The Blue Whale Challenge

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I first heard about the Blue Whale Challenge a few months back after binge watching the infamous Netflix series, 13 Reasons. If you have not heard about 13 Reasons, it is a Netflix series where a girl commits suicide and leaves thirteen tapes with specific instructions on who should listen to the tapes as well as who to pass them off to next. There has been a lot of debate as to the age of viewers as well as effects of the kids who are watching it, particularly unsupervised or without any dialogue from anyone other than their friends. Blue Whale like 13 Reasons does result in suicide however, it is in a league of its own…

What is it?

Blue Whale is a dangerous personal obstacle suicide game where game players find a curator online who over 50 days assigns the player numerous self-harm challenges. The challenges begin with simple things such as watching a scary movie. The curator will then increase the challenges and have the player begin cutting, sitting on the edge of buildings and on the 50th day, commit suicide, all which is often played out on social media.

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Blue Whale has been known to target preteens as well as teenagers according to the website heavy.com. It has been linked to at least 130 teen deaths across Russia with at least two teens in the United States who were believed to have committed suicide after completing the Blue Whale Challenge. Teenagers are naturally emotional and dealing with an influx of feelings and emotions but when should you take what they are saying seriously? What are the signs to look for? What can you do if you suspect your child is involved in the Blue Whale Challenge?

Signs to Look For…

  • Anger
  • Sleep Issues
  • Increased, secretive interest in the internet
  • Drawing pictures of whales

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What Can You Do?

If you have children that are in late elementary school, middle school or highschool, it is important to listen to your child even when they are not talking. Be aware of what is consuming their time.  Middle school aged children can be hard to understand because they are in a transition phase where they are fighting for their independence as well as trying to handle their thriving social life with their peers so their behavior is all over the place as they are searching to “find themselves.” They are dealing with a range of hormones and most times do not have the mental capacity to deal with the sudden changes appropriately. They are searching to be a part of something and in today’s society, the “thing” that gets the most attention is what is appealing to them. If you suspect your child is involved with the challenge, it is important to consult with your pediatrician to ensure they get the help they need. The pediatrician will know the appropriate questions to ask your child as well as if they need a referral for counseling or a full psychological evaluation.

Below are a few websites that provide great information for parents and caregivers of teens and adolescents…

The Blue Whale Challenge

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/17/health/blue-whale-suicide-game/index.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/blue-whale-challenge-urges-young-people-to-end-their-lives/

Teen and Adolescent Mental Health Awareness

https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers

http://teenshealth.org/en/parents/emotions/

http://www.adolescenthealth.org/About-SAHM/Healthy-Student-App-Info.aspx

To Be Vegan or Not To Be Vegan, That Is The Question…

My body failed me… That is all I could think of this past Sunday afternoon as I laid across the couch in pain. A few weeks ago after watching the documentary “What the Health,” my husband and I decided we were going to go vegan. Just like that… The astonishing statistics that were spouted off by the filmmaker Kip Anderson along with the graphic pictures of pigs being poked and puss oozing out had us scared to eat anything that came from animals.chickencowpig

Effective immediately, we were “vegans.” I meal planned for the week and grocery shopped making sure to have plenty of healthy choices around the house.

I even went so far as to pack Brooklyn’s lunch for daycare and told her daycare about the change we were making so they could enforce it as well. We were doing great. No meat, no dairy, no eggs until we craved fish. Fish wasn’t bad right? They did not mention much about fish in the documentary so surely we could add fish back into the diet. So we did just that. Rather than being vegan, we became “pescatarians.” As I am writing this, I am laughing to myself. The labels is what makes me laugh because it really doesn’t matter does it?

Everything was going well until it the third week. I met with a fellow blogger at a local coffee shop and was starving. For the past three weeks, I had been prepared making sure to eat balanced meals and snacks and if I was going out, I would look at the restaurant’s menu to ensure there was something that was accommodating to my new dietary changes. My mistake this particular day was I did not plan. When I got to the coffee shop, there was not much for me to choose from. If it did not have dairy, it had large amounts of sugar and that was something else I was trying to avoid. I decided to go with a vegetarian quiche. If you did not know, there is a HUGE difference between vegetarians and vegans, Vegetarians and vegans do not eat animal flesh however, vegetarians eat dairy and other animal by products while vegans do not. With that being said, my quiche contained both milk and cheese which was something I had taken completely out of my diet. I figured it would be ok for once but boy was I wrong. By the time I made it home, my stomach was cramping and it felt as though I was going to be sick. The following day (Sunday) was much worse. I had chills and body aches as though I had the flu and could not do much more than lay across the couch for over half of the day. Mario seemed to think my problems were stemming from not eating meat and felt I needed to eat meat immediately in order to gain my strength back. I denied it until around two he asked what I wanted to eat and I begged for chicken. I know what you are thinking, she has no self-control. Well, you’re right! LOL. Totally joking. I do have self-control I  just decided to listen to my husband’s advice 😉

So to rewind to the beginning of our vegan journey, we did not think about it, we just threw ourselves into it and there really is not a right or wrong way to do it. Everyone’s journey is different. Anytime you begin working out or decide to make a big change in your eating habits, it is wise to consult your physician to ensure you are making the correct decision that is suitable for you as well as create a plan that you will get the best benefits. I did not do that and many people do not.

When we made the switch, on a typical day, I would start with a serving of fruit accompanied by oatmeal for breakfast. For lunch, I had a salad or avocado toast and for dinner, I would have rice and a veggie or two with two healthy snacks in between.

Looking back, I realized I was not getting enough fiber or protein and that contributed to the weakness I was feeling. One important fact is, I have been off and on iron deficient which started when I got pregnant with my second. This means I need to take supplements or tremendously increase my intake of iron rich food. I do not like taking medicine so that option does not work great and apparently I am not able to get enough in my diet. This only escalated with my attempt at veganism.

As of Sunday, July 23rd, we are back to eating meat, at least once a day until further notice…

If you have switched your eating lifestyle to vegan or vegetarian, please comment below and share your thoughts on what worked for you. I am interested to see how others made the change. Until next time…

 

July Ft. Lauderdale Bloggers Meetup

 

chima drinkI am always on the hunt for cute places in the area to enjoy a romantic evening with my husband or a fun night out with my girls. On Saturday while at the July Ft. Lauderdale Bloggers Meetup, I found just the place. Chima Brazilian Steakhouse is located at 2400 E. Las Olas Blvd tucked behind large exotic trees that incase a stunning courtyard entrance. Just blocks from Ft Lauderdale beach, the restaurant makes a great backdrop for group shots as well as a nice romantic picture with your significant other.

Our meetup was held in the restaurant’s bar/lounge and Chima’s Brand Ambassador Anne Dantas greeted myself as well as the other bloggers and she was the sweetest. She gave us background information about Chima and informed us of some of the popular dishes. I told Anne that Chima had an ambiance like nothing I had experienced. She smiled and said she was glad I felt that way because the restaurant’s core purpose was to “deliver a one of a kind experience.” Before we parted ways, she recommended a Brazilian cocktail named Caipirinha (pronounced ki-pee-rinya) which is infused with lime and pure sugar cane. It was absolutely amazing!

Chima has one of the best happy hours in Ft Lauderdale. You can pop in Monday-Friday from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm. The happy hour offers great specials including many half priced drinks and $5 bar minis which are smaller portioned items of some of the full menu foods. One of the featured items is the “Bite Sized Appetizer Special.” The special includes any three bite sized app for $12.95.

Chima gets its name from a Brazilian drink the chimarrao which symbolizes hospitality and friendship. At Chima, the waiters who are referred to as gauchos can be found walking throughout the dining room offering various meats such as beef, fish, top sirloin, filet, sausage, chicken, pork, ribs and lamb. They offer a delicious salad bar that features one of my newfound favorites, the seafood salad which reminds me of ceviche.  As if the great atmosphere and delicious food weren’t enough, Chima also has live music. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to hear them playing because I was leaving as they were setting up.

Our July Meetup could not have been at a better location. The vibe was very laid back and we were able to mix and mingle which gave me the opportunity to socialize and network with so many new people. Barbara Chaney, our new Chapter Officer did a phenomenal job with her first “official” meetup. I am looking forward to the next one scheduled for August 5th. Until next time!

ft lauderdale boomerang

(Picture Courtesy of Evan Snow of Choose954 and ArtFTL)

july meetup invite

How to Successfully Blend Families

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This is not a traditional post because I have decided to pull my husband into the blog.  We interviewed each other on the topic of blended families and we both offer our “words of wisdom” and hope it will be beneficial to you or someone you may know.

I want to just throw the disclaimer out that I am not a professional therapist, pastor or any other person you may seek advice from when you are in need. Through experience, I can share with you some of the pitfalls my husband Mario and I went through along our journey and give you some insightful information we think is imperative for blended families in today’s society. Happy reading!

During the beginning stages of a relationship, things are amazing. You have this new person you want to spend every waking moment with, your heart skips a beat when they are around and life seems to be the best it has ever been. But what happens when you aren’t able to spend a lot of time together due to your responsibilities as a single mother or father? When everything may not be so picture perfect due to changes in visitation schedules or some unforeseen emergency with the kids. All relationships have ups and downs but when you add children to the mix, it can significantly alter the hopes and dreams you have for a “perfect” relationship. But what exactly is a perfect relationship today anyway?

me and mario

My husband Mario and I have been together for eight years, married for five on June 20th. We share five children, a 16 year old son and 14 year old daughter from his previous marriage, I have a 12 year old son from a previous relationship and we have two daughters together, 6 and 3 years old. When we first started dating, our kids were 8, 6 and 4 and for those of you who don’t know our dating story, I was his children’s first grade and kindergarten teacher but we did not begin dating until the summer after his daughter graduated kindergarten.

kids in 2010

I am not going to get into the background story at this time because that is not the topic of discussion but I figured I would share that tidbit of information to give you an idea of the fuel we threw on the fire of dating with children.

Questions asked by Andrea…

What are the biggest struggles in your opinion we experienced in the beginning stages of our journey?

In the beginning, giving equal love to all the children and balancing my love to let you know I did not love one set of children more than the other set is something I struggled with. Learning how to co-parent and father my stepson as well as parenting two kids who were many miles away who I felt were being neglected because my stepson was getting more time was the hardest part for me.

What has changed?

Over time, I learned how to adjust. I have learned what my stepson likes as well as what his personality is so that has helped us to develop a relationship. I also try to get all of the kids together as much as possible during school breaks so everyone feels they are loved and we are all a family.

What do you do to keep your relationship in good standing with your kids in spite of the distance between you all?

I communicate often through text messages and phone calls just like you and I did when we were separated before I moved back to South Florida. We also facetime and I ask them about their day and anything new that is going on in their lives so I can keep up with their lives. It could be compared to a soldier that is deployed in another country away from family. He and his wife will try their best to keep him active and up to date with the daily structure of the family’s day so he feels like he is there even though he is not physically there. Although I’m not there physically, I actively stay involved and try to reassure them and let them know they are loved, that they are being thought of and let them know they are missed. I also allow them to communicate with their sisters and stepbrother so they can continue to maintain that bond.

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What do you wish you would have known prior to blending our family?

I wish I would have been better prepared with some type of coaching, counseling sessions or mentoring by someone who was currently in a blended family.

What kind of advice could you offer newly blended families?

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Seek good spiritual advice
  • Be open minded
  • Take advantage of family time to unite the family with things such as family movie night, game night or visits to the park.

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Questions asked by Mario…

What is your definition of a blended family?

A blended family is a family unit that involves an adult with one or more children that marries someone with or without a child.

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How has it been since blending the family?

Since blending our families, there have been ups and there have been downs as I suspect any relationship has. What has made it harder is having people outside of us that had to be considered before we could make decisions. When we were dating, our children came first but after being married, the children were put after the husband and the wife and that was very hard for me to adjust to because for so long, it was just Jordan and myself. I did not have to consider anyone else; I did what was best for us. When we blended families that all changed and for many years, it was a back and forth battle for who was the head of the household which was apparent in how bumpy things were. Not until recently, I would say within the last year have I began to allow that control to be within your hands as my husband knowing that you have our best interest at heart.

What is the hardest part about being in a blended family?

In the beginning, the hardest part about being in a blended family was the children being raised in different households which meant different parenting styles and different rules. In the beginning, when we were establishing boundaries, I didn’t want to step on any toes and instead of staying true to what I was comfortable with, I allowed things to slide that I normally wouldn’t which caused frustration for me. Currently, the hardest thing is having our children living in different homes. In a perfect world, I would have them all in our house.

Blended families can be healthy if…

  • They communicate with one another openly knowing that regardless of what they say, they will not be judged.
  • They have fun with each other as a family as well as one on one with the parents so they still feel they are important to their parents. The children should spend time with their parent as well as the step/bonus parent to help build and maintain a strong bond.

What are some things you can tell other couples looking to blend families?

  • In any marriage, putting God first will help all other things fall into their designated position.
  • It is important to work on building a friendship first with your significant other to build a united front so no one (including your kids) will be able to manipulate either one of you.
  • You are not alone. As you said, a mentor couple would be beneficial to have around to bounce questions and scenarios off of. Situations blended families deal with are different from traditional family structures. Newly blended families should also look for healthy couples to surround themselves with and be careful who they allow in their ear because not everyone has their best interest at heart. When blending a family, it’s good to have positive people who speak life into your marriage and who understand not everything will be a bed of roses without stepping on some thorns. Just because things may not be picture perfect at all times (which is normal), it is ok. That does not mean you need to tag team and bash your marriage or family. Side note- Anyone who doesn’t respect and understand that may have to be released from your circle of friends if you plan on remaining married.
  • If you begin to have trouble within your blended family, it is ok to ask for help whether from a friend, family member, pastor or a therapist.

If you grew up in a blended family, what is something that worked well within your household? What is something you wish could have been different? If you currently are a bonus parent, what are ways that you cope with blending your family? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.

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Ways to Instantly Boost Your Mood

good vibes onlyIt is awesome to be upbeat, happy go lucky and full of life. Life however, sometimes has a way of knocking us off our feet and for whatever reason, our mood can quickly change. Did you know that YOU have the power to change that mood? I have found that the following four things have helped me to come out of a slump at some time or another along my life journey. I hope these quick and easy tips can help you as well.

Clean up and organize

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It’s interesting, when I feel like things are spinning out of control, I have found that cleaning can be quite therapeutic. Having my space neat and put together helps me clear my mind and organize my thoughts. According to an article from Shape Magazine titled “How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health,” women who described their home as cluttered or full of projects that were unfinished were more depressed, fatigued and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol (29, January 2015). When I am organizing, in my closet for instance, I like to go through and group my clothes in sections such as skirts, dresses, pants, sleeveless shirts, etc. but you can group yours in the way that is most effective for you however. Once you have gone through and categorized your clothes, all the clothes that have not been worn in a while should be donated to the Goodwill or even a women’s shelter.

Acts of Kindness

Acts of kindness are random non consistent ways to show kindness to others. A few months back, the pastor at my church challenged us to go out and show our love to others by doing a random act of kindness. He gave examples such as purchasing someone’s gas, buying someone a coffee or even purchasing an individual’s groceries. These were all great ideas but I wanted to do an act of kindness where my kids could be involved as well. We live in a fairly big city and in big cities, there are usually large homeless populations. At stoplights you are able to see them with a sign asking for money. Rather than giving money to one homeless person, I decided we would feed the homeless. On a Saturday morning, we packed lunches for some of the homeless in our community and drove around looking for people to feed.

feeding homeless

Within two hours, we had fed 9 different homeless people and my two older children both commented on how good it felt to make someone else smile. That is what it is all about. When you are not feeling good, try doing something for someone else. There are always people that can use a little help. Whether it is your aging parents, a neighbor or volunteering at a local food bank. If you are a bit of an introvert, things such as these listed may feel a bit overwhelming. You can do a random act of kindness such as sending cards to sick children in the hospitals, collect soda tabs to donate to the Ronald McDonald house for sick children and their families, or write letters of encouragement to individuals who need them from the website www.moreloveletters.com.

Workout

working out

Working out is something that not only is good for your outer appearance, it is equally as good for your body internally. When people work out, they feel a sense of well-being due to the release of endorphins. According to the American Psychology Association, there are many benefits to having a regular exercise routine. When people work out, they feel more energetic throughout the day and are able to sleep better at night. Exercising also allows people to feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. Having a regular workout routine has been known to help reduce negative moods, reduce tension and anxiety, improve memory as well as helping individuals think more clearly to make better decisions (http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/mind-body/stress/exercise-improves-your-mood/).

Pray/Mediate

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Faith and spirituality gives a sense of purpose and helps people to connect to something greater than themselves. A prayer during times of stress relieves the feeling of being alone. When individuals feel God is listening to their prayers and will help them, it gives them a sense of hope. With hope, individuals have the strength to move forward in life.

https://adrenalfatiguesolution.com/faith-and-stress/.

Prayer and meditation is one of the best ways to quickly boost a negative mood. I actually try to incorporate it into my everyday life to help keep me in check and avoid feeling down altogether. When I first wake up, I read from one of my devotionals to help me set the tone for the day. I’m currently reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and I also have the Joyce Meyer app on my phone which is amazing for her daily devotionals as well as replays of her daily broadcasts.

If you are not a spiritual or religious person, mediating works great as well. Yoga is a great way I have used meditation. A few years ago, I attended my first hot yoga class with a co-worker of mine and it was life changing. I can honestly say, this was one of the only places I was able to let go of all of my worries. Between sweating like a pig and trying to maintain the poses without looking out of place, I had no choice but to concentrate and focus on the present moment. LOL. If you have ever attended hot yoga, you know exactly what I mean. The temperature can easily get to over 100 degrees with no fans in sight, it feels a little like death warmed over. After an hour and a half session, I felt completely exhausted yet amazing at the same time so it was a no brainer to attend again. When I attended the following times, I was able to fully relax and again feel present and in the moment. Meditation can also be done alone, without yoga or a workout routine. There are many meditation videos on Youtube you can use or you can always Google meditation videos and choose the best one for you.

Remember, YOU have the power to change your mood, so choose wisely.

What are some of the ways you use to boost your mood? Comment below,  I would love to hear from you!

Anxiety… now what?

 

118HIt was 3:20 am on a Saturday morning and I woke up gasping for air with an extreme amount of pain and pressure in my chest. I gasped trying to catch my breath and I could not seem to breathe comfortably. It was as though someone was sitting on my chest smothering me. I had sharp pains that radiated around to my back which caused me to fall out of the bed in a panic. I began to think “was my time up?” “Could this be the end?” I was praying… breathing… praying… breathing. I sure thought it was the end. I called my husband telling him something was wrong and I may need him to come home from work. “Would I seriously die here?” I called my dad and he took me to the local emergency room where many tests were ran from blood work, a gall bladder ultrasound, an EKG then a chest x-ray. All tests came back normal. What could it have been that was causing so much pain?

After about two hours of being poked and prodded in the ER, I was told I had chest wall pain which most likely came from stress. WHAT?! They explained with extreme amounts of stress, the body’s reaction is to tighten the muscles in the chest as well as around the rib cage. Surely this could not have been a result from stress could it? The short answer… YES. But it actually was a little more complicated than that.

You see, in 2015, we endured a house fire and I lost everything material and was left with nothing but the clothes on my back. This was a very traumatic event that you will have to be filled in at a later date. As a result, I began seeing a therapist I was referred to from an amazing friend. She has helped me work through several situations that have been quite beneficial and working through the fire was definitely one of them. With that being said, fast forward two years later and I am still seeing her to help me manage life in every aspect. After my ER visit, I had an appointment. We began as we normally did, she asked what was new and how things were going and I casually mentioned my trip to the ER thinking we would brush past it. To my surprise, my entire appointment was centered around my ER visit. “How did I feel?” “What led up to it?” During my session, she helped me realize what I had experienced was an anxiety attack.

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What is anxiety?

Anxiety is not a condition in its own entity, it is an umbrella term under which many anxiety disorders are placed in. Anxiety, according to the Cambridge Dictionary is an “uncomfortable feeling of worry about something that is happening or might happen” (2016). It develops from a complex set of risk factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States affecting 40 million adults based on information from Anxiety and Depression Association of America (www.adaa.org).

Women are more likely to be affected than men. Anxiety typically begins in childhood and the median age of onset is 7 years old. With so many individuals affected by anxiety, you either know someone who has anxiety or you may be affected by anxiety. Growing up, I never felt or knew what it felt like to be anxious, at least I did not think I did. Because anxiety can be revealed after life events, my anxiety became apparent to me shortly after our house fire and after speaking with a counselor about it, I came to realize, anxiety is something I have dealt with my entire life. If I had known this early on, I could have done something different to work through numerous situations along the way.

Signs of Anxiety

Natural anxiety is often present after a stressful situation or event that does not last long. The type of anxiety individuals who suffer from anxiety conditions experience is a little different. The episodes are more frequent and are not necessarily tied to a certain event or problem. Although each type of anxiety condition carries its own set of characteristics, most have the following signs in common…

  • Excessive worry about all things no matter how big or small
  • Restlessness or feeling on the edge
  • Irritability
  • Feeling extremely tired/fatigue
  • Muscle tension

Treating Anxiety

If you have ever had any of the above signs, it is good to know that you are not alone. With the way our world operates today placing such high demands to be without flaw, more and more people are experiencing anxiety but often are suffering alone. When you begin to open up and share your experience with others, you will see that it is more common than you know. Anxiety is easy to treat and it is ok to ask for help. You can find help through therapy with a therapist or counselor and medication. To find what works best for you, it is important to research your options. There are great websites online such as www.postivelypositive.com, www.anxietyslayer.com, www.anxietycentre.com, as well as Youtube. You will be surprised about how many people there are who talk about their struggles and ways they deal with anxiety that can really be helpful. For me, I have a strong sense of faith and I pray and surround myself with like-minded individuals. I chose to work with a therapist while I implemented a workout regimen that not only helps me relieve stress, it also helps me get my body together J I also have a great group of friends and family who are very supportive and they love me for me.

Something New…

something new wisdom from women of the bibleAfter searching for weeks for a VBS (vacation bible study) for the kids, I stumbled upon a Women’s Bible Study at a local church here in town. I was excited to see that because I am always up to meet new people who have children around the same age and who also share some of the same beliefs I have. Even though I was excited to meet new people,  I must admit, I was a little nervous going into a new church environment. Let’s admit, people can be extremely judgemental of new people, and this church is not my home church.You may ask, if it is not your home church, why would you attend an event, more less a bible study? Well for me, I am all about feeding my soul, whether it is at my home church on a Sunday morning; at home listening to Joyce Meyer or through a local bible study that feeds into what I need during that season in my life. The bible study will only run for three weeks for the summer because this is the time most people are traveling and catching up on life with their families. The book we are studying is John C. Maxwell’s “Wisdom From Women In The Bible.”

On the first day we met, I was greeted at the front door and directed to the nursery area because I had my youngest along with me. I quickly got the girls signed in to an inviting classroom with tables, plenty of toys and young volunteers who looked like they were ready to help. Once the girls were settled, I found my way into the main sanctuary where I signed in and grabbed a nametag. I moved quickly to the front as I like to be close so I can see and hear everything that is going on. The church’s Connections Director came to the front of the church and greeted everyone. Her demeanor was so calm and pleasant and she recognized there were new faces in attendance. Once she finished, she moved to a prayer praying that everyone who came would not leave the same and I was in agreement with that prayer. After the prayer, she jumped right in letting us know that we would be focusing on the first three chapters, Ruth, Sarah and Rahab. She gave a brief overview of the chapters and informed us we would be breaking into 3 small groups to focus more on the chapters and discuss some of the questions at the end of the chapters. I looked forward to this because that meant that I would be able to meet some of the many ladies who were a part of this very large group.

While walking to my designated place, I grabbed a cup of coffee and settled into my seat. My group had 7 other ladies and I happened to be the youngest in the group which was a little disappointing because as I said before, I looked forward to meeting other ladies who had children close in age and the ladies in my group had children that were close to my age. Even though I was a little disappointed, I looked at it from a positive aspect and figured, I could use these ladies to learn something from and remained excited anyway. We only had time to do the standard introduction and time had ticked away. We joined together with the other groups for a final prayer and were dismissed for the week. I am looking forward to telling you more about my readings each week. I did not purchase the book prior to the first session so I have some catching up to do. I hope you all enjoy your week!