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Archive for April, 2009

Van

Let me tell you a little bit about this van.

It’s green.  It is the extended cargo version so it can practically hold a whole soccer team plus their gear (it has a little soccer ball hanging from the rear view mirror and is decorated with soccer stickers on the back window so I assume it’s seen a lot of soccer fields in its day).  It has a DVD player, stereo, air conditioning, and all the automatic features that we look for in a vehicle these days.  Although it’s been well-loved, it’s in great condition.

And it made its way into my Project 365 of Gratitude last week due to a simple act of kindness from a stranger.

You see, along with soccer players, this van has also carried a young man with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair.  A few months ago his family purchased a new mini van and since then, this van has been in their driveway.

His mom is going to sell it.  His dad just returned from serving in the Air Force in Afghanistan and her son just had surgery so she hasn’t gotten around to selling it.  In the meantime, it’s been simply waiting.

When Jason totaled his van a few weeks ago, our first concern was that we would have to get a new one – and that is expensive.  But it didn’t seem so bad since his van was 10 years old with 100,000 miles on it and we knew that it was only a matter of time before we would have to get a new one anyway.  But due to the specific needs that he has, it often takes 2-3 months to get a new van converted specifically for him.  Therefore, our biggest concern became what to do in the interim period until his new van arrived.

That is where the Coffee family comes in.  They were neighbors to our neighbors the Joneses when they lived across town (you’ve heard me talk about the Jones Family many times).  The Joneses knew that we were in a predicament and started doing what they do best – helping.  They got us in touch with the Coffee family who then offered to let us “rent” their van indefinitely – for about the price of what it would have cost us to rent one from a service for 2 days.  You could basically say that we are really just borrowing it instead of renting it.

This is a big deal.  We had figured that it would cost us at least $5,000 to rent a van over the next two months.  That’s right – $5,000.  That, on top of having to purchase a $65,000 vehicle was very stressful for us.  I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to manage it all.

So, this week we are grateful – immensely grateful for the simple act of kindness from a family who doesn’t even know us but is willing to help where they can by lending us their extra handicap accessible van.  The floor isn’t lowered so Jason rides in it with his head tilted to one side and I have to drive him everywhere because, of course, it’s not set up for him to drive.  But I have no doubt that the reason why the mother hasn’t gotten around to selling it is because I believe it waited in their driveway for us.

I know that this small coincidence is no coincidence at all.  Call it fate.  Call it luck.  Call it whatever you want.  But I’m calling it a little miracle.  A tender mercy to help us manage something that was going to be very stressful and difficult for us.

Thanks, Coffee family.  Thanks for your generosity.  Thanks for your kindness.  Thanks for being our miracle.  Oh, and thanks for the van – it’s working great!

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I was working on some invitations this weekend for a meeting where I made a puzzle for our theme and attached a piece to each invitation – then the person brings the piece with them to the meeting and the puzzle gets put all together (“everyone is important” object lesson to kick off the meeting – yea!).

Invite

Anyway, I used the image from today’s download on the invitation. When Jason saw the invitations he said, “You’re using that bird again?”

Yep.  I love it so much that after I made a stamp with it for Hampton Art I have used different forms of it on various personal projects and in BPS workshops.  Actually, it pops up all over the place with little tweaks here and there.

I can’t help myself.  I love it that much.

So, in honor of you dear Jason, here’s one more look at my favorite birdie of all time (again, tweaked just for you) – and I’m sharing it with all my friends across the world.  And as with all of my downloads – please use it for personal projects only and don’t modify it, take it apart, etc.  It’s my gift to you so I appreciate you being nice with it.

Enjoy!

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

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First of all, thank you.  Your comments and tips and suggestions are encouraging.  It’s interesting how each person’s situation can be so different yet our solutions all revolve around similar strategies with individual tweaks to fit our own needs.  Thank you for taking the time to share your experience and expertise with me and each other this week.

I have had a great work week so never fear!  I think you were all sending me your good vibes through cyberspace because I am now much more hopeful that we’ll be able to get this thing figured out in a way that works best for me and our little family.  I’ll keep you posted as we journey through the twists and turns of navigating this new life we have – as you have all mentioned…it will keep changing and I’ll have to keep adapting.  But I look forward to the adventure!

Back in January, when I was getting ready for Coleman to come, I had to move the guest room from upstairs to downstairs in order to make room for him in that space.  The downstairs guest room was lined with boxes from the move that needed to be gone through one more time to declutter before I stored them in our unfinished area.  Since we hardly use our downstairs it was an “out of sight, out of mind” situation that had to finally be dealt with.

Many of the boxes contained scrapbooks.  I started scrapbooking back in high school (20 years ago), when we were using construction paper and rubber cement (yikes!).  I have since gone through all those old albums and put everything into 8.5 x 11 notebooks, on acid-free paper, etc.  When we built our home I made sure that we could fit these and any 12 x 12 album in our built-in cabinets in our family room so that we had a good place to store everything.

So I hauled up all the albums that had been in the boxes from downstairs and this is what it looked like:

Millions of Albums

As I looked at this pile that spanned only about 10 years of my life and my family’s life I had to pause.  For a couple of years I have been adjusting my approach to scrapbooking and this pile is the reason why.  No one has ever looked at these albums.  It’s true that sometimes I need to find a photo and so I will start going through each book to see if I can spot it for whatever project I am working on.  But for the most part, they are simply a history of a portion of our lives that we lug around with us wherever we go and that we will pass on to Cole to do the same.

It’s better than a box of stuff.  But I’m not sure how much better.  At this rate we would easily end up with a hundred books by the time my life was over.  I don’t want that and the reason why is because there is such a thing as just too much stuff to enjoy.

So, I’ve adjusted my scrapbooking approach over the last few years.

I now scrapbook:

  • what is most important to me instead of every event, holiday, photo and experience I have
  • how I feel about moments and people and myself instead of just decorateing a photo of an event
  • in mini-albums or theme albums instead of stepping through the chronological events of life
  • for the creative process as well as the history aspect
  • in a way that someone can pick up one album and catch a meaningful glimpse of my life in just a few moments

Yes, I create less pages – but I do certain things more.  I journal more, I store more photos instead of scrapbook them, I utilize more online “drag and drop” scrapbooks (like Shutterfly or iPhoto), I create more albums with a specific purpose in mind, I use more photo albums, and I think more about whether or not what I am scrapbooking is what I really want to preserve.  I love Stacy Julian’s approach to simplifying scrapbooking while making it more meaningful and have fully embraced that concept.

Shutterfly Albums

This is one space in my home where I keep my current mini-albums and themed albums.  These little books (and the big ones, too) are looked at almost every time someone comes over to visit.  They can be picked up and put down, allowing the reader to quickly capture what is meaningful to our family.  They are the Hall version of a “coffee table book” and I hope that Cole would want to hang on to this collection of albums because with this record, he would know everything that is really important to us.

Coffee Table Books

I’ve learned a lot about scrapbooking since I first started doing it 20 years ago but I think that the most valuable lesson is this: Less really can end up being more.

Happy (meaningful) scrapping!

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I admit.  Last week was a little rough for me.  I don’t think my hormones are back to normal and I found myself in the parking lot of Arby’s crying before going home on Wednesday.  It just springs up on me – as I’m sure it does with other new moms – this sense of being overwhelmed or tired or frustrated or all of the above.  I’ll be going along great and then all of the sudden I can’t get a handle on it.  I think the root of last week’s parking lot scene was based on this:

I don’t know how to work and be a mom at the same time.  I haven’t gotten a system figured out yet of how to do both and I do best when I have some kind of a system – even a loose one.  Yes, I realize that the point of motherhood is that things always change and I can’t expect too much of a schedule, and all of that.  We have a good routine going on and I feel like there are many ways in which Cole and I are in a good groove (I have the book “The Baby Whisperer” to thank for that – read this one first to get the idea then this one for more in-depth help – it is a similar philosophy as “Baby Wise” but I liked “The Baby Whisperer” series better).  So we’re on a good track with sleeping and eating and all of that.  But the work thing – I’m struggling to figure out how to be effective with my work plus be flexible with Cole’s growing and changing as well.

I know that we are all in different situations, have different needs, capabilities and things to deal with.  I am a work-at-home mom who has control of my own schedule because my work is based on juggling deadlines.  I get to decide when I work – whether it’s in the middle of the night or during the day.  I simply have to meet my deadlines and get artwork or BPS content uploaded by a certain day.

That’s my work situation and I know that yours will be totally different.  But what do you do, you working moms out there, to manage work and being a mom (which I know is also work) at the same time?  I think I need some tips or strategies or maybe just reassurance that at some point it will be ok and I will get better at managing both.

Today’s download is as much for me as it is for you and I had to keep it simple.   I was thinking it would be perfect on a card for someone who needs a little pick-me-up.

To be clear – I feel positive and happy and I very much love being a mother.  I don’t dread getting up in the middle of the night, I don’t mind the laundry or washing bottles, and I think motherhood is the greatest job and opportunity on earth.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard, too.  I have help – both of Cole’s grandmas live within an hour and they love to come babysit or take Coleman to their house to give me a chance to work.  I also send him to my sister’s house or my sister-in-law’s to hang out for the day.  I like him to be around lots of people and to have to get used to sleeping other places and being in different situations than just home so that he can be adaptable.  But what else can I do?  Any ideas out there to help me figure out how to balance work and motherhood?

I have a feeling you’re all going to tell me to not be hard on myself and roll with it and that I’ll figure things out.  So I guess I’ll start with advice to myself: Hang in there, Kolette!

click on image to download pdf

click on image to download pdf

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I mean seriously, does it get any better than this?

All Smiles

Coleman J, that smile of yours rocks!  You can hang out with me anytime you want.

XOXO

Mom

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The annoyance and hassle and frustration associated with Jason’s car accident this weekend is precisely why I am doing my Project 365 centered on the theme of gratitude.

Being grateful is the great adversity neutralizer – it’s as simple as that.  Gratitude softens the blows of life’s challenges and helps me remember that it’s not as bad or as hard as I originally thought.  No, our situation hasn’t magically changed over the last two days.  Our van is not in our garage, safe and sound and ready for Jason to use to drop off the IRS envelope to the Post Office, stop by the bank or swing by Wal-Mart for some formula.  But remembering to snap my photo of gratitude each day shifts my thinking and helps me to move forward instead of choosing the oh-so-easy route of wallowing in self-pity.

Here are some photos from last week of my Project 365 of Gratitude:

Coleman got his first round of vaccinations and did super - but I'm grateful for a little help in soothing the soreness and pain

Coleman got his first round of vaccinations and did super - but I'm grateful for a little help in soothing his soreness.

I had a really special experience delivering each of these little boxes with a pebble magnet gift inside for my neighbors' birthdays last week.  I'll have my friend Susan show us how she made the boxes sometime.

I had a really special experience delivering each of these little boxes with a pebble magnet gift inside for my neighbors' birthdays last week. I'll have my friend Susan show us how she made the boxes sometime.

I'm grateful I decided to plant my tulips and daffodils on my side of the rocks instead of the street side so that I get to enjoy my morning ritual of looking out my office window to see their progress first thing each morning.

I'm grateful I decided to plant my tulips and daffodils on my side of the rocks instead of the street side so that I get to enjoy my ritual of looking out my office window to see their progress first thing each morning.

I'm grateful I finished a surprise deadline so quickly because I had to squeeze it in between two big ones.

I'm grateful I finished a surprise deadline so quickly because I had to squeeze it in between two big ones (and yes, I blurred it on purpose!)

It was Jason's dad's birthday - I'm grateful I have such a wonderful father-in-law, mentor and Grandpa to Cole.

It was Jason's dad's birthday - I'm grateful I have such a wonderful father-in-law, mentor and Grandpa to Cole. Aand look how perfectly they match each other's outfits! Do you think they called each other to plan it?

Another week of gratitude.  Thank you for sharing it with me.  Big, small and everything in between – what have you been grateful for these days?

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My Favorite T-Shirt

My Favorite T-Shirt

We had some trouble this weekend.  Jason was in  a car accident – he was the only one in the car and is not hurt.  Don’t worry.  But his handicap-accessible van that he was driving is not so fine.  We’re not sure yet if the insurance company will declare it totaled or not, but either way we are facing a dilemma.

You see, Jason without transportation is a little trickier than the normal able-bodied person without it.  He can’t drive my car.  In fact, to get him home after the accident it took a couple of men to lift him into the passenger seat of my Trailblazer and four men to lift his motorized wheelchair into the back of it.  The same process was repeated getting him and his chair out of the car once we got home.  We can’t just rent a regular car for a while – most wheelchair accessible vans cost about $100 per day to rent and are not equipped for him to drive.  This means that if we rent a van and he wants to go anywhere then someone has to drive him while he is the passenger.

Depending on the damage, we anticipate at least a month before we have a vehicle again – whether his van is able to be repaired or we have to purchase a new converted van.  Both options are lengthy and difficult and will be tricky to navigate, not to mention the cost of it all.  A new van can range from $50-65,000.  That’s our reality.  It’s no surprise to us that it costs that much to replace his van, it’s just challenging to face it unexpectedly.  We were hoping to get another year or two out of his current van.

I admit that when I first found out about the accident I was mad at the situation.  Over the course of about 20 seconds, all of the above mentioned ramifications ran through my mind.  Then I flip-flopped between anger and disappointment about having to deal with it all, wondering what our options were, how we could manage it and trying to think of problem solving solutions when I wasn’t even sure what the problem actually was going to be.  Would we need to purchase a new van?  Would this one be repaired?  Which was a better choice?  How long will it take to get a new van if that is the solution?  What will we do in the meantime?

After laying my head on the pillow to go to bed for the night, I took a deep breath.  I felt tired.  Very tired.  But I said to Jason, “We’ll work it out.”  Jason, with his scraped cheek and soreness starting to emerge simply said, “You’re right.  We will.”

This is life.  I’m sure you can all agree that challenges happen.  Whether we can foresee them coming or they hit us by surprise, adversity is a part of all of our lives.  The real question is how are we going to face it when it happens.  I believe wholeheartedly that it’s ok to get mad.  It’s ok to be frustrated and disappointed and discouraged and sad.  All of those feelings are normal and natural and realistic.

However, the real question is how long this frustration or anger or sadness lasts before we decide to pull up our sleeves, dig in our heels and get to work.  How quickly do we decide that we are going to proactively attack our challenges by problem solving instead of problem-wallowing.  I wish I could say that I had made my decision to move forward immediately after the accident happened.  I didn’t.  It took me the rest of the day to head in a positive direction.  But I can tell you that as soon as I mustered up the humility along with some good old fashioned courage, the problem solving stage began and the pity party started to fade.

And I started to feel better.

Do I know the answers to any of the questions that had been running through my mind all day?  Not really.  But we had decided that we could work it out – whatever that meant – and having made that decision, I already felt better.

I think sometimes as women we underestimate our own resiliency.  I believe that we are more capable than sometimes we give ourselves credit for.  We CAN do hard things.  We can face difficult circumstances.  We can solve problems and be creative and think through challenges.   We are smart and if we really look at our lives – we already do hard things all the time.  Our download today is a celebration of us – strong, capable women, ready to fight, ready to solve problems, ready to get to work, and ready to make something happen for the better.

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

In the words of Helen Reddy, “I am woman, hear me roar!”  We can do hard things.

Put this quote in a place you’ll see it often to remind you of who you are and what you really can do.  I’ve had it scribbled on a notecard for years in my office as a funny mantra to help me laugh my way through tough times.

Sensible women of the world unite!  Who’s with me?

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