Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Question that Crushes

Tomorrow marks 5 years since my mom took her last breath after a 17 month battle with cancer.

I am pretty open to talk about it, but there is one spirit-crushing question that many people ask that puts me on the defense, and makes my heart sink a little deeper into my stomach.

I wanted to write this blog post to caution others who might think to ask this question.   I am hoping that - by reading this - you may have a heart softened toward someone who has lost a loved one to this particular kind of cancer.  I hope to heighten your sensitivity toward a surviving loved one, and how they might feel when asked said question.

So what is the question?

Here is a typical example of how it comes up in conversation:

Person: So where does your family live?
Me: Actually, we're all over the place!  I have a sister in Chicago, brother in Florida, another brother in North Carolina, and my Dad just moved here to Indy.
Person: Wow! And how about your mom?
Me: Oh, my mom is with Jesus.
Person: I'm so sorry.  How did she pass?
Me: She had cancer.
Person: That's terrible.  What kind of cancer?
Me: Lung cancer.
Person: Oh... did she smoke?

And there it is.  "The question."  The person says, "Oh, did she smoke?" but what I hear is, "Oh, did she deserve it?" "Oh, was it preventable?" "Oh, did she bring that upon herself?" "Oh, did she have that coming?"

I understand that for many, that is far from what the question was intended to mean.  However, I think anyone who has lost someone to lung cancer would agree, it is not a fair question.  And honestly, does it really matter?

My mother's family was riddled with cancer.  My grandmother had brain cancer, grandfather had stomach cancer, aunt had colon cancer.... I honestly believe that had it not been lung cancer, a different form of cancer could have taken her life just the same.

So friends, I just wanted to make a quick post about this.  I hope that when confronted with this situation, instead of asking for details, you offer comfort and your sympathies to the one who lost someone they dearly loved to a horrible, ugly disease.

Thank you for reading to the end and tolerating my little vent session. ;)  Please share if you think this would help bring awareness to someone who may not realize the impact of this question.

Much love to all!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Organizing... Your Home Pharmacy

This medicine cabinet got a facelift for $10... all purchases were made from the Dollar Tree!

The "home pharmacy" or "medicine cabinet" is neglected in many homes.  Often times, it becomes a stockpile of pills, bandages, ointments, and more.  Allergies acting up?  First let me dig through this cabinet of vitamins, pain killers, and sunscreen to find what I need.  Or how about when you get a paper cut and the only bandage you can get a hold of can cover the whole surface area of your hand?

More importantly, when someone is truly injured or in pain, there shouldn't be any time wasted on finding what is needed.  This is why it is important to maintain your medicine cabinet.

How should a medicine cabinet be "organized?"  First things first.  Wherever you choose to store your medications, make sure it is in a temperature-controlled, dry space.  The kitchen, laundry room, or bathroom are popular choices.  Second, you want to make sure it is out of reach of pets and children.  For example, the picture shown above was located in a bottom drawer of the laundry room.  This worked great for the couple... until their grandchildren came to visit.  In this particular instance, we chose to move the medicine cabinet from the bottom drawer to some upper cabinets.  Not only was this safer for the grandbabies, it was easier on my clients because they no longer had to bend over to get what they needed!

Moving right along... using the ESCAPE method, first Empty out your medicine cabinet.  Next, Sort all the medications.  This is when you sort what you will keep and what you will dispose of.  Begin by checking the expiration date.  I get a lot of push back for this, but you know how the saying goes... better to be safe than sorry!  Also, many medications lose their potency over time.  If you view the expiration date as a mere "suggestion," your headache/backache/pain won't go away if your medicine doesn't work!  You'll also want to get rid of anything you no longer use. Be sure to contact your local pharmacy to determine the safest way to dispose of unused, unwanted medications.  Next, Categorize your medications.  I tend to separate by use - for example, pain killers, stomach meds, cold/allergy, prescription, vitamins, etc.  This is a great time to make a list of anything you need, or will want to have on hand.  I always restock my bandages, anti-itch ointment, and benedryl before summer hits. After you've sorted and categorized, it's time to Purchase and/or Put back.  In the example above, we purchased items from the dollar tree.  Many people tend to use the plastic shoe box sized containers.  Risers are another great choice.  You don't have to break the bank on this one.
TIP: Choosing a container without a lid makes for easy access, and increases the chance that items will be put away.  Placing a few labels using a simple label maker will finish things off.  Finally, Enjoy!  It is amazing to see the time you'll save by making sure things have a place, and that they are in their place.

Happy Organizing, friends!  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Organizing... Your Kitchen Countertops

Kitchen Countertops.  

Is it just me, or does every horizontal flat space beg to be covered? It cries out, "Fill me!! Fill me!! Look at all this glorious room for STUFF! Like that toy you just took away from your kid... yea, bring that over here.  That hammer you just used to hang that picture? Give it to me! All that mail/school papers/bills to be paid/coupons... right here, baby!  Oh, and how about those appliances that might get used once a month.... I love a good quesadilla maker in my life! That purse? Right here, please! Keys, coffee mug, laptop..."

Can you relate?

This week's FREE TIP FRIDAY, brought to you by H.O.M.E w/ Sarah, is all about ridding your kitchen counters of clutter.  Here are 5 tips to clearing off that counter space and keeping it that way:

1. Give Items a Home
Everything that enters your home must have a home! No nomads here.  Wanderers not welcome!  One rule of thumb I tell all my clients is "store it where you use it."  Also, try and create 'zones' in your kitchen.  Food prep, bill command center, etc.  Your spices and knives should be in the food prep area. Have some kind of paper sorter/stackable paper trays to sort your mail/bills. Be sure to relocate things in your home if necessary.  Once you have established this, the rest will fall into place! 

2. Change your Mindset
It is easy to think of your kitchen as a central area of the home.  In fact, it may literally be at the center of your home.  This makes it an easy pass-through and very convenient to place items you'll get to later.  So first things first... get rid of the 'counter is convenient' mentality.  Deal with tasks as they occur.  Now that you've given a home to everything, this should be relatively painless! 

3. Out of Sight 
Store away items that are only used for merely minutes in the day. Take a toaster, for example.  You might make toast in the morning, and not use it again until the next day.  That means it is taking up valuable counter space for 23 hours and 55 minutes every day while it's not even being used!  Storing this appliance in a cabinet (mine is in my pantry) is a far better option.  It only takes seconds to bring it out and put it away.  One other example would be cooking utensils.  Mine are stored in a container in the cabinet with my pots and pans next to the stove, not on my countertop. Address each item on your counter and see if it fits this bill. You may need to rearrange some things to make space, but it will be well worth the initial time investment. 

4. Two-Minute Tasks
When you have a lull in the day, or at the end of each day, try to complete these 'two-minute tasks' to keep your counters cared for and clutter-free.  Loading the dishwasher, putting clean dishes away, sorting through mail (see blog post Organizing... Your Mail), wiping the counters down, etc.  These are tasks that appear overwhelming, but in reality can be tackled in merely minutes.  Don't underestimate the power of completing a task, no matter how small! This sense of accomplishment is quite motivating.

5.  Get Everyone On Board
Unless you're single and/or living alone, there are likely multiple people using countertops as a dumping ground.  Once new homes are found for things, be sure to share with family members where those homes are.  Set the expectation that if you take it out, you put it back.  Be an example for everyone in your family.  This may take some time (as most routines do) but again, consistency is key.  They'll catch on!

And there you have it!  Be sure to visit www.homewithsarah.net for more organizing tips under Portfolio: Sarah's Snapshots & Tips.

Happy Organizing!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Not-So-Random Act of Kindness...

Maybe it was because I had three disheveled-looking kids in tow, or because I looked as tired as I felt; or perhaps this man simply had Jesus in his heart. As my kiddos and I were walking out of Chick-fil-a this evening, a man handed me something without saying a word and continued on to his table.  I turned it over in my hand; a Chick-fil-a gift card.  I was stunned. I turned to see where he was heading and I approached him and asked, "What is this??" He simply replied, "It's for you."

It was the strangest feeling being on the receiving end of such a random act of kindness. I didn't feel worthy. In fact, I almost felt guilty.  I thought that surly there was someone - or some other family - who needed this much more than we did...

But this random act may not be random at all.  God meets us where we are and today, He met me at Chick-fil-a! I was a drained mama trying to keep it together and muster up enough energy to make it until bedtime. He knew I'd been skimming the grocery money to pay for copays, prescriptions, medical bills, etc. He knew that this restaurant is where I take the kids to help fill the witching hours on days Thad is traveling.  He knows. He knows every detail!    

I am certain that God works through people, and I am so grateful this man chose to be His hands and feet.  It was so nice to witness firsthand a little bit of light in a dark world.  Thank you, Mr. Gift-Card-Giver!!!  You have fueled my fire to continue paying it forward.  Maybe this story has inspired you to do something kind for a stranger - I know I am all about helping my friends, but this has opened my eyes to reaching out to those I have yet to meet. :)

Have a glorious weekend, friends!


Sunday, February 8, 2015

They Said What?!

I love the way a child's brain works... there is this combination of innocence, curiosity, and honesty that can leave us wincing with embarrassment, or unleashing a good healthy belly laugh!

Over the last few months, I started writing down some things my kids have said that made me laugh.  My dear nanny friend, Jenn, has shared a few gems from her days working with her kiddos as well.

I hope this brightens your day - and maybe encourages you to document these moments of hilarity with your own kiddos.  You never know, it might come in handy one day (I'm thinking a wedding speech of some sort?!) ;)  Enjoy!!!


Ben: [points to my face, just below my nose] Ewwwww!!!
Me: That's called a pimple.
Ben: Can you take it off?
Me: nope.
Ben: ooooh [thinks for a second, points to inner lip] I have a nipple right here. I can't take it off either because it hurts.
Me: [laughing]. That's not a nipple, it's a p-imp-le [trying to say it slower].

Me: I'm pooped!
Ben: You have to poop??
Me: No, when you're pooped it means you are tired.
Ben: Oh, I'm pooped, too. [pause] I'm peed, too.
Me: What?
Ben: When you're peed, it means you are sweaty.
Me: Hmm. Sound logic I guess.

Me: Go outside! It's beautiful!
Ben: But there are bumblebees out there!
Me: They won't bother you, they are just looking for flowers
Ben: But I smell like flowers!

Me: Ben, what do you want for dinner?
Ben: [in all seriousness] Strawberries, candy, and bubble gum.

Me: Let's go to the library today!
Ben: Yea! And I'll ask the library human if they have the Lego Movie.
Me: You mean the librarian?....

Ben: I like to wrestle Max
Me: I know, but not too rough, ok?
Ben: Why? I can beat him. I'm stronger than him. Pretty powerful. Like a bear. Or a honey badger.
Me: I think you watch too much Wild Kratts...

Ben & Gigi: Can we watch a movie before bed?
Me: You can watch the TinkerBell one.
Gigi: What about the Barbie fairy one?
Me: No, that one is too long. It's already 7:45pm
Ben: But it's only 12 feet long!
Me: .....

Me: [sipping my morning coffee] Mmmmmm.
Ben: I want some coffee!
Me: You want coffee?
Ben: I don't want to drink it, I just want to taste it.
Me: ???

Me: [to Trevor] Oh, now you are going to throw things you copy cat?
Gianna: That's not a copy cat, that's Baby T!

Ben: [looking in the mirror] Mom, am I going to turn black?
Me: What? Why do you ask that?
Ben: Because look [points to dark circles under his eyes]

Me: Come on you guys, you have to eat different foods because your body needs different vitamins to grow.
Gianna: I got vitamins in my butt, see? My butt is growing!

Gianna: [looking intently at my face] Is your forehead broken?  It looks like a road.
Me: Those are called wrinkles

Ben: Feel my beard mom! I have some spikes coming out [rubbing chin]
Me: Oh yea? [rubs his chin] I don't know about a beard, but I see little mustache hairs!
Gianna: I have a mustache on my arms, see!? [shows hair on her arms]

Gianna: I am going to make a school.
Me: Cool. What are you going to teach at your school?
Gianna: [as a matter-of-factly] ABCs and God.

Me: Ben, do you know what Christmas is?
Ben: Yea! Holly jolly!

BIL: Let's play the rhyme game
Niece: ok!
BIL: Bird...
Niece: Turd!!
BIL: [laughing] do you know what a turd is?
Niece: Yea, it's a baby turtle!
                                -Audrey, age 3

Niece: Sometimes my dad picks me up and puts me on his nipples.
Me: You mean shoulders?
Niece: Oh, yea.
                               -Olivia, age 4

Charlie: I have a lot of seeds in my nose.
Claire: Charlie, those are boogers...
                               -Charlie, age 4
                               -Claire, age 10

And a few good one-liners for you...

I feel like I can drive because I can tie a knot. -Charlie, age 4

[to Jenn, who lost her voice] I hope next Christmas when Santa comes, he brings you a new voice. 
- Charlie, age 4

I am going to drive daddy's boat in the ocean with my ho-ho jammies on. -Ben, age 2.5

[shouts from the toilet:] Mom! I don't have ouchie poops anymore! Just nice poops! -Gianna, age 3

Mom, when is my pinky going to grow up? -Ben, age 4

Dad, why do you have a beard in your nose? -Ethan, age 4


Please feel free to comment with your own additions to "They Said What?!" :) 

Friday, September 5, 2014


Our daughter, Gianna, is quite the character.  She is my independent one.  Any of you that know her, she is quite content to be off doing her own thing.

She loves playing in her closet where she holds many imaginary tea parties. She will lay in her bed and read her "Bible" (which could be any ol' book) or happily play with her doll house or kitchen for hours at a time.  This child sounds like a dream come true, right? 

Well, many of you may have heard the saying, "Silence is golden... unless you have a toddler.  In that case, silence is very, very suspicious!"

Our sweet Gigi has earned the nickname 'Molly,' which is short for Molly-Makes-A-Mess.  I have to give her credit, many of her messes are.... how you say... creative?  I wish I had documented them from the beginning, but I did manage to snap a few pictures along the way.  And let me add the disclaimer that at the time these photos were taken, I had three kids under the age of four - although any parent knows that this can happen with an only child [sneaky little buggers!].

Perhaps a few of these will look familiar to you 
as you've raised a Molly of your own...

Oh-so-neatly laid out baby wipes - caught her before she could get through the whole box!

Sneaky... on the inside of a drawer.  Stamped AND scribbled. Very nice. 

Baking soda. Lovely.

Yep... that's petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline)

Permanent marker on the linoleum of your rental? Sure, why not!
(Magic Eraser took that right out, thank goodness!)

Nap time?! I thought it was "Grab Things Off the Changing Table 
And Take Every Wipe Out of its Container Time!"

Lining up the cans and placing flatware on top.  Impressive!

Here, Dad! Have some tutus. 

 What's that, Mom? 
You didn't want all your recipes taken out of your recipe box? Oops...

Here Mom! I helped empty the cooler..... onto the floor.

My attitude wasn't the only salty thing in the kitchen that day... 

A unique display of flatware. 
(in the baby-food ice cube tray)

Here you go, Papa and Mimi! Pink post-it decor for your table!

Breast milk storage containers or coin sorters?

And the ultimate mess....

Look closely... see that brown stuff? Yep, that's poop.  
Gigi was changing her own diaper.  Awesome.

Well friends, I hope you had a few good chuckles from this post.
Have yourself a marvelous, mess-free day! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Life is Not Fair: Grief [Missing Mom]

As soon as I read the e-mail from our lead pastor telling us what our next series was going to be I felt a small panic.  It's called "Life is Not Fair." And the first week was going to be about grief. I took a deep breath.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that it isn't something you forget.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that there is something each day that reminds you of it.  Anyone who has suffered a great loss knows that it doesn't take much to trigger that feeling of your heart sinking into your stomach when you think about it.

So why was I apprehensive to head to church on Sunday?  Well, I thought it would be a given that I would cry at some point... just wasn't sure if it would be the tears-welling-up-but-won't-fall-that-makes-your-throat-hurt kind of cry, or the I-need-to-excuse-myself-because-the-baby-wipe-in-my-bag-isn't-enough-to-contain-my-tears-and-snot cry.   

Many of my friends - my husband included - know that I am what you call a "closet griever."  Rarely will I cry in front of anyone because of my own pain.  If you have seen me cry, it is most likely because my heart is breaking for someone else - but not myself - or it's the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum and I'm laughing so hard I cry.  I don't know why this is.  I'm sure people that don't know me all too well think the loss of my mom was 'no big deal' since I can casually say that she died just after Gianna was born.  I don't mind people asking me about it - and I can usually talk about her and the event of her death without missing a beat.  I didn't even cry at her memorial.   

Rest assured, I have - and continue to - grieve over the loss of my mom.  It's when I'm by myself that the water works flow freely.  I'd say 60% is when lying in bed, 30% is when I'm in the car, and the remaining 10% is random times throughout the day when I want nothing more than to call and hear her voice on the other end of the phone.

I felt at peace during her memorial service - even the week leading up to it - but a few days later I started crying and I honestly felt like I was never going to stop.  Before long I felt like my whole world was caving in.  I must have been in what they call 'survival mode.'  Well, when that wore off it wasn't pretty.  In fact, I had experienced some of life's top stressors in a period of six months: I resigned from my job, we moved to another state, we had a baby, and - of course - the death of my mom.  Let's not fail to mention Thad traveled a LOT - which left me at home with two kids under the age of 2 in an unfamiliar place. Uh, hello!  Is this really someone's life?? Oh wait.... it was mine! 

It is so hard going from seeing your mom at least 2-3x a week and talking to her on the phone AT LEAST once a day (often more) to only being able to see and hear her in a memory.  It's so hard when your own kids have you feeling so defeated, and you can't reach that one person who can truly talk you off that cliff.   It's so hard looking at your babies knowing she never will.  It's so hard celebrating life when that one piece is missing... her.

So back to the sermon... I didn't cry. I didn't get the lump in my throat. I just caught myself shaking my head in agreement with many things my pastor said.  I even muttered a "mmmhmmm" every once and again.  There were a few things that he said that really stuck with me.

3.  You don't have to know the right things to say.  Sometimes your mere presence is all someone needs in a time of grief.

2. God designed us to grieve through our loss, not camp out in it! Fight the urge to shut out the world and seek help - whether that is by talking to a friend, counselor, family member... whatever helps!

1.  And the best take away from the sermon for me was: Do you want answers, or do you want peace?


I don't think I ever questioned why God took my mom from us when He did.  Thankfully, I'm in a place in my faith where I understand there is an "upper story" and that we simply won't have ALL the answers.  I rest in knowing that He does.  But this doesn't change the fact that it hurts.

One piece of advice I would pass along to you if you know someone who has suffered a great loss:

Don't forget.

When it hasn't impacted your life as much, it's easy to forget it as the days, weeks, and months pass.   I would say - for me - the six month mark was almost harder than when it actually happened.  That's when the reality of it all started to sink in.  I'll always remember the card I received from my aunt last year around the second anniversary of my mom's death.  All it said was she was missed, and they were thinking of us.  Such a simple gesture that had a profound impact.

So even if you have to set a reminder on the calendar or in your cell phone to check in with the person months later, please do.  Send a text, card, stop by and see how they are doing. They will so appreciate it!

In the meantime, continue to count your blessings dear friends! :)
Hope you are having a great week!

If you'd like to watch or listen to the above referenced sermon, you can find it here: Life is Not Fair: Grief