Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

My Little Red Wagon April 16, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Life Balance,Moving — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:24 am
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On my husband’s first official day of work, I began my own “day of work”.  After a weekend of trying to traverse the space between where we could park our car and the apartment in which we would be living for the coming weeks, I quickly realized that I needed some help of my own.

The reason?  Our new apartment *does* have an elevator, however there is no way to access it from a “fifth floor parking spot”.  This means that we have to park on the fourth (or any lower) floor, go into the building, take the elevator up a level, and then walk the 1/4 mile corridor to our individual apartment.  I watched M as we moved in, carrying items back and forth over the two+ hours it took to bring everything inside.  The weather was gorgeous and the apartment is spacious, but we had packed our cars to the gills (including 11 cases of wine) and we couldn’t figure out an easier or simpler way to move everything without something akin to a bellman’s cart.  NOTE: I found out on Monday that the leasing office has *one* cart for the building, but since we arrived after they had closed for the day, this wasn’t an option.

I also had a bit of a challenge to hurdle when we realized that the apartment had only given us one key fob (the electronic “key” used to enter the building or any of its amenities) and one gate remote (used to re-enter the building, if I drove off the property at any point in our stay).  This was going to have to be handled before I could take care of my “shopping challenge”.

The leasing office was helpful when they opened at 10AM – a key fob was given when asked and they “called to authorize” the gate remote (which took an hour) so I would be able to come and go as needed.  Now all I needed to do was come up with a way to carry things from the car to the apartment since any purchase that might require more than a single trip or anything that is relatively heavy (think a gallon of milk plus a bag of kitty litter) would require multiple trips between the apartment and my car.  I couldn’t go shopping during the day and then expect M to bring in my items on his way home, so I needed to be creative… I needed some sort of portable shopping cart.

My first thought was to use Google.  The items that first came up reminded me of an “old lady shopping cart” – the one wireshoppingcartpictured here is apparently available at Staples.  Wal-Mart had something similar, as did Crate and Barrel, so I gamely headed off to the local store to make my purchases and pick up my “old lady cart”.  I wasn’t happy with it, but the cost was reasonable so I headed out and started picking up all the items I needed (previously mentioned milk and kitty litter included).  All was going well until they told me that the wire cart wasn’t available… they had all been sold.  Color me crushed.  I had no idea where to look now.  I hadn’t actually seen that they carried them at Staples until today, so I asked the cashier for some guidance.  Her suggestion of checking at Target proved fruitless, but the idea of checking with the local Kmart was a winner.  After calling Kmart (and remaining on hold for 15 minutes while the guy in electronics waited on a customer in front of him), they located a “shopping cart” and offered to hold it for me until I got there.

I was thrilled.  I had been given a way to get my purchases from my car to my apartment without relying on anyone else.  This may seem like a little thing to others, but when you have difficulty walking, this is a monumental game-changer.  While the cart I found was almost triple the cost of the one I’d been eyeing earlier, the freedom it was going to afford me was worth every penny.   It heavier and bulkier than I’d wanted but it’s sturdy, with big/wide tires, and can carry up to 150 lbs.  It’s my very own Little Red Wagon and I love it.  LIttleRedWagon

As you can see, I was able to carry all my groceries and move-in staples (kitty litter, milk, cleaning supplies, chicken and meats, as well as veggies) in one trip from car to apartment.  What a gift!  It could have been a disastrous day of hauling bags after bags from one place to another, but this simple cart made my day so much brighter.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.

NOTE: The relocation company with whom we’re working have been extremely responsive and helpful with regards to any and all concerns and frustrations throughout this move.  While the leasing office personnel are kind, they have been much more reactive than proactive, resulting in most of the challenges we’ve faced, IMHO.  It’s a journey… and I’ll continue to do my best to focus on the positive… this really *is* where we’re supposed to be… so I’ll focus on our blessings.  Hope you’ll do the same!

 

 

 

It’s a new day April 14, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Life Balance — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:52 am
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As some of you may know, we recently relocated our family from RVA (Richmond, VA) to Maryland.  While I apologize for not blogging about this transition sooner, there were so many other things that needed my attention and my computer simply had to take a back seat to those more urgent requirements.   To go day-by-day from offer to move would be an effort in futility, since nothing can be changed by looking backward at mis-steps, so I will choose to look forward… as soon as I can move through the memories of our life in RVA.  BeltmanMovingTruck

We could not have found a more perfect place to raise our two boys into the men they have become, especially when looking at the people with whom we surrounded ourselves.  In the week of our actual move, we had people stopping by to offer fellowship, food, and best wishes on our upcoming travels.  Each visit, phone call, or email was a reminder that we made a good life for our family in Richmond.  While I’m sure I was remiss in the extent of my appreciation, it’s my fervent wish that each had some idea of just how deeply I was touched by their presence.

As the Beltman Moving truck (pictured) pulled away with all our belongings, headed for storage in Jessup, MD, it hit me… we were leaving the one place where our family had truly been created.  The boys went to Middle and High schools in this area… my husband built the bulk of his career here… my own career of wine, blogging, and sports photography was born here.  To simply toss all that away in a rushed move, and dismiss our life in Virginia, would be to extend an enormous disservice to those who allowed each one of us to grow into the people we are today.  Friends, neighbors, and even simple acquaintances share in the creation of each of us… both as individuals and as a family.  Struggles and triumphs were commiserated and celebrated in turn.  We couldn’t have become the people who stand before you this day without every single positive and negative situation, as they each combined to make us stronger, better, compassionate, and unique.  I will never be able to think on the life we created in Richmond, VA. without smiling and becoming a bit misty.  We have been blessed… and we know it.

But it’s a new day.

We are currently ensconced in a lovely apartment, just a few miles away from M’s new office.  Our house in VA will soon be on the market (with a first floor master bedroom) and we’re beginning our search for our next home somewhere in MD.  It’s a little daunting, but we are so grateful for this opportunity to be closer to family and for M to begin his next career phase.   I’ll do my best to be better about blogging in general – sharing the trials and tribulations of a move such as this will definitely be a challenge, but one to which we are looking forward.

My mantra, throughout the chaos of moving, has been to simply remember to breathe… so I think I’ll sit down and do that for a little while this morning before I try and tackle the world.  Breathe in… and breathe out… So simple, yet sometimes it’s the hardest thing to remember.

It’s a new day… Rejoice and be glad in it!

 

Giving Up For Lent? March 4, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Life Balance — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:35 pm
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It’s all over the place today…. the big question on everyone’s mind…. “what are *you* giving up for Lent?”   Is this really what we’re supposed to be doing during the 40 days of Lent?GivingUp4Lent

 

I always had trouble with the idea that giving up sweets or soda might make my Lenten experience more Holy.  Shutting down my Facebook page or Twitter account might make me realize just how dependent I’ve become on technology, but is there going to be a big “aha” moment when I recognize how much I love staying in touch with the world around me with these computer programs?  While I might end up with the benefit of losing a few unwanted pounds or learn how to make it past the bakery department of my local market without buying a cookie, it isn’t something that will ultimately benefit my soul or help me get any closer to Christ.  Isn’t that the true purpose of doing something for 40 days in a row?  What could I “give up” that would turn Lent into an important time in my life… is it really about giving something up?

 

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I heard something that made so much more sense.   My priest mentioned that he never liked the idea of having to “give up” something… he preferred the plan to “add” something to his life that might bring him closer to his God.  Typically, he set aside a specified time of the day and would read particular passages of the Bible and contemplate how they might relate to or be incorporated into his life.  I loved this idea.  Finally… something that made sense to me.  I didn’t have to follow along with the rest of society and decide what I was going to “give up” for Lent… I could make the conscious decision to add something to my daily life that would ultimately bring me closer to my God… learn more of His word… do more of His work… act more as He might…  I could do that.   I could strive to make my Lenten experience one of spiritual revival, rather than earthly deprivation.FastGivePrayLent

 

Consider this alternative to the tradition of Giving Up something for Lent.  Come up with a way to remind yourself, daily, to commune with God in some way.  The specifics of “how” don’t need to be shared with anyone else.  Maybe you’ll set a phone app to send you a Bible verse each day.  Maybe you’ll use the reminder function on your FitBit (or what have you) to remind you to say a prayer at a specific time.  Maybe you’ll be able to push aside all the distractions of the modern world on your own (although I know I’ll be setting my FitBit, because the world is just too “shiny”) and read a Bible chapter or passage each morning/evening.  Whatever works for you, I challenge you to add something to your own Lenten experience this year.

 

I promise you that it will be worth the journey…

 

Because I’m Happy… February 20, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Life Balance,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 4:02 pm
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Wow… has this song by Pharrell Williams resonated with me recently.  I love the tune, love the lyrics, love the sentiment, and just can’t stop playing this song.  It feels as if it’s my mantra, and honestly, how bad can things be if “happy” is your mantra?

Have you heard this song yet?  If not, here’s the YouTube video of it.  Just click on it and take a few minutes to let the tune sink into your bones.  Let the upbeat tone and smiles of everyone shown just flow over you.  It’s really worth those few minutes… I’ll wait…

Oh, and here’s the Richmond RVA-version of that same video… we just love Richmond and want everyone else to love it too!

Now, did you catch all the words?  If not, here they are, in all their glory:

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care baby by the way

[Hook:]
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

[Verse 2:]
Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah,
Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold back, yeah,
Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah,
No offense to you, don’t waste your time
Here’s why

[Hook]

Hey, come on

[Bridge:]
(happy)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said (let me tell you now)
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
My level’s too high
Bring me down
Can’t nothing bring me down
I said

[Hook 2x]

Hey, come on

(happy)
Bring me down… can’t nothing…
Bring me down… my level’s too high…
Bring me down… can’t nothing…
Bring me down, I said (let me tell you now)

Amazing, right?  I could easily listen to this song for days and not get tired of it.  It gets my head bopping, my feet tapping, and I have a hard time sitting still.  I turn the radio up when it comes on just so I can try and drown out the artist and get every word right (which, of course, never happens, but I keep trying anyway).  It’s such an upbeat, fun song that I love it.

HappyPlate

There’s so much un-happiness in this world today that I just have to focus on the positive and do my best to be “happy”.  My husband lovingly calls me a “happy yellow lab”.  No, he’s not calling me a dog… he’s recognizing that my outlook focuses on the fun/happy/positive parts of life rather than sinking into the negative.  My college roommate once gave me a platter with the word “Happy” on it because she said that it just seemed like me.  I had to include a photo of it here: Isn’t it just something that would make you smile every time you used it?  I was really touched that she felt that way about me… and took it as pretty high praise.

Being a happy person doesn’t mean that you don’t have bad days or let things get you down… being happy just simply means, to me, that you make a very concerted effort not to “sweat the small stuff”.   Life can hand you lots of different challenges, but to focus on the happier side of life can sometimes make those challenges easier to face.  You don’t have to allow the negative side of life to take over… just do your best to look on the brighter side of things.   It may sound pithy, but try it sometime… you may just surprise yourself and have a better day than you expected!

 

Random Acts of Kindness – a Challenge for all February 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:53 am

beatitudesofmylife:

It’s Valentine’s Day…. Why not make an effort to spread some random kindness throughout your corner of the world… You might be surprised by the reactions you get. Happy Valentines Day to one and all…

Originally posted on Beatitudes of my life:

One of my favorite things in the world is seeing the look on someone’s face when something kind is done for them… with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s the way a harried mom looks when you return her grocery cart for her… it’s the smile that lights up someone’s eyes when you compliment them… it’s the happiness that registers, after the shock wears off, that someone has just done something purely for kindness’ sake.  It’s just so soul-uplifting.

I know there are many who actually make money suggesting ways for people to participate in Random Acts of Kindness.  There’s an official website (www.randomactsofkindness.org) and a group (ROAK.group) as well as countless links to help everyone be more kind to our fellow man.  I’d like to suggest a way for everyone to get in on the act this year.

It doesn’t take a lot of money… it doesn’t take…

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Answering Leadership Questions January 21, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Family,Life Balance,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:19 am
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I was recently approached by a grad student-friend who asked me some questions for her Women’s Studies Leadership class. I was flattered that she would consider me to be someone who might have something to contribute, but as I looked through her questions, I quickly realized that I would have to contemplate a bit before replying. This young woman was asking me, as I would have once asked another, and I couldn’t be glib or pithy… I needed to share the insights that I’d found through my life’s leadership journey. When reading my responses, I felt called to share this on my blog… and I hope you agree.

Here are the questions I was given:

Basics
1. Name:
2. Work Position Title(s):
3: Family Structure:

Leadership Journey
1. How did you get interested in your current position?
2. How has leadership played in your life?
3. What was you first experience as a leader?
4. What educational and professional experiences did you have that prepared you for work?
5. Has your journey as a leader ever changed directions?
6. Have you had any mentors? If so, what did you learn from them?
7. As a woman, what challenges have you faced?

Day to Day Life
1. What is a typical day/week like for you?
2. Do you mostly work alone and/or in groups?
3. What major roles and responsibilities do you have?
4. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
5. What is the most challenging part of your work?

Support/Personal
1. Where have you found support?
2. How do you find/make balance in your life?
3. How do you balance work, marriage and children?
4. How does your work fit with your identity, values, etc.?
5. How would you rate the stress level in your work?

Advice
1. What would you recommend for someone interested in becoming a leader?
2. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to be leaders?

Here are my responses…

Basics:
1. Alison Blair Althouse (nee: Drum)
2. Event Coordinator, James River Cellars Winery, Glen Allen VA
3. Married for 24+ years with 2 sons (ages 23 and 21)

Leadership Journey:
1. I love working at the winery and sharing our wines with the public. As I spent more and more time at the winery, I found that I had a flair for organizing events at our winery and had a desire to become more involved in the event side of our winery’s business.
2. Leadership is a deliberate decision for me. I have held many varied leadership positions throughout my life and I have learned to “pick my battles” and be very determined when and where I become involved.
3. My first experience as a leader came during my sophomore year of college when I took charge of our Freshman Bash. I volunteered for the position and found that I had an ability to find the “interesting” within the mundane and sometimes tedious sides of leadership.
4. I have held a myriad of volunteer positions that have challenged me to test the waters of leadership before eventually seeking and obtaining paid positions within various organizations.
5. My journey as a leader is constantly changing direction, depending on the needs of my life and my family. Early in my life, leadership seemed more about following what had been done before and guiding others to look toward the pre-determined goals of a specific organization. As I’ve gotten older, I’m less likely to be satisfied by static growth and historic plans. I do my best to try and challenge myself using current technologies and question the viability of protocols in place… are these working? If things aren’t working, how can we make things better?
6. I have had a great number of mentors throughout my life… and each one has shown up at just the “right” time and for the “needed” length of time. The women in my life have continued to provide me with strong female role models throughout my life, but I don’t have a problem seeking mentors (both older and younger than me) as I find a need.
7. I faced challenges when working as the Athletic Director for a boys’ lacrosse team – setting up and organizing their schedules in what had traditionally been a male-dominated world was fun as I exceeded expectations and succeeded where others had failed (or just not flourished). The idea of “catching more bees with honey than with vinegar” was especially helpful – people would much prefer to do something for you if they feel appreciated than if they feel they *have to* do it.

Day to day life:
1. A typical week for me will find me working at the winery 3-4 mornings each week (unless I’m actually included on the schedule), from 8:30AM until 1PM or so. I then go home and start planning/making dinner before Michael comes home from work. I like to make dinner as often as possible – even if the entire family isn’t able to sit down at the table together, I love being able to have food for them to eat at home – it’s part of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Spending time together is key, no matter where or how.
2. I work in a small office setting that can vary from 2-5 in number. If conditions warrant, I can do some of my work from home (via my iPad) or using the company laptop, although I much prefer to be around people if possible.
3. I am responsible for coordinating the events that are booked at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen, VA. I am also responsible for the Social Media for the winery (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, etc) and some of the documents created within the winery (wine club newsletter, chalkboards, ID cards, etc), depending on the needs of our manager. I also write and manage a wine blog where I post recipes and wine-related information. (www.fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com)
4. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people enjoy our wines – I love doing tastings and introducing people to the non-snobby side of wine.
5. The most challenging part of my job is sometimes figuring out the “how” of a project – learning the different idiosyncrasies and nuances of how my boss has done things in the past with my own abilities and availability.

Support/Personal:
1. My support comes from my relationship with my husband… he is my rock, my helper, my best confidante, and my favorite sounding board. He knows me well enough to help me keep a strong work/life balance and understands when I need to simply vent with no expectation of answers. He makes me want to be my best at all things and loves me unconditionally. Knowing his complete belief in me has enabled me to take risks I might not otherwise have taken… I am most richly blessed with his love.
2. Balance is hard… I like to go at things 150% but my MS (multiple sclerosis) requires that I rest and recharge more than most. My husband is wonderful at reminding me to take time for *me*…
3. As my kids were growing up, any outside work I did was third in line for my attention. My husband and my boys were the MOST important thing as they were growing up – including their HS and college years. They always know that they (hubby and boys) are my highest priority but I’m able to work my job around them and their needs. Family comes first… no questions asked. My boss is firm on this as well – I couldn’t work for a company that didn’t believe in the importance of family.
4. My sense of identity has been fairly fluid over the years. I have been M’s wife, D’s and E’s mom “forever”… and I will always be in those roles. I’m now learning that there’s no shame in being “the recipe lady” at the winery… and there’s something very satisfying about a job well-done, no matter what it may be. I strive to do the best I can in anything I do… no one can ask more of me.
5. My stress level at work is as high as I make it – if I’m getting too stressed out about something, then I’m not focusing on the joy of my job. I get to work with wine… I get to teach people about wine… if I can’t find the joy in that, then I’m in the wrong business. :)

Advice:
1. If someone is interested in becoming a leader, whether it be in their community, their church, or at work, my suggestion is to study the characteristics of those leaders you admire. Leaders, in my opinion, are people who are able to gather the strengths of many and raise up those who can contribute most in specific situations. When I was Senior Warden (President of church council) at our parish, we faced a financial difficulty – since my Junior Warden was a CPA and CFO of a local company, I relied on his ability to translate the financial issues to our parishioners, rather than attempt to convey the information myself. There are opportunities for leadership in all aspects of our lives – you simply need to recognize them as such and be confident in your abilities. Learn from the mistakes of others, and those done by yourself, so they aren’t repeated. Recognize when you need to step back to allow for growth. Sometimes the best leader is the one who can recognize when someone else needs to take the helm for awhile.
2. The advise I would pass along to women who want to be leaders would be to use your femininity as an asset and NOT as a crutch. If you’re working with an entire group of men, realize that many will underestimate you, so use that to your advantage. If you’re working with a group of women, you should recognize that there will be a few who will see you as “the competition”, no matter your role in the group. Be firm… be kind… and follow the golden rule…. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I hope this helps. There’s a terrific book called, “A Single Piece of Paper” that I have found to be an invaluable resource with regards to leadership and finding your leadership style. It was written by a friend/colleague of my husband (Mike Figliulo) and worth the read. I blogged about it on my other blog (beatitudesofmylife.wordpress.com) under the piece called “my maxims”. That might be helpful information to consider.

Wishing you all success as you travel this life’s journey, finding your own style of leadership and coming to grips with the type of leader you want to become.

 

Recipe: Chicken and Potatoes with BACON January 10, 2014

Filed under: Cooking — beatitudesofmylife @ 5:46 pm
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Since this recipe doesn’t qualify as one made with wine (which would place it on my other blog, www.fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com), I thought I’d share it here.  This was a simple, easy, and delicious dinner that we had last night.  Since bacon is the star ingredient, how much better could it be?

I started with the idea of making dinner using a package of chicken breasts (three total in the package), four potatoes, and a pound of bacon.  Slice each chicken breast in half, lengthwise, and roll each in a mixture of garlic salt, paprika, and brown sugar, before winding a slice of bacon around the breast and placing it on a greased baking sheet.  Repeat with all six chicken breast “sticks”.  While preparing the chicken, plan to bake the remaining strips of bacon on a rack (I baked everything at 375 degrees) until it’s done to your preferred degree of crispiness and crumble to add later to the roasted potatoes.

 

BaconDinner

To make roasted potatoes, diced the potatoes and then par-boil them for 10 minutes and drain.  Into the warm pan of cooked potato pieces, add a mixture of olive oil, garlic, herbs, and salt.  Allow these to sit for a bit before getting ready to roast the potato pieces along with the chicken wrapped in bacon.  

Forty-five minutes or so before you plan to have dinner,  pop the chicken in the oven and pour the potato mixture onto a prepared baking sheet and allow both to roast for about 30 minutes.  When things start to smell yummy, sprinkle the bacon pieces over the roasted potatoes and allow things to roast along for another 15 minutes or so.

As with all my recipes, I use The Force when I cook.  I may start out with something that has specific directions, but I can always be counted upon to deviate from the original – it just goes against my grain to follow something without adding my own little touch.  Feel free to do the same with this recipe if you decide to try it.  I have no idea how much of the garlic salt, paprika and brown sugar I used… I just poured a bunch of each into a single bowl and then tossed it together so everything would be meshed well together.  Same with the potatoes… I poured some olive oil into a small bowl and added garlic, herbs, and salt before adding that to the diced potatoes.  It’s a fun way to personalize your dinners.  Make things like this into a new family favorite… YOUR family favorite!

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 
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