Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful November 2012

Every year from November 1 until Thanksgiving, Facebook is flooded with daily "what I'm thankful for" posts.  I mentioned in this "Choosing Joy" post that during a particularly rough point in my life I had been advised to make a daily gratitude list so while I love the idea of Thankful November, I really like to have all of my posts where I can find them.  On those days where nothing seems to go your way, it helps to read back over all of your blessings.  And sometimes I like to re-read it for the big fat puffy heart love of doing it.  I'm cool like that.  So here goes...
November 1:  The first and foremost thing I am thankful for is a loving and merciful God.  I am not a "perfect Christian".  Honestly, left to my own devices, I fail more than I succeed.  I am not worthy of His grace and love and yet He extends it to me.  I am not worthy of salvation, but I have it through the blood of Jesus Christ.  How powerful is that?  I can't even fully put it into words. It just blows me away. 
Source

November 2:  Today, I am thankful for my husband.  We were 19 years old when we got married.  Our oldest is almost 12 and I can't imagine him coming to us in 7 short years to tell us he was getting married.  Oh. my. word.  Some people gave us a year before we threw in the towel, but I'm proud to say we recently celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary!  I love him more now than I did then.  We've been through some incredibly rough times but we've come through better and stronger than when we went in to them.
Before we had kids, we made the decision that there should be a stay-at-home parent and he's always been willing to do whatever he had to do to provide for his family and support me in being their primary caregiver.  Years ago, my great-grandma gave me this advice "Marry someone you like to talk to."  And that is exactly what I did.  He's my best friend and I am so blessed to have him in my life. 
Us on our wedding day.  Check out those fresh faces!
November 3:  Today I am thankful for my first-born, Lil B.  He was born in the wee hours of a February Saturday morning after 36.5 hours of labor.  He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever laid eyes on...all 8-ish pounds of him.  I loved him so much before I'd ever met him but that moment I "got" unconditional love.  When he was one, his pediatrician said that something didn't sound right when she listened to his heart.  After referrals and testing he was diagnosed as having an atrial septal defect, which pretty much translates to having a hole between the upper chambers of his heart.  He had open heart surgery to close the hole a year later.  That experience and that little boy taught me more about being a parent in those few years than any book I could ever get my hands on.  He's grown into a funny, outgoing, smart little man with a big imagination and a big heart (figuratively--his heart is fine now) and I love him more than I could ever put into words.

November 4:  Today, I am thankful for my second born.  He was nearly 10 pounds of cute squished into a compact 19.5 inches.  He could hardly have been described as "svelte" which is ironic considering how long and lean he is now.  I'd always heard that a mother's love doesn't divide...it multiplies.  His birth was complete confirmation of that.  He's a daredevil.  He's creative and artistic.  He learns by doing which means he never sits still.  He's my heart and I love him to pieces.

November 5:  Today, I'm thankful for my my third born son.  My love multiplied once again when he was born.  I was not in the market, so to speak, for another baby when I found out I was pregnant with him.  I was in a rough patch in my life and in my marriage and I questioned God's timing.  Of course, God is always right on time and knew exactly what He was doing.  He's clumsy and overly dramatic, but he's also so smart and funny and one of the most loving children I've ever known.  He's the light of my life and I love him so!

November 6:  Today, I am thankful for my daughter.  Just when I thought my heart could not be any more full of love, she was born.  Pregnant in the southern summer was almost unbearable, but it was worth it when I looked in her sweet blue eyes.  She was so tiny compared to my boys and dainty.  She's only a year old now and just developing what I'm sure will be an interesting personality.  She's already so "girly" and prefers dresses to pants...and the more pink/sparkly/fluffy the better.  Having her is the cherry on top of an already pretty awesome sundae.  I love her to the moon and back.

I'm going to break here to share with you some photos we took at my niece's wedding back in July.  You can so clearly tell the kids personalities here!




Yes, really.  5 photos and not one is Christmas card presentable.  Sigh...

November 7: Today, I am thankful for my parents.  So many of my friends have already lost one or both so I'm especially thankful that I still have both.  I appreciate the lessons they taught me like, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about" and "Don't do what I do, do what I say do."  Just kidding, even though I do recall those things being said.  Without question, I am the person I am today because of my wonderful parents.  So shout out to my Mom and Dad!  I love you guys!
My parents marveling at my newborn daughter--2011 (My dad doesn't take pictures so this is as current as it gets.)
November 8:  Today, I am thankful for my in-laws.  Yeah, I just said the in-laws.  I know a lot of people aren't particularly fond of theirs but I love mine.  So shout out to my father-in-law and mother-in-law--you guys rock!
My in-laws--GEAUX SAINTS!
November 9:  Today, I am thankful for my home.  My husband was laid off last year and without work for almost 6 months.  I never realized how much our home meant to me until we were in danger of losing it.  And it's not so much the brick and mortar house but the fact that we have a place we belong.  A place where our kids belong.  A place their kids will belong.  HOME.  It's not new, a little too small, and causes me to compile endless lists of projects but I wouldn't have it any other way!

November 10:  Today, I am thankful for my grandparents.  I was blessed to know some of my great-grandparents and one even had the chance to have a relationship with her great-great grandchild.  So many of my friends have already lost all of their grandparents.  My husband has no surviving grandparents either.  My relationships with mine become more precious to me as I get older and I thank God for the ones I still have.

November 11:  Today is Veterans Day and so today I am thankful for those who have chosen to serve this country.  God bless each and every one of you.  I am also thankful for military spouses.  You folks keep the home fires burning while your loved ones are away from you so thank you for all you do too!

November 12:  Today, I am thankful for my siblings.  You truly don't know what you have until it's gone and losing one of my siblings has made me realize how important my other sister and two brothers are to me.  And the memories I made with Danielle are all the more precious to me now.  This day is being amended to add this:  Last night I was watching NCIS (LOVE THAT SHOW!) and Ziva was telling Tony why it was so important for her to go to the opera and she said something to the effect of "The love of a sibling...I am glad to have known it."

November 13:  Today, I am thankful for my other siblings--the ones that I got when I married Barry.  He is #3 in a line of 4 boys and when all 4 boys are together things get strange, but it's an awesome kind of strange and I'm thankful that my husband has had that in his life.  I am also thankful for their wives who understand the insanity that comes with being married to one of those crazy guys! 

November 14:  Today, I am thankful for all of the kiddos all of these siblings have given me so far.  Auntie to a whole heap--14 kids in all.  Plus all of the kids who call me Aunt Jen.  Big families = lots of nieces and nephews.  And my brothers don't have kids yet!  No pressure though guys.  HA HA!

November 15:  Today, I am thankful for friends of all kinds.  The kind that call your parents Mom and Dad.  The kind that you can call at 2 AM and they'll come running.  The kind that call you at 2 AM and you go running.  The kind that lift you up when your down.  The kind that make you laugh until your sides hurt.  The kind that bring you dinner when you're sick or upset.  The kind that pray for you when they know you need it...and the ones that pray for you even when you don't ask.  The kind that you've only "met" in the virtual world but encourage you with their friendship.  Because you've supported me with your friendship and love through the good and the bad, I am thankful for you!

November 16:  Today, I am thankful for the friends and cousin who are more like siblings than anything else. 

November 17:  Today, I am thankful for all of my extended family--aunts, uncles, cousins, cousins, cousins (I've got lots of those), the friends who might as well be my family and the cousin who might as well be my brother.  I have been so blessed to have you in my life!

November 18:  I think I covered all of the people I love so today, I am thankful for football.  Yes, football.  Roll Tide!  Geaux Saints!  It's a break from reality and something that my husband and I enjoy watching together.  And both of my teams won this weekend!  WOOT!  And thanks to losses by K-State and Oregon, my Crimson Tide is sitting at #2 with Barry's Fighting Irish sitting at #1.

November 19:  Today, I am thankful for coffee.  It's Monday and I have four kids.  I don't think this requires further explanation.

November 20:  I was having trouble figuring out what to post today.  And then on the way home tonight, I was listening to my kids laughing and talking to each other and was reminded how blessed I am to be their mother. If God never sent another blessing my way, I would still be more blessed than I deserve to be.  So today I am thankful for reminders of God's blessings.

November 21:  Today, I am thankful for my health.  I need it to keep up with all these kids!

November 22:  Today, I am going to try to cram in all the little things I'm thankful for--stargazing, flowers (even though I don't have a green thumb), books, old cartoons, channels that aren't Nick or Disney, Diet Dr. Pepper, Clorox wipes, e-readers, living near a convenience store, homeschooling, my sewing machine, the walking trail, modern appliances, chocolate, wi-fi, 80s music...I could go on and on.  My life is pretty sweet and I'm thankful for all the little things that make it just a little sweeter!

Happy Thanksgiving peeps!  

Jen

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012

Believe it or not, this post is not about who was or was not elected.  It's about you.  And me.
First off, let me just say that I've heard some of the most rude things during this election time from both sides.  Facebook has been a cesspool of political feuding.  I don't mean a discussion of political beliefs and the merits or candidates either.  I mean full on verbal assaults.  Name calling.  Verbal abuse.  Threats.  It was really the most insane thing I've ever witnessed.  It's one thing to be passionate.  It's another thing to be a bully.

I had this verse so heavily on my heart yesterday and achingly so today.  "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14.  If you are a Christian in this country, regardless of who you voted for, I believe that God is calling his people into revival.  It's time for us to hit our knees and humble ourselves before our Creator.  Literally folks.  When is the last time you went to your knees, on your face, humbled before Him in sincere prayer and cried out to God?  If this election was the only time you've done it, then folks, we've got problems.  We've become a nation of entitlement.  We as Christians have turned our backs to God and stopped seeking His will and operating under our own agendas.  It's time for our churches--OUR CHRISTIANS--to hit our knees and pray for the Lord to send revival! 

"But Jen.  I'm not a Christian.  So this doesn't apply to me."  WRONG!  (And I'm praying for you, just so you know.)   Keep reading.  I'm on a roll this morning.

So here's the thing.  Obama is president for four more years.  That either thrills you or sickens you.  If people would take just half of the energy they put into their Facebook political posturing and used that to serve their community, it would start an avalanche of kindness.  The greatness of this country was built on the backs of the people, not on the backs of politicians.  So take your excitement or your fury and DO SOMETHING WITH IT!  No, that doesn't mean sitting around and grumbling and complaining because your guy didn't win.  It also doesn't mean resting on your laurels because your guy did win.  It means taking conscious positive steps toward improving your community.

My prayers are with President Obama.  I pray that he uses these four years in a way that is beneficial to its citizens.  I pray that he also seeks God's will for his life and this country.  I know who holds my future though.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him." ~ Psalm 28:7

Peace and love,
Jen

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rub-A-Dub-Dub Three Ducks in a Tub--Baby Shower Cake

My friend Toni asked me to make this super cute cake for a baby shower she was hosting.  Most of the cakes I'm asked to do are covered in fondant so it was fun to do a cake without it for a change.  The cake was yellow cake with vanilla frosting.  The sides of the cake were covered with staggered Pirouette cookies (I may or may not have eaten the broken ones--SHHHHH!) and the water was tinted piping gel.  Everything was edible except for the ducks and the ribbon.  Thanks for checking it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Name Skeletons!

I promise, I don't get paid anything for mentioning Pinterest.  I just love it.  Wholeheartedly.  I found this project on Pinterest about 3 months ago and became pretty obsessed with it.  I knew this was a Halloween must.  I'll go ahead and show you the finished result!  (My camera is still broken.  Bummer.  Had to take these with my phone.)


Cute, right?  You only need a few basic materials:
*A few sheets of plain white paper.  The stuff you use in your printer works awesomely.  I cut out hands, heads, and feet in groups but one skeleton would probably take 2-3 sheets.
*A pencil or pen
*Scissors
*Glue
*Poster Board (if you cut these smaller you could probably fit them on construction or scrapbook paper.  GAH!  These would be cute in a scrapbook!  Now I have to make them again in miniature.)

The first thing you want to do is take one sheet of the white paper and fold it in half lengthwise with the open end at the top and the folded end at the bottom.

Next, write your name (or your kid's name, dog's name--whatever floats your boat) in cursive on the folded sheet of paper filling up the sheet.  You can see I stretched "Mom" out but I also tried this with Jennifer and I was able to fit it on there too.

Cut out around the top and sides of the name leaving a bit of space around the pencil marks.  Don't chop up that folded side just yet!

Now, cut around the bottom.  But be careful.  You want it to stay joined with just some parts cut out. You don't want to go around the letters like you did on the top.  Just a snip here and there should do it!

Open it up and marvel at how much your name looks like a skeletal torso.  Does that sound creepy?  HA!

You'll want to cut out the head, arms, and legs next.  I free-handed those but the head is basically an oval with two circles and a semi-circle cut out.  The hands are just L-shapes with 5 digits on the end.  The legs are long skinny rectangles with triangular shaped feet.  You could make these more detailed if you'd like but I thought this was kind of cartoon-y cute. And since A is freaked out by Halloween this year, this was a safe bet.

Dry fit the pieces on the poster board.  You can see in the top photo that our skeletons have different poses.  This gives you a chance to play around with placement before you glue the skeleton down.

All that's left to do is glue these on to whatever back piece you'd like.  We used orange poster board but you could use whatever.  Two of these skeletons fit on a regular 22 x 28 sheet.  As I was gluing these down I had the idea that you could paint over these with glow-in-the dark paint.  That would be fun!
 
And there you have it!  I was able to crank out four of these in about an hour.  This would be a fun project for Halloween or for a class studying the skeletal system.  Older kids should be able to do this with very little guidance.  Younger kids will need some help.  I noticed in the original pin that they also did it with the capital letter of the name at the neck.  We did ours as the pelvis.  It's totally up to you.  Whatever you thinks looks best is probably best!
One more look at the finished project.


If you don't know us personally, do you have any guesses as to what our kids' names are?  Don't go peeking at other posts!  Try to figure it out!

I'd love to see these if you make them, so try it out and then link to your post in the comments!  Or email a picture to me (our email address can be found in the "Contact Us" tab on the right hand side).

Happy crafting!


Jen

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Pinterest Challenge--Holiday Edition

By now, my love of Pinterest is well known.  I actually try to do some of the projects that I pin, but I realize that I'm in the minority there.  But why?  Most aren't hard.  Heck, most of the time there are even tutorials to help you out.  I think it's a motivation thing.  It's easy to sit at the computer in your pajamas and pin things while you sip on a cup of coffee (which I may or may not be doing at this very moment!!) but actually getting up and doing it...eh...not so much.
My sister Jamie and my cousin's fiance' Rachel are also proficient pinners who like to do the projects they pin.  So I had this idea.  What if we turned Christmas this year into a handmade affair?  What if we pinned something, made it, and then gifted it?  Cray cray, right?  I kind of thought they'd give me that whole, "Girl, you've lost your mind" look, but they didn't!  They jumped right on board!  So we're going to be handmaking Christmas gifts and decor items this year!
Now...your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create at least one holiday gift or decoration from something you've pinned on Pinterest.  Just one.  It doesn't have to be a verbatim copy.  It can just be used as inspiration (I like those best anyway!).  Then I want you to photograph your project and send me the photo as well as the original pin.  You can send it via Facebook or email (follow the link on the sidebar).  That's it. The photos will go live on my blog after January 1, 2013.  Join us?

Disclaimer:  We are in no way affiliated with Pinterest.  I'm just a girl who likes to pin and craft.


Happy pinning AND accomplishing!

Jen

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Bucket List 2012





We're almost a month into fall already and I'm just now putting together a bucket list.  What?  I have four kids and time is a luxury...and I kind of forgot about it.  OOPS!  Oh well, better late than never!  Here is our Bucket List for the rest of Fall 2012!




I'll update as we make our way through the list!
Jen

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Sweet 1st Birthday Party for Our Princess

Our sweet baby daughter turned one in July.  Between the madness of our oldest niece getting married and the fact that I haven't been in much of a party mood since my sister passed away, her birthday party got put on hold.  We got to October and I realized that if I didn't get on it, she wouldn't have a first birthday party.  And I'm really making an honest attempt to "Choose Joy", so what could be more joyful than a super cute and pleasantly plump little angel smooshing around in pink cake frosting?  Answer?  Um...NOTHING!  So here it is, D's first birthday party!

The dining room table set up with flowers, the cupcake tower, and yummy sweet treats! 

We added bowls of Starburst candies, platters of white chocolate and sprinkle covered pretzel rods that we made, and plates of Oreo fudge creme cookies that we drizzled with pink candy melts.
Sweet butterfly napkins, lavender garden trellis plates and wispy flowers say "garden party" to me.  
Her smash cake covered in dainty ruffles.
Pennant name banner that I made.
My girl and me checking out the gift from my parents.
Happy birthday, Princess!
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that she approves!  HA!
She had a fantastic day!  Thanks for checking out her party!

Jen

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Nursery Reveal!

Our daughter will be 15 months old tomorrow.  I actually started writing this post in November and somewhere along the line I got distracted and never got around to photographing the room so it was never posted.  MY BAD!  This is not a terribly lost post (I'll post some project tutorials separately later on) but there are lots of photos!
(Disclaimer:  First of all, let me apologize for the quality of the photos.  I am a rockstar at a lot of things but photography is not one of them.  I do well to operate my point and shoot digital camera and the camera on my phone.  And of course, when I decide to photograph the room, my digital camera doesn't want to cooperate.   I'm sure it's user error!  Second of all, let me apologize for the lighting in the photos. For some reason, I've never been able to get the light right in here to photograph it.  Light on, light off, shades open, shades closed...I've tried it all.  I'm sure this goes back to not being a photography rockstar.  And there you have it!)
Let's take a counter clockwise tour of the room, shall we?
When you stand at the door, this is the view you get.  The bed was A's when he was a baby and Barry and I also refinished the chest of drawers and dresser at that time. 

This is a straight on view of the canopy above her bed.  I didn't want anything she could remotely get tangled in but loved the idea of sleeping under a gauzy canopy!  It's nothing more than a sheer curtain panel.  I'll post a tutorial to that project later on!

I was inspired to add a little flower chandelier under her canopy.  The best part?  All of these flowers and the letter "D" were items my sister used to decorate for my baby shower.  I love that there is a bit of sentiment to it.  And it's cute. ;-)  Tutorial coming on that soon as well!


This chest of drawers and the matching dresser that you'll see in a moment were mine when I was a girl and they were old then.  They just needed a little TLC and a fresh coat of stain!

The basket was part of a gift from my baby shower and the flowers were picked up at Hobby Lobby at 50% off the regular price.  We LOVE that little round sound machine.  It was also a gift and quite arguably in my top 5 baby gifts ever.

My friend Sherry painted the name plaque for the room.  Isn't it precious?  She's so talented!  It always photographs washed out.  It's much more vibrant in person.  She used a photo of the bedding to get the colors.  She's never even seen it actually hanging in the room!

In the corner between the chest and the dresser is the rocking chair.  It's Amish made, super-comfortable, and very well-built.  It doesn't really go with the style of the room, but it's been used to rock every one of my babies to sleep and for that reason I love it and it stays.  My mother got that sage green throw at Sears when I was still pregnant and it is the softest blanket I've ever felt in my life.  It's perfect for snuggles during those late night feedings.  The teddy was C's and he has since deemed himself "too old" for it, although I do occasionally find it in his room.  Hmmmm...  That little pillow came with the bedding set.  The paper lanterns were used at my baby shower.


This is the dresser that matches the chest of drawers.  It used to have a giant (and exceedingly heavy) mirror that went with it, but I sacrificed that as a young teen when I found myself more in need of a desk than a vanity.  When the time comes, I can just remove the changing pad and it's a desk for her as well.  Perhaps she'll be a budding young author like her mother was at one time!

This shelf was black in a former life!  It used to hold the letters used to spell A's name when the nursery was his.  A few coats of ivory spray paint (Krylon's Dual Paint + Primer) gave it new life and filled the gap above the changing table.  The photos of my girl are ones that I took when she was 4 or 5 months old.  The silver frames were quite inexpensive (I think I picked them up at Walmart) and I added the pink flowers (from the scrapbooking department at Hobby Lobby).  The "D" is actually hanging on the wall and is covered in scrapbooking paper from Hobby Lobby.  The cross was attached to a gift at my baby shower and I love that little pop of something other than pink up there.  The piggy bank was a Christmas gift.  The vase is not a vase at all but a crocheted baby bottle cover on a baby bottle.  I took off the nipple and filled it with more flowers from my shower.

My mother found this sign on clearance at Hobby Lobby (we love the Hob Lob around here!).  I attached some ribbon and it became a cute bow hanger for her closet door.

This is the "Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!" wall.  It's the only thing still not finished.  I'm working on something for that spot, it's just not ready for its closeup yet.  It will hide a lot of that toy clutter.


Rosa centifolia = Blush hundre... Digital ID: 1111008. New York Public LibraryRosa damascena = Great royal r... Digital ID: 1111026. New York Public Library

I posted about free artwork that you could get from the New York Public Library here.  Just hop over there, read about how to get it and then follow the link to the NYPL.  Here is what I chose for the nursery.  It's from A Collection of Roses from Nature from 1799.  The frames were gold and were given to me.  A few coats of Krylon's "Ballet Pink" did the trick.

 Two straight valences came with the bedding set.  I got a little crafty and came up with this!  A tutorial will be forthcoming, but trust me when I say it is super easy.  I added a pair of sheers and stitched a shade to cover the window.  It was also a super easy project.  You could even do it "no-sew"!  I like that even though the shade is pink (which is obviously all over the room) there is difference in pattern with the gingham.

This little quilt rack isn't a quilt rack at all.  It's a towel rack!  I wanted a small iron quilt rack to go between the bed and the window but they were way more than I wanted to spend and much too big.  I only needed it to hold baby blankets, for Pete's sake!  During a late night feeding, inspiration struck me and this little guy was picked up for less than $20.  The little baby crib at the foot of the bed was built by my Uncle Bill for my Nanny who collected dolls.  Uncle Bill and Nanny are singing with angels now and never knew my daughter.  I love that my girl has had this passed on to her and will have the opportunity to cherish something my uncle built and my Nanny loved.
I know you probably can't get an idea of the bedding because we don't use it "properly" but here it is:
Riley's Roses Floral Baby Bedding
We used bedding from that company for A also and can't say enough good things about their bedding.  We don't use the bumpers in bedding sets but even at the 8 pieces we do use, it's still a great deal!
That concludes the tour!  I hope you enjoyed seeing my gal's room!

Jen

Monday, September 10, 2012

Christy's Pregnant Belly Cake

Christy's mom and step-dad are the very kind across the street neighbors of my in-laws.  Christy is expecting her first baby soon and to say that her mother and sister are over the moon about him is an understatement.  They've been excitedly planning a baby shower for a while now.  It was held this past weekend and I had the privilege of making her cake and a couple dozen cupcakes to accompany it.  The cake and the cupcakes to the left were almond with cream cheese frosting and the cupcakes to the right were chocolate with cream cheese frosting.  The cake was covered and decorated with marshmallow fondant.  Congratulations Christy!



Joyfully yours,
Jen

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Choosing Joy

This has been a rough post to write.  I have no problem sharing our quirkiness, but sharing from my heart to the unknown internet world is not as easy, so bear with me. 
First of all, let me throw out an apology for not blogging since my sister passed away.  I haven't had the motivation to share but will update on things soon!  God bless those who have thought about us and remembered us in their prayers.  They have been so appreciated.
Now to the meat.  About 4 years ago, my life was in a rough spot.  So there you go.  I'm not as pulled together as I appear.  My grandmother had passed away, my husband was battling depression, my marriage was on the rocks, and then I became pregnant.  I couldn't see the forest for the trees.  At that time, I was advised to make a daily gratitude list.  It could be anything but should be at least 5 things I was thankful for.  And each of my kids couldn't count so I couldn't list names and be done with it.  Some days it was hard.  Some days it was easy.  Some days the things I was thankful for were meaningful and some days they were less so. The exercise served a two-fold purpose.  The first was the immediate result in that I realized I had some really great things going on in my life.  The other purpose I only realized later on and that was that I had more than 5 things because as you CHOOSE to be grateful you realize how much more you have to be grateful for.  Learning to choose joy got me, my husband, and my marriage through that turmoil.  God was working in me in a mighty way, but I didn't know that at the time.
I also learned that every day when you wake up you make choices.  And I don't mean what to wear or how to fix your hair.  You shouldn't be living a life on auto-play.  Choose how you want to live your life and then live it.  I'm telling you right now that if you're living a life that is operating on doing things the way you've always done them or based upon other people's expectations then you aren't doing yourself any favors.
I'm not saying this to "toot my own horn".  I'm not always happy or agreeable. But I am beyond blessed and by choosing to live a joyful life, I've forgiven people and situations that other people wouldn't have and I've let grudges go that other people would have hung on to. I haven't forgiven and let things go for the other person, I've done it for me. I learned back then that I can't live with that kind of poison in my life. You decide what portion of your soul you feed. I choose not to feed the one that would make me petty, miserable, spiteful, or cruel. I believe that every 60 seconds of my life that I spend in that frame of mind is a minute of my life that I've wasted. Being this way doesn't mean I'm weak. It means I'm strong enough to be a better person.
I am the only child of the marriage of my mother and my natural father.  I have a half brother and sister from my mother and my step-father (who has raised me since I was 6 years old) and a half brother and sister from my natural father and his second wife.  I am 7 years older than my next sibling so statistically speaking I always assumed they would outlive me or we'd all be really old and decrepit before I lost one.  That changed on April 30, 2012.  I don't live with my cell phone attached to me and half the time I can't even find it.  That particular day, I had let my battery get really low and plugged it into charge just before I went to bed.  My ringer was off for some reason. At around 2 AM on May 1st, my home phone rang.  I knew when my great-uncle's name showed up on caller ID that something was really wrong.  Strangely enough, my first thought was, "Something happened to Danielle."  I don't know why unless God was mentally preparing me for what happened next.  I said hello and my uncle said, "Honey, Danielle is dead."  I just kept saying, "What do you mean?"  I know my uncle's wife asked if I had my brother's number and I went to my phone and realized that he had been calling and texting for over an hour.  But other than that, I'm not even certain what happened after that.  The whole thing is a blur at that point.  There are lots of black space in my mind and I can't put anything there.  A friend said that she believes it's God's way of protecting us and maybe that's so.  That's a level of hurt that I can't even explain.  We're over three months away from losing my beautiful and vivacious sister and I still can't describe the ache that I feel.
My first conscious plan was that I had to do something to honor her.  I didn't want her to be famous because of how she died.  I wanted her to be famous because of how she lived.  I prayed that God would show me the way to cope and to honor her.  I logged into Facebook and the very first post was one from Lil Blue Boo.  From the Lil Blue Boo Facebook page, "Ashley recently has had some crazy curveballs thrown her way that have made her consciously decide to “choose joy” as a way of life. She has chosen to write publicly about her loss, and the nitty gritty of unexpected surgery and chemotherapy in hopes that her experiences will help others."  I have been following along with her journey for about 2 years now and I enjoy reading her blog because she has confirmed to me that you can choose to lead a joy-filled life and that I'm not completely crazy for thinking so.  Or maybe we're just the same brand of crazy, but at least she makes joy work for her too.
I understood in that moment that the Lord wanted me to continue to choose joy and to do it in this situation as well.  Danielle had a lot of crazy curveballs thrown at her all of her life and she always knew how to take lemons and make lemonade.  She lived a life of joy because that was the kind of person she was.  She wanted to LIVE a life not merely exist.  What better way to honor Danielle than to inspire people to do just that?  I wrote this entry 4 days after I got the news.  I'd love it if you'd read that and pass it on.  I want there to be so much positivity that no one remembers her by how she died but by how she lived instead.  By choosing joy in this, I was choosing to honor her.  But I'm also not doing it for her.  I'm doing it because experience has taught me that choosing joy is the way I can get through this.
I've been choosing joy for so long now, that it really has become a part of my life.  I'm not perfect though so some days choosing joy is H-A-R-D.  Some days I want to be the biggest pile of uselessness that I can be.  It's called being human. Those are the days that choosing joy becomes a truly conscious decision.  But I choose what part of my soul to feed and I don't choose to feed the part of me that wants to hate the drunk driver who killed my sister because there is no honor for Danielle in that.  When you choose to feed the "bad" part of you, you only grow that part.  It grows so large that you don't have any more room for "good".  Eventually the "bad" will consume you until you don't have anymore "good" to feed.  You can't feed the "bad" a little bit.  You have to starve it.  I know from experience that I can't be in a place like that where the bad part of me is crowding out the good.  I choose joy because I choose to feed the good part of me.
You'll be seeing a "Choosing Joy" tab at the top of the navigation bar from now on.  Occasionally, I have these "choose joy" lightbulb moments that I jot down on Facebook and someone inevitably says that they really needed to hear that.  God has put me on a path of choosing joy and extending love and grace through Him.  It's also a way to continue to honor the sister I love and miss so much.
Emphasize the positive and eliminate the negative. Choose joy.

Peace and Love, Jen

P.S.  I realize this is long so if you've hung in there until the end, you're too awesome!  Also, I realize it's a little all over the place.  Unfortunately, I keep it real by writing the way I talk and this is exactly how my brain traveled.  :-)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Angel Wing Cake

This cake was made for a welcome event for the dance team at one of our local junior high schools.  They are known as The Blue Angels (the school mascot is the Blue Devil).  Each feather was hand cut and dusted with an edible pearl dust.  It was one of my most favorite cakes that I've ever done.  The cake was fudge marble with a chocolate frosting filling and then covered and decorated with marshmallow fondant.


Peace and Love, Jen