Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Bits and Bobs

I'm heading off to Nashville for a conference tomorrow! I hear it is FREEZING down there, so I definitely won't be showing off any cute dresses or cowboy boots.

Please pray this it is a good time for me to catch up on sleep, and that going will help give me direction for my next steps, while not making me feel inadequate/guilty for where I am right now.

I hope this little nugget has fun with his daddy while I'm away. Every night he says to me, "I love you so much and I want to keep you forever!"

The feeling is mutual!

Preschool pics with a raging undiagnosed ear infection:

If you are in the DC/VA/MD area, there is a wonderful event for grieving families I want to tell you about! It is the Hope Family Fun Festival on Nov 24 put on by the non-profit Hope for Grieving Families and will have tons of activities for families to enjoy together such as face painting, moon bounce, scavenger hunt, Build-A-Bear, Pets on Wheels, etc! I'll be there too!

There are volunteer needs as well if you or your teen would like to help out!

Stay warm. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I am GRATEFUL for YOU!

P.S. 800 new copies of A Hug from Heaven just landed in my home office, so let me know if you need one for the grieving child or adult in your life.

Monday, November 4, 2019

My Top Tips to Surviving the Dinner Grind, Plus Home Chef Delivery 4 Meals for $14.80!

The is the slightly-crazed smile of a woman who has HAD IT with the Dinner Grind. If you have followed me for a while, you know I've done it all: bulk freezer cooking, meal prep services at a central kitchen, weekly Asian food delivery, threatening to strike. 

This post contains affiliate links.

Today I'm sharing my top 4 tips for Dinnertime:

1) Meal Delivery Kit 2-3 nights a week. Tim and I have tried many different services and find you can't beat the selection, flexibility, portion size, or price of Home Chef! We are able to get 2-person or family-sized meals, tailor our meals to specific dietary needs, and whip up healthy, delicious dinners several times a week without the hassle of buying a bunch of special ingredients and spices we might use only once or twice. Home Chef gets us out of our eating rut, feels special, and is less expensive than going out to eat.

We saved $35 on our first order with this limited time offer, and so can YOU using this unique affiliate code.

If you want to try it, the absolutely cheapest way (which we did) is to:

Follow my affiliate link
Give any dietary specifications/dislikes
Choose the plan 2 Meals a Week for 2 people,
Head to check out.
Home Chef then takes $35 off and your 4 meals are a total of $14.80!
(Of course, the $35 discount for other size orders if you choose)

For this price, it's a WONDERFUL way to try out a meal prep service, whether for the short-term or as a long-term dinner solution!

2) One Tried and True Crowd Pleaser With Jack and Margaret it was Taco Tuesday. With Andrew it is Spaghetti and Meatballs Tuesdays :) We keep all ingredients on hand in the pantry and freezer so we have one cheap, no-brainer meal every week. I don't eat much pasta, so I eat mine over frozen spriralized squash.

3) Costco Prepared Meals I go every few months, buy a bunch of these meals and freeze them. They bake in the oven for a hands-off meal. Our favorites are Salmon with Herb Butter and Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes.

4) Crock pot or Instant Pot one night per week. I prefer the crock pot, particularly in soup season. Here's my favorite white chicken chili recipe. Lentil soup is also great in the crock-pot-- with no soaking needed. There's nothing like having dinner cooking when you leave the house in the morning.

These tips should get you 5 or 6 dinners a week, leaving room for pizza or Taco Bell one night, of course!

What are your top dinner tips?

Friday, November 1, 2019

Come see me in Warrenton, VA Tomorrow!

Hi Dears!

Halloween is behind us. Andrew had a WONDERFUL time trick or treating with his pirate-clad grandma, grandpa and dad. I doled out candy and cleaned the pantry.

For those of you for whom Halloween is very difficult, either because of the endless gore or because you are missing someone special, I hope today provides needed relief.

I'm sorry for the late notice, but I want to make sure you know that I'll be speaking in Warrenton, VA tomorrow at Cornerstone Baptist Church and I'd LOVE to see you there! I've been posting about it on Facebook, but I realize not all of you connect with me that way.

Be forewarned-- the photo on this flyer is  a few years old, so adjust your expectations about what I look like accordingly! :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fab Fit Fun Box is Coming My Way! Want to try it too for 50% OFF?

As many of you saw on my Facebook Live Video this morning, I am super excited that I finally took the plunge to order a Fab Fit Fun box! I've been wanting to do it for months, but when I saw this month's 50% off deal, with between 250-350 worth of luxury goodies for only $25, I couldn't resist any longer. My BFF just got her box and loves it! If you want to check it out and see all that Fab Fit Fun offers, please use my affiliate link here! The discount code is: OMG50

I'll share pictures when my box arrives!

XO, Anna

Monday, October 14, 2019


Don't for a second think you don't make a difference in the lives of others. 

I just got back from the park with Andrew, where I saw a woman I recognized from my early childhood playing with her grandkids. I introduced myself, and after she got over the shock of seeing me with a 3 year old, she said:

"Your mom saved me."

When she and her husband moved to our town from out of state, she was isolated and alone with a newborn. My mother met her and said, "Come to my house on Tuesday." The woman told of babies lined up in cribs in the dining room, tuna fish sandwiches for mothers and kids, cups of coffee, and surreptitious drags on cigarettes. One Tuesday led to another and another. Later, Mom invited her to a Bible study and eventually, our church. 

I can picture our big old house with toys strewn across the floor, and pots full of inexpensive coffee. The drafty house where something always needed fixing. With 3 kids under 4 years old, Mom offered nothing fancy, just a welcoming spirit, irreverent sense of humor, and radical hospitality. With a husband who worked long hours, and all family support out of state, she may have felt frustrated and house-bound, so she invited people to come to her. 

I doubt my mother knew that what she offered this other woman would have ripples all the way to this park 50 years later. Not to be too dramatic, but I am guessing the love and encouragement that made a young mom feel less isolated and helped plug her into a faith community rippled outward for three generations, all the way to the grandkids I saw today at the park. 

My mom, who never left the country, held a fancy job or went on a real vacation, made a difference in people's lives because she made them feel special and worth it. And you know what? Everyone is worth it. If you help other people know they are worth your time, your friendship, your notice, then you too make a difference. 

This message hit home for me today because I am a frustrated achiever. I couldn't just punch a clock at Blockbuster in grad school for my $3.10 an hour; I had to be employee of the month. I couldn't just teach English; I wanted to be the best. I willingly put achievement on the back burner as a stay-at-home mom, because holy hell if you don't yet know that trying to "achieve" as a parent is an exercise in hubris and futility, you will figure it out at some point. Big-time.

I just held on for the ride and thought my 40's and 50's would be the chance to prove myself as a productive member of society who made a difference. Once I found my passion for writing and speaking, I imagined myself speaking from large stages (you win a car! and you win a car!), writing more books, and contributing to my family financially in significant ways. Instead, I found myself in the park on a gorgeous October day pushing Andrew "higher! higher!" And despite knowing how fleeting his childhood will be, I also know I'm not guaranteed a season of productivity after he's grown. We are not promised tomorrow, only today. 

Nothing I did today felt very epic. I didn't figure out how to promote my books. I failed to make childcare arrangements so I could go to a conference and learn, once again, how much I don't know about social media. I didn't even buy baby carrots.

But I did play in the park with Andrew. I did enjoy a beautiful walk with a newly-bereaved friend. This afternoon I can encourage my friend across the street that she's doing a great job with baby #2 while wrangling baby #1 (BTW, Kelly, you are!). Tonight I can return an email from a precious mama whose teen daughter died unexpectedly in September. I can try not to take out my exhaustion and peri-menopausal period on my husband when he's trying to watch the "baseball playoffs", whatever that means. 

It may not be much.

It doesn't feel like much. 

But you know what? Ripples rarely do. 

We all make ripples, whether positively or negatively. Maybe I'll never make a big splash in this lifetime, but I can try to make my ripples more helpful than hurtful. More generous than stingy. More loving than lacking. 

And even if I think tuna fish is gross, I can open my home and heart just a little bit more. 

Here, have a cheese stick.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Always Andy's Mom Podcast for Bereaved Parents and Those who Support Us

I want to introduce you to a new podcast for bereaved parents. Losing a Child: Always Andy's Mom.

It is the kind of podcast I dreamed of setting up years ago, but never did. Marcy Larson, Andy's mom, is amazing, and the stories and guests on this podcast will help bereaved parents feel less alone!

I was honored to be a guest on the podcast this week. While I am sad that my head cold made my audio less than ideal, I hope you will give it a listen and subscribe to the podcast so you won't miss a single episode.



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Turn of a Page: Living in the After

While organizing our basement recently, I came across our family calendar page from September 2011. It hung next to the kitchen door of our old house, and if something wasn't written on the calendar, it wasn't going to happen.

After Jack's sudden death, I couldn't bear to see all of his activities for the entire school year, which I'd dutifully filled out in Sharpie as soon as school, practice and scout schedules came out. Things as mundane as dental appointments screamed LOSS and UNFAIRNESS and DESPAIR. What about the Bible study I was supposed to lead, but I'd cancel, along with any other activities of mine outside of work and caring for my lonely little girl? Did I even believe what I once taught?

What about the day itself, September 8th, mocking me with its normalcy? Nothing unique there: the cleaning lady, packing for a camping trip, a work meeting with a pastor friend, a Walmart run. Nothing notable on a day when my world shifted on its axis. When I stood in the hallway of the church and shared with a friend a strange foreboding I had about Jack and his friendships, then laughed it off, all but forgotten a few hours later when it might have mattered. How do you recognize rumblings of a cosmic shift when you speak the language of Sharpies and calendars and soccer snacks, not souls, heaven, life and death?

I remember saving my mother's check register after her sudden death at age 46. I looked at it to marvel at the stark before/after of a full life and then an absence. Everyone else's life seemed to be going forward as usual, but ours had stopped. I could see that four days ago, one week ago, one month ago, she was paying bills. Bills! For that same reason, I suppose, I saved this one calendar page.

To remember a life before the after.

Our calendar today doesn't look much different. It hangs in the same spot in a different house, that is remarkably similar to the one before. Sure, preschool swim lessons, and Margaret's college breaks take the place of elementary school busy-ness, but there are still grocery runs, vet visits, and hair color appointments.

And life is very, very different.

I have learned to live in this new life, to lean into it, and to embrace it as much as my sleep-deprived self will let me. How did I get here, to this place of being able to live in the mundane again while being keenly aware of the spiritual reality of my loved ones being by my side every step of the way? How do I now experience joy in the land of the living? I have no easy answers how this shift happened. Time. Hugs from Heaven. You. Gratitude. Letting tears flow.

If you are living in the shocking, stark AFTER right now, all of those things sound trite and meaningless. I know. I remember. I honor you and that reality.

But I will just whisper, I'm still here. I may not know exactly how I got here, but I'm here, just a bit farther down the road, and if that helps at all, I'm grateful.