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Extraordinary Everyday Life

Extraordinary Everyday Life.  

That is my 'subheading' for my website.  This whole photography thing happened in like 1 day, literally.  I mulled it over for years - but, one day I just did it.  I bought the name, bought the website and started putting it together.  

Title: Life, Love & Lemons.  

Subheading: ... subheading?  like a slogan?  motto?  Heck, I don't know!   I thought for a minute what I wanted to capture through my photography - for the lives of those I am photographing - and, what I wanted 'represented' in my blog.  That phrase came poring through - I typed it out - without revision.  It's perfect.  It really encompasses my today and the trajectory of what I want life to feel like, forever -  in my personal life and through my photographs.  I want them to feel the emotion.  Feel the moment.  Feel the extraordinary.

Everyone has an extraordinary life.  We all do, in our own right.  We choose how to live it.  How to run it.  How to own it.  How to make it ours.  We create a life on what we dream and what we believe.  We also know that life doesn't always take the same route we dreamed it would.  But it is ours.  

The dreams and evolution of my own life has shifted more times then I can hardly remember - and, it's only been 30 years.  I can't even imagine where I will be in the next 30, but I am ready.  I am excited.  I am comfortable.  I know that some of it I will create.  I will work hard on developing, cultivating, nurturing the life I want for myself and my family.  I am also comfortable knowing that my dreams are broad enough that they can shift with life because life requires flexibility.  I am comfortable with knowing that my dreams may change with the obstacles that are pressed upon us.  Changes aren't always easy.  Sometimes that learning and shifting and changing produces a curve.  These learning curves vary in height, width, and dimension.  Some are long and slow and others, they resemble more of an acute triangle then ever a bell curve.  But that is life.  What we do with it is what makes each of us unique.

A decade ago I was different.  A decade ago I was lost.  Ambitions to take on anything - but I had no direction.  So, I went in many different directions.  I love the quote, "not all who wonder are lost."  However, I was, admittedly, lost.  I don't regret those days.  All life experiences give the opportunity to keep trudging down a path that we know will show great rewards.  We know because we can feel it.  Then there are paths we start down, and realize, it isn't for us.  It isn't the succession to failure - it is recognition of what we don't want.  I have had lots of opportunities of recognition :)  They make me smile, now.  They have shaped me.  They have changed me, for the better. 

A glimpse into my life doesn't look like much.  But, simple loving nights make it extraordinary, to me.  Last night, I wasn't feeling well.  John left his night class to come home and take care of Brayden.  We all laid in bed.  John tired from a long day.  We just sat.  Messy house.  Nothing packed or prepared for tomorrow.  Dishes not done - and something from the freezer for dinner.   Laundry piling.  We sat exhausted - but not defeated - the opposite really.  We relished in the simple.  Cartoons on the TV.  An online final for John (I help because I miss being in school).  Some where, some how, Brayden found lotion and decided he needed to lather up after his bath.  Then I persuaded him to put lotion on my legs and feet (what a good husband he will be some day).  That lead me to a story of my Grandpa Knute.  John and Brayden never had the privilege to know him - but, he was a great man.  An Extraordinary Man.  I told Brayden that I use to put lotion on my Grandpa's feet and color his toe nails with crayons...  And even do his hair.  I can still picture it.  I can still feel the happiness from those memories.  This lead into a discussion about where my Grandpa was and Brayden wanted to know how he could talk to him.  So, I explained the best I could.  "Grandpa Knute is with God.  We can't see him or hear him but he is always around and we can talk to him whenever we want.  Just like God."  Surprisingly, and not typical, Brayden didn't ask any more questions after that.  I usually hear "why?" at least fifteen times when I am explaining something.  I am happy that he was content with my answer.  Then, we went and got crayons and markers so he could color my toenails...  that lead to coloring my feet too.  All while we laid in bed.  I couldn't have planned a more perfect night.

While creating and living this life, people don't always get me.  Some people don't really know me - some think they do and some could give a hoot.  Very few really know me.  John does.  Brayden does.  There are a few others that get me and accept me - and there are a few who don't get me, but love me anyway.  And really, that is all I need.  I have comfort and contentment in my own life, in my own skin.  The decade ago Megan cared what people 'thought' of me.  The older Megan chooses to live life more consciously and purposefully. I am driven, ambitious, and loving - but perfectly imperfect and flawed in all the ways that make me, Me.   I am who I am.  Take me or leave me, I live this life for me.  For Brayden.  For John.  It isn't perfect, but it is ours.  We live our everyday life, extraordinarily.  

You should too :) Own it.  Live it.  Love it.  Extraordinarily.  



refuse to sink

Today is met with so many emotions.  

I cried on my way to work today.  But, they were happy tears.  It felt so good to have a shift of emotions.  I have been waiting for weeks for this shift to come.  I knew it would.  It always does.  Sometimes the wait is longer then others.  

Today, we slept in.  I am blessed by a great employer.  I have a flexible schedule and he is very understanding of this kinda crazy life I lead.  

We got our break from the bitter cold today.  Today is sunshine and birds singing - and with the glistening of the snow really creates this amazing beauty that warms my heart - and for a few days of the winter season, I am thankful for the climate that I live in.  

On the drive in, Brayden was full of questions.  And these questions, like most, make me smile in amazement of what he is learning.  He asks so many questions.  But, not just "Why?"  Today, out of the blue he stated "Lighting hurts people and things,"  I said, "Yes it can, but it is just part of nature."  You can anticipate what the next questions was....  "What's nature?"  So, I think for a minute....  "It is the sky, clouds, sun, rain, ground, trees, wind, air..."  I pause, waiting for the next question.  "What does the rain do?"  "Rain is very important.  It feeds the ground and everything that grows: trees, corn, beans, grass, flowers..."  I pause again, I know there is another question coming.  "What's the sun do?"  I smile, loving the sequence of his questions - because they all impact one another.  "The sun and rain work together.  The sun helps everything grow too.  All of the plants and animals need the sun and rain."  And then, brilliant little Brayden says, "Us too!"  "Yup, that's right!  Us too!! The sun and rain are very important"  I reply.  Then, the topper, "cars are important too!"  

I love that kid. 

I realized a few days ago on my way back to the studio, after multiple nights of being there, after many weekends spent planning, organizing, painting, designing, preparing, list making.  I was talking to God and to myself trying to find the calm among the chaos.  I told myself, I just need to get through the next month.  I just need to make it through this and then it will calm down.  Then, it hit me, I always say that.  I pray for the strength to make it from one moment to the next.  Pray to just let me survive this phase.  And then, I believe it was God responding, Why do you do that?  I always tell myself, I just need to make it through this.  Get through this moment and then I can enjoy the next.  Why can't I enjoy the moment I am in?  I need to enjoy the process.  I often look back at the roads I have traveled.  While traveling them, they felt rough.  Somedays were hard to put one foot in front of the other, but I did it.  I look back and I am proud of my travels.  I am proud of my lessons.  I have learned.  I have grown.  I have experienced life.  And, I have some good memories from the traveling.  

I forget that during my current travels.  I focus on the "what if's".  I obsess about just surviving instead of thriving.  There are days that feel like I am drowning in everything that needs to be done.  My mom calls them 'self inflicted' tasks.  And she is right - I know only one speed and that is being busy.  I work best under pressure - I just don't always seem to enjoy the pressure.  At some point, there comes a moment of clarity.  Something, or somebody, that exposes the many, many blessings in my life.  It is all I need to just stop for a minute.  I smile and give gratitude to the amazing life I lead.   And then I tell myself:

Just keep swimming

Enjoy the journey

Refuse to sink  





 blurry cell picture (last days of 29)On Saturday I said good-bye to my twenty-somethings, and hello to my thirties.  For a decade, I have been twenty-something.  Now, for the upcoming decade, I will be thrity-something.  Wow. It is a little unreal.  I haven't mastered my confident tone when I say outloud, "I am 30," but, I will.  I am proud of my age.  I do find it a little scary, that is pretty typical of change, I am mostly excited for what this new decade will bring into my life.  Lots of learning, love, and laughter - just like the past 30 years have already been. 


Twenties represent something very different then thirties.  Twenties is fun and provoked mischief, at least the first half was for me anyway.  After Brayden, I became the home body that I always knew I was.  I no longer thrived on the social activities but felt daily gratitude from surviving a baby and having a clean house.  And now to date, I still feel that way.  If I can make it through the day with no injuries or illnesses, a happy toddler, and a tidy house (most likely there is dust in the corners and toothpaste on the mirror) then I am satisfied. I am happy.

my little man

I feel as though there is a new chapter of my life that is beginning.  It isn't just because I am now 30.  It just so happens to be coinciding with new life events - getting married and making plans for a growing family and growing business.  All of which is exciting, and a little nerve wracking too.

 It feels a little like the first day of school.  There is some unknown territory - and a few new faces.  Schedules are different and lessons are harder - there is a lot to learn.  But, as the days come and go, the anxiety sways and comfort sinks in.  The day will come and it will feel like I have always been here, until, of course, I turn forty-something. Then the cycle will repeat, I assume.  


new years

I will be thirty-something for a while -  my confidence and my blessings will grow along with my age.  I can't wait!

We spent my birthday celebrating at an indoor water and amusement park.  Brayden had his cousin Maxine with him - they are besties (i love that).  It was fun to see them have fun - it isn't the most relaxing thing for parents to do - but, it is all made worth while to see that smile on our kids faces.  We got another complimentary upgraded room (just like our summer vacation) which was wonderful.  The kids enjoyed the whirlpool in the condo almost as much as they enjoyed the big pool! 


Celebrating 30 at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Lodge


video from Chris Bland - thanks Chris! 






2013 quickly approaching

The past 5 years have represented many changes in my life.  And, as life should have it, I know 2013 will be filled with many more.  Some that we can plan for, and some that we can't.  But, I am really looking forward to 2013. 

Just over a year ago - I started this photography journey.  It has been a excellent way for me to develop a different side of myself.  And with that, I stumbled into this writing that is turned into my own type of therapy.  I love writing.  I love sharing the challenges of parenting and living, and rejoicing in all of the everyday blessings that are so powerful.  It is the little things that make life worth living - they are why we do what we do.  We love and connect with people - our friends, families, strangers.  We share joy and sorrow - we empathize, together.  That is what makes us human.  I want to celebrate more of those connections. 

photo credit Chris Bland

This year, in the quickly approaching 2013, my focus is connecting.  I love the connection I have found from the past that has come to bless me this year, and every upcoming year for the rest of my life.  This is developing through my engagement and wedding planning...  but most importantly, life planning.  In my personal life, I get to share wedding planning and many, many more stories of my baby boy that is quickly turning into a little man.  

I love the connections I have made with new families and clients and I look forward to the many more that I will meet and the continued experiences I will get to share with the clients that call me to capture their life.  For Life, Love & Lemons Photography, I will be opening a studio!  It isn't all mine - I am sharing it with a wonderful and ambitious young lady, Abby,  that I happened to connect with through taking her family pictures.  She is opening a baby boutique, Knee High to a Grasshopper - and I will be sharing some space with her.  I am really looking forward to the expansion of my business and the many, many new faces I will meet along the way.  Click on the logo to take you to her FB business page - like and share! ;)

I will be selling some of my painted furniture within her store as well.  I am SO excited to be able to dedicate some time to this side of my creativity.  I have 6 pieces I am working on now for the store...  a few for sale and a few for display. 


My website.  I was ready for a face lift - so, I made a few changes to bring in the new year.  My Gallery has finally been updated!  It is great to say that I have been so busy that my gallery was not reflecting my most recent work.  And, now it does.  I still have some updating to do - but, I have started and feel proud to display all of my beautiful clients.  Same layout, but different, yet kindof the same color scheme.   And, the linen vintage fabric look is a great representation of another new avenue I am working into.... 

Vintage Rentals.  I don't know what this scope is totally yet, but I have a lot of old stuff.  And, I have an addiction to keep buying so - I thought I might as well rent it out!  I will have different pieces that can be rented for events: Parties, Baby and Bridal Showers, Weddings, etc.  A big investment I have been making is in China :) I have almost 250 complete table settings available for rent.  This will include silverware and napkins, dinner plates and salad bowls, teacups and dessert plates.  It is my newest love and addiction.  I will be working to get my own rental gallery online for viewing and rental.  The hard part is the name...  I want it to be connected to my lemon theme but still have a name for itself...  So, I will be kicking that around.  

This busy wonderful life never ceases to amaze me.  It is full of new exciting experiences, the planned and unplanned!  The best part is - I know that wherever I (we, John, Brayden, and I) end up - we are exactly where we are suppose to be.  There is always a plan that is bigger than our own, and I know there are great things in-store for us in 2013. 

Bring on the new and meaningful connections of 2013! May you all have a happy and safe New Years Eve and New Years Day.  God bless! 




invest in love and happiness

Everyone deserves a day or two to disappear.  A day or two to sulk.  A day or two to feel sorry for yourself.  Life isn't always easy and at times it is hard to hold everything together.  Life these days are busy and full - and that can be a great thing - but, sometimes it is overwhelming too.  So, we should allow ourselves a small breakdown, and not feel bad about it.  Then, we need to get back up, wipe away the tears, brush it off and charge on. 

Last night after work, I walked in the door, dropped my bags, grabbed the cat and went directly up to bed.  And there, I sat for 3 hours.  Doing nothing.  I had no more tears.  I stared blankly at the TV and watched useless, yet very interesting shows.  I like the history channel - I  learned about JFK, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, and the Berlin Wall.  Many details that I embarrassingly enough to admit, knew very little about.  I learned about JFK's contributions to our country and the world.  I listened about the Bermuda Triangle and the theories of it's destruction.  I watched a current day mummification - I thought that was cool (I am a science geek too).  

The world continues to spin even through my breakdowns.  So, at 9 o'clock I decided to shower and let it all go.  And I did.  Today is new.  

Us on Wednesday - home sickI reflect on my mood and behavior yesterday and I fight with the anger the wells up.   Having a split family is really hard.  It is harder then I could have ever imagined.  It is hard on both parents, from different angles - for different reasons.  None of which I am going to go into details on here - if you live it, you already know - and if you don't, you are lucky.  But, don't think I down play the efforts it takes to run a family unit, together.  It is really hard.  I commend all families of all types that do the day in and day out.  



It is the every day things that we don't see.  We loose touch with the significance and the beauty that is in a sleeping child, the laughter and love they show in the smallest way, and how quickly they learn and grow.  Someday, they will be us.  Us.  Our actions.  Our words.  Our outlook.  I pray that Brayden is different than me.  I pray that he is better than me.  I hope he exudes patience and optimism.  I hope he gives his time and talent and never expects anything in return.  But, in many ways, I pray he is just like me.  I pray he finds a passion and follows it.  I pray that he waits to find a perfect love.  A love that is built on friendship and mutual respect.  I hope he has determination in life and pushes to succeed, especially through the failures.  Through the failing, you learn far more lessons then succeeding. Failing keeps you pushing.  Keeps you driving.  Keeps the hunger for success alive.  If you always succeeded, what would you have left to do?  I hope he invests in love and happiness.  For him to do these things, I have to be the example.  I have to invest in love and happiness.  We all should. 



I haven't written much about my ongoing relationship with God and Church.  But, I am doing it - not perfect - but, I am better then I was a year ago.  I assume a year from now, I will be better then I am now.  A sermon the other Sunday still rings in my ears.  Treat everyone as you  want to be treated.  Invest in loving and respecting others, and they too will invest in loving and respecting others.  I am a work in progress.  I was very rude to a customer service person the other day - it wasn't his fault my order was wrong.  I have no excuse for being rude or impatient.  I don't want Brayden to pick those traits up from me.  I need to be better - little eyes are watching.  He is always watching and learning from me.  And, others do the same.  Love, Respect, Happiness resounds with everyone - doing onto them, will do onto others.  

So, as the new year approaches, I will begin my list.  It's a great time to reflect on the person I want to be and the example Brayden deserves.  Investing in love and happiness for him, for me, for everyone. 



how it began {our story}


There is a story of a guy who claims to have had a crush on me since junior high.  I, of course, love to hear him tell the story of the boy with a crush on the girl that thought he was too shy. We were talking about this last night.  I have to admit, I get giggly like a school girl when he talks about the different times he noticed me, but he never approached me.  And this story would have stayed this way if it hadn't been for church and his Mom, Denise. 

Here is how the 'story of us' began:

I was making an effort to get into a routine of going to church on a regular basis.  I needed it back into my life.  I ran into Denise a few times at church.  I always make a point to say hello.  She has been a friend of Mom and Dad's forever.  And, she is very likeable, kind, considerate.  Approachable.  So, I would.  It has been like that since high school.  I would acknowledge Denise way before I would acknowledge John...  because he is shy and Denise is not.  :) 

So, this summer I saw her multiple times by coincidence, or so we think.  And then came a Tuesday, late afternoon.  I was coming out of my apartment juggling Brayden and a few presents for McKenna and Benson's Birthday Party.  I heard my name called from the street.  It was Denise.   We had another coincidental meeting that became intentional.  Denise was driving by and saw me.  So, she pulled over and came up to Brayden and I.  We had the usual chit chat, "Hi, how are you? How is work?, etc, etc." Then I could tell something was different.  She was nervous.  And, she was uncomfortable.  That was not typical.   Well, the next question that came out of her mouth was reason for her discomfort.  She was asking for my number, for John.  

So the story goes, as I am told by John, my name got brought up and Denise had mentioned that I wasn't dating anyone.  So, John asked her to get my number.  He thought maybe through a mutual friend, or my mom, or sister.  But, instead Denise saw me, so on that Tuesday in the parking lot she got my number scribbled onto a torn  bank deposit slip (it still hangs on the fridge at our house).  She asked me if I was dating anyone or interested in dating.  My response, "No, I am not dating anyone - and, I am not interested in dating any one.  I am so busy with Brayden and all of my projects I don't have the time. "  And frankly, I was exhausted with the efforts relationships take.  They are work.  And, I just didn't think I was any good at putting in the work they require.  So, I told Denise, "We can be social.  I know it is difficult meeting people out here.  So, here is my number.  Maybe we can hang out sometime. " I could tell Denise was happy to have the number and the uncomfortable situation over! I joke with John that had it been anyone one else but wonderful Denise, I wouldn't have given it out.  I gave my number for her, because how could I say 'no' to kind and sweet Denise. 

So, a few weeks later, we had our first date.  I of course needed a whole new outfit.  I straightened my hair.  I even wore jewelry.  We were going to grill out at his house.  Casual, yet comfortable.  I arrive all fancied up and he answers the door in shorts, t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  My face turned red.  1. Because I was too dressy for this grilling session and 2. I had forgotten how cute he was.

From that date on, I realized that shy guy had a nack for conversation.  We clicked and it worked.  We have been inseparable ever since. 

... all thanks to Denise :)




the optimist creed - a self promise

Promise Yourself 

*To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
*To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet
*To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.
*To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.
*To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
*To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
*To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
*To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
*To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
*To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
~Christian D. Larson


Somedays, it is hard to stay positive, to remain optimistic when it feels like others, and the world want you to fail.  But, those are only just thoughts. We have control over everything, as long as we hold onto the optimism in our own mind we can create our own life. We have the power over our own success or failure. The decision is ours.  




living my fairy tale

I think I keep repeating myself...  I AM SO BUSY!!  I am smiling though, most of the time ;) 

I feel like my mind is so cluttered with a world wind of thoughts, ideas, and of course, worry.  I have so many exciting happenings coming up that I can hardly contain myself:

  • We have two weddings coming up.  Our real 'firsts' with Life, Love & Lemons!  The excitement is unexplainable (mixed with some nervousness too).  I am researching constantly - making sure I don't miss a thing.  I want every detail covered.  
  • I am behind in some marketing and even further behind on my furniture painting.  A long to do list, that grows daily. 
  • I have been investigating a studio.  That just about takes my breath away with anticipation (mixed with some nervousness too).  I dream about what it will look like - how to set it up and how to stay ontop of everyday life, without being consumed by something that is more than a business, but a passion.  
  • I have session bookings through October - that keeps me smiling - and gives me an excuse to shop for new props!!  I love that! I still have available slots!  Book your sessions today! ;)


During my daydreaming - these are the many things I am obsessing about.  Quietly cultivating an action plan for my growing dream.  I have  scattered thoughts of needed grocery items, laundry that needs to be done, ... and how badly my floors need to be vacuumed.  

And then there is Brayden, my little guy. With his big brown eyes and his new favorite phrase, "I want to snuggle Mama!"  All of the planning, coordinating, organizing, detailing - stops.  We color and pick books to read, he LOVES reading books.  And, I love reading to him.  His laughter and silliness calms my mind, and melts my heart.  

I have to continue reminding myself that all of this, all of the aspirations I have will happen, and I will make sure of it. But, I can't loose site of the really important stuff - snuggling and reading.  Someday, to soon, Brayden will have bigger dreams then just 'snuggling mama'.  I forget in the day to day while planning my next move that I am in the middle of the best part of my life, being Brayden's Mom.

"Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale" -unknown




taking deeper roots {living and learning}

I have tried to map out my life.  every detail.  If there is one thing I have learned, life doesn't work that way.  It doesn't go 'as planned'.  I am learning to be ok with that.  I get down on myself when things get off course. 

The past 2 days I needed some escape, some relaxation.  I needed to do something to get me out of my own head - even if it is just for a few hours.  So, I went for the comforts of my childhood home.  That is always my safe place.  I can go there and do absolutely nothing except watch Brayden play and laugh and it does the trick.  It lifts me from my slump.  

I made a few observations during my visit.  


We have had a few storms here in the Midwest - but, very little rain.  We need rain.  Bad.  The wind storm shook the trees, and left a lot of fruit on the ground.  So, we picked up buckets full of fallen apples and pears that couldn't hold on.   It made me sad.  There was a lot of fruit that would have been delicious, had it been given some more nurturing, but it didn't work out that way.  I picked a few pears off the ground.  A few bruises, but still had potential.  I thought maybe a few days on the window sill, some extra nurturing from the sun, and they just might make it.  Those pears made me think of my dreams and plans for the future.  They get shaken up by the storm, by multiple storms.  Some fall away and have to be tossed.  Then, there are some that may be bruised - but, with some nurturing can still make it.  And yet, there are those that no matter how bad the storm, how strong the wind - they cling on.  They hold strong.  Determined to come to fruition. 



Looking around at the very dry ground - and walking ontop of crispy brown grass, It is hard to see how the damages from mother nature can ever be repaired.  Corn and soybeans are my families livelihood - the drought is hard to stomach.  But, the corn is growing.  Soybeans are growing.  They are determined.  They are resilient.    As too, are my parents.  They have (unfortunately) been down this road a few other times.  I can still recall the drought of '88.  I was only 5, but I remember running my fingers along the cracks of the hard, dry ground.  Not really knowing the magnitude of the hurt, but feeling that it wasn't good.  Best of all, I remember dancing in the rain when mother nature finally decided we had waited long enough.  That's life.  Through the storms, through the wind and rain (or lack of rain) we all learn how to stand our ground and hold tight.  As you look around, it is easy to see we aren't alone in it.  The corn, the beans, the apples, and pears - they are not alone, they share the trouble with those around them - and they weather it; together.


"Storms make trees take deeper roots" - Dolly Parton

Here are some (cell ) pictures from our relaxing evening.

The stare down

The difference between adults and kids:

We see a hose with a hole; kids see opportunity for fun!



Great Men {4th of July reflection}

The 4th of July is a great way to reflct on the men and women who paved the road for all of us.  We have many, many freedoms of this country.  At the end of a festive day, I think about that during the fireworks.  I think about how fortunate I am to live here.  It is far from perfect, but I am blessed in the life I have and, that life wouldn't be possible in many other places in the world. 

The 4th of July also makes me reflect back to 1997.  It was the night my Grandpa died.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  It still makes me sad.  I cried through the fireworks that year and I still struggle to get through them every year.  15 years ago, my Dad, Mom, and oldest brother left our celebration to go be with my Grandpa, better known as 'Pa'.  And I knew during those moments, that Pa would no longer be around.  It made me angry for all of the missed opportunities.  I should have listened longer.  Spent more time with him.  He had great stories.  He had a smile that would light up a room.  He was a joker - he was always able to make people feel comfortable.  He was a great man, no doubt about it.  And, I would bet that anyone that spent time with him would agree.  He and my Grandma raised 8 great kids on a Farmers pay.  They were married just shy of 51 years.  My Grandma has been without him for 15 years - I can't even imagin what that must be like, starting over with out that person who has been there forever.  It is sad to think about the loss of him, but it is also a blessing to reflect on how blessed we are to have known him.  Grandpa was the youngest of 16.  He and his siblings were raised in North Dakota during the Great Depression.  The way of life they experienced, it is impossible to even comprehend today.  Grandpa was not hardened by what he lived through, instead he flourished because of it.  His intentional life is still carried on through all of us, in our smile, in our laugh, in our Norwegian heritage.  Our last name, Gudmunson, is part of many conversations.  By strangers who ask where it came from and by those who have lived here all of their life an know the name well - because Pa has always served it well. 

Here is a video of Pa and I.  I had a 'cracked' leg when I was 3.  Pa loved to tease me about it - even when I was a teenager, he would joke with me about my broken leg.  I was always quick to correct him, "It's cracked!" 

I always tell people of the little sign Pa had hanging on his back door - it was there for as long as I can remember - and I always get a good laugh from those who I share it with.

"You can always tell a Norweigain, but you can't tell 'em much"

Happy 4th of July Pa - you are loved, and missed.  


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Lift you higher {learning while living}

I made a commitment to myself this year.  I disassociate with those who are negative, at least to the best of my ability.  Some people are in our lives without say.  It is how you choose to let them influence, or more importantly, the lack of influence that matters.  I have also determined that I set a standard for myself.  This standard always existed but I didn't live it.  This new focus was fueled by a quote I found on pinterest - and, no matter what form I see it in - I pin it.  It is profound, but so incredibly simple (the best ideas usually are).  

"Surround yourself with only those who are going to lift you higher" ~Oprah~

I think I remember seeing that show.  I can recall the magnitude of that statement.  Because, even 10 years ago when I heard it originally, that is what I wanted for myself - but, I didn't follow through.  I surrounded myself with those who I thought I could lift higher.  I could help.  I could make them better by helping them see their own value.  However, I am learning that I was brought down by focusing on trying to lift them up.  It wasn't their fault.  It was mine.   I focused so much on pleasing others that I lost myself in the process.  This ends now.  An incredible amount of growth comes from self intraspection and reflection.  To be honest - my gut always knew - but, I listened to my heart, which is too big at times.  This didn't mean that I got hurt - it usually meant others got hurt.  I would realize that I was living a life other than what I wanted for myself and I would back out.  Not because I didn't care, but because at some point I listened to my gut.  My gut is usually right.  

I promised myself this year, no more compromising.  No more giving more to others than I give to myself - with the obvious exception of Brayden - but that is a given, it goes without saying.  Healthy parents put their children first.  

I have met some really incredible people.  Actually, there are a few who helped encourage me to realize this goal before I completely absorbed the impact of that way of life.  And the many who support me, they don't realize the amount of influence they have had on me.  They do it by lifting me higher.  They do it through encouragement and support. They are the arms that push me when I doubt myself.  And, they point out how I can do better.  Not because they are critical but because they know I can, and will. 

This year, I do this for me.  And ultimately, I do this for Brayden.  I will be the example of a strong, confident, loving women.  The type of qualities I want for him - and the qualities I want him to seek out in a partner someday.  It is also interesting, the more you surround yourself with these people - you also become that same type.  People will surround themselves with you because you lift them.  Can you imagine a world that always did this?  What a great place that would be.  

So for now, make your own little world of people who raise you up and lift you a little bit higher.  And, be that influence on others that makes them want to surrounds themselves with you.  

Happy Friday and Have a wonderful weekend!

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all great changes

I feel as though I am receiving signs, direction on what to do.  They could all be coincidental, but it feels like the same message is being pounded into my head.  The message all comes down to one grand purpose; Release and go be great.  

The past couple of Sundays at church have been really wonderful.  I haven't had the opportunity to write about them because I have been so busy editing and posting photo sessions - Yippie!  Last week was about the loving relationship we have with God.  He related it to being in love.  At first, I thought that was weird.  But, he continued talking and it really made more sense the longer I listened.  He alikened the message to how someone feels when you first fall in love.  That feeling makes life lighter, brighter, happier.  The relationship I have with God should make my everyday better (cue light bulb).  I think of those who are much more 'Godly' than I ...  and, they are living proof.  They are happier.  Is it because they put their trust in the Lord?  Is it because they feel their weight is shared?  Or is it because they never feel that they have to go one day or one moment without knowing they are loved?  I don't know.  But, I am working on finding out.  

A few other bloggers / writers I follow both had similar topics one day.  SDL had a great article titled "The Life You Exchange" - great title!  He started with a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”  Just that quote alone was all I needed to read for it to hit home.  I am getting a lot better at this - I actually think it should be my new motto.  I am trying to only participate in actions that make me better, and happier.  That seems to be common sense, but how often do you compromise yourself for someone else or for a task you dislike?  Little by little it breaks down the person you actually are.   I am no expert...  FAR FROM IT.  I see Life as full of interactions with people in  the form of relationships, be it family, friends, spouses, children, coworkers, strangers, ect.  These interactions all work better with constructive communication.  Share your feelings.  Share your desires and your dislikes.   It serves everybody best if we are honest and true to ourselves. In the long run, everybody wins that way.  

Then there is Marc and Angel - I love them.  I love their inspiration.  Every article of theirs I benefit from reading.  The one I read just the other day, 10 things You Must Give Up to be Successful was a great short list of ideas that make you think.  They are habits that sadly, I catch myself doing, or have done for far, far too long.  I am starting.  I recognize areas in my life where I need to be better.  I think that is important.  Maybe that is just part of adulthood.  I am learning about being healthy - physically, spiritually, mentally, financially.  Young and reckless was so much more fun! - until it comes back to bite me right in the keaster! 

Somehow I stumbled on Becoming Minimalist.  Start Big. Start Small. Start Somewhere. Change is uncomfortable.  I get to deal with that everyday in my 9-5 job.  Helping a company grow and change to achieve a desired result.  It's personal - always.  Be it at the office or at home - it is personal.  I pride myself on 'doing'.  I have always been this way.  I do.  I act.  I have gotten bit or hit - It doesn't matter how I say it.  What it comes down to is I have screwed up.  But, I get back up and do it again, hopefully differently, the next time around.  I am working on applying that to many aspects of my life.  I start too many things and then I don't follow through - like exercising and eating right.  I have never mastered the discipline to do that.  Reading - I love to do it but it always falls down the list of improtance.  My downfall isn't in the starting but, in the finishing.  

I have once again been thrusted into a new series of changes - some of them are great and have turned out as a true blessing - and the others, well - I don't see them as blessings yet, but I am sure it will all work out, in some way or fashion.  Challenges and changes are really just opportunities for growth, no matter how uncomfortable the initial interaction is - I am trying to meet them with an optimistic smile (that is preceded potentially by swearing and crying).  

...Here's to great changes, and welcoming opportunities ;)

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Living for Today

"Life is not a race - but indeed a journey. Be Honest. Work hard. Be choosy. Say "thank you", "I love you", and "great job" to someone each day. Go to church, take time for prayer. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh. Let your handshake mean more than pen and paper. Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental - search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be. Laugh often. Appreciate the little things in life and enjoy them. Some of the best things really are free. Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming. Forgive, it frees the soul. Take time for yourself - plan for longevity. Recognize the special people you've been blessed to know. Live for today, enjoy the moment." ~Bonnie L. Mohr

A FB friend posted this as her status.  I really needed the reminder today.  This morning started as one of those... you know the type; As soon as your eyes see daylight (or before) that today would challenge you.  Nothing extraordinary - but the little things pick away just enough to make you glum.  Brayden woke up especially cranky and devastated by my "No" response to his request for a cookie.  We do this every morning...  and every morning I tell him the same thing  "we don't have cookies for breakfast."  The question makes me smile, but his tantrum does not.  I ignored the screaming while I was in the shower, and he eventually stopped.  He wanted cereal for breakfast but cried when I poured milk over it.  He didn't want to change is shirt or have his face wiped or his hair combed.  Nothing about this morning was going right for either of us.  But, I read the quote right after I dropped B off - It was there waiting for me this morning to read, not by accident I am sure. 

It's interesting the sentences that stand out.  Each person that reads it will take away something that another person did not.  The weight of the importance is varied on where you are, not physically but emotionally and mentally.  For me, the heavy parts are:

"Be Honest. Work hard. Be choosy."

I am working my butt off, but I am staying true to me - even more so, in working so hard I am learning more about myself than I ever knew.  And I am learning to be choosy - in many aspects. 

"Go to church, take time for prayer."

I love that I am reconnecting with God, and church - So does my Mom!  I am learning a lot too.  Every Sunday I walk out the doors intrigued and more appreciative of the growth I am experiencing. I am teaching Brayden how to pray - we are starting simple.  "God loves you."

'Love your life and what you've been given, it is not accidental - search for your purpose and do it as best you can. Dreaming does matter. It allows you to become that which you aspire to be.'

It is Not Accidental :) Everything that has happened has lead me here - and here is exactly where I am supposed to be. 

"Do not worry, less wrinkles are more becoming."

I am a HUGE ball of worry...  non stop and about eveything...  I think I am aging myself quickly.  I need to work on how to let it go.  I smile when I hear the song from the Zac Brown Band "be a fool, not a worry..." I make a mental note each time.

"Forgive, it frees the soul."

Forgive.  That is really hard.  I have let people and their actions bother me for far too long.  I am working on letting it go - and letting them go too.  I pray for them and for the strength to move on.  I know I will feel better when I do.  I actually say it out loud.  I look in the mirror and take a deep breath, releasing the anger.  They are missing out by not being in my life.  I pray that they go where God has intended them too - and that they will see clarity someday.  And if not, it isn't my weight to carry. 




Everyday we have the opportunity to make a conscious decision; to make today the best day.  Make today (and everyday) yours!






Wonderful Everyday Friday {Finding Inspiration}

 I was thinking about a Friday post - I love to start the weekend this way.  However, I wasn't sure what to do for today.  I was feeling like I needed something uplifting - not because I was down - but, because I felt like sharing some spirit.  


On my Facebook newsfeed I saw that Layla from The Lettered Cottage had shared a video ( I love The Lettered Cottage).  This video was called "Transcending", a reading by Kelly Corrigan.  So, I pressed play. And then, I heard some really beautiful words about Life, Love, Friendship, Parenting, Struggles, - Bonds that are shifted but never broken.  I did some more searching about Kelly Corrigan and found several books from her that are now in my Amazon shopping cart.  

In this life, I don't stop to breathe as often as I should -  she captures the everyday business in her reading. The everyday moments that never seem overly glamorous suddenly become very beautiful by the words she strung together.  It feels like daily I hear of loss of life.  Some by those who lived 80+ beautiful years and others that did not, and it was too soon.  There are even more that struggle - be it life circumstances, tragedy, or illness but through the challenges they do it with character, beauty, and grace.  They transcend - rise above, elevate, surpass. 

Here is the video - Share it.  I think it has a beautiful message.  Just right for another Wonderful Everyday Friday.


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"Welcome to Holland"

"When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, Gondolas. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting. After several months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland!” “Holland?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy. I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place. So, you must go out and buy new guidebooks. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It’s just a different place. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around. You begin to notice that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. And Holland even has Rembrandts. But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that experience will never, ever, ever, go away. The loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland."

I heard this short story last weekend.  It is written by Emily Pearl Kingsley in 1987. She wrote it about her son who was born with Down Syndrome.   She was a writer for Sesame Street - and her influence is why they included children with special needs - she was far wiser then the times.  She was an advocate for her son and for other children with special needs.  

I have been blessed to learn a lot from my friends with special needs.  It gave me a glimpse (and I do mean a glimpse) of the pride and struggles that come along with these beautiful children.  I spent time in college with a group of children that fell on the Autism Spectrum.  From that moment on, those children sparked my curiousity - they are very unique learners.  They see, hear, and feel the world differently then us 'typical' learners.  After collage I was an aide for a special needs classroom - I was constantly moved by the sincerity that I received from those children.  The experiences that I learned from them I carry with my every day.  I am sensitive to the struggles they encounter in learning and with peer relationships. Kids can be mean, but there angels among them too.  And they treat everyone with kindness, special needs or not.  I pray that Brayden is one of those.  Then I was blessed with my nephew Drew.  He acts with intention, in the love he gives and the sneaky things he does - Just like everyone else.  You can't help but smile.  When he is happy and excited the room lights up - and he does that when someone enters a room.  He lets you know that he is SO excited to see you.  He makes you feel special.  He doesn't say much but he wears his heart on his sleeve, and it is a beautiful heart!  Then, a few months ago I met Tucker and his sisters which brought me to the reading of this story at his memorial service (I wrote about Tucker here).  Within the first few sentences of "Welcome to Holland", I was hit - it felt like by a truck.  I could never possibly understand the feelings of the parents of children with special needs.  I still don't.  As a "typical" parent it gave an interesting insight. That story moved me to tears and I thought about my experiences with my son and how often I rejoice.  Parents of children with special needs, I assume, rejoice deeper.  Through the struggles, it makes the happy times shine very brightly. When I had Brayden my world changed forever, for the better.  As too are the lives of these special parents.  The world is changed forever, differently but just as beautiful.  Actually, I think there is so much that we could learn from those families.  They have many challenges and obstacles but they thrive - really live.  They cherish life not in spite of what turns they have taken but because of them.  

It is appropriate that this is Autism Awareness month.  Donate, Give, Walk, Learn, Advocate.  Teach your children about differences - everyone is different and that is why the world is so beautiful.  Show them that true character is not only standing up for what is right but for standing with those who make the world beautiful.  

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Passionately Curious

"I have no real talents.  I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

I borrow great words from great people - I sometimes have difficulty trying to convey the message that I am attempting to put together.  I am often captivated by the words (or pictures) that people string together to tell their story.  They leave me in awe and intrigue me to want more.  As is such with the quote I used today.  I have found in my growing that I am not very talented, naturally.  I fail, ugh - I mean learn, a lot the hard way - and often! I mess things up more often then I can count.  I have learned to accept this about myself - I learn by doing and that is that.  

My wonderful Aunt Lisa gave me a book over the weekend, Photojojo (very cool book)! She told me that I was talented - which made me smile, but I also didn't really hear her ...  talented?  Me, really?  That was sweet!  I actually just do it because I really, really love it!  Thinking back to my Aunt Lisa, She inspired me - she doesn't know that, but she always had a nice camera and would take great pictures for important moments - family stuff, sporting events, graduations, ect.  I remember thinking how perfect her pictures looked when she would print them out and give them to us.  I remember thinking, 'I am going to do that, someday.'  She has been very supportive and encouraging through this adventure of mine.

I have found that with photography I don't really 'mess up', per say.  There are still moments when I think "Oh, I wish I would have tried this, or done that. "  But actually, it has been the opposite - I should learn to scale back...   I see potential in every angle in every image.  I think most photographers pick their favorite 10 ...  well, not me.  I pick my favorite 50 and then go from there...  I spend a lot of time on the editing.  I edit to highlight the beauty of the pictures.   (Because of this, I am going to need botox at a very young age - this squinty eye wrinkle on my forehead keeps getting worse and worse!) That is where the passion part comes to play - I love it. Really.  Scale back? - I don't think I am able.   It is my creative outlet that was always there - but, I could never find my 'talent.'  Now, that doesn't go to say that I 'have talent' but it definitely means that I have found the patience to cultivate my creativity.  I have finally found my avenue to do that.  Talented?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But Passionate? - :) 

Speaking of passion.  Here is my truest love - who often happens to be the subject for my passion:  

We went fishing over the weekend.  It was a blast!  We fished for sharks - but mostly caught Nemo (or his friends).  And, I am a catch-n-release kinda gal - so, Nemo and friends didn't stay with us long.  We also went searching for Salamanders.  LB is becoming quite the Little Boy...  Loves dirt and worms! Below are a few pictures of him and his Dad.  

And, here is a video clip of 'Catching Nemo' ( ignore the annoying narrator)!




finding inspiration {everyday heroes}

Many of us have heroes.  People in our lives and those throughout history that over come seemingly impossible odds.  They accomplish challenges with humility, grace, and beauty.  That defines true character – not being a victim of circumstance but instead become empowered by those challenges. 

Tucker Morefield had many heroes.  He loved sports (Go Illini!) with every ounce of him.  He shared that bond with many friends and his Dad.  Tucker never realized, but many others did, that He is a hero.  You might be fooled by the first impression, a young man confined to a wheelchair but, it did not confine his spirit.  Tucker was the only boy of triplets born on October 9, 1994.  The Morefield family faced many challenges – but, view every moment in life as a blessing.  They have spent their lives surrounded by supportive family and great friends.  They have had to jump more hurdles then most of us will ever have to encounter in a life time.  Tucker, a born fighter, embraced his individuality.  He welcomed those who did not understand his differences.  He would always be the first to say ‘Hello’ to a strangers gaze.  You can bet that if you gave Tucker a few minutes – he would have you laughing.  His charm radiated every where he went – and to everyone who met him.  Tucker loved life. 

He was blessed to have two sisters that share the same firery tenacity for life.  Can you imagine all of that spunk under one roof?!

Tucker’s spirit was not justified by his body.  It presented him with more and more challenges, and it eventually grew tired.  Tucker passed away on Wednesday, March 28th. His spirit and strength can now continue on without his failing body. 

I have not known Tucker for very long, months only actually.  However, he has made a lasting impression on my life.  His smile made your heart melt – and, you couldn’t help but to smile along with him.  If I can live my life with half of the intention that he did, then I know I will have a fulfilled life.   Tucker physically leaving is sad, but his spirit remains in all those who knew him.  There are so many that will be reminded daily of his joking, laughing, and smiling – that he never really leaves us, the heroes never do. 



looking back {and moving forward}

Look at those eyes! It's hard, ya know, looking back.  It's hard to think of the years that have gone past. I accidentally stumbled on a movie I made for LB for his birthday.  I was at work and was trying to watch a video about arch welding (exciting stuff)! But, for some reason, the Lord decided I needed to stop for a minute and have some reflection time.  And, he was right.  Brayden and I have tough days...  which I am sure is completely normal.  He's 2 - enough said!  He spends most days learning what his limits are.  Be it, giving his independence a try or to see how far he can push his mama's patience.  I often stop myself and say out loud to him,"You are lucky you're cute!"   We have been getting along so wonderfully, lately.  He is still a stinker but we are both so happy.  This video - I will post if I can figure out how - It covers ultrasound pictures, belly bump (really big belly bumps) to tiny baby, to not so tiny baby, to toddler.  All I can do is ask myself, "When did all of this happen?  Where did my baby go?"  Each passing day has me holding for dear life onto that little boy.  I ask him daily if he can please just stop where he is at.  I have been asking him since he was just a bump in my belly, "I will NEVER ask for anything from you in my entire life if you can just do one thing for me.  Please, don't grow up.  Stay perfect and tiny and with your mom FOREVER!"  

It reminds me of a story I heard.  A lady I worked with was visiting her daughters collage campus.  The daughter said to her mom' "I think I want to live on campus, instead of commute."  Then mom looks at her daughter nodding in agreement.  "That's fine.  Let's talk to your dad and start looking at 2 bedroom apartments."  Daughter looks at her mom, confused.  "Two bedroom?"  Mom saying profoundly, "well yes. There has to be enough room for the both of us!"  B and I will be having that same discussion some day.  Where ever he goes, I will just go too! I can't wait to see how that works out! 

So. As much as I ache, long, cry, beg, plead for him to stay little.  I know deep down I am just as excited to see all of the things he will do.  And, with each new event in his life I will pray for a freeze frame hoping to hold onto that moment for just a little longer.  Those times in my life will keep me looking back at how far we have come and what a blessed life we have.  How truly fortunate we are to have eachother and our family.  We will keep moving forward with a semi-reluctant smile and looking back with tears in our eyes.  



All you've got

All You've got is all you can give and that will always be enough.

I made a few small changes to my website - nothing major but I always think it is exciting when I make a change....  and when I figure it out on my own (with only a few curse words).  Check them out - I added some information / quick clicks on the sides.  It fills up some space and adds a few pictures for color as well.

I used a picture that was taken last Easter.  Gosh, I just can't even believe that time has gone by so fast. It's scary really.  Just sitting here thinking about what Brayden was like and what he was doing...  It is hard for me to remember.  Then, I get disappointed.  Why didn't I take more videos?  Why didn't I snap more pictures? Why didn't I take the time to write it down?  I think to myself, I will never forget this.  But, then every day that goes by something else amazing happens and it pushes the other memories further and further back making it harder to retrieve.  I also realized, gulp...  I haven't taken as many pictures of LB since I started these other projects.  That makes me sad too.  I need to do better... and that's ok.  This whole business about living...  that's really what it is about.  Live = Learn... and it is always enough.  There may not be as many pictures, but we still have the time together and that's what matters most.



Recognizing the 'lasts'?

This post may seem completely random and totally unorganized but I had a few experiences/ thoughts I wanted to share.

Random Experience #1:  Last night, a group of us celebrated my nieces birthday.  We all went to this indoor jump / bounce place. It has all of those big blown up slides for the kids to play on....  there were 3 rooms full!  So, all 5 kids totally scattered! They had so much fun... and to be honest, us adults had a lot of fun too.  Not only watching the kids play but participating in the play too! :)  What a great work out and a wonderful way to spend a Thursday night!

Random Experience #2:  So, this morning LB decided he wanted to spend the day with Grandpa.  He had a little cough so I thought it was a good idea for him to get some rest.  He usually clings to me, especially in the morning. However, I have been noticing lately some detachment... dare I say... independence?  It makes my heart hurt feeling the slipping away of that little boy. But, at the very same moment I smile (through the tears) with so much pride.  I see this is a recurring theme as a parent.  It hurts to let go but there is so much enthusiasm for the next step.  It is exciting to watch them learn and grow and experience the joys of life.  LB now insists on getting into the bathtub on his own...  He attempts every chance he gets to go up and down the stairs on his own.  He is always telling me "Nee Nee do it" (Nee Nee is how he says his name...  Nee Nee and Brayden don't sound anything alike but I swear it is the cutest thing).  This morning he was beaming with independence.  He said "Mommygotowork?" (and he says it so fast - like an auctioneer).  But then he did 2 firsts.  They had me gasping for air.  He said "kisses!" and pointed to his lips.  So, we smooched...  like a million times because I thought it was so adorable.  Then he said "hug? See you soon! Love you!"  My heart ached...  It literally hurt from so much love and joy I thought it would burst.  

B and I - Outer Banks '10Thinking about all of the new firsts makes me sad about all of his 'lasts.'  Will I recognize them before they are gone forever?...   


#3 Random thought: I have had this quote sitting on my desk all week...  I haven't wanted to change it (I peeked at the next one it is good too but this one applies - I will keep it there for a while).  It says: The best way out is always through.  How true. 

Well, I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed weekend!  I am excited for what my Monday / Tuesday post will be...  I still don't know what it will be about yet - maybe a fun weekend with LB.  Maybe another furniture make over or the purchase of some new items... maybe all of the above! ;)