Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Silver Lining Sick Days

All I'm saying is, you know your life has long-since taken a turn for the...unexpected... when in the span of two hours you discuss "zany" new medications with your child's hematologist, contend with significant adoption issues, field a call from a friend saying she's been in hiding for 2 days after beating up another girl, and visit the county jail.

This is the mostly-good kind of crazy, right?

Right???!

Cause this week it feels just crazy. The plain kind.

The days have lost their ever-loving minds starting right around 3pm. The evenings have been long, intense, and exhausting.


The good news is, Silas has been sick. Hear me out.

While it's not good that he suffered a high fever, "watering" eyes, mysterious "mouf" ailments, and a muscle twitch in his right heel ("my foot is pumping up! it's not flat! wahhh!"), it IS stinking good to have a reason to lounge all morning in our "pojammies" without a care in the world. (Pumping up feet aside.)

We've shared a grapefruit (dude can't get enough), read Harold, watched Madeline, played Bingo and just today tried to light the Christmas tree, only to find that ALL of the lights are dead, save one 50-light strand. (If you know Silas at all, you can imagine how devastating this was/still is.)


He's on the mend now, working hard at saying "THink" instead of "sink" and telling me things like, "When I grow bigger'n you, I'll be your boss. Yes I will."

Tomorrow? He goes to school.

Oh, he's going to school.

Bonus happy: My canvas came! Lordy, I love it. They sent a coupon for $50 off my next purchase. Don't mind if I do!

We deliberated long and hard over which photo would be honored and I couldn't be happier with the winner. It feels important to point out that this shot was a big, fat mistake. Spot metering gone awry. SCORE!

If you haven't ordered a canvas yet, DO IT. Right now Canvas People is offering 60% off with free shipping. DOUBLE SCORE!

So, how has your week been so far? Is our crazy contagious?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Money Shot Monday - Church Party


Photo
(It seems I'm out of photo storage...but Money Shot Monday shall not be defeated! In the meantime, I did a facebook copy/paste hack job. You understand.)

Tonight was my thirty-second Thanksgiving of the season. Give or take.
Turkey, mashed potatoes and pecan pie...again? Walk my way, good fortune.

I hate to play Thanksgiving favorites, but I might have to anyway. This was my favorite.  Hate me.

We invited friends to our party tonight and they came. They made it even better than it already is.
We stuffed ourselves and high-fived and cooed at the baby.
Cory ate an entire portion of Pumpkin Buckle topped with brown gravy and a sprinkling of salt, believing it to be stuffing. Strange things happen when this rag-tag group gathers. (Some nights more than others.)  

These are my people. They're teaching me all about community and grace and jumping into the deep end without my noseplugs. 

PhotoPhotoPhoto
    

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Way We'll Christmas {and some deals}

My tree isn't up yet. The freak babies are still snoozing somewhere in a plastic tub. The ground isn't white. I'm not wearing flour in my hair or glitter eyeliner.

Wait, I never wear glitter eyeliner. Though come to think of it, maybe I should.

Sidenote: My brother-in-law very recently guessed my age at 40. Not that there's anything wrong with 40, except that I'm not.

Sidenote 2: We visited our new church for the first time, a church packed to the gills with, uh, dear persons of the golden age. A particular white-haired lady creaked up to me and grabbed me about my shoulders, hugging me as though she'd known me forever, then exclaiming, "You look just like my sister-in-law!" (WHAT????) She paused. "Except she's not as...(wait for it)...tall." Homegirl was at least 72. Maybe her brother has a taste for younger women?

Sidenote 3: Just last week, Ruby gleefully announced, "Mommy, you're almost like a Grandma! Well, you're not one...you just look like one!"

All of that to say, pass the glitter eyeliner.

But this isn't at all why we're here. The Christmas season is rightfully upon us and yes, the Fall banner still hangs sleepy in the window, but give me a few days. I'll hop aboard.

Two years ago we started the tradition of not opening gifts on Christmas day. I love it. It feels right to hold that day aside to feel the full beating of the day's truest heart.

This year, we've decided to do something else: We're loving others as much as we love ourselves. So whatever we spend for us, we'll spend equally for someone in need. "Us" includes family members, friends, teachers. It's anyone who is ordinarily on the list.

We are not big spenders at Christmas, but I do love giving gifts. This year it'll simply be more important than ever to keep an eye on the budget and find some killer deals. I've got my spreadsheet ready and I'm excited to see how it goes. Who knows, it could all be a bust. But I love the idea and I'll be sure to keep you posted.

Tomorrow, there are some pretty amazing bargains happening.

I bring you...the swoonery:

Redeemed - Truly Treasured - Wallet
Dayspring : 30% off entire order (including sale items!) using the code 30SUPER all day Monday. I'm quite enamored of this Redeemed wallet.  How fun would it be to wrap a gift card up in this?


Love is my anchor necklace

Lisa Leonard jewelry 25% off all orders. (I'm a sucker for all things nautical. FYI.)


Bezuayhu
 Have you grabbed a fashionABLE scarf yet? Free shipping all day on Monday.


That should get us started, right?

I'm working on a list for Cory. I'm always so bad at coming up with a list, but people, you can't even imagine how rogue Cory goes without a stinking list. It's painful. I'm talking beige Snuggies or nothing but Burt's Bees, like twelve different things, including the big Christmas gift-set. (If you still don't believe me, read this.)

So tell me, do you have a certain way of doing Christmas? Is there a particular tradition you love? Do you find it all as complicated as I do? (I'm on a serious mission to uncomplicate this year.)

Show me your cart, friends.


All links are affiliate links.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hooker



"The hookers and swindlers enter [Heaven] before us because they know they cannot save themselves, they cannot make themselves presentable or lovely. They risked everything on Jesus, and knowing they didn't have it all together, were not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace." - The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning



I've done nothing but eat Mexican food and pie for 48 straight hours yet all I can think about is Brennan Manning. His words are sliding some of my thoughts into place. They're fitting the lock.

For a very long time, I've tried to do this thing or that thing, all of the stuff that other, Godlier people seemed to be doing. I've been ashamed about the way I worship, regretful that I don't read my Bible enough, disappointed in myself that my prayers aren't quite right. I never fast. I watch rated-R movies.

The inner workings of my faith have been a secret I keep, but only because others might say it's wrong, or not enough.


The truth is, in the past two years I've felt more alive and far more sure of things. I've also struggled with unforgiveness for the very first time, said some cuss words, watched Dexter, and judged Dave Ramsey. I'm more aware than ever of my unholiness, yet my faith is somehow stronger.

How do I explain that to my old college professor, who claimed that days would go unmarked by the taint of his sin? What do I say to the woman who looks me straight in the eye and says that her love for God is so big that the sins of others make her weep?

In the past two years, I've also spent time with the so-called hookers and swindlers. I've fallen in love with them, and only partly because they hold a mirror up to my buttoned-up, hidden-away cheating, lying, grimed-up heart.

There's much to be said for closing in on the sorry state of my personal affairs. Looking myself square in the mug has made Christ irresistible, His promises mandatory.

I know that God calls each one of us into a gutter, where we're sure to find people desperate in a way we hope to never be. I'm learning that the gutter is not where we go out of obligation or even sympathy.

Compassion draws us there. Love causes us to memorize the route. But the reason we go, the true reason we're called, is because it turns the wheel that turns the wheel that launches us headlong into His flaming compassion and his furious, relentless love for me.

We look past our silly sprucing up and all of our check-marked tasks and lock eyes with the brown-eyed hooker in the mirror with the flat hair and the age spots. Right then is when we know for sure that we're destitute. We're not even good enough for the welfare cheese.

Our need is massive and every split second of His provision is a gift. It's grace.

So we take it. Finally, we take it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hope Friday


It's after 1 in the morning and as usual, I should be sleeping.
I spent my today in the same way you spent yours. It was easy and good. My teeth are a little sugary.

But the underscore is the knowing that other people don't celebrate the way we do. Maybe it's not an option. Maybe why bother. Those are the people I've carried around today.

And when the phone rang and it was a rare call from our biggest boy, the thanks grew fuller.
And when the text came in and I saw hope rise up from grief? Fuller still.

So the real message today is that He is worthy of more than we fathom. He's more powerful than we believe. He trumps all the darkness, every kind. And He lets help.

Tomorrow, maybe we shop. Maybe we do, because we happen to be among the ones who can.

But can we tie this truth around our wrists and carry it with us? Our life is the exception.

Today's conversation that will stick with me well longest happened over late-evening pigs-in-blankets and cups of sweet tea. It was about hope, how that's the thing we're all scrambling for. He has made us all worthy but for you and me, maybe hope lands a little more lightly. What about the rest?

Last month I discovered fashionABLE and something in me clicked, because that lovely woman in the video standing on the streets of Ethiopia in her long skirt and sensible shoes is me, and she's you. She's searching for hope, only her search might seem a little more lost.

I know I bring things like this to your attention frequently, but I promise, I'm not going to stop. Especially right now, when it's so easy to lose our way, so easy to abandon the lost causes and the far-aways for the perfect mod wrapping paper or the zoomy party dress.

Businesses like fashionABLE give us an easy opportunity to make a difference in a real life. How cool is it to have the privilege of holding out a little hope like a light, with our own two hands?

Selam

Etanesh Stripes

And hey, the scarves are total radness. 


Please watch the video. It's 3 minutes. Go ahead and fall in love. I dare you not to cry. And please, buy a scarf for your sister. Hack, go down in Secret Santa hall-of-fame with this one.


*All links are compensated affiliate links.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Money Shot Monday - 11th hour



This was the one I thought might break me.
I thought MSM might die today, ya'lls. Nothing photo-worthy happened and I honestly just didn't have the gumption to even grab the camera.
We ran dumb errands and tidied up.
We did another hospital run. (The steroids are doing their job. Quasi-yay!)
Bible study was as rad as ever, but I didn't have my camera, which left me with a big, fat, zilch for MSM.

Confession: I thought for the briefest second about yanking an unofficial photo, you know, one not taken today. An anti-Monday shot. An "I ain't got no money" shot. You might as well know, I'm prone to such devilish thinking from time to time.

We rolled home, put the kids to bed, and shucked all constricting attire.
Now, here I am, in this day's finest hour.
Some Mondays are redeemed in the 4th quarter.

Amen.

The big question is, do you like my socks??

(I bought them for $0.10 at a yard sale. Is that disgusting? Or is it brilliant...?)


Join us every Monday as we seek and capture its brightest moment - our Money Shot. One simple photo, a few simple lines, so much to be thankful for. Or feel free to just tell us in the comments: What was your sweet spot today?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mudroom Peek and Gallery Wrapped Canvas Deal



I knew when we moved to our new house in town that I wanted it to keep some farmy vibes. It's who I am. It feels like home.

So even though I went brighter and maybe even nuttier, it has been fun and important to incorporate elements that keep me the same old girl that I've always been.

For example, there was a pile of things that just wouldn't fit in our new digs, but I'd rather eat soggy cereal than leave my beloved windmill blade behind.

We found the perfect spot for it in the mudroom, connecting the garage to the kitchen. Cory made a coat rack for the kids out of a vintage yard stick from Calvin's old school and a few hooks I'd picked up at Junk Evolution a few years back.

Our canvas photo, taken back at the farm, completed the scene. This particular photo has been a perfect reminder to me over the past year or so that we are still who we are. We're a family there and here. We'll always be a little bit country.

This canvas was our first of what I hope will be many. I love the clean look of it and the processing was spectacular. It's such a great way to get some of our photos off the hard drive and up where we can enjoy them.

Good news: Canvas People is offering a  80% off all canvases right now.

Our canvas shown above is 11x14. I'm planning to order an 8x10 this time around (just $10!)... Cute kids or pretty flowers? It's a toss up.  :)  

This is a perfect gift idea for anyone from a grandparent to a teacher. Or, you know, yourself.

Click here to order. It's' super easy.

Now, I'm off to eat a turkey sandwich in honor of today's earlier pre-Thanksgiving festivities.

The next few days loom hectic and hard, but I'm leaning into this season with a ready heart, so thankful for my life and the one who gave it to me.

Happy Thanksgiving Week, Dears.


Disclosure: compensated affiliate links used

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Held

I'm sitting in McDonald's playland, fingers salty-slick, refusing to regret the Big Mac. I have friends who would shake their heads if they knew what I'd just eaten. Well, it's their loss, I guess, because right now I taste freedom in two all-beef patties...

The kid are somewhere in the tunnels. My sisters-in-law sit knees-to-knees with me, talking shop. All my questions grab hold of an answer.  I shrug off yesterday's worry, or at least I do right now, right in the neon glow and the echo and the carbonation of this small hour.

Somewhere between my story and hers, the phone rings. I can't believe I heard it, buried low under all of this. I'm sure it's Cory.

Only I've missed it, and it's not.

Something in me says to do it, so I grab the phone and walk out the door, into the dining room where people drink coffee and kids wear their shoes. I call her back, the news is bad, we sit together crying in separate time zones, each with a phone to our ear.

A white-haired lady leaves her table and comes to mine, quietly slipping a brand new packet of tissues across the table-top and I remember again that it's not so normal to ugly-cry in a McDonald's booth. Her kindness pushes down on the sore. I cry harder, right into her willingness to notice the hurt around her and do something about it.

The middle of this story isn't mine to share, but the edges are. They're mine. Is it wrong to feel the bloom of incalculable gratitude in the face of profound loss? I bear the smallest corner of their burden, the one way over at the fringes. I carry it quietly, unsure of how to help, very certain that I can't.

I don't know the right way to grieve this loss. But I feel some of their pain and it wrecks me. It keeps on wrecking me, and I carry on with my life over here, my heart breaking from the shrapnel of theirs while I paint the walls, toast the cheese, dole out the meds.

I never did anything to deserve this - one family stitched to another by the only One who ever knew how much we would need their exact kind of love. So we hurt with them, not because it's the right thing to do, not because we understand much at all about how they feel tonight. We hurt with them because our hearts are neighbors now so we just can't help it, some of their pain bleeds over to where we are.

They have shown us much about the face of Life, the heart of Christ, the beauty of unexpected community. They have made us thankful in life, thankful still in death.

He holds them. He holds them well and with ease. My prayer, my every breath, begs that they know this, that they find their empty hands grabbing on to it right now in the dark.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sidewinder

The lights were snapped off early yet there I lay, sandwiched between fleece sheets, fresh off a whispered conversation with Cory, already asleep beside me.

Exhaustion etched my eyes, knots throbbed in both shoulders, my ears rang. I flipped onto this side, then the other. I climbed out of bed and felt around for a pair of socks. So tired. I flipped again, pounded my pillow, wedged it into the crook of my neck.

I did everything but sleep.

The morning had veered off course, I'd spent it at the hospital, me and my boys. I thought we'd be in and out in an hour. (I thought wrong.) Hours later, we walked out with 2 new appointments, 3 new meds, a trough of potential side-effects, and a promise that this was officially a "flare up". (And a Rubik's cube. But naturally.)

How could he be flaring? Just yesterday he played soccer until his hair hung wet. He went to his book club. He bossed his brother and teased his sister. He's strong and smart, feeling fine.

The whole drive home, all I could think was, "Oh, right. This. This is part of my life, too."

This is just one reason why the best year of my life was one of the very worst.

I wish sometimes that my life was more take-it-easy. I wish all the time that my son wasn't sick; that he didn't have to miss his favorite school lunch (French toast) or Officer Janett's visit just because he's got a stupid rash.

I wish I could make myself believe right this minute that everything is fine. Show me some sand - quick. I want to stick my head in it.

I want Robert to find God at my kitchen table, not in jail.

I want my sister on my couch, not in India.

I want Becky's life to cut her a break. Beth's, too.
 
I want my move, my lifestyle, this right here to be supported, not polarizing.

I plan parties, get haircuts, move furniture, simmer dinner. I drive and write and wring my hands. I layer and lunch. I gripe and yell. I start the day smelling like a clementine and end it wearing the scent of poverty.

This life wraps around and around, holding me tight then choking me out and doing it over again.

I was promised that it wouldn't be easy, so it's no surprise. I'm not supposed to make sense of it all. I understand that He is sovereign, but what will it cost me and can I ever truly believe it?  I say I can, but words are free and life leaves blisters.

I cry in my kitchen and Silas scratches my back, "Poor, poor Mommy". Can this be gift enough? Can I look past this hurt and see the miracle right beside me rubbing circles over my shirt?

Low tide surges forward, clearing the crud away.

But it'll be back. I know it will.

This is the charting of a life. I want to believe that I can want it all. I want to know all over again that my course was long decided; my rescue already promised and plotted.

I kiss their necks. I kiss that jelly-bean lymph node that shouldn't be there at all. I tuck blankets under chins, whispering "I'm so proud of you"s, carrying tonight's Bible story down the stairs and into my heart, my marrow, every cell and fiber, massaging it in until it can't slip off or fall out.

"It isn't how strong you are or how many swords and spears you have that will save you - it is God who saves you! This is God's battle. And God always wins his battles!" - *The Jesus Storybook Bible

I can almost feel the five smooth stones in my palm. Tonight, I plan to sleep.


*I cannot recommend this kids Bible highly enough. It is fantastic in every way.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Our Dining Room

If you had told me a couple of years ago that I would one day decorate my house with bright green and orange I might have kicked you in the shins. I'm the girl who used to live in a placid river of beige and white, after all.

{Moment of Personal Reflection: My pendulum tends to rocket wildly from one extreme to the other. What does this mean?}

Now that I think about it, I've sort of come back to my roots, since my "colors" when we first got married were lime green, bright yellow, and royal blue. (And by "colors", I mean the colors of towels we registered for at Target and Kohls.)

This time around, it started with the orange chair, then the tapestry curtains, and before I knew what had happened, we were channeling Carmen Miranda.


 With an open floor plan, our dining room followed suit.

It's fun thinking about the evolution of this house. I planned and stewed for months and in the end, almost nothing has ended up the way I imagined. What I thought would go here with there instead. This house has a vibe that captured me, not the other way around.

I dig it.


Our "dining room" is actually either extremely small and lacking walls or an eat-in kitchen. I'm not sure which. But the space is tiny and we needed to find a table that would fit since our old table was too wide. I scoured innumerable shops and flea markets for a long/narrow farm table. I tried to tell Cory he could *probably* make us one. I broke down and dialed up my old lover, Pottery Barn.

In the end, we found her on Craigslist. She was listed as a set with 6 pressed-back chairs, but I negotiated way down for just the table, wowing Cory with my gutsiness and scoring us a beautiful table in the exact dimensions we needed for $200.


The chairs have been with us forever, with the strutty addition of the aqua one, scored at a sale for $7 this summer. (The old girls are crying out for a seat re-cover. Can you hear them??)

So. The curtains.

You can't possibly imagine the angst I endured over curtaining our lower level. (In fact, you probably can imagine since I whined and wailed about it out loud for a good three months.)

Through some flukey math/logic, the builder installed windows much larger than what the plans called for.

Score!

Except standard 84" curtains would be too short. And we had 4 windows that needed to be outfitted. And I had already played my wild card with the tapestries.

The dining area needed something that would work with the tapestries and not break the teeny, tiny budget. They also needed to be wider than normal, since the window is actually two windows side-by-side, or roughly the width of a garage door.

Driving up to Allegan in August I told my sister-in-law, "My dream find would be curtains in some shade of green or aqua. Haha." That was never going to happen.

Only it did. Roundabout.

Two stops in I spied a bolt of greenish/aqua striped twill. 18 yards. $50. SOLD!

I punched them up by sewing my prized $0.10 garage sale fabric to the top.





I've been pinning plate walls since I was a wee baby pinner.

Wall space is rare around these parts, but this nook was the perfect place to go for it. Swoony!



I love these lights so much I want to lick them.

$35 bucks a pop from Allegan. Don't hate.

And he said he had 15 more and I ONLY BOUGHT TWO.

Go ahead. Hate. 

This shot goes out to Robert, who used to dream about coming over on his 18th birthday to drink out of this cup. Via his last letter: "I never even got to drink out of that cup lol"

:)

So this is home. It continues to surprise me in the weirdest, wildest ways. I can't promise that we'll live under the Big Top forever - there may be a day when I need to enforce a little serenity. But for now, it fits the budget and it keeps me smiling.

We're kept close in this little space and we couldn't be happier.

For anyone feeling the itch to downsize? Do it. And while you're at it, paint something green or orange. It seems to be a fitting combination.


Monday, November 12, 2012

MSM - Sabbath

One byproduct of our lives right now is that Sundays have become hectic. The reasons are all good, but gone are the days of lazy lunches and afternoon naps. It's tricky to mourn the loss of a restful Sabbath when the heart behind it is Christ. We feel the gain, but loss is still loss.

So we take our Sabbaths when they come.

Tonight was set aside for service, but we subbed in Sabbath, the kind with homemade tomato soup, grilled cheese on the good bread with muenster and cheddar, peanut butter cake. We stayed in our socks, read books, did math. Baths weren't rushed. Scrubbed cheeks were extra-smooched.

This is the way He loves us today.



Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Few Faves

Sunday is one of at least two jail runs I make each week. It can be hectic, but it's the very best kind, because I get to make eyes at the two cutest baby boys on the planet and listen to all of Becky's wild, heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious stories. She claps her hands together for emphasis and I can almost see the period. between. her. words. And on top of all that? Robert, with his shiny teeth and endless capacity for joy.

I drove home thinking for a second that today was the middle of August, with its faint-feeling air and all the sun and wind. We grilled hotdogs for dinner with Cory's family and I soaked it in, because I don't care that Fall is everyone's favorite. I'll take the dog days every (clap) single (clap) time (clap).

By six o'clock, November unhitched his whimsy and the sun blew away, funneling my day-dream down a drain somewhere on the horizon, leaving me with the unforgiving truth that it's about to get so much worse.

But hey, at least we had the weekend.

In its honor, here are a few of my recent faves.

I really dig my entry nook. It's the first thing I see when I walk in my front door. I toss my keys in the dish and the whole scene cheers me. I can't answer for the tropical bird standing awkwardly in the corner, but this sort of mixed-up nonsense seems to be the key to my decorating happiness.

Table: $4 at an auction
Paint color:  Valspar Simply Green 6002-8C, eggshell 
Painting: $15 at Allegan flea market
Lamp: $25 TJ Maxx
Cortland sign: $6 from a random flea market
Leaves: Courtesy of the walnut tree at the neighborhood park picked on this day.



I like to call this Mexican-Indian-Greek fusion at its best. I made it up and can't wait to make it up all over again. I roasted onions, peppers, and zucchini mixed with olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder and cumin at 450 until they were just right. Cooked up some white rice (was out of brown). Cooked chicken breast in a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper, then piled it all up and topped it with salsa verde mixed with a little sour cream, cilantro, and a kicky squeeze of lime.

{drool}

Something about the sauce had us thinking about curry. The left-overs took on a certain Mediterranean air the following day.

Again I say: Mixed up nonsense is my love language.


 
Okay. This.
I read The Fault in our Stars back in October, but try as I did, I couldn't make it fit into 31 Days of Going. It pained me to not be able to dish about it. I felt like I was keeping secrets. I purposely left it off my reading list in the side-bar because it just didn't feel right to put it up there without raving first.

Please quit your life for the next 48 hours and read this book. The story pulled me under in less than 2.5 paragraphs. The writing made me shake my head in wonder and cry the hot, salty tears of a pimple-faced Freshman who wants so desperately to feel the weight of the Homecoming crown on her head but knows her head was made for no more than a marching band hat.

I finished it in bed, by the light of the moon and shook the bed as I sobbed. Don't worry, that's no spoiler. Just get the dang book. Stat.

Get the scoop on the new ABC series NASHVILLE! Blog, ways to win, and more.
In a similar  vein, there's Nashville. I'm all-in.
It's got Tami Taylor. And good music. And high drama. And a villain with overeager eyebrows.

I'm a big, fat sucker for applique. And Nici
The two come together to stunning effect in her handmade store, Geo.
Christmas looms, friends. I'm kind of excited to dole out some ideas and it just so happens that this tops the stack.

Finally, I found this tonight and pretty much want to tie it up with a grosgrain bow and carry it in my heart forever. So I guess I will.

What are you loving right now? Spill it, Sister.


*Book links are Amazon Affiliate links.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Party Dressing

I did the best thing ever today. My friend Holly invited me to a Hello Gorgeous! event. They served mimosas and salad with blue cheese crumbles (along with lots of other stuff). Less than five minutes into the program, I was crying my face clean off. I was unprepared for all the crying.

The entire event was so inspiring, so joyful, so emotional. It was every good thing about being a woman - topped off with a shot of red lipstick.

I had to dig deep to find something to wear. I wasn't going to be the girl who shows up at something called Hello Gorgeous! looking drab.

My gorgey Shabby Apple wonder saved the day.

I hadn't worn it in a while and, truth be told, I could have benefited from some Spanx. And a lint roller. But I just kept hitching it down and sucking it in.  


I paired it with a chartreuse cardi (J Crew outlet), my "new" necklace bought for $0.25 at an old lady church sale and my boots (Marshalls), to keep it from looking too Jackie O.

Not that there's anything wrong with Jackie O.

Oh, and my tres fetching cold sore. I paired it with that, too.
And an aqua bangle that failed to make the frame.

I rolled home after 4 hours of partying, 1 visit to the jail, and a mad-dash in a freak November rain shower and had Cory snap a couple pics while the neighbor's son watched the whole spectacle from his porch.

(My life rarely makes sense anymore. I've accepted it.)

I must say, it was fun to have a reason to zip into something fancy for a change. It put me in the mood for more party dresses, so I did a little pretend shopping.

This is my hands-down favorite. Swoon! (Also most expensive. Figures.)

And this.

This makes me want to go ride a horse.

I could go on and on.

I'm thinking this might be a good time to embrace some party dressing. Even if I have to throw the party myself.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Desperation is a Pin

I was three years old, hair cut to my shoulders, blinged out in twin bunny barrettes, cast in plastic. I stood just at the corner of the brown flowered couch, shifting my weight from the right to the left, buzzing with pride, eyeing Mommy's fingers while she hooked a pin through my Geranimals t-shirt and fastened it with a smile.

I had earned a safety pin. The moment is seared in my memory.

The only problem is that my mom refutes the entire story and my dad just laughs that "You're nuts" sort of laugh when I bring it up. I think my mom's exact words are, "Why would I put a safety pin on you as a reward? It doesn't make sense!" (Something like that, but watch the comments and I'm sure she'll correct me if necessary.)

Between you and me, I'm 99% sure they just forgot about it. And true, it's totally weirdo, so maybe they're just too embarrassed to take credit?

All I know is, I was there, man. I wore that pin. It caught the light; glinted in my own brown eyes.  The pin made me a better girl.

Screeeeeeeeeeeech. Fast forward, oh, about 33 years.

I've wracked my brain trying to find a solution that would work for Homeboy. He's doing fantastically well in so many ways. He's making all kinds of progress. But he's 4. And at least half-maniac. With the ego of Donald Trump and the rugged good looks of one Silas Martin.

Dude's a force.

So, you know, I took a page from Mom's play book. I busted out the pins.

Logic:
A reward works better than punishment with Siley.
But it needs to be immediate (and de-e-e-efinitely not sugar-related.)
And he needs to be able to wear it around as a constant reminder of his capacity for awesomeness.
Stickers might seem like a more obvious choice, but only if you enjoy shredded stickers strewn about the house and stuck to the TV and toilet.

Tips:
Pin on the dominant arm, as close to the wrist as possible to eliminate possibility of rogue unpinning.
Carry extras in your pocket.

Warnings: 
Sometimes the pin-ee might be prone to saying things like, "I don't want any more pins" whilst doing something like log-rolling himself across the kitchen floor instead of putting on his socks. This is easily remedied by replying with as little enthusiasm as possible, "That's fine. No more pins."

Raves:
Pin-ee will also, most definitely, be prone to the following: "Okay, I will obey!" and "Sure I can!"

So, where's my crown? Even a sash will do.

I promise to share it with my mom.

What's your secret ace-in-the-hole for wiley pre-schoolers?

I'm all ears.  Literally.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

As It Is



I woke early with unexpected hope in my chest, ever-thankful that I am not in charge of plotting the course of the Universe. This is the peace I find when life gets confusing or uncertain. It is never up to me. God's authority excites me. I like being reminded that He's the Boss Supreme.

So, this is a day for lazing and lingering. It's a day for stirring prayers into steaming mugs of tea. It's a day for pointing shortish people with wonder-filled eyes toward the only thing we ever know for sure.

We can trust Him.

Every single day.

May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
    as it is in heaven.
-Matthew 6:10
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Sweethaven Homecoming

A little over a year ago my friend Courtney and I crossed over from blog buddies to real life pals. I picked her up at the airport on the way to a writers' conference and withing minutes, I knew I'd find the real deal (which was excellent news since we were sharing a hotel room for the next four days.)

Courtney's second novel, A Sweethaven Homecoming, recently hit the shelves and I thought it would be fun to pick her brain a little about things like snack, superstitions, writing advice (I have a "friend" who's trying to write a book. Ahem), and the nitty gritty about her Sweethaven series


FPFG: Girl, I screamed the day I saw A Sweethaven Summer hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Congratulations! A Sweethaven Homecoming is set in Autumn in a picturesque Michigan town. What else can you tell us about the overall theme?

Courtney: The overall themes for the entire series are friendship & forgiveness...two things that really intrigue and challenge me. I set it in a little cottage town in Michigan (one I made up by melding together several little cottage towns in Michigan) because I secretly want to own a cottage in Michigan someday. :)

FPFG: I'm in love with the way God speaks through art. For me, art has always felt exciting and risky. It's hard to put your soul into something designed for public consumption. Can you tell us a little bit about how God made it clear to you that He wanted you to write fiction?

Courtney: It's funny because I wasn't the person who "always wanted to write a book." In fact, it never really occurred to me because I always thought I'd be an actress. It was my dad who commented on my writing when I was going off to college to major in theatre. "You need to do something with your writing," he said... to which I responding "What writing?" Funny how parents see those things in their children before they even do. Anyway, it dawned on me not long ago that ever since I graduated (I majored in theatre AND journalism, to appease the P's), I've been writing...I worked at a newspaper, then started writing scripts, then started writing for a scrapbooking magazine, then on to two scrapbooking books...but when my husband transitioned from worship pastor to children's pastor I realized he'd found his calling--working with kids. But that wasn't MY calling (did you know you don't have to have the same exact calling as your spouse? Even in ministry?) That's when I started seeking God's voice. "What do you want ME to do?" I asked...and he answered clearly. "Write." 

I knew there were stories inside me--I'd been telling them on the stage...it was time to challenge myself with the big one...a novel. I wrote three novels no one will EVER see just to get used to the idea of creating a whole book.

FPFG: What has been one of the most nerve-wracking parts of your writing journey and how did you find the courage to push through?

Courtney: Actually, the most nerve-wracking part is the waiting, I think. You know, you put a proposal out there but there is a lot of waiting before you hear anything back. It reminds me of going on auditions...the best thing to do is audition and then put it out of your mind, but I never did master the art of that... I'm a worry-wart.

FPFG: I devoured the first book in your series, A Sweethaven Summer and can't wait to get my mitts on A Sweethaven Homecoming. Without giving too much away, tell us a little about how Campbell is growing through the series. Specifically, how is she learning to be brave?

Courtney: It's interesting how Campbell is at that point in life where she's learning to follow her heart. I think that's a difficult thing to do, especially when you have "the voices of reason" in your ear... even well-meaning voices can distract you from what you're meant to do...but Campbell is making those hard decisions and very much growing up over the course of the three books. Homecoming also introduces Meghan...the book really focuses on her. I just love her story. :)

FPFG: One of the things I loved most about A Sweethaven Summer was the yummy food that was woven throughout the story. Will we be getting some Fall goodies in A Sweethaven Homecoming? (Please say yes!)  

Courtney: Food is VERY much a part of all three books. Adele was inspired by the fabulous Paula Deen, so naturally she had to have loads of yummy dishes to share. Just wait till you see what she's cooking up for Christmas. :)

FPFG: You also pick really fantastic names for your characters. What's your trick?  

Courtney: I find names my husband hates and use those. hahaha. (He seriously hates the names I pick, no joke.) But Campbell...that one is special to me because when I was pregnant with my youngest, I was SURE he was a girl. I mean, SURE he was a girl. I chose the name Campbell early on and just clung to it...and then found out he was a boy. I kind of mourned the loss of the name (how ridiculous am I?) and decided if I couldn't name a real person Campbell, then I'd name a fictitious person Campbell. :) 

Another word on names...a lot of times, that's how the characters become real to me. It's VERY hard if I ever have to change a name once I've chosen it. To me, they come alive once they are named. It's one of my favorite parts of writing novels!

FPFG: I have a couple pairs of lucky knee socks which I believe bring me magical words when it's time for me to put my hiney in the chair and write. Do you have any weird writing rituals or superstitions?  

Courtney: Yes, I am familiar with your lucky knee socks. In fact, whenever I picture you, I think of the green & white striped magical knee socks... for me, it's Pandora. With three noisy kids, I had to find a way to block out the noise when I write (which is sometimes when they're home.) I LOVE the soundtrack from the movie "The Piano" so I created a station full of movie composers...Michael Nyman, James Horner, John Williams, Danny Elfman...there are TONS more and I LOVE the way it inspires me.

FPFG: Fave writing snack?  

Courtney: Does coffee count? I would eat candy all the time so I try to only have drinks at my desk. Otherwise, I'd kill a whole bag of Starbursts in one sitting. (Yes, I am a grown up.)

FPFG: My readers might not know this, but you have been one of my biggest cheerleaders as I stumble through writing my first novel. What advice can you offer to those of us who feel art blooming on the inside, but feel like we're not good enough, not ready, or just plain scaredy-cat?  

Courtney: My best advice is to do the work. I am a HUGE fan of immersing yourself in knowledge. A lot of times people say they want to write, but they aren't willing to read, to learn, to study, to grow... and you absolutely have to because that's what this life is all about. The other thing I would say is to take each step one by one...if you'd told me what it would take, how hard it would be and how many rewrites and on and on, I would've gone fetal in the bathtub...but if you focus on "what do I need to do today..." you'll get there (and with a lot less headache.) Finally, for me, it's about praying a lot. God walks me through each and every facet of this journey...and it's quite a process in trusting in him. And trust is not my strong suit...

***

Okay, see? This is why I adore Courtney. There's something so cool about reading a novel written by a dear friend. Her wit, personality, sensitivity and kindness come through on every page.


For the month of November Courtney is hosting a "Share and Win" reader appreciation party on Facebook. Click here and like her page to join the fun. (You can also scope out all three amazing covers in her Sweethaven series. I always judge a book by its cover!)

And for the love of Pete, grab a copy of A Sweethaven Homecoming right here.

Courtney blogs here.
Follow Courtney on twitter here

Monday, November 5, 2012

Money Shot Monday (oh, it's back, alright)


Mondays have their own unique charms, don't they?
A weekend of extra fun left my house looking nutty and I wouldn't say that I enjoy cleaning, but if you've gotta do it, Monday's a fine day.

Silas "backyuned" (vacuumed) the stairs for me.
I made impressed myself by making homemade bread sticks from memory only to realize later that I forgot the oil and the salt. 
We did a little grocery shopping.
We made a $4 run for the border.
Ain't no shame.
{You have my heart, Taco Bell.}

We did what needed doin' and we danced while we did it.
Today was a very good day.
As far as Mondays are concerned.

If you'd like to show us the best part of your day, link on up!
But either way, tell us: what was the salsa on your burrito?

Happy Monday, Countrymen.


 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hot Date {and a Winner}

Back at Influence last month I had an epiphany: I really enjoy fashion. I'm not usually particularly fashionable myself, but I truly appreciate the fine art of color matching and pattern clashing.

You would not believe the ladies at the conference. My girl Carissa texted me to say that she wanted me to hunt down a friend of hers who was also there. "She's wearing yellow pants." Uh yeah, along with about 175 other ultra-coolio ladies.

I still kick myself for not taking photos and launching a full-on "Influence: Style Files" post.

All of that to say? I'm feeling a little bit corduroy, a little bit rock-and-roll these days. (i.e., I might start talking closet to you now and then.) These things come in waves. Sometimes it's salad, sometimes it's peonies. Right now? Layers.

Full disclosure: There was a girl at Influence wearing the coolest tomatoey red blouse. She was rocking it straight out. I almost asked her where she found it, but I knew it was probably J Crew and what would I do with that information? I would cry, that's what. Because a $98 tomato blouse just isn't in this girl's future.

Imagine my surprise when I buzzed through Target on Thursday to track down curtains for a project and spotted The. Blouse. Only one left in my size. $27, which did feel a bit splurgey.

I totally bought it. I revolted. I told you it would happen.

So when Cory Sarah asked me out on a hot double date I knew exactly what I would wear. We were going to a hipster pizza joint with our not-hipster husbands. I'd be all my rage.

Friday morning rolled around and I threw on the same jeans I've worn for the past six days in a row. I can't help it. These things come in waves, too.

I told myself I would change into skinnies and the Hot Tomato Blouse for the Hot Date. Then, in a non-turn of events, I was too flipping lazy. I rubbed corn starch into my hair (I thought I remembered hearing that it was a thing...), put on my face and called it done, in my dirty jeans, stinky shoes, manly t-shirt and pilly grandpa sweater. And puffy vest. Cory is one lucky dude. But really, this date was about Sarah, and she just doesn't give a rip what I wear.


And now, a word on the food: (Sarah and I shared, naturally.)
Arugula with pear salad (2.5/4 stars. Kinda dry and bland)
Fig pizza: fig jam, gorgonzola, arugula, walnuts and balsamic reduction. She twisted my arm. (3.5/4 stars, only because it was a little on the sweet side)

See? Total hipsters.

After dinner? Argo.

People. Drop whatever you're doing right now and go see Argo. I almost died twice of a heart attack. As we were leaving I told Sarah, "Ben Affleck just can't do anything bad. Except Gigli."

Other mid-movie whisperings: (you'll have to guess who said what...)
"I'll bet Jen is so proud of him."
"He's not very cute with the beard."
"Do you think this part is real or are they just being dramatic?"
"Okay, he's still hot with a beard."
"I'm going to barf."
"I'm having a heart attack."
etc...

The guys loved it, too. Great date movie.
When you go, promise me you'll stay for the credits. You're welcome.

My Friday night in a nut-shell: I slobbed out my hipster Double Date.

Do you dress up when you go out? Do you (God forbid) wear shoes with a heel? I need to know exactly where I fall on the spectrum. I think I have an idea, but it can't hurt to be sure...


**
Lisa Leonard necklace winner: Patty from Lemon Lane Cottage! Hit me up. {shannandmartin@gmail}

ps - This is my new favorite!