Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of 2009

I cannot remember feeling like this before.  Ever.   kentucky_trip_dec09 086

I cannot wait for 2009 to be over.

Always before, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day meant very little to me.  It was just another day.  A new calendar.  A new picture looking back at me from my wall.  Another hash mark.  Another year older – which was neither here, nor there to me.

This year is different.  2009 just feels sour. 

In January 2009, my life was filled with highs and lows.  My marriage was strained with tension while my professional life was demanding, yet successful.  Over the course of this year, those highs and lows have traded places time and time again.  Finances have been like a roller coaster, and the truth has hurt.  I have shed many tears this year.

Yet, to put things in perspective, I really can’t complain.  I’m coming out on the other side still in a warm home, in a stronger, happier marriage, and still the mother of two bright, talented, and beautiful daughters.  Really, I have lost very little this year. 

Black Friday 011 Surprisingly, when I try to put my finger on the single greatest gift 2009 has brought to my home this year, I have to say the newest addition to my little family, our dog Daisy, definitely takes the prize.  She brought youth back to my Big Boy, Bo.  She makes my girlies and I so happy, and has been a wonderful playmate to us all.  I am so thankful for her.

Coming in a close second, the remodel of our front and back yards.  We’ve already reaped the benefit of the time, effort, and dollars FireDaddy & I invested into our back yard, in particular, at least five times over.  Both of us agree that watching the girlies run, laugh, sit, read, play, jump, chase, swing and otherwise revel in their childhood out back is one of our favorite pastimes.  They’ve camped, picnicked, splashed, dug, bubbled, chalked, planted, and meandered to their heart’s content.  It is truly a simple thing we treasure.

Unfortunately, 2009 is leaving me 10-15 pounds heavier than it found me.  Lately, my own reflection has been a bit gruesome – my hair needs cutting (and coloring), my 30-something acne has returned (destined to be a seasonal burden), and my new muffin-top makes my wardrobe more than a little less than flattering (or comfortable).  All of the above leave me unhappy with myself, in more than one way.  I’m disappointed that I have done this to myself – again.  I’m overwhelmed by the hard work that stands between “this me” and “the me I want to be” – again.  And, as my girlies are growing older and becoming increasingly more aware of their Mommy’s struggles, I’m disappointed that I’m setting such a poor example for them.  Pretty much, I suck. 

I still don’t place too much stock in New Year’s Resolutions and other such short-lived delusions.  But, everyone needs a kick in the rear at times, yes?  Everyone needs a new beginning – if even just a symbolic one.  Everyone deserves a second chance…or a third chance…or a thirty-third chance.

So there, 2009.  Be gone with you.  Don’t let the door hit you in the rear, bitch.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Serendipity Struck

Snapfish and I go way back.  I’ve used them for birthday party invitations, photo calendars, bound photo books, mouse pads and more.  This year, though, they may have burned this bridge.

After compiling a photo mosaic of BigGirl and BabyGirl in Picasa and adding text, I sent it to be printed (via Snapfish) at a local store (so I could pick it up that day…yes, I need immediate gratification).  I was incredibly disappointed to find that the text on my prints was partially cut off the print!  As you can imagine, this just would not do as a holiday card. 

However, I’m the wimp who doesn’t like to deal with stuff like that…unless otherwise provoked.  So, what did I do?  I made an all new (and improved) photo mosaic with one whole square in the print devoted to the holiday message, rather than overlaying the text on top of the pictures.  And, I marched my bootie into Target and insta-printed it myself.  (So long, Snapfish.)

Now…what to do with the botched prints I still have?

Don’t you just love those momentary, fleeting strokes of genius that occur in life?  I just LOVE what I’ve done with these suckers!  Check it out…

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They are GIFT TAGS!!!  I’ve been using a permanent marker to write a quick note to the recipient on the back, and sign the whole family’s name!  I couldn’t be any happier with this idea!  In years past, trying to write everyone’s name on a little gift tag always seemed irrationally frustrating to me.  And, I love the opportunity to include a little personal note, since many of our family will receive their gifts without us present.  PLUS, if they care to keep it, they get a bonus picture as part of their gift!  I just LOVE this idea!

By the way, insert a little Green plug here, you may notice in the picture that I like to use gift bags whenever possible.  This is not entirely out of laziness.  I save gift bags and regift & reuse them for all occasions.  I keep tons of white tissue paper on hand at all times (it goes with all bags) and often purchase the plain cheap bags and decorate them myself with stickers and fun bows (especially for birthday parties, when I’m only wrapping one present at a time). 

Oh, and if you’re wondering about my NEW photo cards.  I love them, too.  This is one of those “it was meant to be” moments in life, because the second card is one hundred times better.  See for yourself…


And, finally, some of you may remember that my girlies and I handmade cards earlier in the year and might be wondering what happened to those cards.  Well, they went out, too!  I know how much people LOVE photo cards (myself included), but I really miss the magic of opening a card and reading a note inside.  So these were inserts in our homemade Christmas cards, and everyone received a personal note inside the card.

Here’s a smattering of our cards, prior to stamping and, in some cases, stickering.  You’ll notice the styles and level of artistry varies greatly from card to card.  I stamped each one with a “Handmade by…” stamp and wrote in “BigGirl” or “BabyGirl” and their age.


And with that, dear friends, I do believe I shall head back to my duties.  Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and my sewing machine is sick again…which is really putting a crimp on THIS branch of Santa’s Workshop.  I came within inches of buying a new machine at Walmart today just to make it through the next few days….and trying to return it after Christmas. 

Don’t worry.  I didn’t. 


Monday, December 21, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

We made it home safely last night from our Hillbilly Holiday.  Today, the girlies and I have done virtually nothing other than december 256bask in the comfort of home, only venturing out to retrieve our loving and faithful pets from their “camp” and make a quick stop for Christmas card photos. 

I promised my girlies an afternoon treat of cocoa and cookies.  Today’s snack was made better by a special holiday serenade from Michael Buble.   Later, we spent more than an hour gathered around the kitchen table, catching up on our advent coloring pages(My hand has yet to fully recover from The Crayola Grip.) 

My suitcase still lies in the floor of my office, waiting for me to properly unpack the clean shirts, socks, pants, and sweaters.  Laundry from our journey, now washed, dried, and folded neatly, patiently awaits my attention.  My guest bedroom remains a pile of projects to complete and gifts to prepare.  My refrigerator and cupboards are nearly bare and I’ve no specific plans yet for holiday baking or special eats. 

Today, the girlies focused their energy today on reuniting with their toys and various belongings.  BabyGirl slept for hours this evening curled up in a chair like a kitten.  I chatted with My Mama, FireDaddy’s Mama, and my girlies.  I cuddled my puppies and kissed my babies.  I talked with friends and gave thanks for our safe return. 

My Blackberry is filled with notes on thoughts from my journey I’d like to share with you….but today is not the day, friends. 

I am so glad to be home again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It’s Safe to Share These With You

The handmade holiday is in full swing this weekend. I’ve checked a few folks off my list and I couldn’t be happier with the finished products!  december 235

On Friday, I finished off a rousing game of Secret Santa at school with a handmade monogram tote.  I knew my coworker’s favorite color was yellow, so I chose this cheery ribbon and fabric to embellish this handy white canvas tote bag. (A girl can never have too many tote bags, right?  And who doesn’t love monogrammed items?)  I love the tailored bow, and the white stitching along the edges of the ribbon compliments the medallions on the fabric nicely. 

december 249In preparation for our Kentucky trip, I made a larger, roomier tote bag for FireDaddy’s sister.  This one also features a pocket on the outside, for easily accessing keys, cell phone, and other small items.  (FireDaddy’s sister has a one year old baby, so I expect she often has her hands full and is still toting around diaper bag items, sippy cups, and more.)   The monogram is made from an adorable fabric that is actually rows of brightly colored pears and apples.  So fun!  I finished this bag off with a ribbon tie closure that matches the ribbon trim along the straps.  (I think I’m going to need one of these for myself.)

december 250

And, quite possibly my favorite projects so far, are my toddler t-shirts for our 12-month old niece. I am just in love with them!  I cannot wait to make some for my own girlies.  Two of the t-shirts were inspired by children’s rhymes: “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and “Rain, Rain, Go Away”.  I used a girlie striped fabric to monogram the third shirt, using a lowercase “b” instead of a capital to continue with the childhood theme.  Each t-shirt is finished off with a little satin bow.  Aren’t they just the sweetest things? 

My kitchen sweat shop is just buzzing away with more gift items.  I will take a break for our Hillbilly Holiday, but I’ll have it back up and running as soon as we get back into town.  There’s still so much more to do!


Psst!  I’m so bad – I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I can’t keep a secret.  Keep your eye on Etsy in January.  A little birdie told me a new store called Jenny Cricket will be opening.  I’m sure their stuff will be SUPER cute! :)  If you have any special requests or suggestions, let me know and I’ll tell the birdie. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Men in the Shadows

There is a man who is invisible.

It is amazing how someone can be so big. So black. So powerful. And, yet, move so quietly through the world, like a shadow.  His eyes are deep.  His silence, deeper.  It is not hard to walk right past him without speaking.  He will let you.  Every time. 

But, if you do choose to speak, smile, say hello, you will be surprised.  From the shadows comes a ray of light that is his smile.  His eyes twinkle and his soul shines with goodness and kindness.  He is genuine.  He is thankful.

I want to know what he thinks about.  I wonder, and imagine, what his ol’Louisiana home was like.

Would he, like Johnny, and Little Johnny, and others beside them, have taken their lunch in my grandmother’s kitchen, while we dined in the other room?  Might he have driven into town on errands for her?  Could he too have moved furniture, cut grass, cleared plates, and loaded trucks and trailers to her order?

And, would he too have held and admired my babies?  Smile at how they’ve grown?  Felt the love of an entire family from arms length? 

Would he, too, not believe his image in photos to be true?

Quiet.  Loyal.  Working.  Proud.

These are the men in the shadows.


This is written as a part of the {W}rite-of-Passage Writing Well Challenge #1. 

Find a person and study them. Build them into your own short piece.

**Note – Quite honestly, after reviewing more pieces in the challenge, I think I’ve done this wrong…but I’m posting this anyhow.  I’ll take another stab at it this week…

What In the Name of Hee-Haw Junction Was I Thinking???

FireDaddy and I have planned a Hillbilly Holiday trip.

What was I thinking?

The current plan is to shove off from Point A immediately after school on Tuesday of next week. We will drive to Atlanta and crash with some friends for the night before it’s on the road again in the morning to complete the long journey to the back hills of Kentucky.

And when I say “back hills”, I mean it.

No internet. No mall. The nearest Walmart is more than 30 minutes away – and you practically need a compass to find your way. Cracker Barrel is known as a “Big City Store”.

The last time I visited Kentucky (which was also my first) I realized near the end of the trip that I had not eaten fruit the entire time we were in Kentucky.

It is like travelling back in time.

Now, I need to clarify – these people are the sweetest, kindest, most loving people on the face of God’s great planet. They love, love, love you all like family – even before you’re family. On that trip, my girlies and I met for the first time FireDaddy’s eldest aunt (who still lives in the same house in which she was born – the home that did not have indoor plumbing until FireDaddy’s Daddy was grown, in the Army, and PAID for the plumbing to be installed in his Mammaw’s home), and she sent them both home with two 15-inch collectible dolls from her den just because. They just do that kind of stuff. FireDaddy’s uncle routinely takes him out to the shed, or hat closet, or wherever he keeps his crazy stash – and gives him a new Kentucky Wildcats hat every time he sees him. Every meal, when you visit, is like a feast, complete with pies and cakes and gravy and all the fixin’s. These people love my husband, they love my babies, and they love me. And, for that, I am immensely grateful and touched.

However, when we get right down to it – I AM A CITY GIRL. I am spoiled. And, to top it all off, I am a FLORIDA city girl. I don’t do cold very well at all. I’ve had trouble dressing my darling girlies this year on the few “cold” days we’ve had (high in 50s) so far – much less clothing them for a week of wet, cloudy days with temps in the 40s and 30s! So, that’s one panic…

Another is, OH. MY. GOSH! This is happening NEXT WEEK, PEOPLE!!! NEXT WEEK!!!!

My mind is racing with all the things I need to do before then – and only have one weekend left to accomplish. Things like:

1. Tear my house apart looking for the portable DVD player (which I haven’t seen since the summer months) that will prevent FireDaddy and I from strapping our girlies to the roof of our car all the way between Georgia and Kentucky.

2. Purchase and pack a week’s worth of chocolate pop-tarts, gummy snacks, apples, Wheat Thins, Diet Dr. Pepper, CapriSuns, Oreos, and other “survival basics” for the car ride (and sneaky snacks while we’ve there).

3. Refill every prescription known to man – Ibuprofen 800, Prozac Weekly, Prozac daily, muscle relaxers, and anything else you may be able to suggest - that will help me survive being trapped in a Pacifica with FireDaddy and my babies for like a gajillion miles. FireDaddy and BabyGirl don’t always see eye to eye…especially in the car.

4. Sew and wrap presents for the family we’re going to see there….because, have I mentioned? I’m doing a handmade Christmas this year…(i.e. more evidence supporting my claims to insanity)

5. Print photos to insert in my Christmas cards so I can mail them before we high-tail it off for a week.

6. Find a loving, temporary home for my two darling four-legged children….because if they were going too, I might elect to stay home.

7. Get those same darling four-legged children groomed so their winter camp counselors, whomever they wind up being, don’t think I’m a neglectful mother.

8. Wash the twenty-five loads of laundry that has accumulated in the last week at my house.

9. Find an adorable dress suitable for LittleGirl to wear to school all day and straight into her holiday program TOMORROW NIGHT.

10. Continue to plan for and survive the remaining 5 days of the 2009 school year, including (but not limited to) writing detailed sub plans for the last day of school prior to the holiday break (for which, I will not be present), feed my family, and generally go about my life as expected by the world around me.

11. Fight off this sinus infection that is threatening to attack me any moment.

12. Continue to work towards producing and packaging the other handmade gifts I’ve planned for my friends, family and my daughters’ teachers.

What was I thinking?

Scratch that. I know what I was thinking.

I was thinking that these people - this family - are important to FireDaddy and our girlies and I. These are people that aren’t getting any younger or healthier as time wears on, to say the least. These are people that are worth the hassle and heartache that accompanies traveling long distances in a car with short people. These people are part of my daughters’ heritage, whether they understand this or not, and they need to know them. They need to know where they came from. And so does FireDaddy. And so do I.

In the long run, these are small prices to pay for the memories that will be made.

Perhaps I should focus on the feeling that overwhelmed my whole being the moment I stepped foot in that 1920-something home that Auntie and Uncle have owned since their own youth. The feeling that brought tears to my eyes so boldly that I could not stop them from falling down my cheeks. The feeling that instantly, gently, amazingly carried my soul hundreds of miles away to a little home in Louisiana where my own family member had lived. The feeling that said “home”, even though it was all new to me.

Perhaps I should focus on the pictures of babies frozen in time. And brides blushing beside their grooms. And Olan Mills portraits of wrinkled eyes and smiles. The creak in the floorboards. The slow, soft sound of tired feet shuffling to the kitchen to set the morning pot to brew. The cheery yellow wall hangings in a tiny, tiny kitchen. The kitchen stove that doesn’t know the meaning of a day off.

Perhaps I will focus on these.

Oh, what a happy holiday it will be.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And, again my compulsion gets the best of me…

You know, I was just thinking the other day, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do this time of year…”

I know you were probably thinking the exact same thing, right?

Since my imperfect conclusion to NaBloPoMo back in September, I’ve been pondering the possibilities. Shall I have a “do-over”? Shall I leave well enough alone? If I were to do a “do-over”, when would be a good time? Now? Later? Never? I guess all I ultimately decided was that it’s rather like having another baby. For one, there is NEVER a perfect time. And two, if you can’t ever resolve that you’re done for good, you probably aren’t done.

Then, amidst my noncommittal self-talk, with a stroke of serendipity, I stumbled upon this lovely little project called Holidailies. It is a project I can’t refuse. So, lucky you, you’re in for a treat. The rules say I have to post a minimum of 20 times between December 7th and January 6th, with the goal of one post per day in mind. I think I can hack it, even given the possible trip to the hills FireDaddy and I are planning for the holidays.

I hope you’re ready for this…because December has already been a bit of a rocky ride for me, folks. Within the first week of December, I have already: sustained back pain that interfered with my ability to function in the world, nursed sick children with dangerously spiking fevers, decorated the interior of my home for the holiday season (and managed to drag it out over the course of a week), moved furniture, bought paint for FireDaddy to repaint my kitchen, began searching for new paint colors for my office and den, continued to very slowly create handmade gifts for family and friends, taken approximately 1000 pictures, watched my beloved Old Boys of Florida stumble in defeat, and eat my weight in banana pudding. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d say this should be an interesting month.

Wow. And I wondered why I was so cranky yesterday.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

O’ Christmas Tree, O’ Christmas Tree

december 166

The tree is finally up.  Whew.

While this is definitely the most cumbersome of all decorating chores, it is also one of the most sentimental.  Ornaments on our tree, like many of yours, tell the tale of who we are and where we’ve been. 

There are faces on our tree.  Lots of little smiling faces.  Every year, we watch the faces grow older.



Ornaments mark milestones in our family’s story.  Our first Christmas together and my babies’ first Christmases. 







Some ornaments were handmade by family, friends, and even a few former students.

Of course, there are lots of firefighters and fire trucks, too.

Many ornaments came directly from the childhood trees of Little Girl Mommy and Little Boy FireDaddy.

Some of my newest favorites are more playful in spirit, reflecting my love of the beach and water.

Our ornaments represent our heritage,december 202



december 204






the contents of our hearts,  

 december 216and the child inside each of us.


And that sounds just about right to me.  Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?




Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas for My Girlies

Christmas, if you ask me, is best seen through the eyes of a child.  I love watching my little girlies experience the magic.  So, naturally, some of my most favorite Christmas decorations are the ones centered around my babies.december 142

One of the earliest traditions began as a gift from a secret Santa [My brother and sister-in-law].  Before BabyGirl was with us, a box containing this advent house appeared unexpectedly on our front porch.  This beautiful house brings so much excitement to our family throughout the entire month of December.  Every night, we open a door and discover the treasure is hiding inside.  Hair bows, bath fizzies, candies, “grow me” pets, coin purses, stamps, stickers, play dough and more.  As BabyGirl has grown and taken a more active role in holidays, they take turns opening doors each night.  BigGirl opens all the odds, BabyGirl opens the evens.  Some doors contain items to be shared, while others hold something for each of them.  In years past, some treats have been a little larger than these little doors can handle.  In those cases, our little elf has been known to leave clues guiding the way to their daily dose of Christmas cheer.


december 141 Last year, we welcomed a brand new tradition to our home:  Elway, the Elf on the Shelf.  Elway and his friends have become quite the rage all over the land of Christmas, it seems…but that doesn’t make him any less special to us.  I laughed this year as BabyGirl said to me, “Mommy. He watching me.  I don’t want him watching me.”  (Guilty conscience, my dear??) This year, it was apparent that Elway brought the house with him on his long trek from the North Pole.  And…he brought with him another mysterious box…with no return address.



Elway also brought with him this adorable pink tree.   We found the perfect home for it on the tea table in the girlies’ room.  We’ve begun slowly decorating it with knick-knacks and homemade ornaments.  And (more evidence that the Big Man from the North had something to do with all this Christmas goodness), two consecutive doors in the advent house revealed supplies to make angel ornaments!  Who else would have known but the Big Man himself? 


There are also child-sized, unbreakable versions of Christmas favorites throughout my house.  I fell in love with this children’s nativity set (seen here as arranged by BigGirl) from Bombay Kids, (R.I.P. Bombay Company & Bombay Kids. You are missed...)december 150

 december 006






… and this stuffed Hallmark Christmas tree with buttons for hanging felt ornament sets.  (The ornament sets came with little board books telling holiday stories, too!  Even better!) 


december 095

  And, this year, our traditions have even been enhanced by the blogosphere!  Thanks to Elsie Marley, the girlies and I are making advent coloring books, one day at a time.  Well, BigGirl wants to compile her art into a collection.  BabyGirl wants to hang hers on the wall over her bed.  (I think I’m going to hang a string and clip them, a la clothesline, as we go.)  It’s amazing how much fun it has been…just simple paper and crayons!  And, it’s free!


In the words of Maria from The Sound of Music, “These are a few of my favorite things.”

What are some of your favorite children’s Christmas traditions?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Great Interview Experiment

experiment2 I stumbled upon this really great idea recently, via The Glamorous Life Association.  And, you know me, I don’t like to be left out of good stuff.  So, I signed up and happily accepted my assignment.

I was to interview Laura at Word Grrls. First, like any good reporter, I did my research…which was A LOT.  Laura wears many different hats, ranging from advice guru, to writing “coach”, artist, explorer of rural lands, and more.

After writing my questions (which was tougher than I thought), I anxiously awaited her replies.

Today, they arrived!!!  I am so pleased to share with you a little about Laura, in her own words. 

1. Many of us are moving towards living more "greenly".  What is the next big step you'd like to take to improve your mark on the Earth?

I'd like to do better with recycling, especially paper. It bothers me to have so much paper with everyday stuff. Funny how we thought having computers and the Internet would mean using less paper. I think it generates more in some ways. But, on a personal level, I could do better at recycling those poor ground up tree parts.

2. You wrote a post about "vacuuming out our brains".  If I were to dump the bagless canister into the garbage, shortly after you vacuumed your brain, what might I see?

For my brain you would need to empty it a couple of times. I carry around a lot of clutter. There would be ideas for recipes, mostly holiday cookies at this time of year. There would be a lot of half formed ideas for blog posts. Ideas for starting my own blog network. Ideas for writing a paranormal romance book. A few dead batteries from brain cells that are just tired of listening to me. Diet coke cans, coffee cup circles on masses of paper I've written notes to myself on. A Raggedy Ann doll which is almost half way sewn up, her face nicely embroidered by hand (a few years ago). A pair of boots for mucking around at old houses which were only worn once cause I remember to bring my map but never actually change my footwear, it was a good idea at the time. Something sharp that broke and might be dangerous if it snags the vacuum hose. At the bottom of the canister would be a pile of sludge from guilt, hurt feelings and disappoints. In the light bits of dust flying around would be all kinds of good things I've thought of, experiences I've been proud of, happy with and people from my past who I was glad to know but don't think of very often.

3.  Your blog, Word Grrls, is filled with advice on writing and blogging.  Do you have a writing/blogging mentor?  If so, what do you admire about them?

At first I thought no. But I do have a mentor, someone I look up to and think of as an ideal. Her name is Bev Walton-Porter. I admire her for doing. That sweet and simple. Things I want to do, she goes ahead and just does them. Makes it look easy. I also admire Deanna for the same reason, she is very accomplished in areas beyond writing too. I've known Bev longer though I've actually never met either of them face to face. Funny how that happens online.

4. I know that I, and a few of my "Bloggy Buddies", need to feel like I’m “in the mood" to blog or write.  Some moods are more productive than others.  What are some of your favorite moods for writing?  And, tell me about when/where you write.  Is it quiet, or do you prefer music or television on?  Do you usually finish a post in one sitting, or save it to finish/review later?

I can write with the TV or radio on. But I can't write when someone else is in the house. Very odd. I love going out to a coffee shop and reading, making notes and sometimes even writing a few pages. But the people around are strangers and I almost feel like I am alone while being out. I fee refreshed from being out, even though I could become a hermit at times I love being out, talking to people too. It's complicated I guess. :)

My best mood for writing is being under a deadline. I tend to procrastinate and become distracted so having a deadline keeps me on track. It puts me in the mood to write.

5. I noticed on one of your other sites that you seem to have a "thing" for poppies...or maybe not.  What's up with that?  The flower projects are adorable.  Is there meaning or a story behind them?

That is my personal blog which is a bit neglected. The poppies were posted for Remembrance Day. I really like flowers, especially crocheted flowers. It's one of the projects on my to-do list.

6. What's your sign? What aspects/traits of your sun sign do you feel most accurately describe you?

I am Sagittarius. In Chinese astrology I'm a Wood Dragon. Both fit me well. I do love to learn new things, though I am not good at sticking to any one thing. I also have the need to teach the world, even if they don't especially listen at the time. Someday they will!

7. If cost was of no concern, and the sky was the limit, but you had to choose TODAY, what would you dress up as for Halloween 2010?

I would be a Witch. Not a warty black witch but a modern witch with a flowing gown an a pointy hat in red. My witch might even have a ball gown and jewels.

8. Tell me about your favorite room.  Anywhere.

Something I saw in a movie once had the kitchen kind of outside. They had an open fire pit and everyone was sitting around it. Yet it was open so smoke wasn't bothering anyone. Still it was inside so they weren't getting attacked by bugs either. You could read your book without being rained on and there was a huge window on the inside where you had a reading nook which looked out over the fire and gardens outside. I can't quite remember how it all fit together now. I liked the idea of being cosy and having the elements from outside around too.

So, there you have it!  Laura in a nutshell…or something like that. :)

I rather like her! And, Laura, I have to tell you – you and I have more in common than it may appear on the surface!

Before I leave you, I thought it would be fun, since Laura is an artist and, on occasion, includes her drawings in her posts, to include a little drawing of my own. 

(Drum roll, please…and no snide remarks.  I teach elementary school, remember?)


Questions about my artwork and/or her responses?  Leave a comment, or – better yet – visit her blog!  It’s worth the trip!

Psst!  Wondering about the flip side of this little project? You can check out my interview here. It’s my turn to be the “star”!

And, if you’re interested in participating, it’s not too late!  Just hop on over to Neil’s blog and leave your “count me in” comment.  He’ll contact you via email with YOUR assignment.  And don’t forget to keep me posted! 

Girl Talk Thursday: Heartbreak City


Today’s Girl Talk Thursday topic is heartbreaks.  Such a touchy topic…

As you may have gathered from previous posts, I’ve had my share of boyfriends. Which is not to say that this is a point of pride for me…

I can remember riding in the car with my mother on the way to the mall; I was in high school. My heart was freshly wounded by Some Dumb Guy.  A sappy love song came on the radio and began rubbing salt in my wound.  I was trying to be brave and keep my mind off the hurt and lonely feeling that comes with breakups, but this blasted song was knocking me down brick by brick.  I remember softly, reluctantly asking my mother, “Can you please change the station?”  She respectfully agreed, and silently honored my request.  I wonder what it was like to be My Mama in that moment.  Was she thinking, “I hate seeing her like this?” or “Such a drama queen…”.  (Probably some of both.)

I did not choose my boys wisely, to say the least.  I’ve alluded to my own issues with self-esteem here before.  Here’s the bottom line: I didn’t like myself very much, so I liked just about anyone who liked me.  The truth hurts, but doesn’t make it any less true.

As you can imagine, with little to no standards for Qualifying Candidates, I got burned quite a bit.  Looking back, it seems like most guys dumped me when they had another waiting in the wings.  (Perhaps they were smarter than I give them credit for…)  That fact, of course, made it so much harder to accept.  The jealousy. The betrayal. 

And then, there was one guy that really was a jerk.  In his defense, he had no good role models.  His parents had split when he was young, young, young.  His mother lived on other side of the country and he didn’t know her AT ALL until his father, who spent a lifetime freely sharing his own twisted version of love with his sons, died.  So, along came the boy.  He liked me.  So, I considered and (of course) agreed to a date.  All was hunky-dory for a while.  I, in keeping with my own traditions, began allowing my entire life to revolve around Dumb Guy of the Moment. 

A smart enough person learns to see this as a source of control and power…and get used to it.  Often, they decide to keep things moving along the path of their choice, regardless of your thoughts.  Bottom line, I got hurt.  It hurt before it was over.  It hurt because I let it.  I was too stupid to see that I was worth more than that. I didn’t have the courage or perspective to realize I would be happier and better off without him.  I was scared and didn’t want to be alone.

Then, one day, it clicked.  I was done.  It was over.  I had had enough.  I shed my fair share of tears and wallowed in my sorrow with a few supportive friends, and then, as quickly as a baby falls asleep in their pureed peas, I flushed it.  Like a faucet, I turned it off.

FireDaddy and I during our "courtship".A few days later, I met my husband.  He was supposed to be a rebound.  I just wanted a distraction to help me launch myself down a new road.  Turns out that road was a interstate with no end in sight. Funny how things work out. 


All of this “woe is me, innocent victim” talk is not, of course to say that I didn’t do my fair share of burning, as well.  I never maliciously intended to hurt, but misunderstandings happen and people change.  Girls are stupid in high school, as are boys.  And, hindsight is 20-20.  As it turns out, some girls – some “friends” – have ulterior motives behind their “advice”. 

“I feel so conflicted…I ‘love’ (because, when you’re young you think it’s love) So-And-So, but I kind of like Other Dude, too.  I don’t know what to do…”

“Oh, you should go for it…you and So-And-So are growing apart.  Follow your heart.  Go for Other Dude.  Here, why don’t I help you write the break-up note…”

A few days later, guess who’s comforting So-And-So?  Oh, look!  Now they’re a couple!  As for me and Other Dude?  Yeah.  That one will live in infamy forever among my family as the one to whom I said, “This isn’t going to last long.”  I don’t know if I said that to him, or just to my family.  But, it’s true.  I said it to someone.


As an adult, I’ve decided that heartbreaks come as a result of personal expectations.  (Wish I could claim credit for this profound statement, but a co-worker taught me this.)  We all have expectations for the people in our lives.  We have expectations for who and what boyfriends/husbands/lovers/friends/family members are and how they should behave.  These expectations, though, are rarely, if ever, explicitly discussed, they are often vastly different from one person to the next.  We get hurt when people don’t meet our unspoken expectations.

I expected boys would care about my feelings.

I expected they might “love” me forever - because, to me, love is forever.

I expected that they would be honorable and do the right thing.

I expected they would tell me the truth.

I expected that my girlfriends had my best interest in mind.

I expected they were being honorable, too.

I expected that, should someone truly care about me, they would fight for me.  They would come to me and say, “I don’t want to lose you.”

I expected wrong.


Even today, I live with heartbreak from time to time.  Who doesn’t?  My husband breaks my heart.  My children break my heart.  My friends break my heart.  My family breaks my heart.  That’s life. 

What I’m learning is that I must adjust my expectations.  The only person I can truly EXPECT anything from, is myself, because that is the only person I can – or want to - control.  I must expect more from myself than I do from others.  I’ve learned that, while I continue to open my heart to the loving people around me – who, like me, are just doing the best they can everyday, I need to give myself the unconditional love that I cannot always expect from others

And that, my friends, is harder than it seems.



I don’t like that this has been such a depressing post. So, to share a “feel good” with you…check out this video. You’ll like it, I promise!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Crackin’ Open a Can of Christmas

december 001 The sun hadn’t even set on Thanksgiving Day and my “so-called friends” were posting pictures of their Christmas trees on Facebook, making me feel like a slacker.

Then, I went and hurt myself, somehow, and was incapacitated for a day and a half, in a house freshly cleaned from top to bottom in preparation for decorations.

Then, BigGirl woke up with a raging 104.4 fever, and another day was sidetracked.

Gosh darn it, I became hell-bent on putting out some flippin’ red and green already!!! In a typical neurotic fit, I began unloading the Rubbermaid tubs in the garage patiently awaiting my attention. One by one, we smiled at the pillows and cutsies and greeted them like old friends who’d come to visit. “Awww, I remember that…” BigGirl would say.

“Mommy, it’s not Christmas yet. I don’t want you to make dat,” BabyGirl chimed in.

As I, once again, found homes, some new and some the same, for all these familiar faces, I realized how many stories I pull out of the attic every year. (Well, more accurately, FireDaddy pulls them out of the attic…I pull them out of the tubs.)

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Like the “crystal” candy dish my little old next door neighbor gave to us the year we were married, Mrs. Russell. I can see her face and remember the worry we had for her when she was hospitalized for a month or so. I remember her purple God awful reflecting ball she kept in her little courtyard by her front door, and her excitement as she called us over to look at her century plant in bloom. I never would have chosen this for myself, but it reminds me of friendship.

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I have this crazy, random blue metal basket with Santa on it. Every year I pull it out and wonder exactly what I will do with it and where I will put it. But I don’t have the heart to give it away. It was given to me by a sweet, sweet friend I taught with in a past life. She was as country as country gets. And she would give you the shirt off her back, and the diesel dually she rode in on. The basket was filled with sausage (from their own pigs, I believe), corn bread, and bean soup mix. I miss her.

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There’s the toy soldier my mother made, in her toll painting days. He’s so handsome. I have a thing for toy soldiers, I think. You know, being a man in uniform and all. I remember sitting in our kitchen watching her paint these december 007projects. I was impressed with how easy she made it look, and how cool it was that water worked like an eraser when used correctly. I was thrilled when she said I could have it – for the girls, of course.

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I love my green table runner with little red birds appliqu├ęd on it. It’s cheery and looks semi-homemade. (Sometimes illusions are a good thing.) I love all the fabrics that come out of my tubs. Pillows, dolls, animals, stockings, napkins, runners, and more. Fabric has such a warming, inviting effect on a room. And what house doesn’t need a little more warmth in it for the holidays?

I love my basket of Christmas books, a second generation tradition. Since my decembergirlies were so small when I started collecting, we have board books and everything beyond. As they mature and grow, so will this special collection. And, I’ll save the board books for friends’ babies and cousins and nieces and nephews and, one day, grandbabies. I love that it was the first item I pulled out of the garage. I presented it to BigGirl like her first gift of the season – and she received it as such. Both girlies immediately plunged into the basket of treasures, promptly browsing one after another after another. Quietly. Enjoying.

All of these stories and memories and thoughts fumble and bumble around my head like blind little mice. And we haven’t even touched the five (or more) tubs of ornaments yet. That’s another post entirely…

I love Christmas. I love that, like many things, no two are exactly alike. I love that with every little tchotchke I put out every year, I am surrounding myself with memories and faces. I love that decorating your home for Christmas each year is an act of creating. Creating memories. Creating a mood. Creating a backdrop for time spent with people you love.

Christmas is coming. Just you wait.


Psst! Did you hear? Barking Mad is having a Crazy Christmas Giveaway! A $300 TARGET GIFT CARD!!! You know how I feel about Target, y'all...Anyhow, here's her link and all that jazz - go check it out!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Season of Giving



That is my all time favorite church song.  As an adult, I attended a particular church for a while mostly because they sang this song every Sunday at the end of the service.  And, I loved the pastor.  He was like a loving grandfather, welcoming everyone into his humble home.  Even heathens like me. :)

December first marks, for many, the beginning of the holiday season.  The season of giving.  But, sadly, I truly believe that this “season of giving” has become much more of a “season of shopping, stressing, and spending”.  I’m trying so hard this year, as I watch my daughters grow, and pray they don’t get jaded to that “giving” part, to focus on the spirit and heart of the season. 

Hell.  When I think of it that way, who needs a season? 

I want my girls to be givers.  I want them to be filled with hearts overflowing with love for their family, friends, and fellow humans.  I want them to care about the world and the people and the air, the water, the trees, the wind, the clouds in the sky, and butterflies and puppies and apples.  I do not want them to wander lonely through this world with clear vision only as far as the end of their own nose.  I do not want them to view their beliefs, their thoughts, their needs as supreme and righteous, but rather, as one of many valid perspectives. 

Not only do I want them to love and care for others, but I want them to love and care for themselves.  I want more for them than I have been able to give to myself.  I see them through mother’s eyes: eyes that see clearly every fault and every virtue – and love them just the way that they are.  They’re perfect, even their imperfections. 

Over and over and over again I’ve preached to BigGirl, “All I expect is that you do the best you can do,” so much that she now cuts me off and finishes the sentence with that annoyed tone we’ve all used with our mothers.  The one that sounds like the teachers and parents on Charlie Brown.  The one that says, “Would you stop saying that already?”  But it’s true.  I expect her to do her best at everything.  Everything.  Not just school work and dance, but friendship.  Sisterhood. Being a daughter and a dog owner.  Being a citizen of the Earth. 

I have a friend who told me once that when her daughters were young she told them, “When you lie to me, I can see crosses in the back of your eyes.”  She also said, “Even when Mommy and Daddy can’t see you, God is always watching.”  (No offense, folks…but see what I mean about being Catholic?) 

I want them to carry God, Buddha, the Golden Rule, karma, whatever it is they decide to believe in one day, in their hearts always.  I want them to be proud of their every decision – or at least 99% of them.  I want them to sleep well at night knowing they gave to the world.  They made a difference in someone’s life each day.

I read this article today that discussed the importance of giving.  It’s important in ways you may not have suspected.  I’d like to try this project, and I would love it if you would join me. 

Give a “gift” everyday for a month.

Mind you, “gifts” aren’t always tied in pretty paper and ribbons.  A gift, says the article, could be simply saving the last piece of cake for your husband.  Or, perhaps you go out of your way to make your children their favorite meal one night.  Perhaps you give your change to a neighbor’s or friend’s child.  Perhaps you volunteer your time in a classroom – helping someone other than your own child.  Maybe you bring your co-worker coffee unexpectedly one day.  The bottom line is – do something thoughtful and nice for someone without expecting anything in return, other than perhaps a smile and a “thank you”.

I’m going to try it.  I hope you will too.

Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I closed my eyes.

waiting room I’m usually not concerned about germs when I visit a doctor’s office.  Call it blissful ignorance or denial, but it isn’t usually something I worry about too much. 

At recent visits to my girlies’ pediatrician, I’ve noticed the ginormous bottle of hand sanitizer sitting out at the sign-in sheet and again at the checkout window.  I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities for added precaution.  But, I didn’t really worry.  Until today.

I visited my own doctor’s office for a back “injury”.  (I say “injury” because, yet again, I have no idea what I’ve done to myself.  When I think more about why I don’t know or remember anything I’ve done to hurt myself, I conclude that I injure myself so frequently that I just don’t even pay attention to them for long anymore.  Except for when I cut off the top of my thumb…but that’s another post.) 

I noticed the lady behind the glass window handing the little old lady signing in before me a mask.  A mask.  Then, my eyes caught sight of the sign sitting on the counter, “Our masks are for your protection.”


Eww!  OK.  Now, I’m completely creeped out.

As I step up to the clipboard, I glance down at the two pens on the counter.  One attached by a short chain to the clipboard, the other, a black Paper Mate that has long ago lost its cap, lying nearby.  A little voice in my head reminded me of a warning I’d heard on television, or from a friend, or passing someone in the hall…”Always use your own pens.  Do you know how many people touch those pens?”  

Then I heard my own voice reminding me to calm down.  “I have a killer teacher/mom immune system and this is all just paranoid thinking.”  Plus, I didn’t want to look like a jerk/idiot rifling through my purse that desperately needs to be cleaned out and reorganized looking for a black pen.  Well, looking for any pen that isn’t pink, purple, lime green, or orange.  Or a highlighter.  Or a marker.  (I’m always prepared.)  So, I took a deep breath (and held it), chose a pen, and signed the board.  It was like the office supply version of Russian Roulette. 


As I took my place in the waiting crowd, strategically chosen to be equidistant from all the other waiters, I sank four inches into the seat of a chair that had obviously been a popular choice for a while.  I scoped out my fellow waiters…and began to feel very young and very healthy.  Every other person in there was well over 70, frail,…and wearing a mask.  Well, with the exception of their caregivers.  They might pass for mid-40s or greater.  My eyes darted from mask to mask, sizing up the wearers.  Were they sick?  Did they think I was sick?  Should I be worried about catching something, or should I stand up and announce, “Don’t worry.  No germs on me!  I’m just here for a bad back.  You know how it is when you pass 30…it’s all downhill from there, right??  Ha, ha!” 

I needed to consult an expert. 

I texted FireDaddy.


Me: they have masks for u to wear in waiting room. it’s creepy.

FireDaddy: it’s going around.

Me: should i wear 1?

FireDaddy: it’s up 2 u

Me: what would u do?

FireDaddy: i’ve been vaccinated


And just like that, he left me high and dry.  It was like the dream where you show up somewhere naked, or arrive at an event or work an hour early because you forgot to change your clocks, or when your friend gives you a gift even though you both agreed you wouldn’t exchange gifts!  How could he do that to me?  He scoffs at me for getting the flu shot every year – and then he goes and gets vaccinated for the swine flu?  How selfish is he???  Doesn’t he care about his own wife?  The mother of his children?  THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE AND THE BEST FRIEND HE’S EVER HAD???


The blonde lady behind the glass called my name again.  It was time for me to update my forms, so she handed me a *gasp!* clipboard and form to complete.  This time, I dug into my purse and found my own germ-infested pen to use.  (Let’s face it.  Those pens are used frequently by my own nose-picking, finger-licking, germ-carrying kiddos.)  After all, the germ you know is better than the germ you don’t know, right?  I busied my mind as I completed the redundant form.  Unfortunately, it was an unusually short form - front side only with only two signatures on the back.  That’s it?  When I don’t want to do this kind of stupid paperwork, there’s like five pages of it – asking me questions I practically have to call my mother’s mother to find out the answers to!  Today I get one stinkin’ page – and like a third of the page was “N/A”!!!

I crossed the room carefully, holding my breath, to return my assignment.  As I turned back towards the sinking chair, I noticed the end table with magazines.  Ha!  Not on your life, germie-poos!  I’m not falling for THAT old trick!  (Today…)

And so, I sat.  I brought a book, but couldn’t bring myself to read it in that moment.  I sat and held my purse in my lap, looking like a frightened little ol’woman, I’m sure.  “Please call my name. Please call my name. Please call my name.”

Finally, they called my name.  I moved as quickly as I could with this darn aching back.  (Getting up is really hard these days.)  As I came close to the door to the back of the office, I silently wished the nurse would open the door wider so I didn’t have to get so close to her to pass through the threshold.  I followed her to the scale.

“Don’t you think we could just skip this part today?  After all…it’s right after Thanksgiving…which came on the heels of a month or more of gluttony for me.  Don’t you think?   Please?” 

“Ha. No.”

I shed my shoes, dropped my purse, opened my mouth for the thermometer (telling myself those flimsy plastic covers really can protect me from the creepy germs inside other people’s mouths), stepped on the scale, and I closed my eyes.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weekend in the Kitchen

Having spent virtually my entire long weekend in the kitchen, I have little to share other than the history of a meal.  As I was slaving away over a hot stove, though, I fell in love with capturing the beauty of a working kitchen.  Really, the colors and textures of food and kitchen prep are quite unique. 

I thought I’d share with you a smidgeon of my photo journal from this weekend (because I’m sure you dying to see, right?). Some photos mark beginnings of the meal – dressing that begins with chopping vegetables, pies that are born from raw crusts, the baby white fluff of marshmallows before they’ve been baked to a golden brown.  There are photos of the process. Mushrooms sizzling in a pan for the homemade mushroom gravy in the Best Ever Green Bean Casserole.  Roasted pecans (the second batch – I got distracted and forgot about batch number one…fed them to le garbaage) for the sweet potato casserole.  Wild rice for My Mama’s Dressing steeping on the stove next to the cooling iron skillet in which my sweet corn bread baked.  And, finally, the reward.  There are many more, of course, but I chose not to include faces in this collection. You may insert your own, if you wish.

Oh, yes.  And, if you look closely, you’ll figure out my “oops” that happened on the day of our family meal…and have an idea for a Christmas present for yours truly. 



I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend.  ‘Tis the season for dishpan hands. :)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Things that make me happy

I started a Thanksgiving Day post yesterday. It was filled with sarcasm, but it made me laugh.

Today, I went around my house snapping photos of things that make me happy. My new decorating rule: Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Happiness is completely irrational sometimes. Often, I can’t explain why something makes me happy, but I also can’t deny it. Like this summer when I found a pair of hotpads I just couldn’t resist. They made me happy.

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This handmade bundle of flowers makes me happy. It sits on my desk, always in my line of sight as I look towards my monitor. It’s actually a combination of two Mother’s Day projects from BigGirl’s preschool days…and it’s a little worse for the wear (to say the least). But, when I look at it, I remember the day she presented these little gifts and I smile. She was so little.

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Diet Dr. Pepper makes me happy. It’s sweet, cool, refreshing. I love it. Drinking it in my favorite cup (not seen here) on ice is a special treat I enjoy on “stay at home days”. Yummy. I know this isn’t exactly decorating, but it often graces an end table, bedside table, or counter in my home.

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I love these blue and white canisters and pots. I’ve collected a lot of blue and white over the years. Why? Because it makes me happy. The two larger ones shown here came from my grandmother’s house. I love the combination of the three together, even though they are not intended to be displayed this way.

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I love this little ceramic dog. One of my students gave it to me a few years ago for Christmas. She gave it to me because she and I both had a dog by the same name…a detail I had forgotten. Apparently, that was pretty special to her. The dog makes me smile. I look at it and think of her smiling up at me. This little doggie lives on my breakfast bar where I can see it everyday.

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I love this little corner of my dresser. The lamp is nothing special, just an old Target purchase. But, the flowers are cheery and were a gift from My Mama. The crystal figure belonged to My Daddy’s Mama. You can’t really tell what it is, other than a person. It is a flower frog, intended to be used in the center of a crystal platter. However, I like looking at it on my dresser each morning as I dig for that favorite pair of underwear or bra.

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I love this man. He’s a Greek fisherman. A few summers ago, I rescued him from a broken frame, buried deep within a closet at my grandmother’s house. (She’s very generous.) When I look at him, I wonder about his story. I would love to sit with him and hear his tales of the ocean and how he met his wife. I’d love to visit his home and enjoy a meal of fresh seafood that was prepared in his kitchen. I would take lots of pictures and they would be lovely. Like something from a movie.

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Books make me happy. As “tech savvy” as I’d like to think I am, I cannot get into the thought of a Kindle. I love books. I love pages. I love book covers. I love books in stacks, in baskets, on shelves, in corners, on tables, everywhere. I love books. They make me happy.

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I love this birdie. Pier 1. Love it. Wish I had bought more.

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I love handing things down to my girlies. This little music box used to be mine. It was a gift from FireDaddy. He gave it to me as part of a birthday present the first year we were dating. It’s sweet, but it’s sweeter knowing it’s theirs now.

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I love making things for my girlies. This is a Kitty Bank I made for BabyGirl. She wanted a Bunny Bank like the one her uncle gifted to her big sister, but I had no plans to return to Boston anytime soon to hunt down that cutie-patootie little toy shop in Harvard Square. So, I improvised…and spent an afternoon with BigGirl at the paint your own pottery place. It turned out OK, and BabyGirl absolutely adores it. She’s just like Sissy.
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I love walking into a quiet room of the house and finding this. Having girls who love reading – and writing - is like a dream come true.
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These are the little things that slowly, with time and love, turn a house into a home.

What makes your house a place you love to be?

UPDATED 12/1/09: Woo-hoo! Barking Mad is giving away a $300 Target Gift Card! (You know I need it!) Go see for yourself and get your bloggy all linked up, too!

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