Saturday, October 31, 2009

The star

They called him up to be Sir Galahad during a street performance at Epcot. He acted embarrassed, but honestly?



I think he loved the attention.

What a ham.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My husband is a good person

Jack thinks I need more "boy brags" posts.

I told him I write them every time I have material for them, and as soon as he provides more material, I will write another one.

He says I should write one now anyway, because he's a good person.

So here you are. My husband is a good person.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Is that too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not.

So yesterday was the first day for registration for BikeMS, and I met with our team captain, Jimmy, last night to plan this year's ride.

You have no idea what goes into this ride. It's absolutely insane. The National Multiple Sclerosis society does so much to support us, but our team captain gets the brunt of the work for the logistics of our team and fundraising, including sponsorships for our jerseys and team tent. This is the 7th consecutive year Jimmy has been our captain, and let me tell you, he's organized. He has spreadsheets, data, statistics, you name it. He cares about this cause and he really knows his stuff.

At one point during the discussion, he asked how much we should make our team's fundraising goal. Last year it was $100,000, and we exceeded it. The year before it was $90,000. He wanted to increase it this year, but he wasn't sure by how much.

We took a look at his [extensive] data, and figured out that if we could raise $132,495 this year, that would put TeamHP at exactly $500,000. A half a million dollars. In seven years.

Um, I don't know if you know this, but that's a lot.

We figured out that if we had the same number of riders (about 140 or so), we would need each rider to average $800 for their fundraising. The minimum amount to raise is $300, but quite honestly, it's not that hard to raise more. You just have to get creative!

The way I raised money last year was by designing blogs in exchange for BikeMS donations. It worked beautifully, and this year I'll be doing it again.

But that's not the only way you can raise money. By thinking outside the box, I think we can raise a lot more than simply asking for donations. To encourage our team to do so, I've put a simple list together of other ways we can raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis.

  • Begging for it on the street. I can easily skip showering for a few weeks, find some ratty clothes, and head out to downtown Dallas. Will I have to swallow my pride? Sure! Is it going to be humiliating? Of course! But is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not.
  • Sexy car wash. This one will require some assistance. Will it be difficult to convince Jack to put on the short shorts and scrub the cars shirtless with his man-chest and tushie? Of course! But is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not. 
  • Selling plasma and organs. I figure if I give plasma several times a day every day for the next 7 months, I can bump us up to that half-million mark. And if I get the nerve up to go for the kidney? I think we can exceed it. Sure, there's quite a recovery time and it's pretty illegal, but is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not. 
  • Stealing it. There are all kinds of places you can take money from! Children's piggy banks! Wallets! Purses! Wal-Mart! And with my black belt training, I think I could mug quite a few people. Rob a convenience store or two. Maybe I'll even try robbing a bank! Sure, it'll take some planning, but is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not. 
  • Drug dealing. From what I understand, if you offer the first one free they'll want to come back for more. I'll have to do a little more research on this one, but I think I can build a customer base. After all, if I can sell a blog, I can sell a drug, right? Will I get arrested? Probably! Will I ruin some people's lives and families? Most definitely! But is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not.
  • Prostitution. If I'm already selling my organs on the black market, robbing people and businesses, and dealing drugs, I might as well throw out this one as well. After all, it's the oldest profession, right? There must be something to it. And is it too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not.
  • Becoming a hitman woman. I'm going to need to find some mob connections and get over my squeemishness about the blood, but I hear there's good money in this! Sure, there's a chance I could die, but is that too much to ask to help cure MS? I think not.

I'm still looking for creative ideas to raise money for my ride, but I think I have a pretty good start here. It's going to take some work, but is that too much to ask to help cure MS?

I think not.

--

To keep me from having to produce and sell babies, prostitute myself or my husband, or become a hitman, please donate to my ride! And in case you missed it last year, here's why I ride.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An offer - Free Blog Makeover

Registration for the Sam's Club BikeMS from Frisco to Ft. Worth opened today! Do a happy dance. I know you want to.

The ride is May 1-2, 2010 and is 164 miles of pure wonderfulness. Okay. That's a lie. It's 164 miles of pure amazing cause-ness.

If you are willing to ride on my team (this includes raising a minimum $300 for the National MS Society - but I assure you, it's super easy), sign up here, e-mail me, and I'll give you a free blog makeover.

Free. Blog. Makeover.

To review, or not to review?

I have had a few product review requests in the last few months. I've been turning them down. I wasn't sure it was worth my time, and after that whole blogger disclosure/fine thing, I figured it was just too much of a mess to get into.

Until now. Because somebody offered to let me give their stuff away to you guys. And you know how much I love giving stuff away.

So I present my review and giveaway blog. Which will hopefully be mostly giveaways. Because, like I said, I love giving stuff away.

It's likely that I'll be announcing all the actual giveaways that happen over there on this blog too, but the review part and the commenting part will be over there, since I have to do all the disclosures and such.

But today's the first giveaway. And I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty excited about it. Check it out and leave a comment over there to enter!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Orlando - Day 4 (Sunday) - Part 1

I'm writing this on an airplane.

Not only am I writing this on an airplane, but I published the last one from the airplane. In the air. I heart technology. And wi-fly. (I wish I could take credit for that clever, clever play on words, but somebody actually wrote that on my wall on Facebook a minute ago. While I was on the plane. Wi-flying.)

Today was Epcot. Jack and I rose bright and early to get all our luggage packed and sent to the luggage storage area so that we could catch a bus to Epcot. We arrived just as it opened and therefore before it got hot and before people really started arriving, which meant comfort and love and joy and happiness.

We rode a few rides (and by "rides" I don't really mean roller coasters, because evidently Epcot is all about the virtual reality and the learning), and we also went back to "Honey I Shrunk the Audience," which I remembered fondly from childhood but is apparently totally lame now (and evidently cause for Jack to make fun of me for dragging him to it in the first place).

Anyway, the best part about Epcot was that we arrived during the International Food and Wine festival (alternately titled: pay lots of money for really small portions festival), which made us super-happy due to our very passionate love affair with food and wine (but mostly food). We pretty much spent the whole day walking and eating, walking and eating.

And then, just about an hour before we left, they arrived. All the idiots. There were hundreds and hundreds of idiots. I wish there was something nicer to call them, but there really isn't. They were dumb. Clearly not fit to be in public, and certainly not to reproduce, but alas, they had already passed their dumb genes on to their offspring.

Why, exactly, do people not understand that they shouldn't stop in the middle of the freaking sidewalk to talk in the middle of a large crowd of moving people? And why, exactly, do people form a blockade across the entire walkway when they're walking the slowest? And why, oh why, do the people with the most amount of body surface area use the least amount of material for clothing?

I could go on and on and rant about the dumb people, but these are questions I doubt I will ever have answers to.

Anyway, we left the park a little early to give ourselves some time to get to our shuttle to the airport (and by "shuttle" I mean the big bus that takes forever to get anywhere because read my lips people, DISNEY DOES NOT DO ANYTHING QUICKLY), but as it turned out, we timed it right when our bus came so we didn't have to wait as long as we thought.

So basically, we ended up at the airport 3 hours before we were supposed to leave. No big deal, we figured, we'd just go to Fox Sports Grill and watch the Cowboys game (Read: Jack watches the Cowboy's game while Mandy re-reads "The Notebook" for the fourth time).

Our flight was delayed two hours. And then? After we got onto the plane? They had to delay it again another half hour. Mechanical issues and what-not. So basically we have been at the airport/on the airplane for the last 7 hours and are still in the air. And now Jack's doing the sleepy thing where he dozes off and his head moves forward or when he finally has his head back his mouth opens and then he'll wake up and realize it's open and close it and I'm all "Awww my husband is cute, but he's going to be mad that I blogged that."

There is another story from today. With a video and everything. But I shall leave you with this picture, and if you want to make me happy, you can name it or guess what's going on. The story will come later, when I have enough bandwidth to upload the video to youtube and enough battery on my laptop to get me through another blog post.


What's happening here?/Name this photo!

Orlando - Day 3 (Saturday)

Alternately titled: "Find the magic deep in your heart and chant 'I do believe dreams come true!'"

I met the girl of my dreams today.



Jack had to judge all day, which left time for Ellyn and I to meet up (and by "meet up" I mean "make her drive over an hour to my hotel with all of her children while I slept in.") and go play for a while before Jack could come meet us at Disney's Magic Kingdom.


After I got a text announcing her arrival (she sent it, in case there was any confusion about the existence of some texting service for anytime somebody arrived at our resort), I walked out into the parking lot to find a very flustered Ellyn with an apparently very blown-out diaper attached to a very cute baby. I offered to help, though I wasn't quite sure whether I would be able to figure out which end of a diaper goes up if she accepted the offer. She didn't, so instead I met and visited with Ava and Jace and left Ellyn to fend for herself with the diaper (after all, what are friends for?)

Jace hopped out of the car, clearly energized from the ride over, and began talking immediately.

"Guess what! My mommy has a baby in her tummy and we're going to name her ____!!"

Ellyn's and my eyes both got wide and I tried not to laugh as I told him I didn't think he was supposed to tell me that, since it was a secret. I felt bad for knowing when I shouldn't, but now that I do, I might as well say "nanny nanny boo boo, I know and you don't."


After a while of letting the kids play on the resort's beach/playground, we packed up and headed to the bus that took us to Magic Kingdom. I was shocked to learn that it's difficult to get on a bus with three children five and under and a huge stroller and a pregnant belly! So of course, I made the pregnant lady carry the huge stroller while I held and played with the adorable baby. Because really, helping pregnant women carry their many pieces of folded up stroller? Boooring. Blonde blue-eyed babies? Yes, please.


When we got to the park, it wasn't that crowded, but of course, that changed as the day got hotter. By the time Jack arrived at 4, the crowds were pretty thick and the sun was pretty intense, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the (mostly air-conditioned) rides.

On "It's a Small World," I was given the honorable responsibility to hold the red "timing" card while we were in line and hand it to the "cast member" at the front of the line before we got on the ride, so they could keep track of average wait time. Of course, since they handed it to me instead of, you know, somebody responsible, they didn't get their red timing card until after I had ridden the ride, therefore not getting an accurate wait time. So you're welcome, Disney, for my services. You let me know the next time you need them. I'm always willing to help.

I think it helps to have kids with you in the Magic Kingdom, since the shows/rides/everything about it are entirely too cheesy to enjoy through an adult's eyes. Also, the kid-rides are usually air conditioned. Also, ice cream. Also, parades and fireworks, and only one 4-year-old merchandise-related meltdown (those Disney sales people are pretty shameless with the kids - "Oh, what are you pointing at? You want this sword?" which prompts a "Oh yes! I do want that sword! I do I do I do!!!"). Actually, I think Jace's exact words were "Buuuuuuuuuuut I wannnnnnnt the swwwwwwoooooo-ho-ho-ho-ho-hooooooord!!!!!" And in his defense, it was 9 p.m., we had been running him around the park for eight hours, and the sword was pretty sweet.

There's not much more to say, other than to show you this:




...and wonder whether this woman cries a little every time she has to put this costume on.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Orlando - Day 2 (Friday)

Orlando - Day one (Thursday)

Today was lovely. Absolutely lovely.

Oh, except for the whole “getting up at 4 a.m.” thing. That wasn’t so lovely.

And the part with the mom from Long Island who watched her rambunctious daughter run around the airport screaming as we waited (for an hour!) for our “magical” Disney transportation to take us to our resort. The mom would occasionally shout out “Suzie! You get back in your stroller!” “Get back in your stroller NOW!” and, my personal favorite “Suzie, if you don’t get back into your stroller right now, you can’t go to Disney World with us!” Really, Susie’s mom? How exactly are you going to deliver on that one? Leave your devil child in the hotel room while the rest of you traipse off to see Mickey? I think not.

And when the child jumped in front of an innocent woman who was trying to get in line and refused to let her pass, and when that woman smiled uncomfortably at the lazy mother, hoping that maybe, just maybe, she would, I don’t know, control her child, it was no surprise when the mother gave a half-hearted “Suzie! Move out of the way! Get back in your stroller!” and the poor woman who was trying to get in her line had to physically move the unruly child herself, since the child had no incentive to actually obey her mother.

But really. Other than that, it’s been lovely.

Jack had his physical fitness test this afternoon. Basically, in order for black belts to test, they have to do a minute of pushups, a minute of sit-ups, a minute of punches on a bag, a minute of kicks, and a minute of punches and kicks. All the punches and kicks have to actually move the heavy bag, and the judges are very strict on the quality of pushups and sit-ups that they will actually count. It’s pretty hard core. The total count for all of these things must be 300 or above. Jack just about died after he had finished (actually, he couldn’t breathe and I was concerned he might pass out on our way back to the bus), but he passed and has resolved to be in better shape for the next one.


After his test (and the subsequent recovery from the test), we headed to “Downtown Disney,” a big boardwalk with overpriced Disney shops and restaurants. We had So. Freaking. Much. Fun!! We ate at a little seafood restaurant on the dock, where we could watch the people strolling on the boardwalk, the sun setting over the water, and the little boats driving in and out of the area.

The food was overpriced and subpar, and the menu was limited, but the margaritas were good and the company was flawless. Sometimes, during the long weeks in which we only see a few hours of each other, I forget how much I love being around my husband. I forget how much we laugh. I forget how well we fit. Thank God for vacations.

Jack ordered the shrimp and chicken ettoufee, and when it arrived, he began picking all the tiny pieces of green garnish off the top (this is a very common occurrence around our house, since Jack is so darn picky about the green things he eats).


“Sweetheart, why don’t you just eat the green things?” I asked, always amazed that he would go to that much trouble to remove something he wouldn’t even taste in the first place. He stared back at me.

“You’re not supposed to eat that,” he said, as if he were telling me that the sky was blue. “That’s grass.” I laughed as I looked down at it. It did look like grass.

When he had finished removing all the “grass,” he stabbed the biggest shrimp on his plate with his fork and held it up, making a really impressed yummy noise as he anticipated eating it. Then, without a second thought, he put it on my plate.

“That’s for you!” he said, smiling. I stared at him, stunned. Jack is an only child. Jack does not share food. He gets upset when I take a French fry or a sip of his Dr. Pepper. He hates sharing.

“Are you serious?” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Sure!” he replied, as he looked back down at his plate. “I have other ones!”

I thanked him, and a few minutes later, he asked me how many points that got him.

“Oh, that was definitely a four-pointer,” I replied.

“Woah!” he said, excitedly. “That’s almost as much as a present!”

Later in the meal, as I was eating, Jack opened one side of his straw wrapper and blew the other half at me with the straw. It hit me in the face, and I looked up, surprised.

“Oh no, Jack!” I said, feigning disappointment in him. “You just lost two points! That’s half the points you earned with the shrimp!”

Jack’s face fell as he considered the “points” he had just lost. (In case you couldn’t tell, Jack is pretty competitive, even if the game is pretend and there is no opponent.) Suddenly, his eyes lit up with an idea and he looked down at his plate.

“What about if I eat some of the grass?” he asked.




--

Of course, no walk down the boardwalk at Disney would be complete without ice cream at Ghirardelli.



When we got to that table, Jack and I both looked at it and hesitated. All of the tables were made to look like different Ghiradelli Chocolate Squares, and the "wrapper" on ours said dark chocolate mint. The first thing each of us thought when deciding whether to sit there was "but I don't like dark chocolate mint."

Fortunately, they didn't make us eat the table.

My ideal costume

A post Owen wrote about Jonah on Bible Dig recently reminded me of an Awana story.

Next week is Bible costume night (aka, Christian Halloween) at Awana, so after club on Wednesday Ashlyn and another girl were discussing possible costumes. Ashlyn indicated that she might like to be a fish, since there were fish in the Bible, and the other little girl looked at me.

"You could be a whale!" she suggested enthusiastically.

Um... thanks, kid. There's something every girl wants to hear.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The empty laundry basket

Jack, reading my blog and complaining about the times I write about silly things he says: "I just think you should write embarrassing things you do too."

Me, staring back at him in dumb shock: "I have an entire category full of almost 40 posts called 'Stupid stuff Mandy's done.' Why don't you take a look at that, and then maybe you'll understand that what I write about is completely fair."

Jack: "Do you have a category called 'Stupid stuff Mandy's said?'"

--

The "stupid thing Mandy said" that Jack was referring to:

Earlier, I was doing laundry (Pick yourselves back up off the floor. I know. Me. Laundry. It's shocking. I'll give you a minute.) and I found a few towels and a t-shirt in one of the baskets that I had stacked after I emptied them.

I wasn't sure if the towels and shirt were supposed  to go on the pile of clean laundry or dirty laundry, so I called out to Jack.

"Hey Jack?" I called. "Are the clothes in the empty laundry basket clean or dirty?"

"Um, the empty laundry basket?" he asked, tauntingly. "There are clothes in the empty laundry basket?"

Later, when he was asking me to get the clothes out of the dryer, I asked him where he wanted me to put the clean clothes.

"You can put them in the empty laundry basket," he replied. "The real empty one."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Unsolicited advice of the day: It's Generous to be Selfish

I am not a high maintenance gift receiver. I will take any gift at any time from anyone. I love gifts. Big, small, free, expensive, cheap. I don't care. Gifts, gifts, gifts. Gimmie, gimmie gimmie.

Now, before you start thinking I'm a selfish brat (possibly true), I would like to qualify that last paragraph my saying that receiving gifts is my love language. No really, that's a real thing. Jack's love language is acts of service.

So essentially, you can buy my love.

So it's no surprise that I really like my birthday month (I take the entire month of March. No joke.) and Christmas. And any other holiday I can get away with asking for presents for. I've even been known to get presents on somebody else's birthday.

So when somebody asks what I want for a birthday or Christmas? I have answer. For as long as I can remember, I've even had a wishlist on the web that I can direct grandparents/parents/family to when they asked what I wanted. It's not because I'm greedy, and it's not because I am upset if they go off-list to get something else they would think that I'd like. It's because I want to make their lives easier. Because it makes my life easier when I know what they want.

Anyway, for those of you who aren't quite so spoiled and bratty as I am, let me tell you why you should be.

Think about that person who is always difficult to shop for. Most likely, they either don't want anything (or won't tell you what they want because they don't want to put you out or seem greedy), or they buy themselves everything they want as soon as they want it. Boooo. That sucks for those of us who like to give presents (Yes. I do like to give them too. Love language, I tell you!).

For those of you who don't tell people what they want as not to put them out? Shaaame. Shame on you. Because it takes twice, nay, thrice as long to find a gift for you.

So start your lists before these here holidays, people. The great thing about the Internet Machine these days is that there are so many ways to keep track of your wishlist. Amazon! Target wishlist! Overstock wishlist! A blog entry with links! And my favorite way? Google Shopping List! Visit the site, search products, click "add to shopping list" when you find one you want, then click "share" under the item in your shopping list and instantly you have a linkable list you can share with your family.

Add a variety of items of various price ranges (I have everything from Lipton Green Tea to DVDs/CDs to a super-fancy SLR camera on mine) so that people can get you little things or big things.

When your friends don't have to think so hard to figure out what you'd like, they won't waste their money on things you won't want, and they won't waste their time trying to figure it out on their own.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

24 points

Today, Jack took me to dinner for our (my) birthday celebration. Since getting married, our (my) birthdays have been a little (a lot) overlooked, since our anniversary is right between our birthdays, which are only a month apart to begin with. We decided that waiting six months to do our annual "fancy birthday dinner" would be a good idea, so we could spread out the celebrations and actually celebrate my birthday because it's important for crying out loud!

Anyway.

We decided to go to Melting Pot, because we had never been there before and I had always wanted to go. The food? Ah-mazing. And I think I said "this is so much fun!" roughly 2,519 times.

Jack also surprised me with a birthday present, which was truly unexpected, since, you know, it's not my real birthday. I told him he got points for that, and when he asked how many, I told him "six."

"Six?" He asked.

"Yes," I replied. "You get six for a present, and seven for a fancy dinner. So you should note that you can get points much easier by buying small presents than expensive dinners."

"Oh I see what you're trying to do," he replied, playfully. "So what's my total point-count right now, then?"

"24." I replied, thoughtfully. "You have six for the present, seven for the dinner, six for Thursday's flowers, two because you went to work today, and three for working on the bathroom tile today."

--

At one point during the meal, we were waiting for another course and the flat burner in the middle of the table was still hot. Jack and I noticed the heat coming off of it and began talking about it.

"What do you think would happen if I put this almond on there?" he asked, pointing to an almond that had fallen off of his salad plate. I hesitated, and a huge smile spread across his face. "You want to see what happens, don't you?"

"Yes," I admitted. "I kind of do." So he pushed it on to the burner. And it wasn't all that interesting. He pushed it to my side with a fork. "Toasted almond?" he offered. He turned his attention back to the hot burner.

"What do you think would happen if I spit on it?" he asked, curiously.

"If you spit on that, I will not be happy with you," I warned, mortified that he would think of such a thing.  "That's definitely -30 points, which leaves you with a -6."

"That's okay," he replied. "That's only one present away from positive numbers."

--

In case you were wondering, Jack did not spit on the burner. He did, however, put a few droplets of water on it from his water glass. As anticipated, it sizzled.

Basketball

Jack turns the TV to basketball.

"We should watch a movie!" I say.

"No, we have to see if your brother's on TV," he says. I look up and see the Mavs on TV.

"Is it a Mavericks/Celtics game?" I ask.

"No," he says. "But I just wanted to make sure."

Doors

I'm a huge believer in God opening and closing doors.

During the months leading up to Jack buying his taekwondo school, he had everything in order to purchase it from his boss. He had a business plan written. A loan lined up. All he needed was for the leasing company to change the name on the building's lease from his boss's name to his own.

The leasing company said no.

So Jack got a co-signer. Surely with somebody with a lot of assets could help him get the lease in his name. They said no again, this time indicating that they wouldn't be interested in changing the name on the lease no matter who co-signed or what Jack did. Why take the risk when they're getting their money now, they reasoned.

Without the lease, he couldn't get the loan. Without the loan, he couldn't buy the business.

The door slammed shut.

And we decided that God was telling us to wait. So we did. And you know what? The economy took a pretty bad downturn after that. God had a plan.

When I was looking at colleges back in high school, I visited Texas A&M University, where I had a meeting with Dr. Ed Walraven, the head of the Journalism department and later my favorite professor. He got me incredibly excited about attending their school of Journalism and becoming a Journalist.

Right after I got accepted, the university decided that Journalism wasn't worth their time or money (what!?) and I was forced to choose another major.

The door slammed shut.

I ended up choosing Telecommunication as my major, which led me to internships in audio production, where I learned all about editing for podcasts, audio dramas, and radio programs. Now I work for an international Christian radio broadcast where I really feel like I make an eternal difference with my work.

I've had enough experiences with closed doors to understand that when something doesn't come together or gets ripped away from you, God has a hand on it and is putting things exactly where He wants them for something in His plan that's way better. So I've gotten good with the "no's." They're not always fun at the time, but God's plan is always better than mine. Always.

That's why when I started Survival Mode Parent last month, I didn't necessarily know what would come of it. It's not that I wasn't willing to work hard to make it succeed or didn't want to see it come together; it's just that I realize that there are so many ways the doors could close on the project if this isn't what God wanted me to do.

The doors aren't closing here. In fact, they're flying open so fast that they're hitting the wall behind them and bouncing back and smacking me in the face.

In a good way.

From the second I announced the website, people have been beating down my door (no pun intended) to help. My former Awana leader owns an embroidery store and donated all the SMP business cards and any other promotional items we need. (!) Someone offered to write press releases for me. (!) Almost 200 people from all around the country have signed up to volunteer. (!!)

And remember how I was trying to get stuff together for a raffle because it was going to cost $1,100 to get Survival Mode Parent set up as a real-live non-profit with tax exemptions? Well I was. Because I don't have an extra $1,100 laying around, believe it or not. And that's a lot of money.

Today, my neighbors came over. With cupcakes. And scrapbooking supplies they bought for me at a garage sale (SQUEE!). And after they gave me all that, they asked me a question.

"How much did you say you needed for the filing and lawyer fees for Survival Mode Parent?"

"Um, $1,100. Why?" I replied. Steve got out his checkbook.

"Because I want to cover it," he said, matter-of-factly as he wrote an $1,100 check.



(!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Evidently, every year for the last 20 years, my neighbor has been donating his extra paycheck to charity. His wife didn't even know about it. He just does it. Because that's the kind of guy he is. And this time, the charity he donated to was mine.

He said that was the first time he's ever seen me speechless. (Probably because it's possible that was the first time I actually have been speechless.)

We have everything we need to get our non-profit status. We will be protected from lawsuits and can accept donations for the organization. We can get SMP bank accounts and everything that's donated will be tax-deductible for the donors. I'm in awe of how God has provided for this organization.

The door swung open.

--

[By the way, I'm still going to do the raffle. No use wasting generous donations!! But now, the money can go to other things within the organization! Yippee!!]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why you shouldn't start requests with "Hey Mandy! You're crafty, right?"

Tiffany is an incredible story-teller. This makes her ideal for council time lessons. The woman has cross referenced scripture, props, drawings, and lists, and the kids are mesmerized (some more than others) every time. She comes prepared. So when it was time to tell the David and Goliath story to the kids, I wasn't surprised when she had a visual. A really large visual.

You see, Mr. Goliath the Philistine Man was 9 feet and 9 inches tall. Nine! Foot! Nine! And because it's easy to miss just how massive that is, Tiffany cut a piece of butcher paper to that exact length, to show the kids just how tall the big bad dude was. After she got it cut, she pulled me out of game time to help her.

And that's where it all went terribly, terribly wrong.

"Hey Mandy!" she said, unsuspectingly. "You're crafty, right?"

"Um. Yeah," I answered, hesitantly. "Why?"

"Well, I have this giant sheet of paper, and I want you to draw Goliath on it," she replied. "Mine would just be a stick figure. Can you draw one?"

"You mean, one that's not a stick figure?" I asked. Just a stick figure? What else is there?

Yes, I am crafty. But what Tiffany (and many others) fail to understand is that crafty people can't necessarily draw. I mean, I have the physical ability to draw, but it doesn't look like anything. I'm pretty impressed with myself when I doodle a ladybug when I'm bored in a meeting, or maybe a butterfly with the little dashes so you know where it was just flying.

Anyway.

All this to say, this was a bad idea, Tiffany. Bad idea.

Exhibit A:

Aubree and Ashlyn pose with Goliath.

So I started with the head. I wanted to make him mean and scary, so obviously I went with the bloodshot eyes, the toothy growl mouth, the angry eyebrows, and of course, the Ethan/Joe Jonas hair, mark of a true villain.


Stop judging me. His eyes might have been different sizes. And his ears might have been in completely different places on his head. You don't know what he looked like back then. Plus it gets so much worse.


Evidently Goliath had a girl neck, no shoulders, two different sized arms (with a tumor on one of them), and sported a J-Crew tee.


And levitating by his hip as if by magic, a shield. Contrary to what you may think, it is not an old-fashioned wagon wheel. Just in case there's any confusion.


And the pants. Oh, the pants. I'm not sure why he's wearing saggy pants. You would think with his inseam, he'd have a hard time finding them big enough in the first place, but too big? Who knew that was even possible?

And of course, we end with the shoes. Evidently Goliath needed special, corrective shoes since they're two different sizes and all. Also, fun fact: evidently Philistenes wore lace-up shoes and had two different ankle sizes.

I'll tell you one thing - I doubt Tiffany will be asking me to draw anything else for her. I think I'll stick with scrapbooking.

The Gourds

I went to the grocery store last night to pick up two things. Those two things, if you must know, were fresh green beans (for 79 cents a pound! Yippee!) and cream of chicken soup (which I evidently already had at home). But that's neither here nor there.

The point is, two things are all I needed. But if you know anything about me, you know that I did not come away with two and only two things. I'm easily distracted. I love sales and shiny objects. I'm a puppy. I get it from my mom.

So as I was walking into the grocery store, I noticed they had gourds next to their pumpkins. I had bought a $3.99 pumpkin for decoration a week or two before, but wasn't interested in the gourds at the time. They were kind of ugly, after all, and it was kind of a waste of money for a decoration that was going to rot on my front porch. That is, until I saw that the price had dropped to 39 cents. 39 cents isn't bad, I thought! I could spend 39 cents on another Fall decoration. So I grabbed three.

I did a little more shopping and came away with a few more than two things (I went a little crazy on the canned food aisle), but nothing we didn't really need. Except the gourds. But they were 39 cents. And that made me smart. Thrifty. A great shopper.

I headed to the open express lane, trying to count the cans of vegetables in my basket and wondering if each can counts as one item, because if so I had more than fifteen items, but if each type of item counts as one item, then I had less than fifteen items. And then I thought if I had just gotten the two and only two things I had come for in the first place, I wouldn't have the express line guilt.

The checker didn't seem to mind my possible express lane rule violation, so I began putting the cans on his conveyer belt. I placed my thrifty gourds on the belt and the cashier grabbed one, set it on the scanner, and typed in the code as he chatted pleasantly and complimented my blouse.

And that's when I saw it flash on the screen. $9.

For one of them.

That's right, folks. I had failed to notice that that 39 cents was indeed 39 cents per pound and evidently the green one I had randomly selected was 23 pounds.

I stared at the screen as he weighed the other two, adding another $4 and $2, adding up to a hefty $15 for three gourds. Gourds that were meant to sit on my front porch to possibly get stolen and smashed by some kids or, at best, rot into a disgusting mess I would remember to clean up and throw away only after they were mushy and falling apart.

As he made polite conversation, I contemplated telling him I didn't, in fact, want the 23-pound gourd (was it filled with gold or something?), but at this point there were people in line behind me and I could tell they were judging my express line rule violation. They were counting cans.

I went with the "pretending I didn't care that I was spending $15 on large decorative fruit (and yes, I did Google that and Mr. Wikipedia did, in fact inform me that a gourd is a fruit and not a vegetable) and tried to send out my best "What me? Be upset about spending 15 freaking dollars on gourds? No way. I spend this kind of money on non-essential and frivolous impulse buys allllllllllllll the time" vibe.

And it worked, evidently, because now I own $1.17 worth of $15 worth of gourds. And those trick-or-treaters had better enjoy them.

An email


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are any of my readers going on the MckCruise?

Leave a comment!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

If Sunday's supposed to be a "day of rest," I did it wrong

Today I...
  • Mowed the lawn
  • Cut all the bushes in the right half of my front yard down
  • Trimmed the tree
  • Swept front sidewalk and bagged all lawn clippings
  • Watched Cowboys win (and realized Jack will never, ever let me wear my Romo jersey again)
  • Blogged about the front yard
  • Went to Lowes and spent $220 of Jack's money on renovation-type things
  • Painted primer on the guest bathroom walls and ceiling
  • Vacuumed the living room and hall
  • Assembled a bookshelf
  • Completely rearranged the furniture in my office
  • Realized I missed a call from a lady at AWANA headquarters
  • Attempted to clean up from "cleaning" my office
So if you ordered a blog design from me and were wondering if I finished it this weekend? The answer is no. Sorry!

My sunflowers

I came home from work to find workers in my front yard. A lot of workers. They were almost finished with their work, and I was really quite shocked to find them all there.

You see, they were redoing all our landscaping, which I been wanting so much to do since before Jack and I got married. Turns out, Jack had hired a company to completely clear out the ugly old bushes that I hated and plant a beautiful new garden. He did it as a surprise for me, and surprised I was.

And it was gorgeous. The sunflowers stood out the most. They were absolutely perfect, and radiated cheerfulness. They screamed "your husband knows you so well!!" There were pinks. Blues. Oranges. Purples. I was captivated by its beauty and felt so blessed that my husband had arranged such a big gift for me. And as a surprise at that!

And then I woke up.

It was such a realistic dream (I've been having a lot of ridiculously realistic (and even some super-weird) dreams lately), that I actually asked Jack about it and checked our front yard. Alas, there was no beautiful garden out there. Just the same, sad, overgrown bushes. Sigh.

So that (along with today's crisp Fall weather and the fact that I didn't have much interest in watching football) motivated me to get back out into the front yard and once again, start digging.

You see, I've been battling with the front yard for a while. The bushes have been there for 12 years, so as you can imagine, the root systems of said bushes are quite large at this point.

In the Spring, we hired some kids to dig them out for us so we could start over. $250 later, we still had roots. Note to self: high school students are not reliable. So I started to dig them out myself. I got about 25% of the roots dug out by the time we started getting 105 degree days, and I'm sorry, but I'm just not that committed to the project. So they waited. And if you leave roots alone for a summer? They grow. And now it's Fall. And so not only did they still need to be dug out, but they needed to be trimmed down. So this week I've been trimming. And today I dug.


The day Jack and I bought it, crazy bushes and all - July 2008



And today


1997, right after my grandfather redid all our landscaping



Today

It's not finished (or close to finished) by any means, but it's progress.

Someday, I will have my sunflowers.

--

Sidenote: The nice thing about the house always being yours - pictures of it at all stages. This was right after we bought it in 1990. Yes, that's me in the little blue shorts, and my brother on top of the car. We were 4 and 7.


Friday, October 9, 2009

And my life just got better


 
I must have a to-do list. It's not because I'm some obsessive list-maker, or because I just like crossing things off (but I'm not going to lie, that's really great too). It's because if I don't have one, I forget things. Because I do a lot of things. So I bought one of these teeny-tiny composition books from CVS:




It's super-convenient, fits in every single purse I have, and does the trick. But every time I brought it out, my heart broke a little. Because seriously. Just look at it. It's so sad.

But not anymore! A little paper, glue, and Wishblade magic, and voila!



Warm fuzzies every time I have something new to do. Warm fuzzies.

AWANA stories this week

Before AWANA started, I was talking to the twin girls in my group about their birthday, which had been the day before.

"So, how was it?" I asked one of them, excitedly.

"Not so great," she answered. "It was our first birthday since our parents got divorced."

Ouch.

---

In council time, a boy was supposed to read a passage aloud from 1 Samuel.

"And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah..." he read, pronouncing "Elah" like "Ella."

Behind him, another little boy spoke up loudly.

"It's EE-lah," he corrected.

What the heck, kid? You're 8! I don't even know how that's supposed to be pronounced!

---

And my personal favorite:

I have this super-sweet, super-quiet, super-mature little girl in my group. She's seriously like a tiny adult. And I know I'm not supposed to have favorites, but let's be honest, she's totally one of my favorites.

As she said her final verse in a section, she made me laugh out loud.

"Romans 3:23," she recited. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Boo-ya!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A happy Thursday, indeed

He walked in the door after work and called out.

"Close your eyes and hold out your hands!"

I shut my eyes tight and held out my hands. I love this game.

Soon after, I felt the weight of a cold, round ball in my hands. I opened my eyes.

"Happy Thursday!" he said.



A happy Thursday, indeed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

People can't be trusted

I don't like to charge people ahead of time for their blog orders. Most designers do, but I don't. I want people to be super-happy with the test blog design before they commit to buying it.

I realize it's stupid. I realize I can easily put hours and hours of work into a design without any payment whatsoever. I realize that I've completely set myself up to get screwed.

But I want to believe in people.

And that's why during the last month, when two of my orders ceased communication with me right about the time it was time to pay, I made excuses for them.

Maybe they're out of town. Maybe she's just busy.

But then, she's still blogging on that beautiful new blog I built for her.

So now my excuse is that maybe my many emails and invoices have gone to her spam folder. I'm still hoping that she'll email me back with an excuse, any excuse, and then pay. Not because of the money (and not even because I paid quite a bit out of pocket for her illustrations from iStockPhoto), but because I believed in her.

And so I've been contemplating what to do in the future to protect myself from this. A down-payment from future clients? Maybe. Payment up front for an iStockPhoto image? Most definitely.

I can't believe in people after all.

But then I got something. Something that restored my hope.

The response to the email I sent to Shannon, the winner of the big blog makeover package for being a Survival Mode Parent volunteer. The response that said she was so excited to win, and could I just do her a favor and please please please not give it to her, and instead give it to another blogger who has a son who is fighting for his life?

The email that restored my hope in people. In women. In bloggers.

Call me naiive. Call me silly. Call me foolish.

But I will continue to believe in people.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Going digital?

I will never stop "traditionally" scrapbooking.

I love the feel of the paper, the velum, the ribbons, the brads, the ink, and the super-cool die cut letters I cut out on my wishblade. I love texture!!

And when you create that perfect page for that perfect memory? The page you want to look at over and over just because it's so flippin' pretty?

It's magical.

But let's be honest. It's messy. It's expensive. And it's very time-consuming. So it's nice to know that there's an alternative.

I have always resisted digital scrapbooking. I have yet to ever make a book from any of my designs, because if you're going to make a book, why not really make a book? (To be honest, even though I'm creating pages now, I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with them yet, since I still get prints of my photos to scrapbook!)

Unfortunately, that mindset is exactly why I have three partially-finished scrapbooks and thousands of photos unscrapped.

This week, I interviewed digital scrapbook designer Kelly from Late Night Scraps for my craft blog , and I love what she had to say about "beautiful" scrapbooking.

"The main concept of scrapbooking is to preserve your family memories," she said. "Your pages do not have to win awards to mean something to you and to your family."

I tell people this all the time, but to be honest, I don't want to practice what I preach because I'm such a perfectionist! I do want my pages to be so great that they win awards! (They don't.)

I think a lot of people shy away from scrapbooking because they don't feel like they're very creative, and at the same time, I think a lot of people shy away from digital scrapbooking because they're not super-computer savvy. And the non-creative person who's not computer savvy? They usually tell me to just forget about it!

But the bottom line is this: if you want to preserve your family's memories without sacrificing a lot of money or space, digital scrapbooking is the way to go, and here's why.

Cost
An entire digital kit of hundreds of elements will cost you about $5. At Hobby Lobby? Um, a lot more.


Quick page kits
Quick pages (QP) are a life-saver for new digital scrapbookers or for those wanting to save some time. Many times, these will come free with a kit when a kit first comes out, and all you have to do is add your photos and journaling and you have a perfect page in minutes.

"Buy my store" deals
A lot of times, when designers go out of business or move stores, they will do a big sale of everything in their store for a flat fee. I bought hundreds of dollars worth of digital scrapbook stuff for $25 from Creations by Rachael, and I did the same with Late Night Scraps when she moved stores.

Reusable materials
Like Kelly points out in her interview, you can use a digital scrapbook kit as many times as you want to. This is a huge cost-saving feature. Plus, digital scrapbook kits include so many more items than I would even think to buy at the store, and they can be re-colored and repurposed for other pages.

Freebies!
Some web sites have free digital scrapbook stuff (though it's very limited) that you can download and use for personal scrapbooking, and many times designers will put free downloads of add-ons or mini-kits on their blogs for you to download. A lot of designers also participate in blog trains, which get you a huge kit for free if you're willing to visit a bunch of designer blogs to download their stuff.

Some things to remember

  • You can't use a digital scrapbook kit for commercial purposes without a designer's permission. That means that when I sell a blog design to somebody using a designer's kits, I have to have the designer's permission to use that kit (or all their kits). Most of the time, you'll also need the designer's permission to use the kits on the web at all, so if you're designing your own blog with digital scrapbook stuff, you'll still need to ask. Free downloads are pretty much never able to be used for commercial purposes. I've found that most of the time, designers are completely awesome and will give you this kind of permission for kits you paid for.

  • Back up your data! I had a scare a few months ago because I lost the thumb drive on which I kept all my digital scrapbook stuff. I had hundreds of dollars worth of files on one and only one drive, and it was a really good thing I found it. Needless to say, the files are now on multiple hard drives.

  • Unzip your files right away. I downloaded one designer's entire store once, and instead of unzipping the compressed files immediately, I just put them in their folder to do it later. When I went to unzip them when I needed them, I found that some of them had been corrupted during the download and it was too late to re-download.

  • Pay attention to specials before you check out. A lot of times, a new kit will include the quick pages for free, but you have to have them in the cart for that to work. I've missed out on a few deals like that because I didn't pay attention to what was in the cart before I bought it.

For more tips on digital scrapbooking, check out Kelly's interview on my craft blog !

--

Also possible posts this blog series (we'll see how long it takes for me to actually write them!):

-A simple page-building tutorial
-Tips on creating a great page (digital or not!)
-Helpful tools in Photoshop Elements for digital scrapbooking

Would anybody care to see any of those posts? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Name this photo!

...or guess what's going on here.


As if blog design, a non-profit organization, AWANA, and a full-time job weren't enough...

Okay. I couldn't stay away. I'm re-starting the craft blog, because I'm excited to announce that I'm officially on the Creative Team for Late Night Scraps, a digital scrapbook designer who I love working with!

Look! A blinkie!

My CT


That's where I'll be posting all my designs every month when I get new ones! I am very excited to be on the team and to work with such a talented designer.

This is my first design for LNS, made from this kit, called Farm Fresh, which you can find here.



See? Cute! Especially if you have a farm. Or, you know, like fruit. Or Fall. Which I do, by the way. Like fruit and Fall. Not the farm thing. Hard to have a farm in Dallas.

Anyway.

Here are the pages I designed for this kit:




Friday, October 2, 2009

Two cravings satisfied


I could see Roy, G, AND Biv!

And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 





I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 



Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 



I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 



Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."



(Genesis 9:12-16)

*I may or may not have stopped on the side of the road on the way home from work to take these pictures. And I may or may not have gotten splashed with water from a car that drove by as I was taking these.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Waiting for my wife

We just watched "The Office," and in the promo for next week, Jim makes a rehearsal dinner toast to Pam.

"People said I was crazy for waiting this long," Jim said, "but I think I knew all along that I was waiting for my wife."

Jack listened to this and looked at me.

"I knew all along that I was waiting for my wife too."

"Awww," I cooed back at him.

Jack smiled. "Yeah, I was waiting for her to grow up!"

Shall you be my new romance?

I love musicals. Love them.

Live musicals, not musicals made into movies. With the exception of RENT, which is good no matter the medium.

There is absolutely nothing like watching the entire cast of "The Music Man" come on stage for their finale with actual trombones in a little theater on Broadway. Nothing like the feeling you get when Angel returns to the stage for his curtain call in RENT or the flurry of perfectly-choreographed activity during "La Vie Boheme." Nothing like the chandelier falling in Phantom of the Opera, and nothing like the sparkle of the solid-gold cast of "A Chorus Line" as they dance in front of the giant rotating mirrors during their finale.

But what I really love about musicals? The so-not-realistic love stories that go with them.

Mimi blowing out her candle over and over so Roger will relight it and she can stay in his apartment longer during their first meeting.

Marian the Librarian wistfully singing "Goodnight, my Someone," not knowing that her "someone" had just arrived in town and would repent of his swindling ways when he falls in love with her.

Warbucks telling Grace he likes her teeth crooked.

Lilli and Fred. Christine and Raoul. Collins and Angel. Emile and Nellie.

Anna, in her gorgeous ballgown, and King Mongkut singing "Shall we Dance?" and gliding around together as if they're floating on a cloud.

When the last little star has left the sky,
Shall we still be together
With our arms around each other
And shall you be my new romance?

My new romance.

It's no secret that our life is not like a musical. (Now that I think about it, that would be weird.) There's no choreographed dancing in our house (though occasionally there's some unchoreographed dancing in the kitchen), and the only singing we do together is terribly out of tune and to the blaring radio as we (sometimes unwillingly) peel wallpaper on a Sunday afternoon.

There's only us.

There's only this.


And although there are times that Jack sweeps me off my feet, most of the time what actually sweeps me off of my feet is more like, well, sweeping. Or mopping. Or doing the dishes. Or laundry. Or mowing the lawn.

My new romance.

Coming home to find the kitchen spotless is my new romance. Taking his truck to work because he's taking my car to get its oil changed is my new romance. Eating Wendy's fast food he bought for us so I don't have to cook on a weeknight is my new romance. And Jack getting up and cleaning up the dog vomit at 2 a.m.? Quite possibly the most romantic of all.

A new romance, indeed.

But if he's not doing those things? That's okay. We can just sit in our dirty house and cereal for dinner instead. Because that's romantic too.

After all, there's no day but today.

Some news. And oh, did you want to know who won? Well, okay.

  • Our main website, jackandmandy.com (the one I started before the blog and hadn’t been updated since I was a senior in college) has a new landing page! I’m so excited about it! It’s very simple, but it does point you to all my websites in an effective way, so I pretty much love it. Check it out !
  • I made some fabulous steaks Tuesday night. They were really tasty. I think the trick is to accidently leave them out overnight so you have the added mysterious excitement of wondering whether you’re going to get diarrhea and vomiting from the potential food poisoning. So far, the verdict is that they were safe. Knock. On. Wood.
  • I made it onto a Creative Team for digital scrapbook designer, Kelly, of Late Night Scraps ! I already love working with her for Blogs by Mandy , so this is quite a fun little gig. Plus it gives me a chance to actually do some digital page design, which I usually fail to make time for. I’ll be posting my first design on the craft blog (that's right: it's coming back!) when she officially unveils the new kit, but I wanted to mention that it’s coming!
  • Jack is ranked first in the world in taekwondo weapons, and we’re going to Florida in just a few weeks, where he will compete at a national tournament and I will get to see my super-lovely friend Ellyn . I could not be more excited about that trip.
  • I finally figured out how to make coffee correctly at work. Only took me a year and a half.
  • Survival Mode Parent has 160 volunteers! I’m very excited about this fact. Did you know you can request SMP business cards to hand out to your friends? Because you can. Also, the Google map of where all the volunteers live is so cool.
  • While we’re on Survival Mode Parent, I might as well mention that I met with somebody about forming a real, live non-profit organization and getting my 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status so that I can accept donations and the people or companies donating can get tax credit for them. It’s all very confusing and makes my brain hurt, but it’s necessary.

    Anyway, it will probably cost about $1,100 to get everything up and running, so I'm hoping to raise the money with a raffle or something. I will of course be offering some blog makeovers, but if anybody else has anything they can donate (Etsy sellers? Company reps? Anybody?), please e-mail me at mandy@survivalmodeparent.org . Your help is ridiculously appreciated, and it's a good way to drum up business for your product because I will be promoting the heck out of it.

Oh yeah, and did you guys want to know who the winners are for the Survival Mode Parent blog giveaways? What's that? You've wanted to know for two days but I've been a lazy douche and not posted it? Oh, okay then.

Congratulations to:

Kandis Albertson, winner of the single blog makeover from the promotion part of the contest!! Go congratulate her!!

And the winner of the four seasonal blog makeovers for volunteering is:

[Drumroll please]

[Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr]

[That was the best way I knew how to type out what a drumroll sounds like.]

[But looking at it now, it just looks like I'm cold.]

[Which I'm not really at the moment.]

[Remember in "The Office," when Michael does a drumroll and has to take a breath in the middle of it, because his is so long and lame?]

[That was funny.]

[Anyway.]

Shannon from Sunshine and Open Hearts! Head on over there an congratulate her too!

Congratulations, ladies, and thank you so much for promoting/volunteering for Survival Mode Parent. Please visit the Blogs by Mandy order form and fill out your blog order (and ignore the prices because it's freeeeee!)

I couldn't have done it without ALL of you, so THANK YOU!