I can’t put her down

Sometimes, hands filled with a wiggling, bouncing not-quite-five month old, I find a corner of my mind running lists of  things I need to do, should do. There’s another list for the things I should have done and the deadlines that like to sneak up on me.

I smile and play pat-a-cake and don’t get me wrong: I love ever moment of it. I love the wiggles, and the giggles, and the little grabby hands that try to help me type while I’m working and send emails for me when I get up to grab a glass of water.

I don’t want these days to ever end. I just can’t seem to keep up with it all. So I think about nap time. Those sometimes 30 minutes (if I’m lucky!) of not having to worry if she’s about to roll herself into some disaster or to be distracted by baby talk and books when I “should” be working to keep ahead of a deadline.

But then she falls asleep. Snuggled against me, with a tiny hand holding onto mine. Fuzzy little head, nestled against my shoulder or chest. Perfect little nose.  Little sleeping eyes.

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I’m tired, maybe. I could type and work with two hands for a few minutes, yes.

But I just can’t do it. I can’t put her down.

My 2014 list

I love New Years. I love it because it is all about fresh, new starts. New chances, new opportunities, new experiences—and all the potential tucked into 365 days of another year.

At the beginning of the year, I like making a few resolutions. I am painfully aware of how easy it is to make resolutions and how un-easy it is to follow through for an entire year. I know how good intentions don’t necessarily equal a flawless performance of all the resolutions all the time.

But I think everyone needs a few goals to reach for every year. It gives a person something to aim for, something to motivate them to keep reaching high. 

So with the new year just a few days old, I came up with a list—my 2014 list of 14 things I’d like to do this year.  It’s a little random and maybe a little less lofty than some I’ve written.  Who knows what 12 months of living is going to do to the goals I think sound good now, but here’s to trying.

My 2014 List

  1. Listen to the Bible through at least twice.
  2. Read at least 12  books and review them.
  3. Read to Charlotte from the Bible every day.
  4. Make a Soufflé.
  5. Grow my business and reach my goal of xhrs/week
  6. Plant a spring garden.
  7. Eat more raw foods.
  8. Blog at least once a week.
  9. Start intentionally counting blessings again.
  10. Go camping again.
  11. Write one real letter a month.
  12. Sell our truck.
  13. Take a trip for our Fifth Anniversary.
  14. Try to find a perfect cinnamon roll recipe.

What’s on your list?

then it rained {why I’m thankful for Okra}

Freshly turned dirt always makes me excited.

From the time we pulled up last year’s tomato vines and turned under the late summer weeds, I’d been planning for the day we’d plant again. I had such great hopes for a veggie filled year. I just couldn’t wait to get started.

Spring had been slow in coming this year, though. It just seemed to rain from January straight through to mid April.

When it finally stopped raining long enough for a part of our garden patch to dry out, we were weeks behind—but in a place like Tennessee, that doesn’t matter quite so much.

Scott tilled the soil up, and I raked it into beds. We spent all afternoon and all evening preparing and planting our little patches of beans, okra, corn and tomatoes. We put in squash and cucumbers and melons. It was going to be beautiful and I couldn’t wait to taste the fruits of our labors.

The very next day after we had spend all those hours making beds and planting seeds, the sky opened up in a torrent of rain. It rained in sheets. A flash flood swept across our beautiful just-planted garden. It washed across my front lawn, and made a couple small rivers right in the middle of the garden. It rained for three solid days.

When the rain let up a little, I ran out to look at the damage. The trenches were deep. There were a mix of bean seeds and okra seeds and corn seeds washed around in puddles. The tomato plants had fallen over.

So I rebuilt the beds. I planted the seeds again. And within days, it washed it all away again.

But five months of pregnancy and flash floods couldn’t stop my determination. I was going to have a garden this year! I replanted what I could as soon as it was dry enough to work the dirt again.

And this time, they sprouted. My bean plants were beautiful. The corn was growing almost faster than I could watch it. Okra came up thick and strong. I had lots of flowers on my squash plants. I could almost taste the sweet rewards of fresh tomato and cucumber sandwiches.

Just as my beans put out a bumper crop of blossoms, it started raining again.

It rained and rained and rained. The ditches I dug filled and overflowed. The whole entire world was soggy. And it kept raining.

Two weeks later, the sun peeked out of the clouds for the first real time since the rain began. My garden was a mess. I tried to tie it up. I tried to keep the waterlogged plants alive. But the rain just kept coming.

Plants molded and died. Squash couldn’t get pollinated. Rusts and mildews attacked the tomatoes and it was too rainy to properly treat them.

My garden was a complete flop. There would be no corn on the cob, mounds of fresh from the garden beans or cucumber sandwiches. There wouldn’t even be summer squash.

But there would be one thing.

Somehow, in spite of the flooding, the mess and the deer that okra still grew. It grew taller and taller and when it started producing, there was more than I could have expected or hoped for.

We ate okra for almost every meal. We put it in sauces, we breaded it, we put it on pizza. We even ate it raw!

Many gardeners and farmers around us shared in the loss of produce. It was a hard year for those who rely on growing things to make a living.

So every time I picked yet another bag of okra, I counted it as a bag of blessings.

Every time I diced up yet another pan full for supper, I said a thank you. All that hard work, all those hours and all those days of hoping through the rainiest year in 40 + years had its reward after all. We still had our okra. It made replanting a little more worth it.

I’m looking forward to another year–hopefully a better year when it comes to gardens and produce. But that persistent okra? It stood up in the never ending rain and bloomed and reminded me of courage and hope.

It was a little-but-great way that God reminded me to never give up. It pays to keep trying.

This post is a part of GREATHINGS 2013: 21 Days of Thanks. Click here to read the rest of the series.

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The Job

We celebrated a milestone two months ago. It’s been one year since Scott started working at the University.

If I had to pick a handful of really Great Things that happened to us in the past few years, this would be one of them. 

After two years of unemployment uncertainties, and applying for every job possible–including quite a few at the University–with no success, we were low on hope. I felt like my courage was fast fading.  It seemed like the lucky few who actually got good jobs were those who knew someone who already worked there. And we were the new kids in town.

Well, a year ago, we were tired of trying and tired of hoping. It felt like we were trapped by our circumstances, and it was hard to keep hopeful. Getting decent jobs was completely out of our control. And trust was a daily, sometimes difficult choice we had to make as we struggled through our days.

I wanted to give up so many times. It was just so exhausting to constantly be looking for work. But I’ve always believed that either you find a way or you make a way. And that means you never stop trying.  And then I saw The Job.

It was perfect. The description fit Scott to a T. It was exactly what he excelled at, and we only had to compete with 1000 other applicants. After all the times we’d tried, it felt pointless to hope that we had a chance at it. But then, what could it hurt?

We filled an application. Just about the time we’d forgotten all about it, Scott got a call about an interview. I prepared myself for it to be yet another dead end. Two hours after the interview, he got the job.

I was speechless. Sometimes I still am.

We don’t know how long Scott will be able to work for the University. Times are uncertain and if the big layoff in 2009 taught us anything, it was that nothing is certain in this life.

But almost every day, we thank God for this job. We thank Him for how it provides for our needs. We thank Him for the unexpected extra things it enriches our lives with. Aside from our dream of our own bit of farmland someday, this is as close to a dream job as an 8-5 could get for Scott.

And we are so grateful for how God provides–even impossible-to-get jobs when we need them most.

This post is a part of GREATHINGS 2013: 21 Days of Thanks. Click here to read the rest of the series.greathings.sm

lately {an update}

I started working again two weeks after Charlotte was born. I work from home, and it’s good. But working and taking care of a very small baby is not for the weak, I’m discovering. Making sure we’re fed, clean and happy and I meet my deadlines comes first. Everything else has kind of suffered in the transitions. That includes vacuuming my floors and blogging. Okay, so the laundry doesn’t get folded or put away quite as often either. It might be less than perfect, but I won’t give up on any of these things all together. It just means that I spend a lot more time thinking about folding laundry, vacuuming and what I’d like to write about than actually doing it.

So here’s to lately.

Reading Challenge 2013

Scott and I recently moved our living room around. (Yes, those of you who know us,  we dib it again.) This is only relevant because in doing so, we had to move every single book in the house at least once. Moving books is the best time to remember all the books you loved, don’t you think?

Part of my resources for sharing the Healthy Living Bundle (there’s still time to grab yours and the special BOGO offer, if you are considering it!) was this reading list.

It reminded me of how much having a reading list use to motivate me when I was in school (and participated in reading programs that required quite a hefty list to be turned in.).  So I’m determined that next year, I’ll use goodreads a little more faithfully. It might also help with the following embarrassing thing I have to admit to you all.

I’ve read probably three books since Charlotte arrived. But I can’t remember what two of them are. The only one that I remember is the one I started long before she was born—the one that will appear in a later post this month.

I finally found proof that I really did read one on Simple Living, but the other eBook completely escapes me.

That said, I think I’ll still be pretty close to reaching my goal this year. Given the fact that I have a baby who rarely sleeps for more than 15-30 minutes at a time no matter what I do, I’d say this may be one of the epic accomplishments of the year.

Family Picture Time

See the new picture in my sidebar? We finally had our family picture taken last night! Now you can see how much Charlotte is growing and how pretty the leaves are this time of year.

I can’t wait to share which one we pick for our holiday card this year with you all!

The eBundle

If you haven’t grabbed one of these amazing Healthy Living eBundles, there’s still time. The sale ends on the 9th.

I’ve mentioned it several times this week, and it’s because I really do think it is a great package for a great price. And I want to make sure that if you are interested, you’ve had a chance to look over the list of what all is included and decide if it is something you want to grab or not.

I’m excited about the Coffee Table Conversations, and maybe I’ll “see” some of you there!

GreaThings 2013

So, today’s the first day! I’m so excited about sharing stories with you this year. I’m excited about it because it reminds me of how blogging use to be. And just like good old fashioned snail mail, I miss those days.

At the same time, story telling is always scary. You open up the windows of your heart and home and let the world peek in—not just the friends and family who know and understand and love you. Some times I don’t know how to find the balance between sharing all the stories that make up my every day life and not saying too much.

But for November, anyway, we’re sharing stories. And I hope you will tell some along with me! This post pretty much tells all about GreaThings if you haven’t visited before. And you are more than welcome to ask if you need something clarified! Most of all, don’t forget to drop me a link so I can come and follow along if you are blogging about your GreaThings!

i love… [little things I’m thankful for today]

I love the way the sun rays filter down from the morning sky.

I love the way the birds sing fall songs until dusk.

I love that moment when Scott gets home from work.

I love feeling good about getting things done.

I love cuddling the baby and watching her little face as she sleeps.

Today, I am thankful for all the things I have to love.

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The Home Routines Experiment

If I was in a contest for the World’s Best Homemaker (or even South East Tennessee’s Best Homemaker), I’d undoubtedly not even make the top ten.

My house is almost always clean. But it is not always tidy behind the surface. I’m not good at working and keeping up with everything. Sometimes, it is down right embarrassing how bad I am at it.

It isn’t that I don’t know how to clean a house or to organize. I’m a perfectionist and get lost in the micro details and I try to do too many things at once. That’s pretty much the recipe for failure every time.

I’ve tried a lot of things. Chore lists. Daily to-do lists. Various “methods” for keeping on top of it all. Some of them were semi-effective. But most of the time, I got too caught up in all the steps and ended up back where I started. It was incredibly frustrating.

A month ago, I was at the peak of frustration. Working more. Preparing for motherhood. Trying to cook healthy meals. Being a good wife. It felt like I was failing at all of the above simply because I couldn’t find a pattern to my day.

I’m probably the densest woman around, but that day it struck me that I was going about it in the wrong ways.

I was focusing on all the problem areas and micro-organizing a cleaning and organizing schedule that went down to the minutest details of each cupboard and closet. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it was overwhelming and it just wasn’t working.

What I need is a good set of routines. A pattern that, while flexible to allow for variations in my work and home life, is consistent and simple enough that I don’t get lost or overwhelmed in the details of trying to do it right.

What I need is to form some new every day habits.

Sometimes it is just hard to know where to start. But that day, I once again determined that I would master this. I would become the Best Homemaker…at least on this street.

A few years ago, a friend mentioned an app she used called “Home Routines”. That day, I decided it was time to try something new and I bought it.

I can’t believe how much it has helped me refocus, simplify my perspective, and stay on track.
 
It was simple routines for every day. Things that I knew, but got lost in all the other details I tried to put into my lists.

Things like going through the house just before bed and collecting any dirty laundry or towels and starting a load of wash first thing in the morning before breakfast.

Things like taking 2 minutes to clean off the bathroom counters and tidy the medicine cabnet every day before lunchtime.

Things like spending just 15 minutes each morning focusing on a target area and not trying to “multi task” and do other things (Like work. Uh hem.) at the same time.

Things like having target areas to focus on  each week instead of trying to “deep clean” the entire house all at once.

Easy to follow. Easy to do. Easy to stick with. Hard to ignore since my phone now alarms twice a day to remind me to check in and stick to the routines and keep forming those little habits that have a big impact.

My house isn’t perfect. My closet is still in need of some major attention. But overall? The improvement is great. I don’t feel so overwhelmed. I am more productive with my time. I am more relaxed when I sit down to work. I don’t alternately dread and obsess over my to-do list.

The house looks better and I feel like this is something that will work now and 5 years from now. I’m loving that I rarely have an overwhelming amount of laundry to deal with every week.

Best of all? My sort of OCD, efficient and super organized hubby (I mean, he organizes for a living, after all!) is loving the fact that I’m more relaxed and that things are generally more tidy and organized.

I’d say this Home Routines App experiment is off to a promising start. It’s my goal to master these hoods: Wifehood. Motherhood. Worker-hood. Homemakerhood. I plan on it taking my entire lifetime. Smile

planting again

It has been raining since January. Not literally, but more often than not. March came with more rain, but I hoped it would stop by April. That’s when we plant our garden. Its what I look forward to all year.

But April came…and went. The air stayed cool, and the ground just never dried up. It kept raining. And raining. The garden plot stayed in a perpetual state of mud. There was no hope of digging it with a shovel, let alone tilling it for planting.

May came. I’d hoped that surely with the dawn of May that we’d have those nice, hot southern days to make the mud go away. But instead it rained some more.

It felt like the hope of having melons and tomatoes was slipping through our fingers. Last year by May, we’d had beans a few inches tall. Corn was already growing strong. Squash was leafing out nicely. And there were lots of flowers on our tomato plants. It felt like someone had put the pause button on the seasons. I was antsy.

Then we decided on Plan B. The flower beds right next to the house seemed to dry up more quickly. We grabbed shovels and rake and dug deep. We spent an hour at the local hardware store browsing vegetable starts—the ones that we didn’t have in my seed stash. We came home with six tomato plants, a few Brussels sprouts and some Chinese cabbage. We planted those along the back wall of the house. I tucked cucumber and miniature cantaloupe seeds into the dirt under the edge of the raised porch. The summer squash would grace the front of the house. Our perimeter garden was born. I couldn’t wait for the seedlings to sprout!

But then it rained again. It rained so much that it turned the base of the tomato plants into miniature lakes. The tomatoes were fine—they were big enough to handle the rain. But the squash? It drowned the squash seeds before they had a chance to sprout properly. It kept raining and I decided to get smart. I planted again. In pots on my porch where the rain couldn’t get to them.

Then the rain stopped. Last Thursday we decided it was now or never. The top 1/4th of our garden plot was just about dry enough to till. The rest was still soggy mud. But we tilled what we could and planted beans, okra and corn. It felt good and we couldn’t wait for our long awaited garden to grow.

This weekend, it rained again. It poured down on our already 15 inches ahead of normal rainfall another 5 inches. This time it did it all in the space of a few hours. The ditches filled with water. It made a little river on our lawn. It flashed across the newly planted garden.

When the buckets of rain stopped, I went out to survey the damage. Several feet of garden washed away. It was a mess.

But there’s always a silver lining. Somehow, in the course of one day before the rain, the beans and okra had both already sprouted. Most of them held their ground. The tomato plants I’d put out there were just inches to the side of the main flooded area and were fine. The corn didn’t wash out.

The beans and okra? I made a “mistake” early this spring when I ordered seeds. Somehow I ordered pounds of each one instead of packages. I have more than enough to plant again. And again if I need to.

It is a little crazy how much rain we’ve gotten this year. It is a little crazy how long it has taken us to get our garden in. But thanks to my “mistake”, and thanks to these hot, humid days post storm, those seeds are shooting up already. Not all is lost. Late is better than never. Maybe we’ll have some produce this year after all.

five minute friday: a song

My name is Beautiful Song. It is wrapped around my life. Tangled into every piece of it. A Beautiful Song. That’s me.

My name is Beautiful Song, and I can’t even sing that well. But there is more to beauty and song than lyrics and notes. There is the song of every day living. The lyrics of ordinary days, and good days and the days that try to break you. The music of contentment and joy. The melody of Hope and Courage.

Some days, not much about life feels beautiful. Some days, I just don’t feel like singing a song, let alone living one. Courage doesn’t come naturally, and I hit wrong notes along the way.

But on the roughest days, something whispers in my ear not to forget who I am. Not to forget that my life is meant to be a beautiful song out of bitterness. It is meant to be a melody that brings joy and comfort to the people around me. It is meant to speak hope and courage on dark days. It is meant sing out that today might not be beautiful, but that the morning is coming. Just keep holding on.

It is just the meaning of my name. It isn’t one I’ve always lived well. But it has always given me something to aspire to. To be a Beautiful Song out of Bitterness. If that is all that God grants that I do in this life, I think I will have lived it well.

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Quick & Easy: Burrito Shell Pizza

We love our pizza around here. Loaded with veggies and just enough sauce? It’s a perfect way to round out a day. But, cooking pizza from scratch can take a long time. Ordering out isn’t always an option with our budget. And I don’t always think ahead well enough to have pre-made crusts on hand for when we really want it right now. So I started making a little short cut pizza using burrito shells. We could have our pizza within minutes, and hardly heat up the house on a hot day. I’d say it was a win for us.

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What You Need

  • Burrito Shells
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Diced veggies of choice (we will put just about anything on ours!)
  • Cheese of Choice
  • Oil
  • Herbs

What You Do

  1. Brush shells with olive oil and sprinkle garlic salt and dried oregano (or italian seasoning) on them. Put them in the oven to warm up.
  2. Spread pasta sauce on the shell.
  3. Top with your favorite veggies. We go for just about anything we have on hand: spinach, broccoli bits, asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, olives, onions and fresh tomato slices. But you can just use what you like in a pizza! Return to oven to let the veggies get tender.
  4. After the veggies are just about perfect, top with cheese of your choice. We’ve used soy cheese, nut based cheese or even crumbled, seasoned tofu as vegetarian options.
  5. Slide it onto your plate and enjoy your personal sized pizza

Notes

If you’re in a real hurry, you can start cooking the veggies in a pan on the top of the stove. This will cut down the time that they need to be in the oven and also can help keep the shell from getting too crispy!