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Friday, October 16, 2015

Good Deeds Can Lead to Happiness

This summer, my daughter worked for the Montana Conservation Corps, a branch of Americorp. Throughout the summer, her group did service projects for all sorts of "outdoorsy" organizations (I'm sure there's a better term for that), including state and federal park services, national and state parks, and other public areas. Most of their meals are eaten on site and are usually some type of camp food.

This weekend, her crew was actually in town, doing housing weatherization projects for people in need. I figured it had been a while since they've had a home-cooked meal, so I asked my daughter if she would like to invite them over for dinner. She said sure and so we set up the dinner for this evening.

It was one of the most pleasurable experiences I've had in a long time. It was so satisfying to see these young men and women surrounding my dining room table, where we had set up a taco bar for them. They all dug in hungrily while expressing gratitude for our efforts. Dinner was eaten around our living room TV while watching the first game of the Royals-Blue Jays playoff series. We talked about baseball, football, and the crew's experiences in the backcountry this summer.

I got such a high from the energy in the room. The people in my daughter's crew were friendly, outgoing, and very personable. I am so glad that my husband and I could do this small gesture for them. Seeing their happiness made me very happy. Good deeds can (and do) lead to personal happiness!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What Advice Would Give Your Teenage Self?

I am a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project, Happier at Home, and Better Than Before. She recently has started recording a podcast with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, titled (what else) Happier. If you're a podcast junkie like I am, this is a great one to check out.

On the most recent episode, Gretchen had her 16-year-old daughter, Eliza, as her guest to discuss what life is like as a teenager in today's world. Eliza solicited advice from Gretchen's listeners: "what advice do you have for teenagers that you wish you could tell your teenage self?".

So what would I say to my teenage self?

First, it gets better. As a teenager, I felt so unsure of myself and of my place in the world. I felt like I didn't know who I was, what my strengths were, what I was supposed to do with my life, and if I would be successful. In fact, I seriously doubted that I would be successful. Things really didn't start to click for me until I turned 30, when I began to see things in a more positive light. And what I discovered was interesting - that person I questioned as a teenager was still the person I was in my thirties, but it was okay to be that person. In fact, that person was actually kinda cool!

Second, just because an adult can do a certain thing, or like a certain thing, and you don't, that's okay. It doesn't mean you're less mature. My mother has amazing fine-motor coordination. She can do the most detailed, intricate work with a needle and thread. I always thought that was a sign of maturity, that I would be able to do that kind of work when I matured. Well, I'm in my mid-40's and I still can't do that kind of stuff. It doesn't mean I'm not an adult. It just means my mother has an extraordinary talent.

Finally, when trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, figure out what you love to do and then find a way to get paid for it. That is my definition of a career. Eliza, your mom's advice is spot-on: look at what you loved to do as a ten-year-old. For me, at 10 years old, I loved politics and world events. I loved travel. I loved maps. I loved plotting routes to destinations on maps. I also loved dance and performing. And what do I do today? I am a social studies teacher and a Zumba instructor.

So I am asking you guys:  what advice would you give to yourself as a teenager? Post in the comments below - I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Week In The Life - Day 1

Welcome to Week In The Life 2015! This is a week-long daily life documentation project conceived by the fabulous Ali Edwards. You can find out all sorts of information about WITL on her website:

Notice the picture above. Notice how there is nothing in there that is "perfect." Yes, my kitchen is a mess. Yes, there are dirty dishes in the sink. You know what? This is real life for me right now. This is what I am documenting. I encourage you to move past your idea of "perfection" and document your life as it is now. I think that makes the most meaningful project.

Here's my Monday:

I take daily medications. It's part of who I am. I document it.

The day started out just like most weekdays in the summer. I picked Mom up and we went to breakfast at McDonald's.

Mom likes a little bit of iced tea with her lemon.

We usually eat breakfast in the restaurant, but today, we took it back to my house. I was waiting for FedEx to deliver the Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 lens that I rented from specifically for this week.

After breakfast, my neighborly feline visitor came by for some petting.

I have no idea where this cat belongs, but he's super sweet and loves to be rubbed under his chin. I am so happy to oblige!

Mom and I have been working on projects for my yard all summer long. Today's task was to glue and nail the trim on this wonderful deck box she built for us. It's made out of redwood and will hold all the stuff that gets dumped on my front porch on a daily basis. It will also provide extra seating. We worked methodically and with few problems.

The only setback we had was the bees!!!! I am deathly allergic to bees and had one land on my arm. I freaked out, probably shouted out a few f-bombs, and went into full panic mode. I have a bottle of castile soap mixed with peppermint essential oil, which keeps the bees at bay for a while (they hate the scent of peppermint). I went nuts with the spray, totally covering the porch! It still smells like a candy cane!

The afternoon was spent relaxing. I love watching HGTV in the afternoons. Today was a "Love It Or List It" marathon. Nice, mind-numbing entertainment.

After FedEx delivered my lens, Mom and I went to lunch at Perkins. You can see how thrilled she is to have her picture taken. And that cheeseburger was so yummy!

Mondays in the summer are grocery shopping day for Mom. We hit Albertsons.

When I got home, Rob was already home from work, working on programming our new Siriux XM receiver he ordered from Amazon. This one has a color display and twice as many presets as our old one. I'm sure there are other things it does, but I haven't had a chance to play with it yet.

In the evening, I had to complete first aid/CPR training for my job at the YMCA. I've been through this class so many times, most of the info is engraved in my mind. But, there's always new stuff to learn. For example, did you know that when doing the Heimlich, you thrust from the belly button, not from under the ribs? News to me!

Because I got home so late from my class, we ordered pizza for dinner.

Works for me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

AE Story Stamp - Prompts

Hi everyone!

I want to share the layout I made using Ali Edwards' new Story Stamp subscription & monthly class.

The assignment was to use one of the prompts on the stamps as a story starter for a layout. After seeing this photo of my kids (who were definitely not thrilled with having their picture taken), it made me think about how the relationship they now have as young adults is growing and changing. The prompt "I want to remember" stuck in my head and I decided to use that prompt as the basis for my layout.

I started by using a cluster stamping technique. I placed a variety of stamps from this month's set on a large acrylic block like so:

Using StazOn Ink in Dove Grey, I stamped multiple images on the top half of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of white card stock. This particular grey ink was light enough to make the design subtle for a background.

Because "I Want To Remember" is the theme of this layout, I highlighted the phrase with a pale yellow gelato stick and then went over it with a wet paintbrush to make it look like watercolor. The effect is subtle, yet still makes the phrase stand out among all the other phrases.

I used a minimal amount of embellishments surrounding the photo. To finish it off, I stitched the bottom border and the Thickers title to add some dimension and stability for the Thickers. These chipboard Thickers tend to fall off after a while & I wanted to make sure they stayed put!

I really love how this background turned out! I think the key to making sure it doesn't look to "busy" is the use of a less-vibrant ink. A strong ink color would just overwhelm the layout.

And check out Ali's Story Stamp subscription!!!! :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Throwback Thursday - My First Layout

Yup - here it is - my very first layout!

Isn't it amazing??????

(and yes, I'm being sarcastic!)

If you read my post here on practicing techniques before you scrap, this is what I came up with after several weeks of playing with pics of my nieces and nephews. I put this layout together in the summer of 2008, when sticker-sneeze and cutting photos into shapes were on their way out as popular techniques. I think I did a good job of using color, especially color blocking with solid papers. I like how I did the title. And, I like how I did less of the "sticker sneeze" and more grouping stickers into purposeful layouts.

My design, however, sucked! There is no clear focal point photo, no direction to lead the eye, and nothing visually anchoring the photos and embellishments to the page.

But, you know what? Scrapbooking is an ongoing learning experience. I've been doing this for six years now. Each layout I complete is a stepping stone to a better layout. And when I'm in my 80s and still scrapbooking, I'll still be learning and growing.

There is no finality to our hobby. Even the scrapbooking goddesses out there are still learning and growing.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Ankle Saga

blurred for your comfort

Poor Alyssa has had the year from hell as far as her ankle is concerned!

She sprained the heck out of it during a soccer game in July, 2013. She wasn't able to walk on it without support & had to wear one of those big black walking boots for about 3 weeks. After that time, her doctor told her to just "keep walking on it" and it would eventually heal.

After that, she could walk OK, but her ankle never felt stable and she wasn't able to run like she used to. It certainly never returned to normal as her doctor had promised.

Throughout the spring of this year, Alyssa's ankle kept getting worse and worse and she began to have pain in other parts of her foot that weren't affected by the initial sprain. So, she went to a different doctor, who immediately prescribed physical therapy.

The therapist examined her ankle and said "there's no way that therapy is going to fix this." She had Alyssa's doctor order an MRI, which showed her outer ligaments stretched beyond repair.

It was surgery time!

Her procedure was done on Aug. 11. The doctor tightened up the ligaments, reattached them to her ankle bone, and then stitched her back up. She was put in a splint & told to stay off the ankle for 2 weeks.

Those first two weeks were totally miserable. Alyssa had problems with nausea, low appetite, and fatigue, not to mention a sense of total helplessness. She is one who isn't used to relying on other people to do stuff for her and it was making her mad! She would come up with these brilliant solutions to work around her crutches, like sticking a can of soda down her shirt to carry it to her room. I would ask if she wanted help and she'd say "no, I've got it!"

Two weeks after surgery, I took her in to get her splint off, stitches out, and to be fitted for a walking boot. She was then allowed to put weight on her ankle with the intent of being weaned off the crutches. That took her two days. And MAN, does she feel so much better not being reliant on other people.

Alyssa will still be in her boot for another 6 weeks or so. She can now stand for a few minutes unsupported without the boot, which thrills her but scares the crap out of me! Each day is getting a little bit better and better. She's just praying it doesn't snow before she can start wearing shoes again!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Zack's Vehicle Adventure

Zack is now a car owner!

Ever since he got his license last year, he's been on the hunt for his own car. It's been difficult, though, seeing as his work hours have been varied and he has his other household expenses to deal with. In order to get to work, he's been taking the bus, but if he had to work late, we'd have to go pick him up. His social life was totally dependent on his friends being able to provide transportation.

When taking Alyssa back to school after her ankle surgery, she mentioned that her boyfriend's dad was selling his old Jeep Cherokee. Its a 1999 vehicle with 180,000 miles on it, but she said it's in great condition, plus he was asking only $2750 for it! I texted Zack immediately - CALL THIS GUY!!!! That night, after I returned home, Zack was at our house doing his laundry. I gave him the phone number and had him call.

The next night, Zack and I, along with Zack's Grandpa, went to look at the vehicle. Seeing as its a 1999 vehicle, I figured it would be rather beat up. But, no, I was pleasantly surprised! This Jeep looked fantastic! The body is in great condition, the interior is spotless, and the engine purrs like a kitten! This was too great of a deal to pass up!

So, Zack is now the proud owner of a 1999 Jeep Cherokee. He's now putting together a winter survival kit (blankets, shovel, sand, etc) and learning what it takes to keep up a vehicle like this. He calls it "his project."

And we no longer have to go out at 10pm on weekend nights to pick Zack up from work!