Delights of the season

My husband and I just returned from a lovely time with my family.

We were treated royally by my parents, who hospitably hosted us and generously treated us to all sorts of wonderful things. My mother made delicious meals, helped me sew a baby quilt (far from perfect, but I like it and I doubt our tiny son will notice my imperfections), and shopped with me. My dad took me to lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant and gave me great big dad hugs. The whole family (parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, and two nieces) was together much of the time, eating, laughing, opening presents, playing games, visiting museums, taking a ferry ride, staying in a hotel, soaking in a hot tub (just feet for me), and laughing some more.

Highlights included a night out for my parents' 39th anniversary, a scrumptious Christmas dinner, an overnight trip to Victoria, seeing the 2010 Olympic Oval, watching our 10-year-old niece sing with her choir, and having great chats.

Thank you, Dad and Mom, for making our time there so extra special! Indeed, it was a very merry Christmas.


Boy oh boy!

We waited in suspense this morning as the ultrasound technician pointed out all different aspects of our little one's body. It was truly amazing to see little fists clench, tiny legs kick, wee feet squirm, and a small head turn. She measured the waist and the head, and showed us the baby's heart up close, and turned on sound so we could hear it beat.

Finally, she began to type, "Little..." That got my attention. My eyes glued even a little more firmly to the screen.

It's a little boy!

We are both delighted, my husband maybe a little more so, because he's really wanted a boy from the beginning, and has been next to positive in the past months that our little one is male.

Our little boy may be quite a handful. This could be a shocker because both my husband and I tend to be on the quieter side (as children and adults). He was squirming and wiggling all over, as if he were playing one of his first games of hide and seek with us. It was actually quite humorous, as he would pop up on the ultrasound screen for a few seconds and then sink back away into my uterus, with his hands in front of him. He was probably getting a bit disgusted with all the poking from the ultrasound wand.

I've already purchased his crib bedding; I had my eye on a great deal on a cute nautical set at Overstock.com. Most likely, it will still be online tomorrow, and for days after that, but I wanted to be sure. Poor kid doesn't have a name yet, but his nursery will be fully outfitted :-).

Oh, the joy of a boy! I can't wait to meet him.

Baby Phillips doing a little headstand for us. His head is on the bottom right.


A Comment Conundrum

Little S recently told me that she hasn't been able to leave comments on my blog in a few months. (Thank you for the head's up!)

I'm wondering if anyone else has tried to comment and run into the same issue. If you have, and you could let me know by sending a short e-mail to alison@ilacommunications.com, I would really appreciate it!

Have a conundrum-free day!


Just a week!

In just a week, I will have an ultrasound that should tell my husband and me the baby's gender. This is one of the most unique and exciting moments in all my life.

I love how God brings us excitement, but of all different shades so that we can enjoy life a little more fully. For example, the thrill of my wedding day and the beautiful wonder of a little one within me have evoked such different feelings in me—but both are utterly splendid.

Now, to wait a whole week...


Precious little life

Lately, I've been feeling tiny flickers of life from our precious baby. It's thrilling to have some real proof that the little one is stretching, growing, and learning how to be a person who can live on his or her own someday. It seems these sensations are a tad more frequent each day—or perhaps I am recognizing the feeling just a bit more.

I read that feeling an unborn baby move is like popcorn popping or a gold fish swimming. I don't know about you, but I've never swallowed kernels and hopped in the microwave, or downed a pet fish and experienced an opposite Jonah effect. I'm not sure that these descriptions were exactly helpful. But what I do feel are little flicks, as if someone is lightly flicking me with an index finger—except from the inside. That may be just as vague and hard to imagine, but I think it makes a bit more sense.

The whole concept of having a child who will live with us and be ours is getting a little more real and a little more exciting as the pregnancy progresses. It is still somewhat odd to think about—us changing our lives to be parents. I've heard many a person say since I announced the baby's May arrival that it will transform our lives more than we know. I imagine it will—and I can't wait.


A day for thanks

Tomorrow is a big day. For the first time, my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving dinner. (I've hosted many a Canadian Thanksgiving, but they were potlucks—I only had to provide the turkey, fixings, and beverages.)

It will be a small affair, with six adults and two little children. And others are bringing bread and dessert. Nonetheless, it's been fun to plan and prepare for a traditional dinner this year (although it may get less fun Thursday when I am fighting with the not-completely-thawed turkey and worrying over a new recipe for sweet potato casserole and dusting at the last minute).

It also brings to mind plenty of blessings:
  • Salvation and grace through Jesus Christ
  • My family, including my fabulous husband and our precious little one, due next May
  • Extended family (including a wondrous, recent transformation of one family member)
  • Friends
  • Plentiful food and warm home
  • Hugs
  • Music
  • Smiles
  • Oh, and did I mention the baby?

Have a splendid Thanksgiving Day, whether you're feasting or hosting or both!


A beautiful heart

Yesterday my husband and I were again delighted to hear the tiny heart of our little one beat: swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. It is a phenomenal feeling to recognize that a small person is growing inside of me. Some days, it's even hard to believe. But the heartbeat leaves no room for denial.

The doctor said the baby was squirming around quite a bit, which made it tricky to find the heartbeat for a few seconds. I couldn't feel him or her move, but it was fun to think about the wee one wiggling and imagine how it must look.

The next doctor's appointment in about a month brings more excitement: Finding out the baby's gender.

I hear over and over again that I should enjoy these moments since the child will soon arrive and our lives will be fuller than ever before. So we're trying to be patient, but we're also overflowing with anticipation. A boy? A girl? My husband is convinced our little one is a boy, but only time will tell :-).


Hello, second trimester

My first trimester of pregnancy took me a bit by surprise. Compared to some horror stories I've heard, it was nothing. Still, I underestimated the toll that the excitement/nervousness about being a parent combined with the hormonal-driven emotional roller coaster (my husband will attest to the fact that I haven't exactly hopped off), a little queasiness here and there, and lots of that very drained feeling would take on me. It put a damper on my motivation to work, to clean, to scrapbook, or to socialize. Obviously, I did those things during that time but I didn't do them as well—and I felt pretty blah the whole time. It didn't help that during that time I'd taken on extra commitments (before I knew I would become pregnant).

So here's to the second trimester, which I've just begun. For the past couple of weeks, I've been sleeping better, and feeling queasy only very occasionally. In general I have much more (read: normal) energy. For example: To get caught up with various work projects, one day last week I worked from 7:30 a.m. to midnight, and I was completely motivated and fairly energetic (at least before about 11 p.m.) the vast majority of the time.

Another positive on the way is maternity clothes, for two reasons: 1) While I'm not exactly thrilled to be spherical—as my husband kindly puts it—(although I am excited to be able to sort of see the baby is there), I really to want to wear those shirts and jeans I excitedly purchased at about the two-month mark. As the days slip by, I think, And I spent all that money for just six months—or less? I just own some basics so far, but I'd certainly like to get some wear out of them. 2) I have a very limited number of pants I can fit into at this point, and it's getting slightly old and slightly uncomfortable. But maternity pants sag a little still.

And the biggest bonus of the second trimester? That bundle of joy is a little closer to being in our arms.


The 100-page mark

I must admit I am quite behind on my catch-up-on-memories scrapbooking goal.

However, I have made some progress. Since my last update in early July (thanks to the retreat!), I've made 46 pages, landing me within two layouts of completing September 2007. If I were in line with my goal, I would have made at least 60 pages and/or be wrapping up pages that featured photos taken in April 2008.

Still, I try to comfort myself with the overall good news: Since I set my goal this past April, I've scrapped through about 13 months of memories in 100 pages (or 50 layouts).

There's also renewed incentive: I want to be caught up before our little one is born at the beginning of May so I don't fall behind on some of the most precious memories in our lives. (Plus I imagine nurturing my tiny bundle—and sleep for me—will be more of a priority than hours of catch-up scrapbooking at that point. :-) In order to do this, I'll need to complete September and scrap October this weekend, and then create three months worth of pages per month through April 2009.

So, getting caught up is a little muddy, but being caught up will be pure sunshine!

A summer 2007 trip my husband and I took to visit some friends
in Washington State, including the Little Nuggets.


A tale of crazy women

This past weekend I innocently attended a scrapbooking retreat with two friends, thinking there would be a couple dozen mothers lovingly pasting down photos of their children and adding precious little embellishments.

I was so wrong.

About 50 people filled the log chapel, cutting, arranging, and gluing. These were no cute little mothers. These were die-hard women (and even one man). A few seemed desperate. Now, I can't say that everyone fit into the crazy-for-scrapbooking category. But several did, clad in pajamas and greasy hair protruding from under baseball caps, obviously forgetting personal hygiene and common courtesy for the sake of their beloved books of memories. Others stayed up until the middle of the night, reluctantly put aside their adhesive and paper cutters for a few winks, and were back to work in the morning. One older lady told us that she laid on the couch in the chapel (not sure why she bothered to pay for accommodations) for just an hour each night, determined not to miss a moment of opportunity.

The most classic example was a woman who followed me into the restroom when I woke up to use it in the accommodations area at about 6:45 a.m. For some reason, her desperation led her to believe that 1)It was OK to harass a complete stranger while she was using the bathroom, and 2)I was the fount of retreat knowledge. Keep in mind that I was in the stall the whole time, so I never even saw her face. Our conversation:

Her: "Do you know how I can get into the scrapbooking room?"

Me (sleepily): "No, I'm sorry, I don't."

Her (slightly wailing): "I can't get in and all my stuff is in there!"

Me (thinking she's had a family emergency): "Oh, dear. Do you need to go home?"

Her (higher pitched wailing): "No! I want to scrapbook!"

Me: "Well, you could try walking around the camp and see if any staff members are up."

Her: "I did! I've been walking around for an hour. Do you know how I can reach the director?"

Me (thinking: Let the poor man sleep!): "Hmmm...maybe there's a sign posted on the office with a number you could call."

Her: "I tried that already; I couldn't get any answer. Do you know what time the room opens?"

Me: "I think at 7."

Her (reluctantly): "Well, OK."

An entertaining weekend to say the least. And I got 20 pages done and spent some great time with my friends.

Sometimes sunshine comes to life in, er, rather unexpected ways.


And then there were three...

I'm delighted to announce that our family is growing to three. Our little new little miracle, straight from God, will arrive in the beginning of May.

What inexpressible joy! I can't wait to hold our baby in my arms, caress little fingers, touch a precious nose, and softly tickle tiny toes. I can hardly believe the precious bundle will be ours.

Yesterday, I heard his or her heartbeat, which made the whole pregnancy seem a great deal more real. It made a gentle swooshing sound; I caught my husband's eye as we both grinned widely.

Now that's real delight.

One of our baby's first portraits, taken September 18


A day for thanksgiving

On days such as Canadian Thanksgiving, it's easy to miss my far-away family: parents, two brothers, a sister-in-law, and two nieces. But there is no shortage of friends, and they make celebrating the holiday a great deal more enjoyable.

Each Saturday before Thanksgiving, my husband and I welcome numerous guests (mostly Americans :-) for a big, potluck dinner. This year, 36 people warmed our home, including some children and a couple adorable babies. They brought sweet potatoes, fresh-baked bread, scrumptious pumpkin pie, and many more delectable dishes. They also brought laughter, cheer, and friendly conversation—so much for which to be thankful to God!

My favorite moment: One little girl, upon taking a bite of her dinner, exclaimed, "I love this place!"

Happy Thanksgiving!


So much joy

October may seem dull next to September, which is filled with birthday fun. A nephew wrapped up his first year; another turned four. Their adorable Western party was complete with cowboy hats and horseback rides. A neice celebrated her fifteenth birthday, and my husband and I turned 31 and 28, respectively. It was priceless when our four-year-old nephew called to sing my husband his rendition of "Happy Birthday." My in-laws celebrated 32 years of marriage, as well.

There will be at least one chance to celebrate in October—Canadian Thanksgiving. Even though I'm half American and have lived in the United States for more than a decade, I love to have a big dinner party, potluck-style, a tradition I began in college. Every year, the cool, crisp weather and changing leaves make me breathe a little more deeply and make me a little more grateful to be alive.

The glory of green

My husband and I enjoyed a splendid vacation to the Northeastern U.S. and the Canadian Maritime provinces in early September. We saw historic places and buildings on the Freedom Trail in Boston and little towns in Maine, and had the pleasure of spending time with two cousins and an aunt and uncle in New Brunswick.

The ultimate goal of the trip (from my perspective) was Prince Edward Island, where acres and acres of perfectly manicured, lush lawns were accompanied by red, storybook barns. Even though rain fell frequently, the trip was full of sunshine. We visited breezy, beautiful beaches, encountered friendly people, and spent time traipsing through Anne of Green Gables attractions (admittedly the reason we were there—I admired all the stuff of little girl dreams and imagined Anne herself, while my husband patiently accompanied me).

Even if I had never loved Anne or her playful, pretend world, I would still have deeply admired PEI. It is truly a beautiful part of God's beautiful world. As Anne once said, "The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn't it?"

Green Gables, a Canadian National Historic Site, sits on a perky green lawn on a very rainy day.
The building nearly became a clubhouse for a nearby golf course.

Anne Shirley's bedroom, in the Green Gables house around which the author created the story.


A day to celebrate

While I no longer celebrate with party hats, goody bags, and an animal-shaped cake, I do enjoy having a little fun on my birthday and just cherishing the day. It reminds me how much God has loved and cared for me the past year, and signals to me that He will continue to provide during the year ahead. When I think of His blessings, I am easily overwhelmed.

I also love family traditions: my husband sings "Happy Birthday" to me immediately when I wake up, my long-distance family members call and do the same, and my in-laws often kindly take me out to eat. And I get together with good friends (including one who shares my birthday) for some sort of party.

This year, my husband sent me flowers at work—very romantic! I was thrilled to receive them.

I love that God gives us little moments to celebrate, little moments of joy and family and hugs that remind us how good He is.


A little bit of happiness

My job is not a very upfront position. I like it that way. It is fulfilling to feel I'm having a significant impact through my work without dealing with any form of a spotlight (I get sweaty-palms nervous even when I have to make a little presentation).

At the same time, it's fun when someone makes a kind comment that makes me realize some people out there are benefiting from the work I do. So thanks, Kanakuk marketers, for passing on a little bit of happiness.


Book of love

For romantic occasions, I usually attempt to think of something creative to give my husband. There are two reasons for this: 1) I want it to be more meaningful than something I can pick up in five minutes at the mall, and 2) my husband is very non-materialistic (a wonderful quality) and doesn't always have a long list of gift ideas for me.

So, this year for our anniversary, I covered a little chipboard book that I found in one of my favorite stores, Archivers. Inside, I stuck down little pieces of paper, stickers, and other embellishments, as well as one of our wedding photos, all designed to tell Bill 100 things I love about him. (Thanks, Marianne, for sharing this idea at Pickled Pear Lane!)

It was quite a bit of work, but I'd wanted to try this type of thing of a while, so I'm glad I did it, and—most importantly—my husband is pleased with the result.


Two beautiful years

How happy it is to celebrate today two years of marriage with my wonderful husband! It was only about three years ago that I was convinced that I would never float down the aisle in a white gown and pledge my love to the man of my dreams.

Joyously, I did meet the man of my dreams—although I'm sure as a little girl I would have imagined him riding along on a white horse rather than decisively clicking through my profile on eHarmony.com.

And I'm sure as a little girl I would have never imagined the deep, lasting joy that true love and committed marriage brings.

Happy Anniversary, Bill! I love you with all my heart.

The day it all began ~ August 5, 2006


Ten crazy years

I spent last weekend at my 10-year high school reunion. In the day to day, I rarely pause to reflect on the past year, let alone the past decade. So it was an enlightening time to reflect on the people, places, and happenings of the high school years.

Certainly, 10 years makes a big difference in people's lives. Marriage and four kids, for some people. Exotic travel and new businesses for others. The most pleasant difference was the general absence of high-school behavior and divisions. Never remotely popular in high school, I discovered that the popular types—good looking, confident, friend- and opposite-gender-magnets—were actually very similar to me, both then and now. Most of us seemed to really struggle through high school for one reason or another, whether we put on a brave face or were more shy and under-confident like I was. Now, it seems, those high-school barriers have been removed and we can discover how much alike we truly are. In our more mature state, we're actually more similar than different in some ways—with a bond that comes from spending years of our lives together in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, South Dakota.

Another pleasant surprise was that most of my classmates seemed to have retained their core personalities. None had changed so dramatically that I had trouble believing I had attended high school with them. God had dusted off the immaturities and teenage awkwardness, revealing beautiful, adult souls.

I must admit that the negative memories that were a part of the high school muddle were not completely absent from the weekend. But more of it was about spending time together talking, laughing, traipsing through tourist traps, and praying together.

Certainly, my last two years of high school was not among the most pleasant times in my life. Moving in grade 11 to a different country—let alone to a boarding school where the kids were super close—was the source of many tears and a little bitterness at the time.

But seeing members of my class again makes me thankful I was part of the 19 of us that graduated from that small school, that I had such a unique secondary experience—and that I am here, 10 years later, to reflect on and be grateful for it.


Life's a picnic

I had not paused till recently to contemplate that phrase. Really, what is a picnic? It's fun and fresh air and pushing kids on swings, but it's also bees and flapping tablecloths and sand dancing on your face.

My husband's sister called up and wanted to have an outdoor meal Sunday, so we picked up KFC, packed a few necessities, and walked over to a nearby park to meet her and her adorable little boys. After we ate, I chatted with a lady in the park (she was there with a separate group from my church to celebrate a couple kids' birthdays) about the downfalls of picnics. There's the getting all your stuff together—and, in her case, getting her kids together—and leaving behind the comforts and, to some degree, safety of home.

There are little (and big) inconveniences, but there's that underlying joy of being outside and hearing children giggle and treasuring family time. Sometimes it's more fun than others, depending on the weather and the company.

Yep, life is a picnic.


Still scrapbooking

Amidst celebrating the Fourth with a family BBQ and fireworks, joining in the joy of some friends' first anniversary party (and losing at a newlywed game my husband and I were solicited to participate in—quite fun, but slightly embarrassing), teaching kids the essence of Romans chapter 9, and sleeping in, I worked on my scrapbook.

I had looked forward to this weekend (I even took a half day off today, just for fun) because I've recently managed to sidestep my scrapbooking goals completely. This weekend, I glued, cut, and created my way through 14 pages.

Since my last update in the beginning of May, I've made 34 pages, landing me within two layouts of completing April 2007. This is somewhat short of my 20-page-or-three-months-of-photos-per-month goal (I should have 40 pages done or be working on May memories), but I'm still pleased that I've made some significant progress.

Here's a layout I made this weekend about the fun my husband and our little nephew have together:

P.S. I must confess that my very first card (see previous post) had a spelling error. I discovered quite accidentally that yippee is spelled with two p's, and not one. My husband, being the sweet guy that he is, was content with his card, foibles and all.


Handmade Yipee

Today my husband had an exceptional work accomplishment, and I wanted to congratulate him in a special way.

But since I was supposed to be working, I had very little time. I thought of giving him a little card, but there was nothing appropriate in my greeting-card stash. I stared at my scrapbook supplies, still helter-skelter from my work last night on a Christmas 2006 page. And I thought, "Hey, I can make a card!" This may be logical to some, but I've never made a card from scratch and never thought I would. (I've always had the excuses that it was easier to buy one, and I needed to use all my craft time to get caught up on my scrapbook.)

So, here is my very first (and very quick) attempt at making a greeting card. I stuck it on top of his monitor with a few chocolate kisses and changed his screen saver to a marquee with a little congratulations message.

Yipee for Bill!


A Praying Day

The power and importance of prayer was just a little bit more real to me today. My niece and a friend's mom—who live thousands of miles apart—had surgeries in the early afternoon.

It was a coincidence that they were on the same day, but their being about the same time ensured I did not forget to lift both of them before God's throne. For different reasons, both were nervous about the surgeries and needed a healthy dose of heavenly peace. And of course both wanted their procedures to be safe and effective.

Thanks to God and the gifts He has given to the medical staff, they came through beautifully and are recovering. Thank you, God, for answered prayer today—when Your power seems close and Your light vivid—and every day.

My beautiful niece recovering in the hospital.


What I haven't done

It's been a while since my last post, and in that while I've been procrastinating blogging because I've felt I haven't accomplished much. I have had little time to scrapbook, and I haven't motivated myself to clean up the garden as I intended to do in May.

But as I reflected on life since I last blogged, I realized that life brings you little joys, even if you're not looking for them, and are swamped with work from two jobs, and are feeling stressed about certain aspects of your future. Here are some joys God has given me the privilege of experiencing recently:
  • A good friend of my sister-in-law's, who has become a fun scrapbooking friend, had a precious little boy with a head full of dark, soft hair. He's adorable indeed.
  • I visited my family and joined in on important celebrations—Mother's Day and my eldest brother's birthday—as well as the everyday delights of a picnic, stops at tourist attractions, and warm hugs.
  • A conference I attended left me inspired to write more—perhaps even a book someday.
  • I celebrated a friend's birthday with delicious food, deep conversation, and delightful smiles. And a party to celebrate more is planned for Sunday.
  • I cleaned out part of my closet and various areas of my house and piles of paper that ordinarily don't get as much attention as they deserve—a great feeling.
  • I taught Sunday school to second- and third-grade kids; the childlike prayers and innocent (but often humorous) questions and responses warmed my heart.
  • I laughed and cooked and prayed and cleaned and lived with my wonderful husband.

Accomplishments are important to me. I like to have checked off a list and made progress in projects I've assigned myself. But sometimes it's important to set aside organization and calendars and perfect plans and be surprised by joy.


Welcome, warm!

I'm loving the warm weather. What a pleasant ending to a terribly chilly Colorado winter!

This weekend, I hope to tackle the yard/garden with my husband. The garden is a pitiful little mess, and the lawn has some need of fertilizer and even grass seed in spots. I've been convicted lately because acquaintances of mine have been talking about the hours they spend on landscaping-type tasks, and our poor yard stands neglected without even a glance in its direction (except to cringe now and then). I have a difficult time caring about the outside of our house sometimes, which deserves at least some love.

Now with the splendid weather, coupled with the holiday weekend, I have no excuse. It will be more of a delight than a hardship to be outside, digging in the dirt and making things look a bit more attractive.

Thank you, God, for warm and lovely sunshine!

By the way, if you're a green thumb type and have any tips (or words of motivation) whatsoever, I would be most gratified to hear them.


Onward toward the goal

One day short of a month ago, I mentioned that I had created a scrapbooking goal because I am so desperately behind in my albums. I also wrote that I wanted to use this blog as a form of accountability in my scrapbooking.

So here's an update: Since I penned that post, I have completed 20 pages. This accounts for some of August, and all of September, as well as the vast majority of October 2006 (I still have two pages to do).

My original goal was 12 pages or three months' worth of photos. I've decided to make the schedule a little more agressive and do 20 pages (unless I complete three months of photos in fewer pages), lest I still be working on my photos from my first years of married life when I've got a cane in hand.

Here's a recent two-page layout:


Mother of mine

For the first time in many years, I will have the honor of sharing Mother's Day with my own precious mom (she and I live thousands of miles apart). I'm excited to be with her and to show her how much I appreciate her—both now, and for all she did while I was growing from baby to little girl to teen.

There are many, many reasons why she is wonderful. Here are a few:

1. She gives warm hugs and is almost always adorned with a cheerful smile.
2. She's been there for me at every stage of my life, blessing me with love each step I take. A recent memory: When I got married, she sewed my wedding dress, three bridesmaids dresses, two candle lighter dresses, and the ring bearer's pillow, and put countless hours into other special details.
3. She's talented at crafts and sewing.
4. She is an excellent cook. I love her scones, ice box rolls, roast beef dinners, and so much more. Yum!
5. She calls now and then just to chat.
6. She opens her home and her heart to so many people. In the past, she's taught Bible studies, ESL classes, and children's classes, had people over for dinner or tea, babysat young children to give mothers a break, volunteered as a youth camp cook, baked cookies for people, and done many other loving things about which I may never know.
7. She has a great sense of humor. Family gatherings are a joy.
8. She is very diligent, always keeping her home in order and working on her home sewing business.
9. She is caring and offers a helping hand or equally helpful advice to me and others in need.
10. She's smart, especially in the areas of math and science. She's a nurse, so she has great medical tips for me when I ask.

I love you, Mom!


I'm it!

Courtesy of Marianne, I've been tagged into sharing a few random facts from my life. :-) (Check below to see if you've been tagged, too.)

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was a senior in high school, eagerly awaiting my graduation and the promised contact lenses that came along with it. Perhaps I was in the woods behind my house, practicing my graduation speech (over and over and over...). Or I might have been telling my mom that I refused to have cake at my open house like everyone did. Instead I wanted chocolate-covered strawberries and goodies my grandma baked. I was excited to leave South Dakota behind and move with my parents back to my hometown—at least until the fall, when I moved away to college.

Five things on your to-do list:
1. Prepare a Sunday school lesson for a second- and third-grade class
2. Proofread a magazine (because it's my job, not because I am an obsessive grammarian, though perhaps I am; see bad habits)
3. Clean up my office/craft room (it's a bit crazy in there; again, see bad habits)
4. Clean the bathroom
5. Clean out a bathroom drawer that has gotten out of hand

Five snacks you enjoy:
1. Avocados
2. Cheese sticks
3. Craisins
4. Hard-boiled eggs
5. Sonic's strawberry limeade (maybe not technically a snack, but I love it!)
6. There are so many more...but I have to stop.

Five things you would do if you became a billionaire:
1. Open a home for needy/abused children and offer them a brighter future
2. Visit every continent (I've never been outside of North America), visiting my Compassion child at some point
3. Invest in my husband's business and elsewhere
4. Quit my job and volunteer instead (see number 1)
5. Pay off the house and redecorate

Five bad habits:
1. I edit everything. I jab my husband in church when there's a misspelling or grammar error on the PowerPoint slide (and sadly, there are many). I can't read a book or a magazine without a terribly critical eye, and then I shout triumphantly when I find an error. A little dorky, yes. A bad habit for sure.

2. I check my personal e-mail at least every hour during the day. This has been described as obsessive. It's also not great when I'm supposed to be focused on work. One benefit: At least you know that if you e-mail me I will get your note almost immediately.

3. I am not, shall we say, the neatest person who ever lived. (See to-do list above.) It takes some effort for me to maintain order; I wish I were better about having habits that fostered, instead of fought against, neatnicity (not a word, I realize). For example, piles of papers don't do anything for a tidy room. I'm working on this one.

4. I tend to be late more often than early. Fortunately, with the positive influence of my husband, whose firm belief is that if you're not early, you're late, I have been more timely recently. At least a bit. Yipee for my husband!

5. I steal covers. This only affects my husband, and in my defense, I do this while I am completely unconscious, and I have no malicious intent whatsoever.

Five places you've lived:
1. Richmond, British Columbia
2. Miller, South Dakota
3. Siloam Springs, Arkansas
4. Goldendale, Washington
5. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Five jobs you've had:
1. Painter of high school lockers, doors, and dorm rooms (it was a boarding school)
2. Deli girl (made sandwiches, scooped ice cream, ran the cash, etc.)
3. Newspaper intern (three times over)
4. Small-town reporter (three whole months of that was plenty)
5. Freelance writer

Tag, you're it! Becky Zwicker, Jessica Barnes, Jessica Mertz


Gotta get a goal

This past weekend, I went to a one-day scrapbooking extravaganza. As I walked in, the 1,500 people in attendance—all busily cutting card stock and taping down photos at paper-covered tables—gave me the feeling that I was going to a convention for some kind of cult. (One of my friends likened it to a Star Trek Convention.) People were rolling in bags and bags of supplies; one lady I saw had a whole luggage set packed, I'm sure, with punches, pages, and embellishments of every shape and size. (It made my two medium-size bags look rather like tiny purses.)

I got 10 pages done; some of the five friends I went with got 25 or more pages completed. I'm not the speediest, I'll admit. But I still have fun—especially when scrapbooking with delightful friends.

While fun is fabulous, the reality is that I am only now wrapping up the pages featuring August 2006 photos. (This is in part because my first attempt at scrapbooking was to preserve memories of my August 2006 wedding; I made three albums containing dating and wedding photos, which took me almost a year.) So I've decided to set a goal: 12 pages or three month's worth of photos each month, whichever comes first. At this rate, I will at least be up to date by the time Christmas comes to town (in all its dozens-of-photos-from-many-parties glory).

I'll post about my progress and share one of the pages I like best each month. This, I hope, will keep me motivated and get all my photos neatly into albums.

Here's one to start; it's the first—and only—page I've made since the event. It's the final page in my wedding album; I've been procrastinating it for a while.


A brand-new miracle

One of the most beautiful things in life is a precious baby, fresh from God.

In an earlier post, I mentioned a friend of mine was expecting a little boy. She had him Friday; he was perfect, with an adorable little tuft of black hair. It was such an honor and delight to meet him and hold him and watch his dark, tiny eyes open just a little.

Somehow, all seems right with the world when a gift of such precious proportions is in my arms.


An Easter hug

I was walking through the grocery store today toward the egg section (so my husband and I can enjoy some egg-decorating) when out of the corner of my eye I saw a little girl. Before I knew it, I had been hugged. Startled, I looked down and saw it was a child who is in my Sunday school class.

What a surprise of love and joy! It truly made my day.

Later, I reflected on the fact that her hug, in some small way, represents what Easter is all about. God surprised us with love when He sent His Son to die and rise again for us. We didn't deserve it and we didn't expect it. And that love, when accepted as a free gift, produces unspeakable joy—now and forever.



I was upset the other day by what some so-called systems of faith have done to damage their adherents, and how those adherents are so horribly blinded to any sense of truth.

This was brought on, in part, by reading the blog of a girl who was forced to disown her teenage sister because her religion demanded it as a requirement to gain favor with God. Around the same time, a couple who is part of a cult stopped by our door. (My husband was delighted; he loves the opportunity to share God's truth with people, and what better opportunity than when someone comes to your house and asks to discuss religion?)

So it was out of this frustration and a small hope to attempt to spread some rays of sunshine and truth in these lives that I've started a new blog, Talking Religion. I am not convinced about how long it will last, but I do hope to muse for a little while about the importance of honesty with self and God and the seeking of a true and vibrant faith, not a stale, forced one.

Check it out some time if you like, and let me know what you think.


A tiny new beginning

Spring is my favorite season. The warm air, pretty blossoms, and windy afternoons breathe freshness into the everyday and offer hope of a new beginning after a winter of shivers, snow, and blah moments.

New life is a significant part of the season, too; baby birds and tiny flowers appear. Easter is a beautiful reminder of spiritual rebirth.

But what better way to celebrate warmer days than not just to wax poetic and treasure springtime symbolism but to really welcome new life? My friend is having a precious little boy in a couple of weeks; this weekend I had the pleasure of hosting a baby shower for her. She had a glorious glow (even though she said it's just because pregnancy makes her feel warm all the time).

Babies are born every day and I think for this reason I fail sometimes to see the miracle they really are. To think that only nine months ago this child didn't even exist—and now he is preparing to poke his head into the world and see the faces of those who already love him dearly. Every tiny body part—from little lips to squirming toes—will be in perfect proportion, lovingly formed by the Creator of all.

He will be fresh from heaven, just in time for spring.


Bright Sonshine

This past week wasn't one of the sunniest—but it sure had plenty of Sonshine.

There were some big struggles within our itsy-bitsy family. They were so big I suppose, because they were very closely tied to our hoped-for future and left deep doubts in our minds. They warred against rationality and unity and applauded perplexity and tears.

Until Wednesday.

On Wendesday, things started looking up for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a very gracious and loving act by some people in our lives. We went to church in the evening, as we do most weeks. There, the pastor, who of course had no idea about the kind of week we'd had, offered hope from the Son, Jesus Christ. And most of the songs we sung were focused on the fact that God is truly God and worthy of worship, no matter if we feel like He is or not because of the woes of our week.

It was there, at church, that I truly felt Sonshine. The pastor explained that if you hold a quarter close enough to your eyes it will literally block the sun's light. But if you hold it back a little, you can see the sun, much more brilliant and beautiful than the quarter. So it is with problems. If you hold them too close, they can block out everything beautiful—including and especially God. However, if you find ways to step back—whether by praying, reciting God's promises, or just taking a walk and getting some fresh air—you'll gain a welcome, fresh perspective that is mostly God and just a tiny bit problem. The issue doesn't disappear, of course. But you see it differently, are less obsessive about it, and realize there is much more to life than this one difficulty, even if it may seem worse than impossible at the time.

Thank God for Sonshine.


So you want to be a housewife...

Yesterday morning, reflecting on certain frustrations at my job of late, I said to my husband, "Maybe I can be a housewife..."

His quick reply: "Uh, uh. You can't be a housewife unless we have kids."

I tried: "But I could keep the house really clean and you wouldn't have to do any of it—you could do whatever you wanted."

"Hmmmm..." he paused.

Amazing how convincing the no-housework-for-you argument can be :-).

When I returned to reality, I thought about the importance of contentment. For the moment, becoming a housewife and escaping 8- to 5-woes seems next to heaven. But if I think on just a teeny, tiny big past the satisfaction of quitting, I can think of lots of problems with becoming a housewife.

Cleaning and cooking—and only cleaning and cooking—everyday would get old probably within a week. And then I'd start looking for a job because I simply cannot stand to be idle and feel useless (not that housewifery—a word?—is necessarily useless), which would promptly propel me out of my week-long homemaking career and into the workforce I had intended to leave behind for good.

Contentment in every area of life—not just in my not-always-delightful job—is so often difficult to come by. When I was single, a pastor told me that when he was single, he wanted to marry. When he married, he wanted kids. When he had kids, he wanted them to be old enough to vacation and play with. The quest for contentment never ends, he said, unless we make the choice to be content right now.

How's that choice made? Daily, I suppose. Every time I've purposed in my heart to be content for the long haul, it's never quite worked for me. Others probably have more discipline, but with just one day ahead of me, the decision for contentment doesn't seem as overwhelming. It's doable.

Now if I could just be a housewife...


So many blessings

In Bible study last night, the leader asked us to close our eyes and think of the blessings that God had given us within the week—and then thank Him for them. She provided a litany of inspiring suggestions, and the goodness of God flooded my mind.

I thought of my husband, my home, my friends, my family, my health. I thanked God for the smell of flowers, the warmth of hugs, the joy of conversation, and the simple pleasure of breathing in fresh air.

I try to thank God for his blessings daily in my prayers. But how often do I truly soak them up and attempt to express a sense of overwhelming gratitude to my Creator—and then realize the wealth of gifts I've received makes that impossible?

To take the time to do that is a blessing in itself.


What blessings do you have? I'd love to read about them in my comments section.


A spring wish come true

It has been terribly cold lately. The weather has necessitated lots of bundling up and carting around heavy jackets. And I have been saying over and over, "I can't wait for spring!"

But this weekend, it was beautiful—60 degrees, in fact. I celebrated with a trip to see a wonderful friend I haven't seen in months. We ate brunch, and walked around and went shopping at an outdoor mall. On Sunday, I took a lovely, scenic walk with my husband and actually wore a T-shirt.

Now, it may not be spring-like for long, but while it is, I'm going to treasure the sunshine!


A tea bag gone wild

I love tea. I have boxes and boxes of it—mostly herbal—in such delightful flavors as apricot honey bush and vanilla chamomile. There is something about it that simply soothes the soul (and provides a bit of warmth on chilly Colorado days).

So I when I stepped out of the cold into the church where I'm attending a Bible study, I immediately sought out tea. I was talking to a friend I am getting to know better lately, and fiddling with the tag that is attached to the string that is attached to the bag. While to most these mechanics are obvious, they weren't to me. Suddenly, the tea bag leapt out of the cup and splashed onto the table. Fortunately, the damage seemed to be limited to a small pool on the table and a now-wet handout. I smiled nervously at the fifty-ish women sitting across from me. Yikes.

That was muddy, yes, but it did reveal a beautiful ray of sunshine. My friend (who is very pregnant) immediately saw that I was in the middle of a humiliating situation and walked over to the snack counter to get me several napkins. While I was sitting there looking lost with a soggy napkin and a dripping handout, she came back, swept the wet papers out of my hand and replaced them with dry alternatives. When she returned a second time, she brought me a fresh handout. I think it helps that she has a two-year-old and knows how to deal with silliness like this, but I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with how kind she was to help minimize the awkwardness of a not-so-happy situation.

So, although I decided that friendship is no longer my primary motivation for attending the Bible study, I am filled with the kind of joy that comes from getting to know a new friend—one who will like you, tea-bag toppling and all.


The joy of forever young

I joined a Bible study recently, initially in the spirit of meeting new people. I also wanted to learn more of God's Word but I have to admit that wasn't my primary focus (please attempt not to gasp at my honesty :-). I had already joined a Bible study through my own church for that purpose, and wouldn't have joined another at the same time had it not been for the friendship factor. I have only lived in this town for a year and a half and I feel I've met the majority of people I know so far through my church. Expanding the circle of people I am blessed to know was the goal.

Anyway, I've only gone a couple of times so I cannot for sure judge if I'm going to make fabulous friends or even a few acquaintances. What I do know is I am overjoyed with what I am learning about the Bible.

Yesterday, the speaker said something profound. She said that our soul will never die, a well-known fact at least among Christians. The joyful part of this is that there is no need for our soul to ever get old. So we can (and perhaps should) always be young in spirit, even if we live to have wrinkles and canes and false teeth. We can sing in the shower, dance while we're making dinner, and shout "I love you!" to our husbands at random moments.I think it's an unfortunate thing that many people's spirits do whither along with their bodies. They shouldn't. They should bloom. It is as if they are growing into a more incredibly beautiful flower each day, reaching toward heaven.

I've decided that if I make new friends through this Bible study, I will be delighted. But if all I do is sit and soak up the wonderful insights, I will still be filled with joy.


A new year!

It's been a long time since I've written, which perhaps wreaks havoc on the very definition of the word blog. It's quite past time to do something about my silence.

There has been plenty of sunshine and a bit of mud in my life—nothing too unusual. In 2007, I spent my first whole year as a mrs. You'd think I were a liar if I told you that it was all bursts of joy and laughter, so I won't bother. There were squabbles now and then to be sure, but I can honestly say that I am the happiest I've ever been. It is such a beautiful thing to be married, especially in the light of God's love and grace. He has blessed us indeed!

The day our lives began as one: August 5, 2006

Another ray of sunshine in 2007 was a new hobby: scrapbooking. I am not a crafty girl, and have never stuck with a single craft in my life. Sometimes, I didn't even wrap up the project I was doing. I've tried knitting, cross stitch, sewing, latch-hooking, potholder making, and other little projects my most crafty and talented mother dreamed that I would achieve. (Good thing mothers have high hopes for their children, or she would have given up on the first one.) So, naturally, I did not think scrapbooking would survive the craft-less life I live. I thought I'd try it out because I really wanted to make an attractive wedding album. Well, I didn't give up on it and I even completed (mostly) my wedding album and am off to the rest of our short married life. Further, I have so many supplies for such a short time engaged in a hobby that it is bordering on completely ridiculous.

My latest scrapbook page

Perhaps I will leave the mud for another time...the sunshine is too beautiful!
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