November 20, 2011

Introducing... Jules @ Just Jules

One of the neat things about the internet is that it seems to have shrunk the world. I've enjoyed getting to know women from around the country through their blogs, and I'll like to introduce a few of them to you over the next few weeks. I've only met one of these ladies in person, but these are all women who have inspired me in one way or another. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them. Be sure to stop by their blogs, too!

Jules LaPierre (well, Julie, but just call her Jules) is a self-described sassy Christian blogger with foodie tendencies. A former cemetery and funeral director trained in graphic design (go figure!), she is married to a professional artist and homeschools their nine-year-old son in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Her blog, Just Jules, is designed to “challenge Christian women to think biblically and live obediently”. And to cook well, I might add.

Please share your job description in 25 words or less.   
Headmistress at The Impossibly Irregular Academy for Hopelessly
Unsocialized Children
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Remembering that education, like life, is a marathon and not a sprint.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?  
Being mommy as well as teacher, for all mothers are also teachers.
What is your favorite room in your home? (and please tell us why) 
The kitchen. I have strong
foodie tendencies.  Cooking is a joy and a catharsis for me.  I take great pleasure in cooking a meal that makes my family & friends roll their a good way :)
Please share a favorite recipe you’ve cooked or DIY project you’ve done.
One family favorite, that is requested more than any other, are my Sweet Sausage Grinders.  These are wonderful when you're feeding a crowd and are a game-day favorite.  Flavor, flavor, flavor! 

When you are unmotivated, what keeps you going?

Prayer and coffee and remembering that tomorrow is a new day with new grace.  Psalm 30:5 is true.  "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

What sage advice would you give a young woman today who would like to marry?

Invest more in the marriage than you do in the wedding -and- if you can laugh together you can make it through anything.

What were you doing thirty minutes before you answered these interview questions?

Picking up an order of grass-fed beef from a Kansas family farmer.

What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?
When I really want to indulge and spoil myself, I order a mocha breve because I need the calories (chuckle).

November 13, 2011

Introducing... Emily at Jones Design Company

One of the neat things about the internet is that it seems to have shrunk the world. I've enjoyed getting to know women from around the country through their blogs, and I'll like to introduce a few of them to you over the next few weeks. I've only met one of these ladies in person, but these are all women who have inspired me in one way or another. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them. Be sure to stop by their blogs, too!

Emily Jones is a wife and mother of four who somehow finds time to create really pretty things. On her blog, Jones Design Company, Emily shares her love of beautiful things with us (literally – I’m talking nice monthly giveaways) along with home projects, recipes, and snippets of her life. Check out Emily’s shop here (aren’t the Scripture art prints wonderful?).

Please share your job description in 25 words or less.   
What is the most challenging part of your job?
What is the most rewarding part of your job?  
What is your favorite room in your home? (and please tell us why) 
Please share a favorite recipe you’ve cooked or DIY project you’ve done.

When you are unmotivated, what keeps you going?


What sage advice would you give a young woman today who would like to marry?


What were you doing thirty minutes before you answered these interview questions?


What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?

© Suzanne Jackson 2011.
{I'd love for you to share this post with friends, but please share the full link. Common courtesy dictates that you do not copy the post into your own blog without proper attribution. Thanks!}

November 7, 2011

Introducing... Melissa at A Familiar Path

One of the neat things about the internet is that it seems to have shrunk the world. I've enjoyed getting to know women from around the country through their blogs, and I'll like to introduce a few of them to you over the next few weeks. I've only met one of these ladies in person, but these are all women who have inspired me in one way or another. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them. Be sure to stop by their blogs, too!

Melissa Stover lives in a small town in rural Arkansas, where she encourages one husband, homeschools four “sheltered, anti-social children”, and shoots some amazing photos of life. Melissa’s blog, A Familiar Path, provides little snapshots of her day in a mix of words and photos. Find out more about her photo business here.

Please share your job description in 25 words or less.   
I'm a child and family photographer in South Arkansas. I'm also a blogger, juggling two blogs, and an occasional writer for companies.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Finding a good balance between how much I want to work and how much I can work. Both of my jobs as photographer and blogger take a lot of my mental energy as well as sitting down at the computer for chunks of time. I love doing it, but my main focus right now is educating my children and being a mother. I don't want to neglect that job, so I limit what I take on with the other jobs.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?  
Getting to use my creative talents and learning new things.
What is your favorite room in your home? (and please tell us why) 
My bedroom. It's calm, usually quiet and I love to sleep. (Plus it's where all my shows are DVR'd waiting for me to watch them.)
Please share a favorite recipe you’ve cooked or DIY project you’ve done.
My kids and I made several of these ipod cases for Christmas gifts last year. We really enjoyed doing it.
When you are unmotivated, what keeps you going?

Usually I take a walk outside with my camera. Getting outside almost always clears my head and helps me to focus.

What sage advice would you give a young woman today who would like to marry?

Choose a man who is kind to you, who you are compatible with in beliefs, and someone your mom and daddy approves of.

What were you doing thirty minutes before you answered these interview questions?

Thinking about what to cook for supper. It's one of my most challenging times each day. (I decided on chicken, in case you were wondering.)

What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?

I don't drink coffee so I've never had a Starbucks drink. I'm a Coke fan.

October 30, 2011

Introducing... Lori of Nourishment for Ladies

One of the neat things about the internet is that it seems to have shrunk the world. I've enjoyed getting to know women from around the country through their blogs, and I'll like to introduce a few of them to you over the next few weeks. I've only met one of these ladies in person, but these are all women who have inspired me in one way or another. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them. Be sure to stop by their blogs, too!

Lori Rhodes is a woman of many seasons… she’s the mother of five girls (the oldest is soon to be married) with another on the way. She’s been married to her favorite pastor, Ray, for 24 years. On her blog, Nourishmentfor Ladies, Lori shares special family moments, funny stories, and encouraging words. I'm thankful that I have met Lori personally and have experienced her gracious hospitality. (Note: Ray also has a blog, Nourished in the Word, and online bookstore, Books that Nourish.)

Please share your job description in 25 words or less.   
My job description includes, but is not limited to being Ray's wife; mother to Rachel, Hannah, Sarah, Mary, Lydia and baby to be born in November; pastor's wife to Grace Community Church; daughter to Ray's and my parents; sister to all of our siblings; ... My life is not my own, but I'm glad about that.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
One of the most challenging parts of my job is having to choose between my children. There are often times when one will have an event at the same time as another, or one will want to talk when another needs me. It's hard to choose between one child's music class and another's basketball game.
Being pregnant at forty-four, controlling hormones is also a huge challenge for me.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?  
Having all of my family around the same table or in the same room, talking, laughing, reading or having Bible time together are incredibly rewarding times. I also love to see the girls reading on their own, playing dolls, or playing together. A wonderful sound to me is to hear giggles and whispers from another room knowing that my family members are loving each other.
What is your favorite room in your home? (and please tell us why) 
When I began to think of my favorite room in my home, my bedroom was what came to mind first. When it's clean, it is calm and peaceful and where I can usually be alone with Ray. But I also love our living room. It's big, holds a lot of people and is usually where there is the most laughter.
One of the goals in my home of girls was to have books and baby dolls readily available in every room. As the girls get older, that doesn't always work out, I think it helps to foster a love for reading and babies.

Please share a favorite recipe you’ve cooked or DIY project you’ve done (you can briefly describe, then link back to your blog/website – and I’d love a picture if you have one).
One of my favorite projects was our Scripture canvases! Our whole family painted canvases and put our weekly Scripture memory verses on them then hung them on the wall. I am still trying to figure out how to make them stay on the wall and hang straight, but I love the idea. Here is a link to the post. Because it's on my stairs I couldn't get a great picture of it. 

When you are unmotivated, what keeps you going?

Accountability is often what keeps me motivated to do what's right. If my girls are around, I really don't want to set a bad example for them.

Also, knowing Scripture is profitable for my life, I try to stay close to that. Some days I have to quote it over and over to make myself think correctly. And to be honest, in my own sinful heart, there have been times when I have known I needed to be doing something more productive, I've pushed aside thoughts of Scripture to satisfy my sin.

What sage advice would you give a young woman today who would like to marry?

My own "sage" advice for young women about to get married would be to love God more than you love your husband! He will not let you down. He is faithful, trustworthy, and your best comforter.

What were you doing thirty minutes before you answered these interview questions?

While I'm answering these questions, I'm also cooking a special meal for Ray's 50th birthday. I started making this meal when first got married and it has remained one of our special occasion meals. The only problem is I lost the recipe at Father's Day and I am going on memory tonight.

What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?

I don't think I could ever get too much coffee, I love it! At Starbucks I would generally choose a plain latte or add a shot vanilla to it. In the Fall, hands down- Pumpkin spice latte. But I also enjoy the peppermint mocha latte in the winter. Being pregnant, I haven't drank a lot of coffee in the past few months so I'm looking forward to that soon.

 {Note: I shared one of Lori's favorite fall recipes here.}

October 24, 2011

Introducing... Becky at Organizing Made Fun

One of the neat things about the internet is that it seems to have shrunk the world. I've enjoyed getting to know women from around the country through their blogs, and I'll like to introduce a few of them to you over the next few weeks. I've only met one of these ladies in person, but these are all women who have inspired me in one way or another. I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them. Be sure to stop by their blogs, too!

Becky lives in Southern California and loves to organize and decorate (and often combines the two), as well as gardening and playing the piano. She describes herself as “a wife, Mommy, and child of God.” On her blog, Organizing Made Fun, Becky shares some of her favorite organizing secrets, ways to save money, and projects she does around the house (in a modern twist on the Proverbs 31 woman).

Please share your job description in 25 words or less.   
I am a stay at home mom, piano teacher, and part-time blogger!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Keeping my focus, I get distracted easily! I am a big advocate of schedules and in order to have time to do everything, I MUST have a detailed schedule. As a blogger, I can spend 3-4 hours on one post, sometimes more time –  taking photos, editing photos, writing out content, editing content, etc. so I have little bits of time here and there carved out to work on blog stuff. As a piano teacher, I have to have had to make “business” hours and stick to only those – if someone can’t work with the days/hours I teach, I’m not the piano teacher for them! As a mom, it’s important to me to make sure when my kids are home from school, that I’m completely focused on them. So, I make sure that blogging and piano teaching don’t divert from that.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?  
As a SAHM, my children! They are amazing! As a piano teacher, I love my students and they really are learning something and enjoying it! I hope to encourage them, be patient and kind, but also firm if there is something better that they can do. As a blogger, it is my goal to motivate and inspire other Moms/Ladies to get their homes and families organized and scheduled to free up their time and tie them down!
What is your favorite room in your home? (and please tell us why) 
Our family room. It’s blue and calm and delightful. We all hang out in there. It’s beach-y feeling and just a warm place with all our family photos. We have the kids' computer, the game table, and our TV in there. So we all are in there most of the time.

Please share a favorite recipe you’ve cooked or DIY project you’ve done (you can briefly describe, then link back to your blog/website – and I’d love a picture if you have one).
My recent project for my daughter’s room was fun! It was a set of nightstands for beside her bed.

When you are unmotivated, what keeps you going?

Honestly, I have to stop and do something that I enjoy for a few moments. There are days I schedule in “projects” and I would rather not do anything all day! So, I have to get myself motivated by starting small.

What sage advice would you give a young woman today who would like to marry?

Oh, my! Be teachable. I see so many young Moms and young ladies who feel they know it all. I was that way. Be willing to let old women share their lives with you – disciple you and encourage you to holiness and godliness. Learn to serve. You will be doing a lot of that once you married, but you need to do so for the glory of God. Not for what you get!

What were you doing thirty minutes before you answered these interview questions?

Working on my blog updating stuff!

What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?

I hate to disappoint, but I don’t drink coffee or ever go to Starbucks!

October 18, 2011

Great meals, less time -- sounds good to me!

I enjoy cooking dinner for my family (and I sure enjoy eating), but I find myself cooking the same meals month after month. And even as a stay-at-home mom, our family schedule sometimes leaves me with little time to spend in the kitchen.

A couple of years ago I found great resource: Eat at Home: Everyday Food for Busy People. On her blog, Tiffany shares great tips and recipes that allow her to save money by quickly cooking at home rather than ordering takeout when life gets busy. And now, Tiffany has a new e-book: Feast in 15: Speed Cooking for Weeknight Dinners. Packed with loads of recipes, as well as tips, tricks, menus and grocery lists, it's an great value at just $4.99.

Disclosure: I am a Feast in 15 affiliate and will receive a commission for those who purchase through the link on my site. Thanks!

October 14, 2011

Did I mention I love fall?

I'm really enjoying the advantages of living in the North Georgia mountains in the fall. (However, there may well be a post about the DISadvanges of living in the North Georgia mountains come winter.)

At least a couple of times a week, I head down a 4-mile country road to get into town. The speed limit on this road is 35 mph, but I find there are very few places where I can comfortably get up to that speed (although others do -- and I let them pass me). But I love this -- I love that I'm made to drive slow enough to notice the beauty around me. Here are a couple of pictures I took earlier this week on that drive.

On his way to visit a client on the other side of town recently, Jeff discovered a beautiful drive. We had a few minutes after running errands late yesterday afternoon, so he shared it with us. I'm thankful there was a scenic lookout for this first one, but wish you could see the fall colors as well as we did.

As we stood there, we watched a storm roll in...

and roll in some more.

We made it to the top of the mountain before the storm arrived, and it was just beautiful.

Yes, I do love fall.

October 11, 2011

Fall thoughts

I love the fall.

I grew up in the Valley of the Sun (the Phoenix area) where fall is about two hours long. One minute, the mulberry trees had leaves, the next minute, they were all on the lawn.

Fall in the North Georgia mountains is different. It meanders in, teasing first with a day or two of cooler weather in early September. I can count on each of my family members coming to me with a big grin, saying, "Oh, I feel fall in the air!" Never mind that it's September 5. When I just smile and tell them, "Don't pack up those summer clothes just yet," they call me a fun-sucker.

But come October, fall decides to come in earnest. Each day, we look for a tinge of color on the leaves. The dogwoods, my favorites, begin to turn first. {Dogwoods are just beautiful in every season.} The sun is slower to rise, and the mornings are crisp. And coffee just tastes better.

I get the urge to visit antique stores and craft festivals (probably a hangover from the years Jeff used to hunt on weekends). AnnaKate wants to bake; Jared wants to stay in the woods until dark-thirty. Christopher likes to wear sweaters (with flip-flops). And Jeff wants to build a fire in the fireplace.

We all look forward to our annual fall pilgrimage to Burt's Farm for pumpkins and pumpkin muffins, and Hillcrest Orchards for apples, apple cider, and apple donuts ("Welcome to Hillcrest!"). When our kids were younger, we'd picnic at Amicalola Falls and let the kids and the cousins wade in the creek until their little feet turned blue. Now that they are older, they prefer to wander around the Dahlonega square, sampling fudge and seeing what treasures they can find in the shops. One year, we watched the Blue Ridge Rifles run through their precision rifle drills at The Military College of Georgia.

In the fall, we're back in our school groove. We're thinking toward family get-togethers. We're more intentional about being thankful.

I love the fall.

What do you enjoy about fall?

October 5, 2011

My Hunger Games Blog Post

So, my daughter is hosting a Hunger Games blog event this month, and she just came in and informed me that I should write a blog post from the perspective of a 49-year-old Hunger Games addict. Just a couple of problems there...
  1. I'm not 49 years old.
  2. I'm not a Hunger Games addict.
She said she got mixed up because my hubby / her father is about to turn 50. I informed her that when he turns 50, I still will not be 49. Math has never been her strong point.

As far as the addiction issue, here's the deal. She was loaned the books. She devoured the books. She bought the books. Then my son borrowed and devoured the books. I'm always a bit leery of "hot trend" books, so I figured I might as well read them to be sure my children were not being exposed to a demonic plot (although, knowing the family that originally loaned the books, I wasn't overly concerned). And I enjoyed them.

Now there's a movie coming out in the spring. And my kids and their friends talk about the books, the movies, and the characters. Often. The only other book/movie series I've seen generate this much discussion between them has been Lord of the Rings (and, for the record, HG is no LOTR). Among my daughter and her friends, most of the discussion goes like this:

AKJ: Peeta is the best, most true, most courageous character EVAH!

Friend: No way, Gale rules!

AKJ: For pity's sake, go over to my blog and read all my reasons why Peeta is the best, and you will be converted forEVAH!

I have talked about Hunger Games with my friends, as well. The conversation has gone more like this:

Me: Did AnnaKate loan The Hunger Games to (your child)?

Friend: Yes.

Me: I hope (your child) enjoys it. Want to get some coffee?

Now I've written my obligatory post on The Hunger Games to fulfill my maternal blogger obligations. And I feel almost 49 now.

September 26, 2011

A Sweet Fall Sunday...

What a beautiful fall day today. I had the opportunity to hear my favorite pastor preach the Word at a small Presbyterian church in Northeast Georgia. We enjoyed meeting some sweet people and shared some good Mexican food with one church family. Before heading back home, we discovered lovely downtown Clarkesville, Georgia. Most of the stores were closed as it was Sunday, but we did hang out a a cute little coffee shop for a bit.

About halfway home, we finally succumbed to the call of one of many antique stores along the country roads. By the time we came out (just before they would have shooed us out for closing), the sun was beginning to set, highlighting the beginnings of fall color. So when we passed a beautiful stone barn, my wonderful hubby turned around to take me back to shoot a few pictures while the light was still magical.

All in all, a very good day.

July 3, 2011

Why I Make My Bed

I was thinking the other day about how many chores have to be done over and over each day. Like making the bed.

A few years ago, I remember a sweet newlywed friend laughingly telling me that she loves to sleep in, and if she got up to get a drink or something, her hubby would hurry and make the bed so that she wouldn't get back in it. An unmade bed didn't bother her at all (in fact, she found it quite welcoming!), but her military-trained husband liked things neat and tidy. (Now this sweet friend has three children, so her sleeping in days are over!)

Then I remembered a homeschooling seminar I attended once on managing a household and homeschool with many kids. Even though I was only homeschooling three, I figured I'd hear something helpful. Can't remember exactly what I gleaned from that seminar, but I do remember the speaker saying that making beds was a waste of time -- her kids just crawl back into them to do school, anyway! (Another tip from this homeschool mom: don't sort laundry, just throw in whatever you've got and wash it all together! I passed on that one, too.)

So why do I make my bed? 
  1. It instantly makes the room look neater. Even with a little clutter, a made bed looks infinitely better than an unmade bed.
  2. It minimizes distractions for my hubby. Our current bedroom is quite large, so it doubles as a home office / study space. Jeff prefers neatness, so making the bed removes one distraction for him.
  3. It helps with my laundry. The laundry room is in my bedroom closet, so I usually just carry things from the dryer to my bed and make a neat pile for each person to carry to their own room. I just can't do that on an unmade bed.
  4. It feels nicer to sleep in a bed that's been made, don't you agree?
  5. It promotes discipline in my life. It's not something I enjoy doing (although I do enjoy it once it's done), but it's something I need to do. So I do it. Most of the time.
  6. It sets a good example for my children. I expect them to make their beds daily. Why would I not do the same? And I've noticed that if one of the kids happens to come down to my room while I'm making the bed, they often offer to help me.
  7. It's good stewardship. Our home is currently up for sale, and I'm sure our landlord appreciates anything we do to make the home more appealing.
  8. It only takes two minutes. How many things can give this many benefits for just a two minute investment?
In the interest of full disclosure, I must say that my hubby makes the bed at least half the time... probably more often than that. If he sees it needs to be done and has a moment to do it, he just does it. Thanks, Jeff. And thanks to his mom for raising him that way.

Photo credit: Microsoft Office Clipart

June 18, 2011

Best Supporting Role

I finally got around to digging through family pictures today, looking for one or two of my dad to share. It wasn't as easy as I expected. He was absent from so many... probably often behind the camera while my mother and I hammed it up. In others, he was there, but in the background, simply observing as we carefully documented the birthday party, the grandchildren at play, the Christmas celebration.

That got me to thinking more about my dad. I have no doubt that he was a strong leader in our home, even when we were not the most faithful of followers. However, many of my best memories involve him in a supporting role.

My dad was a wiz at math. He could calculate things faster in his head than I could on my brand new Texas Instruments calculator. He apparently passed that ability on to my elder siblings, with none left for Carol and I. So when I moved into advanced math (for me, that was Algebra 2, Geometry, and something nefarious devised by ASU called Business Algebra), I was dogpaddling in deep water. Daddy walked in on one of my homework sessions and immediately deduced that I was frustrated, and even panicked, by my inability to get through it. (I think my tears were the giveaway). Recognizing that he could not help me wade through the mysteries of tangents and cotangents, he offered what he could. He first told me that he was so sorry that he couldn't help me, then he disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with three of my favorite things: Coca Cola, chocolate, and a hug. And I got through it.

Several years later, my mother had been helping me with wedding planning. We had visited a local rental shop to check out the candelabras and dripless candles, and I was disappointed to learn that the fancy, scrolled candelabras were almost double the price of the standard candelabras. I opted for the less expensive version and moved on. A day or two later, Daddy called me at work and asked me if I'd rather have the scrolled candelabras, because he'd go change the order if I did, no matter what the cost. That really touched me, and I'm sure I was tearful when I told him not to worry about it. Now that I'm a parent, I sometimes wish that I had accepted the gift he lovingly offered that day.

I watched my dad support our family over the years, both in his vocation  -- whether farmer, insurance salesman, real estate agent, or missionary -- and by his words and deeds. When I called home, he'd always ask how we were doing before passing the phone to my mother. When his schedule lightened and my mother was still working, I was amazed to watch my father develop his skills as a house spouse. He began cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and ironing. He even shopped at Walmart (which he referred to as "The Zoo"). And when my mother's health began to decline, he stepped in even more. When he remarried a Linda after Mama's death, she then became the recipient of his domestic gifts, for which she often expressed gratitude.

As I struggled through different circumstances as an adult, Daddy was always there to just encourage me in the Lord. He didn't offer any advice other than trusting in God's faithfulness unless I asked for it. As he grew older, he often expressed his readiness to go on home to heaven -- but he continued to invest in those on earth around him.

I don't know if he heard me tell him thanks for the life he lived that last time I talked with him. But I'm confident that he's living out the ultimate reward with his Father now.

May 22, 2011

Shopping... with a purpose!

Once more, I'm going to reroute you to my other blog... please stop by and meet my sister-in-law Michele, then consider participating in the benefit I'm hosting to help her with expenses related to her chronic medical condition and treatment. Thanks.

May 20, 2011

A giveaway!

But not here! Hop over to my other blog, Welcome to Willow House, to learn more. While you're there, check out the latest Willow House news... including the announcement of a jewelry division!

May 18, 2011

On reading...

A few of you ladies have been following my list of books I've read this year and have asked some questions. Those questions prompted me to think about what I've learned through what I've read this year, and it just seemed timely to write a post now that we're almost halfway through the year.

When I started Booklist 2011, I had several goals in mind. First, I wanted a way to record what I was reading in order to evaluate the balance in my reading. Second, I wanted to keep track of books I've read that I might want to revisit or recommend. Third, I thought some of you avid readers might enjoy seeing the list as you think through your own reading.

The list has been helpful in evaluating my first goal -- and in broadening my reading. So far this year, I've learned about Hudson Taylor, biblical womanhood, the futility of modern philosophical ethics, the Greatest Generation, Islamic terrorism in Darfur, and how to distress documents. I've visited Prince Edward Island, England, Ohio, Palestine, Israel, New England, and numerous high profile sporting events. I've even read the best first or last sentences of many classic pieces of literature. All without leaving my home.

At this point, I don't have a great master plan. We have many, many books here in our home -- fiction, non-fiction, classics, Christian -- and I sometimes choose something of interest from these. We also have a good library, and I always browse the new non-fiction book area first to see if anything strikes my fancy. This has done a lot to broaden my horizons. The library also has an interesting themed book display each month that I look at. I'm currently involved in two different business efforts, and sometimes this drives my search. I always take a look at my kids' books to see if anything interests me there -- or needs to be previewed.

I've loved having the list to keep track of the books, as well. I'm the worst at remembering titles and authors -- I sometimes forget I've even read a book (especially Agatha Christie mysteries, which tend to be pubished under multiple titles). One of the books I recently completed included letters written during the Great Depression. I'll want my daughter to read at least part of this book when she studies that time period in a couple of years, so I'm glad I'll have my list to refer to.

Several of you have let me know that you've enjoyed following my list, so my third goal was accomplished -- with the bonus that you've also shared what you're reading with me! I'd love to have more discussion like that, so keep it coming!

And happy reading!

May 5, 2011

Strutting my Stuff

I've been enjoying a new (to me) blog lately,Somewhat Simple. Talk about a mecca for ideas -- she's constantly sharing ideas and inviting others to share ideas -- and encouraging copycats (and we both know I'm a big copycat). Makes me almost wish I was back in my old Arizona stomping grounds to meet this girl and attend one of her girls' nights out!

When I saw her linky party this week, I couldn't resist relishing my little success with my mother-in-law's birthday gift once again and posting it. I'll bet you either having something to share over there, too, or you'd love to browse through the ideas others are posting, so join the party!

Somewhat Simple

May 3, 2011

A Smile to Remember

The last time I saw her, she was smiling. She and Daddy had driven out to Georgia from Arizona for my oldest child's high school graduation. This was an especially sweet time for me, as he was the first of our three children to survive my attempts at homeschooling.

We had a great time, that visit, just hanging out together. AnnaKate and I treated her (and she treated us) to a spa pedicure. I watched and laughed as she and Daddy played Uno with the kids, again and again. She probably brought a craft to do with AnnaKate; she usually did.

And there were lots of hugs, lots of laughs, lots of words of encouragement. As always.

As they left, Daddy let me know that he wasn't sure if she could make the drive again; the long trip was awfully hard on her.

But that summer, she seemed to thrive -- even in the Chandler heat. We had worked out a schedule for me to call and check on her whenever Daddy was out of town. I called her one Thursday morning, her day off, but she didn’t answer. I calmly left her a message to check in with me, thinking she might be in the shower. An hour went by, no call. Another hour, I called and left another message… more urgent this time, wondering to myself who would be best to call locally to check on her.

Within a few minutes, she called back. “Sorry, I forgot you’d be calling,” she apologized. “I got up and went shopping this morning at Walmart.”

“Walmart?” I asked disbelievingly, knowing she always dreaded the vastness of Walmart and usually just sent Daddy instead.

“Yes, I just went in and got one of those electric scooters and zipped all around the store!” she proudly reported with her sassy Texas accent. I would have liked to have seen that, and I’ll bet she giggled at least once while she was zipping.

By fall, she and Daddy were planning their 50th anniversary trip for December, a leisurely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. I was so excited and prepared a special trip box for them with a leather bound travel journal, traveling music, and other goodies. But then, shortly before their planned departure date, she developed shingles. I didn’t realize how painful shingles were, but even beyond the pain, I know they caused her frustration. Frustration at not being able to go to work. Frustration at not being able to take their trip. Frustration at having to wrap her arms, and at having this ugliness on her limbs.

She was mostly recovered from the shingles, but still not feeling well, when the holidays rolled around. She rallied her spirits, if not her body, enough to share Christmas Eve with my brother, my younger sister, and their families.

And then she was gone. Gone home to her Lord on His birthday, just a few weeks shy of her own 70th birthday. When Daddy called to tell me, it was just surreal. How could this woman, so full of life on even her worst days, no longer live? This woman, this mother of mine, had overcome so many things in her lifetime. Yet she would have been the first to say, “Not I, but Christ who lives within me.”

And at the end, at least the end from an earthly perspective, it was again Christ who overcame, this time overcoming death for her. And I am confident that this was the day that she really began to live, really live, more than she ever lived here on earth.

April 5, 2011

Why, oh, why do I homeschool?

Is it just me, or do all homeschooling moms feel tempted to quit their jobs around March each year? I think I heard Susan Wise Bauer say that she feels like quitting every October and March -- and we all know she's the uber-homeschooler -- so I don't feel too alone.

Maybe it's due to spring coming on. It's harder for all of us to keep our focus on academics inside when it's so beautiful outside.

Maybe it's the time change. We all feel like we're a little more sluggish since we crept forward early Sunday morning (there was no springing forward at our house). {Note: don't even get me started on Daylight Savings Time. This Arizona girl is still in mutiny about this}

Maybe it's the fact that we can almost see the end of curriculum... but we're not there yet.

Maybe it's the weight of needing to begin planning for next year while still trying to finish up this year. In the Atlanta area, we have two major homeschool conventions -- the first in early May, which requires me to begin thinking about the future... right now.  The second is at the end of July. We typically start school in very early August, so that's a bit late for me.

On the bright side, I've come to realize that any discouragement is my cue to remind myself of the reasons we homeschool. In no particular order, these include:
  • We love being with our kids
  • I can customize my children's educational plans to meet their needs and our goals, and I'm the first to know if they are struggling with something
  • I wouldn't trade seeing the light bulbs going on above their heads for anything
  • I'm encouraged each time I see that my children are learning to think, to process the facts
  • We can spend as much time as we like praying, teaching them about God, discussing a biblical worldview
  • Family flexibility -- we can make up sick days on our schedule, take vacations when everyone else is in school, and enjoy custom field trips
  • We don't have to start the day at dark-thirty
  • No offense, but our food is infinitely better than what is served in any cafeteria
  • It's easier to teach my children life skills when we are spending more time living together
  • I learn new things every day
And I'm so thankful that those blessings make it easier to remind myself to be content in this season.

March 22, 2011

Risk Taker? Join the Club!

I'm not a huge risk taker. I enjoy the occasional roller coaster, I'll eat certain kinds of sushi, and I own my own business. However, at this point, I don't think I would skydive, eat blowfish, or wear an alligator on my head.

Nester over at The Nesting Place had a cool idea for her blog today. She's created a holiday, National Take A Risk Day, and has invited risk-takers to link up with the post. I felt like it was very timely, as I'd just written this post about a project that I'd been quite uncertain about but decided to try.

One of the blogs I subscribe to (gotta love google reader) participated, as well. It was an encouraging insight into this mom's life and journey -- stop by and read it if you have time. And check out her gorgeous photography -- it always inspires me to try to take more (and more interesting) photos of everyday life.

March 17, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together!

I don't consider myself to be an especially creative person. I'm just a big copycat. And not a very good one, at that.

My daughter and I have a running joke whenever we go to the Yellow Daisy Festival or cute shops. I say: "We could so do that!" (as I'm making notes or sketches of some fantastically cute and creative thing). And she always responds, "Yes, but we never will." And she is right, 99% of the time.

So I saw this book at the library, I think it was called Bent, Bound, and Stitched. The author presented some very creative (and somewhat offbeat) ways to collage all sorts of paraphenalia -- old photos, ticket stubs, book pages, paint, wire, thread, you name it. And it just got me thinking about a project I want to do. It involves some old letters and photos from my parents. But it just hasn't all come together in my mind yet.

However, my sweet mother-in-law recently turned... well, a year that ends with zero. So it's a milestone. I wanted to give her something special, but I was just stumped. Then I remembered that other project I've been wanting to do. And some old photos I had, along with a letter and recipe that my sweet mother-in-law's own mother had mailed to me way back when I was a young bride.

And, somehow, I managed to pull it all together like this:

So often, my creative efforts just pale (or maybe fail) in comparison to what I had pictured in my mind. I was so happy that this one turned out just like I had hoped, and made a special gift for my sweet mother-in-law. I hope she enjoys it half as much as I enjoyed making it!

Shared on:

Somewhat Simple
It Pays To Be Cheap

March 13, 2011

Once upon a time, it was March 13, 1996. And then I blinked.

January 25, 2011

Thanks, Mama...

Jim and Anna, Dec. 19, 1955
Sometimes the full impact of a thing does not hit me right away. I had one of those moments this morning. For some reason, I remembered something that my mother told me years ago during a time of reminiscence, something about a hard decision she had been faced with. And this morning, finally, I think I fully comprehended the effect of that decision on my own life.

Mama and Daddy were married in December, 1955. They were really young, but in love, and were pleased to learn that Mama was expecting not too many months after their first anniversary. As the pregnancy progressed, her doctor discovered that Mama had some sort of heart problem. A serious heart problem, so serious that he was concerned about her body's ability to carry and deliver the baby. In fact, his medical advice to her was, "You need to abort this baby, and you should not have any children." What a decision for a still-newlywed 21-year-old to face. I wonder who, beyond my father, she might have confided in or sought counsel from. Her own mother had died years before; perhaps her sisters or my father's mother?

Ultimately, she had a decision to make. She decided to take the risk and carry the baby, rather than sacrifice that life within her so that she might live. She was on bedrest for a time, and hospitalized for observation before the due date, but she did deliver a healthy little girl. How she must have cherished that tiny infant girl, knowing what might have been.

Mama made another decision, as well. She wanted a family. Raised by her aunts and older siblings, moved from place to place, I wonder if she wanted to opportunity to create a strong family unit, building in so many things that she knew she had missed out on. I do know that she loved the Lord and wanted to share that love with her family.

So two years later, a boy was born. Four years later, I came along... and after a break of five years, another baby girl.

I'm certain that doctor believed he was advising the right things -- this was a good 16 years before Roe v Wade, so I don't have any reason to believe that he took the situation lightly. And yet, I am so thankful that my mother had a firm hold on the rightness and wrongness the options before her, and a faith in the God who had created this little life within her. I wonder, did she yet recognize that more than one life was at stake?

Anna, with AnnaKate, 1996
Because one baby was allowed to live (and my mother lived, in spite of her condition), three more were also born. Because those four children were born, they went on to have a total of twelve more children, my mother's grandchildren. Those grandchildren have gone on to have three great-grandchildren, with one more on the way. What lives within our family have been impacted... what lives beyond our family have been impacted.

All because a young wife and mother-to-be decided, "It's not about me."

While I'd love to be able to hug my mother today and tell her thank you for all of this, I can't. But she's with the Lord, and I know that she has a greater realization of His plan and His glory now than she ever had on earth.

Oh, that we might all seek to glimpse that here on earth.