How to Face Challenges without Losing Your Sanity

REALIZATION: As I’ve grown older, the percentage of my days that have been filled with unforeseen challenges has increased in direct proportion to my ability to tackle them as they barrel into my world like a bull in a china shop. I have become quite the matador. Not that I wanted the job, mind you, but I’ve realized that it’s much easier to face and fight than to flee in fright.

Let me tell you, that was NOT always the case. In my mid 20’s and early 30’s, I had absolutely NO idea of how to handle challenges and problems…so I didn’t. I tried to run away from them, shield my eyes from them in hopes that they’d go away if I ignored them, and I even numbed my brain up with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to forget about them. Newsflash… it didn’t work. I failed…miserably. The great saying “live and learn” really has applied well in my life. After all, I’m an anal retentive perfectionist who HATES to make the same mistake twice.

I’ve got great news, dear reader! I’m about to share the secret to my success with you. It really IS possible to face challenges without losing your sanity, and I’m walking talking proof of that fact.

FACTS

In the past 2 weeks, I’ve simultaneously faced the following challenges:

  • Financial woes forced me to find creative ways to buy a week’s worth of groceries for a family of 2, with less than $15. (TIP – Buy a lot of beans and rice!)
  • Juggled my schedule effectively enough to work 3 part-time jobs, take 5 college classes, write two blogs, exercise, made time for God, and necessary time to socialize and sleep.
  • A diagnosis from my doctor that was less than stellar. Basically, there’s no cure for what ails me. My time on this earth is very limited. Newsflash… EVERYONE’S is. I’ll keep on living a day at a time.
  • The death of my beloved mom. After a 5 year battle with Parkinson’s disease, she put on her angel wings and flew home to be reunited with my dad on August 28th.
  • Mom’s memorial service 4 days later. As if the reality of her death wasn’t enough, I had to deal with family controversy and personality clashes as we said goodbye to the world’s greatest woman.
  • A sewer backup in the apartment next to mine, which decided to come pay us a visit, too. Joy…. Pure joy.

So how did I make it through to the other side? How is it possible that I wasn’t carted off to the funny farm?

ANSWER – My call to action

  1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your ability to overcome adversity. Never underestimate your power to gain superhero strength when you need it the most. Oh, and eat bacon. Or chocolate. Maybe both simultaneously! They are fuel for the gods and goddesses of the world…
  2. Ask for help. Don’t rely on your heart and mind to carry you through life’s storms. We were not meant to face challenges alone. If you’re a person of faith, use it. Lean on the God of your understanding. Don’t forget that where two or more are gathered in His name, there is strength. If you don’t have family to lean on, ask your friends for help. Cry, scream, have a hissy fit. You may get a few odd stares, but I guarantee that SOMEONE will listen and be a shoulder for you to cry on. If nobody in your circle of friends will help you, email or call me. I’ll do my best to help you. I don’t care if we’ve ever met or not. You are important enough for me to care about helping you.
  3. Wear your rain gear. Life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Photo credit: Simply Me

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The Power of Here and Now

I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve thought, or said aloud, “…if only”.

Runner-up would be the statement, “Why didn’t I _____?”

God’s reply to those gems lately has been a blaring trumpet still small voice inside of my head whispering:

Becca…If wishes were kisses, you’d be covered from head to toe in red lipstick

So, it’s time to push myself to live in the here and now a little bit more. I’ve learned that life’s challenges are only there to make me a stronger, better person. I can accept that. In fact, my inner perfectionist loves that philosophy. What I’m struggling with, however, is letting my past stay there.

Acceptance is the belief that everything that did happen in my past was for a GOOD reason. That wouldn’t be so difficult to do if I hadn’t lost healthy, loving relationships because of poor choices that I made. (Here’s the point where I stop writing, take my hand off of the keyboard, and give myself one of these!)

Yes Virginia, even bad things happen for a reason. If I hadn’t lost relationships with the people I loved the most, I very well would never have hit my proverbial “bottom”. You see, the sinking ship formerly known as my life had fallen deep, down to the bottom of the ocean floor, and as a result, I lost nearly everything. The devastation forced me to re-evaluate the way I was living (or rather, NOT living) my life. As a result, drastic changes were made. With lots of inner determination, faith and belief in myself, loving and supportive friends, and a forgiving God, I started down a road to restore my life.

However, I’m not perfect. Although I seek to learn from my mistakes and then leave them in the past where they belong, there are some days when it’s not so easy to do. Today is one of those days. The great news is that I have a reality check to put me back on track.

Author and blogger, Everett Bogue, summed it up quite well when he wrote, “The reality is that the past is dead. It happened, it shaped who you are, but it’s gone now, and it’s never coming back…and this is okay. The world changes and we evolve into new and better individuals every single day.”

So here it is… my light bulb moment for the day, month, year, and for the rest of my lifetime on this Earth…

I have overcome major physical, emotional, and spiritual hurdles for a reason. I am still standing for a reason. I am a college student at 47 years old because I wasn’t prepared to be one at 19. I am living a life worth living because every morning when I wake up, I make the decision to live my life under God’s agenda and time line and not my own. This time around, I’m making a conscious effort to look out for the welfare of people BESIDES myself, and I choose to make the most out of the day I’ve been blessed with.

“What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind.” — Henry Miller

Now that I’ve enlightened myself to how wonderful change can be, let’s see if you care to take my lead. I’m making a batch of French onion soup today. How does the thought of caramelized onions, rich beef stock, toasty croutons, and a blanket of melted gruyere cheese sound? Quite yummy, to be sure, but not too overly enthusiastic…until you add a SLOW roasting process to the onions and some crispy bacon to the recipe! NOW we’re talkin’ yumalicious!



THE BEST FRENCH ONION SOUP (with bacon!)

Serves 6

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated recipe

Ingredients:

Soup

  • ½ pound bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 large yellow onions (about 4 pounds), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry (optional, or use extra beef broth)
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme , tied with kitchen twine, or 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Ground black pepper

Cheese Croutons

  • 1 small baguette , cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

Directions:

For the soup:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fry bacon over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed, large (at least 6-quart) Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper toweling. Leave the bacon fat in the pot.
  3. Place the butter into the pot with the bacon fat, and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping bottom and sides of pot after 1 hour.
  4. Carefully remove pot from oven and place over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15 to 20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. (Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.)
  5. Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust, and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6 to 8 minutes. Repeat process of deglazing 2 or 3 more times, until onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  6. Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, ¾ of the bacon (reserve the rest for the top garnish) thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.
  7. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper.

For the croutons:

  1. While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

To serve:

  1. Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each with about 1 3/4 cups soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (do not overlap slices) and sprinkle evenly with Gruyere. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the tops with crumbled bacon. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

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