Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

err... I mean blogs.

On this snowy, cold Saturday, I thought I would share some of my favorite blogs. Just so you know on top of reading lots of books, I read a ridiculous number of blogs {I subscribe to 178 in my Google Reader}. To be completely truthful, I browse rather than read all of them - I probably only read a handful. The others, I look at to get inspiration for work, remodeling, do-it-yourself projects and new recipes.

Some of my favorite blogs {that I actually read} are as follows...

Five blogs written by real-life friends:  
Life As We Know It With Izzy Bug is written by my sister about life with her new baby, Izzy. Since I live in a different state, this blog allows me to keep up with what is going on in their day-to-day lives. Not to mention, my little niece is ridiculously cute {but I'm not biased}.
 

My friend, Sally Loftis, writes a blog where she gives a "Girls Movie Review" of secular movies. She does an amazing job of giving a Christian perspective to things that are of this world. I truly appreciate her insight. She also has an ongoing commentary of Grey's Anatomy. 

A college friend of mine writes a hysterically funny blog called Mabel's House. I highly recommend checking out this blog if A) you want a good laugh; B) you are looking for design inspiration or C) you want to look at beautiful photography or read witty commentaries about life. Mabel's House has been featured on Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge.

I also read two different cooking blogs by friends... 

My college friend, Eralda, writes a blog called The Split Pea. It is full of her spectacular photography and offers recipes from around the world, including some from growing up in Albania. She tells beautiful stories that go along with her recipes. 

Deanna, a friend from high school, writes What's For Dinner?. Her recipes reflect her southern roots and how to juggle cooking for a young family.

Five blogs written by people I wish that I was friends with in real life:
Ashley Anne Photography - she has 4 little {sweet} kids to wrangle and still manages to offer amazing ideas for do-it-yourself projects that I adore. She is also an AMAZING photographer. She has been featured on Apartment Therapy here and here.

Smitten Kitchen - a cooking blog that I love. She never cooks the same thing twice {something I strive for} and her recipes are ridiculously good. Seriously. If you love to cook. Check out her blog. NOW. I'm not kidding.

Design Mom - this woman has 5 kids with one on the way. And she still manages to be an Art Director and plan things like the Alt Design Summit. Since becoming pregnant {again}, she has shared a series of posts by other bloggers about their experiences becoming mothers. It is a touching series that I have enjoyed reading. I enjoy this blog for its design aspects as well.

The Pioneer Woman - I know. I know. Everyone knows about PW, but if you haven't checked out her blog yet... be sure to read it for her {amazing} recipes, gorgeous photography, stories of life on a ranch; and ESPECIALLY take the time to read her love story {Black Heels to Tractor Wheels} of how she met and married Marlboro Man.

NieNie Dialogues - this is a blog about surviving. About hope. About raising your family, especially when things are hard. I highly recommend this blog to everyone. If you haven't read Stephanie and Christian Nielson's story about surviving a plane crash, you must live under a rock. You can read it here if you don't have the time to read her entire blog. Be prepared to cry...

There are so many other blogs I love dearly. But I am going to limit this post to 10. What are your favorite blogs?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Books 4&5

For the past two weeks, I have tried to read two books with little success. Normally I am able to plow through books, even those I don't particularly care for. But on occasion, I opt to not finish. This would be the case for both of these books.

The first, Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, examines the world of Wall Street trading and how randomness plays a part. I found the writing to be extremely arrogant and condescending, not to mention outright boring. This book was extremely disappointing, especially after reading a review that compared it to Freakonomics (which I found fresh and interesting).

Quotes I came away with {from the parts I read}:
Symobolism is the child of our inability and unwillingness to accept randomness; we give meaning to all manner of shapes; we detect human figures in ink blots. Mild success can be explained by skill and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance.
One cannot judge a performance in any given field  (war, politics, medicine, investments) by the results, but by the costs o f the alternative.
Heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost.
Sensationalism can divert empathy toward wrong causes. (ex. mad cow disease killing less people than car accidents)
"Common sense is nothing but a collection of misconceptions acquired by age 18." - Einstein.
The second book was Moral Clarity by Susan Neiman. I think I picked this up on a recommendation from a blog I read. I wish that I had taken the time to look into what this book was about. In the first chapters, it comes across as a political rant more than a discussion of morals in a modern world. The book snidely proclaims that liberals do not need religion to have morals. I won't pretend to agree with the content of the book, it is one I will not be finishing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

18,000 Pounds and Some Good News


Today a lady from the moving company came by to do an estimate of our stuff. We are allowed to have up 18,000 pounds moved free of charge. Beyond 18,000, we will have to pay some hefty fees {or move the extra ourselves.}

It is just the two of us in a 1,800 square foot house, but we do have quite a bit of stuff. Thanks to all of the tools we have accumulated, our total weight estimate comes in at 15,000 pounds. We won't know the true total until moving day, but the estimator said that she normally shoots a bit high and is generally within 1,000 pounds. Let's hope so.

Now for the good news... Daniel talked to TVA today and it looks like there is a really good possibility (95% chance if you are into statistics) that he won't have to start work until February 15. Thank you God for that!!! We were both starting to get overwhelmed with the idea of Daniel leaving so soon. An extra two weeks means we should be able to accomplish everything on the house and have some overlap time of him being here while the house is on the market.

Traffic Calming

In Engineering terms, traffic calming is the slowing or reduction of motor-vehicle traffic to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. (I know this term because my husband is an engineer). One example of traffic calming is a roundabout. This is a type of circular intersection in which traffic must travel in one direction around a central island forcing the traffic to slow down, but enabling traffic to continue to flow.
 
Example of traffic calming. Photo found here.

Another example of traffic calming can be found in our living room. We recently added a coffee table and found that this prevents our dog {Sophie} from hurtling herself across the room and onto the sofa at full throttle. Instead, we find her running {at a somewhat reduced pace} through the living room, around the coffee table and onto the couch where she proceeds to find a comfortable spot and go to sleep.
 
Traffic calming for our dog. Photo by Cheree.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Overwhelmed


Taking a moment to feel overwhelmed and indulge in a cookie {or three}.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies 
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground clove (I did not have this ingredient, so opted for all spice instead)
1 cup quick-cooking oats
(I didn't  have quick-cooking oats, so I used the regular kind, this may have contributed to their flatness)
 2 cups chopped pecans (I used what I had on hand - about 1 cup)
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest (I substituted 1 tsp of orange extract - the orange gives a beautiful, unexpected flavor to the cookie)
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I used 6 oz because that is all I had on hand. They turned out really chocolaty and I am thankful I didn't use the full amount) 

Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.
Beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy.
Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed (about three minutes).
Stir in eggs, one at a time.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove in a separate bowl.
Add half of the flour mixture to the butter with the mixer on low speed. Once the flour has been incorporated, add the second half. 
Stir in the oats, pecans, orange zest, and chocolate chips. 
Drop the dough, by the tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden. (I actually had to bake each batch for closer to 20 minutes and mine turned out huge and super flat. But they are oh-so-scrumptious). 
Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on a rack. 
Store at room temperature in a cookie jar or other airtight container.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Capacity for Joy

Daniel and I have been married for a little over 7 years and it has been a wonderful 7 years. We have a great marriage. Not perfect, but pretty darn good. In 7 years, it is easy to fall into the routines of life and what is normal.

When we got Sophie, we weren't really sure what to expect. The night before she came to us, we even doubted the whole idea of getting a dog. Were we ready for this? It was so sudden, and we didn't *feel* excited or ready. We didn't even get to meet to meet her beforehand - we had only seen a photo and had a guarantee that if it didn't work out, we could give her back.

So here we are 8 months later and we are amazed at how much she has become a part of our lives. Before we had her, we thought we were pretty happy (and we were). But now, we have experienced a new type of joy. One we didn't even know existed. We were perfectly content but now we can't imagine our lives without her.

As I write this, she is cuddled up next to me and it makes me forget that I have to get up and feed her or make time to walk her. Or clean up after her. Or deal with her idiosyncrasies.


I was recently talking with a friend about heaven and how much joy we will experience there - joy beyond anything we can imagine here on earth. I shared with her how we felt about Sophie. How before we had her, we were happy. But having her has opened this whole new dimension of joy for us. That's how I think heaven will be - capacity for joy beyond anything we can comprehend right now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Countdown


We are officially in countdown mode. Daniel will start work two weeks from today. Kind of hard to believe. We are {hoping} to put our house on the market this weekend. Realistically, it may not happen until next week, but it is good to have goals.

Today our friend, Benjy, came over to help with the final projects on the house. They were able to install the vanity in the hall bathroom and measure all of the walls for the baseboard and crown molding that still need to be installed.

Tomorrow will be a big push to install Pergo flooring in the hallway and get baseboard installed.

It is such a relief to already have friends in Chattanooga that Daniel can stay with when he starts work. It would be even more stressful to be trying to finish the house and find a place for him to live.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 3

It's just the start of week 3, but I just finished up a delightful little book by Hugh Macleod. Ignore Everybody and 39 other keys to creativity is a fun, quick read that I would recommend to anyone in the creative field.

We all have creativity in us and more often that not, we find ourselves yearning for something more than the 9-5 job that we work in order to be responsible adults. Hugh MacLeod talks to that yearning and gives some decent advice on how to pursue those desires. While not earth-shattering, it is presented in short, witty chapters that I found enjoyable to read.

His cartoons on the back of business cards, I could take or leave. Some were pretty funny, some were just out there. If you are bothered by language, he uses the F*bomb a lot {just so I warned you}.

Some of my favorite passages {I have been trying to limit myself to a max of five in these posts... this book is full of great quotes}:
Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. Ninety percent of what separates successful people from failed people is time, effort, and stamina.
The first rule of business is never sell something you love. Otherwise, you might as well be selling your children.
Art suffers the moment people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do.
Writer's block is a symptom of feeling like you have nothing to say, combined with the rather weird idea that you should feel the need to say something... If you have something to say, then say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough... Trying to create when you don't feel like it is like making conversation for the sake of conversation.
This book summed up... Work hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Create your own luck. Be nice. Be polite.



Our New IKEA Couch

It's here!!! Getting our new couch from IKEA proved to be difficult. We were originally going to purchase it back in November {for my birthday} but we opted to go camping in the mountains instead.

And then we were going to get it sometime in late November, but Daniel decided we should buy a trailer instead of renting a truck. So finding and buying a trailer ate up another weekend.

Then Daniel got his job offer and we were ecstatic and felt even better about our furniture purchase. With Christmas on the way, and an upcoming visit from my brother and Daniel's dad, we tried to get our basement finished and furniture purchased.

We went to IKEA the day my brother got to town and lo and behold, our particular couch {2+3/3+2 with chaise} was a SPECIAL ORDER purchase. If we had done our research in the first place, we would have known that.

For some reason {I think I was extremely tired and grumpy and it was close to closing time} we decided to hold off on the purchase.

So... the Monday after Christmas, we went back to IKEA, made our order and went home with a receipt and a promise of a call in 2 weeks.

We FINALLY got the call Thursday and went to pick up yesterday. We brought the load home and we are very happy with our purchase for our basement rec room. It took us 1.5 hours to put the couch together {after we laughed at the pictogram instructions.} Yay for IKEA.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 2

This week's book continue with the theme of homes but with a decidedly different perspective. Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us by Alyssa Katz is a look into the housing boom and subsequent economic crash. 

The substance of this particular book made me mad at the government (Democrats & Republicans) as well as at private industry (at least the individuals who perpetuated mortgage fraud). It looks into the history of real estate and the patterns that have been repeated since the 1920s when Americans traded their freedom for debt. 

A good portion of the book describes how the poor and uneducated were affected, but later in the book, the author explores educated people who were scammed out of large sums of money (if you are from Arkansas and had a negative experience with Avedis, you might understand the educated people who lost big bucks in scams in Florida).

Here are excerpts of some of my favorite passages from this books:
"Sub-prime lending joined malt liquor and the lottery as a corner industry that sold the promise of escape."
"Does home ownership create better neighbors or neighborhoods? Or are neighborly and thrifty people more likely than others to become homeowners in the first place?"
"More than anything, Fannie Mae made working people comfortable with the idea of taking on vast debt as the price for participating in the American dream."
 "Home ownership reached its all-time peak at the end of 2004... the only sensible thing to do was to borrow as much money as possible. The capitalist minded borrowed to maximize leverage and therefore gains." *This applied to us in 2005. We did not max out what we could borrow, but we did take advantage of a no-money down mortgage to purchase our first home.
"If you want to know who is responsible for the sub-prime crisis, it is the Congress of the United States of America. They created premption for state banks, federal banks and savings and loans. It is the result of years of high-powered lobbying." – Governor Ray Barnes (GA)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Love You Moore than the Details

Things are shaping up. We found out {last week} that Daniel passed his background check. They called me to verify that his unemployment record. They asked questions like "Did I know Daniel" and "When was the last time I had spoken to him?" As his wife, I certainly know him and I had spoken to him that morning.

Tomorrow he heads to Huntsville, AL for a quick overnight trip to get a medical screening and a psych evaluation at the Browns Ferry plant. As long as all goes well, he should be in the clear and officially ready to start on February 1st.

We are working hard to get the house wrapped up and on the market asap. For the very first time, we payed a friend to help us with a project. We decided to tear out the carpet on the stairs and install wooden treads that would be stained to match our pergo.

We {finally} got lucky on a project... we thought we were going to have to rip out all of the trim and stairs and replace them. When Daniel pulled up the {nasty} carpet, he realized that the treads were actually in good shape and could be repurposed. 

Korey helped us out by sanding and staining the treads. We will finish up the project by sealing the treads with poly {3x} and then installing a white laminate on the risers. This project should be wrapped up by Friday. 

For now, we get to deal with 1) the strong smell of stain and 2) having to walk around, outside to get to the basement {our TV room}. It's a hassle, but the stairs look great. I will post some pics when I get a chance.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Thanking God That We Are NOT Moving to Alaska

Charlotte, North Carolina is generally a pretty temperate city. We get a few truly cold days a year and I am fine with that.

This past week has been something else. I know that the whole country is experiencing a cold spell, but man oh man, it has been cold. I have worn 2-3 layers of clothes daily. And we haven't even been blessed with snow.

All I keep thinking is that I am glad Daniel didn't get an offer to move us to Alaska. I realize that moving to the Tennessee mountains will bring a colder climate, but it will have nothing on Alaska. I can't imagine these frigid temps ALL OF THE TIME. My Canadian blood isn't helping me out too much. I guess I am just a wimp and have lived in the south too long. 

Besides it being cold, we are doing our {final} tiling project today. For some reason, we always manage to tile when it is freezing. This gives us near frostbite on our hands and puts us both in a bad mood while we combat frozen limbs and tiling dilemmas simultaneously. Somehow things always manage to turn out ok and we have yet to lose any fingers or toes to the cold {yet}.

Regarding the cold... I saw this on someone's facebook status and it made me laugh:  
"Hey Winter, Al called, he's upset you didn't watch his movie or read his book.."

Note: For comparison sake, I just checked weather.com and Charlotte, NC is currently 36 F and feels like 27 F. Palmer, Alaska is 17 F and feels like 17 F. Chattanooga, TN is 27 F and feels like 17 F... YIKES!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 1

After managing to read 60 books in 2009, for 2010, I have decided to take the time to document the books I read.

To kick off the year, I read The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. It is a book that delves into why we respond to certain types of architecture and design and how the spaces we live in impact our lives. 

Here are excerpts of some of my favorite passages:
"It seems reasonable to suppose that people will possess some of the qualities of the buildings they are drawn to."
"Our working routines may be frantic and compromised, dense with meetings, insincere handshakes, small-talk and bureacracy. We may say things we don't believe in to win over colleagues and feel ourselves becoming envious and excited in relation to goals we don't essentially care for. But, finally, on our own... we can slowly resume contact with a more authentic self, who was there waiting in the wings for us to end our performance."
"We might even come to better understand God through beauty, fot it was He who had created everything beautiful in the world... In contact with attractive buildings, we could imitate some of the refinement, intelligence, kindness and harmony of their maker."
 "They were falling in love with the natural in their art precisely because they were losing tough with the natural in their own lives."
"Beauty lies between the extremities of order and complexity."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Outdoor Adventures | 2009 edition

2009 was one of the hardest years we experienced. Daniel was laid off in March and our lives were turned upside down. Our focus became finishing our house remodel, Daniel studying for his P.E. license while also trying to find a new job. We didn't have a lot of time or money to devote to adventures. We spent a lot of time walking our newly adopted dog on our local greenway while trying our best to stay afloat.

March
Daniel was laid off and it was life changing...

May
We adopted our first dog.

June
Hiking at South Mountain State Park | Connelly Springs, NC
Colonel Francis Beatty Park | Matthews, NC
Linville Falls | Linville, NC

July
Backpacking at Carver's Gap, NC

September
Canoeing on the Haw River | Saxapahaw, NC

November
Hike at Max Patch Bald, NC

I Love You Moore, even when our sense of normal isn't normal




So what do you do when you are young and don’t have a clue about renovating? You just dig right in and you don’t look back. This early in the game, you believe it will only take a year or so to finish (even with all of your big plans).



You rip out carpet with a vengeance. You paint walls like you always had mad skills to use a spray gun with oil-based KILZ. You wind up with your eyelashes fused together and scratch your head wondering what got you into this predicament. You tear out walls and tell yourself it will be back to normal soon.



A year later, you thank God that you finally have a working kitchen and wonder when you will have floors installed on every surface (verses exposed plywood sub floor).






Another year passes and you learn to ignore the unfinished things. You start trying to reclaim your life and stop sweating the small stuff. By now you have learned what to waste your time arguing about and what to let go. And your sense of normal has changed significantly.




Another year passes and you complete your master bathroom. Did it really take almost four years to get here? 



Your friends bug you continually about when you will finally throw a big party and let them see all of the progress. You say “soon” and then realize you have been saying “soon” for months (maybe years).



The employees at the local Lowes Home Improvement store think you are contractors. You don’t have the heart to tell them that you are just a husband and wife who are on a journey and that you just finished painting the walls and staining the concrete floors in your basement.



You come away with battle scars (including a scarred leg from a chainsaw, bruises from falling (1) off of a ladder that collapsed under you and (2) through an uncovered vent), but at the end, it is all worth it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

We purchased a 5-speed Subaru Forester today. It is the *youngest* vehicle we have ever owned - coming in at 10 years old.

It is due for a timing belt change, but once Daniel does that, we should be good to go for another 100,000+ miles. Well that is not completely true... it is used and will have general wear and tear on the engine but our in-house mechanic (Daniel) does a pretty good job of keeping our old vehicles in good working order.

I talked to my brother today and this is the gist of our conversation.

Mark: How was your new year's?

Me: Good. We bought a car today.

Mark: Awesome. What kind? How much did you spend?

Me: A Subaru Forester for $XXXX.

Mark: Wait... you won't spend $4 to buy more Christmas lights for your Christmas tree, but you will spend $XXXX on a car?

Me: Yep.

Mark: You guys are going to be millionaires some day.

I Love You Moore than our House Renovation

Once upon a time {about 5 years ago} a young couple {Cheree & Daniel} purchased their first home. They had grandiose ideas of renovating. He was an engineer. She was a {graphic} designer. It would be so easy

And it was.

Kind of.

Starting out was easy. They had no idea what they were doing, but they jumped right in. They ripped out carpet. They installed new floors. They painted. They disassembled a kitchen. They tiled. They did a custom master bathroom with a CUSTOM shower. They moved walls. Seriously. They moved walls. They were nuts.

They learned how to argue and disagree about things like what appliances to buy, what would be the best {most complicated} tile pattern to lay and what walls to move. What walls were load bearing and couldn't be moved. What was possible. What was not. What was ridiculous.

He learned that all of her idea generations was just her way of brain storming. She learned that Excel spreadsheets are absolutely necessary to renovate. They worked hard. Through blood {including a chainsaw accident}, sweat and tears they made a home.

And now due to a lay off and subsequent job in a new city, they have to move...

We are on the verge of finishing our house and we will put it on the market soon so that we can move to Chattanooga and start again. Friends and family always ask if we would do it again. And we emphatically shout NO. But truthfully I can see us doing it again. It would be different. Maybe room by room instead of GUTTING an entire house and putting it back together while we lived there.

We always say we would do small things like paint. And put in wood floors. And of course tile. And replacing a kitchen wouldn't be that bad, right? A bathroom renovation? That would be a piece of cake. Staining concrete? Sure.

We would probably hire out dry wall work. Daniel hates drywall.

 In the coming posts I will share pictures and advice of our process. What we did. What we wish we had done. What we would NEVER do again. At times, this project has taken over our lives, but it has taught us so much about ourselves. We gave up hobbies for our house, but the experience we have gained is invaluable. In the future we would work to do a better job of balancing our hobbies and life with our house projects. Being consumed by a never-ending house renovation can be overwhelming. But we are thankful for our experience.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Reading Resolutions

I was planning on making an unofficial resolution to read 52 books in 2010 - one a week. And if I had time, I would blog about the books as I read them.

Out of curiosity, I looked back at the books that I read in 2009 to see how many I read. After reviewing my online BookShelf and tallying them up, I discovered that I had actually read 60 books last year, so I'm thinking that 52 books is kind of a low resolution.

60) Heaven
59) One True Thing
58) The Middle Place
57) The Virgin Suicides
56) The Schopenhauer Cure
55) Julie and Julia
54) Farm City
53) Traveling Mercies
52) The Glass Castle
51) Always Looking Up
50) A Long Way Gone
49) The Help
48) A Grief Observed
47) The Road
46) Left to Tell
45) How Capitalism Saved America
44) Beautiful Boy
43) Blue Like Jazz
42) Honeymoon with my Brother
41) Sorrows of an American
40) The Vegetable Gardener's Bible
39) Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant
38) Good Dog. Stay.
37) World Made by Hand
36) The Sex Lives of Cannibals
35) Things I Want My Daughters to Know
34) Love and Respect
33) See You in a Hundred Years
32) The Geography of Bliss
31) Queen of the Road
30) The Year of Living Biblically
29) The Time Traveler's Wife
28) Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook
27) Scratch Beginnings
26) Tweak
25) This I Believe
24) Three Cups of Tea
23) unChristian
22) Buyology
21) The House on Sugar Beach
20) The Memory Keeper's Daughter
19) Loving Frank
18) The Knitting Circle
17) Deep Survival
16) The Forgotten Man
15) The Alchemist
14) The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted
13) Internal Combustion
12) Hinds Feet on High Places
11) The Rise of the Creative Class
10) 365 Nights
9) Outliers
8) Letter to a Christian Nation
7) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
6) Forbes Great Success Stories
5) Quiet Strength
4) Many Waters
3) Live What You Love
2) Notes From a Small Island
1) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

Word for the Year: Fortitude

I was reading the blog, Bloom, and came across a post contributed by MySparkle regarding New Year's resolutions. Instead of picking specific things to accomplish in the coming year, she focuses on choosing a single word that represents an overall theme for the coming year. 

I love the idea of purposely choosing a word to set the tone for the year.

As I look at 2010 I know that we are on the brink of some major life changes. A new job. A new city. New (and old) friends. There is a lot to think about and to plan for in the coming weeks and months. But we are ready to embrace these changes. 

Fortitude: Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage. 

I believe this sums up how I feel about the changes to come. We will embrace strength of mind and face the changes to come with courage.

It is exciting, but also scary to move to a new place. To start over. We have no idea what is in store. We don't know if I will still have a job. We don't know where we will live. There are so many unknowns. But we will face them all with fortitude.

Grayson Highlands, 2017

I'm so thankful we were able to spend last weekend as a family, tucked away in the Virginia mountains, just the four of us. It was a ...