Step By Step Guide To Get an Emotional Support Animal

Animals truly are a blessing for the mankind and there are several mental disorders where an individual requires all the emotional support that they can possibly get to remain healthy. There have been innumerable observations and studies that evince the positive effects of animals like dogs and cats on anxious or depressed individuals. If you feel that you are suffering from any of mental disorder, it is imperative to opt for an assessment by a qualified professional.

If they find that your condition can improve by an emotional support animal, a letter authenticating it would be issued. However, the registration steps to getting an ESA is a lengthy one. Mentioned below is a step-by-step guide to make your dog an emotional support animal.

Step 1: Understanding what an ESA is

An emotional support animal is one who would aid in improving an individual’s well-being. A dog is perhaps the most common type of ESA but it can be any other animal too and could be personally trained by the person. An ESA doesn’t necessarily need to accomplish a certain set of tasks but they must be well-behaved when in public and cannot cause any harm to those around them. You would require an ESA letter written by your therapist so as to make your pet an official ESA.

Step 2: Assessing your Own Condition

A lot of people these days suffer from emotional disorders but most of them are left untreated. As mentioned, if you suffer from any kind of mental or emotional issue, you could qualify for getting an emotional support animal. Disabilities where an ESA would be useful include PTSD, anxiety, depression, phobias and fears, panic attacks and others. If your therapist confirms that you suffer from any of these disorders and an ESA would be beneficial, the next registration steps would be to apply for an ESA Letter.

Step 3: Securing an ESA Letter

An ESA Letter would be required if you wish to live or fly with your emotional support animal. A licensed professional like a family therapist or a psychologist would be able to sign the recommendation letter. You could even consider seeking online help from an ESA Doctor. Whatever you choose, it is essential to ensure that the license of the therapist is in accordance with the laws of the state. Once you obtain the letter, it is legally affirmed that an ESA dog or cat can stay with you or fly with you in the cabin. They, in fact, can stay with you in apartments that do not allow pets.

Step 5: Get a Vest for your ESA

According to law, your ESA isn’t required to wear a vest to be identified. But, this is done more as a convenience option to avoid sharing the ESA letter with every housing or airport employee.

You could consider registering your own pet with an emotional support association or get dogs from companies that train dogs specifically to be ESA’s. Once all the details have been provided, you would receive a letter confirming to keep your ESA.

Collect Memories, Not Things and Love Your Living Space

 2017 is whirling past in a flurry and before we know it it’ll be summer again! This summer will mark our 12th year together in marriage and our 15th!!!! year together as a couple!

I seriously cannot even process that. We started dating when I had just barely turned 17, so that means in two short years we’ll have been together as long as I was alive before we met. :O It just boggles the mind!

 

In case you’ve never gotten to before, you can read our entire Love Story here. After our wedding, we spent 3 fun days in Jackson Hole, WY on our honeymoon. I also like to say that really, we got to have several years worth of honeymoon, as we spent our newlywed years playing around in Washington DC, the next years on the beaches of North Carolina, and then our last jaunt with the Coast Guard in Boston.

If you’ve been a reader for long at all, you’ll know I’m a proponent of having things that fill you with joy, and hold a special meaning and purpose. One of my favorite things in life are experiences with those I love. Because of this I also love memories and anything that triggers them. If you look through our house instead of any kind of “in trend” decor you’ll find things like this wall full of Coast Guard photos, art, and mementos, along with posters made from photos we’ve taken of our favorite places.

Two of my favorites in the “things I love and fill me with joy” category are earrings, and as an adult, I still love my rock collection. Recently I was told about a company that combines all of my favorite things, so of course I was immediately in love.

Dune Jewelry is handmade with sand from your location of choice! They have a huuuuge list of popular beaches, and I noticed places we’ve been like beaches in Massachusetts and North Carolina on the list. It doesn’t stop at sea beaches, though, as they have sand from several national parks as well! They also have several different jewelry options like necklaces and bracelets, plus even things for the guys like cuff links and tie pins!

When I saw the sand from Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming, and these gorgeous drop earrings, though, the choice for me was clear!

These earrings are as gorgeous as they are unique! Now I have a little piece of home to wear, along with something that will give me amazing memories of home, favorite vacations, and my honeymoon every time I look at it! These are exactly the kinds of things I love because they combine experiences with things that bring me joy, not to mention being both small (no clutter!) and beautiful. They’re definitely making my Clutter-Free Gift Ideas list and are exactly what I was talking about when I recently shared how to purchase perfect presents in my Galentine’s Day post!

So here’s a quick checklist (you know how I love my checklists!) of ways you can start to collect memories, not things, and make sure your home is filled with things you love, cherish, and that bring happy memories!

How To Collect Memories, Not Things, and Love Your Living Space

  • For any gift-receiving occasions, ask for either an experience, something consumable, or a specialized and unique gift of something you love or that will remind you of a favorite memory-like Earrings or a Necklace with sand from your favorite beach. Even in the middle of December, you’ll have a little slice of happiness to help you smile! Need help with ideas? Here are 5 Zero Clutter Gift Ideas that are amazing for both kids and adults. Another idea? Purchasing one of these Dune Jewelry pieces as a way to announce a special, surprise vacation gift! How amazing would that be?!
  • Take the Flylady method and go through your home just a little bit at a time. Each day set a timer for 15 minutes and go through a room. Ask yourself if everything in it is used, loved, and makes you feel happy inside when you look at it? Are you keeping anything out of guilt or obligation? If so, give your permission to “let it go” and either re-gift to someone you know will LOVE it, or give it away to a thrift store where it can find a home to be cherished in.
  • Once your space is cleared of all the “guilt” objects that you “should keep” re-fill it up little bit by little bit with items that trigger smiles and memories! Don’t feel forced to follow trends. Instead, go with what you love. If rocks make you happy, then decorate with rocks! Choose art & photos that move you, or that you took! Never purchase or put anything up “just to fill a space”. Wait for the perfect item that will always bring the space joy!

Do you collect memories, not things? Do you love your living space? Where did you go on your honeymoon? Let’s chat! Leave me a comment or let me know on Social Media!

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How To Help Your Kids Feel Special & Loved Each Day

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #2Good2Bear #CollectiveBias

I absolutely, positively, cannot believe it–but this precious little rolly-polly baby turns 9 today.

I know that whether your baby just turned 9 months, or 9 years, you’re already shaking your head and wondering where the time is disappearing to. As a fellow mommy, I’m right there with you. I’ve heard over and over again, that it just seems to go faster the older they get, too!

Now that both kids are in school all day loooong (from 8:40-3:20) I want to make sure that I’m making the most of our time together. Now, don’t get me wrong. As a social media & blogger gal I’m absolutely guilty of pounding away at my keyboard as the kids are trying to talk to me, or of scrolling through Instagram at the park. Days fly by and life just happens. I know that if I’m not deliberate and intentional it’s far too easy to let those precious, important moments be sacrificed on the altar of the urgent things flying around and at me every day.

Because of this, a few years ago I decided that I would give each of the kids a little slice of my total and undivided attention each day. It started out being called “Tickle Bugs” because when they were smaller they would beg and beg and BEG for me to tickle them. As they’re getting older the activities change, but the name and the time stay the same. I’ll start my watch and first give Tyler 10-15 minutes of undivided attention to do whatever he wants, then I do the same for Amber.

Every once in awhile I make this fun time a little sweeter by surprising them with a special treat! I recently just found out about the new TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks. They are made with quality ingredients such as milk, eggs, and chocolate. Not only do they have the good stuff, they also have no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors, and no artificial colors! Plus how cute are they in this adorable bear shape?! They inspired me to break out classics from my childhood–this rocking chair and bear are actually mine from when I was a little bitty girl!

Oh, and it probably goes without saying, but the kids absolutely LOVE them! You can pick them up in the Cookie & Cracker aisle of your local Walmart, or look for a special display. Also, there will be a special demo on 2/23 so keep your eyes out for that  as well.

Even better, you can earn cash back with the iBotta app! Have you tried that app out yet? It’s seriously awesome!! I finally got it recently and have already received more than $20 back! So amazing to get cash back on items I’m already buying each trip, anyways! It’s free, and simple to use–so definitely download it and check out this offer!

I actually got the idea to do concentrated play time with my kids after listening to a child psychologist at one of my mom’s groups a few years ago. She was talking about play therapy and how important and useful it was for her, and how as parents we can work it into our life to help our kids. Basically, it boiled down to exactly what I said above, setting a timer for just a short amount of time and giving your child your undivided attention to do whatever they want during that time.

Because you let your child direct the play, it will look totally specific to them. You might end up watching them perform a play, you might color a page for them, or you may end up as a superhero.

These days for us “tickle bugs” sometimes means playing with building bricks, sometimes it’s playing Tyler’s crazy elaborate game with beads, marbles, action figures and vehicles that he’s invented, sometimes it’s crawling around on the floor and being a mama tiger and they’re my baby. It’s a perfect way to let each of them know that they are special to me and that they are loved. It’s also great because it leads naturally to them opening up about whatever is going on in their little worlds. I’m hoping that this habit can shift into long “tickle bug talks” as they hurry into the tween and teen years. Keeping communication is so vital during every stage of parenting, and this is a beautiful, simple, and sweet way to make sure your kids know how loved and special they are to you.

Even just sharing a TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snack and sitting and talking for a few minutes, about anything they want, will be such a beautiful break for you both. I feel like so often as parents we’re trying to guide and help and direct them. This is great and needed, but it can start to feel like it’s nothing but a continual stream of rules and directions, which is understandably exhausting for all of you! Give yourself this chance to reconnect and let your kids know how special and loved they are, no matter what the rest of the day has looked like!

How do you help your kids feel special & loved each day? Have you tried new TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks yet? Leave me a comment and let me know–and don’t forget to download ibotta and use that rebate!

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True Love…Is Not Only Romantic!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

That is, if it is a happy Valentine’s. Maybe it’s not. Maybe you’re struggling in your marriage or relationship, or you’re with a frustratingly un-romantic and un-Valentines-y partner, or you’re not-so-happily single.

But guess what? Happy Valentine’s Day anyway! Guess why?

Because true love is not only romantic!

You may have seen Nicole’s awesome Galentine’s Post from last week. In it, she described the amazing package of Valentine’s gifts that she sent to me (which I received, and all of which I love and am so excited about). I cried when I saw that post, because she’s right – Valentine’s is a hard reminder of the not-so-fun elements of my singleness, so it means a lot to me when other people I love reach out to me then to remind me, as my amazing sister did, that I am loved and lovely.

Here I am loving the scarf, hat, earrings – and all the gifts Nicole got me!

Tonight, I’m going on a Valentine’s date – I’m going out to dinner with my best friend, giving her a gift and a ton of nerdy Valentine’s printed off the internet, and then we’re going to watch some more episodes of The Flash together. So yes, I’m single, and I’m still celebrating Valentine’s Day, because I have a lot of love in my life.

Wherever you’re at, whoever you love, I’d like you to take a minute this Valentine’s Day to think about the idea that true love isn’t only romantic.

Can I make my point a little clearer? Why thank you. Let me dust off and climb onto my soapbox…

I love love. I really do. I love people who are in love, and weddings, and good love stories, and romantic nonsense. Love is great. But here’s the thing: that’s all romantic love, and that’s awesome. But that’s not the only love out there, nor is it necessarily/always the greatest or strongest form of love.

I’m ready for rotten fruit to be flung now, but let me proceed.

Here’s the thing: I’m a happy 23-year-old single girl who has never had a boyfriend and has only been on a few “dates.” (Try not to be too shocked.) Most everyone in my family was married by the time they were my age, so yes, I’m feeling like the odd duck out. And yes, I very much want to be married eventually. But yes, I’m trying, with varying degrees of success, to wait on God’s plan and be content and find my purpose and satisfaction in Him.

So, here’s the thing. Sometimes, especially with reminders like Valentine’s Day, I do have single-person-pity-parties about never experiencing a long-term reciprocated romantic love. And sometimes I wonder if people pity me for never having experienced love.

But hold the phone. Never having experienced love? Are you kidding me? In my 23 years of life, I have loved truly and deeply and strongly, and I have been loved truly and deeply and strongly. You know why? Because true love is not only romantic. (Is my repetition helping you get the concept in your head?)

Where did we even get this concept of “true love”? True love is just love that is true…right? So who made it romantic? Fairy tales? Kind of, but not necessarily. (I mean, have you ever read any original fairy tales? But that’s a different soapbox for another day…) Personally, I’m going to point at The Princess Bride. “And wuv…twue wuv…will fowwow you…fowevah…” Er, maybe not. Most fingers would probably point at Disney, and maybe there’s some truth in that. After all, it did give us phrases like “true love’s kiss.” But if you’re a Disney fan like I am, you’ll notice how lately they’re steering away from that concept with stories like Frozen or Once Upon a Time that show that true love can be the love between family members or friends.

So let’s talk about friendship, because this is a big deal for me.

I’ve been blessed with a lot of people at various points in my life that I would call best friends and very close friends. But, if you’ve seen my social media at all, it’s probably not hard to see that I have one relationship that’s especially, well, special: my friendship with Marissa Petty. We’ve known each other all our lives. We are almost opposite in personality, but on the same page in beliefs and opinions. Our nickname for each other is “strawberry.” We are two sides of the same coin, fire and ice. We balance each other perfectly. We trust each other and are open with each other in ways that we aren’t with other people. We are undyingly loyal to each other. Our friendship is so close that I’ve referred to her as my “platonic soul mate,” and we’re able to joke to each other about how people who don’t know us will probably think we’re a couple.

And that’s where we reach my biggest soapbox here: we need to stop over-sexualizing everything, stop downplaying friendship, and start appreciating true love. Our culture is crazy, confused, and over-sexualized. As a result, true and deep friendships often are rare and even more often are misunderstood.

I see this a lot in the fandom community. I’m a hard-core fangirl nerd (as is Marissa), and if you spend any time among other nerds online, you realize just how quick they are to ship slash that isn’t canon. Sorry if that made no sense to you – nerds talk weirdly! In translation, fans often support gay relationships for characters that are best friends in the source material. For example: Johnlocke, Stucky, and Merthur. “Johnlocke” is from the BBC series Sherlock, where John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are, as usual, best friends. But a huge part of the fan base thinks they should be a couple. The show itself even pokes fun at how they seem like and are mistaken for a couple, even though Sherlock is asexual and John is straight. “Stucky” is Steve Rogers and Buck Barnes from the Captain America films – again, best friends with a relationship that is hugely emotional and important for both characters, but many fans want them to be a couple. “Merthur” is Merlin and Arthur from BBC’s series Merlin. The entire series is about their relationship, friendship, and deep love for each other – but fans want them to be a couple, even though it’s obvious they are not. These are just three examples of some of my favorite fictional friendships that people constantly try to make romantic.

But it’s not just fiction. For goodness sake, look at David and Jonathan in the Bible. I’ve heard plenty of people accuse them of being gay because David told Jonathan that his love was better than the love of women (2 Samuel 1:26). But it’s not romantic or sexual – just that their friendship was a truer and deeper love than all the various shallow sexual relationships David had with his romantic partners.

When people see a love that is true, deep, and life-changing, they can’t seem to comprehend how it could possibly not be romantic or sexual. No! For goodness sake, no! Sex, as designed by God, is an awesome gift that gives a special level of intimacy in marriage that is totally unique. That’s amazing. And yes, for most people romantic love and a marriage relationship is the truest and strongest relationship and form of love that they experience. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only true love or the ultimate love.

The ultimate love is found in the God Who is love, and the only physical thing about that is the physical incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Savior. The truest love, in marriage, friendship, family, or any relationship, is the chosen, active love that mirrors and flows from His love.

So, happy Valentine’s! Whether you do anything specific to celebrate or not, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you take a little time on a day that’s all about love to be grateful for all the loves in your life and to find ways to express all that true love.

Why It’s Better To Do Sports In The Summer (even in Texas)

Spring is here and with it comes the barrage that is after school activities. Clubs and Scouts, and Sports–oh my!! You could easily book something from Sunday to Saturday and be left exhausted, stressed, and penniless.

Or, you could, *gasp* choose to do something radical. You could, like us, opt out of everything, at least for the spring. Yes, you heard that right, I’m giving you permission to hop off the crazy train, folks!

Now, why and how and if you should do that are all things I’ll be sharing in an upcoming post, that will be far longer than this one. So for right now, I’m going to just explain that when I sat down and filled out my “Things To Say No To” sheet that I gave you in my How To Organize Your Life As a Working Mom one of the first things that were super easy to say no to for our family was sports this school year.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think we should ever have our kids do sports, however. In fact, Amber really enjoyed soccer when she played, and she’s missed it. I know that a season long commitment is not what would be best for her, or us, at this point, though.

The perfect answer is for the kids to do sports when we all have the most free time–the summer! Summer sports camps are amazing options for a variety of reasons. If your child is interested in doing a sport, I’d highly recommend doing a summer camp of it, first. You might end up saving a whole lot of time and heartache and arguments when you find out the sport you thought was a perfect fit, is one that they actually don’t like after all. (Speaking from painful experience). They’re also usually just a week long, so they won’t interfere with your vacation schedule, and they focus a lot more on teaching, learning, and growing as a player. This means more fun and less pressure which I really love.

Because of this, I was super excited when I found out that there will be a British Soccer Camp right here in our new hometown this summer!

British Soccer Camps are the most popular soccer camp in the US. With an innovative curriculum that develops skills, speed and confidence in players ages 3-18, The British Soccer Camp provide boys and girls with the rare opportunity to receive high-level soccer coaching from a team of international expert’s right in the heart of their own community. In addition to teaching new skills and improving game performance, each British Soccer Camp provides lessons in character development, cultural education and is the most fun your child can have learning the sport they love!

In exchange for letting Amber go to camp for free (yey!) I’m sharing this post with you, plus giving you the chance to get an awesome discount!

Enroll you child in a British Soccer Camp today REGISTER FOR CAMP & GET FREE SOCCER JERSEY, SOCCER BALL, T-SHIRT & POSTER with code: CAMP17

Is Genesis History? Movie Review

Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: I was given access for me and the kids to watch Is Genesis History once in order to provide my thoughts on it! All opinions, adorably inquisitive kids, and conclusions are my own.

Amber is in that formative, value defining stage right now. As a parent, it’s thrilling and crazy and scary, all at the same time. I can see her take our viewpoints as her parents, and start to wrestle with if she believes them for herself. We’re in the stage of LOTS of questions right now.  Because of this, I was immediately intrigued when I read that  Is Genesis History? was inspired by the director’s 10-year-old daughter who began asking questions about science, history and the Bible. Since we’re in the same place I was excited to have potentially found a great resource for Amber, and for us as well.

Now, usually with a movie like this, there is a WHOLE lot of evidence hurled around. Of course, all this evidence usually supports whichever viewpoint the people making the film believe for themselves. Also, all other viewpoints are largely ignored, glossed over, or only the most ludicrous aspects of them are discussed.

One thing that I *loved* in Is Genesis History? is that they do bring up, explain, and discuss the Naturalist View/Conventional Paradigm for each topic that they cover. They don’t make people who believe in it sound like a bunch of idiots, and they do acknowledge that many intelligent professionals believe in that. However, they then also cover the Creationist View, and why and how the same data can be interpreted from that viewpoint and how it works. I really appreciated that there was no mud slinging, just a group of professionals sharing how their life’s work in a variety of fields has increased their faith.

Yes, you read that right. This is no one single Pastor thumping the Bible throughout the film shouting that you should believe it, because you should believe it. They sought out real, specialized experts who *all* hold a Ph.D. in a huge variety of relevant fields and discussed real questions that we all have with them.

I was also very impressed that the quality was great! That’s something that often has to be sacrificed in lower budget films, but this is an amazing quality film that is super interesting and engaging throughout. Even the kids were interested–all of the animals, cool locations, and of course the dinosaurs, kept them watching. In fact, after seeing the dig in Wyoming for dinosaurs both kids now want to be Paleontologists when they grow up!

One of my favorite things that I learned from this show was that they’ve found dinosaur bones that still had tissues with cells ((Jurassic Park anyone??)).

They broach a HUGE range of relevant topics, discuss how *both* viewpoints interpret the data and explain why it is completely logical for us as Christians, and intelligent adults, to believe that Genesis *is* History. I also appreciated that when there are topics that we cannot explain, they honestly said that, instead of just ignoring it.

This was SUCH a great film. I found it very interesting, engaging, and one that I would happily recommend to both my fellow Creationists and those many friends of mine who believe in the Naturalist View. I believe it handles it in a responsible, mature, and intelligent way, which is what I love to see on *any* kind of topic in which there is a division. Here is the trailer so you can get a feel for it yourself!

Is Genesis History? Will be in select theaters for one night only, February 23rd!!! So be sure to check out if it will be playing near you, and if it will, please go! I promise you won’t regret it!

If it’s not, feel free to check out the Is Genesis History website, and be sure to pick it up when it comes out for purchase!

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How To Put Together The Perfect Galentine’s Gifts This Year

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SendingYourLove #CollectiveBias

I’ll always remember my worst Valentine’s Day.

I was 16 years old and I’d just broken up with my first boyfriend, who I’d been dating for over 6 months (I laugh at that length of time, now, but if you ever dated in high school you know that’s an impressive amount!). I was a cashier at Walmart at the time and was scheduled to work on Valentine’s Day. Sure enough, they stuck me on one of the 20 Items Or Less registers, and my night was one continual stream of cute guys with lavish gifts for their significant others. After about the 30th beautiful card and bouquet of roses, I was ready to burst into tears.

To put the final crown on the evening, the guy that I had my first and only serious tween crush on for about 3 years came through my register….with, you guessed it, a completely gorgeous and touching card and a bouquet of flowers, plus delicious chocolates for his current girlfriend.

Can’t a single gal get a break??!!

I feel like people are becoming more aware of how painful holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas can be for those who are alone, or recently lost a loved one. Valentine’s Day, however, is really easy to forget about, as long as you’re in a happy, fulfilling relationship. For the recently or always single, bereaved, or not-so-happily coupled, however, it can be a day of glaringly unfulfilled dreams and crushed hopes that every social media post and couple picture just further inflicts pain upon.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I LOVE love. I love my marriage, I LOVE it when people are happily coupled whether they’re in the “You’re so perfect” stage or whether they’re in the “I love you even though I know you’re not perfect” stage. If you are blessed to be in a relationship right now, by all means, be sure to pick up one of the amazing Signature Hallmark cards at Walmart for your spouse or boyfriend, too!

Right now they have an awesome offer going on! $2 off a 2 card purchase (min $2 purchase required), expires 2/15. This means you can buy for everyone this Valentine’s Day!

No matter what your personal relationship status will be this Valentine’s Day, I have a sure-fire way to make sure your day is filled with joy, guaranteed. Want to know the secret????

Fill your Valentine’s Day With Joy, By Sending Love To Others!

This year I wanted to send some love to two amazing and beautiful women in my life, for completely different reasons. Though your Galentine’s Day packages will be completely unique to the amazing women in your life, I want to provide my gifts to give you ideas and springboards into who to bless, and what you can give–whether they live next door or thousands of miles away!!!

My first Galentine’s Day package that I put together was for my amazing little sister Hannah! As you know, she’s actually a contributor for this site now, so be sure to go say hello! She’s my “baby” sister and the last of the Romero kids to still be single. Because the rest of us were a little odd and all married off by the age of 25 (I got married at 19), she feels a little odd having not gotten hitched in her very young 20s. While she’s perfectly content to fan girl while she waits for Mr. Awesome, I know how it must feel a little awkward for her and all her single friends to see Valentine’s Day come each year along with the latest announcement of who is dating who and who just got engaged. I’m thankful I was able to live my single and dating life pre-social media days!

So sadly we’re thousands of miles apart as she’s back in Wyoming while I’m down here in Texas. So here’s my best advice for putting together a Long Distance Galentine’s Day Gift Package!!!!

Of course, every Galentine’s Gift has to start with the perfect card. When I saw this gorgeous Signature Hallmark Card at Walmart I knew it was absolutely perfect for both of the beautiful gals in my life! As you can see above it says “Loved & Lovely” on the front. Then when you open it up is says “Lots of things can make you pretty But your good heart makes you beautiful”

Love. It!!!!!!!

Don’t just sign your name and call it good, though! That empty side is there for a reason–so you can include a sweet, beautiful, and heartfelt message in your very own handwriting. Let the person know exactly why you’re sending your love, and how much they mean to you!

Now that you have the most important part taken care of, it’s time for the gifts! I’ve mentioned before that I take great pride in my family as being known as the “bestest gift giver”. There’s a big secret to this–do you want to know it?

#1 Gift Giving Tip: To be an amazing gift giver you have to give people what they like, not what you like.

I know, it seems so simple but often people don’t follow this advice that seems like a no-brainer. That’s why registries and wish lists are often ignored and instead you wind up with something you would never use, want, or wear.

There’s great news, though! These days it’s so easy to find people’s likes, interests, and tastes! It’s called social media! For Christmas, I wanted to give my sister-in-law a pair of earrings. The thing is, that while I *love* her gorgeous style it is totally and completely different from my own. So instead of guess what she “might” like or give her something in my taste that I knew would “look great on her” I did a little investigation. Profile pictures are an amazing thing! Through going through all her pictures I was able to pinpoint exactly what her favorite earring style and color are and picked out a pair that “were so perfect” in her own words.

So your gift bundle will and should look completely unique to the lovely lady you’re gifting it to! Here is what I included in my sister’s far away package, along with why I chose each item and some that different ideas in the same category.

Great Ideas For a Far Away Galentine’s Day Gift Package

  • Cozy Hat & Sweater — Wyoming is having a record breaking year for snow and cold! My sister is also working nights at a newspaper during all of this, and so she’s having to go out into that a lot! Because of this, I got her this adorable hat and scarf. Bonus??? Down here in Texas we’re reaching the 70s already, which means that my Walmart has all cold winter gear on clearance already! If your recipient isn’t into hats and scarves (for example, I never wear either item) then you can substitute another fun item to wear. Maybe she loves boots, long tunics, or a cozy sweater!
  • Earrings — If your recipient wears jewelry this is a perfect Valentine’s Day gift to include! Walmart has pretty items at low prices, and by doing a little snooping you’ll find the perfect necklace or pair of earrings! To make it feel even more upscale take it off of the plastic holder and place it inside of a cloth or gauzy bag, you can find these inexpensively in the craft section of most Walmart’s.
  • Journal — My sister graduated last May with her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. Because writing runs in her blood, like mine, she usually has a million different things she’s furiously working away at. She, like me, also loves to use pen and paper. Because of this journals are always appreciated and used by her! For your recipient, you might gift a new best-selling book, a few magazines, or an adult coloring book!
  • Masquerade Mask — If there’s one thing Hannah loves, it’s plays! She has an entire wall dedicated to the plays that she’s seen. When I found this gorgeous mask in the clearance aisle (It was originally a Christmas decoration!) I knew it would fit right into her room and that she’d love it! Don’t forget to check out Walmart’s clearance aisle! Stocking up year round makes for generous gift giving come special occasions!
  • Pampering Mask — All girls love to be pampered and feel beautiful! Hannah doesn’t do a ton of makeup, so this relaxing mask was the perfect pampering touch to include! Simple and fun she can use it during her next bath and feel luxurious and beautiful! This is great for any woman, but feel free to include makeup, perfume, or nail polish in place of this!

Put all of this together and it makes what appears to be a lavish gift bundle. By choosing items that they will love, and purchasing them at Walmart, it’s completely possible to put together this epic gift without going beyond your budget!

The next Galentine’s Day Gift Package I put together was for my sweet & beautiful Mom-in-Love. As you might remember, this sweet lady let my family live with her for 4 years while my husband got his Bachelor’s Degree. Amazingly, not only did living together go very well, we came out of it as best friends!

She truly is loved and lovely, and has one of the most beautiful hearts I know!

She’s a totally different case, as she has been married to my father-in-love for ages now (over 30 years). But even if you’re in a happily ever after marriage, you know that the longer it goes, the more likely it is that you won’t really be celebrating or celebrated on Valentine’s Day. Leave that as you will, it’s just kind of the case with most of the guys in my families. Because of this, I wanted to give her some special love on Valentine’s Day. We owe them so much, that I’ll always be looking for ways to let her know how thankful I am and how loved she is!

Also, unlike my sister, my Mom-in-Love *loves* to shop and self-confessedly has more books, knick-knacks, clothes, and well, everything, than she needs. For people like this, I love to gift mostly consumable items, along with just one special piece. Since she’s still close by at just an hour away, I can easily gift food and flowers to her!

  • Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies — A nearby gift from me almost always contains some of my “famous” homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re one of my mom-in-love’s favorite desserts, so of course, a big plateful is always a great start to a gift for her!
  • Flowers — These are a Valentine’s Day Cliche for a reason! There is just something about gorgeous cut flowers that brightens up the world! When buying flowers for another gal I always forgo roses. While they are my very favorite flower, they’re also the most expensive, and they also have the shortest cut lifespan. If you opt for flowers like baby carnations, or daisies, you can get gorgeous colors like these, they last for weeks, and when you buy them from Walmart you can get a gorgeous bouquet for under $5!
  • Necklace — As I mentioned, I love to give one “keep it” gift in a bundle/basket like this one. Diane loves beautiful, long, fun necklaces and when I saw this one it just screamed “her” to me! It was just the right amount of bling and sparkle and colors I know she loves and wears often. Look for one piece, no matter what it is, that you know your girl will love and cherish and that will remind her of you each time she wears or sees it!
  • Lunch Date — For all my close gals I love to give the gift of delicious food and time together to round this package all out! Whether it’s meeting up for coffee or taking her out to lunch, plan a girl date so that you can have the most precious gift of all–conversation, connection, and making memories together!

Here are some ideas for how to let the girls in your life know that they are loved and lovely this Valentine’s Day! Here’s a list of some of the ladies you might want to send a card to this year!

  • Singles
  • Those who recently went through a breakup
  • Widows
  • Women who have been married for a very long time
  • Military & Law Enforcement Spouses (they usually have to celebrate the day with their husbands working long shifts or completely away/deployed)

Looking for more amazing Valentine’s Day ideas AND additional coupons and offers here!

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Let’s Talk About Feminism

If your Facebook newsfeed looks anything like mine, it’s featured a lot of politics lately. Who am I kidding? It’s been an explosion of politics for months. About two weeks ago, one topic on my feed was especially explosive: The Women’s March. I’m betting it at least made an appearance on your radar.

People on Facebook tend to either be engagers (the ones doing the posting, sharing, debating, etc.) or ignorers (the ones who scroll past debates as quickly as possible). I’m usually somewhere in the middle, leaning towards ignoring. I may look at what people have shared, but I rarely interact with those posts – it gets too complicated, too messy, too time-consuming, and it usually doesn’t solve anything.

But I decided to engage in some of the discussions on the Women’s March, and, as usual, I got sucked in. It started with a few comments on someone else’s status. Then I shared an article. And that’s when it happened.

I called myself a feminist.

And then I had to spend the next few days typing out lengthy comments in response to people who were concerned about me describing myself with that particular term. That’s when I decided that this blog post needed to happen (although it took a bit longer than expected).

This post is not another response to the Women’s March, since lots of good ones (and bad ones) already exist. Instead, it’s what almost all of the discussions I had because of the march boiled down to: feminism, and in particular a Christian response to feminism.

Obviously this is a huge topic that I could write books about, so I won’t be able to cover everything, but I’ll try to sum my thoughts up both thoroughly and succinctly (and it’ll still be a fairly long post, but bear with me!).

What’s your knee-jerk reaction when you hear the word “feminism”? What immediate comes to mind? Would you ever call yourself a feminist, or do you adamantly speak out about why you’re not one? Whatever your reaction is, I doubt it’s one of indifference. Feminism is one of those words that’s charged with associations, connotations, and emotions.

Personally, I have a complicated relationship and history with the word. I do refer to myself as a feminist, but I almost always accompany that declaration with a disclaimer and a discussion of what I mean. And trust me – that title isn’t one that I adopted quickly or lightly.

I grew up in an old-fashioned, conservative, fundamental Baptist family and church. So for the first nineteen years of my life, I had nothing but negative associations with the word “feminism.” It was worldly, radical, unbiblical. It was in opposition to the family, it taught women to not be submissive to their husbands, it taught that women were superior to men, etc. Never mind the fact that I probably couldn’t have explained what feminism actually was if you’d asked me to.

Then this “sheltered” homeschooler started her college education at Western Wyoming Community College. Through a series of events, I became friends with several teachers who proudly called themselves feminists, and my perceptions of the word began to change. Then I became a part of the Honors Program and its Introduction to the Humanities class. At the end of the semester, we had to do a research paper and presentation. I decided, based on some of our class discussion, to write about feminism and how it dealt with the issue of women staying at home.

Here’s the funny part – I thought my research paper was going to be about how I disagreed with feminism and how I was against the way it discouraged women from being wives and mothers. But the more I researched, the further I dug into the issue, the more questions I asked, the more I wondered: do I actually disagree with this?

My research paper turned into a discussion of the many different views feminists have held of women staying at home, which turned into a discussion of what feminism actually is, which turned into a realization: feminism and conservative ideals aren’t actually totally at odds. (Hold on to that thought, because I’m coming back to it.)

My teacher selected seven students from that class and invited them to take their research and give presentations at the Western Regional Honors Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona that spring. I was invited. I was terrified. But after a lot of thought and prayer, I decided to go for it.

I remember sitting in my teacher’s book-covered office, coming to the conclusion that the heart of my presentation wasn’t really the issue of women staying at home, but rather the issue of how conservative groups interacted with feminism. And I distinctly remember telling him: “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to openly call myself a feminist though, because the people I know wouldn’t understand what I meant by it.”

Still, I did further research, I interviewed people – including our very own work-from-home-Christian-mom Nicole Elliott – and I dug into what feminism is at its heart and how conservatives react to it. And a few months later I took an amazing trip to Flagstaff, and I presented my thoughts to strangers. The last line of that presentation, my conclusion of months of research, was simply this: “All of us, when we consider the basic definition of feminism, should be able to proudly consider ourselves feminists.”

This is the group I went to Flagstaff with at the Grand Canyon — amazing people who changed my life in a lot of ways!
Here I am giving my presentation on feminism at the RHC!

I didn’t start calling myself a feminist right away or make a big deal of “coming out” about it. I honestly don’t even know when I first applied the term to myself. But after that presentation, if the topic came up, it was this concept I went back to and discussed. And somewhere along the line, I called myself a feminist, and I explained what I meant by it.
That’s my history with the word. Now, let’s have that discussion.

First off, here’s a link to the video of my entire presentation from Flagstaff. It’s about half an hour long. The best thing you could do to fully understand my thoughts is to watch the whole video right now, then read the rest of this post. However, I get that it’s a long video, so I’m going to hit most of the big ideas from it in my discussion below. If you do watch it, let me know so I can congratulate you. 😉

Flagstaff Feminism Presentation

Now, just a quick note: my audience at the Honors Conference was strangers, so I had no idea what their backgrounds, beliefs, or opinions on feminism would be. Here, however, I’m assuming that much of my audience is Christian, as wells as including lots of mommies. Of course, I still don’t know what your opinions on feminism are! But my ideas here will be a little more focused on how we as Bible-believing Christians deal with feminism.

Here we go!

The basis of this issue is simply the difference between the denotation and connotations of the word “feminism.” The denotation of a word is its basic definition, while the connotations of a word are all the other ideas that people attach to it.

The denotation of feminism is this: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes; organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests” (Merriam Webster); “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basic of the equality of the sexes” (Google); “a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women” (Wikipedia). If you were to ask a feminist what feminism is, most of them would tell you that it’s a belief in the equality of the sexes.

The problem comes because of the connotations of “feminism,” because those are endless. As the term has developed and been claimed by various groups, it has had a lot of associations attached to it. As often happens, the most radical and extreme groups are the ones that get the most attention. This is why “feminism” has come to be associated with what I refer to as “radical feminism.” These are the people that burn bras, wear crude costumes, call for extreme legislation, have negative views of men (which is technically misandry), etc., etc. These women are what people, especially Christians, tend to think of as feminists. They are also not a representation of all feminists.

I think this is the single biggest reasons Christians (and I use that term broadly) have shied away from the term “feminist” and thus the concept of feminism as a whole. All the articles I’ve read from Christians that argue against feminism make the same mistake of faulty generalization.

One article that was shared with me after I referred to myself as a feminist on Facebook was from a Christian blog for women (not unlike this blog), called “7 Reasons I’m Not a Feminist.” This was part of my response: “This author is…defining all feminism by the most liberal and radical forms of feminism, rather than the actual definition of the word and concept. I firmly agree with all the points she makes about the Bible and its view of women. I also disagree with nearly all the points she makes about feminism as she is, as I said, only describing very radical/liberal feminism. And, honestly, even the liberal feminists I know wouldn’t agree with some of the claims she makes about feminism.”

So, feminism is, at its core, a belief in the equality of the sexes. Do we, as Christians, believe this? Does the Bible teach this? Yes! (Now, hang with me before you raise your concerns. I’ll get there.) All humans, male and female, are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). I believe this means that both men and women together are needed to have a complete view of the image of God in humanity, and that both men and women are completely equal in value in creation and in God’s eyes. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) – He is the only One Who perfectly never discriminates for any reason, including gender. And in salvation, all are perfectly equal before in Christ – “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:27-28).

Now, you may be concerned that I’m headed down the road of “equality means there should be no distinguishing traits between genders, men and women can always share the exact same roles, women should never have to submit,” and so on. I’m not. God does distinguish between genders, and in some very specific cases, like the office of pastor, God does prescribe certain roles to certain genders. I’m not downplaying that fact.

In fact, I’ll argue that in some ways these distinctions actually heighten the fact that men and women are equal. The genders are different, and some distinctions can be made (although time and society often change what those distinctions are – that’s another discussion), which shows that both genders are needed and should be celebrated, equally, for a complete view of God’s image in humanity. Women are asked to submit to their husbands, yes. That doesn’t mean their husbands are more important. God the Son submitted to God the Father, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are equal. Also, younger Christians are asked to submit to elder Christians, and all Christians are asked to submit to one another (1 Peter 5:5) – that doesn’t change the equality of believers, it heightens it as they honor one another.

Now, some of the definitions of feminism define certain types of equality (political, economic, and social). These come from the history of feminism since the belief in the equality of men and women has pushed people to fight for the ability of women to hold some of the same rights as men, such as the right to vote, to get an education, to work, etc. I know that most of us wouldn’t agree with some of the specific things people push these days (such as pro-choice groups), but I still don’t believe that we can equate the entire concept of feminism with specific beliefs of some feminists. As a whole, I don’t believe the Bible condemns these broad areas of equality. (Obviously there is so much that can be discussed here specifically that I simply don’t have time to dig into, but I encourage you to dig yourself!)

Now, I have one last point to make. I’ve said that I call myself a feminist, with explanation. That doesn’t mean I’m asking you to call yourself one. I completely understand the hesitancy to use a title that groups you disagree with have used. I understand not wanting to be associated with radical feminism. I completely respect those who choose to avoid this title. I will note, however, that any title can be horribly misrepresented and abused, including “Christian” (and I believe it has been). That’s not necessarily a reason to throw out the title altogether. Maybe it’s a reason to keep the title, but explain what you mean by it. But because titles can be abused, maybe it’s less about what we call ourselves, and more about how we live. Do or don’t call yourself a feminist – but live out a belief that all human beings are equally created and loved by God and deserve to be treated with respect.

I know this is long for a blog post, and I applaud you if you’ve read it all (especially if you watched the video, too!). And I also know that I’ve barely scratched the surface of the surface, and there’s a lot more than can be discussed. I genuinely would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment! I’ll also leave the disclaimer that these are my own thoughts, and don’t necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of my fellow writers on this blog. But I hope that I’ve at least given you some ideas to think about, and maybe some ideas to dig deeper into yourself.

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