Saturday, October 6, 2012


It has a way of sneaking around the corner, tapping you on the shoulder, and running the other direction when you turn around to see what it is.

I am tired, but it is a good kind of tired. If you had told me two years ago that Jeff and I would be living in an apartment in Chattanooga, leading a small group for Harvest Bible Chapel, working full-time as a med-surg nurse in Cleveland (of all places!), and homeschooling Braeden, I'm quite sure I would have considered you crazy-loco. My life is a whirlwind of one event to the next, and though I am never quite sure what it feels like to have energy, I am content.

God moves, as He always does, and I can sense it and feel it. He is directing steps, and though I don't yet have the road map, I will wait on Him to use me as He sees fit.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

God at Work

I'd like to share something with you. This video doesn't tell the whole story - for the sake of propriety, most of the gory details were left out. But it does tell what is important, that, by the grace of God, a life was changed.

God at Work Jeff McCain from Harvest Bible Chapel Chattanooga on Vimeo.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Been a while since I posted, huh? Since I couldn't begin to explain all that has happened in a condensed enough format for anyone to read, I will give you a list instead. Should you be so interested, I might even elaborate (in another post, on another day).

1. I graduated school, finally. Got an A, too. :)

2. I passed my nursing boards. I am officially a Registered Nurse (also known as Rescue Ninja)

3. I got a job working at Skyridge Medical Center as a Med-Surg nurse.

4. Jeff and I started working in Children's Ministry at church.

5. We decided it was time to move, so sometime in April I started packing. I needed to cut my drive time from the 45-50 minutes it was taking, and we really wanted to be closer to all the goings-on at church.

6. By the end of May, we'd decided to move to an apartment - all I had to do to convince Jeff was remind him that he would never have to mow the lawn. We found a 3-bedroom, 2 bath, third floor apartment that is much bigger than any other place we've lived.

7. Less than two weeks before the move, Jeff got laid off from his hospice job.

8. A week later, he was hired on to Amedisys hospice. He didn't actually get to start work for nearly four more weeks.

9.  This strapped us financially, but God provided, and I wound up being very thankful that Jeff was home to help me with the move. I'd never have made it without his muscles!

10. We moved. Love the new place. It is not almost completely unpacked, but at the moment I haven't got the money to decorate. It will come, though.

11. Somewhere in all that we sold Jeff's truck. He took the Kia (better gas mileage for his job), and I got a Ford Explorer Sport Track. I love trucks, always have - and now I finally get to drive a truck. *happy sigh*

12. I got pink zebra print curtains for my office. (I realize this is not earth-shattering, but I absolutely love them, and I am so thrilled to finally have a chance to have my own girly space.)

13. Today was the first day of homeschooling. Third grade was not pleasant for B, so we made the decision to try it ourselves. I have committed to a year, and the first half of the first day is now done. I do believe we will make it. :)

14. In a month or so, Jeff and I will begin leading a small group for our church. While I very much feel the weight of the responsibility that carries with it, I am also quite excited. It blows my mind when I think about how much Jeff & I have grown in the last year and a half.

15. I have a craft space again. It will also double as a small group breakout room for the ladies, a classroom, and an office - a true multi-purpose room, if there ever was one! My scrapbook supplies are stashed neatly into the walk-in closet, and I hope that soon the creative juices will be flowing like they once did.

That's all for now. There's more, I'm sure. Unfortunately, the dishes will not wash themselves, and an afternoon of math, cursive writing, and Greek vocabulary is facing me, so "more" will have to wait.

Adios, and God bless!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

So... it's been a while, huh?

Since my last post in October, life continued to crash ahead at breakneck speed. I am proud to say that I successfully graduated nursing school - with an A my last semester, no less! This morning I took the board exam. Even though I won't know for sure until Thursday, I feel great about it. I could not have been any more prepared than I was, and I was calm and level-headed for the whole thing. It was an incredible blessing to have the texts and Facebook messages from friends who were praying for me. In all my years as a church-goer, I've never had a group of people who loved me like this little church of mine does.

I'm still searching for a job. I never dreamed that finding a job as a nurse would prove to be so difficult, given the constant hype about the supposed nursing shortage. I guess in my part of the country the "shortage" is somewhat fictional - or at least dependent more on finances than need for workers. I've had one interview so far, but didn't get the position. I do interview tomorrow and Thursday, and I am praying that there will be an offer for me soon. God is providing our needs, but there is no room to spare. Our grocery budget is minimal - $50 a week is the best I get, and that has to include all our toiletries and household items as well. I've learned to coupon, and in the month of January managed to save 45% off of the retail price on the things I purchased. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

In all this, I've had to learn to lean on God. At times I have been so frustrated and angry; after all, I'm doing my best for Him, so why are we so broke? - but then I remember that His ways are not my ways, and that we are still eating! Yes, it may be Tuna Helper or spaghetti, but we aren't starving.

In October, we had an out-of-the-blue moment, and Jeff was offered a job with Hospice. This was an area he truly wanted to work, and it was almost a 40% pay increase. Had that not happened, we really would be starving now, and probably homeless, too.

Yes, God is good. I may not have a job yet, but I trust in Him and His provision. In the meantime, I am rejoicing in multiple blessings - from precious friends to an unbelievable spiritual growth spurt that has nearly knocked my socks off! Greater things are coming, and I can't wait to see what is in store.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Church

Jeff & I have been blessed to be a part of a church plant of Harvest Bible Chapel. Our lives were turned inside-out and upside-down in the process, and not in a bad way! I adore so much our little congregation. Everyone works hard to do their part, and in a few short months I have forged friendships unlike any I've had in years.

We officially launched three weeks ago. Here's a video of our launch weekend:

Harvest Bible Chapel Chattanooga Launch Service from Harvest Bible Chapel Chattanooga on Vimeo.

We are both proud and humbled to be a part of such a wonderful group of Christians. I can't get enough of it!

There are HBCs popping up all over the country (and the world!). If you live near one, or are visiting near one, I highly encourage you to check it out. Here is a list of all the existing and soon-to-be HBCs.

At Harvest, we have a saying - healthy things grow. Well, let me be the first to tell you that Harvest is practically exploding! God has blessed us over and over, and I totally believe He'll keep right on doing so.

I can't wait to see what's next!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No-Poo Do: An Update

It's been a week now since I last used shampoo.

(It feels weird to say that. Like I'm rebelling against something!) This is what one week has gotten me:

My hair just feels weird. I can't quite get used to the texture. It's not soft and silky, but not hard and gritty, either. Sunday I worked up quite a sweat, and it felt like I'd doused my hair in aqua net and then jumped in a swimming pool. Ew.

I miss the feel of lathering up shampoo.

I miss the scent of my shampoo. Baking soda and vinegar has no scent whatsoever once it is rinsed out of your hair.

My straight, flat, shapeless hair actually has body. Even if I go two days without washing, it still has some life. It's not just my imagination, either - I've had several people comment that it looks fuller.

I can go a full 48 hours without washing and my hair doesn't look like a grease pit. It does start to get a little funky at the end of the second day, but it's nothing that a headband won't fix, and certainly not as bad as it was before.

It's cheap. I mixed up two cups of each a week ago and I still have some left.

I am defnitely going to keep at it. I suspect that I am still in the "breaking-in" phase, and my hair hasn't really adjusted yet. Although my hair looks much fuller, and it's masking to some degree the thinness on top, it's far too early to tell if it will really make a difference in how much hair I have.

Each time I wash it I spend a good 1-2 minutes just massaging my scalp, and I think that helps. Sunday, after I felt like I had helmet head, I wet my hair and just used the apple cider vinegar as a rinse. It felt smoother and softer, but it also was oily by the next morning.

At this point, the pros definitely outweight the cons, for much the same reasons as women wear heels - if it looks good, we are willing to endure a little pain/discomfort/irritation. I'm going to stick with it for a full month and see where I'm at then.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Great No-Poo 'Do Experiment

One interesting effect of Pinterest is that I am finding all sorts of alternatives to self-care and household products. One that keeps popping up is the idea of a no-shampoo hair care regimen. At first I was repulsed and ignored it completely. I mean, really - who wants to not wash her hair? It brought up all these images of nappy matted smelly hair. Gross. Plus my hair is really oily and the thought of not using shampoo was mildly terrifying.

But it just kept coming up, and the more I got to reading, the more curious I got. It seems the majority of folks going No-Poo were doing it because of the horrific effect of the gawsh-awful chemical in the shampoo.

I decided to give it a go, but my reasons are not nearly so altruistic. I'm cheap, and baking soda and vinegar (yes, you read correctly - baking soda and vinegar replace shampoo) are really cheap - especially when you consider that you dilute them in water.

The other reason is that my hair is falling out. My hair is as thin as the little old ladies in a nursing home. No joke. It's just on top, but of course that's what everyone sees. I'm terribly self-conscious about it. I recently chopped off a good 14 inches, which helped somewhat, but it's still really really thin.

I hate that.

So I decided to give it a whirl, since many people said their hair felt fuller and healthier. I'm up for that! Anything to make my mane a little healthier - and it doesn't hurt that it's so cheap!

I'm told there's a breaking-in phase, where you hair thinks you're punishing it and pours out all kinds of oil. It supposedly can last one week to several months. I washed my hair with the baking soda/vinegar combo yesterday morning, and while it felt sorta greasy all day today, it didn't really look greasy until tonight. We shall see how this progresses in the days to come.

Here's how I did the mixtures: one tablespoon baking soda to one cup water. The water will dissolve the baking soda and it won't settle. Just pour it over your head and massage gently into your scalp. It won't make any suds whatsoever, but the cool water actually feels pretty good, and after a bit of rubbing, my hair starts to feel smooth and even a little slick. I let that sit on my hair while I take care of other stuff (like my prickly legs), then rinse out.

The next step is a vinegar rinse. Strangely enough, the baking soda replaces the shampoo, and it's the acidic apple cider vinegar that replaces the conditioner. My feeble brain just cannot work that one out. How in the world something as acidic as vinegar can condition is beyond me.

But I digress. . . . I used the same one tablespoon to one cup water ratio for the ACV. Both concoctions are in bottles in my shower. I am buying spray bottles tomorrow to make it a little easier to apply. The vinegar should be applied to ends only (especially if you have oily hair - or so I'm told), and that's pretty hard to do when you have short hair and the vinegar-water just pours right through your fingertips. Anyway, I do the best I can to get it on the ends, and then rinse it out fairly quickly.

I don't dry my hair any more than absolutely necessary. I let it air dry most of the way, and then break out the dryer to keep it from being too flat.

So far, my hair doesn't really look or feel much different, though I suspect that will change over time.

I will keep you posted. :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Life: Full Steam Ahead!

If the day ever comes when I have absolutely nothing to do, I really will have no clue how to handle it! Life is crazy, and while it generally makes me crazy, too, I don't think I'd have it any other way.

School has started back. It's my last semester. In fact, I just had my board picture made yesterday - talk about exciting stuff! I was also asked if I wanted to serve as a tutor for my class and the new night class. Since this will provide a little extra moolah after my work-at-home job ends, I jumped on the chance.

And church - lemme tell you, church is some exciting stuff right now! We are involved in a church plant of a Harvest Bible Chapel, and our launch is the 18th! It's been an incredible trip - we started in right at the beginning, and have been blessed along the way to see our tiny little crew of four families grow to a group of about 35 adults and 40 kids. Words can't adequately describe how awesome it has been to see God working through the lives of the launch team.

I've been tasked with being the administrator for Fellowship One, the program we use to track everything from attendance to contributions to background checks for volunteers. Right now it's a big job, but once we get past launch, I don't think it will be quite so time-consuming. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to use my job skills to serve.

I've also been given the opportunity to use my creative abilities - by acting as the photographer for the church (at least until someone comes along who can do it better than I can, at which point I will gladly hand over the camera).

And - Jeff & I are greeters. Jeff heads up the greeter team, so I get to help him with some of the technical stuff, like setting up mailing lists and proofreading correspondence before it goes out.

Right now we are small, and everyone is doing a lot. It's a great blessing to be needed again. I truly haven't felt that in years. I adore our little congregation, and I can't wait to see what God has in store for us.

So, all these things, plus other craziness like baby showers and grocery shopping and errands and such are keeping me crazy busy.

But even in the sleep-deprived haze, I know I've got a lot to be thankful for.

Yeah. Life is good.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rain ... Blessed Rain

August was officially the driest month on record for Chattanooga, Tennessee ... ever. I believe the total "rainfall" was 0.01 inches - and I used quotes because that miniscule amount can hardly be called rainfall! In fact, we actually went over 31 days without so much as a drop of rain.

Enter Tropical Storm Lee.

Since late last night, we have been deluged with a steady, heavy rain. The last official numbers from the local news station showed us with 6.32 inches. The previous record for a 24-hour rainfall was 7.61 inches. I don't think there's any doubt we'll break that record today.

How's that for crazy? I suppose someone was praying for rain - in the span of 24 hours, we are going to break two records!

All that said, it is so pleasant where I am. We have an aluminum awning over the front porch, and the rain sounds positively heavenly. The air has cooled to the low 70s, and it is a welcome break from the miserable upper 90-degree heat wave that I thought would never end. Braeden has enjoyed it as well. It took some convincing, but I finally got him outside to play in the rain. He splashed in the mud puddles, creating some pretty impressive "waves."

All this gives me hope that fall might actually come to Tennessee this year. Bring it on - I am ready!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Plastic Bottle Tip

Since we moved to an area that actually offers recycling, I've been building up quite a stash to take the local center. Since I've been on quite the repurposing kick lately, there have been some things that I wanted to keep for my own re-use.

I buy a lot of coffee syrup from DaVinci Gourmet. Usually I get the glass bottles, but sometimes I buy it at Sam's and get plastic instead. Although these bottles are recyclable, they are also pretty enough to use in other ways. . . if you can get the label off.

Today I had an epiphany. (I'm sorry, no pic - I tried but it just wouldn't photograph well.) I've never liked to get the label wet to remove it. I think that just makes it messier. But then I had the brilliant idea of putting water inside the bottle to loosen the glue, and it worked like a charm!

Just fill the bottle with the hottest water you can get from the tap. Let it sit for about five minutes, then the label will peel right off, glue and all. It may not come off in one piece, but it is still much easier to remove.

And if you've known this since the Dark Ages, humor me and pretend that this is news to you. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Make Your Own Coasters

As if I needed something else to occupy my time, I have discovered Pinterest.

Oh. My. Word.

In case you haven't checked it out, you need to - it's a virtual idea board, filled with goodies from all corners of the web. I have found more things to make and cook than I ever could get done in my lifetime.

As an aside: you can "follow" people's feeds... follow me @ mandalee65. :)

Anyhoo, one pin that's been floating around lately is for homemade coasters, using floor tiles. This seemed like an easy and quick project, and since I've never actually had a set of coasters, I decided to try it. First, the result (forgive the somewhat fuzzy picture):

Since my living room is a combination of red, black, white(ish), and tan, I dug up some old B&W scrapbook papers for the project. It's super-easy - so much so that a kid could do it. Anyhow, here's a tutorial, in case you're too tired or impatient to go the trial-and-error route. :)


4x4 floor tiles, the smoothest surface you can find
scrapbook paper, the heavier the better
Mod Podge
foam brushes
Mod Podge acrylic sealer
old credit or gift card
felt to match the paper

1. Clean the tiles, making sure to get rid of all the dust.

2. Trim scrapbook paper to size of the tile. It doesn't have to be perfect since you'll be sanding off the edges anyway.

3. Using a foam brush (soooo much easier than a paintbrush), spread a thin layer of Mod Podge over the surface of the tile. Be sure to cover it evenly as possible.

4. Carefully lay paper on tile. You can sorta move it once it's down, but you risk tearing the paper. It's best to get as close as possible the first try.

5. Using the gift card as a squeegee, smooth out the paper onto the tile. This prevents bubbles and ensures a good stick.

6. Brush a coat of Mod Podge over the paper. Get it as smooth as you possibly can. Once the first layer is dry, use the sandpaper to smooth out the edges and make it fit the tile. Brush off any dust and apply another coat of Mod Podge.

7. Once both coats are completely dry, apply 2-3 coats of Mod Podge to the edges of the tile. This helps smooth out some of the roughness and just makes them feel nicer to hold.

8. When dry, spray with Mod Podge acrylic sealer. I did 3 coats.

9. Cut felt to fit the bottom of the tiles. (Note: they may say they are 4x4, but they're actually more like 3 3/4 x 3 3/4.) Adhesive-backed felt would be easiest, but I couldn't find any, so I used Scotch clear Scrapbooker's Glue to adhere the felt. It is holding quite nicely and didn't bleed through the felt, even though I used quite a bit.

There you have it - an easy-peasy project that would make really great hostess gifts or Christmas presents.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New School

As much as I have looked forward to moving, the prospect of putting B in a new school was nerve-wracking at best. ACE was a complete unknown - we assumed he would be going to the larger Red Bank Elementary, but it turned out we were zoned for this tiny little school tucked back into a subdivision that half the people in Hamilton County had never heard of. Before the summer was out, we'd had a few people tell us B would do well there, but still - I didn't know a darn thing about it.

Tonight we went to meet his teacher, and a lot of my concerns were laid to rest. This school year will be much different than his previous ones. JES always kept the same class with the same teacher all day long. This time, he'll spend his day with all three teachers. Instead of kids being lumped together without respect to ability, they will be divided into groups according to how well they do. I think this is ideal for Braeden. Based on last year's scores, I anticipate him being put into the higher level classes. The kid needs to be challenged, and I think this setup is ideal for that.

Other things I liked: each teacher is doing the same subject all day long. This means she can concentrate on one thing instead of struggling with a zillion different subjects. Also, AR awards are given out every ten points, and an emphasis is placed on them that I hope will encourage B to read more.

Best of all (don't laugh at me) ....

He can take peanut butter to school!!!

Yeah. JES didn't allow it, and I have the pickiest kid in the world - one who won't eat much of anything, but loves peanut butter. Packing lunches him for him at JES was frustrating and expensive, because about the only thing he'd eat was pizza lunchables. Now the pizza can be a treat, and I will feel better sending him a healthier natural PB & honey on wheat, anyway.

So all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about this. I still don't like that he has a dress code (ridiculous in elementary, if you ask me), but I can tolerate that so long as I think he's getting what he needs.

Yep. I'm feeling pretty thankful (and relieved) tonight.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

From drab to (sort-of) fab!

I've been on a repurposing kick lately. Remember this? (Of course you do; it's only one post down! lol)

Yuck, right?

So are you ready to see the final product? It ain't perfect, but I learned some things, and I still think it was a huge improvement!

After peeling off the "decoupage" - which actually turned out to be a huge cheap sticker - I was left with a lot of ooky glue on the edges. I sanded at it for all I was worth, but it didn't quite come off. I originally wanted to do a checkerboard design, but then I decided to try my hand at a harlequin pattern instead.

In the process, I learned a few things:

1) I will never do a large-scale harlequin pattern. It is a tremendous pain in the rear to get it lined up right. As you can see, one of my corner diamonds is a little wonky.

2) I finished it off with a satin Krylon finish, but it created this weird dust-like stuff that had to be wiped off after each coat. Not sure if I'll use that again or not.

3) For small projects like this, good old Scotch tape is wonderful for marking off edges! It lays down easily, removes easily without messing up the paint, and I didn't have one bit of bleed. Obviously, it won't work on a rough surface, but for a small project with a smooth surface, I do believe it is better than masking tape.

This took a while, but I'm pleased with the result. Now it's off to work on the weird grape/olive thing. :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I OUGHT to be doing...

I really should be cleaning up the house. And working on a paper. And a project (both for school). And studying. And stuff like that.

So why have I spent a large chunk of the last couple of days dreaming about ways to redesign, repurpose, and reuse?

Seriously.... when the proverbial bee gets in my bonnet, I get in big trouble. I tend to have a rather obsessive personality anyway, and since my creativity has been more than a little stifled the last few months (24, to be exact), I'm practically bursting at the seams to make... something.

Actually, I have all sorts of brilliant plans, hopefully that don't involve destroying anything. For instance...

My hutch. It was an anonymous gift to us shortly after we were married, and the sturdiest piece of furniture I own that Dad didn't build. I've used it for dishes, Christmas decorations, books, and DVDs. I'm pretty sure the thing is indestructible. I actually really like it, but it's sadly dated and since I didn't know what to do with when we moved, it wound up in this sad corner in the basement.

I have a major storage problem in this house, and because of that, my scrapbook stuff is crammed under my bed and in any spare closet space I can find (which believe me, isn't much). The biggest issue facing me right now is my collection of scrapbook. It's too hot to put them in the attic, too humid to put them in the basement, and there's no room to put them anywhere else. Because most of my albums are 12x12, a standard cheapo shelf from Wal-Mart simply ain't gonna cut it.

But I had one of those lightbulb moments that I love so much. Why not rip out the shelf in the bottom of the hutch and put the books in there? Sure enough, after careful measuring, it's a safe bet that they will fit (Assuming, of course, that I can get that shelf out. It's going to require taking the back off the hutch, which admittedly makes me rather nervous.) Anyway, if I can make that part work, then I'm refinishing the entire thing in jet black. I think it will look pretty cool that way - definitely an update from the dark 70s-style wood staining.

Not only that, but I have ran into another issue here - it's dang near impossible to hang up anything. There is paneling under a layer of something (plaster? something else?), and I think the paneling has petrified. I may never get anything hung up in here. Having the shelves on the hutch available will let me display my photos, so I can still get a personal touch without killing myself trying to make holes in the wall.

Moving on...

I found this wicked-cool blog, Better After, with a bazillion ideas for repurposing and refinishing all manner of items, from the common kitchen re-do to turning old clarinets into lamps. (Yeah, someone actually did that, and I am so stealing the idea!!!) Anyway, it got the wheels turning, so today I found myself at Goodwill just hunting for something to fix up. First I found this disgusting, decoupaged tray with crackle paint. Seriously? Somebody just combined the two craft techniques I hate the most into one item! Ew!

Gag me now. Sanding off the decoupage is going to be a pain in the neck, but I am considering adding either a harlequin or checkerboard pattern in the bottom and painting the sides black - using the paint I bought for my "art"work. (ahem. Please don't send the art police after me for presuming to call that thing I did "art.")

As bad as that is, this is worse:

Um, what are those things? They sort of look like olives with the pimentos already stuffed in, but I'm pretty sure they don't grow that way in the wild... But the shape is usable, and I need something on my dresser to catch stray keys, jewelry, and the like. The problem is that I'm really tempted to paint an Autobot logo on the side, and that might look a little goofy. :)

Although, Jeff did give me the green light to spruce things up a little bit with my own funky touch...


Monday, July 18, 2011

Ah, Creativity

I am, and forever will be, a creative soul. Over the years it has taken different forms; sometimes I dabble in this and that, and sometimes I settle on a particular "art". Scrapbooking and photography seem to be the mainstays, but music, drawing, writing, and many other outlets have been also be tested. If there is anything that I have learned, it is that I truly need time to create - it doesn't matter what I am creating, just that I am creating. The most unfortunate side effect of nursing school is that I have little time to indulge my artist side (well, that - and the fact that most nursing students are hypochondriacs... but that's another post for another day). With the move this summer, I've had no time for such things, and sadly, no room, either. All of my scrapbooking supplies are piled in closets or shoved under the bed, likely to stay there until we move again. Thank goodness for digital scrapbooking! Today I was perusing one of my favorite sites,, and came across so much inspiration that I simply had to scrapbook something. In less than 15 minutes, this is what I had:

Oh, it felt so good to scrap!!!

Now, on to the reason I was seeking inspiration... this:

Ugly, huh? The owners of the house didn't want to take down the TV mount, thinking we'd want to use it. This is true, except that we don't have a flat-panel TV, and won't have one anytime soon. Other than the mount (and the rubbermaid containers in the corner full of scrapbooks awaiting a shelf), the living room looks pretty good. Jeff tasked me with figuring out something to hang over it until we get a TV. I decided I'd rather make my own art instead of buying something, so off I went to in search of inspiration. Keeping in mind that I'm no painter, I figured abstract would be my best bet - if it looked messy, I could just tell everyone it was supposed to look that way! :)

I found several pieces I liked. This one was my favorite, but I wasn't sure I could duplicate it:

Green Petals by Jan Weiss

Then there were classics like Jackson Pollack and Piet Mondrian prints, but neither of those were the right style to fit in the living room.

Finally, I found this, and loved it:

Oxygen Stems

But the colors were wrong, and so was the orientation. I needed a wide painting, not a skinny one. Even so, I figured I could work with it, so off I went to Michaels in search of paint and canvas. The living room is that taupe-y brown color, but the dining room is a delicious brick red, and I wanted to bring that red into the living room. After a couple of hours, and a little advice from my friend, Aimee, here is what I wound up with:

It's far from perfect, but I think it will work. I am a little more confident now in my artistic abilities - or at least my ability to fake artistic abilities - and I'm already plotting future art pieces for the house. Canvases are great, because they are so lightweight that hanging them is ridiculously easy.

And finally, for no reason other than because I want to share, here is a picture of my sweet cat, Fritz, chilling in one of his favorite spots:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


We load up the UHaul tomorrow afternoon.

I'm going to miss this little house.

When we moved here a little over two years ago, I was thrilled beyond belief. Even though it's a little smaller than our first house, it is infinitely nicer. Being away from the parsonage (and the church building next to it) was such a relief. I didn't feel like my life was on display for the whole world anymore. The relief was tremendous. Probably more important was that the move represented a turning point in our lives - not just a change in address, but a change in our relationship as well. It seems like big events have always come every other year for us for some reason.

I've loved this little place, and I'm about it leave it all behind. We'll have even more anonymity in Chattanooga - it always amuses me to hear people call it a "small town" - try living in Jasper, Tennessee! If people don't know your business, they'll make something up! I relish the thought of people not feeling a need to use me a fodder for the rumor mill.

While I am going to miss Grannie & Peepop something terribly, there isn't much else here that I will miss, save the house itself. (The crazy neighbors? Not so much.) I'm looking forward to being so much closer to everything - Olive Garden? Less than ten minutes from my house. Sam's? Fifteen-minute drive. School? Instead of leaving myself an hour and a half (just in case traffic is bad), I can be there in ten minutes. Oh, and I won't be shelling out $800 in gas every month, either. What a relief! I'm excited about being near movie theaters, funky grocery stores, and whichever hospital I wind up working at. I'm looking forward to making new friends and being closer to my girlfriends from school.

And I'm really looking forward to the search for our own home - hopefully in the next couple of years or so. I'm stoked about the idea of having my house, that I can decorate the way I want. Very cool prospect, indeed.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stuff Box, Tape, Repeat

There is one constant in packing - the more you pack, the more you have left to pack! I think stuff seems to multiply itself. Weird how that works!

Still, progress is being made. Most of my scrapbook stuff is boxed or secured in its current container. The couch has been relegated to a sad spot on the patio, awaited a trip to the dump, because even though it still looks okay, the springs are completely shot. There is no hope, and Jeff doesn't want to move it. The kitchen is almost done, except for those few dishes that I simply must leave available. Even Braeden's room is mostly packed, although none of the boxes are sealed because we keep finding things to go in them...

What a chore this is, and yet I can't help thinking how blessed I am to have a houseful of things that I don't really need. I have been graciously allowed a lot of things that let me express my creativity, and for that I am so thankful. Sure, it's a pain to deal with dusty old boxes (and the sneezing that inevitably results), but each time I seal a box, I have to smile and say a quick prayer of thanks for my many, many, many material blessings.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moving Makes Me Sneeze

It really is unbelievable how much dust can accumulate in places that you wouldn't expect to see dust at all. For instance - how exactly does dust get underneath a stack of books laying flat on a bookshelf? Amazing. And every time I pack a box, I start sneezing. I'm actually considering digging out my N95 respirator mask (from nursing school) to keep the dust out of my nose and mouth. Lemme tell ya - that is a mark of desperation on my part!

So much to do, so little time. It's strange, though - I don't really dislike packing. There's a certain element of organization in the process that I find to be cathartic. Yeah, I know. I'm weird. In a month from now, we should be somewhat settled in our new place (Can't say "home" because we're just renting. Someday, though, we really will have a home we can call our own.) Then I'll have one more month and it will be time to start my last semester of school. It's so cliche, but my, how time flies!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Need to Feel Wanted

Have you ever just felt unnecessary? That your presence in a situation was no more than a waste of good air? Or worse - that you wanted to be necessary and relevant and wanted - but you were decidedly unwanted?

I'm struggling with that right now. I have a helping spirit - I crave the opportunity to work and help others. It's a large part of the reason I chose to suffer the torment of nursing school - so I had a good excuse to be there for somebody.

And yet... it seems like I am never quite wanted. Or like I don't know exactly where I fit. I feel like I have so much to offer, but nobody is interested. I volunteer, I beg, and I plead - please let me help! - but the pleas fall on deaf ears, it seems. Somebody else is already doing it. I have all the help I need. There's nothing for you to do. Okay, you can help - but then we're going to take it all away from you first chance we get. On second thought, never mind. We don't need you. We don't want you.


I went in last week for my clinical evaluation, and my instructor told me something that surprised me. She says I have "great leadership potential" but that intimidate some of my classmates.


Me? Intimidating? I just don't see that in myself. Most of the time I'm scared to death, and I just forge ahead to try to get the job done without showing everyone else how afraid I really am.

Intimidating? Is it because I talk a lot? Is it because I answer questions? Is it because I jump in when I see a need? Or do I come across as a bossy, loud, obnoxious know-it-all? (That is certainly not my intention.)

I'm trying to examine myself, to see if that's really true, and if it is - why? Is it something I can change? Is it something I should change?

And perhaps more importantly, is it the reason no one wants me?

(Note: These are not rhetorical questions. I've got my big-girl panties on. Fire away at will if you see something in me that I don't see in myself.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Instruments for Sale!

I can't tell you how much I hate to do this, but it must be done... There's no room in the new house for the piano, and I can't play my clarinet anymore, thanks to a root canal on my front tooth.


Would you be interested in buying a 3-pedal Baldwin upright piano? It is about 20 years old. My parents bought it for me new when I was 13. It's in very good condition, although there are some external scuffs and a couple of water stains where coke cans (or something like it) were left on it for too long. The keys are all intact. One of them sticks slightly, but it's not a significant problem and could easily be fixed. It hasn't been tuned in many years, but there is no internal damage to it whatsoever. I will try to post a picture soon, but right now I can't get to it for all the boxes in the way!

Also for sale: a Yamaha wooden Bb clarinet, Model YCL72CS. This is a professional clarinet. I purchased it new in 1990. It is in excellent condition. Keys are silver plated, with very little sign of wear or tarnishing. There are no cracks in the wood, and the corks are completely intact. The pads are also in great condition; none of them stick and all are intact. It was never played outside; only indoors for concert season. I have two mouthpieces; the Yamaha one it came with and also a Vandoren 11.1 mouthpiece. Also included are Mitchell Lurie reeds, an extra ligature, and a hard-back case. It is a beautiful instrument.

I am willing to negotiate prices on both items. If you are interested, email me at mandalee65 at yahoo dot com.

These are two of my most treasured items; I would love very much for them to go to someone who will cherish them as much as I did.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Utter Disappointment

Words don't adequately express how much is sucks to work your butt off, sacrificing any personal free time you might have otherwise had, just to get an A... and come up two points short.

Yeah. My final grade for the semester was 89.79. I have been up and down for two weeks, thinking I would have an A, then thinking I'd lost it.

Nothing like setting a goal and then utterly failing. Because the GPA doesn't show how close I was...

Frickin' sucks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cricut Cartridge Storage: Solved

A couple of days ago I posted about my limited-space-in-new-home dilemma. I can now mark off one item from the to-do list. Using the idea I got from YouTube, this is what I came up with:

First, the case. I originally thought it was a briefcase (I remember Dad having a similar one when I was a kid.) Turns out it was actually a cheap toolbox. I was at Lowe's looking for something and came across it by accident. It cost $21, plus tax, of course.

Inside is a flat thingie that I suppose was supposed to hold tools. I didn't want all these pockets, so I took a seam ripper to them. It looks ugly, so I used the other side, which was blank to start with.

I took round Velcro pieces and lined them up on the insert. I put the sticky side on the cartridge so that the fuzzy stuff wouldn't fall out into the Cricut and possibly mess it up. Here is the insert, mid-process.

I have 22 carts - not a lot, but more than some people, I suppose. (Mom probably has twice that many.) Anyway, as you can see, I still have room for five more on this side before I have to flip it over.

Here's the inside - not only do I have plenty of room for all the booklets, I also put in my tool kit and the paperwork that came with the Cricut. Niiiice. Even if I fill up the insert with cartridges, I won't run out of room for the booklets. Of course, some of that is because I have a lot of Solutions/Lite carts, which don't have booklets, but still. Somebody suggested tearing out all the pages from the booklet that were in languages I didn't need, and that helped considerably, especially with the older booklets.

Cool, huh? My next task is figuring out how to store my Sizzix & Cuttlebug stuff. That's going to be trickier, since the sizes are not uniform. Any thoughts?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pending Storage Problem

Although I am looking forward to our move, the house we are moving into is much smaller than my current one - two tiny bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, a tiny living room, and a tiny dining room. (Thankfully, the kitchen is about the same size as what I have, otherwise I'd be in serious trouble!)

All these tiny rooms mean I will have to do some serious downsizing. I'm actually heading straight into panic mode, because I've always had an office/scraproom. Always. I've got tons of stuff - dozens of stamps, a Cuttlebug and a Sizzix Big Shot, four different plastic paper storage drawers, a big Cricut and several cartridges, and miscellaneous tools, embellishments, and idea books. Then there's my PC and laptop, two different printers, and a scanner. Oh, and my textbooks. I have no idea what to do with it all! I've invested far too much money into the die-cutters to get rid of them. I can weed out the paper and a lot of the embellishments, but that's about it.

To further complicate matters, Jeff thinks I should put it all in the basement - which is not insulated and will require at least one dehumidifier because it leaks on one side. I'm very hesitant to put my stuff down there, particularly the paper and electronics.

So... I need storage ideas - and cheap ones. Jeff doesn't want to look at it, whatever I wind up doing with it, so it's gotta store easily, neatly, and unobstrusively.

For the Cricut, I'm considering this really cool setup from a fellow Cricut junkie. It was originally intended for ribbon, but works beautifully for Cricut cartridges. And who would have thought of using plastic canvas to make dividers? Brilliant, I tell you!

I found another possibilty on YouTube. I love this idea, because the cartridges are completely out of sight.

Anybody have another suggestion? I figure I will focus on one problem at a time, starting with the most expensive stuff. lol

Help? Please....

Sunday, April 3, 2011


God is pretty incredible. He has a knack for answering prayers 1) in a completely unexpected way; and 2) sometimes even before you knew you needed to pray for it!

Case in point: Friday we found out that we have two months to get out of our rent house, because the owners want to sell. It had been a pretty rotten week for me, and that was not exactly welcome news. We really had hoped to wait until I graduated to move - sometime in January. When Jeff called to tell me the news, I just sat there, kinda numb.

Five minutes later, he called me back. A friend/coworker of his had offered to let us rent her house back at the first of the year. She's getting married and heading to Nashville in a few months. We turned it down, because we weren't ready to move yet. The last we heard, she had several other possible renters.

Jeff called her right after he broke the news to me... and guess what? She still didn't have a renter, and was actually relieved that we still wanted it! Seriously, how awesome is that? Within hours of being told we had to move, we had a place to move to. Absolutely amazing. It was as if God was just holding it for us.

Oh, and did I mention the house is in Chattanooga? Yeah. We are getting out of Marion County. Finally.


Friday, April 1, 2011


I'm utterly exhausted - emotionally, physically, mentally. Too much is coming at me at once.

If you are the praying type, I would appreciate it greatly if you'd offer up one for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Don't lose your sense of responsbility in the sea of God's sovereignty."

- James MacDonald

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Letting Go

In my lifetime, I have let go of many things... dreams, people, beliefs... but perhaps nothing so important letting go of as the things that have hurt me.

There's another word for that letting-go: it's forgiveness.

I've learned many valuable lessons about forgiveness in the last few years. First and foremost, no human can possibly forgive of his/her own accord. Without help from God, it just isn't happening. I've learned to pray to God to teach me how to forgive, and it was one of the best prayers that He answered. I also learned that bitterness and forgiveness are incompatible - the two won't coexist. You have one, or you have the other, but you never have both.

I have forgiven much; in many ways, I have forgiven more than I ever dreamed I would have to. But now I'm at a crossroads of sorts, and I realized today that I have more to forgive, more to let go.

(I know I am being unbearably vague here, so I apologize, but in the interest of not hurting others, ambiguity is going to have to suffice. Moving on...)

I have been holding in a great deal of hurt. It wasn't coming from any one person in particular (rather a large group of people), but it was more of an accumulation of years of keeping my mouth shut when I wanted - needed -  to speak, of being brushed aside by others when I desperately needed a friend, of bearing the knowledge that I or my family was the source of someone's gossip session, of years of frustration over a situation that I just couldn't change. I was talking to a group of friends today, and it dawned on me that I am painfully bitter. Though I learned the lesson of forgiveness in a very real way a few years ago, I hadn't applied to other areas of my life, and the bitterness was eating away at my soul.

So I am making the decision today to let go. I still love the people involved (although I don't think the feeling is necessarily mutual, and that's okay), but it is time to let it all go. I choose to forgive. I choose not to wallow in the past, but to forge my way into the future without being weighed down by the hurt from a situation I couldn't improve. No more excuses. No more complaining. No more bitterness.

God is good. He has blessed me richly, starting with His forgiveness for me. How much more should I forgive others! I don't want to blindly pass His blessings because I am so focused on my own hurts.

I am letting go... and moving on.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stuff, and other assorted random thoughts

First, I am going to shamelessly plug my recipe blog. If you are one of my handful of followers here, and you also happen to enjoy cooking, check out Real Food - Real Folks. My updates are somewhat sporadic, I admit, but there is still lots of good stuff that that I feel somewhat guilty about keeping to myself. :)

Second, Braeden and I are on the way to recovery. He has, as usual, ran ahead of me down the road a bit, but I'm better, too. My biggest frustration now is my ears - I still feel like I have permenent earplugs and I am more than ready to be able to hear again!

Third, life is good. I feel exceptionally blessed right now, and thankful to God for all He's done for me.

Fourth, unfortunately, a blessed feeling does not get the studying done... and I have a test this week. So bye for now. Have a blessed week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"You'll please God with your attempts to show the respect that your husband, His beloved son, deserves - not because he does everything perfectly to deserve such reverence, but because he is divinely and uniquely created in his heavenly Father's image."

- Shannon Ethridge, Every Woman's Marriage: Igniting the Joy and Passion You Both Desire

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What a Day...

I get sinus infections from overblown allergy reactions at least 4 times a year - sometimes more. Usually it starts with icky nasal drip, and within a week has progressed to a full-blown, green snot, chest congestion, sinus headache mess. I generally try to avoid antibiotics because I get these infections so often that I don't want to become desensitized to the antibiotics; it's only when I am really desperate that I resort to going to the doctor for meds.

Today I got desperate.

I'm not the only one who is sick. Braeden has progressed with the same thing I have at about the same time. The reason I gave in and took us both to the walk-in clinic today is because in the wee hours of the morning, I woke to find two things: 1) Braeden was standing by my bed, bawling his eyes out because his ears hurt; and 2) I had no idea how long he'd been standing there, because my good ear hurt so much I could barely hear a thing. It took me several minutes to realize that Braeden hadn't had a bad dream; he had a raging earache. We spent the next two hours medicating with ibuprofen and heat pads to no avail. I eventually told him to play video games at 3:30am in a desperate attempt to distract him from the pain. That lasted about 30 minutes, then he came back with me. Finally I hit him with a heavy dose of Benadryl, which blessedly knocked him out.

By the time I woke up, both of my ears felt like someone had jammed plugs into them, and pain was radiating from my ears to my jaw to my neck. It hurt to chew, it hurt to stand up, it hurt to hiccup, and it hurt to blow my nose. Incidentally, I was also so incredibly congested that I could barely breathe through my mouth; thank goodness I have a prescription inhaler, or I'd have been in trouble.

So off to the doctor we went. At clinic #1, we waited 15 minutes because the desk lady was ignoring us, only to find out it's not a walk-in clinic until 4pm. So we drove halfway across to the county to the only other walk-in clinic available, where we waited three hours for a doc to tell us what I already knew - that we both had raging ear infections and I had a sinus infection to go with it.

I got in the car to leave... and it wouldn't start. No surprise there; it always does this to me at the worst possible time. I have to turn off all the electronics in the car, turn the key over as if I was starting it, and wait for ten minutes for the security system to reboot. It is a total and complete pain in butt. After the allotted ten minutes was up, I started the car, put it in gear - and it promptly died. Guess what? It wouldn't start again. So I got to wait another ten minutes, with a cranky kid in the background begging for something to eat or drink (by this point it was 1pm and neither of us had anything except a few sips of my coffee).

I finally get the car going and we head to Wal-Mart with the prescription. I dropped off the script and took B to Taco Bell. We came back to for the meds, only to find that 1) they still weren't ready; and 2) one of the scripts for B was out of stock.

By this point I was ready to throw something. My ears were hurting so much I was almost in tears. We went home with 2 of the 3 meds. Then I had to work for a couple of hours... I missed school tonight because Jeff is working and by the time I got finished with work, I wasn't going to make it anyway. I logged into eLearn to find that my last test score went from a B to a C because they dropped questions I got right.

Seriously... I'm halfway expecting the house to burn down. Given the day I've had, that would be about right.

However, I am also struggling to be more content and thankul, so after this (very long) ranting post, here is what I am thankful for:

1) my eardrum was not ruptured. Hopefully I won't experience any permanent damage (I've already lost a good bit of hearing and can't afford to lose more)

2) we were able to get antibiotics for me and B. The one I have to go back for is just a prescription combo med for B.

3) The car did eventually start

4) I got a nap and felt a little better

5) I also had to have a steroid shot, and now my jaw and neck don't hurt.

6) Being at home tonight instead of in school means I have time to work on my clinical stuff from Monday that has to be turned in

7) I have friends from school who are sending me notes and audio from class tonight.

8) I have Grannie & Peepop! They were ready to come all the way down the mountain just to bring B some food at the doctor's office (didn't, though, because we couldn't have food in there.)

Maybe tomorrow will be better, eh?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What if?

What if... what if everything you ever believed, everything important that you ever held to be true - what if it all suddenly turned out to be wrong?

What would you do? How would you react? Would it leave you devastated, or would you be glad to "see the light?"