Teen Talk & Topics

Talking to Teens

To finish out 2019, I set a goal to create a short, 4 week curriculum to teach a handful of teenagers. More specifically they were, my 8th grade daughter, Ava’s friends. Ava is the youngest of our 4 kids. As I watched my older children, I noticed it was around the middle school age in which a shift took place amidst their friends. MIddle schoolers are faced with the typical temptations that have plagued teens for centuries: sex, smoking {of course it’s vaping now}, drugs; a baisc moral decline.They needed a plan to combat the typical temptations, especaily before benginning high school, where the enticement for moral decline would ramp up to a higher degree. Basically, I wanted to equip these girls with the life-tools they’d need to combat with confidence the temptations that will bombard their life.  They would need to be ready with a plan for how to fight against it. 

As parents I think we often avoid  bringing up tough topics for a myriad of reasons. We have personal shame around how we handled the temptations when we were in high school. We figure the school has it covered. We think it’s a hopeless cause. Or, perhaps the attempts created such an  embarrassing reaction from your teen, it shut the conversation down.

I don’t have the space to go over all 4 weeks of content here. However, I’d love to give you a synopsis of weekly content we covered when it comes to self-esteem, standards and relationships. Hopefully it will be a springboard to stir your own thoughts that will lead to conversations you’ll have with your teenager.  Be willing to have the awkward conversations, regardless of how your kids react. They are still listening even if it looks like eye rolling and flushed cheeks.

This content comes from a faith-based perspective. I reference prayer, Bible reading and a personal relationship with Jesus as a key component for positive self-esteem. Recognizing there is a higher power {God} who created you and has a plan for your life is the launching pad we started from.

Week 1 was all about establishing a morning routine that would set the girls up for success throughout the day and ultimately for their life.  I talk more about that here. 

The morning routine is a time where they set their intentions for the day.  Give thanks to their creator, God, for his blessings and read truth found in the Bible.  Creating a morning routine that emphasises the aforementioned content is key to personal confidence.  Personal confidence will help with the following content covered!

Week 2 we talked about standards, especially pertaining to dating.  I emphasised that the higher their standards were the fewer choices they would have to make.  We also talked about predetermining your standards and how essential that is for keeping your standards high.  Then, when you get to the party and discover there is alcohol, you aren’t deciding on the spot how you will handle it. It’s been predetermined long before you were ever put in the situation. The same goes for dating.  Deciding ahead of time what your standards will be is essential. I gave examples with fun tag lines like “hands on hands, lips on lips”.

 

Week 3 we talked about how to be a good friend.  I had them practice using their words to encourage, rather than the typical middle school girl thing to do, gossip. We went around the room and took time to verbalize the qualities we saw in each other. It was a powerful week!

Finally, week 4 we talked about what to do if you get off track.  It’s essential that our teens know how to recover from a mistake. The importance of getting back up, forgiving yourself and rerouting back to the standards originally set. We ended by writing a letter to their future self, full of encouragement. I have them stamped and ready to send out for the first day of Freshman year!

My hope in writing this is that it will spur you on to have the awkward conversations with your teen.  I can’t emphasize enough how much it doesn’t matter if they react adversely to it. Don’t give up. It is weird to have those types of conversations with your teenager. Until one day it isn’t because you’ve had so many, it’s normal!

I believe in you!  Ask your kid on a coffee date and bring up one of the 4 topics.  Don’t let it be the last time!



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    How to Pack for a Sailing Adventure

    sailing

    My husband, Drew, and I have the extreme privilege of leading marriage retreats aboard a 54 foot catamaran in the Caribbean for a week. One of the questions I’m often asked is, “How should I pack for such an adventure?” I figured I’d put all the answers here in an easy accessible location.

    sailing couple

    First, you must know that sailing feels a lot like glamping, aka glamorous-camping.  The clothing attire reflects that. Cute and comfortable is my go-to. Cute, because sailing feels like an activity for cute attire.  Comfortable, because you’re floating on a moving object in the ocean.

    A bathing suit will be your uniform for the week. We spend plenty of time in the water and enjoying the sun  We ask that a tankini or one piece style bathing suits be worn. They lend themselves best to getting in and out of the dinghy {small transporting boat} and moving aboard close quarters on the boat. PACK 2-3  {I pack 4}

    Bathing Suit Cover Ups aren’t necessary, but nice to have when you’ve had enough sun or are transitioning from sea to land. {One is plenty, I usually pack 2}

    We are known to hike while on land.  Be sure to include a comfortable pair of sneakers  or Tevas/Chacos, whatever you prefer.

    5 short sleeve  t-shirts will be plenty for the week.  I also include 2 long sleeve “water shirts” that dry quickly when I’ve had enough sun, but I don’t want to be hot.

    4-5 pair of shorts get me through the week. I usually pack light weight, cotton, elastic waist, running-type shorts.  Remember comfort is the name of the game. I could easily get away with 3 pair since I’m really in my suit most often and shorts may be taken off, but the t-shirt stays on.

    how to dress dress

    2 cotton a-line dresses are what I pack for the 2 evenings we  head off the boat for dinner. I always wear a pair of biking shorts underneath my dress.  Let me tell you about the one time I forgot and, as I attempted to climb aboard the dinghy, the wind caught my dress and gave the whole crew quite the view!

    When it comes to shoes, less is more.  I include a pair of flip flops, something that’s easy to get in and out of without using hands to assist.  Shoes aren’t typically worn on the boat. It helps to keep the boat clean and allows you to walk more easily while underway. I also include a water shoe of sorts for times when my feet will get wet but I need my shoes to stay on. Finally I pack a pair of sneakers.

    One pair of pajamas, if you need them at all.  It is a marriage retreat, after all, and you have your own private state room and bathroom.

    Just in case there is a cool evening, I wear a pair of leggings with a layering piece on top through the airport  The coat I wear is a lightweight rain coat, so I have it in case of rain o note boat. The raincoat is not necessary AT ALL.  I just really like mine, it a sailing brand and I feel cool when I wear it. Did I just admit that?

    When it comes to toiletries and make-up, I also pack light!  There will be days it feels silly to have make-up on, it will only be coming off as soon as you get in the water.  Just pack your essentials. Of course, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner should come along, all the things to keep you fresh while sharing close quarters.

    sailing

    A few things I find helpful in the “toiletry” department you may not naturally think of: baby wipes, Poo-pourri, band-aids, SUNSCREEN, I can’t emphasis that one enough.

    A hat ,headband {band style} and sunglasses help to shade from the elements. However, keep in mind on a moving boat things fly off easily. Plan accordingly with hat style. And glasses cords.

    I bundle all those items into a soft sided carry on size piece of luggage.  There is very limited storage on the boat. Having a suitcase that is able to  collapse or be made smaller is best.

    sail backpack
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      Establish a 10 Minute Morning Routine

      bible morning routine

      Word has it you’d like to begin your day with a daily habit of gratitude, prayer, & Bible reading.  Me too.  The problem is this take discipline.  Creating a discipline isn’t always easy.  I’ve mapped out simple steps to make it a habit you can stick to.  I’ve tested it.  I’ve taught it.  It works!

      How to Establish a Morning Routine Habit:

      Commit to 30 days and don’t quit on yourself: If you miss a day, begin again.  As in, begin back at day 1. That will help keep you from skipping, I promise! If you think you may need some more assistance, contact a friend and ask her to check in on your progress.  Better yet, start an accountability group. If you’re not sure what that is, see the link at the bottom of this post.  It will map it out for you.

      Start Small: Begin with 10 mins, first thing in the morning. 5 days a week, Monday thru Friday. Get really good at 10 minutes. This is the most important part. I can’t encourage this enough. GET REALLY GOOD AT 10 MINUTES. Yes, I was saying that loudly for emphasis. Even screaming, perhaps. Then add Saturday and Sunday and then add more minutes. Don’t add on too soon. I repeat, GET EXTREMELY GOOD AT 10 MINUTES!

      Here’s the cool thing: Jesus is irresistible.  If you continue to spend time with Him each morning you will discover, 10 minutes isn’t enough time. However, don’t be discouraged if it takes awhile to get to the “enjoy” part. You are learning a new habit.  Learning something new is always uncomfortable. Recognize it.  Accept it and then, KEEP GOING!

      Same Time: Get your body use to doing this each morning at the same time! We are creatures of habit.  Your body will become accustomed to waking up 10 minutes earlier. There will come a day when you won’t need an alarm. Literally roll out of bed and onto the floor if that’s what it takes to wake you up.  The “get up” is the hardest part. Good thing you can do hard things, friend.

      Same Place: Find a place you will do your morning routine and do it there every time.

      How to Break Down your 10 minute Morning Routine Devotions:

      3 deep breaths in a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you fall back to sleep. For beginners I recommend a location other than your bed. No seriously, don’t attempt this in bed.

      LEAVE YOUR PHONE ON THE CHARGER. It doesn’t get to come with you. You are giving your first fruits of your day to Jesus!

      GIVE THANKS: Pull out your journal. Write out 5 things you are thankful for. Present them as an offering of thanks to God for providing them.

      PRAY: At the beginning of your 30 days {or once it’s a habit, at the beginning of each month}, write out the names or topics you are praying for in your journal. Include specific things you will pray about.  This will help keep you in focused prayer and you’ll be able to easily track when God answers a prayer!

      READ THE BIBLE: The options are endless here.  It can be a verse, a chapter, a devotional like Jesus Calling. Remember, we are establishing a habit so don’t make it too involved at this point. There will be plenty of room for “advanced moves” once you get really good at the 10 minute habit.

      THAT’S IT.  Take on your morning!!

      I’d love to hear how you are doing creating this new habit or habit stacking on an already  solid morning routine habit. You can contact me here: SimplySaraAnthony@gmail.com

      For more inspiration follow along with my social media:

      Instagram: @Simply.Sara.Anthony

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        Start an Accountability Group

        accountability group

        I have a small group of friends I meet with weekly over a group conference call to set goals and check in on our progress. We each have our own individual goals,  but together we report on how those goals are progressing. 

        The thing I appreciate most about our accountability group is that we are achieving, maintaining and prioritizing the things in our lives that are most important to us: our family, spouse, spiritual development, personal health and more. What it boils down to is that we are being intentional about cultivating our top priorities.

        It’s commonplace to give priority to the things that are most pressing or urgent in our lives and too often it comes at the expense of the people and things that should be most important. I love that I have a system in place to help me prioritize and maintain that which is my top priority. I want that for you too. 

        Just before Christmas my accountability group and I were interviewed for a podcast with Jen VanHekken. Be sure to listen to it here.  It went live today, just in time for the New Year! What a perfect season to grab a few friends and start a group. 

        On the podcast we talked all about goal setting and how we encourage each other to accomplish those goals. What I really hope is that you feel inspired to start your own accountability group. To help you out, I’ve written a step by step guide with all the details on how to do it. The link is at the bottom of this post. In fact it’s at the bottom of all my posts! That’s how important I think this content is for you. 

         
         
         
         
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          Selecting Your Word for the Year

          Simply Sara Anthony

          Do you have a word for 2020? It’s been a trendy thing to do for several years now. Choose a word that you will live by for the year. I’ve been drawn to the concept. I’ve even chosen a word several years only to forget it by January’s end. 

          For 2019 I set out to change that. I wanted to not only choose a word with intention but also not to forget it! More than all of that, I wanted to live it out! I carefully selected the word: LEARN. 

          I chose “learn” because I’d recently begun a new vocation, I’m considered middle age, therefore somewhat set in my ways, and I had a bit of a fixed mindset around education. I set out to change my state of mind! I wanted to learn new things and be willing to change regardless of mid-life statistics saying I’m  “set in my ways”. 

          One thing I have established is a pretty solid morning routine. I get up at the same time each day, pray, read, meditate and journal. Because of that it was easy to tack on more little thing on to the morning’s end. I’d also write “my word” down each day. Nothing time consuming or fancy. I’d just scribble LEARN at the end of each journal entry. 

          When you write a simple word on paper everyday it’s hard to forget it. And I did not. When I’d come upon a new challenge I’d remind myself “I’m open to learning”. When something would come up at my new job I  didn’t know how to do I quickly recalled how, “ I’m a person who is willing to learn new things”.  As I close out the year I began studying the book of Daniel with the aid of a Bible Study. There’s a portion in the study where the author references that some of the material will be difficult and she encouraged us to write down, “ I am willing to LEARN.” What a fun way to close out 2019, literally prompted to write down and apply the word I’d written everyday of that year. 

          Perhaps writing your word daily feels like overkill. I would encourage you to, at the very least, write it down once and place it in a location you will see it everyday. You will be less likely to forget it.  You will be more likely to live it out. That’a the overarching goal, to grow and evolve into the best version of ourself!

          For this upcoming year, I’ve settled on RESOLVE as my 2020 word.  I don’t have much internal drive built into my personal make up.  However, I have determined, resolved, if you will,  to work hard and put effort into my dreams and ambitions regardless of how I feel or the obstacles I come up against.  I guess you could say I learned a few tings in 2019 I’d like to continue to apply in 2020.

          How about you?  What is your word for 2020?

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            Simplify & Slow Down Christmas

            Simplify Christmas

            Christmas. The season of peace, love, joy.  It’s a time to create memories and build traditions.  It’s filled with gingerbread house competitions, sugar cookie decorating, circling favorite toys in the local ads, cousin pajama parties, candle-lit services, slow strolls through lighted neighborhoods, and past bedtime replays of The Christmas Story. “You’ll shoot your eye out!!”  Oh, and let’s not forget the gifts. There’s so much gift giving and generosity. I love the Christmas season!

            The problem is those same holiday events can also cause stress, anxiety and physical illness.  Growing up my mother often fell prey to the pressure of the season. One year she shopped at such length, the weight of her purse caused her shoulder to tense up. She couldn’t move for days after that. Multiple years I can recall her over exerting herself to the point of illness. It would put her in bed for close to a week. It was all in the name of creating Christmas memories for her children.

            I appreciate my mother’s intentions, but not at the expense of her health.  When my kids came along we opted to simplify Christmas. Each of our kids receive one gift and a stocking filled with practical items like socks, underwear, a toothbrush and a book. Planning ahead and setting goals to complete things I love to do, like sending Christmas cards, bake cookies, delivering a thoughtful item to our neighbors, and volunteering for a nonprofit are completed within a segregated and manageable timeframe.  That helps relieve the pressure of everything piling up as the 25th nears. You don’t want to cram it all in while frantically shopping the extended hours because you’re “making memories with/for your kids”.

            Yes, I have amazing childhood Christmas memories, but I also vividly remember the stress and sickness the season delivered to my parents. Let me encourage you with this, it’s okay to slow down. To simplify. To be intentional with just a few items on your calendar.  I’m granting you permission. Here’s the problem: if you don’t adjust your pace, your body will do it for you. You will become ill. Sickness never comes at a convenient time. 

            Plan ahead.  Incorporate moments of rest and relaxation.  Be sure to take a walk outside, not just through the mall. Take a bubble bath or a Saturday nap. If you’re reading this and thinking, “I have absolutely no time for naps and walks”, then it’s time to begin turning down some of your holiday activities.  If it doesn’t all get done, give yourself some grace! A happy parent is much more enjoyable than an ill, anxiety riddled one, even if you didn’t frost cookies this year.



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              Creatively Hang Christmas Stockings

              Christmas stocking

              Our family of 6 moved into a small 900 square foot home about 3 years ago. We don’t have a mantel.  We don’t have a fireplace. What we do have are stockings that need to be hung during the Christmas season!  I needed to come up with a creative way to display our 4 kids’ stockings. Whatever I came up with needed to take up very little space and not need to be stored when Christmas was over.  Our storage is quite limited too.

              While enjoying our front yard one day, an idea came to me. I could hang the stockings from a spare evergreen branch.  I trimmed a branch from a tree on our property. Nailed it to one of our walls. Hung the stockings from it. In just a few minutes I had created a festive and functional way to display the holiday stockings.  No mantle or fireplace needed!

              Christmas stocking
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                Meditation Made Simple

                morning meditation

                I’ve implemented meditation into my daily morning routine.  Being able to calm my mind and bring peace and quiet to my ever overactive thoughts felt like a skill I should improve upon. And so I am. I am not claiming to be an expert. I’m simply sharing what I do and how it has benefitted me.

                There’s a scene in the movie Eat Love Pray where Julia Robert’s character is learning the practice of meditation and she falls asleep. Later she attempts it again and can’t believe it when only a minute has passed. I can totally relate to all of this! Learning to quiet your mind can be grueling. It is work.  

                I’m still very much a newbie, but here are 6 tips that have helped me along the way in my pursuit of, what I consider to be, successful meditation.

                 

                  1. Choose the same place and time: I meditate each morning after being rested {to avoid sleeping through the whole process}. I do it as part of my morning routine, post coffee. During this time, I’m alone and my home is quiet.
                  2. Take a deep cleansing breath. It truly helps to positively trigger your mind that meditation is about to begin.
                  3. Start Small. I meditate for only 5 minutes.  I set a timer on my Calm app. 
                  4. Visualize a place that makes you happy: There is a place in the British Virgin Islands that is so beautiful.  I envision myself there, floating in the water.
                  5. Feel Free to Include God: Some people get weirded out by meditation.  As a person of faith, the Bible clearly references meditation as a holy practice {Psalm 19:14, Psm 119:15}. As I’m floating in the water, I envision God floating next to me holding my hand. All these elements represent a calming peace to me. That’s what I’m after with this process.
                  6. Finally, I repeat a word in my head that reflects the quality I want to instill into my body, mind and spirit.  Most often I choose the word peace to repeat as I “float’. Sometimes I do not feel peaceful.  In those instances, I envision God softly whispering “peace” to me over and over. The thought of Him being there for me is so helpful.

                 

                 

                I perceive at the quick 5 minute morning meditation as a practice session.  It’s trial run for times I may need to meditate throughout the day when life is a bit faster and chaotic. In addition, I’ve found it very helpful to meditate  as I lay in bed. At that time, it’s perfectly fine to fall asleep mid-meditation.



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                  The Best “Zoupa Toscana” Knockoff on the Block

                  Fall has me craving all the hearty soups! One of our family-favorites is an Olive Garden Zoupa Toscana knockoff.  It’s so good. It’s so easy. Therefore, I tend to serve it year round. My family doesn’t complain about that one bit. In fact, they request it.

                  Ingredients: 

                  32oz carton chicken broth

                  1 cup heavy whipping cream

                  6 medium red skin potatoes 

                  14 oz. spicy Italian sausage

                  1 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes {or to taste}

                  3 cups fresh spinach

                  Serves 4-6

                  Step 1: Brown the Italian sausage until crumbly and no longer pink. Drain the grease and set aside.

                  Step 2: In a pot combine the chicken broth & heavy cream, stir and leave on medium heat.

                  Step 3: Cut the potatoes into bite size cubes. Add them to the chicken broth and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high.

                  Step 4: Add the Italian sausage & crushed pepper flakes to the pot.

                  Step 5: Allow the ingredients to simmer until the potatoes are soft.

                  Step 6: Lightly chop the fresh spinach and add it to the soup.  

                  Give it about 10 minutes to simmer with the added spinach and then it’s ready to serve!

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                    My Adventure Badge Should Read ECUADOR

                    Last month I met up with my sister, brother in law and their team. We hopped on a plane and headed to Quito, Ecuador.  My sister, Rachel, owns a gymnastics gym in Michigan. Her husband, John, works for a water treatment company. John has an uncle who has dedicated his life to providing clean water to remote people groups throughout Ecuador. When the three of these geniuses put their resources together, amazing things happen! I had the privilege of documenting it all with my camera. It was worth dusting that heavy beast of a lens off and lugging it to the mountains of Ecuador to photograph the awesome ways they are helping provide clean water to impoverished communities.

                    For the last three years Rachel has taken staff from her gym to assist Ecuadorian people groups provide a clean water source for communities that don’t have access to it.  They team up with Life Giving Water International, a nonprofit started by John’s uncle. 

                    The week I was along for the adventure, each morning we helped fill 5.5 ft. deep and long trenches that had already been dug by hand before our arrival.  The Ecuadorian people worked circles around us. Mercy. I blame the elevation. The 13,000 feet above sea level made breathing feel like a workout in and of itself.



                    In the afternoons,  alongside the local missionaries, we helped lead a Vacation Bible School for the children of the community.  VBS was my highlight of the trip and not just because the other option was digging through blowing dirt at 40 degree temperatures. The children and their rosy-windburned faces captured my heart. Looking into their warm brown eyes as we taught them to wash their hands before snack is etched in my brain as a moment I never want to forget. 

                    One of the words I want to describe me in 10 years is ADVENTUROUS.  A more apt current descriptor might be cautious. Having braved a week in Ecuador I do feel like I earned, at least, my first level Adventure Badge, if such a thing exists. Here’s why:

                    1. Before we wound our way up the mountain, we took a late night hike in the Amazon jungle with head lamps in search of tranchulas and snakes. I lived to tell.
                    2. I shared a hotel room with several cockroaches. I lived to tell.
                    3. I rode in a single prop, 5 seater airplane with a grass runway. I lived to tell.
                    4. I slept on the floor with 15 others, sleepover style, if your sleepover was in a room with no heat and previously housed, what smelled like, several wet dogs.  I lived to tell.
                    5. We were encouraged to drink a lot of water to avoid elevation sickness and dehydration. Bathrooms were tricky to locate and I often used make-shift facilities, AKA: sides of housing structures.  This included, but not limited to, a home I was not aware was full of Ecuadorian people waiting to join us for work. I bet they didn’t know their day was going to begin with a view of a middle-aged white girls bum. I lived to tell.
                    6. I tested out being vegan for a week. Some of the popular cuisine is guinea pig and ALL the parts of other commonly edible animals. Chicken breast, okay. Chicken tallon, I’ll pass. I lived to tell.
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                      Welcome

                      I’m Sara Anthony. I love keeping things simple, working along side my husband, Drew, & raising our 4 kids. I've dedicated this space to sharing what I've learned about raising teenagers, simplifying our home and staying motivated through accountability.

                      SimplySaraAnthony@gmail.com

                      Located in Southern Georgia