular year. The ornaments given to me as gifts. The ornaments that my daughter made thru the years. 

Every ornament hanging on the tree brings back a special memory, but the ones my daughter made throughout the years are my favorite. Those pieces of art are what make a Christmas tree perfect! 

… and since every ornament tells a story, it takes me forever to decorate my tree because I pause to remember each memory as I hang them. 

My daughter’s Elf On A Shelf Elmer “retired” a few years ago. He no longer moves from place to place in our home, but sits in the tree beside the elf ornament I had as a child. 

A few things before I sign off. Wear stretchy pants on Christmas Day. Do not forget the stretchy pants. (You know it’s good advice). Just wear the same ones you wore on Thanksgiving. If you’re traveling this Christmas season…be safe. If the pies burn or the tree tips over don’t let it get you down. Laugh at every given opportunity.

Remember the reason for the season…Jesus Christ our Savior. The true meaning of Christmas is truly what matters and the greatest gift to all mankind.

May the message of Christmas fill your lives with joy and peace and may God’s blessings shine down upon you and your families this Christmas season. Each of you are awesome in your own unique way. I’m glad to know you and have you along.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours! 

For Cindy…

I learned yesterday that a childhood friend passed away after several years of fighting breast cancer. I didn’t realize the extent of her illness because distance separated us and we didn’t check in with one another as often as we should have. If I’d only known then what I know now….

I didn’t cry until I sat down to write this and all the precious memories I have of my friend came flooding over me. 

After high school we grew apart as most of those friendships tend to do, however we did stay in touch with one another. She was a kind woman, a good wife, and amazing mother. She leaves behind a daughter the same age as my own. I know her well enough to know that she fought hard these past few years to enjoy every moment she could with her little girl. I’m sure her wish was to see her graduate and go out into the world on her own, but it wasn’t God’s plan….and that makes me sad because we can never understand “the why” and just have to accept it.

It’s times like these we wish we would have called to talk or made plans to get together. All the reasons or excuses we used to put it off come crashing down around us. We feel guilty and selfish. We thought we had time. We didn’t. Make time. That old saying “it’s never too late” isn’t true. 

I have no doubt she was a fighter and that she fought until the very end. When you see someone battle cancer remember, They. Are. A. Warrior. They find strength they didn’t even know they had and are an inspiration to all who know them. 

If there’s someone who’s been on your mind or an old friend you’ve wanted to reach out to…do it! Make the call. Make plans. Follow through. You don’t always have the time you think you do. 

**You can slow down now Mario…you made it home.

Life In The Single Lane (2)…

I’m single. Don’t pity me. I’m not lonely. I choose to be single for now. It’s what I want.

Chances are if you chose to read this, you are single too. I’m enjoying my life very much right now and I’m not looking for a relationship. That confuses some people and I can see the pity in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they ask if I’m seeing anyone and I say no. 

I’ve never understood why some people think that happiness equals being in a relationship. I was married for sixteen years and wasn’t happy. In all fairness we had a few good years, but overall they were few and far between. I may feel lonely at times now, but I felt lonelier when I was married. 

I know people who jump from one relationship to another because they don’t want to be alone. I don’t get it. I’m not judging them for it and I even understand to a certain point, but I’m not wired that way. I’m introverted and for me, being alone at times isn’t a negative thing….I need it.

Being single can get lonely sometimes. I don’t go out on dates often, but I will go if I find the guy interesting. I won’t go just for the sake of having a date. Dating isn’t a priority. I’d much rather spend time with my daughter and my friends anyway. We always have fun!

Being single doesn’t scare me. It’s my chance to explore, take on new adventures, try new things, and make new memories. A chance to find what it is that I like. I’m no expert, but here a few ideas I thought I’d share….

Catch a plane to anywhere or get in the car and just go!

If you don’t have a friend to go with you, don’t let it stop you. It’s exciting to travel alone. You learn so much about the world and yourself. 

Treat yourself to a gift once in a while.

Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Get the new dress or shoes you’ve been wanting and pack them when you go on those trips we were talking about. Find something you like and get it.

Take yourself out.

Go to a movie. Go to dinner. Go to a concert. Go for a walk on the beach. Go to a farmer’s market. Do whatever it is you like to do. I’m not intimidated to go out alone anymore. Give it a try. 

Talk to yourself.

Not in public, but when you’re alone. It’s not weird. You know you do it anyway and it’s perfectly ok to do so. Who knows better than you what you need to hear…so go ahead and give yourself a pep talk.

Flirt.

Go out there and be as flirty as you want. Bat your eyes. Bite your lip. Flip your hair. Strut. I’m not good at flirting. A friend tried to teach me once and gave up! I did master the hair flip though. Flirting may be one of those things you either have or ya don’t, but it never hurts to try. What’s the worst that could happen? Someone might just think your awkwardness is adorable!

Read a good book.

Escape reality for awhile. 

Start a journal.

…or a blog! 

Experiment.

Try new things. Explore new hobbies. Go to a painting workshop. Take a cooking class. Volunteer or do some charity work. The opportunities are endless.

Keep your head up and smile.

Being single isn’t something to be ashamed of or pitied for. It’s the perfect time to figure out who you are and what you want out of life. We are responsible for our own happiness and I’m working very hard to accomplish that. I don’t want to be alone forever, but right now it’s exactly what I need. 

To be continued…

Suicide…

I debated with myself about whether I should write this post or not. It’s a subject most people don’t like to talk about, but it shouldn’t be ignored. At the same time, it’s not my story to tell and I don’t want to be disrespectful to the family of the young man I’m writing about so there won’t be any details that might identify them. 

A year ago this month my daughter’s friend committed suicide. They had only known one another for several months and this young man spent a lot of time in my home. He was a great kid. His parents were some of the nicest people I’d ever met. He was shy and quiet, but as time passed he wasn’t as reserved when he was around me. I had no idea that he would even consider taking his own life and I’ll always wonder if I missed something and could have made a difference.

He stopped coming over and began hanging out with people who weren’t a good influence. I’m not saying it’s their fault, but I think that it made the things he was dealing with worse. 

I won’t go into details about his suicide other than to say I can’t cross railroad tracks without thinking about him. I know my daughter feels the same way because I can “feel it” in her demeanor anytime we are near a railroad crossing.

She had a hard time dealing with his death and I had to take her to counseling and meetings with our pastor for awhile. She’s doing well now, but I’ll never forget the screams and cries the night she found out about his death.

I hope by writing this that if someone reading is contemplating suicide that they think twice. 

I took my daughter to meet some friends at the movies not long ago and we passed the cemetary where he’s buried. I couldn’t help but think…life goes on and he’s laying in the ground. He should be going to the movies, the mall, football games…all the things teenagers do and he’s not. If he’d only realized he might have felt differently years or months down the road he’d still be here. But for whatever reason he was hurting and felt hopeless and taking his life was the only way he thought he could end his pain. It just makes me so sad. People who die by suicide don’t want to end their life…they want to end their pain.  

I can’t even put into words all the things I want to say. We miss him and think of him often. Silly, scary movies, chocolate chip cookies, and burnt grilled cheese sandwiches…some of my favorites memories. 

To anyone who has had suicidal thoughts…I’m glad you are still here. Keep holding on.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

1-800-273-8255

Through a Mother’s Eyes…

I checked in on a friend today who took her son to his first year of college. She was doing ok, but was very emotional. She said he was very excited and she was excited for him, but asked how she could be so happy and so sad at the same time?

I told her that was the perfect explanation of motherhood. We prepare them for a world we don’t really want to send them in to. I assured her that he would miss her and that he’d be fine because she did a great job raising him. I ended by telling her to think of all the great advice she’d be able to give me in a few years when it was my turn. I hope it helped in some small way. This is one of those things you have to work through on your own and in your own time. I wrote a post yesterday…a letter to my daughter because I know I’ll be facing this in the not too distant future and it scares me.

They’re always our babies. We’re responsible for them from the minute we find out were pregnant until well, forever…maybe not in the same way as while we raised them, but you get what I’m trying to say if you’re a parent.

For the first five to six years of their lives we’re their primary influence. Once we send them off to school, each year after that they learn a little bit more from other people about the world. Teachers. Friends. Acquaintances. Their friend’s parents. Most of it is good. Some of it’s not. We do our best to instill good values and morals in them, teach them right from wrong, and hope they’ve listened so that they are able to make good choices as they grow older. 

I imagine taking your child to college for the first time is one of the toughest moments you can experience as a parent. It’s part of the circle of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s what you’ve worked towards for eighteen years….raising them to be self sufficient, productive, and successful adults, but they’re still your baby in your eyes. Turning them loose in the world to make their own way?  That has to be one of the hardest “letting go” experiences any person will ever have to face. 

For all the parents out there facing this…you are in my prayers. It’s a tough time, but if it’s any consolation at all, they’re finally gonna “get” all the things you’ve taught them and they’re going to realize you knew a thing or two after all. The days of “you don’t know anything” are coming to an end…and even if they don’t say “I miss you” I guarantee you they do. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna hear a lot more of “I love you” as well.

For all the young adults leaving your parents for the first time…remember this. They love you and want what’s best for you. That’s why they were so hard on you and strict. It’s a parent’s job to make sure their child can succeed and make it on their own in the world. You’ll face the same thing one day. 

Just a few more words…you’re always their baby and it’s hard to let you go. Pass out  “I miss you” and I love you” any chance you get. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in “you knew what you talking about after all” or “I understand now” once in awhile. It lets them know they did a good job raising you and you’re doing okay in this crazy ol’ world after all! Best wishes to you!