Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Am Surrounded

On Monday, you may have noticed that I neglected to include friends on my 10 Things That Make Me Happy list.  Well, the truth is that I really don't have any friends.  No! Wait!  I mean I don't like people.  Not true.  What I meant to say is that nobody likes me.  Okay, those were all complete falsehoods.  The fact is that I am surrounded!  Surrounded by great friends that is! 

In my life, I have relied and leaned on some very special people.  Without these kind hearted souls, I would not be the person I am today.  As I experienced difficult, and even scary, times in my life, I would look beside myself to find a faithful friend. 

Sadly, I must admit that I can't always count on everyone in my life.  It's a priceless feeling knowing that I can call a true friend when I need an ear, a simple "it's going to be okay," or a swift kick in the rear end.  With my strong streak of loyalty worn proudly on my sleeve, I'm certain the same people know they can count on me as well.  I am so grateful for the circle of friends that surround me.

The Circle of Friends Award was bestowed upon me recently by one of my besties.  From what I've gathered, you must pass it along to your good blog friends.  As I am still relatively new to the blog-o-sphere, I feel as though I'm just beginning to bond and become friends with many of my fellow bloggers out there.  To those of you on my list of fellow bloggers, thank you for extending your hand of friendship in the blog world.  Beyond that, I must give a personal shout out to the following blogger friends who I keep in touch with through Facebook and life:  Marybeth, Jeni, Allycat, & Diane!

Where would I be without my friends?  It's a question that pops into my head quite often lately.  Stop for a moment today and ask yourself that very question.  Where would you be without your friends?

What do you bring to the table of friendship?  Do you have a friend, or more than one if you are very lucky, who is loyal and true?  How does it feel to have a friend(s) like that?  Now tell me, are you going to pick up the phone or send a quick email to your BFF(s) now just to say "I was thinking about you"? 


Thank you to my dear friends, and family members who are more than just family, for being there for me. I truly love you for your lack of judgment, constructive criticism, hugs, conversation, and everything else that goes hand in hand with friendship!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Happy Girl

Oh watch me go
I'm a happy girl
Everybody knows
That the sweetest thing that you'll ever see
In the whole wide world
is a happy girl
--Martina McBride "Happy Girl"


As previously mentioned, I was honored by the wonderful Marybeth with 2 blog awards!  Thank you MB!  I will focus on The Happy Award today -- who couldn't use a dose of happy on a Monday -- and The Circle of Friends Award on Wednesday.  According to the rules of The Happy Award, I must first list 10 things that make me happy followed by 10 blogs that make me happy. 

10 Things That Make Me Happy
(in random order)

1.  Random thoughts!  Such as the fact that I can't stop thinking about the movie 10 Things I Hate About You right now.  I tend to have a lot of random thoughts.  Including, when my husband is talking about something and I randomly start singing a song in my  head, okay sometimes out loud, that I feel goes with what he has to say.  It's a gift!

2.  My husband makes me insanely happy.  Seriously!  I really do like & love him!  -- Don't let this go to your head dear. --  I'm a very lucky lady!

3.  My boys certainly fill my life with joy.  Yes, the stress, frustration, and frazzling moments go along with that joy, but I wouldn't trade them for all the chocolate in the world.

4.  Crafts!  From scrapbooking, to sewing, to painting, etc. I love crafts!  My life is better because I craft!

5.  Singing always makes me happy!  Listening to, dancing to, and playing music also puts a bounce in my step.  The world would be a sad place without good tunes.

6.  Organization makes me happy.  Honestly, it does.  When I know where my belongings go, I never get worked up trying to find something.  Everything doesn't always end up in the right place (I do have 2 boys), but it makes me happy when there is a place for everything and everything in it's place.

7.  Ikea, Target, Hobby Lobby, Pages In Time scrapbooking store, JoAnns, Michaels...  I'm sure you get the idea.  My favorite stores are bound to put a big smile on my face.

8.  Disney!  The magic of Disney makes me so happy that I could start dancing right now!  I love the parks, the characters, and practically everything about Disney!  Meeting my husband in Disney World only sweetens the deal!

9.  If you hadn't noticed yet, I LOVE books.  I can pick up a great paperback and get completely sucked into a good story.  How can that not make people happy?

10.  God!  The fact that I know He will never leave me 'nor forsake me is a perfect reason to be ecstatic!


10 Blogs That Make Me Happy
(in random order)

My personal disclaimer:  There are many blogs that make me happy, but not all of them are listed here.  A number of those blogs are personal friends of mine who don't blog for the world to see.  The following blogs make me happy for various reasons.  Thanks for sharing your experiences, your insight, your humor, your inspirations, and your stories everyone!  Even when I don't leave a comment, I keep reading your blogs.    P.S. Pass it on!

3.  That's What I'm Here For - Diane Estrella

4.  Scrapbooking Blogs - I can't pick just one!  I randomly search and peruse crafty blogs often.

5.  Previously Known As Meg's Diary- Meg Cabot

10.  The Write Worship - Tamika


Now, get your Monday moving with Martina McBride's Happy Girl!

What makes you happy on a Monday?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looking Back Through 2009

First and foremost today I absolutely must note my thankfulness and adoration for the amazing Marybeth!  If you were unaware, she received two blog awards recently and passed them along to me (and a few others) in her blog yesterday.  I promise to follow the rules and respond accordingly on Monday!  Thanks MB!

I'd also like to take this time to say thank you to those who responded to the news of my sister's pregnancy!


As many of you know, my 2009 turned into 2010 while we spent time saying goodbye to a beloved family member, Nana.  While we dealt with the sadness, I was distracted from reflecting on the past year as I normally do.  Over the past week I began to look back on 2009 and thought today would be a good day to share.  If you’d like to glance back with me, an abbreviation of my year will be at the end of the post.

However boring or exciting your year has been, it's always something to cherish.  I truly believe that the life we live makes us the person that we are.  What are some of the high points of your past year?  Did you experience some low points you'd rather not remember?   


With all the serious topics lately, I'm certain my husband is once again chanting bring back the nerd.  I'm highly influenced by my every day life, but in an effort to be more entertaining, I will attempt to find that part of me before next week.  I believe the goofy nerd girl may currently be lost in her Geekdom.


Looking Back Through 2009

* My oldest son, O, said goodbye to a good buddy from school.
* I gained a friend, through my son, who would ultimately become one of the best ever!
* Typical school activities (including PTO events) took place this month and continued through early June of 2009.

* There isn't much to say... it was a fairly boring month.

* O celebrated his birthday on March 15th!
* My husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on March 23rd!
* We prepared for our celebration vacation!
* I completed my first Winter library reading challenge. Go me!

* In early April were took off for our celebration vacation in Walt Disney World. My husband and I first met in Walt Disney World, so we commemorated our big anniversary there as well.  One of my favorite photos from our trip is pictured above.
* I became an official soccer mom when my oldest son began his first experience in team sports.
* My mom was in the hospital for a few days. Thankfully, she's okay.
* O was sick for 1 1/2 weeks.

* My youngest, M, got pink eye.
* O enjoyed the spotlight when he performed a big part in the school's music production, Go Fish!
* May 10th was Mother's Day and my 30th birthday!
* Sickness hit O again.
* I started this blog on May 12th!
* My boys spent a weekend with Grandma. It was M's first overnight experience!

* M celebrated his birthday on June 1st !
* Our first school year came to an end.
* M & O enjoyed Storytime at the library and participated in their first Summer Reading Club.
*Summer play dates began! YAY for great friends!
* My boys spent a weekend with my older brother & sister-in-law... Uncle M & Aunt S.
* Ikea called my name and beckoned me to it's doors, dragging my husband along with me!
*The man I married, and amazing father to my children, celebrated another Father's day & birthday!

* My family enjoyed a great Independence Day weekend with mini golf & fireworks.
* The first meeting of my library scrapbooking group took place!
* We took a trip to a Lake Michigan beach during a late afternoon.

* We enjoyed watching High School Musical 2 performed on a local stage near us.
*A trip to the Drive In Theatre made our Summer feel more complete.
* Enjoying a musical fountain show in Grand Haven, Michigan was a fun experience.
* Take me out to the ball game! We had free tickets to a local minor league baseball team through the boy's Summer Reading Club rewards!
* We prepared for another school year!

* Grampa & P came for a visit over the holiday weekend.
* School began!
* All of the normal school activities (PTO events, etc) began again (and will not end until June 2010).
*Race For The Cure took place & we visited with our dear friends!
*A touch of the sickies hit our house again.

* Sickness took over our lives by mid-October. Everyone in our household was hit!
*My boys were sick for Halloween, but had Bumblebee & Optimus Prime costumes regardless. I was disappointed that the pixie dust I sprinkled as Tinkerbell didn't help anyone get healthy.

* The sickies stuck around a bit longer. O was diagnosed with bronchitis.
* I can't not mention going to see New Moon in the theatre! Sorry, but I love Jacob!
* Nonnie & W came for a visit for Thanksgiving.
*Our annual trip to Bronner's took place.

* Our household is finally healthy!
* We had snow days galore in the first 2 weeks of December.
* Preparing for Christmas took place.
* O shined again in the school musical program, The Littlest Christmas Tree.
* Christmas!!! We celebrated the birth of our Savior!
* We made an impromptu trip to Maine to say goodbye to Nana and spend time with family & friends.

2009 rolled into 2010 while we were in Maine.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Auntie M! Auntie M!

If Dorothy was a young married woman, can you imagine what she might be dreaming of at this moment?  What if Dorothy and her husband were longing for a child?  Can you imagine her dreaming, hoping, and praying?  That's what I see in this photo.  Do you see it too?

My sister, a big fan of The Wizard of Oz, can relate to this alternate description.  She and her husband have struggled with infertility over the past few years.  In her heartbreak, she has reached out and expressed her frustrations and sadness.  As fertility treatments were on the horizon, she received some shell shocking news.

A plus sign appeared on a home pregnancy test!  Reacting with unbelief, my sister scheduled a doctor's appointment.  Her physician must have seemed like the beautiful Glinda when she confirmed that the pregnancy test was in fact accurate.

Now I'm certain her life holds a Preggo Pop Guild, her yellow brick road is full of nausea, and she sees the beautiful Emerald City (which is probably a hospital glowing with green doctor's and nurse's scrubs) up ahead.

Her ruby red shoes are shining with that pregnancy glow and her heart is awaiting for the day when she can bring her baby home.  My sister is a Mommy!  There's certainly no place like a home when you have a baby to love. 

 Over the roar of the twister, I heard the news.  I was so mesmerized by the whirlwind that I didn't quite grasp what awe inspiring event had happened.  For the first time ever, I'm going to be an aunt.  Just call me Auntie M!  I hope this pregnancy, and bond of motherhood, will ultimately bring my sister and me closer together.

Congrats to the new expectant parents, M & R!
Please keep my sister and her new baby in your prayers. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Family Lighthouse

Nana loved lighthouses. Whenever I spot one of these towering guiding lights along the shoreline or coast, on an ornament, sweatshirt, or trinket, my mind instinctively goes to her. For me, it’s easy to see why these pieces of architecture were special to her. One of my favorite places in this country revolves around a lighthouse known as The Portland Headlight.

As we were preparing for our trip to Maine a couple of weeks ago, I thought about the upcoming chance to spend time at The Portland Headlight. Of course, we were traveling to spend time with Nana before she made the journey to Heaven, and my mind jumped to her admiration for the structural beauties. In that moment I realized that her love for lighthouses was quite fitting.

Consider the definition of a lighthouse for a moment. A lighthouse is a tall structure topped by a powerful light used as a beacon or signal to aid marine navigation. While most lighthouses have their own unique style, they all share the same purpose.

You see, in many ways Nana was a different kind of lighthouse. No, she did not direct boats in the ocean, but her light was always shining bright. Nana spent countless hours volunteering in the church and community, “grand poobahing,” singing in the church choir, teaching and encouraging her children & grandchildren, and opening her heart to so many people. Over the years, she became a beacon for others around her.

To those whose life she touched, Nana will continue to be a powerful light shining down from Heaven. Those who are blessed enough to call her a friend or family, such as myself, will tend to the lighthouse. Whether we continue on with her good deeds, carry some of her traits, or honor her in some other way, she will be there. We will not let her memory or the goodness and light she shone around her fade.

In Loving Memory
Forever our family lighthouse

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Reading Challenge

In a previous blog posting, I mentioned that I was inspired to start a scrapbooking group at my local library while taking part in a "book club" last Winter. Rebeca Seitz's Sisters, Ink series gave me the desire to gather together with friends to scrapbook and enjoy each other's company.  Currently, our small (and hopefully growing) group meets once a month at our local library.  My scrapbooking group was an unexpected and positive result of the library's Winter adult book reading challenge.  However, it was not the only thing that I gained.

With 16 squares, book categories, to fill on the "BINGO" card, I began reading books that I would not have normally picked up.  My personal goal was to complete the entire challenge within the 4 months given.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed almost every single book that I picked to fill a category square.  Branching out to read something new was fun.  Nine authors were brand new to me, and led me to become a fan of their writing.

As December 2009 was approaching, I remembered how very much I loved participating in this reading group last Winter.  When the current year's snowy reading challenge information was posted online, I was excited to start planning out what I would read this year.  I'm currently engrossed in a new game of BINGO, with some new categories.  My own personal goal this year has been enhanced.  After thoroughly enjoying "new" authors the last time, I decided to attempt reading as many novels as possible that have been written by writers who are new to me.  At this time, I've only read works by 1 of the authors amongst the novels I have chosen.  Thirteen authors are completely new to me this time.  Two of the books on my list are by the same authors, and 1 "your choice" category is currently awaiting my choice (although I have a few options I'm tossing around). 

Are you curious as to what I'm reading?  How much of my challenge I have completed?  I'll answer those 2 questions below.  How often to you pick up a book by an author you have not yet discovered?  Does your library have any book clubs or challenges that you have participated in?  What would be your favorite categories and/or top choices in the categories that my public library has given?  Please give me your recommendations for my bookless categories.

1/11/10 Reading Challenge Progress:   3/16 Complete, 1 in Progress

Category                                                       My Book Choice
International/Travel (book/author)                 ----------
                                                                      by Cecelia Ahern (Irish)
Try A "New To You" Author                        Unconventional
                                                                       by J.J. Hebert
Book On Display or Library Booklist            Austenland: a novel
                                                                      by Shannon Hale
Your Choice                                                 The Nanny Diaries
                                                                      by Emma McLaughlin/Nicola Kraus
Express/New Book                                      Nanny Returns
                                                                      by Emma McLaughlin/Nicola Kraus
Mystery/Suspense/Romance                        ----------
                                                                      by Debbie Macomber
Your Choice                                               Vision In White
                                                                     by Nora Roberts
Michigan Author/Setting                              The Life Before Her Eyes
                                                                     by Laura Kasischke
Non-Fiction                                                It's All About Him: Finding The Love of My Life
                                                                     by Denise Jackson
Your Choice                                               Scrap Everything
                                                                      by Leslie Gould
Award Winner/NY Times Bestseller            Best Friends Forever
                                                                     by Jennifer Weiner
Book You Picked for the Cover                 Real Life & Liars
                                                                     by Kristina Riggle
Your Choice                                              ----------
                                                                     by ---- ----
Classics For All Ages                                Christmas With Anne
                                                                     by L.M. Montgomery
Book/Author Starting Library Initials         Between Sisters
                                                                     by Kristin Hannah
Library Staff Pick (use list or ask)              Everything I Need to Know About being A Girl I               
                                                                 Learned From Judy Blume
                                                                       by Jennifer O' Connell (& various other authors)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mark My Time: The Right Balance

Our school's PTO runs a reading program for the students in which they receive a reward for every 200 minutes read.  Keeping track of minutes is important for achieving these goals and I insist on making sure my son's time is calculated accurately.  While browsing at one of my favorite stores, yes a book store, this year, I found one of the best Christmas gifts for my oldest son, O.  My husband and I purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree, a special bookmark that marks the reading time of our eager reader. 

Believe it or not, O was excited when he tore the paper to reveal his new blue and white bookmark.  You know you've been raising a reader when your child is full of joy over books and bookmarks.  This fancy contraption has 3 modes:  clock, count down, and count up.  Clearly, the clock mode is just that, a clock.  With the count down mode, you can set a certain amount of hours and/or minutes that need to be read and an alarm will go off when you have completed the time.  An orange start/stop button can be pushed if you need to take a break for any reason.  When in the count up mode, the timer counts your minutes as you read, and the start/stop button is used just as it is in the count down mode.  Needless to say, good use has been made of O's new gift since it was opened on Christmas morning.

Time is precious in this life.  While our minutes are counting up, and down for that matter, we can spend our time in so many ways.  As the clock keeps ticking and the years go by, we can accomplish an abundant amount of simple and large tasks, love tremendously, volunteer, forgive, work, vacation, enjoy hobbies, smile, laugh, and so much more.  Our time is valuable, priceless, and treasured. 

I often struggle with making the best use of my time.  Volunteering and helping others is something I'm drawn to do.  You may have heard this already, but I have a hard time saying "no."  Maybe I have a target on my head, or more likely my heart, but I feel dedicated to serving others.  Ummm no!  That doesn't mean I'll be waiting on you hand and foot!  Seriously!  No matter how little time I have for myself, I am called to consistently do for others.  When I have to give something up, it's rare that I will step down from my self imposed, although I'm not sure how much of it really comes from myself, responsibility.  Although it frustrates my husband to see me do so at times, I would rather give up some of my own time.  Over the past year however, I have made a commitment to taking more time for myself.  Which is one of the reasons I started to blog.

Blogging is many things for me, two of those things being: a creative outlet and a connection to others.  Since I've began, I have struggled with the right balance for a blogging schedule and taken time off for vacations, sick days, and family.  As 2010 is now upon us, I am once again altering my blogging days to search for a bit more balance.  If I continue to juggle the amount of balls that I have accumulated, I'm liable to drop the entire load.  Attempting to ignore that self-imposed guilt, do be quiet please, I made the decision to drop Friday and only blog on Monday & Wednesday. 

My WIP, aka work in progress, is desperate for more attention and is pushing the self-imposed guilt out of the way like a playground bully.  Writing tools are calling out to me and begging to be held, and not left idle and alone.  Characters in my story are tossing bottled notes into the ocean of my mind, hoping that they will be discovered in my notebook.    Apparently, all three agree that Friday is the most relaxing and creative day of the week to ignore responsibility and wade into the murky unknown waters of that ocean in my mind.  Personally, I think they just want to learn to surf!  I mean really, who could blame them?  It does look like a fun adventure.  Who knows, maybe they'll find the time and ability to ride a big wave into a long weekend of writing.  As long as everyone keeps their balance.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Words By You Wednesday: Link Up

I've been thinking about ways to get to know you, my blog followers, better.  Last night, as I was half asleep, I thought about the Wordless Wednesdays that I've seen from various bloggers and had an epiphany (I really like that word.  Don't you?).  During a Meet Me On Monday blog, you learn a little about me.  Why not turn random Wednesdays into... Words By You Wednesday.  On Words By You Wednesdays, I will post requests or questions for you.  Are you up for it?

Today, I would like to start with my fellow bloggers:

1.  Please link up!  Post a link to your blog and/or website. 
2.  Why did you start blogging?  Has your purpose changed?
3.  What is your blog "schedule?"

For those who are strictly readers:

1.  Have you ever considered starting a blog of your own?
2.  Do you leave comments for bloggers (on my blog or others)?
3.  What are your favorite types of blogs or blog posts about? 

Please leave a comment with your answers. 

I'm looking forward to getting to know you all a little bit more.

Note:  I may occasionally do a Wordless Wednesday of my own.  All other Wednesdays will be considered Whatever Wednesdays.  You know, whatever I feel like writing about.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Rest Of The Story: Maine

On my way to school, work, and other various destinations in my life, I used to listen to the radio icon Paul Harvey.  His Rest of the Story program always held interesting stories that gave you a bigger insight into someone or something that you already knew.  Clearly, his "and now you know... the rest of the story..." was the perfect tag line to every radio episode. 

As I posted my final blog of 2009, and took a blogger's vacation, I neglected to give you the rest of the story regarding my leave of blog-o-sphere absence.  Of course, it was easy to assume that Christmas had hijacked my brain and body so I was unable to post a tidbit of reading material.  While that is true in a sense, there is still more to my blog vacation story.  I'd like to share a piece of it with you today.

The Wednesday evening before my last blog post, my husband received a phone call from his dad.  C was told that his grandmother, lovingly referred to as Nana, was not doing well and would be going off of dialysis after the holidays.  We had planned to visit her, in our other home state of Maine, over Spring Break in April.  The news not own threw a monkey wrench into our plans, but left us feeling a strong sense of sadness.  Nana suffers from Alzheimer’s, diabetes, & kidney failure (among other health issues) and we were hoping to spend some time with her before she left us to spend a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow with God.

After talking to my husband, I told him that we were going to have a chance to say goodbye to his adoring grandmother.  Our son, O, was almost on Christmas break and I was certain that C's work would allow him to take his vacation time on short notice, due to the situation.  As Christmas was quickly approaching, I finished up all of the projects and preparations for the big day, while planning out our packing list.  It was a busy week trying to get ready for the blessed holiday and a long road trip to Maine, but I knew that I would never regret the hectic days.  The day after Christmas, we rolled out of our driveway and headed to spend some time with our family & friends on the East coast.

Two days on the road with two young boys is never an easy task, but it was so worth it.  When we rolled into my father-in-law's driveway that Sunday night, we shared a small Christmas celebration before heading to bed.  Our week would be busy and we knew it would go by much too quickly, so plenty of rest was in order.  As it was a whirlwind, I feel as though we were in fast forward nearly the entire time.  Gratefully, we were able to visit with most of our friends & family at least once, visit our favorite place in Maine (even if it was unbearably cold), and eat at a few of our favorite Maine food locations.  Most importantly, we were able to spend a couple of hours with Nana. 

When we visited, Nana was having a good day.  She knew who we were and although she could not remember when the boys were born, or how far apart they were, she understood that O & M were our children.  I believe we were given a gift that day, as she has had much harder days in most recent weeks.  Nana said a few little things that we will carry with us, and we were able to let her know that she means so much to us.  It seemed as though the time went by all too quickly, but as though we were in slow motion at the same time. Leaving her room was more difficult than I think my husband or I had imagined.  Before we left, she said the words, "I hope to see you again..."  and we told her that she would. 

With all my heart, I know those words to be the truth.  Nana is a woman of strong Christian faith, and we know we will see her again in Heaven.  When it is time, she will be welcomed into the loving arms of God, just as she has often opened her arms to her many sons, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, other family members, & friends.  We have been so very blessed to have been a part of her life.