Saturday, September 25, 2010

Midlife with Dan

Eighteen years ago today, I met Dan. I was only 18 years old. That means today is the midpoint of my life with Dan. Yesterday, the scale tipped the other way: more of my life had been spent without him than with him. Today, the scale is exactly balanced. And tomorrow? It tips the other way. Wanna know why? My life is full.

Of him. Full of his love our love for each other.

I’ve always said God brought Dan into my life at the exact right moment. The first time we met, it didn’t turn out well. (Click here to read Our Story.) But when we did finally “meet for good” a few months later, it was so perfectly timed that I can’t give anyone credit but God. He knew. All along, He knew. When we finally started dating, a week later he met my parents for the first time when I turned 19. Shortly after that, my beloved Grandfather Frank died. Then Mom was diagnosed with lupus. Then Dad left Mom. The rest is history, of course.

I fully believe God put Dan in my life because He knew Dan would love me almost as much as God Himself loves me. The reason it didn’t work out the first time we met? You could chalk it up to circumstance, I guess. But I know the truth: God knew neither of us was ready. I still had a few mistakes to make, and my need for Dan’s influence on my life wasn’t refined yet. God waited to bring us back together when the moment was perfect.

I know, without a doubt, that God gave Dan to me because I needed a stable person in my life. I needed someone who would love me unconditionally. Back then, I knew about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but didn’t really KNOW them in the sense of leaning on them and putting my life in their hands. (Heck, I’m not sure I do that very well even now!) But back then, I put my worth in what others thought of me. The idea of God loving me unconditionally hadn’t quite taken residence in my heart. Dan brought that concept down to an understandable idea for me. He still does!

Dan was the precursor to my understanding of God’s love for me. Dan has been the tangible proof of God’s love in my life. As Jean Valjean says in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” In Dan’s love, I have seen the face of God. And He is beautiful!

Thank you for the gift of your presence in my life, Dan. Thank you for the countless ways you have loved me – back in 1992 before we knew we had a future together, and all the ways you love me still today. You are the best gift I’ve ever received! God is so good to us.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Glow Bath

I saw this post on Ohdeedoh and loved it. Erica’s Bloggity Blog had the fun idea to use glow sticks in the bathtub. At dinner last night, I bribed the kids to finish their meal by promising a big surprise in the bath. They could hardly stand the suspense, and started guessing immediately.

Katie’s guess? “Oh! It’s water that turns into chocolate!” Uh, no. And eeww anyway!

Jackson’s guess was ice cream. In the tub. Hmm… not a bad idea, actually. Maybe we’ll try that another day. Next, Katie asked for TV in the tub, and I told her no way. That led to us promising her that on her tenth birthday, she can take a bath with tons of bubbles, and we’ll wheel a TV in for her to watch while she eats a big bowl of ice cream. She squealed with excitement over this idea, and made me pinky swear that I will remember to do that when she turns ten.

Anyway, back to the story. I bathed the kids then made them recite the bath time rules (no splashing, no standing up – due to our slippery bath – and no dumping water out of the tub). Then I cracked open a pack of glow sticks and let them go to town. I couldn’t get my camera to focus well in the dark, and this is the best grainy photo I can show.IMGP2793-

The kids had a blast, and the grownups got ten whole minutes to ourselves. Whee!

Homemade Stamps

Oh, how I love reading the blog Filth Wizardry. Lindsey just rocks my socks off every time I visit her blog! I subscribe to her feed, and love her posts so much that I won’t allow myself to read her feeds until I’ve accomplished certain other things. Because once I read Lindsey’s posts, I get myself all worked into a tizzy and want to go do whatever random project she’s suggesting RIGHT NOW.

Her recent post about plasticine stamp printing gave me the same itch. But first, I had to figure out exactly what is plasticine? Lindsey is from across the pond, so she uses different terminology when she writes. I read through the comments on her post and finally figured out that plasticine is what we Americans call modeling clay.

Naturally, I didn’t have any modeling clay except some that I’ve earmarked for another project. So I hit Michael’s and bought some. I found this box, made by Sculpey, that cost $1.24.IMGP2713

Then I was at Walmart and found this kind for 92 cents. Cheap, cheap!Photo124

Oh, well. I overpaid by 32 cents. Shucks.

Yesterday, Katie and I got out the clay and searched the house for things we could use as a stamp mold. We started with toys, then Katie found baskets and coasters and Legos to use. We also used a candle from our mantle, but the clay left a slight film over it so I opted to stop using my nice candle. Here are the designs we made, which Katie labeled. I love how she is so similar to me (and my own parents!) in labeling things.IMGP2710

Next, we tried two rings ( a plastic star-shaped one and a silver one I was wearing), then we got the brilliant idea to try some leaves from the yard.IMGP2709

That led us to a production stall. In the excitement of getting outside, a piece of the patio door broke off and jammed the sliders. After a rescue mission from my neighbor, we were back in the business of making leaf prints. On the left is a leaf from our strawberry plant. On the right is a leaf from our rose bush.IMGP2705

Here is a print made from clover.IMGP2706

We also used a pewter labyrinth that I have hanging on my wall to create my favorite look of all.IMGP2703

This last print was made from one of the pewter pieces that hang above my patio door. They are handmade by my uncle, who is a pewter smith.IMGP2807

I took one of the trees and made an impression in the clay, then stamped it. Pretty cool, huh?IMGP2700

Today I got out my Stampin’ Up punch and some glue, found an empty cereal box in the recycle bin, and went about gluing the stamped pieces onto cardboard. (If only I had thought ahead and stamped directly on to cardstock yesterday. Oh, well.) I plan to use them for gift tags or maybe on handmade cards.IMGP2805

Thanks for such an inspiring idea, Lindsey!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Washing Windows

It’s Cycle Break for our school district. We have a year-round school calendar, so school starts up in July and our first three-week break starts in September. My friend Carrie gave me a great idea last year. We started a bingo game for Cycle Break. (Go to this post from a year ago and scroll down to see last year’s bingo sheet.) This year’s bingo has some of the same ideas. It includes outdoor tasks (riding her bike 10 times down the street), frivolous activities (eating a cucumber slice), and things that help around the house (sweep the patio).

On Saturday, Katie wanted to mark off a new box on her bingo sheet. She really wanted the task “play in the back yard for 30 minutes without Mommy” until she saw “clean the window on the front door.” Oh, man! She was in a tizzy to do this one. We set off with a bottle of Windex and a microfiber cloth, and I commenced to teaching my daughter how to wash windows. She loved doing the front door so much that she begged to clean the other windows. Who am I to deny such joy and happiness to my girl?IMGP2532-

I showed Katie how to clean a double-hung window by pulling the glass into the house and dropping it down to wipe it. She was amazed by this.IMGP2530-

I am so proud of her and how sparkly she made our windows! And, truly, it’s such a good thing to watch your child take pride in a job well done.

Bracelets for a Cause

For the last few years, Katie and our neighbors have made their own lemonade stand on our street. One year, we donated the money to a family whose baby had just died so they could help pay for expenses. More recently, we’ve donated the lemonade stand money to Living Water International. This past year, Katie and her friends also made bracelets to sell on Thanksgiving to family and friends. That money was also donated to Living Water.

This year, the plan for the lemonade stand is to combine the bracelets and refreshments. Yesterday at church, Katie showed our friend Tony one of the bracelets she made to sell. (Tony’s the go-to guy at church for Advent Conspiracy.) At first, Tony put in an order for five bracelets, then told Katie he had a better plan. He asked her to make some for him to take on a trip to El Salvador, where he’s going to help with digging water wells. He’s leaving this weekend!

Katie and I got to work immediately. While Jackson napped yesterday, I researched Spanish phrases to include with the bracelets. I consulted my neighbor, who is fluent in Spanish. We decided on the word “amado”, which means “beloved.” Katie and I made Shrinky Dink tags with amado printed on them and shaped them like water drops.IMGP2557

Then we beaded bracelets to give to Tony.IMGP2551

And to be perfectly honest, I have to admit I did the bulk of the beading. Katie ran out of patience and ended our session just selecting the beads while I strung them. But the end result is pretty cool: 18 handmade bracelets for Tony to pass out in El Salvador, along with our love and prayers!IMGP2561

Puff the Magic Dragon

The song “Puff the Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary is one of Jackson’s all-time favorite songs. He requests that song or “Juke Box Hero” every time we are in the car.

A few weeks ago, Grandma and I were shopping at Joann’s fabric store and found some cool shimmery fabric that looked like scales. I thought of a mermaid tail first, then Grandma thought of a dragon. She decided to buy a yard of the fabric to make Jackson a cape.

We got to her house and brainstormed ways to make a cape. The plans got more and more elaborate, and we Googled images to get an idea of what the cape should look like. We found a link to this blog post on stitch/craft, which I was so excited about because I already subscribe to Holly’s blog. I had no idea that cape awesomeness was only a quick search away on her blog!

Grandma searched her basement and found a bit of unused black flannel for the inside of the cape, plus some gold felt to use for spikes down the dragon’s back. We cut out all the necessary pieces, then moved on to dinnertime. Grandma finished the cape later without me, and brought it to Jackson to try it on. Isn’t he ferocious?IMGP2545

Here’s a better view of the dragon spikes.IMGP2547

On the reverse (black) side of the cape, Grandma stitched red satin devil horns and a red felt tail.IMGP2549

Of course, this is now Jackson’s Halloween costume. He tells anyone who will listen that he’s going to be Puff the Magic Dragon for Halloween.

Thank you for such a great tutorial, Holly!

Skin as Paper

Jackson wanted to color at lunch yesterday, so I gave him a notepad and a pen. He wanted to use it in the car too, so I let him. No big deal, right? He was just in a car seat behind me, coloring “string balls” (his words for big scribbles on a page), quiet as can be. Happy and quiet.

I should have known that wasn’t a good sign.

We pulled in to the garage, and I glanced back at Jackson. Somewhere on the journey, he decided skin is much better than paper for drawing string balls!IMGP2542

Noticing the Beauty

In church yesterday, our pastor talked about noticing the ways God moves in and around our lives. He asked us what we worship: God or our idols?

Little details like these – right in my backyard – make me pause in wonder.IMGP2414

Have you ever noticed how the tiny top of an acorn looks like the inside dome of a cathedral? Or maybe the pattern of an ornate stained glass window?IMGP2393a IMGP4513

Beauty. Just look around and you’ll find it.

Katie’s a Numismatist

Katie started her first coin collection with a special penny folder. There are 90 holes for the pennies, and she wrote a year under each hole. She started with 2010 in the top left corner and ends with 1921 in the last spot. I’m pretty sure she won’t get many of the old holes filled, but it’ll be fun to search and try!IMGP2361


Have you ever been geocaching? Do you even know what it is? Wikipedia defines it as “an outdoor activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called ‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’, anywhere in the world.”

Here’s how Dan and Katie did their first geocache about a week ago. For this adventure, I stayed home with Jackson for naptime, but Dan brought family along for the fun. His brother, nephew, and parents went on the search.100_2388

Dan looked on the website and searched for a particular local park. He found a great route that included four waypoints with their own riddle or mystery at each station. The answer to that riddle/question/clue gave them a digit to be used in the final GPS coordinates that pinpointed the cache.

Dan said Katie really enjoyed this first geocaching experience. She ran around with her fanny pack, notebook and pencil and helped Dan solve the clues. Finally, they were rewarded with their treasure and found the cache inside a tree stump.100_2398

The signed the logbook inside the cache, left some trinkets (and picked two to keep), then buried it back in the stump for others to find.100_2397

I’m hoping I get to join the seekers on their next geocache hunt!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

Praying in Color

My friend Cindy let me borrow a book that I absolutely LOVE now. It’s called Praying in Color and it is now a favorite book of mine because of the way it’s affected my prayers.Praying in Color

The author of the book, Sybil MacBeth, says “We can listen and concentrate best when we are seemingly distracted by other activity – in other words, when we are allowed to play. The fact that our hands are busy does not mean we aren’t paying attention.” MacBeth describes the way she uses drawing to enhance her prayer time, and she discusses different tools you can use (different papers, pens, etc.).

The first few chapters spoke deeply to me. Before I even finished the book, I grabbed some fun pens, black paper, and set to work  illustrating my prayers. I started with God in the center of my art, then drew names of people I’m praying for. Names that carried extra gravity for me – or people I prayed about for a longer period of time – were drawn bigger or in a different writing style. I was amazed at how my prayer time went from worrying to just raising that person up to God’s will and presence. Here’s the first Icon (as the author calls them) that I completed. I lost a few names when I scanned the page, since my paper was bigger than my scanner’s bed. But you get the idea…002

The author writes, “The entire prayer time was silent and wordless. I felt no need to supply a pious or pleading monologue. The feeling of despair and discouragement and my usual urgency to flee from the sickness and distress of others were absent. I had thought ‘of’ each person as I drew, but not ‘about’ each person. The details of their prayer needs were spared, and I could just sit with them in a variation on stillness.”

I do believe she was writing that about ME and my prayer time!

I completed my third Icon this afternoon. I started it a few days ago, and slowly added to it as I read my Bible. I started with Psalm 103, then went backwards page by page to Psalm 78. As I went, I jotted down all the names and words that describe God – either in my mind or in the Psalms I read. I ended up with this art, plus a heart full of praise for Someone who is so steadfast and yet so changing to me.2010-09-12

I tried a different technique for my second Icon, which is a little too personal for me to share here. The technique wasn’t mentioned in the book. I took a pen and piece of paper and just started writing a prayer in cursive handwriting. I didn’t allow myself to use spaces between my words, so the prayer looks like one REALLY long  word. This technique was interesting because in cursive, you have to know what letter or word comes next so you’ll know what shape to make with your pen. The result was I had to turn my brain off and stop overthinking the prayer, and just let the words come through my brain without a filter. It was pretty cool.

The book has chapters explaining different prayers and subject matter to use (praying the Scriptures, using Lectio Divina, using a calendar, and even using a computer). There are all kinds of examples throughout the book, drawn by the author and other people she knows. It’s a really great book! (Thank you, Cindy!)

Praying in color has refreshed my prayer time by letting the analytical side of my brain focus on specifics while the meandering, creative side of my brain filters those thoughts into something tangible. I can’t wait to spend more time with God and my colorful prayers!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


“So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.” (Wicked)IMGP2013

“If we ever leave a legacy it’s that we loved each other well.  The closer I’m bound to you in love the closer I am to free.” (The Power of Two, Indigo Girls)

Happy birthday to my best friend. I love you!


1992-06 BGS at Bear Mountain Lodge in NYToday is a lesson in opposites, if there ever was one.

September 7 is a day of celebration because it’s the day the love of my life entered this world. It’s also a day of mourning because it’s the day my mother left this world. Which, in truth, is also a point of celebration at the same time. How do you cry and laugh at the same time? I guess that’s the mystery of life.

 “That night it occurred to me that I could again be ‘happy,’ that I was not defined only by loss and fear and grief, but also by love and joy and light. These are my gifts, the gifts that I have paid a price for. While I would never have chosen to pay that price, these are now the gifts I could not live without. I have no capacity for insincerity. It is a waste of time. I do what I do because I love the process. It would otherwise be a waste of time. I allow myself to be loved and to love others. That is worth my time.” (Nate Berkus)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Search the word “leftovers” on my blog and you’ll get ten hits. (Well, now you’ll get 11 if you count this post.) Two of those hits are for the kind of leftovers that you might eat or meaning something that is truly left-over. The other eight hits relate to the place Leftovers. If you are a regular reader of my blog (is there anyone? Anyone?!), then you know what Leftovers is. Yep!!! My favorite place!

I have grown tired of just mentioning Leftovers on my blog and linking to their website, so I finally decided to take Penny (my camera) on a field trip and document Leftovers so I can share it Penny-style with the blogworld. (I hope you’re all jumping for joy over this. And if you aren’t, humor me!) I promise I asked permission before I went around snapping all these photos!

leftovers_logoLet’s start from the beginning. Leftovers is a place nearby that has a bunch of junk for sale. My husband would run screaming from the building if he ever went, because it’s a place he would consider a nightmare due to the junk that’s inside. But for me, it’s a gold mine. Gold mine, I tell ya!

Leftovers is the place you go when you need some sort of random item. Teachers go there when they need 14 empty egg cartons for their students to complete a project. There are shelves full of yogurt containers and Pringles cans and broken pottery and empty Easter eggs and old magazines. It’s the place you go when you need a milk carton and don’t want to pour your perfectly good milk down the drain. It’s like recycling gone wild.

So, here’s what my typical visit to Leftovers is like. First, this photo shows the outside of Leftovers. It’s in an industrial area. It doesn’t look like a gold mine, does it?IMGP1021

Every time I visit, I bring a bag of items I saved from our recycling bin and I donate the items. Then I get a punch on my Leftovers card for every time I’ve donated. I sign in on a piece of paper (they keep track of how many people are donating). Then I grab an empty paper grocery bag from their stash, and I wander the aisles and find whatever random things I might need for a craft project or an educational tool for my kids.

IMGP1019 When you enter Leftovers, the first section you walk through is the Gift Shop. Sometimes, people donate things that are whole and re-sellable on their own. Things like vases or candle holders or even jewelry. These items get a price tag and then go into the Gift Shop for sale. Sometimes, some of the donated items are crafted into something new and then it’s resold. See those license plate dustpans in the bottom right corner of the above photo, right above my copyright watermark? That’s an example of something made and then resold. (I have so many license plates I got from Leftovers that I’m collecting to decorate Jackson’s room when he moves out of his crib and into a big boy bed!)

IMGP0993 The next section you enter is the Idea Zone. I didn’t take specific photos of that section out of respect for the artists and those who made items for the Idea Zone. It’s a place for ideas to get your creative juices flowing, not a place to go copying others’ ideas. But if you look at the above photo, you can see a sign hanging from the ceiling on the top left that marks the Idea Zone. The Idea Zone is just a place where there are typical Leftovers items used in new ways. There’s a tic-tac-toe game made out of a CD holder and milk jug lids. There are trivets and corkboards made out of wine bottle corks. And an octopus made out of a plastic soda bottle. You get the idea. Oh! There’s also a dollhouse made out of recycled parts. Look in the photo and it’s on the left side of the woman there – you can see it

You pass the Idea Zone on the left and walk into the area I think of as Office Supply Heaven.IMGP0996 This section has old teacher workbooks and paper clips and pens and crayons and empty envelopes and In/Out boxes and rolls of dot matrix printer labels. Oooo, it’s fun! Katie loves to write letters to people, and I could go broke buying envelopes for her. Luckily, Leftovers has plenty for me to select and take home to Katie.

Walk around the racks, and you enter the Flower Shop section of Leftovers.IMGP0997

There are artificial flowers and pinecones and sweet gum tree balls (you know, those spiky things) in this section. And you can’t see it in this photo, but behind the flower stand is a pile of carpet remnants and large wooden spools – like the kind you’d get from a roll of utility wire.

Behind the Flower Shop is the section called The Pantry.IMGP0999

This is where there are empty tins like cookie tins from Christmas or  giant popcorn tins. There are cans and peanut butter jars and baby food jars and milk jugs and coffee cans and yogurt tubs and laundry detergent scoops and EVEN church communion cups.

Beside the Pantry is my favorite section of all: the Craft Corner and Sewing Room. Where else can you find a box of doll heads?IMGP1007

Or how about a box of hair dye color samples?IMGP1011

This shelf is always fun: it has scraps of paper, a huge tub of puzzle pieces, and boxes full of embroidered patches.IMGP1010

However, this shelf in the Sewing Room section is, hands down, my favorite of all. It doesn’t look like much, but there are fabric scraps, ribbon scraps, and – best of all – fabric sample books on the bottom shelf. *Swoon!*IMGP1006

Here are some other highlights from Leftovers. Racks full of greeting cards and old copies of National Geographic.IMGP1012

How about a shelf full of foam trays – the kind you get your hamburger meat on at the grocery store? And a tub full of empty toilet paper tubes.IMGP1015

This section is always fun too. It’s a repository from holidays past: empty Valentine chocolate boxes, burned out Christmas light bulbs, glass Christmas ornaments, Easter eggs, Halloween trick-or-treat buckets, a bucket full of used candles, and a bucket full of straw hats (including a sombrero!).IMGP1005

The last stop on our little tour is a room I hardly visit because the sheer volume overwhelms me. It’s an entire room full of used books. I am not sure how much the books cost each, but I know they are pretty cheap.IMGP1018

When you are done shopping, you take your paper grocery bag to the cashier near the front door. Usually, the cashier is Norma. (She’s wearing a red shirt in this photo.)IMGP1003

Norma is always at Leftovers. She is so friendly and down-to-earth, and is a great resource when I need to brainstorm a project. She knows the inventory on the shelves, and also the items in the warehouse out back that haven’t been put on shelves yet. Bring your paper bag to Norma, and she’ll ask you to weigh it on a digital scale beside the cash register. The reason for this? I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s because Leftovers gets grant funding depending on how much they keep out of landfills. Then you pay according to how much stuff you’re buying. If you fill just one paper bag to the top, it’s $7. If it’s less or more than that (even five bags full!), Norma adjusts the price accordingly. If you have filled a punch card from past donations, you get your $7 paper bag for half price. Woo hoo!

Another cool thing about Leftovers? They offer classes – dance and theater classes, home schooling classes, and classes for kids to earn Scout badges. (Katie’s troop has already been to Leftovers twice!)

Okay… so I feel like I could go on and on about how much I love Leftovers and all the treasures I’ve found there. How about I just finish up this blog post and hit the publish button? However, I reserve the right to continue writing about Leftovers and show you more of my favorites there.

Let me know if there are any projects or other items you’d like to see and I’d be happy to post about it!

Update on the Miracles

I got to spend some more time with my friend, Beth, in the hospital today. Her twin boys (the miracles I wrote about  here) were born almost four weeks ago. They were very early – only 28 weeks gestation. This is the third time I’ve visited the boys in the hospital, and I brought my camera along to document their growth.

Beth’s husband was there with the boys, too. He snuggled little Owen in his arms, and they looked so peaceful and quiet.IMGP1766-

Owen is so tiny it makes me ache just to look at him. Every maternal instinct in me cries out with the need to protect him, and he isn’t even mine!IMGP1835-

Baby Finn got his nose cannula removed yesterday, so this is the first time I’ve seen his face so clearly. Isn’t he adorable? His hair is so soft and downy, like a baby chick.IMGP1847a

I got to watch Finn nuzzle his mommy and practice the art of latching and breastfeeding. It’s amazing to me how God programmed babies to know exactly what to do when nursing.IMGP1846- 

Another friend of mine was asking about Beth and the babies’ progress, and I told her it is such a mix of emotions right now – to see these little miracles, but to also know how tenuous life really is. Their beauty is astounding, as is Beth and Sean's strength and grace. You never truly know how strong you are until you face the unimaginable. I am honored to be a witness to this family’s love!


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