The Bakery

The smell was exactly the same as it was forty years ago – the doughy comfort of freshly-baked bread and crescent rolls mingled with the sugary sweetness of coffee cake, shoo-fly pie, and the best cream or jelly-filled doughnuts ever made.

Instantly transported through time, I was seven years old standing with my cousin, noses pressed up against the glass of the display case where they showed a birthday cake with a menagerie of decoration options. The circus train at the edge of the cake passed by ballerinas and baseball players, a zoo’s worth of animals frozen in motion, laughing clown heads, tiny pink and blue baby bassinets, and a comparatively large bust of a graduate stuck smack in the middle of it all as if overseeing the celebration.

The display cake was long gone, but the rest was unchanged; the same tiles still shone on the walls and under our feet, the same glass cases offered the same baked goods of my childhood, and the same smells wrapped around me in a blanket of memory.

My daughter breathed deeply, taking in the smells and, I suspect, a taste of the history as we made our selections and I remembered aloud late Sunday suppers of baked goods and coffee or milk spent with family around my Grandparents’ table.

I was certain I saw my Grandfather standing there beside us just as alive as he was when he brought my cousin and me here…

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Each week, the lovely and talented Ivy Walker hosts a link-up challenging writers to spin a tale in six sentences – no more, no less. 

This week’s cue is BREAD.

Click on the link right here to link your own post and read more Six Sentence Stories from some wonderful storytellers.

 

 

Snow Days and Preparation – #10Thankful

Late Sunday evening and I’m finally sitting to think about my Ten Things of Thankful post.

That happens a lot lately. (OK, it happens all the time.) I start my posts early in the week, I plan to get in there on Friday evening, and then…life happens.

And I’m so very glad that it does.

I sometimes wonder if I’m too distracted to sit for a minute and focus on the moments and people that make me feel thankful each week. But it’s not distraction – it’s simply that I’m living my life and enjoying every last second of it. I am aware of the sense of thankfulness weaving and swirling its way through the moments of my days and taking its place in my heart.

I realized not long ago that what this means is that I’ve developed a mindset of gratitude and also of awareness. I don’t just go through the motions of my life; I live my life. That may be the greatest item of thanks there is for me.

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From a more practical perspective, I am quite thankful that I have several available leftover options for dinners this week. I have two choir rehearsals this week – both on Zilla’s karate nights, of course – which means dinner prep time is virtually non-existent. Dinner needs to be an absolute no-brainer and I’m prepared. I am also so glad that my family are willing consumers of leftovers and they never complain when a meal or a part of a meal shows up a second (or even third) night.

In these very cold days this week, I have been so thankful for a warm home, warm clothing, warm food on our plates, and plenty of fuzzy socks. I am painfully aware of those in the world, both near and far, who do not have enough of anything, no matter the season or temperature. I do my best to help where I can.

I have my week planned out and notes in my planner already. There is much to be accomplished this week, but having it all plotted gives me a sense of calm and control so I can wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. I just have to resist the urge to hit the snooze button and grab just five more minutes of snuggling before getting in gear…

Zilla was feeling a cold coming on today and asked for homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner and a batch of my “sick tea.” I love how aware of her self and her body she has become – not just about colds, but in general. She is growing into such an amazing person right before our eyes and it is exciting to behold. It is my hope and prayer that she continues to develop that gift of self-awareness in all things and use it to her best advantage. This weekend I witnessed again her beautiful and generous heart at work. I am blessed to know and to be mother to this child.

I am blessed with a wonderful husband and partner, too. We are a great team in all things from getting the chores and errands done to corralling three rotten cats to raising our daughter. I am grateful for all of the things we share as a couple and I am grateful for the things my Hub does for me every day, little things that mean a lot. He puts out my meds for me, he makes coffee, he makes sure we have the milk and creamer I like…and so much more. Those little things are huge.

While I still have a few tasks to accomplish this week and my house is far from picture-perfect, it is a place of love, warmth, respite, and joy.  I am happy here, even in the midst of a bit too much cat hair on the floors and a basket or two of laundry waiting to be put away. The chores will get done – they always do. We took advantage of the snowy day on Saturday and some empty hours on Sunday evening to simply rest, relax, and enjoy one another.  We read books, watched holiday movies and silly TV shows, did some decorating, and made some holiday plans and preparations.

Our hearts are ready.

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This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

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#10Thankful – Standing in Motion

I believe I am standing in motion.

I worked on a thousand things all week, produced results, and yet I somehow feel as though I have accomplished little because none of my projects can be moved to the “finished” list.

But maybe finished does not always equal successful (or vice versa) and just being in process is quite a good thing all by itself. To be about the business of living, doing, and becoming is a noble endeavor indeed. It is far too easy to slip into the trap of thinking about what we should have done and I know so many of us do it, at least once in a while. I am really trying to remain focused on what I am doing with my life, not what I or anyone else thinks I should be doing.

The Hub, Zilla, and I are taking advantage of the summer to enjoy different experiences – so much so that I’ve managed to miss the last couple of TToT link-ups (Oops and sorry!) (But #sorrynotsorry, you know?). We’ve been to the library, read to therapy dogs, watched a movie under the stars (almost) right in our own backyard. Our township shows movies in the local parks and we just happen to live adjacent to one of the locations. That was mighty cool. Zilla’s been to summer enrichment classes and swim lessons. I’ve been working on my kids’ book series and purge/clean projects at home. The Hub has projects at work and home in process. Now that Zilla’s a bit older, we’ve been introducing her to the wonder of board games and card games for the older crowd. Last week she learned how to play Life and Monopoly (Lord of the Rings version, thank you very much) and how to play Solitaire the old fashioned way – with real cards.

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That all kind of adds up to a whole lot of thankful right there. But it’s only the beginning…

I’m quite glad that I’m sitting for a few minutes with a hot cup of the best coffee in the world by my side so I can get this post written in the first place. Thanks, Husband, for the best coffee in the world. Always.

Keeping with the Husband theme, he deserves a spot at the top of the list always because he is among the best of men and the best of husbands. He stands by me completely through the better and worse and I am thankful to fall asleep and wake up next to him each day. Well, assuming he makes it up from his technology den before falling asleep, that is. But even then, I can be thankful for the entire bed to myself (and the three Rottens) for a few hours. Silver linings.

Time makes my list this week. Summer allows me to spend unscheduled, unhurried time with my daughter. It doesn’t matter what we decide to do (or not do), but we are enjoying the time together. I think the highlight of my summer so far was the day she said she loved grocery shopping with me because we get to be together. I think her point was that we were doing something necessary, a chore, and still enjoying each other’s company. I love having her along and I will miss that come fall when she is back in school. Of course it does take longer and cost more with her helping…but so worth it. Plus, she’s learning in the process. We read labels, decide what foods are good choices, plan meals based on what is available that week, practice math and money skills, and so much more.

I have also enjoyed some alone time with my Husband seeing concerts and eating a few meals sans kid. This week we’re getting an extra big dose – we escaped for a quick daytime sushi lunch while Zilla was in school, had dinner together while she was at a social thing at her karate school, and tomorrow we have dinner and a concert date. The couples-only time is so important for so many reasons. Of course, the mom guilt creeps in a bit – are we spending too much time without her? Does she feel neglected? I think we’re good, though, because she is always busy in her own right while we’re out and is always in the care of people who love her. She’s beyond excited to spend time with my Sister and my Mom at my sister’s house tomorrow and I love that.

I am amazed at what a strong and beautiful girl our Zilla is becoming. This week she dealt fabulously with some kid issues, earned her red belt in karate, and made her own breakfast. The unthinkable has happened – all the baby is pretty much gone from her and what remains is this lovely and fun person who needs me to help just a little less than she used. to. It’s bittersweet for sure. The only moments I catch a glimpse of her baby self is when she’s asleep, totally relaxed, and those sweet little cheeks take on that soft baby chubbiness for a few hours. I think that may be the real reason moms get up and check on their kids fifty times a night – for just one more moment of that.

We have experienced the beauty and wonder of nature this summer. We’ve spent some time hiking at our mountain (sadly, those photos are down the composting toilet with my phone) and on our last trip saw more and closer raptor sightings than we have on most of our trips. Awesome. We watched a pair of blue jays defend their nest from a redtail hawk who decided to perch on their lamppost and visit for a while. Fascinating. Sadly, Zilla and I saw a fledgling bird in its final moments of life as he died in our driveway. Unfortunately, we were too late to help him and he wouldn’t have survived the trip to the nearest wildlife rehab facility. We talked about life and death and I was glad for the opportunity for lessons the situation provided. We’ve watched sunsets and moonrises, enjoyed gorgeous summer days and watched truly fierce-looking storms roll in.

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I am so glad we have a share in our local CSA farm. We love our farmers and how they run things. We love the fresh, local, organic produce each week. During CSA season (for us it’s usually June through early November), I love planning our meals around what arrives from the farm. It makes me so happy that the Hub and Zilla are willing to try new and different things and that most of the time they like the results. I love how the array on my counter top and in my refrigerator inspires beautiful, healthy meals. Pinterest, of course, is a great resource for ideas.

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Of course, there are always smoothies as well. This was one of the most beautiful looking and delicious that I’ve made yet. I think it was kale or spinach, mixed berries, cucumber, water, and flax seed. Oh, and peach! So good.

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I received a sweet memento in the mail this week from our Listen to Your Mother leaders. It was a nice way to remember such a great experience. I was reminded what a cool thing that was to do. I believe that people and experiences touch our lives at particular times for particular reasons, even if we may not know exactly why right away. I’m certain that being part of Listen to Your Mother was one of those scenarios. There are over 500 videos to enjoy from this year’s shows (by all means check them out – they’re wonderful), but here’s mine. I loved sharing this story so if you’ll indulge me, I’ll share it again here. Be gentle, OK? I was recovering from a horrible upper respiratory thing complete with laryngitis and it was by far the WORST camera angle on me ever.

I am glad for plenty of time to read my always-growing pile of books. Between what I already have on the shelf, what I’ve recently acquired from the bargain table, and the public library, I have no dearth of material. Are we friends on Goodreads? We should be. Find me over there. I’m sure I can put a widgety thing on my front blog page, but I’ll have to figure that out later today.

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I am glad for the company of cats when I am here all day by myself. These guys are loads of fun. I have to give Cat One a little shoutout here for taking his meds like a man, so to speak. A few months ago, you may remember, he had some intestinal issues and now takes a kitty laxative twice a day. The stuff is a nasty sticky liquid and he hates it. He often spits it out and drools it all over himself and all over everything. I called our vet and they contacted a local compounding pharmacy to do his meds in compound form so it can be flavored – are you ready – like chicken. Yup. So when I tell him it tastes like chicken (which I have been for three months), it’s actually true now. He seems to be accepting it better than before and most of it stays in him rather than on him, so that’s progress.

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I guess taking a couple of weeks off makes for one very full TToT post! That’s it for me today. My coffee cup needs to be refilled. The house has grown a bit dark because the rain and storms have taken over once again. I love the sound of the summer rain. We’re going to spend our rainy (and disgustingly humid) summer afternoon teaching Zilla how to play Dungeons and Dragons.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere I need to be.

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? How are you spending your summer?

You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em and make sure to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up!

 

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#10Thankful – A Heavy Heart

It has been a week of such sadness.

I’m sure most of you know of the terribly sad and tragic headlines that have filled our news feeds this week. My heart is also heavy for people in my life who are grieving the loss of family and beloved companions, people who are struggling with illness, emotional and physical pain, financial difficulty, and so much more. There are so many hearts out there in need and lately it seems that there is far too much hurt to be helped.

I’ve started my list of thankfuls at least ten times over the last few days, and each time I sit in front of it, it seems…something. Trivial? Wrong? I don’t know. None of those is either true or fair, really. We are not wrong to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, yet many of us find ourselves thinking that somehow we should not be celebrating when so many are hurting. I know I’m not alone in this; a few friends have shared similar feelings. It’s more than OK to go on, to live, to continue putting foot in front of foot as we make our way through each day set before us. And yet, somehow, things like weight losses and spiralized vegetable noodles and replacement mobile phones seem…trivial. Wrong.

I’m dancing dangerously close to the deadline to add my list to the link-up for this week, so unless I’m planning to just opt out because I couldn’t figure myself out, I need to make a little haste here. I would rather get a few short things down and acknowledge them here than give up. Love wins. Goodness wins. I do believe that with all my heart, no matter how much evil floods my news feed. I refuse to believe that there is no good, no joy, no blessing in life. I’m not blind to what’s happening. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I know. We all know.

I also know that light and cool meals made with spiralized veggies are perfect on a hot summer evening.

I know that reaching any goal is better when you have friends to encourage you.

I know that I am so very glad to have the opportunity right now to live my life in a manner that allows me to spend time with my daughter and my husband and do the work I love from the peace and comfort of my home.

I know that I am glad when we check projects off our to-do list.

I know that I am happy when our Cat One feels better after a bout of his tummy troubles. And I am definitely glad when his tummy troubles don’t land on the new carpet.

I know that losing a cell phone down a composting toilet shaft is definitely not the end of the world, just a relatively minor inconvenience to replace contact info and the phone itself. I do have to admit being very sad for the loss of some very special photos that had not yet been transferred to my computer. That bugged me. But they’re photos, not the actual people in them. Everyone is alive and safe and I know I will always hold those memories in my mind and my heart.

I know that I am grateful for my Husband’s patient ear when I need to talk and cry a bit.

I know that tears are wonderful, powerful things. And I know that crying helps and is necessary sometimes.

I know the same is true of writing – at least for me. It is a wonderful, powerful endeavor, even if the words never see anyone’s eyes but mine. It helps and it is necessary sometimes.

I know that the world is not all bad all of the time. If the world were good and perfect all the time, well, it wouldn’t be this world, now would it? It would be something else entirely. I know that love wins and eventually, somehow, some way, good does triumph over evil. We just have to keep working on improving our selves, our lives, our world, one little bit at a time.

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#10Thankful – Another Year Older

So my blog and I both had birthdays this week.

My blog is four years old. Imagine that. And me? Well, I’m four and then some. Birthdays have a way of prompting retrospection, don’t they. At least for me. I often find myself reflective around birthdays – take time to consider where I’ve been, where I’m going…just think.

So for starters, I’m thankful for another year of life and one that has brought many changes and surprises. It’s been a year of progress (my One Word, as I recall) and that is always a good thing. I spent time on my birthday with the people closest and most dear to me. I received many thoughtful cards and messages and gifts – all of which really touched me in so many ways. And the Hub started the day off by leaving me several little birthday notes in places he knew I’d find them. Too cute.

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I am thankful for CSA produce! I know I put that on here every week lately, but it really is awesome. I love having the fresh produce straight off our local organic farm fields. And it makes meal prep kind of easy, too. The ingredients are supplied; I just have to put my creativity to use and figure out how to use them.

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This week we had another round of the sugar snap pea pasta we had last week. It was delicious. Again.

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The new carpet on the stairs remains (knock wood) unspoiled by Rotten Cat deposits. We are very happy for that. And the dark color keeps the stairs from looking filthy the minute one of the Rottens drops even one black hair on it. I suppose the down side to that is that it’s easier to forget to vacuum…but we’re working on that not being the case.

I am thankful for things like Shark Week and Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament week during which they show Christmas movies on TV in July and fireworks and summer theatre excursions…all the things we enjoy together as a family that help maintain and strengthen the bonds we already share.

We’ve accomplished a few more small projects around the house this week and have plans in place for many more as the summer unfolds. Maybe it’s a throwback to my years as a teacher or just to having time off from school in the summer as a kid, but to me summer is the time to work on projects and improvements. I’m not much of a spring cleaner, but summer gets me going.

I am very glad to be tackling at least one of my writing projects this month. Yup, I signed up for the CampNaNoWriMo thing during July and have committed to getting a few of the books I want for my kids’ book series written, edited, and illustrated before summer is over. My goal is to start shopping for some readers and (hopefully) a publisher come fall.

I’ve also been doing a tremendous amount of reading just for pleasure, something I used to do quite voraciously and over time due to college and work and marriage and work and buying a house and having a kid and grad school and just all the things I fell out of the habit. I have a huge list and pile of things I want to read and I’m so very happy to be working my way through.

I am always thankful for Kidzilla and the Hub. They are my loves, my life, and they make every day beautiful.

And now I am thankful to finish this list and get on to other things. I didn’t do so well at getting around to read other posts last week (sorry!) so I hope to do a better job in that department this time around. It won’t be until after the long holiday weekend, though, for sure. We’ll be off doing…

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? What are your favorite summer activities and habits? You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the posts in the link-up by clicking that blue button down there.

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#10Thankful – Sharks and Such

I have to be totally honest here.

I do not like writing my #10Thankful post on a Sunday evening. And yet, here I am again doing just that. *sigh* So while I am very thankful for so many things, I’m feeling a bit petulant about the whole thing because, well, I would much rather have finished this two days ago.

So let’s get to it.

I am thankful once again for time spent around the table with family and friends.

On that subject, I am thankful that we have enough to eat. I am painfully aware that so many people do not.

I am so happy that our CSA season is in full swing and we are enjoying the bounty from our local organic farm. The beautiful fruits and vegetables we receive each week have provided inspiration for meals such as this stunner – a sugar snap pea and penne pasta dish with a side salad of fresh field greens. Fast, simple, fresh, and delicious.

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Speaking of the kitchen, I have focused some energy there this week. One of my projects was to install a long-desired Spicy Shelf in the spice cabinet. What a difference this little gizmo has made! I wonder if Sarah can spot the item she sent me as a thoughtful gift a while back?

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The Hub ordered some replacement wheel sets for our dishwasher and installed them this week. That’s a task we put off far too long. So now that job can get checked off the project list, too.

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Today marks the start of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, which we thoroughly enjoy around here. We watched some shark shows today and had plenty of friends to keep us company! I am thankful for things that our family enjoys doing together – hiking, reading, games, Shark Week…it doesn’t really matter what the endeavor. I just love that we love spending time together and pray it will always be so.

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I am thankful for my Hub. I am blessed to be married to my best friend and to have the most wonderful father for our daughter. He is good and kind and patient. He works hard, loves well, and makes Zilla and I both feel safe, beautiful, loved, and appreciated. And he makes a wicked good cup of coffee, too.

I am thankful for a sustained weight loss thanks to the support and encouragement of Clark and the rest of the Graviteers. As a result of that happy loss, I’ve rediscovered a pile of things in the closet that I can wear again. I’ll take it!

As much as I’ve always said I hate summer, I’m happy to say that I am thoroughly enjoying this one so far. Yes, it’s been pretty hot a few days, but I find myself seeing the beauty rather than the irritation. I am enjoying a slower pace and abundant time with Zilla. We do find ourselves needing some quiet time to ourselves each day, but I’m glad that we recognize and respect that. I think we are all enjoying the delicious feeling of well-rested that only the first week of summer break can bring. I’m thankful for long days and the freedom to do things like stay up late to watch movies or look at the stars, to sleep in a bit and snuggle under the covers a bit longer, to go barefoot and take life just as it comes.

So maybe a Sunday night TToT isn’t so bad. It just is. We’re having a wonderful time and that’s all that matters.

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Your turn – what are you thankful for this week? How have you been spending your summer days and nights? You know the drill – share ’em or link ’em! Have a wonderful week!

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TToT – Long Weekends

Here we are at the weekend again and, as is usual of late, it’s nearly over before I get my TToT in.

It’s a fine thing, I suppose, because the only reason for my tardiness is that we’re out living, doing, and enjoying this very long weekend – five days for us. That’s not even a weekend; it’s nearly a week! Thanks to the lack of snow around here this year, Zilla’s school decided to tack an unused snow day on to an already long Memorial Day weekend. No argument here; it has provided the opportunity for staying up late, sleeping in, watching movies, taking a day trip or two, goofing around, getting some chores done (OK, maybe less of that than the goofing around, but whatever), and just taking a breath before we head into the last two weeks of school.

So before we head out on today’s adventure, let’s get on with the thankfuls…

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#10Thankful – Things of Significance

I sense that great things are about to happen.

No, really. I wish I could explain why, but I can’t. I just know that things are somehow falling into place as they should.

I’m late again this week – very late – but that’s OK because once again we have been out living. I can’t think of a better way to fuel my writing than by living. How about you? I’d love to give you a fabulously written intro here, but it’s quite late and the link-up is going to close soon, so I’m opting for expediency.

I’d also love to tell you I grabbed a fabulous photo somewhere this week, but I didn’t, so maybe you’ll allow me to share this one – pulled it from some pics from our visits to our CSA farm last summer and added it as a new header. After the rainy and chilly weather here over the last couple of weeks, I’m so looking forward to more days like this!

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So let’s get down to thankful…

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#10Thankful – The Show is Over

Is it wrong that I’m in my pajamas at 8:00 PM?

Today has been an exciting and tiring day and honestly? I really kind of want to go to bed. Like now.

But first, I need to slip in a few items of thankfulness…

First, I am so grateful to have been part of the Listen to Your Mother show’s Lehigh Valley cast today. What a tremendous experience this has been in so many ways. I’m sure I’ll write more about it at some point, but for today I’m just going to say I’m glad to have added this to my list of awesome things I’ve done.

 

LTYM Cast

These are wonderful people who shared wonderful stories and I’m thankful to have crossed paths with each of them.
Continue reading “#10Thankful – The Show is Over”