Monday, February 25, 2008

HGTV, How I Love Thee

While Big Daddy was away, I found a new love. My new boyfriend doesn't deploy. He doesn't even sleep. Twenty four hours a day, he's there at my beckoning. Don't worry, Big Daddy knows. I won't say that he approves but he understands.

My new love is HGTV. In a word: ahhhhhhh.

I watch House Hunters with the excitement of a three year old at Disney World. Get It Sold? For.Get.It. I love it. I get ideas for how to design on the cheap. The things these people can do to a house for less than a thousand bucks blows my mind!

As with any addiction, my HGTV fix could only hold me for so long. One night, while a commercial was on and I was anxiously waiting to find out if the couple was choosing House #1 (The Fixer Upper) or not, I flipped down a couple of channels to a show called Flip This House and down a few more to Flip That House. Don't worry if you are confused at first. You'd quickly see the differences.

Oh my lands, ya'll. Can this count as a hobby?

I'm no TV junkie, barely even a casual watcher anymore. (With the exception of LOST but don't hate. If you watched, you'd love it, too!) But, there's something about watching some quirky designer or realtor come in and make someone's dream house out of a shack that appeals to the dreamer in me.

I tell Big Daddy that I'm working up ideas for one day when we will actually buy a house and live in it for more than two years. For now, we are gypsies and that dream seems so far away.

If I'm away for too long, don't worry. I'm likely holed up someplace with a remote in my hand dreaming up ways to make a shack into a love shack dream home.

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Update: I was telling my sister about this newfound love the other day when she kindly reminded me that this is no new obsession for me. Does your town have a local real estate channel? You know the kind: realtor goes into a home with a video camera and records each room while giving a running commentary on the house with hopes of selling it? No? Well, you are certainly missing out. Imagine me as a ten year old, glued to this channel for as long as my parents would allow. Think this obsession with houses has anything to do with my living in eight different houses in eight years?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

History Lessons From A Three Year Old

Last night when we were putting Brother to bed, we asked what his favorite part of the day was. He told us that it was painting at school. They painted a cherry tree picture and talked about George Washington and Abe Lincoln, in honor of President's Day.

We asked if they talked about the tree and he told us that it was just a tree. Duh.

We asked if they talked about George Washington and a light clicked on for him.

"YES! Yes, we did!"

"Who was he? Did he do anything special?"

He thought for a moment.

"Yes. He won a race. There was a race and he was the winner. AND, he got a dollar and a penny for it."

He also told us that one day he wants to win a race and get a dollar and penny. I think that's his way of saying that he wants to be president someday.

There you go folks, that's your history lesson for today. Stay tuned and maybe he'll tell you the real story behind St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our Love Story


In 1999, I made a difficult decision to move back to my home town. I really felt like it was what God was leading me to do, though I had no idea why and wasn't thrilled at the idea. Within a few weeks of moving back, I was hired as the youth director at a wonderful church and started to accept the fact that I was here to stay.

A couple of guys from the Air Force base in town started coming to a class and Bible Study I was teaching in the late summer. Both were awesome guys and were plugged into a group of friends that got together every week for dinner at each other's house.

In early November, Billy (one of the guys from my class) invited me to come over to his apartment for the weekly gathering. I was afraid that he was asking because he was interested in me so I dragged my roommate Barbara along to make sure he didn't get the wrong idea.

We arrived and were introduced to the group and started making friends. When we sat down to eat, Billy's roommate came to sit next to me at the table. We chatted a little more through the evening but if I'm honest, I really don't remember much about our conversation. What I do remember was the impression that he left on me.

When the evening was over, Barbara and I were invited to join this group every week and we assured them we'd come again. As soon as we were safely in my car, we did what all girlfriends do. We dissected the group and our impressions of everyone we met that night. I specifically remember one phrase that I kept saying, "There is something about that guy, J. Something about him really struck me tonight." I couldn't stop saying it and thinking about him.

I'll spare you a lot of details here but Barbara and I became very involved with this new group of friends over the course of the next few weeks and by Thanksgiving, J. had invited a bunch of us up to his parent's farm for the post holiday weekend. J. and I had spent some time together outside of the group by this time, talking about everything we could think to talk about. I was so intrigued with him. He was Godly, funny, smart, sensitive and when I was around him, I felt so....so, encouraged.

We all hauled over to his family farm the day after Thanksgiving and I got to meet the people who made him who he was. He was the spitting image of his father, physically and in personality. Over the course of the weekend, it was clear that there was more to our relationship than just two friends who hang out occasionally.

But, neither of us was really sure what that meant. I was devoted wholly to my ministry. My kids depended on me and I didn't feel that I had much time to give a relationship at that point. He was really taking time to focus on his relationship with the Lord and not be in a dating relationship. So, we were just friends. Friends who knew that there was way more to it than that. I'm not talking physically, there was no physical relationship. We just loved being together. And we were together, a lot. He was my best friend.

In mid-December, J. came to my office one night when I was working late. He walked me to my car and in the midst of conversation, he said he needed to tell me something. He'd gotten orders. For you non-military folks, he'd been told he was moving. This brand new relationship that didn't yet have a title now became less simple. He wasn't just moving, folks. He was moving to Montana. I didn't even know where that was but I did know that it didn't border North Carolina, where I currently lived. He was leaving in April.

I went home that night and cried. I didn't know why I was crying but I did know that I didn't want to be without him. I couldn't even stand the eight hour days that we had to work at seperate jobs.

I'm going to leave out a lot of details that really do fascinate me about how things just worked out for us but I'm not sure they'd fascinate you. For the sake of your time, I'll keep it shortish.

In January, we were driving together one day and J. said to me, "I'm not sure of details yet but I want you to know that you are going to Montana with me." My response? "I know."

What? I didn't even know the words had escaped my mouth. But, they were true. I knew. I knew I was going with him. I hadn't been stressed out about being apart from him since that night that I first found out. Sure, I cried myself to sleep that night but I woke up the next morning and knew it was ok. I hadn't cried about it since. If you know me, you know what a miracle that is.

Later in January, I was leaving to take some kids on a ski trip. As I was getting into my car, J. said to me, "When you get back, we need to talk about getting married." Ooookay, then. While I was on that trip, he went to have dinner at my house with my family. Without my permission. My parents brought out the photo albums. My siblings helped him wash his car. My little sister even armor-alled his windshield. Bless her heart. And, he didn't run. I came back and he still wanted to talk about marrying me.

My parents were in love with him. My Dad is the most over protective Daddy out there and he loved J. despite the fact that he was about to move a million miles away and all the things that could mean for his oldest daughter. Ya'll need to know what another miracle this is. I still don't understand it.

When I came back, we took out a calendar and at that point there weren't a lot of dates between that night and his leaving. His best friend was in the Army so we called him and asked what his schedule looked like in the coming months. He was about to leave for a deployment so there was only one week that he wasn't training or leaving. We asked if he could fly to us that weekend. He agreed and our wedding date was set. Four weeks from that weekend. A month. In a month I would be his wife. Holy moly, ya'll.

Of course, he asked my Dad's permission to marry me and to take me to Montana. With tears in his eyes, my Dad said that he couldn't imagine it any other way. He knew this moment was coming. He knew that if J. went without me that we would both be miserable. He knew that this relationship was what God wanted for us. And, even though only four months would pass between the time I first met this amazing man to the time I'd be his wife, there was not a doubt in any of our minds that this was the right thing.

There was also an official proposal that was so sweet and romantic that it blew my socks off. It would yours too. He's amazing.

That was almost eight years ago. I am still more in love with him than I can tell you. Every day, the eight hours that we are away from each other doing our seperate jobs is hard for me because I can't wait to see him again. When something big happens, good or bad, he's the first person I want to talk to. When he walks in the room, my heart still skips a beat and I get butterflies.

Thank you for letting me share our love story with you. Just typing it was a sweet experience for me because it's not every day that I get to remember the details. Oh, the details about how God worked everything out just perfectly. I wish there were space and time to share it all with you.

Go over to Sgt and Mrs Hub and read their love story. It's beautiful. You'll find links to read others there, as well. Will you share your own? I'd love to read it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

If Only It Were This Easy

I was watching news coverage of the election a few days ago when Sister came and stood beside of me. There was a split screen of John McCain and Barack Obama and the anchor was discussing their differences.

Sister asks, "Who are those guys?"

"They want to be President of the United States so they are talking to people about why they think they will do a good job."

She thought for a few seconds and turned back to me.

"So, President Bush is going to share and let someone else have a turn?"

"Yeah, something like that," I said.

"That's so nice of him."

Don't you wish the political game was that polite?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Recipe and A Winner

The title is very fitting for a few reasons. First, you are all winners in my book but today I have a winner of the book that I am giving away from earlier this week. Forgetfulone, email me your address and I'll have it out to you in no time!

Second, I thought I'd share a recipe with you that is always a winner in our house. By the way, every single time I've typed the word "winner" on this post, which is a lot, I've typed it as "winnder" for some reason. Couple that with it being past my bed time and Blogger's spell check refusing to work and this should be a good read for you all.

Where was I? Oh. Right. The recipe. Bear with me on this one because I decided to share it only thirty seconds ago and I don't have any pictures to share but I promise to be more prepared next time. Pinky swear. Plus, I totally made this up in a moment of desperation and pulling out what I had in the fridge on the day before grocery day once and it's never the same twice. I'll bet you are excited now, huh? Just try it. Your kids will eat it. At least mine do and that's saying something when Brother will ask for seconds.

Pasta with White Sauce (a very fancy name, no?)

Pasta (we use two packages of this)
Your favorite selection of cut veggies: zucchini, carrots, onion, bell peppers, etc.
Fresh Basil
Olive Oil
Heavy Whipping Cream (don't hate me)
White wine or Chicken broth
Salt & Pepper to taste
Parmesean cheese


Let's begin. Boil your pasta, as usual. Chop all of your favorite veggies, in any quantity and variety you wish. This is where I prove that I'm no Rachel Ray, I will let you just use whatever you want and therefore I will never have my own cooking show. Seperate your veggies as you chop, according to how long it takes them to cook. For example, carrots will take longer than zucchini, so seperate them.

Drizzle a large pan with olive oil. Once the pan is hot, throw in your veggies and cook to desired tenderness.

If you are someone who likes them soggy, please don't tell my husband. He won't be your friend.

Transfer cooked veggies back to a bowl and set aside.

Dump some heavy whipping cream into the same pan that you used for veggies. Once it starts to bubble, add a little white wine or chicken broth and stir.

Once it's back to being bubbly (speaking of Rachel Ray!) add some of that delicious smelling fresh basil that you chopped even though I forgot to tell you to. If you use dried, please don't tell me because I might not be your friend.

Now, add salt, pepper and some grated parm cheese just for fun. Stir it all up. And, carefully add your veggies.

Now, I hope you remembered to drain the pasta. For Pete's sake, I think the details of the pasta always get left out in recipes and I'm about tired of it. So, go drain your pasta. Put it in a large and pretty bowl. The pretty part is essential if you don't want to think about how many calories that heavy whipping cream is about to your fanny. Pour the sauce over the pasta and carefully mix it all up. Serve with Parm cheese sprinkled heavily on top. You're already eating a years worth of calories with the heavy whipping cream so why skimp on the cheese?

Lawsy, I'm long winded on this. I'll just keep it simple next time, I promise. Maybe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Decisions

When you have big decisions to make, how do you approach them? I'm interested in this because we have some big decisions to make in the next few days (that we have been working on for about a week now!) and my approach is usually the same. First, I pray about it and ask God for wisdom and guidance. I like to think through every possible outcome that will be generated by this decision in order to feel like I'm prepared. I make a list of pros and cons...it helps to see it on paper. And, this is the one that always surprises me because it brings so much clarity, I talk through that list with someone. I have a couple of good girlfriends that I can always talk to about these things and I have Big Daddy. This time, the decisions have both of us stumped for a bit longer than usual so we have talked them to death between the two of us.

It's amazing to me what talking through things out loud will do to bring things to light in your mind. It always happens to me. I'll mull and pray for the longest time over something and really don't feel peace with an answer. Then, I'll sit down to chat about it with one of the above mentioned people and all of a sudden, it's as if the answer was staring me in the face the whole time. I get that "DUH!" moment, thinking that it should have been this clear all along. I think it's because I'm such a relationship centric person, God uses those relationships to clarify things for me.

So, today I ask two things of you. What do you do when you are making big decisions? And, will you think of us as we continue to make ours? I promise I'll share it with you very soon!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Say Hello to Woody Winfree & Win her book!


As I have been talking about this week, there is a project that I have taken some interest in called, I Am Beautiful. The author/creator of the project, Woody Winfree, has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the project for us. If you leave a comment on this post, on Tuesday, Feb 5, I will randomly draw one commenter to win Woody's new book: We Are More Than Beautiful. You must leave a valid email address to win.



What is the I Am Beautiful Project all about?

It is about changing the definition of beauty in our culture – one girl at a time, one woman at a time. Quite dramatically, the mass media has chipped away at our sense of beauty and well-being by presenting a singular, narrow and distorted image of female beauty: super-thin bodies, topped by large, perky breasts, with flawless youthful faces surrounded by shiny bouncy hair –and of course, sparkly white, perfectly straight teeth! This suggestion of beauty is not only wrong, it is a LIE. In truth, only three percent of the U.S. female population has the genetic makeup to look like this ideal. That means 97% of us are spending billions of dollars, untold hours of our lives and huge amounts of happiness in an attempt to pursue this distorted ideal.

In sum, the I Am Beautiful Project is about books and films, and workshops and seminars -- and anything else I might think to create along the way – that help guide women and girls to change their perspective about the definition of beauty. Beauty is NOT the size of our waists, or the cascade of our hair. Rather, beauty is the sum of our talents, accomplishments, intellect, contribution to our families and communities, and every other measure of living a life that deeply matters.


Where did the idea of this project come from?

With the creation of my first book for women, I Am Beautiful – A Celebration of Women, the hope was to give our daughters – mine and yours and every other American girl --- a tangible work that they could hold onto. To expose them to images of women that are as real, interesting, diverse and beautiful as real women are. The success of this first book (that is now available in a gift edition), naturally led to creating a book just for girls: We Are More Than Beautiful.

The seed for this work, however, was planted some years before book ideas ever came into my head. When my now 23-year-old daughter was five someone asked me if she could model for a photo-shoot for a leather goods product ad. I thought this would be a fun experience, so off we went. At the time we were living in rural Connecticut. My daughter was a frog-chasing, tree-climbing nature girl almost completely free from the mass media – billboards, magazines, TV, etc. But the second the photographer bent down to take a few test shots, my little nature-girl struck a provocative pose of hip out, lips pouting and a come-hither stance, while her dumb-struck mother looked on! Where could she possibly have learned to do this? Why did she think that this is the natural relationship that a woman has with the camera? I came to believe that her weekly journey through the gauntlet of fashion magazines on the grocery check-out aisle is where she learned this “un-truth.”


Tell me about the new teen book. Who is in it? Where are they from? What stories do they tell – and how is this important to other girls who read the book?


The girls in the book are ages 12 to 19, from all walks of American life, facing and exploring all types of issues with self-acceptance and self-esteem. Each girl responded to my query – “Tell me why you are beautiful.” At once, every story is unique to the individual girl’s experience, but universal to the experience of American girls everywhere. Each girl is presented with her picture in an artistically graphic and colorful layout over two pages. This presentation is, not only contemporary and exciting to girls raised in the most visually stimulating culture ever but, affords the reader to enter fully into each girls’ “world” and experience her journey of claiming her beauty.

Bottom line, experiencing other girls’ stories is important because it supports, helps and guides the reader to learn how to ask and answer that question for herself. The book creates a classical “peer” environment for sharing information, even trading secrets in a safe, supportive way. It also teaches girls to learn that they have a “right” to their sense of beauty and how to formulate conversations with their own friends on the subject.

Can the book be used by mothers with their daughters?

Absolutely! My hope is that mothers and daughters will read it together and use its stories as a springboard for ongoing conversations. Conversations about:

1. The true definition of beauty
2. How the culture distorts that definition – and why
3. Why a narrow, distorted definition is harmful
4. Who are the women and girls in our lives that we find most beautiful – and do they embody the cultural ideal of beauty – or a deeper, more meaningful definition?
5. How we can enjoy the fun and frivolity, even the consumerism, of American life without buying into notion that we must alter our natural features in order to feel beautiful, make friends, get good grades, get ahead and on and on.

I encourage mothers and daughters to write their own essays together, to deeply contemplate what makes them beautiful, then write it down. Share it with one another. Put their written answer in a place where they see it every day – maybe next to their toothbrush, or on their nightstand. Read it again and again. Slowly, over time it is my promise that this simple act can have powerful results.

Proof positive of this is seen in my own two daughters. Because I have been working on projects related to this subject for more than 10 years, my daughters have been raised on a nutritious and bountiful “diet” of ways to define their beauty. Like any belief or idea that one is exposed to, affirmative ideas of who they are have shaped how they see themselves. Further, 1,000 “teaching moments” over dinner conversation or watching TV or looking at magazines, have raised their awareness of how and why the media diminishes women. And, knowledge is power. Oh sure, they have “bad hair” days and times when they are knocked off their stride – just like we all do. But at their core, they have a deeper sense of self and an expansive measure of their worth to draw on. This is the gift I work to share – one girl at a time, one woman at a time.


Why do you believe that naming our beauty is so essential?

When we give “voice” to anything, ascribe literal words to a thought or idea, a major shift begins to take place. It might be ever so subtle in the beginning, but in time the act evolves into a concrete declaration of fact. I also believe that we deserve to know and feel our beauty. I believe it is our right, our spiritual right. Can we reach our full potential in this one precious life we have been honored with if we are chasing an artificial ideal of our self-worth? This is the ultimate question that we must ask ourselves – and guide our young daughters looking up to us to do the same.

What else are you up to with the I Am Beautiful Project? I speak frequently to various audiences of women and girls on this subject. From colleges and universities around the country to high schools, at companies and more. These seminars and workshops are designed to dig deeper into the issues we have explored in this interview. These events are listed on my website: www.iambeautiful.com

My website also recommends other books and web links on this subject, as well as tips on building better self-esteem. Please visit! Please write with any questions.




**I just wanted to thank Woody for letting us chat with her about her project and for being so dedicated to the women and girls that we love.