Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just an example...

of the funny things uttered by Brea today:

"Sometimes I love you, sometimes I don't love you." (Said as I was putting her down for a nap after I told her I loved her.)

"I hear rain! Do you want me to wipe your bottom?" (Said while she was standing in front of me in the bathroom while I went pee.)

That girls and her words. Too cute.


Miss Marie Goes To School...

My dear friend Marie started her new job today after recently relocating to Wisconsin. What's her new job you ask? She's the new recreation specialist (PE teacher for ease of reference) at a pre-school. Let me explain to you why I'm so excited for her new position...

First, as the mother of a child who what lucky enough to have Miss Marie as her pre-school teacher, I can't even begin to explain what an amazing pre-school teacher she is. Marie has this incredible, natural ability to connect with that age group of kids in a way not many people can. She meets them at their level, respectfully, with such enthusiasm and un-intimidating expectations, that the learning environment she creates is incredibly dynamic. She respects the kids as little people, and they in return respect her as their teacher and friend. It's a hard phenomenon to explain, and one you can't truely appreciate until you've seen it first hand.

Second, as a wellness professional in a time when unhealthy lifestyle habits are resulting in HUGE problems for the health of our nation, I'm so excited that she's using her amazing connection to encourage kids to be active. It's well known that people who where encouraged as kids to be active, and who had positive experiences with both organized and unorganized physical activities, are more likely to live an active lifestyle as an adult. An active lifestyle usually translates into better individual health. And turning around the current state of affairs in relationship to our nation's health is gonna have to start one individual at a time. Marie will provide one of those positive experiences that can help shape a healthier population!

Finally, as her friend, I know she's gonna rock this job like she does everything she puts her mind to in life. While this may be a temporary stop on her road to "bigger things", I hope she realizes how much all the "little" stops she's made on her journey have touched those of us who have been blessed by her presence in our lives.

Love you Marie!


Financial Perspective...

It's Tuesday, which means I'm balancing the checkbook and getting tabs on our financial situation for the week. No, I'm not going to freak out like my post a couple weeks ago that sent my mom and several of my friends into a whirlwind of worry about the stability of my mental health. (No, this is not a statement of denial, I really am ok.) Instead, even though it's only 3 weeks later and things are not any better, I thought I'd share one of the things that has helped me shift my attitude as of late...

Unfortunately our financial situation is not unique these days. Many young families are finding themselves struggling to make ends meet. And obviously middle class families aren't the only one's finding ourselves in a pinch. It seems that those big corporate giants on Wall Street aren't much better at balancing their budgets. I guess at least our situation doesn't require a $700 BILLION bailout plan to find our footing again. We could make do with SEVERAL fewer zeros.


Sunday, September 28, 2008


Seven years ago yesterday, at 7:18 pm, the words "It's a girl!" forever changed our lives. What an amazing journey parenting has proven to be. Each year as we celebrate Lexi's birthday, I take pause to be thankful for both the experience and the amazing little lady who came into our lives on that day.

I'll admit, I'm not much of a big birthday party kinda mom. So our birthday celebrations tend to be pretty low key. Yesterday was a BEAUTIFUL day, not unlike the day Lexi was born. After a morning trip to the coffee shop for chocolate milk and a cinnamon roll with Dad (while I was teaching class), we loaded up the birthday girl (and her silly little sister of course) and made the 30 minute drive to the Hinegardner Orchard near Montour for some apple pickin'. The girls and I had first visited the orchard 2 years ago with Lexi's preschool, and it has since become one of our favorite fall destinations.

The last time Brea visited the orchard she was confined to the snuggly, strapped to Mommy. This year she got to participate in filling our bushel basket with a colorful array of apples.

Notice the signature Mavin concentration tongue.

To our surprise, some of the trees a ways into the orchard that the last time we visited were bare, this year hosted a healthy crop of pears!

The pears were a bit more work to pick, requiring the assistance of one of those long handled fruit picking baskets. But sooooooo worth the extra effort.

It was a lovely family outing.

We loaded our nicely filled basket into the back of Velma, shined up an apple for each of the girls to eat during the drive, and headed home for the next part of the celebration...the pizza making, movie watching, sleepover part.

Allison arrived around 4 and our house was immediately filled with crazy giggles, more than what you would assume 2, 7-year-olds and a tag-a-long 2-year-old could produce. The girls played, taking advantage of the nice weather, while I prepared the dough and toppings to put together our personal pizzas. I love making our own pizzas because everyone gets what they want without any compromise! Lexi: cheese. Allison: pepperoni and cheese. Brea: ham, olive and cheese. Mommy: lots of veggies, no sauce, and cheese. Daddy: lots of meat and cheese. (Plus, we make whole wheat crust...yummy!)

After pizza, and apples/pears with cream cheese dipping sauce for dessert, it was time for PJs and a movie. The night's feature flick, Barbie and the Diamond Castle. (I know, regardless of my personal views about all things Barbie, I have to remember to allow my girls to be girls...and I try to keep at least MOST of my negative Barbie comments to myself.) As you can see, the girls were TOTALLY engrossed in the cheesy storyline and really bad animation.

The girls FINALLY crashed out around 11:15 after a little over an hour of me venturing out to the living room to remind them it was time to quiet down. (Brea hit the wall around 10, which after a busy day with no nap, was late, late, late...hence why she slept in until almost 9 this morning!)

This morning started early for the big girls with them waking a bit before 7 and with SO MUCH ENERGY! We whipped up some of our favorite homemade waffles with strawberries and whipped cream and scrambled some eggs (and good, strong coffee for Mom and Dad), after which the girls ran off to make use of the short amount of time they had left together before Allison's parents arrived to pick her up.

Things are now quiet in our house. Lexi has asked for some quiet time to rest while watching a movie. Brea is busying herself between movie watching, apple snacking, and general 2-year-old busyness. Football is on in the livingroom and I'm enjoying the quiet hum of my computer. Overall, I'd say an enjoyable birthday was had. And just like that, we have a 7-year-old in da house!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Satin pjs, garden art, and 1st grade...

As the girls and I were preparing for story time last night I grabbed the tripod and the camera to get a quick picture of us in our new matching sating Tinker Bell pjs. (Scott was at work, hence the tripod. Thank goodness for the wonder that is Photoshop, because this picture DID NOT look like this when I down loaded it! Apparently I need to work on my white balance/exposure settings when trying to shoot in natural night time light.) You don't get to see the fun shape (WIDE legged bottoms), but you get the general idea of how cute we look.

Brea loves her's so much I can hardly get her out of them if we are not leaving the house right away in the morning. To be fair, it is her first pair of satin pjs...and they do feel nice! As I was trying to grab this shot, she was TOTALLY engrossed in her favorite morning TV show...Super Why!...on IPTV.

On a totally different story line...the little gift shop down the street from the studio where I teach has some of the cutest garden art, most of which I think is locally made. This week they put out these new plate flowers. They are literally just old plates, saucers, and bowls glued together and put on metal stems. What a creative use for old miss matched dinnerware! (I adore that metal Coneflower too...I've been drooling over it all summer.)

And speaking of gardens, as I was walking across campus to teach at the gallery last week, I happened upon this plant.

I don't know what it is, but I love it and think I need to figure out what it is to add it to my flower bed next year. Please leave a comment if you can identify it for me!

Last Thursday night was Curriculum Night (Open House) at Lexi's school. She was so excited and proudly showed us what she had been learning/working on over the past several weeks. We are amazed at how much she has already grown and learned in less than a month of 1st grade!

So there you have my random catch up post of the week. I figured I best just lump everything together today or things would never get reported!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday's To Do List...

  • Balance the checkbook and pay bills. Check! (And I'm choosing NOT to freak out about finances today even with the reality of the numbers staring me in the face.)
  • Complete 3 PTO tasks in relationship to the upcoming Fall Festival, the collection of our dues, and the t-shirt project.
  • Get a handle on the dishes!
  • Clean more than just a path through the living room so that I can vacuum.
  • Have a conversation with Lexi about her birthday. (Meaning, trying to find a compromise between what she wants...a full out My Little Pony party with ALL her friends...vs. what I want...something involving a LOT few kids and no cheesy theme for which we have to buy crap.)
  • Hit the grocery store.
  • Watch The Biggest Loser. (Hey, every girl has her vices.)
  • Take a nap. (I know this one isn't going to happen, but it's nice to think that maybe it could.)
I think I have a busy afternoon ahead of me considering it's already 1:00!


Monday, September 22, 2008

A Little Girl Time...

I ran off to Nebraska this weekend to resume a bi-annual tradition with my girlfriend Jen. A tradition that started when our oldest girls were just about 18 months old (soon they will both be turning 7). A tradition that that came out of reconnecting after several years out of touch following college. A tradition started based on our love of quilts, our desire to be quilters, and which has become so much more than just uninterrupted time at our sewing machines. (Though we enjoy that as well.) A tradition from which we had to take a short break because...well we both had second kiddos and sometimes life gets in the way. Those babies are older (and not breast feeding any more) and sometimes life has to just be put on hold for sanity's sake. This weekend Ladies Weekend (LW) officially resumed.

Here's the basics of Ladies Weekend. We rent a cabin for 2 nights at one of the Nebraska State Parks located between Omaha and Lincoln. It makes for about a 3 hour trip for each of us...not a bad commute for a fun weekend. We meet in Omaha for lunch on Friday and shopping which usually consists of quilt/craft/fabric stores, Target, and the occasional stop at the mall if one of us has a specific non-ladies weekend need. (Like we need to return an item at a store there.) From there we head to the cabin.

Meet home-sweet-home for this weekend's 40 hours of sewing/chatting/wine drinking/eating fun...Owen Cabin 12, also known as the Arabian. (In this particular park all the cabins in the Owen "wing" are named after types of horses.)

Having done this a few times, it doesn't take us long to unpack the cars and get set up. The sewing machines, ironing board, and cutting mats are set up. Snacks are arranged in the kitchen, a bottle of wine is opened, tunes a turned on, and the crafting begins.

We originally started these gatherings as quilting weekends. Then we decided it would be fun to do some small, easy projects on Friday night that could be finished in just a few hours so that even if one didn't get a whole quilt finished (because let's be realistic here people), we could at least go home with some sort of finished project. As a result of where our lives are at the moment with families and jobs and the general lack of time one finds she has in her 30s, not one quilting item was brought along this time. It seems they have been traded (at least temporarily) in for projects that can be finished during our stay at the cabin OR with minimal effort once we return home. Jen's first project of the weekend was creating some dish cloths and towels inspired by this tutorial.

Needless to say, sleep is not high on the priority list for the weekend...thus we normally end the first night in the wee hours of the morning (at least I think that's how I would describe 5 am)...but having usually gotten a good start on our projects and lots of chatting done in the process.

On Saturday morning we get up when ever we wake. In my case this particular Saturday it was 9:30 when my bladder thought it was going to explode. After visiting the lady's room, I started heating water for coffee in the french press (yes, we're roughin' it), and headed out to the back porch of the cabin to check out our morning view.

I also wanted to grab some natural light photos (because the cabin is ALL wood paneling which as you can tell from all the indoor photos gives everything a warm, amber glow) of my Friday night accomplishment...the first of the fabric boxes I am making to help organize the sock & pantie drawer in the girls' chest-o-drawers.

I choose to totally complete one box before moving on because my "pattern" is a combo of the instructions from this blog post and instructions found in an Amy Butler pattern book. I decided to utilize fabrics from my pink/B&W stash which I have collected over the years, thus making this project thrifty. (The firmness of the box comes from "recycled" cereal boxes, which we have plenty of with kids in the house!)

In addition to sewing and chatting, food is a major focus of our planning/execution of LW. I do a lot of the menu planning, food gathering, and meal preparation...which oddly enough is more fun during LW than in every day life. We normally eat yummy foods that our families don't necessary appreciate. Like sushi for our Friday lunch (though Jen's family actually does eat sushi, lucky her), lots of gourmet cheeses, appetizer type dips, veggie based soups during cooler weather, yummy pasta's, crusty breads, wine, and of course a little chocolate sneaks in here and there. Need visual proof of the yumminess? Check out our Saturday lunch.

And yes, that is garnishment on the tomato salad and a bowl of thread for decoration.

I also met a new love this weekend. Meet Luca.

Luca is a 98 pound "blue" Doberman our friend Tonja (who lives in Ashland, just a few minutes from the park where we rent out cabin) is fostering (soon to be adopting) through Doberman Rescue of Nebraska. I've never been around Doberman's much, but I would consider adopting one in the future after being around Luca. He's calm, attentive, very much enjoys being in the presence of his people and reminded me so much of Zeke, our Rottweiler who tragically got hit by in Februrary of 2002, that had Tonja not been already planning to adopt him, I would have just loaded him up in the car with me on Sunday. Seriously, that's how hard I fell for him! We got our Rottie after spending time around his parents and never regreted that decision EVEN when people questioned how "safe" it was to own a Rottie. I'd get one again. I could see how Dobies can get the same bad rap After spending time with Luca I am reminded that there are very few inherently "bad/mean" dogs, just a lot of bad/mean owners.

Saturday night/Sunday morning consisted of lounge/PJ pant making. Based on an Amy Butler pattern, we worked on creating matching sets for mommies and their daughters. It's quite funny making the same pant in a range of sizes from 2T to adult Lrg. The girls and I (and actually Jen's 2 girls as I had PLENTY of extra fabric) are all sporting new purple satin Tinker Bell PJ pants. I hope to get a picture of the 3 of us taken soon to share because they really are quite cute...and comfortable. I have more fabric (flannel) that was purchased for a second pair for each of us, but there's only so much time spent at the cabin and we are pros at thinking we can twice as much done as what's actually possible. Unfortunatly we haven't figured how to make it through the weekend without ANY sleep and still be functioning by Sunday morning...though this weekend we got awefully close! I'm hoping I can locate a serger to borrow to finish up the flannel pairs here in the coming weeks. I'm planning to use them for our traditional Christmas Eve gift...a new pair of PJs in which to sleep while Santa is hard at work making his visits.

Sunday morning we have little time before check out. It's breakfast and coffee, showers, repack the cars, and the weekend draws to a close. We say our goodbyes, give our hugs, and drive out of the park in our separate directions. Headed back home, physically tired, but mentally refreshed...and almost always with a few homemade surprises for our little girlies back home.

There you have it. Ladies Weekend 101. Time to start planning our next meeting in the spring!


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thoughts From The Shower...

I get ideas for posts at the most inconvenient of times. Like:
  • When I'm driving long distances.
  • Riding my bike solo.
  • Taking a walk.
  • Admittedly, sometimes during final relaxation when I'm teaching yoga.
  • In the shower.
What is it about the shower? I used to plan my day and problem solve in the shower all the time when I had a regular 8-5 job. Maybe it's the nakedness. Humor me for a minute here. What if removal of clothes = removal of mental boundaries? Now there's a thought for your morning. I had a friend email me a thought she had in the shower the other day...so I know I'm not alone with my brilliant shower moments.

Last night (and actually it started with an idea for a different post, only now I can't remember what that train of thought was because I got side tracked onto this one) I was thinking about this whole shower thought process and decided to start having a "regular" feature here called Thoughts From The Shower. I say "regular" because well, thoughts in the shower aren't always predictable AND with my teaching schedule, when I shower isn't always predictable either. But I still want to give it a go because some of my favorite blogs have regular features.

Like Andrea at hula seventy has Photobooth Friday. (I have never met this woman but her and her husband's blogs were some of the first I started following, totally ran across them randomly, when I started my blog and I still enjoy the fabulousness that is Andrea's site...the words, the photos. And they were the ones who first introduced me to regular features. )

Then there's Heather at dooce and her daily series...Daily photo, Daily Chuck, Daily style.

Even my good friend Marie who is new to the blog world is giving a shot at a regular feature...Things that keep me up at night.

So far these are things that I think will be my biggest challenges with the project:

1. Remembering to label my posts. I'm BAD at labeling posts and then I find myself spending crazy amounts of going back in some effort to organize my many musing here on this spot.

2. Figuring out how to quick type out my thoughts while still half wet and wrapped in a towel...because you know if I wait until I'm dressed, thoughts are often lost. (Though I did wait to post this until this morning because last night's shower ended at 10:15 pm and really, I just needed to go to bed.)

So there you have it. Installment ONE. Check.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fun with Politics...

Even the unpolitical like myself can enjoy abc's Presidential Match-o-Matic. You simply click on the quote you agree with most on 13 topics and it tells you which candidate you align with the most. I have to say, as one who does not follow the news and really has NO clue as to what the candidate's platforms actually are, I was a little nervous that maybe I'd find out that I just THINK I am supporting the correct candidate.

My results: 9 to 4. I'd say that's pretty decidely leaning me one direction. Whew!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I blame this on her father...

Me: "Before supper I need you to clean up this area of your room...specifically all the stuffed animals."
Her: Sigh
Me: "I can clean it up instead?!?!?" (Which she knows translates into "If I have to clean it up you give me free rein to dispose of anything I see fit with asking you first.")
Her: "Ooh Kaay, I'll do it."

15 minutes later she walks into the kitchen while I'm starting supper to inform me she's cleaning out the little fabric box that holds her CDs.

Me: "Have you cleaned up the stuffed animals yet?"
Her: "No, I'm organizing my CDs."
Me: "I asked you to clean up your stuffed animals. Finish up with your CDs and focus on the animals."
Her: "Ooh Kaay."

15 minutes later I follow her down the hall and into her room after I discover she has the dusting wand in her hand...a tool not needed for picking up stuffed animals. The scene...no progress AT ALL with the stuffed animal area and now the CD project is 1/2 finished and in the middle of the floor.

Me: (Getting irritated mind you.) "Put the duster away, pick up your CDs, and get busy on the stuffed animal pile or I WILL DO IT and I don't think you want that."
Her: (Looking at me with a bit of an attitude in her eyes.) "BUT WHAT ABOUT MY BOOKS? They are a mess!"
Me: ?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Amazingly by supper, following a bit more discussion...the CDs were back in their place and the stuffed animals had been picked up.

The books are still a mess.


So here's the thing...

I've been thinking a lot about finding balance between acknowledging, accepting, and finding some peace with where my life is at the moment and the struggles that we have been facing, with not becoming so resigned to that reality that I don't continue to dream and strive. Yogic texts, Buddhist texts, all sorts of spiritual, philosophical, and self help writings talk about making peace with your struggles, not giving them extra power by focusing attention on them, and ending suffering by letting go of the desires of the ego and finding contentment in the here and now. (You'd think I'm on some vision quest as of late with as much of this type of stuff as I have been reading. No wonder my head swirls!) While I believe in the power of those words and the strength of such a practice, I have a hard time putting the theory to practice at times like this when there is so much to come to terms with. I think I could benefit from a mentor in this area.

On one hand I'm thankful I have a forum like this blog to express my thoughts and feelings freely and safely since I'm not the best at verbalizing them in conversation. On the other hand I want this to be a happy place, not just a place where I bitch and moan about the woes of life because I have so much beauty and happiness that should be celebrated in my life. I often feel guilty after posting a rant like this and try to "make up for it" by posting something happy shortly afterward. But I am a believer in being open with the truths of your life, the sunshine and the shadows, because pretending that everything is A-OK all the time and always putting on a smile regardless only works for so long. And then when it stops working, people crack and do crazy shit like drive their families off bridges and shoot people while driving down the interstate! (Ok, those are extreme examples, but they get my point across!) Scott will probably confirm that our relationship has become stronger over the past year thanks in part to my willingness to make more of an effort to let my feelings out, not always trying my darnedest to hold everything in just to keep life looking clean and neat. Tough but necessary conversations are more rational, more productive, and involve a lot less late nights and boxes of facial tissue.

And now, some radom thoughts that have been swarming around in my head the past 36 hours (or so)...

Today Brea and I walked downtown for errands and coffee. On our way home (about noon) an administrator at the college was getting into his car, I'm assuming on his way to lunch. I don't know why but I glanced at his license plate to see he was from the county that houses Des Moines. I was reminded of how frustrating I find it that some of the best jobs here in town are held by individuals who commute in from larger cities, who turn around at the end of the day and take their handsome 6 figure incomes back to the benefit of the town in which they live. Mean while my husband makes the reverse commute to the city for a lousy (especially for someone with his amount of education) 5 figure income in an effort to provide the basic needs for his family and our desire to live a small town life. Does anyone else see the backwardsness in this situation?

Scott starts his new part time job today. We've come to terms with the fact that in order to stay afloat, and hopefully to dig our way out of this hole which we are in financially, we need some extra income. We talked it through and weighted all our options. In the end we decided because his schedule is more regular and less dependent on the flexibility that my schedule requires, that it would make the most sense for he to be the one who takes on an extra part time position. (I think what really sealed the deal was when he realized if I took on an extra job it meant he'd be responsible for cooking dinner 3-5 nights a week instead of just 2...HA!) We are thankful that his new employer is willing to be super flexible with his schedule and that it is here in town. But it means on nights like tonight I will put the girls to bed before he gets home and his presence will be missed as we fix and eat our "traditional" Taco Tuesday dinner. Last night he did the same while I was working, and he will repeat it again tomorrow while I'm at the studio. It's days like this that I seriously wonder if life wouldn't be easier if I just went back to a more traditional full time job?

I've been thinking a lot about my plans to work massage therapy school into my not so distant future. I look at the opportunity to continue working in a field that I love while creating an income for my family that would better serve our needs and I wonder if I need to make this goal more of a priority. For the long term gain, rearranging life a bit for 6 months doesn't seem like that big of a deal. And then I wonder if this is a "real" answer, one that would honestly help us find some financial freedom, OR if I just think it's a "real" answer because it's what I want. The school I'm looking at attending in Iowa City will welcome a new group of students into their regular 6-month program in Februrary. I really want to be in that group, but figuring out all the logistics to make that happen is overwhelming me. And I want reassurance that it's the right thing to do. Any insights anyone? I've been thinking maybe I should start the Send Jenn to Massage Therapy Scholarship fund-raising campaign. I mean organizations and businesses ask for money all the time, for all sorts of reasons...

Our neighbor planted these cool viny flowers on the fence between his yard and ours. They are a fall blooming flower and have exploded white this past week. I've been meaning to get out and photography them all week. If I don't do it soon they will be gone.

The day is speeding by. It's already time to head over to the school to retrieve Lexi. I've got PTO work that needs my attention and the dog is being a whinning pain in the ass which means she's gonna soon find herself getting some fresh air in the outdoor kennel. My mind will continue to silently churn as I move through the rest of the day's activities. I'm thankful for the ability to multi-task or nothing would ever get done around here with as much as I've been pondering lately!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Out for a walk...

Tonight after teaching yoga on campus I was walking back to my car which was parked about a block away from the building in which we have class. Ahead of me of the sidewalk, coming my way, was a dog. He was just trotting along, casually looking side to side taking in the scenery. As we met he looked up at me as if to say "Hello," and then he just kept on going. Not missing a step in his quest.

I don't know why, but the humanness of his demeanor and our passing hit me funny. I smiled and possibly even let out a little laugh. It's like he was just out on his nightly walk, seeing what was going down on campus, headed back home to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book before turning in for the night.

At least those are my plans!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Puppy Pony...

We decided to see if Tilde would let us make a pony out of her head poof. She did AND totally left it alone until I took it out 6 hours later when we went to bed. She is such a funny mutt.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The Power of Love...

This week, this month, this year, this life has been full of emotional ups and downs. I don't think any one can say their life, beginning to end, has been a perfectly smooth road. And what purpose would that type of life serve our spirit any way? Where's the adventure in an easy life? Where are the lessons?

Through all the trials of the past year I have wondered, WHY? Why are we dealing with this right now? What are we suppose to be learning from this experience? Where did I go wrong? What happened to good Karma IN, good Karma OUT?

This week has been an interesting emotional roller coaster for me and following some events of the morning, I think I'm really starting to see a pattern, a lesson, and a realization that is bringing so much peace and love and warmth to my heart it feels like it could explode.

Yes, we (Scott and I and eventually our girls) need to learn financial balance and how to live WITH IN our means where they are NOW, regardless of where those means were a year ago. That is certainly a lesson that do us some good. But what's really standing out, what's slapping me in the face today, is the power of the human connection. The power of love.

We grow up in a world hell bent it seems on pointing out the worst in people. In pointing out their weaknesses rather than highlighting their strengths. Of continually talking about creating unity, while never missing the chance to bring up our differences. Religion. Political views. Gender. Race. Heck, even which side of the tracks you live on in some towns (even today in 2008) decides WHO you are! We often define personal success in terms of position in life (at work, in the community, etc), bank balance, the size/price of a home or a car, and the ability to do it ALL while keeping it together in a neat, orderly little package of saneness. It's the American Dream...right? The home, the car, the 2.5 kids, the dog, the country club membership, the 401K, the weekend BBQs...the picture of the perfect life. What's more, in this time of easy travel, one can do this where ever in the country/world one wants. We're taught to be strong, independent, individuals who should be capable of doing it all ON OUR OWN, so where you live shouldn't be an issue as long as YOU are there.

I think, as grim as it seems when you write it down in B&W and as much as you may be disagreeing with me right now, it's safe to say we all buy into at least PART of that picture sometime during our lives. How can one not? Growing up in America we're surrounded with the pictures of the perfect, successful American...in school, in the media, maybe even in our own families or social circles. People who don't buy into some part of the picture are often labeled as "different", "losers", "slackers", "stupid". It's like saying: The sky is the limit, but stay within the acceptable social boundaries on your flight up! I'm not saying it's totally BAD, I'm just saying I think there's more to life than painting the perfect picture and sometimes it takes hardships to really drive that lesson home.

I think I started to accept that a happy, "successful" (I'm really starting to dislike that word as of late because while it's meant to provide motivation, there's a lot of underlying negativity associated with it for many individuals...including myself.) life can come in as many different pictures as there are people on this Earth 2 years ago when I made the jump; quitting my full time job (which did little more than consume my time and energy in exchange for a paycheck), to follow my heart. To do what I love and to make my family the #1 benefactor of my time. Yes it meant giving up (or waiting longer) doing some things or getting some things on our wish list...but they are things, my family are PEOPLE. Our time with the beloved people in our lives is priceless...and we can never predict when that time will end, nor can we get it back once it has passed.

It has been those people in my life time and time again this past year who have amazed me and drove home the importance of the power of love. Of the human connection. Who have taught me that anything, ANYTHING is bearable as long as we have that love and connection in our lives.

I'm not patient. I want problems fixed and fixed NOW. I don't like the feeling that I'm not in control of every aspect of my life. I don't like to admit when I need some outside help, when I can't just do it myself. Areas that need a little work, I admit.

I'm learning NEVER to underestimate the power of people and their ability to give...especially when it comes from a place of love. (And this giving has nothing to do with money!) That it's OK for me to admit when I need support, that I don't have to go it alone to prove I am strong. That we all have a need to give support and that gracefully accepting support from others can be a wonderful gift that goes both ways. That pride may have it's place, but not in relationships. That one of the most powerful, loving things you can offer someone is to STOP trying to mold them into who you WANT them to be, and to simply accept and love them (no strings attached) for who they are. That sometimes you just need to be in the physical presence of a loved one to feel the warmth of their hug and needing that hug is not a sign of weakness. That sometimes the most powerful thing you can do for those you love is to put your own problems aside and be that person physically there to offer up the hugs. That it's not always about controlling life, but living it with faith that the universe will provide that brings peace to your soul. That fear is not a bad thing, it often just means you care. That despite our differences, despite the different pictures we paint in life, we all basically want the same simple things. Safe shelter. Enough food. Security for our families. Love. And through it all, we should CELEBRATE and share, not compare and covet, that which each of us has been given in life.

If these are the lessons that all of the trials of the past year have meant to teach, I'm thankful for the learning. They will not be lessons wasted. They will forever change how I view the riches of my life and how I can contribute to the riches of those in my life...of the power of the human connection...and the power of love.

Thanks and LOVE to all of you who have been patiently standing here beside me along the way.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

I (heart) Cumming...

Today Laura, Carlos and myself loaded the bikes up and headed to Des Moines to ride with Kim and Karolyn, two very fine ladies we've met through our RAGBRAI adventures. The day started out a bit over cast, but we decided nothing could keep us from Cumming. Actually, the weather turned out great...the sun even peeked through the clouds for us. After a short ride through the city streets (to stop at Gateway Market where I had SUSHI for lunch, YUM) we hit the trail heading south...straight into a LOVELY headwind. We were reassured that it's always worth the effort to get to Cumming...so we pedaled on. The Cumming Tap isn't much, but the beer was cold and went down easy after our 15 mile (give or take) push into the wind. (A few novelty koozies and t-shirts were purchased for those who couldn't be there with us. Next summer...we're all getting to Cumming!) Wouldn't you know by the time we finished our drinks and saddled back up to head back to DSM...the wind STOPPED. No tail wind to push us home, but it was a fabulous, easy ride back. (Laura was great of course, wind or no, being as she had a little tail wind in a can during our stop.) We made a last minute change to our plans and stopped at the new Jasper Winery location as we rolled through DSM for a little wine tasting. Their new digs, having moved the tasting room/bottling facility from Newton to Des Moines this summer, are beautiful. I highly recommend a visit if you're in the area. The ladies there are super nice...and love having bikers stop in!

It was a fun ride (despite the wind) and a great day with friends. One I look forward to repeating again soon.

Many laughs were shared. For those of you not in attendance, but who are laughing your ass off as you read this, we missed you! We're working list of Cumming references, we'll expect you all to contribute on our next ride when you're right there beside us. Marie...you can meet us there in the 'Burbon...because baby, that Suburban looks good on you!


(For those of you saying right now "Oh NO she did not just write that post." Oh YES I DID! Go ahead...you know you want to laugh. It's ok.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Turn it up...

Growing up I remember my mom stacking up her old vinyl records in the big chest style stereo in the living room and turning up the volume. It was the soundtrack of our lives as we cleaned house, cooked meals...tackling whatever the day had in store. In those days it was often Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, and Willie Nelson (to name just a few) who filled our air waves. We owned that old stereo for a long time...well after cassette tapes became the norm. (If I remember right it played 8-tack tapes in addition to having a tuner for listening to just the radio. But for some reason playing our vinyl sticks out the most.) I used to love the richness of the sound it produced. The deep heavy base. I even had a small collection of records...the soundtracks to Grease and Saturday Night Fever (which is actually in my basement now...though I have nothing to play it on), and an album by the 80s heart throb Shaun Cassidy.

I write about this because it helps to explain why even now I'd rather have the tunes, rather than the tube, on when I'm at home. Why I turn to music when I'm happy, sad, stressed, feeling sexy, feeling playful, need a release, want to dance...etc, etc, etc. Our music collection is quite eclectic and more easily accessed since the invention of the MP3 player. Though, having grown up in the mid-west (in the rural mid-west mind you) our collection probably isn't as broad spectrumed as someone who lives in a larger metro area or who frequents music fests. Regardless, the variety serves me well in my times of need.

Take post RAGBRAI, for example, when I'm simultaneously trying to remember the sweet treat that is RAGBRAI while getting back into the groove of normal life. Frequently played music during the month of August....Bob Marley and "whatever songs of the year" helped to define our week.

Sunday mornings you'll usually find me makin' waffles and hanging with the family, the cool ocean inspired vibes of Jack Johnson or the familiar lyrics of Dave Matthew's playin' in the back ground.

With the arrival of spring and the ability to once again open up the windows, the country girl in me comes out...Skynyrd, Tim McGraw, the college memory laden lyrics of David Lee Murphy's Dust On The Bottle.

Right about now I can guarantee my husband thinks this is a funny post for me to be writing because he'll be the first to point out I'm terrible about knowing the name of a song, or who sings it, or the actual lyrics that are being sung. I don't care. For me it's about the beat and the feel and mood. So read on...

Over the years I've discovered I'm a bit of a rocker girl. Especially when life is stressful and I feel like telling the world to fuck off! Not the dark, screaming, death kinda rock. But rock. You know Pearl Jam, U2, Bon Jovi, the Stones, Aerosmith, Train. This is the Genre where I'm probably the WORST about knowing who sings what...I just know what I like when I hear it.

Timing is everything, so it is said. We're finally to the reason I decided to write this whole post in the first place. (Which I had not planned to be this long or involved!) Last week on the dooce blog, Heather posted a link to the song Sex On Fire by the Kings of Leon. I had never heard of KOL, but their 4th album is being released on the 23rd of this month. I'm hooked. I've listened to Sex On Fire like 20 times since that first click. Maybe it's just where I am right now. Maybe it's because these boys rock. I'm excited. I know both the name of the song AND the band who sings it...though the actual lyrics are still somewhat of mystery to me. I think our music collection is gonna get a little broader here in about 13 days! (Maybe a little bit longer considering....)


Tuesday, September 9, 2008


If I had to venture a guess, I'd say this is what angels look like...maybe without the peanut butter.


Ups and Downs...

It's a beautiful fall day here in Iowa. Tuesdays are my day off...no classes. I woke with the conviction to get things accomplished today. Cookies baked for a PTO commitment. Dishes washed. Carpets vacuumed. Laundry washed and hung to dry. And then somewhere along the way the reality of life got in my way and reared it's ugly head. Cookies are baked...and that's where the accomplishments for the day end.

The truth of the matter is, we as a family are struggling to financially hang on following the events of the past year. We're in a bit of a hole. And right now it's taking all we've got not to let that hole get any deeper. It's hard and frustrating and on days like today is the reason I suddenly and unexpectedly find myself in tears...more than once.

I struggle with how much of the situation to share here. On one hand I don't want to whine and complain. On the other I can no longer avoid the facts of where we currently stand. I can't pretend that it's OK. It's not. Life threatening? No. But it's not OK. It's exhausting trying to cover up the reality of our situation (whether it's from myself or others), to not let the rest of the world know about our dirty laundry, and to always appear that things are moving along just fine...now that Scott has a job, now that school has started, now that my teaching schedule is fuller. I'm lucky some days to have the energy to get out of bed and meet the basic needs of the day. Cleaning and organizing and so many things I have planned to tackle often get left behind with the hopes that sometime during that proverbial tomorrow I'll find more energy.

I know it's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's just where we are. I also know we are not alone. Not alone in our struggles. Not alone in our effort to cover up to outside eyes the gravity of what is our reality. People do it all the time...in all socioeconomic situations. And we are blessed to have had support, financially and emotionally, through it all...something not everyone who faces this struggle is lucky enough to have in their lives.

But on days like today, the tears still come. And I question and search and wonder how and when we will start to see the light at the end of our tunnel.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Wide Open Spaces...

My friend Marie recently visited a good friend at her family's ranch in northeastern Colorado. (Marie, I hope you don't mind I borrowed a photo from your trip for this post!) From the joy in her voice and the comfort in her being following the trip, I think I'm safe to say she had a great, relaxing time in all that wide open space.

Upon her return to Iowa (on her way to Wisconsin) Marie came to town for a couple days visit. As we were sitting around with Laura one evening, listening to the tales of her adventures and looking at photos I started to feel a little homesick. And then I realized there is this part of my life story that involves sage brush and cows and "one-room" school houses and horses and LOTS of wide open spaces, that very few of my current friends know about. Nor do they know that a part of me will always be lost to that time and place and to those memories...well, I guess now they will know.

When I was in third grade, my Dad took a position as a Ranch Foreman 12 miles north of Hyannis, Nebraska...in the heart of the Nebraska Sandhills. Ranch Foreman is a fancy way of saying this guy owned a big ol' cattle ranch but didn't want to actually live there and run it, so he hired our family to do the job. We moved in the spring. I finished out my school year (what was left of only a few days because schools in that area let out early in the spring to free kids up to help on the ranch) in a small school,Redmill Elementary, located at the end of the 3 mile dirt "lane" that led from the highway to our house. While the building itself consisted of more than one room (and yes, indoor plumbing) it was technically a one-room school house with one teacher and one aide covering the curriculum for all 11 of us students, ranging in age from Kindergarten to 6th grade. My class was the largest single grade with 3 students.

With a new batch of babies born just prior to our arrival, Dad and I spent many an hour out on horseback checkin' the herd and administering antibiotics to the calves with a condition referred to as Scours...aka diarrhea. Horses up until that point had always been a part of my life. In fact my mom has pictures of me up on our old mare, Grey, with Dad when I was but a few weeks old. Apparently when I was 2 (this hits home with me right now being as I have a 2 year old in the house...a fearless 2 year old mind you), my mom discovered me in the coral one day, standing under the belly of one of our horses, petting its belly. Imagine my delight when suddenly I was REQUIRED to spend hours and hours with/on my horse for the sake of herd.

Life on a ranch is a big old cycle. Spring brings calves, followed by branding season, grass/hay cutting season (usually twice a summer), the moving of herds to various pastures depending on the time of year, and of course winter...when all that summer grass is put to use keeping the herd fed and warm until spring rolls around and the cycle begins again.

Each season has it's highlights. Branding season, for example, is the ONLY time in my life that I can think of when I have WILLINGLY gotten up before the sun to load up the horses and head to a neighbor's to help them mark their herd. Hours on horseback rounding up the herd, separating mommas and babies, followed by several more hours of hot and dirty calf wrestling which allowed for branding, medicating, and castration for those sporting testicles. (You want FRESH Rocky Mountain Oysters? Go to a branding where they go from being attached to an animal to the brandin' iron grate for cooking in a matter of minutes!) When the day was done a huge meal was shared by all those who had gathered to lend a hand. I'm sure a few beers were consumed by the adults as they sat around and chatted...us kids were too busy off playing after our hard day's work to really notice. Cows and calves reunited, quiet and content. Humans tired, dirty, fed, and content. We'd do this weekend after weekend until everyone's herds had been worked. It's honestly one of my favorite memories of our time on the ranch...the mental pictures, and sights and sounds and smells, safely tucked away in my heart.

We actually lived on 2 different ranches over little less than a 3 year span of time. Different houses, different schools, different herds, but with the same simple lifestyle. The memories are many. The sweet smell of the grass as it is cut and stacked or baled. The soft, warmth of the sand in washouts where Jason and I spent countless hours playing. The giant strawberries and tomatoes my mom grew in our garden. The snowy winter days spent sleddin' or playing in the "ice castle" that was created by the windmill behind our house. The many nights visiting other families, time when us kids would play and the parents would chat over a few hands of cards. The countless hours I spent with my best friends...my horses. A time before cell phones or the internet. When going to town was a once or twice a week occurrence for supplies or groceries and monthly trips to the "big town" of Alliance (a bit over an hour's drive...population 9,000) were a special treat in the months when clear roads could be assured. A time that holds many happy family memories. A time when I could truly be myself...and Daddy's little girl. A time that isn't all that long ago and for some a lifestyle that is still reality...though I'm sure even the internet, satellite TV, and cell phones are a common find among ranch families these days.

I still vividly remember the night my Dad sat me down and told me we were leaving the ranch to move back to the valley. The valley where my parent had grown up, where my grandparents lived separated by a mere 45 miles. The place we always returned to after following one of my Dad's adventures. The place from which I would graduate high school and where I still go to visit my family. The place that for most would be defined as "home", based on all of those factors. But home in my heart will always be the Nebraska Sandhills. That night I cried...heart broken to be leaving my home.

When Scott and I were in college we often had the chance to travel old highway 2 between Wayne and Gering. I think once I even took him on a little tour showing him my old "stompin grounds." The trips through that area of the state are now far and few between...though occasionally our travel route still allows for a more northern route than I-80. I can still point out the turn to one of our ranches, and still get homesick and teary eyes every time I travel across those hills which are part of so many happy memories.

As Marie, Laura, and I were talking about that time in my life (my dreams of being a vet, of marrying a rancher, and living happily ever after), I realized how strongly I still hold on to those memories and dreams. Dreams that may never become reality, but that will always be tucked away in a little corner of my heart. Memories and experiences that played a part in who I am today. Dreams and memories that warm my heart, and bring a few tears to my eyes, as I sit here writing.


Saturday, September 6, 2008


It is simple moments like this that make me stop and realize that despite all the bumps in the road, all the trials and frustrations, all the heart ache and stress that has been a part of my reality of this past year...my life...is perfect.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Amen Sister...

Those of you who know me well know I normally steer totally clear of political discussions. It's not that I don't care, or don't understand (no, I don't need you to use small, easy to understand words to help me "get it") ..it's that I have very little faith in what I have witnessed in my life that is "the political process". Talk, talk, talk, and more talk with very little action...in my opinion. I have better things to DO than listen to the same crap roll around and around in the same old, dirty, dented, rusty barrel.

That being said, I think the upcoming election is going to be a pivotal moment in US history. A chance for us to turn around our current misguided direction.

Read this, cuz Heather says it with more flair than I ever could...and then vote Obama!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Power of Pink...

I used to HATE pink. I mean sure, as most girls who grew up in the 80's, I went through that time when I thought pink, lavender, and turquoise were about the coolest 3 colors in the world. But for the most part as I matured, pink was NOT a color you'd find in my room, in my wardrobe, or as part of my vocabulary. Pink was girlie and high maintenance and weak. I was none of those things. Pink was out.

Then 7 years ago came along...
Pink was suddenly thrust into our household at an alarming and obnoxious rate! It got worse when Lexi grew old enough to have an opinion about the color of things. You could almost ALWAYS (and still can) be sure she'd choose pink if it was an option.

I don't know if it's a result of me giving up the fight OR if I actually had a change of heart, but some where along the way I found myself ACCEPTING pink...and actually LIKING pink...and realizing that it doesn't always have to mean all those negative girlie things I had always associated with it. Pink can be bold and make a statement, or soft and gentle. It can bring out one's sexy, feminine side when you need to feel a little girlie...without saying "high maintenance". Pink is in.

It's in the frames of my cycling sunglasses, the trim on my bike saddle, the tape on my handlebars, and during RAGBRAI, the streaks in my hair. It's in the Longaberger mugs in my china hutch and the fabric stash in my sewing desk. It's in the design of this blog and yes, it's even sprinkled into my wardrobe here and there.

This weekend, I aligned myself with even more pink. A few ladies who we've met through our RAGBRAI adventures are members of a cycling team/club in Des Moines.

I have followed their blog since early this spring. This year on RAGBRAI Kim had invited me to ride with Team Pink on their jersey day, even offering up one of her extra jerseys. Team 'Steam was moving a bit slow that morning and I was honestly too nervous to hook up and ride with them, so passed on the invitation. Since RAGBRAI Kim and I have kept in contact through email and she kept the idea of Team Pink in the back of my mind and in casual conversation, giving me info on joining should I feel the desire to hook up with other women who simply enjoy the sport of cycling...on all levels from casual riders to competitive racing. Well, on my solo ride at Baxter this weekend, I decided it was time to make the commitment. After finishing my ride I came home, showered, and promptly paid my team dues! Some of my fondest memories through the years have been as part of a team. At this point I don't see my involvement being much more than a chance to network and hook up with other ladies for some rides. But you never know...I do have a bit of a competitive spirit...so I am told.

Interestingly enough, Team Pink isn't the only new pink to come into my life this summer. A few months back I stubbled upon Pink Heels when its owner, Jennifer Moore, left a comment here on the blog. Imagine my excitement when I read Jennifer's story and how she choose to leave cooperate America to pursue making a living following her heart and feeding her passions...one of which is yoga! Her blog has offered up encouragement and hope as I continue to follow my professional dream of building a business based on my passions. At times when I'm discouraged and tired and thinking it would all be easier if I'd just give up and go back to a normal 8-5, Jennifer writes posts like this, and it reaffirms that I'm choosing the right path even through the struggles. It also makes the idea of a Yoga/Spinning Teacher/Massage Therapist (when I can work in going to school) and who does a little photography on the side...seem like not a totally crazy idea! Thanks Jennifer for finding me!

So that's it. Pink is in.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Birthday Boy...

This is my boy.

Yesterday he turned 35. (Happy Birthday Honey.)

It's funny to think of him being in his mid-thirties, because I so often see him as the 18 year old I feel in love with all those years ago. (Maybe that's part of the reason I love this silly picture of him so much...it brings out the boy.) Being that his birthday usually falls on/around the Labor Day weekend, we usually head down to KC for a visit at the in-laws. This year, various factors considered, we decided to stay home. The in-laws made the trip instead and we enjoyed a long weekend of activities. So much so the girls are BOTH zonked out for naps as I write this, trying to catch up on a little sleep following all the excitement. Even the dogs seem lazy today.

Scott's birthday started out quiet. We took our time getting up and around. Breakfast, laundry, dishes, play time outside, lunch...pretty much a normal Sunday. Then Scott's parents offered their grand parenting services for the afternoon/evening so that Scott and I could sneak off alone for the rest of the day. It always feels so luxurious to have a whole afternoon and evening to casually spend together without the worry of what time we have to be home to relieve the sitter. We headed to Des Moines for a couple quick errands and then met our friends Shannon and Allen at Bravo for some delicious Italian food on the terrace. Shannon discovered there was going to be live music at "the Creek", with Flipside performing at the little amphetheater from 5-8. They played a variety of songs, all with a little funk. We're always up for a little outdoor music fest. We were amazed at the number of people who came out with lawn chairs and coolers in tow to dance, chat, and enjoy the BEAUTIFUL weather. It was a perfect way to spend the evening. A quick stop at Target and homeward we turned.

One of the things I enjoy most about our date nights is the chance to talk about things we don't normally make time to talk about on a day to day basis. All sorts of things. Memories. Future dreams. Serious worries. Funny thoughts. And we flirt. It's times like these that my husband of 13 years can still surprise me. It's fun...and sexy... and why even through tough times, I have faith our marriage is one that will stand the test of time.

Today we are savoring the extra day "off". This morning I got up and around "early" (early for me, not so much for Laura) to get in a ride out to Rock Creek with Laura. It was a lovely morning for a ride. The in-laws took off for KC shortly after my return. We grabbed some early lunch, and Scott/Daddy saddled up for a nice long ride on Harley. No plan in mind other than to head towards Knoxville to pick up Allen and his bike and hit the open road. We'll hear him roll in sometime before supper. A perfect way to spend an extra lazy afternoon here at the end of summer.

Scott plans to use his "birthday money" for a new/second helmet which he hopes to pick up later this week at the Big Barn some night on his way home from work. A second helmet means hopefully you'll be hearing about MY first outing on Harley soon!