Monday, April 30, 2012

Can a poop hater be an Urban Homesteader?

I'm about to make a scary confession. I have secret dreams of living off the land and having my own self-sufficient place where I don't ever have to leave (unless I want to). The realist in me knows that it's not possible right now, especially living in suburbia. However, a couple of years ago, I discovered the idea of Urban Homesteading. Which I quickly dismissed as being too hard, and I have great ideas, but really, I'm lazy. Plus, I hate poop. Of any kind. But seriously, when it comes to having any kind of animal, I'm anti-animal because I don't want to deal with their poop.

Then I became friends with this guy named Justin. Who, God love him, is the biggest activist for a ton of cool stuff I've ever met. Justin just started beekeeping. Which I thought was really interesting because I just read a bunch of stuff about Colony Collapse disorder and am now really concerned about bees. So I decided to start using natural ways of killing pests so I don't kill bees. Except, when I showed interest in Justin's bee project, he says, "I could build you a hive."

Um, crap. Me? With bees? I'm scared of bees! I avoid them, and I've always been afraid of stings because of my bad allergies. However, last fall, I experienced my first bee sting and did not die. Plus, bees do not make poop that I have to clean up. So I started thinking about his offer. And I mentioned it to hubby. Who seemed as ambivalent about my wild ideas as he always is. Then we went to Justin's house. He showed us the bees. He gave us a DVD about bees (which I haven't watched yet, but I will.). And then hubby gave me the most excited expression he gives about almost anything in relation to getting bees.

Yup, I think we're getting bees.

4 summers ago...
Okay, so bees don't make me a total nut. But Justin also showed us his chicken coop for his future chickens. Yes, backyard chickens are big in urban homesteading. I will admit, I've been somewhat intrigued by the idea of chickens as pets ever since I met my friend Shelley. She rescues chickens. She even talks about them on her blog. I've never been able to forget the words she spoke to me, probably five years ago, "chickens are really loving pets." Yes, loving. That's what she called them. This has intrigued me for years. However, I am still recovering from childhood chicken coop trauma. Let's not talk about it, except to say that I am not excited about chicken poop, and move on.

Back to Justin's future chickens... I offered my support for the endeavor and then told him my hesitation in getting chickens. Namely chicken poop.  But then Justin starts talking about how, if I let them roam my garden, they'll eat the bugs and poop on my plants, which is great fertilizer. My chickens could be free range during the day, then I could lock them up at night so the local foxes don't get them. If I planned it right, I'd never have to clean up chicken poop. Hmm... I think I might be okay with having chickens.

Meant to be?
So, I'm taking a chicken class this weekend.

Oh, and Justin showed me his worm farm. And guess what? It's basically composting your food in a bin, then worms eat the food, and poop. Then you take the poop and dump it on your plants, and you've got fertilizer. I was very impressed that the worm farm doesn't stink... yup, their poop don't stink. So I think I want one of those too.

Now, before everyone hates poor Justin for being a bad good influence on me, I did have these ideas before. He just showed me how to do them. However, I have one more desire to admit to... when I was looking at my chicken class info, I saw they also have goat classes. Let's thank Camy Tang for my goat love. Because she dragged me to visit a bunch of stupid animals (who poop. Remember, I hate poop) and I fell in love with the goat idea so I could spin their fiber. When I was a kid, I had a sweet pet goat who was MURDERED by the family horse. So I'm not sure I can handle the trauma. Or the poop. Plus, I'd just want its fur. I HATE goat milk and goat cheese.

So there it is... my urban homesteading dreams may be coming to life all because I'm learning how to deal with poop. Now if I could get my kids to clean up the dog poop in the yard, my life would be just about perfect.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy


Today my good friend Gina Conroy is here guest posting... I love Gina- we've had some pretty fun adventures together. What I love about Gina and this post is that she speaks to a lot of what I'm going through right now... trying so many things that are completely outside my comfort zone but knowing that it's good for me to be challenged so I can learn and grow.

Here's Gina:

Who can forget that beloved Ms. Frizzle who inspired her class to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”All but play-it-safe Arnold loved Ms. Frizzle’s fieldtrips that took them to places they’d never been before, often leading them into scary and unfamiliar territory. But oh the adventures they had! Even Arnold would end up enjoying himself when he finally quit focusing on the danger.

Sometimes I feel like Arnold, wanting to remain in the comfort zone, showing my work only to safe people, people I know will love it. But to go places I’ve never been before (like publication) and to experience the excitement and wonder of taking chances (getting a contract,) I first need to get messy and not dwell on the mistakes I’ll make (writing my manuscript.)

The other day before I sent my proposal to my agent I reflected on Ms. Frizzle's words again and felt a bit like Arnold. I’m still only learning to write a first draft without editing the whole thing as I go. It’s not easy to leave my mess on the page and move on. It’s not easy to see mistakes in my plot and know I must plow forward before I go back and fix things. And it’s not easy to take chances and hit send on my words before I believe they’re ready to be viewed by professional eyes.

But that’s what I did. I hit send on my proposal to my agent because ACFW conference is in few days, and I’d rather look like an idiot in front of him, than in front of an editor. It’s not easy to get feedback on our mess, but it’s necessary. In fact, it was my agent who once told me “you can’t fix nothing!” So I figured he, if anyone, would understand my mess!

When his email response came, I took a deep breath, then hesitated. Then dove into the email, taking a chance, again. To my relief he said, “my writing is really good.” Of course, he pointed out a mess I needed to clean up before I showed an editor, but I took a chance. and I’m glad I did. Now I can move forward with a little more confidence than before.

Are you taking chances or are your messes and mistakes keeping you from your next adventure?

About Gina

Gina Conroy used to think she knew where her life was headed; now she's leaning on the Lord to show her the way. She is the founder of Writer...Interrupted  where she mentors busy writers and tries to keep things in perspective, knowing God's timing is perfect, even if she doesn't agree with it! ;) She is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, and her first novella, Buried Deception, in the Cherry Blossom Capers Collection, releases from Barbour Publishing in January 2012. On her blog Defying Gravity and twitter she chronicles her triumphs and trials as she pursues her dreams while encouraging her family and others to chase after their own passions. Gina loves to connect with readers, and when she isn’t writing, teaching, or driving kids around, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Letting the experts take over my color dilemma

My new colors. 
So... my color choices for the basement were a bomb. No one really liked them, and they weren't as pretty in the basement as I thought they'd be. Such is the life of a person who has no natural light in their home. Which makes decorating twice as hard because I also have no natural talent for such things.

This time, when I went to choose new colors, I visited the color experts. I went to a store we have here called Guiry's. They are color and decorating experts, so I went and talked to them about my options. What can you do in a dark basement that has dark blue carpet?

I have to say, I was really impressed with them from the beginning. I was immediately directed to two helpful women who asked me a lot of great questions and started pulling out colors they thought would work. They also told me why my colors didn't... apparently the colors I chose had gray undertones, which make dark rooms look dingy. Who knew? It was pretty funny, because they'd show me two sets of colors and ask which I liked better. Each time, my answer (to their horror) was that I didn't notice a difference. Yep, I'm that hopeless.

So they helped pick better colors. The yellows have a more green undertone as opposed to gray (in fact, depending on the light and who is looking, they look green), so I'll have three light walls, and then one dark wall. The pretty blue/green will be for the shelving unit my FIL is making me. I'd have liked to have done more with that color, but as you can see from my blue carpet, that'd be way too much blue. I have to say that their choices were braver than what I would have gone, but I'm going to try them anyway. It's only paint, right?  I can repaint if we really don't like it...

But I think we will.

The lesson I learned in this (I think) is that sometimes, even though we want to be independent and do it all on our own, sometimes we need to admit we're in way over our heads and ask the experts for help. I'm pretty independent, so I tend to do more on my own than I should. But in the future, I think I'm just going to save myself a lot of headache and ask someone who knows about color instead of muddling through on my own.

When do you call in the experts?


Monday, April 16, 2012

Tea Parties with Little Girls

Even a simple meal at a child's table can be special

I love tea. And I love that I've been able to share that love with my little girls. One of the things I've been more intentional about this year is taking the time for my girls and being intentional about doing things with them, even when I'm busy.

Yesterday, the princess and I spent a lot of time cleaning up the toy area so we could work on the Great Basement Painting Project this week. Once all of her toys were put away, she decided to pull out her kitchen stuff and play restaurant. I was busy cleaning other parts of the basement, and then she asked me for lunch. I made some suggestions but she made no move to get herself some food.

Then I thought, "wouldn't it be fun, since she's playing restaurant, to serve her lunch like a waitress?" So I went upstairs and made us lunch plates, including a pot of tea, for an impromptu tea party. I carried our food down, and we ate on her little table. It wasn't fancy, and I didn't make anything special, but just taking the time to arrange the food a little differently and call it a big deal turned it into a special meal.

We dined on egg salad sandwiches, Cheetos, orange slices, and drank tea. She declared it the best lunch she's ever had.

What other simple things have you been able to make special?



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Busy, but muddling through

You know the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Well, I want to ask whoever came up with that, what happens when you have a whole HERD of elephants to eat??

To say that my life is busy right now is such a gross understatement that I can't even think of a better word. Maybe my brain is just too tired of processing information right now. Yes, that must be it.

'Bheema, the elephant-killer' photo (c) 2008, Ishwar - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


Which one should I eat first??

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Decorating Dilemma: Why is color so hard?

One of the many areas I struggle with is the idea of decorating. I want a pretty house, but I'm really bad at picking colors and arranging things. If only I could have a cute magazine worthy house, but alas, mine is just a mess.

When we moved in to our house, they had only painted a few walls. Almost every room was a dingy, dirty, chipped white. I've been slowly getting things painted and organized, and now I'm ready to tackle the scourge of our household- the basement. UGH. It's dark, ugly, and a mess. A friend is going to help me organize it, and my FIL is working on building me a wall organizer.

Not a great picture, but these are the colors I'm looking at.
Which leads to my decorating dilemma. COLOR! What color do I paint it? I had envisioned a nice soft yellow to make my dark basement seem brighter. But hubby nixed that, because apparently, he's not fond of yellow. When I was looking at paint chips in the store, he really liked this light green. I thought it would be too dark, so I grabbed a lighter shade as well. My friend thought it would be good to do the dark one as an accent wall, the other three walls the lighter green, and then my wall unit could be yellow.

Fortunately, I've learned to buy paint samples first and make sample boards. The result was less than pleasing. My two greens are too similar in color, so I'm not sure the accent thing is going to work. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the yellow and wish I could do it on my walls. But I think it'll still be nice on the wall unit.

So now I'm rethinking what I want to do. How do you make a dark basement with dark carpet seem lighter and brighter?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Waiting to solve my garden's mystery

I am a wannabe gardener. I have grand visions of a beautiful garden, but alas, my thumb is a brownish-yellow. Which means my plants are either dead(ish) or not very healthy. I also have not figured out the whole annual/perennial thing. I know what those terms mean, but I can't get them to cooperate in my garden. Last year's petunias are coming back. My hostas- dead.

The great mystery plant
And then there is this mighty creation. When I was cleaning out the flowerbeds and asking hubby's opinion about the one I was going to turn into an herb garden, he spotted this plant and said, "you gonna pull that weed?"

"Weed?!" I immediately went to protect the sweet little plant from his shovel. You see, last year was the final year I gave starting seeds indoors my valiant effort. I have finally come to accept the fact that my house does  not get enough light to start anything indoors without using a grow light, which I do not have. Anyway, during that last beautiful effort, my daughter accidentally messed up my plant labels. Most of the plants were easy to figure out. But this beauty... I could not figure out which plant it was. So it became my experiment plant. Out of seven, it was the lone transplant survivor. But this is all it grew into. At one point, I'd convinced myself that it was a melon plant, since I finally figured out that the seeds in that area were all mostly pumpkins and melons. But nothing ever grew out of the plant.

And here we are, a year later, after a cold winter, and this sweet little plant is still alive. I also still have no idea what it is. But how can I get rid of such a marvelous creation? It survived the poor light in my house. It survived the shock of being transplanted. It survived winter. It even survived being in the unfortunate location of the other side of the fence where the neighbor dogs pee.

So no, I am not digging up this plant.

Though maybe it really is a weed.

I'm sure there is a great lesson in all of this, probably that I'm just as stubborn as this silly plant. But I believe, just like my plant, that eventually, we'll see something good growing out of my hard word. (I know someone's going to get on and identify it as a weed, totally ruining my illustration. But for now, it's a beautiful plant!)

Do you have a "plant" that you're waiting to see fruit come from?

(And hey, if you know what my plant is, you can tell me. Really. I won't be mad if it's a weed. Please, don't be a weed!)

Monday, April 09, 2012

Celebrating Christ with PB&J

I ate peanut butter and jelly for Easter dinner.

Definitely far from the traditional Easter meal, and absolutely not what I'd had planned. I'd built up this wonderful, romantic idea of how my family was going to spend Easter, and I can say without hesitation that it absolutely did not happen that way.


In fact, pretty much all of my grand plans for how I was going to spend Lent didn't pan out.
  • I thought I was going to write some really neat devotionals about Lent. I never did think of anything very profound to say. 
  • I bought a great devotional book to read over Lent. Well, I did end up reading it, but a lot of days were more about checking it off my list than spending time with the Lord.
  • I had a wonderful Bible study I was going to do with my girls. But soccer season started, and hubby was busy with work, so I was so busy managing daily life, that I ended up losing the book.
  • My top-secret Lent project got some traction, but mostly, I did a lot of forgetting and wasn't as consistent as I'd hoped. 
  • The wonderful Easter day of watching my daughter in the parade, going to the pancake breakfast, then having a lovely family picnic turned into parade, pancake breakfast, then collapsing from exhaustion and being too tired for anything else.
  • The lovely Easter dinner of ham, macaroni salad, green bean casserole, and yummy strawberry cake ended up being PB&J. I'd intended to make the dinner. Even have the salad chilling in the fridge and the cake ready to be frosted. But some family friends wanted the girls to come over for a party at the last minute, so rather than cooking dinner, I had a quick sandwich.
Some would look at this list and see a list of failures. At many points in my life, I would too. But as I look at the list, I can't help but see a lot of my successes.
  • I read a lot more than I would have, trying to research the perfect devotional. So even though I didn't write anything, I still feel like I gained a lot.
  • Even though I didn't spend every day with the Lord, I did have more intentional time. And I read a great book that really blessed me!
  • I did encourage my girls' spiritual growth, and the little bit we did was a lot better than nothing.
  • I'm going to continue my top secret Lent project, but rather than forcing myself to find something every single day, I'm going to find opportunities as they arise. The project really blessed me, and I think it did some others too.
  • We may not have done a lot for Easter day, but it was still a great day.
  •  Ah, the glorious PB&J... As I ate my sandwich, I couldn't help but think that for some people, that simple dinner would be a feast, and way more delicious than what they've been eating. We're really spoiled to think that we need to stuff our faces with a fancy dinner to celebrate someone whose command to us was to "feed his sheep."
As you can see, it all works out in the end. Which is why I need to learn to stop making myself crazy over getting everything right. Easter wasn't ruined because none of the things I planned actually happened. In fact, I think it was the best Easter we've had.

How did your Easter/Lent ideas turn out?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Small workouts can make a difference

Even a little bit helps!
One of the new habits I've been slacking on is my workout. A few months ago, my friend introduced me to the Kettleworx workout. I was impressed, not just by the fact that it seemed like an easy(ish) workout, but also that my friend was seeing results. This is not an informercial promoting them... I promise! But I will admit that I was excited that I could only work out for 20 minutes, 3 times a week.

And then I got sick. And then I hurt my hip in an unrelated activity. Which led to... yup, I stopped working out.

Which brings me back to Tuesday's post. I had been feeling guilty about everything I'd been slacking off on. I'm pleased to say that I have been doing better on my quiet time since then, and I'd thought about working out. But I haven't been feeling well, so I didn't push myself.

 However, this morning, I decided to go for it. I put in the DVD, and began. Ten minutes into the workout, I was exhausted and lightheaded. Oops. I forgot to eat breakfast. So I stopped the DVD, ate a healthy breakfast, then got back to it. But after another few minutes, I just couldn't continue.

Did I do a complete workout? Nope. I'm sure Ryan Shanahan (Kettleworx guy) would be very disappointed in my wimpyness. But I'm not.

I did something beyond thinking about how I need to get in shape, how I hope to be able to climb a mountain this summer, how I know it's good for my health, etc. And even though it was just a small workout, I still moved my body more and pushed myself harder than I have in a month. So YAY me!

My small workout made a difference.

I feel better about myself because I made one small step toward my goals. My body is getting healthier and stronger.

Yes, I am going to work toward doing a full workout on a regular schedule. But even when I can't make it, the little bit that I do is still going to be better than sitting on my couch, wishing I had.

Today, my encouragement for you is to just do something small. If you don't have time for a full workout, then do something. Some days, my workout is going outside and jumping rope with my little girl (which we both do poorly), or a few extra stretches. Is there some way you can incorporate a little extra movement into your day? What quick workout tips do you have?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

NIV Faithgirlz! Bible (Revised Edition)

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books.  A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured.  The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between!  Enjoy your free peek into the book!




You never know when I might play a wild card on you!









Today's Wild Card contributor is:







and the book:





Zonderkidz; Rev Spl edition (March 6, 2012)



***Special thanks to Rick Roberson of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***





ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR:








Nancy Rue has worked as a public school teacher, church youth director, theater workshop developer and camp director. She has written more than eighty books for young people, including the beloved Faithgirlz! Sophie series, The Skin You're In and Everybody Tells Me to Be Myself but I Don't Know Who I Am. Nancy lives with her husband and two dogs in Lebanon, TN.





About Faithgirlz!: Faithgirlz! is a collection of books, Bibles and resources designed to provide transformational Christian experiences for tween girls. Faithgirlz! encourages honest tween-girl empowerment by providing engaging, relevant, high-quality offerings, helping tween girls understand their world, learn biblical teachings, become closer to God and grow into godly teenagers. Faithgirlz! offers excellent content and contributions from leading Christian tween writers and spokespeople including Nancy Rue, Melody Carlson, Kristi Holl, Naomi Kinsman and more. Faithgirlz! is also supported with a website (www.Faithgirlz.com), Facebook page and mother and daughter live events across the country.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Every girl wants to know she’s totally unique and special, and contributor Nancy Rue helps them do just that in the revised edition of the NIV Faithgirlz! Bible. As a leading tween expert, Rue teaches girls that the Bible is real and relevant and, best of all, that the story of God and His people is also their story. Girls can now grow closer to God as they discover the journey of a lifetime, in their language, for their world.






The new Faithgirlz! Bible was developed especially for girls ages 9 to 12. Everything in it is written with a tween girl’s experience in mind, and it features the most popular Bible translation in the world, the New International Version. The features explain hard-to-understand things in the Bible and guide girls to put the Scripture to work in their own lives. The Faithgirlz! Bible focuses on sharing faith with friends and gives real ways for girls to do that.



Each book of the Bible has activities that make God’s Word more relevant than ever. And, of course, because it was developed for Faithgirlz! readers, they can expect to find it jam-packed with customized content and artwork that really makes the Bible stand out. Girls will love the cool design, the interactive features and the feeling of knowing that God’s Word is there for them whenever they need it. Some of the features included are:



·   Book Introductions—Girls will read the who, when, where and what of each book of the Bible.



·   Dream Girl—Girls will use their imaginations to put themselves in the story.



·   Is There a Little (Eve, Ruth, Isaiah) in You?—Girls will see for themselves what they have in common with women of the Bible.



·   Words to Live By—Girls will discover great Bible verses for memorizing.



·   Oh, I Get It!—Girls will find answers to Bible questions they’ve wondered about.





Nancy Rue says, “I hope the Faithgirlz! Bible will help girls grow a friendship with the Bible, their own relationship. It asks questions, asks them to think and challenges them to apply what they’re learning. That’s how they’ll find a deep, personal relationship with God, rather than just by following rules or saying what they’ve been told without really thinking about it. Rules are important, of course, but they only make sense when they really believe the message of the Scriptures. That’s what this Bible is about.” The Faithgirlz! Bible is the perfect Bible to support girls in their journey into the “beauty of believing.”



The main edition of the Faithgirlz! Bible is hardcover, but it is also available in two Italian Duo-Tone designs. For better portability, there is also an NIV Faithgirlz! Backpack Bible. This compact edition does not include the in-text features that the full-size edition has, but it does have twelve full-color pages of Faithgirlz! fun, the words of Christ in red and a ribbon marker. An ebook version is also planned for electronic use.



Product Details:

List Price: $27.99



Reading level: Ages 9 and up

Hardcover: 1504 pages

Publisher: Zonderkidz; Rev Spl edition (March 6, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0310722365

ISBN-13: 978-0310722366


MY REVIEW:

Love this Bible for my little girls! My older daughter isn't so fond of the pink, but the little one loves it. We've had a lot of fun reading from it and talking about the different pieces. This is a very approachable Bible for young girls. I think Nancy Rue has an amazing way of relating to young girls. I heartily recommend this Bible (and anything by Nancy Rue) for young girls.




AND NOW...A SAMPLE. PLEASE CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO VIEW THEM LARGER:














































Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Not what I'd planned... and that's okay!

It's been almost a month since my last post. Not the plan. In fact, if you'd looked at my handy dandy calendar, you'd see that I had a whole month of blog posts planned but not written. Oops.

But, I am working on a website with an integrated blog, and I thought it would be ready, and communications with my web designer are just not... there. No one's fault, I think we took turns slipping through each other's cracks, and while the site is live, I'm not yet ready to fully committing to moving my blog there or going fully public yet.

Then there's life... crazy, busy, and a work project I thought we'd be finished with by now drags on. Again, no one's fault, just stuff I have no control over, so I'm going with the flow.

In all of this, I've tried keeping up with my Lent project, won some, lost some, and despite the best of intentions with a wonderful devotional, have not even been able to read it daily.

Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who talked about how great her quiet time has been lately. Part of me was envious, and part of me felt really convicted. My quiet time has been nearly nonexistent. Even during our "vacation," which had plenty of free time, I gave very little of it to God. In my conviction, however, I did not immediately act. Well, sort of. I did act on my frustration with not having as much writing time, and skipped TV to write. But I was too lazy to go downstairs, find my devotional book, and spend time with the Lord.

I went to bed a little irritated with myself at realizing I'd been so boneheaded. But it was really late, and I was tired, so I chose to go to bed.

Which leads me to this morning. I woke up an hour before the alarm clock went off. I laid in bed, debating about trying to go back to sleep, then started thinking about God, and all of the thoughts of how I've been letting Him down lately. Of course that led to me thinking about everything else I'd been slacking on, and how I felt bad about that. Fortunately that was the point when I got smacked upside the head for beating myself up. I can't do anything about what I didn't do yesterday, last week, or even last month. I can, however, commit to doing what I need to do today.

I got up, found my devotional book, and caught up on my reading. I hadn't meant to do so much, but it was so good, and I felt so parched- it was like gulping down glass after glass of water on a hot day. I couldn't get enough. When I arrived at today's lesson, my little one came downstairs, and I realized that I was finally full.

Over the past three months, I've tried starting a lot of good habits. I have had more failures than successes at all of these. Most people would look at the number of failures and give up. But I am looking at my successes and realizing that while I haven't done what I've planned, I HAVE done more than I had before. And that counts for something.

My encouragement for you today is to let go of your guilt at what you didn't do, and rejoice in what you have accomplished.