Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It Feels Like Home

This past weekend, my home church in Mt. Pleasant, SC celebrated its 25th anniversary, and being 1,000 miles away made me a little sad as I would not get to participate. For some people, a church's anniversary might not be THAT big of deal personally. For this girl though, my church was not just a church but a family, a sanctuary, and a home. I miss it every single weekend.

My church came into my life 13 years ago when I attended on a whim (thanks to an invitation that I accepted reluctantly). I still remember like it was yesterday, sitting there like a deer in headlights, as hundreds of people around me sang their hearts out. Their joy within the service was very foreign to me. I couldn't grasp the clapping and the hands raised in praise. Foreign yet fascinating. The one thing I do remember grasping was the message. Surely my friend who brought me had called Pastor Greg and told him what I needed to hear. And so I listened for the first time in my life, even after growing up in the church. I heard every word. From there on I never looked back. Never.

In my last 13 years of their last 25, I gained friendships through Seacoast that are wonderfully knitted together. While these friends are people I can be the silliest with, dance the night away with, they're also the prayer warriors in my life. I know with one quick text or email, they've got my back. I've also battled multiple bouts with depression inside of those church walls. At my darkest times, the only reprieve I'd feel was in those chairs. For one hour, the black grip on my head and heart would slowly fall away. I'd gain the strength I needed to just put one foot in front of the other as I'd walk out into the world again until healing would come physically. Seacoast also brought me the opportunity to serve on medical missions and has now been a catalyst for a third world passion that runs deep in my heart. They gave me ways to serve beyond what I could ask or imagine. Being able to create and lead Cinderella Day was an honor I'll cherish forever.

Although I cannot attend weekly anymore, Seacoast offers live online services, so this homesick Seacoaster was able to join in the celebration from across the miles just as though I was there. And there's just something about sitting in your own home while Pastor Greg shares his heart and his vision and celebrates so many of the years that brought you so much light and joy. I suddenly didn't feel so far away. I was suddenly home.

To my home church by the sea, congratulations on 25 wonderful years of growth, impact, leadership, kingdom wins, loving on not just your attendees, but also people and community in general. You are a true example of faith lived out. You're thousands strong as His hands and feet. You're His heart in a way that allows some of the unseen to be seen and felt and touched and grasped. You're visionaries and game changers. You fight for those that cannot fight for themselves when it comes to poverty, slavery, orphans, and much more. You change lives one chair, one person at a time, for generations to come. I know that my future generations will know our awesome Lord thanks to your words that one Sunday morning 13 years ago.

And for that, and for you, I thank you. My soul thanks you. My eternity thanks you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday High Fives

Here, Here for some high five-able moments/things brought to you by yet another chilly week in the Midwest...
  • Fleece lined tights. Where have you been all my life??? You are like walking around in jammies while looking fancy. I heart you and your plushness.
  • Piggy visiting the groomers. He smells so fantastic and is so soft that I have to fight the urge about 5 times a day to just sit there and rub my face on him. My love for him knows no bounds, but even I must draw the line at repeated face rubbing as a fur-mom.
  • A weekend in my happy place for my BFF's wedding. It was THE most gorgeous day. And she was THE most gorgeous bride.
  • Getting to spend some quality time catching up with two other BFF's on the above mentioned weekend. As I told one of them already "you're good for my soul." Some people just are and I'm so lucky to have them and to have the time to really talk for an extended period of time. The Lord has blessed me abundantly with those sweet girls.
  • Working out again. Yep, you read that correctly. I worked out twice this week. Boom.
  • Knowing that Thanksgiving is less than a week away. I'm pretty sure it's my favorite holiday. When else does everyone stop and give thanks? And let's face it, the food is incredible which makes it all the more wonderful.
  • Locking in some travel plans for the Hubs Ironman Texas triathlon in May. He's only just begun, but I'm already a proud wife.
  • This super short video clip that had me crying. If you aren't familiar with the song "Royals" than this clip will mean nothing to you. But if you love the song as much as I do, this 8 seconds will make your day. From the mouth of babes.
  • Being a part of Transform Rockford and seeing that over 1,400 citizens came out to learn more about the movement and how to get involved. It's time to take back our city. There's never been a more critical time. "I am Transform Rockford." Are you?
Have a wonderful weekend, Y'all!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Really, Pinterest?!

Well, folks, it's that time of year again when Pinterest throws a million and one ideas at me for holiday d├ęcor and goodies, and all I can do is laugh at how much time some people must have on their hands. May I have one or two of those frivolous hours, pretty please?

I love a good "pin" here and there, but for the most part, this time of year makes my pinning breaks a little less enjoyable. Well, sometimes when the pins are really absurd, it actually makes my pinning break that much more enjoyable, but for the most part, I just sit there and shake my head. Pinterest, ain't nobody got time for that!!

In a nod to my similar post in 2012, I give you a few of my favorite, colossal waste of time pins from our dear pals at Pinterest:

 Just a head's up here, if I'm serving you chips as my guests, it's because I'm too lazy to make any other form of potato. No potato salad, no mashed potatoes, and forget scalloped while you're at it. Therefore, I can guarantee you that I will not be "scalloping" any baggie that your portion of chips might come in. And for the record, if I'm serving chips, they'll be making their grand appearance in a bowl. Just one big ole bowl. Peace out, individual brown, fancy baggies. Don't be ridiculous.

For starters, I think this tree is ugly. What are we trying to accomplish here, people? Is it a birthday party/Christmas tree/giant water balloon toss storage unit? If you have time to blow up all of those balloons, power to the people. My guess is that it's also super fun to adhere those balloons to each prickly branch. Hours and hours of fun and cursing for the whole family, while your dog and children have small heart attacks each time one pops.
And nothing says Christmas quite like a rainbow, right? Riiiigggghhhhttt.
I'm about 50% on board with the pin below. I do love to throw some fresh pine cones in a pretty bowl. But that's where I call it a day. I'm pretty sure if the Hubs walked in and I'm wrapping individual pine cones in festive yarn while watching the Real Housewives, he may suggest a few other things I could be doing around the house that are a bit more productive. You know, like changing the ink in our pens, dusting our light bulbs, or counting the seams in our crown molding.
If you're giving me Tic Tacs for Christmas, a post-it note and a sharpie with the whole "snow man poop" jargon will suffice. We'll both giggle for a second on how clever you are and then I'll eat the breath mints steadily over time and everyone will win. I can't think of any reason why fabric and a sewing machine must enter into the equation. No, for real.
You all know how I feel about the whole Elf on the Shelf already, so on this one, I'll just leave it at "Just no." Step away from the sugar and the Barbie car. YOU will be the ones cleaning that up, mom and dad. Can we just all agree to buy the dang elf, move him around a bit and leave the messes to your real, human children? At least when THEY make the mess, THEY get to clean it up.
Lastly, this one might be one of my favorites. I don't know about the men in your life, but the men in mine who drink Budweiser, would be completely happy with the free 6 pack. Slap some googly eyes and pipe cleaners on those "Bud heavies" and you've just taken away their manhood. Just like that, one stick on eye at a time. Just give the men some free beer and save the craft time for your kids. Men do not need "Reinbeer" any more than I need a sewn case for my "snow man poop".  
On that, I am certain.
Happy Pinning, Everyone!!
It's only just begun...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Weekend in Review

I love a good weekend in Charleston, SC. And I love a good love story, so it's safe to say that I LOVED every detail about this past weekend in my 2nd hometown. Well, almost every detail. I could've done without the 4am wake-up call yesterday morning to board our flight back to Chicago, but the good outweighs the bad on this one.

Our first evening in Charleston was a "date night" before the whirlwind began. I know we always come in and go from one event to the next, so we decided to carve out one night for a little rest by the fire and a wonderful dinner out on the town. We literally ate our body weight in delicious, southern cuisine at High Cotton. The picture below was just before my glorious nap. After a 4:30am wake-up call on Thursday morning and a day of travel, this girl collapsed in front of the fire with a Charleston Magazine and took a little snooze under the down comforter at the Inn at I'ON. Heaven, my friends, heaven.  I wanted to move in forever.
PS...If you find yourself at High Cotton, the "Picnic Plate" is glorious. Hands down, THE best fried green tomatoes I've ever eaten, along with pimento cheese and these black garlic, barbecue peanuts that will make you question every other peanut you've ever eaten. Every other peanut in history is now a slacker in my book.
And on Friday, we let the wedding festivities begin with a lovely bridal luncheon followed by manis and pedis and champagne. I swear this photo was not done in a Sear's studio.

By Friday night, we were ready to shuck the night away with the soon to be Mr. & Mrs. at a Lowcountry oyster roast directly on the inter-coastal waterway. It slightly makes my heart hurt now to be so very far from the saltwater and pluff mud yet again, but that night was amazing. And I loved teaching the Hubs how to dig in and shuck some oyster clusters.


No, the Hubs and I did not plan to match. What??? It just happens, okay.

Finally, the big day was here so we ventured over to Alhambra Hall in Mt. Pleasant for a little girl time to get all beautified together. Our bride, aka T- Payne, was all sorts of calm and collected. We chatted, laughed, got teary a few times and toasted our girl with some champagne. It was the perfect start to a perfect day.
One of the Maids of Honor gathered over a dozen sweet "letters to the bride" for T-Payne to read on her big day. Each one was written by a friend, family member, and also the groom and her future 4 year old step son. Precious, I tell you. Great work, Lyza! I'm sure this will be something she'll read and reread for years to come.
And as with many brides who are sequestered while guests and grooms arrive, T-Payne snuck a quick peek from the bridal suite. I think my favorite quote of the day came from her about 15 minutes before we walked down the aisle "I just want to be with him already. I miss him." Awww.
From the harbor view to the floating candles amongst the oaks and Spanish moss, everything was divine. They could not have asked for a more gorgeous day in November.


And as the bride walked out of the building for the ceremony, she gave a quick three "pumps" of her bouquet in the air signaling "here we go, let's do this". It was a genuine moment that made us all belly laugh and I'm so thankful Rebecca captured it at the very moment she did it. That's our girl! Let's do this! And they did. They "do".

From there on, the rest of the weekend was filled with cherished reunions, dancing, great food and celebrating the new Mr. & Mrs. Payne. Congrats & all the love in the world for you three!

T-Payne's new stepson. She's going to be an amazing mom!
To say their photographer, Richard Bell is a genius, would be a colossal understatement. Gorgeous!

And they lived happily ever after in the prettiest city in the world.
That's how the saying goes, right?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Deep Thoughts About Packing

Just kidding. All I have to say on that topic is that I despise packing. I've yet to master the art of packing light, regardless of how much travel I've completed in the last 34 years. I pretty much pack everything I own and yet, when I arrive, I will hate every single option that I've packed. Just ask my husband.

No amount of planning, list making, brainstorming, studying the weather, etc...will prepare and enable me to pack accurately and lightly.

For lack of a better word, I suck at packing. And there you have it.

So, who wants to pack for me????

And because this post was random and lackluster at best, I leave you with this 7 minute break of hilarity. Enjoy, friends.

And if you have any packing words of wisdom you'd like to share with me, I'm all ears!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Warehouse, a Box, and a Love Story

With my recent pickin' adventures, I've certainly encountered all of our fair share of old, dusty, and forgotten treasures. I've dug through more dust and history in the last month than I have in my lifetime. I've pulled items of boxes that probably haven't seen the light of day in decades and it makes me feel good to bring some of these items back to life. Like I'm redeeming their worth in some small way.

One of the items that I stumbled across on the hunt for who knows what, was an old shirt box that was literally falling apart. Just the smell alone made my car smell like "dust and old people" as I text to my business partner. Upon first glance under the lid, I thought "oh cool, tons of old letters. I can probably do something with those." Approximately 30 seconds after I thought "I can do something with those" came the pressing feeling of "I need to find the family that these belong to." And thus began my hunt for living descendants of Robert & Norma Collins of Rockford, IL. Aka, my new love story.

With a slightly obsessive personality (there, I finally put it in writing), I spent my first night as temporary owner of these love notes just digging and reading and "ohhh"ing and "ahh"ing over each item I pulled out. I'm not sure that the Hubs enjoyed them as much as I did, but when I found a new Valentine's card from Robert or a Christmas card from Norma, I'd swoon a little bit and make Tim look at each one before I'd move on to the next.

What appears to be a long distance love story unfolding in 1930, grew into steady letters through the early '30's and became a marriage around 1936. In one letter, Robert shares his fear that Norma had decided not to write anymore, but alas, a few days letter, a letter arrived and his fears subsided. Whew! There are many "darlings" and "Always Yours". There are precious countdowns until they could see each other again and there are greeting cards for every major holiday without fail.

I think what struck me as the sweetest part was that even upon marriage, they still mailed each other sweet holiday cards. And often times, while still dating, Norma would pencil in on the outer envelope what gift had arrived in a letter from Robert. For the reader, it was even sweeter to know that a bracelet had arrived with the graduation letter. Way to go, Robert! It has truly been a love story unfolding before my eyes.

So, what to do with these letters? They just seem too personal, too special to keep them myself, although I'm already pretty attached so I know I'd treasure them. I just don't think that my new friend, Norma, would want me to hold onto them. They belong with their grandchildren or great grandchildren. Those letters need the chance to "come home". Knowing that much, I've spent quite a few hours digging into this family that I have completely no ties too. Thanks to Ancestry.com, I have created an entire Collins family tree and I can now trace their family back to the 1800's, with one side hailing from Ireland. This process has been sweet and crazy and pretty insane all at the same time as I'm pretty sure I now qualify as a borderline Collins family stalker.

I'm pretty sure at times over the weekend when I'd blurt out "so did you know Thomas was a 4 Star General and Chief of Staff?" I'd have to remind myself that these people aren't actually my family and therefore I need to first reference who the heck Thomas is when speaking out loud to the Hubs about my new findings.

However, with all of that to say, I do believe I have found two of their grandchildren living in Illinois! I'm just awaiting their response. Not so patiently. But it feels good to have a lead and I'm praying the clues that I've found have gotten this dusty old box one step closer to going home where it can be loved and cherished. How often do we get a glimpse into someone's love story in their own words? It's pretty rare. Way too rare for it to be sitting in a warehouse, that's for sure.

Robert & Norma, for whatever reason we were brought together, thanks for allowing me to witness your love story. Those 75+ letters have taught me how to be more intentional with my words in my own marriage, and that even though you get married, that doesn't mean you should stop "courting" one another. And lastly, you've taught me how to be diligent and persistent, and that what appears to be a dead end while searching for something important, is actually just another opportunity to think outside of the box (no pun intended!).

Now let's get you two love birds home!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday High Fives

Seriously, how is it Friday again? Don't get it twisted, no one here is complaining. I just can't fathom that it's been a full week from the last High Five'dness. Feels like two days, tops. I'm thinking that's a sure fire sign that I need to slow down and smell the roses pumpkins!

Today, I bring you the lovely little things that have kept my sanity hanging by a thread intact this week:
  • A few new recipes that were delicious, thanks, Pinterest and Cooking Light.
    • Although, a minor "low five" to the author of the Homemade Light Loaded Potato Soup recipe. In what universe did that recipe take you 20 minutes. Try an hour and twenty. You're lucky it was tasty, my friend.
  • Receiving my first "StitchFix" shipment. More to come on that one next week. If you've never checked them out, it's a pretty cool concept! https://www.stitchfix.com/
  • Another Thursday evening spent with these beautiful people. Is it too much to ask to become part of their family? I'd settle for being a neighbor or distant cousin twice removed.

  • Discovering a 20 minute gap of breathing room in my 12 hour work day yesterday. It was so unexpected and so cherished that I called the Hubs to notify him that I was "on vacation" for the next 20 minutes. #mentalvacation  #slowdown #nomoremeetings

  • Pickin' round two in my aunt's warehouse. It's ironic that my serious phobia of spiders is null and void once I begin treasure hunting. #moveouttheway
  • Awaiting our small group's "Friendsgiving" dinner at our house on Sunday. I'm so excited to hang out with the 4 other couples over delicious food, a cozy fire and football. If you see flames coming from our driveway that afternoon, don't panic, it's just a deep fried turkey:)
  • A little baby shower for a coworker after work tonight.
  • Having the Hubs home this weekend. I'm glad he had fun on his guy's weekend last weekend, but I much prefer the weekends when I get to hang out with him. And the nights are way less creepy in our old home with him around. Win!
Have a great weekend, Y'all!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Part of the Solution

About two months ago, I received an invitation completely out of the blue. It wasn't a "hey, want to come to this fabulous party" invitation, but more so a "hey, what are you doing for the next, I don't know, 5-7 years" sort of invitation. I knew roughly zero information on what I was truly signing up for, but I accepted. Of course I did. I usually say yes to causes and/or invitations. Just call me an activist or a sucker, or maybe a little of both is probably more accurate.

As many people know, thanks to our friends at Forbes, our city is listed as the 3rd Most Miserable City in America. Thanks again, Forbes. And let me tell you, moving my life from a Forbes "top city" to a Forbes "worst city" is disheartening and an unpleasant pill to swallow. You may remember my thoughts about it here earlier this year.

As luck would have it, Forbes' little ranking, along with the real issues plaguing our community, lit a fire under some folks who want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. In a community where the naysayers are often ten times louder than the rest of us, it was time to stand up and take back our city. Issue by issue. Dollar by dollar. Brick by brick and job by job. I begun to hear rumblings of a "rogue group" of local business leaders who were banding together to give our town a fighting chance. And although they were just rumors, the names and titles that were being whispered  were pretty impressive. If this was real and true, it appeared that this "movement" might have some weight behind it and a voice that might carry some clout.

So consider my shock when my phone rang one day with an invitation to join this hushed movement? At first I thought they had the wrong number. Seriously. But alas, for some odd reason, they meant to call me. When given the offer to attend a meeting to learn what my role would be should I accept, I agreed. It was worth an hour of my time to hear if these rumblings were true. And they were. They are. And they mean business.

I can assure you that although this group wants to be part of the solution versus sitting in our cozy homes and shaking our head with pity every single day as we watch the news, we still don't have all of the answers. What we do have is an acceptance for the challenge, albeit a surmountable challenge. We also have a passion for this city; our city. We know, as a whole, we have crippling issues, but we also know that 1,000 voices are stronger than 1. We're also committed to being a champion amongst the naysayers. We commit to being louder than them with the truth and the raw facts. We're committed to fighting for our hometown, but doing it in a way that is inclusive, welcoming and thought-provoking. We're committed to finding the answers together, across city lines, river divides, ethnicity and religion. We're uniting for the greater good, because when it's all said and done, it's for our own good. We live here and we'll raise our children here and I want this city to be something I'm proud to call home. I always have, but there's a group of roughly 100 members who want it be 300,000 people strong and proud.

Will you join me in being part of OUR solution? This city just might depend on it.
"A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday High Fives

It's Friiiiiiidddaaaayyyy, and that right there deserves its own high five of great proportions.

High fives all around for these small delights:
  • Receiving 10, yes 10, trick or treaters last night! Granted, they were in 2 groups so our door only got to open twice, but c'mon, I'll take it. I was so excited since that's a 200% increase from last year's numbers. Thank God we had a small amount of candy in the house or those kiddos would've received instant oatmeal packets and microwave popcorn.
  • Another pickin' session waiting in the wings for tomorrow.
  • Watching this guy marry his best friend last weekend. I've known him for 15 years. He's been one the few men in my life, outside of family and my husband, that has seen me at my best AND my worst and has never walked away. He was a "bridesman" in my wedding and I was so glad to be there for his.

  • My fun new sweater with leather accents that I'm enjoying on casual Friday in the office. It's a little bit preppy and a little bit rock-n-roll. If I were a donor, I'd gladly give money to anyone in this sweater.
  • Spending Halloween with the cutest little elephant I ever did see.

  • Enjoying a pumpkin beer on all Hallow's Eve.
  • Being asked to judge ice show try-outs at my old rink in November. I've missed the smell of the ice lately.
  • Never having to participate in any ice show try-outs myself. Yuck. But I'll gladly judge them while other poor skaters have to participate!
  • All of the beautiful fall colors that grace almost every view from inside of our home. I love walking from room to room with the escort of red, gold, and orange leaves to brighten my mundane journey.

  • New spiced latte creamer to help jump start my morning.
  • The promise of groceries this weekend! Due to travel, our cupboards are the most bare I've ever seen them. We've had to be very creative with our meal planning until we had a free night to hit the store. Going colossally overboard at Valli Produce this weekend is very a real possibility.
  • Traveling with this guy. I swear, we have the most fun together on airplanes. At one point I leaned over and said "why are the most silly at 16,000 feet?" Maybe if all else fails, we can become flight attendants together! Even being the ONLY row on the flight without a window gave us 2 hours of entertainment.
Please excuse the old photo from our honeymoon, but I just think he looks too handsome for it to sit in a photo archive somewhere.
Enjoy your weekend!