Once Upon a Time, I Wrote a Children’s Book

I’ve loved stories and books for as long as I can remember. When I was three, I memorized a children’s book about David and Goliath, and my parents thought I was reading it. I remember them having me read it to several of their friends and our family members. They figured out that I wasn’t actually reading it when I had it upside down once, but I still knew when to turn the pages and which illustrations went with which passages.

I loved being read to, learning to read, and eventually, writing my own stories. American Girl books were some of my favorites, and my parents got me a kit from American Girl with blank booklets and guides on how to write and illustrate my own book series one Christmas. I spent nearly the whole day lying on my bedroom floor, reading up on writing tips and working on my first book in the series. My friend Joel and I later wrote an American Girl spoof called “Rosalyn Learns a Lesson”. I’m not sure what happened to that book, but we still laugh about it and marvel at our early satiric writing skills.

I don’t know about all of you, but we wrote Young Authors books every year in elementary school, starting in kindergarten. We would spend several weeks formulating our own story ideas, writing draughts, and finally writing and illustrating our own little hardback books. The process wasn’t always fun, but boy, was I proud of the end product. I wrote about a girl helping to save a whale (kind of a Free Willy rip off…what can I say, I’m a child of the 90s), a biography of Helen Keller, a girl who gets lost in the woods with her teddy bear, a group of friends pulling a prank on an older brother, and two Shar-Peis who are adopted from the pound and given a new life on a farm.

Even when I wasn’t writing them down, I was always telling stories. My friends would look forward to me getting on the bus in the morning so I could tell them hilarious stories of what happened in my house that morning. I used to make up funny bedtime stories to tell my friends at sleepovers, even in college. One of my favorite things to do when riding in the car as a child with my MawMaw and Cadbury, as we called him, was to start a story, then have someone else in the car continue the story/add to it, until everyone had contributed to the story and it was my turn to finish it. You might say I was a ham, but more than the attention, I just liked to see people’s reaction to a good story.

My sister has been an elementary school teacher for several years and has read my fourth grade Young Authors book, A Wrinkly Dog’s Life, every year to her kids. When I heard about how much the kids loved the story, it inspired me to write a real children’s book. I began researching the possibility, but it seemed more like an impossibility. I just didn’t know if I was good enough, and I couldn’t imagine how I could get it published. If I sent a story to a publisher, it could take years for them to get back to me on whether they would want to publish it, and if I self-published, I would have to come up with the money and an illustrator.

About a year ago, one of my favorite musicians, JJ Heller, started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for her children’s book, The Golden Feather. She raised even more than was needed to get the book illustrated and published. I saw pictures of her reading to classrooms full of children and sharing her new book at events. She inspired me anew to pursue this dream. She’s a songwriter and performer, yet she took a risk in applying her talents in a new way and believed that her story would inspire children. She believed it was worth the time and effort to be able to share this story with kids, and others came alongside her to make it happen.

This year, I finally decided to go for it. I asked my friend Aynsley Lockridge, who is one of a couple of friends that has stuck by me nearly all my life, if she would be interested in illustrating the book. I shared my plan—the timeline, the publisher, the cost, how the sales would work, etc.—and e-mailed her the story. I told her that it would be a lot of work for very little money for both of us, but I believed her artwork would be perfect for a children’s story. She was immediately all in because she is amazing and caring and kind and giving and selfless and generous and encouraging. AND.

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Wilson’s Best Day was inspired both by my favorite Young Authors book and the story of how our adopted dog, Wilson, became a part of our family. Wilson inspires me with how happy he is, despite his sad past; how loving he is, although he was not given the love he deserved most of his life; and how trusting and sweet he is, even though he was abandoned multiple times before becoming part of our family. I have a huge heart for God’s creatures, and I think responsible pet ownership, compassion, and giving second chances are really important values to teach children. Kids will have fun learning these things as they hear the story from Wilson’s perspective. This story is valuable, heartwarming, and entertaining, not to mention sweetly and vibrantly illustrated—all the things I look for in a good children’s book!

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We currently have a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter to raise the funds we need to make this dream come true. Once we get the funds raised, I’ll be able to move forward with getting the book published, into bookstores, and into your homes and hearts. Please check out the page for more information and to pledge now through March 30, 2015! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1541168713/wilsons-best-day 

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We have had the support of family, friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, and even people we don’t know who found us on Kickstarter. I am blown away. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your belief in this story. We can’t do this without you.

I am so excited to share this little book with all of you. I hope that this is the beginning of an amazing adventure in writing and another step in my journey of sharing inspirational, funny, captivating, and valuable stories.

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Spring Will Come

I looked around as we drove a country road a couple of weekends ago. The dry, short, pointy remains of corn stalks harvested in the fall poked through the snow, covering the open fields. The trees were bare, having shed their fiery orange leaves only a few months prior, but now, it seemed so long ago. Indiana was a canvas painted only with shades of brown and white.

I thought to myself that I didn’t mind winter too much anymore. For one thing, I braved five Northern Indiana winters in college and in our first year of marriage. You wouldn’t believe it unless you lived in both places, but lake effect snow is so much worse than what we get in Central Indiana. For another thing, I don’t work full-time anymore, so I don’t have to worry about leaving an extra hour early on snowy or icy days for my rush hour commute to Indy.

But most of all, I don’t mind winter so much anymore because I know it’s just temporary. I always have the hope that spring is coming again. As I looked out over the open fields and the bare trees, I envisioned those fields full of tall, green stalks of corn. I remembered what the trees looked like in the spring, budding with bright shades of white and pink and purple. I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that these dead things would come alive again, and I was hopeful, because I knew that no matter how long winter seems to last, there is always the promise of spring. It comes every year without fail.

The next weekend was Valentine’s Day. I was subbing at the school where my husband teaches on that Friday, and the Honor Society was selling roses that could be delivered to your Valentine in class. My husband sent me a white rose–my favorite kind (except for yellow…and those peachy colored ones…so one of my favorites!). It was delivered in a class full of sixth-graders, who, knowing that I’m married to the Spanish teacher, still wanted to know who it was from. One boy asked, “Is that from Hayden?!” I replied, “Yes, it’s from Hayden, whoever that is.”

The rose already looked limp and half-dead when it was delivered. Several students came up to the desk throughout the day advising that I put it in water. However, I didn’t want to mess with scrounging up some sort of glass or vase from the school. It was the thought that counted, and like I said, it was pretty much already dead.

We stayed after school to work a high school basketball game in the evening. After school, we decided to put all of our belongings in the car, including my rose, so that we wouldn’t have to waste any time packing up to leave after the game. I should mention that it was something like five degrees outside, so I knew for sure that rose would be dead when we got home!

As we wearily drug ourselves and our bags through the door when we got home, Tony asked if I would like him to get a vase out for the rose. I told him it didn’t matter, that the rose was already dead, even though I really appreciated receiving it at school. It was just a shriveled, terrible looking thing.

“I’ll put it in some water, anyway,” he said. “Maybe it will perk up.”

The next day, the rose was standing tall and straight, and it had begun to open up. Over the next couple of days, it only got bigger, fuller, and more beautiful. I couldn’t believe it. Here it is, February 25, and that little rose is still looking beautiful.

It is so difficult to look at something so dead, so far gone, and believe that it could actually come alive again—and not only come alive, but thrive.

The past year has been a really hard one for us. We thought for sure these struggles would be over by now. It seems like we’re living in an eternal polar vortex, Boston winter—as if we just keep getting heavy snow dumped on us, and as soon as we think it’s over or we’re getting a break, here comes more snow. It seems like we’re always digging ourselves out, and many days, I think, “Why keep digging when more snow is on the way?”

But I still have hope, because I know spring is on its way. What would be special about spring if it didn’t follow winter? We can bear the heat of summer because we remember how cold it was in the winter, and we’re grateful for sunburn over frostbite. We love the fall because, even though we know it means winter is coming, now is the time to soak up the last of the mild days and pick apples and pumpkins. The color of the leaves amazes us so, we forget that they’re dying. The excitement of the holidays pulls us through the beginning of the cold.

The winter always comes, as sure as the spring to follow. We can’t avoid it. We can’t skip over it, unless we are rich and have the money to fly south for the winter. We have to wait it out. Since we must go through it, why not play in the snow and enjoy having to stay in without having to rush around, without the ability to rush around?

Nature is such an astounding way for God to teach us about our own lives. Life has seasons. There will surely be winters, but there will also most surely be springs. That keeps me hoping in the midst of digging, which often consists of simply getting out of bed every day. That alone in this season seems like a victory. The memory of the summer—of days when we thrived and laughed and things were bright—keeps me hoping. The dream—nay, the promise–of spring and what it could bring keeps me believing. The thought that winter won’t last forever–even if it’s a very long, harsh winter this time around—keeps me going.

My very wise friend Charity recently posted this status on her Facebook, and it inspired and encouraged me:

“So the LORD said that when we pass through the waters, He will be with us and when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned…He never said we wouldn’t get soaking wet or it wouldn’t be extremely hot.

Well, that certainly clears up a lot of ‘whys’ about life experiences.”

I write this as much for myself as I do for you, hoping it will encourage you and that you will join me in this hope and in this declaration: I will cling to God in the deep waters, in the fire, in the heat, in the cold, and in the winter, even if it’s by the skin of my teeth. I will praise God in the summer and in the spring and when there’s life and sunshine. His presence is enough to sustain me.

Draw Me Nearer

Recently, I’ve noticed that I cry very easily. I’m not pregnant, but…just listen:

I saw a father walk into the sanctuary at church today hand in hand with his special needs son. The two had their arms around each other for most of the worship time, and I saw the father hold his son’s face in his hands when he caught the son looking up at him adoringly. When the sermon started, the father shared his bible with his son. CRY.

My husband showed me a video of one of his first level Spanish classes singing a song that he taught them. Their voices and their Spanish sounded so great, and they’ve barely begun to learn Spanish. They were all participating and enjoying themselves, even the boys. CRY.

I tried to tell my mom the story of me crying about the Spanish class video. CRY.

My dog lies down on my lap, gets as close to my face as possible, and stares at me, knowing I am feeling overwhelmed and upset. He won’t move unless I move, and he won’t sleep unless I sleep. CRY.

My husband offered to do yard work on his birthday weekend rather than celebrate. CRY. (I didn’t let him get away with it, but he was really planning on it because he knew how much I wanted the yard prepped for the winter and spring. We forgot about the grass. It will have to wait.)

Barbara is crying on Teen Mom 2 talking about how far her daughter has come and how hard it will be for her to return custody of Jace. CRY.

I watch a video of a momma pitbull and her puppies being rescued out of a bush where they have been hiding. The momma is scared, hungry, and her eye is severely injured, most likely from blunt force trauma. She won’t come out until her pups are safe. CRY.

“Multiplied” by Needtobreathe comes on the radio. CRY.

Some of those may seem like dumb reasons to cry. Here are some dumber ones:

I tried to reach a bowl from the highest shelf in the cabinet. It teetered, barely missed my head, and shattered on the counter and floor. I screamed, and then proceeded to cry out of frustration and for the loss of a bowl.

I was looking for return address labels in our junk drawer. I couldn’t see–well, for all the junk–so I tried to pull the drawer out further. I gently tugged, but the drawer came loose on its tracks and crashed onto the floor, sending its contents flying. Many of the items went clanging down the floor register, never to be seen again. I screamed from the shock of the drawer’s great fall, and then proceeded to cry out of frustration. Sounds familiar.

We recently had a rough Sunday morning. My husband set his alarm to get up early and work on overdue homework, but he was just too tired. He woke me up when it was time to start getting ready for church. This hardly ever happens, but I actually got up on time and got in the shower. He offered to make my breakfast while I showered. Upon getting out of the shower, I realized all of the clothes that we washed the day before were still wet. I literally had no pants or skirts or any bottoms of any sort to wear. The dog had just been let in from outside, and he had made a mess and needed an urgent bath. Tony threw my clothes in the dryer, I continued to try to get ready, and Tony attempted to clean up the dog. All of this set us back time wise by A LOT.

After bringing some pants up a couple of times, thinking they were dry, realizing they were still wet upon wearing them, and placing them back into the dryer, I finally was able to finish getting dressed. Tony wasn’t able to finish cleaning up the dog or even getting himself ready. Right as we were walking out the door at 11:00 (the time service starts), I realized I never printed some graphics that my mom had asked me to bring to her house after church, and at that point, I definitely didn’t have time and had no idea when I could get them to her after that day. I grabbed my breakfast to eat in the car. It was cold, and it was the same stuff I eat every day (and of which I have become very tired), but it’s about the only breakfast food I can eat since I’ve had to start eating gluten, dairy, egg, and sugar free. We got in the car, and I exclaimed, “I don’t even know why we’re trying to make it to church! We’re so late, and I’m tired of living like this.” By “this”, I think I meant feeling tired, rushed, behind, and like a failure every day. Tony was silent for a couple of minutes. Then, he meekly asked, “Would you rather just stay home?” to which I shouted back, “That would have been a good thing to ask when we were AT HOME, not in the car on our way to church! If nothing else, we have to drop off these donations at church!” Isn’t that a lovely way to begin a Sunday morning?

We both sat silently for the rest of the fifteen-minute drive to church. I considered throwing my breakfast out the window onto the interstate, ceramic plate and all, but I settled with throwing my biodegradable banana peel and saving another one of my dishes. After all, we had recently lost a bowl. I stewed in my bitterness and frustration, thinking about how much I did NOT want to go to church in this mood and in the middle of this mess. I was also angry with myself for being so bent out of shape over such small things, but I was going to let myself be petty. I had food to eat. We had clothes on our backs. We had a car in which to drive to church. We had each other. All of these things I knew, but again, I was going to let myself be petty because I was weary of being positive.

We parked (which is always a fun job at a big church) and found some seats in the sanctuary right before the offering was about to be taken and communion served. One of the pastors talked about how tithing is difficult, but it’s a way to give back some of the financial gifts that God has given us. “Finances…what finances?” I thought. I knew the thought that God has not provided for our every need, even in a time of financial hardship, was absolutely untrue, but that’s what I felt like thinking at the time. No cash or checks in the wallet, no offering in the basket. We’ll have to figure that out next weekend…or the next weekend. A few minutes later, the communion plates got passed. I grabbed the plate from the usher while trying to fake a smile that was meant to communicate “thanks” without actually having to say or even mouth the word. People around me were praying, taking their time to reflect before partaking in the symbols that represent Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Nope, not me. I popped that cracker in and downed the tiny juice cup. My prayer was, “Let’s just get this over with. I’m in a bad mood, and You know it.” All of the hurts of my health battles, our financial hardships, and the toll it has taken on our marriage over the past several months came welling up. “I just want all of this stuff to end, but it’s not going to, is it? This is just life, and this is the kind of stuff that never ends.” I was hoping for an attitude change, but I wasn’t willing to put forth the effort to make it happen.

Right then, the father and his son that I mentioned previously walked into the sanctuary, also late, hand-in-hand. I immediately saw the intense love the father had for his son and how generously he cared for him. My heart was not only softened, but it completely melted. I began to cry, and everything from that morning left my mind and my heart. I began to think of all the small things that had made me feel that way in the past few weeks—all the small signs and demonstrations of love that had overwhelmed me with emotion when I hadn’t expected them, asked for them, or even wanted them.

We’ve been going through the book of John at our church for the past couple of months, and we’ll be focusing on it until Memorial Day weekend of next year, which I think is amazing (no sarcasm here…I know it’s hard to tell with me sometimes, but I really love that we’re remaining dedicated to the study of this book). The sermon on this particular Sunday was focused on the end of John 6, in which Jesus explains, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Rather than picking apart all of the theological qualms and schisms this verse can sometimes cause, our pastor emphasized the bottom line: To be drawn means that no human beings, on their own, have the moral conviction and spiritual ability to come to Christ until God the Father draws them by His Spirit. In other words, God pursued me. He invited me. In response to his drawing, my heart melted into surrender, and that’s how I was saved. It was through no great act of my own. I believe God continues to draw me daily in the midst of my forgetfulness. Perhaps that’s why He is always drawing me—I am so forgetful of His love and of who He is. Storms come along, and I feel like turning back, but God just won’t let me—not through coercion, but through simple displays of His love that compel me. It’s then that I feel so much like Peter at the end of John 6 when Jesus asks The Twelve if they would like to leave like many others have done in response to his difficult teaching: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

Thank God He has been faithful to hear my cry:

“Let Thy goodness, like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee!

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, Lord

Take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above.”

When I begin to wander, He draws me back with His goodness. He reminds me, just in time, that He IS GOOD when nothing else is good, when there’s nothing good in me, and that He loves me when there is nothing to love in me (trying not to quote more song lyrics, but I’m struggling to keep Hillsong at bay).

As a further illustration, our pastor used the parable of the Prodigal Son. We’ve all heard this one over and spun a lot of different ways, but this really was the first time I had heard this interpretation. Aaron explained that the son did not return to his father with a repentant heart. It was a matter of survival. He didn’t expect to be reinstated as his father’s son; he merely hoped he would be able to get some leftover food from the servants’ table. The father didn’t even allow the son to apologize. At the sight of his son returning, he ran to embrace him, commanded that a ring be put on his finger and a fattened calf be slaughtered in celebration. It wasn’t the son’s apology or repentance that brought about the father’s forgiveness–it was the father’s love that brought about the son’s repentance.

Leaving church, I realized how God graciously and unceasingly offers me His love when I don’t deserve it and I don’t ask for it. I complain. I am angry. I am fearful and in doubt. God responds by demonstrating His love, and it melts my heart every time. I often don’t even put forth the effort to cry out, “Help me,” or “Forgive me,” before He is there, offering His aid and grace. By witnessing a father’s love for his son…through experiencing acts of service…through the love of a sweet dog, even!…through the right song coming on at the right time…through the feeling of pure joy and hope brought about by the gift of simple things that are just plain GOOD when so many other things seem to be wrong…God draws me.

Thank You for continuing to draw me, knowing I’ll forget again, God.

“Draw me nearer, nearer

Nearer, blessed Lord.”

Things I’ve Learned So Far in My First Season at the Farmers’ Market, and Tips for Beginners Like Myself

My husband and I have been making and selling (well…I’ve been making, and we’ve both been selling!) baked goods at our local farmers’ market since June. It took me weeks to really get into a rhythm, and it has taken me most of the summer to gain real confidence. I thought I would share the biggest things I’ve learned, and the most important things I believe you’ll want to implement if you’re thinking of doing the same. Mind you, these are tips for selling baked goods at a small-scale farmers’ market in a small Indiana town, but I think they would probably apply across the board!

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Keep it simple. I made fancy cupcakes twice…hardly any of them sold. They were time-intensive, required a lot of ingredients and supplies, and even though they were the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten in my life (so I wasn’t entirely disappointed to be taking so many home), hardly anyone bought them. In my experience, people have gone crazy over the simple things: brownies, lemon bars, different varieties of muddy buddies and popcorn, bread, cookies, and the occasional fudge. Apparently, you just can’t beat a classic in a small town.

Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be. My original goal was to have a variety of 10 items a week…yeah right. I learned after the first week there was no way I had the energy or resources to do all of that by myself. As long as you have a good number of items, you don’t necessarily need a great variety. Go for quality over quantity. And speaking of quantity, don’t kill yourself making hundreds of items. Your goal should be to sell out each week. It will take time to learn about how many items are appropriate for your particular market, but don’t go overboard until you can get a good estimate.

Unless you travel and participate in several markets a week, you’re most likely not going to make a living out of this, at least not a decent living. ☺ Therefore, don’t stress. It’s just a fun way to make a little extra money, join in a great community event, and maybe even get your foot in the door and get your name out there if you’re hoping to eventually open a business. Fun…it IS supposed to be fun. If you don’t enjoy it and it’s more stress than it’s worth, you can give it up!

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Keep it mobile. People like to buy things that are easy to eat on the go, as they walk around the market, on the way home, etc., or that are easily packaged to transport and eat when they get home. People love to go to a bakery, café, or diner to sit down and have a cupcake or a slice of cake or pie. I have found that they do not like to purchase these things at the market, mostly because they are messy and hard to eat on the go, and/or they don’t want to walk around trying to keep from dropping it until they get home to enjoy it. They’d rather pick something up that’s packaged neatly and throw it in their bag with the rest of their goods.

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Keep it as inexpensive as possible. You don’t want to lose money on your items, by any means, but the reality is that you just are not going to get paid for your time. It takes several hours a week to bake the items, not to mention the hours spent researching recipes, planning a menu, shopping for supplies, packing and setting up for the market, etc. If you took all of this into account when pricing your items, your brownies would be $20 each.

Be frugal. Purchase your ingredients at Aldi’s or in bulk. Purchase ingredients that can be used in several recipes, and use all of your ingredients until they’re gone.

In Indiana, every item must be labeled with the name of the item, the date it was made, the ingredients in order of volume, the quantity in the package, the name and address of the vendor, and a statement about the kitchen not having been inspected by the Department of Health, if you’re a home-based vendor. That means you will use a LOT of labels. I originally was buying these really cute, large (too large, probably, to stick on small packaged baked goods), round Kraft-paper sticky labels at Wal-mart (p.s…I kind of hate Wal-mart, but it’s one of the few stores we have in town), but they were nearly $8.00 per package, with only 90 labels in a package, which meant I was buying at least one package of labels a week. After several weeks of making the same mistake, we finally made it over to Staples and found much smaller, simple white labels that came 750 to a package for $12.00! HELLO! Plus, if you buy Avery labels, they have an amazing website that makes designing and printing labels really easy. There are tons of adorable designs, fonts, and colors to use.

Be resourceful and creative. Use what you have. Use scrapbook paper, paper doilies, and bakers’ twine to pretty things up instead of purchasing expensive packaging. Purchase set-up and baking supplies at garage sales and auctions.

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Keep it seasonal. Since it’s summertime, people have loved citrus and fruit flavors, root beer and s’mores flavors, light snacks, bright packaging, and red, white, and blue! Now that we’re transitioning into fall, I’m looking forward to making some heartier items, spices, pumpkin, and apple.

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This has certainly been a learning process, but it really has been fun! We have family and friends that come nearly every week to shop, hang out, and support us. My husband and I get to hang out in the park for a couple of hours every week and make money at the same time. We get to meet all kinds of people. We have regulars that encourage us by looking forward to what we bring every week. I’ve grown so much in the kitchen and learned so much about baking. I’ve gotten tons of practice with the awesome KitchenAid stand mixer (a must-have, by the way!) that my brother bought us last winter. I really could have never done this without that thing!

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One last note: In the beginning of this endeavor, I thought I would make several healthy options. As time went on, I realized no one was asking for healthy options, so I figured there must not be much of a demand, and it was much easier to make the unhealthy stuff, anyway. However, I have recently (FINALLY) found a great, holistic doctor that is helping me to get healthy in all kinds of areas, my fibromyalgia included. My diet has had to change quite a bit, meaning I’m having to eat nearly gluten, dairy, and sugar free. I figured I could just continue to make the things I’ve been making, and I would just make sure not to eat my own products. Well…shoot. That’s just not going to work, for several reasons. 1. It’s not realistic. I don’t eat the stuff I make every week, but often enough that it’s not realistic to expect to not eat the stuff for the rest of the season, especially with fall coming up. 2. Since I’ve adjusted my diet, the smell alone of hyper-sugary things makes me feel sick. No joke! I feel sick enough as it is adjusting to all the changes in diet and meds! 3. I’d like to offer healthier options to others who are making lifestyle changes rather than only appeal to those who can eat the junk (as delicious as it is, we all have to admit, it’s junk). Maybe I can even help some people who didn’t realize they were looking for delicious, healthier options!

Busy Bird, Back by Popular Demand!

Heyo! I bet you’re wondering why I haven’t had a post in so long. Well, there’s lots to fill you in on. I finally was forced to sit down and write because we’re having a terrible storm, and the power is out. There’s wet laundry in the washer that can’t be put in the dryer, dinner that can’t be cooked, internet that can’t be used, a bathroom that can’t be cleaned because it’s too dark to see all the crud, and errands that can’t be run because the streets are flooded…BUT, my laptop has plenty of charge in it, and Word still works to write a draft for a blog post! So here I am!

I’ve unfortunately had to put my blog on the backburner temporarily while I get some very exciting ventures underway. I didn’t really think anyone would notice, but several people have commented on my blog in passing and have asked if I’m still writing. THANK YOU for reading and for your compliments! I’m blown away, and it has really encouraged me to stay committed to this blog and fulfill my vision for it. Now, to answer your questions as to where I’ve been and what’s been keeping me from blogging, let me start from the beginning…

I started blogging and really pursuing some of my dreams when I quit my full-time job a few months back. I had the most awesome job at an amazing Christian radio station in Indianapolis, where I planned to stay for a long, long time. However, I had to quit after just 8 months due to my struggle with fibromyalgia, which made it very difficult to work a full-time job and remain on a strict work schedule. My health was suffering, and I had nothing to give at home when I wasn’t at work. Unfortunately, there were no part-time or work-from-home options available for me, so I had to resign. We weren’t sure how long this no-job thing would last, how much better the fibromyalgia would get as I focused more on my health, etc., but I knew that I had to put my health and my family first, and leaving my job was the only way to do that.

I had a lot of peace about the decision, and God put a fire in my heart to take this opportunity to chase after some dreams. The blog was one, and I started it as soon as I left my job. Another was to find a way to put my love for international justice and sustainable development back into action, as I have traveled, studied abroad, participated in short-term missions and internships, and worked for globally-minded nonprofit organizations in the past. I did this by becoming an Advocate of Hope for Starfish Project soon after I left my job, as well. I have made three trips to China (technically four, but who’s counting…oh, I am…boom!), and I have personally gotten to meet one of the founders of SP. I believe very strongly in their work, and I LOVE their beautiful jewelry, so it only made sense for me join in. By purchasing SP jewelry, we’re helping to set other women free, support their families, become independent, and follow their own dreams—THAT makes me happy!

I also have a dream of owning some sort of restaurant and using that restaurant to serve and engage the surrounding community. My grandma owned several restaurants, her father owned a restaurant, and his parents actually owned a delicatessen in Little Italy, NYC, so the love of food runs in my veins (which could also mean diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, but hey, those things are preventable, right?). I grew up helping out in my grandma’s restaurant, and I worked for a fantastic little family-run (not my family by blood, but they became my family) café in high school and college. Eddie, his family, and his restaurant were so loved in the community and did so much to give back. Unfortunately, that restaurant closed this past year, and it put in my heart the desire to carry on the legacy of Eddie’s Corner Café through my own café or bakery one day. I know a lot about the restaurant business by now, and I absolutely love to cook and bake. I have decided to start by becoming a home-based vendor and selling baked goods at the Farmers’ Market in our town this summer!

Finally, as you all know, I spend a lot of my time making our house a home by way of our vintage, antique, handmade, repurposed, secondhand, and all around DIY décor. A couple of years ago, I decided I would try to make some money out of my hobby by starting a little business called Bird and Tree Vintage. My mom, sister, and I joined forces and shared a booth space in a lovely store called Logan Village Mall in historic downtown Noblesville. Unfortunately, Noblesville is quite a drive for me, so I decided to branch out on my own and start my own booth space close to home. Starting June 1, you can find Bird and Tree Vintage at Tru-Finds Treasures in Lebanon, IN! You can also find me at various outdoor markets, which I’ll keep you posted on.

I know I have a lot of irons in the fire, as they say (and by “they”, I guess I mean old people), but I do have a vision for how all of these things can come together and be integrated, and I’m just so grateful and excited to be able to do these things. Even though it’s hard work, it’s been so good for me, physically, to be able to operate on a flexible schedule and at my own pace. I have time now to exercise and pursue other ways of improving my health. My husband is working really hard at making his dream of becoming a Spanish teacher a reality, and I’ve been able to support him in that so much more now that I’m not exhausted and in pain all the time.

I just want to use my gifts to serve God, to support my family, and to serve others. What a dream and a blessing it is to have the opportunity to pursue and put to use the things I love. It makes it a little awkward to explain when people ask where I work or what I “do”, but it’s cool. I’d love to hear some feedback on how you guys are living your dream, and/or how your dreams are different than what you planned (there’s a lot of that going on in my life, too!).

Life is b-e-a-utiful, even in the uncertainty and in the hard times. God can redeem the disappointments and the heartache to make something totally unexpected and lovely.

Want to learn more about some of the sweet people, places, and things I’ve mentioned in this post? Please do! Check it out now, funk soul brother.

http://site.starfish-project.com/

https://www.facebook.com/trufinds

http://www.loganvillagemall.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NowAndThenBoothSpace

Let’s Get It Started

What does one say in her first blog post? I’ve never been into blogs or understood why people would read blogs—untiiiiil Pinterest, that is. I began to realize that all those pictures I was pinning are actually links to websites, and most of those websites are blogs, and most of those blogs are written by crafty moms who are often trendy and cool and good at photography—and I LOVE them! I’m not a crafty mom, but I do love DIY projects, organizing, design, shopping for junk at flea markets, cooking and eating delicious food, entertaining, pretty things, and decorating my house. Writing is one of my strengths—and by that, I mean I used to write a mean, grade-A research paper in college and can edit like no one’s business—but creative writing is a new thing for me. I should also mention that I like to try new things, so in combination with several of my other interests, a blog seemed fitting. And while I’m not yet a mother to any human children, I do know lots of moms, if that helps at all. Hopefully I have interested you in reading my blog rather than dissuaded you! I really do want people to read this and be inspired, entertained, and maybe even enlightened. I’m hoping to take you all along in my journey as my husband and I live our beautifully imperfect lives in the sweet, little old house on the corner of King and Royal in a small Indiana town. (To be fair, though, it’s not THAT small of a town. I mean, we’re the county seat, mmkay? It’s kind of a big deal.) And that’s what I’m really trying to convey here: beauty. Beauty in imperfection. Beauty in second chances. Beauty in humility and modesty and simplicity. Beauty in love. Beauty in the things we create. Beauty in laughter and good times and good food. Beauty in the small things. God is making something beautiful and new every day, and I want to join Him.