Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For The Love of Disney: One Man's Dream

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World (Florida), don't overlook the attraction known as One Man's Dream.  While running to your Toy Story Mania destination to grab your Fastpass, take note of OMD's location, grab your golden ticket, and then turn around to experience one of the best attractions in Hollywood Studios.

One Man's Dream has more to offer than you might think at first glance.  Entering through the doors, you begin wandering through a selection of Walt Disney's historic pieces.  Among the Disney paraphernalia, you will find the desk Walt used in 2nd grade.  My sons loved seeing that the man who created "the mouse," had to sit in school at one time as well.  An antique Tinkerbell, a diorama built by Disney, Walt's office, costumes from Zorro, the Rocketeer's jet pack, and Big Bunny from Honey I Blew Up The Kid are just a few of the unique items found in this treasure trove.

When you complete your tour of the display, a video awaits.  Here is where you will learn more details in the story of our beloved Walt Disney as narrated by Julie Andrews.  As it states within the film, "Walt always said, 'it all started with a mouse,' however it really began with a man."  What an inspiration that man really is.  I was grateful to have shared Walt's story with my children.

Much can be said about the man who created one of our favorite characters of all time.  Discovering that he held a close relationship with his brother, a true love found with his wife, and proof that he was truly a devoted father was icing on the cake.  Walt began his life as part of a family who struggled financially. He never let that stop him.  Walt pursued dreams and never gave up, even when he had an almost crushing professional blow.  He regrouped and before long created a character that danced into our hearts... Mickey Mouse.  This is the point where Walt claims it all began, but I (along with others) believe differently.  The man that created the mouse, truly started it all.

Endless family friendly movies and characters followed Mickey.  Disneyland and Walt Disney World were created due to the love of a devoted father who wanted to share experiences with his children.  Would we enjoy these animated pleasures in life if it hadn't been for the man who drew up a squeaky mouse with a positive attitude?  Where did that mouse get his spunk?  I believe it came from Walt himself.

One of my favorite quotes by Mr. Disney says a lot about him.  "Get a good idea, and stay with it.  Dog it, and work at it until it's done, and done right."  Walt Disney is a positive inspiration to many.  My own two children came away from this theme park attraction with an understanding that it doesn't matter where you come from, how much money you have, or if you fail along the way.  If you truly believe in something, have a dream, work hard, and never give up... anything is possible!

Thank you Mr. Disney for dreaming, following all of those dreams, and encouraging others to dream!  Another big thank you for creating a place where I found my own true love and can now share with our children.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Walt Disney World Vacation

Thanksgiving day brings travel for many families, but for mine it was an extra special road trip.  While others were making turkey, pie, and all the fixings that accompany a glorious meal, we loaded up the car and headed to Walt Disney World, Florida!  Our travel adventures took two days, with an overnight stay in Tennessee.  The long days were worth it when we pulled onto Disney property and our vacation officially began.

After unloading the car, we headed to Downtown Disney.  While the entire admission free area is split into three sections (The Marketplace, Pleasure Island, & The West Side), our favorite spot to roam is The Marketplace.  It's full of shops and restaurants with Disney flair.  A giant Lego store, with huge Lego creations outside, is one of my boys' favorite stops.  This night, we bypassed many of our favorite shops in favor of our dinner destination.  Delicious meals from Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney's Marketplace will always be on my favorite foods list.  The penne alfredo, that was calling my  name before we left Michigan, did not disappoint my taste buds.

The Magic Kingdom was our destination for the first full day of Disney.  When we arrived, we were thrilled to find ourselves going from one ride to the next without a big wait.  Crowds were not overwhelming as they have been in the past when we've visited.  Christmas atmosphere seeped into every area of the park, even Cinderella's castle lit up with gorgeous lights when the sun when down.  It was simply beautiful.

As we skipped from one attraction to the next, I began to notice a growing trend.  In fact, I caught my husband and myself participating in this a number of times as well.  While waiting in a line or sitting at a meal, cell phones were front and center.  Thankfully, I picked up on this fairly early into our first day and when I had time to talk to my husband quietly, I mentioned my concerns.  Many parents were spending those free moments exploring their gadgets instead of interacting with their children.  As we didn't want to fall into the technology trap, we agreed to limit our time on phones during our vacation.

Throughout the remainder of our trip, we gained so much.  Our family had true quality time with very little interruption.  We used wait times to learn about things around us, practice lines, do "homework," and discuss our experiences.  Our goal was to absorb everything possible.  Had I attached myself to my cell phone's apps, I would have missed out on many special moments with my husband and boys.  Instead, I saw through the eyes of my children and felt my heart warm on countless occasions.

My husband and I both felt our eyes were opened to various new and different thoughts and feelings  during repeat experiences on this trip.  New perspectives were gained because we have grown and are at different stages in life than we were before.  We are excited for what our children gained with their new and repeat experiences well.

Walt Disney went away on trips to come home renewed, refreshed, & "a new man."  When we headed home on December 2, 2010, I completely understood that feeling.  I had not been so relaxed in a very long time.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to share more of what I learned while on my Walt Disney World vacation.  

*****
A very special memory to be cherished for years to come was created on this Disney vacation.  We met up with my father-in-law and his girlfriend, P, at Hollywood Studios on Monday, November 29, 2010.  Unbeknown to P, a surprise had been in the works for some time.  Our family enjoyed the Beauty & the Beast stage show from VIP seats.  After the show, we were given the privilege of meeting Belle & the Prince "backstage."  During this extraordinary meet & greet, my father-in-law proposed to P.  We were honored to be a part of the surprise & celebration!  I couldn't ask for a better step-mom-in-law!

Congrats on your engagement M & P!!!

*****

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Saga of a Short Girl's Search for Jeans

My heart is in my stomach.  While my stomach has dropped to my knees.  Prep work, mostly consisting of online searches, has been completed.  Now it's time for the pep talk... if I can find any pep at all.  Mentally, I'm already convinced it'll become another epic fail in the search for a fabulous pair of jeans.  Sigh!  Here I go...

As I pull up to the first store on my list, I debate on even going in for another attempt at denim comfort.  Should I give up before I even begin today?  My eyes roam to the neighboring stores and linger at a nearby craft haven and even an office supply store.  I'd much rather be going in search of a cute little notebook.

Be prepared, I'm about to share a deep dark secret that many women would never speak of.  I HATE shopping for clothes!  Yes, you read that right.  Don't mistake clothes with boots however.  Boots I can mostly certainly count on for a smile and contented sigh.  As for pants of any kind, I give up!  Maybe it's the fact that it's so difficult for me to find a pair that doesn't accent my butt crack and post pregnancy stomach stretch marks.  I'm tiny, but I'm not a teenager!

How many people can simply point, click, and pay for an online clothing item without a thought that it might not fit?  Sure, there are some.  For me it's nearly impossible.  Especially when it comes to a good pair of pants.  Most extraordinary petite people can't walk into a store, pull jeans from a shelf, and have an instant favorite piece to their ensemble.  We must try it on.  It's the way our world works.  With this fact staring me in the face, I find it unbearably frustrating to find most stores choose to sell their "short" or "petite" items online only.  For those stores that actually do carry short and petite styles, please stop putting the smallest sizes on the top shelves!  Give this short girl a break!

Shelf after shelf, rack after rack, failure after failure.  I search through petite, women, and junior sections in a desperate hope of finding one brand's style of jeans that was made for little ole' me.  Snagging the solo pair found that seems like it may be a reasonable fit, I head to the dressing room.  Quickly trying the pair on, and even more rapidly deciding they are not mean to for me, I change back into my current favorite pair.  I look sadly at the comfortable denim that has begun the ventilation process and wish the brand continued to produce the same style and fit that I have worn out over the years.  Then I hold my head high, okay slightly drooping, and determine that today will yet again be another epic fail in the saga of this short girl's search for jeans.

Next stop (for another day- one can only take so much torture):  A petite store with potential... and a larger price tag than I'm used to.


*****
Keeping up is not my forte lately.  While the items on my to do list are piling up, I continue to have a hard time following & commenting on blogs.  Contact with my message board mom friends is sporadic at best.  I'm fearful it will only get worse as the holidays continue their approach.  Alas, I do my best.
Apologies to those I haven't been keeping up with.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Speak Now... Mean

Yesterday I neglected to post my blog.  *GASP*  In an effort to juggle an extra ball or 2, I simply forgot.  I promise to keep today's post short & sweet, to the best of my ability.  Just know that the tastiest morsel is not at the beginning, it's at the end.  


I think it's clear that my household is full of Taylor Swift fans.  My youngest son blushes when you mention her name, song, or any Taylor Swift related topic.  Is it any surprise that we rushed to get the Target exclusive version of her latest cd, Speak Now, on it's release day?  Of course it's not.    


One of the extra features from Target's special cd includes the music video "Mine,"  as well as behind the scenes and on the set of the shoot.  Beautiful picturesque Kennebunkport, Maine is the backdrop for this fabulous musical vision.  What's not to love about that?  Nothing.  Especially since we have family members who were actually working nearby while filming was taking place.  


Now, I should get to the short & sweet part of today's post rather than fill you up with endless facts about this amazing new album by Miss Swift.  However, I must add that it's full of FABULOUS music.  She never ceases to impress me with her lyrics and musical talents.


As I listened to Taylor's 6th musical selection, "Mean," I heard something more to the lyrics than she implies.  Imagine yourself as a child growing up in an abusive home and hearing the words of this song...


"Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me, and all you're ever gonna be is mean, why ya gotta be so mean...  I bet you got pushed around, somebody made you cold, but the cycle ends right now, cause you can't lead me down that road..."  

Now picture yourself as that same child now grown into an adult...  Can you feel the emotion and power in those words?  I most certainly can.  


If you hear me singing this song at the top of my lungs on various occasions and notice a little extra heart to it or see a little extra depth in my eyes, you'll know where my mind is.  Gratitude pours from my heart to know that I have a husband who loves and protects me.  As a father, he's incredible.  I've seen the flip side of the coin and I will tell you every day just how very lucky I am.  The chain can be broken.  That's why I choose to speak...  or as Taylor Swift's latest album says... speak now.


If you or someone you know needs help please take a moment to view this website:   

http://www.domesticviolence.org/

If you feel unsafe while viewing the site, you will find a quick exit on the upper right side by clicking on the words "leave this site quickly."  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ain't Love Grand

How many husbands would mute a sports program so their wife can read without interruption?  Personally, I don't know many who would even stop to think about it.  Yet that's exactly what my husband did for me on Saturday as I finished reading (or should I say devouring) "The Preacher's Bride" by Jody Hedlund.  I paused to reflect on his sweet thoughtfulness and came back with one word "blessed."

My husband and I can't afford grand expensive gestures, but even if we could, I can't imagine any flashy gift that would mean more to me.  If I receive a gift from the man I love, I don't expect jewelry or bouquets of roses.  Often times when my husband is looking to surprise me, it'll be with a cd or book because he knows me well.  That alone is a special gift.  It's the simple acts of love that put a smile on my face and warm my heart.

I pray that my boys grow to be men like their father and that their future wives will appreciate the simple loving gestures as much as I do.   While I want a great many blessings for my children, this one is towards the top of the list....  True compassionate considerate and whole hearted love to be given and shared with one special person.

If the money is gone, when the wrinkles and gray hair have appeared, or when life hands you more lemons than you can hold...  what do you have?  Do you have love?  Real love?  A kind considerate heart by your side?  A faithful hand to hold?  If you do, count yourself blessed.  Are your heart, eyes, and mouth smiling because someone loves you and you love them back?  Tell them or show them today with a simple loving gesture.  Ain't love grand?


“A life without love is no life at all.”
“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more; that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.”


“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”


Monday, October 11, 2010

Encouragement Teamwork and Awareness

What a weekend!  My guys and I enjoyed a wonderful family outing on Saturday.  You may be jealous when I tell you that it all began with a round of injections.  Ah yes, the family that gets flu shots together...  Well, hopefully we'll be the family that doesn't get sick this year.

My boys were very brave.  O was actually a bit frightened and has the typical needle phobia, but he got through it like a champ.  M hopped up in the chair with a smile on his face...  It crumpled slightly when the needle came out.  Absolutely no tears were shed this year.  After my little men were finished, I  went 3rd.  You'd never believe how terrified I used to be of needles if you had seen me relaxed and without hesitation.  My poor husband went last and was almost as unafraid as our sons.  What a bunch of troopers we were!

Running errands and working on a halloween costume for M took up the rest of our Saturday.  As we flipped between the NASCAR race and UofM vs M State game, I felt very content.  Activities of Autumn have a calming affect on me.

Sunday brought organized chaos in our home.  Resorting and cleaning of the boys' playroom took more time that I'd care to admit.  It did however leave us with fewer toys and more space.  Everyone in the family pitched in and many hands did make light work.  The boys agreed to put their toys away in their designated places from now on.  Laughing to myself here.  What an amazing job my boys did this weekend!

It's awesome how much can be accomplished when working together as a team.  Without the help of my 3 men (big & small), it would have taken countless hours to achieve today's goal.  Encouragement and a desired reward can also go a long way.  If you are faced with a challenge, put a little carrot out in front of yourself.  Marmaduke the movie, a treat, & root beer worked for our little guys.  My reward, besides a little less work on my own plate, was "Date Night" with my husband.  Laughter and smiles all around!

----------

Many of you already know how important domestic violence awareness is to me.  The month of October is not only Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but Domestic Violence Awareness Month as well.  If you know of anyone who needs help, please encourage and direct them to:

Toll Free
248.456.0909
800.231.1127

Toll Free
248.334.1274
877.922.1274


http://www.domesticviolence.org/

If you are in danger,call 911, your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 
1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.

Trust me when I say that it's not always cut and dry.  Living with abuse takes a toll on the souls of the abused and those who witness it.  It's never as simple as walking away.  Have compassion and refrain from judging those who live with abuse.

"Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (fiction) showcases a domestic abuse situation within the novel.  While every abuse victim's story is different, Nicholas Sparks was able to capture the guilt, strength, compassion, fear, and many other emotions abusers often go through.  I admired the fictional portrait that Mr. Sparks painted, but also how the reality of actual situations was woven into the canvas.  It's an amazing book to read and I encourage everyone to pick it up. 



Monday, September 27, 2010

Galatians And Good Deeds

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers."
Galatians 6:9-10

As a family, we have been looking for a church off and on for some time.  The question that has often come up in our search has been, "do we fit here?"  While attending one church sporadically, we felt disconnected to it.  Maybe it was because we didn't know anyone and it was so large that everyone seemed distant.  Either way, it wasn't the right fit for our family.

In August, we had a play date with a friend of my oldest son, O.  While the boys were playing, his Mom and I began talking.  When she mentioned her church family, I told her we were looking for a church and asked her a bit more about it.  She gave me the information and I thought it would be a great place to try.  

Since that day, we have only gone twice, yet we are already feeling more connected to this potential church home than we have at any other place so far.  People are friendly and inviting.  Yesterday, the boys enjoyed children's church and the sermon my husband and I heard was wonderful. While the entire message was inspiring, one of the verses mentioned in particular really stuck with me.  When I heard it, I grabbed a pen to write it down so I would not forget.  Today, I  wanted to share it with you.

Galatians 6: 9-10 (see above) speaks of not growing tired of doing good.  I've always enjoyed doing for others.  There is such joy in helping and giving.  When someone appreciates what you have done, it's much easier to continue on with your good deeds.  However, when someone takes advantage of or is truly ungrateful and unkind, it's easy to grow weary of selfless actions.  

Mistreating those that help you is beyond my comprehension.  Yet, it happens all the time.  A couple of years ago I learned how hurtful people can be, even though you've gone above and beyond for them.  It was a blow that I cannot fully express in words.  It took a while for me to "shake it off" and move forward.  My heart could have grown beyond weary of doing good things at that point and given up.  I'm so grateful that it didn't.

Overall, my life has been blessed because of the things I have been able to do for others.  Whether it's friends that I have made or the experiences I've had, it's summed up in one simple word... joy.  I thank God for giving me a heart of compassion & giving.

Do the right thing, because it's the right thing to do! 
(a phrase taught & learned at my sons' school)

 Doing good for others doesn't mean performing world changing actions.  Big or small, each good deed means something to someone... even if it's just you.   What can you do for those around you?  
What has God given you a heart for? 

*****

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ask A Bipolar The Interview

As promised, today’s blog features a special guest.  I’d like to introduce my good friend Marybeth, author of the fabulous blog Desperately Searching For My Inner Mary Poppins and co-founder of the new website, Ask A Bipolar. Without further ado, I present the interview.
Hello Marybeth!  You and I are friends and know each other, but will you please share a little about yourself with my readers?
I am a mother of three suffering from bipolar disorder while trying to raise a bipolar son. I LOVE to write, read, sing and run.  
Today we are are here to discuss your new website, Ask A Bipolar.  Can you share the definition of bipolar disorder for those who do not already know?
A mood disorder sometimes called manic-depressive illness or manic-depression that characteristically involves cycles of depression and elation or mania. Sometimes the mood switches from high to low and back again are dramatic and rapid, but more often they are gradual and slow, and intervals of normal mood may occur between the high (manic) and low (depressive) phases of the condition. The symptoms of both the depressive and manic cycles may be severe and often lead to impaired functioning 

You have a co-founder, Erika, for this website.  Can you tell us how you two came up with the idea to start Ask A Bipolar and why you both felt drawn to do so?
A friend of mine posted a blog about her son's rage. Erika commented on it with a detailed account of how it actually felt to rage. The response she got was amazing. Everyone was so excited to have someone who'd actually experienced this describe it in such detail that they felt like they could finally understand what was going on. It gave me an idea. Why not have an actual website where people could go to ask questions to someone who's been there and can answer it from a first person experience. I passed the idea past Erika and she was all about it! 

What can people expect from your website?
It's a place where people who are suffering from or know someone who is suffering from bipolar disorder can come and ask questions and get answers from someone who's been there, not just a professional. Sometimes we just need to hear those little words, "I get what you're going through." 

What are some challenges you have had to overcome due to your bipolar illness?  
Before I was diagnosed I had many financial troubles, a hard time maintaining relationships and large bouts of depression. It made for a very difficult road through young adulthood. Now it's just a matter of making it through the ups and downs without upsetting those around me, which I'd like to think I've become quite decent at. 

Your son is affected by a mood disorder as well.  Do you feel that your experiences have better equipped you to help him through his struggles?
Absolutely. It's so nice to understand what he's going through and be able to express this to my husband or just tell my son that, yeah, I've been there too. I can spot his moods easily and have a good idea what triggered them and why, thus it's easier for me to bring him out of them, or at the very least talk him through it. 

If someone is concerned that they, or a family member, might be suffering from Bipolar Disorder, what should their first steps be?  Who should they contact?
If someone is concerned that they might have Bipolar Disorder I highly recommend they seek professional help sooner than later. If you are concerned someone you know may be Bipolar I would do what you can to either get them to, or convince them to, go to a doctor as soon as possible. 


Thank you for being here today Marybeth!  

If you have any questions, or just want to check it out, please visit Marybeth’s website Ask A Bipolar!  


Happy Friday everyone & enjoy your weekend!!!



Monday, July 26, 2010

Emotional Draino

This past week, I decided to embrace my inner Smurfette.  A few electric blue streaks graced my hair after the encouragement of my husband, my boys, and my good friend & hairstylist, E.  We were certain my Mom would get a little shock, and possibly a chuckle, out of my bold statement, but she wasn't phased.

Sometimes we feel like taking actions that are not in our typical motions.  Whether it's a blue streak in our blonde hair, stepping out of a shy quiet mode and into the spotlight, writing an amazing novel,  starting a business, or doing just about anything that changes our lives.  Stepping out of that comfort zone and into an extraordinary experience is often a release.

Expression, defined in multiple ways, is gift.  No matter what form it takes, it is a blessing and a freedom that we possess.  Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we didn't seize the opportunity to physically or verbally proclaim who we are or how we feel inside?  We'd all be in desperate need of Emotional Draino.


Emotional Draino, for those days when your life is stuck and your troubles are beginning to overflow due to the emotional backup in the plumbing of your heart.

How do you express yourself?  Everyone has those bad days and needs a little stress relief.  What is your equivalent to Emotional Draino?  Is it exercise, a good cry, a good talk, a distracting book or movie, writing, music, or something completely different?  


***

A crafty blog post coming soon!

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Crumpled Daily Check List

A scavenger hunt in the woods, hot summer sun, cool pool time, 5 smiling kids and 1 adorable baby, 2 awesome grandmas (and a even a grandpa for part of the time), & 3 happy moms.  That is a pretty simple and accurate description of my last Friday afternoon.  What does it all add up to?  A fun & sweet memory to cherish for years!

Ask most people in my family, and they will tell you that I don't often take time to slow down and relax.  I always have a project to occupy my time and something cooking on the back burner as well.  Lists are required to keep my mind organized as I'm constantly going and doing what I can for those around me.  Type A you ask?  Yeah, you could say that.  This is just how I was made.

In the last 2 weeks I've had a few days that allowed me to just let go.  A handful of family members and friends have helped me to relax and not think about what's next on my to do list.  My kids are probably the most responsible in this area.

When I slow down, I realize how quickly my boys are growing.  The summer days are fading at a rate that make me want to reach for the pause button on life's remote.  There are moments that I want to pull my hair out and have some quiet time, but mostly I just know I'm going to be in for some tears when September rolls around.

Guilt finds me when I'm not attempting to keep up with the daily check list, but I realize that's not always what's most important.  If I don't stop to appreciate the beauty in life, those feelings will find me later in the years.

As I look out past my deck, I notice freshly fallen raindrops, caught by rich green leaves, sparkling like tiny rhinestones in the sunshine.  Before long, this will no longer be visible.  Rain will evaporate or roll off the green foliage to soak into the ground below.  Had I not taken the time to look at what was right in front of me, I would have missed it all.

Don't miss out on all the simple joys in life.  Whether it's board games with the kids, singing silly songs, or dancing around the living room, take a day off and enjoy every second.

What have you done or experienced lately that qualifies as a simple joy?  Do you stop to smell the roses often or struggle with taking the extra time?  Who or what helps you to slow down and relax?

*****

Monday, July 12, 2010

Nostalgia Meets Modern Day

My mind has travelled over various topics for today, but it keeps coming back to the day I spent with my family yesterday.  It was a wonderful day overall and I just feel like sharing some of it with you.  The events really began on Saturday however, so I'll begin there.

We have a finished daylight basement.  Beyond a laundry room, hallway, and "boiler" room, we have a large open room with an attached 3/4 bathroom.  This room has housed out of state visitors and other family guests.  In the past, I've had a scrapbooking day or two in this space as well.  My sewing and craft area has also occupied a small portion of the room at one time.  With the recent changes in our lives, we decided to rearrange and clean up the area once again.  We have a lovely curtain that will section off the smaller side of the room for our visiting guests, and the larger portion of the room will become my Stampin' Up workshop and class space.  Saturday, we began the process of letting go of unused items to make a little extra room.

Sunday afternoon gave us the opportunity to drive to my Aunt D's home and deliver the previously mentioned items for an upcoming barn sale.  Aunt D lives in my great-grandparents old homestead and the barn is perfect for an event like this.  There is also magic surrounding every part of the land and space where two of the most endearing people in my life once lived.  In my childhood days, there weren't many places that I loved more than my great-grandparent's.  

My boys enjoyed giving Aunt D's ducks a shower and then ran wild for a little bit.  Then C, Aunt D, and I unloaded the car before admiring the restored barn. We all marveled at the garden, Uncle R is a green thumb.  Afterwards, M picked raspberries with Aunt D, while O mostly enjoyed running around the wide open spaces.  Seeing my boys enjoying the place that I did as a kid, not to mention the previous generation of my Mom & Aunt D, was such a wonderful feeling.  I can imagine my great-grandparents were smiling down on them and loving them just as much as they did every child that was a part of their lives.  

Our day was not yet over, so we traveled to visit Grandma (my Mom) quickly, before heading over to my older brother's home.  He had been working on a dog haven for his beautiful German Shepard, but took a break to visit with his only nephews and amazing sister & brother-in-law (not to toot our own horns or anything).  The boys had a blast with Uncle M & Aunt S!  They went for a short hike and enjoyed all of the nature that surrounds the home.  Later they moved inside to play a round of Lego Batman while the adults talked on the deck overlooking the river.  We enjoyed good conversation and a lot of laughter.  Then we stopped to see my Mom for hugs and I love you's before we headed home.  The evening ended all too quickly.

Among all the bitter sweetness we face in our lives, moments with family (and true friends) who loves you is priceless.  When others turn away or stomp on your heart, it's these precious people who will be there to pick you up and help put you back together.  Even the memories of loved ones who have gone on before us help to heal our spirits.  

Who in your life has supported you through the rough spots?  Who has given more than they have taken?  Who on this earth can you count on the most?  Who are you grateful for today?

<3 Extra love goes out to my family today!  I appreciate and am grateful for you! <3

Friday, July 9, 2010

Better Than Me and You

In today's society, many of us feel as though we are being judged.  There seems to be an unspoken, although sometimes it's verbalized, competition that surrounds us.  At times it's self inflicted, while in other circumstances, the message is clearly conveyed by another party.  Jealousy and doubt can creep in all too quickly.

What makes a person feel as though they are better (or less) than someone else?  Is it a status held in a high level career or a birthright and namesake?  Could the superiority come from wealth, a fancy car, or towering mansion?  Do we receive special "gold stars" for our extensive education, religious views, or being a famous celebrity?  Maybe you can hold your head high above the rest because you live a lifestyle without children, or maybe because you have one child or multiple children?  Are you simply more handsome than every person you meet or incredibly beautiful?  It's amazing how many reasons you can have for treating others as though they are beneath you.

A person's spirit is fragile.  It can be crushed when any of these instances of snobbery happen in life.  How do we turn this never ending issue around?  To start, I recommend sincere kindness.  A compliment or boost of encouragement goes a long way, especially during a bad day.  Walk a mile in someone else's shoes.  Have compassion for others.  Be a true friend.  Show someone you believe in them.

Everyone is special in their own way.  Each of us has a gift, or more than one.  Embrace yours.  Don't let others get the best of you and bring you down.

"Before God we are all equally wise- and equally foolish." - Albert Einstein

For every reader:  Have you ever made someone feel less than who and what they are?  Have you felt unworthy yourself (self inflicted or otherwise)?  Have you given someone, or has anyone given you, a much needed boost of encouragement?  Give someone a confidence boost over the weekend.    Share you encouragement stories. 



Monday, June 28, 2010

Everything Is Going Swimmingly

Can you believe that the dreaded first day of the traditional work week has arrived once again?  Yes, it is Monday already.  Surprise!  My day started off swimmingly!  Yes, it's 100% true.  You see, this morning was my sons' last  swimming lesson for the Summer.  Sitting beside the pool and baking in the heat for the past two weeks while my boy swam, left me feeling a bit jealous.  Thankfully, after today's final lesson I was able to join my boys for the open swim pool party!  Nice warm pool water on a sunny summer day felt amazing.  

As our swimming lessons come to a close, I am amazed at how far my boys have come in such a short amount of time.  M removed himself from the steps after 2 days of fear induced sitting.  His instructor was able to bring him out into the water a number of times during those first couple of days, but he was terrified to do much else.  Today, he didn't want to get out of the pool!  He may not be ready to lose the swim training device and kick board, but the tears and nerves have certainly left him.  

O was also very nervous about pool time when he began.  He went from saying "I can't," to saying "watch this!"  Seeing him pick up on the actual swimming strokes and technique leaves me feeling amazed at much he's accomplished.  

My boys lessons of conquering fears and embracing their courage has been a wonderful inspiration to me.  As many of you know, putting yourself in a position where it's sink or swim, fail or succeed, makes you feel very vulnerable.  However, giving up before you try is not a good option.  

With these thoughts running through my mind over the past couple of weeks, I made a decision to step into a role that I've considered for some time.   I'm extremely nervous to fall flat on my face, but who isn't when they are trying something new?  While embracing my ultimate crafter heart, I'm stamping into the roll of a Stampin' Up! demonstrator!

If I'm not suited for this position, I don't know who is.  I love creating cards, scrapbooking, and doing all sorts of different crafts.  As I browse through crafting blogs, I am quick to notice many of the projects I fall in love with are created with Stampin' Up!  products.  They are so versatile and everything coordinates easily.  The best part about it...  it is FUN!  

My Stampin' Up demonstrator website should be up and running soon and you will be able to find the link here on my blog.  I will also update melindamarie.com with the information.  In the near future, I am planning on doing workshops, classes, and possibly even oline/video classes.

My dear friend Ally has encouraged me to step into this role for a long time.  Friends and family members have also boosted my confidence and pushed me towards this new adventure.  I can't wait to get started!

Have you taken on anything new lately?  Do you have any big announcements to share?  How is your day stacking up so far?  Are you longing for Friday to make a speedy return?  Do you have a quiet week ahead?  

Are you interested in having a Stampin' Up workshop with your friends and/or family?  Are you interested in taking a traditional/online class with me in the future?  Do you want to get crafty with me?  

Happy Birthday today to my husband Chris!
I love you!  xoxo

I'm looking forward to catching up with all of my blogger friends this week as I check out all the latest posts!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Growing Pains

On Father's Day, my family went to see Toy Story 3.  I promise no spoilers!  A few of my friends who had already seen the movie, suggested that I bring along some tissues.  As Andy is ready to go to college, the concept of the movie is geared towards growing up, letting go, and moving on.

During the previews before the movie began, we heard from creators of the new Toy Story 3 video game.  One of the comments that they made was, "kids are playing less with toys in the ways that we used to."  Imaginative play is less common in today's world, so they created a "toy box" feature on the current game to encourage children to be creative.  While I listened to their statements, I realized how true it is that a lot of kids are letting go of their "plain jane" toys at a younger age in favor of the latest tech savvy device.

Today's kids are expected to act older at a much younger age.  Maybe some of the persuasion comes from adults, but a great deal comes from their peers.  From t-shirts, to lunch boxes, to what they watch on tv and in the movies, there is pressure from classmates to lose the "baby-ish" characters.

Buzz & Woody are loved, but at 7 years old, my young son already feels that kids around him may think it's just for "little kids."  I'm sad that today's children, mine included, are growing up far too quickly.  Andy, who was just a young child in the first two Toy Story films, is all grown up now.  Although he's heading off to college, he held on to some of his favorite toys all of these years because they inspired the character's imagination (and even some of our's).  I'd like to picture my boys holding on to some of the special parts of childhood, just like Andy did.

There's always going to be pressure to fit in, but following your heart and being true to yourself is much more important.  I hope my boys will embrace who they are and what they love... even if it's not the cool thing to do.  Childhood will be gone soon enough, so I don't want them to give it up too quickly.

Have you struggled with seeing your kids grow up?  How young were they when they started to feel the pressure to act older?  Do you think today's kids are acting older earlier?  Any advice for those of us seeing our kids starting to feel the pressure not to be "little" kids anymore?  Have you seen Toy Story 3?  Did you enjoy it?  Did you cry?  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Evil Words

My husband and I recently discussed those days when it seems as though nothing is ever going to be easy.  Over the past school year, we've had more than our fair share of them.  Our conversation touched on the feeling that each time we were back on our feet, something pushed us backward and knocked us down again.  We laughed, cried (during some of the moments, not the discussion), and marveled at how much people can endure.

How many of you know someone, friends or family members, who have been through some very big challenges in their lives?  I doubt that any of you are saying, "NOT ME!"  Was it was a battle with cancer, being unemployed, or some other obstacle that they (or you) had to overcome?   What would have happened if they had given up before they started?  How would things have been different if they used those two evil words, "I can't!"

Today as my sons struggled at their first swimming lesson, my youngest said those two evil words.  He was scared and didn't want to try.  His swim instructor, Mrs. M., didn't let him give up.  She pushed him to keep trying.  While my oldest was also a bit frightened, and panicked a couple of times, he was very excited to discover that he could do more than he first imagined. 

Afterwards, with my two boys wrapped in Transformer beach towels, I walked to the car and thought about the challenge placed before my sons.  This experience is more than just a swimming lesson.  For these two young children, they have to overcome their fears so that they may accomplish what they have set out to do.  If they don't find it in themselves to wade into the water, they won't have a chance at their goal.  My boys may not master the sport of swimming during two weeks of lessons, but they will have dipped their feet into the pool as beginners.

I'd be amazed to hear of a person who has gone through this life without feeling frightened.  Being afraid to fail can be disabling, but we don't have to let it be.  Can you imagine what life would be like if people didn't rise above their fears?

What is holding you back today?  Are you afraid of what might happen?  What might not happen?  What fears have you been able to overcome?  What was the result?

Courage is not the absence of fear, 
but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.  
~Ambrose Redmoon

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. 
~Robert F. Kennedy

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?
~Robert H. Schuller

Monday, June 7, 2010

Beware of Mama Bear

When most people describe me, I often hear kind comments.  I've been called a sweetheart, cute, kind, loyal, friendly, and the list goes on.  No, this does not go to my head and I'm not here to toot my own horn.  Rather, I'd like to showcase a different side of me.  Today I present to you, the rarely seen "mama bear."
While I dearly love the fabulous Berenstain Bear family books and tv series, I'm not referring to the lovely and wise matriarch of the family.  I'd like to think I'm both of those things, but that's not what I'm talking about today.  The instinctively protective nature of most mothers can bring out the bear in even the mildest mannered mommy, myself included.
Since I became pregnant with my oldest child, I've been presented with various situations that have brought out the grizzly in me.  If my children are threatened in any way, I can become a ferocious defender.  Yes, every inch of my under 5' frame has the ability to fill with adrenaline as I stand up for my offspring.  I'm not rippling like the Incredible Hulk, but I believe that the love for my boys would make me a strong adversary.
Truth be told, being a mama bear is not about physical strength.  It's about love, heart, determination, and protecting those you love.  The situations that provoke this portion of our personality come in all forms and do not usually result in a physical altercation.  I should clarify here.  Honestly, I've never been in a fight.  In my younger years I stood between people to stop them, but that's as far as it goes for me.  My kids need me to keep them safe in whatever way that applies.  At this stage in their young lives, it is my responsibility (and my husband's) to keep them away from people and out of situations that I feel would be unhealthy for them.  If I didn't do that, what kind of mama bear would I be?
Are you a mama or papa bear?  Do you feel it is your responsibility to protect your child?  Does that mama/papa bear feeling ever go away?  How far would you go to protect your child?

Beware of Mama Bear!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Today Is Not Monday

Wow!  It's not Monday!  The plan was to blog yesterday, but life had it's own ideas.  Beyond the thunderstorms that flashed, boomed, and shook homes, we had a few unexpected items on our to do list.  It involved stripped beds, pillow cases, and couch covers.  We cleaned carpets and used up a can of lysol.  All of this was a result of our oldest son coming down with a case of pink eye!

We had a nice visit with some of our East coast family this past weekend.  It wasn't nearly long enough, but we enjoyed every bit of our time with Grampa & P.  We celebrated my father-in-law & M's birthdays during their stay with us.  The boys had a hard time saying goodbye.

M's birthday is today!  My sweet baby boy is 5 years old!  Time goes by so quickly.  When I think back to the day M was born, I remember anxiety, excitement, and anticipation.  M's birth was scheduled, due to the complications of my previous labor and delivery, so it didn't hold the same amount of surprise as my first.  However, it was the day that my family became complete.  My husband and oldest son were the only ones (besides hospital staff) to hold M before I did.  While I was being stitched up and recovering from surgery, they bonded with M.  I felt so blessed and grateful to hold that little man in my arms for the first time.  I cannot believe how quickly 5 years goes by.  Happy 5th birthday M!  I love you!

It's been a whirlwind in our lives lately.  Birthdays, holidays, illness, end of the school year activities, and the list goes on and on.  As Summer vacation is fast approaching, I've decided to make some blog changes.  From June 1, 2010 through September 2010, I will be blogging once a week on Mondays.  My Monday and Wednesday blog schedule should return to normal in October.  Much like my previous "Holiday Blog hours,"  there may be unpredictable blog posts scattered amongst the Summer days.  Possibly even a craft induced post.

I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  Thank you to all of our veterans and the families who support them!  *  Happy Birthday to my father-in-law (yesterday)!  Happy Birthday to Diane tomorrow!

HAPPY 5th BIRTHDAY TO M!!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sticking With It

This morning I delivered a thank you gift to the staff of my son's school.  As a PTO representative and school volunteer, I've had the opportunity to see all of these wonderful people in action more often than some parents.  I'm so grateful for all of the time and energy the teachers and staff put into the education of our children.  However, working in the school goes far beyond teaching kids how to write, read, and do math. I appreciate the positive example these adults set for my children and was able to provide them with a small token to acknowledge everything that they do.


Saying the words thank you, or a simple gesture of thanks, show appreciation.  You can encourage and invigorate the spirits of those who work so hard with the smallest actions.  Everyone needs a little pat on the back from time to time. 


A tin from Target's dollar spot, $1.  Scrap paper, ribbon, and a paw print punch already owned, $0.  Old fashioned candy sticks (40) in school colors from Cracker Barrel, $4.  A little time and thoughtfulness to say, "Thanks for sticking with our kids this year!," priceless.


Is there anyone you need to thank today?  Someone who needs a bit of encouragement?  
Let someone know you appreciate what they do.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Love Me... Loves Me Not...

Those you love the most, can ultimately hurt you the most.  They have the power to shatter your heart, because they have a piece of it.  Family is often full of "loves me... loves me not..." relationships.  This sentiment rings true, with a loud and clear bell, when it comes to siblings.  

My own boys showcase the classic sibling rivalry one minute, and are "best buddies for life" the next.  Those sweet moments of holding hands while they walk, an unexpected hug, and the other random actions that show brotherly love are priceless.  Then there are the times when the words, "you ruined my whole life," slip out.  As they grow, I hope to see them hold strong to their bond as brothers and best friends.  

Whether it's siblings, friends, or a significant other, when the final petals fall, I hope your flower says 
"loves me..."

Who in your life do you feel will always fall in the "loves me..." category?  
Is there anyone who lands in your "loves me not..." list?

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

1 Year Blogger-versary

The celebration of my 1 Year Blogger-versary begins by reflecting on 5 of my most memorable posts in the past year.  While other posts pop into my mind as well, these five stand out to me. 

My 5 Most Memorable Blog Posts of the Past Year (in no special order)

1.  Good News!   Good News is simple and sweet, but it ranks high on the most memorable blogs of the past year simply because it was the first step into my life as a blogger!

2.  Meet Me On Monday: Romantic Notions  Sharing a part of myself through "Meet Me On Monday" is something I need to do again soon.  This particular post is such a special memory for me and I can't help but lovingly reflect on how I felt during that time in my life. 

3.  Never Forgotten   I made a promise that my friend, Dennis, would never be forgotten.  I wrote this blog post in honor of his sacrifice.  He was killed in Iraq in July of 2006.

4.  Breaking The Chain of Domestic Violence  When I decided to blog about this topic, I felt that sharing my story might make a difference in the life of someone else.  No matter how difficult the subject matter was to tackle, it was worth posting if it helps just one person. 

5.  The Family Lighthouse  This small tribute to Nana was certainly a very memorable post in the past year.  What an absolute blessing it has been for me to be able to know my husband's Nana.
Leave a comment under this post and let me know what memorable posts (these or others) you enjoyed this past year.  OR What is one of your own memorable moments (or blog posts if you are a blogger) over the past year?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

Me & my 2009 Arnie's birthday cake
No matter how young or old you are, birthdays are important.  In fact, each year is special and priceless, because you'll never get those days back.  Those that wish they could spend just one more day with loved ones will be some of the first to tell you how precious a birthday is.

When I celebrate my birthday each year, I think about my Mom.  This is not just because my birthday sometimes falls on Mother's Day (or only days different).  Giving birth to my first child opened my eyes to how special that day can be for a mother.  My heart fills with pure joy when my boys' birthdays occur each year.

Last year, I hit a very big milestone in my life (not the only one of the year).  I hit the big 3-0!  If you remember correctly, Mother's Day fell on May 10th last year, so I shared my day with all of the other moms in this world.  My celebration, with my Mom, husband, and boys, was quiet and special.  Those that remembered my day made it even more cherished.

Today, I will party like a rock star as I turn 30 again!  Okay.  Fine.  I won't party like a rock star.  I'll have another peaceful and blessed birthday, unless my husband and boys have been hiding something really big.  Admitting that I'm getting older shouldn't be a big deal either.  People still mistake me for a teenager on a regular basis.

How do/did you celebrate Mother's Day?  Birthdays?  Do you have special traditions with Mom?  Are birthday traditions different for yourself, your spouse, your kids? 

Happy Mother's Day to all of my Mom readers... especially my Mom!

*****

This week is full of celebrations!  Just to name a few:  Mother's Day, my birthday, & of course my 1 year Blogger-versary!!!  Would you like to celebrate with me once again on Wednesday?  Will there be prizes you ask?  Of course there will be!  What's a celebration without presents?

Oh, and don't think I'm going to forget this past weekend...
*** HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MARYBETH!!!  ***


Monday, May 3, 2010

Children Are The Future

With 6 weeks left of school, the accompanying whirlwind has hit our lives!  Students everywhere are growing excited and impatient throughout the final complete month of the school year, and my children are no exception.  Teachers are busy trying to fit every last piece of required learning into their schedules.  Final field trips, talent shows, and extra activities are filling up the previously unscheduled moments rather quickly.

Beyond tying up lose ends, districts everywhere are also preparing for the upcoming school year that starts in the Fall of 2010.  Re-enrollment forms have gone out and Kindergarten registration is in full force.  In fact, my youngest son will be among those entering the class of 2023 when September rolls around.  Due to this fact, my days will change immensely when Summer ends.  It's certainly one of many bittersweet moments I'll face in my life.

Over the past few weeks, we've learned of many other alterations that will occur in our school district when Fall arrives once again.  We are not alone in these fluxuations, but they are disheartening none the less. People I've come to know as friends are losing their jobs, classroom sizes will increase, and an abundance of adjustments will be made.  As our communities face an array of questions, I keep coming back to one thought.  Something has to change!

If you are a teacher or a school staff member, I applaud you!  Thank you for all that you do for our children today!  You are appreciated!!!

What can our government do to improve the situations that are now affecting our children and their education?  How can we keep the educators that are a positive influence on our kids?  What can we do to help?  What are your thoughts on the budget cuts that have caused a major overhaul in schools?  If you have not yet done so, contact your state representatives with your concerns.

Children are the future!

I used to love singing this song and thought it fit today's post.  Enjoy!