Perfect Spanish Rice

Strait from my grandmother’s kitchen, try this delicious recipe for perfect Spanish rice.

Perfect spanish rice

When you’re Hispanic, like me, there is rarely a single meal that goes by without Spanish rice. It was a staple growing up. It’s flavorful, filling and savory. Lots of people are intimidated by making rice. Let me tell you, you don’t need a fancy rice cooker. There are two rules for making perfect Spanish rice. Your water to rice ratio needs to be correct and you don’t touch it! Don’t worry, I’ll explain that in just a minute. Today, I’m going to share my family’s recipe for perfect Spanish rice.

There are variations to Spanish rice. I’ve seen people add peas, even corn to it. I do neither. The recipe I make is my grandmothers and then my mothers. The smell of the rice frying immediately takes me back to childhood.

For extra flavorful rice, I suggest using chicken stock in lieu of water. Alternatively, you can also use water and bouillon. Comino (Cumin), is a very strong spice. Too much of it and it will make your dish bitter. Therefore, use it sparingly if you experiment with it in recipes.

The Secret to Perfect Rice

Here is the secret for perfect rice. First, white rice should always be cooked in a 1:2 ratio. One cup of white rice, 2 cups of water. Brown rice is 1:3 ratio. One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Brown and wild rice require much longer cooking times. Too much water leaves rice mushy and waterlogged.

The other secret to perfect rice is to leave it alone while cooking. Therefore, this means no stirring. Stirring breaks up the starch and and makes it clumpy and just a big pile of mush. Once you put your ingredients in, just give it one stir around then cover and leave it!

Spanish Rice

Spanish Rice is a flavorful blend of cumin, cilantro and tomato. Learn how to make authentic, perfect Spanish rice.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Cumin, Mexican, Rice
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Long Grain Rice
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Small Roma Tomato Chopped
  • 1/3 Cup Yellow Onion Chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro Chopped
  • 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • 1 Tsp Pepper

Instructions

  • Chop tomato, onion and cilantro.
  • Prepare rice in a medium deep skillet with a lid
  • Heat oil on medium heat. Add rice and stir gently.
  • Allow rice to brown, stirring only a few times. 
  • Once browned, slowly add your chicken stock at the side edge of the pan. Be careful, as it will produce hot steam. 
  • Add cumin, garlic powder, cilantro, tomato, tomato sauce, and onion. Give one stir around the pan.
  • Bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid until all the liquid is dissolved, about 15-20 mins. 
  • Once cooked, fluff with fork. Add salt if needed. Normally the chicken stock is salty enough. 

Perfect spanish rice

perfect spanish rice

Looking for other delicious recipes? Try Zuppa Toscana a delicious rustic Italian soup.

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Your Marriage

Setting healthy boundaries in your marriage might seem like an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but setting expectations and limitations can help minimize arguments, affairs, and even potential divorce.

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Your Marriage

(Photos courtesy of Unsplash)

I’m going to tell you a secret: I failed miserably at my first marriage. I married my first husband on my 20th birthday while living in the UK. At that age, I had the life experience of a fruit fly. I went into the union with absolutely no boundaries. I can’t recall a single time we talked openly or seriously about what we would and would not tolerate. Three short years into the marriage, we were falling apart. My ex-husband had a very lengthy affair with a co-worker. She was also married and had a child.

I’m now 15 years post divorce. I’m remarried to an amazing man and we have two beautiful children. At nearly 40 years old, I can tell you I’ve learned a lot about setting healthy marital boundaries and why they are so important. First, let’s take a quick look at what boundaries are and are not.

Boundaries are:

  • An imaginary line in the sand that you and your partner agree not to cross
  • A clear picture of what you will and will not tolerate
  • A definition of what you consider right and wrong
  • A  way of saying “no” in advance to something deemed inappropriate
  • A way of protecting yourself

Boundaries are not:

  • A way to manipulate your spouse
  • A way to “keep score”
  • An uneven balance of power between spouses

Sexual Boundaries

My mother had a saying. “The devil will do anything to get you into bed before you’re married and he’ll do everything to keep you out of bed once you’re married.” It’s true. As soon as you’re married it feels like there is something working against you, particularly with your sex life. Children, responsibilities, work can all get in the way of having a healthy sex life. You’ll have to prioritize date nights and intimacy.

I don’t believe in setting a bunch of boundaries when it comes to sex except to keep it loving, safe, secure and respectful.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will keep our sex respectful and marriage bed pure
  • We will make intimacy a priority
  • We will be honest with each other about our sexual needs
  • We will not weaponize sex or use it to manipulate
  • We will not engage in sexual acts that degrade or shame our spouse

Relational Boundaries

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents, in-laws, and friends never involved themselves in your marriage? Yes, it would, but sadly whether intentionally or unintentionally, it still happens.

My husband and I, while both Christians, are different denominations. Early in our engagement, we had to decide whether to practice his Baptist faith or my Catholic faith. Of course, both sides of the family felt it was their place to tell us how we should worship and how we should raise our kids. The truth is, you will receive lots of unsolicited advice from family members and friends, but you decide how to deal with it as a couple. Don’t be afraid to shut it down, especially if it creates tension in your marriage.

Early in our marriage, my husband struggled with setting boundaries with his family. Honestly, I think everyone does. That’s because boundaries have the potential of disappointing others. Boundaries say “no.” For him, the breaking point came when we couldn’t make his sister’s wedding. I was 4 weeks post c-section and suffering from post partum psychosis. He just couldn’t leave me still healing from surgery, overwhelmed and suicidal. His family was disappointed, judgmental, and resentful. They were quick to tell us how we should have handled it (to their benefit, of course).

The situation got incredibly hurtful and toxic, but it was one of my husband’s proudest moments. Not only did he defend me, but he also shielded me from further mistreatment. He swore we would not return to see them until his family was willing to forgive and treat me better. I’m glad to say our family has healed from this, but sometimes you have to be courageous when it comes to protecting your marriage from anyone that might hurt it, even family.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will defend our choices to others as a unified front
  • We will share holidays with both sides of the families
  • We will not allow toxic people to influence or divide us
  • We will protect and defend the reputation of our spouse to others, choosing to cover faults instead of exposing them
  • We will adopt traditions from both sides of the family
  • Our parents can not tell us what to do in our own home
  • We will make seeing extended family a priority
  • We will commit to peace with in-laws even when we disagree
  • We will not accept our family badmouthing our spouse

Fidelity

As I mentioned earlier, in my first marriage, I had no boundaries with my ex-husband. He was free to go to lunch with whomever he wanted, women included. My ex-husband’s friendship with a female co-worker didn’t alarm me, after all, she was happily married too. Over the years, I’ve seen so many marriages destroyed and families torn apart by infidelity. There is one truth I’ve seen in most cases: they were just friends, until they weren’t. Most good people don’t intend to have affairs. They befriended someone and it grew into feelings akin to fondness. Fondness developed into deeper romantic feelings. Once someone else is fulfilling the role of your spouse, it’s easy to justify your actions. Worse, your loyalty and love shifts to the outsider instead of your spouse.

That’s why in my second marriage my husband and I decided to set healthy boundaries when it came to the opposite sex. Transparency is our mantra. This means lots of accountability and absolutely no secrets. (By the way, if you are struggling from broken boundaries, I highly recommend Affair Recovery.)

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will disclose private messages, text messages and conversations with the opposite sex
  • We will not engage in one-on-one activities with the opposite sex
  • We will not travel alone with the opposite sex
  • We will give access to our phone, email and social media accounts
  • We will not keep secrets from each other
  • We will not engage in pornography

Fighting Fairly

Fighting is inevitable in marriage. No matter how much you may seemingly have in common, no two people are truly compatible. You have to agree to agree or agree to disagree. You will always have stark differences. Learning how to navigate fights before feelings are invested, will help you tremendously. It’s also important to note that how we cope with discord is different. The two most common defense mechanisms are fight or flight. We either become combative, defensive, and unreasonable or we avoid it or worse – physically leave the argument. Neither of those produce good results.

Create between you, rules for fighting fair. Consider it a rule book for how fights will be dealt with, particularly when emotions escalate.

What boundaries might look like:

  • We will never call each other names in the argument
  • We will never become physical
  • We will never mention divorce
  • If it becomes too intense, we will take a time out and revisit the topic later
  • We can leave the room, but not the house
  • We will never have heated arguments in front of the children
  • We will never argue in public
  • We will seek out a mediator, such as a pastor or counselor if we become stonewalled

 

There are lots of different topics with which you might place boundaries. Some of these could be financial, religious or job-related. Perhaps they include how to discipline children. They key to setting healthy boundaries in your marriage, is to set them through honest and open discussion. I suggest never asking your partner to do something you would be unwilling to follow yourself. For example, I asked my husband to disclose one-on-one conversations with the opposite sex. But I also hold myself to the same standard. If one of my male friends reaches out privately, I tell my husband and give him the opportunity to read the text messages, etc if he chooses. Healthy boundaries protect both the marriage as a whole and both individuals equally. What are some of the healthy boundaries in your marriage? I love to hear why and how you set them.

 

Looking for other topics on marriage? Read She Does Him Good

Christmas Planner Printable

The holidays are so chaotic. Staying organized can be a real challenge! Today, I’m offering a great tool to help keep you sane and keep you on task with all the things you have to do during the holidays. My Christmas Planner printable will make your life so much easier this Christmas!

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Get organized and control chaos this holiday season. This planner will help you stay on task of holiday hosting, traveling, baking / cooking, as well as shopping and gift-giving.

WHAT YOU GET:

24 Planner Pages!

GIFT GIVING / SHOPPING:

– Gift Idea List
– Stocking Stuffer Ideas
– Christmas Budget Worksheet
– Gift Idea Profile (for those who are hard to shop for)
– Gift Tracker, Long Version
– Gift Tracker, Short Version
– Online Order Tracker
– Black Friday Wish List / Tracker

MEAL PLANNING:

– Menu Plan with Grocery List
– Recipe Page

EVENT PLANNING

– Christmas Eve Daily Planner
– Christmas Day Daily Planner
– Party Planning Worksheet

OTHER:

– Planner Covers – Bar Style
– Planner Cover – Open Wreath
– Planner Cover – Full Wreath
– Undated November Calendar (Use this planner every year!)
– Undated December Calendar
– Christmas Card Tracker
– Christmas Decoration Inventory
– Travel Plans Itinerary
– Christmas Bucket List
– To Do List
– Notes Page

FORMAT: Letter Size (8.5″ x 11″) in PDF – You’ll need Adobe Acrobat 5.0 or later or some other .PDF viewing software.

** THIS ITEM IS AN INSTANT DOWNLOAD. NO PHYSICAL ITEMS WILL BE DELIVERED **
—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Order Now CHRISTMAS PLANNER PRINTABLE

OR order through my Etsy store My Beautiful Mess Blog Etsy Store

THIS PLANNER IS UNDATED ~ USE IT YEAR AFTER YEAR AND NEVER BUY AGAIN!

Disclaimer: Colors vary from printer to printer and also very slightly from web to print.

How To Stay Sane As a Stay At Home Mom

(Photos courtesy of Unsplash)

Staying home is a big decision for any woman. It’s hard to stay sane as a new stay at home mom. It doesn’t matter your background, although I think the more you’ve invested in your career the harder it is to give it up. Some women can’t stay home. It takes two incomes to make ends meet and there are some mothers who view staying home as giving up their independence. I’ve learned, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You actually have to be extremely independent to be at home. It can be a very lonely road. There are no awards or commendations. No raises or promotions if you did an extra good job this year. And truly no sick days! I’ve learned it takes a very special person to do this and enjoy it.

When I first became a stay-at-home mom, I left a 50-hour a week job. It was a very stressful job full of confrontation and lawsuits. Moving from the corporate world to being at home was like shell shock but after lots of trial and error, I’ve learned what works for me. Here are some practical things that helped me stay sane when first started staying home. I hope they help you find your own way.

Create Routines and Schedules

My job was appointment based and so while I was working, I lived by a planner. When I quit my job, I threw it out. Who needs a planner at home, right? My first 6 months at home were awful. Let’s just say, I couldn’t get a handle on anything. I couldn’t keep up with chores. Laundry piled up. Dishes were stacked in the sink. I’d double booked myself or forgot appointments altogether. I felt unaccomplished and overwhelmed.

Then I discovered a Happy Planner. It’s a planner, except you can customize and decorate it. You may not be a planner person and that’s fine, but I will tell you that creating regular routines are good for both you and baby. You choose how stringent or relaxed you want it. Babies and toddlers do well on routines. It’s good for their circadian rythyms.  When they know what to expect, it reduces anxiety and tantrums. They feel secure and you can better manage responsibilities without feeling frazzled.

Leave The House Often

I get it. I know how awful it is to leave the house with an infant. You feel like your packing for a 2 month trip across Europe.  But the more often you go out, the more confident you’ll get doing it and eventually, it won’t even seem like such a big chore. This is key to staying sane as a stay at home mom. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s easier to stay home, but I promise it will do both you and baby a world of good! You’ll feel like a prisoner in your own house if you don’t. I recommend one outing a day.

Meet your husband for lunch, visit parents or in-laws, or have breakfast with a friend. Take a walk with the stroller. It doesn’t even have to be outdoors. Walk a mall or shopping center. Target seems like stay-at-home mom hangout everywhere. You can stop at a coffee shop or schedule a play date with another mom. If you have shopping and errands to do, I recommend spacing them out one per day. You get a break from your house and one outing ensures it won’t be overwhelming. If it’s a very quick outing, make it easier on yourself by just bringing a diaper clutch. It’s scary at first, but over time it will become second nature.

Find Support With Other Moms

The most shocking thing about being a stay at home mom hit me at about six months. My phone stopped ringing. Maybe you’ll have a different experience than I did, but I was absolutely shocked by this. I was very quickly forgotten by friends and colleagues after a few months away from the workforce. I’m not blaming anyone.

When you have a baby, your life changes. It’s common to stop accepting invitations shortly after giving birth. After all, you’re not sleeping and you’re trying to find your feet. After a while, people stopped inviting me altogether. Severe post-partum depression compounded my loneliness. I didn’t have any friends in the same stage of life as me, but then I’m an older mom. Sadder still was that my poor husband, although supportive and attentive, was suddenly solely responsible for all my social and emotional needs. If you want to strain your marriage, this is a great way to do it. No one person can be your everything.

I needed friends. Not just any kind of friends. Friends who understood why it took me a couple of hours to leave the house and was still late. I needed friends who understood all the doubts and second guessing you do as a mom. Friends who force me to leave the house and have some fun. I needed mom friends. These days, if you don’t have any you know personally, you can find play date groups in Facebook groups, Meetup.com, churches, and local websites. I can’t tell you how my life changed when I made non-judgmental, supportive mom friends. I found out I wasn’t weird, inadequate or a failure.

Only in the last 50 to 60 years have women been in the workforce. Before that, all women were at home and had the support of other women at home. Your mom, sisters and neighbors were all at home too. They’d talk over the fence while they hung laundry on the line or did gardening. Women didn’t have to look far for support. Now women are divided between home and work. Those who choose to stay at home may feel alienated because we no longer have the support system we once did. But some awesome women out there have created mom and play date groups to help, so go join one!

Make Your Wellness a Priority

When my oldest son was about 8 months, I felt miserable. He was sleeping through the night, but I was still perpetually exhausted. If I’m being very honest, I had no joy either. I felt depleted in just about every way you can. That’s when I realized I wasn’t taking care of myself anymore. When you have a child, your focus goes from yourself to another person in an instant. That’s good, but don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself and you have to make it a priority. If you wait for it to happen organically, it won’t. Trust me. Don’t give yourself crumbs either. Make it a priority.

This means being deliberate and purposeful about making time for yourself, even if you have to pencil it in a planner. Talk to your partner and get them on board. Whether it’s exercise, a mom’s night out, or a long bubble bath, do things that bring you peace, restoration and fun. There are lots of ways to take care of yourself and I’ve written another post with a free printable if you need ideas. I used to think that “love thy neighbor as thyself” was just about another person. But it’s actually two commands in one. You can’t give what you don’t have and you can’t teach what you don’t know. Practicing regular self-love is about caring for yourself, so you can care for others.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Attitude matters. When I was working, I went through a season of joylessness. I was working in insurance and was very unhappy that I wasn’t working in my field of study – psychology. But that’s when God revealed to me that I was using it, just not in the capacity that I had planned. Everyday I helped people recover when their house burned to the ground or was completely flooded. I was there when family members died. I was, in fact, doing the very thing for which I trained. Everything is a for a season, and it’s up to us to embrace the moment. To put it plainly, your happiness is up to you.

Some days you’ll have to dig deep to find it. It’s hard to remember there should be joy in this. It’s hard to remember why you’re doing this when the house is a mess, babies are fussy and toddlers are on the ground in a full blown fit. You’ll find yourself fantasizing about how perfect working was, even though it’s completely untrue. You had bad days there too. There will be days you need to adjust your attitude. Learn more about how to stay sane by Resetting Your Day as a Mom. Our kids grow up fast and these will one day be “the good old days.” The small things you do everyday are our children’s memories. Make it count, because their lives will be spent away from you longer than they were with you. Enjoy this season and bloom where you’re planted.


Give Yourself Grace

I saved this for last on purpose because it’s the last thing I want you to hear (or read, that is). We’re on our own journey. Your life should look like your own – no one else’s. It’s perfectly okay if you don’t homeschool and bake pies. It’s okay if your life isn’t Pinterest worthy. Trust me when I say Facebook, Instagram and other social media are full of moments that only make the highlight reel edit. It’s an illusion of perfection. Comparison will suck all the joy out of life. Don’t do it.

Don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself grace for mistakes and learning. Make forgiving yourself a habit. Allow yourself to be human. Progress is more important than perfection. Just when you think you have the answers, children will change the questions and the learning begins again. Some days are going to be incredibly hard. Keeping little humans alive might be the only thing that gets done and that is perfectly okay.

Zuppa Toscana

zuppa toscana soup

I love the fall. It’s a great excuse to make delicious soups and stews. Zuppa Toscana (translation Tuscan Soup) is one of my favorite Italian soups! It’s very easy to make and only requires a few ingredients. Above all, it’s inexpensive and is a quick weeknight dinner. It’s done in just 30 minutes! Zuppa Toscana is delectable soup has a chicken broth base and combines Italian sausage, potatoes and kale. Add red pepper flakes for added spice.

Serves 6 | Prep: 5 mins | Total Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs ground Italian sausage
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 48 oz chicken stock
  • 2 White potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups Kale, shredded
  • ¼ cup whole milk

Instructions

  • On a medium heat, brown ground Italian sausage in a medium stockpot. If meat is dry, you may add a tablespoon of olive oil and continue frying.
  • Prepare potatoes by dicing into ¼” pieces.
  • Add potatoes to meat and lightly fry for a few minutes.
  • Add red pepper flakes and stir.
  • Deglaze the stockpot by adding chicken stock and scraping the bottom of the pan.
  • Bring soup to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium high and continue cooking for 15-20 mins.
  • Add shredded kale and continue cooking for an additional 5 mins.
  • Add milk to create a creamy broth, stir and serve.

Tips: White potatoes have a delicate skin that does not need to be peeled. I’ve found heavy cream separates from the broth and have found milk incorporates better. For an even lighter version, try using Turkey Italian Sausage. Some versions also add cooked bacon, but I have found it can be over powering. If chicken broth isn’t available, you may substitute with water and chicken bouillon. 

 

Looking for more recipes? Try White Chocolate Raspberry Muffins

Slowcooker Pumpkin Spice Latte

slow cooker pumpkin spice latte

Living in Texas, we don’t have much of a Fall here, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying all things Autumn. Today I’m sharing one of my most favorite recipes of all time. Slowcooker Pumpkin Spice Latte. Its divine. I make it for all occasions, but it’s espcially good for entertaining. Guests can serve themselves and best of all, it’s stays hot. Did I mention the house smells delicious too?  I make it for playdates (mommies love pumpkin spice). I make it for dinner parties and Thanksgiving so coffee is always ready with dessert. Try it and you’ll love it, best of all, it’s totally fresh. No syrups!

Slowcooker Pumpkin Spice Latte

This recipe is great for everyday entertaining. It's a simple fall recipe you make ahead of time for a crowd. It combines hot coffee and milk with fresh pumpkin and fall spices. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 15 mins
Course: Drinks
Keyword: autumn, coffee for a crowd, crockpot, drinks, entertaining, fall, latte, pumpkin, slowcooker, spice
Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 12 Cups Coffee Hot, Strongly Brewed
  • 6 Cups Whole Milk or Half and Half
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree Canned

Instructions

  • Add milk and vanilla to warm crockpot 
  • Add strongly brewed coffee ( I use a French press to control the strength)
  • Add sugar, stirring well
  • Add pumpkin puree and stir frequently until fully incorporated
  • Cover and cook on high. It reaches peak temperature within 2 hours. 
  • (Optional) Serve with whipped cream, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon stick

Notes

Notes: For a sugar-free option, Splenda does well in lieu of sugar. For late night serving, you can use decaffeinated coffee. 

Looking for other great fall recipes? Try Zuppa Toscana Soup

 

Slowcooker Pumpkin Spice Latte first appeared on My Beautiful Mess

 

30 Day Facebook Detox

30 Day Facebook Detox

(Photo Courtesy of Unsplash)

 

Recently, I parted ways with Facebook. It was time for a social media detox. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point, but I needed to take a break from it and reclaim my time. Therefore, I decided to quickly amputate myself from the negativity that seemed to fester there. You can read more about my departure and why I left in my post Living Without Likes: How I Broke Up With Facebook

If you’re not sure if you want to take the plunge, you don’t have to deactivate your profile. You can simply delete the app from your phone and other devices and log out of your account so that you will have to manually sign in. It seriously reduced temptation to check it all the time.

I’ll be very honest, the first few weeks I quit were hard. I wasn’t sure how to replace social media in my life. For that reason, I created a list of activities to help pass the boredom. Whether you want to break up permanently or just have a trial separation, here are 30 ideas you can do instead of logging onto your profile. I did one every day until I finally broke free of the addiction. I’ve included the free printable 30 Day Social Media Detox to help you offline. Good luck!

 

Take the Challenge:

Day 1: Write a letter to a friend

Day 2: Take a walk or hike

Day 3: Exercise

Day 4: Start a journal and share your thoughts there 

Day 5: Create a photobook with your photos

Day 6: Declutter your email

Day 7: Call a friend 

Day 8: Send some happy mail

Day 9: Do a craft project

Day 10: Listen to music

Day 11: Read a book

Day 12: Meditate or pray

Day 13: Make a gratitude list

Day 14: Complete a DIY project around the house

Day 15: Do a jigsaw puzzle

Day 16: Learn a new hobby or skill

Day 17: Declutter an area of your home

Day 18: Create a household budget

Day 19: Write a short story

Day 20: Create a goals list

Day 21: Declutter photos on your phone

Day 22: Try a new recipe

Day 23: Organize a closet

Day 24: Meal plan / write a grocery list

Day 25: Clean out a pantry or cupboard

Day 26: Write a thank you note

Day 27: Plant something in your garden

Day 28: Play with your pet

Day 29: Do a random act of kindness for someone

Day 30: Bake a dessert

 

 

30 Day Facebook Detox first appeared on My Beautiful Mess

 

 

Living Without Likes: How I Broke Up With Facebook

Living without likes facebook break up

 

Many of us have considered breaking up with Facebook, but it’s hard to live without likes. I fully recall the day I decided to create a Facebook profile. It was still in its public infancy. I admit I was part of a mass migration from MySpace, another social networking site that was slowly dying. I had friends abroad who had also joined and this seemed like a great way to bypass expensive phone bills and massive time differences. I was also involved in modeling and local theater and its a great way to connect with others in the industry.

Fast forward to 2018. My friend’s list had ballooned 5,000 friends and over the last year, I’ve been chipping away at removing all the people I barely know. You know the type, the person I met once at a party, the friend of a friend I haven’t seen in five years. There is the co-worker I had lunch with ten years ago and the other members of a long-ago wedding party. I fully admit, I was not selective when I added them.

Over the years, Facebook has changed dramatically. Maybe I was naive, but I thought Facebook was a way to connect with others, but that’s not what it became. Facebook has become a cesspool of negativity. I don’t think I even realized just how it had been affecting me. Here are a few things I noticed about how Facebook affects us negatively and how I solved it by breaking up with Facebook (at least temporarily).

It Dehumanizes Us

You wouldn’t think that would be the case, do you? After all, it’s supposed to connect us. But what I have found is that I speak to my friends less regularly. I don’t pick up the phone and call them. I see pictures they post and so I feel connected in the moment, but really, I’m not. I found that after 10 years on Facebook and nearly 5,000 friends (at one point), I only had a couple of friends that I actually checked up on or that bothered to check up on me. We aren’t meant to interact with people from behind a monitor. You can’t expect to build lasting relationships by yourself with a keyboard. Get out and see your friends. Quitting Facebook has caused me to be more intentional about my friendships.

It’s a Time Burglar

We all know social media can be a time waster. Sometimes that’s exactly why we use it. Scrolling your news feed is an easy way to pass time while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or waiting for your kids to get out of school and in the car. I admit that it was the first thing I’d do after waking up. I’d grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and scroll. But there are far more productive things you can do with your time. I was shocked to discover how much time I spent on social media. I felt like I had so little time to get things done and it was true. I wasted a lot of time being unproductive on Facebook. Now I utilize that time with prayer, chores, working on my blog, and most importantly, spending time with my kids.

It Can Set the Tone for How You Feel

As I mentioned above, I looked at Facebook when I first woke up. Because of that, I noticed recently that it often set the tone for how I felt. The day I broke up with Facebook, the first few posts I saw were deflating. The first link was about a five-year old who had been beaten and burned by his mother. The second was the beating of a black man. Five posts were about the Kavanagh hearing and seven others were political themed rants (from both sides of the aisle). Two posts were venting over some negative issue in someone’s life and two posts were about a friend or family member that died. The first twenty posts or so were all negative. It completely obliterated my happy mood.

Maybe you think I’m overly sensitive. How many times have you seen a post and been offended by it? We should be slow to offend and I certainly am not suggesting that we bury our head in the sand and ignore bad things. But what we view, what we read, what we put in our minds affects us and we should be both vigilant and selective with what we surround ourselves. Negativity is infectious and toxic.

It Affects Our Empathy and Sensitivity

The one thing I hate most about Facebook is that it has become a political platform. I’m as opinionated as the next person, but I hate that nearly half the posts in my news feed are politically charged. It is very easy to argue with someone when you don’t have to face them. People get down right nasty to each other. They say things to each other on Facebook they would probably never say to each other face to face. I admit, I am guilty of this – and I don’t like it. It’s disappointing, but I became a cocky, self-righteous, little jerk on Facebook when I disagreed with something. I actually lost friendships over it. There is a time and place to have those kinds of discussions, but I’ve become convinced Facebook isn’t the place for it.

You Can Become Addicted to Virtual Validation

Honestly, this is a tough one. It’s tough because I never realized that this actually affected me until I left Facebook. My first week or two away, I had the constant urge to post when I did something fun or something awesome happened to me. You see, as much as I hate to admit it, I am addicted to validation from friends online. The acceptance of others made me feel good about myself. I cringe just writing that. I didn’t know it, but Facebook became an emotional crutch for my insecurities. Leaving Facebook, has caused me to explore the root of insecurities and deal with them in a healthy way. The problem with using virtual likes for self-esteem is that it is never enough. You’ll need constant validation and not receiving it throws you into a depression. Likes don’t define your value. Learn to live without likes.

It Creates Unrealistic Expectations

Some people use Facebook like a diary, vomiting every emotional thought they have and while that is exhausting, there is something more dangerous. There are some people, myself included, who use Facebook to post only the good and exciting things that happen. I did it intentionally, not because I was hiding anything, but because I wanted my page to stay positive. But there is a problem there too. Comparison. I’m not an envious person, but I surprised myself when a good friend of mine built a dream house. I have a nice house and yet seeing his, left me feeling…well…dissatisfied.

Whether we care to admit it, we compare ourselves to other people. Seeing other people’s vacations, homes, new cars… all those status symbols can cause you to feel cheated and dissatisfied. Life feels unfair because you don’t have as much fun or have nice things. It might make you feel like a bad mother because you don’t buy organic produce, cook from scratch, do crafts with your kids or breastfeed. Maybe it makes you feel like your marriage is lackluster or that your spouse isn’t attentive enough. Comparison causes us to have unrealistic expectations about how our life should be. It kills gratitude and robs you of joy. Facebook is often a highlight reel, carefully editing out problems, failures and setbacks. Don’t believe it. It isn’t real.

It Stops Us From Being Present

When I was younger, I left home with nothing more than a suitcase and lived abroad in Europe. It was the best experience. This is back in the 90s before cell phones! In my youthful ignorance, I never even thought to bring a camera. That’s right. I backpacked all throughout Europe without ever taking a single picture – and I survived! I have amazing memories and stories from my years abroad all perfectly captured in my mind.

Fast forward to 2018, where I can barely eat a meal without taking picture. I went back to Italy for my honeymoon in 2013 and I spent nearly the entire trip behind a lens. I seriously regret that. Being present is way more fun. Taking in every detail with your eyes and mind is so much better. I was happier before we experienced it behind a cell phone camera lens. Enjoy the moment. You miss things otherwise.

What I Learned

It’s been a while since I broke up with Facebook. I didn’t deactivate my account. Instead, I deleted it from my devices and I logged out so it requires effort check it. I learned I can survive without friends knowing what I’m doing every day. I now fill the hours with much more fun and productive things. I don’t need likes to feel worthy and secure. I have everything I need and I’m grateful for what I have. If you’re looking to take a break from social media either temporarily or permanently, take a look at my 30 Day Social Media Detox Challenge coming this Saturday!

 

Living Without Likes: How I Broke Up With Facebook first appeared on www.mybeautifulmess.net

 

30 Day Wellness Challenge

It’s easy to get so wrapped in our busyness, that we forget or neglect to take care of ourselves. Self-care is a vital part of maintaining balance in our life. Stop giving yourselves crumbs and make yourself a priority. Take the 30-day Wellness challenge!

30 day wellness challenge
(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

In 2009, I was going through a really rough time. I was overworked and completely burnt out. I basically had a full-on nervous breakdown, which sadly was witnessed by some co-workers. The result, was a sabbatical from work and re-examining my work/life balance.

I sat there in my therapist’s office and complained. Complained about my responsibilities and workload. I talked about pressure, stress, and deadlines. It was the rude customers and domineering bosses who kept piling on demands. It was crushing my soul. I was joyless. “Whose fault is that,” he asked. ” My employer, of course,” I retorted. “No,” he continued. “That is your fault because you don’t set boundaries. You are joyless, because you don’t do things that bring you joy.” I’m pretty sure I stared at him for five strait minutes. My fault?

Set Boundaries

He was right. Boundaries are crucial in life. They are, for all intents and purposes, imaginary lines in the sand of what you will and will not accept. Most people avoid setting boundaries for one simple reason: it means saying “no” and saying “no” risks disappointing someone. If you’re a people pleaser, this can be exceptionally hard. But if you’re a “giver”, you must set limits because “takers” never do.

Today, I’m inviting you to take the 30 Day Wellness Challenge. This means putting yourself first. For 30 days, try practicing some self-care. It doesn’t matter if it’s aimed at your body, mind, or soul. The point is to be deliberate and consistent in “being kind to yourself.” This was something with which I’ve always struggled. Sometimes self-care is simply saying “no” to activities, things, or people that bring stress, strife, or anxiety.

What Self-care Looks Like

I’d like you to try a quick exercise. Write down things that bring you peace, balance, and joy. Perhaps it is being outside in nature or maybe it’s a fun night out. Discovering what actually makes you happy is crucial. What restores you? Write down as many things as you can think of. Then spread the activities out over a month. Start with just one thing a day. If you need help, I’ve provided the free printable 30 Day Wellness Challenge to get you started. It’s packed with self-care ideas.

Self-care can include a lot of things, butI suggest trying to satisfy the replenishing of body, mind, and soul. For example, things that might be good for your soul are:

  • Unplugging from social media
  • Prayer / meditation
  • Working through forgiveness
  • Journaling
  • Gratitude
  • Listen to music
  • Feed yourself positive thoughts
  • Do something creative

Make You A Priority

It’s not just about practicing self-care. It’s about prioritizing it. This means not saving it until the end of the day when you’re depleted. Rather, it’s about making it one of the most important things you do today. For example, one of the things that brings me restoration is prayer and meditation. I almost never had time for it with kids. I would save it until the end of the day when I couldn’t focus on a single thought. Although sleep is important to me, I started getting up just 30 minutes before the children. I’d have a cup of coffee while it was actually still hot and spend 20 mins in prayer. It brought me so much peace starting off the day that way. Don’t give yourself the crumbs. You deserve better.

Looking for other tips on Wellness? Learn more and take the 30 Day Facebook Detox

5 Steps To Decluttering Books

Unsure how to downsize your home library? Here are 5 steps to decluttering books to make curating your collection simple.

5 steps to decluttering books

I’m a recovering book addict. I love to read. But even more to the point, I love books. I love digging into them beside a fire and if it’s cold or raining outside, all the better. I love decorating with them around the house. My husband is also an avid reader, so when we first got married and combined our book collections, tough choices had to be made. As our family has grown, so has our book collection. The addition of children’s books has transformed our house into what looks like our own personal library branch. But I also love cleanliness and order. I love bright open spaces and organization.

I have to be honest. Downsizing books is one of the hardest things I declutter. I have a difficult time parting with them. Today I’m sharing 5 steps to decluttering books. These are some questions I ask myself to make the process easier. Maybe they’ll help you too.

1) Is it functional?

I’m all for a good, broken-in book. Like a comfy shoe, some worn pages are the sign of a well-loved book. That’s not what I mean. Some books are more than just well-loved. Little hands rip books. Too many bubble bath reading sessions cause wrinkled pages. Worn spines don’t always hold pages together. It seems pretty basic, but I have found myself holding onto books I couldn’t even read. Be real with yourself as to whether or not you can actually read it.

2) Do I have space for it?

The space on your book shelf is prime real estate. If you like to read, new books will always be entering your house, which means, you’ll need to seriously consider which books will be allowed on the shelf. I know what you’re thinking! No, the answer is not to buy more shelves. The answer is to be selective, carefully editing what you allow in your home. In a pinch, you can consider alternative uses, such as staging a coffee table or bedside table. I once read a quote by designer Nate Berkus.

Be a ruthless editor of what you allow in your home. Ask yourself, ‘what does this object mean to me?’

Nate Berkus

Be choosy. Consider that you’re books are actually a carefully curated library.

3) Did I enjoy it?

Be honest with yourself. Good books are hard to put down. If you never finished the book, consider that maybe you didn’t enjoy it as much as you would have liked. It doesn’t matter how much your friend loved it or how great the review was. If you struggled to read it or never went back to it, it wasn’t your favorite. Keeping it out of guilt or in the hopes that you might pick it back up, isn’t realistic. If you didn’t read it when it was new to you and you were both interested and motivated, you probably won’t do it later.

4) Do I have it digitally or in some other format?

Maybe this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you aren’t like me, but I have actually found duplicates. For some reason, my son had three copies of Little Blue Truck likely because of gift-giving. I had a copy of one of Max Lucado’s books in both audiobook and print. It happens. If you have it somewhere else or in another format, choose one and remove the other. Also consider if it’s something you might not read again – or read very often – you may just want to get it from a library instead of wasting space with it.

5) Is it timeless?

There are many books that stand the test of time. They are classics and always will be. I reckon even in another hundred years, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice will still be a classic and for that reason, I’ll never part with it. It will always be a favorite of mine. If you have something you read again and again, keep it. If it’s a non-fiction book, ask yourself if it offers information that will still be relevant in a few years. It took a long time for my parents to come to terms with the fact that their World Book Encyclopedias, even though they cost $1,500 when they bought it, are no longer relevant. It’s no one’s fault. Times change. Don’t be afraid to part with that $200 textbook that is no longer accurate.

No one likes decluttering, but it’s especially hard when it comes to a treasure trove of books. Hopefully, these 5 steps to decluttering books will help you, but I’d love to hear what you do!

Don’t forget to PIN this post for later. If you’re looking for more decluttering help, read 50 Things to Throw Away Right Now and the 30 Day Spring Cleaning Challenge. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more subscriber only FREEBIES before you leave.