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Live Big by Keisha Pittman

Larger than life – they are the moments where we seem to put the rock in the river and mark life by.  They are the defining opportunities that challenge and change the days that follow.

The call from the doctor.

The letter you can’t seem to open fast enough.

The vacation that turned monumental.

The concert you’ve always dreamed of.

The girlfriend getaway you talked about in the sterile dorm rooms of college life.

There are people we define with this title. Family holidays that deserve more than a page in a scrapbook.  Memorable vacations we’ve saved our pennies for, for more than a decade.  And, fulfilled opportunities that only our little girl dreams could outline.

But, what does larger than life really mean?

What quickly comes to mind is the first time I went to a Barnum and Bailey circus. As a kid, the elephants seemed bigger, the diameter of the center ring was wider than I imagined and we aren’t even going to talk about the man standing in the wire basket with tigers and fiery motorcycles circling his head.

Or the scene from the latest episode of Designated Survivor – two presidents standing on the back porch of the White House looking out across the grounds to an up lit Washington Monument.  I cannot begin to imagine the magnitude of that moment where you see the sites you’ve been surrounded with all your life and with a specific turn of events, you are now the one in charge and these monuments and memorials all contain a new meaning.

I’ve been there myself.  I remember the night I left my beloved town of Arkadelphia.  My sister and I took one last stroll together around the campus. We were mostly in silence. I wanted to walk the sidewalks of 71998 one more time and see if there was any last scene to hide in my heart.  It was the same view I turned back and saw 3 years later the night before my wedding.  “The street between the Joneses” is the perfect evening view of Berry Chapel.  With no cars around and a perfect moonlit night, the shadows are longer and the porch lights almost glisten. It’s an iconic scene.  It’s the place where, on the porch with a hymn playing on the bell carillon, a campus tour always seemed to host its magic moment.  Where I sat in a pew in silence on an early evening in late March and begged God to explain when I had heard “the c-word”. Or where I stood nervously a little over a year ago, waiting to walk down the aisle to a really cute blue-eyed boy who had captured my heart.  Each moment, growing bigger than the last.

But, “larger than life” took on a new meaning for me 3 weeks ago.  I was snuggly tucked away on the top bunk under a mosquito net in a steamy room, in an African orphanage.  The girls, moms and daughters, who were usually already tucked in as well came bursting through the door and told me I MUST get out of bed and come outside to see the stars. I reluctantly climbed down because my body was creaking more than the rustic bunk.  But, the view when I got outside did not disappoint.  The clouds of the day had finally rolled away and what was left was the biggest, brightest starry night I’ve ever seen.  I know you will read these words in disbelief, unless you’ve been there, but we could see the Milky Way.  Yes, the swirly, star gatherings that I only thought existed in text book images and planetarium fieldtrips.  I could easily spot the Big Dipper and stars truly twinkled.  Like, glowed in and out to show us the difference between a star and the planets that are surrounded with rings.  We could see every single detail and the expanse was wider than you could dream about spreading your arms.

Larger, grander, wider, brighter than I’d ever imagined seeing in my whole life!

One of my life mottos is LIVE BIG! I wonder how often I really stop and capture it.  There was no way to capture those stars and that African sky with any of the cameras our team had brought.  All we could do was stare in wonder and awe; both at God’s incredible creation and our opportunity to enjoy it.

That is truly when moments get big and life is truly larger than you can imagine.  Open your eyes, look around, blink, and capture the awe and wonder of every -single-day.

Keisha Pittman McKinney and her husband just returned from a trip to Malawi, Africa. Whether it was the stories of missionaries serving around the world that she learned in GAs (Girls in Action) growing up, supporting the work of PureMission.org through Esther’s House, or just the sheer curiosity of the most underdeveloped country on the largest continent in the world, visiting Africa has always been a dream. This month her sights are set on something new; the skies are bigger, rustic is no longer an obstacle, and the hearts of the people are warmer than one could imagine.  Keisha has returned with a new energy and wider perspective of what the world has to offer. No doubt she will be chasing new adventures and recording it all over on her blog – bigpittstop.com. She can be found @bigpittstop on most social platforms – follow along and share the journey!

Christ of the Ozarks by Busvlogger

When I heard that this month’s theme was “Larger than Life”, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve had the idea for the video’s intro rolling around in my head for years. It’s been waiting, like a rogue water bottle in the floor board of the car; bumping around as you go, sounding like someone’s hiding behind your seat when you think you’re alone. (Am I the only one that that’s happened to?) So, I took a drive to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and explored the grounds around The Christ of the Ozarks.

What impressed me most about the monolithic statue was the fact that every square inch of it was built and shaped by hand. Almost anything we want to accomplish in life can be done by making our mind up and building it a little at a time. Whether it’s getting around to cleaning out the car, going back to school or finally making that video, life is what you make it.  Let’s get our hands dirty!

 

James is a long-time youtuber, stay at home dad and homestead farmer from Northwest Arkansas. He mashed up his love for his Volkswagen Bus and his aspirations to video blog (vlog) into his brand “Busvlogger” almost 7 years ago. Busvlogger encourages viewers to “get your hands dirty” to craft their best lives. James loves taking viewers behind the curtain as he meets farmers and creatives and explores the Natural State and beyond. 

My Life That Way

by Alicia Dowell

I don’t know about you but when I hear the phrase “I want it that way” I fondly start thinking back to my teenage years. I couldn’t tell you anything about any boy bands besides maybe a song. But I have been mulling over this month’s theme wondering what could I talk about. Then like a bell the other day in Michael’s it hit me.

Hubby, Glitter, and I were walking around looking at all the new Spring items. Hubby really was hoping I wasn’t going to buy anything so don’t let him tell you any different. As we rounded the corner, three teenage girls were talking loud like teenagers do. The youngest, maybe 13, popped off this gem: “I want to DIY my life.   You know Do It Yourself.”  My heart went out to her. Does she not realize those awesome Instagram shots just the highlight reels’ people show? Then I literally stopped in the middle of the aisle and broke down in my own head. As I excused myself to an aisle I thought “I do that. I want my life that way. How am I any different?” I have been guilty of looking at the curated pictures and think “How perfect so and so’s life must be. Why can’t my life be this amazing? Only if I had the contacts so and so has, I could do so much, have so many followers, how I could quit my job and do something I love. It would be amazing to have it that way.

As this was going on in my head, I came to realize doing to same thing trying to make everything the way I wanted. I am not saying trying to make your life the way you want is a bad thing but rather basing your life on the curated views of someone else’s life is not cool. My life based on someone else’s is not how I want it.

Today the phrase “I want it that way” means, taking cues about not trying to base my life on so and so’s and remembering to share life even the not so curated parts.

I Want It That Way – Surrendering the Desire to Control

By Adria English

As my pregnancy progressed and my due date loomed closer, I felt nervous and scared. I had no idea how my birthing experience would play out, but I was pretty sure there was no such thing as an easy labor. I especially dreaded the recovery period to follow, not knowing what to expect from my body and afraid I might be unable to resume an active lifestyle or keep up with caring for my home and family the way I wanted.

And so I plotted ways to make my immediate postpartum life function smoothly. My sister Leslie had recommended I stock up on non-perishable and frozen food items, food that wouldn’t require more than a microwave or oven, and suggested making a few meals that I could freeze. I prepared cinnamon rolls, enchiladas, poppyseed chicken and chili, freezing pans or storing ingredients with cooking directions for my husband Garrett to follow later. I stayed on top of housework and laundry, increasing the frequency with which I completed regular chores so there wouldn’t be much time for housework to accumulate. As much as possible, I tried to keep the house, refrigerator and pantry in a ready state, thinking that would make the recovery period easier for us.

“I just don’t like not knowing when the baby will come,” I complained to Leslie one evening as I regarded my hospital bag, which I had constantly unpacked and repacked as days and weeks dragged on and I found myself needing items from it. I wanted sympathy and consolation, and maybe some secret sister intuition into the timing of childbirth. Instead she replied, “You better get used to that. Children make your life unpredictable.” With a pang I foolishly realized she was right. Planning and preparing would only get me so far—I needed also to relax my expectations and surrender my desire to control.

After wondering for weeks if the baby would come early and then accepting we could be as much as three weeks late (“early” and “late” being relative terms), I went into labor on my due date. To my amazement, mere hours after delivery I was able to walk around the room, holding and rocking my baby. I could nurse her and change her diaper. Not only was I able to do these things, but it was expected and demanded of me—demanded by a set of tiny lungs and a little scrunched up face that depicted a world of anguish until appeased.

I was exhausted when we returned home with the baby. Over the next few days I turned a blind eye to the unmade bed, dirty floors, unpacked bags, unsorted paperwork and mail, cluttered counters and food past its prime in the fridge. Garrett prepared meals, shopped for groceries (often deviating from the list I provided) and washed baskets of laundry (the tiny baby is quite the producer of dirty laundry!). Life did and does go on, quite happily, except now I find my personal desires and preferences supplanted by the needs and wants of the baby—and I want it that way.

A Love Letter to Myself

Hey girl,

I know that you get caught up in making sure that everyone else is okay.

You want to make sure your son is healthy and happy, that he is everything he needs and many of the things he wants, and that he knows that he is loved.

You want your family to know that you are there for them through the good times and the bad.

You want your friends to know that even though you are busy with parenting, running a business, and homeschool, you haven’t forgotten about them and want to be able to spend quality time together.

That’s all well and good. We SHOULD want the people who are important to us to KNOW that they are important to us.

However, in your efforts to makes sure everyone else feels special and loved, you tend to let one special someone slip through the cracks.

You forget to love on her. You don’t tell her enough that she is amazing. You fail to keep her uplifted at all times even though she is the one person who has been there for you your entire life and who will, without a doubt, be there for you for the rest of your life.

In fact, she is the person who makes it possible for you to get up every day and do the things that you need to do.

Who am I talking about?

YOU!

In all of the hustle and bustle of life, you fail to make yourself a priority. You don’t make a conscious effort to shower yourself with the love, attention, and care that you give to others.

But guess what?

You DESERVE it all.

Not just because of that saying that “you can’t pour from an empty cup, either.

I know that is a popular saying when people are trying to remind themselves to engage in self-care. It is based on the whole idea that in order to take care of others, you must first take care of yourself.

It’s true.

However, it’s not the ONLY reason you should focus on self-care and self-love.

You should love and care for yourself because you are amazing.

Because you crave love, attention, and care just as much as any other human.

Because love is protective.

Because love heals.

Because love makes you see the good things in life.

Because loving yourself makes it easier for you to make decisions that are good for you.

Because loving yourself makes it easier to eliminate things that don’t serve you.

Because unconditional love makes you braver and more likely to pursue your dreams.

Because unconditional love gets you through even the tough times.

Because you are happier when you take care of yourself.

Because you are healthier when you take care of yourself.

So take some time every day to bask in your own awesomeness. Remember and embrace all of who you are. Remember that you are lovable and worthy. Love on yourself and take care of yourself.

You deserve it.

Sincerely,

Me

A lifelong lover of words, Tiffany Hathorn has wrangled her dreams of being a writer by building a freelance business. She (sometimes surprisingly) juggles life as a single WAHM and home educator. When she is not spending time with her son, hanging out with mommy friends, or laughing and learning with fellow bloggers, she can often be found having a pretty intense affair with Netflix (shhh – don’t tell her books!). One of her driving passions is to help other women (particularly moms) to discover, pursue, and (ultimately) monetize their passions so that they can live a life of abundance. You can follow her adventures (and musings) at Single Mommy Warrior

Connect with Tiffany

Blog: www.singlemommywarrior.com

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Why I Love Words So

by Alicia Dowell

I have been sitting here trying to figure out what to write for the post which I volunteered to write. As of this moment, I am on draft three. I have been trying to figure out the best way to share my love for something and then the idea hit me… Stop trying to use someone else’s voice. Use your own! So, please come hang sit and let’s talk about why I will always love verbal or written words.

From a young age, I have always liked to tell stories. I am grateful for my mom and two sisters who let me ramble to them about far off places I had been or how I could make up a place called “tree heaven” where all these trees had made the best place to climb. I have a great metal picture of it but alas, I grew up in a time where a camera was not an everyday thing. So, you are just going to have to trust me, this was the best place for 10-year country girl. Tree heaven was where I dreamed worlds in to existence with broad stroke of spoken words. This encouraged me to keep with words. Verbal words were where I rocked it. If you ask my mom, she will tell you ever since I was little I would make up stories with verbal words then one day I ended up with an old notebook and never looked back.

From that day forward, I could be found with at least one notebook and several pens. I have been making up stories of written word sharing with just my family thinking one day I would share with the world. These great stories would be written in book form, make me super famous, and keep me from having a normal job. It is okay to laugh about how naïve this sounded. I thought I was going to make it on the first story I wrote. I still have these written words floating around somewhere.

I have no grand ideas of I will be famous from writing a book. Now, I used written word to share stories on my blog and here. For me this is a great way to share my love of words. The stories I share remind me why I love doing this. These stories are from my soul to share my love of words and maybe encourage someone else to share their love of what they hold dear.

Alicia Dowell lives in a little city called, Hope with her college sweetheart and their daughter. She is a lover of gardening, their back-yard chickens, yarn, blogging, Disney music, and photography. By day you can find her working at a state park and by night (or the light of her computer screen) she can be found blogging or on Instagram which is her favorite social media hangout.

  

 

Staying In Love Forever

by Renee Birchfield

I went through a lot of thoughts to figure out what exactly I wanted to say here. I watched the I’ll Be Loving You Forever video and had some interesting thoughts while watching. I was originally thinking of a good list of romantic movies that you and the man in your life will enjoy with some great snack ideas, but I had another idea hit me. I was driving to work and thought wouldn’t it be cool to talk about how to love someone forever and stayed married that long. So I asked over on the  Arkansas Women Bloggers Facebook page, and I was blown away by the number of responses I got.

With a group as big as ours, with amazing women there are many marriages that have lasted the test of time. From the responses I received, I have the youngest marriage of almost 3 years and we have some ladies that have been married closer to 50 years. I am so excited to share with you the tips they have and a few of my own. 

Marriage is not an easy adventure sometimes. You see when you bring two imperfect people with different histories and ideals then they will not always mesh together perfectly. The thing is it’s ok for it to not be easy, the trick is to love hard and never ever give up. Because when it is easy, it’s amazing and there is no one else other than your husband that you want to share that with. And trust me most marriages the good times way outweigh the bad ones. 

Here are the tips I got from members along with how long they got married. 

Shea married 5 years – “I know it’s cliche, but don’t go to bed angry. If we are upset, we get everything off our chest and then that’s that.”

Dorthy married 43 years – ” We talk things through. The one that needs to do that most, usually me, watches for the right time and politely asks. It isn’t always easy, but we’ve learned to trust our love for one another. It’s about sharing your heart, not your anger. Listening to the other person, apologizing when you should, and then figuring out how to compromise or make the change necessary to restore trust and harmony ”

Brittney married 7 years – “Try to out-serve one another every day ”

Anita married 49 years – “Speak to your spouse as kindly as you would a guest in your home. Your tone of voice, more than your words, is what causes friction.”

Amanda married 12 years – “Don’t point out all the little annoying things (like leaving a dish rag in the sink). Be thankful instead that he helps with the dishes. Complaining about the little things is a waste of breath and energy. Being thankful and joyful is always the better choice because in the end—- that little stuff doesn’t matter. Save complaints and concerns for things that actually matter. ”

Heather married 10 years – “Always assume the best in your partner. They pledged their life to yours, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. You’re on the same team – remembering that isn’t always easy but it is worth it! ”

Michelle married 24 years – “Don’t let the tiny things get under your skin and take the time to “date” your spouse. ”

Heidi married 11 years – “We consistently thank each other for all the little things each day, which keeps us wanting to do them for each other.”

Jill married 15 years – “Love bears all things” — let the little things go. Bring up contentious topics when tempers aren’t on edge. Express gratitude for what he does. ”

Sharla married 18 years – “Learn each other’s communication styles. It helps so much when you disagree.  If my husband is helping me with something, I never point out that he did it wrong or how I would have done it differently. ”

Jacqueline married 13 years – “Keep laughing. Don’t say things you can’t take back ”

Nacy married 41 years – “Honor each other, cherish each other. ”

Conway married 24 years – “Communication is the key (neither of you are mind readers), never assume anything and Jesus.”

Helena married 41 years – “Appreciate the little things, build him up. Forgive quickly. Don’t compare him to other men and laugh together. Pray for him and respect his position as head of the family. I don’t always get this right, we don’t have a perfect marriage but then who does. ”

Laci married 19 years – “Don’t sweat the small stuff and learn how to laugh a lot! Especially when your husband is cracking jokes at your expense. That’s how they flirt ”

Sarah married 10 years – “Have separate hobbies. Enjoy things separately (as well as together). Having your own interests and your own space will allow you to have a mental retreat when you need it. ”

Lyndi married 27 years – “We are committed to spending lots of time together. ”

Natalie married 12 years – “We have made it our mission to take one week away from the kids every year. Sometimes we plan an elaborate trip and sometimes we just send our kids to the in-laws so we can work on the house. It’s a good way to reconnect without having to worry about the kids.” & “Tell your spouse what you want. You have so many relationships where they just expect the other to know what they’re thinking. My husband is not a mind reader” 

Heather – “A motorcycle. My parents have been married 42 years and I’ve been married just over four this year. A man who takes good care of his motorcycle will take good care of his home. If you trust someone with your life in his hands (while you’re on the back of that bike), that’s big. ”

Sarah- “Read the The 5 Love Languages.”

Adria married 4 years – “Supporting his interests and hobbies (financially and with time spent together). Loving his family and friends.”

Debbie married 47 years – “Life isn’t perfect and neither are you. Don’t expect your spouse to be perfect either. When the times are great, you rejoice together. When times are difficult, you stay together. Most of all, you pray together. Sometimes, it’s best to walk away and just take a deep breath. Whenever you possibly can, never, ever go to bed apart or angry. Never give your spouse a reason not to trust you. Trust is earned and is easily lost. Remember at all times, why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Grow with, not apart. ”

Kimberly married 12 years – “Hold deep respect for the person your spouse is, their strengths, ambitions, skills, and how they love not just you but those who are important to you. Those are all the qualities that made you fall in love in the first place. ”

Eileen married 15 years – “Be kind to one another and make an effort to show interest in what the other is interested in. Some of his interests may not be at the top of my list, but I take the time to learn about them and enjoy his joy (and vice verse).” &” No secrets and undermining. ”

Rhonda married 15 years – “Keep the commitment. During the tough seasons and the really hard days, understand that “I do” means there are no other options. And if you’re an extrovert married to an introvert, talk less ”

Mari married 25 years – “Take turns being strong. We’ve been married 25 years this year and we both break occasionally. When I break, he picks up the slack, when he breaks, I do. Marriage is a partnership made of hard work, and no matter what, that partnership is something we respect. ”

Melissa married 25 years – “Call each other out on your BS and be willing to work through it and forgive. When you forgive never let it come back up. Let it go. Talk about things before you’re angry when possible. ” & Melissa married 25 years – ” Call each other out on your BS and be willing to work through it and forgive. When you forgive never let it come back up. Let it go. Talk about things before you’re angry when possible. ” & ” Never let your kids divide and conquer your marriage. They’re temporary residents in your home, never forget that. ”

Brenda married 35 years – “I remember when my husband and I got engaged, my father-in-law told me something I will never forget. He said, “you know he won’t change. The way he is today is the way he will be 50 years from now.” In other words, love them the way they are and don’t think you can change them. He was so right. We are going on 35 years now and told both of our daughter-in-laws this, too. ”

Jeanetta married 19 years – “We do our own things. He goes to events he wants to but I don’t and visa versa. We don’t begrudge each other when we do. “

Cassie married 3 years- “Open, authentic communication. If we have the slightest feeling of not wanting to share something with each other we make even more effort to do so. This could come from a place of not wanting to feel that vulnerable, fear of judgment, or not knowing how to share the feeling we are having. When those things or other things come up that make us think “Oh maybe I just won’t share that.” we have come to understand those are the most important things to share!”

Renee married 3 years- “You said I do with the intention to always be with that person. There are hard times because life isn’t easy but sticking it out and loving each other through it will make your marriage last forever. Remember why you fell in love with them and that you two are in it together as a team. ” 

These are all great and many touch on some common topics. When you read this I hope you take away that good communication, spending time together and appreciating them will make your marriage strong and you will last the test of time.

PS: To my husband who is amazing to me in the best of times and the only one that I want to annoy for the rest of my life, I’ll be loving you forever!

Do you have another tip to add? Comment below, I would love to hear from you.

Renee blogs over at If Spoons Could Talk where she shares her kitchen adventures. With a focus on healthy recipes that taste great and new in 2017; cooking techniques broke down so even a beginner cook can do them. Along with kitchen tips and tricks and cookbook reviews. Living in Central Arkansas you can find her in the kitchen or in her office working towards her teaching degree. Visit her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Puppy Love

By Keisha McKinney

Yall, I’m in LOVE (insert deep sigh…..).

What a year 2016 was for me.  I know I gave you a full list on my blog of all the things that had me mesmerized in 2016, but I just didn’t disclose everything….I mean, how do you put it in to words?

I love Starbucks mobile ordering and pickup.

I love chips and salsa.

I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

I love getting fresh ingredients and new recipes delivered to my front door.

Oh, how I love my new baby niece (like heart multiplied as I became an aunt kind of love).

I know the last couple weeks have been all about the gushy, mushy kind of love.  And, I know what you are thinking, “Keisha, you are a newlywed. Gag, we get it already. ”

But friend, you are wrong.  I’m talking about that fresh every morning, new every day, “love you no matter what” kind of love…

Becoming a wife made me a #dogmom. 

I knew Mr. McKinney’s dog. I had been around her while we were dating and even took care of her some weeks when he moved away. But she was the first one who stole his heart so I wasn’t sure where I’d fit in. Let me just say, we are both smitten.

She was found in a ditch by a friend of Mr. McKinney’s roommate and spent the first 2.5 years of her life being the only “female” in a house with dudes. To say she lived/s on a pedestal would be an understatement. I mean when my main squeeze gets home every day, she practically climbs up his body and they have “a moment” together.  She loves him.  But, really, she just loves. 

Since I work from home these days, she and I have bonded.  She stays and snuggles with me in the mornings after Mr. McKinney leaves for work. We have a morning routine that involves coffee for me and Rachel Ray’s Dish delights for her (I already told you she’s on a pedestal…this part just involves chicken and vegetables).  At different points throughout the day I’m reminded when Gizmo the neighbor’s cat saunters down the street, Tucky the neighbor lab who grew up and won’t fit under the fence any more can’t come to visit, and anyone comes to make a delivery.  A plethora of animals from stuffed chickens or hedgehogs, crinkly flat blue elephants, or fuzzy “rad bones” make a visit to my lap for an afternoon toss in an expected order.  Sometime after 4, I start getting the “quit working mom” face.  She can only lay on her Serta dog mat by my desk for so long.

And, in case you’re wondering…no, she doesn’t know she is a dog. She sleeps under the covers at night and on Mr. McKinney’s pillow in the morning. If you get up and leave your spot on the couch, she will quickly take it over. Her furry snout and sweet whiskers always make their way between your knees while you dine on breakfast, lunch, or dinner (she is not really picky).  A knife with peanut butter on it will never stand a chance and if you pray over your dinner while seated at the coffee table, you better keep one eye open.

Puppies.  They just steal our hearts.

My Bailey Girl loves deep. She is sensitive. She anticipates routine and is curious by change. She knows the smell of a good dinner and can hear the sound of the refrigerator door opening even if she is in the furthest corner of the back yard. Daylight Savings Time messes her up…the dark, early evenings make her want to eat dinner an hour earlier and have her sitting in the front window waiting for her master. She forgives fast and loves you best by her presence and touch. She knows mama doesn’t like the licks in the face and has to be reminded when enough kisses have been shared. She knows her name and basically 157 words (they say dogs can memorize up to 150 words…but I promise she is advanced).

She cowers when you discover that while you left her alone, she “accidentally” got in to the treats. She curls up on the couch in “her spot” around 8 and yes, somehow all the pillows find their way to that end of the couch.  

She doesn’t ask for much and gives with everything she has. She is not very good at catch, but will fetch all day long. She is a little quirky when it comes to lights and can be completely thrown off by a flashlight. If it’s soft and squishy, she is going to lay on it and still doesn’t understand that the world does not revolve around her.  Because well, around here….its kinda does.

She is our baby girl. Papaw said it best, “Bailey, the best thing for you is that you never discover you’re just a dog!”

Now, that’s love and I just can’t imagine how I wouldn’t love her forever.

Keisha (Pittman) McKinney is settling in to her new married life in South AR after she #becamemrsmckinney.  A Digital Media Director by day for a church in Northwest Arkansas, Keisha is remembering what it’s like to plan ahead for shopping trips to “the city,” getting resourceful at her small town Walmart and creating online shopping personas everywhere. She blogs @bigpittstop about daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, being the #HostesswiththeMcMostess, and the social justice causes on her heart.

Blog –bigpittstop: new journey, new normal, new you –  http://www.bigpittstop.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/bigpittstop

Twitter – https://twitter.com/bigpittstop

Instagram – http://instagram.com/bigpittstop#

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Periscope – @bigpittstop

How to Host a Themed Party for Kids

by Amanda Farris

Host a SNOW PARTY!

We can’t always count on a lot of snow here in Arkansas. But, when we do get snow the kids all over the state go nuts and have a blast! Even if the kids are 30+ years old. I will never forget the snow on Christmas day in 2012.

I

Even if we don’t get snow all season long here in The Natural State, you can still have a snow party!

I gathered my kids up and a few friends to celebrate the winter season by having an impromptu party in the winter. We called it our snow party. The party consisted of crafts, snacks, and books.

All you really need to have a quick party for young children with some friends is a few good picture books to read, a themed craft, and some finger foods.

For our Snow Party we had snow punch to drink and let the kids make snow men as a craft and snack to eat.

While the moms were gathering supplies to get started, another mom circled up the kids in the living room to read them a few picture books about winter and snow.  (My kids love the book Sneezy the Snowman by Marueen Wright.)

Besides our edible snow man craft, we also made paper snow men, snow dough, coffee filter snowflakes, and beaded snowflakes. Some attention spans lasted longer than others. But, overall it was a great afternoon of moms having fun with their kids and building relationships with other moms by doing things with each other. I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to build a relationship is to do stuff together. It builds a memory base together and lets you interact.

So don’t be shy! Plan an impromptu party for your kids with a few other moms this year.

Here’s how:

How to plan a themed party with kids

  • Pick a theme (Any theme of your choosing!)
  • Head to the library and grab a couple of picture books that go with that theme.
  • Pick a craft (or a few) to do with the kids that go with the theme.
  • Pick a snack to go with the theme.
  • Invite a few moms with kids over to enjoy the afternoon with you!

VIOLA! You have now planned a quick party to enjoy food and fellowship with friends.

I love doing stuff like this with my kids and friends. It is good memory building and it teaches your kids how to host and be pro-active in reaching out to others.

I hope you plan a party soon!

Do You Love Yourself?

by Mandie Sherrod

Flashback to 2013. Not the absolute worst year of my life, but a really close second. I loathed my job, broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years, & was still having issues on a daily basis with the fact I would never get to talk to my mom again. I jumped in a dark black hole of self-destruction a few years prior when my mom passed away after a long fight with cancer, but now I was shoulder deep in some serious binge drinking & eating.

Bourbon & Dr. Pepper was my go to, to help me forget about everything. I didn’t care about anything or anyone, especially myself. I would drink as soon as I woke up, have a drink during my lunch break, have a drink and then drive somewhere, and drank myself to sleep most every night. This self-destructive behavior led to this woman, a 220-pound force of (drunken) nature. Is the woman in this picture me?!? HECK NO! And I will never be her again. No more hiding from the world behind black hair & a glass of bourbon. A few short years later, & I’m back.

I bet you’re wondering how I turned it all around or what I did to get back to functional human being status? The simple truth is, I did it step by step. One day I looked in the mirror and thought, “Mandie, You can’t do this to yourself anymore. You are better than this shell of a woman you’ve become.” That is the day I decided, to make a change.

I knew my first step was to quit drinking. I didn’t go to AA meetings, I didn’t quit hanging out with my friends who drank, I just quit. I took it one day at a time. Did I think about alcohol some days and want just a sip? Yes. Did I find myself in friend’s liquor cabinets just for a smell of their whiskey? A time or two. Have I drank in the past two and a half years? No!

A few months after I quit drinking, I felt the best I had in a while. I dropped 20 pounds in no time and I didn’t think about alcohol that much anymore. When I used to drink on a daily basis, my fibromyalgia was really, really bad, and now, even that aspect of my life seemed to be getting a little bit better. My change in weight and change in health made me want to change even more!

I decided at that point, that I wanted to be the best version of myself. Since I cut out alcohol, I decided to cut out other things in my life that weren’t allowing me to be just that. People that were holding me back. Habits that weren’t good for me. Then I took some time to myself. I sat down and wrote down some goals I wanted to achieve and what it would take to get there.

I wanted to be healthier, so I started eating healthier, doing yoga, getting monthly massages, and working out with a personal trainer. I wanted to inspire others so I started giving 100% at my job and with people that surrounded me. I wanted to give back so I started holding fundraisers and giving the proceeds away to families with children with cancer. All of these things brought good changes in my life & there are many more to come!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had setbacks. But each time, they’ve led to something even better. For example, right after I started this journey, I finally found a job that I loved, as the General Manager of a small business. I loved my team there, looked forward to going to work everyday, and we were almost like a little family. But after a couple of years of building the business up, the owner sold the company. When this person took charge, almost overnight, the whole place did a 180. This once happy place, turned into a not so happy place to work. Everyone was miserable. I was miserable. Did this newfound negative environment at work make me want to give up and dive back into a hole of Bourbon? Yes! Did it stomp on my newfound sunshine? Heck yes!  

But, I pushed through it for 6 months. However, during that time, I went back on a bit of a spiral. I didn’t drink any alcohol, but I found myself binging on food again. Every Day, I ate tons of sugar. Ice Cream, Brownies, Cheesecake, Dr. Pepper. You name it, I was stuffing it in my face. Although I was back in the grips of my binging habits, the wheels in my mind were still turning. “You can’t stay here in this work environment, this isn’t where you are meant to be!” So, I decided to take another step and start two businesses of my own. I worked diligently day and night and didn’t sleep just so I could get these new ventures off the ground.

With my newfound stress at work, binge eating, and lack of sleep from working around the clock, I was exhausted. The fact that one of my new tasks at work was slinging around 50 pound boxes didn’t help much either. I started getting sick a lot and was in and out of the doctor’s office on a weekly basis getting poked and prodded. My body was so tired that I felt like I could barely function. One day I went to the doctor and he told me that I couldn’t live like this anymore, and I had to quit my day job or my fibromyalgia was going to disable me eventually.

That visit to the doctor’s office was when it clicked again for me. I had to move on. The next Monday I turned it my notice at that job and now I’m self-employed. This new chapter of my life is so good! I love my new job(s) and my new life and wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel better than I have in a really long time and I’m looking forward to what 2017 will bring! No matter what happens this year, I will keep pushing forward!

The whole point of this story is no matter where you are or what you’re doing, there is always a way out. A way to be better.  A way to turn your life around. But you have to decide to change. You have to decide that you don’t want to be stuck where you are anymore. No one is going to do it for you. With a little willpower, you can do anything! This applies to any situation you’re in. Just figure out where you want to be & start taking baby steps to get there.

Will you have setbacks? Yes. Will it be uncomfortable at times? YES! But guess what? Progress takes place outside of your comfort zone. Is there something you want to do or change? My advice: get up off that booty and go for it, because you are worth it! Life is short, so why not be the best version of you? You can do it! Deep down, you know you can. And, I know you can.

Take a day to yourself to think. Envision the future you want to have. What steps will it take to get there? Write them down, and then get started. One step at a time. One day at a time. Be persistent, be hungry for success, and make a little progress every single day. Don’t lie down and give up on life. It’s time to get up and love yourself. Baby steps may not seem like much right now, but they can be a real game changer.  And when you’re life changes for the better, you are going to be glad you put in the effort. Just remember, you are only one decision away from a totally different life.

What would you attempt to do in 2017 if you knew that you could not fail?

Mandie Sherrod is an Entrepreneur, Good Samaritan, Marketing Genius, Master Gardener, Gifted Napper, and Recovering Ben & Jerry’s Addict living in Little Rock, AR. Mandie runs a small marketing firm (www.sherrodmarketing.com) and also crafts handmade jewelry and accessories made from spent ammo rounds (www.farmdiva.net/shop.html). Her new blog, (http://www.farmdiva.net/blog) is where you can get the dish on Gardening, Farming, Cooking, High Heels, and Everything Country! www.facebook.com/farmdivas

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