Wednesday, July 31, 2013

If I could turn back time . . .

       
    
My sweetheart Katie, who just turned 10 the end of June, is having growing pains. She is changing by the minute, and going through some of those tough life lessons that so many of us have gone through in our lives. She is testing her independence and questioning some of my decisions. She is learning how to communicate and express herself more and more. And she is learning that her actions have consequences (probably the hardest lesson for kids to learn, I think.) 

Tonight she told me that she wished she could go back in time and do some things differently (in her short 10 year old life). This statement did not sit well with me, her self-proclaimed "No Regrets Ever" mother. 

"Why, honey?" I asked. "Why would you want to go back in time?"

"Well, for three reasons," she answered. "For starters, I would want to dress a little nicer all of the time. All I do is wear t-shirts and shorts and if I change how I look now, everyone will wonder why I am changing my look. I wish I would have started dressing a little nicer earlier in life." 

"Ok," I listened, "why else?" 

"Second," she continued, "I would pay more attention in school. I would be a really really good student.  Would read all the time, and I would be really smart." 

"I see," I said, "and number three?" 

"Well," she said, "I'd go back to when I could have met your Daddy, and I would get to know him, and I would work to find whatever it was that made him die and make sure that he didn't get that so he wouldn't have died."

Yes . . . she has a way of always melting my heart.

"Well, honey," I told her, "you know that you can't go back in time. But you can be who ever you want to be in your life. That is what is so great about it . . . each and every day you get a chance to wake up and start it again. Each and every day you can walk over to that closet and put on whatever you want . . . and no one has the right to say anything to you about it. So if you want to dress differently . . . go ahead and do it! And each and every day, you make a choice to be the person you want to be. If you want to do well in school, you can. If you want to focus more, do it. If you want to read more, we can do it together. You can do whatever you want in this amazing life of yours, Katie." 

She listened with wide opened eyes at each word I said, as if it was almost giving her permission to be who she wants to be. 

"As for my Daddy," I continued, "I sure wish you could have met him, honey. He would have loved you and he would have thought you were pretty amazing, too." 

We were interrupted by a loud fit of laughter coming Ella and her friend. 

"I am proud of you, honey," I said as I hugged her tight. "I am proud of the person you were yesterday, the person you are today, and the person you dream of being tomorrow." 

"Thanks, Mom," she said. 

It sure is hard to be 10. 

And as for my 10 year old, I couldn't be prouder.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Place Like It

We've been so busy the past week or so . . . from trips into the city, a day at the Art Institute, an over night at Nana and Papa's, and blueberry picking fun . . . my mind is racing. I think I've taught a few art classes in between, too . . . although I might be imagining that.

Phil is in the middle of a nightmarishly hectic work season, and has to miss most of the fun. This makes me uber sad, and also gives me a for real experience of being a single mom.

And let me tell you . . . it's exhausting.

Our summer calendar has been filled out thoroughly and very strategically, with plans and opportunities for adventures at almost every hour. And it is catching up to me.

I am  l o n g i n g  for some free time, as I've decided this constant activity is not good for my soul. I need quiet time. Unscheduled days. Moments when I can allow my head to move from thought to thought freely, without forcing it to adapt to the craziness of our days.  I'm having these fits of "Crazy-Flipped Out-Stepping on a Barbie Shoe" mom moments, when my two kids think they have finally pushed me to the brink of insanity. Then, I have these little (albeit brief) moments of complete and total calmness that takes over me. I like those moments best.

I need more of them.

Phil will be off tomorrow, and I've planned . . . nothing. Just us, our house, our little blow up pool in the backyard, maybe a summer cocktail (or two), and perhaps . . . a nap. It sounds like the perfect way to spend a day with the ones I love.

It never fails . . . home is where my heart is. Even with all the great adventures I've been on this summer, and all the ones planned for the coming months, there is only one place where I can truly say am most happy.

 
Yep . . . home.
 
There's no place like it.
 
Wishing you peace, my friends . . .
 
xo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Doing What I Love

         
I had a great moment the other day. A "sing from the mountain top" sort of moment. A happy tear jerking, good lump in the throat feeling sort of moment. 

I opened a piece of mail . . . and inside was my very first . . . ever . . . pay check - for teaching art.

For real. The dollar amount doesn't matter . . . because truth be told, I have opened pay checks for lots more dollars during this life of mine. 

But this one was different. Completely. It was a pay check . . . for doing something that I love. And it was like a dream. 

I held it up to Phil Guy and said, "Look . . . Look . . . I got paid. For teaching art. I got paid. Real money!" And his smile showed that he got it - he completely understood. 

I could have stared at that check for hours, and I am certain I stared at it longer than most. But it stood for so much more to me than the money involved. It stood for years of trying to find my passion - years of discovering who I was and who I wanted to be - years of a supportive husband who picked me up on more occasions than I could ever remember - years of taking chances (even the small ones). And finally . . . finally  . . . it stood for believing that I actually have something to share with the world, and actually being able to do just that. 

Here is a photo of the ladies from my very first class. Most have come with little (or no) mixed media experience. They have embraced the process, learned new techniques, accepted most of my silly giddiness, and have been a wonderful group to play art with. (Even though one of them wanted to hold one of my paintings, instead of her own. We'll let her slide this time!)

        

I am pretty sure they have no idea how much they have meant to me, and how they will forever be a part of the story and this journey that I am on. And while I am not certain where I'll be in a few years . . . . for now, the sky is the limit. One year ago, if someone would have told me what I'd be doing right now . . . I never would have believed them. I would have thought it was impossible . . . for me, anyway. 

I remember reading once that "it always seems impossible until it is done."

I've got a lot of "impossible" on my mind lately. 

Impossible painting. Impossible writing. Impossible planning. Impossible dreaming. 

And the very best part of it all? 

It's all pretty possible

Doing What I Love. 

Peace, my friends. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Inspiring their HeARTs & Souls

One of the biggest lessons I've learned about myself in recent months . . . is that I absolutely love using my art to inspire others. I love sharing my art with people and hopefully lending a bit of inspiration into their day. It's really why I've found myself on this path of living a creative life and is one of the things and matters to me most.

So I came up with this class idea for young girls . . . I call it HeArt & Soul. And while I know there are a million "HeArt & Soul" references out there in the world (or at least a thousand) . . . this is my spin on it. And last week, I had a few of Katie and Ella's friends over to try it out.

The project is for each girl to make their own little book of happy thoughts, happy photos and happy memories. And my hope is that they'll discover something pretty special about themselves along the way.

I start with some supplies and a few pages of inspiration that I've put together for them to use. Quotes about believing in themselves, quotes about girl power, quotes from me and from others far wiser than me.

 
Then I set the table with 6"x8" cardboard squares, a few bottles of acrylic paint, a whole bunch of girlie patterned duct tape, and the words "My Heart & Soul Book" printed on paper.
 


Each girl was told to bring at least 10 photos of themselves or family and friends, and anything they would want to include in a special book. The girls were instructed to paint both sides of their cardboard pieces.


We talked, right off the bat, about it not needing to be perfect . . . that nothing is really perfect . . . and that we should enjoy the process more than anything.


Next, the girls covered the edges of their pages with duct tape (which they LOVED!), and I walk them through the process of turning these cardboard squares into a book. Very cool . . . and they loved it.

 
Once the books are put together . . . the girls took off adding quotes and photos page to page . . .
 


They did such a fantastic job. I forgot to take photos of the insides of their books, so I'll have to come back and share those another time. I was so proud of each of them - and I think they enjoyed themselves!
 
Ella needed just a little help from me with her hearts on her cover, but she did everything else . . . and I was so proud of her! She and Katie did such a great job! Their books are awesome!
 


And she loved sharing it with her Daddy . . . she read every single quote and even surprised me when she told him all about Helen Keller. (I guess she does listen to me . . . sometimes!)

I am going to be offering this class at our Park District this fall . . . and I hope it is well received! If you are a local friend, I'll keep you in the loop of when the classes will be running. OR . . . if you would like to arrange a home party where I come and do a class for your daughter and some of her friends, send me an email and we can easily arrange it! It really is such a fun project!

Wishing you all inspiring moments
and
much much peace.

xo

Friday, July 12, 2013

Where Bloggers Create 2013

Welcome!
 
 
Oh, what fun I had last year - joining in with the lovely  Karen Valentine over at "My Desert Cottage" during the "Where Bloggers Create 2012" Annual Blog Party! I loved snooping into so many creative spaces, and sharing my very own with them, that I had to do it again this year! I am so excited to be sharing my creative place with you - the space has changed quite a bit since last year.

This time last year, my studio (aka; our basement) looked like this . . .


And while it was somewhat functional . . . changes needed to be made. I needed better organization (or better use of the organization systems I had), I needed to add a little more style and pizazz into it, and I needed to somehow give my family (especially the girls) some space to play in.  I also knew that I needed to fill the walls with inspiration and art that would motivate me to continue living my creative life to its fullest. So . . . I had a goal.

I did a little unveiling of the space to my frequent blog friends back in January, when I officially changed the space around, so many of these photos will be duplicates to them. But for any new "Where Bloggers Create" friends,  I give you . . . My "studio/TV /computer/hubby hang out/kids play in" Room. Officially. ;)

 
We completely moved the table to the other side of the room, and picked up this cute little love seat (and adorable pillows) from Ikea. I love that RED is such a prominent color in this room. It provides energy and passion to me in all that I do in this space.
 
The center of the room is now completely open for the kids to dance in, do gymnastics in, build puzzles and play games in, and do whatever else their little hearts desire. It feels much more open in this space, and I am loving it!
 

My work desk has moved to the right of the couch. (Boy-oh-boy - that electrical box sure stuck out like a sore thumb, huh? The reality is, this space is a basement. Lighting is limited, and there are still "basement things" that belong here. So, we have to work with what we have.) I decided to use the electric box to hold magnets of my art work that I make and sell in my Etsy shop. Today, the electric box looks more like this . . .


Now, back to the rest of the room . . . I took one leaf out of my work table, so that I could fit the table in the corner of the room. I know I got rid of some of the work space that I had, but it needed to be done to open up the space in the center of the room. It was worth it.


 
On the wall to the left of my table hangs my inspiration. A couple of Kelly Rae Roberts prints that make me happy, a tile given to me by artist and dear friend Elizabeth Gonzalez, and a few of my own art pieces. I just LOVE how this wall looks. When I sit at my table and glance up, I feel so happy. That's what this space needed to be, my friends. HAPPY. 
 

Lots of little storage boxes and containers can be found. This box to on the right is a hand-painted cigar box that my husband's Aunt Vicki made. She is an amazing artist and paints the most intricate and vibrant designs. I have a few of her boxes and they look PERFECT in this space, and are so functional, too!


One of my very favorite storage containers is this really cool revolving tray I purchased online from Harbor Freight (see it online here.) It was only $19.99, and it holds all the things I want right at my finger tips when creating. I still have to finishing organizing and adding a few more items to it . . . but I love it!



This BELIEVE board contains some of my favorite photos and cards received on this creative part of my life, and is a constant inspiration to me. It has a prominent place in my studio.

 
Vintage wallpaper samples, photos, and sheet music is just an arms length away - right at my finger tips - and ready to be used in a piece of art. I love having everything handy, right where I need it!
 
I desperately needed some additional light in this space, so I picked up these funky white "bulbs" from Ikea (they were only $14.99). They give off lots of light which helps so much when windows are at a minimum. 

My Phil Guy Bobble Head . . . Oh, how it makes me smile. I think this was a give-away with a McDonald's happy meal, or something, a few years ago. The girls weren't using it, so I found a perfect picture of my dear Phil and put it in the toy. It has remained near my work space since that day, and always will. It makes me feel like he is near me always, even when he is traveling for work and may be thousands of miles away. I love it!

 
And one of my most prized projects - my Brave Girl Soulbook made at a class with Melody Ross at The Creative Connection Event in 2011. This book reminds me how I felt at the beginning of my creative venture, when I felt on top of the world! I love having it near me, and often pick it up and read what is within it's pages. This book will ALWAYS be so special to me (and looks so lovely next to another one of Aunt Vicki's boxes.)

Of course, my inspiration door is still there . . . it makes me happy each and every time I look at it.



So, there you have it.

Is it cluttered? Heck, yeah. Remember . . . I'm trying to fit 10 pounds of turkey in a 5 pound bag. But I have a GREAT handle on where EVERYTHING for my creative life is, and the girls have a place to do whatever they want.

Thanks for joining me and sitting through my studio tour. I'm so happy to be able to share it with you. Please consider stopping by all the other amazing blogger spaces. Click over to Karen's site "My Desert Cottage" here, and scroll down to see the alphabetical list of blogs participating in the party!

If you are interested in what it is, exactly, that I create in this space, head over to my shop by clicking on the link here . . . or choose the "my shop" tab above.

Wishing you all a wonderful day of creating!

Peace, my friends.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Lovin'

Well, the kids have just over a month of summer break remaining . . . and I feel like we've already done so much this year, I can't imagine what's left! Well . . . yes, I can . . . because we have lots more scheduled that we'll be squeezing in the next few weeks. We've got books to read, scrapbook projects to complete, a visit to downtown Chicago planned (along with a day at the Art Institute of Chicago). We've got Summer Band Camp starting August 4th, and Girl Scout activities taking place shortly thereafter. I still have about 5 art classes to teach, and there are even more graduations and birthdays to celebrate. Yes, it's flying by . . . but we're not finished yet.

This morning, I sat on the computer cropping and ordering photos from Walgreens from all of our summer fun thus far. I think I ordered over 300 pictures . . . I like to get extras when there are photos of neighbors kids and other special shots included, so I can pass them on to friends and family. Luckily, Walgreens has a sale of 10 cent prints going on right now, or I may have to take out a special loan. I can't wait to get my hands into some crafty fun once I have the photos. Not sure what I'll be doing . . . but I'll figure it out.

While looking through all the photos, I put together this little collage to share with you of some of the highlights this summer. It has been an awesome season, for sure . . .

It makes me kind of tired . . . to see all of these in this one grouping.

Yes, we live a pretty full life.

And I feel blessed for every single part of it.

Peace, my friends.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sometimes


Sometimes . . . to move forward, we must let go of the past. 

I've always been one to avoid confrontation at all costs. I don't like talking about uncomfortable moments, and I don't like addressing them when they happen. But often times, when I avoid them, they weigh on me. I begin to feel like the earth is sitting on my chest. And then . . . it takes over, crushing my very soul.

Sometimes . . . you have to get it out.

It won't be easy, but it is necessary. Because after a while, you don't like the person you are becoming. You begin acting in ways that make you mean, cranky, and not at all the person you want to be.

Sometimes . . . you have to let it go.

Because once you do . . . you feel better. You can breathe. Not those short little breaths. I'm talking those big, deep, down to your belly button sort of breaths. The ones that fill your lungs 110%, and clears all the nasty thoughts and awful confusion from your head. Those are good breaths.

Sometimes . . . it's going to hurt.

It might even hurt someone you love. But you have to do it . . . for your own well being. And while it might not be understood, you know how you feel . . . and you owe it to yourself. After all, you have got to take care of yourself. Stand up for yourself. Believe in yourself.

And then finally . . . when it's all said and done . . . you can finally see. You can finally feel. And that sky, finally, looks even prettier than it did the day before.  Sometimes you have to deal with something really tough to be able to see the world around you, to remember how beautiful it was and see how beautiful it will be once again. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Ideal Me

 

I'm reading a great book right now called "Living Out Loud: Activities to fuel a Creative Life" by Keri Smith.  It's a fun, creative little pocket book with great prompts and ideas for living a creative life. And if you have followed me for any amount of time, you will already know that one of my life mantras is to "Live a Creative Life." It's been important to me for quite a while, and I still find myself having to be reminded of it.

One of the big things I try to follow is the whole idea of "putting it out there". The creative me. The dreams. The goals. All of it. No matter how ridiculous it may seem to some of you. My friend Peggy believes strongly, too, the idea of "putting it out there . . . Into the universe." She's always proud of me when I do that. :)

There is a great exercise in the book - to answers some questions about the "Ideal You" as if you were already living your ideal life. The author encourages you to "dream big", put it on paper, make it as full and as decadent as you wish. It was an exercise I wasn't sure I could do at first. Dreaming? Sure, I dream. I have things that I think about - trips I'd love to take - jobs I'd love to have. But truly dreaming about the day to day things that surround me . . . that was a little more difficult. 

Then . . . I got into it. And it took off. The questions invited me to really think about the ideal me. And the answers surprised me a bit. 

Here is a small sampling of just a few of the questions asked:
* where do you live? describe what your home looks like. (Again, it's in my ideal life, not my current for real one)
* what do you do on a daily basis that fulfills your emotional, spiritual, and physical needs?
* look at the clothes you are wearing. What do they say about you?
* how much money do you make?
* how do you view yourself?
* what do you enjoy most about your career?

It's interesting. I learned quite a lot about myself. 

Specifically, I realized that I don't need a huge amount of money in my ideal life . . . just enough so I don't have to worry about it. Enough to pay the bills, and with a little extra to have some fun. I also learned that I would spend that extra money on things that would fill my soul . . . and not "things" that would take up space. I would spend my money on traveling and art retreats and "moments", and not at all on material goods. 

I also learned, overall, that the "Ideal Me" is not so far off. It is some one that I CAN reach. Some one that IS inside of me. Some one that IS ME. 

Perhaps that was the biggest lesson of it all. That when I really sit down and look at my life, I'm getting there . . . to the person I dream of. I am on my way . . . and it IS attainable. That . . . is a pretty awesome lesson. 

How about you? Do you ever really think about the Ideal You?  I'm telling you, my friends . . . It's an great way to refocus your direction. I'm interested . . . Are you on your way? Leave me a comment and let me know. 

Peace, my friends. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy July 4th!

               

What a wonderful country we live in . . . those of us in the UNITED STATES of America, don't you think? It's easy to forget how fortunate we are, isn't it? Easy to get caught up in all the negative stuff that is out there, and really forget how absolutely amazing this country is or how completely and totally blessed we are to live here. Why, we have freedoms that some can't even begin to think of. We have opportunities that many don't even know exist. We can have dreams, and don't have to be afraid to follow them. Yes, I remember.  

The U.S. of A.

We are so very blessed. And I will never forget those who have helped us get here, either. To become "the land of the free, the home of the brave". From our founding fathers, to men and women who have fought and continue to fight to protect our freedoms. Yes, today I celebrate our Independence . . . but I also celebrate those who helped us get here, and continue to keep us here, each and every day. 

Today I want to share a little moment Phil and I experienced at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. back in May of 2010. I know I have shared it a few times in the past . . . you may have even read it here before. But I ask you to take a few moments and read it again, for every time I revisit this post, it stops me in my tracks and changes me. It reminds me of how very young our nation is, how we have had turmoil and hard times, fought with ourselves, forgot lpeople who should not have been forgotten about . . . but how even in all of that, we are made up of a human kind that can turn things around. A human kind that can love, and not fight. One that can find, even in its time of darkness, the strength to continue on. 

Phil and I were in D.C. over Memorial Weekend a few years ago. On this particular night, we took a night time bus tour of the city. We arrived at the Vietnam War Memorial late, and this is where the story unfolds . . . 

"It was dark by this time (close to 9:30pm), and you could barely see the names on the wall. We walked slowly along, stopping regularly to say a prayer for the fallen soldiers. We'd pass people with flashlights here or there, and watch as they searched for a familar name. One particular area caught my interest, and PG and I stopped where a woman, around 60 years of age I would guess, stood with two park rangers. One park ranger had the flashlight shining on a soldiers name, and the woman was talking.

"He died in 2004. I filed 20 pounds of paperwork to petition to have his name added. When he came back from the war in 1969, he had lost both legs, the use of his right hand, and his right eye. But he didn't let that stop him ... he went on to counsel soldiers and help others ... my brother ... he's right here with his troop now."

By this time, a few others had gathered around us to listen to her story. I heard the ranger tell her how much she appreciated hearing this. "Yes," she continued. "You know, I reviewed all of his medical records and I kept seeing the name of this doctor who treated him. They had to pump tons of blood into him to save him. So, I found that doctor. I'm a librarian and I found that doctor and called him. He is an elderly gentleman now and he doesn't practice medicine any longer, of course. He didn't remember my brother, and of course he wouldn't because he probably worked on so many of the soldiers over there. I asked him, 'Did anyone ever thank you for what you did for our soldiers?' and he said, 'Well, no, ma'am. No one ever did.' And I said, 'Well, I thank you.' Yes, I did. I found that doctor and I thanked him." 

She thanked him. For saving her brothers life. Amazing. "My brothers name was added just this week. I think it's in the perfect spot, don't you think?" she asked, touching the newly engraved letters. "I think it looks lovely," she said.

Many of those standing near had walked on. But this woman remained standing there, holding her fingers on her brothers name. Edward F. Miles. PG and I were now right next to her. I wanted to say so much, but all I could find inside of me was simply, "He's death wasn't for nothing. His name belongs here, and he will be remembered forever. Thank you so much for telling us his story... Happy Memorial Day." She let go of his name and hugged me. A stranger. And together, we honored her brother, who forty years ago was sent to a country to fight for freedom."

Today, I am thinking of him, Mr. Edward F. Miles. I am thinking of his sister, that she knows how amazing I think she is for working so hard to have her brother remembered. I am thinking of the doctor who saved him. And all the people in the world who believe in freedom and who are brave enough to fight for it.

Don't ever be too busy to stop and hear a strangers story. It may change your life forever. 

Happy 4th of July, my friends. 

Much Peace to you always! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

An Award! Wahooo!

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Oooooo . . . I love awards! There is something so awesomely special about someone taking time out of their day, their life, their moment . . . to share a little happy-goodness with you. It's been a long time since I was involved in a little blogland sort of celebration, but my dearest Nat over at "Just Nat" was incredibly kind to share a "Liebster Award" with me last week. And Nat . . . I am forever grateful!!

I adore Nat . . . she is my adventure sister, a photographer extraordinaire, my worldliest of friends, and one of my longest running blog buddies. I don't know how long we have been in each others blog lives (years, I tell you . . . it has been years) . . . but I do know that just months ago I saw my very first photo of HER (the beautiful photos on her blog are usually of her travels and other subjects along her journey) . . . but when I saw my very first photo of HER - her face, her smile - happy tears came to my eyes. I've known her for YEARS, and when I finally SAW her face, it was like an awesome present on Christmas morning!

So, here we are. A Liebster Award!! When I started blogging (those many many moons ago), I worked really hard at trying to build up my followers - joining a number of social networking groups and participating in a number of blogland parties. But then, life sort of took over . . . and I got away from all of it. Since then, my blog has been stuck right around 200 followers for YEARS, and it seems almost an impossible to grow. That being said . . . I am loving what the Liebster Award is all about . . .

"The Liebster Award is for bloggers with under 200 followers and the rules of the award are that the nominee must link back to whoever awarded them, write 11 random facts about themselves, answer the 11 questions from the award giver, and then nominate another 11 bloggers and make up 11 questions for them to answer. It's a great way for new and undiscovered bloggers to meet new people, get more followers and find some blogs that they want to follow."

Coming up with 11 random facts about myself was harder than I thought. I mean, I've probably written about all of my randomness before . . . but I guess I should be a good sport and go along with it!!! So, without further ado . . .

Here are 11 random facts . . . about . . . me:

1. I watch reality television. The Real Housewives, to be exact. New York, Orange County, Beverly Hills, and New Jersey. I'm addicted. There is something about seeing the dysfunctional state of people who appear to have everything, that makes me feel good about myself. I know that sounds like a horrible reason to watch a television show, but it is my Smut TV, and I love it!

2. I am addicted to Canfield's Seltzer Water. Seriously. This stuff . . .
When I am nervous about something, or feeling particularly anxious, I have to drink one. It totally calms me down and makes everything better. No, I don't add anything to my seltzer water. Just the plain ol'seltzer does the trick. And I have to have at least a few cans in the fridge at all times. If I know I am out of it . . . I get really anxious. Yes, I think I am a tad crazy. That's just how I roll.


3. I used to have a crush on Paul Simon (from Simon and Garfunkel). Yes. But I liked him not so much as he is, now . . . it's more like he was is in this picture . . .
Oh, and Michael McDonald . . . The Doobie Brother dude. I liked him a lot, too. I used to think that if ONE of them would just meet me, they would immediately fall in love with me and would marry me, and sing to me all of the time. If BOTH of them met me, they would have to have a major sing-off and I would get to decide which one I would marry. Yes. This is true. But now . . . I don't have crush on either of them. I still like them, but I don't really day-dream about them any more. ;)

4. I started going to church again. Just this year. A born, raised, and Catholic grade school girl . . . church was always in my life growing up. At some point in my adult years, I got away from it. This year . . . some time back in March . . . I started going again. I feel like I found my faith again, and it has been a pretty amazing thing for my spirit and my soul. Sometimes I kneel in church and put my hands up to my face and find myself crying at the whole thought of God. It blows my mind.

5. I am addicted to books. All different kinds, all different subjects, all different authors. Although I don't spend as much time reading as I would really like to. But I get this major giddy feeling in my tummy when I walk into a book store, and I love nothing more than grabbing a stack of about 10 books and sitting at a table in the book store and looking through them.  My night stand currently has a stack of at least 10 or 15 books on it that I plan on reading. Right now, I am reading "While We Were Watching Downton Abbey" by Wendy Wax. I'm enjoying it - a pretty easy read, and I am enjoying the characters.

6. I never met a Cheesecake that I didn't love. True fact. Oh . . . except . . . perhaps . . . I think a health conscious relative once made a vegan cheesecake for a gathering. I don't think I cared for it one bit. But honestly . . . if it's vegan, than it's not really CHEESE, right? So, I don't really consider it a cheesecake. Other than that . . . I love all cheesecakes. For real.

7. I would move in a minute . . . if I could. I should probably clarify that a bit. I absolutely love our home, but I often wish I had the courage to pack up this house and move someplace different. Really different. Even a different country. I sometimes look at realty listings at far away places and wonder if Phil and I could ever do it. I think that showing my daughters the world, and teaching them about accepting different people and different lives, is one of the best things I can do for them. My mother would die if we ever did this . . . but deep down inside, I wish I had the courage to do it.

8. I have olive skin and I never (rarely) burn in the sun. Unlike my beloved husband, who thinks he has olive skin, but actually is a fair as fair can be.

9. I refold the laundry after my darling husband does it. I am so grateful that Phil takes the initiative to do so many things around the house. He cooks, he cleans, he does laundry. BUT, his laundry skills leave much to be desired. My own father was the laundry guy in our house, and we used to joke that you could bounce a quarter off of the sheets that he folded. But Phil Guy . . . if you want to call what he does actual "folding" . . . I'd be surprised. Again, I am SO GRATEFUL for him, and all that he does. But I often re-fold the whole basket of clothes before putting them away.

10.  I used to name my cars. I've owned Maxine (my blue Nissan Maxima), Phoebe (my purple Dodge Neon) and Buffy (my black Honda CRV). Although I never named my current car (my mini-van.) Must be because I'm still in shock that I actually drive a MINI-VAN (since I NEVER thought I would), that I just couldn't bring myself to name it!

11. I've lost my words since I had my kids. I remember reading this at some point during my pregnancies, but I totally feel like I lost my words when I had my kids. I used to tell Katie and Ella that I gave all my words to them when they were in my belly . . . and even now, when I am looking at something and can't remember the word for it, the girls will say, "It's ok Mom . . . remember? You gave your words to me." I totally did. I'm sure of it.

Whew . . . I am glad that is over.

Now, onto the next part of this lovely award ceremony. The questions and answer time. Here I will answer 11 questions that have been presented to me by my dearest Nat. There are some great things in here . . . I hope you enjoy them!

1. What is your earliest memory? One of my earliest memories is being in my bedroom at my parents home and hearing my Dad come home and running down the hallway towards my dad. I remember my Dad picking me up and giving me a big hug. I had to have been really young - maybe four or five  - for my Dad to pick me up. I remember him saying I was getting so big and he didn't know how much longer he could pick me up like that. It truly is one of my very first memories. 

2. If you had to eat just one type of food for a week, what would it be? Cheesecake . . . but I think I already hinted at that in my "random facts" above, don't you think? That . . . or pasta. Love them BOTH, big time! 

3. Which place do you absolutely have to see before you die? Italy. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, to be exact. Michelangelo . . . I remember studying him and his work when I was a child. To see it would be a dream . . . and this September . . . I'm DOING IT!!!!

4. What is your favourite film of all time? Yikes . . . this is SUCH a hard one for me! I have quite a few . . . but I guess I have to honestly say "Singing in the Rain." I could pat my lap along with every single tap of Gene Kelly's shoes for that whole movie . . . must have watched it at least 100 times in my life (and I am not kidding, either!) Second runner up . . . "Moonstruck". For real.

5. And favourite book? Ok . . . so this is an answer that, even a year ago, I never would have given. But I have to honestly say . . . the Bible. I am not one of those holy roller people (you know who they are . . . not that there is anything wrong with them . . . but I am clearly not a religious preacher or anything of the sort). But when I sit and read just a few of the readings in the bible . . . it is an amazing story, isn't it? All of the stories are all pretty amazing, actually. And while I have read lots of non-bible books that are incredible and have moved me . . . I have to be honest and say that the Bible is my very favorite. Truly.

6. You are about to be stranded on a desert island for 6 months. What three things would you take with you? Ok, assuming that there would be water and food on the island available for me . . . I'd have to say 1) my family (Phil and the girls), because I couldn't imagine being there without them, 2) A camera, to take photos of all the adventures we would go on and 3) a sketch book and some writing materials to journal and draw and create with. I am certain there would be more valuable and important items to bring along with me . . . but as of this moment, those are the first three things that come to mind. 

7. If you were hosting a dinner party and could invite any four guests (famous or not), who would you invite and why? My Dad and my Grandma Josephine (both of whom I have so many questions for them about their life that I never got a chance to ask them when they were here), my Mom (who I know would love to sit with both of them again), and God . . . because I think He would provide the best answers to all of us.

8. What was your first blog post about? I actually had to go back and review to confirm. My first blog post was on July 21, 2009 . . . and it was about (of course), starting this blog. It was called "Here We Go" and was 164 words (unlike this post . . . which has my fingers cramping as I type!) You can read it by clicking the title link, if you want. ;)

9. What inspires you to blog? My kids, my husband, my life. I can be inspired by a drive down a favorite road (as I have often written about), or while in line at Target. Inspiration surrounds us all . . . you just have to be open enough to receive it. And for me . .  .it's everywhere.

10. What one thing will you never, ever do again? Drive straight through to New York City from Chicago at 9pm on a Tuesday night with a car full of kids, spend one day there, and drive straight back. We did this last August . . . and I still don't think I have recovered yet.

11. What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you? Wow. This one is hard. People are always doing nice things for me. Seriously. I am surrounded by kind hearted souls who give so much to me and my family . . . it's mind blowing. I am blessed. To label one of them as the "nicest" is impossible. Really. I've received notes from friends telling me that I have a made a difference in their life, I have been supported in my creative endeavors by so many that I can't even count, I have been watched over by a sister who refuses to let anyone hurt me, I have been financially saved by this same sister during countless moments in life, I have been given flowers by friends and loved ones for no reason at all, had dinner made for us out of love by others, been allowed to be someones friend, been worried about, protected and probably prayed for more than I even know. Yes, identifying one thing is impossible. Identifying thousands of things . . . much more possible. 
 
So there you have it, my friends. 11 random things about me, followed by my answers to 11 cool questions from my friend Nat. You have probably learned much more about me than you ever wanted to know, and I thank you for sitting by for all of that. 
 
Now . . . the fun part. I get to choose some friends to pass this award on to, and to give 11 questions to. This is hard for me, as I haven't been really good keeping up with my blog friends in days of late. So while I won't be passing it on to 11 people . . . I gladly will pass on this Liebster Award to the following awesome bloggers, and hope they will share some randomness and answer some questions from me. 
 
I hereby pass on the Liebster Award to . . .
 
Destination: Unknown and my friend, Nicole
{Words of Me Project} and my friend, Leslie
My Very Educated Mother and my friend, Erin
Opened Door and my friend, Jodene
Small Steps to Giant Leaps and my friend, Peggy (who hasn't blogged in a while, but will hopefully play along just to humor me!)

Now, my beloved friends . . . here are your 11 questions from me. I am really interested in YOUR answers . . . from the people I really respect and admire. So I do hope you will play along.

1. What advice would your younger self give to your now self?
2. What is in your happiness jar?
3. What's for dinner tonight?
4. What would you do if you were not afraid?
5. How old would you be if you didn't know how old you really are? (or - how old do you feel?)
6. What would the theme song of your life be?
7. What is your favorite day of the week?
8. How do you relax?
9. What is your best advice for living a happy life?
10. If able to go on a shopping spree, what is the first thing you would purchase?
11. What is the color of your life?

Thanks, friends. I appreciate everyone reading through the post, and look forward to reading all of my friends answers in their own posts! Don't forget to visit each others blogs!!!

Peace!

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