Wednesday, February 29, 2012

BQOTD: What's Your Coffee Order?

Today's Burning Question of the Day: If someone were heading out to Starbucks/Caribou/whatever your favorite coffee place is, and were treating you to anything you wanted, what would you order today?

For me, it's either a non-fat caramel latte, or a non-fat peppermint latte, depending on my mood :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Monster.

Can I just get real for a minute y'all? Like, ugly, messy, hate-to-admit-this-about-myself real? This past week, I have been battling with something that I've never really battled before--the ugly, green eyed monster.

Normally, I'm pretty good about being able to rejoice in the successes of others. I'm usually able to watch someone get, do, experience, or achieve something that I'd like for my life, but still be completely and genuinely happy for them, even though it's them and not me. But over the past week or so, something strange has been happening. I've been noticing that alongside with being happy for them, there's now also little commentary that's begun to play like a silent record in my head, planting these little seeds of jealousy...

I hope you have fun in Hawaii!
Why do they get to go on a tropical vacation and I don't?! 

I'm happy that Justin is going to get to play hardball this year--I know he really wants to.
Why does he get to go have fun playing while I'm stuck with all the responsibility for Lizzy...again?!

It sounds like you had a great time at Blissdom! How exciting!
How come she always lands the awesome blog sponsorships and gets to go to cool places like Blissdom while I don't get any attention?!

Your home is beautiful. 
 I'm so sick of seeing all these clean homes. How am I ever supposed to compete with this?!

Don't you love tax time?! It sounds like you guys are doing some fun things!
How come they get to do fun things with their tax return while we have to do irritating things like buying dirt and fixing our well?!

What a cute jacket! 
How come she gets to buy clothes any time she wants while I'm usually shopping at Goodwill?! 

You look great!
How come she seems like she loses weight while eating absolutely anything she wants while I have to count every calorie and work for every pound?! 

And these aren't even all of them. I hate it. I hate it because in most of these instances, the things that have been received, achieved, and done are things that are longed for. Deserved. I don't want to be a jealous person. I think it's ugly. But I'm having a hard time turning this little narrative off.

It's probably not a coincidence that when I went to the library yesterday, One Thousand Gifts was finally waiting for me. I certainly hope not. Because today, I need the reminder that I'm deeply and wonderfully blessed, right where I'm at.

Change my heart, oh God. 
Make it ever true. 
Change my heart, oh God.
May I be like you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beautiful Things

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All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?
I wonder if my life could really change at all?
All this earth, could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

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You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

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All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

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You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new.

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It's not spring here yet...not really. We may have days of sunshine here and there, but I am certain that we'll have more cold weather ahead of us this year. Still, the hyacinth and allium gladiator bulbs that I planted this past fall are just now beginning to push through the ground. The primroses that I bought for 97 cents are hanging on for dear life and making me smile each morning. Every year, I have to remind myself to stop and appreciate the visual reminder of new life--I don't think it's a coincidence that the time when we're first experiencing new life in nature occurs simultaneously with the season of Lent. A lot of people think about Lent as being a dark and sorrowful time, and I understand that. It should be a reverent time for us. But for me, it's also about life...the life that I have received in Christ.

The beautiful things, made out of my dust. And I am so thankful.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. -2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

Song Credit: Lyrics from "Beautiful Things" by Gungor
Photo Info: All images shot with a Canon XS, kit lens, and Fotodiox Extension Tubes ($10.96 at Amazon).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan




From the back of the book: As three generations of Kelleher women descend on the property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is thirty-two and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.
 ..........................................................................

Have you ever been in a situation where in the midst of a conflict or disagreement, you desperately wished you could see the other person's side of the story? Have you ever been convinced that a person who is acting terribly must think that they're justified in their actions, and just wished you could understand their perspective?

In Maine, J Courtney Sullivan allows us the rare opportunity to do just that. The novel is alternately narrated by four Kelleher women, which allows us as the readers to learn a bit more about each of these four women and gives us a bit of context in the midst of family drama and allows us to see how sometimes generations of history can cloud family situations. As readers, we have the opportunity to see things from every perspective, and sit back as a benevolent observer to it all, which I really enjoyed.

That said, I'd often seen Maine marketed as a fun beach read...and while it does take place at a beach, there's not much that's truly fun about it. I don't think I found myself smiling or laughing while reading. There's very little dialogue. In fact, I'd probably describe it as sort of a sad novel because while it was an excellent character study, I finished wondering whether or not the characters had really learned anything about being kinder and gentler to each other at all. But then again, I suppose sometimes that's the way it goes in real life when it comes to family dynamics--even after countless heart-to-heart talks about hurts, hang-ups, and feelings, sometimes things still tend to stay exactly the same.

Overall, I loved the development of the characters, and the prose itself, but didn't especially love the way that the plot was resolved. Still, I think it's worth a read, though it's probably a book I'd check out of the library rather than buy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday Thoughts and Snippets

-Yesterday was my dad's birthday! We were getting ready to go meet him for a birthday dinner when I got a message that he was going to the hospital for some heart issues. So, we headed over to the hospital instead, where I spent the next couple of hours doing this:

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This wasn't the first instance of similar heart issues, and he actually already had an appointment with a cardiologist today, so the hospital ended up admitting him last night and they have been trying to both lower his pulse (which last night was holding in the 120's while resting) and monitor an irregular heart rhythm. I haven't heard yet this morning how that went over the rest of the night, but if they weren't successful over the course of the night, they were apparently going to shock his heart this morning to try and get it back into a regular rhythm. We'd so appreciate prayers!

-We got home from the hospital last night around 8:30pm...and I was so tired I didn't even watch Top Chef! What in the world?!

-Parenting lately....is hard. Lizzy's in a stage right now where she thinks doing naughty things is funny...and I don't know how to combat that. The other day, we were cleaning up the huge mess she had made in the living room. Like always, we set the timer for 10 minutes, and I told her that once the timer went off, I'd take away the books that weren't on her shelf. We've done this a number of times, so I KNOW she understands. She told me "No pick up books!" and then proceeded to sit down on the floor and stare me down for the next 10 minutes. When the timer went off, I took away the books that were left on the floor, and she happily said, "Bye bye books! Time-out now?" So yeah...this parenting thing is hard right now, especially since Lizzy Loo is so stinking cute.

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-My niece Payton had her SEVENTH birthday party over the weekend, which is crazy in and of itself. But it was such a blessing to watch her--she was so excited about EVERYTHING, and I just can't help but smile looking at these photos!

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-My brother-in-law and sister-in-law find out whether they're having a girl or boy for baby #3 today...and I am GIDDY. Seriously, so excited for them. And so excited to be able to go baby-clothes shopping again!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thinking About Lent + BQOTD

I've blogged about Lent several times over the past few years (See "Spring--New Every Morning" and "The Power of the Cross" for my Lenten posts from last year), but as always, I have more to say, mostly inspired by some posts I've been reading around the blogosphere about Lent coupled with where I'm at in my own life at the moment. 

So. Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is typically observed by Catholic churches, as well as by some Protestant churches. It marks the 40 days prior to Easter, and is in observance of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert while being tempted. Being that the Lutheran church is probably one of the closest denominations to the Catholic church, Lent is definitely something that we grew up observing (my favorite way was with Holden Evening Prayer, which I really miss and wish I could find a church locally that does it--if you've never heard it, you can listen to the first part here).

Although it's typically observed in the Lutheran church with mid-week services, not all Lutherans give something up for Lent (J doesn't), but I usually do choose to give something up and the reasons are several-fold for me. First of all, it helps me realize how dependent and attached I am on worldly things. I mean, if Jesus were alive today and said, "Hey Mere--are you ready to leave everything behind and follow me?" I'd probably respond, "Heck yes! Hang on just a second and let me grab my camera to document this experience. And my phone to tweet about it. And my secret stash of chocolate...'cause I know it's gonna get hard and I'm gonna want to do some emotional eating!"

You know I'm poking a little fun at myself there, but there's a lot of truth in that too. For me, choosing to give something up for Lent (not because I have to, but because I want to) is a tangible reminder of the sacrifice that Christ made for me. Every year, I find the experience of choosing to give something up along with meditating on the much greater sacrifice that Jesus made at Calvary to be a really good reminder in my own life. For me, it helps breathe life into the words that God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

It isn't about an obligation to prove to God and to others that I deserve the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross. I don't deserve it, and no matter what I were to do, I won't ever deserve it...I love what Cynthia Heald said in Becoming A Woman of Simplicity--that the gospel of salvation is Jesus + Nothing. In other words, nothing else can be done to earn our salvation. As she said, "the doing has already been done."

I always struggle with how much to share about my own personal Lenten journey on my blog. About whether or not that experience is something to share with others or something  that should be kept mostly between me and God. I don't agree with a few of the blog posts I've seen floating around that say that if you're giving something up for Lent, you shouldn't talk about it at all, with anyone. I believe that if you choose to observe Lent, and you get the most out of your Lenten journey by relying on God alone, that’s fine. But if someone else gets the most out of their Lenten journey by being encouraged by others that God has put in their lives, that’s okay too. We’re not called to one above the other Biblically. Honestly, I think that either one can just as easily turn into something that we do to puff ourselves up rather that something that's done to glorify and honor God. 

Because really, it's for the glory of God. That should be the bottom line, right?

What do you think? Do you observe Lent? Do you choose to give something up?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Cost of the Mystery Bruise

So, I am now getting hospital bills rolling in from the whole mystery bruise/skin cancer experience in January...and it looks like our responsibility after insurance pays will be about $5,000 (we have a $5,000 deductible per person--don't get me started on that. Right before I was diagnosed, we had looked into paying for private insurance, but after doing the math, we'd end up paying about the same out of pocket with the monthly payments that would go along with a private plan that covers what we'd need, and I'm not even sure that I could find a private company that would insure me anymore).

At OHSU, they split the faculty bill and the hospital bill into two separate bills handled by (apparently) two separate offices. So now I'm trying to make payment arrangements with two separate offices and trying to explain our situation, which is that we can commit to X per month, and I understand that may or may not be what you require patients to pay, but that is all we can do.  We are budgeted to the penny--we know exactly where our money goes, and very little of it goes to "fun" or discretionary income that we can pull from. We know exactly how much we can pay each month and that is all we can do. Since Justin is in construction and his wage varies depending on the job, some months we may be able to do more, but we can't commit to that always.

Anyway, so far, I've only been able to leave voicemails that I'd like to make payment arrangements, so I've yet to talk to an actual person, but I'm dreading it. I understand that they provided a service for which they should be paid...for which we WANT to pay them....but seriously, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip. I can commit to making a payment each month...but I'm guessing that I won't be able to commit to paying what they want me to pay (since they say in huge letters on the bill that payment in full is due within 30 days), and I'm kind of dreading that conversation.

I'm imagining that they may threaten to send us to collections if we can't pay what they want each month. I've heard different things about whether or not a hospital even can send you to collections if you're making a payment each month. I'd always heard that they couldn't send you to collections if you were paying something every month, but lately I've heard more and more stories to the contrary.

The only positive in this situation is that our ridiculous deductible has actually been met this year...which means that we could actually seriously talk about having baby #2 this year since the deductible wouldn't be an issue. Although, admittedly, there's not much of a timeline to make that happen. And I know it sounds a little crazy to be talking about having a baby in the face of all this, and I'll probably get a nasty anonymous comment saying "If you can't afford your medical bills, what makes you think you'll be able to afford another baby?!"

So to cut that off at the pass, I'd just like to say that it isn't that we can't afford the medical bills, it's just that there's a huge difference between an unexpected medical expense which the hospital expects to be paid in full within 30 days of being billed, and the extra expenses that go along with having a baby...which we'd have nine months to prepare for.

Also, it's really crazy to me that our responsibility is still $5000 even with insurance. I feel like it's a testament to the fact that something about the state of medical care in our country needs to be changed. I don't have the right answers, but I only know that it doesn't seem to be working right now.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Justin's Favorite Recipe: Oatmeal Fudgies

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This recipe is legendary in Justin's family. It's a recipe that I think originally came from his Grandma Jan, and is usually made by someone in Justin's family for Thanksgiving and Christmas (and often several times in between). I'm pretty sure that Justin and Ryan could eat an entire pan in a day if they were given the go-ahead not to share. Anyway, I don't think this is a secret family recipe or anything, so I thought I'd share the oatmeal fudgie love

You'll Need:


For the bars:
-1 cup butter flavored shortening (I usually just use butter)
-2 cups brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon salt
-4 cups instant oats
-1/2 cup chopped nuts (if desired)

For the fudge:
-12 oz chocolate chips (I've also used 10 oz of dark chocolate chips and it worked fine)
-2 Tablespoons Margarine or Butter
-1 can sweetened condensed milk
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons vanilla

Cook fudge ingredients in a double boiler or microwave just until melted and well blended (usually 1-2 mins in microwave). Set aside to cool. Cream together butter/shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Sift flour, soda, and salt; stir into sugar mixture thoroughly. Stir in nuts and oats. Press 3/4 of oats mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Pour fudge mixture over the top, then sprinkle with remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Let cool before cutting into bars.

*Note- I usually do the oatmeal mixture first, in my Kitchenaid mixer with the awesome side scraper attachment that Justin got me for my birthday.



I'm a slacker cook, as well as an impatient one, so I don't sift or anything. Once that's pressed into the bottom of the pan, I make the fudge and then just spoon it on the top without waiting for it to cool.

Give these a shot--they're actually pretty easy and tend to be a crowd-favorite around here!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday Thoughts


{one}
Thanks to Ryan and Renee, Justin and I got to go to a belated Valentine's Dinner date last night! I don't think we've been on a date since before Christmas, so it was much needed. We went to Red Robin thanks to a gift card, where I had a delicious vojito. Oh yes, you read that right...a mojito, but made with vodka instead. And since vodka is by far my favorite category of alcoholic beverages, it was obviously quite good. Had I not been so budget (or calorie) conscious, I may have had three of them.

After that, we went to Costco to pick up some produce. What? Your dates don't end in the Costco produce isle with your husband making dirty jokes about it being the re-produce isle? Oh.

Also, I'm not sure what's going on there, but I look puffy and just weird in that photo. I don't know about you, but a bad photo can really get me started with negative self-talk, so I snapped another photo this morning to convince myself that it wasn't just me--sometimes there are just bad photos and bad angles.


{two}
We weren't able to go on a date on Valentine's Day because Justin and I were presenting to the church council about the importance of our church website and how we've really grown beyond our current website and need something that more accurately represents who we are and what we do. Happily, we were given the green light to move forward with that, and I'm finding it so easy for me to disappear into graphic design for hours on end. I haven't done much in terms of graphic design beyond this blog in quite awhile, so it's kind of fun to re-visit logo making and all that good stuff.

{three}
This morning at Mom's Group, Lindsay from Earth Monkey Moms came to talk to our group about her experience as being the recipient of a home from Extreme Home Makeover. I was so blessed and uplifted by how real and honest she was with us--she talked about how receiving the home was a huge blessing, but that afterwards she had to deal with some tough stuff as well. She talked about going through a pretty awful experience personally while being in a pretty public setting. I don't know much about Lindsay's own internal reaction in that, but I can only imagine that for myself, I would have probably felt a huge amount of pressure to put on a happy face and continue talking about how wonderful and blessed we were, even though inside I was devastated. In addition to her overall message about growing into who God designed us to be (and having the freedom to say "no" to things that don't fulfill that purpose), it was also such a good reminder to me that sometimes we may see a person publicly--up on a stage, on tv, on a blog, or even someone in our own circle of friends--but still not really have any idea what they're going through privately. It was a good reminder for me to treat everyone as if they're in the middle of one of the worst days of their lives, because they very well may be.

{four}
Lizzy's new favorite song is "Little Bunny Foo Foo", and it is seriously the CUTEST THING EVER to hear her try to sing along to it. At the very end, they say "The moral of the story is hare today, goon tomorrow!" and she laughs hysterically every time even though she has absolutely no clue what they're saying. I love it.

{five}
We filed our taxes today. WOO HOO!

{six}
I made this for dinner the other night, and it was delicioso!



Also linking up with:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Throwback

Part of the whole new computer thing is transferring photos over from one to another...and man did I come across some that made me smile!

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This is from summer 2004 at the National Youth Gathering (for church) in Orlando--I'm pretty sure it was literally hours before Justin asked me out. I say before only because I think we held hands for the rest of the trip from then on.

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Just a few months after Justin and I started dating, I moved to PLU, where I was assigned Lisa as my roommate. I was kinda pissed because I had been told I wouldn't have a roommate and also because my first impression of her was that she was loud and obviously hadn't read any of the orientation info, which drove me crazy. I distinctly remember hearing her explain how she had forgotten some important paperwork to the person in charge and thinking 'Thank GOD I don't have to room with her!' Only, I did. And I'm so glad.

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My year at PLU was good, even though I missed home (and Justin) a lot. Going there, I didn't anticipate making some amazing friends out of the deal, but I did.

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After a year, I moved back to Southern Oregon, where I met another amazing friend, Kaitlin, who was dating one of Justin's best friends.

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We had a lot of fun.

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Justin spent a lot of time hanging out around the house while I did homework--I graduated in three years by taking a very heavy class-load each term, so I felt like I was always doing homework.

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Then, at 19 and 20, we got married...which was something I never anticipated happening when we were so young, but again, I'm so glad it did.

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Right after we got married, I CHOPPED off my hair. At first, I thought it was the greatest haircut ever, but I shortly thereafter realized that when my hair is short, I have to blowdry AND straighten it every day. If I didn't, I felt frumpy and gross. So, the haircut quickly became the biggest PITA ever!

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Out of the whole marriage deal, I "inherited" some pretty amazing family, most of whom have become great friends as well, including Renee, who I love just like a sister.

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Just a couple of weeks after getting married, we went to New Orleans to work on the Katrina relief effort. It's a trip that I remember as being both awful and incredible...ha!

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Kait and I were pregnant at the same time, but these were just bowling balls, lol.

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I truly am blessed beyond measure. Thanks for letting me get all sentimental today :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Monday Real



-I don't really buy books anymore--we just don't have the budget for it. So, my reading typically happens from library books or review copies that I'm provided with. For the most part, it works out okay...but sometimes, it doesn't work out so well. For example, I tried to request Stephen King's 11/22/63 the other day...yeah, I gave up. There were over 100 people on the wait list for the book already. But I suppose that even if I wanted to read it, I couldn't because I feel like every single book I've been on the wait-list for in the past year has come up at the exact same time. In my "to-read" pile, I currently have:

1. Crossed by Ally Condie
2. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
4. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
5. Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

This is in addition to the three publisher reviews that I'm currently working on.

-The fact that I'd much rather curl up with a cup of coffee and one of the aforementioned books (and that Justin feels the same) is probably directly related to the fact that we have a literal mountain of dishes to do.

-I'm pretty new to the whole Bible Study thing. I grew up in the church, but actually spending any significant time studying the Bible is new to me. That said, I always find myself totally jazzed about a particular study until about half-way through when I start thinking about what I'm going to do next and then want to start it RIGHT THAT MINUTE. Right now, I'm doing Becoming A Woman of Simplicity, and I love the fellowship of the women that I meet with, but the study isn't the most relevant to me personally. Next, I'd kind of like to do Beth Moore's study on James, even if I just have to work through the darn workbook myself--I co-led the study of Esther at my church, and it just didn't seem like many people enjoyed having that level of homework.

-I could eat a MOUNTAIN of chocolate today, and also drink a pitcher of margaritas. Just sayin'.

Want to get real? Go link up with Jess! (Our other fearless host, Brittany, is moving, but I'm hoping she'll be back next week!)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Home Organization Binder

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I'm not a naturally organized person, and I REALLY hate spending money when it comes to organizing things. Organization doesn't come easy to me, and I'm definitely not an expert at it. That said, the Home Organization Binder that we made at Mom's Group a few weeks ago has been a big help to me, and so I wanted to talk about it here.

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I'd seen similar binders all over Pinterest, but hadn't actually made one because (a) I hadn't seen one configured in a way that I thought I'd actually use, (b) I hate spending money on that sort of thing and (c) I don't have a lot of craft supplies, so it would probably end up being very expensive for me to buy scrapbook paper and all those other goodies necessary in order to create a binder that I wouldn't mind having just sit out on a day-to-day basis. That's the beauty of my Mom's Group--you pay annual "dues" and part of that dues money goes towards providing all the materials needed to do the craft of the day. It's awesome.

Anyway, we were instructed to decorate the outside of the binder however we wanted. Again, my goal was to have something that I wouldn't mind sitting out on the desk all the time. Then, on the inside, we were supposed to create divided sections based on something called a "brain dump" that they had done the previous session. I missed that one, but from what I gather, you basically take a blank piece of paper, give yourself an allotted amount of time, and then just write down everything on your mind until the time is up. The suggestion was that you then review your brain dump and see if there are any themes or categories that might help you decide what your divided sections should be. Here's what I ended up with:

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1. Finances: Included in this section are two zippered pouches--one for receipts that need to be entered into our budget, and one for receipts from the month that already have been entered. We enter most of our financial info directly into an Excel spreadsheet, but I also printed out a copy of our monthly budget for easy access. It might also be a good place to keep track of due dates for various bills, interest rates for credit cards/student loans, and that sort of thing.

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2. Prayer: I mentioned the Inspired to Action website a few days ago, which includes some great e-books that include monthly calendars for praying for your kids and spouse. I have them printed out and in sheet protectors in this section. I also added lined notebook paper so that when I hear about prayer requests, I can jot them down and (hopefully) actually follow through later.

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3. To Do Today: Exactly as it sounds. It's a section of lined paper. I fold each piece of paper vertically, and write two days worth of to-do's on each side. Another great option is the Weekly Overview (again from Inspired to Action) which allows space to write your Bible Study plans, a menu, and a to-do list.

4. To Do Later: This section is also filled with lined paper and is for things that I want to remember, but don't necessarily need to do that day. I also have a few sheet protectors for fliers/brochures, and my brain dump is also here. I really liked the brain dump and I think I may do it more often.

5. Meal Plan: My plan was to print our my meal plan and keep it here, along with a master list of the recipes that I can cook. That said, I'm finding that I actually end up looking on the computer (I keep the meal plan in a Word document and also look on Pinterest a lot) than in the binder, so this category may turn into something else.

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6. Toddler Activities: Awhile back, when I was venting about the parenting/cleaning balance, Emily commented that she tries to do three activities with Thomas each day. I really liked that idea, and have implemented it a lot with Lizzy with my own little spin. I keep a list of activities to do with Lizzy in this section. This isn't anything fancy...typically I just take toys that we already have, and couple them with developmental stuff. So, one activity might be to play with Legos with Lizzy, with me focusing on counting as we're playing (or colors). It isn't anything structured--just while we're playing, I make an effort to count the Legos as we stack. Sometimes, the activities are just going to the library or to the park...but the key for me is that it helps me to be more present and to really feel like I have some freedom to clean, or read, or whatever doing the day because I know Lizzy is getting some quality time. And as a bonus, it helps me remember to rotate in books and toys that we haven't read or used in awhile. This would also be a good section to keep lists of free things to do in your area, printouts from places like www.icanteachmychild.com and more.

7. Notes/Other Info: Since the binder typically sits next to the computer, I like to just have lined paper where I can scratch notes as necessary. Justin's been working on an inventory of our DVD collection, so that may eventually go here, as may schedules for baseball/softball, etc.

8. Emergency Info: This will probably just be a place to store phone numbers of our doctors, Justin's work, our insurance agent, etc. Phone numbers that I may need quickly, but probably don't know by heart or necessarily want/need in my phone 24/7.

Other ideas for divider sections that I've seen are things like cleaning, take-out menus, sports schedules, etc. The bottom line is to do what works for you...do the brain dump, identify what is stressing you out, and do what you can to make yourself a bit more organized in those areas. I know, it sounds so simple, right? Well, it's not that simple, and you won't do it perfectly (I don't anyway), but doing something is better than doing nothing I figure!

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I know this post is getting long, but I also have to mention that our mail is stored elsewhere (in the living room post, I showed you the inside of the flowered box--it's in there). We have sections in that box for incoming bills, things to be filed, cards/notes, etc. But, all of those categories would probably also work in a Home Binder if you think that would work best for you--I just already had a system going for that and figured there's no sense in messing with what's already working.


Also, does it drive anyone else crazy that when you put things in sheet protectors, you can no longer see the divider tabs?! No? Just me? Okay then....  :)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Book Review: The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown









From the back of the book: Three sisters have returned to their childhood home, reuniting the eccentric Andreas family. Here, books are a passion (there is no problem a library card can't solve) and TV is something other people watch. Their father-a professor of Shakespeare who speaks almost exclusively in verse-named them after the Bard's heroines. It's a lot to live up to.

The sisters have a hard time communicating with their parents and their lovers, but especially with one another. What can the shy homebody eldest sister, the fast-living middle child, and the bohemian youngest sibling have in common? Only that none has found life to be what was expected; and now, faced with their parents' frailty and their own personal disappointments, not even a book can solve what ails them...

......................................................................................... 

The Weird Sisters has been on my "book radar" for quite some time. I mean, it's about a family who takes loving books to new heights, which is obviously right up my alley. In fact, I hopped on the wait-list for the Kindle version when it topped 100 people at my little local library. My name finally made it to the top of the list in December, and I eagerly began reading, only to discover that one of the major themes of the book was the sisters dealing with their mother's cancer diagnosis. Having just been diagnosed with skin cancer myself, I couldn't bring myself to read it--I thought there was a chance that the mother would end up dying over the course of the novel, and just COULD NOT handle that possibility at the time. 

However, by the time BlogHer Book Club began recruiting for The Weird Sisters this spring, I had been given a cancer-free bill of health, and it was a huge blessing to me to actually make it into the review pool--it felt like a little piece of redemption to be able to finish the book this time around (and get paid to do it!). 

This time, I flew through the book, devouring the interactions between the various characters. I found myself smiling and seeing a bit a lot of myself in the sisters who carry books with them wherever they go. I saw myself in Rose, the oldest sister who has taken it upon herself to make sure that everything in everyone's life runs smoothly, and who may micromanage others to divert from the fact that she's scared of change herself. 


In The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown created a world that I felt like I could disappear into, if only for half an hour at a time, which is something that doesn't happen all that often for me when it comes to fiction, but is always a joy when it does. That said, I didn't absolutely love the ending--one of my own particular quirks when it comes to reading fiction is that I often don't find the endings to be as flushed out as I'd like--sometimes I feel like I spend 300 or more pages getting to know these characters and their lives, and then the conclusion is hammered out in roughly 8 pages or less. The speed-conclusion phenomenon in The Weird Sisters definitely wasn't as bad or dramatic as some books I've read recently (*cough* Mockingjay *cough*), but I did find myself wishing that Brown had spent a bit more time bringing us to a conclusion. 

Overall? It's definitely worth a read, but the light conclusion kept it just short of being one of my favorites this year.
You can read a generous excerpt of The Weird Sisters over at BlogHer Book Club! Come on over and join the discussion! 

Disclosure Statement: This was a paid review as part of BlogHer Book Club--I received the book at no cost in order to review, and was also compensated for this review itself. That said, when it comes to books, you're always getting my real, honest opinion whether I'm being compensated or not.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snippets & Living Room Photos!

-So, while our living room is still far from being "complete", I finally took some photos to share with y'all!
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I must have driven to 5 different thrift stores yesterday looking for a chair to paint for the computer desk. I couldn't find one anywhere that wasn't under $30. Sorry, not paying $30 for a basic wooden chair that I'm going to repaint to have what I want anyway. So anyway, picture the above setup with a white chair at the desk. 

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This little Photoshop DIY is my favorite addition to the shelves...I love me some Matt Maher!

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Sorry for the blurriness of this, but I wanted to show you the inside of the box on the bottom right--it's from Target, and I LOVE it for filing things temporarily until I move them to the bigger file box every three months or so.

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At Mom's Group a few weeks ago, we made home organization binders...the binder almost deserves an entire post of its own, but it has really helped me when it comes to keeping things organized--especially these zippered pouches that I added to the front for our receipts to enter to our budget and receipts that have already been entered.

But I'm getting off track. Here's another view of the living room...you can see that I still haven't painted the fourth wall. Eventually, I swear. Anyway, even though the color isn't that different, I feel like the undertones make a BIG difference, especially when it's overcast or cloudy outside--now, it still feels happy to me instead of feeling dreary. Also, I made Justin re-hang the curtains about 6 inches higher (a bit wider too), and I'm really glad I did. And yeah, I know the fuzzy pillows are probably not "in style", but they are so comfy and I love them:
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Lizzy still has her own little corner, which works great for us.

So there you have it--there's still a lot left to do *COUGH* TRIM AROUND DOOR JUSTIN *COUGH*, but I'm liking where we're heading :)

-Lizzy totally does not understand what the word "maybe" means. I think her understanding of it is 'the word I say when my mom says no, but I'm trying to convince her otherwise'--as in:
Lizzy: I have candy? 
Me: Not today sweetheart. 
Lizzy: Maybe!?

-This video? I DIED laughing.



 

-Since early January, I have been participating in the Hello Mornings challenge with Kat at Inspired to Action. Basically, the premise of the challenge is to get up in the mornings before your kiddos to (a) have quiet time with God (b) plan your day, and (c) exercise (or at least make a plan for when you're going to)... I don't particularly enjoy getting up early and will admit that I have majorly slacked in the past few weeks, but I can also admit that I find that when I do get up and get a few things accomplished before Lizzy wakes, my day feels a lot more productive overall. I'm thankful for the opportunity and for all my #hmc2 ladies on Twitter for accountability and support!

-I don't know if you guys are familiar with a story that's been in the news here in the PacNW of Josh Powell killing his kids in Graham, WA over the weekend. I really don't want to talk about him or what he did--the pure unbridled evil that he displayed was and is horrific, and he does not deserve to be written about. But what I wanted to say is about the social worker who was there to supervise the visitation between Powell and his sons, and I feel like I have to give some back-story to make it all make sense--Powell shut the door after the kids came in the home and wouldn't let the social worker in the home. She smelled gas and immediately called 911 explaining that the father had recently lost a custody case (not to mention he's a person of interest in the alleged murder of the boys' mother) and that she was afraid for the boys' lives--the dispatcher told her that the authorities had to attend to other life-threatening calls first. So, while she was attempting to convey that she smelled gas and was scared for the boys, she witnessed their father blow up the house while he and the boys were inside.Ugh. It's really terrible to type that all out. It literally makes me sick to my stomach.

The social worker, Elizabeth Griffin-Hall, has been on my mind constantly since hearing the story. What an awful thing to witness and experience. It feels a little strange to throw this in with all the other happy snippets, but it's been on my heart today to ask those of you who pray to lift her up in your prayers, and I just don't want to ignore that gut feeling. I just don't want her to be overlooked.

Linking up to: 

and hopefully (if I remember):

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