Monday, August 31, 2009

Macro Monday - Cicada Wings

Here I was, all ready to post a set of photos I took this past weekend of a butterfly and a bee. I'll save those for later, because I have a fun little friend to share instead.

I found this dude about 30 minutes ago as I was trying to hang a swing from a tree in our backyard. I saw something tremble out of the corner of my eye and discovered a cicada shell. I've seen those before, but this one had a whitish looking thing coming out of it. Since I know nothing about cicadas, I thought maybe it was one that died while he was trying to molt. And then I saw it tremble again and realized it wasn't dead. Oh, no! This baby was reborn! So I quick grabbed my camera and took about 60 photos of him from every possible angle.

The ones I want to share here are the first one I took, where his wings are all shriveled up and stumpy.

Then as he emerged and the wings dried off, they spread into a pretty glorious sight. (As glorious as a bug can get, for me.)

The wings are so thin and gossamer, and truly beautiful. God's handiwork.

Dan = Tender

Welcome to the last day of August. Tomorrow is September, the month that marks 17 years since I first met Dan. I’m getting close to the half-and-half point with him: I’ve known him for almost as long as I haven’t known him. One more year will make it 18 without him, and 18 with him. A beautiful balance.

This month also marks some other pretty big highs and lows. The anniversary of Mom’s death, both Mom and Dad’s birthdays, and also one pretty special day to me: Dan’s birthday. We have one week until that big day, so I’d like to spend the days leading up to that marking all the ways he’s changed my life by highlighting seven things I adore about him.

First up, Dan’s sensitivity and tenderness and patience. I was completely blown away the first time I ever saw the movie “The Color Purple” with him. It was only the second time I had ever seen him cry. I was stunned that this man had such sensitivity inside of him. And I love that after knowing him for 17 years, that sensitivity hasn’t diminished. In fact, I think it’s deepened – especially when I see “that look” in his eyes when he watches our babies.

I love that Dan is sensitive and watchful over my needs. He knows that if “Amazing Grace” or “It Is Well with My Soul” or “How Great Thou Art” is sung at church, he better hold on tightly to me because I will become unglued. And I love that he knows WHY those songs affect me so deeply. After 17 years together, sometimes he knows what I need before I even know what I need. (And, yes, there are times I have to beat him over the head with it too.)

I love that he doesn’t hide his tenderness, and that he uses his arms for holding on to the things that matter. I love that his tenderness translates into patience for me and our kids. All three of us use up lots of it, daily!

And I love that he still cries at the end of “The Color Purple.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Potter by Steve Settle

I first read the following story at the recent Art Experience at my church. (Click here to see some of the art that was used in the AE and in other venues at church.) The AE showcased photography, painting, music, graphic artwork, and pottery. Each form was used in some way to worship God. One of the potters had an essay on display with some of his pieces, and I read it and was incredibly moved by how his words so described God's work in each of our lives. In the Bible, there are so many references to pottery, God as potter, and us as the clay. (For example, Isaiah 29:16, Isaiah 64:8, and Psalm 2:9.) I knew that and kind of got it, but the meaning was fully driven home to me when I read this essay by Steve Settle. I asked him to send me a copy and got his permission to post it on my blog to share. I hope you're as moved by it as I am!

"The Potter" or "Our Potter, Who Art in Heaven" by Steve Settle

In the beginning there was the clay. And the clay was formless and void. And the Potter said, “Let’s make something useful from this lifeless lump.”

This may seem like a simple undertaking, and if you have ever watched a skillful potter at the wheel, the whole thing looks very easy. To fully understand the significance of this achievement, however, one must have an idea of the entire process, from the initial preparation of the clay, to the shaping and decoration of the vessel and lastly, the final test of fire.

The first step in the preparation, before the Potter even touches the clay, is the design of the vessel. What will the purpose be? What form will best suit the function intended? With a specific purpose in mind, the Potter begins to prepare the clay by kneading it vigorously to work out any imperfections and to get it to the proper consistency for the turning of both decorative and functional vessels. For some vessels the Potter adds grit to the clay. Grit is derived from mature vessels which have been broken and ground to a powder. This “experienced” clay gives the fresh clay more strength, character and durability, but there are limits on the amount of grit the clay can handle; too much and the clay is too abrasive, too little and the clay has no backbone.

Once the Potter is convinced the clay is ready, He cleaves a portion from the mother lump, forms it into a ball and smacks it down on the center of the wheel. It does require some force here or the ball will go flying off the wheel with no chance for survival. The initial centering is critical and takes the most force and persistence of the entire process, for the clay seems to have a mind of its own. But when done properly at this early stage, a well centered lump takes much less effort to raise. A lump that is off center requires much more patience and skill, and sometimes never achieves its full potential. The Potter’s next move, the opening, determines much of the final form of the growing vessel. With all of His powers concentrated in the tips of His fingers, He begins to penetrate deep into the heart of the lump and resolutely begins to pull out to open the clay and establish the depth and breadth of the foundation.

Now comes the most exciting phase. With a firm, yet gentle and steady touch, the Potter begins to coerce the clay up from its foundations. The clay is constantly trying to go its own way, which would undoubtedly end up in disaster, so the Potter must continuously guide the clay back to the center. As the shaping process develops, the excess clay is trimmed off at frequent intervals and if possible, defects are removed, for they jeopardize the survival in the inevitable firing. Some shapes are more difficult to achieve than others and therefore require more time and effort, but in the end these are often more highly valued. Each vessel is unique, even those with similar functions, and when the formation stage is completed and the Potter is satisfied with the shape, He puts His mark on each vessel to identify it as having been created by Him.

The newly formed vessels are allowed to dry for a short period and when totally dry these baby vessels are as fragile as eggshells. They are beautiful because of their simplicity, but they are totally useless. The Potter must guard them carefully because even the slightest stress will cause handles to fall off, or lips to crumble. Only after the test of fire do they become strong enough to stand on their own. Usually the first firing is a moderate temperature which leaves the clay porous, yet strong enough to be useful for some applications. Any pots with imperfections will be destroyed by the fire. Some vessels will never be taken past this stage, and yet live very useful lives. Others will be decorated to emphasize their form and enhance their strength and appeal. However, even the most highly decorated vessels are no more qualified to perform their tasks than the plain ones.

The second fire is always more severe than the first, this time fusing the clay to its fullest strength. The fusion gives the vessel an inner strength which makes it impervious to outside influences. As the kiln is opened to reveal the transformed vessels, the Potter smiles with satisfaction knowing that all who see and use these vessels will marvel not only at the beauty of the vessel, but also at the skill of the Potter.
But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our Potter ,
And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Monday, August 24, 2009

Joy and Sorrow

Last night, I went looking for my next book to read. I pulled open the drawer in my bedside table and looked at a stack of books I had put there. They were on my "Next To Read" list.

I saw The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and thought to myself, "Oh. I've been meaning to read that."

I lay down in bed, and held the book. I noticed there was a piece of paper stuck inside it. I opened the book and then opened the piece of paper. My breath caught in my throat when I realized what it was.

On a piece of yellow paper were the notes I jotted after my last true conversation with Dad. Here's what I wrote:
~fading, slipping away
~told him to let go when time
~asked if funeral plans, burial
~I love you, miss you, thank you
~see Mom, Jackson, ask God your questions
~blooming flowers
~not afraid
~promised to stay to end, take care of Maureen
~come back to me if you can

On the other side of the paper is a list of visitors he had those last few days of his life. I was dumbfounded by this scrap of paper, and then I looked at the book, and saw the page these notes were marking. That was enough to make me whimper out loud. The paper was marking the passage in The Prophet that is "...of Joy and Sorrow." Have you ever read this?

"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gimme Five/35

Alright, y'all. You had one week since I posted about the 5 Good Things booklet. Now I want to hear your five/35 good things for the week! Find the joy and let me know what filled you up this week. Maybe you forgot to do it? Then start today, and come back and comment next week. PLEASE share!

Here are mine. Some days even had more than five. Aren't I happy?
1. Music at church
2. Craft room almost put together
3. Steak, baked potato, salad - perfection!
4. Jackson's crocodile tears
5. Katie worked hard to find a good attitude
6. Dan's natural cologne when he grills

1. chiropractors
2. Watching Katie at gymnastics, knowing she was ecstatic
3. purging toys, organizing - feels clean and happy and fresh
4. Being one of the first to talk to my best friend about her momentous day
5. Watching Dan come home and knowing he's mine

2. A cool breeze in the shade
3. Making TV my priority today
4. Dan called to tell me he loves me
5. No huge tantrum when Katie got in trouble - she took it without crying

1. Love the new plexiglass on our craft table
2. Played Fashion Plates with Katie
3. Mary called to vent and chat
4. Love my new cell phone
5. Jackson's smile as he rode the Tonka truck
6. Took the kids out for ice cream

1. Sweet card from Beth
2. Cheeseburger, fries and custard
3. Lay with Dan and talk for 45 minutes
4. Cuddling with a puppy
5. My camera

1. Chilly, breezy weather
2. Playing elbow-elbow or cheek-cheek or nosey-nose with Jackson
3. Katie learned a lesson about breaking the flagpole - and I didn't even yell!
4. Sitting in my newly cleaned, organized house
5. Nothing left on Tivo

1. Walked 13.1 miles today
2. Foot rub from Dan
3. Played game with Katie where she would complete a doodle I started
4. Rocking Jackson before bedtime
5. First birthdays - such promise
6. Beer

Lots to Say

Dude. I have a lot to catch up on. I'll try not to bore you to tears, but there are things I must say.

First up, I got a new cell phone. It's been about a week now, and I'm having such fun with it. I can actually TEXT now. Dan says I'm too old to text. But I do find it much easier than getting into a 10 minute conversation when I just need to know one little thing. The phone is new (and pretty rockin' cool), and we also changed to AT&T. We are bundling everything under U-verse, which is being installed this coming week. So that has caused Dan and I to be complete couch potatoes this week and sit every evening on the couch while we try to clean all the shows off our Tivo. Because once U-verse is installed, we lose all our saved shows.

The evenings have been full of TV time and the mornings have been full of some serious purging. I have been RUTHLESS in throwing out junk from our house. It started with the craft room, and then spread to almost every other room in the house. (It even spread a bit to the blog! You may have noticed a little change with my blog banner.) I have cleaned out junk drawers, barbecue tools, candles, dived into hidden cabinets, vacuumed in hard-to-reach places, purged the mantel, and finally bagged up all the baby bibs that are no longer a part of our lives. I feel so incredibly happy about all of this purging. It is awesome! And now my friend and I are planning a garage sale for September.

Katie and I are getting used to having a space to do crafts. On Wednesday, I pulled out a new treat to share with her. I've been saving it for at least three years, when I saw it at Goodwill and snatched it up. It is a set of Fashion Plates, just like I used to play with back in the '80s. And I also pulled out a set of Barbie fashion plates that I found in a resale shop a while back too. Katie LOVED playing with them and has already had her friend Sammi over to use them. My heart was so happy, showing her something from my childhood and seeing her have the same kind of joy in it that I used to.

And something else pretty awesome happened this week. I wrote this post back in November, and was asked permission so it can be used on a Daily Guideposts sister website. I was beyond thrilled about this. The link won't be ready until September 3, but I will make sure to post it that day so you can check it out.

We enrolled Katie in a gymnastics class and it started last Monday. The smile on her face was brilliant as she climbed up on the balance beam and got started in her lessons. Now I have to figure out how to entertain Jackson during the 75 minute class. He wanted to bleacher dive while we waited. Uh... no.

Yesterday, most of my half marathon team got together and did our dress rehearsal for race day. We wore all our gear, drank water only at designated intervals (where the water stations will be on the race route), and did the entire 13.1 miles in three hours and 45 minutes. I am sore today, but proud of myself and my team. I'm glad that we proved to ourselves that we actually CAN do this.

So, there's a recap of our life the last week or so. I know it isn't very glamorous, but it's kept us pretty busy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Prayer for My Children

Dear Lord,

Watch over my children. Draw close to them so they can feel you in their lives. Not just now, but when they’re old and gray too.

Thank you for their presence in my life. Help me to be present in theirs. Not just when they need a drink or a meal, but when they find a true joy and surprise in life. Let me be there to experience the newness that sneaks up on them every day.

Give my children just enough loss to make them appreciate what remains. Crack their hearts - but only if you have to, and please do it gently. And barely enough just to make your point.

Give them a sense of gratitude. Help me teach that to them. Let their days start with an invitation to you, asking you to walk alongside them. And then let their hearts overflow with gratitude for your companionship.

Teach my kids what being a good friend means. Open their hearts to your example. And speaking of examples? When I mess up, can you erase that from their memories?

And, please, Dear God, let them outlive me. I’m so afraid of losing them. Bless me (even more than you already have) with the reward of seeing their children.

Show them how to dance, Lord. Sometimes with wild abandon, other times with ache and sorrow. Let me help you teach them that the tempo can change, but the dance partner is always waiting for them.

Thank you for lending them to us and for using them as a conduit for your lessons to reach my soul. I know you speak to me through them, as you do through every aspect of my life.

I am blessed, because you have made me so.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Okay, this is unlike me. If you know me AT ALL, you know I don't really cook. The microwave is my friend, and so is cereal. Sometimes I get all crazy and might make tacos or pasta or my fanciest of all, DG Chicken. (Which is so yummy.) But, in general, I don't do the cooking thing. So the idea of me posting a recipe is really funny. However, my friend and blog reader Charity has asked me to post any Weight Watchers recipes that I might have. Well... that isn't too easy. But I'll give you a few. And if any of you out there are on WW, can you leave a comment with your recipes too? Charity would appreciate it. And, who knows? I might actually use your recipe too!

Pork Chops with Dijon Cream Sauce
(makes 4 servings, at 5 points per serving)
4 (4 oz.) boneless center cut pork loin chops (1/2 inch thick)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Cooking spray
½ cup fat free reduced sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fat free half and half OR fat free evaporated milk
1 ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
Trim fat from chops. Sprinkle both sides evenly with salt and pepper. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add chops to skillet and cook 6-8 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chops from skillet and keep warm. Add broth to skillet, stirring to loosen browned bits. Combine mustard and half and half, add to skillet. Reduce heat and simmer 7 minutes or until sauce is thickened slightly. Spoon over chops.

(Makes 26 at 1 point each.)
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chiops
Half box (16 oz.) Fiber One cereal
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Melt chips in microwave on full power about 2 1/2 minutes. Stir until smooth and melted. Add peanut butter, stir well. Add cereal. Stir until well-coated. Drop onto cookie sheet in 26 stacks. Refrigerate.

Pumpkin Fluff
(Makes 6 servings at 1 point each.)
1 cup Cool Whip Free Whipped Topping
4 serving fat-free sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
15 oz canned pumpkin
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
First, mix all ingredients together in a blender, except the cool whip. Then fold in the cool whip to create "mousse" consistency.

Speedy Moo Shu Chicken
(Makes 4 servings at 5 points each.)
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut in strips
1 (4 oz.) package fresh shiitake mushrooms
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups coleslaw mix
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
4 (7 inch) fat free flour tortillas
Spray nonstick skillet with spray and heat on medium-high heat. Cook chicken 5-6 minutes and transfer to plate. Use more spray. Add mushrooms and salt, cook 2-3 minutes until mushrooms are softened. Add coleslaw until wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Add chicken and cook about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and add hoisin sauce. Warm your tortillas. Use 1/2 cup of filling in each tortilla.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Awesomeness?! Me?!

My friend Gina at Namaste by Day (who was a blog friend first and then became one in real life) is so sweet. She awarded me the Official Seal of Awesomeness. Now I like her even more. Ha! Just kidding...

I must now name five blogs that I think deserve the Official Seal of Awesomeness. Hmmm... that's a hard one. My brain hurts right now, after a whirlwind evening of gymnastics and making Sit Upons with the Daisy troop. So I will ponder for a moment and get back to you.

Okay. I'm ready! Drumroll, please!
  • Pillow Astronaut - This is a blog that my sister got me hooked on. I am not at all into science, but love reading Heather's thoughts on all things space. Besides, Katie wants to be an astronaut (and also a princess and a mommy), so I have to get my info somewhere!
  • My Home Wellingtontown - Scrappy Sue is creative, funny, and foreign. I like that!
  • Michelle Sidles - I found Michelle's blog through Jodified, which is the same place I found Gina. I love me some Jodified, but chose not to award her here because I think she has a lot on her plate right now! But I wanted to give a shout out to Michelle and Donna (see the next nominee, below) because I have so thoroughly enjoyed their blogs and getting to know them. They have both inspired me to work my camera and dig deeper.
  • Diary of a Dingo - See above! But Donna is also foreign (an Australian), which I like. (See above above!) And Donna and Michelle are neighbors in real life. How cool!
  • (in)courage - This isn't quite a blog, but it kind of is. It is brand new, and I heard about it from my bloggy friend Janera. I only just subscribed to the feed a few days ago, but I have truly enjoyed reading some of the inspirational writings on the site. It is a beauty, y'all. Go check it out.

Happy awesomeness, bloggy friends!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

5 Good Things Booklet

Today's sermon in church was focused on travel tips for those going through a transition in their lives. It could be starting a new school (or sending your baby off for the first time), a death, a birth, or just something that feels big and close to erupting in your life. The pastor talked about Jeremiah 29:4-14, which was written to those in exile - and I'm sure those who felt abandoned by the Lord. The gist of the passage is God talking to those who feel like they are waiting for something better to start. He is telling them to stop waiting and live their lives NOW. "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce." Even in exile! Don't wait until your lives are back to "normal." The pastor suggested we give up the "if only" game and stop wishing for someone else's story.

I think one of the ways we do that is to focus on what is good in our lives, not what is bad. Showing gratitude to God and those in our lives opens our hearts for more joy.

I came across this post, and love the idea of finding five good things every day. I printed a booklet and will fill it out this week. Maybe I'll post the five things (or 35, after seven days) in a week, to let you know the good that is flowing through my life.

Why don't you experiment with me? Focus on the good, even when things might not feel so good. I'd love for you to share your five/35 things with me too!

Jeremiah 29:11 says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Even in exile.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have one last post for the "photo tour" in the life of our family this past week. Sorry I am hitting you with so many photos, all in one day. Humor me, y'all!

On Friday, my mom's club went to downtown St. Louis to check out the new Citygarden. The first time I heard of it was here on Jodie's blog. I was intrigued and checked out the website, but still wasn't sure if it would be a good place for our group. Oh, man! It turned out to be a home run. It was so incredibly cool. I can't wait to go back!

There were so many cool water features and beautiful sculptures that are all touch- and climb-friendly. It was an oasis in the middle of downtown. I took almost 200 photos of the group. I will do a community service by not posting them all here, but I AM showing some of my favorite shots.

This sideways head is hollow inside, and the kids enjoyed climbing in it. There was also a slightly sloped stone pad under it, with water sliding down it. Just enough water to make a moving puddle. The kids loved stomping and splashing in it.

I am not sure exactly what this sculpture is, but there are three of them and Jackson looked so tiny standing in them.

Another curious sculpture. Jackson thought it was a slide, and kept trying to find the stairs so he could climb up and slide down. Then he just opted to directly climb up the "slide" part.

This shows one of the stone entrances.

Jackson was deep in thought, puzzling over how to escape the camera and run back to the red "slide" sculpture.

This sculpture was at the top of a grassy hill. Jackson asked me, "Can I go hug the guh-raff?" (He can't pronounce the "J" sound well, so "giraffe" is pronounced with a hard "G." So is Jackson, jump, etc.) I told him to run up and hug the guh-raff. He did the first hug with his hat on. And then when the bill of his hat got in the way, he removed it so he could snuggle in closer.

Then we got swimsuits on and let the kids play in the reflecting pool and waterfall. Jackson climbed all over the stones, taking some pretty big leaps from stone to stone. My heart skipped a few beats, but he was fine.

It was time to move on to the jumping fountains. This was the highlight of my day with Jackson. After cautiously checking out the spurts coming from about 100 fountains set in the stones on the ground, he started going wild and running through them. He would just charge up and down the line, having a ball.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Jackson. I love how the wet ground behind him looks shimmery.

And this is a photo of one of the kids who was with our group. I caught a fountain squirting in her face. She laughed and thought it was hilarious. So did I!

Pool Pics

I have taken only a few photos of the kids at the neighborhood pool this year. Time to remedy that. On Thursday, we headed to the pool and I brought my camera. I especially wanted to capture Jackson's amazing bravado as he jumps in the pool with wild abandon. AND he can "swim" by himself, using only with his water wings. I also wanted to capture Katie's skill and confidence in the water, and then I experimented with my shutter speed as I attempted to get some hair-throwing-water shots. Lastly, I was thrilled that my neighbor used my camera and captured a wonderful moment between Jackson and I in the tube. I am so happy to have these photos!


One of my son's favorite things is a crackhoe. Yep, you read that right. Of course, he means "trackhoe." He just can't pronounce the "tr" blend very well, so it comes out as "crackhoe." (And I decided to spell it that way without a space between the K and the H so that anyone Googling the other meaning of the word doesn't get directed to this blog.)

When we are driving around town, he'll see heavy machinery and call it by name. It's either a crane, crackhoe or front end loader. And, yes, he gets the distinctions right. On Thursday, I drove up to the local heavy equipment rental store and asked the nice man there if I could let my son see their equipment. (Not THAT equipment, y'all! Sheesh!) The nice man said yes and let Jackson walk out to the lot and go crazy. He ran from machine to machine saying, "Wook at dat! Whass dat?!" over and over. At first, he was hesitant to climb the machines, but then he got braver and asked to sit in the seats. It was so adorably cute and I was truly overjoyed to see such happiness on his face.

I am so blessed that I get to do this type of fun stuff with my kids. And so lucky that the nice man at the rental store indulged my two-year-old like this.

Who Needs a Dining Room Anyway?

I've been busy with a new project this week. It's been brewing in my mind since I read this post by Jodie about her atelier. (I have NO IDEA what that fancy word really means, so I'm just gonna call it a craft room.) I decided I am tired of having one-fourth of our first floor living space blocked off because it's full of family heirlooms and breakables. And I was tired of all our craft supplies being stored in a jam-packed kitchen cabinet where we couldn't find anything at all.

Just the other night, Katie had homework to do and I told her to find a pencil in her craft cabinet. She opened it and a stack of papers fell out onto her, and I gave up. I went to Wal-Mart and just bought her a new pack of pencils instead of having to dig through the chaos to find one we already had.

It's time to change, y'all. Who needs a dining room anyway? It's silly to have that entire room gated off just so I can use it once a year IF we host a holiday dinner with my extended in-laws. So I boxed up all the silver and crystal and moved it to the basement. We moved the heirloom dining room chairs to the attic in favor of "trashable" folding chairs. Then I boxed up some other stuff I haven't used in years and donated it. (And, never fear, my friends and family. The awesome portrait of my brother has been moved to the upstairs hallway. It did NOT go into storage. Perish the thought!)

Here's what the room looked like before. I'm kind of embarrassed to show it to you because it looks so messy and junky. But, remember, this was my "safe room" (or my staging area, as my friend Michelle likes to call her dining room too), and I kept things on the table that I didn't want the kids to touch. And then I locked the door and reinforced the baby gate and kept everyone OUT. So... here are the before shots:

Wednesday was a half day of school for Katie. When Jackson went down for his nap, she and I set to work on boxing the heirlooms and clearing out space. We had to take a break at one point so I could explain to her why Grandmama was inside the china cabinet (her cremains, y'all... not "her"). That was a tear-jerker conversation to have with my six-year-old. A tear-jerker for me, not really her. The little girl inside me rebelled at the thought of having to explain loss and cremation to her, hearing, "It's not fair that my mom is gone!" inside my head. And it's also not fair that I have so many examples of death to compare - Steeley or Gran Boot's burials versus Uncle Jackson and Grandmama's cremations. Ugh. But it's a fact of my life, and, therefore, a fact of hers.

So... back to the craft room. We worked at it all day and finally got things moved into the room by my bedtime that night. There are still lots of details for us to tackle: spreading out the rug I bought, moving more craft supplies up from the basement, delivering the LARGE plexiglass that we bought for the dining room table, and assembling a cabinet to go between the windows (which will hold Mommy's craft supplies!). But the craft room is officially functional and ungated and open for little hands.
Jackson was the first to create in the newly-repurposed room. He painted on Thursday, and enjoyed himself immensely.

Maybe I'll show you some more photos once we've broken in the new room and I have everything hanging up, all the drawers labelled, the rug laid and the cabinet assembled. And one day? Oh, yes... I plan to get rid of that grape border and paint the darn room too. But that'll have to wait a bit. Too many other things on my plate! It has felt good to purge, so there are some other projects on the horizon too.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Going, Going...

My blog friend Janera tipped me off to something cool. You need to go check it out, because it only lasts for two days (until midnight Wednesday). And if you search really hard, you might even find something from me.

How's that for cryptic and uninformative? Go check the links, y'all. GO!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Macro Monday & My Excuses

Yes, I've been an absent blogger for a little bit. It's just been a crazy few weeks! My family reunion in North Carolina (aka my adrenaline rush weekend of Harley riding and skydiving), then Camp Grandma at my Aunt Lucy and Uncle John's in Virginia, then a weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks, then desperately trying to get the kids back on a normal schedule. Which brought us to this past weekend. It was full of parties: the birthday kind and the pool kind. Not to mention paying the piper finally at Weight Watchers (I did some damage the past few weeks), then a nice leisurely three hour training walk with my half-marathon team. (We did ELEVEN miles!) And to nourish my soul, I finally got to go back to home, I mean church. Which is like home to me. I had missed two weekends in a row, and was starving for it. I think that was evident by the virtual dam of tears that were unleashed by the final song, It Is Well with My Soul. Wow.

Now I have to admit one more lame excuse. The few times that I DID have the ability to blog, I chose not to. Is that rude of me or what? Well, I have a good reason. I was determined to catch up on my scrapbook. I hadn't finished 2008 and therefore wasn't even close to starting 2009. I am proud to say I finally finished 2008 and have cleared the way for 2009. I think that deserves a pat on the back!

So, enough of my ramblings - just be glad I'm not posting ALL the details I could!

Let's move on to today's Macro Monday post. I found this little fella last week hopping near our outdoor trash bin. I grabbed him and went to show Jackson, and he peed on my hand (the frog, not Jackson). After releasing him, washing my hands, and grabbing the camera, that's the photo I got. For the rest of the day, Jackson told everyone about the "proggy" he saw. (He has trouble pronouncing Fs. Today he told me, "I don't peel so good." That's the new phrase he uses to catch attention, and I'll admit it does grab my attention to hear my toddler say he doesn't feel good! Then I find out he's just playing me.)

Happy Macro Monday! I'm going to go relax on the couch while my body heals from the abuse it took yesterday. (176 laps on the indoor track. Ugh!)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Powerful Friends

Did I mention that our photo won the contest at Jodie's blog? The one I wrote about here, asking you all to go vote for us? Wow, do I have great friends or what?! At my last count, our photo had 92 votes. Most of the votes are from people I know, not random people who voted. You, my friends, are powerful. Thank you for that!

And, now, I have yet another request for you. A way to use your power to make a difference in someone's life... not just make me happy and help win contests. (Although, please know I'm not belittling that!) It's an easy request, really. Help if you can, don't if you can't.

I met Jamie through my mom's group. I haven't seen her in years, but she still keeps in touch with one of my friends. Turns out that Jamie is in a serious crisis. Last October, her youngest child (she has three) was diagnosed with leukemia. He is TWO. His body is being hammered with chemo, and he is susceptible to infection. Imagine trying to keep your kid away from germs when you have two others bringing them in the house. How do you even go grocery shopping with him? You can't let him touch the nasty carts. Imagine the stress of seeing your baby so sick and near death. Doesn't get much worse than that.

Oh, but it does. Jamie's a stay-at-home mom with no income of her own, caring for her youngest round-the-clock. AND she split from her husband amidst all this turmoil because she couldn't take his violent physical abuse anymore. He was arrested, and now he's withholding money from her and has cut off her utilities and health insurance. Simply put, she is struggling - to make ends meet, to raise a family on her own, to pay for a divorce lawyer, to even afford gas so she can get her two-year-old to his chemo treatments.

Ever since I heard about all this turmoil in their lives, I have been praying about how I can help them. Now this is where you come in. There's a group called Phoneraiser that will make donations to help this family when we collect ink printer cartridges and old cell phones. Do you have any old phones or cartridges you can send to me? If so, please PLEASE let me know and I'll make sure they go to help Jamie's family.

Maybe you can't help in that regard? Then how about forwarding this information to your friends, or posting about it on your own blog? Help me spread the word.

Thank you, friends. I know we can make a difference in this family's life.

UPDATE: Thanks to my great friends, who gave me their phones and ink cartridges. I donated 22 phones and 10 ink cartridges. Awesome!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yearbook Yourself

Thanks to my sister in law, I spent at least an hour today at Yearbook Yourself. What a waste of time. And I never realized what an odd-shaped face I have until I tried to squeeze it into a round hole. The final results gave me a chuckle, and I thought I'd share them here. I did my photos first, then worked on Dan's and finally figured out how to manipulate them better. So I think Dan's turned out way better than mine. They're a hoot!
Oh, and Dan requested, "When you put those photos on your blog, say that they are NOT real." Notice he didn't say "If..." He knew exactly what I would be doing. So this is my disclaimer: NONE of these photos is real. I think we might have looked worse than this in our real yearbook photos!


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