Monday, February 16, 2015

Frozen, Queen Elsa, and a little princess . . .





Jan 31st we celebrated one of our granddaughter's birthday with a full-blown Frozen party, complete with Queen Elsa herself helping host the affair. It was 7 year old little princess magic! Elsa was charming and sweet. The girls were wild. And we pumped them up with lots of sugary marshmallows, cake, punch, and candy.

Parties and events are kind of my thing. So my daughter, after much convincing, allowed me to just run with the whole party planning, decorating, games, cake, the works. I had a blast! Since all of that sugar was my idea, I'm sure their parents hated me by bedtime! But it was a perfect party.

If you are in the central Mississippi area, you can hire a princess for your party from: https://www.facebook.com/vaughnentertainment
I highly recommend them!
Elsa and the birthday girl
My sweet hubby went up and down a ladder about a hundred times to hang all those snowflakes and icicles. Bless his heart. I don't know why that guy still loves me, but he tolerates all my grand schemes and just keeps putting up with me! And those huge 3D snowflakes are super easy to make! You can get the directions from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7of1MSYHcw
After they were made, I sprayed them with Recollections Simply Pastel spray mist in blue. I don't think it is available any more. Most of the crafty supplies came from Michaels after Christmas clearance, including the blue wrapping paper I covered the little tables with, the foam snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and the Recollections paper snowflakes on the kid's table, even the helium tank. And the balloons came from the Fun Finds aisle.

While they waited for Elsa to arrive, the girls made Olaf with three sizes of marshmallows, pretzels, chocolate chips, and cake icing to make him stick together. I didn't consider that the girls would actually EAT Olaf after they made him. Thus began the sugar high  . . . lol. The little paper containers holding the 'parts' are Wilton, I think. I picked those up at Big Lots, too.

When Elsa arrived, she wanted to make an Olaf, too!

Then they played pin the nose on the Olaf. Elsa put the blindfold on each girl and turned her around. The girls were just giddy over this. So cute. I made Olaf by painting a background on white foamcore with shades of blue, purple, and white acrylic paint. Then I smeared some Craft Twinkles with my finger to make it look sparkly. I sketched Olaf on white posterboard then went over the lines with black Sharpie and cut him out. I glued him to the foamcore with Glossy Accents by Ranger and painted his arms and touched up the Sharpie lines with black, white, and brown acrylic paint to add some shading to him. Then I hung him on the wall with Command Strips so we could take him down after the party.

For the noses my daughter traced the outline and drew them on orange cardstock and cut them out. (My printer was out of ink or I would have just printed them on orange copy paper.) Because we wanted to keep Olaf to hang in Jolie's room after the party, we 'pinned' the noses with some masking tape rolled up on the back of the noses instead of using pushpins. Isn't Olaf cute with all the noses stuck to him?

Then Elsa wrote down the gifts as the birthday girl opened them, and she got very excited over the Elsa Barbie! And the birthday girl got very excited over the Minnie Mouse play set she got. I love these two pictures.

There was 'Snow Punch' made by my mom. It was yummy. And super simple. Blue Hawaiian punch, ginger ale, and vanilla ice cream. The straws came from Michaels Fun Finds.The blue skirt for the punch bowl was a small Christmas tree skirt I grabbed at Big Lots after Christmas clearance, as were the icicle lights hanging in the fabric behind the table and behind the chairs where Jolie and Elsa sat to open presents.

The party favors were candy coated Oreo cookies with snowflakes on top, a little Wilton blue shimmer, and some Wilton edible glitter, all tied up in a Wilton treat bag with a balloon, a snowflake ring, and custom made 'thank you' tag by my amazing personal graphic designer (which I forgot to take pictures of!). The mold for the cookies, the snowflakes on the cake, and the snowflake rings came from www.teresascreateacake.com. The cookie mold makes 5 candy coated cookies. I used Wilton white candy melts and rubbed Wilton blue shimmer on top after they hardened, all available at Michaels. We topped off the bag with a Recollections snowflake sticker and they turned out just adorable.

And the cake, complete with turrets (Wilton Castle Cake kit), an 'ice' (Wilton clear plastic) staircase, and ice spikes (candy glass from this recipe: http:/www.pamspartyandpracticaltips.com/2014/01/elsas-ice-candy_17.html?m=1) and snowflakes (Wilton white candy melts, Wilton snowflake candy mold, with Wilton blue shimmer rubbed on top).

I made the cake using Paula Deen's recipe here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/mamas-pound-cake-recipe.html.
The icing was http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing
And the fondant was http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Rolled-Marshmallow-Fondant.
After the cake was all put together, I used more of the Wilton blue shimmer and edible glitter on it..

Elsa, Anna, and Olaf were also present on the cake (Disney skating figurine set at Toys 'r' Us). The Olaf plates and napkins are Disney and I picked those up after Christmas at Big Lots, also. There's lots of after Christmas clearance stuff here!


And the group picture. Lots of little princesses. Just too stinkin' cute!


The birthday girl loved it all. And for a week after it was over, she would randomly say what an awesome day her party was. That, my friends, makes all the work worthwhile!

Links and other sort of stuff:

Queen Elsa: Vaughn Entertainment, Clinton, MS on Facebook. They have several princesses to choose from. Tell them I recommended them!

Cake recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/mamas-pound-cake-recipe.html

Candy Glass Recipe: http:/www.pamspartyandpracticaltips.com/2014/01/elsas-ice-candy_17.html?m=1

Candy snowflakes on cake: Wilton white candy melts, Wilton blue shimmer, Wilton snowflake candy mold

Party Favors : Oreo cookies, Wilton treat bags, Wilton white candy melts, Candy mold and snowflake rings - http://www.teresascreateacake.com/

3D Snowflakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7of1MSYHcw

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Milestones and anniversaries . . .

I started trying to write this post months ago when I had a little epiphany.  But I just couldn't get the words to convey the meaning I was feeling. I didn't understand at the time, but now I realize it was all part of God's timing. Funny how that works sometimes.

This is a long post. If you don't read to the end, at least scroll down and check the link at the bottom. Even if you don't need the info, I can guarantee you know someone who does.

Last year, 2014, marked some pretty important milestones in my life. Like quarter century milestones! In September, my piano man and I celebrated 25 years of marital bliss! Well, it hasn't all been bliss. But we are still madly, deeply, in love, and that says a lot after 25 years in our culture, especially with the baggage we came into marriage with. In February, 2014, we celebrated the month we met, also 25 years ago. I know. You are doing the math now. Yes, we met in February of 1989. We married in September of 1989, seven months after we met. Even more amazed that we are still married now, aren't you? LOL! (We did have an extensive set of mutual friends, but still, I really don't recommend this.)

It dawned on me around January 15th last year that there was another 25 year anniversary that I had completely forgotten about. This is really strange. Mostly because I thought it would always prevalent in my mind. I never would have dreamed it would be merely an afterthought as I was driving down the road, like, oh, yeah, it's been 25 years!

What milestone is this?

Sobriety . . .

25 YEARS . . .

SOBER AND DRUG FREE! 

Yes, there's another math thing. I met the man of my dreams almost one month to the day after my commitment to, well, more on that in a minute.

In Jan of 1989, I fell flat on my face before God, broken, empty, and alone. In complete desperation I begged Him to take my ruined life and help me be the person He wanted me to be. No games. No bargains.
No pretense of my own ability to help myself.

And for 25 years, I have been sober. Not one slip in 25 years. Well, except for the time I ordered a cappuccino in an Italian restaurant and didn't realize until I tasted it that it had alcohol in it. Kahlua. Who drinks that stuff anyway? Chocolate flavored alcohol. In coffee. Who knew? Lesson learned.

I don't say any of this to brag. Far from it!

There are a few things I'm always acutely aware of. One is the incredible grace I have been shown, by more people, and by God, than I could ever begin to repay or deserve. I have been blessed with amazing parents and a brother who lovingly tolerated me even at my worst. And the second is that I truly am a living, breathing example of the phrase, 'only by the grace of God.'

I would love to say that my 25 sobriety anniversary is due to my deep abiding faith and my close personal relationship with God. And, although true, it wouldn't really be the whole truth. Yes, I do have a deep abiding faith in God. And I do have a close personal relationship with my heavenly Father. And, yes, that has been the rock that I have leaned on in times of struggle and joy. But there were other factors that had a strong influence on my sobriety as well, especially at first.

Probably the strongest influence at first was abject fear.
Fear of doing damage to my children.
Fear of losing the wonderful man that God had brought into my life.
Fear of disappointing my parents and my brother, again.
Fear of where I might end up if I took just one more drink.
Fear of failing God.

At some point, over time, as I learned new behaviors and made new friends, as my faith grew, my fear turned into trust. But it didn't come easily! I had to work at it constantly, with people and with God. And especially with myself. I had to learn to do what I needed to do, instead of what I wanted to do. It was a slow painful process that my sweet husband, family, and my heavenly Father held my hand and loved me through.

So, I write this from a heart full of humility. And with a note of encouragement to anyone who is struggling with addiction.

Wherever you are, you are not too far from your heavenly Father's reach!
No matter what you've done, you still have value and worth!
And no matter how desperate your situation, your life can be redeemed!

Consequences from poor choices will still be there, but that doesn't mean that you are beyond hope for tomorrow. If I've learned anything on this journey, it is that my gracious God has gone before me time after time, and always will.
. . . to lead me.
. . . to guide me.
. . . to continue making me over into what He created me to be.

Change is hard. Walking away from lifestyles and habits that are ingrained in us is very difficult. But it can be done! It isn't easy. But if any of this describes you, do whatever you have to do to give your life over into His hands. Get involved with a church family that will support you and love you through the difficult days. Walk away from friends who are a bad influence. Change jobs if you need to. Even avoid family members who draw you into behaviors that you need to avoid.

Do whatever you have to do!

Rarely in life do we get fairy tale endings. If you ask anyone who has known me very long, they will tell you my life has been no fairy tale. But I have been blessed beyond measure. And I did get my prince charming. And we are living happily ever after. With a lot of storms and challenges. But I wouldn't trade the journey we have been on for anything else in the world.

And NONE of it would have happened if I hadn't taken that huge step in Jan of 1989.
A step that scared me practically to death.
A step that cost me nearly every friend I had.
A step that removed every social avenue I had known for most of my adult life.

A step that saved my life.

God loves you. 
Don't ever doubt it. 
Don't ever forget it.

Blessings,
Renea

We have just started a program in our church called Celebrate Recovery. I highly recommend it, whether you are dealing with addiction or other hurts, habits, and hang-ups from the past. Celebrate Recovery is a way to get the support you need to deal with any of those. And if you ever need someone to talk to, feel free to shoot me an email or message!

If you are in the Jackson metro area, our meetings are on Friday nights. Here is the link to our website with more info: http://www.dayspringonline.org/

Our facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/DaySpring-Community-Church/222284828727

If you are somewhere else in the world, check out the Celebrate Recovery website to find other groups:
http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

One Little Word 2015

This is my second year to participate in this One Little Word adventure. I wasn't super active with it last year, but it has been a constant little reminder in the back of my mind throughout the year. I've had a hard time this year coming up with my word, which caused me to really reflect and see if there is even any point to this process for me. And the resounding answer I've come up with is, YES! Looking back I can see how God has used this little word to guide me in some ways that were somewhat vague at the time, but now are more clear.

For 2014, my word was CHOOSE.

In August, 2013, we moved out of our home into our little RV. It was a huge, difficult decision and took a lot of prayer and soul searching for me to be ok with it. When we finally made the decision to move, the adjustment period was even harder than I had expected. Moving into the RV gave us security. We are in a wonderful area, virtually no crime, armed security on the premises at all times, and absolutely no fear of going outside or being inside. Unless you've lived in a high crime area where you never go out the door without being armed and on your guard, you really can't relate to what feeling safe means. Learning to distinguish between the sound of fireworks and automatic gun fire is simply not how people should have to live. My family had felt trapped for so long in a declining neighborhood consumed by crime, and here we were in our RV, completely safe. And I was miserable. I missed my big kitchen. I missed my laundry room. Yes, I really did miss my laundry room. I missed my scrapbook room. I missed my bedroom closet, the one that I hated when I lived in my house. I missed privacy. I just missed my house, period.

There were lots of tears, lots of frustrations, lots of grumpy days.

Then Christmas came. And I grieved. All my decorations were in storage. There was no where to put any out in the RV. There was no where to put wrapped presents. There was no big oven and counter tops to take care of the massive amount of baked goods and candy that I usually make. And I cried. And felt more frustrated. And was more grumpy. 

At some point between Christmas 2013 and New Year's Eve, I decided my word for 2014 was going to be CHOOSE. I was tired of being miserable. And frustrated. And grumpy. I decided that this is my life now. My hubby and I CHOSE this change because it was the best choice available. Now I had to CHOOSE to make the best of it. I did my best in 2014 to stop whining about what I didn't have any more and look at how blessed my life is. I accepted that my perspective is based on what I CHOOSE to see and how I CHOOSE to look at my circumstances. I certainly didn't do it perfectly, but if you look back over my One Little Word posts on this blog you can see that there were changes in my attitude. I decided to CHOOSE to see the good in life.

Sometimes the hardest step to changing is just deciding that you need to.   

And it has been hard. But it's happening. And I am adjusting and much more comfortable with our little, tiny home. So I've decided to continue this journey with One Little Word. 

My word for this year is BUDGET. 

I know that may sound like a strange choice. But this is the year I want to learn to BUDGET my LIFE! Not just my finances, which definitely could use a new budget attitude, but my entire life. My time. My resources. My finances. My talent. Everything. I don't want to be that person who gets to the end of life and regrets how I budgeted my life. I want to focus more on family, friends, ministry, giving. I am a master at wasting time doing things that show absolutely no results. And I'm not off to a great start changing that for this year. But I'm working on it. I want to be able to look back on this year and see that I gave it my all! I want to see that I truly spent time, effort, money, and energy on what really matters. I want to be able to say that I planned well AND executed those plans. I'm great at making lists and coming up with ideas. I'm not so great at follow up.

So, here's to 2015. The year I want to BUDGET my LIFE! I hope your year is off to a great start! And I hope you will join me on this little adventure called One Little Word.

Blessings,
Renea

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Laundry Detergent DIY

Yes, I am one of those weirdos who makes my own laundry detergent. There are several reasons for this madness. And believe me, about halfway through this batch, I really thought this was madness. Mostly because I didn't write down the instructions last time and forgot one very important crucial step. More on that in a minute. Here are my general reasons for making my own laundry detergent:

1.  It's cheaper.
2. It makes my life much easier.
4. It only takes 1 - 2 tablespoons per load. That's it. And no dryer sheets.
5. Did I mention it's cheaper than buying the pre-made at the store?
(Actual recipe is at the bottom of this post. Just in case you don't want to read my craziness.)


The recipe I use is for the powdered version. If you are looking for a liquid version you'll need to look elsewhere. The liquid recipes just look like way too much trouble to me. For this recipe, basically you just dump everything into a large container and mix, except the Zote. It's a bar of soap. So most of the instructions you'll find online tell you to grate it. I did this once. I nearly lost what's left of my feeble mind. Seriously. All of the recipes call for Zote or Fels Naptha soap - grated. If you want to see the differences in the two, there are several comparison articles you can find through google. I personally like how the Zote smells. And it seems to dissolve fine in hot or cold water. And you can get it in pink. Sold! Last time I made this I found a video on microwaving the Zote to remove the moisture then just crumbling it. I was ecstatic! It works like magic! HOWEVER . . . this is extremely important. And I forgot this step. See that exploding Zote in the picture? Cool, huh? BUT do NOT do that! 
Here's the step I forgot. Cut your soap into about 1 inch squares. THEN put one at a time in the microwave on a plate. Start with 30 seconds to 1 minute. All microwaves are different so experiment to see what works best in yours. Whatever you do, DON'T put the whole thing in the microwave. Because 3 hours later you will still be putting Zote in the microwave, crumbling the edges, putting it back in the microwave. 
And you will hate me. 
And you will hate your dirty clothes, if you don't already. 
And you will hate anyone who is anywhere near you telling you how crazy you are, like your adult daughter who keeps looking at you like you just walked off the funny farm and rolling her eyes. 
And you will hate the very idea that you thought you wanted to make your own laundry detergent in the first place. 
Trust me on this. 

And then you will get impatient and put it in the microwave for too long. And you'll end up with something that looks like this. Burnt soap. Eeeuuuuwwwww. You know what burnt popcorn smells like? Just imagine burnt soap.It isn't pretty. And it doesn't smell nice. I recommend you have 2 plates of Zote going at one time. Let one cool while the other is heating in the microwave. I just used a heavy duty paper plate, you know one of those expensive dollar store kind.  Be WARNED - any moisture that is still in the soap will be really HOT!!! Your microwave may smell like soap for a couple of days. You can get the smell out by heating a cup of white vinegar for a minute then just wiping out the microwave with a damp cloth. Unless you didn't follow instructions and tried doing the whole bar at one time. Then you will need to clean all the soap that fluffed up over the edge of the plate and got all over the microwave. You should trust me on this, too.
So, after you've cut your Zote into squares, and put one square at a time in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute, it will grow to this big fluffy thing. I just peel off the part that has dried out and stick any wet pieces back in the microwave for another go. I did end up getting the grater out towards the end. It does grate a lot faster after microwaving so you might want to use a combination of the two, microwave and grate.
Yes, I wear gloves. Not because any of it is toxic, but just because I have super sensitive skin and usually end up mixing the whole batch with my hands. Without gloves I would be washing my hands every 2 minutes. And that would slow down the progress. Patience is not one of my strengths.
Here is a link to a video that breaks it down. They were smart. They used a bowl. Duh. Maybe I will remember next time! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMflb84KOhk

SO . . . 
2 containers of this 7th Gen Oxi stuff - about $5.00 each
I've also used  Oxiclean and the Kroger brand. I think the 7th Gen works a little better, but that could be just because it was cheaper. Or because I'm a sucker for something that says, "Free and Clear." I picked this up at Big Lots. Kroger carries this brand but they have changed the packaging. So if you look for it at Kroger, it won't look quite the same.

One box of 20 Mule Team Borax - about $5.00
Most places that carry laundry detergent carry this.
2 bottles of Purex Crystals, whichever scent you prefer - about $4.00 each
I like the purple. But this time I used one purple and one blue. I guess I wanted more color. If you insist on using dryer sheets, skip this step. I have found I have less static in my clothes by using the Purex and skipping the dryer sheets. It also leaves no oily residue on your clothes that destroys the fire retardant properties of children's pjs. So for me, this is a win/win! And my clothes come out just as soft and fresh. 
Plus it's one less thing to store and remember to do. I'm all about consolidating tasks and storage. Have I mentioned we live in a RV?

2 bars of Zote soap - $.97 each
You will find this in the laundry detergent aisle with the other products used. It comes in pink and white. Kroger used to carry it but this time I was only able to find it at WalMart. And it was in a really odd place, like the middle of the aisle in between several brands of  laundry detergent. I had to look several times before I found it. You can use Fels Naptha soap, also. You would think they would be in the same place on the shelf. But don't count on that. I use the Zote because I just like how it smells. 
And I prefer the pink. Mostly because it's pretty. 
But this time I used one white and one pink, not for any particular reason. It was a weird shopping trip.

One box of this washing soda stuff. About $5.00
Also found in most stores that carry laundry supplies.
2 boxes of Arm and Hammer baking soda, or one large box - about $1.00 each for the regular size box.
If I'm at the grocery store, they usually don't have the large box. So it just depends on where I'm shopping. WalMart usually has the large box in the laundry aisle. But you can also just pick up the regular old baking soda in the baking aisle of your local grocery store.

Once you have all your Zote microwaved and crumbled, or microwaved and grated, or just grated if you are just desperate to build your arm muscles, you just dump everything together and mix. Easy peasy! I wash about 8 loads of clothes a week in a large capacity washer. This mixture lasts me about 9 months. My clothes come out clean and smelling fresh, not like a perfumed laundry soap. 
You only need 1 -2 tablespoons, I promise!
 This is what it looks like all mixed up. Pink and blue and white. Lovely! 

After you mix it all up, just store in a container. I fill a small jar or plastic container to use when I'm doing laundry and store the bigger one in my storage room. This is what my container looks like. It's just a plastic one that I got at the dollar store. It will hold the entire recipe, however, it is easier to mix in a big bucket or large stock pot. And I highly recommend if you live in close quarters, like an RV for example, that you wait until a nice day and do all the dumping and mixing outside. I did this batch inside. I sneezed a lot. Really. A lot. Even with the windows open. Definitely an outside project.

For some stains that I know won't come out in the wash I use plain old peroxide, especially for things like blood or little potty accidents. It only costs about $.60 per bottle and works great! Just pour the peroxide on the stain before washing.

TOTAL COST: APPROXIMATELY $32.00 FOR NINE MONTHS OF LAUNDRY DETERGENT 
INCLUDING THE FABRIC SOFTENER! 
If my calculations are correct, that's approximately 270 loads of laundry for $32.00! Disclaimer - math is not my strong suit. But I can tell you it lasts me about 9 months doing about 6-8 loads a week. 
So don't trust me. You do the math. My math is not known for being reliable.

So here is my recipe:
1 box 20 Mule Team Borax
2 regular boxes of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda OR 1 large box 
          (depending on what's available)
1 box Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
2 containers 7th Generation Natural Oxy Stain Remover Free and Clear 
          (Or OxiClean or a generic of your choice)  
2 bottles Purex Crystals
2 bars Zote Soap 
     
You will need a large container to mix and store.

Grate the Zote OR cut into approximately one inch pieces and microwave each piece for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Allow to cool then crumble into container. If there is some that didn't crumble, you can also grate what is left or reheat again.

Then just dump everything together and mix with a large spoon or your hands.

Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Once upon a time there was a girl,

who had a blog,

who never posted on her blog,

and

she

was

me.

We are finally back in our little RV home with wifi and 4G on our phones! Woot! For the last 3 months, we have been living with my parents due to health issues that rocked the world of our entire family. My mom had surgery in April that went terribly wrong. Then my dad had a severe allergic reaction that required several days of constant monitoring. I will probably post more on these two issues later, but for now, I'll just say both parents are doing much better. Mom is walking again (with a cane) after her disastrous surgery that broke her femur. Daddy is hobbling around after the huge blood clot in his leg that still isn't completely healed. If we can keep them both out of the hospital for a while I will be ecstatic!

Yesterday was my first day to be back to my regular walking. My day started early with a 1 hour commute to sub for a friend at her school. Driving over the water is always refreshing, even when it is foggy and the sun isn't quite up yet. (I may have taken this picture while driving over the spillway at 6:30am. Shhh!)

Walking by the water is even better than driving over it! This is one of the things I've missed the most.  These pictures are from my evening walk yesterday.

There is just something about large bodies water that makes me breathe deeper, think more clearly, feel more gratitude. God is so gracious to have endowed us with such beauty to enjoy. So today I'm choosing to LOOK.

Look at His creation.

Look at the gifts all around me.

Look at how far He has brought me.

Look at the beauty of the earth.

Blessings,
Renea



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CHOOSE spoons . . .?

This is one of those blog posts that hurts to post. I hate admitting limitations. But I felt it needed to be said.
http://blogs.psychcentral.com/chronic-pain/2013/05/the-spoon-theory/
I do not have lupus. I have fibromyalgia. It isn't life threatening. I won't die from it. It has been known to completely go away in some people. If you see me you will never know I have it if I don't tell you. It has no visible symptoms. Most days I feel like a normal person, able to function, go to work, run errands, laugh, carry on with typical wife/mom/grammy duties.
Nevertheless, I still have to choose how to spend my spoons. For the days when I don't feel like a 'normal' person, like when it is really cold. Or there are thunderstorms. Or drastic changes in the temp. Or I've been really busy for a few days. Or there are added stressors in my life. Or when I get sick. Or sometimes for no apparent reason at all.
Everyone gets tired. Everyone has days when they just don't feel up to par. This is different. If you read the linked article you will better understand.
When you see me in public I will probably look like just another normal person. A bit over weight and out of shape, but pretty normal. There is so much more that you won't see. You won't see the muscle spasms. You probably won't see how I sometimes get confused and forget normal things, like planning dinner. You might not realize that I didn't sleep last night from the pain or muscle spasms, or just because I couldn't sleep.
And you won't see the guilt. The anger. The frustration and disappointment.  Those happen when I'm home, alone. On the days when I look at the clock and it is 2pm and all I've done is get out of bed, make coffee, and sit. And there are no clean towels. And the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes. And I haven't had a shower. And I'm embarrassed and ashamed that I haven't done anything on my to-do list.
Or when my husband texts at 5pm to ask if I have a plan for dinner. And I don't. And worse, I didn't even realize I hadn't thought about dinner. He has long since quit asking WHAT my plan is for dinner.
And then there is the fear that plagues me so often. Fear that people will think I'm lazy. Or irresponsible. Or that I don't care about myself or my family or my friends. Or that my husband will finally have had enough and get really angry that there are no clean towels and the dishes aren't washed and dinner isn't planned.
After all, I was the mom who sewed and cooked from scratch and made birthday cakes and homemade apple pies. I was always involved. And even though none of the people in my life expect all that from me, I miss it. I want to be that hyper, energetic person I used to be. It happens occasionally, for a day or so. Then reality comes back around.
But you will never see my other reality. Because when you see me I'll be spending one of my spoons. Or several of them.
And I'm thankful.
Because I have more spoons now than I used to have. 
Because I can hold a microphone and sing in the worship team and sit through the worship service without nearly passing out from the painful spasms in my hands, arms, and legs.
Because I can spend time with my grandkids and enjoy it.
Because I can work.
Because I have a chiropractor who has helped me get off medication with awful side effects and learn to manage my symptoms much better.
Because I'm so, so much better than when I was first diagnosed.
And especially thankful because I have a wonderful husband who is so understanding, and asks IF I have a plan for dinner, not WHAT my plan is.
I still have a really hard time saying no. But I'm working on it. So today I'm CHOOSING how I will spend my spoons.
One spoon at a time.
Blessings,
Renea

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

CHOOSE to listen . . .

"The majority of us have no ear for anything but ourselves, we cannot hear a thing God says. To be brought into the zone of the call of God is to be profoundly changed."
Oswald Chambers
My Utmost For His Highest, Jan 16

Today I  will CHOOSE to LISTEN.

-to the still small voice that resides deep in my soul

-to turn off the noise in my head that calls me to go this way, then that way

-to really hear what is being said to me

-to wait for instruction before jumping ahead

-to listen carefully and discern meaning before speaking

-to listen to the truth I know, not the doubts that arise trying to defeat me

-to listen to the promises from my God who never breaks His covenants

-to listen to the eternal hope I have that cannot be shaken by circumstances of this temporary life

Today I will remember that I have the power to CHOOSE.

To choose what will play in my head.

To choose where my heart will rest.

I CHOOSE today to LISTEN to my Father who loves me.

One little word.

Choose.

Blessings,
Renea

Friday, January 31, 2014

Calendar Cover, Post #1

*You can order the kit for this calendar by emailing me at matildyjanedesigns@gmail.com.

This is post #1 on the calendar pages. There are no super secret special techniques in this entire project. But there are a few little tricks I used to create it and I'll share those as I go. The main trick is one I learned from the beautiful Heidi Swapp. You start with a store bought wall calendar as your base. She has a video of how she does that here:
http://www.mycraftchannel.com/Shows/Create-to-Remember-with-Heidi-Swapp/Heidi-Swapp-Calendar-Album/

I chose to bind mine with 3 clip rings, just because I'm challenged using theBind-It-All. I love that thing for smaller projects, but I couldn't get the punches lined up for this. So, here we go. This is my cover. (Apologies in advance for the poor pictures.) After I'm done using this as a calendar, this will be the cover page for my 2014 album. 
I stuck the polaroid photo mat behind one of the zig zag points.
There is a small trick here. The pink floral paper does not go all the way across the page. I had used it on another page and didn't have enough left so I improvised and just cut it so that the break in the paper would be hidden behind the text paper. 
Then just added some hearts for more cuteness. 

I will post the measurements for the pages in the order I made them, including these. For those of you who are OCD, I know this will drive you crazy. But I didn't do the pages in order, so they won't be posted in order. That way I can keep my measurements straight and won't end up with some odd piece of paper that doesn't fit when I get to the last month. Think of it as an exercise in patience. lol!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Choose JOY . . .

For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. Psalm 63:7

Today I am going to choose JOY.

Ever notice when you decide to make a conscious effort to be joyful life tends to go awry? Well, in case you haven't noticed, let me just warn you, going awry will probably happen. lol

For those who don't know, my husband, college daughter and I, all moved into our little RV home this past summer. For the most part, it has been a peaceful and even tranquil transition. Once I resolved to make the best of the situation and enjoy the perks, like a much smaller area to keep clean, (I don't even own a mop any more!), being able to sit outside in the mornings and have my devotional time looking at the water, and a host of other things, life really got much better.

Then winter happened. I know that may not be shocking to most people, but having lived in Mississippi for almost my whole life, winter is something that happens to the rest of the country, but not us. I mean, we have a really cold snap off and on, and occasionally it snows. But the next day it all melts, giving a concrete meaning to the term cold SNAP.

Unfortunately, like most of the eastern half of the country, winter in Mississippi has been a little weird this year. Frigid cold weather has rocked our southern world. And out little RV has rocked with it, with the wind, that is. So far we have invaded my parents' home now three different times. Christmas week we had an electrical circuit blow. On a Sunday. So we had no electricity. Then we forgot to leave the water running overnight during the first really cold front we had and woke up to no water. For three days. And last night at midnight we were gotten out of bed by a chirping sound that we finally identified as the LP gas monitor. We reset it twice to no avail. Then we got the manual out. The instructions were pretty severe. Turn off the gas, open all the windows, turn on all the exhaust fans, do not turn touch any light switches and exit the RV! So at 1:00 this morning we showed up at my parents' home to spend the night for the third time in a month.

As we were frantically trying to get dressed and grab what we had to have to leave the RV last night, visions of the RV exploding into flames and burning up were racing through my head. If there are two things I'm afraid of, fire and gas explosions would definitely be at the top of the list. I got a pretty sick feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. Then as we drove away, the thought occurred to me that even if that happened after we left, that the three of us would not be in it! And I thanked God that we were safe. I was reminded of a friend from my youth whose house just burned. Her beautiful spirit of gratefulness for God's protection over her family in the middle of the night has been an inspiration to me. Even in her mourning the loss of pictures, family heirlooms, those treasured things that we pour so much of our lives into, she is able to praise our Father for his loving arms that kept them safe and woke them up in time to get out of their burning home. And I was humbled. Again.

So today I am going to choose JOY.

JOY for an annoying chirping sound that alerted us to danger.

JOY for knowing that a heavenly Father is watching over my family even when we aren't thinking about Him.

JOY for the everyday mundane things that I take for granted, like electricity, running water, heat when it's cold.

JOY for parents who are willing to open their home to us time and time again, even at 1:00 in the morning!

JOY for life itself.

JOY.

Just one tiny little word.

Blessings,
Renea

Friday, January 10, 2014

CHOOSE to BREATHE . . .

Today I have decided to CHOOSE to BREATHE.

Simple, right? Sometimes we have those weeks where we run from morning until night, every day, all day, constantly moving. This has been one of those weeks. Actually, there seem to be a lot of those weeks in my life. I often find myself tired and frustrated by the end of the day and feeling like I have nothing to show for it. It seems there are always things on my 'to do' list not checked off that can't be ignored. And the list just keeps growing. And I get more frustrated. And I find myself taking deep breaths just to avoid the oncoming panic and anger and snappiness that I know is about to happen. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it doesn't. And my family catches the brunt of it.

I know that when I don't take the time to focus my heart and keep my priorities and line, my day is already starting out on the wrong foot. Not being a morning person, this presents some challenges for the day's preparation. So, for today, for tomorrow, I am going to CHOOSE to remember to BREATHE. I am going to CHOOSE to remember that this, too, shall pass. And, honestly, when this crazy life I'm living right now changes, I will probably miss at least some of these things that are making me crazy. Not all of them, but some.

But for now, I can CHOOSE to embrace the craziness.

I can take joy in the good all around me.

I can accept that I can't do everything I think I need to do.

I can be thankful for the small moments of calm between storms.

I can marvel at how blessed I am.

I can remember that even in the chaos, my Father is still holding my hand and walking with me.

I can be imperfect.

And just remember to BREATHE.

One little word.

CHOOSE.

Blessings,
Renea