Things That Make Me Go Hmmm...

One of my favorite tools in the modern scrapbooker's arsenal is a variety of paper punches. For my non-scrapbooking friends, the concept is the same as a standard hole punch, only the shape is something other than a circle...and it can be bigger or small than a standard hole punch. There are thousands of shapes to choose from and many styles.

Here's one I've been using lately:

The shape of the apple is quite perfect but I couldn't help but laugh at the little blue and white "notice" at the bottom of the packaging. It's says "Ease of Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation".

How nice is that?
Except that it took five minutes and two pairs of scissors to get the packaging off the product--and I *don't* have arthritis.

Dear scrapbooking people with arthritis, *If* you can get the crazy restrictive packaging off this lovely punch, you should have no problem using the actual tool. Sincerely, Fiskars.

((insert a big ol' eyeroll here))


Craft Night

Sunday evenings at the ranch have been alternating lately between Movie Nights and Craft Nights. Tonight was of the Craft variety and this is what the boys and I made:

We had a good time. (I dred the day my boys decide crafting with me isn't so "cool". I try not to think about it.) I stole borrowed this idea from one of the scout leaders, who had the scouts make ornaments like this one to take to the retirement home that the scouts visit. I thought it was quite clever so we made about 6 or 8...probably gonna make a few more tomorrow.

One of the rules of crafting is that when your project is complete, you can always think of a way to do it better or more creatively next time, so I was thinking that the next incarnation of the Popsicle Stick Snowman might have the bottom section of the stick shoved down into a white-glittered foam ball, to give him more of a snowman body. Nevertheless, I do like the stick body version.

And note the use of Stickles. A good craft project must involve Stickles in some way.

I'm convinced that with enough pipe cleaners a girl could rule the world. :)

Happy Monday!


Bye Bye Target

I said goodbye to WalMart many years ago after a continually frustrating relationship, and trasferred my shopping loyalty to Target.

And bless their hearts, Target went and built a new location not too long ago, that is right close to my house.

So a funny thing happened on the way out of Target tonight...

This evening I did a little bit of shopping for the peeps in my house of the Christmas gift variety. With little fits of joy, I hit the Lego aisle, the camera aisle and the game section. I picked up a few art supplies. I browsed thru the clothing. Shopping for presents is 100% enjoyable for me...I had a list and checked off most every item on it. I was a happy camper. Despite being very busy, there was only two people ahead of me in line and I was lucky enough to have a cashier who was obviously in the Christmas spirit.

So I packed my purchases into my cart and headed for the Jeep, feeling cold ( it was 25 degrees) but more than a touch elated about the nearly-conquered list. Only two items remain! Who Hoo!

As I get to the Jeep, I notice that there's a young lady leaned up against her car, which is parked about three slots past mine. As I start to unload my packages, she approaches and asks, in heavily stilted English, "Do you have a keyboard?"

I admit it. I'm a little bit of a parking lot freak. Basically, I hate them. They are dangerous--cars backing up all over the place. And filled with "stranger danger".

But as I looked at this woman, who was probably less than 5 feet tall and definitely no more than a hundred pounds, the fright in her eyes told me she was, as my father used to say, "more afraid of me than I was of her". But why would she need a keyboard? A keyboard?

It was quite clear that her English was broken, at best, and whatever she was fluent in, was unknown to me. She held up her keys, pointed to her car...I racked my brain. Nothing made sense at first. And then, she raised up the hood of her small car and pointed to the battery.


Ahh, yes. She needed cables and a jump. Her car wouldn't start. Got it.

I was in the Jeep, which posesses more than 188 thousand miles and not a few qwerks, never leaves the city. I've driven a sum total of less than a hundred miles in the past 9 days. The Jeep contains nothing in the way of tools or cables or emergency supplies...mostly because if something happens to the Jeep, the great likelihood is that, I could, conceivably, walk home. (In hindsight, not the smartest plan, but that was the thinking before tonight.)

Joal's car--the car that racks up about 65,000 miles a year for my road-warrior husband--that car is well-equipped with tools, gear, Cliff bars, waters and blankets, emergency supplies and of course, the jumper cables.

So, I get him on the phone to see where he is. He's at home which is twenty minutes or so away. OK, never mind, let me see what I can do here. I try to tell the young woman "No I have no there someone I can call for you?" She says no. "OK let me think."

Clearly, I'm not going to leave her sitting on the outskirts of the parking lot as night is falling and the temperatures are falling as well. *I* was freezing and I was wearing a coat. I sat in the Jeep for a moment to think. I looked around for a guy in a big truck, hoping to spot someone who might remind me of my brothers. "Lord, help me figure this out." I prayed.

Maybe I could call the Target. This surely happens on occasion, maybe there would be a nice Target person who would be willing to come outside and help.

Pull out the phone, call up the Target.
A lovely young woman named Sam answers and I explain the situation as humbly and as simply as I can. More flies with honey, and all that, after all.
She listens and says "I think we do have someone who could help, meet me at guest services."

Ah, joy.
Angels singing.

I get out of the Jeep and convince her to walk inside with me. At first she's worried that the store is going to charge her a fee, but I try to reassure her that there will be no cost. We hike quietly towards the store and I feel like an Amazon woman walking next to her. I tell her my name is Sarah and she says something I don't understand.

We get to the Guest Services Desk and I ask the lady there if she's the person I just spoke to on the phone about getting jumper cables. By her demeanor, I had a feeling she was not the same person...with quite a load of annoyance and gruffness, she said "No, but we aren't going to be able to do that. It's a liability for Target."

OK. Not. "Do you want a phone book?" she offers.
Um no.
"Would it be possible for me to speak with the other lady--the one I spoke to on the phone?" I asked, not quite ready to give up hope.

Miss Grinch informed me that Sam could be found at the desk near the ladies fitting room.

So, we traipsed to the back of the store and found Sam. "We spoke..." I started and she leaned in closer towards me. She looked perturbed. "They won't let it happen" she said. "It's a liability issue for Target."

At first, I was a little stunned and didn't quite know what to say. All that came out of my mouth was "Well, that sucks." Not something I ordinarily say, but inside, I was thinking "I just spent a buggy-full of money in this store, and now they are worried about their possible exposure to liability?"

Clearly, Sam was sympathetic to my little cause but was not in a position to do anything to change the decree that had put the axe to her ability to be helpful.

So I thanked her for her graciousness, as opposed to that of Miss Grinch at the Guest Service Desk (misnomer) , and we made our way out of the store.

I called Joal, the man who faithfully and without reservation (or concern for his own possible exposure to liability) rescues me from many a storm, and asked him to bring the keyboard cables and come over.

So he did. My cohort waited in her car. She leaned her head over onto the steering wheel, and I think it's pretty safe to assume, some tears may have been falling, on her steering wheel, just as there were on mine. Mine, however, were angry.

Please tell me what the point of being the big Target is, if people don't matter? The words "potential exposure to liability" rattled through my brain. "I'll give you a liability" I thought. "If only you could be liable for being scrooges and clods." (I may have used somewhat stronger wording.)

When I look at this young woman, who barely speaks English, is all alone, in a broken down car, who just needs a jump, that might take all of five minutes, with the right equipment, "potential exposure to liability" is *not* the phrase that pops into my head. "Standard Operating Procedure" has never been something I am good at...I don't accept policy well. I'm more of a "rules are made to be broken" when the cause is good kinda girl.

So, in an effort to limit my own "potential exposure to liability", I am breaking off the long-term relationship I've held with the shiny, new Target. If people don;t matter to Target, Target doesn't matter to this "people". Target is being permanently removed from the Devendorf family budget (yes, Target was a line in our budget) and I will shop there no more.

Yes, I realize that Target's bottom line will not notice my departure. I understand that. I am but one of their billions of shoppers...the loss of my dollars will not even be a blip on the Target radar.

But I will know.

Because I am the one that a young woman in desperate need of a slight favor smiled at when her car started. I will know that being a person with a heart is far more rewarding than being an entity without. I will know that on a cold night in Middle Tennessee, I called in the cavalry for a helpless stranded woman, who could have easily been my mom or my sister or any number of my friends...and *I* was the one who was blessed to do so.

Merry Christmas.


Dear Santa.

So a few nights ago Grey (who is 7) disappeared into his room for a while to do some writing, something that makes my heart so very happy.

Above is the product of his writing session. I love that he asked Santa about "Mrs. Claws"...

Santa Claus kinda takes a minor role in our Christmas...our presents are from each other, but Santa leaves the items in the stockings. On years when Joal's not playing music on Christmas Eve, we open our presents on Christmas Eve. Most years though, he plays at the 11 pm Christmas Eve service at church, so we open gifts on Christmas morning. The boys know that Santa is a character from a story and there's no confusion about what's real (Jesus' birth) and what's legend. We don't give Santa a great deal of the credit for providing the gifts...I've never really understood that. We give gifts to each other because Christ was given to us and because he gave his life for us. How does having Santa bring all the gifts help *us* to embrace the act of giving? I love selecting gifts that I know the boys will enjoy and I take great care in doing it. I am not about to let some mythical guy in a red suit deprive them of knowing "My mom and dad really *get me*."

I'm not anti-Santa. I think the story of Santa Claus (the old story, not the commercial pop version) is indeed beautiful, as is the legend of old-world stories of Santa Claus, with all their variations. Santa has a place in our holiday, he's just certainly not the star of the show. Santa works all year to give gifts to children...he's a giver, just like we are.

I'm not sure what prompted G to write to Santa...and it's news to me that he's thinking of a new bike. The skate *bird* (skate board) has been acquired and the markers are a given. Art supplies are a must each and every Christmas, afterall. I would imagine that Santa is very likely down with bringing a "bag of candy"...that's easy to fit in a stocking.

I did think it funny the other day when the boys mentioned that the new decorative (long and skinny) stockings hanging in the living room were not as big as the ones we normally use. "They sure won't hold much" was the general consensus. Ha! "But they match so nicely" I told them. No one but me was impressed. :)


My toes are fr-o-zen but the Grilled Cheese was grand

So Julian and I went on a crazy adventure today...a food adventure...that's the best kind right? A few weeks ago, I read on Facebook about a new thing that's come to Nashville--The Grilled Cheeserie--a gourmet food truck! The concept of a food truck (great specialty food sold all over the city) fascinated me and hello--grilled cheese--can't go wrong there. I knew Juju would go along for the promise of food, so I started watching the Twitter and Facebook postings of The Grilled Cheeserie to see when they were going to be near us. Downtown challenges me...but last evening they posted their schedule for the week and today, their selected corner was one I  not only knew how to get to but also one that promised easy parking, so today, was our day for our first food truck adventure.

Hello. Grilled Cheese. Worth a bit of adventure, don't you think?

I know--we are easily amused...especially when there's food involved.

When we got to the corner of Tenth and Clark, (behind the Frist, in front of Cummins Station) there were about 30 people in line. Having never visited a food truck spot before, I had not realized that food truck food is definately not fast food. Each order is hand-crafted...and cheese doesn't melt fast, especially when the outside temp is a whopping 18 degrees. Yep. Didn't quite plan to spend a total of 55 minutes standing around in the *18 degree* weather...just didn't make the connection...or wear an appropriate coat. I had several layers on  as well as my hat but not the real coat that would have been a smart move. Neglected the socks too. Dumb move.

Don't misunderstand...I am not complaining about the wait. I didn't anticipate it...but I get it now. The gals inside were doing all they could to get the orders out efficiently--that was obvious. There were a-l-o-t of people wanting grilled cheese today! No complaints at all. 

It took about 30 minutes for us to get up to the window (plenty of time to study the menu and discuss the options with other fellow frozen waiters) and then about 25 minutes after that to receive our delectables. People were nice and no one seemed grouchy at all, for which I was grateful. The Grilled Cheeserie gals offered up free sample cups of the hot Cranberry Cider to those who were patiently waiting in the cold.   

The smell was righteous. Click on the photo of the menu board to see it larger.

I selected the "Melt of the Moment"-- Brie and Bacon Melt, which consists of Benton's Thick Cut Bacon, Brie and Buttermilk Chedder, apple and onion chutney on Multi-grain Bread. The photo shows one half of the sandwich...mainly because I forgot to take a picture before I chowed. The apple and onion chutney was delish...with the bacon...ok so the whole thing was perfection. :) I'll definately be getting this one again. Maybe tomorrow.

I don't know why I didn't pop the lid off the soup cup to show the most beautiful old fashioned tomato soup...I guess my brain was just frozen solid. Next time I'll try to remember to do that, I promise. :) Bowl of soup was only a dollar with any sandwich, and was obviously a great choice for warming up our frozen fingers. Julian selected the Pepper Jack with Shaved Ham on Sourdough...he's a big ol boy who loves pepper jack. He was quite the happy camper with his sandwich, especially when he thawed again, as we ate in the warmth of the Jeep. Poor guy...his mother is a certified food nut. :)

Our first food truck experience was quite an adventure...the food was yummy and delisious..definately worth the wait. Julian's already clammoring to return...he's quite fascinated by the concept of a truck with plumbing for a kitchen and different combinations of cheeses and meats. That's my boy. :)

The Grilled Cheeserie on Facebook

What I really want to know is where have food trucks been all my life? How have we missed out for so long? After I read about The Grilled Cheeserie, I discovered that there's one other truck in Nashville...The Cupcake Truck from a bakery in Clarksville, although it appears to not move around so much. Have to investigate that further.

Think of the possibilities!
Stay warm...and don't forget your socks. :)


Ruin is Beautiful

So it's snowing in Middle Tennessee, which means life as we know it stops and we are stuck in the house, until all 62 snowflakes have melted off. For me, that means watching movies to keep my sanity. Last evening, before the flakes started falling, I hit the Blockbuster kiosk at the mother ship Publix for 2 for the boys and one for me to watch after the boys went to bed. I selected (with minor trepidation) Eat. Pray. Love.

I should know better by this point in my life...but apparently, I don't. I usually hate chick-flicks. I have a very low tolerance for shallowness and psycho-babble...especially when it involves the concept of some woman whining "I don't want to be married any more, I need to find myself, so let's get divorced." Call me old-fashioned. I believe that "till death do we part" actually means, um, till somebody croaks (or misbehaves insanely).

So, from very early in the movie, I was turned off. Julia Roberts' character says to her husband, "I don't want to be married anymore." and off she goes, in search of herself and some kind of unquantifiable "peace". Any way. Whatever. Speaking of self-absorbed crap.

There was this one line in there -- one single line that redeemed the entire movie. In a particularly heart-wrenching, epiphony-style moment, Liz observes, rather quietly, "Ruin is beautiful."

If ever there was a three-word summary of my life, that is certainly it. "Ruin is beautiful."

I've spent a great deal of time the past few years in a state of semi-grieving for what will not be for Julian, and consequently, for Joal and myself, and I suppose, in some ways, for Grey too. We've known since he was 2 that something wasn't right with him and that he would never achieve normal childhood milestones, at the pace of a neuro-typical child. With each new diagnosis, came a new set of disappointments and a new wave of grief. When a developmentally-delayed child looks physically normal, it's deceptive for everyone who encounters him, as well as, at times, for his parents. What we call normal, with Julian, is certainly our own definition of normal and looks and feels quite different from the real normal. At some point, I hope, I will let go of the concept of the "real normal" and just fully embrace Julian's brand of normal. Is that possible? I don't know. He's 15 and still I find myself challenged to accept certain aspects of what it means to accept what he's capable of and where his limitations are. Where's the line between accepting what is and giving up? It's a constant accept what is, and yet to still push for more.

But ruin is beautiful.

Social cues are a challenge. He talks too loud. Or not at all. He is responsively slow. He stomps his foot when he's angry and raises his voice. Defiance for Julian is less about rebellion and more about a brain that misfires and will not allow him to move on. Understanding requires endless miles of repetition. Transitions breed hostility. Walking through life with a 15 year old body and the brain development of a 7 year old is to be a walking conundrum.

There are times when I'm not sure who's more ruined--him or me, in a beautiful, grace-filled way. For all the challenges that are Julian's, there are also these stunning moments of clarity...brief glimpses into the child's heart that resides inside him...the living in innocence that's been prolonged by the very developmental delays that so challenge us.

Those moments are rare. Perhaps that's how I've come to collect them and recognize them--to cherish them like the priceless gifts that they are to me. When my heart is at it's lowest, when the grief seems deepest, and the weight of what we lack seems to be too much, I cling to these moments of clarity as the lifelines of hope.

Ruin is beautiful.

Sunday mornings tend to be difficult for me. My closet never seems agreeable and let's not discuss my hair. However, every Sunday morning, when I emerge from the bedroom and come to the living room, dressed and prepared to accompany my guys to church, Joal compliments me. Often he says "you look very nice" or some variation on the theme. It's genuine and never fails to make me smile, no matter what kind of hair-day I'm having. He's quite good that way.

So a while back, on a Sunday when Joal was away, I came out of my room, dressed and pressed, ready for church, but not really feeling it, to find the boys waiting in the living room, as usual. Julian turned to me and said "You look very nice today, Mom." He said it with genuineness and exactly the way his father does it. It was a clear, unencumbered thought and quite obvious that he'd been waiting on my arrival so he could deliver the message he'd heard his father express on a multitude of Sundays before.

It was a moment. He was so proud of himself for surprising me and recreating what is normally his father's moment. I had no idea that he'd ever noticed our little weekly exercise in affection. He had no idea the power a compliment can hold. We are both growing up, I suppose. Slowly, with plenty of moments of ruin and beauty.

Ruin is beautiful.



It's tree time!

It's the most wonderful time of the year...I have been blessed with an extra-ordinary dose of happy this Christmas and that has made decorating so much more fun.

We have a long-standing tradition of getting a way-too-large fresh cut Christmas tree...the smell alone makes up for the fact that it will be a big horrendous mess to deal with in January. Every year I consider purchasing a silk tree--they definately have a few advantages, like being able to put them up any time (not having to wait for the shipment of fresh trees to arrive at Thanksgiving), no mess, no broken or malformed branches, and no spending $$ every year. Joal wouldn't have to haul the crispy heap over to the park for the city tree disposal.

And every year I end up saying "we'll think about it next year". There's just something lovely and wonderful about bringing a fresh tree in out of the cold, and having it warm up my house and my heart. This one takes up, quite literally, half the living room...just the way I like it.

I've been on a silver/clear/white tree decorating kick for a few years the collection of ornamental things is pretty full. The lights on the big tree are always clear. This year, I added in some lime-y, fruit-y green balls, leaves and glittered stars. It's not a finished project yet, bet here are a few glimpses:

I think snowflakes are exquisite, as are the clear bubbles, and white pearl balls. Basically anything that I can hit with silver paint, silver leaf, pearl paint or some can possibly go on the tree. It's no secret, I collect tree decorations all year round.

The boys have a deep affection for the disco ball ornaments. I'm sure that surprises no one.


just a few more from AntiqueLand

The woven backs of these red leather chairs really caught my eye. They were very sturdy and would have been so cool in my rec room. There was just the small matter of getting them into the trunk of an Altima for the ride home. :)

Somebody's back porch is mourning the loss of it's beloved, time-worn chair. The one with at least 6 coats of paint.

Clearly not an antique, but a cool crafty project nonetheless. New can be cool too. (If you can't tell, those are pom poms.)