Sunday, June 29, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul x 10

"When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul."

I have always loved this hymn and I love this quiet, reflective version by Daniel Martin Moore.  I was listening to it the other day and it made me think about specific moments when it really was well with my soul.  Whether that means I was just happy and at peace or I had peace knowing things were going to be all right.

1.  As a child, sitting between my grandparents at church and hearing them sing 'It Is Well With My Soul'.  My grandparents attended a Church of Christ denomination.  There was no music played, but the congregation would sing harmony on all of the hymns.  This song always reminds me of sitting in between my grandparents every Sunday and hearing my grandma sing soprano and my grandpa sing bass.  Even as a small child, I felt it was well.

2.  A recent Friday night when my 7-year old son fell asleep in my lap, like he did when he was a baby.  It was well in my soul.

3.  The moment when I finally catch my breath after hysterical laughter.  It is a brief moment, but it is well.

4.  One morning in July 2013 around 7:00a.m. - I was sitting on the deck of a rental house in Hot Springs, NC.  I was gazing at a beautiful mountain view, sipping coffee, listening to the Avett Brothers, and using needle and thread on a sketchbook while the rest of the house slept.  It was very well.

5. A creative project that excites me and is turning out better than I imagined.  That progress, along with excitement, some good music, and maybe a beer.  It is well.  For sure.

6.  Sitting on my best friend's kitchen counter as a teenager, after picking homegrown tomatoes from her mother's garden.  We sat directly on the counter with the cleaned tomatoes, some salt, and ate them like apples.  I remember that moment vividly - white counter tops, red tomato juice, bare feet, and a total mess.  It was well with my soul because it was so simple and innocent during a time when many teenagers struggle with being those things.  It is an image I conjure up sometimes when I want to feel that peace and simplicity again.

7.  A couple of days after I lost my second pregnancy and my parents came to visit.  Jay was back at work and my other two children (at the time) were at daycare, so I was home alone.  I was devastated.  My mom sat on one couch, my dad sat next to me on the other couch, and I sat with my head on his shoulder.  We sat there in silence and in sadness, but, even in that moment, I was well.  I was sad, but I knew I was going to be well.

8.   Any night when Jay and I go to bed at the same time and I lie my head on his stomach while he puts his arm around me.  We watch television or read before drifting to sleep.  It is always well with my soul on those nights.

9.  The first moment when I held each of my babies after their births.  Definitely well.

10.  Those rare moments when I recognize that I am wholly and unequivocally present in the moment - whether it's ordinary or extraordinary.  Those moments when past and future don't matter; it is well with my soul.

Friday, February 14, 2014

WIPs (Works in Progress) - February 2014

The beginning of a five day weekend and I am feeling pretty good about that!  Here are some photos of WIPs that I am working on during my little break (photos taken and edited with my iPad) .

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle idea with a positive message coming soon....

Fun project that my boys and I are going to be doing...

Starting a very neon weaving soon - will need my actual camera and better lighting to get a truly accurate portrayal of these colors, once finished.  Nice try, iPad.

Various small embroidery and cross stitch projects that I hope to frame and group on the wall soon.  I heart Parks and Rec!

Using up some of my yarn supply by making a large striped blanket.  This has been a great stress reliever at night lately - especially when paired with watching (and re-watching) episodes of Girls.

Enjoy your weekend and stay warm!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Smitten (an essay)

This post is dedicated to the love of my life, in honor of his upcoming 36th birthday.  One piece of a tale that had me madly in love with him at first sight.  Almost 16 years later and I'm still madly in love.  Maybe more so...

Sometimes the most seemingly ordinary acts of fate become the most extraordinary moments.

From 1996 to 1997, I struggled to make that first real step from a high school student to finding my new place in the world.  My family moved from Ohio to South Carolina.  I moved with them.  Then I moved back to Ohio, then back to South Carolina, and, needless to say, I was pretty lost.  I was trying to do the things that I thought were expected of me - college, friends, etc.  It just didn't feel authentic to me. It is funny how the future path I expected to follow, the plan that had been in place since I first entered a school, felt completely wrong in the present.

For half of 1997, I lived with my grandparents and my aunt in Ohio to attend school.  My grandfather passed away in 1997 and it devastated me.  I was already emotionally adrift and then grief truly made my heart feel irrecoverable.  The eating disorder, I had started in high school, reared its ugly head again and I was sinking fast.  I hit my lowest point and started therapy.  Soon after, I decided it was time to finally start fresh and break the tie I had to my hometown.

In early 1998, I moved again to South Carolina to really start my life.  It was not an easy decision and I questioned myself repeatedly.  I felt the finality of this decision; the importance of it even then.  I pulled into my parents' driveway sobbing, much to their dismay.  Then I had to start the process of figuring out what I was going to do.  After a couple of rough weeks, I found a job with a temp agency and I was taking some time off of school to figure out my new path.  I lived with my parents and my high school-aged sister.  Routine and my family's support were what I needed to take the first steps back to normalcy.  Realizing I had the power to change my life plan, despite what I grew up believing, lifted me further out of my depression.

During this time, my dad had mentioned that his friend and colleague had a son, who had just moved from Ohio to nearby North Carolina, and he was my age.  My dad and his dad had worked together in Ohio for years.  I didn't know them in Ohio because they had lived on the opposite side of town from us.  When my dad started his job in the Carolinas, he hired his coworker from Ohio.  Their son was in college in northern Ohio and had recently left to move to the Carolinas and figure out his life too.  A couple of weeks prior, I had met his parents at a basketball game and saw a picture.  It was their son's senior picture from high school.  He had a baby face and wore a golf shirt.  I remember thinking that he parted his short hair like my dad does.

I kept putting off my dad's idea of reaching out to him.  I wasn't ready for a new friend or even an acquaintance.  However, one night, I was feeling a little better about life and asked my dad for his number.  I remember my dad said he was proud of me for taking a next step.  He said it would be good for me.  Little did he know then.

Nervously, I dialed the phone number.  I asked to speak to Jay.  It was the first time I ever spoke his name.  (present day, my heart skipped a beat just remembering that moment).  Jay picked up the phone and, fortunately, knew who I was.  Our fathers must have conspired quite a bit in the office.  The conversation flowed so freely and easily.  There were no awkward pauses despite being complete strangers.  I don't remember what we talked about now; I know it felt like everything and nothing all at the same time.  We made plans to get together for lunch two days later.  I hung up the phone.  I sat still and caught my breath.  I wanted to hear his voice again.

The next day I knew Jay was working and, at the time, he worked in retail.  Despite my personal obsession with remaining in control of my feelings, I felt a strong need to go meet him.  I rationalized, that if I met him briefly, it would make lunch the next day less awkward.  Really, I just had to hear that voice again and see his face.  I pulled up to the store where he worked and I saw him immediately.  He was standing outside cleaning the front door of the store.

He no longer looked like his senior picture, except for that baby face.  That beautiful face.  He had longer hair and it was curly, thick, and tipped with white streaks.  He wore his Cleveland Indians hat backwards and his curls poked out of the back and sides.  He had on dark, baggy jeans, a dark green Sublime t-shirt, and Doc Martens.  Both of his ears were pierced and he was wearing large-gauged hoops.  (Oh, late 90s fashion!)  He took my breath away and, then, I panicked.  What am I doing here?!?!  I did not act impulsively like this and I was a stickler for never appearing too eager to the opposite sex.  Yet, here I was and it scared me.

I got out of the car and went into another store.  A store that sold light bulbs and did lighting installations.  A store that was owned by a South African family.  A store that eventually Jay would work for and would grow close to the family.  This day though, I knew nothing of that future.  I wandered around the store to get my nerve up again.  Then I walked out and over to Jay's store.

Jay was still at the door and I smiled at him.  He smiled and held the door open for me.  He had never seen a photo of me and I did not reveal my identity yet.  I had no real plan in that moment.  I wandered through the store, pretending to browse.  Jay abandoned his outside task and entered the store too.  He acted busy in areas where I was standing.  He walked by me and I said, "Nice hat."  (Seriously - that was my opening line?)  He smiled.  I smiled back and said I was from Ohio.  As we stood there smiling, I saw a realization come over his face.  He asked, "Are you Sara?"

Yep.  I was already smitten.

We chatted for a while and, again, it was so easy to talk to him.  I told him that I wanted to get the awkward greeting out of the way to make lunch easier the next day.  He said he was glad I did.  We smiled a lot.  That brief moment felt frozen in time - not just in my memory now, but in the genuine moment too.  Eventually, my practicality kicked back in and I decided to leave.  I believe I may have floated out of the store.

I smiled the entire forty-five minute drive home.  I knew my plan had changed.  For the first time in two years, I felt hopeful.

"He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed.  But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language.  Because, when you know that language, it's easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it's in the middle of the desert or in some great city.  And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant.  There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only.  It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world.  Without such love, one's dreams would have no meaning."  - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

P.S.  We met in March of 1998 and we married in November of 1998.  I like to tell people it was an arranged marriage.  Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

10 Ways To Keep Dreaming

One of my biggest dreams right now is to move to Asheville, NC.  I previously talked about that dream here.  Lately my husband and I have been discussing a new strategy for making this happen in 2014.  It has been a long road and, mostly, the housing market is to blame for our set backs.  We haven't given up on this dream, even though there have been numerous discouraging moments.

I want to share a list of 10 things that keep me going.  10 ways that keep me dreaming.

1.  Talk about your dream often.  Plan, dream, revise - don't complain about it (well, not much anyway), take action instead.

2.  Write about what you envision regularly.  Dream big and write it all down - stream of consciousness-style.  Your dream may evolve and you may be able to brainstorm solutions a little better this way.

3.  When an obstacle surfaces, rethink your steps.  A set back doesn't mean to give up - just rethink your strategy.  Our biggest obstacle is trying to sell a house when we owe a little more than it's worth right now.  We have rethought our strategy numerous times over the past couple of years.  We have a new strategy right now and are hoping this might be a good one in 2014!

4.  Set mini-goals to make you feel like progress is being made - even if the path seems long.  I try to visit Asheville as often as possible during the year.  It resets my desire and, just being there, inspires me.

5.  Create a Vision Board to keep you motivated - either a physical board or an online board.  It may seem silly, but it really does help to keep you encouraged and lifts your spirits on the days you feel discouraged.  I created my Vision Board on Pinterest (see my Vision Board HERE).

6.  Set a tentative time frame, but don't become too attached to dates.  If a date has to be extended, just realize that it will be worth it when you get there.

7.  Commit.  Wholly and completely.  You won't get there if you don't commit.  Give yourself to the dream.

8.  Simplify other areas in your life.  For me, that has meant paying off debt, living a little more minimally, decluttering, etc.  I realize we will need to downsize a bit to move to Asheville so my family is preparing what we can now.

9.  Be prepared to take a calculated risk.  When the time is right, trust your gut.  With a family, I have to be smart and more calculated with risks, but I am prepared to take the right risk at the right time.

10.  Never give up!  NEVER!

Even my dogs are in on the dream!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014 Goals in Photos

I figured most people really don't want to read the details of the things I'd like to strive for this year.  So instead, I will say it with photos (and minimal words).

Happy New Year!

Keep loving this guy and our not-so-little-anymore guys...

Keep laughing...

Keep rescuing and loving...

Do more of this...

Be here...

Slow down and savor...

Create lots more...

And, of course...

Saturday, December 7, 2013

20 Things I Have Learned as a Vegetarian

This is going to be a photo-less post -- mostly because I don't have any photos that really fit right now and I'm too lazy this morning to remedy that.

I have been a vegetarian for over two years now and am currently transitioning into veganism.  During the last two years, I have really learned a lot.  As I work towards becoming 100% vegan, it has led me to think about some of the things I have learned.  Please keep in mind that these are things that I have learned and I am not trying to convert others.  This is a very personal decision to me.  Having said that, here we go...

1.  My body will tell me what I need if I make a habit of listening to it.  I am much more conscious of what goes into my body and, over time, that has led me to understand my cravings and know what I need to eat.  Pre-vegetarianism, I just shoveled whatever sounded pretty good into my mouth.  It has taken me over two years to get to this point.

2.  It is really easy to replace meat with cheese.  TOO easy.

3.  I am pretty quiet about my dietary choices and only discuss if asked (says the girl who is typing a whole blog post about it right now).  However, I have noticed that some people become offended by my choice to not eat meat.  Usually these are people who aren't my close friends or family.  I don't know if they automatically assume that I am judging them or if they think I am going to push my choices on them, but I have seen people become borderline defensive when I share that I'm vegetarian.  I am always surprised by this reaction.

4.  My husband and sons are super supportive and great sports.  My meat-loving husband has really come around the last two years and is willing to do meatless meals on occasion.  I love my fellas so much!

5.  I love vegetables A LOT.  My mom always had fresh fruit and vegetables in the house growing up and I am so thankful for that.  I have always liked vegetables, but preferred fruit.  Before I became vegetarian, I was not eating a lot of vegetables on a daily basis.  In the last two years, my palate has drastically changed.  Now I crave so many types of vegetables and will choose them over fruit.

6.  Vegetarianism does not automatically equal weight loss.  Refer back to Number 2.

7.  As a person living with chronic illness, I have learned that a healthy vegetarian diet does not solve my health issues.  However, it does give me more energy to get through the bad days.  When I feel ill and still eat well, I definitely get through the bad days better than if I eat poorly.

8.  Locally owned restaurants are often more vegetarian friendly than the big chain restaurants.

9.  A vegetarian diet does not have to be more expensive than an omnivore diet.  You do save money when you aren't buying expensive meats, but sometimes produce and soy products can be expensive.  If you buy seasonal produce and shop deals, a vegetarian diet is very affordable.  Also, beans and rice = cheap.

10.  Vegetarians and Vegans are not necessarily judgmental and preachy.  In fact, most of the people I have met are very compassionate, knowledgeable, and fun.  I think this assumption is what leads some people to react negatively (see Number 3).  Being vegetarian does not mean that I judge someone who eats meat or that I want to try and change them.  Just ask my husband.

11.  Factory farming in our country and the laws that are passed to help those businesses increase profits are disturbing and gross.

12.  People can be so very sweet when trying to accommodate my diet while dining at their house.  I never expect it because I know it is my choice and not their problem.  I really appreciate it though.

13.  I still can't grow any plant life.  I would love to be somewhat self sustaining, but I'm terrible at it.

14.  If considering vegetarianism or veganism, other vegetarians/vegans can be amazing and generous resources.  As I transition into veganism, I reached out to a few people for help and they stepped up in a big way.  One friend emailed me her online cookbook, one sent me links to some great vegan websites, one gave me some suggestions for books, and my sister is bringing some of her tried and true vegan cookbooks to me at Christmas.  Thank you all!

15.  My taste buds have drastically changed and I try (and love) a lot of different foods now.  I feel like I have a much broader diet now as a vegetarian than I ever did previously.  I know meat eaters can have a very broad and healthy diet too; for me, I think eliminating some foods is what helped me to open up to a bigger world of food.  My personality needs that push.

16.  Vegetarian/Vegan does not always equal healthier.  There are many vegetarian/vegan junk food junkies out there and a lot of processed foods made for vegetarians and vegans that are not always healthy.

17.  Being drawn to bright colors has made me so appreciative of a vegetarian meal.  I love to add many different vegetables because I love having a bright and colorful meal.  Even my husband (who won't eat much of what I eat), will comment on how pretty my meals look.  Eating a "pretty" meal really keeps me motivated.

18.  It is possible to stick with a change in diet (no matter what it is).  It takes some planning and discipline, but it is not that difficult.  Even when the four other people in your household don't eat the same way.  It is all about mutual respect.  I have respect for other people's food choices and they have respect for mine.

19.  People really get concerned about protein intake when I tell them I am vegetarian.  I got this covered - it's cool.

20.  It is possible to give up meat even if you liked the taste of it.  Not every vegetarian or vegan gave it up because they didn't like the taste.  Not every vegetarian or vegan gave it up for political reasons.  We are all individuals.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guest Post with Cara B: Fantastic 16th Birthday Party Idea

This past weekend I saw a fantastic idea for a boy's 16th birthday party.  The idea came from a friend I have known for a long time --- Cara, I think we've known each other since first grade?  Wow.  I won't say how many years that has been.

Cara is great photographer and captures the human spirit so well.  I love when she posts pictures on Facebook or Instagram.  When I saw the photos from her son's birthday party, I immediately knew I wanted to ask her to be a guest on my blog.

Everything below was written by Cara and the photos are hers as well.  Enjoy...

I am so glad you enjoyed the photos.  We had a lot of fun making them.  When we started planning Jake's 16th birthday party, he wanted to have a bonfire, like we always do.  But you only turn 16 once.  I wanted to come up with something fun that we could do to engage everyone - something they will remember for years to come.  With teenagers, its hard to come up with ideas to make the party memorable!  Something fun and cool, that they would enjoy... I always take regular pictures at his party, so he has something to look back upon and remember, but it is hard to get them to engage in just regular pictures.  Some kids do not like to have just regular pictures taken of themselves.

I started searching online and found these very inexpensive plastic backgrounds.  We found a cheap mesh "red carpet" for them to walk down.  We found some props at our local dollar store and around our house.  I had the backgrounds hung on the walls and the red carpet ready the night before the party and all the props collected in a basket.  I wanted them to see it when they first walked in to get them intrigued about the idea.

After everyone arrived and was around the bonfire for about two hours, I powered up my lighting.  I took my camera out back and started with taking their picture around the fire.  I asked if anyone was ready to take some fun pictures with all the props inside.  Before I knew it, they were all in the house in a line, giggling and laughing about different ideas on how they wanted to pose and with who.  They all had such fun ideas!

It filled my heart with joy to hear their laughter, knowing how much fun they were having with it.  I found that teenagers love to show their creativity!  So we took that characteristic and ran with it!  We are having the photos printed and put into key chains shaped like the directors clap board.  Since most of them are driving now, its something they will always carry with them.

I am so glad you enjoyed the photos, Sara! Its a memory that we will cherish forever - and probably a new tradition for us!

Cara -- thank you so much for sharing on my blog.  Your idea was wonderful and now I want to play with it too!