Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Clean Slate

It feels like I waited so long for the year to change over to 2015 and now six days have already flown by! Today was my first day back to work (and school for the kids) after 17 days off.  Kind of sort of glad to start a routine again, but the "routine" of sleeping in and watching hours of "Doctor Who" on Netflix was pretty nice too.

I made an effort to knock out some small projects over the break.  Little things like cleaning out my dresser and side tables and setting up an organized jewelry table made me feel very productive.  A friend and I were talking about how the start of a new year feels like you are being handed a clean slate.  I can be more organized this year! I can make healthier choices this year! I can be happier this year!  Isn't that what we are all really looking for? More happiness?  The truth is any day can be a clean slate, but if the new year gives you extra motivation like it does me- go for it!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The 13th Gift- Book review

The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle is Joanne Huist Smith's recounting of how her family was deeply affected by the kindness of strangers.  Getting in the holiday spirit was at the bottom of Joanne's priorities the first Christmas after her husband unexpectedly passed away. From Joanne's description, her husband was a huge force in her family, especially during the holidays.  Without him, Joanne wanted to curl up on the couch and wait for Christmas to pass by. With a daughter desperate to come together as a family and celebrate and a son desperate to escape all things family related, Joanne's family seemed to be failing apart.

Twelve days before Christmas, a gift is left on their doorstep from their "True Friends".  The Smiths, even Joanne, become intrigued with who could be leaving these presents.  As the family tries to figure out clues and stage an occasional stake out, they slowly regain their footing.  

I found this to be a charming story about the kindness of strangers and how even small gifts can have such a large impact on someone in pain.  It was a quick read, largely in part because I found myself reading in bed saying "Just one more chapter then I'll go to bed" and then reading five more chapters.  It is great story to read during the holidays, but it would have held my interest even outside of the holiday season.  

I received this book for free from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Big Picture

Last week, instead of the typical boisterous talking and skipping/running down the sidewalk, E trudged from the bus stop to our house.  When asked how her day was, she said, "It was terrible and my teacher hates me."  Well.  Probably not true but it seemed true to her.  (Sidenote: her "real" kindergarten teacher has been out on medical leave for the last several weeks and I have not met the substitute teacher.  Regardless, I doubt she is a hater of children.)

When we sat to talk about it, E explained that after she completed one of the centers in class, she went to color at the coloring center and was told that the rule is they can only color on Fridays.  She was then told to "pull a strip", which in her class is their system of discipline.  E claims she didn't even know this was a rule.  When she pulls a strip, the only thing that really happens is the teacher writes "S" in her folder with the number of the strip pulled (#2), I look on the list of strips that #2 means "did not follow rules" and then it is up to E to convey to me what happened.  It is usually a reasonable explanation, we talk about how to do things differently next time, and it isn't that big a deal.

Well, it isn't that big a deal to me.  I know that E is a great kid and generally doesn't do things to be naughty on purpose.  But this was a big deal to her.  So big she thought her teacher didn't like her as a person.  As an adult, I can see the big picture that this isn't a big deal and her teacher probably won't even remember that E pulled a strip last week.  But E is only (almost) six.  She can't see ten years in the future- things that happen now are a big deal.  It made me think how often I have the same mindset.  I have a bad day at work, and I feel like a failure.  I have a bad day as a parent, and I put more money in their future therapy fund.  It can be very easy to let a little blip in my day to blow up in my mind.  I have a feeling God looks at me frequently and wonders why I let such small matters color my outlook on my whole life, just like I view E's problems.

I sat E down with her folder and we looked at how many days she pulled a strip and how many days she did not.  While pulling a strip was such a day destroyer to her, she has not pulled a strip on over 95% of her days.  She seemed to feel better looking at the big picture and went skipping off to play. Maybe the next time I have a bad day, I'll remember to look at the big picture and say, "It's just one day."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fifteen Women Walk Into a Cabin...

And leave as friends. The end. Just kidding! Well, I'm not kidding about the friends part.  Sigh.  Let me start over.

Madison of Wetherills Say I Do and Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts hosted the Renew Retreat this past weekend in Tennessee.  When they first announced their vision of a retreat for bloggers who are Christian, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun and also something I would never do.  I am really introverted and the idea of spending a weekend with a bunch of people I didn't know was so intimidating.  My thought process was, "What if I don't have anything to say, or worse, say something crazy? What if they hate me? What if I hate THEM?" Then my sister (Lisa of Life to the Full) said she was interested in going. I started thinking maybe it being something I normally wouldn't do was exactly why I should do it.  Get out of my comfort zone.  Meet some people in real life, not just on the computer. You know, actual human contact.

The retreat was in a cabin in the woods of Tennessee.  Isn't this view from the balcony gorgeous?!

The leaves were starting to turn and it was wonderful to be reminded of how beautiful our world has been created. (The baby bears we saw outside the cabin Friday night were less beautiful and more terrifying.) We were even treated to a fantastic swag bag with super cute things to bring home. Rachel has a great post detailing what was in the swag bag here.

We spent part of Saturday in Gatlinburg. We split into smaller groups for lunch and sightseeing or shopping then drove our caravan back to the cabin for dinner.  My family went this candy shop when we were in Gatlinburg last summer, so I was glad to visit it again.  I wisely (or sadly?) avoided buying candy this time.

Now, it made it a lot easier that Lisa went too, but I am SO glad I went.  I met thirteen other women who are all so amazing in their own ways.  Each one of them inspired me, whether they were relatively fresh out of college, well established career-wise, newly married or single, raising kids or birthing a new business.  And such talent! An unbelievable number of fantastic photographers (not me) and bakers of delicious biscuits, makers of all manner of delicious food, creative minds, kind hearts and super funny people.  Every single woman there had something wonderful to contribute, and I truly believe we all placed there together to lift each other up.  I feel a connection to these women, and have prayed for many of them specifically and all of them generally since I came home.
I'm already looking forward to next year's retreat!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Wet and the Dry- Book Review

The Wet and the Dry by Lawrence Osborne is a nonfiction "drinker's journey" that is not exactly the story I expected.  The description on the back of the book reads:

“Drinking alcohol: a beloved tradition, a dangerous addiction, even “a sickness of the soul” (as once described by a group of young Muslim men in Bali). In his wide-ranging travels, Lawrence Osborne—a veritable connoisseur himself—has witnessed opposing views of alcohol across cultures worldwide, compelling him to wonder: is drinking alcohol a sign of civilization and sanity, or the very reverse? Where do societies fall on the spectrum between indulgence and restraint?
An immersing, controversial, and often irreverent travel narrative, The Wet and the Dry offers provocative, sometimes unsettling insights into the deeply embedded conflicts between East and West, and the surprising influence of drinking on the contemporary world today.”

Based on this description, I was expecting an Anthony Bourdain-style travel monologue with tales of Mr. Osborne’s drinking escapades woven into a larger discussion of how various cultures view drinking.  Perhaps I expected a more historical explanation of how alcohol has become part of a country’s identity or how religious practices influence the role (or lack thereof) of alcohol in a particular area.  The book does address the context of drinking within various countries and cultures, but is largely a retelling of Mr. Osborne’s specific drinking escapades.  As in, having a no recollection of where he was or what he did the night before hangover. 

Something about this writing style just didn't click with me and I had a difficult time getting through it.  (I’m sure it did not help that my sister passed on a large stack of books that I was really eager to read.) It wasn't for me, but some readers will enjoy the drinking-related anecdotes.    

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


September seemed to drag on forever, didn't it?  Maybe it was just me being in a bit of a funk or the never ending 80 degree weather but I am soooooo glad it is finally October.  It is still in the 80's here, but the weekend forecast is for highs in the upper 60's.  Yay!  The lack of autumn weather has not deterred me from enjoying pumpkin spice everything or viewing approximately a hundred pairs of boots online.  It can be fall in my mind, right?

I'm really looking forward to this month.  I'm feeling much better emotionally, my sister/BFF and I are going to a blogger retreat in a cabin in a couple of weeks, and soon to arrive cooler weather means breaking out all the cute sweaters!  I'd like to find some fun fall activities to do this year.  We went to the most awesome pumpkin patch/corn maze/kid activity place when we lived in Virginia and every place we have been since then just paled in comparison.  If anyone knows of a super pumpkin patch in the northern Atlanta area, let me know.  If it is really awesome, I'll send you some pumpkin butter.  Or a thank you note or something.  I plan to fully enjoy the fall, because I know in a matter of weeks I will be grumbling about how unbearably cold it is.  Happy October!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's September! (Somebody tell the weather.)

Can you believe it is September?  Here in Georgia, we celebrated Labor Day with a high of 93 degrees so the first kiss of fall hasn't quite made it here yet.  I actually found three sweaters I loved at TJ Maxx this weekend (my buying clothes is a miracle unto itself) but I am assume they will hang in my closet mocking me for the next several months.  I can't complain too much because I HATE being cold more than anything and I will be begging for the heat of summer come January.  However, I wouldn't mind the comparatively chilly highs in the 70's.  I'd even take low 80's.  Despite the lingering summer heat, I have enjoyed a Pumpkin Spice Latte on two occasions already.  (Don't judge.)

This was the first weekend the kids spent the night at their dad's apartment.  I tried to keep myself busy in a possibly manic sort of way (see my shopping above).  I also went to IKEA in Atlanta, Wal-Mart and the grocery store on Saturday and was gone from my empty house most of the day.  Avoidance, anyone?  Some thunder storms rolled through Saturday night and E's demon Furby was woken up twice by the noise or vibration.  The second time I was woken by that evil furry monster, I decided removing its soul batteries was the prudent thing to do. E is still waiting on me to put the batteries back in.  Good luck with that, E. 

I had the girls back Sunday and today. To give you an idea of what goes on in this house, both E and S separately asked me if the dogs pooped or barfed in the house while they were gone (no).  Did a dog poop in the house today?  Why yes, yes he did.  Welcome home, kids!  

I'm really proud of myself that I figured out how to fix the garbage disposal today without a) paying for repairs and b) chopping my fingers off.  All the instructions online said never put your hand down the drain to mess with the blades.  Um, sure.  I did ultimately do it correctly- I turned off the breaker and everything- and still have ten complete fingers.  I did, however, call in a professional for wasp and wasp nest removal tomorrow.  I've never been stung by a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, etc. so I'm not really scared of them.  BUT, those little jerks are apparently short tempered and like to swarm.  No thank you.  Plus, not having been stung before, I always wonder in the back of my mind if I will turn out to be allergic.  Is it really worth the risk of anaphylactic shock? I think not.  All in all, not a bad way to spend Labor Day weekend.