Friday, May 12, 2017

Friday Night = Family Night

When I was in high school, a friend of mine was never allowed to go out on Friday nights without first having dinner with her family. They had a standing appointment. Pizza every Friday.

For my family, the more realistic goal was breakfast together every weekday. No matter what time our school day started (even when one of us didn't have to be at school until 9am) we all were at the breakfast table by 6:15am. I can't promise you we were all bright-eyed but we were there, starting every day together as a family.

That was 20+ years ago.  Now it's even more difficult to carve out time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try, right?

My boys and I love our family movie nights. We pull out a big blanket and all the pillows they need to be comfy. They get to eat their pizza on a sheet on the floor and I always make my "old family recipe" of stove-popped popcorn*.

They love it and so do I because at the end of a long week, I just want to chill at home. And as much as I love playing Ninja Turtles, sometimes this mom is just too tired to pretend to wield nun chucks. Cue the movie!

Picking the movie du jour is another story. I almost rented one last week, but wisely watched the trailer first. Yikes. Not appropriate for my kiddos. I feel like we have pretty much exhausted the list of safe movies out there.

Then I heard about Pure Flix. They are actually offering a free one-month trial of their family-friendly movies. There are Veggie Tales galore, other fun cartoons and good stuff for mom and dad too. Have you seen Woodlawn yet? It's a great football movie!

I think we underestimate the bonding potential of movie-watching. No, we might not be chatting for those two hours, but we are cuddling, focusing on the same thing and we get to chat about the movie afterwards, even days or weeks later. Even if you can't do the standing dinner or breakfast appointment, consider adding in the occasional family movie night. And let me know what you're watching!

*Recipe for the Easiest & Best Popcorn Ever:

  • Turn stove burner to high heat
  • Pour popcorn oil (find it in the aisle by the popcorn!) so it covers the bottom of pot. The pot can be any size. I usually use 2-qt. 
  • Pour in a single layer of kernels. 
  • Put lid on pot (this is an important step!) 
  • Give it a shimmy-shake every 30 seconds or so
  • Watch it pop! And remove from the heat once the popping slows down. 
  • I pour it into a big bowl and sprinkle with with iodized salt. I don't think it needs butter, but feel free to top it however you want. ENJOY!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday and the Importance of Good Friends

Palm or Passion Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays of the entire year. At the start of mass the palm procession around the church feels so ceremonial and regal. Then by the gospel reading, we are experiencing the passion of Jesus and all of the pain, guilt and suffering that comes with it.

I asked my friend Fr. Gary why we have to read the passion on Palm Sunday. We have all of Holy Week to journey to the cross and Good Friday to really dig deep into it. 

Why can't we just stay in the Hosanna for a little while? 

He explained the very logical reason - not everyone can make it to church on Good Friday and we can't go from the Hosanna to the Resurrection and skip over the cross. And then the other reason, that having both within the same one hour mass reminds us of our weakness. 

The same people who were welcoming Jesus into town, shouting, Hosanna in the highest! one day were shouting Crucify him! days later. Listening to Fr. Gary talk about the two sides of our humanity reminded me of how important my crowd is. 

I doubt everyone shouting Hosanna was fully in-the-know about Jesus. Maybe one guy just showed up because his buddy did or maybe another guy heard what was going on and jumped in. Then they got to catch a glimpse of the savior of the world passing by. 

Same deal with the crowd in front of Pontius Pilate. There were probably a few people who thought, Jesus is amazing. I've been around him and he doesn't deserve to die. But then, in the middle of the angry shouting, they gave in and added a voice. 

Your crowd is important. 

They can lead you to see Jesus or they can lead you to turn your back on Him. What a gift we have in this special day. What a great way to teach our children the importance of solid friendships with kids who will challenge them to grow closer to Christ. And it' a great reminder to us to really explore our church community, find a place where we can contribute, invest and receive the support we need to stay in the hosanna.

Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lazarus Was a Good Person

After many years of hearing Matthew Kelly say, "Our lives change when our habits change" I finally took one piece of his advice. I got a mass journal.

Copyright 2017 Dimitris Vetsikas via Pixabay
(Here is the gist of the mass journal.) I used my journal for the first time last Sunday. Over and over again I found myself saying, Alright, God! Lay it on me! I'm listening! only to get interrupted by a dropped crayon or a Momma can you read this to me? 

The first reading came and went. Gone went the Responsorial Psalm. Was there even a second reading? For the gospel I was being badgered by the little one to wear my bracelet. It was the story of Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead, so I'd read it before. No biggie. 

Then came the homily. I only caught a few words of the message, but what I got was important. It was important because the deacon talked about part of that Lazarus story that I had never noticed before (God is pretty amazing at constantly showing us something new, isn't He?). 

It started with this thought: Jesus could have come sooner but He didn't. He knew there was a greater glory to be revealed through Lazarus's resurrection from the dead. But here's where the Deacon took us next (and what I wrote about in my pristine mass journal). That verse about Jesus weeping for his dear friend... He loved Lazarus. It pained him to know that he suffered and died. It's not like all this happened to some stranger and Jesus showed up, brought him out of the tomb and introduced himself. Hey, I'm Jesus of Nazareth, happy to meet you. I'm guessing you're REALLY happy to meet me. 

No, Jesus and Laz (I bet he called him Laz) were friends. They knew each other. 

When you suffer do you ever ask God Why me? I am checking all the boxes. I know you. So why is this happening? It's the age old question, 

Why do bad things happen to good, faithful people? 

Lazarus was a good person. He knew Jesus well. They had a relationship. Jesus loved him. 

It's because there is greater glory in the resurrection than in the moment and that is true whether you just met Jesus yesterday or if you two have been intimately acquainted for what seems like a lifetime. No one is immune to suffering, but the closer you are to Christ, the more He can be glorified through the difficult times. So love Him like Lazarus did. He ALWAYS shows up!

Copyright 2017 Abby Brundage

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Who Do You Look Like?

Every night at dinner we pass at least one question around the table. "What was your favorite part of the day?" The first person answers and then asks another and so on. My older son even reminds the family to do it when we are out to dinner and if guests are with us, they gladly join in. It warms my heart that we actually have a special family tradition!

Sometimes when we are home we throw in a second question from a game called Table Topics (they actually were giving away travel editions in Chick-fil-A's kids meals for a while). It's just a cube filled with question cards, but it leads to some interesting conversations.

 Last night's question was, "What part of you resembles one of your family members?" I saw a look of confusion on my boys' faces so I explained, "Is there anything about the way you look  that looks like somebody else in our family?"

Both of my boys have my eyes, Liam looks like his daddy in every other way and the little one and my mom are basically twins.

But Liam spoke up as the first to answer and said, "My love looks like you."

Confession - I was tempted to correct him and say, "No - I mean physically what about you looks like me or dad," but thank goodness I had the peace of mind to just look back with an inquisitive head-tilt. He said, "When I love I look like you" and he even hugged himself as he said it.

What in the world did I do to deserve a kid like this and how, in all of my imperfection and mom-mess-ups, is this possible?

I am grateful that God has allowed me to experience love in such a deep and fulfilling way. The best part - I look most like my Heavenly Father when I love. I'll tell you what, that moment of shared love quickly became my favorite part of the day!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Celebrating Awesome Sisters this Women's History Month - And a giveaway!

When you hear, "Women's History Month" do you think about religious sisters? Honestly, I usually don't. Until now! Here's a guest post from Davis Studio Publishing to share a story and a giveaway!

March is Women’s History Month, and the perfect time to celebrate the contributions of women religious. Theirs is a poignant history of faith-guided compassion toward those suffering. This history needs to be woven into the fabric of women's history and into U.S. history as a whole.  Yes, it is time to examine history and its stories through the lens of kindness.

That would sum up our mission, to give kindness the fanfare and remembrance it deserves.   We call ourselves Davis Studio Publishing, but we are really just six women working diligently in the front room of a tiny...ahem...cozy... house. We've recognized that history's stories so often leave out the role kindness plays. Just think about this for a minute, how often did your history book consider the impact of kindness? 

Currently, we are working to tell the important stories of Catholic Sisters who served as nurses during the Civil War.  We are honored to share their stories of kindness, which have changed our lives. But wait!  We are telling these stories in quite a unique fashion.  At Davis Studio Publishing we are pioneers in storytelling using the digital format of an "app" or application. Imagine immersive books with photographs, movies, music, voice-overs and more, all contained in a very meaningful story.

Our first app story is called Civil War Truce — Remarkable Story of Sister Lucy, SCN. Sister Lucy was a young Sister of Charity of Nazareth, and a musical prodigy. As a Novice, she was somewhat isolated in rural Kentucky, and the possibility of civil war in the United States would have seemed very remote. Nevertheless, when war erupted, it would be Sister Lucy's voice, a songstress voice, which would cut through the carnage and disease of war, leaving an indelible mark. She was so beloved by her soldier patients — well — the rest of the story can take your breath away.

Just released, Willing Hearts is the second app in our series, and was built with the help of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Their Sister-nurses’ service is a remarkable story of faith, kindness and finding joy amidst an angry, divisive time in our country. Yes, within days of volunteering to serve as nurses, Sisters of the Holy Cross found themselves in the middle of civil war, with little or no supplies and in challenging times nearly impossible to envision. It is impressive how the Sisters faced these difficulties head on, and by doing so saved countless lives. 

Before the war, most Catholic Sisters were young women of prayer, with little direct nursing experience. Yet when called they kindly volunteered their service, and their faith carried them through very trying times. Courageously, the Sisters never hesitated to go onto battlefields to succor the wounded and dying.  Additionally, they were not afraid to nurse patients suffering from a multitude of contagious diseases in the “pest-houses.”
                                                                                                                                                              Sister M. Paula (Casey), CSC, wrote about her arrival, “Of course we never knew what war was until that 7 [sic] day of Dec 1861.  Then we tasted it to the fullest extent.” 

In the mid 1800s “nursing” was only beginning to become a recognized profession. The Sister-nurses helped establish protocols and procedures that became the roots of the modern nursing profession.  Those that served on the naval hospital ships became the Foremothers of the Naval Nursing Service.

“There was no distinction of North and South in the wards of the soldiers, and the closeness of death taught the lessons of love.” — Original diary in St. Mary’s Archives

At Davis Studio Publishing, we are grateful that both apps won gold medals from the Illumination Book Awards — Shining a Light on Exemplary Christian Books, awarded by the prestigious Jenkins Group.  Civil War Truce and Willing Hearts apps can be found on Amazon for Android mobile devices and on iTunes for iPad and iPhones. So, take a moment and look through the lens of kindness and give these apps a try. For the first five who request it, we are happily giving away five free copies of our newest app, Willing Hearts. To receive your copy, please email your request to and put FREE APP in the subject line. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and to the Sisters of the Holy Cross ministries.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

I Win Second Place!

My kids run.


I tell the little one to go get socks. He runs. We decide to go down the block to see my parents. He runs. My older one runs to me to tell me he has to go potty. I tell him to stop reporting to me and go! He runs to the bathroom.

It was no surprise to me last week when, upon agreeing they wanted to play trains, my 5-year-old said, "Let's race!" The play room is about 8 feet away from where the plan originated, so the little one was at a serious disadvantage and had zero time to catch up. Still, he was all in! So the two-second race ended as quickly as it began with one yelling out, "I win first place!"

For some reason whenever the two of them compete, I expect there to be tears from the loser, but there rarely are. What I heard on this occasion brought me joy and a challenge.

"I win second place!"

My three-year-old didn't complain that his big brother won the impromptu race or that he got off to a late start. He just celebrated his grand second place finish.

There's the sad saying, "Second place is the first loser." I wonder how many people don't even try something at which they might not succeed because they are afraid of being the "first loser."

Meanwhile, my little guy, in his wisdom, saw that he was a winner, not because he was the first to get to the finish line, but simply because he ran. How is he so wise? Must be all the calories he burns from running. Everywhere.

Friday, December 2, 2016

My Social Spa - A Triple Threat Giveaway!

Three things I love: A trip to the spa, my friends and a glass of wine. Combine those three and you have something special. And this something special has a name! My Social Spa!

My Social Spa allows you to enjoy a night out with the girls and come home with spa products you've made yourself, with your preferences. YOU actually make the spa products, like a scrub, a soak or a bath bomb, so you know all the ingredients and all the materials are provided. You add the scents and the colors you like the most!

I've been to two My Social Spa events so far, and I say "so far" because I know I'll be back! Just last month my sister and I treated my mom as a birthday present (See - we all wore stripes! We're totally related!). All three of us loved it. We had a glass of wine, some appetizers, great conversation and we came home with two bath bombs and almond scrub - plus some priceless memories. You don't have to have any experience except knowing how to have fun - actually, you can probably learn that too!

Have I piqued your interest? Want to try out My Social Spa? There are two events coming up that are going to be AWESOME. One in Valrico on December 8th and one in Tampa on December 13th, (plus some special Mom & Me events too if you want to take your daughter)! It's a Holiday Girls Night where you can show off your DIY talents as you get into the holiday spirit making Candy Cane Sugar Scrubs and more with a glass of champagne and friends. Imagine the excitement of gifting Hand Crafted Bath Bombs and Bath Soaks! Each Guest will leave with 6 Hand Crafted Gifts. 

If you want to win a pair of tickets to one of the Holiday Girls Nights, comment below with your name and which night (Valrico or Tampa). I'll pick a winner for both! In the mean time, check out My Social Spa, it's a triple threat of the best possible kind!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Quitter's Perspective

Copyright 2013 Abby Brundage.
All rights reserved.
Have you ever started a journal and quit? I can hardly write that sentence with a straight face. Every time I get motivated to journal I think, THIS. This is the time I'm going to stick with it. But what's going to be different this time? Hmm... This time I'll get a more expensive journal. This time I'll get a cheaper, no frills journal. It will show why I'm really in it. This time I'll follow an on-line program. This time I'll just write. This time I'll color around the margins! Seriously - all of those are actual thoughts and journals I've bought, started and quit. Quickly.

I have a journal sitting next to me now. And it keeps opening to the same page. Must be a rip in the binding. I bought this journal as a sign-in book for my 10-year high school reunion. So the first two pages are old classmates' names and email addresses. But since then, 2008, I've gone back to this soft maroon (GO BHS!) book when I just felt the need to talk to God. This one journal has entries from 2010, 2012, 2014 a 2013 letter to my husband that I wrote and never delivered and even that dated tracing of Liam's and my hands.

One of the best reasons to journal, in my experience and opinion is that it give us perspective. We can look back and see what we were thankful for, what we were worried about, what God was showing us & what we were pleading with God to do. The 2014 entries in this mishmashed journal are all the same format. Two lists.

List 1: Ten Things That Went Well Today.

List 2: Ten Truths for Tomorrow.

As I look back over these words, I am taken back to pain, comfort, exhaustion, determination, uncertainty and peace. How all that can exist in one person on one day is remarkable. It's a testament to what God can create in someone who is searching for His presence. Here's a glimpse.

Ten Things That Went Well Today
1. I made the boys a healthy dinner.
2. I got a nap!
3. I didn't miss him that much.
4. The weather was beautiful.
5. My dad and I hung out and drank a beer.
6. I went to my divorce group and talked.
7. I said out loud that I was unhappy.
8. I killed the spider!
9. I heard the boys laughing hysterically.
10. I was reminded that Jesus wants me now.

Ten Truths for Tomorrow
1. I will love again.
2. My boys and I will have a safe home.
3. My boys will know Jesus.
4. I will be joyful.
5. I will find peace.
6. I will use my voice to glorify God.
7. I will be grateful.
8. I will be healthy.
9. I will place God first.
10. God will provide all of my needs.

That was almost two years ago. Sometimes I find myself missing the days when my divorce was fresh. It's crazy because it hurt. Badly. But it was so beautiful and grace-filled at the same time.

We are so afraid to suffer. We don't want to feel pain, physically or emotionally. Even after my experience I still cower away from the idea of suffering, but I have to look back on occasion and remember that in the midst of suffering God is revealed to us in deep, profound and life-changing ways.

So I encourage you - write it down. Write it as often as you can even if it's only twice a month. Then believe that whatever you write will be something you can look back on and recall God's presence, grace and mercy.