Dear Reader – (day 25) Will Paint for Coffee

Dear Reader

About a month ago, I did some commissioned artwork for my sister.

Nothing huge, but still.

“How can I pay you?” she texted. “PayPal? Check?”

“A Starbucks gift card” I replied.

She “lol”ed.

“I’m serious,” I typed. “Just email me a Starbucks gift card.”

My weakness for a Starbucks double tall latte rivals my weakness for pizza or childish candy. Thus – it makes no sense at all to call it a “weak“ness. The pull is STRONG and relentless, not weak. Psh. What do dictionary people know anyway.

The gift card makes me feel not-so-guilty that I’m hooked on ridiculously priced coffee.

I’m telling you. When this card runs out, I’m going to have serious Issues. (with a capital “I”).

starbucks

Just tie a sign around my neck with red scribbled ink:

“Will paint for coffee.”

Because I will.

Dear Reader – (day 18) Complete Randomness

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

I have absolutely no idea what to write today.

So maybe I’ll be utterly off the cuff and random – like one of those “right now” lists that circulate through Facebook.

Right now I’m sitting at my kitchen table, still in my workout clothes from three hours ago. I worked on a couple of paintings, but I’m feeling stumped there too – which is why I switched to writing. Pfff.

I’m listening to Imagine Dragons, and currently I’m drinking a glass of room temperature water but I really want coffee. Preferably Starbucks. I have an addiction. It’s bad.

I’m thinking I probably should eat, and noticing I’m not really hungry, which tells me I only want to eat because both writing and painting are frustrating me at the moment.

Usually, when I get stumped creatively, I head over to Creativebug.com and watch a video to get me going. . . but then I feel like my finished products look too much like the work of the artist whose teaching. Which is ok, I guess, as long as I keep doing and doing and doing the different kinds of art I’m learning until they morph enough to be my own.

I have a half-finished menu plan (for the week) on the table, even though it’s already, um, Thursday?

I thought I had to run to the grocery store today, but I’m avoiding that too. Once I realized I have everything I need for dinner tonight, I scratched that errand off my list. Although, it’s starting to sound attractive now that I can’t kick my brain into creative gear.

No. I’m going to do it.

I am.

I can’t write today, but I’ll force something creative out in ink or paint, dang it!

Until tomorrow, friends. When hopefully I’m a little more interesting.

Oh – and PS – this is what I WISH we were having for dinner. Because they were Good with a capital ‘G’. Parm-Style Chicken Sliders by Cooking Light. (Photo cred goes to them too.)

Parm-Style Chicken Sliders Recipe

Dear Reader (day 4) – Go Anyway

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

I went for a run monday morning. It was absolutely necessary, given the weekend situation.

About three steps into this run I noticed the sky.

Gray, dark, threatening on one side, sunny and clearish on the other. I guessed the dark and threatening part was moving towards me, so I had to evaluate.

Do I want to continue on or turn around. I double stepped, ran in place, stopped for a split second, then I chose to go anyway.

Please understand – I didn’t choose to go because I’m a hard-core runner. I chose to go because the thought of doing another Jillian Michaels Bodyshred video was so, so much worse than running in the rain.

You know what the result of running in the rain was though?

I ran faster than I have ever run in the last six weeks.

The rain kept me cool.

The breeze was icing on the cake.

I didn’t feel like I was going to keel over and die from heat exhaustion.

And I ran the whole entire 3.7 miles. I know that’s not much to some of you, but to me, right now, it’s huge. This is the first time I’ve done that route at a steady pace (a slow one, albeit) and not stopped for at least a little 30 second walk somewhere along the way.

Two other things happened out there on the drizzly trail:

  1. I thought about Paul and his scripture about life being a race ( I almost always do whenever I run) and
  2. I wasn’t wearing proper attire for a rain-run.

I’ll get to both of these in order. They are entirely unrelated.

Every time I run, Paul’s words, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” ( 1 Corinthians 9:24) come to mind. I think of them because here I am running, one foot pounding down after the other, and I try to parse out the meaning of the race he’s referring to. I know we could delve deeper than I’m capable of going here. I’ll just give you where my layperson’s mind went. Which I’m not sure is typical of the verse, and I kind of veered off onto a separate tangent.

In the first few moments of a run, I always feel like it’s torture. My legs feel like lead. My ankles hurt and need to pop. I stop and shake everything out, swing my arms trying to loosen up, roll my ankle around on top of my foot to relieve that tight air bubble sensation, but then I go. And go and go. And eventually my body warms up and my ankles loosen up and my legs don’t feel like lead anymore. My breathing evens out and flows in a rhythm, and all of a sudden I’ve hit my pace. This is the sweet spot. Where I can run my pace and I’m not yet petering out.

I can maintain here for a while, and I think as I’m thumping along, “I just made it through the hardest part. I pushed past the pain and the weight, and the uncomfortableness and now here I am. I’m moving forward. Moving. Moving. Moving. . . . . ” And then I start to think about my arms.

My son makes fun of the way I run. Not because I flail, but because I don’t. The top half of my body barely moves. My chest is straight and my arms are slightly robotic. For some reason, he finds this hilarious. It’s nearly impossible for me to run with him because he mocks me for the first ten minutes and I can’t laugh and run at the same time.

So at this point in the run, I start to think about my arms and whether or not they are helping or hurting me at the moment. I straighten my swing so that I’m not twisting side to side and I’m pulling myself forward instead of swaying with each step. I think about my stride and try to lengthen it instead of bouncing up and down. I want my energy to go into moving forward instead of giving me more height in the same spot.

And this is where, inevitably, I think of Paul and how this whole process can be compared to life.

First of all, go. If there is something big on the horizon for you, even if it looks foreboding and you think it might be uncomfortable, if you know you should be out there (wherever “there” is for you) go. Do your thing, even if it’s hard. Even if it feels impossible, even if your muscles are tight and not yet conditioned for it. Go. The rain won’t seem so bad once you’re in it. You’ll realize it’s actually helping you reach your goal. Eventually, you’ll find your rhythm and hit your sweet spot. You’ll trot along smoothly for a while, and then you’ll realize you can evaluate. You’ve got this part down when you never thought you would. Now it’s time to look at all the moving parts and make them move better, go further with more efficiency, and break personal records. Run!

This is life, run it like a race. You’ve got to start it in the first place. Break through the lead legs, get going, find your pace, keep improving as you move towards your goal, run with passion! But first you just have to decide to go anyway!

****

Secondly – totally unrelated, and purely for your entertainment:

My attire.

I was not dressed for the rain, because I was not expecting rain when I dressed.

I was wearing a regular old cotton tank top, and regular old cotton, un-padded sports bra, because, honestly, my girls don’t require much. They’re tiny. (If there are guys reading, I apologize for this little bit, and I suggest you just stop reading).

So anyway, mid-run, wet cotton tank top and wet cotton sports bra (patterned and dark though! Not white!), I passed a man who (eww) watched my chest the whole way by. This was creepy, but at the same time utterly amusing to me, because I’m sure he was looking for eye candy. Iinstead he got was a Harry Potter puke flavored jelly bean. He probably went home trying to scrub the sight out of his eyeballs. He’ll pay for his rubbernecking.

In nightmares for the rest his life.

So Anyway. . . (my morning, Christmas, and ethical goods.)

morning

So, anyway. Today was supposed to go like this:

Drop kids off

Rush home

Eat breakfast

Work out

Art until 1:30

Instead, this was it:

Drop kids off

Find straggler kid still at home (who should have been mid-route walking already)

run him to school via car

call doc’s office re: missing immuno records @ request of the school

eat breakfast

remember bills need to be paid

pay bills

make more coffee

remember there were Christmas presents I was going to order early

order early Christmas presents

YES. I ORDERED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

Search for vintage present we’ve had in mind for a month now

remember I wanted to order one of these

Farmgirl Paints Etsy

for someone special

get side tracked looking up song lyrics

Remember I’m supposed to be working out

Drink more coffee.

Decide I should just write a post, already on these companies I’ve both discovered and fallen in love with over the past few months, because, you know. . . . Christmas is coming.

Maybe you’re a little like me and you want to get your shopping done early.

Guys, I’m serious. I want my shopping, save that last-minute top-secret stuff for the littles, to be done by October 30th.

I’m not kidding. I want to head into November (almost) footloose and fancy free. Which means as I come up with fitting ideas right now, I’m ordering them and making it happen.

These are a couple of gifts I have on my radar because I ♥♥♥ the products, but even more so, the purpose behind their products.

Prosperity Candles

Every candle purchased helps provide a living wage for the women of Prosperity Candle, who have recently resettled from refugee camps and are working to build a brighter future for themselves and their families in the United States.

 

Friends – I seriously get giddy when I browse their website. I love that our purchases are helping right here in the US, but when we buy we’re also providing a loving place for people of the world. There is so much variety there, and the candles are stunning. You can design your own or select something that’s ready to ship. Prices range from about $15 to $45, and each product comes with the story of the woman who made them. (Be still my heart – that’s an absolute bonus in my book!)

I’m thinking this pack of three (for $30) would make the perfect purchase for me to break up between our lovely teachers, and then wrap them up with a gift card to Amazon, Starbucks, or iTunes. . . .

Fikire Pouch | fashionABLE

Ok, but then I have a soft spot for these leather pouches by fashionABLE too . . . I’ve had my eye on them for almost a year now, always keeping in the back of my mind that their price point is right near perfect for gift giving ($22).

And with this commitment statement, I feel nothing but warm and fuzzy knowing who I support when I purchase:

… we believe our role is to INVEST IN A WOMAN.  When a woman is empowered with work to do, whether in the home or in an office, she not only experiences the joy and satisfaction of developing a skill, she also creates change in those around her. FASHIONABLE’s role in this story is working with women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to a lack of opportunity.  Every one of us understands what it means to overcome, and we are all ABLE to find purpose in the work we do.

Also? Their game-day scarves. Again – school teachers? College students? Die hard football fans? I think our options are endless when we consider who might enjoy wearing one of these. (And $36 ain’t so bad. . . .)FA_skinnyBanner101-GameDay

So, Ok?

Two more companies, because, friends, this has become important to me – finding companies that do good and not harm for their people. I want my purchases to build up rather than keep down the men and women who are creating the goods I use in my life.

The Shine Project. You can read the whole story here, but the gist of it is this: Ashley employs inner city youth to make jewelry so they can become first generation college students. Making jewelry becomes their game-changer. And guess what? It’s gorgeous.

_MG_1292

With so many options – bracelets (individual or stacks), rings, earings, and necklaces, it’s really hard to choose (I know, because I’ve tried. . . . ) Stacks are on the more spendy side, ( and so SO dreamy!!) but single bracelets are very affordable (ranging from $12 – $28). And c’mon now, I can totally rationalize spending a tad more if I know it’s going to help an inner city kiddo be the first in their family to go to college!

Better Life Bags. Friends? I’ve had all the heart eyes for this company since the first time I spotted them on Instagram. I am not a bag girl – I’ve never spent more than $45 on a purse, and at that point, I use it until it looks downright deplorable. So the thought of sending $100+ on a bag makes me gasp for air a little ( I know this is not a big deal for some of you out there, but y’all, we just love different things!) HOWEVER – I do so want one of these bags, and by golly, I’m gonna get one as soon as I can stash the cash away and jump that mental hurdle. Just look at them!

And (EEEP!) you can design your own! They’re adorable, durable, unique, and you are supporting hardworking women in the US.

The bags started as a hobby for designer, Rebecca Smith, but then:

In 2010, she and her family moved to a low-income area of Detroit, Michigan and her eyes were opened to what poverty, unemployment, and blight can do to a city and the people living there.

When orders experienced a boom in 2012, she turned to her neighborhood for help.  She hired a woman originally from Yemen, named Nadia, to start sewing bags alongside her.  After a few months of spending time with Nadia and paying her for the work she was doing, Rebecca saw a shift in her attitude and economic status.  Her family was finally able to afford bed frames for their four children and a dining room table.  Better Life Bags was making lives better in Rebecca’s own community.  Our mission is to hire women who have various barriers to employment to make our custom leather and fabric bags.  They are adopted into our Better Life family and given a chance to succeed in life, family, and friendship.

This is what a Better Life Bag does, beyond making you look super hip and chic. Yes, please.

And last but not least, if you are a regular reader here, or on IG, or FB, you know about these guys: Mitscoots and their Kickstarter Outfitting Project.

This is how their company works: Get. Give. Employ. They sell 100% Great American socks. For every pair you purchase, they give away another pair to someone in need, and they take pride in employing those transitioning out of homelessness to package everything up.

I love this mission, and their Kickstarter has roughly 50 hours left at the time that I’m typing this. You can shop for Christmas, give to someone in need, and help them take their company to the next level – all with one purchase. That’s a pretty sweet incentive to shop there!

Ok, now seriously. Stop distracting me. I need to go workout.

Except, now it’s lunchtime. . .

Raspberry Lemonade Bars + Random Things. . .

raspberry lemonade bars

I have a bit of writer’s block right now. Or blogger’s block.

I can’t seem to motivate to write about. . . hmmm.  Anything.

I sat here today (actually last Wednesday), wondering, “If I could write about anything right now, what would it be?”

And it was all so random.

Continue reading

After the Absence

Heart shaped leaf

I took an unintentional leave of absence. (Leaf of absence? Heh, heh. . . . )

It wasn’t pre-planned or meditated, it just happened as I sunk into life and let myself figure a few things out by mostly unplugging. (Instagram has been my tether to the Internets).

Continue reading

Another Man’s Treasure. . . .

Another man's treasure Collage 1 1000

So you might remember I got a bee in my bonnet and claimed all chill-like that I wanted to decorate.

Bees in my bonnet, indeed.

I went a little bit crazy-town.

I chanted to myself for three hours each morning, “You can’t ruin it if you don’t like it to begin with”, thank you, Nester.

That one statement led me to chop off 2 inches of the yoga pants I never wear because they are too long and then don them happily to the grocery store.

I went to Marshall’s and bought an autumn scented candle and – get this – burned it.

I let that warm little flame dance and twinkle, then I went and bought 5 more, I loved it so much.

I got so amped up about the whole decorating binge that I tucked a measuring tape into my purse and scoured the isles of home decorating stores for fabric and furniture pieces.

I actually found the perfect “piece”.

And then, I froze.

Because I realized something.

In order to decorate, one needs to pare down a bit (and paint, but that’s a whole separate issue. . . . )

Like totally declutter.

Which brings me to many things, but some of the many, are books.

I love books.

But if I’m serious about doing this thang – the sprucing up, decorating thang – then I best be clearing away some of the excess.

So, I’ve piled a stash of extras.

Actually, I’ve made two piles. One for charity, and one for friends – and by friends I mean you.

Is this weird? Tacky?

Maybe. But nothing’s ever really stopped me from being weird and tacky before. . . .

So this is the deal.

I’ve got some loot. It’s all still totally good, it’s just that I’ve got extra.

And who doesn’t like, good, free stuff? (Don’t tell me if you don’t.)

So I’m going to give some to you. It’ll be like web-shopping a yard sale, picking the thing you like, and having the seller tell you it’s free and she’ll send it to you, her treat. All you have to do is put your feet up and wait for the nice USPS worker to drop it on your porch.

I’m going to post a few things here and there. Odd ball bits and pieces, and you’re going to leave a comment in the Rafflecopter telling me which thing you’d like. The Rafflecopter will pick the winner, and I’ll send you your fave thing!

It’s that easy.

And we could do this for a while.

I’ve got lots of extras.

I’m sort of thinking that now and then I’ll might go Sesame Street on you all.

You know, four things, and one not like the other – just to keep it interesting.

Aaand, maybe not. That’s sort of sounds like a pain.

We’ll see.

The first weird and tacky giveaway starts today!

Next time, I’ll be back with food.

Thing no. 1:

Halloween books

Books for October – this creepy time of year. Scoob Doobs glows in the dark, and No More Monsters For Me was always one of my faves – just not one of my kids’. . . . All are in excellent condition. There might be a name inside one of the covers, but I’ll just block that out with sharpie if need be, and maybe add a little, “I Love You, Dear Reader, xoxo!!”

hemingwayI said to my dad one time that I thought he ought to stop reading such depressing literature, and then sent him a collection of Hemingway stories. Uhhhhh. . . . What?

If you’re into fancy things like classic authors, then you’ll enjoy this book way more than my dad. It’s in great condition too. You’d never know no-one ever read it.

Polo dress

Oh yessss. Time for baby prep. It’s a Ralph Lauren size 3/3T. My gal only wore it about 2 times because she’s more of a hippie than a jockey –  so it’s pretty much brand new. I didn’t iron for the picture (because I’m pretty much allergic to ironing), but I’d do it for you.

That’s all for now. I need to go dig through more closets.

Tell me what you want, and the Rafflecopter will tell me who to mail to. We’ll close this shindig on Friday, friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mid Vacation Muse

Morning Beach So we’ve been on vacation for a while.

One solid week of it spent at the beach.

Filled with high tides and low tides, mudslides, and triple cherry virgin daiquiries.

Appearances were made under moonlight by “Hey Hey Crabs” – as named by the shorties in our crew while they hunted the side-skipping rascals by headlamp and plastic cocktail cup. Hey Hey Crab Once in while, we’d find one little feller who’d missed the boat and hung out till sunrise.

It’s OK, Little Feller. The moon’ll be back tonight. . . . Just hang out for, like. . . 15 hours. Surf Lessons We made friends with surf bums and poolside waitresses, slathered ourselves in pints of coconut sunscreen, and some of us braved pre and post storm waves. morning beach Some of us – *ahem* – attempted to brave them.

Then, after choking on bucket-loads of salt water, returned to shore weak kneed and shakey-elbowed.Done for the day of rough-wave jumping with minimal confidence in the skilled-swimming department.

Blended iced lemonades are more my speed. Under an umbrella. With a book.

Mama’s a watcher, not a swimmer.

And books there were. A thinker. A dreamer. A heart breaking sad-story turned good. And magazines with summer food.

And a 1000 piece puzzle in which I would not partake. Puzzles, in this lady’s book, are crazy making. Stick me in the kitchen instead. I’d rather make tacos, and fry beer-battered fish, and chop tomatoes for bruschetta. A cocktail just to the top right of the cutting board is a nice touch too. Beach People Now we’re here, in our home.

Coming home is so sad and still so nice at the end of sunny, surfy, carefree days.

It’s time to swing ourselves back into routine. Sort of. Maybe.

OK, maybe not yet. morning beach Time to plan meals and tidy up.

Seize days and live by the moment. Love by the second.

Remembering that it’s all fleeting. Life, really, is not under our control. Waves I wish it was, but I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not the driver of this train.

Somehow though, it goes where I need it to go, whether I actually want to go there or not.

Summers, I’ve learned, always hold a mixed bag for me.

Some lovely, some ugly, but always something that needs doing.

And that’s the way life goes.

So far, the hubs and I have tackled roughly 24 combined vertical inches of stacked paper on the kitchen counter.

His has been lingering for about 6 months.

Mine has been lingering since Easter of 2013.

I’m not proud of this.

It’s just who I am.

A stack-of-paper hater/procrastinator.

But it’s gone now.

Don’t you dare come back, Paper Stacks. With your smug little faces. I’m a changed woman.

My counter space is MINE.

We’ve been cooking too. Tasty things that will eventually show up here.

But my camera has been tucked away, snug in the cupboard, while I hoard this family time to myself.

I’ll break it out and dust it off soon.

We made a version of this pesto rigatoni.

I recommend it. It was a hit all around – and that’s saying something given the kale content, which is: ANY.

Because my family doesn’t like kale – when they know about it.

Also? We made these. Again.

I fiddled with the flour content a little because they came out so thin, but just add a little more and: swoon.

Oh! And this for flashy dinner dessert with friends.

We fell back on these burritos and this sauce. Because staples are staples for good reason.

Aaaaand, I’m pretty sure my summer will not be complete until I try this cocktail.

I can’t. even. think.

Next? I don’t know. I’m ready for the beach again.

XOXO until next time, friends.

Almost Easter, an Almost Fast, and A New Camera

We’re two days away from Easter.

About a week and a half ago, two things happened:

1. I started this post, and

2. I GOT A NEW CAMERA!!! (lots of jumping and clapping here and squeaking like a tickled monkey)

Numero dos is the reason for the severe lapse in posting.

“New Camera” also means the clearing of memory space on my computer for new programs and new photos. Which means I have spent all last week trying to figure out how to get my precious HP Mini to recognize space-age mass storage devices from 2014, when this little baby was in its prime in 2002.

HP Mini? I love you. Don’t ever think otherwise. We just got you a little Pod to store all your stuff in, is all.

And now we’re ready to boogie.

So here we are, friends – that post I started last week:

***

I’m on a diet, of sorts.

A self-prescribed sort-of fast until Easter.

Spiritual preparation by way of cookie denial. Continue reading

Gimme Some Messy

Guys – I feel like I’m all jammed up inside. Like there’s all kinds of stuff circulating around in the soul part of me, and I can’t quite identify what it is that’s trying to bust free.

Desires tease me by staying just out of reach and not making much sense.

Dreams thump me between my shoulder blades, sort of rap-tapping to remind me they’re still there, but when I look them square in the face, some part of me tells me now is not the time.

That dream has to wait.

I’m knee-deep in gimmies right now, and my heart is tied to a little boy in Africa, a young mama in Indiana, and a tweenager outside the grocery store (story to be told another day). Continue reading