• ~Psalm 46:4-5~

    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.
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Google Reader Grading System

This idea just rocked my world! One night recently, as I bemoaned the fact that I have NO TIME to read all of these new posts in my Google reader inbox, or spend some time on Twitter or even FINISH a blog post (I have two posts from the last few days sitting half finished in my draft box), it occurred to me that I could re-organize my inbox to make it a lot more efficient.

My old system involved labeling people based on relationships. For example, there was a category for family and a category for 7days. I had a category for “real life” friends. You get the idea. It wasn’t very efficient because, let’s face it, not everyone has the same writing ability. And not to be rude or anything, but I just don’t have time to read or even SKIM all of the 216 posts that come through my Google inbox everyday. (Yes, I follow a gazillion blogs. That’s the whole point of Google Reader, isn’t it? If you haven’t already started an account, then you definitely should. Hop over here to read more about it. And no, they’re not paying me to say this. I wish.)

I noticed that I’d started to prioritize which posts I read based on my preferences. So I took advantage of this fact and redistributed my feeds based on a letter grade scale. I now have a group called A+ and it moves down from there. My favorite blogs land in the A+ category. Ones that I tend to skip over are moved farther down. It’s all completely subjective. Best of all, I don’t have to read everything all the time. The D group is the first to get skipped over. (If a blog “fails” my reader test then I simply unsubscribe. So there are no F’s.)

You’re already familiar with most of my favorite blogs, but I thought I’d share a few recent additions to my A+ category. You may not have visited these people yet, and I love to read their posts. Enjoy!

1.  Annie Blogs for you about becoming a writer, and about her crazy life and about her Jesus. Who happens to be my Jesus too.

2. Katie happens to be a school teacher as well. Holla! And can I just say she has a really invigorating way of writing about life? She’s fun!

3. Millie’s photography blog has absolutely amazing pictures. I’ve spent hours just scrolling through and each one makes me want to be a photographer when I grow up.

4. Mylestones explores medicine through the eyes of the wife of a doctor and the family that they’ve built. She’s an AMAZING writer and I love to see a new post next to her name!

5. Last but not least is Laura, a newbie to blogging who takes compelling photos and has great anecdotes to go along with them. Her current job as a flight attendant allows her to travel throughout North America the way I travel around town and she’s studying to be a pilot. It’s quite an adventure to read her posts.

The Spanish Inquisition

A few weeks ago, Bethany Actually posted a little Q&A meme that I really enjoyed. The origins of the meme came from The Immoral Matriarch who offered to interview a limited number of commenting bloggers as long as they would agree to do the same for their readers, and so forth and so on. When Bethany posted her meme, I jumped at the chance to be interviewed myself!

airplane pilot wannabe

1. You decided becoming a doctor wasn’t for you, and now you are a high-school Biology teacher. If being a high-school teacher wasn’t an option, what career do you think you’d have?
That’s just a cruel question. Teaching is the only job I’ve really ever loved. I can’t even imagine what I would do without it. If I had lots of money, then I’d be a stay-at-home-mom. Although, I might go insane.

If I didn’t have lots of money, then maybe I’d fly airplanes. I think I could be a pilot. I imagine that I’d probably be terrified of landing the plane though. Maybe I could outsource that part of the job? One of my friends from high school has inspired me with a secret ambition to fly one day.

Does teaching at the college level count? Because teaching really makes me happy. It’s the best job ever! And the best part is that I get to stay home during the summers, too. (Which is by far, the best time of year to be at home!)
desks

2. Ocean or mountains? Why?
Definitely the ocean. Whenever I get to go to the beach, I try to slip away to be by the sea for some alone time with God. There’s nothing more amazing than watching the sun set or rise over the ocean. I also love to sing into the crashing waves. I love the fact that no one can hear me except the Lord. Walking along the beach just makes my heart happy.
ocean view

3. What was your first “real” job? Did you like it? Why or why not?
The first job where I received a W-2 was my highschool job as a library paige. I cleaned the books and reshelved them. Occasionally, I helped the children’s librarian with projects that she was working on. Most of the time I ended up reading the books instead of working. The job itself was pure torture for me. I was like a fat kid working in a candy shop. The books would call to me and I would always seem to be reading the most climactic paragraph when someone would shout at me that I needed to, “GET BACK TO WORK!”
4. What’s your guilty TV pleasure?
Seriously? Unplugging the TV is my secret guilty pleasure. It drives me nuts when Bri finds the remote and turns it on. Hubster likes to watch it in the evenings and I’ve grown accustomed to that, but I cannot stand to watch it when the sun is out. It drives me nuts! Ironically, I absolutely adore watching movies. Our DVD library is overflowing, and I’ve arranged them by content.

DVD arrangement

5. Tell me one of your favorite Bible verses. Just one? My life verse, and the inspiration for my blog name, comes from Psalm 46:4-5, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” It reminds me that my goal in life is to please God. If I want to be famous at all, I want to be famous in His city. I want to be the kind of woman where people know that “God is in the midst” of me. I want to stand firm in my faith without wavering. And I want to trust that even in the darkest of nights, my God will help me. The morning will dawn.

holding hands

So now, I’d love to ask you some questions! If you’d like a turn to play (keep in mind – you’re also going to have to interview others on your blog), just leave a comment below and I’ll e-mail you five personalized questions. I will guarantee the first five commenters that they will be interviewed within a week. After that, I will try to respond to everyone, but it may take awhile.

Also, I’m looking for new blogistas for my Featuring You section. Fill it out at your leisure and e-mail me your responses!

Feature Blogista – Reasons Why

Today’s feature blogista grew up with me. You know that ‘Hero’ song that Mariah Carey sang at the Neighborhood Ball? Well, Kels and I used to sing that song into our hairbrushes when it was brand new. We were in seventh grade and we loved to play with American Girl dolls. She’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Probably the Diana Berry to my Anne Shirley, if I ever had one. She’s been a wonderful friend to me. We’ve laughed together, prayed together, cried together and stood up for each other. I remember playing dress up and having tea parties with her as a girl. We had a secret code that we used to write notes to each other. In high school we were accountability partners for church youth group. In college I drove for four hours with her family to see her perform in a Charlie Brown play. We were bridesmaids in each others’ weddings. Our e-mails usually end with lylas (love you like a sister) and we really mean it.

preggo-pic

Hmmmm….where to begin? My name is Kelli and I am married to the most wonderful man in the world.  He is a Marine, so I have spent the last year traveling the Eastern shore, living in Quantico, VA while he did training there and now we have settled in the deep South again.  They tell us that we’ll be here for 3 years!  Woohoo!  Our first child is due in a little over 4 weeks now.  It’s a girl and we’re calling her Els online.  I can hardly believe it. I’m excited and nervous all rolled into one.  My other “children” are of the feline variety.  Rumor is my 3 year old orange tabby and Charlie is a 2 year old grey and white stray that we rescued from Animal Control.  My brother says that we have the epitome of the two cat extremes.  Rumor exemplifies the “curiosity killed the cat” type and Charlie is our resident scared-y cat.  Both of them think they’re human.

shot of rumor and kels

The craziest thing I did as a youngin’? Besides getting lost in a National Park with you, Cindy?  Yes, let’s tell that story.  Cindy and I went camping together with our families in eighth grade.  Being quite imaginative girls, we had created this whole kingdom for ourselves in the woods near our campsites and named it Vine Valley.  Vine Valley had a “river” in it (read:  small creek) and we wanted to follow it and see where it went one day.  Next thing we knew, we were in a valley, with a dried up creek bed, and hopelessly lost.  We climbed the hill on each side only to see mountains and no sign of civilization.  We panicked.  Well, I panicked, Cindy has always been a voice of reason in my life.  We started to retrace our steps, but could not remember exactly where we had come from.  Long story short, we spent about two hours wandering around before some people from the campsite that were helping to look for us found us.  Our dads were about to report us missing to the park rangers.

kelsandb

B and I have been married for 4 and a half years and it really does keep getting better.  I’m not just saying that either.  We were forced to leave everyone and everything we knew last year to set out on the journey with the Marine Corps and it’s been the best thing that could have happened to us.  We rely on each other for encouragement and still act like little kids when it’s just us at home together. B and I got married two months after college graduation and one month before he started law school.  I worked at a bank for the first year of our marriage, and discovered quickly that banking is not my lot in life.  So, I went back to school and got a master’s in Public Health.  During this time, B joined the Marine Corps, so we both finished school just before we started moving around.  I did a brief stint as an event planner, which I loved and hope to do again someday, but right now I’m employed as housekeeper, cook, and incubator to my little family.

kelswedding

I still don’t know what to “be” exactly.  Right now I’ll be a wife and mother.  I’ve been kicking around the idea of becoming a personal trainer after I have Els and get back into shape.  I think that it would combine what I like about all the things I’ve done so far – working with people, exercise, healthy living, etc.  And it could be flexible.

kelswithagun

My Mama is truly the most amazing woman God has ever created.  She’s still chasing around kids because my parents adopted a girl and boy from China after my first brother, sister, and I were grown.  They’re now 6 and 4 and she says that they’re keeping her young.  And everything she cooks is amazing.  She doesn’t think so, but it is.

big-family

My blog is called “Reasons Why” after a Nickel Creek song that is one of my favorites.  It’s not fancy because I cannot figure out how to put up a pretty template or even a picture in the byline, but I like to write about things I think about.  I try to be open and honest because I feel like that’s what blogs are for.  For us to reach out to one another in the world and know that we’re not alone in life situations.

cindys-wedding

My four year old brother, Micah is very excited about El’s impending arrival.  He loves babies.  He always kisses my belly and will hug Els even if he won’t hug me.  I’m okay with it because I get hugged either way.  He knows he can’t punch me like he does everyone else, so this past weekend when we were all together, he kept coming up to me and putting his head on my belly.  Then he would fall backwards and tell us all that the baby had knocked him down.  Crazy kid.

siblings

As far as deep thoughts go, here’s a verse I’ve been pondering. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4  Lately I’ve been having the sneaking suspicion that if we were to truly delight ourselves in the Lord, we’d probably find that He’s the desire of our hearts and not the things we were thinking.

Whew!  That feels like a lot.  I can’t wait to hang out together with our little girls!  Maybe Bri will be enough older than Els to have the wisdom not to get lost in the woods.

Feature Blogista – ComfortablyCrazy

It’s a pleasure to introduce today’s feature blogista. Heather, fondly known as CC, is a SAHM living in sunny SoCal. Don’t hate her for the nice weather she’s enjoying. You’ll love the way she tells her story. Her modesty exudes throughout her writing, but it’s quite clear that she has many talents. She’s extremely gifted with a sewing machine and knitting needles (selling all of  her Etsy items within hours of posting them). You’ll often find her gorgeous daughters, Superchic and Rapunzel running around with Annalie and Baby Bug. With company like that, there’s no doubt that this will be an entertaining family!

cc-take-3

Here goes nothing. Let’s start with the mundane, then move on to the more mundane shall we? My name is Heather and I blog as ComfortablyCrazy or CC for short.  I’m 30 years old as of December 2008.

Now my husband Shawn often makes me want to smack him upside the head but who doesn’t feel that way about their spouse every once in awhile?  Truthfully, I think he’s wonderful. We’ve been married for 11 1/2 years.  Shawn and I married approximately 5-6 weeks after we met and 3 weeks before I graduated from high school.  Yes, I said high school.  We conceived our first daughter Rapunzel sometime in the month of August 1997, we were married for three months at this point.  4 1/2 years, and four pregnancies later SuperChic was born,  I was 23 almost 24. Considering that we got married when I was 18 and he was 23 after knowing each other for about a month, most people are surprised we’re still together.  All I have to say is that my family has short engagements and long marriages.  We’re stubborn like that.

couple-take-3

As for work. I’ve worked at a few places in the last 11 1/2 years. I worked at a gas station for one day.  We were in a serious car accident the next day and I wasn’t able to work for three weeks.  I volunteered at our local library for a few months, then worked there as a Paige for a little over a year.  I volunteered at Bible Truth Publishers when Shawn worked there.  Sometimes I filled orders, wrapped orders, shipped orders, packaged tracts, and did miscellaneous stuff others didn’t really want to do.  I enjoyed it most of the time.   I worked as an “Office Girl” for a diesel repair shop.  Though truthfully “office girl” really doesn’t cover it.  After that I worked at Home Depot for 1 year and three days.  I quit to stay home with SuperChic who was having issues with my being away from home so much.  That was in May 2007.  I am officially a SAHM again.  Most times I love it.  Others I wish I was somewhere else.

I do have an Etsy shop which is in need of restocking.  I am working on it.  I enjoy sewing and knitting, but sometimes life gets in the way of that.

rapunzel-take-3

I wouldn’t say that I did anything to crazy when I was young.  I was too afraid of my Dad.  I remember going out trick-or-treating with my junior high friends. We had every intention of egging a friends house.  My Dad said, “Go ahead, but if you get arrested I’ll be there to get you in the morning.”  He was willing to let me have “fun” but I had to be willing to pay the consequences. Needless to say, we changed our minds.

My sophmore year in high school I went with my cousin to her cousin’s house.  Her parents were in Mexico and she had the house to herself.  (She was a junior and 17.)  We broke out the wine and tequila.  They called over a few guys.  Guys that I really didn’t like.  While we waited for the guys to get there they made a gallon of grape Kool-Aid and poured in some tequila thinking it would taste great.  It didn’t, but then I don’t like anything grape with the exception of fresh grapes.  I stuck to straight tequila.  When the guys got there I’d probably had about four shots worth.  They all drank the nasty mix.  One of the guys filled my cup with about 9 oz of tequila, said, ” give this to the litlle güerita;” and dared me to drink.  I drank it all; all at once.  20 minutes later he was throwing up and I was still standing.  We loaded him into the car with his friends. Then we started cleaning, and barely finished when my Dad and Aunt showed up.  They couldn’t even tell that we’d been drinking.  About two months later my cousin and her cousin got busted.  Apparently the wine they drank was what my cousin’s Aunt drank and she knew she’d just opened the bottle before she left.  I never got caught.  I still don’t think my Dad realizes that I was there and participated in what happened.superchic-take-3

Does that count as crazy?  I hope so, because once I got married my life was pretty tame.

I dated a guy in high school for two years. He might as well be dead. But if he was broken down on the side of the road I wouldn’t try to run him over.  It’s taken a long time for me to get to that point.

I haven’t done anything that I would consider a career yet.  My kids are my career right now.  Am I ok with that?  Mostly.  I knit, sew, read, and blog.  That gives me a little bit of an outlet.  One day I hope to teach, but that requires going back to school.  School terrifies me. I mean, have you seen the math the kids are doing now?

My Mom is doing ok.  She’s the Office Manager for a company that paints houses.  She’s good at her job and enjoys it.  Mom only cooks one thing now that she cooked when I was a little girl. I’m not complaining. All of the other recipes have evolved.

ccs-mom-take-3

Here’s the chili recipe:
2 pounds ground beef
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 package Carroll Shelby’s Chili Kit
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1 bulb chopped garlic
1 small onion
1 can kidney & pinto beans (really any bean you like in your chili)

toppings:
sour cream
cheese

Brown onions and garlic with meat. Follow directions on package of chili mix. Though we don’t use the masa, and instead of adding water I just use the juice from the canned tomatoes.

I started blogging in July 2004 on Blogger.  My sister-in-law, Secret-Agent-Josephine, had already been blogging for a few years and I figured, why not?  I like to write, and I’m not horrible at writing. Blogging helps my family keep up with the kids.

groupofbloggersandkids1

I never imagined that I’d have people other than family reading what I wrote.  Don’t ask how I came up with my name, because I don’t know.  Anyone who knows me knows that ComfortablyCrazy just fits.

I write mostly about my two girls, Rapunzel 10 1/2 and SuperChic 6.  Sometimes other things come up and I write about them.  When I sit down to write I never know what is going to come out.  I find that if I think too much about what I’m saying that it just doesn’t work.

I doubt I’ll be able to go to BlogHer ’09, but I really, really want to go.  I miss Chicago.  (We lived in Illinois from April 2001 to September 2005.)  Though I did attend BlogHer ’08 in San Francisco.

Featuring Yours Truly – What I learned in 2008

Just thought I would brag on myself for a minute. I’ve been featured over at Middle Zone Musings along with over a hundred bloggers who participated in this year’s blogapalooza.

Each participant linked to their best posts throughout the year. One post per month. Check out my response to the question “What did you learn in 2008?”

Dear Blog,

Hello again, old friend. I’m sorry that I abandoned you for the last week. You see, I’ve been cutting all of the fun things out of my life little by little as my portfolio due date edged closer and closer. I stopped painting in October and I stopped writing my novel around December. Cleaning isn’t really a fun thing, so it was easy to cut that out around Christmas time. I didn’t even put my decorations away yet. Our Christmas tree and stockings are still drooping in the den.

Last week, I had to stop writing here all together. There just wasn’t enough time in the day. After working for three school years on this project, I’d saved approximately 350 items in my portfolio. It was a mammoth task. I stressed over it right up until the moment I turned it in.

Then on what should have been a very happy, relaxed day for me, I was blindsided. An angry parent came to my classroom without any warning. We stood in the hallway discussing his laundry list of complaints against me for about an hour. My class went hog wild. By the time he left, well after the final bell had rung and the kids had gone home, I was beyond tears. My face was raw and snotty. He didn’t even show any remorse for reducing me to tears.

Of all my days as a teacher, yesterday was by far the worst. It paralleled many of the days I spent in medical school. Stressful. Guilt-ridden. Emotional. Feeling two inches tall.

So I’m taking a break today. A hard-earned, much needed respite. Bri is playing with friends while I go get a pedicure. *grin*

Thanks for being so understanding this week. It’s wonderful to know that I can pour my life onto these pages as I go, but when life gets overwhelming you wait patiently for me to come back. You’re a true friend.

Much love,

~Cindy~

Feature Blogista … Nichelle

Nichelle from Dance Advantage tells her story of how she has come to be a professional dancer and teacher. For all of you who dreamed of being a ballerina one day, here’s a chance to live vicariously. Her blog offers an insight into the dancing community and is very helpful for parents of dancers (both boys and girls) as well as for professionals.


closeupnichelleWell, let’s see. I got married a couple of years after high school. I was in college at the time but Mark, my hubby, was already working in broadcasting. (He’s eight years older… cradle-robber!) You know, he’s really a great guy, (not without those little things that drive me crazy, of course, but…) always incredibly supportive, AND he’s a great dad. That more than makes up for those little annoyances… most of the time.

Anyway, we’ve been married for 11 years now… yikes! I do have one child so far- a boy. And we’ll probably have another – two sounds like a nice even number. After moving around a lot for Mark’s work, we finally settled in Houston. Of course, I was eight months pregnant by the time we “settled.” We are now loving being parents to a toddler. They grow up so fast!!

trio

My son is extremely entertaining, especially now that he’s a toddler. He loves to dance and listen to music, and it’s been fun to watch his sense of humor develop (along with his new-found independence). He’ll be 17 months old this month. We’re very proud that he is already able to recognize the entire alphabet. He can point out capital letters when asked and even makes some of the appropriate letter sounds. It seemed a surprising and sudden development, it wasn’t as though we had been drilling the letters. It started with discovering that he had the ability to remember the names for a few of his foam bathtub letters. He seemed to enjoy showing us the “X” when asked, and around the same time he got a little toy laptop that prompts him to press letters. I wasn’t sure at first if he would recognize the letters out of context but he can point them out on t-shirts and signs and stuff. Pretty wild!

blackandwhitenichelle

I went off to college in Virginia for my first year and a half. I was studying dance there. I liked going out of state, but the tuition put a serious dent in my wallet. I may never pay off those loans! So, I transferred back home to Pennsylvania (I stayed a dance major, though), got married, graduated, and partied like it was 1999- oh wait it was. (Can you believe now all the commotion of Y2K?) It doesn’t seem possible that was nearly 10 years ago. Oh no, I’m talking in terms of decades – now I do feel old!

Dance has always been the constant in my life. I guess I was aiming for my career starting at age 5. But, my career as a dancer certainly hasn’t been without transmutation. I’ve been teaching dance since high school, so that’s always been a passion and a source of income. But, we’ve moved around a good bit, so I’ve taught at a LOT of different places. Plus, I’ve done performing, that is when we’ve lived in places that recognized dance could be something other than what cheerleaders do at half-time. My performing focus is contemporary dance which generally has to be explained to people. “Is that like ballet?” “You mean like, interpretive dance?” That’s my favorite.

induction3 Anyway, I’ve choreographed for community theater, was adjunct faculty at PSU, I’ve worked in a theater box office, I’ve worked in classified advertising at a newspaper… whatever pays the bills. And now, I’m staying home with my son and blogging about dance! Writing has been a bit of a surprise, actually, but I’m enjoying it. I’ve even got some paying projects coming up- dance reviews and such! And, I’m heading into rehearsal soon with a company in Houston. It’s a part-time gig in the evenings, which works with the family schedule. I’m really looking forward to it, although, pregnancy and mommyhood definitely take a toll on the body and fitness regimen! Regular classes and rehearsals will help whip me into shape… or they’ll just whip me.

I’ve been blogging since April and I’m about to do my 100th post. I had been thinking about the idea of creating an online resource for dance students and teachers for quite some time, I think because I realized that there weren’t many online dance resources for students to get quality info and because I had a lot of things I would have loved to talk about with my students if there was ever time to fit it all into a one-hour class. The whole idea of dance education, as opposed to just recreation, is an interest to me. I’ve always tried to provide critical thinking opportunities and incorporate information about the body, dance history, dancers and choreographers into my dance classes, even if students were just there for recreation or fitness. It is important to me to educate dancers in more than just the act of dancing because it is not a subject that’s taught anywhere else. Unfortunately, there’s just not a lot of time in a typical dance class. So, when I discovered blogging and how it could be used to create community and interaction among readers, I figured it was the perfect platform to sprinkle all those things I wanted to say about dance and dancing.

induction2
My brain rarely seems to shut off, which can be a hazard. I’ve been thinking a lot about balance now that I am going to be juggling performing, blogging, writing, and full-time mom-ing. I’ve been trying to focus on finding tools that simplify things and leave behind time-wasters. My perfectionism often interferes with my self-organization in that I nitpick and spend too much time fiddling around with aspects of my work and life. I am very organized but I let things consume me. My goal is to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies and learn to stop mid-project when it is time (even if it’s not finished), or let it go (even if it’s not perfect), and stick to my top priorities. I guess that is one of my New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I’ve been reflecting on the past year a lot, and the result is that I just feel very thankful. My family is happy and healthy. There have been disappointments, frustrations, annoyances but I am so incredibly blessed. It’s wonderful to be able to contentedly close the 2008 chapter.

This past year has been a great year because I have managed to spend most of my time doing what I enjoy! The only “for fun” thing that my hubby and I have had to cut out since the birth of my son was our participation in local theatre. Although Mark’s a meteorologist, he’s no stranger to the stage. It’s how we met, as a matter of fact! We hope to be able to do that again in the future, although it will probably be a while before we can both be in the same show! But, other than acting, I get to do all the things I enjoy – reading (I’m in a book club, you know), writing, putzing on the computer, learning, dancing, playing! See, blessed, I tell ya!

Would you like a chance to be a featured blogista? Simply fill out the questionnaire and we’ll book a date!

Our First Brave Blogista … Bethany Actually

It’s an immense pleasure to share with you a rather well-known blogista for this first feature. Many of you already know and love Bethany Actually. If you haven’t met her yet, then sit back because you’re in for a treat. She’s been described as an angel, not to mention pottery painter extraordinaire. In my blogging world, Bethany is my big sister. She was my sounding board while Hubs was in police academy and I had to be a semi-single parent. If I ever misspell something in a blog post, then I can count on Bethany to catch it and e-mail me! And when my Bridoodle was born, Bethany Actually sent me a fabulous care package that contained a hand-crocheted baby blanket. She’s a wonderful friend and I really look up to her. Please put your hands together for our first celebrity blogista …. Bethany Actually!

bethany-annalie-beach

Troy and I have been married for 13 years. We were married 9 days before my 21st birthday. Our daughter, Annalie is 4 1/2 years old and keeps me on my toes every day.

I’m seriously considering formal homeschooling starting next fall, which I am sure will be like adding a full-time job to my life. I don’t do any kind of organized lessons now, but I do consciously integrate reading and math lessons into our daily lives whenever I can. When we’re baking a cake, I talk to Annalie about how 1/2 plus 1/2 equals one; when I’m using the automated postal center at the Post Office, I let her read the ZIP code off the package and enter it into the machine; when she asks me what a word is, I encourage her to sound it out if I think she’s capable of it. Stuff like that. Even if most of it isn’t sticking, it’s building the foundation for later when it will stick.

cookingwithannalie

When I was a senior in high school, I went on a weekend trip to St. Louis with four of my friends. Our class’s senior trip to Chicago was cancelled, and the five of us had the money, and we somehow talked our parents into letting us go, my mom into letting us use her car, and the hotel into letting us stay in a room even though three of us were under 18. We crammed ourselves into the car, took turns on the 8-hour drive from Omaha to St. Louis, saw the arch, went to the free (and ultra-cool) science museum, played a lot of cards (speed and rummy) and just goofed around. We didn’t drink or do drugs or have sex (two guys and three girls). We ended the trip by driving four hours over to Springfield to visit my best friend Heather and her family. Heather’s mom Jane invited us to stay the night at their house, bless her heart, so we spent our last night of our “senior trip” crashed on couches and sleeping bags there.

Also of note, it was on this trip that I started crocheting again. My aunt had taught me to crochet when I was 5 or 6, and I made a baby blanket for a cousin born when I was 11. Erin (whose wedding cake I would later make) was one of the friends on that trip, and she had brought along yarn and hooks to make hats. She loaned me one of her hooks and some yarn, and I made my first hat on that trip. I made a couple more hats, and the following fall when Erin and I were roommates in our college dorm, we made little hat ornaments to give to all our floor-mates as Christmas gifts. Also, I crocheted an enormous red, black and green blanket for my dad that Christmas. I’ve been crocheting ever since and now sell a lot of my work in my Etsy shop.

annalie-stocking

I graduated from North High School in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1993. After that, I went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln because I won a National Merit Scholarship to that school and thought I had to go there.

<boring explanation of National Merit Scholar selection process that sounds like I am bragging but really ends up showing you how naive I was>

National Merit Scholar finalists are determined by PSAT scores from 10th grade. Then in 11th grade you have to fill out an application, write an essay, and take the SAT. When you take the SAT you have to enter a school code where you want them to send your test scores, and if you get a scholarship that will be the school the scholarship is for. I had no idea where I wanted to go to college at the time, so I just entered a school I knew I could get into. Plus I never thought I’d actually win a National Merit Scholarship. So when I did win a scholarship, I just shrugged and said, I guess I’m going to UNL. What no one, including my crappy guidance counselor, bothered explaining to me was that as a National Merit Scholar I could have gotten a full-ride scholarship at almost any university in the country. Sheesh. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

</boring explanation>

Actually, I am not bitter. I got to have one of my best friends as a roommate freshman year, when we lived on Smith 3 with some truly awesome ladies. Sophomore and junior years I worked as an RA and loved it. I met Troy when I was a sophomore; we were RA’s in the same residence hall and started dating towards the end of that year. AND I could go home on weekends and do laundry since it was only an hour away from my parents’ house.

troy-annalie-bethany-pumpkins

In the middle of my junior year, I quit school so I could marry Troy and move with him to San Diego. The following fall I transferred to San Diego State University. I took classes there full-time and then part-time for four semesters before dropping out. The parking situation there was so stressful, it gave me nightmares and stomach aches. Yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but it’s the truth. I was so relieved to not have to worry about school any more. I do plan on going back to school and getting my degree one day (probably in English) but I’m in no hurry.

I dated a guy during high school, but we broke up at the end of my freshman year of college and I was very happy to see the end of that overly-dramatic relationship. A few months later I started working as an RA and met Troy. He had been engaged but his fiancee had realized she wasn’t cut out to be a Navy wife and broke it off. We became friends; later we became good friends; and eventually people started asking us if we were dating. We thought maybe we should take that as a hint that we should be dating. A few months later we were engaged, and a year later we were married. Troy is still my best friend and the person who can make me laugh more than anyone else. Being a Navy wife isn’t always a picnic, but I’d rather be married to Troy in the Navy than not be married to Troy at all. Also, Troy told me before we were even dating that if his wife ever told him she couldn’t stand it anymore, he would get out of the Navy because his family would always come first. So far, the Navy has been remarkably good to us and we don’t have any immediate plans to get out.

annalie-braids-fountain

When we moved to San Diego, I got a job as an AVID tutor at a middle school. I worked there for three years and loved it. In Virginia I worked in an extended-care program at a small Lutheran school, and would have happily continued working there if we had not moved to Arizona. Not long after we arrived in Arizona I found out I was pregnant with Annalie. Since then I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and have loved every minute of it….well, 99% of the minutes.

Gramaw Debbie

My mom is great, thanks for asking! She’s sitting on the other end of the couch (we’re watching Prince Caspian), since she and my dad have been here for Christmas. She makes a really delicious tuna salad sandwich:

Drain a can of tuna. Dump in a bowl and add a generous tablespoon or two (to taste) of Miracle Whip, a teaspoon or so of mustard, and a spoonful of sweet pickle relish. Chop up a dill pickle and a stalk of celery and add that. Finely chop about 1/4 c. red onion (or white or yellow or even green onion, as you like) and a boiled egg. Stir it all up, adding more Miracle Whip or mustard if you need to, or even a splash of dill pickle juice. Spread generously on whole wheat bread, top with lettuce, cheese, or whatever you like.

screen shot of bethanyactually.com

My current blog has been around since October 2007. I write about whatever we’re doing in our daily lives—cooking, crafting, going to the beach, traveling, whatever funny things Annalie is saying—and I post some of the many photos I take every day. The online friends who read and comment are wonderful, and they make blogging more fun, but the audience I have in mind when I write and take photos are the friends and family who live far away and don’t get to see us very often.

I actually have been blogging, after a fashion, since 1997! I used to have a personal website on the free webspace our ISP allotted to us, which I coded myself by hand. I also kept up additional sites whenever Troy went on long deployments, with information about what ports he’d visited, photos he’d sent me, emails he had written, etc. I maintained that personal site for seven years, until Annalie was about four months old. At that point I realized I wasn’t going to have the time to keep up the site the way I wanted to, so I took it down and put photos on a photo-sharing website instead. I figured someday when I had more time I would have a website again.

groupofbloggersandkids

Around that same time, I was introduced to the world of blogs. The Trixie Update (still exists, but basically on hiatus), The Reign of Ellen (no longer exists), and Dooce were the first blogs I read on a regular basis. Through Ellen I was introduced to Secret Agent Josephine, whose real name is Brenda and who has become one of my closest friends. Around the same time I started posting photos on Flickr, and somehow found the 7 Days self-portrait group, which is loads of fun (as Cindy knows) and the Color Me Happy Swaparooni (where Cindy and I first met!) and loved the community there. Through Flickr and Brenda I met many other bloggers and was nudged into starting my own blog.

And that’s how bethany actually was born.

annalie-snowballs-yell

Annalie has really been into making up stories lately. She’ll be playing with her toys, making them “talk” to each other or telling them stories about when they were babies. Today we were sitting at the table and Annalie was sort of talking to herself under her breath, and I heard her say, “They build a house in your brain, and there’s a fence…” and then she got even quieter and I couldn’t make out what she said after that. The things that go on in her head! She never fails to surprise me.

Calling All Blogistas

Let me just start out with the fact that I’m a little nervous about this idea. It’s one that I’ve been really excited about for a few weeks and I’m hoping that others will be excited about it too. However, if it flops, then I’ll try very hard to be gracious about it and not bombard you with bitter posts. That being said, I really hope you LOVE this idea as much as I do.

feature-blogista-button1

So here’s the deal. I’d like to feature a blogista over here about once or twice a month. What’s a blogista, you ask? Excellent question! A blogista (pronounced blog-eee-stuh) is part diva and part every-woman. She’s someone that loves to blog! That’s pretty much it. Sounds kind of like YOU, doesn’t it? I know. That’s why I’m so thrilled about this idea. I even made buttons for the bloggers who are willing to give it a try.  After you e-mail me your answers to the interview questions, we’ll set an air date and then I’ll send you a copy of the blogista button. So it’s kind of like an award and a traffic generator.

The questions are set up like a conversation between old friends. There are plenty of prompts, so feel free to take your answers wherever you feel comfortable. It’s also a great way to meet people who plan to attend BlogHer ’09. (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m super excited about the BlogHer conference! And no, I am not getting paid to advertise for them. I wish!)

So anyway, what do you think? Leave me some feedback … as long as it’s nice. No bubble bursting please.

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