We made it to Friday! I haven’t done a Friday Refresh in awhile. That’s not because there haven’t been any changes around here though. In the two years that we’ve lived in our house we have focused mainly on the interior renovations that needed to be done (and then redone in some cases). This past April we had some flooding that resulted in all of the flooring being redone (most of which was already brand new), a total gut job to the main bathroom, and asbestos removal. Things already look very different than they did even in this first-ever Friday Refresh.
Because the inside of the house has been priority number one, the landscaping has been all but neglected during this time. I finally decided that this was one thing we could have someone else come do for us. I am so glad that we did!
My main objective was cleaning things up so the pops of color were just a bonus. The trees that were planted in this bed before were just not suitable in their height or placement, plus they were badly in need of trimming. Here is a before photo:
Here are a few more before and after photos of some of the other beds around the yard. They look so much better cleaned up, but of course I’m already thinking about what to add for more color and pop.
This is not a sponsored post, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Thanks to Mike Burney’s GreenCo for their great work and exceptional service. Not only did they quote me five times less what other companies quoted, they are capable, experienced and conduct themselves in a very professional manner. Check them out on Facebook if you’re in Northwest Arkansas and need landscaping help.
Yeah, that would be me. Last night I mustered up my courage and set out to go to an adult ballet class. Can you imagine? I was so nervous about it and I probably changed my mind about going 20 times. I was rushing around trying to get dinner done and then I completely blanked on which dance studio the class was being held at so I was also frantically googling and scrolling through Facebook trying to find the ad for the class again. I was so close to throwing in the towel and staying home.
The thing is, I am writing about a ballerina right now and I knew this class would not only be fun, but also possibly give me a little insight into my character. So I went. I found the right studio and made it right on time. Only when I got there I found out that the instructor had been in the emergency room all day and the class would not be meeting after all. Let me just say that while I was disappointed I was more relieved than anything. “Phew, I don’t have to do this scary thing I drug myself out of my safe, comfortable house to do tonight.” Plus, I hadn’t had a chance to eat any of the dinner I made. However, the owner’s mom was there and gave me two certificates for free classes since I did show up, so that was nice. She told me all about the studio, her daughter, the other instructors and dancers while giving me and the one other adult who showed up a tour of the whole space.
I am still excited for the class for the class’s sake too. To be honest, I have secretly always wanted to be a ballerina. I don’t know how many times people have remarked that I should have been a dancer. I have always been afraid to let myself dance though. One of those things where I feel like I will most certainly fail at this so I’m not even going to try. At this point there is no worry about failing though. Sure, I may look like a fool trying to plié and attempting ballet positions (I don’t know any of the other names for them yet), but there is not a career or a recital or anything really at stake here. It’s just like any other class I might take—I am going with the intent of learning something new. I think that is what is freeing me up to go ahead with the class. Gaining knowledge to help me with my character is really a bonus to that end.
Not to mention, the best things happen while you’re dancing.
This month is National Novel Writing Month or #NaNoWriMo for those in the know. This is my first time to attempt the ambitious goal of writing 50,000 words during the month of November. I am also going to post here every day this month along with the novel writing challenge. I already kicked my writing into gear last month by enrolling in a free online writing class through the University of Iowa. There is a certificate that you can earn, but my main goal for the class was to put pen to paper and actually write instead of just talking about it. My other main goal was to finish one complete work of fiction. So far I am faring well on the first goal, but I have started three separate stories and still have not finished one. The class is still ongoing, and I plan to continue on with it while also working earnestly on the last piece I started.
After writing and posting my first piece for the class, an excerpt about a girl starting a new school in a new town, I decided to pivot and write from a different perspective. Then, I decided I hated all of it and never submitted another writing assignment to the class. I did not want to proceed with either piece. I felt stuck. I needed some inspiration. So on Monday I decided to go explore Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
I started out on the trails because nature is one of my favorite places to find inspiration, plus, I needed the exercise. The morning was still cool when I hit the Tulip Tree Trail and then part of the Art Trail. Though I have walked the trails at Crystal Bridges many, many times, I discovered new things on this particular walk. I could hear the sounds of a construction crew and the occasional kid shrieking, but it was mostly quiet enough for me to immerse myself in the natural surroundings. I could hear the creek flowing, leaves falling down from the trees and the crunch of the rocky path beneath my feet as I walked along. I felt inspired almost immediately and decided to come back to the the Tulip Tree Trail Shelter with my notebook to write. However, when I got back to the car to get my notebook, I was suddenly thirsty so I went inside the museum in search of water.
What happened next was pure serendipity. I found that the current temporary exhibit on display is titled, “The Art of the American Dance.” I had a new character forming in my mind already that just happened to be a ballet dancer. I had not written a word of her story at this point, but she was there in my mind. I forgot all about the water I came in to find and walked up to the Guest Services desk, paid $10 to view the new collection (Though there is no cost to visit the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges, there is a fee to view the temporary collections. However, you can visit this collection for free on Thursdays from 5-9 p.m.), picked up a headset and went directly to the gallery.
I have always just walked through the galleries on my own without a guide or an app to tell me about the art. I do recommend using the app (or one of the handsets you can check out) for this particular collection though. It really added to the experience because you are able to not only look at the art, but also see videos of the dances portrayed in the artwork, hear more about the time period the artwork is from, and listen to the music that would have been played. They even have a Spotify playlist you can listen to featuring some of the major dance songs from the 1940s to now. It would have been fun to listen to beforehand to get in the spirit, but I am enjoying it afterwards too. There is also this great playlist on YouTube to watch dance videos from Fred & Ginger, Beyonce, Swan Lake, Singing in the Rain, Westside Story, Elvis and many I have never even heard of before.
Once I had toured the entire exhibition, I grabbed a cup of soup and some water at the museum restaurant and got to work. I filled several pages of my notebook before leaving the museum. I hope to share some of my story here someday soon!
This Halloween we took Coen trick or treating for the first time. This amounted to bribing him with the promise of going home and changing into his costume in order to get him to leave his beloved preschool for the day. Then, once we got home, we had to bribe him with chocolate in order to get him to put on his costume (This really shouldn’t be at all surprising if you read this post). Three-year-olds are so much fun.
Before I picked Coen up I got a text from Jeremy’s cousin’s wife, Chelsea. She asked if he was a fan of Frozen and suggested we come by her dad’s house where they were dressed up as the characters from the movie. I talked it up while we drove home, but even telling him we were going to see Chelsea didn’t convince him to put on his cute cat costume for trick or treating. Somehow, after a lot of coaxing and a little dark chocolate, we still made it over there right around when they were starting. It was a good thing too because by the time we left there was a line of trick or treaters waiting for photos and a traffic jam in front of the house! My little cat wasn’t feeling the photo op though and all we got out of him was this sly half-smile. It really was the purr-fect expression considering the temperament of most cats!
We ended up going around the block to trick or treat at the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. By the time we made it back around our little kitty was hungry and ready for a cat nap so we headed home. I’m still not sure what we are going to do with all the candy we brought home. I was considering starting a Switch Witch tradition, but surprisingly Coen hasn’t been asking for any of it! We may just wait until next year for that. Plus, shhh, don’t tell, but I already ate quite a bit of it anyway. My favorites are the Reese’s!
This Halloween was all about taking the easy road. So why the DIY costume you may ask. Why not hightail it to the nearest Walmart and purchase a costume and be done with it? THAT would be easy, right? It’s true, I can’t think of anything easier. The thing is, I already had this costume made from last year. I know, I know, not everyone has an unused DIY costume to reach for, but I swear, I whipped this one together super last minute last year. Only, my kid flat-out refused to wear a costume last year. I wasn’t going to just let my handiwork go to waste! Okay, I did last year, but that was only because I knew that it would still work this year.
Now, last year I thought I would blog about how to make the costume and I even remember taking step-by-step photos for the post. However, those photos are nowhere to be found. In fact, I may have just imagined doing that. Luckily, I still had this inspiration post pinned on a Pinterest board, waiting for me. The costume can be done with absolutely no sewing, but I did do a tiny bit of sewing.
We started with a base of a black turtleneck and black leggings (I couldn’t find what I wanted in the boys’ section, so I just picked up a pair from the girls’ section at Walmart). Then I used an oversized (big boys size small) crewneck sweatshirt and cut off the sleeves. If you can find one that is not raglan sleeves it will probably be easier, but this worked just fine. Then, I turned the edge in and glued it with fabric glue. I am sure you could skip the sweatshirt if you want to, but we were glad we had it when the weather for Halloween festival at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks ended up being chilly and wet.
A few things I did differently:
Ears: The post I linked to says to use some of the leftover sweatshirt sleeve material to make the ears. I tried this, but felt like it was too droopy. Especially if you add some of the marabou to it as they suggest. The glue only helps so much. Instead, I cut triangles out of felt and glued them to the headband.
Tail: They suggested to glue the tail to the back of the sweatshirt, but when I had it pinned with a safety pin to figure out where to glue it my child was able to easily rip the tail off. This prompted me to sew it in place instead of using glue. You could probably do glue and see how it holds up, then if it doesn’t seem to hold well you could always still put some stitches in it to reinforce it. We also wrapped some electrical tape around the end of the wire hanger so that it wouldn’t poke through.
Whiskers: I knew there was no way my kid was going to let me put floral wire on his face for whiskers so I skipped this step and drew some on with face paint. Simple.
I think it turned out super cute, if I do say so myself. That ridiculously good-looking kid has something to do with the cuteness factor, but I take credit for him too!
Today is a crisp, fall day. Usually that would be followed with exclamation points and the stars emoji, but I’m just not feeling it today. Instead I’m feeling grumbly. I have to go to a follow up appointment, and as usual, it’s one of those appointments. It’s 54 degrees outside, but I still had to shave my legs. Well, I guess I didn’t have to, but I felt the need to in order to not be judged by some ridiculous beauty/womanhood standard. Even while recovering from surgery. I may still be bold and rock the no bra look I’ve adopted the last week and a half though.
It’s not what I am not going to wear that is really getting me down however, instead it’s “WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR?” I know, go ahead and put me back in that typical woman box now. I am usually so excited about sweaters and layers and boots and pants, but pants are SO not my friend after this surgery. I mean, not any that I really consider to be pants. I am still firmly in the “leggings are not pants” camp. I was hoping the trend would just go away, but apparently it’s here for awhile. I am left with the option of wearing a dress or a skirt that will leave me feeling cold, and frankly, just not practical when you have an appointment with a gynecologist, or comfy, stretchy, non-pants like leggings.
Karl Lagerfeld is reported to have said “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” Well, I’m admitting defeat. I’m not going to say that I’ve never worn leggings out of the house because I did when I was pregnant. However, I was never truly comfortable in them no matter how long the top. I’m grumbly because I have to wear leggings in public. Something that many women would deem worthy of exclamation points and the stars emoji.
I started to think that maybe I could get away with wearing a trench over a not so flattering outfit just to get me out the door to my appointment, a la Lorelai Gilmore. Although, instead of cutoffs I’d be hiding leggings and a not quite long enough top. The thought of being able to wear the trench my mom had brought me when I had surgery did lift my spirits and gave me enough energy to try and “make it work.” After trying top after top, and even reaching into my husband’s closet to find something with a more ample hemline, I settled on a dress over leggings. Done. And then I collapsed back into bed because getting dressed is really all it takes to wear me out these days. Now, don’t feel sorry for me. That just gives more time to watch clips of my favorite moments from Gilmore Girls, like this one. Enjoy!
When I sat down to write out some thoughts on my experience at Megaphone Summit, I noticed that there was a theme to what was coming out on paper. The theme was one of abundance. Usually, I leave these kind of conferences feeling overwhelmed, even more unsure of myself and doubting that I have what it takes to be on the same playing field with the other attendees. This time I didn’t feel that way at all. Instead, I feel like I have been filled up all the way to the brim, and then some.
My heart is filled up with the many new connections friendships I made, not to mention the opportunity to see, chat with and hug on many of my “blogger” friends. I think that it’s time to drop the qualifier. These folks are my friends, plain and simple, and I love them! The community I feel when I am around these women (and a few good men) is the reason that I decided I couldn’t miss out on the conference this year. Pictured above are two of those new friends I met at the conference, Lacie from Easy Peasy Pleasy, and Renee from If Spoons Could Talk (if I were a food blogger I would be kicking myself for not coming up with that first!). On night two of the conference we had a chance to go out and dine around downtown Fayetteville and we made pigs of ourselves at Taste of Thai! Buddha clearly enjoyed our entertaining conversation (You might be a blogger if you pick your table based on where you’ll get the best photos).
I am filled up with knowledge. Knowledge that is technical and has useful application to my blog, and knowledge that will help me tell my story even better than before. I am filled up with ideas for posts, organizing my blog schedule, social media, collaborations, SEO, and ideas for stepping away from all of the screens to cultivate my own real happy (thanks for that, Jacqueline Wolven)….so many ideas. However, like I said before, I don’t feel overwhelmed by this knowledge. I feel empowered and ready to get to work making my blog the best it can be, and the best reflection of who I truly am. Who wouldn’t want to read that??
My home is also filled now (sorry, not sorry, hubby). Filled with a ton of great products from the amazing sponsors without whom Megaphone Summit would have looked quite a bit different. Riceland Foods is in the business of filling bellies, and they filled our bags with enough rice to feed the 5,000! Okay, not that much, but it’s a lot of rice, y’all! In my kitchen there’s also AriZona Energy Shots and some smoothie mixes, all from our presenting sponsor Soapbox Insights + Influence. Other swag I picked up from the conference include Ferrero Rocher chocolates (my favorite!), a bag of Pop Pop Shop popcorn, a Keep Fayetteville Funky mug, a jar of homemade jam, and a nail file, reusable shopping bag and ribbon hair tie all in First Security Bank TEAL! I almost forgot about the Remington hairbands and clips that I picked up in their Thermaluxe Blow Out Bar (yes, they had a complimentary blow out bar at the conference!!). I’m probably still forgetting something, but needless to say, I didn’t leave empty handed.
I am grateful to all of the organizers, sponsors, speakers and fellow attendees for making Megaphone Summit an amazing weekend! I am so glad that I was able to go this year, and I’m already looking forward to next year!
Ready to run. If you’re like me you probably cannot read that without a certain Dixie Chicks song coming to mind. All of the false starts I’ve had in trying to get back in a running groove also come to mind. It has been a long time now since running was second nature to me. I played soccer from the time I was in 6th grade until high school, and there was a lot of running. So much running. I could run forever back then. The cross country coach was always trying to recruit me, but…soccer.
I didn’t play soccer my senior year of high school, and I didn’t pursue it in college either. However, I was still active in college. My friends and I would run, bike, and workout together. During the spring semester of my junior year, I started to get sick after working out. I distinctly remember the first time it happened. We were trying out a new Denise Austin workout video (I still cannot bring myself to do any of her workouts to this day). At first I thought it was a fluke, or a bug. I was puking, weak and faint for a day or two afterwards. A sweet lady from church came by to drop off soup, crackers and Sprite, and she stayed outside lest she catch what I had. It turned out that I was sick. Only I wouldn’t even know it for another three months, and it definitely wasn’t anything that you could pass on to a church ladies.
Even though I became sick each time, I kept on running and working out. I was a junior who had managed to keep the “freshman fifteen” at bay, but all of a sudden I had developed a belly. No weight gain anywhere else, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I just figured I was gaining weight and needed to keep exercising to keep it off. So I threw up afterwards? All the better to help me lose the weight, I thought. I know that sounds flippant, but it is what I really (secretly) thought at the time. I have never had an eating disorder, and I am not promoting this as a healthy way to lose weight. Even then I knew that it was an unhealthy way to look at things, but it was my way of finding a “bright side” to the situation.
It didn’t make a difference though. My belly grew rounder until I couldn’t even bend down to tie my own shoelaces. I looked and even felt like I was pregnant. Finally, I began to listen to my body and my friends who kept telling me it wasn’t normal to only gain weight in your belly, especially not so quickly. I had been experiencing some very uncomfortable back pain throughout this same time and I decided to give in and go to the doctor about it. NOT because of my belly. Uh uh. I still didn’t think it was related to the pain or the nausea, etc. My doctor disagreed. After she looked at me there was really not much talk about back pain at all. The conversation went like this:
Doctor: Are you pregnant?
Me: [Flushing] No.
Doctor: You are sure there is NO way you can be pregnant?
Me: I’m sure.
Doctor: You look like you’re three months pregnant.
Me: [Nervous laughter] Unless it’s by immaculate conception, there is no way that’s possible.
Doctor: Well, there is something in there.
The ultrasound that followed showed that the “something” was a basketball sized mass on my ovary. A basketball sized mass. On my ovary. Just for some perspective, the ovary of a woman in her childbearing years is about the size of a walnut. I was referred to a gynecologist oncologist and surgery was scheduled for summer break. My CA-125 (the tumor marker for ovarian cancer) came back within the normal range so I put the thought of cancer out of my mind. I would later learn that the CA-125 is not always a reliable test. False negatives and even false positives are not uncommon. I did not find out until after the surgery that it was indeed mucinous adenocarcinoma of the ovary. Cancer. Stage 1. Thankfully, it was all removed during surgery, along with my right ovary, my appendix, part of my intestines, and the now watermelon-sized 8 lb tumor. My doctor did offer chemotherapy, but he was confident that I would be okay without it so I declined. I felt like I got off so easy.
My recovery from the surgery was long and anything but easy. Nonetheless, I did get up and start walking again the very next day. Not far, just up and down the hallway outside of my hospital room. With the aid of a nurse. Slowly, I was able to start doing regular things. I never did get back to running though. However irrational, I always had a fear in the back of my mind that said I would throw up again if I tried to run. During the 13 years since my surgery, I have started and stopped running so many times. I never could stick with it. This month I hope to change that. I have set a goal of running at least one mile three times a week during the month of September, which also happens to be Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. I hope to cap off my goal and the month by running the Whisper 5K Walk & Run in Kansas City. Why Kansas City? First of all, I couldn’t find any runs benefiting ovarian cancer research in Arkansas (is it crazy that I’m considering starting one myself??). Second, I was going to college in Missouri when I was diagnosed and Kansas City was where I had my surgery. I would love it if any of my Warrensburg/Kansas City friends would like to join me on September 25!
I have put in two one mile plus runs this week already, so I’m right on track to reach my weekly goal. Tomorrow, I will be running in teal–the color of ovarian cancer awareness–for National Wear Teal Day! Will you be wearing teal tomorrow?
The weather is cooling off (68 degrees for my run this morning!), my Facebook feed is filling up with pictures of freshly bathed and smartly dressed children holding “First Day of School” signs, and the parents behind the cameras (er, phones) are collectively exhaling, both in relief and anxiousness, on this Monday morning. In short–it’s Back to School time in Arkansas. It’s the time of year that makes me think of bouquets of newly sharpened pencils, composition books, trapper keepers (yeah, I know I’m dating myself), and school supplies in general.
Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. -Joe Fox, You’ve Got Mail
Last month, I volunteered with the United Way of Northwest Arkansas for their Fill The Bus initiative. We collected school supplies at Walmart locations in Benton, Madison and Washington counties to help children in NWA start their school year off on the right foot. After my 2-hour stint in the Arkansas heat, I wanted more. Well, maybe not more of the Arkansas heat, but I wanted to know what else I could do to help send children to school armed with both confidence and the tools for their success. I was secretly hoping this would not include more standing in the hot July sun, but I was ready to roll up my sleeves regardless.
In my search, I stumbled upon Backpacks with a Purpose, or B-WaP. By now, we’re all familiar with socially conscious companies with a one for one business model (think Toms, Warby Parker, Tacos4Life, etc.), but B-WaP takes it one step further by giving TWO backpacks for every one purchased. I was so excited to see that this company is based in a state that is a close neighbor to those of us here in Northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma. So cool! I think the bags from B-WaP are great, but I also know that kids like to have a bag that shows a little of their personality and individuality, so I decided to dig around for other companies selling backpacks with similar missions. I think I rounded up the best–there are some seriously awesome companies with equally awesome missions and products out there. I hope you agree!
As if giving two backpacks for every one backpack purchased wasn’t awesome enough, B-WaP allows you, the consumer, to have a say in where the backpacks are given. During checkout you can select “Domestic” or “International” to have 2 bags sent to either the Regional Foodbank of Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Backpack Program, or to The Maisha Project in Kenya, Africa. Read more about BWaP’s partners here.
STATE bags are incredibly stylish (check out this sweet swan backpack), durable, and full of functional storage. On top of that, for each backpack you purchase, STATE hand-delivers a STATE backpack packed with the tools for success to an American child in need. This socially conscious company doesn’t stop there though. Their bag drop events are motivational rallies intended to leave the kids receiving backpacks with a renewed spirit and belief in themselves. Side note: How appropriate is it that this week is Gray Week in their Colors of Summer Instagram series?
Bixby backpacks have a kid-friendly, whimsical style. Whether your kid is into sparkle, animals, things that fly, or even emoticons, they will find a bag that will suit them, while also sending one full of supplies to a kid in need with Bixby’s “One Here. One There.” donation model. Read more about Bixby’s mission to donate bags around the world here.
Esperos bags are plain Jane, and they’re okay with that. When you open the website you are met with the tagline, “No frills. No Gimmicks. Just really good bags.” Instead of focusing on frills, they focus on functionality and funding education around the world. They accomplish their mission through giving 10% of their profits to The Nobelity Project, an Austin, TX nonprofit that works to bridge gaps in information and infrastructure to ensure education for all.
The sophisticated style of the Stone & Cloth backpacks will likely appeal more to older students, or even adults. Through a partnership with the Knock Foundation to ensure scholarship opportunities for children in Tanzania, a Stone & Cloth backpack purchase provides 25 hours of classroom learning to a child in need.
Can a backpack be a tool for lifting women out of poverty? It can when it’s a backpack like the Ridgeview, made by women in Peru as a part of the Krochet Kids Cut & Sew empowerment project. “The production of each of our items offers jobs, education, and mentorship to impoverished individuals. Your purchase connects you with the maker through a hand-signed label.” Learn more about the project here.
Not only does Jatalo draw inspiration from global design trends, they also give back in a global way. When you buy a backpack from Jatalo, they give a year’s worth of textbooks to a child in need.
Since today is the first day of school that means that school supplies have already been purchased round these parts. However, is it really ever too late to snag a backpack that will spread some good to others? Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!
Three years old. I can’t believe that you are three years old today. We celebrate with fun, fireworks, friends and family. You are so bright, funny and affectionate. The day is never done without you giving a million kisses, and then some more. “Kiss, mama, kiss!” you say to me over and over again throughout the day. If I give you one kiss and it’s not sufficient, you say, “No, lot of kisses.” I hope that you always want to share your affection with me, but I know there will be a day when you won’t so for now, I cherish each one of your sweet kisses. I am so incredibly lucky to have you. If it weren’t cliché to say so, I would declare you a firecracker—you are full of life, brilliant, and let’s just be honest, at this stage in your life, a little volatile. Three is this brave new adventure we’re embarking on together, and I hope you’re as excited as I am about it. While most focus on the trials this age brings, I know that it will be so wonderful too. You can tell me what you want and need (sometimes very emphatically), you have been potty trained for nearly a year, and you sing your ABCs almost perfectly (who needs e, f, and g anyway?). You love cars and trucks, playing with blocks and trains, digging and building in the sand, your friends and teachers at the “Baby House,” bubble baths, in fact, anything that has to do with water (except for the hotel pool), and always, always playing outside. Some of your favorite books are “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site,” “Llama Llama Red Pajama” and “The Going to Bed Book.”
Again, it’s beyond cliché, but the day you were born my life changed completely. Being your mama is the absolute best thing that has happened to me. Ten years before you were born, I was told that I may never have a child of my own, and I never let myself even dream of you. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect child than you anyway. You are my angel baby, my sweet, sweet, sweet, my baby boy, my sweet pea, my silly goose, my bug, my big boy, my Young Master Gray, my heart, my darling dear, my Coco, my Coen Gray. I love you so much. Happy birthday, my love.