Saturday, May 30, 2015

Best. Sister. Ever.

I know many people brag that they have an amazing sister, but I really hit the jackpot. Today, my older sister turns 40! :)

My sister is one of the most loving, friendly, caring, extroverted people I know. She cares passionately for her friends and family. She knows how to reach out to people and draw them in. She's an amazing teacher and leader and a phenomenal MC for any type of event. She is a wonderful wife, mother, and woman of God.

I've always looked up to my sister. I remember as a child, sitting in her room and staring at her while she talked on the phone (which drove her crazy!) -- I wasn't even listening to the conversation...I just wanted to be in the same room as her. That's how much I adored her. When she went off to college (we are four years apart in school), I clearly remember her coming home and saying how she never really appreciated me or realized how much she loved me until she went off to school. ;)

Each stage of life has only brought us closer and she is now one of my best friends. My sister protects me, defends me, and pushes me. When I was struggling with friendships my Freshman year of college, she would pick me up from school one night each week and take me out to dinner at TGIFridays. When I moved to North Carolina for grad school, she flew down during summer break and visited me for a week (while pregnant with her first child...and I had her sleep on an air mattress while I slept in my bed. What?! I'm so sorry, Kara). When I moved back home to Illinois, she invited me to every social event with her church Growth Group. When Walter and I were best friends and hanging out all the time, but were safe in the friend zone, she pushed me to think about what I really wanted and I ended up asking Walter if we should see if there is more...and now we have been married for over eight years and have two beautiful children of our own!

When friends have left me out of events, she has made sure that I am always invited and included. She always had my back and my best interests at heart. And now she's moving to Ohio this summer. Although I am so happy for her, at times I struggle with knowing how to have friendships without her guidance. I fear at times of getting lost without her intervention. I have been blessed to live near her for 34 years (the other two were in NC) as many people aren't as lucky to be close to their siblings. The people in Dublin, Ohio are fortunate to get her and have her love on them too. I know God will continue to do amazing things in her life and in her family.

I love you, Kara, and I'm so thankful God made us sisters. Happy 40th birthday!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Legacy of Mothers

In honor of Mother's Day, I've decided to write about the amazing mothers that are a part of my family:

1. Helen Elizabeth Veerman (Grandma Veerman)

Most of what I know about my Grandma Veerman are the stories that I have heard. You see, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers when I was five years old. All of my memories are a poor picture of the woman she was. Helen Elizabeth (known to her friends as Betty) was an amazing homemaker and cook. She raised five beautiful children (four of them boys -- one of them my dad -- so you know she's a saint ;) ) and had a long loving marriage with Marvin. I know she was an amazing mother, because she raised my dad, who is pretty awesome. :)

She passed away when I was 13 and I look forward to when I meet her in heaven and learn who she really is, not the Alzheimers version.

2. May Bright (Grandma Bright)

When I think of my Grandma Bright, I think of laughter. Why? Because she was so funny and fun to be around. I think my mom got a lot of her personality from her mother. Grandma Bright was a southern girl and always so loving (and made the best creamed corn). She could easily laugh at herself and the funny moments she would have. She passed away when I was 19, living long enough to be at my sister's wedding, and I look forward to being reunited with her again in heaven.

3. Judith Gail Veerman (Mom)

There aren't enough words to express how amazing my mom is. I am blown away by the blessing of being her daughter. If I could narrow down my mom to two words, they would be: humble servant. My mom is outgoing and extroverted, but she is also a servant with no desire to find honor. She shows her love for her family and others by how she constantly serves, makes herself available to others, and loves others without expecting anything in return. In fact, she prefers not to be in the spotlight.

My mom became a Christian in her early 20s. Even though she has been following Christ and studying his word for almost 50 years now, she still knows there is so much she needs to learn and so many ways she needs to grow. She is humble -- relying on Jesus and knowing that he is always what she needs.

I admire my mom so much. And the admiration has only grown as I've had my own children, watched her love them and play with them, and realized just how much she loves and cares for me.

Thank you, mom, for always being there for me and loving me unconditionally. Our personalities may be different, but we also have so many things in common (outside of the fact that I am physically built just like her) -- our love for HGTV, etc. ;)

I love you, mom. You're the best!

4. Kara Beth Conrad (Sister)

I've also been blessed with the most amazing older sister. I have learned so much from her experiences and have, in many ways, modeled how I parent my children from her.

People can often tell that we are sisters (some even think that we are twins!), but we are actually very different -- she is extremely extroverted, I am more introverted, etc. But, our difference actually bring us closer together. She protects me, defends me, cares for me, pushes me, and is honest with me.

I could write more about her, but her birthday is in a couple of weeks (the big 4-0!) and I will write more then.

I am so thankful for the legacy of mothers in my life and I hope my own parenting reflects their parenting. I pray my children will always know how much they are loved by God and how much I love them.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 01, 2015

My NEW Top Five!

On my journey to becoming more healthy and chemical-free, these are my five most recent favorite things:

1. "The Healthy Home" by Dr. Myron Wentz and Dave Wentz

 The Healthy Home

If I could write a book on creating a healthier home and going chemical-free, THIS IS IT. I am so obsessed with this book!!! If you are serious about getting toxins out of your home, etc. than this is the book for you.

Want to know what's even cooler? The authors are the founders and CEO of Usana Health Sciences. There is so much in the news these days about supplements found in drug stores to have fillers or toxins in them. These guys wrote the book on chemical-free homes, so you can completely trust that Usana supplements are what they say and are truly good for you. Makes me love my Usana even more!

If you are looking for good supplements (and a natural way to treat your health rather than instantly running to medication as a quick fix), I would love help you. You can contact me here.

2. Jus' Hair Organic Salon

 Jus' Hair
You guys, I found an organic, CHEMICAL-FREE hair salon!! And it is only 15 minutes from my house. I can't even tell you how excited I was when I found them online (thanks Google). I even had a dream about my appointment the night before because I was so excited. I had my hair highlighted and cut by Jim there yesterday afternoon and it was AWESOME. Here is a picture of my hair (I hate doing selfies, so I apologize):

Considering that chemicals have been setting off my asthma lately, this was a fantastic find.

3. Blendtec blender

I finally purchased this blender (factory-refurbished) about a month ago and LOVE it! My main motivation was to make smoothies with tons of nutrition in it that I could give to my kids (and me too -- I love to drink my nutrition ;) ). This blender works so well and create smoothies that are so creamy - chia seeds, spinach, strawberries, etc. are completely pulverized so that there is nutrition, but no added texture, which means my kids inhale the smoothies. Yes! A win!

4. Nerium AD

Honestly, I don't mind getting older and I truly believe that beauty starts from the inside out (meaning, what you eat and the supplements you take), but I was in need to a new day cream and night cream so I decided to try this bad boy out. Nerium AD is a plant-based, chemical-free cream designed to reduce the look of aging, fine lines, etc. (I have a lot of sun damage that needs repair.) There are products that can do the same thing, with great results out there, but this is the only one that is plant based and doesn't contain a bunch of harmful chemicals. You can find more info here. (Note: I don't sell this product, but Nerium has a program where is you get referrals, you can earn free product. If you are interested in more info on the business or any other details, you can go to my friends' website.)

5. Tranquil essential oil

I don't normally have a problem falling asleep, but the past week, as I've tried to go to bed a little bit earlier, I've had a little bit of trouble quieting my mind and body and going to sleep. I bought the Tranquil oil a few months ago to put on my kids when they wake up in the middle of the night and have a tough time falling asleep. Finally, I decided to try it on myself. Everytime I use it, I calm down and fall asleep almost instantly...and get better sleep. No joke. This is definitely one of my favorite oils now.

On another note, if you haven't checked out my new website, Healthy & Free Living, there is ton of information on there. Please visit and share with others.

And, if you are on facebook, be sure to like my facebook page too!

I hope this list helps you on your journey to become healthy too!