Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An Audience of One


Picture Credit: topwalls.net

I can't remember exactly the first chain letter I received, but I do remember that I diligently made my multiple copies of it and sent it out to the required number of people. It had some rather harsh wording in it to warn you what would happen if you broke the chain. Does anyone else remember those old chain letters? The ones that promised for writing them out you would receive some sort of blessing or good luck or some other hokey thing? This was in the age well before computers and email, in the 70's and 80's, but now chain letters have morphed to emails that we should forward and also various Facebook posts where you'll be tagged and asked to continue . I've been pretty good about avoiding most of them, but then one came around about Thankfulness. I was tagged by someone today and there was something about this one that I didn't let it pass by. I think the Lord wanted to do something in my heart, for it ended up being quite a blessing to write it.  

Here is what I shared on Facebook:
Thank you Patty March for inviting me to share what I'm thankful for. Since I'm not much for chain letters and such, I'm changing it around to just posting one Thankful post and sharing what comes to my mind. Anyone who wishes to share something they are thankful for is welcome to comment below!
**I am so thankful for finding Jesus. After stumbling around in the darkness for years especially after my mom died, He reached out and never let go even through the darkness of an 18-month severe postpartum depression. This song speaks it so well for me.  This Journey is My Own (Sara Groves)

**Thankful for the blessing of family. For my mother, and what comes to mind is how she taught me to live with an open heart and willingness to love; my father, who taught me how to work with passion, discipline, and with the determination to never give up; for my sisters who taught me what it was to share life together, to laugh and cry together, to forgive and care for one another.

**And finally, so thankful for my two-becoming-one marriage to Lanty Monroe which has been the best challenge the Lord has presented me yet; learning how to put to death the "kingdom of self" and live for the kingdom of God through a loving, for-giving, and grace-filled relationship with Christ at the center, and which also brought forth the greatest blessing of lives, our sweet son Julian. And it is his little sweet soul which is teaching me the joy of being a mother; the day-by-day moments of ordinary-ness turned extraordinary in seeing life through his eyes, and cultivating the soil of his heart that he blossom into the young man God has created him to be.

I hope you have been blessed in reading this, and although you certainly don't have to worry about leaving a comment, you might just find yourself blessed if you do ;)

Thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Speaking From the Heart ... Suicide is the S Word



I am sure a lot will be said in the public realm about the passing of Robin Williams.  Some will be compassionate, and some not. I speak as one who knows that dark hour, who has personally walked thorugh that "dark night of the soul" and yet somehow for me the "glass did break" and I was restored and returned and am here today to speak out.

It was after the death of my mother who succumbed to breast cancer that I went on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts, and the Lord found me and captured my heart. I truly do not know if I would still be here had I not found Jesus. I know that having faith is no assurance you will make it through the depths of despair. Yet I will never forget the night that I was so despondent that my husband had to hide all the pills and knives in our home. I crawled out of bed that night and crept downstairs. I opened the phone book and found the Suicide Prevention hotline (LINK HERE) As I was talking to the agent, there was an odd click and I thought I was disconnected. Instead, I found myself talking to the head nurse at Meriter Hospital Psych Ward, the ward I had just been discharged from several weeks prior. She was confused and asked who I was and why I was calling. I explained I had been calling Suicide Prevention but was somehow disconnected and patched through to them. She actually remembered me which as you read below may not be surprising. I was the "psychotic depressed postpartum woman" who ended up in her Psych Ward for two inpatient stays over a period of three weeks just after my son was born. She said to me "TRACEY, YOU DO NOT WANT TO COME BACK HERE! You will be OK. You will make it through it. Just go back to sleep and get some rest, you are going to get better."  It was true, I did NOT want to go back there. Being hospitalized in the psych ward was a scary thing in a scary place. It was not comforting to be there. So I hung up the phone, woke up my husband, and you know what he did? He opened his Bible and all I remember from my haze of non-sleep that night is that he read, and read, and read those words over me nonstop for hours until the morning and the painful desire to END IT ALL finally left.  That was truly my darkest night.  I still had over 9 months to go before the depression fully lifted. But I was shaken to the core by how God's hand reached out through that darkness (and literally through the phone lines), how not only was He holding me moment by moment through it--even when it didn't feel like He was there--but He lifted me out of it by His grace.

For those who have not personally endured mental illness, I am so thankful. Yet for any who wonder how someone could ever think of doing something "so selfish", here is a video that will give you a glimpse of the suffering that would bring someone to that place. I stumbled upon this video today during a google search on suicide. This man did end up taking his life, but I hope to give a voice through this to all those we have lost who succumbed to that choice, and to those left picking up the pieces.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BiNq677QQQ

Below I will share what I posted on Facebook, in the hopes that by not being silent, others can come to know the Lord's healing, that the way we approach mental illness will be transformed, and those suffering will be restored to a sense of purpose and hope.
---------------------------------------------
From my Facebook status: In light of the tragic news we heard today of Robin Williams' passing, I wrote a comment on my sister's Facebook post that gave me courage to speak out and share some of my own story.
There was an incredible article recently in USA today that powerfully delves into this epidemic (link below). Having been there myself, this resonates in a way I can't easily put into words. The figure I'm reading is that 1 in 4 adults are currently struggling with mental illness and 1 in 5 children. That is staggering. Having been a patient more than once in "the system" myself, I can attest to how broken it is -- one example was the Director of Inpatient Psychiatry somehow thought it would make me feel better during my postpartum hospitalization to know "they were poring over all the latest medical articles and research" so they could best treat me as they had little experience dealing with postpartum psychosis. Really???? What a wake up call. This was in 2008.
As my illness dragged on for 18 months and I fell into utter despair, I truly began to feel that my husband, my family would be better off without me. It was not until I felt this complete and utter despair that I could truly understand how it felt to want to end your life. And now I will never forget it.
In one part of the article linked below they quote Rick Warren, the well known author/pastor who lost his son to his depression. They said "Warren compares the stigma of mental illness to that of AIDS and HIV. In both cases, people are blamed for bringing suffering upon themselves."
What is on my heart more than anything else, is that we need a system that brings hope, dignity, and restoration to those who are suffering. It is my prayer that this tragedy would resonate in every community and household that what "we" are doing as a society to bring restoration and hope for those affected, is in dire need of overhaul.
http://www.usatoday.com/longform/news/nation/2014/06/25/stigma-of-mental-illness/9875351/

Thank you so much for reading! This is a subject that is dear to my heart. I have such a clear memory of the many things I endured as I walked through the depression, and now have a true understanding of my husband who has lived with cyclical depression all of his adult life. Somehow I think in all this there is a book in me, and I hope to write it. Maybe this will be the first chapter. But my heart is so thankful for the love and support of those who ministered to us through our journey. I have a new understanding of the true power of prayer. We will never know on this side of heaven how the Lord hears and answers prayers, but me being here today is truly an answer to prayer. May the Lord Bless all who see this page. Amen.

I want to leave you with a song that has blessed my heart. A song of hope that has for me a feel of an anthem. May you be blessed. Oceans by Hillsong United

Sunday, May 11, 2014

When Your Heart Aches for Your Mom on Mother's Day



I am feeling the ache of the loss of my mom acutely this year. In part because yesterday was the day we planned to go visit her grave, and my husband's mom's grave, which is a tradition we honor every year at this time, but after spending yesterday morning at urgent care, my "mother's day" present was Strep Throat. I feel awful physically, but also ache in a deep place inside my heart. It's been nearly 23 years since my beautiful mother, Mary Ellen, passed out of my life. But her warmth and the intensity of her love will never leave me, and she is still holding me tight.


The paragraph above and below were written on my Facebook page. I was overwhelmed with the blessing I received in return for sharing my heart about something difficult. It was truly balm for my soul.

Here are some of the sweet sentiments:


(From my sister:) The hole in our hearts is always there, you just cant replicate the love from your mom...especially ours! It never gets easier. I just have to tell you, btw, I am so impressed by what an incredible mother you are! Mom is beaming w/pride!


How great your joy at your reunion in the Kingdom of Heaven...


Dear dear Tracey...i met you so long go on this life's journey and remember so well your pain....I am thankful I could be there for you that summer in Springfield, MA of 1994....you are who you are because of your precious mother...she lives on in your heart and your children..


May Mary Ellen rest in the peace of Christ, dear sister.


My heart goes out today especially to those who find this day heartwrenching too, for whatever the reason. This article from Lisa-Jo Baker "Mother's Day for the Motherless Mother"  was a little gift of blessing for me last evening. I just sat and let the tears and longing flow, for all the milestones missed, and bittersweet memories, and the Lord met me there.





Finally, something fun to share. I have a self-portrait I made while I was the parent-helper at my son's homeschool co-op last month. All the kids were using mirrors to draw themselves and I got to join in. The picture does make me laugh a little, to see how it turned out, but it also is the face of me as a mother. I really like it because I drew it with just the pure bliss of wanting to create it, as so many times I get nervous what others think of my art. We hung this up in our entry way, and in many ways it reminds me of my mom too.


♥♥♥ I Love You Mom! ♥♥♥
Happy Mother's Day



As always, 
Thank you for Visiting!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

When a Blogging Hiatus Happens



Picture of our family with friend Hans at Perrot State Park 
(LaCrosse WI)

So I never intended to take a hiatus from my blog ... it just sort of "happened". Now it's hard to believe it's been almost a YEAR since I've posted anything!! Since I created a Facebook page for the blog, it seems I've migrated over there where I post now on a regular basis. I'd love it if you'd join me there Musings of the Monroe Family on Facebook.

As I ponder over this past year, there are so many good and wonderful things that have been happening. We are so blessed. My son is thriving in our homeschool kindergarten program and I've been fortunate to find a Christ-centered homeschool co-op to land at.  It is a teaching co-op so once a week my son goes for classes like Art, Music, Science and Gym.  The connections I am making with other homeschooling moms are so wonderful.

I have also picked up some work in the past year. I found a job at our local YMCA providing child care for parents using the gym. It's a workplace where I can actually bring my son along and not have to pay for a babysitter so mom can earn a little money.

Picture mommy drew for J when our car "died"

Working at the Y was going along fine until we had to put our Toyota Camry to rest when the engine went kaput. I drew the picture above for my son since he was really down about it. This is the car he's been in since he was little and he dubbed it the "Elvis Car". I realized we were listening to a lot of 50's music when at 2 years old he started to recognize Elvis! He'd say "Play Elvis again mommy!" Then he just started calling the car the Elvis Car. I loved it. So as of last November, we now are in debt with our "new to us" used Honda Accord which inspired me to get back into the field of Medical Transcription since minimum wage doesn't cut it anymore. I've actually started my own business called "Monroe Support Services". I was hired to do transcription as an independent contractor for a place called ExamWorks. With only working 3 hours a day, I can still homeschool J and we have the flexibility with our schedule since I can work whatever hours are best for me. I am so thankful for this job and it's exciting to get back into something I enjoy doing.

Well, this is a little "hello" post to let you all know we are doing well, just a lot busier, and not as much time to blog. I'm not sure when I'll be back, but you will find me posting regularly on Facebook with fun and interesting things that I find along the way.

Blessings to you!

Thanks for visiting :)






Friday, May 31, 2013

Apricot Pepper Jelly; My First Homemade Batch



From this (with a few other ingredients):
 To This:

 **None of the links in this post are affiliate links. Just my own links to things I thought would be helpful**

I had always stayed away from pepper jelly of any kind thinking it sounded like a horrible combination and would be too hot. Then in Door County, WI, where they have tons of samples I tried my first batch and was hooked! I found them delightful! They had a really nice sweetness to them with a little kick of spice. My sister introduced me to Apricot Pepper Jelly and that has quickly become my favorite. She gave me a couple jars with my Christmas gift last December since she knew I liked it so much. The problem is, the jelly doesn't last long. I love to eat it on toast and the jar goes quickly. My grocery store only carries a mint pepper jelly which doesn't appeal to me, so I started scouring Amazon and the internet. Unfortunately, pepper jelly is expensive! The Apricot Jelly my sister buys (I filled her 13.2 oz jar above) would cost me $9.95 on Amazon and $7.99 for shipping! Even after checking eBay, it would cost me over $10/jar just to get some pepper jelly.

So, I started researching whether I could just make my own. I am so glad I did. I've never canned anything before, so I thought jam or jelly would be out of the question. I found some recipes that make a relatively small batch (about 4-5 jars). That would mean I could store it in the fridge and I'm sure they'd be gone within a month or two.

These are the recipes I saved for trying out:

Apricot Pepper Jelly from Cook, Eat Share
Apricot Jalapeno Jelly from CD Kitchen
Hot N Sweet Pepper Jelly from Cooks.com

I ended up making the one from Cook, Eat, Share and it turned out wonderful! It includes minimal ingredients; just jalapeno peppers, red and/or green peppers, dried apricots, cider vinegar, pectin and sugar. It's amazing to me that you cook all these things together and come up with jars of yummy jelly!





I remember reading the jars needed to be sterilized, so I did that step even though I'm keeping mine refrigerated. I found a website that said you could put the jars and lids in the oven and bake at 225 degrees for 10 minutes to sterilize them. I did that since I don't have any canning tools.

After this experience of successfully making jelly, I'm now inspired to look into canning and preserving! I've always wanted to learn how to can and preserve, but I thought it would be too much for me. My mom often made homemade jam and my dad to this day still cans his tomatoes and Coho salmon that he catches during his fishing season, so it's part of my heritage that I'd like to carry on. I found a great website too that has several resources. It's called Pick Your Own and I found a wonderful tutorial for making jam. I spent a lot of time on that post since she includes a lot of wonderful links for canning supplies, books on preserving and FAQ about jam making.

I have several books I've put on hold at the library and will hopefully come back to blog more about it. My hope is to purchase a canning kit to get started. Here are the books I'll be skimming through:
*Ball Blue Book of Preserving
*The Beginner's Guide to Preserving Food at Home
*Canning & Preserving; All You Need to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys and More
*Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
*Food in Jars

Do you can or preserve your food? What websites or books are your favorites?

As always,

Thanks for visiting!



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Original Recipe: Cheesy Tuna Casserole



We like variety in our home, and adding something fish-related to the menu helps us rotate our meals while getting some heart-healthy Omega-3's in our diet. Tuna casserole is a regular for us, yet I'm always looking for new ways to spice it up. In the past several months, I've moved away from using cream-based soups (because they are often full of sodium and preservatives) after learning how to make a roux (a butter-flour mixture)!  Today I experimented with a couple new add-ins (Velveeta and extra spices). This turned out really tasty. The blend of Lawry's Garlic Salt, Paprika and Curry Powder worked well together. I'll be keeping this recipe for sure!

Let me know if you try it ;)

What is your favorite go-to Tuna Casserole recipe?

Ingredients

  • 4 Tablespoons of butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  •  1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 4 oz Velveeta
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar 
  • 1 bag frozen peas (cooked)
  • 1 large can tuna (drained)
  • 1/2 lb box macaroni noodles (cooked)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Few dashes of Lawry's Garlic Salt
  • Dash or two of Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Curry Powder

 

Instructions

  • Cook macaroni noodles according to package directions.
  • In a nice deep pan, melt the butter.
  • Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir for 1 minute keeping the heat on medium low.
  • Slowly add milk a bit at a time while stirring with a whisk.
  • Continue stirring until all milk is added, then wait until mixture starts to thicken and comes to a low boil (over medium heat). Make sure it's not too high, or it will burn.
  • Add Velveeta and minced garlic; stir until melted in.
  • Add Shredded Cheddar and stir until melted in.
  • Add the various spices and stir until combined.
  • Once the noodles are done, add the tuna (flaked with a fork) and cooked peas.
  • Pour the melted cheese mixture over the noodles.
  • You can either eat it as is (which we did) or bake uncovered on 325 for 15 minutes or so.
Enjoy!!


As always,
Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Trying Out New Products for Free (Lysol Touch of Foam)




As a (mostly) stay-at-home mom, I'm always looking for new ways to save and earn money but most of all I love to get things for free  :) . In addition to doing online surveys for a little money on the side, I've joined up with a few companies seeking people to review their products. One company is called BzzAgent. My first review was for Garnier Fructis Miracle Oil. I had fun trying it out. So when we were selected for our second campaign, I was happy to again try something new. This time the Bzz Campaign was for Lysol Touch of Foam Hand Soap.

I received the product a few weeks ago, so we've had plenty of time to try it out. I have to say, it's become our favorite soap in the house. The packaging itself was really appealing, since my favorite color is purple. It also has a wonderful fragrance, Creamy Vanilla Orchid. It is a nice floral fragrance, but at times the fragrance was a little too intense for me. I really like the pump style that dispenses a nice amount of the foamy soap in your hands. The lather is pretty thick too. It ended up leaving my hands feeling nice and soft.



My 4-yr-old son also enjoyed trying this out with me. The soap was great for his little hands. The pump was very easy to press down and the lather was so full that he always had enough soap for washing. He told me to write the company with these words: "Thank you for the soap. We like it. Hope you enjoy the pictures."

Overall, I give this a 4 out of 5 stars. We really liked it and would purchase it for our family.

As always,
Thank you for visiting!