Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 In Review

Looking back over the past year brings lots of memories - the great and the not-so-great. It was truly a year of extremes in so many areas of our lives.

My Word - FRESH
Although I was excited to start the year with the word FRESH, I abandoned it after a few months and chose not to pick it up again. I do have a new word for 2019, which I'll be sharing more about as we welcome in the new year.

My Family
The mental illness and broken relationships within my family overshadowed much of this year. Despite having a great deal of stability in my life and a close relationship with the Lord, I myself struggled emotionally to see the people I love torn apart, enduring emergency room visits and psychological rehab centers, and trying to cope with major depression, anger and frustration. Things are much calmer as the year comes to an end, but continued prayers for my family are appreciated.

My Ministry/Business
After a fantastic start to my illustrated Bible journaling classes and teaching engagements early in the year, I took a six-month break to deal with those family issues and my own emotional turmoil. I re-started my classes in November and am thrilled to report that they have been very well attended. Plus, I truly enjoy the preparation, the teaching, the interaction, and the creative time I get to spend in the Word that comes along with this ministry!

Robbie's Job
When Robbie was hired by a local company almost three years ago, they wanted his experience and expertise to help package and sell the company … which happened this year. The sale closed mid-year and Robbie has been busy with the integration process and several international trips.

While we didn't take many vacation trips this year, we thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks we spent in Alaska. It was a wonderful experience that I'm looking forward to scrapbooking and sharing more about in the coming year. I also joined Robbie on one of his business trips; while he was working, I enjoyed several days in Paris. Despite Robbie being ill and exhausted by the end of the week, we took a day trip to see the Normandy beaches.

Our Home
After talking and thinking for the past couple of years about doing some remodeling here at our home, we bit the bullet and had new flooring installed in almost half of the house and updated the kitchen with a larger island, new countertops, backsplash and appliances! We still have some bits & pieces to complete in the new year, but everything was in place in time for us to cook Christmas dinner on the new range!

My Faith
Robbie and I have been sporadic with our church attendance the past few years, but the last few months we've found a new church home and I've joined the ladies Bible study group there as well. Through all the ups and downs this year, I am so grateful for the Lord's peace and the lessons I've learned; for example - It Is Well With My Soul, Hard-Pressed yet Not Crushed, God Is Bigger Than Mount Denali.

I was consistently inconsistent posting on the blog here this year; however, I do so enjoy having this online space to share the bits & pieces of our daily life and am looking forward to continuing to share throughout 2019! Thank you to those of you who have continued to stop by and leave comments. I am grateful for the blogging community and the friends I've made over the past almost nine years!

How was your 2018?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Pulitzer Short Story Collections

While I truly enjoy listening to stories being told in person, I am not a huge fan of the short story when it comes to reading. It seems like as soon as I get invested in a story, it ends! So, I wasn't exactly thrilled to discover that several of the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners were collections of short stories; however, I willingly launched into them as I get closer and closer to my goal of reading all the fiction winners from 1948 to 2018!


Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000 winner)
A collection of stories about Indians and Bengalis that show contrasts between the Indian and American cultures; some set in America in the Boston area and others set in Calcutta. These had mostly sad endings - an epileptic girl gets kicked out of an apartment complex, the boy's babysitter has a car wreck and he become a latch key kid, the couple separates.

A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (1993 winner)
Fifteen stories told from the perspective of Vietnamese individuals living in Louisiana around New Orleans or Lake Charles. One story was focused on a middle-age man picking his wife's grandfather up from the Houston airport. (I'm familiar with that area, so I found it interesting that I knew he was on Hwy 90 before he even gave the names of towns they were passing through - China, Nome, Liberty). When he arrived at the airport, he realized that the grandfather couldn't remember anyone or anything; however, no one had let them know ahead of time. Another story focused on a man whose beautiful wife was cheating on him. He went to a voodoo man in New Orleans for help because he could no longer "bring fire down from heaven" like when he was a spy in Vietnam. I learned a few things about the Vietnamese - many of them believe in ghosts, they do not tell things directly or bluntly, some assimilated into American culture more quickly than others, and they build shrines in their homes for deceased relatives.

These stories are mostly set in Mexico or Texas (although one was set in Berlin) and are told from different perspectives. Again, there are quite a few unhappy endings (the guy kills himself or the boyfriend dies, etc). This book includes three small volumes of her works collected together with an additional four stories. In the author's forward, she says, "Every story I ever finished and published is here." Some of these were "short novels", which I enjoyed more than the "short stories" which seemed to end before the characters were fully developed.

Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson (1978 winner)
"Twelve rich, provocative stories that explore the borderline between black and white America." Some of these stories had interesting beginnings and I was expecting something to happen, but the story ends without any conflict or interesting developments. For example, in one story a judge reviews all the testimony in a case and I think he's going to find something important, but he just decides "guilty"...just like the defendant said he was. There was quite a bit of inappropriate language in some of the stories.

There was a huge variety of foreign settings in this collection - Paris, France, Belgium, London, Germany; these stories were mostly about Americans visiting or living in these places. Another section contained stories set in Adams, Colorado, or introduced characters who were originally from Adams. I encountered lots of new words while reading these stories [ex: parvenu (a person of obscure origin who has gained wealth, influence, or celebrity), spill (strips of paper to light a fire),desuetude (a state of disuse)]. These stories were a little longer, but they still had some strange or "non-endings."

Fortunately, of the nine Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners I have left to read, there's only one more collection of short stories!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Bible Journaling Goody Bag GIVEAWAY!

It's less than a week until we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!

Each day between now and Christmas, I'm sharing Christmas Bible Journaling pages on my Facebook page, and I'm hosting a free giveaway!

I'll be drawing a name at random from everyone who comments on any of the posts from today through Christmas Day to win a free Bible Journaling Goody Bag. Each post you comment on earns one chance to win. For extra chances to win, share a photo of one of your Christmas Bible journaling pages in the comments of any of the posts.

During this busy season, I hope you'll find time to sit with your Bible for a few minutes and illustrate the true meaning of the season - whether that's drawing or tracing or simply adding a prayer of thanks in the margin of your Bible!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Oh Holy Night Christmas Cards

We've been in the midst of some major home remodeling the past couple of months (photos coming soon), so I'm really glad I created some Christmas cards earlier this year!

A few months ago, I grabbed some papers from Echo Park's Oh Holy Night collection and used the 3x4, 4x4, and 4x6 cut apart pieces to create a batch of cards with a variety of card bases and scrap papers from my stash. I really like how this paper line reminds us of the true reason for the season!


One day last week while the contractors were putting in our new countertops, I got these cards addressed and sent out. Did you send out Christmas cards this year?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dolly's Coat of Many Colors Reminds Us To Be Kind

I remember singing along with Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors song when I was a teenager! It's a great country song that Dolly wrote about a coat her mama made for her out of a box of rags someone gave them. She was so proud of that coat; however, when she wore it to school, the other children laughed at her. Dolly couldn't understand why they were making fun of her because she felt so very rich in the coat that her mama had sewed with love.

A patchwork coat made from washi tape and some of the words from Dolly's song were the perfect illustration for the scripture in Ephesians 4:33 that reminds us to:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave us.

In recent years, Dolly's story has been turned into a children's picture storybook and a movie. The book is wonderfully illustrated and is a great way to remind young children to be kind to one another. The movie shares this story as well as the story of the baby Dolly's mother lost when Dolly was a young girl. It's a beautiful feel-good story with lots of lessons about faith and family and love. The actress that plays Dolly is adorable and does such a fabulous job. We enjoy watching this movie, along with Dolly's Christmas of Many Colors, around this time each year. I highly recommend the book and both movies!


Do you remember this song? (You can hear Dolly sing it HERE.) Have you read this book or watched these movies? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

An Angel Remembered - book review

I had no idea this book was based on a true story until I'd finished it. Apparently the author met Vinnie, the first character we meet in this story, and decided to write her story as a fiction novel. 

An Angel Remembered begins in the year 2000 as Vinnie mourns the death of her husband Leo, then moves to a look back at her life beginning in 1942 when she and Leo first meet. Once their daughter Lenora is born, the story follows her life through January of 1958, then returns to Vinnie in 2000 for the epilogue.

Throughout the story, Lenora has a special relationship with the Lord and receives numerous visits from the angel Gabriel. Following this family through trials and joys and moves across the country was an enjoyable read. The tidbits of history scattered throughout were interesting, but the real beauty was the faith of a child and how she endured whatever came her way with peace.

I read this book (which I received free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) on my Kindle. It was a fairly quick read, well-written and well-paced.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Clean Heart Is Better Than A Clean House

When Jesus admonished Martha in Luke chapter 10, we might assume it was because she was busy working and serving rather than sitting at His feet as Mary chose to do.

However, His compassionate reply is not directed toward her actions, but rather toward her attitude of distraction.

"Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.
But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, 
which will not be taken away from her."
~Luke 10:42

The "one thing" that is needed is time and intimacy with the Lord. This needs to come first and be an important part of our lives. 

Remember, Jesus did not say that Martha was wrong to be serving (or that the house never needed cleaning). He was saying that her distracted and worried attitude was causing her to miss out on the most important thing. 

Do you make time for the most important thing, or does worry and distraction keep your focus off the Lord?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Classic Sunflower Cards

I had such a great time creating those Lush Lilac Cards last month that I signed up for another class at Personal Scrapbook using Heartfelt Creations products. The instructor, Robin, creates such lovely cards and does a great job putting together kits for these classes. This time we used the Classic Sunflower stamp & die set.

I was especially interested in this class because I like sunflowers and I actually purchased this set a while back … although it hasn't been used much at all!

Once again we used a variety of inks (applied with daubers) to color and edge the flowers and leaves.

Then we added sparkle with stickles or Wink of Stella pens.

It was FUN to use these sunflowers with various colors on three different sized cards.

Joining in today with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Series

I've enjoyed several book series recently - some new, some old, but all very good.


I discovered The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries at the library and completed the first three of these easy-to-read cozy mysteries very quickly. Gemma Doyle owns The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Cape Cod and finds herself involved in a variety of murder mysteries. She also has the innate ability to notice things that other people often overlook. Her best friend, Jayne Wilson, runs Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room, which is adjacent to the bookshop, and is often an unwilling "assistant" in Gemma's investigations and their run-ins with Detective Ryan Ashburton, Gemma's ex-boyfriend.

In Book 1, Elementary, She Read, Gemma is actually one of the suspects because she discovers two bodies that are mixed up with the disputed estate of a wealthy Bostonian. I have to admit that I did not figure this one out until it was all revealed at the end of the book! In Book 2, Body on Baker Street, an author drops dead while doing a book signing in Gemma's store. There are several suspects - the author's assistant, the publisher, a Sherlock Holmes collector, an overly enthusiastic fan, an unpublished author wanting credit for the book idea, etc. The lively characters make for a good read as Gemma attempts to help her friend Donald (the collector) clear his name by finding the murderer. In Book 3, The Cat of the Baskervilles, Jayne's mother is actually a suspect because she knew the actor who was killed at a tea party for the cast of a local production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Again, there are lots of suspects, as well as the question of whether this was a murder or a suicide. I definitely recommend these books for some easy reading and lots of Sherlock Holmes references.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley was one of this year's book club selections. This is an excellent hard-to-put-down story told from the perspective of Ada, a ten-year-old who was born with a club foot. Ada's mother treats her like an illiterate cripple and won't let her walk or go outside. The story is set during World War II, and when children are evacuated from London, Ada sneaks off to the meeting place with her little brother Jamie. When they arrive in Kent, none of the townsfolk pick them and they are taken to Susan Smith. At first, Susan doesn't want them, but she takes good care of them and they settle into a routine. Because Ada had never been outside her mother's apartment in London, there are many words and situations she doesn't understand, causing frustrations for everyone.

This is a beautiful story of one girl's fight to better herself. Ada says, "there are all kinds of wars," and in this book she is fighting the war to be treated like a normal person. Of course, the war is also going on around them, so there are historical elements that play a large part in the story. When survivors from Dunkirk arrive in town, Ada helps out by passing out water for the men. It's the first time she's felt like she could be useful and realizes that there is a "before Dunkirk Ada" and an "After Dunkirk Ada." I really enjoyed this feel-good story and couldn't help but root for Ada and Jamie and Susan as they all learned and changed and grew.

Then I discovered there was a sequel! The War I Finally Won picks up the story with Ada in the hospital to have surgery on her club foot. She and Jamie are living with Susan in a cottage on the Thorton's property. Maggie Thornton is Ada's best friend. When a Jewish girl from Germany joins them at the cottage, there's conflict among the inhabitants as some question whether or not she is a spy. The war continues and Ada continues to figure out who she is. Horse riding and helping tend the Thorton's stables are like therapy for her. She receives the gift of a dictionary and uses it often to look up words that she doesn't understand. This is another well-written book.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a series of books about four high school friends who spend their summers apart. When they discover a pair of jeans that fit each of them perfectly, despite their varying dimensions, they devise a plan to share the pants so each of them has them for a short time before sending them on to the next one in line. Each book covers one summer of the girls' lives. There are lots of story lines - friendship, losing a friend, boyfriends, jobs, family secrets, grief, blended families, sex, misunderstandings, etc. I first read these books when they came out in the early 2000s and enjoyed re-reading them as part of my goal to re-read all the children's and young adult books in my collection.

I own all the books in The Mitford Years Series, and I recently re-read book one (At Home in Mitford) on a day I just wanted to read something wholesome and uplifting. These stories center around Father Tim, a small-town rector surrounded by wonderful characters in the town of Mitford - "an American village where the grass is still green, the pickets are still white, and the air still smells sweet." This is a great series that I'll return to again when I've completed some of my reading goals for the year.

What series have you been reading lately?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Europe Trip Srapbooking #1

I've finally made a start on scrapbooking our trip to Europe last fall! This 14-day trip will fill an entire album!

I began by choosing a few elements to use throughout the album - kraft cardstock, cork letter stickers, and small wood veneer embellishments. My plan is that every page will begin with a kraft cardstock background and each new location or main attraction will have a title with cork letter stickers, The small wood embellishments will be on various layouts throughout the album. The title page will be created last using pieces of the other papers I'll be including in each section.

The first section begins with the itinerary I created for the trip, then showcases photos, memorabilia and journaling as we set out from Dallas and arrived in London. In addition to the kraft, I used a cream cardstock on the pages in this section.

On several of the pages, I drew a border with the brown pen that I'm using for my journaling.

I have a variety of travel themed stickers (some newly purchased, some from my stash) that I'll be including throughout the album as well.

When you look at the next layout, you'll see that the handwriting is different - I'm having Robbie add journaling at various points to ensure his perspective is included.

I've had all these little wood veneer embellishments (stars, cameras, arrows, hearts, keys, etc) in my stash for some time, so I'm excited to be using them to bring some cohesiveness to this album.

Other than the papers and travel-themed stickers that I've purchased specifically for this project, I'll be utilizing items from my stash as I go. On the page below, I used four Project Life cards for journaling and embellishments.

So, two days of memories recorded … twelve to go! Have you scrapped any big trips lately?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Two-Page Digital Layouts

As I'm slowly (very slowly) processing photos from our trips this year, I'm creating some digital layouts.

After sharing about our somewhat disappointing tour of Seattle's Underground, I used a page template and papers from my digital stash for a two-page layout.

I chose the colors in this layout because they coordinate with the brochure for this tour.

I'll use some attach-me stickers to add the brochure into my 3-ring album in between these two pages.

The only memorabilia from my ride in the Ballon de Generali was the ticket stub, which I added to our travel journal, so I created another two-page layout with those photos.

I used another page template from my digital stash, but rather than digital papers, I simply recolored the various elements to coordinate with my photos.

I like the way these digital page templates allow me to add and re-size quite a few photos.

I'm planning to continue this trend as I complete each batch of photos where I don't have additional memorabilia that I'd like to include on a layout.

Have you created any digital layouts lately?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

In Everything Give Thanks

Sometimes it's hard to follow the direction in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that says in everything give thanks. There are times in life when it seems we have nothing to give thanks for; however, the scripture doesn't say give thanks for the things you like, it says in everything give thanks.

My page was inspired by Tamara LaPorte's tutorial in the Life Book Creativity and Wellbeing Summit.

This scripture always reminds me of the story that Corrie ten Boom shared in her book The Hiding Place. When she and her sister Betsy were in a concentration camp during World War II, Betsy insisted on giving thanks for the fleas that were in the barracks. Corrie was dumfounded and simply prayed that God would listen to Betsy because she could not bring herself to give thanks for the fleas.

The two sisters began holding prayer meetings and Bible study in the barracks every night, and not once did the guards come in and stop them. Many weeks later Betsy learned that the reason they were never discovered was because the guards refused to enter the room . . . because of the fleas!

What are you giving thanks for today?

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

More Pulitzer Progress  

As I mentioned in my last update on the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners, I got a little bogged down in the 1955 winner - A Fable by William Faulkner. This was a very long, very slow read! The chapters are divided by days; however, I was several chapters in before I realized that the several Tuesday and Wednesday chapters were actually about the same day, just told from different perspectives. There are many (many!) characters in the book referenced by their military rank - general, corporal, sergeant-major - without any names, and the stream-of-consciousness thoughts run on for pages and pages (and pages and pages). It was not a book I enjoyed; I'm not even sure how to describe it, so here's a description from the jacket cover: Faulkner's recasting of the Christ story set during World War I "to try to tell what I had found in my lifetime of truth in some important way before I had to put the pen down and die."

The Town by Conrad Richter, the 1951 winner, was easier to read despite some difficult topics. The story focuses on Sayward, a wife and mother of eight (living) children, and focuses on the changing ways of America during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Sayward is from a family of American pioneers and owns quite a bit of land in and around the small town in Ohio where the story takes places. She is somewhat wealthy in the area. Her youngest child, Chancey, is much quieter than the others and causes her the most worry. He is a sensitive youngster with frequent health problems and often retreats into daydreams of belonging to another family who will understand him better. Despite being told not to talk to her, Chancey befriends Rosa, a young girl in town, and their friendship leads to long kept secrets and dire consequences.

I read this story on my Kindle. It was an enjoyable book, which I discovered is actually the final book in a trilogy called Awakening Land.

Philip Roth's 1998 winner, American Pastoral, starts out OK as a story about "The Swede", a high school athlete who meets up with a high school friend who has become an author. The Swede describes his great life - a wife and three sons. However, at a High School reunion, the author discovers that The Swede actually had a really rough life before this second marriage.

The remainder of the book tells The Swede's story about his first marriage to Miss New Jersey and their daughter, who at the age of 16 blows up the local post office (killing a  man) to protest the Vietnam War. Up until that time, The Swede was living the American Dream - a successful business man and lovely family, but all that changes in the years that follow.

This is a fairly good story that is well told with lots of detail and characterization, although another slow read. There are a few sexually explicit scenes that I thought were overdone and didn't add to the book. Unfortunately, the story doesn't really end and left me wondering what happened next. Then, I discovered this is book one of a three part series.

When I checked out the 2001 winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, I discovered that it was almost 700 pages long! However, it was a fairly good read with lots of details and history as it follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, Sammy Clay & Joe Kavalier, through World War II and into the mid-1950s. Sammy lives with his mother and grandmother in New York. When his cousin Joe arrives after escaping from Prague in 1939, they pitch an idea for a comic book to Sammy's employer.

There were several storylines involving the lives of these two cousins:
*The birth of The Escapist (superhero and comic book) and it's evolution, which included lots of interesting history about comic books during and after the war.
*Joe's attempt to fight the war through the comic book stories as he tries to secure Visas to get his family out of Prague. A heartbreaking story of how families were torn apart during the war and the difficulties of not knowing what was truly happening overseas.
*A disappointing storyline as Sammy realizes he is a fairy (the word used throughout most of the book for homosexual) and makes various difficult choices throughout the book.
*As the story progresses, Joe eventually goes off to war and one section of the book details his time serving in Antarctica.
*During that time, Sammy marries Joe's girlfriend Rosa and we re-enter their lives when their son Tommy is in fifth grade.

Fortunately, the plot moved along at a steady pace; however, I was glad when I reached the end!

The 2018 Pulitzer winners were announced this past April, and I was able to check out a copy of Less by Andrew Sean Greer from our local library. The story of Arthur Less, a gay not-very-well-known author, is told from the point of view of another gay man. When Arthur learns that his ex-boyfriend is getting married around the same time that he is turning 50, he decides to take a trip around the world by accepting several offers he's received  - to speak at a conference (in Mexico), attend an awards ceremony (in Italy), teach a five-week course (at a German university), celebrate a friend's friend's birthday (in Morocco), and visit a writing retreat (in India). Honestly, I did not enjoy the book and am very glad it was a short quick read.

Currently, I'm still on track to finish all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners by the end of the year! How are you doing on your reading goals this year?