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Christmas Traditions

2 Simple Christmas Traditions that you have time to start!

2 Simple Christmas Traditions that you have time to start!

Years ago, my mom shared a few brilliant Christmas traditions with me.

Every year, when I pack up my Christmas decorations after the season is over, I do two things.

The first is I write a letter,  It is a mixture of memories prayers, and dreams.

I started this when Drew was born. In 1999.  It’s incredible- the funny things that we did, the thoughts we had, and the concerns!  For example, that first year, I was begging for this baby to sleep through the entire night.   “Will we ever feel normal again?  Will I ever sleep 8 hours again?”

Bless my sweet new mother’s heart, little did I know.  I would sleep again and not only that, I would do anything to rewind the clock and go back to his infancy days for a beat.

I would write about all the major things that happened the year before and all the things that we hoped would happen in the following year.    Each year, when we get the ornaments and decorations out, I sit down to see how far we have come.

It’s always fun to read your thoughts from a year ago~ thoughts you may not even remember having until you are reading the words on the page.

Not many people are great at journaling (I’m not!  I try to be, but not really)  but everyone can sit down for 5 minutes to write a letter once a year.  Here’s the best part.  When you go back and read them, in your own voice and handwriting, it gives you a bigger perspective and more appreciation for what has happened in your life.

These letters tell the story of how far you have come, and the prayers that have been answered.  You can see where you were protected, where what you wanted so badly…only to realize the blessing that it didn’t happen.

They are good for a laugh. There will be some things you just know were going to happen in a certain way that definitely did not happen.  Usually, you think, thank God they didn’t.

There will be other thanks that you hoped and prayed for, and you realize just how small those dreams actually were.

Here are a few of my stand out letters:

2000 My letters were about sweet baby Drew and when would we have another baby.  (HINT: Annie arrived 11/2001)

2006 My letter was gratitude for Drew and Annie and our final Christmas together.  I was 37 weeks pregnant and wanting the twins on the outside.  I was so uncomfortable with them inside, but so aware that our life was about to become complicated.

2008 My Christmas letter was gratitude about our growing family and how I was hoping and planning that 2009 would be a quiet year where we settled into a family lifestyle. Little did I know that a few days after this letter was written and tucked away I would end up in the hospital and Dave’s career would transplant us from Michigan to Mississippi.

2017 Was a year that I published my letter that created CarpetnerOne80.  This shifting of our life is when the dream moved into a plan to launch a business.

Here it is…”I love my morning view.  Right now it is still and simple.  I’m not ready to turn the life page and take this tree down because when I do, life gets real.  I am aware that the next time I see this tree we will no longer have elementary school-aged children.  My twins are now 11.  My Annie will be driving, I wish it was still her battery-powered pink Barbie Jeep.  My Drew will have graduated High School. My first real live baby doll, I sill think of him like a toddler.  Today, I’m not ready. I choose here and this year’s tree.  Tomorrow, I’ll be ready.”


The second thing I do is save and use that years cast off wrapping paper to wrap ornaments, decorations, and the Nativity Scene.

My grandmother made for Lady Diana (my mom) a beautiful Nativity Scene and gave it to her the year I was born, 1972.  It was a mother’s gift to a new mother.  My mom saved the wrapping paper from my first Christmas to wrap each piece of this scene into.

To my surprise, the year that Drew was born, I was given that same Nativity Scene.  She then told me the story about the wrapping paper.  I used Drew’s fist Xmas wrap that year.  To this day,  save the wrap, I set it aside, and I use it to wrap our precious holiday decorations. The wrap seems to bring back the forgotten special memories made the year before. This becomes a visual trip down memory lane

This is a tip I share with all new parents because it has meant so much to me.

This year, when your Christmas season is winding down and you are packing up your ornaments and decorations, I hope you save the wrapping paper and take a few minutes to write down our own letter.

New Year, New tradition, and every year after this when you open and read these handwritten notes, I know you will be as blessed as I have been.

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Top 3 cheap and easy Valentine’s Day Tips…keep your mind out of the gutter

Top 3 cheap and easy Valentine’s Day Tips…keep your mind out of the gutter

Do you remember when you were little? At the end of January your teacher would pass out the white doilies and construction paper , thus began the treasured task of making Valentines for everyone in your class!  I remember the coming holiday with so much anticipation and excitement because of the coming written words from fellow friends and classmates.

I can remember my fancy WHITE paper lunch bag that Mrs. Barkel, my 4th grade teacher, passed out to our class of 30 kids, for us to decorate and hang with scotch tape on the door to her coat closet.  We had to be sure to write our names REALLY BIG so that other children would be able to find our bag. I also remember having to go up in groups to drop the cards into each bag, hoping that I wouldn’t snag another child’s bag with my shirt sleeve, ripping it from the wall.

I dropped in my Valentines because I wanted so badly to get Valentines.. I wanted those words of affirmation so badly, I would read and re-read them. I saved them, put them under my bed, and would read them again on days when I needed a pick me up.  The only candy I recall is the red heart box from the Hallmark store that Lady Diana (Mom) would buy for each of us. I remember pushing my finger up from the bottom of the candy to see what kind of chocolate it was, I was looking for the caramel. The finger through the bottom of the chocolate method saved me from the awful surprise of biting into the fruity raspberry fluff chocolate.

What I really treasured and remember is that I got cards for Valentine’s Day; more specifically, handwritten cards with words on them.  Something that I have done in the past, and will do this year, are simple but so meaningful.


Every day leading up to Valentine’s day, write a SHORT note or kind word on a 3X5 card (you can fancy this up and make a heart or buy paper, but the sentiment is what is really important) and tape it on your child’s bedroom door (or bathroom mirror).  My kids left these up until the messages fell down. After a day or so, they started looking for them. I did this for DKC as well! He still has some of his up from the last time.


Lookup funnykidjokes.com and scratch out a short joke on an index card (or a napkin)  and pop it in their lunchbox. This makes for fun at the lunchroom table. Beware: once you start this, they will be hooked.  You might take a minute and write out a week’s worth of one liners so that you are never in a pinch.


Those who know me, know I love sending and receiving handwritten cards.  They can be simple, short, and so incredibly important to the person you send a card to, especially now that we can communicate so much faster with our phones.   Who do you have in your life that you appreciate, love, miss, feel grateful for/to? Perhaps you have a teacher, mentor, former colleague, old roommate, high school friend, or a family member who comes to mine.  That’s just the person you should send a note to.

Let the spirit of Valentine’s Day inspire you to get your pen out and write all the beautiful thoughts you are thinking…

Do you have any Valentine’s Day memories to share?

Originally posted 2020-02-09 02:53:12.

SuzDKC_Blue Dress_Rose

Why Smokin’ Hot Dates are Mandatory

Why Smokin’ Hot Dates are Mandatory

Before I met Dave, I was a babysitter and two families regularly had me babysit so they could get dressed up, fancy, and go to dinner to reconnect.  {I know now that it was to talk uninterrupted}. I saw this as a marriage plan for success. I dated DKC in college and didn’t want that to end, ever.

Raising great adults is what we are commissioned to do, and that means we need to WORK HARD to stay connected to one another, on the same page, and on fire for our life.  Lately, we are in the season of life where we HIGH 5 one another on our way in and out of the door.  Lately, weekends and weeknights we have to divide and conquer the kid activities that are at the same time in different parts of the city.  Being home together at night may only be for a few hours and while we are together, it isn’t often quality time. We are still engaged with kids, wrapping up work or “chores that need to be done for home/family”.   The crazy irony is that I am an early riser who loves sunrises and sees bedtime as a treat. I have had a 9:00 bedtime since 4th grade. DKC loves his mornings to sleep and would prefer to see midnight.  We have opposite natural tendencies and each phase of our marriage has required us MAKE IT A PRIORITY to step out of our rhythm of life, and protect time for just us.

Our children like us better when we take this time.  It not only pours into our relationship but our family.

This has almost always been difficult to do.

In the early parenting years, it meant scheduling a sitter (and paying the expensive sitter).    We chose for me to stay at home and retire from teaching, which meant one income. It was hard to pay for a sitter and dinner, so we were creative.  There were times we could trade babysitting date nights with friends. There were other times that we went for a long walk and an ice cream cone. Like I said, sitters were expensive, so nights like these, we had cheap activities to save money for paying the sitter.  There were lean years when date night was at home and on purpose after the children were put to bed, We lit candles, sat in the dining room, and pretended that we on a far off adventure. All that mattered was the date like intention. We were intentionally showing up to the other.

A surprise to dating….

I wanted to go on smokin’ hot dates, I wanted a break, I wanted to feel pretty, get dressed up, and have someone who loves me…give me their complete attention. The surprise that I didn’t see as a reason for dating, until the kids got older, is that we want our growing children to see that there is something to look forward to as an adult. The best time of their lives is not High School or early 20’s alone, it is the moment they are in.

Our children will do as we do.  We want our kids to see our love affair.  We want them to SEE how a man treats a woman and how a woman treats a man.  I want my girls to have an expectation of how their future spouse will treat them. I also want my boys to see how you treat a lady. I know that my girls have a high standard for their future spouse because of how DKC treats and interacts with me (and them). I want to believe that my boys will wait for and look hard for the woman that looks at them the way I look at DKC, after all these years.  I believe it is the time for one another (Smokin’ Hot Dates) that has been one of the most important ways we have protected our relationship.

Dates can be what you and your love enjoy.  Sometimes it’s a compromise. Sometimes it is a stay at home date because your budget allows more time than money.  That’s ok, we have had those seasons more than once.

Our current favorite smokin’ hot date night is getting a little more dressed up than normal and taking in a great restaurant.  Anytime we can avoid dishes, clean up and food prep we find that to be the most restorative FOR US. That atmosphere lets us talk, connect, dream, talk about what’s going well and not so well, & design future plans.  Yes, we talk about the kids and work. I hear that we should not talk about work… for another topic…

If you are just getting started… here are a few FREE Date Night Ideas {or day}

  • Go for a hike
  • Stroll a bookstore
  • Go to a poetry reading
  • Visit a state park
  • Go to the zoo
  • Play a board game
  • Have a picnic in the backyard
  • Pull out the blankets and watch movies together at home
  • Go on a tour of homes for sale
  • Check out live music

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Originally posted 2020-02-02 02:42:54.

Have the cookie

Kisses for Cookies

Kisses for Cookies

I get asked by friends and clients if I regulate what my kids eat. The answer, NO! I don’t monitor what they order, I don’t monitor their snacks, but I do feed them dinner (high fiber/protein), & I buy healthy (high fiber/low sugar ) foods. I control what is in the house, but I do not comment on what they eat. I want each of them to have a healthy relationship with food. Having to sneak because they worry about my comments is going the wrong direction.

I lead by example, quietly. They see how I eat when no one is looking but them. They know why I eat the way I teach in CarpenterOne80. It’s getting in them.

We have pizza here. Yes, I encourage that they start with a salad. Do they? Not as often as I want them to, but the idea is presented. They are watching me eating the salad (pizza is not a trigger for me, I usually skip it or only eat the toppings). I make the cookies. I love to make the cookies. I don’t often eat them, because I don’t make my favorites (extra heavy on chocolate chips). I make their favorite which is milk chocolate chip cookies. They will do what you do. I think my kids would tell you that I like how I eat. Good enough, for now!

Kids need to be around foods they love and learn a healthy moderation. It comes from practice and modeling. Parents, you are the nutritional gatekeepers. Yes, it’s a responsibility, but you can do it and you can get better at it each day.

To get you started, here a few of the lunchbox snacks that I keep in our house for the kids

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Originally posted 2020-08-15 11:37:12.

All dressed up

Let’s Get All Dressed Up to Stay Home

Let’s Get All Dressed Up to Stay Home

Day 16, here we are!

It is time to train the strongest muscle, and possibly your worst enemy, your mind.  It is time to train it well.

Here are my Top Tips for working from home. I have been doing these for over 10 years.

Pre Covid-19, I did plan little outings, networking events, and lunch meetings to feel less isolated.  Well, that has changed, and we are no longer doing those things. I am sure most of you are accustomed to a corporate structure to anticipate each day.  Since most offices have directed employees to work from home, I thought I would give a few tips that I have learned over the years.


Get Dressed to Stay Home-


This one is SO important, especially now.  There are psychological changes that happen when you get dressed. You perform better when you are dressed for success.  It is mindset…your mindset. Getting dressed is a winning mindset.


Make The Bed


It doesn’t matter if you have a big house, little house, or apartment, this is a discipline that teaches  consistency and proves that you can do something over and over, even if you don’t want to. It prevents afternoon naps, and sets the tone for  accomplishing more tasks, and then another, and another….Plus, it just looks better.


Set a Routine


A routine brings a sense of normalcy.  There is nothing normal about this time. You will have to be disciplined to do this.  Going to bed at the same time, getting up on time, treating the work week like a work week (not one month Netflix holiday).  A morning routine is probably the most important one to protect or establish. I start the day with my coffee, list my gratitude, intentions, and tasks for the day….Errrrrrday.


What about the Kids? And the Husband? What if THEY Are Home?


This is especially distracing.  There is working in shifts, at a designated time, in rooms away from the common areas. We take BREAKS together, then return to our “corners”  (We are lucky with space. I work upstairs, DKC works in the basement, and we give the rest of the humans the main floor). Since there is no playdate 1:1 time, Do not beat yourself up over extra screen time.  This is the great equalizer, we are all (kids included) going to struggle and have to back track and re-learn. We are all in the same boat.


There Needs to be a Space For You


I started out at the dining room table, until it didn’t make sense anymore.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a desk or home office, just work from the same space each day, and designate it as you “work space”.  It won’t take long for your housemates to know that is your spot.


Don’t Just Sit…


Brendon Buchard (High Performance Habits) suggests setting a timer for 50 minutes.  Every 50 minutes get up, stretch, get a drink, close your eyes, breathe. This 3-5 minute break can do more for your productivity and sanity than anything.  There are times that I take conference calls and wash down floors, dust, fold laundry…even do squats or situps. Be creative and keep moving throughout the day.


Get Fresh


If you are able to, go outside for a walk and some fresh air.  Plan a daily walk, drive, or open the windows and let in the breeze.




Turn it On & Turn it Off


This is the hard one, have a start and stop time.  That said, you may have to make it look different depending on the season of life you are in.  When our kids were little, I would work an hour, and turn it off. I would wait for relief, DKC, and when he got home and could take over, I would turn it on again.  I had “Office hours’ that I tried to stick to. Now, I set work hours with breaks. I could find myself with my laptop at 10 or 11 at night sometimes. I set a start and end time to the work day. I do this with social media (for the most part) I turn my phone in at 8 o’clock.


Dial Up the Communication


Monday morning team meetings, 5:00 after hour cocktail hours, whatever…Zoom and Facetime are technology gifts for staying connected with coworkers and loved ones.  Out of sight, out of mind can make social distancing feel even more isolating. Be sure you are on “top of mind” and being extra communicative.


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Originally posted 2020-03-29 10:00:36.


How Not To Do It All

How Not To Do It All

The question I get asked a lot is “How do you do it all?”  I quickly try to regain my composure, because inside I am laughing and outside I am shaking my head. I then begin the story of how I absolutely do not.

I think of myself like a duck, Quack Quack. I am calm on the surface and paddling like mad under the water.

I think there is a belief from looking in the window of someone else’s life that the life/balance juggle is easier for some.  I don’t think any of it is easy.

The short answer for me is that I don’t.  I can’t do it all. I am just finally in a place where I am ok with tearing apart this illusion to show you behind the curtain.

I want to mentor and guide other women to create a life they love without compromising their lifestyle.  Most of the time, I am able to make an impact by clearing up food confusion so people, like you, feel educated about the foods to eat to get the weight off and keep it off.

The truth is, most of the weight loss has to do with emotional and psychological weight loss.  It is mental, so this piece of TRYING TO DO IT ALL is important to me to consider.

One of the biggest ways I can illustrate this is to discuss my big and little rocks.  The rocks are my priorities and the order of my values.


The big rocks:



One of the reasons I am most passionate about sharing CarpenterOne80 with the world is the freedom I found when I understood how exercise fits into the weight-loss equation.

I formerly believed that exercise was the way to control my weight.  I would sacrifice more than I care to admit to get the time in with cardio. I would punish myself, exercise hours a day, I felt exhausted, hungry, and miserable.

Now, I exercise because I like the particular exercise. I might work out 4 times a week, for 30 minutes a day.  It is about feeling strong, flexible, healthy, and maintaining lean muscle.

I work out to clear my head and benefit from the endorphins.  The time freedom from not spending so much time exercising has made this an important part of my weekly schedule but allows me to have more time with the people I love most.



This is first because this changed my daily everything.  When I learned to slow down and rank order my priorities, I found exceptional clarity.

DKC and I decided as a couple, our mission was to raise great adults, and we were 2 of those adults.  That has given us a TRUE NORTH our entire marriage.  Since we knew #raisinggreatadults was what we were about, having a spiritual life first, exceptional marriage second, then kids, then work, we have been able to keep the main thing the main thing.  We know what comes first.

This sounds easy.  Rest assured, it was not. It took time to decide on and commit to. It takes incredible effort and discipline to stay on track with.  Part of not doing it all, is realizing with the right priorities for our family, we simply cannot do it all.



I was raised in the church, I couldn’t hear anything. I showed up, I kept going, I was doing what I knew was right, but I was empty while I was there.  I still went, I took my family, we positioned ourselves to receive.

It was that for years.  The kids crawling in pews, passing out snacks, hoping to make it through service.

Eventually, it shifted.  I’ll skip all the middle part from nothing to everything.  The point is, the shift happened and God became #1 for DKC and for me,



I have to think about what I think about, above all things.  Learning to control my thoughts & everyday work strengthen my mental game is a big rock. It is a discipline, however, when I show up to this each day, I handle the little things that come my way so much better.


One of my adjustments:

There is so much comparison in the world and years ago I fell victim to the early days of @PotteryBarn Halloween costumes, @Pinterest first birthday parties, etc. Eventually, I realized that the pictures I was seeing were not my reality.  I had to be very practical and take this out of my screen time.  When I took the pressure off my shoulders of trying to keep up with this, I returned to a sense of peace and knowing that I was doing right for my family.  I needed to keep my eye on my own life (like we have to keep our eyes on our own paper at school).

As we enter the holiday season, I hope you find comfort and joy because you are also able to focus on the important things in your life.

If it is time for you to make yourself one of the priorities, if you think about losing weight all the time but haven’t been able to, if you’ve tried a variety of programs only to gain the weight back, if you feel sad or discouraged because this extra weight is holding you back, if you feel like losing weight will help you love yourself & your body… then consider joining my next small group.

I hope you create a lifestyle you love when you look and feel your very best and have weight loss without hunger. You’ll feel educated and understand how to balance your plate and how true weight loss and weight maintenance happens.  I so badly want to help you have food peace so that it permeates in all areas of your life!


Here’s to a Healthy Happy Holiday Season!

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Favorite Fall Slow Cooker Dinners

Favorite Fall Slow Cooker Dinners

Fall is slow cooker season in my opinion. It’s because it’s delicious, warm, easy, fast and it makes your house smell incredible!

Here are a few of my favorite slow cooker meals that are #One80eating and kid approved!

I now know why the slow cooker or the crock pot is considered a staple in every kitchen since it’s invention. It’s never too late to invest in a good cooker and it will save you time and money every week… not to mention it can save you tremendous amount of calories instead of having to grab takeout when you don’t have something healthy on hand ready to go.

Seriously, the slow cooker is the overextended mom or  lazy girls best friend!

If you’re like me, fall gets busy, and I find I have less time to prepare dinner. This is the time we’re at football games, outdoor shopping, soaking in the south, and don’t want to be in the kitchen all day.   I’ll be real, kids sports mean I have even less time to prepare lunch and dinner each day.


Crockpot-Salsa-Chicken-Recipe-6-of-13-683×1024Salsa chicken recipe

My number one recipe is this healthy chicken dish that has all the deliciousness of Mexican chicken, it’s me with chicken breasts, no fat, and just any jar of salsa.  Here are our favorite serving ideas:


  1. Salsa chicken quesadillas
  2. Salsa chicken bowl with riced cauliflower, Mexican cheese, guac, pico, squeeze of lime, and cilantro
  3. Wraps using Romaine or your favorite wrap with a side of steamed broccoli or roasted vegetable
  4. Salsa chicken scramble with eggs, cauliflower… again you can wrap this in a high-fiber tortilla or make GG sandwiches


IMG_7327Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Bacon

This is restaurant quality and a sure crowd favorite if you like smokey, tangy chops that will melt in your mouth and fork tender.

I love to serve this with my kale salad. Sometimes I will make my faux-tatoes as a side instead of roasted veggies.  This dinner just screams fall!!!

It might be hard to wait for dinner to finish cooking in the crock pot, I suggest cutting up vegetables and making my Ranch Yogurt dip!  This is a great way to begin to offset your appetite!