Friday, December 31, 2010

Brand New Year, Brand New Me

It's that time of year again, when thoughts turn to the changes we would like to make in our lives and ourselves. I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, which are as easily broken as they are made, but I am a big fan of goal-setting. One of the areas I particularly want to address in the coming year is Me. I have changes I want to make in both my physical appearance and overall health.

1. Weight
Some of my excess baggage has got to go and what's left needs to be less jiggly. My new exercise plan starts Monday.

I am not good as putting my life on hold to follow a diet. Therefore, I am invoking diet days. When it's easy and nothing conflicts, I will eat broiled chicken and salad and other healthy stuff. On other days, I will watch portions and try to make better choices, so eating better becomes less of a diet and more of my normal life.

More fruits and veggies, less sugary stuff. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to give up cookies and chocolate, but I could eat less of both, enjoy what I do eat more, and eat healthier stuff in between.

2. Healthy habits
Why is it so hard to do the things we know we ought to do? I am so bad about remembering to take my vitamins. That needs to change. The vitamins are being put in a more obvious location so I'll see them.

I also know I need to drink less sweet tea and soda pop and more water and green tea with lemon. I'm going to start off drinking green tea and water. If I have consumed my daily quota of water and 3-4 cups of green tea (doing one month on and one month off), only then will I have something else like sweet tea or soda. With few exceptions. :)

Skin care products are of no benefit if you don't actually use them. The hit-or-miss use of moisturizer isn't cutting it. It's time to establish a routine and stick with it.

3. Appearance
I have too much of that "let-herself-go" look about me. I've been weeding out my wardrobe some, but it's time to get serious. I need to have a handful of go-to outfits to put on when I'm leaving the house. I have a couple of basic items that need to be added as well.

The layer underneath is important too, and not just to dh. The stretched out underwear and bras aren't pulling their weight. It's time to call in the replacements.

I also need to weed out my makeup. Some of it is ready for the girls' play makeup bag. I need to figure out the gaps and fill them and then streamline my routine.

I think a round of teeth-whitening is in order.

Something will be done with the hair. I'm not sure exactly what I want to do with it, but it seems to just be hanging there most of the time. A good cut and a styling product or two probably wouldn't hurt.

4. Accountability
This is the hardest one for me. I'm hanging it all out here on my blog so all of you can hold me accountable. I plan to post updates periodically and let you all know how I'm doing, but if you don't see anything for a while, feel free to ask. I need all the help I can get.

So how about you? What are you doing to improve your well-being and/or appearance in 2011?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stocking Up For the New Year

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Ours was a bit chaotic, but turned out nice anyway. Now my thoughts are turned to the new year on the horizon. I've been thinking about things I can do to streamline my life. That got me thinking about the tools and supplies I use and need to have on hand.

After the pre-holiday cleaning frenzy, I'm sure some of my cleaning supplies need replaced. I know the baking supplies took a heavy hit as well. But the supplies I'm most thinking about are the ones that aid in relationships. This is an area I really want to work on this coming year.

Doesn't it make you feel good when you get a card in the mail in celebration of your birthday or anniversary? I love getting cards, but am terrible at sending them out. I'll remember the occasion and then have to wait to go to the store and get a card. Then I have to actually take the time to sit down and write in it and address the envelope. When that's accomplished I discover all my stamps have been used and now I have to wait until I have time to go to the post office. Three weeks later when I think of it again, it's embarrassingly late and doesn't get sent at all.

Baby and wedding gifts are almost that bad. If I finally manage to get a gift, then I wont have the right card or the right size bag or will be out of tissue paper. I've learned not to buy newborn sized clothes, because by the time I get the gift to them, they probably won't fit.

So, I'm thinking about the supplies of relationship. My shopping list includes birthday cards, anniversary and wedding cards, new baby cards, and a handful of assorted congratulatory, sympathy and get-well cards. I'm buying a roll of stamps and hiding them in my desk. I'm buying a small assortment of gift bags and tissue. All this, except the stamps, is going into a container in my office where I can find the supplies I need when I need them.

What are you working on in 2011? How are you fixed for relationship supplies?

Monday, December 6, 2010


Book reviews and other book-related posts have taken over this blog  crowding out other content. They are going. For those of you who wish to read the reviews, they are on my new blog The Bulging Bookbag. You will also find information about book challenges and reading lists on that blog as well. I will be migrating all previous book reviews leaving behind a link to the other blog where they may be found. From this point on, all new book reviews will be on that blog.

With that content in its own home, this blog will return to other things like decorating and food and family and fun. I hope that will be of benefit to everyone. I hope to get back to participating in a couple of memes, posting favorite quotes and talking about life in general.

In addition, be watching for information about the project I'm doing with two of my daughters. More details on that soon.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: Costly Grace by Jon Walker

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Book Review: Finding Becky by Martha Rogers

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Fifteen

This is the final installment of my life stories. A special thank you to Janna at Mommy's Piggy Tales for doing this project and letting us all play along. It's been a blast tripping down memory lane, even if I was frequently scrambling to get my post finished. Another thank you goes to Spitfire for pestering me encouraging me to join in. You uncorked the genie and now you're stuck hearing all the stories to come.

When last I wrote, I had just received a proposal on Valentine's Day. I said yes. Well, the rest of the year went along and we finally reached graduation. After my brief stint at college, my boyfriend and I did tie the knot on New Year's Day. It's been a wild ride since. This only child from such an odd background went on to become the consummate homebody and mother of 10. I learned to cook and sew and knit and crochet. I worked as a receptionist, a convenience store clerk and a picture framer. I studied the florist business and accounting. We moved around some when we were first married and looking for work, but we have now lived in the same town for 20 years. It seems my gypsy days are over. I don't miss them.

They say that time heals all wounds. I don't know if that's true, but time does give us perspective. Over time, I have realized that some of the scary situations I was put in as a child weren't my parents first choice either. They were fighting to survive and doing the best they could. I can only hope my own mistakes as a parent are viewed in the future with the same charity.

This project has brought back so many memories, both good and bad. I plan to continue on my own, writing some of the smaller details and stories that have come to mind in the course of recording these stories here. I remembered the scare we had in sixth grade when a criminal was on the loose and going through a hurricane and stepping on a snake and raising various animals over the years and spelunking and ... well, you get the idea. There is still lots to tell. Who knows. Maybe I'll write a book. I'm not sure who would buy such a thing, but you never know. Maybe I'll use my life as the basis of a fictional book so it doesn't sound quite so crazy. Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Book Review: One Hand, Two Hands by Max Lucado

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stories of an Unconventional Childhood, Week Fourteen

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales, there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

 My senior year started off differently, but that was nothing compared to the rest of the year. First of all, after seven years in band and one in orchestra, I wasn't signed up for any form of instrumental music. I had a major falling-out with my band director and decided I didn't need the aggravation. Meanwhile, my best friend talked me into trying out for the choir. I did and was accepted. I was on the yearbook staff and was elected senior class historian. The year was shaping up.

Meanwhile, some of my friends from the year before drifted away and others got much closer. My best friend and I were inseparable. If you saw one of us, the other was probably nearby. We didn't see this as a problem until we found out that a mutual friend of ours wanted to become more than a friend. The only problem is, he knew he really liked one of us, but since we were always together and always playing off each other, he couldn't figure out which one it was.

Finally, he picked one and took the plunge. He asked out my best friend. I think it took only one or two dates for him to figure out he had picked the wrong one. They parted ways as friends. He waited a couple weeks and asked me out, but I was afraid of hurting my friend's feelings so I turned him down.

But we started talking more and he started calling me. When I got sick and was quarantined to see if I had rheumatic fever (I didn't), he sneaked in a visit and talked to me through the window. People at school were beginning to notice that he walked me to classes and carried my books. Our circle of friends, which had extended to 5 of us (my best friend, the guy, his best friend, the best friend's girlfriend, and me), went everywhere and hung out together. Soon he and I  realized that we were much more than just friends.

Then Valentine's Day drew near. Student council was selling carnations as a fundraiser and delivering them to the classes with a doily attached and whatever message you wanted. The carnations started showing up about 3rd period. By lunch I had about 10. Then he presented me with a gift. He had tracked down 3 albums by a band I had mentioned liking, that most people had never heard of. I was overwhelmed. When he invited me on a date doubling with his best friend and his girl, I accepted immediately.

The logistics of the date got a little crazy when the restaurant they had planned to take us to turned out to be closed, but the guys came up with plan B and we had a nice meal anyway. His friend was driving, so we were sitting in the back seat. We talked and talked, until he got really quiet, took my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, "I don't suppose you'd marry me?"
Join me next Thursday for the exciting conclusion!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stories of an Unconventional Childhood, Week Thirteen

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales, there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When we left off last time, I had just moved (again) and was set to begin a new school. Picking up there, my mom registered me for school and I started summer band. I showed up the first day and received a large packet of music and information and was introduced as the new student. We started practice and I was scrambling to learn the music and the way this band worked, as well as everyone's names. One week in, and I found out we couldn't stay in the house because it had sold. So, in the midst of all the newness, we were packing and moving to another house. This one was further away from the school and so I had to ride my bike.

It was a long hot ride. The house we were living in was very different from the first one. I loved the built-in bookcase in my room, but disliked pretty much everything else about it. I missed the plush carpet and beautiful yard. Our new back yard was tiny, bare and surrounded my an 8-foot cinder block wall. But I didn't even have time to fully unpack because about a week and a half later, my mom got a call with a job offer, in another city.

We packed what little we had unpacked and loaded into a trailer and moved to Carlsbad, NM. My mom had scouted out a new home while she was there signing her contract, and soon we were unpacking in a small apartment and registering me for yet another school and starting summer band, which was well in progress.

The school was laid out like a college campus and the buildings were sprawled across a hill. It took a bit to learn where everything was and map out my classes. But eventually, I learned my way around, and learned the music, and learned people's names and began settling in and making some friends. I met some special people there, but most special among them, are my still good friend November (name changed to protect the insane LOL) and my dear husband, thecooldad. Of course, like any good romantic comedy, we didn't get off to such a great start, but that's another story for another time.

Book Review: The Art of War for Spiritual Battle by Cindy Trimm

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Twelve

Just before tenth grade started, my mom and I moved again because she got a new job across the state. Interestingly enough, because I was registering right before school started, I received some interesting benefits. In that school, high school covered 10th through 12th grade. Yes, that means I was low man on the totem pole again. But there was a pecking order in the school. The lockers lining the halls were in three layers. Tenth graders got the bottom lockers. Juniors got the middles. Seniors got the top lockers. However, they were out of bottom lockers when I registered, so someone assigned me a top locker. When school started, everyone assumed I was a senior, so I didn't have to deal with any of the junk the other sophomores had to deal with.

School was interesting and I quickly made friends and enjoyed most of my classes. One of the highlights was a cool field trip to some nearly cliff dwellings. Another was my geometry class, which much to my surprise, turned out to be one of my favorites. For some reason, geometry just clicked with me.

We lived in a small cinderblock house on top of a hill overlooking the town. It was surrounded by evergreens and large rocks, which made the yard pretty unusable, but nice to look at.

Toward the end of the year, we learned that my mother's position, along with about 20 others, was being eliminated. While Mom was job-hunting, she found out she had been hired to work at a summer camp. She was a former Girl Scout leader and director of a Camp Fire camp, so they jumped on her application. We put everything in storage and headed to the mountains outside Cloudcroft, NM. We lived at the camp for the better part of the summer, and my mom went on interviews on practically every day off.

I found ways to amuse myself as well. I made friends with the camp director's daughter, who was a couple years younger. I also had a blast teaching camp songs, which I knew tons of thanks to years in Girl Scouts and the summers my mom was a camp director. When they had a week for high schoolers, I actually got to be a camper and attend. The week was a backpacking trip covering a long trail through the White Mountains outside Ruidoso. It was an amazing experience that pushed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of.

Meanwhile, she had decided we were moving to Las Cruces. We found a beautiful house in an older neighborhood and began moving in. It was a lovely house with thick carpeting, a mural on the dining room wall, tons of storage, and a small fountain in the backyard. Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay long enough to get fully unpacked, but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Eleven

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.
 Photos and maps related to Padre Island. Padre...Image via Wikipedia
My ninth grade year was a study in contrasts. It seemed as if anything that could change, did. The year started off pretty normally. I started the ninth grade enjoying school and spending spare time at the beach. But things were far from ideal. My parents were having issues. Dad was spending more and more time away from home and with his friends. When he was home, there was obvious friction. A couple months into the school year, we all needed a fresh start.

Initially, it was proposed that he would move to Albuquerque and find work and housing, and we would follow later. However, he started packing and dividing up the household goods, even sorting out the albums and negotiating about the ones he wanted. It was all very surreal.

Dusk in Albuquerque, New Mexico, taken from we... Image via WikipediaDad left and it was a few weeks before we heard from him. He finally called and said he had found a job and a nice apartment. We began packing and I began once again saying goodbye to my friends. Little did I know just how different this move would turn out to be. As soon as we hit Christmas break, we finished packing and left to spend Christmas with my grandparents. My mom left from there to go see my dad and check out the situation.

When she got there, she found the apartment was in the wrong part of town and the job was dead-end. She was furious. They had a huge fight and she drove across town and rented an apartment. After Christmas, we loaded everything we owned into a moving van and moved to Albuquerque. If you've never had the chance to move from below sea-level to one mile altitude, I don't recommend it. I was sure they had removed all the oxygen from the city before I got there.
School was an adventure too. Before I moved, I was in a school that ran from 7th through 9th grade. When I moved, 9th grade was in high school. I went from top of the heap to low man on the totem pole. I couldn't breathe, I was pond-scum in the big pond, and my mom and dad were getting a divorce.

To say I was miserable, would be putting it mildly.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM - OCTOBER 04:  Hor air balloon...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Eventually, I learned the charms of the area. I could stand on my balcony and watch the hot air balloons and hang-gliders coming off the mountain. I loved to watch the clouds coming over the mountains, which meant snow. I spent a couple of weekends with my dad (after he moved to a better part of town). After a while, I began a life-long love affair with the New Mexican cuisine. I learned the proper answer to the question "Red or green?" for me, is always "Green" and the hotter the better.

Red Green Chili PeppersImage by svenwerk via Flickr
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Ten

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

The beginning of my eighth grade year, I was feeling fine. I was living in the same house and going to the same school. School started as usual, but with a few interesting twists. My favorite teacher from the year before moved up with me and taught the subject I had struggled with the most the year before.

The other thing that happened had me dancing a happy dance. Two weeks into school, someone came to my PE class. They were looking for volunteers to help with the PE classes at the primary school. Apparently, due to budget cuts, they had lost all their teacher's aides. They decided to use students instead. When they explained the details, my hand was the first one up. During my PE class, I would get to walk down to the primary school next door and help out with the K-1 class during that period. That would count as my PE class as well. I would get to play with the little kids and get my credit. Woo Hoo! They were looking for two people and one of my friends nabbed the other spot. When I thought it couldn't get any better, I found out my mom's class was in the PE class. I was awesome!

I soon found out the one down side to the job. It was dealing with heartbreaking situations you couldn't control. One little girl in the class wasn't allowed to play with neighborhood children so she cried every day because she thought she would get in trouble for playing with her classmates. I found out that during recess each day, she went off and sat by herself so she wouldn't be in trouble. It took a few months to convince her that it was alright to join in the games and activities.

The other thing I had to deal with broke my heart and made me mad all at the same time. One little girl showed up almost every day with a new set of bruises and bandages. She always had some explanation for how they got there, but it wasn't very convincing. Then one day, I hugged her shoulders and she winced in pain. I questioned her and she finally pulled her shirt aside enough to reveal what looked like cigarette burns. I was horrified and angry. The little girl looked almost apologetic. I knelt down and told her this was not her fault. She told me that sometimes she couldn't help being bad. I wanted to hit someone and it wasn't her.

I reported this to the PE teacher who nodded her head sadly. She said that she and a couple of the other teachers had reported it several times to no avail. When I told her the little girl thought it was her fault her parents hurt her, I saw her eyes flash and her jaw clench. She asked if I could watch the class for a bit while she made a phone call.

The next day, she wasn't in school, and I have to tell you that I feared the worst. Another day went by and she still didn't show up. I fretted about her all weekend. But on Monday, she came in all smiles and clean and dressed up cute. She told me that some people came and got her and sent her to live with her grandmother who was very nice. I was so happy I thought I would burst. She was safe, the other little girl was coming out of her shell and my mom's students came in every class and gave me big hugs and told me what they were learning.

Imagine my distress when I learned we were moving over Christmas vacation. My mom would still be teaching there, but we would be living in a different district so I would have to change schools. Again. Sigh.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Nine

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I was in the seventh grade, my mom got her first full-time teaching job. It was in the same school system as I attended, in the building right next door. She was teaching in the primary school and had the class of first-graders that were labeled "educable retarded". I just thought they were adorable. Whenever I had opportunity, I would visit her classroom and the kids would always tell me all about whatever they were learning. And they were learning. I loved being around them because everything was a delight and a wonder. If they could figure out how to sound out a letter it was cause for celebration and another's success would cause everyone in the class to break into clapping and cheering.

Meanwhile, I was trying to make my way through my first year of junior high. Most of my classes were just alright, but three really stood out, the first two because they were so good and the last because it was so awful.

The first two classes were taught by two of my favorite teachers. One was my life science teacher. She was an amazing person who was full-blood Cherokee Indian. She pushed me in a good way and never let me get lackadaisical, as good students sometimes do. The other teacher taught Texas history and was the science teacher's best friend. When they figured out that they both had me, and I was teacher's pet in both classrooms, they really started having fun. One would send me with messages or jokes or Dr. Pepper's to the other's classroom. I dearly loved both teachers and classes.

The last one was my PE class. I never was a big fan of PE anyway, but that was the year they instituted co-ed PE classes in my school. Suddenly, we were expected to play baseball with the boys and flag-football with the boys and so on. Worst of all, I was in the class taught by the male coach, who thought it was funny when the boys interpreted his flag-football rule of "two hands below the waist to tackle" as "it's okay to pop a girl on the butt to tackle her". Needless to say, if I could find a reason to be gone from PE, I took it.

The highlight of my seventh grade year would have to be the end-of-the-year trip that was the reward for the "A" students in the Texas history class. We went on an all-day trip, first to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, and then across the border to Mexico to spend the day. The zoo was amazing and enjoyable except for the mandrill who was overly excited about my strawberry blond hair and went berserk every time he saw me.

That hair was a real problem for me on that particular trip, but everything worked out. At the time, there was a gang in Mexico, that was kidnapping red-headed Americans. Alerts had been sent out throughout the region, so my teacher assigned two large Hispanic boys to be my bodyguards for the entire time we were in Mexico. Fortunately, they took to their role as protectors and treated me like a beloved little sister. I was a little nervous, but managed to have a lot of fun, knowing I was safe and well-looked-after. I came home with lots of pictures, a belly full of good food, some wonderful memories and a lovely pair of maracas.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review: Winning in Troubled Times by Dr. Creflo Dollar

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood: Week Eight

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

Sixth grade began with me sitting on top of the world. I was in a classroom I loved with teachers that were awesome. I had my circle of friends around me. I was starting my second year of band, playing the oboe. We had just moved into a studio apartment in a nicer neighborhood and I had a cool room with a big closet and had a swimming pool a few feet from my front door once again. Life was good.
backyard swimming pool

My friends and I had the sleepover club in full swing. We had a group of girls that took turns hosting sleepovers at the rate of one about every other week. The best part was that each house was a little different. My house had a lot of open space in the living room, a great stereo and a swimming pool. Janice's house was small, so her older brothers set up a tent in the backyard. They would then wait until we got ready for bed and do stuff like scratching on the tent pretending to be an animal or unscrewing the bulb to the floodlight that illuminated the backyard and make ghost noises to scare us. She had a big family and there was always something going on at her house. Wendy's house had a big backyard to run around in and MaryAnn's house had tons of great board games. Laura's house was filled with treasures her father had brought back from various locations where he was stationed and her mother painted all sorts of little wooden plaques and knickknacks. The house rules were posted on Laura's  door and the first one was no pillow fights. The next was no roughhousing. But the last one made up for it. It was the rule that stated that you must raid the refrigerator.
Self taken pic.

This was a great game in her house. You had to raid the refrigerator but you couldn't get caught. This, of course, kept everyone quiet and sneaking around. Laura's mom would stock the fridge with fried chicken and chocolate cake and other fun stuff prior to the raid. As the evening wore on we would play music and play ping-pong, until her parents said it was time to go to bed. That's when the fun really started. We had to pretend to be going to sleep while her parent pretended to buy our act. We would wait for what seemed like an eternity for their light to go out and the house to quiet down. Then the refrigerator raiders struck.

I'm quite sure, with all the giggling and shushing each other, that we weren't nearly as quiet as we thought we were being. Occasionally just for fun, her dad would shake things up by noisily opening the door and telling his wife in a loud voice that he was going to go to the kitchen and get a drink of water. We would shove the food back into the fridge and quickly scamper back to our sleeping bags and pretend to be asleep, suppressing giggles as best we could, while he got his water and went back to bed.

And so it went until about mid-year, when my dad announced he had a new job and we were moving to another part of the state. I cried for days. My friends hugged me and cried and then got together and threw me the best going-away party. My dad went ahead of us to find a place to live while we packed. When we finally finished and got to our destination, I cried again.

The only house he could find in our price range, was a tiny one-bedroom beach cottage. Because the living room had an entire wall of windows that faced the street, I couldn't sleep in the living room, so they put a twin bed mattress in the floor of the walk-in coat/storage closet in the hallway. It covered the entire floor. I had a section of shelving to put my stuff on and the end of the rod furthest from the door for my clothes. Anything that didn't fit had to be gotten rid of. My beloved record player went away, but I did get to keep my records to play on the big stereo in the living room.

School was a shock as well. My teacher was a cross, bitter woman who maintained discipline by assigning hundreds of lines to be written within a certain time. I anyone made a sound, she would make the entire class write lines. If you didn't finish, you received swats with a large wooden paddle that she wielded like a major league batter. The room was painted gray and the desks were in lines facing her desk. There were no decorations of any kind. Small wonder she was the least popular teacher in the school. Oddly enough, her sister was the most popular teacher in the school and her room was the exact opposite. It was bright and clean and filled with posters and plants, with an aquarium and hamster cage and displays of geodes and seashells. Oh, how I longed to be in that room!

After a while, survival mode kicked in. After getting a few swats because I couldn't write that fast, I found out my teacher always assigned the same line, "I will not talk in class". The kids had caught on to this,  and prepared pages of lines in their notebooks. When she assigned lines, they would write until the deadline and then count out the needed number of pages and turn them in. Schoolwork was so predictable that I would do a week's worth on the weekend, and then write stories or stockpile lines during school time. I learned to cope with the teacher's temper tantrums and waited for the school year to be over.

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

July Blog Challenge

Bloggy Moms Blog Challenge this month is all about childhood dreams and aspirations. Here's my entry.

When I was a kid, I dreamed about a lot of things lots of little girls dream about. At various times, I dreamed of being a dancer, a singer, and a movie star. But outside of those brief fantasies, the thing that really tugged at my heartstrings was being a teacher. I remember writing an essay in the third grade about my desire to be a teacher.

I was heavily influenced by several factors. I had a wonderful first grade teacher I adored who left during second semester to have a baby and came back to the school to show it to us. In second grade and third grade, I had another teacher I thought was wonderful because she would help me with math when I needed it and went to bat for me to fight school policy so I could check books out from the library that were beyond my grade level.

The biggest influence of all was my mom. She was attending college to become a teacher and prior to starting school I actually attended some of her classes with her and was entranced by the things they were talking about. Before all that though, she taught me. She taught me how to finger paint. She taught me how to write my name.  Best of all, she taught me to read and read well.

As time went on I turned my attention to other pursuits and interests and dreamed big dreams, but teaching was always somewhere in the background. It's said that some people have a gifting or personality for certain things. I've been told mine is teaching. I teach when I'm not even trying to. I've now graduated four students from our homeschool and I never get tired of the challenge. i love figuring out just how to explain something or illustrate it in such a way that the student understands it.

I never became a movie star and the major dancing I do is in my living room with a baby or toddler in my arms. The closest I've gotten to being a singer is singing in the church choir and a short stint doing some performances for charity. However, every day I have the honor of being a teacher. And I couldn't be happier.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood: Week Seven

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

The summer before my fifth grade year, my parents decided they had had enough of roughing it. The animals were sold or given away, the wood cook stoves sold and the rest given away or packed. By this time, my grandparents had been asked to run a combination hotel and apartment complex in Austin. They offered my dad a position as handyman which included a one-bedroom furnished apartment. We pared our belongings down to the bare minimums and moved in.

I loved living in the apartments. We had a TV for the first time and a swimming pool a few feet from our door. I got to see my grandparents all the time too. The one thing I didn't like was sleeping on the couch. We had lived in a communal room in the tent and the structure built after that. I missed my old room with the patchwork rug and the big windows. After a year and a half of sleeping on a mattress on the floor, now I was on the couch.

When it came time to register for school, my mom made a call to find out where my school would be. She left to go register me, but came back looking grim. There were then more calls made and a lot of discussion in the bedroom with the door shut. When they finally came out, I was told I would be going to a private school nearby, a Catholic school.

Now for a girl growing up with a Baptist mom and a sometimes Church of Christ dad, attending a Catholic school seemed like quite a stretch. It seems the school the apartments would use was a black school. I would have been only the second white child in that school and the only white girl. My mom wasn't comfortable with that scenario, so she looked around to find a private school that was close to home.

Catholic school was quite an adventure. It came with religion classes and mass every Thursday morning. A lot of things were new to me like rosaries and confessionals and holy water. Although I didn't really fit in, I did make friends and really enjoyed school. The curriculum was quite progressive and filled with interesting hands-on projects and free time to read.

Getting to school was an adventure in itself, as I had to ride the city bus every morning and then walk a couple of blocks to school, past the school I would have been attending. The catcalls  and indecent offers that came my way confirmed my mom's concerns. In the afternoon, I walked back down those blocks and waited about 20 minutes for the bus to arrive and then rode it the rest of the route until it circled back around to my house. I was really nervous at first about missing my stop, but soon got comfortable with the journey.

We eventually moved into our own apartment a little further from the school and the bus didn't run close to our place. I had to be taken to school and picked up when my parents got off work. I would sit in front of the school and watch my friends leave, and then the teachers, and then the administration. I would sit and read or do my homework until my parents came about 6PM. I didn't like having to sit out there all by myself, but I considered it a small sacrifice to make for what I own room.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some Bloggers You Need to Meet

I'm getting to know so many bloggers because they are also participating in the 31DBBB. We are having a wonderful time, meeting new bloggers and supporting each other on this journey. Here are a few blogs I want to extend some link love to. Please check them out.

Anna: "From the longest list post in the history of list posts 10 things We Wish Someone Had Told Us When We Started Graduate School to the post from yesterday The Basics: Graduate Seminars which offers some advice for surviving and thriving in college and graduate level seminars and tutorials, Anna Blanch often writes about her journey through Graduate School and her life as an ex-pat – she is an Australian living in the St Andrews, Scotland who spent some time living in the heart of Texas! But more than this, Anna, a self described scholar-blogger, explores the relationships between literature and popular culture, religion, theology, and faith. She also writes about Children’s literature and seeks to serve parents who are considering what it means to raise discerning readers!"

My take: Anna's blog is loaded with great information. I really enjoyed her Parent's Guide to Children's Literature and her lists of theology blogs. This is a scholarly blog, the kind I seek out when I want to think deeper thoughts than "What's for dinner?".

•Kreate by KeKe•
Kendra: "Kreate by KeKe: a scrapbooking blog by a beginner, for beginners. I promise this blog will only be about scrapbooking (with an occasional tangential rambling about life here and there). I promise I will try techniques and teach them to you to the best of my ability. I promise I will show you how to make a scrapbook that is YOU and friendly on your budget. I promise to have links to the most fabulous scrapbooking blogs, resources, and supply sites. Do's & Don'ts: Etiquette for Beginner Scrapbookers is a funny post on the do's and don'ts for beginner scrapbookers."

My take: Kendra's blog is loaded with great information about scrapbooking. I love that she has stuff for beginners and info about getting kids involved. A small head's up for parents: I haven't read everything on the blog so I can't comment on how much there is, but I did run into profanity on one of the pages for beginners.

 •Strong Personality•
Jenny: "Here’s a little bit about my blog , called Strong Personality. I'm a Seattle parent on the brink of a career change. Strong Personality is my place to share tips & tools that make my busy life easier
Caregiver Brochure
Caregiver Brochure

My take: Jenny has wonderful tips on keeping kids quiet during a plane trip and Quality Time on a Budget. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

  •All My Loose Threads•
Jamie: Jamie blogs at All My Loose Ends where she tackles marriage, motherhood and creativity all tied up in one. She wrote the post Saying Yes in February as a reminder about the importance of saying yes.

My take: I'm reading my way through her posts on House Cleaning for Slobs. Check out the great recipes too.

•On Step Journeys•
Spitfire of Spitfire's World  says: "I am the daughter of 2, sister of 9, wife of 1, and mother of 2 beautiful girls. I separated from the Air Force the day before I got married, and am currently studying medical transcriptions, as well as learning this awesome world of blogging!

 If life is a highway, we all know what the necessary stops are, where the speed bumps are, and where the rest stops are. We can look at our life and find the flat tires, the miles with nothing in sight, and maybe even when the car just stopped working. I want to remind you of the joys of life; the parks, the rainbows off in the distance, the funny town names etc. Anything that makes the ride more smooth, the views more pleasant, and keeps the kids (and you) from asking “are we there yet?”
Seeing Like a Man

My take: I'm probably a bit biased but I love this blogger. She's my eldest daughter and I think she's awesome. She has a unique perspective and a snarky sense of humor. Be sure to visit her other blogs as well. You can find the links for those on the Spitfire's World page.

I hope you enjoy these blogs and the posts featured here. You never know where you might find an amazing blog that helps you in some way or an amazing blogger that becomes a friend.

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Ten Pioneer Woman Recipes I'm Aching to Try

I love to visit the Pioneer Woman's site. It's loaded with beautiful pictures and hilarious stories, but the things that attracts me the most is the recipe section. Step-by-step instructions paired with incredible photos makes the recipes come alive. I have so many of them on my list to make it's ridiculous. I hope her next book is The Pioneer Woman Diet, so I can learn her secret, because I would weigh 400 pounds if I ate all the stuff she talks about eating. Here are the next ten things I'd like to make off the website:

1. Baked Lemon Pasta

Oh, the lemon and the garlic and the sour cream. A nice salad, some crusty bread and maybe a little grilled chicken thrown on top. I can taste it in my head. Really!

2. Buttered Rosemary Rolls

I love rolls and these sound heavenly. I haven't even tried them yet and I'm already concocting different variations of the basic recipe.

3. Chicken Spaghetti

My grandmother made chicken spaghetti and I have been craving it. This recipe looks amazing. Cheesy. Creamy. Comfort food.

4.  Simple Perfect Enchiladas

 I love enchiladas of all kinds. I love green chile ones and sour cream chicken ones and spinach ones and ...well, you get the idea. I'm anxious to try these with their homemade sauce and black olives. Oh my.

5. French Breakfast Puffs

The last time I had French Breakfast Puffs, I was in home ec class freaking out because my teacher gave us this recipe and gave the other groups in my class regular muffins of different varieties. We were marked down because they were too buttery. Is that possible? Where is Paula Deen when you need her? Anyway, despite all that, I thought they were wonderful little buttery, sugary things. I need to make these soon.

6. Hyacinth's Everything Cookies

Why don't I have the kind of friends that show up and make heavenly stuff in my kitchen? Oh well. I'll just have to do it myself. Cookies with cranberries and apricots? Oh yeah.

7. The Marlboro Man Sandwich

The Marlboro Man loves it and I'm pretty sure thecooldad would too. Just sayin'.

8. My Most Favorite Burger Ever. For Now.

Juicy beef and blue cheese. Wow. The only thing I'm gonna' do differently is use a multi-grain bun. That will be perfect.

9. Onion Strings

I wonder if there could be any correlation between my intense craving for fried food and the fact that I've been on a low-fat diet. Hmm.

10. The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Sandwich

Multiple kinds of cheese and Hatch green chiles on seeded rye. I'm not sure about the Grey Poupon though, but I would try it. Worst case scenario, I substitute spicy brown mustard.

There you have it. Of course, I had to leave behind Sesame Noodles and Pioneer Woman's Favorite Salad and lots of other stuff. What I need is a Pioneer Woman buffet, so I can try a bite of this and a bite of that.

For some great top ten lists, be sure to visit Oh Amanda.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Brand New Challenge--The 31DBBB

I joined in a new challenge called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog from the amazingly awesome creator of, Darren Rowse. The challenge is being run by The Secret is in the Sauce community on The Blog Frog. I will be doing the assignments every day for the next 31 days. I'm excited about the challenge because I think it will help make the blog better and be fun as well.

The first assignment is to write an elevator pitch, a short description of the blog and what it's all about. Here's the shortened version of mine:

TeachableSpirit is the place where I talk about home, kids, books, health and life in general. Along the way there will be quirky quotes and cookie recipes and other bits of fun.

You will find a slight variation of this on the blog's tagline from now on.

In the course of working on this, I made a discovery. I had initially intended for my blog to be about all things "home", including education. However, When I thought about it more, I realized I really wanted to resurrect my abandoned homeschool blog and have another go at it. So without further ado, I would like to announce my new/old homeschooling blog TeachableSpirit. Stop by and take a look.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Quirky Quote

Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they're not trying to keep up with you.
--Erma Bombeck (1927 - 1996)

Food for Thought

"We have the right as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money. " 
 --Davy Crockett (1786-1836)

Friday, July 16, 2010

An Open Letter to Businesses on Facebook

I' m going on a bit of a rant here because there are some things that are really starting to bug me on Facebook. This is not an anti-Facebook post. I like Facebook. It has enabled me to connect with long-lost family members and old school chums I might not otherwise have found. I keep up with my friends and relatives on Facebook. I think Facebook is great.

My problem lies more with the misuse of Facebook. It was inevitable when FB started sky-rocketing in popularity, that sooner or later business entities would sit up and take notice. It was even, perhaps, inevitable that you would then start figuring out how to sell us stuff on there. I'm an ardent capitalist and have no problem with that. I just don't like how you're doing it.

Here are a  few of my grievances:

1. A Facebook fan page does not replace an actual web site. I don't want to have to go to Facebook and pull up your notes page for every piece of product information, if it can even be found there. I don't want to have to wade through hundreds or thousands of user comments to find the offer you've posted.

2. If you absolutely insist on posting everything on Facebook, make sure the link you're emailing or tweeting goes to your actual content, not the FB home page. It's really annoying to have to find your page and then find the content you were trying to get me to see. Most of the time, if the link goes to the home page, I close it and go on about my business.

3. I don't want to be forced to "Like" you in order to try your product for the first time. I can't count the number of offers I've seen lately that require one to "Like" a new product in order to receive a coupon to try it. If your product is any good, let me try it and then we'll see if I "Like" it.

4. I'm tired of businesses (including  no small number of bloggers) trying to boost their numbers by requiring that I join their fan page or "Friend" them in order to enter any drawing or giveaway.

I know these things are not earth-shattering, but here is my problem. When I "Like" or "Friend" or otherwise connect with you on Facebook, that affiliation is then announced to all my friends. For anyone who values my opinion, that is an endorsement of your blog, company or product. But I don't know you. We don't have a relationship yet.

If I haven't read enough on your blog to know if I want to follow or subscribe, why would I want to tell all my friends to go read it? Why would I want to recommend a product I haven't tried yet? Why would I want to advertise for a company I have no history with?

I would love to familiarize myself with your company or test your product or read your blog, but I hate being asked to put my reputation and good name on the line for someone or something I don't even know. So, please, let me get to know you a little before you demand my loyalty and endorsement. Those things should be earned.

So, am I alone in this? What do you think about these tactics? Okay or no way?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Five

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I think back to the fourth grade, the thing that jumps out at me most is animals. You see, we had settled in a bit, there in our cozy tent on the hill. I was really getting accustomed to our odd way of living. Mostly.

The one major problem I had was the wildlife. For some reason, our tent attracted Daddy Long-Legs spiders. Lots of them. The corners of the tent would fill up with them, a mass of legs and bouncing bodies. It was seriously creepy to wake up and see that every morning.

My other encounter in the tent was even less pleasant. One evening, as I was getting into bed, I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. I cried out and jumped back. My dad searched my bed and uncovered a nasty little visitor...a scorpion. He quickly dispatched the scorpion, while my mom treated the sting. I was fine a few days later.

Other wildlife included field mice, which were kept in check by our two cats. We also had rattlesnakes in abundance. In addition, we had king snakes and coral snakes, and learned quickly how to tell them apart, especially when I encountered one stretched across the road as I walked home from school. It was a coral snake and I threw rocks at it until it moved.

In addition to our cats, we had a Bassett hound named Tony. Tony's one great love was chasing armadillos, something else we had in abundance. The only problem is that he would get so involved with chasing them, he lost track of where he was. The armadillo would disappear into a hole and Tony would be left, standing and baying until someone came and found him and took him home.

Eventually, we added several rabbits, two Nubian goats named Billy and Blue, some turkeys and some chickens. I gathered eggs every day and really loved the Ameraucana chickens because they laid colorful eggs, with various tints of pale blue and green. Of course, we also had some Rhode Island Reds and some Leghorns as well.

An incident that is etched in my mind happened on the school bus one morning. After I was picked up we went a couple of miles down the road to pick up an older girl and then a few minutes later, three brothers who lived on a farm there. This particular morning the boys were full of mischief and acting squirrelly. They sat down behind me and we continued down the road.

Suddenly I felt something in my hair. Imagine my horror when I reached up and felt something moving on top of my head. I began to shake my head and frantically try to get it out, when a tarantula the size of my palm dropped out of my hair, accompanied by the shrieking laughter of those boys. They have no idea how close to death they were at that moment.

The bus driver stopped the bus, pitched the spider off the side of the road, asked me if I was hurt and then scolded the boys, who didn't look one bit repentant. At least they didn't until the older girl told them they were either really brave or really stupid. When they asked why, she turned to me and winked and then turned back to them and said, "She's German and they have tempers like rattlesnakes. They don't get mad but they do get even when you least expect it. I'd watch my back if I were you." They looked at me wide-eyed and gave me a pretty wide berth after that.

Later that year, we moved down the hill into a small structure my dad built, because a different sort of animal, the two-legged kind, ransacked our place while we were visiting relatives, and stole what they deemed as valuable, destroying the rest by throwing it out onto the ground for the weather and animals to have their way with. Most of our books, my dad's paintings, and all our pictures and keepsakes were destroyed. We came home to waterlogged things strewn everywhere amidst the broken ceramics and dishes. Our mattresses had been dragged out as well. It was a mess and it all seemed so senseless.

I never felt really secure out on the property after that. It seems funny that I felt perfectly safe in the midst of scorpions and rattlesnakes, by one or more human animals shattered my peace.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Five

I started third grade with a settled feeling. My teacher from the second grade moved up to teach third grade. I had been selected for a special program that met a couple times a week and did interesting projects. I had a waver in the school library that allowed me to check out books from any area (our school library had a rule that you could only check out books from your grade level or below, but my teacher fought for a waver because I had read all of them and my reading level was several years beyond my grade level). I was in Brownies with my mom as troop co-leader.  Life was good.

My parents were still attending college. I had gotten accustomed to being a latchkey kid and had a pretty set afternoon routine. We were still living in our old rent house and had been able to replace our truck. My dad had purchased an army squad tent  from a military surplus store and set it up in our backyard as his art studio. We'd been in the same place for over 2 years and I was beginning to feel a sense of permanence. Little did I know what was on the horizon.

One day I came home to an envelope taped to the door. I carefully took it down and set it inside and impatiently waited for my parents to get home to find out what it was. When my mom opened the envelope she drew in her breath and shaking her head passed it to my dad, who read it and frowned. Meanwhile I waited for someone to tell me what was going on. It seems our landlord had received an offer to buy his house and he accepted. The letter said we had until the end of the month to move out. I shouted, "No! How can he do that?" "My mom shrugged and said, "It's his house."

We began looking for a place to move but nothing was available in our price range, so my parents hit upon a wild idea. They were in the process of buying a piece of property out in the country and had plans to build a house there. There wasn't enough time for that of course, but they figured out a temporary measure. The next thing I knew we were packing everything and moving it onto the property, which was 7 miles outside a different town, almost an hour away.

I was devastated. I had to leave my friends and my school behind. Because of where the property was located, we weren't in the school district of the town we were right outside. I had to ride the bus to yet another town, 20 miles from our new home. I was scrambling in school because in my old school, we were just about to learn cursive, but in my new school, they had learned it the end of the previous year. All the notes written on the board were in cursive, which I could neither read nor write.

Remember that army squad tent?

It was now our new home. It was unloaded and set up in a clearing atop a hill, with a plywood platform floor about a foot off the ground, built by my dad. We had an old-fashioned, pot-bellied, wood-burning stove for heat. We had no electricity or gas or running water. We hauled water from town in big plastic garbage cans. It was like slightly upgraded camping out. When it was warm, we showered in an area outside with an enclosure around a tree with a large juice can with holes punched in it that warm water could be poured into. The first pouring got you wet. Then you soaped up and poured another batch to rinse off.  In colder weather, a metal washtub was set up by the stove and filled with water. After a month or so of cooking on an open fire outside, we added a wood-fired cook stove to the tent.

My head was reeling from all the changes, but I loved living out in the country. There was always somewhere to explore and discover and I had managed to make a few friends that lived out there too. Our property was covered in big oak trees hanging with Spanish moss, wild persimmon trees, and mesquite. Large prickly pear cactus dotted the landscape. I never knew if the rustling in the bushes was going to be an armadillo or a jackrabbit.

My parents were commuting almost an hour each way to college. I was dropped off at my bus stop at the crossroads early in the morning before the sun came up. Eventually, other kids catching the bus to the school in town would arrive, as well as the little boy who rode my bus. I felt safer then, because there were kids and parents I knew there.  I was about 20 miles from school, but my bus picked up all the kids that were in the outlying areas, and I was the first one picked up, so it took over an hour to get to school.

As the year progressed, I made new friends at school, learned to decipher cursive and copy it pretty well, and grow accustomed to life in the tent. I was settling in, but constantly wondered what new adventures were lurking around the corner.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Ten Beautiful Blogs (Eye Candy!)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever--John Keats 

I love to read and look at design blogs. While my own house is decorated with an eye toward kid-proof and easy care,  I find it refreshing to look at houses that are a delight to behold. Anything from way-out-of-my-price-range mansions to easy DIY will do. Here are ten of my favorites, in no particular order.

This Australian site has amazing photos of exotic locales. Be sure to catch the vacation spot in the Maldives (the blue water, the glass floor, sigh) along with lovely pictures of hotels, resorts and beautiful homes. It's also interesting to see what the styles are like on the other side of the world.

The blog of an interior designer just starting out. It's fun to watch the development of her career and interesting to have someone treading that middle ground between the amateur decorator and the all-knowing professional. Sprinkled with DIY projects, before-and-afters, and insights on color and style.

According to the About page, "French Kissed is a design philosophy for people with big ideas and small budgets".  It's a wonderful place to train the eye to see the possibilities. Don't miss the photo tours in the sidebar. Gorgeousness all around!

A professional interior designer in Phoenix, AZ, Laura Ingalls Gunn, wants to share beauty with the world. Be sure and check out her ideas for lightening your decor for the summer months and her Oprah audition. I'm inspired by her creative space outfitted for only $15. Wow!

Part of the Decor by Color blogs. Explore all the different ways the different shades of turquoise can be used in your decor. Not a fan of turquoise? Scroll down and look at the right sidebar to find the blog featuring the color of your choice. How about purple or black and white?

This is probably the one that I have been reading the longest. It's all about making a smaller home beautiful. Genevieve lived in and decorated an 1800 square foot home with her husband and two sons for more than 15 years, so she knows whereof she speaks.

This is what happens when an interior designer living in Houston has French decor in her heart. Joni Webb also writes for The Skirted Roundtable, along with Megan of Beach Bungalow 8 and Linda of ::Surroundings. (Did you see how I just managed to sneak in those extra links?) In accordance with its Texas roots, Cote de Texas encourages thinking big. Good thing, because I'm now trying to figure out how to raise $24, 500,000. Just kidding... sort of.

Melissa is a design consultant, mom of 3 and a pastor's wife (wonder what she does in her free time?). The mission statement of this beautiful blog is "to inspire women to create an authentic home they LOVE and for their home to inspire their life." I love it!

If you like inspiring pictures of things you could actually do, this is the place. Metamorphosis Monday and Tablescape Thursdays will keep you busy with so many ideas you won't know what to do. There aren't enough hours in the week for me to keep up with all the linked posts on those days, but it sure is fun to try! And then there's awesome content on the days in between. Maybe I could give up sleep.

Named for the old Granville house in It's a Wonderful Life, Melissa's blog is about seeing the charm in your house and bringing it out. This SAHM has lots of great and easily accomplished ideas. Be sure to check out the "under $10, under 1 hour" projects and "little makeovers".

I had a really hard time limiting this to only 10 (and failed as you can see from #7. There are so many beautiful and inspiring blogs out there. To find many more, look at the blogs the above blogs follow and link to. Happy viewing!

For more terrific top 10 lists, visit Oh Amanda.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Four

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

In the fall of my second grade year, it appeared things were settling down. We were actually still living in the same house and my parents were still going to college. I was attending a school about four blocks down the street from my house. My parents dropped me off in the morning on their way to school. I was accustomed to arriving a bit wind blown from the motorcycle, so imagine my delight when my mom told me we were getting a truck.

My father was still in art school and had really gotten into large-scale paintings. By large-scale, I mean most were 6 foot by 6 foot. As you can well imagine, these paintings were way too big to carry on a motorcycle. My dad was getting tired of having to arrange for a friend to move his paintings every time he had a show or needed to move a painting he had done in his backyard studio. So when he heard of an old pickup someone was selling cheap, he jumped on it.

I loved that old truck. It was a 1949 Ford pickup. It had rounded fenders and a narrow bed. A big stick-shift came up out of the floor and had a large ball on the end. Best of all, I didn't have to sit on the gas tank of a motorcycle to go everywhere. It was a funky old truck, but I loved it.

One day, we were on the way to my school, something went very wrong. A man running late for work, driving in excess of 45 MPH, sped through my neighborhood. When he reached the intersection two blocks from my house, he ran the stop sign and ran right into us. He caught the front of the truck and curled the cast iron bumper. The crunch of metal and sound of shattering glass broke the early morning quiet.

When the dust settled, my dad had bruised ribs from hitting the steering wheel. My mom had flown forward and her forehead hit the windshield. The safety glass broke into a million little pieces. My mom had tiny little sparkles of glass dust on her hand if she rubbed it across her forehead for years thereafter. As for me, I hit that lovely ball on the stick-shift. In the impact, I flew forward and it caught me right at the base of my breastbone. I had a pretty dark bruise there for weeks. The fellow that hit us? He was injury free and mostly just mad that the wreck was making him even later to work. The policeman on the scene was pretty disgusted with him and told him so.

Unfortunately, the accident totaled our old truck and we were back on the motorcycles until another truck deal came along.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday 5: Breakfast

Just for fun, I'm joining in the Friday 5 this week. Check out other participants at

1. Oh my goodness! You have to run out the door right now and you haven’t eaten! Before dashing out, what do you grab to wolf down on your way?

I grab a piece of fruit, generally an apple or banana.

2. What’s a popular breakfast you dislike?

Coffee and Danish are wasted on me. I don't like coffee and I can think of lots of things I'd rather eat than a Danish. They always taste too sweet and too dry to me.

3. You’re going out for breakfast anywhere you want, and someone else is treating! Where do you go and what do you order?

I don't know where it would be, but my order would be multi-grain waffles with fried apples and whipped cream with turkey bacon on the side. It would be accompanied by some hot spiced cranberry juice or hot fruit tea with lemon and honey.

4. What do you have when you need a simple, healthy (or healthy-ish, for those of you who just don’t do healthy!) breakfast?

The quick, healthy breakfast would definitely be fruit and oatmeal.

5. You’ve been invited to a breakfast potluck. What are you most likely to bring?

I would probably take a green chile quiche or maybe a large batch of biscuits

Decluttering with Michelangelo

Here it is Friday again. Another week has whizzed by and I find myself looking back to see what, if anything, significant was accomplished or learned. This week I have something to share that I hope will help someone else.

I'm engaged in an ongoing battle with clutter. The combination of lots of people in a not-overly-large house requires certain decisions about what goes and what stays and how to store it all. I was in the process of lightening my load when my mother passed away last year and much of her abundance was added to mine. It's been overwhelming. As a result, I've ended up with a couple of rooms, so stacked with boxes and bags they are nearly unusable.

Now there are many methods out there to process stuff like this. Some examples are the ever-popular four box method, the "box-up-everything-to-clear-the-space-and-go-through-the-boxes" method, and the hard-core minimalist approach where you basically get rid of anything you're not currently using. These methods haven't helped me. There are too many decisions to make, and I don't see myself every being a minimalist. But this week I stumbled onto something that did and was a perfect fit for my visually-oriented, right-brained self.

Earlier this week, I saw a quote I've seen many times before and always liked:

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

But then I saw this quote:

“In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

Something stirred inside me and I caught a vision. My problem when I start to work on one of the stacked up rooms, is I focus on the stacks and get overwhelmed. Michelangelo didn't focus on the enormity of the block of marble before him. He focused on the object he was going to create out of it. I suddenly began to look at my house with fresh eyes.

What if I went to each room, determined the purposes it needed to serve, determined what things were needed for that purpose and what things would make it a thing of beauty, and ditched everything else? What if I started with the end in mind? What if I caught a vision for what the room could be rather than its current state? Hmm. I was off and running.

So, I set to work. My bedroom is frequently the dumping ground for anything that doesn't have a place it goes. So I end up with the weirdest assortment of stuff in there, plus the room is more multipurpose than I would like. In addition to the usual stuff that goes with bedrooms, my husband's desk and computer and related stuff are in there because there's no other place to put it. So we need his desk and chair, plus the bedroom furniture. I'm always going to have a certain amount of books and magazines in there, so I need a shelf for those. Needed stuff would include the books, the computer, the bedding and clothes, accessories and personal items. Some pretty items finish the list.

When I started to clean out the room, I threw away obvious trash and put some items I knew I didn't want into a bag for charity, but for most things, I didn't want to go through an extensive decision-making process. All I had to decide was whether or not it fit in the stated vision for that room. If not, I didn't worry about whether I should be keeping it or not, I just added it to the pile going out of the room. This may take a bit longer overall, but the decision-making process is so much easier for me.

A little hint. If you start writing down the room's purpose and what furniture and stuff are needed, be sure to leave a couple of extra lines after each section, because your vision may evolve as you go along. For instance, you may get all your living areas planned, but when you start to go through them, you realize you didn't designate an area for board games and your family loves board games. Do you play them at the dining table or in the living room? Wherever it is, add it to your purpose for that room and add board games to the list of the stuff of that room.

What if you get to the end and have stuff left over that has no designated place? Look carefully at that stuff and ask yourself if it can be fit into the vision of any of your rooms. Can it be part of the work of art you are creating or does it need to be chipped away?

You might make some discoveries along the way. I can't count the number of times, while I was doing my bedroom, that I found myself saying "I just need to get a container for these and they could go in ___________" I found many things that had been put in my room, not because they really needed to go there or because they fulfilled the room's vision and purpose, but so someone would know where they are. Several of those things are now in containers on a shelf somewhere else, but are easy to locate and use without cluttering up my room.

Anyway, it's a different way to go about it, but it seems to really be working for me. I've already made progress on several areas that I was having trouble making any headway on. I'm also rethinking and re-purposing rooms as I go along. I never thought Michelangelo would be an inspiration for de-cluttering (and I'm pretty sure he didn't either), but one never knows where inspiration may come from. Where do you draw inspiration from?

I hope everyone has had a good, productive week. Enjoy the weekend and plan on a spectacular week to come.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stories from an Unconventional Childhood, Week Three

Over at Mommy's Piggy Tales there's a cool project going on about family history. There is a challenge to blog for 15 weeks about our growing up years, with a different time period covered each week. Spitfire talked me into joining in because she's hoping for some wild stories from my childhood.

When I started first grade, it was a bit of a shock for me. I already knew we were different, but when I started school, I was suddenly surrounded by kids that were my age physically, but seemed another age altogether in other ways. Imagine being in college one day and in first grade the next. They had never seen drug use or people drunk or nude. They didn't even know where babies came from! I quickly learned to keep what I knew to myself and talk and act like any other kid my age. I put what I had seen or heard or done in the past. But some things didn't disappear easily. I still had an advanced vocabulary and the top reading group was too easy for me. Still, I managed to make a few friends and learned how to fit in.

My house bridged the gap in my life. The outside looked like every other house in the neighborhood, with it's established lawn, sprawling oaks and white clapboard. The inside, on the other hand, reflected the other part of my life. From the moment you opened the door, it was like stepping into another realm and I learned as much there as I did in school.

The living room was painted matte black. Wild, abstract print black-and-white curtains, sewn by my mother, graced the windows. One wall was covered with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, made from black, painted boards and black fabric-covered cinder blocks, artfully arranged. The shelves held hardcover art books, an assortment of art magazines, a few paperback novels and some textbooks. In between, a variety of pottery and sculpture was on display. The floor was covered in an amazing rug, assembled by my mom and dad, from salvaged carpet scraps and several rolls of carpet tape. Several of my dad's large paintings decorated the walls. Comfortable floor cushions and a black-light completed the look. All their college friends that visited pronounced the room "groovy". From this room, I learned about creativity and making something out of nothing.

The next room was the dining room. It had the same curtains as the living room and paintings on the wall, but the centerpiece of the room was the table my dad made out of part of a chrome sofa base topped with a stained and varnished uncut door, both purchased for next-to-nothing. The table was just tall enough for an adult to fit his or her knees under it while sitting cross-legged on the floor. I have happy memories of this room filled with people, as it frequently was. Mom and Dad loved inviting people over and feeding them. At the end of each semester, they held a stone-soup style pizza party. Crust, sauce and three cheeses were provided and everyone who came brought their favorite pizza toppings. Super deluxe pizzas were made and consumed with gusto. The group could be a bunch of rowdy art majors or a mix of education majors, musicians and guys from the local motorcycle shop. In this room I learned about hospitality and how good food can bring diverse groups together.

As much as I loved those rooms, my favorite room of the house was my room. It was actually one of the more "normal" rooms in the house, but special in its own way. It was a bright sunny room at the back corner of the house. Two walls were covered with windows. The rug, another one made from carpet scraps, looked like a giant patchwork quilt. A toy box held my Tinkertoys and blocks, stuffed animals and dolls. My favorite part was the quilt on my bed. It was a quilt made by my grandmother and my mother. The blocks were pictures my mom, as a little girl, had colored. The pictures were then ironed onto muslin and assembled with blue gingham for the backing, binding and sashing. From this room, I learned about heritage and family. I also learned the importance of having a quiet place to think and dream and grow. I also found a love of quilts that continues to this day.

As a homeschooler, my home is, by design, both a place to live and a place to learn. But the truth is that every home is a place to learn something, whether good or bad. What did you learn in your home growing up?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top Ten {Tuesday}: Ten Cool Thoughts to Beat the Heat

The weatherman says it's going to be 98 degrees today with a heat index of 102. Temperatures like that can make even the normally heat-resistant thecoolmom start to melt. I need some chilly thoughts to counter the heat.  Here are some of the things I'm pondering to keep my cool.

1. Barton Springs

It's always cool in Barton Springs in Austin, TX. The water is a chilly 68 degrees year round. Way cool! I wish I was there.

2. Popsicles

Yeah. I know. Sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors. But oh, so cold and refreshing. If you are too virtuous for popsicles, go get some fruit bars.

3. Snow cones

While they have all the same faults as the above item, they are a great way to cool you down from the inside out. Actually, I get the clear coconut ones so I eliminate the artificial coloring. There. I'm feeling more virtuous already.

4. Snow (without the cones)

Ok. You have the North and South poles, some really high mountains, and it is winter in the southern hemisphere. There's bound to be snow somewhere.

5. Estes Park. Colorado

We went to Estes Park several years ago when we were setting a new record for the number of 100 degree days here. When we left Texas, it was 105. When we got to Estes, the natives were all fanning themselves because it was a balmy 85. Someone flipped out when I told them of the 20 degree differential. By the way, the forecast says a high of 73 there tomorrow.

6. Lemonade

It's a classic for staying cool. That's because it works. To take it up another notch, add a sprig of mint.

7. Lemonade Pie

It's cold and lemony and creamy. Mmm. Click the picture for a recipe.

8. Sprinklers

You may feel like a child running through the sprinklers, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If it gets any hotter, we may all be sitting in a plastic kiddie pool in the shade

9. Watermelon

This must be eaten ice-cold. I like to send the kids outside with a wedge of watermelon so the drips are out there instead of my kitchen floor. For best results, eat watermelon and then run through the sprinklers.

10. Eat Spicy Foods

There's a good reason why the hottest foods on the planet are native to the tropical areas of the world. Hot, spicy foods make you sweat. Think back to science class. How does the body cool itself? That's right class. The body sweats and evaporation cools the body. So, if you eat foods that make you sweat more...

I hope you've enjoyed my list and are staying cool. What are some of your favorite ways to beat the heat?

For more fun top ten lists, visit Oh Amanda