10 Quotes and Verses to Help You When You Feel Out of Control

Day 12

Honestly, I have no idea what day we are on quarantine-wise. The official timeline for us was on March 16, so we are just sitting here 12 days in and really trying to make the most of a horrible situation. Family walks. Long runs. Lots of power yoga at home. Lots of FaceTime conversations and virtual happy hours. Happy hours on walks with the family. Lots of books, lots of work, lots of arts and crafts, lots of card games. Lots of take out. Lots of baking. Lots of swimming. Lots of playing outdoors. Lots of online shopping.

It’s day 12. This situation is one that’s still going to get worse before it gets better – and that’s just how it is. We are making the most of our time at home, but our new normal isn’t quite normal yet. Week one was all about being lazy and relaxing and embracing it because real life really does make us tired and we welcomed that ability to rest). Week two has all us rested and basically antsy. We are bored. We are such an active family that it’s hard for us not to have a trip to go on or a place to visit or the ability to go to the gym or have fun or do anything.

We are handling it all right, but we have our moments.

That said, I’m not here to share with you any hints or tips or sales or tricks or whatever (though Lilly Pulitzer is offering 30 percent of certain items through today – and that never happens outside of the APS twice a year…so get on that).

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and verses that might help. I know that I go back and forth appreciating this time with our babies and my handsome husband and worrying about every single thing. Our sweet Ava was diagnosed with asthma when she was 15 months. She hasn’t had an episode in which she’s needed her inhaler in so long that we almost forgot she had it until about six months ago when she had an asthma attack. I lay awake at night wondering if she’s immunocompromised and at risk. Same for Carter, our sweet little man with his one and done grand mal seizure 13 months ago. Does that make him immunocompromised? I don’t know, but I worry.

And when I worry, there are few things that make me feel calm. Number one, always, is my husband. He always knows when I’m stressed or upset, and he always knows how to make it right. The kiddos help, too. And so does reading a few of my favorite quotes and verses for strength and hard times. So, in case you need them.

  1. When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you are responding to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.
  2. God sometimes takes us into troubled waters not to drown us, but to cleanse us.
  3. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to control something that isn’t yours to control. Let go. Free yourself. Allow your mind and energy to focus on something positive…to build something beautiful. – Steve Maraboli
  4. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
  5. The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. – Romans 8:18
  6. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. – Isaiah 43:2
  7. Do not grieve. For the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10
  8. May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela
  9. Be still and know that I am with you. – Psalm 46:10
  10. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

This, too, shall pass. Let’s allow it to pass with grace.

Blessings in Disguise Amid A Global Pandemic: Find the Good

Day 5

Today marks the fifth day we’ve been in the midst of our social distancing operation. No school, no cheer practice, no gym.

Those are the big changes during the week. Otherwise, not much has changed. My husband and I both work from home and always have, so we aren’t adjusting to any new schedules or interruptions. The kids being home is not an interruption. We do this every summer, thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and long weekend. All six of us are familiar with that change.

In actuality, our kids are at good ages. They entertain themselves with books, playing outside, playing with one another, playing with their tablets, and snacking every 8 to 9 minutes so they don’t starve to death. They play well together without too many disagreements. They don’t make too much of a mess, and they don’t interrupt us during our ‘scheduled’ hours. My day is flexible since I work for me. Craig’s is not since he works for someone else. He’s in our office from 8 am to 5 pm.

I like to be in the office before anyone is awake, coffee in hand, creativity at full force. It’s actually a lot easier for me to work when the kids are home because they get to sleep in, our nephew isn’t here to go to school with us, and we don’ have to get dressed and get out of the house by a certain time. Rather than putting my morning on hold at 8 am, I’m able to get up at 5, work until 9 or 10, and pretty much call it a day after that. I work out, hang with the kids, manage the household, etc.

I’m still in my office working off and on throughout the day, but only when I have the time and only because I want to get ahead and not because I need to be in here. It’s a really laid-back, relaxed, chill sort of vibe. That’s what I like about it. So, not much has changed during the day in our house. This is what we do during summer, Christmas, etc. The only difference is that we aren’t going out to lunch. We aren’t running out for breakfast. We aren’t going to the gym. We aren’t gong out to dinner.

The big problem is going to show up tonight when it’s Friday night and the kids want to know where we are going for dinner. We will still order something out and enjoy it at home (because we are doing every single thing to support our community and local businesses) but we won’t be going out. It’ll be even crazier tomorrow morning when they wake up and want to know if we are going to a party, or if we are going shopping, or if we can go away for the weekend, or why we aren’t going on our spring break trip. That’s what will rock their world in the least positive manner.

They have no problem at all being home during the weekend because we keep jam-packed weekends, and they love the rest and the relaxation the week brings. But, when the weekends are just as relaxed and laid back and no one leaves the house except to go outside or take a family walk around our neighborhood, what is there? The kids are going to lose it. I know this. They know this. We know this.

But, even in light of all the craziness that is going on, I am a firm believer that all things are a gift. All things, as bad and heartbreaking and horrible and life shattering as they may be, bring a gift of some sort to our lives. Even the darkest days and the most horrible losses bring with them the most beautiful gifts. Maybe not right now. Maybe not in the foreseeable future. Maybe not this weekend. But, eventually. Eventually, we see the gift. The positive change. The better outlook. The lesson. It’s all going to make us stronger and better – eventually.

So, while it’s hard to see that the COVID-19 social distancing world shut down pandemic from hell is going to one day show so many of us the gifts it brings amongst the chaos, I dare you to look for the good in this.

If you need help, I’ve got you.

Rest

We are overworked, overscheduled, over committed, over everything. Literally, we are so over everything in our house that we’ve all been counting down the days until it’s all done and over with. Now, we aren’t. We are all getting good nights of sleep. We are all rested and relaxed beause we are unhurried and we aren’t rushed. It’s nice.

Time

The gift of time is perhaps the most beautiful of all. It’s something you can’t get easily, and you never get it back when you lose it. We have it now. We have the time to get into the kitchen and create a new recipe with the kids. To take a family walk. To sit down and eat family dinners together. To watch that movie. To sleep in a bit. To read that book. To start writing that book. To call that friend. To organize things. We have time. Time with our family and our kids and our spouses. Time is the most precious gift.

Say Goodbye to Toxicity

Unfortunately, we all have a toxic person or two in our lives, and now is the perfect time for us to bid adieu to that asshole. We have to stay home. We have to distance ourselves. We have to do our part, and that means avoiding people. The more time that negative Nancy is out of our lives, the more peaceful they become. And, guess what? The world is not going to be close to the same on the other side of this, and that might make you feel good about making that a permanent change.

Getting Back to Basics

We are five days in, y’all; we haven’t even touched the surface of back to basics yet but life is about to get really, really basic. If it’s not already, it’s about to be. You’re back to cooking for yourself. You’re back to sending the kids outside to play and make up games and use their imagination. You’re about to be your own parent.

Learning With and About Our Kids

Listen, we can all be very honest here and admit that being homeschool teachers is not for all of us. I don’t want to teach. If I wanted to teach, I’d be an educator. I’m not. It’s not my jam. It’s not how I want to live my life, though I do have the utmost respect for those who do make education their life. Educators are very special people with very special gifts that I simply don’t have (like patience and people skills and really strong immune systems and patience. Did I say patience?).

But, the thing here is that we are all about to learn more about (and with) our kids. We are all about to see how our kids learn. What works for them. What doesn’t. How they respond, what the teacher was talking about. What frustrates and confuses, what motivates and inspires, what bores them to tears, and just how very little of what we learned growing up actually stuck with us as adults, and just how absolutely unintelligent we actually are as adults. But, the good news is that we get to know our kids better, and guess what? That’s about to make us all better people. We will come out of this better able to help our kids and help our kids’ teachers. We are about to become educated, and I’m not just talking about our kids.

More Adult Time

Oh yes. So our lunch time bedroom dates might be a little more difficult to mange with four kids home, but now we aren’t out late every night, so we get to go to bed earlier and enjoy that time. The kids aren’t waking up early, so we get to enjoy that time. You guys, we are all going to have a much better attitude about all the things by the time this is said and done – and maybe some people who are struggling will find their groove again. This is good, good news.

Healthier Living

That’s largely hypocritical to point out as we all shove our social distancing snacks down our throats in rapid stress-eating force, but you know what I mean. We are now cooking most meals from home, so we are automatically healthier. We are taking more family walks, playing more games outside with the kids, getting more sun, benefiting from those walks and baseball games in the yard. We are all going to be healthier and more energized before much longer.

Appreciation

You know those small things we all take for granted every single day? Date night? A quick trip to Nordstrom? Birthday parties? Family vacations? Packing up and heading to a favorite resort for the weekend? Yeah, those things we can’t do anymore? Guess what? We are all about to learn to appreciate the little things. And the big things. And the things in between. We are all about to appreciate every single little thing in lives a lot more than we did before.

I have a long list of a million more ways that I’ve seen this social distancing/quarantine situation become a blessing in disguise, but not all of the things I’ve seen are my stories to tell. So, I’ll leave it at that. This is a tragedy, and it’s terrifying, and it’s just unknown and uncertain, and it’s fostering a lot of fear. But it doesn’t mean there is not good. Look for it. Be it.

Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

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I won’t start with my typical Happy Tuesday because I’m aware this is not a happy time for most. In fact, it’s a terrifying time for many. For those who are susceptible to COVID-19 – or the Corona Virus – such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. For parents who fear the concept of homeschooling their kids (because the good Lord knows I’m not qualified at ALL to homeschool kids), small business owners unsure of the future, hourly employees who work for tips whose jobs are shut down, kids who don’t fully understand the fear and panic around them.

Especially kids.

I’m going to avoid discussing adults as a whole because we all already know how I feel about the general population, but I’m happy to talk kids. I have four of my own. I was once one. I have a bevy of kids in and out my front door on a regular basis. I know kids. I listen when they talk to me. I listen when they’re talking to one another or my husband. I observe their body language, and I hear the fears they might not have the bravery to speak out loud.

Kids don’t know what’s going on. Sure, right now, they’re all happy that they have an extra bit of time off school, but we all know that this little bit of time might become months. It might become distance learning and virtual schooling and homeschooling. Soon, they’ll be bored of being home. They’ll want to know why vacation was cancelled. They’ll want to know why we can’t go to their favorite resort for the weekend, or their favorite restaurants for dinners and lunches, or why we can’t go to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday for art supplies, or why we can’t go to the movies or Hammer & Stain, or why we can’t go to church anymore.

If they’re not already asking questions, they will. The excitement of cancelled school and events and extracurriculars that result in late nights doing homework and early mornings and long weekends of travel to places they have no desire to visit and finally having some free time will lessen, and they’ll want to know what’s up. I won’t lie and pretend I’m not excited for all the free time right now. I won’t act like I’m upset that things have been cancelled and we have the opportunity to get back our time and control of our schedules, and that I no longer have to stress about how I’m going to accomplish my work with so many interruptions on any given day. I won’t pretend I’m sad that I actually had the time to sit down and write a blog post for the first time in months because my work day isn’t chopped up by getting kids ready, taking them to school, going to practices, traveling for events, picking them up from school, working on homework, etc.

Social distancing isn’t something I’m unhappy about. The reason behind it, well, that’s less than ideal. But, it’s reality right now. We are fresh off a weekend trip to Miami to celebrate the twins’ sixth birthday and Ava’s 9th birthday – and it was exactly what we needed. Of course, we were a day into our trip when we got word of school closings and Disney closings, two days before social distancing was introduced and cruises were cancelled, and home before cities and towns began shutting down their restaurants and bars and clubs and movie theaters.

We had the best weekend on the beach and by the pool. There were plenty of people out and about, but the sunshine and fresh ocean air and al fresco dining all weekend was exactly what we needed before heading home to a completely different reality. Instead of spending the evening of our return passed out .2 seconds after our heads hit the pillow at bedtime, we spent that time talking about how we will answer our kids’ questions and how we will handle things as they change and as we approach the unknown.

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How will we answer the kids’ questions?

Honestly, but without inciting panic or fear. There’s no reason to hoard toilet paper or eggs, and we refuse to teach our children to approach life with a panicked mindset. We will be honest and open, but hopeful and concise. We will also answer them on a case by case basis. The twins’ questions will not be answered in the same manner as we’d answer them if it were Addison who asked. We will use common sense, but we will also maintain a level of honesty.

  • Talk honestly
  • Make sure they know the facts and the dangers
  • Remind them – again – of the importance of good hygiene
  • Encourage them to ask questions if they’re confused
  • Don’t let them watch media reports

How will we explain how life is changing?

Thankfully, there’s not much changing in the lives of the Raiford kids. I’ve worked from home their entire lives, so they don’t know any different there. Craig is approaching four years of working from home, so it’s their everyday life. Our everyday routine Monday-Friday will not change because of this, because I have my business to run and my husband has his job to do.

Weekends and evenings will be where the change is most noticeable. There won’t be any dinners out or any trips while we social distance for however long this is necessary. But, we will make life as sweet and comforting and familiar as possible by sticking to bedtime routines and everyday schedules. Kids love structure and routine – the Raiford kids LOVE structure and routine.

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How will we make life less scary for the kids?

Easy – we will have fun. These are uncertain times, but we will certainly spend a lot more time outdoors playing games. Baseball and football in the yard. Bike rides. Family walks. Dinner on the deck. Sunsets on the front porch rocking chairs. Breakfast on the lanai. Roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. Playing on the kids’ playground equipment. Ava asked if we could pick some summer nights to lie on a blanket on the deck and watch the stars, so we’ll do that. Family movie nights. Family game nights. Family dinners around the table outside. Setting up their art station on the deck. Playing card games. Read books. Write stories. Write great-grandma letters and draw her pictures. Laugh a lot.

We may not be able to travel – and that might be hard on our kids who are accustomed to it and love it on a regular basis – but we can have our regularly scheduled fun. We’ve got this.

How will we get through this?

For one, we pray. Second, we stay home. Honestly, we don’t get nearly enough time home, and our kids often ask us if we can plan time to stay home and be lazy. Well, now we can. We can sleep later. Nap if we want. Relax a bit. Go unhurried. We can get creative in the kitchen trying new recipes for once since we usually don’t even have time to cook the ones we already know. We just spend quality time together, and we keep our attitudes in check.

What can I teach my kids during this time?

I’m not worried about math or science or ELA or whatever. I’m worried about the important life lessons our kids will get out of this. Such as learning to stay calm and cool in a scary situation. Learning to spread kindness instead of ugliness. Learning to give back. Want to teach your kids something important? Teach them to give to others.

  • Buy a gift card for the grocery store in which you’re shopping and give it to the person in line behind you
  • Buy gas for someone at the gas station
  • Send flowers so that someone’s day is brightened and so that a small business owner gets some revenue
  • Buy some gift cards to use late
  • Wipe down your shopping cart before you use it and again after you use it
  • Share your resources if you have them (I’m talking to you TP hoarders)
  • Buy dinner for another family who is picking up their to-go meal at your favorite restaurant
  • Way over-tip (I’m a fan of 50% or more)
  • Be kind
  • Keep your opinions to yourself
  • Be quiet if you can’t be helpful or nice – this also applies to pre-and-post social distancing, y’all.
  • Ask an elderly friend or neighbor if you can pick up their groceries and deliver them safely to their doorstep
  • Do what you can, even when you think you can’t

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What if I’m scared?

Anyone who is not a little scared right now is a liar. It’s all right to be afraid. This is nothing we have ever encountered in our lives. It’s terrifying, and it’s uncertain, and many people are left fearful and desperate and feeling as if nothing will be okay.

It’s okay to be afraid. Look – approximately a week ago, we were planning our March Madness brackets and shopping for our spring break trips. A lot changed in that week. A lot can change this week. Keep that in mind. Anything can happen on any day – and that means there is always, always, always hope. It’s all right to be afraid, but don’t let that talk you out of also being hopeful.

I am SO happy to finally have the time to sit down and blog again, and I’m going to share a few posts a week. I’d like to keep them helpful and informative, but without being your news source. I just want to share what I know, what I’m familiar with a what applies. So, here’s to social distancing (or as I call it, my life because I like a handful of people and find the rest absolutely ridiculous) for the coming weeks, doing our best to help when possible, and staying safe.

 

A Beautiful Smile Made Simple with Smile Brilliant

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Growing older is exciting, and I should know. I just turned 36, and I’ve never felt more confident, happier, or more beautiful in my life. Growing older doesn’t scare me, but that’s because my grandmother – who is as beautiful as ever even after a century of living – taught me that there are two things that make you beautiful no matter how old you get.

Your smile and your attitude.

Attitude is easy; be kind, be grateful, and seek the good in life.

My smile is just as easy; brush, floss, visit the dentist twice a year, and find the right toothbrush. Finally, after 36 years, I’ve finally found the perfect toothbrush to give me the most beautiful smile. It’s the cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant, and it’s everything. What makes it different from all the other electric toothbrushes on the market is that I actually love it, it doesn’t make my sensitive gums hurt, and I didn’t bleed even once (you guys, I can make my own gums bleed brushing my own teeth with a regular toothbrush).

Why I love it

An electric toothbrush that throws 40,000 vibrations at you every minute is amazing. Not only that, but this is one electric toothbrush that works for you by pausing momentarily every 30 seconds to ensure you know it’s time to switch areas in your mouth. Every area gets the same time, attention, and fabulous cleaning with this helpful feature. Oh – and did I mention the battery lasts 30 days when it’s fully charged? This is great for someone like me who doesn’t like clutter on the bathroom counters and forgets to charge it every night (out of sight, out of mind, right?). It was also a relief when my husband and I spent four days in New York City this past weekend I realized I never put the charger in my carry-on!

My favorite thing, however, is the five brush modes. I’ve tried them all – several times – and my favorite is “White”. I promise you I can see a difference in the mornings after I’ve had three cups of coffee and brush my teeth before I walk out the door to take my littles to school. The other four modes include:

  • Clean
  • Massage
  • Gum care
  • Sensitive

I love all four, but what I really love is that I find I don’t need the sensitive mode as much as I thought I would. With such sensitive teeth and gums, I worried I wouldn’t use any of the other modes because I’d need the sensitive mode, but it’s not true for me. I can use all of them with the same great feeling, less stress, and no sensitivity. Every mode is amazing, and you might find yourself wanting to keep brushing just to use all of them at the same time!

It’s professional teeth cleaning from home (please continue to see your dentist every six months or sooner, if necessary, to ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible). Even better, though, is that I can multitask by brushing in the shower when I’m running behind – I do have four little ones, you know – because the cariPRO is completely waterproof.

I’ve used a few electric toothbrushes in the past, but I’ve never been overly impressed. My teeth are sensitive, and the other electric brushes I’ve used caused bleeding and additional sensitivity. I never felt I was getting any more of a ‘clean’ feeling than I did with the brush my dentist gifts me at the end of every appointment, so I always used them, put them aside, and moved on from them. The cariPRO, however, has changed the game for me. I’m excited to brush my teeth every day, and I’m not worried about hurting myself or causing additional stress to my mouth. It’s such a refreshing change! And it’s affordable, too, starting at only $119 ($199 for a set of two if you and your spouse both want to have the best smile…it makes for great kissing!).

Oral Health Care is so Important

Now that I’ve shared with you the million and one things I love about my new cariPro, I wanted to make sure you know that your oral health is the most important thing you can pay attention to as you age. Now that I’m 36, I get what my grandmother was saying. Being happy and having a beautiful smile keeps my looking youthful, but it also keeps me healthy.

Good oral health care is directly related to good overall health. Using the cariPRO and visiting my dentist every six months helps me improve my chances of living a long, healthy, youthful life that extends far behind just having a beautiful smile thanks to my healthy, white teeth. Good oral health care decreases my risk of developing periodontal and gum disease. Did you know both of these oral health problems can cause an increased risk of developing certain health issues, such as cancer, endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications such as low birth weight and premature birth?

I don’t know about you, but having a beautiful smile and a decreased risk of developing serious health problems as I get older is all I need to know to keep me brushing, flossing, and visiting my dentist. It’s also why I am so excited to partner with Smile Brilliant to offer one of my readers/followers a chance to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush! Here’s how to enter my giveaway to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush.

The winner will be randomly chosen and notified shortly!

If you don’t win your own cariPRO Ultrasonic, don’t stress – you can get 20% off your own by visiting https://www.smilebrilliant.com#tiffanyraiford and entering promo code “20TIFFANYRAIFORD” at checkout.

For more information about my new favorite toothbrush, visit https://www.smilebrilliant.com/frequentlyaskedquestions#tiffanyraiford to learn more.

PS: I’ll be sending Santa my promo code so he can make sure everyone in my house gets their own cariPRO in their stocking on Christmas morning…what better gift than the gift of a beautiful smile and a healthy life?

Monday Motivation: Five Ways to Get Motivated Any Day of the Week

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s so hard to find motivation sometimes, right? I go through off and on periods where I’m super motivated to do all the things, and then there are days that I don’t want to do any of the things. But, there are a few things that I’ve come to notice about my own personal motivation. Let me back that up just a minute and explain.

I am hyper-aware of my feelings. As an adult, I’ve become very mindful about how I’m feeling, what’s making me feel that way, and how I can channel those feelings into something more productive. I am very in tune with my body and my mind, and I’ve learned when to walk away, when to get busy, and when to shut it down and take a break. Trust me, it’s not always convenient, but there are a few things I know I can do to help me feel more motivated. And there are a few things I can do when I’m not feeling motivated to get out of that situation and fix the issues.

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Start on Sunday

The single most important thing I can do for myself is get started with a motivated week on Sunday. Church always motivates me and helps me feel invigorated, happy, and motivated. I feel so good when I leave there, and I feel so ready to tackle the week. I also like to get my calendar in order on Sundays. I prep the things I need to do workwise, and sometimes I get a little bit of a head start if everyone else is busy doing their own thing.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I go into Monday with things to do that I didn’t do on Sunday, I’m in for a stressful day. I will let that stress get to me and bring me down for the week, too, on occasion. So, I can almost guarantee that if my Sunday allows for me to go into Monday with nothing left on my checklist, I can have a productive, awesome week.

Work Out

I don’t have a lot of free time because of my business, kids, marriage, house, life, you name it. So, I tend to find myself sometimes looking for a way to give myself a little more time, and that often makes me feel unmotivated. I might assume I need to skip the gym to find the time to get things done, but that never works out for me.

I never regret time spent at the gym. I always regret skipping the gym. I find myself so much more motivated and energized when I leave the gym. So, I find time to work out. Even if I don’t have much time on a crazy day, I won’t spend my usual hour working out. I might give myself 30 minutes to run or do something that gets my blood going, and it’s always worthwhile.

Stop and Do Something Fun

You can’t force creativity. You just can’t. Sometimes, I have to stop and do something fun. I have to call a friend and tell her she’s got to get dressed and go get coffee or lunch with me. I might leave and go shopping. I might read a book or lay out in the sun or just do something that I’ve been thinking of doing. I always find that I’m more motivated after giving myself a much-needed break.

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Cry it Out

I’m emotional. I feel things really hard; especially when I’m unmotivated and feeling as if I can’t get things together. Overwhelmed is a good description. And, you guys, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when nothing seems to be going my way. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is give in and take some time to cry it out. It’s like a refreshing way to clear out all the junk in my mind and on my heart, and it’s a good time to pray and to feel cleansed and renewed. It might be messy – hello mascara and makeup – but I always feel so much better after I cry. Always. There is no sometimes in that one. So, don’t be ashamed to cry. I’m not.

Go With the Flow

I like things routine. Scheduled. On my terms. My way or the highway, we might say. But, sometimes, I’m most motivated after I’ve just gone with the flow. After I’ve made an impromptu decision to do something not on my radar. Going with the flow sometimes reminds me that life is not all about getting things done and it’s more about enjoying the things I’m doing. So, if you need some motivation; stop. Go with the flow. Don’t force anything. It’s better that way.

What do you do on a Monday morning to motivate yourself for the day and the week ahead?

Anything Can Happen, and Being Prepared is a Good Thing

Happy Thursday, loves!

 

A digital detox is sometimes what the doctor ordered, and the Raiford family has spent ample time with our fair share of doctors in the past two or three months! Since our son’s unprovoked grand mal seizure on Valentine’s weekend, it’s been necessary. We are already so busy with our kids and their schedules, our travel schedules, date nights, volunteer schedules, my business, our home, our marriage, and so much more that I needed the detox. I took a break from the blog. I turned down all the campaigns that came my way during this time, and we just focused on living our best life, which is just so easy to do when you appreciate how much good fortune and how much abundance our lives are filled with.

 

When I was offered a chance to work with the legal professionals at Trust & Will to create our trust, will, and appoint guardians, I couldn’t pass it up. Life is short, and you never know what can happen. We had no idea when we woke up the morning of our son’s seizure that a day of pool parties and fun with our favorites would turn into a three-day hospital stay and newfound fear that will last a lifetime. We had no idea our lives would change forever that day, and that’s the point of a trust, will, and guardianship. Life happens, and it’s rarely going to happen as planned.

 

We certainly don’t like to think of our mortality, but it’s inevitable. We need to make sure our sweet babies are cared for. We need to know that they will be taken care of, that our homes are taken care of, my business is managed, and that our bank accounts and life insurance policies and investments are cared for. We need to know these things, and our kids need us to be prepared in case of the worst.

 

Thanks to the amazing legal pros at Trust & Will, we have our newly updated will, our estate, and plan signed, sealed, and delivered right to our door. It took no time at all to complete the process. Our questions were quickly answered by legal professionals with valuable experience, and it was the most enjoyable experience (well, as enjoyable as thinking of your own mortality can be, anyway). And because I want you all to take the time to do some adulting (I know, I know…who wants to adult when the weekend is so close?), Trust & Will is offering all of my followers and readers a chance to save a little money (you can leave it to someone you love in your will) creating your own will. Just visit the site, create an account, and use promo code “ADULTING2019” at checkout for $10 off the cost of your will.

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{ Dress by Lilly Pulitzer } {Necklace and Bracelet by Tiffany & Co.} {Bracelet by David Yurman }

The past few months of detoxing from certain aspects of life have been so invigorating. It’s been so much fun to focus on the kids, on our health, on our travel schedules, and we’ve learned so much in this season of fear and uncertainty. It makes me feel so grateful to know that seasons like this are short-lived, and that they are few and far between. I’m also so grateful for the lessons I learn in trials, how much my faith grows, how much my marriage grows, and how much our kids grow. It’s not always pleasant, but looking back it’s obvious that we sometimes need to slow down, shut down, and learn a few life lessons. And we did.

Our Kids Really Are Best Friends

Carter’s seizure was hard on all of us. Combined with every little thing going wrong at home in the midst of all his appointments and our hectic travel schedule this year, we were prepared to have meltdowns. We were prepared to see the kids unravel. But what happened was the exact opposite. We saw them become closer than ever. They give more hugs. They extend more “I love you’s” to one another. They spend more time together. They watch out for one another. At no point since his seizure has Carter been alone anywhere. They want to be with him. They want to watch out for him, and they realized just how important they are to one another. They bicker less. They get along more. It’s been amazing for us to see them grow so much closer.

 

Everyone has an opinion, and it’s best to nod, smile, and move on

Trust me. Every single person has an opinion. Some of them are valid and welcome. Some are hurtful and unkind. Some are snarky and clearly come from a place of discontent and unhappiness. Don’t worry about it. Say thanks, smile, move on. It’s simple. Anyone who wants to tell you that what terrifies you and changes your life is not that big of a deal is dealing with their own life issues. Lacking sympathy and compassion for people is an ugly trait, but you don’t need to be ugly in return. Simply extend your sincerest wishes to them and feel thankful that they’ve never held their lifeless child in their arms and wondered if they would die. Their ignorance is bliss, and they are so fortunate to have that.

 

I need my husband, and he needs me

 

This is certainly not something we’ve questioned or doubted in the past, but it’s something we are so much more aware of at this point. One thing my husband said to me when we first got engaged was that we would never be the people who sat on separate couches when we watch television or relax at night; we’d sit together. He did not want the same kind of marriage his parents had – they ultimately divorced the year before we wed – after his dad was gone most of his childhood for work, and he did not want to miss out on our future children’s childhoods (he was so sure he’d talk me into having kids…but he probably didn’t think four was our number!). That’s one of the values I love most, but I love it even more knowing that we don’t go through hard things alone. We are right there for one another, and we have one another to hold onto. It’s everything to me.

 

I have to let go

 

I have learned so much lately, and this is such a good thing. If it’s not serving you, let it go. If something isn’t bring you joy or happiness, let it go. Don’t dwell on things. Let them go. Those who live in the past are so unhappy, and they are living such small lives. I can’t sit here and think “What if we’d done XYZ, would it have stopped this from happening?” Or “Why our sweet boy?” Or the many other things that aren’t helpful that are in the past, out of our control, etc. Let it go and let God. If you don’t learn to let it go, you’re going never going to live your best life…which leads me to the following.

 

It’s okay to live your best life

 

I’m a big fan of living my best life, but I found myself saying I wasn’t living my best life following our son’s seizure. I just wasn’t. That’s not who I am. Life wasn’t perfect for me, and I was suddenly not living my best life. Something terrible happened, and suddenly my best life was not easy to see even though I was still living it. When your son is totally fine and his tests are perfect and the doctors tell you he’s a perfectly healthy little love, what about that is not my best life? What about having a healthy son is not best life stuff?

 

My best life is my reality, and I love that about it. My best life is being with my family. My best life is date night. My best life occurs when one of my busy little ones wants to sit down and cuddle with me for even one minute. My best life is lived drinking coffee in my favorite room of my house while my husband sits next to me drinking his and the kids are way too loud. My best life is lived in a five-star resort with a beautiful view and people we love. My best life is lived on Wednesday nights when we get to enjoy our long-standing tradition with our besties. My best life is spending weekends surrounded by the people we love the most laughing and having fun with one another and our kids. My best life is lived being present with my kids. My best life is what makes me happy. It’s not an indication of perfect. It’s my definition of my best life – and I never know where my best life takes me.

 

It’s okay for me to live my best life even when things aren’t perfect. The truth is that no one has a perfect life. My husband irritates me sometimes. He breathes loud when he sleeps sometimes, and it drives me nuts. I have excessive road rage. I am just not a people person. I’m impatient. I’m expensive. I worry, and I have fears, and I have nightmares, and things scare me. I take my 6-year-old nephew to school and pick him up most days, and he drives me beyond crazy because he’s never in a hurry and he’s always in his own world, and I’m annoyed with him more often than no. But that’s me living my best life because I am so fortunate I can do that for my aunt so that her son can go to the school she’s chosen and she can teach at the school where she’s been for decades. Everything that’s imperfect has a good side, and that’s my best life.

 

Life is only as good as you make it, which is why I like to make mine a good one. So, go, create your will. Make a plan. Fix your life. Get rid of things that don’t serve you. Wear big dark glasses and get botox so people can’t see your thoughts on your face. Pray for those who seem sad and lost in their own lives. If you can’t do that, send a prayer of thanks you’re not those people. Focus on the good. Be present. Take a break and spend time doing what you love. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the things that happen to you and around you. Learn. Apply. Move on. Be a good person, always.

2019 Fitness Challenge with BBG – Adding an Additional Program to My Workouts

Happy Wednesday, loves!

So, I did a thing.

Well, I’m working on a collaboration with a company, and I did a thing, and I’m really excited about it. Y’all know that I’m big on being fit and toned, eating well, and being healthy in general. Not that I don’t love me some vino and some decadent and unhealthy foods, but I really place so much importance on being fit and toned.

Listen, I’m 35 years old and my metabolism isn’t going to carry me forever. I love to work out. I love the endorphins and the rush I get after a good workout. My mood is good. I have so much more confidence, and I have zero problem putting on a bikini. I love the feeling of knowing my size and that I can fit into whatever I want to wear. I love that. I love have abs, and I love having a muscle and being toned.

And I’ve developed a serious passion for both running and yoga.

I like the gym, too. I work out at the YMCA when I’m not running at home. I take a very intense yoga class at the Y 2 to 3 days a week, and I use their machines and equipment there, too, when I’m not working out at home. I like a nice variety – but I’ve been a little bored with my standard workouts. Well, bored might not be the right word.

I told my husband before the new year began that I wanted to find a fun new way of working out to add to my running and my yoga. I love both, but I know that I have to add something to it and change it up a bit to make it effective. I’m at a plateau where I love my body the way it is, but I’m not feeling the additional challenge or seeing results in other places because I’m doing the same thing – though yoga is different every single day.

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So, when a collaboration with Kayla Itsines and the BBG workout was presented, I was all over it. I’d been checking the internet – I love you, Pinterest – for new workout ideas and routines, but nothing seemed challenging. When this opportunity came about, I decided I’d give it a try. I love to work out, I love to try new things, and I’m always up for mixing it up.

The idea of 28-minute workouts every day is also exciting to me. I want to be stronger and even more toned, so this is something I’m excited to try. I’m excited to share more with you as I get started. I only just started this week as the program just went live – and that’s exciting.

I’m not going to give up running or yoga. I’m not replacing either, and I am using a combination of the at-home workouts and the gym workouts. I don’t think everyone does that, and it’s certainly not required, but it’s something that I’m excited to try. I’m always up for new things, and this seems fun. I don’t know if I’ll love it. I don’t know if I’ll dislike it, but I do know I’ll see myself through all 12 weeks – because I don’t quit.

Here’s what I’m hoping to get from this workout program.

  • A new appreciation for variation
  • More strength
  • More toned
  • the ability to run further
  • more stamina
  • change
  • a more well-rounded workout

 

While yoga and running give me what I want and what I need, I also love variation and exciting new things – and that’s something I’m going to enjoy. Basically, I love a challenge, and I’m excited to try something new that I’ve never done.

2019 is all about adventure for me, and I’m considering this my first step to trying new things and adding to my life. Here we go!

Being Content: Finding Happiness Right Now

Happy Monday, loves!

I hope you all had the most fantastic weekend. We did, and I loved every second of it! I know I say it all the time, but we are so fortunate to have had the same amazing friends in our lives since long before any of us had kids. We all got married around the same time, we all had our babies together. We’ve been to every one of the other’s baby showers, we’ve spent a least a day together every week for more than a decade, and we are family.

How does it get better than that? How does it get better than having your very own amazing family and then having this amazing family you’ve created for yourself? You have all these memories. You travel and vacation together. You raise your kids together. You spend so much time at one another’s houses you know them and feel as comfortable in them as you do your own.

Family is what life is all about, whether you are born into them or you make them yourself. And I love that.

It also has a little bit of something to do with today’s post, which is all about being content. If you know me, you know I have my off days and a bad attitude and all the uglies sometimes. But you also know that I lay my head down at night with a full heart and a sense of peace that I don’t take for granted. You know that saying, “I remember the days when I prayed so hard for everything I have now?”

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I do.

I remember those days.

And I know that it’s like to want more. I’m always looking to expand my business, to grow more, to have more, to do more, to give back more, to experience more, to be more. And there’s not a damn thing wrong with wanting more.

But, if you know me, you know that I know that I’m content. Like, really, truly, happily content. What I have is everything I’ve ever wanted. I wasn’t always. There was a time when I was younger when I thought I needed more of everything to be content. More money. A bigger house. A more expensive car, another expensive bag, more expensive shoes.

And don’t get me wrong – I love those things.

But they don’t make me happy. I mean, okay, they do make me happy, but they don’t make me content and fulfilled. They bring me temporary joy (like every single time I put them on) but they don’t make me content.

What makes me content can’t be measured in terms of more.

It’s babies who want to be cuddled. Sweet little faces who love me to the moon and back. A handsome man who has loved me since I was 18 years old and has seen me at my very best, my very worst, my most vulnerable, and my ugliest, and somehow decides every single day to love me even more than he did the day before, and to show it in everything he does. It’s people to surround myself with who would do anything for me, who love me, who make fun of me, who make me feel like I’m home when I’m with them.

Learning to Find Content In Your Life

Here’s the thing – once you learn to find it, it’s so easy to keep it.

  • Don’t compare
  • Don’t wish
  • Don’t complain
  • Focus on what is important

 

Comparison is the thief of joy. If you spend your entire life comparing what you have/are/look like/do/go/whatever to what other people have, you’ll never be happy. Additionally, what makes other people happy probably won’t make you happy and vice versa.

Don’t wish. If you want something you don’t have, make it a reality by creating a goal and working for it. Don’t wish for it. Do it. Make it happen. It’s okay to want more if you’re willing to work for it and make it happen. It’s not okay to sit back and wish your life away.

Don’t complain. I mean, it’s okay to complain that Starbucks once again took 2746938473 minutes to make your latte, but then let it go and enjoy the deliciousness of it and remember that without all those minutes, you wouldn’t have this amazingness in your hand.

Focus on what’s important. People. People are important. Things are not. They’re fun, but they’re not important.

 

Really, and honestly, the best way to find content in your life is to focus on what is good in your life. It’s not to sit back and wish for more. It’s getting to work to make your life what you want and then sitting back and enjoying it every step of the way. If I complained about all the things that go wrong in my life, I’d waste a lot of my time being very unhappy. Instead, when life throws me a curve ball, I take a moment to panic, and then I remind myself that every single thing I ever thought was a bad thing in my life somehow turned into the best thing that ever happened to me.

Every lesson in life is just that – a lesson. You learn form it. You grow from it, and you change from it. You let it hurt, you let it get to you for a minute, but you stop yourself and learn to be content with it. You cannot change it, but you can use it to change you for the better. Everything that happens in your life is for a reason, and that reason is to help you grow. Put your faith first and you will always remember that there is something happening because you need to learn from it. You need to grow and change and evolve, and that shit doesn’t happen inside your comfort zone.

That’s how you find content in your life. You smile when you feel happy. You walk away when you need a moment, and you love what you have while you work for more. It’s easier than you think, and I certainly hope that even just one person reads this and realizes that life is really, really good.

Quick, Healthy Pizza With CauliPower!

Happy Friday, loves!

This week flew by! Perhaps it was being gone all last weekend, or maybe it was our daughter’s Safety Patrol Induction ceremony and all that went into planning that (hey, surprise! I’m on the Safety Patrol committee….because what committee am I *not* on? Oh, none, that’s the one I’m not on), or perhaps it’s just because it was a four-day week. I don’t know, but it flew by!

Last week I was fortunate enough to do a campaign with CauliPower, which is an amazing cauliflower pizza crust. We love pizza in our house, but we are huge fans of taking our favorite foods and turning them into healthier options. When the amazing people from CauliPower reached out to me, I was all in to try their amazing crust and shoot this campaign (which is a hilariously funny story I’ll get to in a moment).

Craig and I are big fans of food. We like to consider ourselves foodies. We love to try the most amazing restaurants in the most amazing cities, and we love to cook. I’m not great at it, but he is – and we’re an amazing team. Because we are very health conscious (because metabolism and good genes alone aren’t enough once you hit those mid-30s my friends), we always find a way to make our favorite meals healthier. Since we love pizza, we always look for a cauliflower crust, and we always choose healthy toppings.

This campaign was fun. I received the product on Monday night, the campaign was due Thursday morning, but I wasn’t home Tuesday because of a PTA meeting and a Safety Patrol meeting. We didn’t have time to shoot until Wednesday night – a night all the kids are home, we had guests, and it was POURING rain. The sky was black. Like the night.

Our house is usually amazing for shooting my campaigns because we have so much natural light. We like to say our house is made of glass, and it kind of is. It’s amazing how much beautiful light we have, and we like our furniture and décor to be light and bright, too. Except that it was dark. It was so dark because it was pouring. The rain was insane. The thunder and lighting were insane. Our power went out several times while we tried to shoot. It was so dark, and it made our light, bright kitchen look like a dark, closed off kitchen.

The recessed lights didn’t do any justice. I set the fire alarm off cooking chicken sausage. The kids were terrified of the smoke and the storm. My gorgeous lifestyle shot was not gorgeous. And I drank all the wine.

The pizza, though, was spectacular.

So, I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

WHAT YOU NEED

1 cauliflower pizza crust

1 red onion

Fresh mozzarella cheese

Arugula

1 red bell pepper

Salt and pepper

EVOO

3 pieces chicken sausage

 

All you need to do is cook your sausage completely and cut it into small bites. Next, cover your pizza crust with arugula. Slice your bell pepper and add slices to the pepper, add mozzarella cheese, sliced red onion, and then top it with your sausage, and sprinkle a little bit of EVOO on top before adding salt and pepper (I totally borrowed this recipe from my friend, Veronyca Poupard, follow her here on Instagram for more health and fitness tips). Bake it for approximately 10 minutes at 425 degrees, and then enjoy.

I like to pair this healthy pizza with a glass of dry red wine – and you might, too.

Enjoy!

Staying Healthy When Time is of the Essence

Happy Wednesday loves!

I have no problem admitting I’m vain. I like to look good. I take care of myself, and I like to maintain good health for aesthetic purposes. However, I really like to maintain good health for a few other – more important – reasons than just my outward appearance (though I believe looking good on the outside helps improve self-confidence, which helps improve my mood, which helps improve my productivity, which makes me a nicer person, which makes my family like me more, which makes me happier…it’s the circle of life, right?).

I don’t know if y’all know this, but I have four little babes – and I want to be around for a very long time. I have a lot of boys to tell them they can’t date, a lot of girls to smile at in person and tell my husband, “Oh, HELL no,” when our son can’t hear, weddings to dress up for, grandbabies to cuddle and love, and basically another 80 or 90 years of memories to make (laugh now, but longevity is a thing in my family, and my husband likes to make the very bad joke that I’ll be married to my second husband a lot longer than him because he’ll live an average lifespan to my 120 years. He’s so wrong, though. There can’t be two men in this world crazy enough to want to live with me).

Anyway, my point is that life is a little bit crazy with all we have going on, and this week is one of those weeks that just gets crazier – if you can believe that.

We haven’t been home in the evenings in well over a week, I’m in the middle of packing us up for a 2.5-hour flight to Texas, a 5-hour drive from the airport to the farm, and time spent with my amazing grandmother. I have clients, deadlines, and projects going on. Kids with sports and activities, and there is always fun to be had with our people. We were out late last Tuesday for the fourth, Wednesday because we had our regularly scheduled #wednesdaynightdinner, Thursday for a family exercise situation at the YMCA, Friday for family date night, Saturday on the boat, Saturday night for family date night, Sunday at church and the river house, Monday for hair appointments and cheer uniform fittings, last night for tumbling, tonight for #wednesdaynightdinner, tomorrow night for a meeting…do you see what I mean?

I’m up at 5 am, we aren’t getting everyone to bed until late, and then we’re passing out quickly after them, and I’m exhausted. I have to work ahead so I don’t have to take my computer with me while we’re gone, and that means doubling up my efforts. It’s a lot of prep and work (thank you Lord for sending me a husband who efficiently packs for himself so that I don’t have to) but it’s my life, y’all.

So…this is usually when I start to feel myself coming down with something, but I refuse.

We put a lot of emphasis on healthy habits and eating, and we always have. It’s just a lifestyle for us, and it works so well. We have more energy, we feel better, and we get sick infrequently, but weeks like this always challenge me as I run myself into the ground. So, I thought I’d share a quick blog post about how I make sure I stay healthy when life is like, “No, eat all the donuts and definitely go to Chick-Fil-A and get that warm cookie for dessert,”.

Keep Eating the Good Stuff

It’s so easy to decide to get all kinds of lazy when life is hectic. Drive-thrus, take out, and unhealthy eats are just easier, but that’s not how we roll. I maintain my regularly scheduled eating on weeks like this. Some of my favorite quick and easy go-to meals include the following.

  • Greek yogurt, fruit, granola
  • Strawberries, blueberries, oranges and raspberries
  • Lots and lots of water and coffee
  • Peanut butter with tiny chocolate chips when I want something sweet

For dinner, we almost always have something simple like fresh salmon with a lemon butter sauce, baked or grilled chicken with either a cilantro lime marinade or something like a mango/avocado salsa on top, filet, and we rarely ever have a starch. We are double up the veggie kind of people – not that we don’t love starches, but we reserve those for get-togethers and stuff like that.

We love to take our favorite guilty pleasure foods and make them healthier. For example, I’m a taco-aholic who could eat them all day, every day, constantly. Problem – I don’t like pork or really any form of red meat other than filet. So, we bake chicken, mix it with chile peppers, tomatoes, and onions, bake it, and put it in a taco shell. Amazing. I also love pizza, so we will do a cauliflower crust with baked chicken, tomatoes, red onion, fresh mozzarella, and some buffalo sauce – amazing.

The key is to find things you love that don’t take much time to make, and then make them a lot healthier. It helps you stay feeling good and not falling apart because your body hates what you’re putting into it.

Don’t Skip the Gym

This one is easy for me. I love how I feel when I work out, so missing a day at the gym is not something I allow often. The good news is you can take a half hour and just go with it, and that’s amazing! Take a walk, go for a run, do a yoga work out on your computer. I do two to three days a week of intense yoga for an hour. I do three to four days a week on the treadmill. I run 8 miles a week minimum, and I’m working up my minimum to 10 miles a week. I also mix in another class such as HIIT (okay, once, last week) here and there to try something new. Just don’t skip the workout. It’s so important.

Take a Break

Sometimes you just need one. I know I do. I like to take a break, drink some water, read a little. Sit on the porch and watch the sunset. Sit on the deck and watch the sunrise with some coffee and whatever Bible study I have for the week. One thing that’s always been helpful to us is definitely our Wednesday night dinner tradition. It’s like 10 years of a mandatory mid-week break. We either host our friends or they host us. The kids get to play, we get to have an adult conversation (which is definitely appropriate and mature….), and force ourselves to put work away for a few hours. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s like therapy when you’re a workaholic with a hundred kids.

Find Motivation

Sometimes I get tired. I lack motivation and the desire to do anything. I know once I get started I’ll be fine, but it’s the getting started part that sucks. So, I start writing down things I already did today on my to-do list for the sheer satisfaction of crossing them off.

Brush my teeth. Check. Wake up. Check. Shower. Check. Drink coffee. Check. Kiss husband. Check. Kiss babies. Check. I mean, my to-do list sometimes looks like a hot ass mess of WTF, but once I see more items checked off than not, my brain forgets that things like ‘Breathe, check,’ are not actual accomplishments and my bad-assery kicks in and I get things done.

What do you do to stay healthy mentally, physically, and emotionally when you’ve living la vida loca (but the boring kind of la vida loca, not the music video kind where you’re on a yacht poppin’ bottles and living it up)?