Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Day Photography Challenge!

I don't know about you, but one thing I love about life is that there is always something new to learn, something to try, or another way to stretch and grow. (As I write, our family literally just got on a highway we've never been on to travel to a state we've never been to!)

But, let's reign this in and focus on one of those things that everyone, even professionals, wants to be better at-photography. So, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to snap a picture every day for the next thirty days beginning August 1.

Here's the list we'll be working off of:

You can host your pictures however you like... Make a public album on Facebook, Snapfish, Picasa, yfrog, your blog-doesn't matter where you upload them, as long as you can link us back to them. At the bottom of each day's post, you'll find a linky box. There, you can title your link and enter the URL of your photo for that day/category. Then we'll be able to see each other's pics!

A couple of notes for those who will use Facebook... I figure that will be the most popular hosting site. When you create the album, be sure to make the privacy setting "public" so everyone participating will be able to see your work. On your computer, when you open the photo to view it, right click on the photo. Its properties will display. You'll see it's URL about halfway down. Copy the URL that ends with jpg and paste that into the linky box on my blog.

Facebook is being a stinky pants about linking up.

I recommend that you create a public album on one of the hosting sites for all of your Photography Challenge photos or a blog post with your entry each day.  You'll either have to grab the url code of the photo itself by right-clicking it and "copy and pasting" the line that ends with "jpg" or copy the url in your browser to enter in the link tool posted at the bottom  of each day.  This allows you to see what the others who are participating have done and lets them see your work, too.

Also, be a friend and like people's posts.  It's encouraging to get positive feedback!
 If you have questions, I'm happy to walk you through it!

My plan is to have the post available at 12:01am each day of the challenge, so that you can link up whenever it's convenient during the day!

Who's with me?

Steps to Participate:
1. Take the daily photo
2. Upload your photo to a photo-hosting site or your blog. Facebook is being a stinky pants and not sharing.
3. Grab the url code of the photo by right-clicking it and "copy and paste" it into the link tool posted at the bottom of each day.
4. Check out other people's work. Be a friend and like people's posts. It's encouraging to get positive feedback!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things: Summer Blog Swap!

I participated in another of Meredith's famous blog swaps.  It's like a party in your mailbox!  If you get the chance, you should play along sometime.  This time, the theme was "A Few of My Favorite Things".  We were matched up with a partner and we were to send a brown paper package with something orange, something funny, something we love, something that cost $1, and something sweet to our partner.  If you want more info, you can check out {the rules}!  Then, we all participate in {the link up} to show what everyone sent and received.

I was matched up with {Kelly}.  I've never met her, so I did a little blog stalking research.  (I kid! I kid!)  Part of the fun of this was to getting to know someone new!  I found out she and her hubby like to do home improvement projects, like Jeremy and me, and that she loves her pooch, Bridger.  Kelly is super sweet and patient.  I got a little side-tracked on getting my package to the post office on time, but it DID arrive!

In my haste, I forgot to take a pic of the contents of my brown paper package I mailed, but Kelly said I could borrow hers.  Thanks, Kelly!  Here's what I sent:
Something orange:  An orange lobster doggie toy for her beloved dog, Bridger
Something funny:  A set of "Greetings from Crazyville" note cards.  They totally resonated with my life and pretty much every girlfriend I know!  I should pick up an extra pack for my {50 Things in 365 Days-49. Send 10 Just for Fun Cards}.  Hope you like them, Kelly, and hope they help you keep in touch with the important people in your life.  :)
Something that costs $1: A cute little cardboard box.  It's take-out box-esque and matched everything perfectly.  It's holding the Jelly Bellies (we'll get to those in a sec), but maybe it'll be useful for containing some other treasure.
Something I love:  Popcorn.  Most Sunday nights it's what's for dinner.  On occasion I've been known to go to the movies just for the popcorn.  Sad, but true.
Something sweet:  1 lb of Tropical Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.  As much as I like popcorn and a host of other foods, I still believe jelly beans in general should taste like fruit.
And because I'm ridiculous an overachiever ...
Something extra:  A fun see-through orange with colorful dotted bangle bracelet
Something extra:  A pair of hot pink earrings to match the summery bracelet

Something Orange: Extra Dessert Delights Dreamsicle gum

Something Funny: Talladega Nights.  I've never seen it, but Ricky Bobby claims it's the best movie ever made... course it's his ballad, so he might be a tad biased!  Looks like a good reason to pop some popcorn and laugh. 

Something that costs $1: A Target shopping bag, which happens to be perfect for cultivating my inner green person.

Something that I love: Essie polish in a juicy coral shade.  Helllloooo, summer time fingers and toes!

Something Sweet: Big box of Starburst, which will be perfect for snacks on our road trip to New Mexico coming up this weekend!

Thanks for the brown paper package all tied up with string of goodies, Kelly!  Nice "meeting" you.  Maybe one day, we'll meet in real life!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lessons from Dad

The single most important lesson my dad taught me was:

"You can do anything you put your mind to."

I don't remember him saying it often when I was a kid.  Maybe he did and I just didn't realize it.  Even if he didn't say it often, it left an impact on me because I can say with confidence that from the time I was a pre-teen I knew that he believed that about me.

And he still does.  My sister reminded me of it this week.

Last weekend, Lexi and I took a trip up to his house to see family.  (It was great to see them all!)  I shared the news of what I'd been thinking about in regard to my {job} and got a little feedback on the most current related events.  My sister, {Jill}, got to stick around longer than the rest of us and dad must have said something to that effect to her, because she reminded me of it this week.

And it was just what I needed to hear.

"You can do anything you put your mind to."

It applied in Kindergarten when I thought I was supposed to be an astronaut.  It applied when I was seventeen and looking at a world of possibility.  It applies today when there's a big question mark about what comes next in my career.  And I'm confident that it will still apply many years down the road.

Knowing that my family members (and even a select few friends) truly believe in me feels like a life raft in these uncertain times.  And I'm so very thankful for them!

And Dad, thanks for seeing the good in me and saying it.  I think I'm feeling pretty inspired to pursue my dreams.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Where to begin?  I guess I'll start at the bottom line and work my way from the start to the end.

Change is coming.  There is no getting around that.

I guess a little over a year ago, God started ruffling the nest.  I have a great job with a wonderful company, for which I am extremely grateful.  My supervisor had just left and I had really gotten the hang of what I was doing, so I began thinking about what direction I wanted to go.  I've proceeded to dream and daydream about what I would love to do next.  That mental journey has taken me down many paths that I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that it has been a process that has caused me to dig deeper into my true passions and what I'd really like to pursue.  As of now, those mental travels haven't led anywhere.

Fast-forward to this spring.  My business unit announced that there would be a reorganization of our company.  I'm admittedly still somewhat green in the corporate world since the vast majority of my career years were spent in youth ministry at a local church.  So, I've just been trying to soak up what that entails like a human sponge.  We were told that it meant a 10-15% decrease in the workforce.  We were told that everyone under the business unit president would have to post for a position, even if it is the same position.  It's like a giant game of Boggle, but you're guaranteed leftover dice.  On Monday, I got my first look at the new organizational chart.  It's still fairly unclear, since there are no job descriptions attached to the titles yet.  But, if I were to identify what seems to be the "Conference Center Cooridinator"'s parallel role, I'd guess it was the new "Event Planner" position.  The trouble is, there are two of us and one position and who knows how many other people who would like to apply for it.  There will be other roles for which I can apply, but nothing has stood out to me as a perfect fit yet.  As for time frame, I am scheduled to apply near the end of September and would be told whether I have a position at the end of October.  The new organization is effective November 1.

So, that leaves me with many decisions to make...
and what is weighing on my heart is what do I really want to do?
What is in the very best interest of my family?
What has God been preparing me to do next?

If you're a praying person, I'd ask your prayers:
that God would illuminate the next step
that I'd have faith to follow and wait

With a heavy heart and a chin that I keep redirecting up,

UPDATED:  They updated the organizatin chart to include two Event Coordinator positions.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spotlight Saturday: Jill

Spotlight Saturday:  Jill
In case you missed it, what's {Spotlight Saturday} ?

Meet my beautiful sister and my BFF, Jill
That's her hubby, Ryan, and son, Aaron.

I don't remember meeting Jill.  She's been there ever since I can remember.  I was not quite two when they brought her home from the hospital.  Mom tells me that I may have been a tad jealous.  She said she heard me once, patting Jill on the tummy saying, "Nice baby, nice baby, nice baby, BAAAADDDD BABY!" and whacking her.  Not exactly my favorite story, but I was two, so whatcha gonna do?

Here's a little bit of eighties eye candy.  I'm kidding, of course.
Eighties kid pictures are always fairly on the awesome side, so behold and enjoy my baby sister and me...

We've been through a lot together.  We've dealt with things in different ways.  But the thing we always come back to is that we're sisters and we have each other forever.

To the outside world we all grow old.  But not to brothers and sisters.  We know each other as we always were.  We know each other's hearts.  We share private family jokes.  We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  We live outside the touch of time.  ~Clara Ortega
She inspires me.

If Jill is about anything, she's savvy about it.  Since she's my sister, let me take you back to ballet class when we were really little to illustrate.  Mom signed us up for ballet.  We wore our leotards, tights & slippers, put our hair up in buns, and went to class.  I lined up with the class and practiced first through fifth positions on the barre.  I plie'd and pirouette'd.  I danced and Jill sat and observed.  Every class.  That is, until we had our recital in the mall.  On that day, Jill got up and danced with us.  I think in some ways she still observes until she is confident, but then she jumps in and shines with confidence.  There are times I watch her navigate things in life with so much poise it that looks like she's been doing it forever.  Yeah, I want to be savvy like that.

Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer.  ~Louise Gl├╝ck
(I almost cried when I read that!)

Along with that she's a learner.  Jill always wants to continue growing and thinking and trying new things.  We've been laughing lately at how that passion has had her up to her elbows in top soil.  She's taken up city gardening in the heart of Chicago.  Jill is brilliant. She has a degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M.  She recently graduated from Harrington College of Design.  She has an insatiable desire to learn and to grow.  In college, we did a course that included a series that taught us on of the Laws of the Teacher is that the teacher is a learner.  Her hunger for learning has, on many occassions, caused me to want to dig into a subject a little deeper-so, yeah.  She's a teacher, too!

Jill is super compassionate.  She feels you pain and your joy with you.  She's one of the first people I want to call when something happens because I know she's going to feel it with me.

She balances that with knowing where to draw the line.  That's not an easy skill to have.  When push comes to shove, Jill knows the appropriate time to say, "That's enough.  I will not allow ______."  Boundaries are healthy.  I lived far too long without proper boundaries, so I know the consequences of that.  Maybe those very boundaries are what allow her the freedom to be as all-in and as present as she is.  I really admire that and I know that's been an area where I have need to change drastically.  She has certainly been an example to me in that.

Jill is a great mom.  Aaron is a lucky kid.

Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of.  You know whatever you do, they'll still be there.  ~Amy Li
She's my best friend.  The time we have together is too little.  I'm so thankful that we can just pick up where we left off and have the best time together, no matter what we're doing.  We have awesome deep conversations.  I know her so well and she knows me so well, that we don't necessarily have to say all the words.  My kids love their Aunt Jill cause she's silly.  We have crazy, stupid fun together.

Maybe I shouldn't even show you this because it really is humiliating.  Like, humilating.  Just try to laugh and still love me, okay?  So, this photo of Lexi and me was taken in Chicago on the weekend of her wedding.  We decided to go to Dunkin Doughnuts one morning.  I had planned for "rehearsal dinner clothes" and "travel clothes" and "wedding clothes", but I didn't factor in "hang out clothes".  So we decided to "make it fun" by going in our pajamas.  I had packed us patterned pajama pants, cause that's what we had.  I also packed patterened hoodies, cause that's what was in style.  Oh, and I didn't pack any casual shoes for either of us... the most casual thing we both had were wedge sandals.  You can enjoy the overall effect here.
Thus the "Dunkin' Diva" was born.  And she's been a joke ever since.
Like mother, like daughter.  The doughnut people were stifling laughter.  So, we decided to hold our heads high and rock the look.  If you know Lexi, this may have permanently affected her fashion sense and self esteem.  There's a reason we call her {Punky Brewster} around our house.

"Thinking caps"

Sister to sister we will always be,
A couple of nuts off the family tree.
~Author Unknown

That's just how it is with Jill.  We laugh.  We act a little crazy.  We make up stories and challenges and signals.  Now that I'm saying it outloud-ish, it's a wonder we don't have a secret handshake!  {Here's} another adventure, if you're interested.

A fun life is an inspiring life.  Jill radiates fun.

Jill, words are never enough to tell you what you mean to me.  Thanks for being my sister.  Thanks for being my friend.  Maybe some wiser people can say it better than I....

How do people make it through life without a sister?  ~Sara Corpening
She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities.  She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway.  She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark.  She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink.  Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.  ~Barbara Alpert
There is no better friend than a sister.  And there is no better sister than you.  ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Taking the doors off!

Tonight was girls night out with my best girl...

We went bowling with bumpers, of course.  And Lexi scored 82!

 This girl is so hilarious!  Here is a sampling of some of the gems she came up with while we were out:
Lexi:  Do you think you could take me on a date, say for example, to see some Israelites?

Lexi:  I'm going to Facebook my friend.  He's a boy.  His name is Jimmy.  Jimmy John.
Me:  Does he make sandwiches?
Lexi:  Yes.  Yes he does.

Lexi:  Do you wanna take all the doors off your car and make a motorcycle?

Lexi:  Can we get an earing fo my dog named Bella?

Due to an unfortunate incident involving Justus' phone, a pocket and a washing machine, Lexi has inherited his cell phone.  She put it in her purse and had to pull it out to "text" Daddy and FaceTime her friends.  Think her parents are slightly techie?  um... maybe!

 We dished up some FroYo at Swirrl and then walked down to Charming Charlie, where she proceeded to try on and model the entire inventory.
It was adorable!

We had such an amazing time together.  I love her!

Oh those summer nights!

This is where you'll find me if a night at home has gone as planned...

And, actually, it doesn't even really look like that anymore.  It's a work-in-progress, which you are almost guaranteed to see in a future post.  Why?  Because it's a favorite spot right now.  That's why!

For now, I can fill you in on how we got to where we are and where we're going with it.  And then, why I love it so much.

As soon as we moved in, Jeremy went to Cracker Barrel and added three large rockers to our "collection" of one child's rocker.  That makes perfect sense, right?  RIGHT?

At the time, the inspiration was the porch at Sandy Creek Bible Camp and Horton Haven Christian Camp,  where rockers are lined up, facing an open area of the campgrounds.  It's a fantastic spot to sit, rock and shoot the breeze.  The back of our house feels "a little bit country" (complete with screen door), so the concept was perfection.


What we ended up with was a hodge podge of chairs and our little cafe set that has been hauled to every place I've lived in the last 9-or-so years.  There was no flow to the space, since it was an L-shape and the concept was perfect for a rectangle.  So we started with a little space planning.  (Oh, hey, why didn't I think of this earlier?  Seriously, it's not like I do that for a job or anything.  Sheesh.)

So, we defined the space into two seating areas.  This conversation group of rockers...

And the cafe table set.

But back to the coffee table/bench.  How did I NOT tell you about this?!?

I told Jeremy I wanted a bench, like these from {Pottery Barn}.
He flinches a little when the Pottery Barn catalogue arrives.  It's a little like Pavlov's Dogs because of the number of times I've requested him to "just build me a..." piece of furniture out of there.  Seriously, though.  The guy is amazing.  And I'm lucky, cause he's so talented and cause he does it because he loves me.

Back to the story.

So, he suggested we meet the the {ReStore} to find a piece of wood to reclaim.  It was blazin' hot and we scoured the bins of wood, only to come up with nothing.  Until he spotted this gem.
It was a saw bench under an old shed nearby.  They obviously weren't using it anymore and it had been there when the location was a lumber yard before.  So, he asked if he could buy it.  Jeremy always says, "'What's the worst they could say?'  'No, dummy.'"  At first they said it was attached.  He was willing to do the work to get it out of there... and they ended up being willing to let him.  So, for $3, we went home with a beautiful weathered former saw table.  And Jeremy turned it into this beauty in less than 45 minutes.

I think that's a record.  It also smashed my theories about having to multiply by three on the time he says a project will take to find the actually time elapsed.  I.was.proud.

While Jeremy was in Honduras, I purchased this bad boy.
(Thanks, Kelly, for the birthday gift card that went towards it!)
Can you call a "church window" a bad boy?
I just did.

 I think it's amazing.  It's awaiting a companion drop leaf table to go underneath it and to be decorated with some fun accessories.  When said table is discovered and hauled home, bad boy church window will be hung!

Here is a different perspective.  In my mind, there are string lights, some colorful throw pillows, and a few more plants.  Maybe even an herb garden in a window box down to your left right there.  Can you see it?  Can ya?

So, like I said, work-in-progress, but well on it's way to where I want it to be.  AND it's such a great place to be as it is.  What do we like to do out there?

You might find me honing my newly-discovered grilling skills...
(that's what hubby spending 12 days in Honduras will getcha!)
Or indulging in a classy beverage.  For some reason, you have to sip things when you sit on patios...
 like Pioneer Woman's {perfect iced coffee}

or Dish and Dine's {frozen hot chocolate}

...which we thouroughly enjoyed on Saturday night.

Some of us enjoyed it a little more than others!

We have some sidewalk chalks nearby and there are generally all kinds of creations all over the concrete.  Part of me wishes they could stay there forever!

We watch the kids bounce and flip.

and sometimes we put our classy beverages down and join them. :-D

There are games of catch and bubble blowing...

There's always a breeze blowing across our patio and it feels amazing after a hot Houston day.  We like to chill out there when we have friends over, too.

Truly, the best part of our patio is the people I enjoy it with!

If you're in the neighborhood, let us know so we can pour you a classy beverage and we can {sit a spell}!