christmas different

It was a different kind of Christmas at the Devendorf's this year.

Joal played at church several times throughout the Christmas season--which takes him away for practices and services. We are all good with that--it's what he's good at--but we miss him a little more this time of the year, I think. His major task was the leading of the "midnight mass" (our 11PM Christmas Eve service). Fortunately, this year, we didn't have any major assembling to do when he got home at 1AM. Last year, we had a drum kit to assemble. (Lesson learned.)

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary on the 21st, in the most casual way ever--I was recouperating from a day of major dental improvements so we just went out for a simple lunch at my favorite Mexican place. Twenty one years. At lunch, Julian said "Moma, have you loved Daddy forever?" Most definately.

Christmas Eve was spent preparing dishes for Christmas Day Lunch. I bought a ham and rolls, prepared a crock pot apple crisp, a corn and sausage chowder, black bean salsa, and a broccoli salad all to be shared at The Little Pantry. It was a full day of shopping and preparing and I was pretty tired at the end of it. From time to time, I still get knocked out by alot of movement, and Christmas Eve was a day filled with "alot of movement".

Christmas Morning came extremely early...two boys conspired to get up at the unspeakable hour of 4:35AM. Did I mention that their parents didn't even lay down until 2AM? It was not pretty. I hushed them, turned on the tree lights for entertainment and said "you will be quiet until 7AM." To their credit, they cooperated pretty well.

We opened presents and ate breakfast. Joal let me take a nap, knowing that the day was going to get really busy very shortly. By 11AM we were loaded up and headed over to The Little Pantry for Christmas Lunch. The meal preparations were already in full swing when we got there--there was roast beef, Augratin potatoes, cheesy broccoli, green beans, rolls, roasted vegetable medley and for dessert, pumpkin pie, in addition to the items we brought. Who knew Mike was such a master in the kitchen? It was a beautiful spread and I enjoyed being there. One of the volunteers brought her violin along and played some traditional Christmas tunes so beautifully during lunch. It was the perfect touch.

About 40 patrons of the pantry were served for lunch--a meal shared and gifts given. It was the way Christmas should be, for the most part. It was warm and familial.

After lunch, and clean-up, and spending a few minutes just hanging out, we came home. Julian and Grey immediately dove head-long into the assembling of the new Lego sets. That's alway a priority as soon as the Christmas festivities are complete.

It seemed to go by quickly--Christmas 2012. I didn't take many pictures. I just wanted to live it--something I don't do very often. I rarely scrapbook Christmas pictures anyway. They are all chaotic and difficult. I've never really liked the traditional color scheme of red and green--I read somewhere that most people can't make their eyes focus on red and green at the same time. How odd is that? Nevertheless, I find Christmas pictures hard to scrapbook, so for the most part, I don't.

I wanted a calm Christmas experience this year. I think for the most part, we accomplished that. I hope you had a very Merry Christmas too.



don't let the darkness win

there are times when evil seems to prevail
when darkness threatens to overtake, snuffing out the light
when life gets complicated, convoluted and hard
when the hurt comes in like a storm and wreaks havoc and conjures chaos
when faith is threatens to falter
when breathing feels like too much work
when cold surrounds like a wet blanket
when life is ending before it got started, at the hand of disease and desperation
when there's just not enough of what is desperately needed
when death steals away that which is precious and innocent
when, for a moment, our understanding of life is disrupted--shaken

what do we do in these times?
how do we respond?

do we shout at the darkness and wonder who is listening?
do we throw up our hands and declare that there is no God?
do we deny, deny, deny?
do we give in and give up?
do we mope and cry in self-pity?
do we cower in fear?
do we medicate the pain with whatever seems to dull it for a moment?
do we fall to our knees and pray?
do we pontificate on the impending world doom?
do we try to decide who deserves this cosmic punishment?
do we lash out in anger?
do we retreat and hide?
do we angle for answers that can't be found?
do we hold tighter to that which we long to protect but ultimately can't?


We live.
In the Light.
For all it's worth.
We live Loudly.
With buckets of Grace.
With Joy and Honor.
With deep intensity.
And Love.
We Love with Greatness.
And humility.
We Give with open hands.
We demand that Life is Good.
Hard but Good.
We refuse to be embraced by anything less than Right and Good and Strength and Love.
We knock down the walls that segregate and separate.
We throw open the windows and drink in the sunshine of friendship and grace and life and Love.
We turn up the music.
We create new art.
We choose to find joy in Life.
Today, just for today, we do it better.

We live better.
We give better.
We hug better.
We kiss better.
We dance better.
We breathe better.
We listen better.
We experience better.
We acknowledge better.
We do not back down from life.
We do not let the darkness win.

It's the only way.


CAS Blue

While traveling this week, I discovered a new-to-me blog that I am so loving. It's called CAS-ual Fridays and it features *Clean and Simple* stamping for cards. ((Love.))

There's a weekly challenge--if you go there be sure to take a peek at all the Crisp, clean works of card art.

This week's challenge is a *blue Christmas* card...(CFC79) so of course, I had to join in.

The tree stamp is from my favorite retired Stampin' Up! set--Seasons of Joy. It can be found on ebay...I so love this little tree. :)
Happy *Clean and Simple* stamping!


Inspired by Etsy

As usual, I'm incredibly late to the party. While everyone else is stuck on Pinterest, I'm still loving

I find some of the best ideas there so I thought I would share a few.

This is an awesome card by LuluandJayne. Find it here.

It was one of those that is constructed with such simplicity but without being plain. I'm particularly drawn to those kinds of designs.

This may be the fastest card I've ever made. (Love that.)

In other news, some of my far-away friends have asked about *Cards for Cans*--how it went and how to get some of those cards. It was, in a word, delightful. We had 9 attendees and collected a mountain of canned goods. It was really awesome! Many thanks to those who attended and contributed.

If you would like to participate, a full set (16 cards) of the *Cards for Cans* card designs (2 of each, all fully-assembled) can be purchased for $16, shipping included. You may pay by Paypal or by mailing me a Kroger/Publix Gift Card. (Email me for details.

Happy Saturday!


crazy lady from down the street

A few weeks ago I was hanging out at home one morning, with Julian playing in the backyard, when a lady rang the doorbell.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: “Hi. I live down the street and I’ve seen your son riding his bike in the street in the last few weeks.”

Me: “Yes…”

Her: “Clearly, he has some problems.”

Me: “His name is Julian and he is autistic, yes.”

Her: “Well, I have two sons and I just want you to know that I don’t want him to interact with my sons.”

Me: “OK. Did he come into your driveway?”

Her: “No.”

Me:  “Did he approach your children or speak to them?”

Her: “No.”

Me: “Ok well riding his bike around our circle is something we have just started allowing him to do and he’s been told not to go into anyone’s driveways or stop and talk to anyone he doesn’t know.”

Her: “My sons are younger and they ride bikes in the street in front of our house and I don’t want him interacting with them.”

Me: “OK”


To say I was a little caught off guard by this ambush is the understatement of the year.  Julian got a new bike a few weeks ago and yes, we have been letting him ride around our neighborhood—with some trepidation. Julian is 16 years old and has the body of a fully grown person. However, developmentally, he’s about 10. He has almost zero ability to anticipate the consequences of his actions. He has no concept of time management. As most people can probably imagine, both of these limitations make sending him out into the big neighborhood a little off-putting for his parents. Which is why we haven't done it until now.

 Mind you, we didn't just unleash him willy nilly upon the neighborhood. He was given a-l-o-t of guidance. We have instructed him to only ride on our street and one other circular connecting street. He is to never remove his helmet. He is to pull over when a car comes to pass, and of course, he’s not supposed to stop and engage with people he doesn’t know. That’s a difficult one because Julian has never met a stranger--he likes people and he’s wildly curious to talk to people.

(We live in a quiet, mostly peaceful neighborhood. Many people walk and bike the streets. There are alot of houses with kids and pets. The neighbors we know, we call friends. It's a really nice place to live.)

I was ambushed by this woman on my own porch and her “clearly he has problems” opening statement. Gees, lady. How nice of you to notice…and what a tactful way you have of putting things. How nice it is of you to let me know that you want to shield your sons from anything that doesn’t quite fit your mold of normal, for whatever reason. What are your reasons again? How very healthy for them. Gosh, I hope you never know what it means to have a child who’s not entirely “normal”.

I’m still confused as to why I needed this “warning” or whatever it was supposed to be. She said he hadn’t entered her driveway or approached her children so I’m confused. If there’s been no interaction, and he hasn’t, apparently, done anything inappropriate, why did she feel the need to preemptively strike at the mother of the boy who hadn't done anything wrong?

Later, after some non-accusatory questions, I learned that Julian had (one time) stopped his bike in the street near her house and sat there for a minute adjusting his iPod earphones and helmet. Her children were riding their bikes in the (public) street. He didn’t talk to them. He didn’t even get off his bike. (Good boy.) But apparently, this alarmed her and merited a visit.

I think about this ambush every time I ride her way down our street. I didn’t know how to react that day because, frankly, it takes me a few minutes to get over that kind of confrontational assault. When I opened the door, I had no idea what she wanted…or even who she was. I still don't, although I did google her and find out a few things. That was my mistake.

Frankly, I think she has a screw loose and is perhaps completely clueless—but whatever. In a roundabout way, she let me know that Julian had been doing appropriate things and not doing things we had told him not to do, even if her delivery left a lot to be desired. I hope she never has to deal with being ambushed by some stranger who starts their conversation with “clearly your child has problems”.  When you have a child with problems, you tend to already know this and you don’t need it announced to you by a stranger. If I had been a little quicker witted, perhaps  when she said "clearly your son has problems", I would have said "He does?"

Then again that probably wouldn't have been helpful.

If she stepped up on my porch today, she would get a very different answer to her pronouncement.

For some reason, even though I have tried to be diligent in my role as protector and shield to my not-so-little-anymore son, I have been through this more times than I care to recount.  People who don’t understand that not all of us function on the same plane and that looks can be deceptive seem to think I need their take on the situation. Sincerely, I don’t.

Just because his body functions (mostly) properly and he’s 6’1”, doesn’t mean his brain has developed the same way yours and mine has. (It's insanely difficult to *see* a damaged brain.) No, he can’t, in fact, tie his own boot strings, despite years of trying to teach him. Yes, he raises his voice to get his point across at inappropriate times. Yes, I help him wipe his mouth after lunch because he doesn’t have the spacial awareness to know or care that there is ketchup on his chin. No, he can’t tell you what grade he’s in.

It’s a special kind of brutal for a parent to endure these encounters with ignorant strangers who feel the need to inject themselves onto your life. (Just ask some of my friends who have adopted children who don't look like them.) I spend much of my life running interference between Julian and the world at large. It’s exhausting. How much more exhausted is this poor woman going to be if she tries to constantly run interference between her children and all the abnormal in the world? And these  bonus incidents, where an unknown and unknowing person heaps  another generous helping of “let’s point out how dysfunctional you are” on me is getting old. I’m sincerely tired of being nice in the face of stupidity. I wish there was a warning system.

Beep Beep. Crazy opinionated person coming at 3 o'clock.

Then I could at least be prepared.

Dear rude lady from down the street.

If you are going to let your sons ride their bikes in the public street, you need to be prepared to have them see other people, who might also be using the public street in our neighborhood for exactly what it’s intended to be used for.  There might even be interaction. (Gasp.) If you can’t handle that…here’s a newsflash…maybe they aren’t ready to ride in the street.

Part of me just wishes I could understand what motivated her...because clearly, I don't. What's she so afraid of? What did she really expect me to say or do? What was the point? Did she get what she wanted out of the short weird conversation?

Now I'm the one who might be clueless. :)



about the little pantry

It's not *all* about the food at The Little Pantry That Could, but in another way, it is. The food is what draws us all together. It's why people come to see us...because they are in need of (mainly) food, but sometimes other things too. Things such as a hug, a handshake, a smile, an honest conversation, a joke, a dance, a little understanding, a few moments of safe respite, a drink of water or coffee, a pastry or a cookie...

But back to the food.

Today if you shopped, you could have selected

Canned green beans
Canned corn
A can of beans (baked, black, pinto, navy, great northern, chili...)
A can of soup or chili
A can of chicken or tuna
A few packets of instant coffee or hot cocoa
A few bottles of water or tea
A box of spanish rice mix or a box of pasta
A can of pasta sauce or a can of fruit
A box of cereal or oatmeal
A couple of loaves of bread--bread was abundant today...lots of styles snd flavors
Snack crackers or snack chips
Peanut butter
Half a dozen eggs
A case of greek yogurt (yes, we gave away cases awesome is that!)
A bag of fresh lettuce
Yellow Squash
A bowl of fresh pico or salsa

And toilet paper...a very popular item!

It was a good day--the best day ever--with a record-breaking number of families being served--more than 100. The shelves are almost bare we start over gleaning and collecting for next Saturday.

Every week, as shopping winds down, I find myself wondering how it stretched so far. Every week I want to do more. I don't really like it when we have to make our shoppers choose just one of some items. I want there to be enough for everyone...every single week.

Every Saturday I read the story of Jesus taking the lunch that was prepared to feed just one little boy and miraculously making it feed thousands (with leftovers) and I pray for that miracle to be repeated in the walls of The Little Pantry. I'm pretty sure it has many times over.

When I first started visiting the Pantry, I would say "Stacy, we are out of canned fruit." And Stacy, in her cheerful, eternal optimism would say "We gave it all away!" It's all in how you choose to look at it.

In November, I will have been going to TLP for a year. Well, with a slight break in the middle when I had a broken knee.

In that time I've noticed that a few things have changed, so I made a list.

20 Ways to Know You've Been Spending Time at The Little Pantry

1. You measure the value of other items by Campbell's Chunky Soup Cans.

If I buy those shoes for $40, that's 20 cans of Campbell's Chunky I can not buy. Maybe I'll buy the $6 shoes...

2. You harangue your friends and neighbors for  extra coupons for Campbell's Chunky Soup and stalk the Publix sale papers to see when Campbell's Chunky Soup is included in their weekly Buy One Get One Free promotions. You have spent way too much time doing the math, comparison shopping for the best deal on chunky soups with pull-tab tops.

3. You have bought more than a dozen pairs of tennis shoes in the past year, yet you only actually own one.

4. You don't avert your eyes and adjust the radio when you pull up to a corner where there's a person selling The Contributor. Now you look straight at them, thinking "Is that Moose, or Mark or Vonnie?" and "Do I have some cash?"

5. You plan family holidays around Fridays and Saturdays.

6. You shop the coat rack at Our Thrift Store, hoping to score super warm coats in sizes you don't wear.

7. You wish you drove a bigger SUV so you could more easily carry all the bread and produce and canned goods and stuff from the church to the Pantry. You pray for the day when you have to make more than one trip. You wonder if they make refrigeration units for Jeeps.

8. You are sometimes referred to as the *Peanut Butter Princess*.

9. You haven't had a haircut in 4 months...because well, that's 25 cans of soup.

10. You've heard at least 6 jokes about feeding a pet gorilla, making the world's biggest Banana Pudding and "what in the heck?" from shoppers and clerks at Kroger, when you buy 35 to 45 pounds of bananas at one time.

11. You have missed church on Sunday because you are so exhausted from Friday and Saturday...and you don't feel bad about it.

12. You have ordered peanut butter from Amazon (they auto-ship individual servings of PB and I had a gift card) and you've quaried Jiff to see if they would consider making PB in smaller containers so it's not so much for our homeless people to carry around. (They haven't yet responded.)

13. You know the definition of "food snobery" and you only succumb to the condition occasionally.

14. Random people at church hand you bags of food and pairs of shoes and say "for the pantry"...and you cry.

15. You stop taking your reusable grocery bags to the grocery because the pantry needs the plastic ones.

16. Your nine year old lectured the manager at McDonald's about the Pantry while eating his lunch...and she listened.

17. Your husband no longer says "are you going this week?". He asks "how long are you staying?"

18. You want a set of larger pots and pans for Christmas so cooking for more people is not such a messy challenge.

19. You have collected paper shopping bags from people in two states and used egg cartons from people in three states.

20. You feel things more deeply. You are depressed far less often. You work harder. You love more. You are more appreciative and more generous and more grateful...more open to compassion. Your life is better.


because you are my sister

There's only one woman in this world who calls me her sister. She is the youngest of my three siblings and because she wasn't born until I was 16, in many ways we did not grow up together. I got married when she was 3...and at the same time, my family moved to Texas, so the bulk of her growing up years didn't include me.

I missed out.

As she became an adult, it became a little easier to make up for the time we lost and I have loved every moment. It's a little weird because we are very much alike, in so many ways. I like to think she's the younger, cuter, brassier, fun version of me.

A while back I made this list.

Because you are my sister.

I love you more than my own life.
I will hold your hair back when you puke.

I will hold your child and let you sleep.

I will drive the getaway car.
I will not tell Dad. Or Mom. Or worse, Andy and Daniel.
I will tell you that you are beautiful, because I know it’s true.

I will keep your secrets.
I will help you hide the body.

I will bring the gun to the fight.

I will tell you if the jeans make your backside look huge.
I will give you my last dollar and my last Diet Coke.

I will cry for you and with you. Both kinds of tears.

I will celebrate your happinesses and mourn your losses.
I will defend you to anyone who dares to think less of you than they ought.

I will testify to your courage and your strength when you forget who you are.

I will hold your hand when it trembles and believe in you when no one else does.
I will say the hard things if you need to hear them.

I will sit with you in the quiet and just be.

I will pray over you every day…even from many miles away.
I will dream for you when your way seems cluttered with just surviving today.
I will share the last spoonful of coconut pie and the last bite of mom’s cole slaw.

I will spend 44 cents to send you a fifty cents off coupon.
I will cry and think of you when a happy song comes on the radio.

I will forgive you for the oven and remind you of it often. No, really.
I will share my 324 chicken salad sandwich recipes, and half my chicken salad sandwich.

I will always buy our drinks at Sonic. And Starbucks. And Fresh.
I will always think of you when peeling shrimp.

I will love your child with every fiber of my being, because he is you.
I will lift you up with the darkness threatens.

I will say the words you need to hear and swallow the ones you don’t.
I will love you forever.

I will respect you even though I know you ate dirt when you were three and gave yourself a horrid haircut the day before my wedding.

I will understand when you choose to go to a baseball game on the day that I arrive in, really. I will. But I will also bring it up when I need some leverage.

I will answer your texts at 1am.
I will always be your sister.

I will believe in your dreams always.

I will see the woman you are becoming and be undenyably proud.

Because I am your sister.


the joy of microcheck ribbon

So you don't have to hang around my little scrapbooking space for very long before you realize that despite the buckets, bins and drawers of ribbons that I have collected over the years, about 9 times out of 10, I will reach for one ribbon-- the Offray black and white microcheck ribbon, 5/8".

It just goes.

It amps up just about any design.
It's a breeze to tie.
It's affordable and pretty universally available.
What's not to love?


Cards for Cans six, seven and eight

So here they number 6, 7 and 8 for *Cards for Cans*!

Card #6 uses tensil and flags...can't get more festive than that!
Card #7 has a few color scheme options: traditional red and white, spunky black and white, and (not shown) pool party and black (in case you prefer the non-traditional Christmas style.)

Card #8 uses glitter but you can't really see it here...I'll try to get a more glittery photo.

So there you have it. All 8 cards have been shared. Now is the time to let me know that you are planning to attend the first *Cards for Cans* event!
This event will benefit The Little Pantry that Could--West Nashville's locally supported food pantry.
Bring a canned item to donate to TLP, and in exchange, make a card from the card buffet. One can equals one card and envelope.
Friday, November 2, 2012
beginning at 4PM
at my studio space in Bellevue (Nashville).
New stampers or cardmakers welcome. Stamping and cardmaking is very easy...but if you are new to the craft, don't worry. We will walk you through the steps.
The Little Pantry is very special to me. I work there on a weekly basis and am committed to seeing the shelves filled with very necessary canned goods. Items needed weekly at TLP are:
canned vegetables
canned fruits (especially the low-sugar and no-sugar varieties)
canned tuna and chicken
canned Chunky soups (especially the brands with pull-tab tops)
Make your reservation *now* to attend *Cards for Cans*
by emailing
devendorf at bellsouth dot net
If you have cardmaking tools such as a trimmer, scissors, etc, please feel free to bring them to avoid having to share. An email with further instructions/details will be sent when you reserve your spot. :)
Let's share a delightful night of holiday snacks and cardmaking.


Cards for Cans (three, four and five)

*Cards for Cans*
Christmas Cardmaking Buffet
(Come and spend an evening making your Christmas cards from the 8 design options on the buffet while benefiting The Little Pantry That Could!)

Make as many cards as you like (while time and supplies last)...for the price of *one canned item per card*. The cards you make are yours to share with your friends and family this holiday season. Envelopes are provided.

For example, if you want to make 8 cards, bring 8 canned items to donate. How very simple is that?!

The Little Pantry That Could is a very special place and it's a special part of my life. Combining two things I love--cardmaking and supporting the pantry with *Cards for Cans* is something I am looking forward to. I hope you'll join me!

Card #3

Card #4

Card #5


Cards for Cans 2

*Cards for Cans* is rolling forward.

Friday night, November 2
Beginning at 4PM
Nashville, TN

Donate a canned item--soup, meat, chili, fruit (especially those with pop-top lids) and make a Christmas card at the Card Buffet. The card is yours to keep! Envelopes provided.

Previews of the available card designs are being posted on this blog.

Card #2 is here. (Click on the image to see the whole thing.)

If you want to make 6 cards, bring 6 canned items to donate. Snacks will be provided.

As the date nears, I will ask you to RSVP.

All canned items collected will go directly to The Little Pantry That Could, a local food pantry that I volunteer at on a weekly basis.

If you aren't local to Nashville, but are interested in participating in *Cards for Cans*, email me for the details at

Many of the stamps and supplies that will be used at *Cards for Cans* are Stampin' Up!. However, I am no longer a Stampin' Up! demonstrator and this is not a "party" or sales event.

New card-makers are welcome!



What to Do with Extra Cards

Over the years, I have amassed a rather large collection of handmade cards that have spent too much time sitting in the bins, taking up space. Some were made in classes, some were blog projects, some were from swaps. Most were finished, a few were not.

So I been reorganizing and down-sizing lately, kindof going through a shift in my priorities and these three bins of cards were taunting. I could not throw them out. I could not recycle them. I don't have the patience to see them on ebay or etsy.

So late one night a few weeks before school started, the light bulb went on over my head. (Please note that I don't share this to toot my own horn--just to share an idea that has been a happy accident for me.) Teachers.

I slipped each card into a clear envelope, along with a mailing envelope. I packed up a basket of cards and when school started, placed it in the elementary teacher's lounge at my son's school. A small sign indicates that the cards are free for the taking for teachers and staff members.

The first bundle of a few dozen cards was gone in two days. :) Subsequent baskets of cards have proven that this is an excellent use of those cards that were just sitting in a closet.

It is my hope that our teachers and staff people will use cards to encourage each other and their family members. Sharing sure has lightened my load and made me feel like it's some small but rather useful to do with something that was not getting used. I like that. :)




Cards for Cans Preview

Cards for Cans
November 2
Nashville, TN
4PM until...

Make one Christmas card for every canned item you bring to be donated to The Little Pantry that Could.

Here's one of the cards on the buffet.

Hope to see you there!


Two Cards and Cards for Cans

Even though I have officially retired from the ranks of Stampin' Up! demonstrators, I do still l-o-v-e my Stampin' Up! stamps! Today I thought I'd post two cards I made in the last two days.

(Above) This was a re-work of an old card that I started and never finished satisfactorily. It is my firm belief that black and white micro-check ribbon goes with absolutely everything! And it ties up so beautifully...when in doubt, add some micro-check ribbon!
All the products used on this card are now retired...that little "hello" button stamp is one of my favorites!
(Above) Rich Razzleberry is one of Stampin' Up!'s most popular colors and one of my personal favorites too. It's so classy.
The sentiment on this one is one of those $1 stamps from Michaels.
For my Nashville friends: Almost a year ago, I started volunteering at our local food pantry on Fridays. I really enjoy going there and it's become an important part of my life. You can read about The Little Pantry at
I have been toying with the idea of doing a canned food drive for The Little Pantry That Could that combines my love for card-making with my desire to help beef up the shelves at the food pantry. So here's the plan:
On the first Friday night in November, I am hosting a **Cards for Cans** event--the first of it's kind! For each canned item (soup, meat or veggie) you bring as a donation to the pantry, you can make one Christmas card from the card buffet.
I have prepared 8 Christmas Card designs to be featured at Cards for Cans. (I will begin posting them this week.) You can come and choose however many cards you would like to create and "payment" for this adventure will be *one canned good per card*.
How easy is that?
Mark it on your calendar.
Friday, November 2
4 PM until...
Cards for Cans!
Hope to see you there!



Photo A Day: Day One

I always say I'm going to do these awesome month-long photo-a-day challenges and then things get in the way. Not this time. August is my month for taking a photo a day. Here's the August list I'm using, (as seen on TH's facebook wall).

Fingers and toes crossed.

Day One. The word is *Outside*.

So easy.

On any given day this summer, if the sky is clear (or clear for the moment), there's a good chance that Julian can be found outside. This is the view from my kitchen window. He loves to play drums outside. He puts his earbuds in and goes to town rockin' with his favorite bands.

Day One: Done.


a few thoughts about teaching scrapbooking

Many moons ago I was a teacher of scrapbooking classes. I'm not really one to enjoy standing in front of an audience of people for any other reason, but I loved teaching scrapbooking. Loved.

Being a good scrapbooking teacher requires more than the ability to say "glue this piece to that piece". That, however, is a topic for another day.

These days I am a taker of classes.

For a good class, I am willing to drive a long way and pay a good amount of money. I enjoy being around creative and crafty co-horts and I like the process of creating while letting someone else do the thinking, the planning and preparing and the clean-up. (I might be a lazy crafter.)

However, I have one rule. This rule came about through great disappointment, on several occasions. When deciding to take a class in scrapbooking or card-making, I have but one rule: I will not sign up for a class without having seen some part of the actual projects being completed in the class.

Will. Not.
Under any circumstances.
Not gonna do it.
Ever again.

Why should I make the risky investment of my money and time, when the teacher can't be bothered to invest a photo or three of the project?

There's a rather popular teacher in my area who offers classes on a regular basis at a local church. She sells products from a direct sales organization. She regularly has 45-75 people in attendance at her day-long events, and charges $60-$75 for the day of crafting. (Hello. What a sweet gig.)

I have met a few of the people who attend her events pretty regularly and they rave. "Her stuff is always so cute!" they say with such glee. "You should come!" And their excitement makes me want to attend...but I have this rule.

And when I go to her website, it's out of date. Woefully. Months. Almost a year.
When I email her, I get no response.

When someone on Facebook asks about her next event, she gives them the date. If they ask for pictures, she claims to not be that technologically advanced. But hey, she can use Facebook.

Her newsletter tells you how to sign up for her class and gives a brief description. Something along the lines of "Come have a great time making 16 cards with fun and fresh designs using XYZ product!" Ummm, yeah. That tells me nothing.

Oh wait. It tells me she's not interested in growing her business with new people. Maybe she has enough business. It's like she can't be bothered. And that bothers me. How hard is it to finish your project, take a picture and slap it up on Facebook or your blog?



up up and away

My space is a crazy mess from all the stamping that's been going on's a nice change of pace.

A few days ago I started stamping and punching cupcakes--and realized that I should devise a way to save the extras that invariably happen.

There's a stack of Becky Higgins' Project Life page protectors sitting on the corner of my desk...hmmm.

That's perfect. I sacrificed one of those lovely sub-divided page protectors and am happy to say that I now have the perfect little storage idea for extra stamped images.

So obviously you can't really see the clear "page protector" that's attached to the left inside of the stamp case...but it's there. I cut a single section of one of the Project Life protectors out and put a strip of adhesive on the back, attaching it to the case (although that's not absolutely necessary). It would work just fine to slip the little section, which is sealed on the sides and the bottom, inside the case without adhesive.

Certainly not rocket science...and I'm probably not the first person to come up with this...but I do enjoy a little happy storage stroke of genius from time to time. :)

Cupcakes and Hot Air Balloons are popping up everywhere lately...I really wanted a blue ribbon on this but, oddly enough, there was no dark blue ribbon in the stash. I know, right. How can that be?

Happy Stamping!


build a better cupcake

It's crazy hot outside today so it's not a difficult task to stay planted inside and stamp!

Stampin' Up! stole my heart when they debuted this delightful set called Build a Cupcake last summer...and of course, a punch designed to work with it called the Cupcake Builder.

I'm drawn to this color scheme right now...
Crumb Cake for the base
Soft Suede for the cupcake wrapper
Baja Breeze for the fluffy frosting part
Island Indigo for the string bow.

I would really love to have cut the "holes" in the string bow out but that's some super difficult fussy-cutting so I opted not to bother.

I truly love the Signo White Ink pen...I've tried them all and it's the best white ink pen I've found.

Stay cool everyone!


Today is a New Day

The skills are rusty, but they are, indeed, coming back. :)

Clouds and suns are kindof indicative of my state lately...and the sentiment, which came from one of those Hero Arts/Studio Calico stamp sets that I acquired during an intense session of retail therapy, says what I need to say for sure! (Two Peas is down right now. I'll link up the stamps later.)

The cloud is a die I stumbled upon at this ebay store--it's included in the hot air balloon, which I love. It's an exclusive design for Paper Delight Boutique. They also have a lemonade stand that is on my list.

The polaroid-like frame is also a Quickutz die that's been hanging around my workspace for a while. The ribbon is fron Spano...the most luxurious silky little stripped ribbon around. Pearls are from Pebbles.

Happy Card-making!


the rest of the story

So my father is a writer and he publishes a blog and being a pastor, in the vein of the one with fire shut up in his bones, he often writes of spiritual things. A few weeks ago, he shared the story of the garden with his readers, and while it's infused with spiritual wisdom, he left out a funny, and albeit, less-significant part of the story. Can't let him get away with that, now can we?

Read *I Want That* here.

If my math is correct (it might or might not be), I was either two or three years old at the time of the garden. To be entirely honest, I'm not completely sure if I remember this because I remember it or if I remember it because the tale of it has been recounted in my presence so very many times. When your life is a constant source for sermon material, sometimes the two run together. Nonetheless, for me, this is one of those life-defining stories.

We lived in Texarkana, Arkansas in the brown house on Mimosa Drive. I was still an only child at that time and would remain so for quite a while (the glory days). My dad put in the garden up on the hill--I remember climbing that hill, struggling, reaching up for his hand. Always there.

I'm sure there was more to the garden than radishes and watermelons...but those are the things a little girl remembers., dirty radishes...easy to dig up out of the earth and plenteous. How awesome to find little red balls of goodness right there in the dirt. And watermelon.

Well, it's a funny thing about watermelons. Did you know that you can plant the watermelon seeds one night and go back to the garden and find a fully-grown monster of a watermelon waiting on you the very next night? You didn't? Where have you been gardening?

Well, when you are a tiny girl who hangs on her father's every word and whim, that's exactly what happens. With great care, you cultivate the dirt, dig the hole and drop in the seeds. You cover the seeds with more dirt and rain down water from a bucket or a coffee can upon them. In your heart, you pray over them and in your dreams you see the mountains of big, green, drippy, sweet watermelons that are sure to come!

So maybe you can anticipate what happened. My dad and I planted the seeds and talked of the mountains of watermelons that would surely be forthcoming with immediacy. We tinkered in the garden til the sun went down and inside we went.

And the next day, as the story goes, an idea happened to light upon my devious father's shoulder. How funny would it acquire a fully-developed watermelon and "plant" it in the garden for the pleasure of watching the daughter's eyes bug out of her head upon it's discovery?

And that's exactly what he proceeded to do. Sneakily, he carted a fully-developed store-bought watermelon up the hill to the garden and stuck it right where we had planted the seeds and then with equal sneakiness, he came into the house and suggested that we should go up to the garden to check on it's progress.

Daddys are devious and sneaky, don't you know.

And apparently, they truly love to see a little girl's eyes bug out of her head in surprise...and on that day, on the hill, I did not disappoint.

I'm going to Texas for a visit in a few weeks...gonna spend a little time around the table with my family and no doubt, by tradition, there will be watermelon. Cold, drippy, sweet, red watermelon with seeds. And salt. Spread out over a table covered with newspaper at an attempt to contain the inevitable mess. And there will be debate over whether you should eat watermelon with a fork or a spoon and undoubtedly, someone will spit a seed or twenty...and get the evil eye from my mom for it.

And Dad will sit back and watch the grandsons (all three) with that twinkle in his eye...and I will quietly wonder what kind of devious plan he's hatching up for no other reason than to see their eyes bug out of their heads in pure surprise and the magic that comes with being called "Pawpaw". <3


broken knee broken craftiness

Broken knee, Broken Craftiness.

I broke my knee in three places on February 20. Since then, I haven't felt the least bit crafty or created a single thing worthy of pixels. I've experienced crafty dry spells before but never has any previous one lasted this long.

I continue to read all my favorite scrapbooking, card-making, creative blogs and truly enjoy the works shown but not enough to make me pick up a piece of paper or a stamp.

I have shopped a little. OK, maybe more than a little. There are no less than 7, 8, 9 new sets of stamps waiting on me to play with them...but hmmm, "not today, perhaps tomorrow". Alas, a touch of shopping on-line does bring a girl some cheer when the mail arrives, but even fresh stamps haven't pulled me out of this stupor. (What did banged up people do before the age of laptops, wireless Internet and even smart phones?)

Jus' not feelin' it right now.

My fortieth birthday happened and not a single photo was snapped.

Joal went to Africa for ten days and brought home stunning images of all things Kenyan...and I am not moved. It's official. My wood is wet.

My creative space is languishing in heaps and piles not of my own making and clouds of disarray. I couldn't find a roll of adhesive if my life depended on it. The use of a left knee is not necessary for a good scrapbook why can't I get to it?

Was my crafty creative mojo locked up in the 36 pounds I lost in 45 days?

What's a girl to do?


Not how I planned it

If I take a moment and look back across my life, I can't help but notice that the most poignant times--the times when life was the best or even the worst, the times when I felt closest to and most cared for by God, the times when I grew up the most--were those very times when life didn't go according to my plan.

These days I have more time on my hands than usual, so I have spent a little time mulling on this. And mulling, as you may have noticed, leads to blogging. Funny how that works.

I am married to a pretty amazing guy who is very good at what he does for work, and when I say "good" I really mean "outstanding, over-the-moon, top-notch, rock star". Joal has, for each of the past 8 years or so, been consistantly ranked in the top 10 most productive salespeople in his company.

Consequently, we have been rewarded with all-expenses-paid passage on 6 trips, 5 of which are my beloved cruises. Our sixth cruise was just a few weeks ago.

NWYC awards the cruise to those in the salesforce who earn certain distinctions throughout the previous year and we travel together--the group usually consists of about 30 members of the sales force and their chosen companion (spouse, child, friend, etc). Honestly, I can't imagine an ordinary cruise being nearly as much fun as it is to travel with these 60 or so friends that we have come to enjoy being with so much. Yes, from trip to trip, there are a few new friends, but mostly, it's the same group.

So this year was no different. Our cruise was scheduled for embarkation on February 20. With the sons safely in the care of Nana and Pawpaw for the week, Joal and I flew down to Miami on Sunday, Feb 19 and enjoyed a little time on Key Biscayne that afternoon.

Monday came and the weather was brilliant--a perfect day for boarding a cruise ship in the port of Miami and setting sail to the island of Roatan and Cozumel Mexico. We gathered with our group and took a bus to the ship. Embarkation went smoothly and we were crossing the gangway in no time.

Vacation at last.

We wandered the ship for a while, ate some lunch and found a cozy spot on the sundeck to relax for a bit. All was well.

And then I started to wonder if perhaps our luggage had been delivered to our stateroom. So I left Joal, reading a CS Lewis novel on the deck, and trekked off to our room. I found our room without too much delay, although I still don't understand the terms port, starboard, aft, and forward...and I can never figure out which end of the ship is the front...

No luggage had been delivered so I decided to read on the balcony that's attached to our suite. This, my friends, is my favorite place on the entire ship. It's barely big enough for two chairs and a table but it is paradise defined in my book. It's private and breezy and just sheer perfection. I spend a great deal of time on the balcony during every cruise...and if I'm not out there, there is a good chance that the big sliding glass door to the balcony is open, letting the ocean breeze and the sounds of the waves into our room.

This is my place and we've enjoyed this place enough times now that it feels comfortable like home...only a home with a view of the ocean. :) I read, I snacked, I closed my eyes and listened to the sounds...and then my phone, which was laying in the suite on the bed, rang.

And that's when my plan for the most-awesome vacation went fantastically awry.

Separating the balcony from the suite is a mammoth glass sliding door. Said door rides on a rather tall rail along the floor. At eye level on the glass door, there's a big orange sign that says "Watch Your Step". I know all this. I know you have to step *over* the rail to get into the suite.

And yet, I forgot about the rail that juts up out of the floor just long enough to trip over it and find myself falling into a glass table and taking all my weight on my left knee down to the floor.

And the phone is still ringing.

I laid there for a moment, broken glass from the table and fruit from the welcome plate scattered on the floor around me, and tried to collect myself. And then I realized something was wrong with my knee. I couldn't move my left leg at all. And it was at a weird angle.

Fortunately, cruise ship suites aren't *that* big, and I had fallen into the room. My phone was on the bed so with a little stretching I dragged my sweater off the bed and with it came my phone. My husband was on the other end of the line, as it were, so I told him I had fallen and I needed him to come straightaway--I think I hurt my knee.


The Chief End of Mom

From the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God.

What is the chief end of *mom*?

I was one of those young married adults that other young married adults with children love to hate--and with good reason. I remember saying it--"when I have children, they will not run my life. They will be along for the ride." My friends who already had children were kind enough not to snort with laughter in my presence, upon hearing my naive pronouncement...No one said "Yeah right. We thought that too."--at least not to my face.

And then we had a child.

And if you have any common sense, or at least one child of your own, you know that even before they are born, they tend to take over and change everything, from your body to your marriage, to your dreams. It's just the nature of the beast. Becoming a parent changes you, in ways you never conceive of beforehand.

Fast forward to today. I am the mother of a fifteen year old and an eight year old. I like to think I have this motherhood gig going pretty good. Most days. OK Some days.

Once in a while.

Throughout the years I have been thoroughly and soundly spanked by all the ways that being a mother has changed me, all the ways I have been challenged, all the ways I have sacrificed for the good of those two boys. An outsider observing my life would probably conclude that a boy named Julian and a boy named Grey are indeed the Masters of my Universe.

However, there are times when I still stomp my proverbial foot in child-like defiance and declare loudly that my children are not my masters. Yes, at times, it seems that my life revolves completely around two boys who share my last name, but in fact, I would be doing them a grave disservice if I allow them to think that they are in charge of my life. And in truth, it's a disservice to myself as well. While they are important, their health and well-being, their provisions, their happiness and self-esteem are not the answer to that question "what is the chief end of man?"

When I drop into bed in the wee hours of the morning, after a day of breakfasts, lunches, laundry, scouts, cajoling, chaperoning, referee-ing, correction, and 100 other son-centered tasks, there's a good chance that I don't think of myself, in that moment, as having done a fantastic job of "glorifying God". More often than not, I merely survived the day.

Sometimes, surviving is all I can do. It's all I've got. It's the bare minimum. And to be honest, I hate that.

Who wants to just survive? Shouldn't my aim go just a smidge higher than that? Is mere survival really what it means to live in Christ? I just don't buy that. Does survival mode glorify my Creator? I'm thinking not.

Granted, I deal with serious things. A child with brain damage. A husband who travels for work quite extensively. A malfunctioning body. Dysfunction and disillusionment. These are things that eat away at ones soul and lower long-term expectations from *live big* to *mere survival*. And let's not mention the menial and the perfunctory that comes with motherhood.

A few weeks ago, my much younger and definitely more cool than me sister came to town to hang out with the sons for a weekend so Joal and I could go away in honor of our milestone (twenty year) wedding anniversary. To say that the boys were excited for her visit would be akin to declaring the opening games of the Olympics mildly entertaining. They were over the moon.

Aunt Deb is the fun older sister they don't have. She has a driver's licence, her own money that she's willing to share, and she does cool things, like take them bowling, to the park and to play air hockey at the arcade. She feeds them leftover pizza for breakfast, Dunkin Donuts for snack, Chick fil A for lunch and Sonic for dinner (on the patio, no less). And then to end the day, this fearless threesome made Rice Krispie Treats with M&Ms before they watched a movie at bedtime.

She's the fun, cute, snappy young version of me. (She is actually 16 years younger than me, and yes, we have the same parents.) I have trouble doing fun with them. I'm the uber responsible one, thanks in part to being the oldest,  marrying an oldest and facing the things we've faced across the last twenty years. I'm the one who makes sure they are on time, clean, well-dressed and prepared. I supervise the homework. I sign the medical releases and send in the checks for lunch money. I drag them to the library and make sure they check out at least one book that is respectable.

I'm the one who says things like "drink your milk" or "turn off the tv and go ride your bike, you're turning into a vegetable". It's true. I've forgotten how to have fun. In my survival mode, fun has all but disappeared.

In the days following her visit, I was regaled with stories of the adventures my two boys had with the fun Aunt Deb. I couldn't be more proud of my sister, Fun Aunt Deb. She fills a need in their lives and she made me see something I'd been missing. I was reminded that to be a parent is to be about more than just mere survival. It requires engagement and attention to details that aren't necessarily *the big things*. While I can't be Aunt Deb's kind of over-the-top fun every single day, I can engage the fun mom more often and with more intentionality than has been present lately.

Conquering Mount Laundry and overcoming that phenomenal display of dirty dishes on the counter is not the chief end of motherhood, for sure. A made bed does not glorify God more than unmade one. (You can quote me on that.) And those things surely don't qualify me for fun mom of the year in the eyes of two boys.

Somewhere along the way, enjoyment of my little family became optional, in my quest to not be completely run over by this thing called motherhood. My vision for life became narrowed and I allowed the big things we deal with to become the only things we deal with.

And that's not working.

So, I'm on the hunt to find the fun and get "fun mom"--or at least "less serious mom"--back into our lives. Don't get me wrong--we will not be eating at more than three fast food places in one day--I will leave that for the mega-fun Aunt Deb with her still-under-30 metabolism.

Little steps, right? Short embraces of fun sandwiched between periods of responsibility. We can do that.