31 May 2013

Imagine



The days flutter by the same way the clouds do - as if they're on big-wheeled skateboards, hat backwards, "I'm outta here guys". Can you believe today is the last day of May? I was feeling on top of things yesterday and flipped both the calendars in my office to June. The calendar hanging on the wall above my desk here at home still says April. Not really sure what to think about that.  It's driving me only a little crazy.

Do you ever think about the way time flies? They say it's because we're having fun, but do you think it's also maybe because we're not paying attention? I spend my days anticipating an upcoming meeting on Tuesday, that junior league function next Thursday, singing in church on Sunday, time up at the lake in July… without giving a second thought to the next twenty seconds - forty five minutes - one hour.  

Our time isn't limitless, but I often carry on like it is. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I realized - really realized - that today is quite literally the only today I get.  And that life is made up of a wonderful and messy combination of todays that can never be re-lived.  

What do you imagine when you think about how life rides on by?

This has been five-minute Friday. Today's prompt was IMAGINE. You should try it. It's fun and kinda freeing.

29 May 2013

My Summer Project List



I am definitely a to-do list kind of gal.  I've shared before that sometimes I write something on my list after it's done just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off.  Ahem.

Each year, I look forward to a decidedly slower pace during June, July, and August.  Amidst trips north to the lake and Wednesday nights at Madison's Concerts on the Square, I (try to) allow time to perform major feats of strength in various areas where my organization systems seem to have gone awry.  This summer, I have a nice list of projects I'm hoping to tackle.

  • My pantry (pictured above, adjacent to my human-size fork) needs some love. The baskets on the top shelf, which hold all my paper goods, and the floor, below the bottom shelf, which hold bottles of wine and other drinks that don't need to be refrigerated, are really the only things that are working for me. I don't feel good about the way I'm using the space, and KNOW this little baby closet can serve me better than it currently is.  
  • My kitchen cupboards need to be re-thought.  I've changed the way I grocery shop over the past 18 months or so, and I no longer need room for lots of back-stock of non-perishable food items.  I've also either purchased or been gifted a number of large cooking tools (like a dutch oven and large cast iron skillet - both heavy items that take up lots of space), and I haven't yet found a way to store them in an efficient, practical manner.  I might even map it out. Don't judge. It's my free time.
  • I have a corner cupboard in my kitchen that I would LOVE to make into a lazy susan. Let's all take note that I don't have a handy bone in my body, and if a project requires more than a hammer or a few twirls of the screwdriver, I'm in over my head, so if that one's going to happen, I'm going to need a general contractor. Or a handsome man. Either will do the job.
  • My spare bedroom closet has become the dumping ground for all things that don't have a home.  It needs some major organization.  There's a random bookcase in the closet that worked for awhile for storage, but I think it can work better for me elsewhere, which would make that closet a more efficient use of space.
  • Somewhere along the line (and I swear it wasn't me walking through it), the screen in my screen door detached from the outer frame of the door itself, making it like a little doggie door for insects and other things I hate.  I don't have any idea how to re-attach a screen, and Lord knows if it was up to me, I'd call the door people and tell them I'm going to need a whole new screen door. Again with the general contractor or handsome man.  

What projects are on your list for the summer? Am I crazy for thinking this might all get done? 

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27 May 2013

Summer's Start Greetings




Summer is here!  Our weather over the holiday weekend was chillier than you'd expect for the end of May, but summer is here and I can't wait.

This week, I'm looking forward to sharing with you a summer playlist, along with my goals for summer.

I hope your weekend was restful and refreshing, filled with laughter and sun-soaked glimmers of the season to come.

25 May 2013

Tips for Sticking with It

 photo oldhasgonenewishere_zps13542d15.jpg

The trickiest part of doing what we know is good and right is actually doing it, am I right?   I can think for hours about going for a jog and how good it will feel and how liberated I'll be, but when it comes to lacing up my Nikes and putting soles to pavement - step after step - I'm singing a different tune.  I know in my mind that time spent with the Lord, soaking in His word is life-giving, nutritious, necessary, but when it comes to living the commitment I've made to spending that time, the Real Housewives of whatever is suddenly full of suspense and moment-by-moment cliff hangers.  The moment has passed, and so has the day.

And then comes the guilt. The feeling of failure. Of not measuring up.  

Do you know that's not how it's supposed to be? That it's not the intended outcome for when the Lord called us to Himself?


He wants us to come and be new - refreshed, changed, ready. 

New.

It's still not simple to stick with it, though, is it?  Why not set yourself up for success by employing a few simple solutions?  

I'm guest posting today over at Overcome the Lie. Join me there, won't you?

20 May 2013

Digging Out


Goodness, it's been a crazy year.  It's interesting how the slowed-down-ness of this almost-summer is allowing me to take a deep breath. I am so looking forward to a decidedly laid-back June, July, and August, with only a family reunion on the calendar, and plenty of trips up north for mornings of coffee on the dock and nieces and nephews perfecting their waterskiing skills. 

In some demented way, I thrive some off the frenzied schedule that is life right now.  The adrenaline forces me into a schedule, a routine, always in drive. 

It's been too much this year.  

I'm feeling the need to slowly apply the brakes, slow, breathe, laugh, and enjoy.  There's been a lot of sadness this year, and joy and accomplishment too, but lots of emotion, which makes me tired.
In August, we learned we had a very short time left here on earth with my favorite uncle.  His funeral was - yes  - the celebration of a life remarkably well-lived, but brought such sadness because his time on earth was cut so short. On that same day, we celebrated Chris' 30th birthday.  The juxtaposition of a loss and a celebration of another year of life on the same day was not lost on me. October brought my first blogging conference, and I found such affinity with the women I met there.  My people, I thought.     A couple of weeks later we celebrated my 31st birthday with dinner at the diner and a corn maze with friends, which is one of my favorite ways to mark my autumn birthday.




Late one night in November, I got a call from E letting me know her mother in law had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, something no one was prepared for.  It was a blow and took the wind out of all our sails. Six weeks later, we celebrated the birth of what would have been her fifth grand baby, irony echoing in all our hearts. We celebrated Thanksgiving in Michigan with my mom's family, and I saw my grandfather one final time before he joined my uncle in heaven six weeks later.  We're all sure there was a reunion like no other when he made his heavenly entrance. 

A couple of weeks before Christmas, there was a Christmas cookie baking extravaganza for my life group girls in my mom's kitchen.  Her restaurant-style double-oven, double-dishwasher, double-sink kitchen layout lends itself to lots of room for kitchen adventure. All five of us kids and our respective families and pets (a total of 12 of us + one dog - and only one of my siblings has kiddos!) were in town for Christmas at mom and dad's, and us girls enjoyed our second-annual Favorite Things gift exchange.


January brought a new level of urgency to planning for All Dressed Up.  Sponsors to confirm, logistics to hammer out, committee members to thank. Grandad passed away on January 14th, and I've never felt such loss. It was great to breathe in the support of family at that time… these are the only people who get what a great loss is felt in Grandad's death.
In February Nikki and I had a baby shower for Jen, and baby Liam arrived a few short weeks later.  We helped Jen and Joe move in right next door to me just before Liam was born, and now I have two sets of good friends who live within a parking lot's distance of my doorstep. For Valentine's, Chris and I went ice skating outdoors. It wasn't typical Wisconsin-in-February cold, so we stayed out for a long time, enjoying watching the other valentines and the kiddos with their wobbly knees and snow pants.

March arrived with a vengeance, and if things hadn't gotten crazy yet, they certainly were about to be.  All Dressed Up came and went on March 16th, and we saw almost three hundred young ladies walk out with lovely dresses to wear to their respective proms.  What fun to see those smiles. We partnered with a zillion hair and makeup stylists, as well as a DJ, so the girls would have plenty of things to enjoy while they waited for their turn to shop.


April brought a trip to Florida for Mollie and me, then a few weeks later, shoulder surgery for me.  I went back to the gym for the first time post-surgery today, and I was surprised I hadn't lost all level of fitness. I made it through an entire spinning class, and didn't even fake turn-the-dial when the instructor encouraged more intensity - more - more.


Chris' little brother got married at the end of April, and I will give you advice. Don't get surgery a week before you're going to a wedding. Stitches are black. Dresses for weddings are strapless.

As I sit here in the oil-change waiting lounge, snapping up their wifi, writing, I think of my little brother who's sitting for the MCAT today, and Chris who's studying feverishly for a very difficult professional certification exam he'll take in two weeks, and my sister-in-law, whose graduation from dental hygiene school (I swear this is her third degree) we'll celebrate with an outdoor party this evening. I sing tomorrow at church, and next weekend is Memorial Day, and we'll head up north to celebrate my dad's 65th birthday. 

And after that I'll sit awhile, on my porch, with some iced tea.  And I'll stay there until I'm itching to get back at it again.

What about you? Are you ready for the cleansing breeze that summer brings?

17 May 2013

My tree-stump-side-table had termites



Hi there!

I recorded a video blog for you today because boy do I have a heads up for you!  My beautiful tree stump side table that I grabbed from up north at our cottage had a big surprise for me, and I don't want the same to happen to you.


Watching in a reader? View the video here.

Anybody have similar experiences where your DIY went wrong? I'd love to commiserate! Let me know in the comments.

16 May 2013

Study Day :: my favorite bi-annual holiday of the year


I'm pretty sure I've shared with you how much I love my church.  They care about community and they care about people.  And Jesus.  He's numero uno. For me and for them. 

Since we're located in one of the sweetest college town in America, a large part of our church population is made up of college kids (my life group gals included!), and they. are. awesome.

At the end of each semester, Blackhawk hosts 1500-ish college students (and lots of non-Blackhawkers!) for Study Day (which - back when I was in school and we actually joined Facebook groups (hey remember that?!) - one of my groups was Study Day is My Favorite Bi-Annual Holiday of the Year) for an entire day of TONS of food, wi-fi, tutoring, silent study rooms, and basically a whole lot of stuff to do whether or not you want to study.  The day wraps up with an hour of worship, which is so great because it places emphasis back on what really matters (that's not to say studying doesn't matter, people... just saying there's something that matters more). It is SO. MUCH. FUN.  And such a blessing to those hungry stressed out co-eds.



Ok so new topic.  Have I ever shared with you that I sing? Well I do. I'll sing sometime for you right here on this blog (I don't really have a choice… it's one of my 2013 goals). And I lead worship on a regular basis at my church.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to lead worship for Study Day, and I'll tell you what - it was one of the most fun things I've done in awhile. Some people have a lot of energy at 9:00pm. Those people are college kids at Study Day.  Yes oh yes. 

Here's our team practicing earlier in the evening.


Have you ever wondered what they're looking at on the music stand up there? Here's what mine looks like.  That handwriting on the left side of the white page? That's called the Roadmap.  It tells me where we're headed. I don't know if other people write it out that way, but it sure helps me.


I have never before (no really I mean never) needed to play a drum.  #thiswasafirst since I can barely clap and sing at the same time.  Such fun to try something new.


Such a fun perspective on all of them gathered ready for worship. Backstage view.



13 May 2013

Pie Night Tradition

If you ever find yourself in Madison, and at the Diner - get the Peanut Butter Silk pie.  You won't be sorry.
I think by now you know that I love my life group gals.  They are at different stages in their college careers, act like they've known each other forever, and have managed to worm their way into my heart.  Each time one of the gals leaves to graduate and move away and be an adult and stuff - a piece of me goes with her. They are pretty awesome women of passion, I'll tell you that much.  

I've got one who's going to be the best special education teacher on the planet, and another who will probably end up curing cancer.  Another is going to be a famous TV news anchor, and another who is going to change the lives of kids who have autism.  Another one just bought a hat for the Dali Lama to wear when he's here - his request (no joke), so she's definitely got it going on, and another who will probably end up being Chloe on 24 or something. Another is double-majoring in Chemical Engineering  and Rocket Science (or something) so you know she's on her way to NASA to change the world.  Another one is passionate about and committed to saving women from modern day slavery - and if you don't think she's going to make an impact you have another thing coming.  I've also got one who loves the library and teaching kids that reading is fun and cool and she's the most loving and patient and kind person on earth.  Then there's the other one who's the daughter of two doctors and sister of four brothers, and will be the best neurosurgeon (I don't even know if she wants to do that - but she COULD!) this world has seen yet. 

What GEMS they are - gifts - and  I'll never think of Monday evenings the same way again.

I accidentally started a pretty great tradition with them.  On our last life group night of each semester, we head to the best pie place in Madison for fun, talk-time, and some really good pie.  Sometimes we go around the table and speak truth into the lives of each other, reflecting on one another's gifts and awesomeness, receiving truth from these beauties. Other times (like last week), we just enjoy being together, being goofy, confusing the waiter, ordering more coffee, more pie, some a la mode, more water please.

Being in the lives of people is a gift, no? If I could challenge you to one thing today it would be to look around to find where you could be part of something bigger in someone else's life.  

You'll leave changed and better - I'd bet a piece of peanut butter silk on it.



Taylor, Emily, Lizzie, JoJo, Amanda, Alissa, Megan, Chelsea, Me (missing Brandy - who took the picture!)

 
We're losing Emily (the Dali Lama hat buyer!), second in from the left (bottom row) to graduation….waaaaah.



This picture courtesy of Hubbard Avenue Diner

09 May 2013

Be Really Good at Gift Giving


There are a few things in the world that are just plain universal.  Go anywhere in the world and smile. I bet you'll get a smile back.  Go somewhere where there's a child - I can guarantee that no matter where you are, that child is beautiful.  Laughter is another one… listen to that hearty emotion bubbling over.  You will likely have a hard time not joining in.

Another thing I've noticed that's universal is gifts.  They come in all different shapes, sizes, and price-points, but most people out there love how it feels to receive a gift.  Being given a gift makes us feel loved, known, planned for, considered, thought of.  On the giver's side - going out and finding the gift requires thought, attention, intention.  

Lots of people have read and enjoyed Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages, which outlines the five ways in which people (generally) receive love.  You are probably familiar with the list, but in case you need a refresher, here they are:

Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Receiving Gifts
Quality Time
Physical Touch

I'm a huge gifts girl, and if you show up with a gift that demonstrates that you KNOW me, I will feel for sure loved. It's not to say that gifts are my only love language, but it's certainly hovering right near the top.

Here are a few ways I've learned to select gifts that make my loved ones feel loved:

1. LISTEN: If you're close with a person (a significant other, sibling, best friend, parent/child), you're likely spending time with them where you're just talking.  Be intentional in those conversations and listen to what they have to say. What do they value? What's new and exciting to them? What do they notice? What kinds of things do they appreciate?  Have those things in mind when you head to the store (or heck, just Amazon!), and you're sure to find something that will show them you care.

2. THINK AHEAD: If you've been hanging out here for awhile, you know that the gals in my family have started a FAVORITE THINGS Christmas tradition. I don't think I'm exaggerating (though I have been accused of such a crime before) when I say it's one of the things we all look forward to most about our family's Christmas festivities.  And no joke - I start thinking of my next year's favorite things gift on or around January 1.  No kidding.  And while we're on the topic of thinking ahead, I will tell you that I keep a list in my phone of gift ideas for my boyfriend.  Every time I hear him say "boy I could really use a new bike tire pump corduroy jacket argyle socks wristwatch…", I take mental note, then stick it in my phone. That way, I've always got a running list of ideas. I don't always select ideas from that list, but in a pinch, it's there, and if nothing else, it gets my gift-giving juices flowing. Christopher don't you dare look at that list in my phone. It's very secret.

3. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: What does your recipient value? Do they love handmade? Head over to Etsy! Do they have a favorite TV series? Buy them the DVD set! Do they always notice the scent of the candle you're burning? Get them one of their own to enjoy! Do they come to you for style advice? Give them something you think is really cool! Are they into local brews? Give them tickets to a brewery tour with a certificate for a case of their favorite to take with them.

4. MAKE IT PRETTY: Put a little effort into the wrapping so your recipient has a hint as to the consideration you put in.  It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated… one of my favorite, occasion-neutral, and most cost-effective ways to wrap is with a simple brown kraft paper complimented by a pretty satin ribbon in a color that fits the person/occasion/what you've got handy. Add a simple card with your heartfelt words, and your loved one feels like they were worth your effort. It's a really nice touch.

So get out there and do it! Listen, be intentional, put in some effort, and get out there and give something special to someone!

In need of some inspiration? Feel free to peruse my GIVE board on Pinterest.

07 May 2013

What to do about Mother's Day

Mother's Day is Sunday May 12, and if you're like me, the fact that you've not yet taken care of getting a gift has no reflection on how much you adore your mom. You may remember my awesome mom from the video I made right before my surgery.

Here are my picks for the mom(s) in your life:


2. Lululemon Scuba Hoodie. $108. I love everything Lululemon.

I also always struggle with finding a card I like. My favorite (for every occasion, actually), even though they're pricier than I'd like is Papyrus. I always find them at Target.  Their paper is luxurious, the graphics classy, and the wording meaningful without being sappy or over the top.

So tell me… what are YOU gifting this Mother's Day?

*Some affiliate links used. Thank you for supporting Polka Dotted Peony.

03 May 2013

BRAVE

A picture of a picture.  Cammie + Grandpa. Approx age 3.
BRAVE.

When was the last time you flexed your brave muscle? For myself, I'm not sure I can think of anything very recently, where I actually needed to be brave. In fact, just the word feels a little foreign to my typing fingers. B. R. A. V. E. 

We tell kids to be brave all the time. Encourage them in so many ways to unwrap their little hand from mommy's for the first day of pre-school.  

Several weeks ago, I visited my brother and sister in law and their three kiddos at their home.  One of my nephews' and niece's favorite ways to get crazy is to stand at the top of the 1st half of the stairs leading upstairs, and have their dad (my awesome brother) stand at the bottom.  Without a second thought - no consideration of the bodily harm that I - their aunt - am sure is inevitable - they take a flying leap into their dad's arms, which are  open to them, waiting at the bottom.  All three of them do it, one after the other over and over like a parade.  One of my nephews has a habit of giving no warning for the moment he'll actually jump, and just wings it, no doubt the arms will catch him at the bottom. That poor kid is asking for broken bones. Love him. 

I wonder when I stopped taking a flying leap from the top of the stairs, caution thrown to the wind that's sure to whoosh when I jump. 

This has been 5 Minute Friday - a 5-minute writing prompt. Today's word was BRAVE. You should join in. It's fun and kinda freeing.


Five Minute Friday

01 May 2013

It's a font thing


For as long as I can remember, I've been enamored by fonts. Yes, that's right. Close your browser if you must.

My all time favorite everyday font is FUNCTION. I was first introduced to ol' functy a number of years back when my church (whose designer is out of this world talented) adopted it as their corporate font.  Our company soon adopted it as our corporate font, since it's just so adaptable.  

FUNCTION is a sans serif font, which refers to the fact that it doesn't have little legs at the end of each stroke.  Serif meaning little leg (which is so far from the true translation), and sans, of course, meaning without (something about that last sentence made me feel like a real life Big Fat Greek Wedding (hilarious if you skip to 5:11 in the video)).

Ladies and gentlemen: meet FUNCTION. Isn't she pretty?

Grid via. Adaptation mine.

I have a couple favorite spots that I love finding out about new fonts. These gals are serious artists, and I love that they share their good finds with the rest of us.

You may recognize Victoria from A Subtle Revelry's work from Pinterest. Her font roundups are everywhere, and rightly so. The roundup below first got my attention, and I've been a loyal reader ever since. You know what else is super cool? Victoria links to each of the fonts so you know right where to go to grab 'em. Now that is a resource.


Party Font Roundup via A Subtle Revelry


I've shared her work before, but Allie of Be Up & Doing + Allison Lehman Design is another major design goddess.  I have such respect for her work, and for her ability to create community in this here online world.  Allie's got a great series on blogging called Here We Go, and shares a few of her favorite resources for free fonts.  Allie is swell.  


And for all you other font-junkies out there, let's take a quick little trip down memory lane.

Surely you can't forget Comic Sans.  Guys. Here's a tip. If you are still using Comic Sans, people are judging you. Change is good. Comic Sans is not. Time for a new font.  

Image via. Adaptation mine.

What are your favorite fonts? I'd love to know!