when family comes around

when family comes around

So often in life I feel like an oddball. I have a weird sense of humor. I feel the need to be creative all. the. time. When I hear a favorite song from my past, I like to sing out. Like at the top of my lungs.

But there’s that one group of people that gathers around a few times of year that actually gets me. I don’t have to explain my jokes. I don’t have to explain why we might want to do a craft on Thanksgiving Day. Nope. They just jump right in and turn on the 70s music and sing out.


When my kids were younger, I think they were actually a little intimidated by my side of the family. I’m the youngest of four children, which makes them the youngest of the 14 grandchildren on my side. Each of my siblings is highly creative.

My oldest sister sings and plays multiple instruments. My second sister is a professional clay artist, creating designs for a major polymer clay company. And my brother left his career in business to build motorcycles from scratch. Behind his huge motorcycle dude persona, he is a talented artist and loves painting ceramics with his two daughters. All of my nieces and nephews also are highly creative so when we get together it’s not unusual to cover the table in butcher block paper so everyone can draw, doodle or do creative lettering while we talk.

This Thanksgiving, I was relieved that when I suggested we paint rocks, I didn’t get one funny sideways glance. Nope. They were in. No complaints or objections or “let’s go watch football.”



Of course, the only problem is they are all so creative that they make me suddenly feel like I have no artistic talent whatsoever!




Here’s mine:


Now that my kids are getting older, they appreciate my crazy family. They are starting to understand our shared weird sense of humor. And the need to sing out. It’s fun to watch our kids get in the mix and practice their own creativity. Our oldest son jumped in by creating a video of our silliness.

Thankfully, we can all laugh at ourselves!


How about you? Does your family do anything unusual when you are together?




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that time the hubs built me a table

that time the hubs built me a table

About a month ago, my husband and I were sitting in the lobby of our church waiting for someone. It was a long wait, and we were both tired, and I guess we had run out of topics of conversation. We both started admiring the table at which we were sitting. It was an extra long table with a dark glossy finish.

“I could build a table like this,” he said.

At first, I thought he was kidding. My husband is known for his dry sense of humor, so even after 19 years of marriage, I’m still not always certain if he’s being serious. I was pretty sure that during two decades of being together, he wasn’t just NOW going to mention that he had a secret talent in furniture construction.

“What do you mean you could build a table like this?” I asked.

“This would easy,” he assured me in his very non-joking tone.

I asked him if he could change the design. I would like the table to be about the same length, but not as deep. We have a very long wall in our kitchen that has perplexed me since we moved in. I’ve looked at all sorts of tables to put along the wall, but I’ve never been able to find one long enough that would fit into my budget. At one point, I almost purchased a church pew off Craig’s List. I’ve looked at cabinets and shelves, but nothing was quite right.

As I debated with myself what to do with that space, I noticed that every time we had a large gathering in our home, I would set up a folding table along that wall. I would usually fill it with drinks or snacks to relieve the congestion that always seems to happen in the kitchen. When I moved some of the food and drink options to that wall, it would draw people out of the heart of the kitchen, and give them a reason to gather around the kitchen table.

“Did you know I’ve been shopping for TWO YEARS for a table like this?” I asked him.

The next day was Saturday, and my husband headed out bright and early to Home Depot. We already had a wood working project going on in the garage. But he would squeeze in time on the weekends to work on my table. At one point, he completely scrapped his first design, which was a simple table that was bar height. We looked at some ideas on Pinterest, and he came up with a plan to add two shelves and an X on each end.


After about a month, he was finished. I will admit that many days I was afraid to look. I know my husband is amazing in many ways, but I’ve never seen him build furniture before. You would think that it might have at least come up in conversation at some point if he had some previous experience building tables!


Now, it was my turn to figure out how to stain the table and add the polyurethane. I picked a dark walnut stain, which matched my dining room table and my end tables. I had never stained furniture before, so this was going to be a new adventure. After two coats of stain and three coats of poly, we were done.

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Well, to say I love my table would be an understatement. I’ve been playing around with setting it up as a coffee bar.




And I’m trying to figure out how to maximize the amazing storage options underneath with baskets.




I’m not sure if my husband thought he was going to get away with JUST building me a table?! I’ve been ready for a new kitchen table for several years. And don’t you think it would be great if it matched?


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shooting the moon

shooting the moon

I have a weird hobby. One evening a month, I drive out into the country and find an isolated spot, usually near an open field. I sit in my minivan with my camera, looking to the east. And I wait.

I look at my watch. Then, I stare at the horizon. I look at my watch again. I check to see where the sun is setting, then follow its path to the opposite side of the sky. I squint, and look at my watch again.

More often than not, I see nothing. After about 15 minutes, I go back home. But sometimes, I’m rewarded with an amazing sight. A hazy orange orb starts peeking its way over the horizon.


There it is.

On this one day a month, when the moon is full, it makes its way into view at almost the exact same moment the sun is setting. It’s usually almost impossible to see the moon at this time of day because it’s still bright outside, and the lower part of the sky is typically covered in haze or completely overcast. But once in a while, when the sky is clear, the sun shines like a spotlight directly onto the moon. When it appears at the lowest point in the sky, it looks enormous.


If you are planning to take a photo, you have to be ready. The moon looks like it is racing up the sky. You only have a few minutes to get this shot before it climbs over the tree line, ascends the houses and starts taking on a bright orange glow.

I try to find a spot to put its magnitude into perspective. This is harder than it sounds.


You can see the moon best on high ground with nothing to obstruct your view. Usually, these spots are somewhere along a country road, and they don’t exactly have parking spots. When we first moved out here, I would always be on the lookout for a perfect viewing spot that also had a place to pull over so I wouldn’t get run over standing next to the road with my tripod. These days, I also look for interesting scenery — a barn, a pond or a tree — that will add life to my photo.

Last night’s full moon was one of the best I’ve seen in the three or so years that I’ve been obsessed with taking photos of the moon. The sky was perfectly clear, and it was a super moon, making it looks 14 percent larger than it does normally.


I have an app on my phone that tells me when the moon will be at its peak. When the day comes, I usually say to my husband, “Do you think I should really go out and take ANOTHER photo of the moon?”

He responds in his usual super encouraging way. “You have to enjoy the moment. You only live once. Go.”

I make jokes to myself about how I’m the official moon photographer for my friends on Facebook. My journalism training runs deep, and I feel some kind of need to cover my self-assigned “moon beat.”


It only takes about 40 minutes for the moon to launch into the sky, and lose its supernatural orange glow. But during that time, I love watching the moon for a few reason:

It’s one thing in my life that is 100 percent predictable. The moon always comes up at the exact moment that it is supposed to. I don’t know why I seem to find this surprising, but it gives me some kind of reassurance to see it pop up over into the tree line at the exact moment that meteorologists said it would.

It gives me perspective. I’m always in awe to think I’m viewing something that is 238,000 miles away. It reminds me I’m basically a speck in a galaxy so enormous I can’t even comprehend its size. It makes me think about my awesome creator and how powerful He is to put all of the elements in place so we can even live on Earth.


It’s a challenge. When I started taking photos of the moon, my goal was just to get a close up so I could see the craters and details of something so far away. These days, I like to find ways to frame it. I’m nearly giddy when a flock of geese fly across my photo or I can position myself so it looks like its hovering over a flag pole. On Saturday evening, this guy was flying his ultralite, probably enjoying the view as much as I was. When he saw me with my camera, he flew around in front of me so I could get a shot of him with the moon. I couldn’t talk to him or tell him “thank you”, but I have a feeling he was smiling just as much as I was!

I took all of the photos in this post the last two evenings. You can go ahead and laugh at me for being so geeky about my love for the moon. But I don’t mind. I will be right back at it next month!



So, what about you? Do you like looking at the moon? Did you catch a glimpse of last night’s super moon?


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practicing gratitude, part 2

practicing gratitude, part 2

When I think about November, the first thing that comes to mind is NOT how beautiful it is. In my mind, November is the transition from fall to winter. It’s the month when the vibrant colors of October start to fade. It’s the month of dark evenings and cooler weather.

As I thought about ways I could practice gratitude this month, I decided I would challenge myself to post a daily photo showing the beauty of November. Lots of people share posts each day about what they are thankful for. I decided I would try to do this through photography.

Honestly, I had my doubts about how successful I would be. But, as always, you will find beauty when you look for it. And during the first week of November, it’s been easy to find.

The trees have been amazing.



The weather has still been fluctuating from cool evenings to warm days, bringing eerily beautiful foggy mornings.





I’ve been able to catch a few sunrises.




And some gorgeous walks through fallen leaves.







Seeing the farmers out in their fields makes me appreciate the bounty of the season.



Week One of my gratitude photography project has been amazing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the month brings!

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practicing gratitude

practicing gratitude

Last Tuesday, I woke up early and jumped out of bed 45 minutes before my usual wake time. It was the day after Halloween, and we got to bed late the night before. But I was full of energy. It was the first day of November, and oddly, I had been growing more and more excited about this day

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I seemed to have fallen in love with October. We had perfect weather most of the month, and we had been intentional about enjoying this middle month of fall. It’s my tendency to dread November. I don’t like the time change that brings 4 p.m. sunsets. I don’t like the first brush with cold weather. I don’t like the barren trees and dried up prairie.

As October was winding down, I decided to start making a mental list of how I could appreciate November. I thought about our anniversary and my son’s birthday, both in November. I started planning Thanksgiving — my favorite holiday. I planned out my goals for the month. November is all about thankfulness and gratitude, so I wanted to come up with some activities and ideas that centered around that theme.

So, last Tuesday, I headed outside with extra enthusiasm before the sun came up to drag a large tree branch out of the yard and into the living room. For the past few years, I had seen ideas to make a Thankful Tree. I wanted to do it, but I couldn’t think of a way to do something that would fit in with my decor. This year, I remembered the large branch my husband had cut from our River Birch tree. It had been laying in the yard since summer.

I pulled off all of the old dry leaves and brought it inside. I had just dropped it on the living room floor, when one of my kids came down to deliver some discouraging news. I hadn’t even been awake for an hour, and this news seemed to drain me of my excitement and enthusiasm. I was feeling frustrated, defeated and angry.

How could I possibly create a Thankful Tree now? I didn’t feel the least bit thankful. I was annoyed.

Why do you even get sucked into these dumb Pinterest ideas? It’s ridiculous to drag a huge branch into the living room! What are you trying to do?

I left the branch there, and dealt with the problem of the morning. Then, it was time to walk my youngest to school. I stepped out into the beauty of that day and took deep breaths of the crisp autumn air. The sun was shining brightly, and the sky was bright blue. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect first day of November.

When I got back home, I collected myself and figured out how I could “plant” that branch in a big metal container with potting soil. I added large rocks at the top and covered those with the many colorful leaves we had found outside. I found some sparkly cardstock in fall colors and cut out leaves with my Silhouette.


I picked out one of the leaves and wrote the first thing that came to mind: “a gorgeous first day of November.”

I actually felt better after I put it on the tree.

That evening, I didn’t deliver a big speech to my family about thankfulness. We didn’t do a Bible study or read a poem. I knew that creating this monument to thankfulness was my thing. I was the one who wanted to practice gratitude this month. I couldn’t force it upon someone else. It was up to them to decide whether to play along. I simply asked everyone if they could write something they are thankful for on one of the leaves. They did it without making a peep.


“Wow!” I thought. No one complained. No one asked why. No one acted like I was crazy. They just did it.


During the past week, it’s been fun to see people interact with the tree. Some family members fill in a leaf almost every day without being asked. For others, it’s something they do when reminded at dinnertime. We all get excited to see what others wrote. I think that’s actually the best part. I love seeing the little things we all are taking the time to appreciate. Sometimes, they are serious. Sometimes, they are funny. I’ve also realized we all have very similar handwriting so it’s hard to determine who wrote what.


After seven days, I thought I might start running out of things to write on the leaves. In fact, the opposite it true. As I think of things to be thankful for, more and more things come to mind. It’s almost like a thankfulness bank has been opened in my mind.


Our Thankful Tree is getting fuller and fuller by the day. Out the window just beyond, we have been watching the leaves fall off of the big Maple in our backyard. Meanwhile, we keep adding leaves to the branch in our kitchen.


Yes, the days are getting shorter. The evenings are getting darker. And the air will soon get colder. But our Thankful Tree is getting fuller. And as it does, our kitchen is full of gratitude.

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