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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Photo Credit:  Mary R. Vogt at
Ahhhh…sleep.  It’s heavenly when we get enough and can be disastrous (for ourselves and particularly those around us) when we don’t.  It shouldn’t be that difficult, right?  I mean…sleep requires such little effort, but yet it’s SO HARD to do (actually getting our derrières into the bed, that is).   Assuming you are not the mom or dad of a newborn and actually have a choice in the matter of sleep, many of us (myself included) cannot seem to remember how pooped we feel every single morning that we go to bed too late.  I consistently milk those last few evening hours of interruption-free, child-free quiet time completely dry.

Last week, we went camping and I was so eager to do some head-on-the-pillow research about sleep.  We had some amazing, quality family time while we were there.  The only outside communication we had were two flip phones that don’t text or even know what the internet is.  I love vacations like that.  We met some wonderful new friends and thoroughly enjoyed the distraction-free week.

Oh, don’t get too excited and think that I roughed it in a tent.  I didn’t.  You know tents aren’t typically air-conditioned and you KNOW that wouldn’t work for me.  We rented a cozy little cabin where everything was basically two steps away from any location inside of it.

The living room was the kitchen and dining room all wrapped into one and the bunk beds were in the hallway.  You could fall out of the bed right onto the toilet seat – perfect!  And the shower – oh mercy – the 24” X 30” shower was a hoot!  I scared myself silly thinking that if I fell in there, I would be folded up like a permanent taco and that would be the end of it.  Try shaving your legs in a shower that size!  Anyhoo.

Because I sincerely appreciate you, my sunshiney readers, I will let you in on our “best-kept-secret-camping-with-kids-spot-in-Texas.”  It’s called Lone Star Yogi.  Among the fun to be had there is a stocked fishing lake, several swimming pools, mini-golf, hay rides, crafts, outdoor movies, sand volleyball AND a 350-foot Pine Tree Plunge (85 stairs to get to the top of this water slide and so worth it!).

So, about the sleep research – my plan to go to bed early was changed to go to bed early-errr when I remembered about the nightly outdoor movie at 8:30pm.  By the time the movie was over and we all had our turn in the straight-jacket shower stall, it wasn’t EARLY… BUT it WAS before midnight.  AND, we took ridiculously delicious two-hour family naps every afternoon, so I can vouch for the power of sleep.

Gretchen Rubin has some wonderful insight on sleep.  If you haven’t read her book, “The Happiness Project,” you should add it to your list of must-reads.  Television, internet, e-mail, books and even laundry (for some, for some – I know you’re out there) are distractions that keep us from hitting the hay on time.  There are several tidbits that I want to share about sleep from Gretchen as well as other sleepy stuff I’ve found to be useful:

  1. Give yourself a bedtime.  Work backwards 7 or 8 hours from when you need to get up.  Then, if you “stay up past your bedtime,” at least you’ll be aware that you will likely feel crummy the next day.
  2. Get ready for bed well before your actual bedtime.
  3. Go to bed before midnight.  Some research says that the highest quality of sleep occurs before the clock strikes twelve.
  4. Exercise.  Try to stretch and exercise most days of the week.  It can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
  5. Avoid work that requires alert thinking an hour before your bedtime.
  6. Turn off that computer by 10:00 pm (gulp!).  The light emitted by the screen can sometimes interfere with sleep cycles.
  7. Make your room very dark.  Shut the blinds and block out the lights from your clock, computer or phone.
  8. Keep your bedroom a little on the chilly side.  I knew it!  I knew it!  I plan to immediately let my hubby know that I am only thinking of his quality of sleep.  THAT is why I am persistent in my key role of our ongoing thermostat game!  hee hee
  9. Have a nighttime ritual.  We do this for our babies, right?  We try to cue them at bedtime with a bath, rubbing them down with lotion, turning on the white noise, etc.  Adults aren’t any different.  Find something that is naturally sleep-inducing for you.  We can be sleep-trained, too.
  10. Wake at roughly the same time each morning.  Our bodies like predictability (Poo!  But true.)
  11. Have a pen and paper handy by your bedside.  If something comes to your mind while staring at the ceiling in bed, jot it down and you can take care of it or think about it the next day.
  12. Tidy up your bedroom.  It might not be as restful to be surrounded by stacks, piles, boxes, and laundry.
  13. Avoid eating too close to bedtime.  Your body focuses on digestion instead of sleep.
  14. Yawn.  Try it.  You’ll feel sleepier in no time!
  15. Re-frame your sleeplessness.  Gretchen says that if she wakes up at 4:00 am and can’t go back to sleep, she just gets up and starts working.  Instead of starting the day feeling annoyed, she has the wonderful feeling of accomplishment of all she did before her usual wake time of 6:00 am.
  16. Offer it up.  If we truly just cannot sleep, it’s not a bad practice to offer it up for someone else who can’t.  We can offer our wakefulness to God in the hopes that He will grant some extra zzz’s to someone in need – new parents, someone with chronic pain, or someone suffering with endless worry and anxiety.
High-quality, deeply restful sleep is crucial for regulating much of the body’s mechanisms – our stress response, appetite and hormone regulation, and both cognitive and immune function.  Sleep keeps people feeling cheerier.  It helps to keep weight off, too.  If we’re sleeping, we’re NOT eating!  Makes sense.

There was a recent study where twenty-one people got only six hours of shut-eye per day, at odd hours, for three weeks.  By the end, their sleep-deprived bodies were functioning with a lower metabolic rate that would translate into a weight gain of almost 13 pounds over the course of one year. However, after a nine-day recovery period, the participants’ metabolism returned to normal.  Sleep gets my vote!  (Science Translational Medicine, April 11, 2012)

Sleep is just plain heavenly.  Then, there is also our heavenly sleep – the moment in time when we will lay our head down on the pillow of eternity.  Many of us fear death.  A book that I read this past year has given me great hope about death and who will be there to greet me on the other side of the clouds.  It’s called “Heaven is for Real” by Todd Burpo.  It’s a wonderful true story and to tell you the truth, I was ready to go to Heaven after I read it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready quite YET, but I am anxious to see my loved ones again with outstretched arms at the Pearly Gates.

I’m sure God will be there, too.  And, I think He might ask us a few questions:  “Did you mend?  Did you iron?  Did you dust?  Did you wash?”  And, I’ll say, “You’re kidding me, right?  Lord, you know I don’t sew.  I hate ironing and the dust didn’t bother me one bit.  I did wash my share of clothes and dishes.  Is that what it takes to get through these gates?  Are you serious?  I can’t believe that housework was the key.  I would have done more chores, Lord.  I missed that little detail somewhere in your Holy Word.”

And then, in His most loving way, He will calm me down and clarify – “Did you MEND friendships and relationships before they were completely broken?  Did you IRON out the little wrinkles and problems before they became big ones?  Did you DUST off that ole Bible?  Did you WASH away anger by practicing forgiveness?” 

He will then proceed to ask me the greatest question of all…“Did you help your family and loved ones get to Heaven, too?”  I hope to be able to stand there in humble adoration and confidently say, “I tried the very best I knew how, Lord.  I gave it my all.  I also utilized the gifts that you gave me.  I made use of every last one, Lord.  Now, just please tell me I don’t have to dust these gates to get in…”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Need

My good friend, Chris, shared a funny little message with me the other day.  It said, “If you feel the urge to slap someone, just go ahead and do it and holler, ‘Mosquito!’”  As cruel as that kinda sounds, it made me laugh since it hits so close to home here in South Texas…in the sweltering summer heat...with mosquitoes buzzing around anxiously waiting to pounce on their next unsuspecting victim.

For over a week now, I’ve spent an hour and a half by a swimming pool each day.  Oh – boo hoo – that sounds so tough, right?  Well, it’s rough because I’m literally BESIDE the pool.  Not IN the pool.  Not even CLOSE to getting my toes wet.  I’m sitting NEAR a pool, with sweat rolling down my back and legs in a sauna-type atmosphere waiting for my little ones while they take swimming lessons. 

Moms are so unselfish, aren’t they?  I mean, who else would sit and wait BY a pool, splashing their bottled water all over themselves to stay somewhat comfortable while patiently waiting for their children.  I see the mommies come day after day and sit and wait and sweat.  I love moms.  I just do.  Many, MANY (most) times, they put their children’s needs before theirs.

No names here, but one of my friends admitted something the other day.  She told me that she took her kids to the neighborhood pool one afternoon.  She put their suits on, slathered them up with sunscreen, grabbed their towels, and packed plenty of drinks and enough snacks for the whole neighborhood…only to realize that SHE herself did NOT have a bathing suit on once she arrived at the pool.  Who does that?  A mom who puts her kids first – that’s WHO!  (I won’t tell you her name because it’s possible she would try to get off easy with the ole mosquito slap trick and the joke would certainly be on me!)

It’s so interesting how we women transform once we become moms.  We become so-and-so’s mommy.  Sometimes we lose who WE are and sometimes that works against us.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for our roles as wife, mommy AND woman.  But, if we find that thing that still makes us – us – then I think we can be better moms and wives.

Sometimes, I try to think about the stuff that I loved to do before hubby and the kiddos.  Honestly, it’s hard to recall because my roles of mommy, wife and woman have truly become so intertwined that it’s hard to separate.  But, I have recently found my “me” thing in writing and I'm loving it.  It’s just the thing that I needed to call my own.

Maybe you like to garden, scrapbook, exercise, blog, read, do puzzles, shop, cook, fish, paint or sew?  Be sure to find that little thing that makes you – you – and make time for it.  Your children watch you carefully and truly love to see you happy.  They will appreciate your extra patience once you have found a few moments of YOU.

My five-year-old daughter asked me a profound question the other day after she sensed exasperation in my voice.  It was right after I cleaned up the bathroom because of a toilet that overflowed (Don’t use so much toilet paper…for the hundredth time…).  She asked, “Mommy, is it hard having kids?”  I said, “You know, honestly, it is.  I can be driven to the limits of crazy in one moment and realize in the next, that I never knew I could love so much and so deeply.”

She paused for a long time.  I’m thinking she is soaking it all in and really understands me.  Wonderful.  She gets me.  Then, she says, “I don’t get it.”  Of course she doesn’t.  And, she won’t…until she has children of her own one day.

I need my children just as much as they need me.  The other night, my husband was away on a fishing trip with our son and it was just us girls.  I let them eat popcorn for supper, take a bubble bath in the garden tub with a ridiculous amount of water and we stayed up too late. 

When it was time to crawl into bed, I asked my five-year-old if she wanted to sleep in mommy’s bed.  She saw right through me.  She said, “You want me to sleep in your bed because you are just used to having daddy beside you.”  I’m thinking she’s WAAAY too intuitive at this point.  Here I was acting like I was all tough, trying to do HER a favor in case she was scared.  But, the answer was, “Yes, I’d love to have you beside me.”

There is a beautiful quote in one of my inspirational books about God needing us.  I have to admit that I rarely think about how God NEEDS US because I’m always thinking about how I NEED HIM.  Here is the thought-provoking message that I love:

“Think of me as a friend, but realize the wonder of the friendship; what I can do for you, yes, but also what WE can do for each other.  Your service becomes so different when you feel that I count on your great friendship to do this or that for Me.  Dwell more and dwell much on the thought of you as my friend and of the sweetness of MY knowing where I can turn for love, for understanding, for help.”

I need prayers.  Who doesn’t?  But, what I’m referring to are the “I need” prayers.  You know the prayers I’m talking about – I need a better job, I need a favor, I need a new house, I need a new car, I need money, I need you to heal my friend, I need you to watch over my family, I need…

My Uncle Erol always sends me great e-mails with wonderful messages that I NEED to hear.  Here is one about what happens in heaven when we pray:

I dreamed I went to Heaven and my angel was showing me around.  We walked side-by-side into a large workroom filled with angels.  My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Department.  All petitions asked of God in prayer are received here.”

I looked around and it was terribly busy with many angels sorting out written petitions from people all over the world.  We moved down a long corridor until we reached the second section.  “This is the Packaging and Delivery Department.  Graces and blessings that the people asked for are processed and delivered to those asking for them,” said the angel.

I noticed how busy it was in this area, too.  There were many angels working hard since so many blessings were requested and delivered to Earth each day.  Finally, we reached the end of the corridor and we stopped at the door of a very small room.

To my great surprise, only one angel was there, sitting idly.  My angel quietly admitted, “This is the Acknowledgement Department.”  My angel seemed embarrassed, so I asked him why there wasn’t any work going on.

The angel sighed.  “It’s so sad really.  After people receive the blessings they ask for, very few send back an acknowledgement.”  I asked, “How does one acknowledge God’s blessings?”  The angel answered, “It’s simple.  Just say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’”

I needed to share that.  I also need other moms.  I need my family.  I need my husband.  I need my children.  I need the Lord.  Oh and I also NEED some sleep before midnight.  So, I’m doing an experiment next week on rest and relaxation and my plan is to go to bed earlier.  I won’t have a Sips for you next week, BUT I WILL be fully rested and ready with a weekly dose of sunshine for you the week after that!  See ya then and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

North, South, East...What?

I admit it.  I confess.  I have no sense of direction.  None.  My husband can vouch for it.  Poor thing, he just doesn’t get that I don’t “get it.”  I have fond memories of my road trips to College Station – the ones taken before my college semester even started.  Before the hustle and bustle began, I would drag my husband (then boyfriend) around campus mapping out my classes so I wouldn’t get lost.  (Such a trooper, that guy!)

The campus seemed like a huge, crazy maze to me.  I felt like a lab rat trying to find my way through to the cheese.  Hmmmm….now there’s a thought - if there would have been a big bowl of LUCKY CHARMS waiting at each destination; I’m thinking I would have had a MUCH easier time – hee hee!  Anyhoo - I even went so far as to remember which direction I entered a door from so that I’d remember which way to turn when I came back out.  (I know, I know….REALLY?!  But, the answer is YES…really.)

And, just the other day, a delivery guy was trying to find his way to my son’s school with some playground equipment that our PTO purchased.  He said he would call me back for directions when he got closer.  GASP!  (my heart races a little)  I actually just went ahead and took the liberty to inform him that I would be the LAST person on earth he’d want to call for directions.  I gave him the school’s phone number and saved him so much time and gas by just being brutally honest.

Speaking of directions, I also think it’s quite hilarious to watch the “Mommy Headbob.”  We’ve all seen it and in fact, we’ve probably BEEN that mom.  We take our kids to the park and meet up with another mom and her kids and then we try to carry on a conversation AND watch our children…all at the same time.  We nod up and down to indicate that we are kinda listening to the other mom and then we look left and right to try to locate our kid (Is she in the tunnel?  Is he on top of the climbing rock?  On the swings?  Eating a bug perhaps?)  It’s all sounding strangely familiar, isn’t it?

And since we’re talking park talk, I also think it’s funny that we insist on wiping our kids’ hands with anti-bacterial wipes before they eat a snack there.  Because, this hygienic little habit is done right after they’ve already licked their hands and sucked on a few rocks.  Oh well, I vow to still pull out the ole wipes, but I’ll just giggle when I do.

Most things come with directions (well, NOT kids).  But, sometimes it’s fun to think outside the direction box.  My Uncle Erol sent me a nifty little e-mail about items being used for things other than their intended use.  I haven’t tried these, but they sound super cool!  For instance:

1)  If you place a wooden spoon over a pot of boiling water, it won’t bubble over.
2)  Stuffing a dryer sheet in your back pocket will repel mosquitoes.
3)  If you place wet newspapers under the mulch around your plants, the weeds won’t grow through.
4)  Use hair conditioner as a shaving cream – it works just as well.
5)  If looking for an earring or small object, place panty hose over the end of the vacuum and start vacuuming.

My mom also sent me an uplifting e-mail the other day about directions (well, changing direction, but close).  I will share it here:

“Just as we can turn a different direction when we walk, we can change the direction of our thinking if we wish.  If we are feeling tired, sad, or disappointed and want to feel energized, we need only change our thoughts.
We can think about what brings us joy, what sparks our creativity and what excites us about being alive.  We can consider what a positive difference we make
as we lend a hand or take better care of ourselves. 
We can take action and we feel enthusiasm, a zest for life.
A simple shift in our thinking makes all the difference.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Others around us feel our positive energy.  We feel the spirit of God
moving through us as we do mighty works!”
Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit – serve the Lord.  Romans 12:11

With directions, there are basically three ways to go about them.  We can follow them and stay on course.  We can take a wrong turn and lose our way.  And, we can just be plain lost.

The other day, my five-year old daughter lost her way for just a bit.  Her sister was screaming and hollering at the top of her lungs and she said, “Why don’t we just sell her?  There would be tons of people who would want her.”  Oh my goodness.  I said, “Honey, we all lose our way.  We love her and we would NEVER sell her.”  (There are times when I’d like to lock all three kids out of the house for a few minutes, but we’d NEVER sell….NEVER.)

During the times in which we feel completely lost (and there WILL be times), I like to remember a few things that tie into today’s vernacular.  Not only does God “like” us – He loves us.  He loves us for who we are and always accepts us.  I wouldn’t be surprised if He’s also “pinned” a picture of each and every one of us on His master billboard.  He can count all the hairs on our head – certainly He has a favorite photo of us.

And, if you’re reading this during the day, take a moment to be quiet.  Be still.  (These are impossible requests to ask of a mom, I know, but try!)  Listen to the birds outside.  There’s a great chance they’re chirping.  I’d like to think that every time I hear a bird chirp, God is “tweeting” about us, too. 

He is crazy about us.  He truly is.  Here’s a short assignment for you.  Fill in the blank with your name and say this out loud:  (Oh, just do it, come on…)

(INSERT YOUR NAME HERE), God is absolutely crazy about you.  Great!  You CAN follow directions!  I knew you could do it.  Even I followed these without too much trouble myself.  However, if you see me on the highway, it’s a great possibility that I have NO idea where I’m going!  Please just smile and wave at me.

Finally, I do hope that there are VERY CLEAR directions to the Pearly Gates (in addition to the Ten Commandments, that is).  I mean, I need SIGNS – BIG ONES!  Come on, Lord, you KNOW me!  Could you possibly send a map with my angel as well?  Thanks!  Have a great day, Sunshines!