Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

The best tunic tops for moms under $30

20 Tunic tops for leggings that moms will love!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.
Leggings are incredibly comfortable and these 20 tunic tops for moms under $30 will have your rocking your leggings and looking good! #TunicTops #Leggings #MomFashion #FamiliesWithGrace #Style #MomStyle #womenstunictops #affordablefashion

I was slow to the legging trend. It took a couple of years after leggings became popular for me to really get into the groove of wearing them. Now they’re pretty much all I wear and work for casual and dressy times. But, as a mom who is also fluffy, I’m all about having the right top to go with it. Sometimes finding the best tunic tops for moms can be difficult, but lately I’m coming across all kinds of them.

While I’ve found tunic topics in a variety of places, my favorite place to find them is on Amazon. Most stores offer free returns that I can drop off unpackaged at my local UPS store if something doesn’t work. I love tunic tops that are comfortable to wear and comfortably long.

I also refuse to spend more than $30 on a tunic top to wear with leggings, because I’d rather spend the money on my kids or something else. So, I’ve pulled together some of the best tunic tops for moms that are under $30. I have most of these tunic tops myself and love the way they fit, feel and cover. Even better, none of them need special washing or get super wrinkly.

(And if you don’t like the color or designed shown, rest assured that all of them come in various designs and/or colors! Many of the styles come in both long and short sleeves as well.)

Long-sleeved tunic tops for moms

A tunic top with a black and white plaid top that has a cowl neck and a solid black bottom
A ruby tunic top for moms with a heathered look and lace trim on the bottom front of it
Tunic top for moms that has three solid horizontal stripes or color blocks. Shown in black, green and gray.
A tunic top for mom that is longer and more of a dress style. It is knit with pockets and large buttons down one side. It is shown in orange.
This tunic top for moms is a sweater style top with a solid body and striped sleeves. It's shown in a dark teal body with orange, gray, green and purple striped sleeves.
A sweatshirt style tunic top for moms that is dark gray with a blank animal print.
A cozy tunic top for moms that is a muted color with the cuffs, hem and color being darker. Shown in red.
A solid color tunic top for moms that has a scoop neck. It is shown in a deep purple.
A v-neck tunic top for moms that has a different color of cuff, neck and hem from the body of the top. Shown in light pink with gray trim.
A solid gray tunic top for moms that has a ruffle hem line
This tunic top for moms is a solid color (show in blue) with a hem line in the front that looks like it has a different shirt of a similar color underneath.

Short-sleeved tunic tops for moms

This tunic top for moms has a rounded neck and is a solid color. It is shown in green.
This is one my all-time favorite tunic tops! I have it in multiple colors.
A dress style tunic top for moms that has pockets. It is shown in black with white lines that are spaced apart and have a tie-dye look.
A solid color tunic top for moms with a round neck and an uneven hem. The trim of the sleeves and the hemline are in an accent color. Shown is a purple tunic top with black trim.
With a rounded neck and pleated bottom, this tunic top for moms is flowing and has a variety of patterns. It is shown in black with white dots and accents.
A tunic top for moms shown in a solid olive green with stitching (of the same color) around the sleeve trim, hem and collar.
A solid tunic top for moms with a round neckline and swing style. Shown in steel blue.
This tunic top for moms has crochet trim details on the sleeves. It is shown in a sage green with black and white polka dots.
This tunic top for moms is a henley style with three buttons on the collar. It is shown in black with a blue floral pattern around the bottom third.
This tunic top for moms has a more open neck and is henley style with three buttons on the collar. It is loose fitting and is shown in black, red and white floral pattern.

Looking for leggings to wear with your tunic tops? Check out these leggings my daughter and I love. They fit well, feel great and wash up well!

A set of leggings that are great for women and teens. They come three to a set in different colors. All black is shown.

How busy moms can drink more water

5 Ideas to increase how much water you drink

Affiliate links are used in this post; if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

Sometimes we know something is good for us, but we still struggle to make it happen. This is especially true in the busyness of mom life and all we have going on. Unfortunately drinking enough water can fall into that category. And it’s just not healthy for us. Dehydration is so rampant that some estimate up to 75% of all adults are dehydrated! Finding ways to drink more water without causing more stress to already busy moms is important.

Even though water is my primary drink, I still struggle to make sure I drink enough of it throughout my day. I have, however, found a few things that help me drink more water and stay better hydrated.

1. Keep your water cold.

This has to be my very first idea to share because keeping my water cold has been a game changer for me. For most of my life, I kept reusable plastic water bottles in the fridge to drink out of. But they were never insulated. Then about 10 years ago or so, I discovered the magic of stainless steel insulated cups. They were so fabulous! In fact, when a friend had her second baby shortly thereafter, I gave her a stainless steel insulated tumbler as a baby gift because I knew she’d need it. Nursing moms need even more hydration. I certainly remember those days!

So now I use a large, 30-ounce insulated tumbler each day. I fill it up with ice and water from my fridge every morning. Throughout the day, I refill the cup as needed. I love that I can even leave the cup in a hot car, and the water is still cold. I’ve had the metal cup be almost too hot to touch but the water inside was still frigid. Cold water is just easier to drink, I think! These are two of my favorite tumblers:

Some of the tumblers come with straws. I’ve found that I like hard plastic or silicone, but I don’t like the stainless steel straws. (My mom does like the stainless steel straws, though, so you never know! You can give them a try.) I have some tall disposable straws that work, too, and those I usually find at Dollar Tree.

2. Take water with you everywhere you go.

Another way I drink more water is by taking my cup along wherever I go. Mostly, I’m at home, but I move it with me from room to room so it’s almost always beside me. And then when I do leave the house, I take it along. Often it goes along with me when I go to pick up my kids from school and come straight back home.

While I do OK with the lidded tumblers, some are leakproof if that’s a concern or your kids are younger and you need free hands to carry them. I have this insulated water bottle for my daughter that I pack sideways in her lunchbox every day and don’t have a problem with:

3. Make it part of your routine.

When we tie tasks into part of our daily routine, they are more likely to become habits. I told you last week how brushing my teeth in the morning reminds me to pray and connect with God. I’m the same way with my water. After I get ready each morning, my first stop is the refrigerator to fill up my cup with ice and water. It’s become such a part of my routine that when my dog hears me filling up my water, he runs ahead to our home office because he knows that’s where I’m usually headed next.

You can make actually drinking the water part of your routine as well. Maybe you drink water every time you stop at a stoplight or you take a few sips each time you finish changing a diaper. Find some way to incorporate drinking water into your usual routine.

4. Set specific goals and track them.

I’m a list maker through and through. I like tracking things. And that’s why things like a water tracker work well. Keeping a water tracker on hand helps you remember to drink water and see the progress you made. Another bonus is you can use it to compete with a friend or family member as a way to stay motivated and/or accountable. Check out this water tracker printable from the Families with Grace Etsy store:

Tracking your water intake is also a great way to get your family involved. Let them also track their water intake or even just cheer you on. My kids love cheering me on when they have the chance!

5. Add some flavor.

If plain water is boring to you or you just need to switch it up sometimes, add some flavor to your water! My daughter likes to add various fruits to hers including lemon, strawberries and blueberries. I enjoy lemon water or cucumber water as a treat sometimes. Flavoring drops work well for our family, too, because they are small and easy to store but make water more exciting. My daughter loves plain lemonade, my pick is pink lemonade every so often and my husband goes for sweet tea. Just be aware that flavoring drops can add calories and sugar or have sugar substitute in them.

Living faith: My story of healing

An unexpected miracle

A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment with my urologist. I walked out of his office with tears in my eyes. I stood before the elevators and tried to grasp what had just happened.

This wasn’t the first time I’d felt teary and overwhelmed after leaving his office. I’ve been seeing the guy for two decades to treat my interstitial cystitis. I’ve seen his receptionist and nurse retire. At one point I went so often that I noticed any small change to the waiting room layout and pretty much the entire office knew me by name.

I’ve left there in significant pain. In the past, I’ve walked out of there disheartened because I knew there were not answers for my pain and discomfort.

But I had tears in my eyes following my recent visit for a different reason. After going down to yearly appointments to keep up with my medications, my urologist said something I truly never thought I’d hear him say. He told me it’s up to me whether I return to see him again. He was releasing me because I didn’t really need him any more.

Even now those words choke me up. This journey I’ve been on started when I was 3 years old. There have been highs and lows. I’ve had times that were miserable and a short period of time in high school and college when I was in a remission. But since my symptoms returned when I was 23, they have taken me on a journey I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

About healing

Being in your early 20s with health struggles is difficult. None of my friends really, truly understood where I was coming from. I sought out others with IC and others with chronic pain. We knew the struggle. We understood feeling left out, trying to juggle appointments, figuring out how to pay for everything and praying desperately for healing.

When I was younger, I thought cancer would be better. Cancer is something you either get better from or don’t. It doesn’t just continue indefinitely. Through the years I’ve learned that’s not even close to being the case, but when you are struggling with finding hope through constant pain that nobody has a solution for, thoughts get crazy.

I won’t bore you with details of all the various treatments and medications I’ve tried. However, I do want to share with you my journey about healing and my faith. In my mid-20s, God showed me I was putting my hope in the next line of treatment or medication instead of putting my hope in Him. I wasn’t truly living faith. I shifted my perspective and began keeping my hope in God and trusting that whether any treatment worked, God would be with me every moment. And He has been!

But then that begs the question of supernatural healing. I have seen God heal people. My dad is alive today thanks to the divine touch of our Heavenly Father. I know God has and can heal people. He wasn’t healing me, though, and that was something with which I struggled. A part of me thought since I’d put my hope in God more than in medicine, then I’d learned my lesson, and He’d heal me.

I’ve prayed for healing. I know others have prayed for healing on my behalf. However, God said no. Eventually, the Holy Spirit led me to pray for healing from the need to be healed. That sounds confusing, I know. I was just struggling so much with wanting to be healed that it was getting in the way of my relationship with God. It was affecting me in many ways, and none of them were good. When sermons were about being healed or I felt like other Christians were implying anyone would be healed with enough faith, then I got upset. My heart ached and I’d feel discouraged. I thought I was living faith, yet sometimes I didn’t feel like it.

My prayer for healing from the need to be healed was answered pretty quickly. Over time, I became OK with the fact that my healing would come in heaven rather than on earth. Of course I’d love to be healed before I die, but if not, then I was OK with that. I knew beyond a doubt that God would continue to be with me every step of the way. That was what living faith looked like to me.

And God has been with me every step. He has strengthened me when I was weak. He’s comforted me when I was alone because I didn’t feel up to leaving the house. God surrounded me with a loving, caring family who have been there through the difficult days. I am so blessed and thankful.

Learning from having a chronic illness

Having a chronic illness has taught me many things. I’ve made friends I wouldn’t have otherwise and I’ve done work I wouldn’t have otherwise. One of my best connections has come through the IC Network, a group who advocates for IC patients and works to educate and help us. I am blessed to write for them regularly as I have been for the past nearly 20 years.

My work has also given me the ability to do research about IC and learn about the latest treatments and theories. I’ve interviewed leading researchers in the field and listened to their presentations at various urology conferences. I spent my 40th birthday at a urology conference and loved it. Each urology conference I went to was overwhelming to me to see medical professionals working hard to find answers and help for us.

I’ve seen treatment for IC come a very long way through the years. I could give you all sorts of details and information that I geek out over, but I will refrain. However, this very research has led me to different urologists through the years. My local urologist has been so kind and good to me. I’ve seen a handful of them who have been far from kind and helpful. This urologist has been so compassionate and helpful, but he doesn’t specialize in IC.

So I have driven out of town and out of state in order to seek out urologists who are leading experts. I was more motivated to do this after having children when I had a newfound desire to feel the best I could to be able to do more with them. The Women’s Urology Center at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan blew me away. I’ve been there a few times and had a couple of surgeries there and am thankful for their help and compassion.

Doing article research, though, also led me to interview people in related fields. In researching an article about Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, I connected with an Interventional Radiologist. During the interview he said to me, “I think I’ve found a cure for IC.” I was polite, but internally I scoffed. I’ve heard promises of cures for years and none of them ever panned out.

After the article released, he and I stayed in contact a little bit. I mentioned to him that the patients he was describing had histories a lot like mine. He sent me his patient questionnaire. I completed it, and he told me over the phone that he suspected I had blocked veins in my pelvis that were causing my symptoms. He told me he truly thought he could help me feel better. I remained skeptical. I was wary of getting my hopes up and being disappointed yet again.

Undergoing another procedure

The doctor I interviewed referred me to his colleague who sent me for imaging to determine if I had blocked pelvic veins. Lo and behold, I did. My left iliac vein was 70% blocked. His solution was an outpatient procedure to put in a stent. By that time, I’d had three major pelvic surgeries and four minor ones. What was one more? So in March of 2021, I spent my kids’ spring break out of town having an 11 mm stent inserted into my left iliac vein.

I didn’t feel any difference at first. Of course at first my pain was much worse, but it was overall the least painful recovery I’ve had for any procedure. Life returned to my version of normal. Then about 10 months in, I started noticing that I hadn’t been having my usual bladder symptoms for a while. A couple of months later, I tried going off of the bladder medication I had been taking since I was 23 (other than while nursing or pregnant). It was the same medication I took for about a year during middle school as well.

That was six months ago. I haven’t had any trouble since then. None. I am going to the bathroom the same amount of times as a “normal” person. I’m not even having to be as vigilant about the things I eat. (Foods and beverages often flare IC symptoms.)

Remission or healing?

So where does that leave me now? Am I in remission or am I healed? Honestly, I’m not sure. I just know that I feel well. I still have other chronic health issues that have come up through the years that cause me trouble and pain, but for the first time, my bladder isn’t at the top of the list. That is so incredibly significant in my life.

When my local urologist told me a couple of weeks ago that I don’t need to come back unless I start having problems, it began to really sink in to me that this is real. I called my mom on the way home from the appointment, and we both cried. I had made peace with the fact that my healing would be in heaven. But here I am on earth right now not having to struggle as much.

While I’m perhaps in a bit of shock, but I just praise and thank God. He is the One who led me to connect with the work I do and the doctors I’ve met. He has been with me every single step of the way.

Can my symptoms return? Yes. I’ve certainly learned that nothing with my health is a guarantee. But maybe my bladder symptoms really were caused by the lack of blood flow to my bladder. Having that blood flow restored and allowing time for my bladder to heal itself may be what worked for me in the end.

Long ago I had to learn to enjoy the good days without stressing about the bad days that were sure to come. (It’s an important lesson when you have a chronic illness.) Right now, I’m going to enjoy the good days. I’m going to praise God for taking care of me as He always has. I’m going to bask in His goodness and rejoice over finding relief I never expected to come.

For years, I’ve waited for this. I keep thinking it is too good to be true, but recently seeing my urologist and his reaction helped me understand even more that this is real — at least for now. God was with me in the wait and surprised me beyond what I could have hoped for so many years later. My heart is full of gratitude today!

10 Nail wrap tips and tricks

Tried and true nail wrap tips to keep your nails looking good longer!

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

A couple of years ago, I tried nail wraps for the first time. While I really liked them, I also found them too pricey to be a regular thing. But a few months later, I found all sorts of all nail wrap brands that were much more affordable. Thus began my nail wrap journey. Now nail wraps are all that I wear. I LOVE them! I have also learned some nail wrap tips and tricks along the way I’m excited to share with you.

(Also, I have zero affiliation with any of the nail wrap companies or brands. Nada. My only affiliate links are for related products on Amazon. )

Nail wraps 101

Nail wraps are like stickers made of nail polish that you put on your fingernails and/or toenails in place of wet nail polish. They come in all sorts of colors, designs and themes. While I have used nail wraps that sell through representatives, I don’t like them as much. They’re too expensive, and they are flimsier than the other nails I find for MUCH cheaper.

I’ve got a few favorite nail wrap vendors that I love. The nails average around $3 per set, but there are some cheaper and a few more expensive. None are more than $6, though! Here are links to a few of my favorites that I highly recommend (none of these are affiliate links):

The Flamingo Lady Nails offers free shipping on orders over $20. Shipping otherwise is usually just a couple of dollars. The Flamingo Lady Nails usually sends an extra set or two of nails along with some other little treats like a plastic flamingo and stickers.

Lily and Fox Nails has free shipping to the United States and Canada regardless of order size. Lily and Fox also usually sends along an extra set of nails as well. Each order comes with a personalized note and origami fox.

Lovely Hello Nails includes free shipping for orders of $15 or more. They have colorful envelopes that are personalized and has a weekly wrap for $2.

Nails Mailed offers free shipping on all orders. Its nails are a bit pricier at usually $5.49 a set, but each week has three nails of the week on sale for $2.74. Since they do all free shipping, I have literally just ordered one set for $2.74 and had them sent.

Pink Raindrop Nails has free shipping for orders $25 or more. This site is a blend of prices. You can get sets for 99-cents. These sets don’t stay on quite as well, but with the right base coat, they last at least a few days. (More about that to come!) My favorites from this shop, though, are the pricier $3.49 to $4.99 sets that include pop culture themes such as superheroes, movies and video games!

Tip 1: Use nail polish remover on your nails before applying your nail wraps.

This nail wrap tip is one I discovered more recently. Even if you don’t have nail polish on your fingernails, swiping over your nails with nail polish remover takes off some of the natural oils. Honestly, I use an acetone nail polish remover. If you take your wraps off with nail polish remover, the acetone will work best. Either way, a swipe over your nails with nail polish remover helps prep them for the nail wraps. But you MUST wash your hands afterward.

Tip 2: Wash your hands with dish soap.

After you have cleaned your nails off with nail polish remover, try washing your hands with dish soap, especially Dawn dish soap. It’s good for everything from laundry to nails! My nails do fine washing them with regular hand soap, but my daughter’s nails have more natural oils on them. Washing with Dawn dish soap helps wraps stay on better for her. If you aren’t sure, give it a try. The worst that happens is you end up with extra Dawn for cleaning!

Tip 3: Buff your nails.

While I’ve loved doing my nails for years, I never buffed them. Then my husband ended up with extra buffing blocks from a project he was working on and gave me one. I gave it a try and now I use it often before putting on nail wraps. Gently buffing your nails is a good way to prep them for the wraps and helps remove some of the oils. I do a light buffing before applying the basecoat.

Tip 4: Use a basecoat.

When I first started using nail wraps, I didn’t think about combining wet polish with the wraps. Then I learned that a basecoat can not only help the wraps stay on longer but also protect your nails. I love the Orly Bonder Rubberized base coat. I apply it to my nails after they are cleaned and buffed then wait a couple of minutes before putting on the wraps.

Another bonus I’ve found with the basecoat is that they protect my nails well enough that I can peel off my wraps slowly and carefully when I’m ready to change them without them hurting my nails.

Tip 5: Use a topcoat.

If one of my nail wrap tips is to use a basecoat, you probably aren’t surprised that another one is to use a topcoat! Once your wraps are applied and filed, swipe over them with a topcoat. I love Zoya Armor topcoat, but pretty much any topcoat will work. Basically the topcoat just helps seal the wraps and they stay on longer.

Tip 6: Buy a glass nail file.

For years, I heard about how great glass nail files were. But I didn’t try one until a couple of months ago. It was worth the hype, you guys. I ordered a pack of three glass nail files on Amazon. They are different than cardboard or metal nail files in that they file more gently. (I know that sounds weird!) What’s nice is that the gentler file edge works to help you get rid of the excess nail wraps without tearing the nail wrap. I’d definitely recommend giving them a try!

Tip 7: Place the nail wrap above your cuticle.

When you’re placing your nail wraps, place them slightly above your cuticle. You want the wrap to adhere directly to your nail itself. To help with this, I push back and remove excess cuticles before doing my wraps. I do this just before applying the basecoat.

You also want to make sure the wrap isn’t hanging over onto your skin. If it is, trim it with nail scissors. A tiny bit hanging over isn’t such a big deal, but I still make sure to push it down as much as I can so that it isn’t on my skin. This also gets easier the more you use nail wraps and figure out what size works best for each of your nails.

Tip 8: Use nail scissors or clippers for trimming the wraps.

After I put the nail wraps on my nails, I trim them with nail scissors or nail clippers before filing them down. I don’t try to trim them right to the end of my nail. I don’t think that would work. But I trim them down so I have just a small amount to file off. I prefer nail scissors for my fingers and nail clippers for my toes.

Tip 9: Apply your wraps at night.

This is one of my very top nail wrap tips. Nail wraps do best when they have time to “cure.” If you apply them at night before going to bed, then you’re going to go hours without getting them wet or doing anything else to do them. They have more time to set and adhere. I promise this works!

I do my nail wraps after the kids are in their rooms for bedtime and before I go to bed. Usually I sit on the couch with my lap desk and do them while my husband and I watch something on TV. Then I only need to wash my hands once after I use the restroom before bed. They have all night to set.

Tip 10: Don’t put lotion on your hands afterward.

While I would wait and do my nails before bed, I noticed that if I put lotion on my hands before going to bed, as I often so, it affects my wraps. So I wait about putting lotion on my hands until at least 12 hours after putting on new nail wraps.

How anxiety and faith can co-exist

Plus 10 faith-based strategies to manage anxiety

I recently had a conversation with a loved one about anxiety and faith. We talked about whether Christians can struggle with anxiety. What does that look like? What does that say about our faith? We weren’t the first people to discuss this, and I know we surely won’t be the last. But, it did get me thinking about a message many Christians need to hear: You aren’t alone in your anxiety. Being anxious doesn’t mean you love God any less.

If you’ve been in church for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard sermons and lessons on how worrying is a sin. Being anxious is a sin. Anxiety means we aren’t trusting God fully. I know what the Bible says about anxiety, but I also know that it remains a struggle for so many of us.

So, can you be a Christian and have anxiety at the same time? The short answer is absolutely! But I think we need to go a bit deeper. I don’t have all the answers or any sort of theological degree. I can only share my experiences, struggles and feelings.

The physical component of anxiety

Having some anxiety is normal and helpful. It’s helped keep humans alive for so many years because we respond to danger and take less risk. However, some of us get stuck in that mode even when no threat is apparent. That’s when we shift to an anxiety disorder.

Like other mental health conditions, anxiety often needs more intervention than just trite advice. And anxiety disorders are rampant. Statistically speaking, about 30% of adults are dealing with an anxiety disorder at any given time. That’s up nearly 10% from 20 years ago.

Statistics on how the Christian population compares to the general population in regards to anxiety disorders isn’t available. But, let’s say the Christian population does have less anxiety, we’re still talking about a minimum of 20% of adults. Meaning if you are at a church with 300 attendees on a Sunday morning, then 60 people around you are dealing with an anxiety disorder. So, quite literally, all congregations have members dealing with anxiety disorders.

However, we also must remember the physical component to anxiety. Certain health conditions can cause anxiety, including diabetes, chronic pain, heart disease and thyroid problems. Outside of other health conditions, anxiety can come from a chemical imbalance in our brains, a traumatic experience, ongoing stress or being genetically predisposed. None of those things can be controlled.

I also want to acknowledge the healing power of God here. I have seen Him do miraculous things and heal people. My firm belief is we can pray for and receive healing from anxiety. However, I also know God’s will isn’t always healing on earth. God isn’t any less faithful for not healing someone of anxiety. And it doesn’t reflect his or her faith in any way. Through my years of dealing with various chronic health conditions, I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.

What anxiety and faith look like together

A few years ago, my husband and I were discussing a difficult situation that worried us. My husband is incredibly great at compartmentalizing. He also does well with leaving his worries with God. We were talking about how we handled our worry differently. He mentioned that he trusted God would take care of the situation. I realized I didn’t completely believe that.

Let me explain. I prayed about the same situation and knew that God would work in and through it. However, I didn’t believe it would necessarily work out positively. My husband’s faith was in God’s work to resolve the problem. My faith was that no matter what happened with the outcome, God would be with me. Neither of us were wrong, but my approach certainly leaves room for anxiety.

I like to think I was just being realistic. But, I think more than anything, my perspective came from my anxiety struggles. While my husband could list off all the things that could go wrong, he was able to not fret about them because they hadn’t happened (and might never happen). On the other hand, my mind can get an a runaway anxiety train thinking of all the possible outcomes while still trusting God won’t leave me.

Logically, I know God is in control, but anxiety isn’t logical. One of my worst times of anxiety was right around when my oldest daughter was born. We went on vacation and took her with us onto a large dock with a floating restaurant. I was nearly paralyzed with anxiety because I could just see her stroller going off the dock and into the lake. In my head, that’d just be it. She’d drown. In reality, we had her nowhere near the edge. And had the stroller somehow gone in, my husband or I would have been in the water right afterward to get her to safety. But reality doesn’t often factor into anxiety.

Moving forward in faith with anxiety

Since anxiety disorders are like any other health issue, if we aren’t healed of them, then we need to figure out how to manage them and move forward in spite of them. We can move forward in both practical and spiritual ways.

1. Pray.

Everything should start with prayer, even managing anxiety and faith. You can definitely pray for healing (and I encourage you to), but you can also pray for help handling your anxiety. I do this quite often. I ask God to help me stop thinking about something I’m dwelling on. Or I pray that He helps me to know if a worry is something I need to act on or just have peace about. For example, when it’s the middle of the night and I hear a slight noise that gets my mind reeling with all the bad things it could be.

We have Biblical instruction for doing this very thing, and what I love most is that God promises us peace. While I’ve had my fair share of anxious moments that get my heart racing, I have also felt the peace of God come over and still me in the midst of it.

Related Bible verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

2. Find a Bible verse to comfort you.

The Bible has so many verses about the peace and comfort of God. It reminds us of His presence in our lives. Find a verse that speaks to and calms your heart. (If you don’t have one, ask God to help you find one.) Memorize it and repeat it as often as needed.

For me, that verse is Isaiah 41:10 (see below). I learned the first part of it in third grade and it has stuck with me. I’ve repeated it to myself so many times through the years in different situations and at different times. I’ve used the second part of the verse as a breath prayer. God’s Word is powerful. It truly can cast out fear!

Related Bible verse: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

3. Listen to encouraging music.

Music can minister to us in so many ways. God has spoken to me so many times through songs, even songs I’ve heard and sung for years. Christian music is a part of my life. While it can encourage and uplift me, it also stays in my head. Sometimes a song stuck in my head is just what I need to hear at just the right moment. My anxiety and faith battle in song lyrics!

Recently, I was having a difficult time and kept thinking, “I’ve never felt more alone than I do right now.” Every single time I thought that, “Jireh” from Elevation Worship and Maverick City popped into my head with, “I’ve never been more loved than I am right now.” It helped me turn my focus around to God and the truth, which I definitely needed to do.

Related Bible verse: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

4. Monitor what you watch.

I’ve learned to be careful what I watch. Watching TV news only increases my anxiety. It’s so negative and so dismal. It can add a variety of thoughts to my head that I don’t need. But so can fictional television shows and movies. I’m a sensitive person and always have been. I remember watching a scary movie in fourth grade at a slumber party and can still recall scenes from that movie to this day.

I am not into the murder shows, police shows, medical dramas and so many other things because they only increase my anxiety. And it turns out that God knew this way before I was born. His Word admonishes us to be careful what we watch for a reason!

Related Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

5. Think through worst-case scenarios.

This one totally sounds counterintuitive. I sometimes get easily sidetracked and anxious thinking of all the worst-case scenarios. But, years ago my husband challenged me to think of the worst-case scenario of my worries. Then, he said, come up with the solution. Often that helps ease my anxiety because I have a plan. And I love having a plan!

If I come up with the worst-case scenario (and my brain is good at that), I think of what would happen if that scenario came to pass. This works also because it makes me start thinking more practically and realistically the opposite of how anxiety makes me think.

Related Bible verse: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” – Luke 14:28 (NIV)

6. Talk about it.

Anxiety is good at lying to us. It can make problems seem so much bigger than they are. When I have trouble dealing with something or moving on from it, it helps to talk about it with someone I trust. For me, that’s my husband. Often just saying the words out loud help my anxiety and faith meet as I realize what I’m worried about isn’t such a big deal.

We weren’t made to bear our burdens alone. Along with being able to go to God, we also need to have people who we can turn to and trust when our burdens weigh us down. Saying a worry out loud removes at least some of its power.

Related Bible verse: “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” – Ecclesiastes 4:10a (NIV)

7. Distract yourself.

I’m not advocating for denial here, but distracting yourself from your thoughts is a good way to help manage your anxiety. Find healthy ways to distract yourself or ground yourself in the moment. I have a coloring app on my phone that I find soothing and often use to unwind and relax.

I’ve also tried some mindfulness and grounding techniques when my anxiety starts to get away from me. For me, this is just stopping my thoughts and shifting my focus to what I can see, feel and hear. It’s beyond just acknowledging those things but really paying attention to them. (Find more relaxation tips and strategies in this article I wrote for the IC Network.) Sometimes what we need most is just a break from our anxious thoughts.

Related Bible verse: “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God.” – Ecclesiastes 2:24 (NIV)

8. Believe you CAN improve.

A major lie anxiety likes to tell us is that we will always feel this way. We don’t have hope for the future and have no reason to try and do better. I’ve been down that path both with anxiety and my other health issues; I get it. I still have days where I think this is the best it gets. But I am continuing to learn that a bad day, week or even month doesn’t mean it will always be bad.

The first step toward making progress is allowing yourself to believe truly believe that you can improve. And then you must remind yourself that you are worth the work. I’ve learned that I need to embrace these two concepts when I get stuck and need to move forward. I’m thankful for my husband who also gently pushes me to not just accept “this is how things are.” Even if your anxiety isn’t healed or isn’t just a phase, you can always learn new ways to help manage it. Try new things. Seek professional help. Take medication. Don’t stop trying.

Let me reassure you that God made you. You are worthwhile. He doesn’t make junk, my friend. You are worth the effort needed to improve. Tiny baby steps forward are still steps forward. God has plans to give you a future and a hope!

Related Bible verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

9. Get professional help.

A negative way anxiety and faith can overlap is by trying to convince you that since you have faith you don’t need help. Go back and read the section about the physical component of anxiety. You can try helping yourself. Sometimes that works! But, sometimes it doesn’t because you need more help than you can give yourself.

Think of it like treating yourself when you’re sick. When you first start feeling a scratchy throat, you might drink more liquids and go to bed early. However, if you wake up the next day with a swollen throat and a fever, you know you need to see your doctor and be checked for strep throat. Treat your anxiety the same way. Try things to help yourself, but if it stays the same or gets worse, seek help. There is no shame in seeking help from a medical professional or counselor. God has given us knowledge and resources. We should not be ashamed to use those resources!

Related Bible verse: “Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.” – Proverbs 20:18 (NIV)
(Additional note: I left in this entire verse, because we are waging a war on anxiety. It applies!)

10. Focus on who God Is.

When we’re dealing with anxiety, we can feel like everything is shifting. Everything is murky, and nothing makes sense. That’s all the more reason to focus on who God is. He is unchanging, faithful and true. That’s incredibly comforting with or without anxiety.

I remember distinctly a Sunday morning during a really bad time in my life. I’m not sure what the sermon was about that morning. I was too distracted first by my worries but then by the cross at the front of the sanctuary. God spoke into my heart and reminded me the He loves me and sent His Son to die for me. When you aren’t able to cling to anything else, you can cling to God’s love. Shift your focus onto who He is and allow His presence and comfort to flow into you.

Related Bible verses: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” – Psalms 18:30 (NIV)

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:9 (NIV)

Learning to stop being hard on yourself

What if you saw yourself like your loved ones see you?

I was putting my son to bed recently, and he was having a difficult time. His 8-year-old self was upset with a mistake he had made. It was a very small mistake. He didn’t get in trouble for it. Nobody was upset, hurt or angry. But he was treating himself as if he had physically harmed someone else. He looked at me and asked whether I think he’s too hard on himself.

I know he knows the answer, because we’ve told him this many times. However, maybe he needed to hear it again. So I said yes, I do think he is too hard on himself. Then he asked where he gets it from. He knows the answer to this as well. Both my husband and I have shared with him a few times that I am the same way with myself. Yet, again I answered.

In all sincerity, he looked at me and asked incredulously, “Why are you hard on yourself?”

He said it in a way that he truly didn’t understand why I’d be hard on myself. He is my son, my baby boy, who adores me. From the beginning of his life, he’s been my sidekick. He has quite literally chosen to be with me instead of friends quite a few times during his life thus far.

My son sees me in a different light than I see myself. He sees good things. I’m thankful for that. It left me wondering, though, why am I so hard on myself? More importantly, how can I start being kinder to me and teach my son to do the same?

What being hard on yourself looks like

I can’t speak for everyone; I can only tell you what being hard on yourself looks like for me. Unfortunately I see my son doing some of these same things, and it breaks my heart. He is a chip off the old block, so to speak.

Being hard on myself means that when I make a small mistake, I chastise myself as if I have committed a grave error that will affect the rest of humanity for the rest of known time. I ruminate on the mistake. My inner voice says really mean things to myself about me. While I consider myself an encourager to others, I am far from encouraging to myself. In fact, I think I often speak words of encouragement to others because I so constantly need them. Yet when someone does compliment or encourage me, I struggle to believe them.

For me, being hard on yourself means that no matter what you do, it’s never enough. I always find myself wanting. I struggle to acknowledge the good things I’ve done and focus instead on the negative things. While I might accomplish many things in a day, I focus instead on where I failed and the tasks I didn’t get to.

Another way I’m hard on myself is in taking responsibility for when things go wrong or others are upset — even when there is no possible way I’m the cause. I remember doing this even as a child. When I came home from school and my mom had had a bad day at work, I felt like I was responsible. (And I have an incredibly sweet mother who has always been a positive influence in my life. She didn’t take her bad days out on me in any way. I could just sense her feelings and somehow felt I was at fault.)

The truth behind being hard on yourself

I won’t pretend to know the truth on why all people are hard on themselves. I don’t even fully understand why for myself. Instead, I suspect a lot of it (for me, at least) stems from two things: being a people pleaser and a perfectionist.

While I think I’m not a people pleaser so much these days, the truth is I am. I don’t like conflict. As someone who is sensitive to others, I don’t like negative emotions. (Who does?! But, I often quite literally feel what those near me are feeling.) I don’t care what people think about things like what I’m wearing or doing. I’m comfortable in my own skin. However, I really don’t want to upset people around me. I avoid conflict like the plague. So, I guess you could say that I am a people pleaser, even though I don’t want to admit that.

Then there’s the perfectionist side of me, which goes along with people pleasing. I want things to be just so. More than anything, I want to be the person I expect me to be. Sometimes that person conflicts with who I actually am. I’m a quiet introvert. Sometimes I’d love to be gregarious extrovert who confidently walks into a room and chats kindly with everyone they see. Even though I know that isn’t me, I’m often hard on myself when I do just the opposite. As I slump into a room, hope nobody notices me, find a friend I can latch on to and then count the time until I can escape, I am simultaneously mad at myself for not being different.

My perfectionism usually has way less to do with physical attributes and things as much as it does with myself. I want to be perfect, but I am not. I fail and come up short. So then I’m hard on myself.

Learning to be kinder to yourself

I am a work in progress. I certainly haven’t conquered being hard on myself. But I am working on it. I noticed how I was being hard on myself even more after having children. Then I really paid attention when I saw my kiddos being the same way. My daughter has been hard on herself for sure, but my son amps up to my level of being hard on himself.

Like so many things, my desire to improve myself stems from seeing the same struggle in my child and wanting to be better for him. So, I’m working on it.

Doing the best that I can

A few things have helped me give old Stacey a break and not be so stinking hard on her all the time. The first is reminding myself that I’m doing the best that I can. Overall, I really am doing the best that I can at any given time. Yes, there are times I could probably put in more effort, but most of the time I have given my all and that has to be enough. Because it’s all that I have to give. Often I repeat to myself when I start getting mean inside my head: “I’m doing the best that I can.”

I tell my son the same thing. As a dyslexic, he can be very hard on himself about reading and spelling. He wants to always have perfect scores on assignments and tests. I can only begin to imagine how frustrating it is when words are everywhere and everyone else reads them with ease while you struggle. I remind him often that his dad, teachers and I only expect him to do his best. His best is good enough. He is doing his best, and that’s all that matters.

Letting go of perfection

The other thing that I strive to remind myself is that I’m not perfect. While I know I’m not perfect, I often behave and treat myself in the opposite fashion. I need to cut myself some slack.

I’ve also realized the good that comes from not being perfect and shared that with my son the other night. I told him that he isn’t perfect. And neither am I. None of us are. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need Jesus. He hadn’t thought of it that way before.

I don’t want to go through this life without Jesus. He has seen me through so many things and loves me in ways I don’t understand. If I were perfect, I wouldn’t need Him. I don’t want to imagine what that would be like. Truly, I don’t. So not being perfect really is OK. His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Seeing you as others do

Finally, I’ve been thinking about what if I saw myself the way my son does. What if he saw himself the way I do? How would that change our opinions of ourselves? I don’t think I’d be as hard on myself; neither would he.

When I look at my baby boy, I saw a young man who is persistent, kind, empathetic, caring, sweet, hilarious, thoughtful and so much more. He can solve problems and come up with solutions better than anyone I know. He thinks outside of the box. I often refer to him as “my little man with a plan,” because of how his mind works. There is no way I’d trade him for any other son. He is just right!

I can’t tell you exactly how he sees me. But, I hope my family sees that I love them and am trying every single day to do my best for them. I want to be their support system and soft place to fall. My desire is to encourage them and uplift them. Hopefully, they see my sensitivity, my empathy and my love for Jesus. Perhaps they see the strength I’ve used to overcome various challenges. I have good qualities. I need to do is focus on those more often.

Can you imagine how much my attitude would change if I allowed myself to peak at the good things God sees in me? He truly knows me. Even in my relationship with Him, I can imagine Him shaking His head at my faults. But He knows we aren’t perfect. He sent His Son to die because of how much He knows this! He is a loving Father who sees us as a whole person. Just like I see the struggles and faults my kids have, I also see much more the goodness and strengths they have.

Next time you are being hard on yourself, remember that you are doing the best you can and you aren’t perfect. Then take a moment to step back and look at yourself the way those who love you — including your heavenly Father — do. I’m going to do the same thing!

How to look back at a hard year

Learning to move on from the challenges

This year has brought challenges that most of us didn’t expect when we rang in the new year on January 1. My blog post published on January 2 talked about how I wanted to make sure I kept focused on the things that really matter in life like making memories with my family. I had no idea those memories would include months and months of being at home and helping my kids virtual school full-time.

Of course 2020 has been collectively a difficult and challenging year. Its challenges aren’t going to go away any time soon either. But, like all of us, I’ve had other difficult years. I’ve lived through years I thought really, truly might break me.

I recently went back and read something I wrote at the end of 2013. Even now seven years later, my husband and I still say the only good thing that came out of that year was the birth of our son — and that happened at the end of January.

The rest of the year included all sorts of difficult struggles. It was a year during which we survived. We certainly didn’t thrive. We dragged ourselves to Dec. 31, 2013 with hopes 2014 would be better.

Some years are like that. This year has been like that for many folks. We’ve survived the year, but we haven’t done a lot of thriving. I don’t think anyone is going to hate seeing 2020 finally come to an end.

Finding the good in the midst of bad

However, 2020 wasn’t only bad. Whenever I have a bad year, that’s what I’ve learned I must remember. Each year has both good and bad parts. For the years with more bad than good, we struggle to remember the good stuff sometimes.

Back at the end of 2013, I remember sitting down to write about it and deleting half of what I first typed. I didn’t want to focus on the negative. I wasn’t sure the positive would take many words. But I surprised myself with how many good memories I had from the year.

That’s the challenge for 2020. I know you have good memories from this year. I do. As we close out this year and say good riddance to it, what have been some of your best moments of the year? What are you thankful for?

I can’t speak collectively for all of us. Some moments this year were good for some and not for others. But I can speak for myself.

Good moments of 2020

My children have an early spring break, so we were able to have a spring break trip this year before things went completely sideways. We spent a couple of days at an indoor water park and then they went on a short trip with my parents. Those water park memories were good, but they are even better when viewed with the perspective of the rest of the year!

Being at home more, we did more fun things like playing games together.

We got creative in celebrating Easter this year and ate tacos for Easter dinner.

At the end of June, we spent a week at the lake with my parents and a few days with my brother and his family. My son caught his first fish. I delighted in watching my kids go tubing for their first time. My daughter and I pretended to be otters floating in the lake, completely relaxed. It was a restorative time and a bit of a break from reality. (We still only got food as take-out and made bathroom trips incredibly fast and masked up on the way there and back.)

My husband and I got to be a bigger part of our kids’ first day of school than usual, because we set up for school at home from the start of this school year.

We watched lots of movies and shows together at home.

Our family has laughed and come up with more inside jokes than usual.

We’ve had some great conversations as a family around the table and anywhere we are.

The puppy got in on the action with even more snuggles than usual, which has made all of us happy.

We’ve read through numerous books as a family and not only had more time to read them but also to talk about them.

We got creative for Halloween and hosted a party and Halloween hunt for our parents in lieu of trick-or-treating. We had such fun coming up with snacks and making decorations and games.

I played hostess for Thanksgiving this year with my parents and in-laws. We all contributed food and enjoyed each other’s company. Being together was a blessing!

The list could continue on of the good memories from this year!

Thankfulness in 2020

Along with good memories, the year has many things for which to be thankful. The first thing that pops into my head is that I’m thankful to end this year with a healthy family. My loved ones whom I have most been concerned for have had some other health issues not related to the pandemic, but we are all healthy overall.

I am also thankful for the strength God has given me to get through the year. We started out the pandemic with my husband completely incapacitated after having rotator cuff repair surgery. The first few weeks of quarantine and virtual school were quite intense.

This year I’ve become even more thankful for our new home and the space we have now to spread out for things like virtual schooling.

I’m thankful for our puppy as well. We celebrated his first birthday in May. He brought us lots of love, laughter and cuddles throughout everything this year has held.

I am very grateful for pick-up at stores. While I appreciated grocery pick-up before, I REALLY appreciate it now. I haven’t been inside a store to shop in months. I completed all my Christmas shopping online and had items delivered to me or picked them up without getting out of my car.

Above all, I am thankful for God. He has been faithful, as always, through every moment of this year. God wasn’t surprised or caught off-guard by anything in 2020. He remains faithful and good through every single moment.

Acknowledge the challenge

Looking back at a difficult year to find the positive doesn’t mean that we aren’t acknowledging the negative. This year has also held heart-wrenching moments. We do have to acknowledge those.

As we are doing so, though, we must also take note of what we learned and how we grew through those difficulties. I’ve learned some of the most important lessons of my life through hard times and difficulties. I’m thankful for those lessons, because they serve me well the next time a hard time comes around.

This year may also require mourning for what we lost. I am not even speaking of the loss of life. That is a whole other level of mourning and grief that doesn’t even compare to anything else. I know that. I pray for those who have lost loved ones this year whether because of COVID or because of other reasons.

What I mean by mourning in this instance is acknowledging what we missed out on this year. I think of family events that were canceled. Graduations that were different. Proms that weren’t held. I think of fun at recess that’s been missed. And school programs that were canceled. There were church services held online instead of in person.

So many things were challenging about this year. We had to change our way of life — and that doesn’t come without growing pains.

What I’ve learned, though, is that while we must acknowledge the hard times, we don’t want to get stuck there. Getting stuck in the hard stuff for too long is the problem. And that’s when we go back around to remember the good parts of the year. That’s when we start going through what we’re grateful for.

So let’s process what we went through in 2020 and look forward to what another year will bring.

How major world events have shaped Xennials

One Xennial’s look at lessons from 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic

Xennials: a micro-generation between Generation X and Millenialls. The general consensus is people born between 1977 and 1985. This generation had an analog childhood and digital adulthood.

A few weeks ago, I came across the following meme on social media about how major world events have shaped Xennials. As someone born in 1979, I’m fully in the Xennial range and was struck by the post.

I’ve thought about it off and on since I first read it. I have had these experiences at these times in my life, and they have impacted me.

Remembering 9/11

Like most everyone who is old enough to remember 9/11, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing that day. I was in the Department of Journalism at my university working as a graduate assistant. Mornings were my favorite because they were peaceful.

I remember the professor who told me what happened when I was going to the copy room. Later, I met my mom and grandma for lunch and talked about it. While a feeling of unease consumed the country, we also came together in grief.

Previous to 9/11, there were other major events that I knew about. The first major news story I remember, for example, is the explosion of the Challenger. I was in high school during the Oklahoma City bombing and a freshman in college during the Columbine shooting.

But, as a graduate student and relative newlywed in September of 2001, I was starting to think about my future even more. I was that much closer to becoming a full-fledged adult.

While I can’t say for sure that 9/11 completely impacted my career path after graduation in December of 2002, I also can’t say it didn’t. However, I know it impacted my personal life.

Life lessons from 9/11

For Xennials like me, the terrorist attacks were our first real-life experience of knowing that the world as we knew it could change collectively in the blink of an eye. It was the first world event I’d lived through that truly impacted everyone I knew in some way. We talked about it with friends, teachers, classmates, family members and complete strangers. We were all processing the information and dealing with it.

Some things changed after 9/11 and haven’t gone back to how they were previously. Now going through airport security is different than it was before September of 2001. Metal detectors and bag searches at large events have become the norm.

In my personal life, though, I also experienced change after 9/11. I kept thinking about the people who said good-bye (or didn’t) to their loved ones that morning not knowing it would be the last time they’d speak.

I made it more priority to tell my husband good-bye and that I loved him when we were parting ways. Nowadays that happens much less because we both work from home most of the time, but I still continue with that habit any time he has to be gone for a while.

Sure, I might have developed such a habit without living through 9/11. But I think I developed it sooner since the event really struck home to me how saying good-bye to someone could end up being good-bye forever. And if that’s the case, I want to make sure it’s a positive one.

Remembering the 2008 financial crisis

As life continued forward from 9/11, we had our share of personal ups and downs. A chronic health issue I thought had gone away came screaming back into my life. My mother-in-law had a heart attack, my dad a major accident and my grandma passed away.

But then 2007 came. It was the year before the financial crisis officially hit worldwide, but it hit for us personally. Having been married for eight years at that point, my husband and I lived primarily on his income. His job in IT was better paying and steadier than my work as a freelance journalist. He also had full benefits; I had none.

Then he lost his job, and we entered our own financial crisis. It took a year for him to find another job. A year. It was difficult. I struggled with anxiety during that time in a whole new level than ever before.

He hired on with a new employer just a couple of months before the 2008 financial crisis hit. So many others were now starting to go through what we were just starting to claw our way back from.

Learning from the 2008 financial crisis

While our crisis was a year early, I’d say by far the biggest lesson yet again was how fast everything can change. I remember the day my husband came home and told me he’d lost his job as clearly as I remember 9/11.

But I also learned a few things throughout the crisis. I learned that somehow God always provided. I look back even now and still don’t know how we made it through. We used credit cards. We drained our savings and even dipped into my husband’s 401(k), but we never missed a mortgage payment. Our house wasn’t foreclosed or our cars repossessed. God met our needs.

My husband’s unemployment check, which we got for a few months, came through right when we ran out of resources for paying our mortgage. Our needs were met. There wasn’t any wiggle room, but we survived.

During this time my husband and I developed the attitude of: “I’d rather go through hard times with you than good times without you.”

My takeaway from 9/11 of saying good-bye to my husband came into play again when he got his new job. I’d say good-bye and then my anxiety would tell me I wouldn’t see him alive again. I learned also how to rebuild and find my way through such anxiety with God’s help. It was hard, but we were stronger in so many ways for having gotten through the financial crisis.

Remembering the beginning of the pandemic

Clearly I can’t look back and tell you how exactly the pandemic has changed things, because we are still in the midst of it. But I can tell you the so far. Just like with the 2008 financial crisis, we had our own problems going on when the pandemic began.

COVID-19 was a bit on our radar, but we were distracted by life with two school-aged kids and by planning for my husband to have rotator cuff repair surgery on March 11. His surgery went well. However, that evening, the university my children’s school is part of announced it was going to remote learning the next Monday. The next day my children’s school followed suit.

My level of overwhelm was high! My husband needed so much help. I still had my own work to figure out along with managing his post-op care and teaching our kids. Oh, and I learned we needed to get supplies because the shelves were bare. My dad made a couple of grocery trips for us then I was finally able to go myself. Grocery pick-up was too overwhelmed for me to utilize it as I had been anyway.

Shocked cannot truly describe how I felt when I went into a regional superstore and saw so many empty shelves and freezer cases. I bought everything I could think of that we’d need and that they had from food to toiletries. I hoped it was enough.

Learning from the pandemic

I’d wager a guess that I still have lessons to learn from the pandemic. Even now six months into dealing with it, the end isn’t in sight. There will be more to come.

But the pandemic has continued to shape me thus far. Now I have enough living under my belt to know that I have survived and made it through much more difficult times personally. I have learned that I can work, care for my husband and keep my kids going with remote learning.

I can get creative with my supplies as well. I’m not shopping in-person, so if we run out of something before I do a re-order then I figure out ways around it. I make sure our supplies stay stocked so that I always have a back-up of most toiletries and paper goods.

Dining out is something I took for granted in the past and will enjoy again one of these days, but for now I will be OK with cooking at home all the time and getting takeout as a treat.

Mostly, I’ve learned that I love the simple stuff most. I love being able to just hang out with my husband and children. Visits with my in-laws and parents — who are all continuing to isolate as much as possible — are that much sweeter than they were before. We can have good summer evenings on the front porch.

I have also reaffirmed that I will do whatever it takes to keep my family safe and protected, even if that means sacrificing even more of myself to do so. Making decisions throughout this pandemic has been challenging since information can be fluid as researchers learn new things. But for a variety of reasons, we are choosing to err very much on the side of caution. Even though it isn’t always easy, it is right for us.

A big picture look

As a Xennial, some of my big picture moments have been accompanied by major world events. I won’t say it’s any harder for my generation than others before us. Each generation has its own struggles.

I just know that these historic events have impacted me at pivotal stages. Sept. 11 came right as I was becoming a full-fledged adult. The financial crisis came after my husband and I had settled into our professional lives. And the pandemic arrived in the middle of our child-rearing years.

These historic events, however, are just like major events in my personal life. They shape me. They may tweak my views a bit, but I learn to adapt and move on. How I react to them is up to me.

I can complain and grouse. I can focus on what was lost or changed. Or I can focus on what is good in the midst of the struggle. I can take a moment to just appreciate something as “simple” as a beautiful sunset. Overall, life is short. One struggle will usually be replaced by another (at least at some point). You’ve just got to roll with it.

Tips and tricks you need to know to manage your thick hair

5 Must-try products and tips for thick hair care

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

I always thought I had thick hair. I do. My hair is naturally curly and sort of has its own plan for how it should go when I let it roam free. I’ve learned how to manage it throughout the years.

And then, about 11 years ago my daughter was born. She spent the first two years of her life without a lot of hair, but it was worth the wait. It came in a beautiful red that was first a crown of spiral curls. By the time she was 7, her curl loosened as her hair got heavier and heavier.

Her hair is thick beyond what I knew thick hair could be. I have often teased her that she — like our Lhasa Apso pooch — has a double fur coat. We have to make sure we get through the top, middle and bottom layers when managing her hair.

I once said every mother of a daughter with curly hair deserves an extra jewel in her crown. I still concur with that statement. Even though her hair isn’t as curly as it once was, it’s now its own beast thanks to its thickness. She prefers her hair long, so we have a lot of hair to manage!

Along the way, we’ve learned a few tips and tricks to make managing thick hair easier.

1. Use a Wet Brush.

A few years ago, I was chatting about my daughter’s hair with the hair stylist trimming my hair. She asked if we’d tried a Wet Brush. She told me it works well on both dry and wet hair. I was dubious, but I decided to buy one and give it a try.

In spite of having extra thick hair, my daughter also has a sensitive scalp. Getting out her tangles was rough in so many ways. It was to the point that I was going to make her get her hair cut so there was less to manage. She didn’t like that idea, but I was at a loss.

The Wet Brush made a huge difference. It was dramatic beyond what I expected. Hands-down, the Wet Brush is the best purchase I’ve made for managing my daughter’s extra thick hair.

Suddenly, it wasn’t a fight as I brushed her hair. She could brush her hair and get tangles out, too! It made our lives so much easier. We’ve used it with her hair wet and dry and it works great both ways.

As someone with curly hair, I don’t use hair brushes and had no idea that some are better than others. I use a hair pick, which I had used on my daughter as well when her hair was so curly, but it was so small compared to all the luscious locks on my daughter’s head.

The Wet Brush made a huge difference. She now owns two and my mom even bought one to keep at her house for my daughter. It was a game changer!

2. Don’t wash your hair every day.

Though my hair isn’t as thick as my daughter’s, it is still thick and curly to boot. So that means we’re dealing with hair that doesn’t get greasy easily or quickly. In order to keep your thick hair from drying out, washing every other day just does better.

Though I use products on my hair to counteract frizz and such, my hair can easily get into cotton candy texture if I wash it too often. It sounds weird, but it’s true!

My daughter doesn’t have the cotton candy texture problem, but her scalp can get really dry if she washes her hair daily because she doesn’t have as much oil right by her scalp. Since thick hair tends to be dryer, washing it too often only makes it more dry and harder to manage.

3. Try a leave-in conditioner.

While I use a wash-out conditioner in the shower and then a leave-in conditioner thanks to my curls and hair texture, my daughter’s thick hair doesn’t need as much conditioning. L’Oreal Paris Elvive Leave In Conditioning Treatment and Heat Protectant works super well of all the leave-in conditioners we’ve tried.

Because thick hair isn’t as oily, we use a dollop about the size of a quarter and work it through her hair while it’s wet and brushed after a shower. We pay particular attention to the underside of her hair and make sure it gets covered with the leave-in conditioner. I use it the same way, but a little less since my hair isn’t as long or quite as thick as hers.

The leave-in conditioner helps my thick hair combat frizz. It helps my daughter’s extra thick hair combat tangles, frizz and fly-aways.

4. Dry with a diffuser.

I first got a diffuser attachment for my hair dryer to help combat frizz and manage my curls. I then used it for my daughter with her curls. Now that her hair is more wavy, we continue to use the diffuser when we need to dry her hair.

Curly and wavy hair do well to air dry, but it’s not feasible much of the time to let it air dry. First, if you washed your hair in the evening then go to bed with wet or damp hair that’s curly, you won’t know what you’ll wake up to!

Second, since we live in a climate that is frigid part of the year, having wet hair for a while is chilly, even if you don’t have to go outside! So, using a hair dryer is sometimes necessary.

Adding the diffuser was another one of those game changers. It makes such a difference that any time I travel, I bring along my own hair dryer and diffuser! You can buy hair dryers that come with diffusers, but you can also just buy the diffuser attachment alone.

Use the diffuser by gently pushing the hair up toward your scalp and then hold it for 20 to 30 seconds at a time before moving on. Move around until you’ve gotten your hair dry enough all over.

5. Buy the right hair accessories.

My daughter and I recently cleaned out her hair accessories. Being nearly 11, she’s tried all sorts of things in her hair. We got rid of many things that no longer work and determined what she needed: ponytail holders. She has plenty of scrunchies but needed something heftier for ponytails.

We’ve struggled with ponytails. I thought we had tried every style of ponytail holder available. Some are way too lose. Others are so small they can only go around her thick ponytail only once or twice. None of them would keep her ponytail in place for long at all — and definitely not all day.

I’ve had many ponytail holders snap in my hands as I tried to get them around her hair.

Then I came across these Revlon maximum hold ponytail holders. They work so well. I can wrap them around her ponytail three times and the ponytail stays in place for the entire day until she is ready to take it down. She doesn’t have to keep redoing it — and it survives her being active as well.

I’ve only found them in black right now, but it’s easy enough to use them to hold the ponytail and then put a more decorative scrunchie or other accessory over top of it.

What modest swimwear says about my body image

A swimwear lesson I wish I’d have learned years ago

Affiliate links are used in this post, if you make a qualifying purchase via my link, I receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products and services I use and love. It helps support my blog, so thank you for your support! Read my full disclosure here.

I can’t remember the last time I was excited to go shopping for swimwear for myself. Maybe when I was a young child? But at least from high school on, shopping for swimwear has been a nightmare. I’d daresay my feelings are shared by the majority of women.

If ever there were a time to be self conscious about your body, wearing a swimsuit is one of them. Swimwear isn’t as forgiving as clothes. It is certainly much more exposed. The whole thing is stressful to me.

But, here’s the rub: I like swimming. I always have loved the water and feel at peace in and near the water. I grew up swimming constantly during warm weather. Even though I sometimes get sun poisoning (a rash from sun exposure), I still love swimming. On family vacations to the ocean, I’d often wear a long-sleeved T-shirt or my aunt would take me to the indoor pool.

And that’s also in spite of being sensitive to chlorine thanks to my bladder. You’d think with all of that going on PLUS being uncomfortable in a swimsuit that I wouldn’t like swimming. Yet, I do.

Not a sideline mom

Even more importantly these days, I want to enjoy water activities with my children. I don’t want to have to sit on the sidelines unless absolutely necessary. I’ve had times that I’ve had to sit on the sidelines because of chlorine, but I don’t want to do so just because of my body issues. And, let’s be honest here, getting older combined with having two babies hasn’t improved my phsyique.

However, I determined when my daughter was a preschooler and first asked to go to a community pool and splash pad that we often drove by that I wouldn’t be stuck on the sideline. I decided to put on my swimsuit (a one piece that was probably a decade old since I hadn’t been swimming so much) and just have fun with my kiddo. The last thing I wanted was to have her end up feeling self conscious in a bathing suit as well.

The other moms around me wore all sorts of swimwear styles. I could pick out those who were also uncomfortable but were trying to just enjoy the time with their kids. I decided then and there that I didn’t want to have any discomfort about being in a swimsuit. Everyone else was too busy with their own body issues to worry about my body, and even more importantly, their opinions don’t matter to me. What matters to me is my kiddos. I won’t get this time back with them!

A swimwear update

After that day at the community pool, I decided to update my suit. So I did some shopping. I hadn’t had a two-piece bathing suit for myself since I was a preschooler myself. But, I found that tankinis were popular but also nice for if you need to make a bathroom break and such. I also liked that with a black bottom I could have different tops and have more options.

So I got my first two-piece bathing suit as an adult and liked it. I found another tankini top on clearance at Target at the end of summer and picked it up. However, I found that I still didn’t feel so great even in the new swimwear. I was still more exposed than I was comfortable with.

The next summer on a beach trip, I got a sunburn on my chest in spite of all the sunscreen I lathered on. That skin wasn’t usually in the sun. But, I kept the same suits for a couple of years. After all, they were better than what I’d had before. I didn’t love them, but they were OK.

Then last summer, I found my daughter a swimsuit that came with a rash guard (T-shirt style top) instead of a tank top for the first time in a few years. While I have sensitive, fair skin, my redheaded daughter has even paler skin. I loved that the more coverage of the rash guard meant less skin to worry about slathering in SPF 50. My son has always liked wearing rash guards instead of going shirtless and I like the benefit of sun protection for him.

Somehow for the first time last summer, I realized I could also look for a rash guard for myself. I knew locally I had never seen any, but now I lived in the age of online shopping. I could change my way of thinking.

A new swimwear perspective

I did some searching on Amazon and found a women’s rash guard I liked. So, I ordered it. It arrived the day I was packing up my kids to go swimming at my cousin’s pool. I put it on over my bathing suit top and LOVED it! The rash guard gave me more coverage for sun protection and was a T-shirt style, more like my usual clothes. (I don’t even wear tank tops.)

When a family friend stopped by to chat, I was comfortable to just stand there and talk without feeling the need to quickly grab my cover-up. I felt well-covered with my modest swimwear.

The rash guard was awesome but didn’t have a built-in bra. I didn’t want to always have to wear a tankini top underneath, so I did some more research and looking. Before an indoor water park trip last fall, I bought a swimsuit bra, a loose tankini top with a scoop neck instead of being lower cut and boyshort swim bottoms.

Being able to wear a T-shirt and shorts to go swimming made me relax. Even the new tankini top was great because I didn’t have more chest exposed than I was comfortable with. I was able to relax more. The more modest swimwear was great for me.

Modesty doesn’t mean shame

What I learned throughout this process is that wearing modest swimwear, just like in my regular clothes, doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of my body. My body doesn’t look like I want it to. I have some extra pounds, but it’s the body that carried my babies. And it is what it is. If someone is appalled by it, they don’t have to look at it. I’m too old and have too many memories to make with my family to worry about the opinions of others.

I also, though, don’t buy into the popular thought that I have to prove I’m OK with my body type by showing it off. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I’m happy in my more modest swimwear because that’s what makes me more comfortable. Am I judging other moms in bikinis and more revealing swimwear? Nope. I just know what I feel good about for myself.

Honestly, my next swimwear purchase will be longer swim short bottoms that are more longer swim shorts, which is the length I wear for my regular clothes anyway.

The age of the Internet is a great one for giving us different options. I still haven’t see any of the modest swimwear I most like for sale in-person around where I live. But, I’m happy to have the option to order it online and feel better about what I’m wearing for water fun. I only wish I’d have done this sooner!