1–10 of 934 entries in the category: Journal

Raising the Modern Family: A Stepchild’s View

August 14th

In this entry in the series, Raising a Modern Family, Ashley talks about being raised by a stepfather, and how this has influenced her marriage with Nick—and the raising of their two boys. She also talks about how her relationship with Christ changed her life, and brought her to forgiving her stepfather.

{I’ve known Ashley for a dozen years, and she has the most incredible real life hair of any woman I’ve ever met.}

Modern Family

Tell me about you, and your family. How long have you been married? How old are your kids? 

My name is Ashley.  I am a cake decorator and teachers aide—but my two boys would say I’m a ninja mom because of my ability to sneak up behind them when they least expect it!  I’m married to an amazing man who is also a wonderful father.  We celebrated our 11th year of marriage this past May.  Our boys are ages 9 and 5 and keep us very busy between baseball, school, broken bones, lego building, and sword fights. We are followers of Jesus and teach our children to love others, even when nobody is watching and give generously because nothing here is really ours anyway.

How long have you been a stepkid?

I became a step kid when I was in the 8th grade.  Trying not to age myself here, it’s been roughly 22 years.


Did you have a good relationship with your stepparents? Are they still married today? Are you in contact? 

No. Not at first, anyway.  To me, my step father was the reason my parents divorced. It took a very long time for me to just forgive him and learn to let him in emotionally.  Before that, I acted out, getting arrested, skipping school, and in general being a horrible person. It was a rough 4 years before I graduated high school and moved out.  When I was 19, I asked Jesus to take control.  It was life changing.  Letting go of the bitterness, forgiving both of them, really helped grow our relationship into what it is today.  They are still married and I do get to see him quite often.  

I also have a step mother, which was a totally different experience…but for sanity purposes, I’ll keep these comments about my step father, since that’s who I lived with primarily.


How has this experience changed you? 

My parent’s had nearly divorced a few times.  I can remember them sitting us down and having the “talk” with us, and then nothing would happen.  Then we’d have another talk.  And then nothing.  Then one day, when my dad was away on a business trip, she moved us to a new house.  It was so life changing, that I never want my own kids to go through that if I can avoid it.  I know that there are MANY different reasons and way to become a step child or step parent.  My story is through divorce.  And it broke our family for a long time.  So for us, divorce is not an option.  We don’t speak the word.  We don’t give any life to it if it enters our thoughts.  We have had many ups and downs, but our promise was not only to each other, but also to God.  I think going through that experience made me a better wife and mother.   

What would you have done differently?

Oh gosh.  I would have stopped being such a brat and just listened to him!  He had two grown kids of his own and knew a thing or two about how to raise us.  I just didn’t want to hear it then.  I will say, he did a very good job of just hanging back until I was ready to let him in.  

Has your parenting style been influenced by this experience? 

I’m sure it has in some way.  I just never really stopped to say, hey, I do this because I was a step kid. 

What advice would you give to someone new to either the stepkid or stepparent game? 

To stepkids I’d say, be open.  Let your step parent in. Talk to them; let them know if you’re having a hard time. Be respectful and share some of your favorite family memories, and make new memories together!


Is there a story about your childhood you’d like to share? 

My step father knew our family for years before he became a part of it.  He was a magician.  I can remember him sitting us down as kids and teaching us magic tricks.  We each got to learn one.  We were sworn to secrecy about how it was done.  To this day I can not reveal how the trick he taught me is done. 

Is there anything else you’d like folks to know about your experience? 

Only recently did I learn that my stepfather actually struggled with forgiving HIMSELF for how everything happened with my mom.  Out of respect for him and my mom, I won’t list details, but I will say that it made me look at him with much more sympathy.   Over 22 years living with guilt is no way to live life.  Forgive yourself.  Forgive your step parents.  And step parents: forgive your step kids.  One day they WILL come around! 

Thank you Ashley!
Posted in
Arizona, Community, Journal
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Onward We March

March 28th

March 2016

During the last year, the department I work for has been reduced by more than 30%. The work we are doing has been transferred to a different state agency. The transition, all the same, has been an odd experience. I am the only person left on one side of a large floor of offices and cubicles. When I come in, I have to wave my arms above my head to get the lights to click on. I can hear when anyone on the other side of the floor exits. The elevator dings on occasion, getting my attention.

It’s zombie movie strange.

I miss the voice of friends and colleagues who filled the sea of gray cubicles. I’ll be joining them soon in a different building, under a different agency, a few miles away. I’m one of the lucky ones.

With this transition has come a need for deep flexibility. As colleagues were let go, others found new positions. Still others took retirement. Their responsibilities in many cases have been divided among those remaining. And so, we juggle.

There is an express bus that leaves not far from my house, depositing me one mile from my new office. For now, that mile is a nice morning walk. Soon, it will be a hot slog and I’ll need to keep wet wipes at my desk — but I am going to try to do this as many days as possible. Commuting by bus is new to me; I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the bus gets you to and from. It is comfortable, and full of other professionals headed downtown. The price is great too because as a state employee, the fair is subsidized. It is of course the green option, and as the summer approaches, I won’t be sitting in traffic on the asphalt in 110 degree heat.

The flip side to taking the bus is I have to plan my entire day within walking distance of my office. I can’t go out to lunch unless someone else drives or we are hoofing it. And, going to the gym means hauling an extra set of clothing downtown and on that mile walk each way. I’m trying to make getting to the gym as easy as possible, and carting even the necessaries back and forth each day will hamper my motivation.

Tomorrow, I get back on the gym workout wagon that I rode for so many years in my 20s: up by 5, at the gym by 5:15, in the showers by 6:30, and on the bus by 7. I can leave my gym bag and car at the bus stop — which is within half a mile of the gym. So, I’m only carting my purse and lunch to my desk.

I like having a plan and a routine. And I know having my workout done before I get to work will start my day off on a happier foot. I have more work than ever to accomplish, so getting up earlier as it gets warmer makes sense.

Onward, we march into this new professional life.

Gulp.

~K

Posted in
Arizona, Journal
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The McNay Museum

January 5th

My mom had told me the McNay Museum in San Antonio was worth visiting, but I had no idea they would have such an incredible collection. I saw my first (and second) Diego Rivera! If you ever get the chance, spend an afternoon at this collection. The mansion alone is spectacular.

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The art did not disappoint either:

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

(Yes. That is entirely of cheese doodles. What was even stranger was two of the mannequins moved.)

The McKay museum

Diego Rivera — self-portrait

The McKay museum

Diego Rivera

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The next three are all another favorite of mine, Georgia O’Keeffe

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

The McKay museum

And an odd Picasso for good measure.

If you get the chance, GO!

~K

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Journal, Media
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One Community April

April 6th

One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their homes and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art.

Each month, one of the hosts picks four words for us to interpret through photographs of what we see around us in our daily lives.

The Rules:  Post one or more photos interpreting the words for the month, and add your blog post to the link-up.  Please include a link back to the link-up post on your One Community post, and take a look at some of the other links and comment on them.

This month’s words, selected by Rebekah are: spring, flowers, purple and rise.

These orchids were blooming in a medical office in Dallas. I visited it this week for work and asked the practice manager how in the world she got a grocery store orchid to bloom in huge bows of blossoms.

One Community Her response?

“I read the directions.”

One of my favorite books remains The Orchid Thief. The associated film, Adaptation, is brilliant if you’ve read the book. Also — this glorious bloom embodies spring flower, purple and the rising of the season.

Want to contribute next month? Sue has selected the following four words for May: five, mother, recipe, remember. We post on the 5th of each month. Play on, playa’.

~Kelli

Posted in
Community, Journal, Media, Photography
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Frida!

December 16th

Frida Kahlo exihibit

I first heard about this Frida Kahlo exhibit in southern California like we gather so much of our news these days: Facebook. Someone listed the link on my page. “The world’s largest collection of Frida Kahlo’s works – never before seen together.”

Was I going to see it?

WAS I GOING TO SEE IT?

Of course I was. Fast forward several months and the exhibit is coming to a close in a matter of weeks and I still hadn’t made the time or effort to drive 300 miles west to see my favorite artist. Holidays, budgets, blah blah blah add boring adult stuff here. Enter Sue, who made a generous offer: if I was interested, I could stay at her house with her family for a weekend, and she’d buy the ticket.

WAS I INTERESTED?

Frida Kahlo exihibit

I’m a bit of a Frida weirdo. It started years ago, before Salma’s movie but after I lived in Mexico. I have dressed up like my beloved favorite artist more than once, and own most books discussing her life. I have, for as long as I can remember, felt a deep tug when looking at her art. It gives me goosebumps and sometimes a sick stomach.

For Frida, it was a dark, turbulent life. Her love affair with fellow Mexican artist Diego Rivera was rocky at best. (What do you say about a man who sleeps with your sister?) A trolley accident at age 18 would leave her forever in pain, and eventually lead to her death after a series of complicated, miserable surgeries. She had countless miscarriages, and in turn, countless pets who instead received her love. She loved the ancient Mexican culture, and her brute husband, and sometimes other men. And women. She was also rather fond of communism and her German father, a photographer.

Frida Kahlo exihibit

Let’s just say it was complicated. Her art is a great reflection of her messy life – the joy, sorrow, pets, lovers, and physical pain. Many of her paintings are small because they were done while in bed, painted overhead.

As Sue and I entered the exhibit within a converted Navy barrack, boats bobbed within sight in the Pacific, and glasses clinked at an adjoining brewery. I took a deep breath.

For the next two hours, we wound our way through more than 200 pieces of Frida’s art, replicas of her clothing and jewelry, and pieces of furniture constructed like those of the Blue House in Coyoacan.

Frida Kahlo exihibit

There was so much to see, and my senses were at full throddle. With a handful of other people, we walked from painting to painting, taking in the story that led to their creation. My two favorite paintings were in the front room, and I couldn’t hold back tears. To be in the presence of this art that I had studied only in books for more than a decade was magnificent. The colors. The patterns. The history. I stared at Frida’s portraits, one after another, feeling a link to her I cannot explain.

Thank you Sue, for making this happen. I still want to visit Detroit to see Diego’s murals, and Mexico City to visit Frida’s house too. Thanks to my friend Teresa, I am pouring over a new book about Frida’s wardrobe this week as well. And thanks to Sarah, I can even cook Frida’s favorite foods.

Que Viva la Frida!

~K

 

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Journal
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10 Budget Hacks

September 11th

One vivid memory I have of elementary school is not having Guess jeans. Never mind all the things we did have – a great home, a pool, two parents who adored us, bikes, a pantry full of food, vacations to southern California. No. Never mind that stuff. Once the mid-80s Guess jeans, Esprit bags, high top Converse trends hit suburban Phoenix, I felt like a pauper. All the other kids had Guess jeans. Why was I wearing JC Penney? WHY OH WHY?

My mom would laugh at my requests and she would not be swayed. She could not understand why any parent would purchase $100 jeans for a growing child. It simply didn’t make sense.

Today, I think my mom is a genius. Then, I thought she was trying to forever keep me unpopular. My third grade brain decided wearing the “right” jeans and tennis shoes, made you a better person. Being cool meant complete happiness.

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

Eventually I saved enough babysitting money to buy a Guess t-shirt in 7th grade, but by then the brand was fading from popularity. The shirt didn’t fit for long and I’m pretty sure I regretted the expense, even if it did look super cool with my puka shell necklace and double barrel bangs. My mom just shook her head, sure that at some point I too would figure it out: things weren’t going to make me cool. Money wasn’t happiness.

I’d love to tell you there was some huge “a ha!” moment soon after when, say, volunteering at a soup kitchen or wrapping Christmas gifts for orphans, I knew this to be truth. Sadly, there was no clarifying moment of cheap grace. I always loved helping others and I always loved going into a fancy department store, or Gap, or Target – or heck, even Costco – and coming out with a cart full of shiny, bright, stylish items that gave me the rush of NEW.

I am human, and therefore complicated.

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

Now, as I’ve combined households and finances with someone, I’m embarrassed I haven’t done a better job of listening to what my wise mother has been trying to say for two decades: save more, spend less. Ashamed, really. Instead, I have a closet full of shoes, more books than I’ll ever be able to read and a passport full of stamps from flights I often put on credit to pay off …  when I could. They were, of course, “once in a lifetime opportunities.” All of them. Really.

I know it is tacky to speak of money; if I’m insulting your Victorian sensibilities, look away.

Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

My current top 10 budget hacks:

  1. It goes without saying but: the ultimate budget hack is to not spend more than you earn. Track every expense in a free Google doc and Mint. Compare utilities and other expenses monthly to review usage. Change phone/energy plans to best meet your needs and uses. Review receipts and track expenses by category to see where you are going over budget and need to make changes. You can’t change it if you are in denial.
  2. No movies. It is never really just the movies. It’s a $12 ticket and $30 worth of high fructose corn syrup. Instead, we have an $8 a month Netflix account and if we are in the mood for junk food, I’ll bake a pan of sea salt brownies. If we want something else, we go to Red Box for $4.
  3. No shopping. This sounds simple, but I’d gotten in the silly habit of buying a new piece of clothing every time I had a big event. Sometimes it was a full outfit, other times it was just something small. I’d spend my lunch hour at Target with a giant $4 iced coffee from Starbucks. New makeup. New socks. Some new peanut butter I hadn’t tried. The result is too much of everything. I have zero need for more clothes, makeup or for-the-love-of-god — peanut butter. To meet this goal, I’m limiting how much I look at magazines or let myself spend time in stores, which fuel my desired consumerism.
  4. I plan our meals using Stacey’s tracker. This means shopping with coupons for a specific ingredient list, and trying to cook enough for two meals, plus lunches. We eat leftovers and we take our lunch. We also don’t go out to eat on a whim anymore. We plan one night out a week and make it great. It feels like a treat. We are eating healthier as a result, and our food expenses are budgeted to about $120 per week, together for a total of 40 meals. We eat a lot of eggs, Crockpot roasts and fresh fruits and veggies. Sure, this takes focus, but it really does make life so much easier once you get in the groove. No more having to swing by the market on the way home for this or that. You know. It’s planned. It’s printed. It’s on the fridge.
  5. I’ve changed my beauty routines. No more manicures and pedicures. I do them myself, saving more than $100 a month. I also have limited my beauty product use to a dime size. We use everything to the last drop, and it last ridiculously longer.  I’ve also been cutting coupons specifically for beauty products and even joined a coupon group at work that swaps information on what is on sale at what store each week. (When I do want a splurge, SWIHA has a fantastic hour-long massage for $35. And the Aveda school in Tempe does a great haircut for less than $20.)
  6. As for hobbies and gift giving: it is a time to use what we have. I’m making gifts from my current yarn and fabric stashes. I’m using paper stock and stamps to make birthday cards. And when I need a gift, I often turn to half.com for a book I’ve loved and want to pass along. Most books are $.75, with $2-$3 shipping. Along with a handmade card, you can’t go wrong. Is it cheap? Yes. Is it thoughtful? Also, yes.
  7. As for health – it’s time to floss. And exercise daily. And drink a lot of water. And wear sunscreen. These sound simple, but all will help keep long-term health expenses at bay. I’m also planning to ride my bike to work once it cools off. That will save ½ gallon of gas per day, or $1.75. It’s minor, but it will add up as I build awesome quads. Also, I’ll be less tempted to visit Target at lunch if I have to bike there.
  8. It isn’t all austere. With a little research, I’ve found some fun free things to do in downtown Phoenix. The Phoenix Art Museum has free admission on Wednesdays from 3-9 pm. The city’s concerts in the park series start again soon. There are countless trails we will hike, and roads to cycle.
  9. It’s the little things, really. Like that $3.45 cup of espresso I became so accustomed to each morning. Instead, we buy our (fair trade) beans in bulk. With milk and stevia, it comes out to $27 per month for more than 90 cups of coffee. $3.45 per cup just went to less than $.30 per cup. I take a thermos to work and sip my coffee during the morning. If only all changes were so simple to see such change!
  10. Give yourself a cash budget for the extras. I put a $20 bill in my wallet on Sundays. This is my soda money. My mid-week Ben and Jerry’s-after-dinner-run money. It’s the little bit of extra I get to play with, and if I don’t spend it – I get to save. Suddenly, I love that idea far more than the thought of spending.
Jars of Renewal: Savings Plan

I hope some of these may be helpful if you too are trying to live la vida frugalista.

~K

 

P.S. Mom, I finally heard you.

Posted in
Domestic Art, Journal
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Kermit Z Frog Hat

September 9th

Stafford Hat

I have never knit lace before, or followed a knitting chart. This pattern provided just the right amount of challenge. We spent a good bit of time this weekend on the couch, listening to the rain fall and watching a BBC miniseries on Netflix.

Stafford Hat

I’ll be making several of these this fall for friends in cooler locales.

Stafford Hat

Love these colors, and the rhythm of knitting. Perhaps I’ll even finish that sweater I started two years ago, or the tri-cabled scarf that I’ve carried in my purse for 8 months? It is a lot more enjoyable to knit in cooler weather — that I know for certain.

For now, more hats. These are too fun and are a great way to use up my current yarn stash.

~K

 

Posted in
Domestic Art, Journal, June Cleaver
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The Magic of Travel

September 4th

Missoula, MT

Ever visit a place and have it remind you of something you value, but have neglected? Like blowing dust off an old, rare book — travel often reminds me of places within that have been hidden by the cobwebs of life.

Wrapped in self doubt, laziness — bright and shiny distractions.

Spending time in Missoula with Finny and Digs reminded me of why these dusty books are worth unpacking, revisiting, cleaning off. There is a way of life I observed that is beautiful in its simplicity. Digs’ family eats out of the garden. They raise chickens for eggs. This is a life of happy, barefoot children, scruffy dogs, a pantry full of Ball jars in shimmering jewel tones, a local museum full of great art, a downtown full of local shops supported even at the higher costs, and cars that are dirty and will remain dirty because, really, why bother?

Finny spends her days in California in a greenhouse or at home in the garden, talking to her bees, the dog and the kumquat tree. Her arms are strong, her shoulders brown. She’s never looked happier.

Missoula, MT

I am struggling trying to figure out how to incorporate this way of life in my new reality — city living and a full time desk job. (I job I love, but nonetheless, not not one I can do from home while watering the basil and waiting for the bread to rise.) We will make this place a homestead yet. With no land to garden, we’ll have a couple terraces of pots full of herbs and peppers and tomatoes. We’ll juice the local winter harvest of citrus and send boxes of the whole fruit to loved ones far away — including to that happy family in Missoula. I’ll grow bushes of basil in the temperate fall and winter, freezing pesto in ice cube trays for year-round dinner parties.

And I will continue to walk Nelson through our new neighborhood, eyeing properties with irrigation and big backyards perfect for bean poles, fruit trees, forests of tomatoes, a poultry run, and porch for a swing and cobalt blue pots full of ruby red geraniums.

This simple life is in my heart. I am so thankful for travel for reminding me.

~K

 

 

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Journal, Travel
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Often, All That Remains

September 2nd

Missoula, MT

On our recent trip to Montana, we toured the Missoula Art Museum. Jane Waggoner Deschner’s exhibit, called, “Often, All That Remains,” was the rare experience that left me weak in the knees — powerful, transformative art.

Quietly, we walked the small room, examining “found” photos Deschner embroidered with famous quotes. Sometimes the quotes were ironic, others funny. Some made me want to cry.

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Her exhibit takes two forms of art I love — photography and embroidery — and throws them together in a provocative way. I could have spent all my museum time with just this show.

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Deschner writes, “The idea for stitching into photographs came from remembering the sewing cards from my childhood. I discovered only a few other artists (mostly European) who embroider into photos, so I have developed my technique through trail and error. What I have come to love are the connections I create with needle and thread, typography and design, and generations of unknown people, both ordinary and famous.”

Missoula, MT

Missoula, MT

Deschner is from Billings, MT. If you get a chance to see her work, do so!

 

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Journal, Travel
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On the Road Again…

April 30th

I wish I could quote more Willie Nelson songs, but this one is most appropriate. Nelson and I hit the road tomorrow for Nebraska, then Chicago, and finally on to the East Coast. I have cried buckets this week,  (saying goodbye to my brother? You have to be kidding me.) but I am also so very excited to be moving on to the next part of life.

So, while we are out exploring the Midwest, a few more photos from crazy days in Texas last weekend:

Fiesta!

Pristine gardens in the King William section of San Antonio

Fiesta!

The dude abides. Even in street fair art.

Fiesta!

Nacho Libre as a dog. BEEEEG KISS. (and cheeeeps for the orphans.)

Fiesta!

Confetti dog. Adorbs.

Fiesta!

This woman is a self described “hostess with the mostess.”

Fiesta!

And these are her Twinkies.

Fiesta!

How pretty is this little boy?

Fiesta!

Almost as pretty as this horse.

Fiesta!

And a random parade participant dressed as butter. Who did not explain, but kinda didn’t have to in San Antonio. Folks are big, and happy and love good food in this town.

More to come. Happy trails, friends!

~K

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Journal, Travel
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