Happy Go Stuckey


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Dear Blue House, or– A Tale of Unrequited House Love.

Dear Blue House,

I first saw your picture as an attachment in an email that Lance sent me at work.

IMG_0833Tiny little photos on a real estate web page were enough to grab my attention. Grey Cape Cod with a long white porch running the length of the house, (Okay YES. we painted you blue within two months– so what?!) The Brady bunch style kitchen and the brown octagonal tile did nothing, nothing to dissuade me from what I saw in that porch. Big cups of coffee in rocking chairs. Reading picture books to a lap full of kids on the porch swing. Long mosquito-less (Yes, I was delusional,) summer suppers under white lights. Those iconic southern moments were all I saw. I looked straight past your retro wet-bar which graced the living room with all the early 80’s panache of MacGyver himself. Those large picture windows flanking the fireplace and shuttling in bright rays of sun caused my temporary blindness and I’m so glad. I saw nothing but everything I’d ever wanted in a house. 

You have kept us warm, (most of the time) dry, (most of the time) and cool, (except that one time last spring and later that same summer and then that one time the year before that— and actually you’re not really so great in the HVAC department now that I’m thinking about it… so maybe you could look into that…just a suggestion…) Never the less, we have celebrated several Christmases here with roaring fires and even snow once or twice, and I’m sure somewhere out in the yard are a few shards of plastic egg from Easters past. You have been the backdrop of our little life here and we mark the years on the calendar and in the slowly chipping paint on the front porch.IMG_0169But LOOK, we have to talk. You seem to have underestimated this family. Yeah, sure you may have gotten the raw end of the deal with two married kids who had only ever been apartment dwellers and weren’t always 100% certain how to light a pilot light. But we know that now. We can light pilot lights like a boss. True, we might have made a few mistakes along the way here and there. We probably should have done that whole kitchen cabinet thing differently, but we learned from it. (I’ll tell ya what we learned, never ever again– that’s what.) Maybe every single time we tried to install anything, it took multiple Lowe’s trips and heaps of patience.

But you’ve been our training ground for home ownership. And we’re getting better at this whole, taking care of a late 70’s fixer upper. Because make no mistake about it, we ARE fixing you up, little by little, so perhaps you could, um- get on board, like NOW.

There have been times that you’ve been a little* more than we bargained for with your drafty, beautiful, single-pane windows and monkey grass galore. I have long since stopped watching HGTV altogether because it just makes me irritable. Nothing ever takes 30 minutes. Except for Fixer-Upper. We still like Fixer-Upper. Love Joanna and Chip. She could whip you into shape in no time flat.

How about you ease up a little bit and not rebel every year at this time, when we start little projects. It’s really not very nice of you when we are just trying to make you pretty– and less problematic.

You should know that we have a little running joke about you, Blue House. We refer to you as that slightly odd, cantankerous family member— You know the one- Uncle Harold. Uncle Harold is always negative and doesn’t like change. He wears thick glasses and brown wool pants pulled clean up to his rib cage even in late july— AND he is always asking for money at family gatherings. That’s you, Blue House, you’re Uncle Harold. Everything is always more complicated when you’re involved, but we love you anyway —so we keep inviting you to Sunday Dinner and painting your walls, little by little.

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Remember when we whitewashed the brick? That wasn’t so bad was it?

So how about this— we promise to keep loving you even when you don’t love us back. Because if we can help it, you are stuck with us.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

P.S. Your dining room paint looks so great!  However, don’t get too attached to that old brass chandelier that blows light bulbs every third Sunday. We’re coming for it next.

Hugs and Paint Brushes (only the good kind, I promise,)– Your People

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**Uncle Harold is a fictitious character. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead, is purely coincidental. 


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Abby’s Sheriff Callie Birthday Party

Our little Abby turned three last week and we celebrated Sheriff Callie- style! For the uninformed, Sheriff Callie’s Wild West is a new show on Disney Junior featuring the town of Nice and Friendly Corners and its fearless leader, a calico kitty named Sheriff Callie. Callie has a deputy named Peck, (Woodpecker) and a sidekick named Toby, who happens to be a Cactus who loves to eat popcorn. (Oh yes, it’s every bit as cute as it sounds.) The little town is full of animal characters with fun personalities and each show teaches a sweet simple lesson.

Sheriff Callie’s Wild West is hands down, Abby’s favorite show, so naturally she chose that as her theme months ago. At the time, I was a little concerned as there wasn’t really a Sheriff Callie section at the party store–( remember the Aristocats Party  we had last year? Same story. ) But this was the MOST fun I have had with a birthday party for the girls. The western theme was easy to do and bonus– I was able to use so many things we already had–which is a big thing for me. I rarely ever buy big things to decorate for a birthday party, but instead go “shopping” around my house. I found a fun printable party pack on Etsy and that with just a couple trips to Hobby Lobby– and we had ourselves a fun little hoedown. And yes, I am enjoying using all of the western colloquialisms. ;)

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I started the party prep by purchasing this printable party package through Birthday Buzzin Prints on Etsy. They were fabulous to work with and I received the printable files within 24 hours. I then sent the pieces I needed to Staples for printing. The banner, pictured below was a bit pricey to print as every letter was a separate sheet on cardstock, but I love the way it turned out! I cut out each letter and then strung the letters with thick jute rope.

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The party pack also came with the adorable cupcake toppers, trail mix favor bag toppers, a Wild West sign, menu cards and then a few more things we did not need. It was so fun having everything coordinate. The month before the party, we spotted the Callie, Peck and Toby stuffed characters at Target and snatched them up right then for Abby’s birthday gift. She was thrilled to have them, and I was thrilled to use them to decorate! They have been a cute addition to our house and they are made really well. I enjoy using stuffed animals to help decorate and carry the theme along when we already have them!

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Tobias P. Cactus is my favorite. He’s so cute!

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When everyone arrived, we directed them to a small table with Sheriff’s Badges and Bandanas. I was surprised that even the little ones enjoyed wearing them, but they did!

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Because Abby’s birthday is in a very cold month, we often have the challenge of where to hold her party. This year, our dining room happened to be mostly empty (since we are getting a new table– hooray!) So I pulled a flowered quilt out of the closet and the kiddos sat on that to eat. It worked out great, and just had to be shaken out after the party. And the quilt looked really cute with the theme. I think I might just do that again in the future! Also, we borrowed a few beautiful stick horses that my friend Beka made and we intended on having races outside, but since it was so cold- the children just galloped them around our house, which was cute too.

For the food we served:

Uncle Bun’s Hot Dogs with Fixings

Prairie Pepper Chili (Not spicy)

Toby’s Popcorn (in a hat!)

Farmer Stinky’s Pasta Salad

Farmer Stinky’s Fresh Berries

Apple Sauce Pouches

Ella Cowbell’s Cactus Juice (Capri Suns)

Sheriff Callie’s Cupcakes with cupcake toppers from Etsy. 

*We also had a “Watering Hole” set up in the kitchen for the adults with Water in a Beverage Dispenser, Tea and Lemonade with, Blue Mason Jars of course– because what else?

Source List:

Chicken Wire Cupcake Stand– we had this already but I believe it came from TJ Maxx.

Cow Print Tablecloth, Pink & Blue Bandanas, Mini Hay Bales, Burlap- Hobby Lobby

Silver Sheriff’s Badges-Amazon

Small Galvanized Buckets- Ikea

Pink Plates and Small Sheriff Callie Characters- Target

Sheriff Callie Party Printables- banner, cupcake toppers, menu cards and signs- Etsy

Other Resources- Disney Junior Printable Callie Coloring Sheets


We had a wonderful time celebrating our little Abby. As much fun as I had planning and hosting, I think she enjoyed it more– which is exactly the whole point!

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Our birthday girl. My mom made Abby a sweet little Sheriff Callie shirt and a cutie brown felt vest– but she didn’t stay still long enough for a good picture!

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Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

**Any amazon links are affiliate links. All links are for your convenience.


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Finding My #FringeHours

I remember being nine years old and being simply beside myself on school library day. I wondered what new books would be available. I’m sure I pondered my selection all through math class– A new Boxcar Children book? Or Spunky’s Diary again? I loved library day. Not to mention when the scholastic book fair came around annually. Don’t even. That announcement made my little 3rd grade heart beat wildly just like a little Kathleen Kelly.

If there is one thing in our house that we have an abundance of– it is books. When we first moved in here, the massive floor to ceiling bookshelf on one side of the living room immediately called our name. Which is good, since it’s gargantuan and no beast or man alive could lift it. Never the less, these two bibliophiles quickly packed its shelves with all our treasures.
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Still today, the love continues. Last year however, I realized I was always stacking books and never finishing them. Do you find yourself doing that with anything you know you really enjoy? Having all the tools necessary but never really doing it? What is it for you? Crafting? Photo Book Making? Running? Cooking?

It is really easy to slip into the season of “putting off.” That season where you don’t do those things you know you enjoy– the thing that feeds your soul and gives you rest. Life is very busy no matter what stage we are in, and it’s tempting to just stack up those books or virtual albums of photos or running shoes and plan to have more time later. 

But later could be now if we could find those pockets of time, those little bits of minutes where things can happen.

This year I have read five books so far. WOW. That is huge for me, and I don’t say that to show how much time I have– because well, I don’t really. I may stay at home with my girls, but I find that the days and weeks fill up rather quickly no matter what we have planned. We have small group commitments, ministry opportunities at church, I take a spin class three mornings a week at 6am, I review books, I do part-time book editing and virtual assistant work, and I maintain my own blog and spend a good bit of time writing for future projects. And those are just the personal commitments. I also love the time I can spend with our family and friends. All of those things are important to me and so they all have a bit of priority involved. It is easy to let anything I do “for me” slip. The problem with that tends to be that I am prone to be worn out, stretched thin and unable to have much overflow for everyone else if I don’t take time to refresh.

One of the biggest game changers for me has been reading The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica Turner. Jessica’s blog, The Mom Creative was one the very first I began reading more than five years ago and even then I was amazed at “all that she did.” This book does not tell you what you should be doing with your time, but it gives you valuable principles that allow you to decide for yourself. The Fringe Hours is an encouraging and exciting look at the time we already have and it directs us to choose those things that matter and invest in them with our time.

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The Fringe Hours so assisted me in making time for myself that I was able to locate pockets of “lost” time in which I could read and write. If you keep glancing over at a pile of something you really hope you “get to” soon– I would encourage you to grab this book! It comes out in just a few days and if you pre-order The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You on Amazon, it could show up on your doorstep then!

Happy #FringeHours, Friend!!! I’m linking up with Jessica Turner today in celebration of her book’s release and Fringe Friday!

**Amazon links are affiliate links. 


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The Song

Many months ago, I saw a preview for The Song being released in local movie theaters, but sadly enough it never came to this part of the state. Naturally, when I saw the book up for review, I quickly requested a copy. I have been trying to fit in a work of fiction between each non-fiction book that I read this year. This is helping me to stay sharp and fresh when I’m reading– and it really helps me in writing, too.

I have to be honest I was a bit apprehensive about reading The Song. The last book I read which was released at a similar time as the movie was not wonderful but  seemed like a sloppy adaption of the screen play. With that book, I struggled to find anything creative about the telling of the story having also seen the movie. This book, The Song by Chris Fabry was not that way at all. I truly enjoyed the writing style and the story therein. I still have not seen the movie– but I think the book should ALWAYS be more thorough, not the other way around– right?

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Jed King, the son of famous musician David King, struggles to really find his place in life and in music. Though he has the talent, he has yet to find the passion needed for a career as a musician. When he plays for a Vineyard Festival in the town of Sharon, his future shifts in a tangible way. Enter Rose, the daughter of the vineyard owner. Having Rose out in the crowd stops Jed right in his set and he asks her out right on the spot. Their fast moving journey toward marriage and the future is real, pure, and beautifully told. Finally, in Rose, Jed has found all of the love and inspiration his music was lacking and he pens the song for her that propels him into the fame for which he was not even searching. Jed’s new found notoriety takes him down the rocky path of stardom which proves treacherous and ultimately unfulfilling. The Song, a modern adaptation of the life of King Solomon, causes the reader to ask difficult questions about grace, forgiveness and love. The tag line of the book, Even the Wisest of Men was a Fool For Love reveals the nature of certain struggles Jed will encounter on his journey.

I truly enjoyed this book. Unfortunately, the hard truth about pieces of Christian Fiction that attempt to deal with difficult issues– is that they often seem detached in hopes of not glorifying sin. This was not the case with this story. The writers write not from removed piety but from the place of being those in need of grace, as we all are. The Song is poignant and at times, heartbreaking without being vulgar or too raw. Well written and honest, the rough road Jed walks is detailed as he recklessly careens toward ruin without being either trite or coarse. One of the most clear themes of The Song is the theme of Grace that runs like a lovely thread from the first page until the last. I will not reveal how it ends, but if you love a good ending with plenty of redemption, you will certainly enjoy this The Song. I highly recommend this enjoyable and praise-worthy read. You can pick up your own copy of The Song at Amazon* today.

(affiliate link– which means Amazon thanks for me for telling you to use them!)

**I received a free copy of The Song by Chris Fabry from the Tyndale Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you, Tyndale! 


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Keep At It. (Even in the Messy Middle.)

There are those who say that to begin, to start, is the hardest part.

I disagree.

I think it is often much harder to begin again. 

We start a new eating plan and visions of new, smaller pants dance in front of us– all the way to the produce department at Whole Foods.

We set out on a bright, Saturday morning with a trip to Lowe’s and an episode of Fixer-Upper in our minds– and the thought of turning our closet into a fully functioning Pottery Barn-esque mudroom seems highly attainable in one afternoon.

We lace up running shoes and practically leap out of bed that first Monday morning after New Year’s Day with complete surety that we will be stronger and faster by lunchtime tomorrow.

We open the laptop in the corner booth at Panera with every intention of finally writing that book we always wanted to begin.

Because with every new and sometimes scary adventure, we have the benefit of excitement. The shining possibility of what may, what will come and it propels us rapidly forward. Well past the uncertainty of our own ability. 

But only for a while.

In between the exciting beginning and the victorious end, is something scary. The messy middle, and that is where things get tough.

We fail. We find out we aren’t quite as disciplined as we hoped. We find we would rather sleep in one morning and one morning turns into three… weeks.

The reality of that project, that book, that idea– is that it’s anything but easy. In fact, it’s just plain hard. Harder than maybe we thought. 

May I make a suggestion? In that messy middle where we just absolutely hate that we have in our minds, “failed again,” perhaps a change of focus is in order.

Instead of plummeting into defeat, disgusted with our weakness– maybe we just lean into our weakness.

Lean a little further and know that all this? It is hard for a reason. It is hard because we aren’t meant to do it alone.

Here is what I know. I know that when we are given tasks that seem too big for us, it is because they most certainly are.

But the Good News?

He knows we are broken. He loves us in spite of it.
He knows we are flawed. He is the only One who is not.
He knows we are helpless. He is our only Help.

And HE who called us to do this thing, wants us to depend on His strength– and then to GET BACK UP AND KEEP GOING.

Because the Messy Middle cannot last forever.

And you are not a failure. You are His Masterpiece. 

So KEEP AT IT.

Psalm 145

 

Linking up with the Five Minute Friday Party today. Hop over here and see what everyone else is saying about the word, Keep.

 


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Links I Love.

I’ve read several posts and articles lately that have made me say, “Wow,” out loud.

All of them different in nature– but I wanted to share a few with you. Happy Reading, friends!

Link Love

  • The Surprising Truth About Finding My Calling by Emily P. Freeman. (Ack! She gets it so right on point, every time! She likens stepping into her calling with stepping into parenthood, and yes and Amen I felt and feel that same way.)
  • On Surrendering Envy and Being Enough by Alia Joy. (this post had me wiping at tears one minute and laughing out loud another– really the part about the kale and tofu?!? And I happen to have a laminated key fob somewhere *just like hers. Read it. You won’t be sorry.
  • Stocking The Pond by Shauna Niequist. All you writer friends out there, you should NEED to read this. It’s a happy little piece reminding us of why we need to be “Noticers.” I’m working on this more. Trying to pay attention to every thing is helping me grow in more ways than one. Learning to be IN the moment.
  •  And then also for writers, or really if there is anything at all that you have felt a stirring to just-do-already– Read this-  On Becoming A Writer by Jen Hatmaker. One quote I really enjoyed was this–

“Next, I am devastated to bring this bad news, but writing requires work. Kind of hard, brutal, sanity-threatening work. All the writing dreams in your head have to transition to your ten fingers on a keyboard, and I’m afraid there is no other way. (I’m sorry. Take your time.) Work requires time, which of course, you have none of. This is the writer’s dilemma. You will not miraculously become a writer by carrying on exactly like you are. It’s a whole thing and you have to make room for it.– Jen Hatmaker, On Becoming A Writer. 

She says so many helpful things– and  just because she is Jen and she can rock a messy bun like nobody’s business while making you spit your coffee out all over the keyboard because of her many funny things. (No, Husband I did not actually do that. I know we are still trying to sell our computer and I would never do such a thing. Purely hypothetical. )

 

Ok, So I hope you will at least pick one of those articles and find some encouragement, direction, clarity or perhaps much loud guffawing in reading them.

P.S. I hope at least one of you appreciates that NO WHERE in this entire article did I use the word curate. As in, “I carefully curated these articles for you.” I think that word is currently over used and it makes me what to say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means, ” in my best Inigo Montoya voice. I did not curate, I carefully gathered. Curate sounds like something the Sotheby’s go-fer does.

 


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What I Learned in January

Here are a few things I learned in January…

1. Moments of joy and moments of sadness can exist right alongside each other, almost in the same breath. December was rough. The month began with the sadness of losing another baby in miscarriage and most of December was a bit clouded by the strange mix of joy and pain we felt. I would have never have chosen to experience that kind of tragedy at Christmas. Would anyone? But God in His wisdom gave us the gift of reveling in bright moments throughout a time that would have been somewhat overshadowed by what we experienced. I have never been so happy to see the girls just being together and loving their little lives as I did in December. Our joy was not tainted by the sadness, but our true Hope was made more clear. More on this here. It has taken me this long, until late January to really see this truth at work in our lives, that whether chaos, frustration, or sadness is the order of the moment; joy, peace, and light are right there– we need only pay attention to them.

2. It is the quality of a respite, not necessarily the quantity that matters. January began bright and shining with books, coffee and the beach. Lance and I took a quick overnight trip to one of our favorite spots and spent hours talking, eating, reading and hopeful-dreaming about the new year. It was absolutely everything we needed. I considered the difference of a brief but peaceful time like that and one of say, our week long vacation to Disney last year. Much longer, much more activities and completely 100% magical, but not at ALL the same tranquil feeling as watching the waves dance in over the top of a really good book. Vacationing with toddlers is absolutely crazy/wonderful but rather less like a vacation and more like herding a pack of feral cats through Walmart on a Sunday afternoon. However, if we did not do one, we may not really appreciate the other. We may not appreciate moments like this– in the same way. I am truly thankful for both. It did cause me to realize that for me, when I’m seeking rest and refreshing, a latte and a book are a better use of that time than a busy grocery store and a long list.
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3. I learned how to make my own face cream. I know, how crunchy granola am I? Seriously though, I’ve been using the same yellow Vitamin E face cream that comes in a huge nondescript container from Sams Club for oh, maybe 10 years. As in, before I met my husband. It’s smooth, creamy and for about 7.00 you can moisturize your face for about 2-3 years. I’ve actually only bought it maybe three times in our relationship. Except that here’s the thing… bad, scary, hard-to-pronounce ingredients? It’s got them, it’s got them all. I’ve been slapping that stuff on my face for a DECADE. Of course I tried other things over the years with shorter ingredient lists and higher price tags, but they always underwhelmed me. Enter Pinterest. I noticed this blog on making homemade skin creams using shea butter and essential oils and thanks to our new relationship with Amazon Prime– lo and behold a container of shea butter *miraculously appeared on my doorstep within 48 hours so I could try it. I whipped the shea butter with a mixer until it was fluffy and then added the oils. I used Frankincense, Lavender and Melaleuca. and I will go a bit heavier on the Lavender next time. Otherwise it smells a bit too much like the gifts the Wise Men brought. The Frankincense is extremely beneficial for wrinkles and fine lines and the Melaleuca gently kills the bad and keeps the oily skin factor way down. The verdict: All in all, I really enjoy using it. When summer comes and it’s a bit more humid, I may choose to change the base to something less thick– but at the end of the day I love knowing what’s going on my skin. 
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Okay, your turn friend– what did YOU learn in January? I would really love to know.

I’m linking up with Emily over at Chatting at the Sky to share what we learned, won’t you join us?

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