Thursday, December 31, 2009

Its the last day of 2009 and looking back it seems to be a mixed bag. At first glance in my mind's snapshots, I just feel like it was generally lousy. The country has been through one of the worst economical downfalls to date, and the "savior"in chief (as deemed by the mainstream media) has done little to help, in fact has likely lengthened and exacerbated our downward swing. An effect of that on us, and Obama's idiotic tax on coal, has led Tony to be laid off pretty much the whole year from CSX, getting called back right before Thanksgiving, just to be laid off again any day now. Oh and there has been so much more that immediately come to mind when reflecting on 2009.

I choose however, to glean the positive from this less than stellar year. My 2 girls have been healthy this year. Ella's first year of life in 2008 was marked by many hospital visits - jaundice, vaccine adverse reaction and especially the end of the year w/ 3 bouts of MRSA, the first being exceptionally frightening. January09, she overcame it and has been healthy ever since! Laci has been healthy as always, something to never take for granted.

Tony and I had fun opportunities, ironically afforded by his lack of CSX employment to go to many Christian concerts this summer and fall. Working for CSX means no set schedule which means, forget about making plans. This was something we missed and it provided a much needed release from the everyday pressures of parenthood, allowing us to just be Tony and Mandy for awhile. Not to mention, we saw some great shows!!!

We've made new friends and connected with some we'd lost contact with. Our friends mean so much to us, and many are considerd as important parts of our family!

I finally took the step to start my photography business which has been a blessing. CreatedImage photography is doing better than I would have thought in its first few months, and that without advertising! I thoroughly enjoy the experience of working with people and the creative outlet it brings. Of course the financial aspects are helpful as well! I'm excited for the future of my photography and looking forward to being even more busy in 2010!

As rotten as some parts of this year have been, I can see God laying the groundwork for some real blessings for my family in 2010.

CSX is looking up for this year, and Tony immediately got a 25% raise when he got called back. When he can work steady, (possibly not til spring, but we're praying if he gets furlowed in Cumberland he can transfer to 1 of 2 other locations) we will definitely have an increase and release from financial strain.

We've recently decided to move to a farm house his parents offered us. We've gutted the place and have awesome floor plans from a wonderful Christian contractor who is known for doing excellent work and fast! He seems very excited about the job and is set to start the remodel and additions to the house in the next week or 2. We'll be gaining a lot of square footage in this house, and its going to have everything we wanted! Such a blessing. 

2010 is looking so good, I have to say, hit the road 2009! I'm not looking back, I'm just looking forward to all that God has in store for us this coming year. Praying blessings on everyone and that this coming year find you happy. healthy and in the hand of God!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Follow the star to a place unexpected,

Would you believe after all we've projected,

A child in a manger?

Lowly and small, the weakest of all

Unlikliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl

Just a child-

Is this who we've waited for? 'cause...

How many kings have stepped down from their

How many lords have abandoned their homes?

How many greats have become the least for me?

And how many gods have poured out their heart

Romancing a world that was torn all apart

How many father's gave up their son for me?

Only one did that for me.

All for me.

All for you."

I've cerainly not had trouble getting into the Christmas spirit, I love Christmas. I love everything about it, from how people find a little more kindness to spread, people spreading Christmas cheer by singing loud for all to hear ;) (esp. when its me in a store, embarassing my 16 year old sister), when that Grinch we all know has a heart that suddenly grows 3 sizes that day, finding the perfect present that will make children's eyes light up and of course that warmth in your heart when you think about our God, lowering himself by putting on flesh and coming down to us, to a world He created, that we destroyed-all to save us from ourselves.

I think those are the best moments and the song above by Downhere (link below) really brought that all into focus tonight driving away from the chaos of Walmart. I think we all know the Christmas story so well, even if you aren't a believer yourself, that we forget truly what it means and the beauty of it. This song is one that brings it to life and makes you realize the love expressed to us by our God.

My hope for this Christmas is that we can all see and remember the pure beauty of God coming as the weakest among us.

I pray this Christmas season

For those know Him, seek Him with all your heart to know him better still

Those who are fearful, rest under his wings.

Those who are hurting ,allow him to whisper comfort to your soul

Those who are broken, give him the pieces to put back together

Those who are weary, rest at his feet

Those who are uncertain, trust, falling back into his arms

Those whom he longs for, listen to the gentle pleading in your heart and answer his call

Those who have run from, turn around and find him waiting for you with the same loving arms you once fled from.

May you all have a blessed Christmas, and know true happiness.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hey guys, check out Prissy Mommy's build a bear giveaway Holly and Hal moose!

Follow her blog too if you're a momma good stuff...

None of you better win though. I have 2 girlies lovin' them some moose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What its All About...

So I went to a concert all the way in Indiana this weekend. Headliners (and our drawing point) were the newsboys with some other great bands like Seventh Day Slumber also performing. I will admit, consciously I knew my reason for going really didn't have much to

do with God. I even said it to myself. I'm going for the newsboys, to have fun with my friends and to get a much needed break. Yes, being a Christian concert, God was involved, if even indirectly. But He wasn't my reason for going. I love the newsboys lately and was excited to get a chance to see them on this tour as they are not coming near us. I had already lamented to the drummer and he apologized and then Jenn called and said "We're going to IN". YAY! So my reasoning had nothing to do with experiencing God, it could have been any other rock concert for me in my intentions.

I took my camera with me, my pro one. The last 2 newsboys concert I've been to this summer I just had a small point and shoot and had been unable to take the photos I'd really wanted. I spent a lot of time during the opening acts taking pics for light testing and during Seventh Day Slumber I took some real shots, b/c I now like them (great in concert, wish I'd had gone to the Cumberland show!) Now, we had decent seats, but not the best thanks to a foul up on our dear Duncan's part. A newsboy rep was supposed to meet Jenn and me and spirit us away to a magical world of backstage fun and drum riser pics. Didn't happen. What did happen though was Duncan coming out and personally apologizing to us profusely for quite some time and then letting us hang out with him in a restricted off stage area. Quite fun indeed. Unfortunately, what this meant was I had to shoot through the crowd, which with my lens is no big deal. However, we were at a Christian concert. This meant that many hands at times were raised above heads, making it much more difficult to shoot. I actually at one point during S.Day Slumber thought, darn it if these people would quit worshipping....not a good thought, even though I was joking. (somewhat). Then I saw these 3 guys that just would not put their darn hands down and of course, they were right in my line of shooting to get the frontman in frame. So I put down my camera for a minute and enjoyed the songs more consciously than before. While I was doing that I thought to shut off the flash to get these guys in sillouhette, with the front man focused. Doing this I got some pretty cool shots. One like the one above, which I am calling, What Its All About.

You see, even if you're like me and you just need a good time so you head to a concert to see a rock band, if you're going to a Christian show, its not going to be just a show. It can't be. You see, no matter what your intentions, if you get together with a group of Christians and start singing praises-screamed in a hard song or sung softly in worship-God shows up. Its no longer a concert. Its no longer about the band you are obsessed with. God's presence fills the room and your focus is drawn to him. Its not about the drums, lights, guitars, vocals-its about God. I saw that picture and immediately thought-that's what its all about-worship. The hands praising God are in the forefront and the rock star seems far in the distance and seen through that worship. Even though I went not necessarily for a God experience (though I knew there would be one) he still comes. It still happens and my focus is still drawn to him.

I don't even know how to explain the awe-encompassing experience of gathering together with thousands of strangers for a fun time, you end up singing and then sharing in God's awesome presence. It is such a beautiful thing, so comforting, so powerful, so beyond words. Even if you really aren't in the mood to feel God or worship, you can't help it. Its real, its tangible, its the Creator of the universe and all things spending time with his people, his children. Its so much more than a concert, its love coming down among us.

Going to a concert is so fun and exciting and makes me feel young again. But I am thankful that I can go to concerts that just don't have an empty purpose of entertaining but that I can go and have the time of my life and leave knowing I met with my God.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Christmas for adults.

So Sunday I'm leaving for a short road trip with our best friends and can't wait! Sensible people wouldn't travel over 8 hours for a concert, but what fun is there in sensible? Not to mention Tony and I have seen this band twice in the last four months and the Porter's just saw them last month. But, its one heck of a concert and a great time -so definitely worth it.

I so need this right now anyway. Though I love staying home with my kids and not having to hire someone to raise them, it gets tough. Right now is one of those times. Laci is increasingly needy and Ella is, well Ella, and increasingly Beastly. You would think learning new words would help with tantrums, but the words she is using instead have apparently increased her understanding of what she wants and what she is receiving are two drastically different concepts and this infuriates her more than normal. Having the toddler brain operating entirely on the id portion, leads to an entire day of screams "I WANT IT WANT IT WANT IT!" and "I WUB IT" as if her undying love for my phone will force me to hand it over.

This being said, I've been a working mom the last couple weeks, subbing at Laci's school and haven't even had much time with them! I think possibly spending my patience on other people's children has left my well dry by the time I come home. I love them more anything, but sometimes that doesn't get me through! We all need breaks, and basing that mine and Tony's conversations are limited to texting due to interruptions from kids everytime one of us opens our mouths, I think we are due!

Understandably, this weekend is looking more and more appealing by the moment. Top it off with the fact that the 4 of us rarely get to do anything and then usually the kids are in tow, this is just what we need! 8 hours in a car usually doesn't sound appealing, but with great friends it can be a great time, (and again, no kids). Add to that Jenn and I have amped ourselves up like kids seeing sugar plums dancing in their heads on Christmas Eve and its been a great two weeks of planning. Of course, who else could turn a free concert into a rather expensive venture but us, with our customized chucks, stalker gift bags for the 'boyz, necessary Snuggies and photos w/the drummer on his crazy drum riser contraption and more?! But like the title said, this is as fun for me as looking forward to Christmas as a child was and its been worth it and we aren't even there yet!

I think a lot of times as adults we don't allow ourselves much to look forward to,instead focusing on the duldrums of daily life we are accustomed to and don't really live. We need to stop focusing on our work and our tasks at hand and live a little.

We will be Sunday yay! Hopefully, we'll make it through security okay. (our favorite drummer has a facebook we frequent, so he may have extra measures in place). Must go, Beastie is running toward me with a cup yelling "more juice". See what I mean?

Monday, September 21, 2009

"There is nothing wrong with change if It is in the right direction" Winston Churchill

After substituting in Laci's first grade class today I could not be happier that I didn't finish my early childhood education training. Oh my goodness, my blood pressure would be through the roof! I love substituting, but I know at 3 pm. it comes to an end. I cannot fathom dealing with this for an entire year. I have no idea why I thought I wanted to do that. Of course, I chose my major before I had children of my own, which may have much to do with it.

Days like this make me wonder why we make the decisions we make, especially those that do not come to the end intended. Case in point-my career. I could be negative and think it was a waste of time and money, but I know it isn't. I learned valuable things in that major, especially for someone who deals with children all day-even if they are my own. I met many people I wouldn't have and was able to impress upon their lives and they on mine. There are so many underlying outcomes to our choices in life other than the major obvious ones and when faced with doubt its always good to consider these.

Another big change in our life, we may be moving. I dont' know, its still talk, but we have an opportunity to move out of a house we like, but don't love. We'd be able to live mortgage free (yay) rent free (whoopee) and use our money to renovate a great big farm house with lots of potential. (and more extra money than we've been used to the last few months!) I don't know had you told me to do this a few years ago, I probably would have spit in your face. Well maybe not but some spittle may have found its way on you as I vehemently argued. But I walked through it, and though definitely a fixer upper, whoo, I see so much potential and see what it could be. Now I could was theological and make a point about that is how God sees us, not messed up in our sin, but how beautiful we are through his redemption, but i'll save that for another time. The bedrooms are bigger, and there would be a fourth we could use as a playroom. Today I was told there was no dishwasher nor hookup for it which made me gasp, so I am planning on buying paper products for awhile lol. Take that Obama and your green team. I know it will be a huge undertaking but I think it will be great. There is so much to do in the house we have now to make what we want, that I told Tony, what is the difference? Yes the farmhouse will need more, but we will have all expendable money minus our utilities, so its not a problem! Living here we dont' have the expendable income to do what I want. I'm just a wee bit excited at the prospect and trying not to get my hopes up til we know for sure, but I think it will happen!

I've just felt a bit bogged down in trying to see through the mud in this failing economy which has hit us hard as Tony worked for CSX and the stupid coal tax BO imposed immediately upon entering the White House hit rail freight hard, especially the lines around here, not to mention the cars that they used to haul not being exactly in demand with a failing auto industry. So I'm thrilled at the prospect at getting our heads above water. Also wanting to get out of this dumb house before Cap and Tax, (trade) goes through. If we have to retrofit this sucker to environmental standards we'll never be leaving! I could chase another trail about the disgusting infringement on nearly all aspects of our lives by big govt, but I feel it needs its own special blog.

Lookin' forward to change, with anticipation, not fear!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

First blog

So this is my first blog on here. Though not my first blog entirely. I don't know how much I will blog or if it will be of any interest, but I've been pondering the blog thing, and it seems this is the popular place to start out. Now seemed like a good time due to changes I'm making in my life, it may be interesting to see it laid out before me in type. I've missed writing, I used to so often and now feel my prose rough and lacking the smooth verbiage of one who often puts meandering thoughts to print. I'm hoping through this, I'll regain some of that minimal talent I once possessed and regain another piece of me I've left to the wayside.

I'm at strange time and place in life where I am starting to feel I need to rediscover me. I think once becoming a parent so much of time and life itself gets wrapped up into these tiny precious beings that are entrusted to us that one feels the need to put all into the child and thereby self gets left behind. I find myself now coming to a point where, though I still feel I give all to the kids, I want a little more for me, or more accurately of me.

To do that I am having to search out who that even is now. Time has marched on, and I'm not sure I followed the beat of the drummer. I'm a few paces out of step and scrambling to get on the right foot. I feel a bit as though I've come out of a spitup, diaper, Disney princess induced haze of mommyhood and looking in the distance to see if I remain.

All of this sounds much more gloomy than it is. In actuality, I am quite content, more so than that, happy. I love my life and a few minor inconveniences withstanding, would not change anything. I just want more of this very life. I've merely fallen into the same trap so many young mommies fall into , the lie that if we don't give every last ounce of energy and self into these fledglings we've failed. In doing that I've lost alot of what I was, but am now recapturing.

I have had to make conscious efforts, since the arrival of number two affectionately named Beastie, to be lighthearted and humorous. Not on all occasions, but just in everyday little occurrence, mostly with my husband, who had complained too often "you're no fun anymore". His saying this was in jest but I took it to heart, b/c I really don't feel I had been myself in the fun department in that recent past. Now the effort is an unconscious one and I might add I'm more silly and free at home than ever. Note to Jenny, if you read this, Tony saw the shovel for the first time this year and I've even broken it out for Leigh Anne and at a wedding. ;) In this new rediscovering of myself I've become more of myself, and realized she hadn't gone away, she was just suppressed under the unending demands of the neediest two beautiful girls I know. Having kids is fun in itself, but also the weight of having little people depending on you and needing you tends to weigh heavily on shoulders, even if not realized. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and let it out in a hearty laugh.

Part of this journey has led me to realize how much I love photography. While I'd seriously thought about just jumping in, I hadn't thought I would. I'm not much of a risk taker, but if not now then possiby never. In reality its not much of a risk as I bought the camera and flash both with money from wedding shoots, so things worked well that way. I remember being at a concert this summer (another part of Tony and I recapturing part of ourselves and our diminishing youth) a Group 1Crew member was talking about doing what you have passion for. Actually he specifically used photography as an example. "If God has given you a passion for photography do it. Start your own business. Don't sit in an office or in a classroom or do anything else you don't enjoy and let your passion pass you by, God has given that desire to you for a reason" So while not necessarily intended for me I took it as encouragement and ran with it. Its been a blessing so far even though I've just started and has led to many late nights of photo editing and website designing after insomniac baby finally dozes. Its worth it, I feel less stressed and more fulfilled and more like I have a separate identity from Mommy.

Tony and I have learned to do more for ourselves as well. Small things like playing tennis and more exciting things like going to tons of concerts lately. I think we're practically groupies for a couple of bands. Its been great and let us recapture some of that fun we had when we were first together.

So this blog has become much more introspective than intended and too long so really what I am saying is, find that little thing each day that makes you happy. Don't lose yourself in life, whether it be your wonderful kids who zap your energy or that demanding job. You are too priceless to be lost in the shuffle.