Monday, June 30, 2014

A little time by the sea


We just got back from a really relaxing week in Hilton Head, SC.  There’s something about travel that clears my head. I don’t know if it’s just that it gets me out of the rut my mind wears in while I’m looking at the same surroundings for too long, or the change in the air, but even before we get where we’re going, I feel my mental gears loosening.


(That went right back in the water.)

Not a bad view from our condo.


I devoured a couple books while we were there. This one, which I liked, and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, which I loved. The premise for What Alice Forgot really spoke to me, I guess because the main character was turning 40 like I just did, but due to an accident, she couldn’t remember the last 10 years of her life.  It was a funny book and an easy read, but it really made me think about the choices I’ve made over the last decade, too.

Oh and btw, if you have a chance to pick up one of these beach chairs, I highly recommend it. They’re made by Nautica, we found ours at Sams, and they’re great. They’re light but sturdy, fold flat, and have a carrying strap, a cup holder, and a waterproof zipper pouch.


Many holes seem to be dug on our beach trips, but I’m not exactly sure what they’re for.  When they start appearing in our back yard, I’ll worry about it.

I took my big camera out one evening, but just as I got to the water, the sun went behind a storm cloud, and all my pictures turned out dark, even with exposure compensation. Boo. I have yet to figure out how to make the best use of my big camera at the beach. There’s the issue with it fogging over when it moves from inside the cool condo to outside where it’s hot, which requires some planning ahead, and also it’s not exactly beach-friendly.  Most of these were taken with my iPhone, except for the first pic and the last one. One more tip for the day: generic snack-sized sandwich bags work as iPhone protection. We’ve done that on a few trips now, and they’ve held up well and kept the sand and water out of our phones.



I’m sad to leave that view, but it’s good to be home.

Monday, June 16, 2014

It takes Courage. It takes Brains. It takes Heart. (And coffee. Lots.)


Little Girl’s birthday was a few weeks back, and this was the year she broke into double digits. She wanted to have a few friends over for a sleepover party, and it took me a little while to decide just how much fuss to make over the party. Knowing that she’s a “tween,” I didn’t want to be too over the top, but I did want to make sure she and her friends had a good time, and that they weren’t bored.

Inspiration struck when I saw an advertisement from our local Barter Theatre - they were going to open a production of the Wizard of Oz close to her birthday. Our town has really joined in on the fun, and several of our restaurants and stores have Oz themed specials this summer. Opening day was going to be a few days after her party, so tickets there were out, but there was also a movie on at the movies that was Oz themed, too, so I though we might get tickets to that. Little Girl (Can I still call her that? I’m going with it.) nixed that idea, as the movie looked “way too young” for them. Turns out she was probably right. But she was still on board with the idea, so we got creative.


I thought if I was going to pull this off, and not in a way that made her friends roll their eyes at her out of touch old Mom, I was going to have to take it easy on the theme. So I found some sparkly paper at Hobby Lobby and made signs for a few stations around the house. This one was by the front door.


I found the Witch’s legs at Amazon.  We lined the driveway fence with yellow balloons for our yellow brick road, instead of painting anything yellow.

I wanted to let the girls be free to play as they liked as much as possible, but still have a loose schedule so they stayed entertained. Our first “activity” was to eat. Because we like to eat, and it was dinner time. I took Little Girl’s American Girl balloon that she got for Christmas, and used that as the table decoration.


A few goodies for the table (blow horns were a big hit but are not a good idea for your sanity)



And a close-up of the sign


A couple of pizzas, some chips and dip, a veggie tray, and some ice cream cake, some present opening, and we were all set. 

I had thought that the girls might want to shoot Little Girl’s bow and arrow- with supervision, of course- so we borrowed a couple of bales of straw from our neighbor, and I pulled this guy out of storage from my fall decorations, and gave him his own sign. Where would Dorothy be without a scarecrow, right?


The fine print reads “Because Brains Are Overrated. (No Refunds.)”

But the girls got busy playing and we just let the archery slide, which was better for my blood pressure anyway. I had this sign hanging on Little Girl’s bedroom door, and I think they really did have pillow fights, which may have been the thing she was most excited about in the planning stages.


When it started to get dark, it was time to get to the scavenger hunt. This bag had a few small flashlights, and the first clue. Husband and I printed off clues on cardstock, and hid them around the house outside. The girls were quick to guess where to go next, so the hunt only lasted a few minutes, but they loved it. 


They were hunting the Wicked Witch’s broom, so the last clue led them to where the broom was hiding, next to the fire pit, where we had our Wicked Witch (Marshmallow) roast- aka s’mores. Then inside to watch Return to Oz, that we streamed from Amazon.

After that, they moved on to Little Girl’s room for the night, and the real business of sleepovers, talking and playing, and we collapsed on the couch.  I’m not really sure what time they went to sleep. I think I fainted immediately after they closed the door.

The next morning, they had breakfast, painted for a little while on canvas, and took home a goody bag, that had Smarties for the Scarecrow’s brains, a bracelet Little Girl made for them out of red stones and a heart pendant for the Tin Man’s heart, Some China Glaze nail polish called C-C-Courage, because the Cowardly Lion obviously needs courage and a good manicure, some red ruby slipper socks I found on Amazon, too, (I love Prime, can you tell?), a Lollipop pen, a little Glenda wand, and a picture from the night I printed out on cardstock really quickly before they left.  I didn’t get a good shot of the bag, which I decorated with stickers I found at Hobby Lobby, and it said “There’s No Place Like Home.”

I think I had as much fun as the girls. You’re breaking my heart, not-so-Little Girl, but it sure is fun watching you grow!

Monday, June 9, 2014

I’m 40. Hello Craigslist, here I come.


You may or may not have noticed this (she says with sarcasm), but I’ve been struggling to define exactly what it is I want to accomplish with this blog.  My posts have dwindled to here and there, and I’ve had some trouble finding my voice.  One day it’s a journal, another day it’s home improvement, and then there are the random pictures of flowers and trees. What it going on here?

The truth is, this blog reflects my life.  I have a lot of interests, and they change quickly, sometimes within the day. I know that in this age of distraction, it’s a good thing to be fickle with your interests, but sometimes it leaves me wondering what I’m all about. It leaves me wondering what I’m doing this for- the blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.  These are strange and different times we live in now, so different from the offline world I remember of just a few years back (good grief I sound like I’m 80 but here we go,) the times where people called you on the phone to communicate, or better still, did so in person. When we knew what was going on with someone because we saw them at church, or a ballgame, or the grocery store. When gossip had a face behind it, and there was a little more shame in being nosy than there is in being a creeper on someone’s “page.” (Not that I’ve ever done that, ahem.) When people didn’t want or need to see your cleaned-up life on a feed, carefully edited, packaged and presented. Isn’t it telling that we call it a “feed,” as in, here I am feeding you a story I sort of made up but is partially, technically true?


In spite of the curmudgeonly tone this is taking, I am not, in fact, 80. In fact, I turned 40 last week. And for the past 5 years or so, I’ve had a lot of questions. Who is this person that God has called to His purposes? When am I actually going to feel like a bona fide adult?  What’s my role here? Why am I here? Everything I read and hear tells me that there’s nothing unique about my questions, that I’m in a life stage where it’s normal to be introspective, to evaluate whether I’m where I need to be along my life’s path, to take a moment to realign, to redirect where necessary.  I’m guessing my social media use questions are just a part of that process, although my 1995 copy of Emily Post doesn’t really address these things.


But there’s also something in my online health checkup that goes deeper. My birthday was great, it really was. I spent time with my family, we went out to eat and to the movies, and we had fun. But I also got a gut-punch in the reality department.  I need more human connection. I deactivated my Facebook page several weeks ago in the midst of all this introspection, and I’m not going to lie, it was tempting to get back on in time to be wished a Happy Birthday by my “friends.” But the main reason I deactivated was that Facebook doesn’t seem real to me. Like the difference between “friends” and friends. (That was not one of the thirty choices Facebook gave me when it asked why I was leaving, btw, but hello FB, it should be.) And so, I was ok with forgoing my Facebook birthday wishes, but I also realized that I don’t share my life widely, and when milestones like this come around, there’s a lot of in-real-life *crickets*.  I like to think part of that is just that we’re all caught up in our own stuff, and that makes it harder to stay connected. The cold, hard truth, though, is that it takes some work to maintain friendships, and in some cases I simply haven’t done the work. 

I hope about now you’re not rolling your eyes and saying “Jeez O Pete would you get to the point,” because there is a point, and here it is:  I want to be connected, in lots of ways, and my blog is about connection. I could make it private and write a little journal just for myself. And I would enjoy that, too. I just choose not to do that, because my hope is that my life looks a little or a lot like your life, or nothing at all like your life, but somehow we can still relate and encourage each other.  I enjoy sharing things that are true, or beautiful, or both, and I hope that you enjoy sharing them with me.  Coming up with these posts feels like art to me, and it lets me use the creative gifts God planted in me.  I have work to do in the face-to-face world, and I’m going to make some changes in that department, but my on-and-offline lives don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I like it here. And so, I’m going to keep coming here and telling tales and showing off my lopsided pictures, all while I carefully word my Craigslist ad for the real-life friends I need, too.  I hope you’ll stick around- and comment, or this connection thing doesn’t work.  I’m still not going back to Facebook, but look me up on Instagram if you feel like it, I’m ntc33.

(Just kidding about that Craigslist stuff. Calm down, Mom. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Calling all recovering perfectionists


Every once in a while, I pick up a book that seems like it’s going to be a fun, light read, and it ends up changing the way I look at things in a big way.  This is one of those books. If you read the blog Nesting Place, you’re well acquainted with the idea that “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” (If you haven’t seen the blog, you can click Nesting Place above, or on my blog roll to the right if you’d like to see it.)  I’ve been a fan of that message and Nester/Myquillyn’s blog for a long time now, and I was anxious to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed. I liked it enough that I bought the first copy to read on my iPad, and decided I wanted this in hard copy, so I ordered that, too. That might be a first for me.

I found myself looking at bigger-picture issues than just the things inside my house while I was reading this. It’s wise, and funny, and helpful.  If you’re into “house stuff,” or even “life stuff,” you might want to check it out. I got mine from Amazon, but I think it’s available in most bookstores.