Friday, November 30, 2012

So Long NaBloPoMo 2012, Looking Toward the Future

I bet you're all happy! The last day usually means that I take a blogging break for a bit. Can you just be quiet for a bit? I bet you're all thinking that.

When I started this blog in 2005, I had no clue where it would take me as a person, writer, friend and family member. The doors this blog has opened for me are amazing and mind bending at times. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would become the place it has become.

Simply put, that is all thanks to you, my readers. From my first readers on Myspace, to my first blogging friends, my family and now the Twitter world. Thank you for reading, sharing, retweeting and helping me reach a far greater audience than my circle in life.

If I didn't have readers, I wouldn't still be blogging. It's no fun talking to yourself. I love hearing how a blog has touched someone, made a difference or inspired change. When someone tells me they read my blog,  I am always humbled, floored and honored.

 I love having a place where my friends can share with others too.

 On this note, I would love to see more comments. Don't worry, I don't bite and would love to hear your thoughts. It is super easy to comment, you can sign in with Facebook or Twitter. You can even leave anonymous comments. I try to answer every comment back and they truly are the payment for blogging.

I am also asking for feeback for the future. What would you like to see more of? What would you like me to write about? Anything you want to see featured? Constructive critcism? I am open to kind thoughts and words.

Also, would you like my Facebook page? Sign up for my email list? Share my blog with others? All of these things will help this site continue to grow.

Interested in guest blogging? I am always looking for submissions. I do reserve the right to decline but I am open to almost anything you have in mind. I would love to share my place and share with my readers another point of view.

Thank you for reading, encouraging and loving me along the way.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Lori, Vidya and Tiybor for constantly retweeting my blog. It is appreciated and it  does make a huge difference. Also thanks to Azu for sharing my post on Facebook.

Thank you to all who've recently retweeted me, it really means the world to me every time my blog gets retweeted. The benefit of having a super memory, I remember each one.

Thank you to Mary for guest blogging for me this month. Thank you to Bob for the blog link. Joel for the support and content.

To my Brown family,cousins, and parents for letting me use them as a source of material and supporting me. Without our story, Just Jules really wouldn't exist.

Thank you to Di for starting me off writing every November. Thanks Dan and Stephanie for writing a long this month.

Most importantly, thank you to Marty and the kids. I wouldn't be able to share our life without your support and encouragement. I know sometimes it is annoying and bothersome. Thank you for loving me and letting me blog.

I cannot wait to see where the future takes Just Jules. I hope you all join me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jules the Tenderhearted

Tenderhearted, sensitive, thin skinned, sappy, emo, soft hearted, cry baby, overly emotional. Words that I have heard over and over my entire life. I am a sensitive person with a big heart, I wear my heart on my sleeve for all to see. For years and years, I have worked hard to change, adapt and assimilate to this character trait. In the end, I've found it is a gift and I am thankful for it.

When I was a little girl, my parents took me to see the new Benji movie in theaters. It ended up they had to take me from the theater screaming and crying, "Help him, help him find his family." I remember being carried up the aisle by my Dad. I was only about three years old and already showing my heart for the hurting and the lost.

In my school days, it was rough being a sensitive girl. Often a harsh personality, a confrontation or even a joke could make me cry. My poor friend Rico and I had some doozy of battles but he was the first person to really tell me to get a thicker skin aside from my family.

I often drove my family crazy,taking everything to heart and personally. I often got in trouble for my crying episodes some of which were wrong at times.

As a married woman, it would often cause issues in fights. I always ended up crying and my husband didn't really know how to handle that. For years, I prayed for God to change me and make me a thicker skinned person.

I didn't want to cry over everything. I didn't want to be overly emotional, why couldn't I just be like everyone else and not care?

Eventually a series of events led me to go to counseling and learn to control my emotions. I learned my emotions are a wonderful gift, if kept in check and used for the right purposes. I learned how to work on dealing with tough situations and take every thought capitive.

I eventually learned that my sensitivity is a gift. It helps me be sensitive to the hurting, people who just need a kind ear and a hug. It isn't a burden when you are using it for the right purposes.

As the years have come and gone, I have met many wonderful people. I have learned to care less about what others think, to blow off things that don't matter and not cry over everything. I used to cry everyday, now I don't.

This sensitivity comes with another gift of being able to have a "spidey sense" as one friend puts it about others emotions and feelings. I am often dead on the money when someone is hurting or needs prayer. They are often thankful for my tenderheart in their time of need.

My good friend Joyce once told me, "if you didn't cry, your head would burst. Let the tears flow"

Sometimes I cry when I am happy, when I am laughing really hard, I cry when someone truimphs, I cry at the agony of defeat in sports, I cry at sappy movies and commercials.  I cry when someone else is hurting and it is something that I wouldn't change for the world.

When a friend is sad, I am the first to give a hug and a listening ear. I often am the first person people come to when they need a shoulder to cry on, when they need prayer and a safe place to share.

I've never struggled with depression or low self esteem. My sensitivity has nothing to do with either of those things. I just have a marshmallow for a heart and I wear that heart where everyone can see it.

I work on it everyday, making sure I learn to keep my emotions in check and using them for the right purpose. As the years go by, I get thicker and thicker skin. Sometimes my emotions get the best of me, now I realize that and immediately start to put them in check.

 I learned when Marty was sick that life is short and for so many years, I let small things rob me of my daily joy.

This can be a process at times, It can take a while for me to let things go but I eventually do.

Life is good, life is really good. I have learned to let the small things go, enjoy each day and not to sweat the small stuff.  I know what is important in life and what isn't, I learned that the hard way. Recently the death of my friend has put many of these things in perspective again. It was her motto and I promised to live that everyday.

As my title states, I am Just Jules and I am happy with who I am. If you don't like it, then I am sorry to hear that I am not going to worry about that. Not everyone has to like me and I am finally okay with that. Life is really good and I am happy with that.

A/N But if you hurt one of my friends or family, I do have a harder time letting that go. Make fun of me all you want but you better not make fun of them. Then I get mad.

Also thanks to my friend Tiy for the blog idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Time Machine Tuesday: My Love of Music

The final Time Machine Tuesday of NaBloPoMo 2012! Does anyone even read these things? Do you like them? Should I keep this feature next year?

I love looking back from where I have come as a person and writer. It is truly one of my favorite features and I think Elizabeth's too.

My first time seeing Tears for Fears after being a fan for over 25 years

The burning question: Why does Christmas music make you cry?

 Christmas 2007 was awful

My first time meeting NKOTB, such a dream come true

My interview with Jill and Kate, a great new act and a great album to buy for Christmas

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Happy Birthday Kyle

I must admit, I am already in tears and I haven't typed a word. This is going to be a hard blog to write for me and is one of the most painful stories of my life. I have been stewing over this for a month or so now.

 If you are a long time reader, friend or family then you will know that I love my cousins. They are truly my closest friends in life. This story is much different than the others and something that I hope with time will change. As you know, I always strive for transparency and honesty on this blog. You all know that I am also a Pollyanna with unending hope.

To my cousin Kyle on his birthday:

Kyle is one of only two cousins on my Mom's side. He is a few years younger than myself closer in age to my sister Carrie. He is the only child of my Mom's brother Greg. Two cousins you think would be easier to know than 12 cousins, right? wrong.

Kyle and I holding hands in a picture with my parents and sisters.

We grew up the first few years of his life being baby sat by our Gramie. I remember watching cartoons with him, eating breakfast with him, watching him crawl up on the counters, playing with his ping pong gun and army men toys. I loved spending time with him at Gram's house.

An almost complete picture of my Grandparents with their grandchildren. Kankad, Gramie, Kim, Julie, Kyle and Carrie

They were truly wonderful times and I am thankful for my super memory that can recall them in a instant. I never knew that I would have to hold on to them for a lifetime. After my Kankad passed away, life changed drastically for our family.

Sadly, Kyle's Dad didn't live up to his responsibilities and his mom Teri was faced with a tough choice. She had to not let Kyle visit any longer. As a mother, I applaud this choice and to this day think she made the right decision in a difficult circumstance. It is tough to be a mother and not have support. I will always stand by her decision. It was truly my uncle's fault and he never made a move to change it. Something that I have worked years and years to let go of.

I remember crying and crying about not being able to see Kyle anymore.I remember driving by his house and seeing him outside, yelling that we loved him. Then he didn't go to the same school anymore and I didn't see him on the playground.

Years passed, 11 years if I am not mistaken. We didn't see Kyle and then one day in 1995 a miracle happened and Kyle showed up at my Gramie's house. He wanted to see his Dad and his mom took him to visit. I remember rejoicing that we could see and hug Kyle again.

On the very best day of my life, my cousin Kyle was there! He was at my wedding and I have complete family pictures. 

Clare ( my adopted British sister), Aunt Jeanette, Mom, Shawn ( ex brother in law), Gramie, Kelly Ann, Teri, Kyle and Uncle Greg.

This next picture captures one of the best moments of my adult life

Kyle hugging me on my wedding day

Sadly, my uncle never changed even after his second chance. More bad choices were made and Kyle went away again. I admire you for making such a big effort to get to know your Dad. I will always be sad that in the end not even his son could get through. I am so thankful that you tried and were there even at the very end.

 Thankfully Myspace was created which reconnected me with Kyle. We have been online buddies for years. Social media has brought us together and for that I am so grateful.

I have found that we love much of the same music, we share a mutual love of A Christmas Story. He is wickedly funny with a strong sarcastic gene. He is a hard worker, a faithful husband with a very full and promising life. He is one of two remaining with the Davis name.

Hopefully someday we can meet again and visit. I will always be here for you Kyle and hopefully someday we can be close. All I can do is show you that I am different and a really good cousin to my other cousins. I may not see you, talk to you often but I love you just as much as the others.

Happy Birthday Kyle, you have a very special place in my heart and I wish you all the best in life. You deserve happiness, light and joy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Love Carries on Through Cooking

"Thankful for tradition. Going through pantry making sure I have everything I need for Thursday, thinking we always make the same things and realizing that's what its all about! Family, tradition, and still tasting moms cooking even though she is no longer at our table."

Last week my Aunt Maggie posted that as her Facebook status. It was profoundly touching and really moved me. She put something into words that I hadn't ever been able to get down on paper or in a coherent sentence.

I love the song "There is No Place Like Home for the Holidays" every time I hear it my mind immediately goes to my grandparents home at the holidays. Even though their home is gone and I live far away from my family through cooking I am never very far away.

We were raised steeped in tradition at the holidays. My Grandmother loved the holidays, she had the most beautiful home at the holidays and her food always tasted good. We just never thought of the day she would be gone and we would be left to carry on the traditions.

Grandma's beautiful tree

Last week, my friend Mary asked for a stuffing recipe. Our family makes the easiest, most flavorful stuffing recipe that grandma passed on. For me that happened over the phone after I had moved away from home and family. I never had written it down, simply put I hear Grandma in my head when I go to make it. The recipe is in my head and I like recalling the phone conversation where she taught me. I wrote it down for the very first time to share with her. ( she loved it by the way)

This year was my cousin Caiti's first year away from home and family. It has always amazed me how I can live a few hundred miles away yet still eat the same meal as my family. The recipes and traditions have allowed me to carry on far away from home. I make all the same dishes as my family by myself every year for my own family.

This year as I was cooking, I thought about Maggie's quote and realized that Grandma is never very far. I could feel her close while making the stuffing. I can always go "home" to my childhood, when I smell the food cooking and the smell of " home" invades my home.

Traditions and recipes are a way to stay behind and love our family someday when we are gone. They are a mother's love for her children leaving a part of herself behind. I love cooking my grandmothers recipes and feeling them near once again. 

Now we are teaching our children the recipes and traditions to carry on, My kids already know the menu and shopping list by heart. Elizabeth is already asking about our cookie baking list for next month. Conner already knows how to make the cranberry relish on his own.

Someday when we are gone, the traditions of grandmother and great grandmother will live on. In fact, yesterday I made a apple cake recipe of my Aunt's which is the closest recipe to my Nana's recipe. I can still see my great grandmother making that apple cake for me in Kansas. Tasting that is like sitting in Nana's kitchen in Pittsburg.

Grandma, Gramie and Nana are never coming back but I still feel the close in the kitchen and home. I am thankful for a family that teaches each other tradition and honors our elders. I am thankful to have learned from wonderful women and help carry on their legacy. 

Thankful that someday, my children will carry the legacy on also. The saying is true, " A Mother's love lives forever"

Do you have family traditions? Recipes that you make? Do you have things that bring loved one's gone before us closer?

A/N Thank you Maggie Z for allowing me to quote you. Also to my friend and reader Teri for asking me to write a blog on this subject.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

365 Days of Thanks

My friend Joel over at Reasons2Ride wrote a blog on Thanksgiving yesterday. This has led him to start a new Twitter project 365 days of thanks. His idea is why do we just spend one day being thankful? We need to be thankful 365 days a year.

He is challenge others to live with a attitude of gratitude daily. Instead of focusing one day, week or month out of the year on thankfulness, why not focus daily? It is a practice that I have long tried to adhere to myself. I used to focus on the negative and worry constantly. A few years ago, I decided to practice positivity instead. It changed my life drastically and I am so thankful that I started doing it.

Joel asked if I would share this and ask my readers to join the challenge. Simply add the hashtag #365DaysofThanks to a tweet everyday with something you are thankful for. Join the challenge for the next year and follow along.

I have found that a little bit of positive goes a long way. It encourages others to do the same and soon we have more good to focus on than bad.

Today I started the challenge and hope you do too!

Read Joel's blog on Thanksgiving:
Tweet Joel:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Need Christmas Card Pictures? Photo Gifts? Try Mailpix

I am so thankful to be a part of the Mailpix affiliate program. I have recently started using their service and love it. It is the best picture service I have used by far and makes uploading a snap.

On Mailpix you can sign into your Facebook and Instagram account to print pictures with the click of a button. I tried it and it is so simple. I was even able to order a picture for a friend who posted a great picture on her account.

My parents love picture calendars using Mailpix makes it so much easier. In the past I would have to download pictures that I had on my phone to the computer and they never looked right. This way I just sign into Instagram or Facebook, click and they are uploaded.

Today they are having a Black Friday special along with several Christmas specials. Just click on the ad in the blog and it will take you to sign up.

I am using the 100 free 4x6 promo for my Christmas cards this year. Who doesn't want 100 free prints to put in Christmas cards?

MailPix 100 Free Photo Prints

Check out Mailpix for all your holiday photo needs

*disclaimer* I was not paid for this post. All opinions and content is mine. I do however earn a commission from all sales made from this blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Jules is Thankful for? Thanksgiving 2012

It is no secret that I haven't had a life filled with sunshine and roses. It has often been filled with trials and tribulations since I was very young. There is one secret that I've never shared........I wouldn't change it for the world.

Those trials and tribulations have made me, who I am and I happen to like who I am. I have so many blessings to be thankful for and have lived quite the adventure.

Thankful for Marty and our 16 years of marriage. He has been very supportive and helped me overcome many obstacles and challenges in life. He also is supportive of my crazy whims. Thank you for being a hard worker for our family and taking care of us.

Thankful for Conner who brings me so much joy. I never imagined I would have a son and I am so thankful that I do. He is a great kid.

Thankful for Elizabeth. I love having a daughter who is smart, funny, independent and thinks for herself. She is one strong willed child and I know she will be successful in life. I love her sharp wit the best, she had a gift her momma only wishes she could have

Thankful for Jerry and his family. Thank you Debbie for honoring Jerry's wishes and giving our family new life. You didn't just save one life, you saved four lives.

Thankful for my Dad, he is one of my best friends and confidant. Thankful for his support.

Thankful for my Mom, thanks for all you've done for me this year and for being so supportive.

Thankful for my grandparents. They may be gone but are never far away. Like Aunt Maggie said, Grandma lives on through her cooking and recipes. I may be far from family but we are always together with food because Grandma made sure of that.

Thankful for the Brown family. My Aunts who have taught me so much, my Uncles for always being a fun part of my life. Most of all my cousins who fill my heart with joy and love. Thank you all for being there for me and supporting me.

It is no secret that I am blessed in the friend department. Not many people can say they have thousands of friends all over the world.

Thankful for my sisters of the heart for taking me on and being my sisters. Thankful for your unconditional love and support.

For the Fitzpatrick family. So thankful Jim came into my life at five and has been a constant support. When he married Jen that only brought more love and support.

Thankful for my childhood friends who have stayed the course.

Thankful for my high school friends who have continued to be some of my best friends in life and strong allies. Even though I haven't seen some of you for years, you have always remained close.

Thankful for my Disney friends. What a blessing to be part of the fraternity/sorority of Disney. Such wonderful women and men to have known throughout my adult life.

Thankful for my Visalia friends. I know our time is coming to a close. I can never thank you enough for all you've done for our family throughout the years. You've helped me raise my kids, walk through so many trials and loved us. I hope you all know that even though we don't live close, we will always be friends.

Thankful for our Parkside Chapel family. Such a supportive church that has been there for us throughout the years. What a wonderful place it has been to raise our children. They have had many grandparents, second parents and friends through this church. We are sad that our time there is coming to a close but so thankful for the firm foundation that has been laid.

Thankful for my friend Stacy. Who knew that following a celebrity on her site would lead to a long standing ministry and that we would be pioneers. Thanks for staying the course and helping me grow.

Thankful for my prayer group of 8 lovely ladies. I never imagined a silly television show would bring you into my life and I am so thankful it did. You all have been such a blessing to me and have become family. Look forward to the day we can all be together.

Thank you to my Blockhead sisters for making this year so wonderful. Thank you Lori, Andrea and Lindsey for helping make my longtime dream come true.

Thankful for my Twitter friends round the world. Who knew that I would become friends with people far and wide via social media. You all have taught me so many things and my life is better for knowing you. The Twi community, the cycling community, the blogging community, the Tears for Fears community and the BH community.

Thankful for my job.Thank you Kyler, Kavicka, Kelly and Kanaan for taking a chance on me. Glad to know your family and work for you. I love laughing with you guys everyday.

Most of all, thank you to the supporters of Just Jules for the phenomenal year. I never imagined this little mommy blog would grow into what it is today. I could NOT have done it without readers and supporters. I am so grateful for everyone who clicks on this blog and hope it brings you joy.

My life is full and blessed. I have so many blessings in life and thankful that God has blessed me beyond measure. I am truly thankful everyday and make gratitude a part of my daily routine. I don't need just one day to be thankful. I am thankful everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finding Purpose in the Pain: When Outsiders Just Dont Get It

My monthly contribution to Finding Purpose in the Pain

Finding Purpose in the Pain: When Outsiders Just Dont Get It: I’ve been praying for all of you to be blessed with support and understanding from others in your lives. Praying for God to bless you ...

Time Machine Tuesday: E's Choice

Very often late at night, I hear Elizabeth laughing in her bed. She loves to search this blog and read old posts about her and Conner. Last week, she was doing this once again and the thought crossed my mind to have her pick this post. ............................................. ( she wouldn't say why she liked this one) I laughed at this one because Conner says "i'm turning the big 1-0" but his fingers were backwards!! I like this one because it has shown how much me and my brother have grown since then This one is funny and it shows how MAD I got at conner. and my facial expressions are priceless.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Go Read: Bob Rides A Bike: The Baby & the Bathwater

Since Mary shared on Just Jules, there have been others coming out to share their personal stories. It has caused a lot of people to stop and think.

Bob is a great Twitter cycling friend and a Packer fan. He is a long time LiveSTRONG supporter who has ridden RAGBRAI many times. He posted a great piece on his blog today. Instead of writing a blog about myself today, I want you all to go support Bob.

Bob Rides A Bike: The Baby & the Bathwater: Over the last couple months I have been thinking about my relationship with LIVE STRONG . I think many of us that have fundraise for the org...

Conner as "The Tramp"

For years, Conner has shared my love of silent films especially Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. A couple of years ago, he received a cane and the idea to dress as Chaplin was born. This year he finally made it a reality.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The B and F Driving School

On Wednesday when it was Conner's birthday, my Aunt left a comment on his Facebook profile that made me laugh. She told Conner he was getting old enough to drive and needed to come to her special driving school. It made me crack up hysterically fueling the idea this story needed to be told. It also goes hand in hand with complaints from my Dad about the way I drive when he rides with me.

One Saturday when I was thirteen years old, my aunt Maggie and I were out for a drive in her red Ford Blazer. We had many fun times in that car and she drove us girls all over in that car. This particular Saturday she drove me to York field parking lot and told me she was going to teach me how to drive. Maggie is only 11 years older than I am and was in her early twenties. She told me not to tell my parents and I loved it. She taught me how to park, start the car, reverse and everything. We did this many Saturday mornings for a long time. Nobody ever knew and it was a fun secret to have.

Later my cousins and sister joined in on the fun all while our parents remained in the dark. Not sure how old the other girls were when it became their turn to learn. Maggie was the coolest aunt ever in our eyes!

One day, my Mom and I were grocery shopping and she became very ill in the store. She nearly passed out and wondered how would we get home? I calmly smiled and said, "Don't worry Mom, I know how to drive! I can drive us home!" Imagine the look of shock on her face ( I am laughing hysterically just typing this out.) that her 13 and a half year old knew how to drive. It was two blocks and I got us home safely.  There was a long conversation about how Aunt Maggie had been secretly teaching me to drive. My mom was thankful in that moment.

I think our driving school stopped after that until I was old enough to drive. I don't think my parents were amused by this news at first! I really don't know since I missed out on those conversations.

A few years later, I was sixteen and babysitting regularly for our friends the Fitz's every weekend. Mr.Fitz decided that I needed to learn to drive stick shift to drive their cars. So Saturday mornings on the way home from my Friday night sitting gig, he would take me out driving. I remember many frustrating times at stoplights where I would stall out when the light turned green. I also remember one time girls driving by and laughing at me as I jerked  the car up a hilly intersection.

It was during this time that I picked up a driving habit of Jim's. His wife Jen once told me that Jim never liked to go the same way twice into their neighborhood and often took "short cuts". To this day, I always have a particular way of going certain places. It drives my Dad insane and he always says "Why can't you drive in a straight line!!"

My answer, "Please forward all complaints to the instructor at Fitzpatrick school of driving please" while I smile and laugh.

I truthfully think my Dad and Mom owe Jim and Maggie a great thanks. They never had to suffer through the task of teaching me how to drive. I also have never caused or been in one accident since driving at the tender age of thirteen. I am a excellent driver! I went on to teach Marty and others to drive stick and am so thankful to have learned to drive stick.

I am also grateful for the funny memories that make me smile and laugh. I was driving with my Dad tonight and he was complaining about my driving and I just smiled while mentally writing this blog in my head.

Thanks Mags and Jim!

P.S.  Maggie and I have children close in age. My cousins were threatened within a inch of their life to NOT teach her daughter Alex how to drive without her permission.

Friday, November 16, 2012

When a Book Becomes More

A few years ago, my bowling partner told me to read the Twilight Books. I had heard of them on television and knew my twelve year old cousin Alex was reading them. I really don't like vampire stories and was reluctant to read them.  Marty once took me to see Interview with a Vampire on a date and lived to regret it. I showed up to my grandparents house at five a.m. the next day terrified. I like to read anything but Sci-Fi, Horror, Westerns, or Suspense. I really like biographies, romance and historical fiction.

I am really big on not judging a book by it's cover for people but often will skip over a real book. I totally judged the Twilight books. So I took our bowling partner Tammy's advice and I read the first book. I read it so fast I was calling my friends teen son to bring me the next book. I read the entire series cover to cover in seven days. I had just missed the first film in theaters and had to wait for it to come out on DVD.

I loved the story of true love waits and conquerors. I loved the characters and it really took me back to all the feelings of being a teenager. These aren't the best books ever written and in fact, the last book is so over the top that most cannot stand it.

It was during the wait for the DVD of the first film I started reading about the actors in the films. I at first didn't like the casting and felt several of the actors were all wrong. This story is a great visual story and you definitely have a clear picture in your head while reading them. During my search for info on the actors I came across a small website dedicated to them. Through this website I was introduced to women all over the world.

I became part of a club of sorts. People who felt passionate about this story, the films and a couple of actors in the films. It led me to reading original works of fiction that were based on the Twilight characters. From this I met several talented writers some of whom have gone on to re-work and publish their stories.

I have been supported by these women, supported these women. We talked life, family, kids, prayed for them and shared some great memories. When Marty was sick, this franchise gave me a much needed outlet and distraction. I often feel like the diversion saved me from a nervous breakdown.

 Today as I sat in the theater watching the films, I was filled with so many emotions. I saw Twilight for the first time on the big screen and finally came to love it.

I remembered waiting for all of the films to be finished and seeing set pictures and leaks with friends. I remembered the days of wondering if Rob and Kristen were a couple and the search for information on that.

This became about so much more than a book, a film or a story.

From sitting in lines for a midnight showings with my friend Heather three times. Sharing it with my friends kids and my friend Sam. I've never so anxiously awaited a film from books that I loved. We loved watching them together and dissecting them to nitpick whether the film makers got it right or not? For me, I really have never loved one of them until today. Tonight for the first time, I walked out of the theater happy about the film. The second part of Breaking Dawn had a lot to capture and they got it right.

If I hadn't of read the books? I would have missed out on so much. Most importantly, the countless friendships around the world this book brought. Fanette from France? met via Twilight. My beloved friend ALE? met via Twilight. The list of names goes on, someone from every walk of life from countries across the globe.

This book became more than a book. As the last scene played out tears fell down my face. Tears of sadness the series has ended, tears because I wish ALE were here to see it, tears from so many wonderful memories since 2008. I am so glad that I took a chance and left my comfort zone, I would've missed out.

I've often hidden this little secret hobby of sorts but today I feel the need to share. Call me silly, call me a nerd, call me a dork, judge my choice of reading material, do whatever you like. This is purely a Just Jules sort of moment. I am who I am and not ashamed to say it.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Throwback Thursday

Since I had my VIP guest post on Tuesday and skipped Time Machine Tuesday, I thought that I would have Throwback Thursday instead.

Today I am spending the day with one of my Sisters of the Heart, Heather  she has been one of my closest friends living in Visalia. We love Twilight and today are going to a all day showing of the Twi movies together that ends with the premier of Breaking Dawn 2. We are nerds but happy nerds.

Have you ever seen me use the term "SOH" and wonder what I am talking about? Someone at Mixtape thought Andrea was my sister. She isn't by blood but she is in my heart.

I often talk about my Sisters of the heart, there are quite a few of them. A girl with a broken heart over two sisters ended up with so many wonderful sisters that sometimes she can't even count! I have sisters in the UK, sister in France, Sisters spread far and wide across the US. I am a very blessed girl in the sister department. It has taken many years for me to say that but it is the truth and my heart is full not broken any longer.

The story of Sisters of the Heart

Some of my sisters are sob sisters

Some of my SOH's are "sister cousins"

My side of the story of my relationships with my blood sisters. All opinions are mine and my feelings alone.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy 15th Birthday Conner

Seems like just yesterday that I was wishing Conner a Happy 10th birthday on this blog and here we are five years later. I don't write much about the kids anymore, they are getting older and really don't like me sharing too much. I will always write them a birthday blog though as long as this blog exists.

Conner was born a month early, I should've known then he would be a busy one. He has kept us on our toes since the minute he was mobile. He always has a project to do or something he is working on. He can really do anything he sets his mind to. The past year he has learned to work leather, repair our bikes, and sharpening knives is his newest endeavor. He makes us laugh with his "Connerisms" and happy go lucky personality.

What I really want to focus on his Conner's heart. He is the kindest 15 year old boy I know with a heart for others. He brings so much joy to all who know him especially his Dad, myself and his grandparents. He also has a large following of people at church who love him dearly. We often are told of his great character and our so proud of him

My favorite thing about Conner is he has a heart for those who often the world overlooks. One of his first good friends is Carol, a daughter of a family we know. Carol has Down's syndrome and can't really communicate. Conner learned how to communicate with her and has always been a good friend to her throughout the years. I told her mom that someday I could see Conner being a caretaker for Carol in their adult lives. I know he also listens to many kids in youth who are struggling with life, he always gives them a listening ear.

This summer our friend Fanette brought her sons David and Vincent to come visit. She loved their interactions on Skype and couldn't wait to meet him. She had originally not wanted to bring David who has severe autism, she thought he wouldn't be able to handle the trip. Conner and Vincent had already become friends and looked forward to meeting. She was scared because she thought David wouldn't be able to communicate and the change may scare him.

When David came, he immediately bonded with Conner. Not only did he immediately begin speaking English but he became a friend to Conner. During the trip we went sightseeing all over California and something began to happen. While at theme parks David would hold our hands something that is his custom and he really wanted Conner to hold his hand. Most teenage boys would shun and push away but not Conner. He held David's hand without shame and even a bit proudly. That is just the kind of guy Conner is, a truly beautiful soul.

Conner making Vincent laugh in the Skyway

Conner made David laugh the entire time he was here.

We are proud of you buddy and the man you are becoming. So hard to believe you're already fifteen and in just three short years will be graduating and turning 18 years old. Keep loving the Lord, others and just being yourself.

Conner has always had his own sense of style. His new pompadour look

Conner's birthday blogs through the years

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Blog: Lance by Mary Rumiano

One of the best things happened last week, one of my favorite people and cycling fans Mary approached me and told me she would like to guest blog for me. She needed a place to share her feelings and asked if I would let her? I am honored that she thought of me and that my friends know Just Jules is a place for them to share. Mary was one of my first friends in the cycling community and a truly beautiful soul. Not only has she been kind to me but she has befriended Conner and Elizabeth also. I also think she is one of the well loved people in the Twitter cycling community. We all love Mary!

 Here is her story:

Lance by Mary Rumiano

It all started when my friend Terri told me about the new 'Livestrong' bracelets that were out.  Being a huge cycling and Lance fan, I had to have one. That was so cool to give a dollar and get this bracelet that meant so much to the cancer community.  I was very proud to wear it and 'represent'.  I wore that one and many more as I broke them, for 8 years. Then on September 30, 2012 I did the unthinkable.  I took it off. 

Let me tell you my story.

I bought my first real bike to ride in 1986.  It was a Trek road bike with a double crank and a 6 speed cassette.  Didn't know much about bikes then and thought it was pretty cool. It weighed about 30 pounds but it was pretty fun to start riding.  I had been watching the Tour de France for a couple of years and really enjoyed seeing Greg Lemond, an American, racing.  I did my first century on that bike.  Needless to say, it was hard, not to mention the great '80's colors of kits and windbreakers, think pink and green.  I was hooked.

Then enter the 'Lance' years. What a rider. He was so dominant and was so good at the Tour.  Wow, another American who could ride and WIN!!  What an exciting time to be a cycling fan and what a story he had.  He had cancer, beat it and now was winning the Tour.  

 Unbelievable!!  I, and everyone else were completely captivated by him.  Over the next several years I became heavily involved with the Livestrong organization.  I started riding and raising money for Livestrong Challenges and touting the greatness that was Lance.  And I wasn't alone. EVERYONE around me and around the world was on the 'Lance Train'. I was watching everything that I could watch about him.

  I watched him and the USPS teams at the SF Grand Prix - Lance, George, Eki, and Tyler among them.  Was even staying in the same hotel as the team - lucky me!!  (On a side note, I happened to ride in the elevator with Tyler and learned later that that was the night he and the team parted ways.  Of course, we all know now what happened and why after reading his book, The Secret Race). 

Then 2004 came along.  My Mom was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. My Dad died of lymphoma in 1978, 3 days before my 19th birthday. You see, my Mom was my primary caregiver and she was everything to me as a parent. Her diagnosis was devastating and her death 8 months later even more so.

  During this time and over the next several years, I ramped up my Livestrong efforts.  I asked countless folks to donate money or goods for a garage sale to help support me. I was interviewed by the local paper, put LS bracelets in my LBS to fundraise, and had a Livestrong Day, October 2, display at our local grocery store.  All to get the word out,  to date I have ridden 11 challenges and raised nearly $15000 dollars.  I have a Livestrong tattoo. I've lost count of how many LS cycling jerseys, water bottles, bags, and trinkets I have received. I have a plaque at LS headquarters honoring my parents. As you can see, I am ALL IN!

Then I started using Twitter and following some cycling people other than Lance. I believe the first cycling writer I followed was Neil Browne.  From that connection, I started to follow other writers and fans.  I thought I was a fan, but I didn't know anything about cycling compared to these people. And they turned my world upside down.  I am reading the tweets and saying to myself, "These people are kind of bad mouthing Lance".

I was a bit surprised - but I learned quickly that there was another side to this story.  I started reading everything they posted - articles, opinion pieces, etc. Some I couldn't/wouldn't believe. 

What is happening?!  I am learning about the 'darkside' right?  And then it happened.  Leaks about riders testifying, the government trying to build a case, Tyler's book was coming out.  Then he quit fighting.  Then I knew - for sure.

He is the biggest sporting fraud of all time.  There - I said it.  To me, he is a psychopath and big, fat, liar.  This is where it starts to get tough for me.  I can easily accept that he is a fraud.  What I am having a hard time with is separating Lance from Livestrong. 

Livestrong really does great work for people dealing with cancer and with survivors.  I have met many great people who work at the organization, who have used their services and have given millions hope.  But how did Livestrong become what it is today? It was started by a cancer survivor and cyclist.  It got huge because the cyclist got hugely popular. Or did it get huge on its own merits? 

I am very bothered by the whole ordeal.  From 2004 until 2012 I worked very hard promoting the Livestrong mantra all while wearing my bracelets, shirts, jerseys, socks, hats, stickers, backpacks and computer bags.  Not to mention all of the Mellow Johnny wearables I had acquired.  I purchased a lot of it but was given some as gifts, too.  Not only did friends, family, and acquaintances put up their hard earned money to support my rides, they also supported the organization with purchases.  I was a walking Livestrong billboard.  Now, all of it just sits in my closet. I can't, or should I say won't, wear it now.

I am struggling.  Struggling to understand how someone can have such blatant disregard for himself, his teammates, his friends, his sport and most importantly, his children? Did he not think that what he was doing was wrong at any level? The ego is enormous - there is no doubting that.  It has totally taken Lance down in flames and he chose to put his kids too close to the heat.  THAT is what bothers me the most about his story. I just hope his children can overcome the backlash that has undoubtedly already been unleashed on them.  

I am truly sorry for all of the people I have met that work at Livestrong. I foresee diminishing donations which will lessen services and staff and possibly the complete demise of the organization.    

To close, I am sad, sad, that I put so much trust into such a flawed individual.  Shame on me!!  I learned a lesson regarding idols. As many have written, they are only humans that other humans have elevated to god status, whether they want it or not.  I have always been a bit cynical, but this has put me over the top. NO MORE.

I have been a cycling fan for years, naive, but a fan nonetheless. I will accept all things that happen out on course, but I will never accept cheating is the only way to win.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

It All Lines Up

As I was sitting around being lazy on my day off today, I was wondering what I would blog about today. I have a outline of sorts for the month but it isn't firm. I knew sometime this month that I wanted to blog about this story that happened surrounding Marty's transplant. It's a long story that eventually all adds up. It even involves other families and friends. Truly amazing to see how beautiful a tapestry this story is and how it was all weaved together.

I was wanting to post this on the date it all started. This afternoon as I was wondering what to blog about and  I decided to just blog about it today instead. I went digging knowing it happened during November of 2010 and what I found brought me to tears. God always knows better than myself. The story started two years ago this very day, I know it isn't coincidence it came to mind.

The story started with a phone call from our friend Danielle in Georgia on November 12,2010. It was 7 a.m. on a quiet Friday morning, we were in bed and I jumped when the phone rang so early. My friend Danielle was breathless, talking a mile a minute. She had been waiting hours to call us, she had this overwhelming feeling that a phone call would come in 48-72 hours and she need to call us and tell us that. I believed her, she rarely calls and she was beyond herself.

We thought "the call was coming" and waited on pins and needles for a couple of days. I wrote about it on my blog but didn't tell too many people. We just waited and prayed.

72 hours later at 7 p.m. our friend Michelle from church called me bawling. She was so teary that she could barely get the words out. She said she had been praying that night and God told her "everything is ready for Marty's transplant and it is soon" The thing is Michelle doesn't own a computer or go online, she had no clue about the phone call 72 hours earlier. When I told her, she was bawling even more. I remember standing outside in the cold on the phone with her that night. The sky was crisp and clear but the night was very dark.

Our life was very, very dark at the time and we didn't know how things were going to end. We had a hope that God would heal Marty but we didn't know how or when? I remember one day, things were so bleak that Marty, the kids and I laid in our bed and cried, we just were so weary.

On December 15th, two of my dear friends Janeen and Viviana both strongly felt a decision had been made. They didn't know what but felt like a decision had been made and that Marty was going to get the call soon, very soon.

Two days later December 17th, Marty and I were doing dialysis in our bedroom and Elizabeth came knocking on our door asking to come in. She never did this and we yelled out "come in". She came in the door, pale, shaking and visibly shaken. This was abnormal behavior for her and we were scared. She said "Momma and Daddy, I was sitting playing my Nintendo DS in the kitchen and God told me "your Dad is going to get his transplant in one month" I heard it Mommy, I really did"

We were shocked, we immediately believed her, comforted her and prayed with her. If ever someone would hear from God, that is the response you would expect. Shock and awe.  We told nobody but my parents and prayed really hard.

Two days later December 20th, Stanford called to tell us Marty was the backup candidate for a transplant. He had someone ahead of him but be prepared in case. We called everyone excitedly including our planned childcare people. Nothing we had lined up was ready and our dog ran away for two hours in the pouring rain. We deep down knew it wasn't his turn and one day later that was confirmed. The did say he was next on the list. We prayed that it wouldn't be during the holidays for the donor family and for the kids.

January 11th, 2011 almost a month to the day later THE CALL came and our lives were changed. We thought the story was so amazing as it was but God wasn't done yet. Sadly, part of the story is that my dear friend Janeen's ( the one above on December 15th) husband Bucky died the next day from lung cancer. We had both been dealing with sick husband's and praying for miracles. Marty and Bucky were already connected by sharing a birthday and now our lives were even more connected by the dates.

It wouldn't be until one year later, the story became even more deep. On the day of the one year anniversary sadly our friend Viviana lost a baby while we were up at Stanford. It was deeply sad and connected the dates even more.

 We had written to the donor's family on the anniversary and his mother called me out of the blue one month later. During our conversation, this story came up. What happened next still gives me the chills.

We always sensed our donor was a male. Even that night on the phone with Michelle, she was talking about a him. We always referred to our donor as a him and that night on the phone his mom confirmed it.

When I got to the part about December 15th, his mom stopped me. She told me that on December 5, 2010 her and Jerry had a conversation. He told her if anything ever happened that he wanted to donate his organs and be a organ donor. A decision had been made indeed.

When I told her about Elizabeth, she stopped me. That happened the day before Jerry's 18th birthday, he turned 18 the very next day on the 18th. She was sobbing, it was very hard for both of us to see how this drew our family together. Jerry died on the 30th anniversary of my Grandfather's death January 10, 2011. The dates just kept connecting us. She was amazed by the story and I just couldn't believe how it all came together and  everything came true.

When I went to call Janeen and tell her this amazing thing about the dates, I got the news her beloved mother had passed away that morning. Once again connecting our two families indelibly. Just another thread in this amazing story.

It just makes sense it would come to mind to write it all down forever today. I just smiled and shook my head when the date popped up at the top of the post. I sat here crying typing it all out and feel privileged this happened to us.

 Some of you may not believe and that is okay, I know those of us this happened to believe none of this was coincidence and that our lives all inter connected for a reason. I hope this story blesses you, brings you a smile and shows you that "all things work together for good" even though sometimes we don't
see the bigger picture. In the end, it all lined up.

Elizabeth's prayer was answered

Celebrating with Danielle in Georgia

Janeen and I seeing each other for the first time in person

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Everyone Has Their Opinion"

My Mom came to visit for Conner's upcoming birthday this weekend. They went out for the day yesterday and one of the stops was to get frozen yogurt. As they were walking in he noticed some cyclists sitting in the front window eating frozen yogurt. He pointed them out to his grandma and told her they likely were coming back off a long ride.

The kids and mom walked in and one of the cyclists looks at Conner who was wearing a RSNT hat he got at the last  ATOC. He is a Jens and Fabian supporter so he still wears that hat and more than likely just grabbed it to throw on. He's fifteen for goodness sake and if he hair isn't done in his normal pompador he wears a hat. Usually it is his Hincapie Sports hat that he got during our visit to Greenville,NC last year. If we had been on a ride he would have been wearing his BMC cap under his helmet.

The cyclists calls out, "Hey are you a cycling fan?" to which Conner replied "Yeah, I am a cycling fan"

This is always exciting in our small town, there aren't many pro-cycling fans in this area. There are many cyclists though and we see them often. Usually on the road while riding ourselves. We've never gotten heavily involved in the cycling community around here because most of the riders we encounter aren't very friendly. We are however involved with the cycling community around the world on Twitter and over at Loving The Bike.

Back to the encounter, the cyclist then says to Conner "A Liquigas Cannondale hat might be a better choice for you." Conner said, "Yeah, I like Liquigas too." The cyclist says to Conner "What's your favorite team?" and Conner replied, " BMC is my favorite team"

The Cyclist then says "I guess that I can like BMC now that Hincapie is retired. I don't like tattle tales and he tattled taled on my hero! It's not cheating if everyone else is doing it." Conner was taken aback, it is rare for him to actually get to talk cycling in person and this was a normally exciting opportunity for him. Because of our involvement in the cycling community, he is well versed in the doping scandal. Probably thanks to Neil Browne and Dan Wouri among others.

 Conner came back with "Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion." turned and walked away. I am proud of him for being respectful to his elder and not getting into a heated debate. My kid has opinions and could have thrown down but instead he walked away.

Grandma who was listening said, "well I like Jens Voigt" instead to diffuse the situation and it did. The guy smiled and said "Yeah, he's a beast."

 Local Visalia cyclist whoever you are, you made a big mistake and shouldn't have said that. Good thing his momma wasn't with him. I would have gone off probably and it wouldn't have been pretty more than likely.

 It's not cool to fight with a young cycling fan over doping. Instead talk about the future of the sport, talk about what kind of bike he rides? invite him on a ride but don't tell him that cheating in any form is okay. I am appalled and floored by this part. When is it okay to tell a fifteen year old that cheating in any form okay? What a missed opportunity for good to happen. I am saddened by this encounter and thankful that I wasn't there.

What I am thankful for is the many cyclist and cycling fans who have positive interaction with @CycFanby on Twitter. Thankful he has met wonderful people in person such as Mary R, Mary T, Sean, Heidi and Jen who have talked cycling with him and encouraged his love of the sport. I am so grateful for that!

Cycling fans and cyclists, let's encourage the younger generation instead of sparring with them. It just makes you look bad and is discouraging to a young kid.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gramie's Famous Chocolate Pie Filling

For years and years, I heard the legend of my Gramie's chocolate pie. My Aunts and Uncle on my Dad's side would go on and on about my Mom's mothers pie filling. As I shared before my Grandmothers were friends and I guess my Gramie would make this often for the Brown kids. I never had eaten it until I mentioned to her that my Aunt's told me about it. She made it for me once before she died.

After her death, I was given a packet of her recipes and the chocolate pie recipe was in there along with her famous rigatoni recipe. I posted the rigatoni recipe but held on to her famous secret chocolate pie recipe as a way to keep one last secret for her. I was told my sister posted this online recently and so I decided that if she could, I could.

Muriel's aka Gramie's famous chocolate pie filling
1 cup hot milk
1sq. or 2 oz Baker's chocolate grated (put in milk to melt)
2 egg yolks
1 Tablespoon flour
3/4 cup sugar
teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cold mile
1 teaspoon salt

mix flour,sugar,add egg yolks,vanilla, and salt to cold milk. Add to the hot milk/grated chocolate mixture. Cook and heat until smooth and thick. Pour into pie crust of your choice.

I don't have a picture to share at the moment. I have failed to make this time and time again. My mom is visiting and said we may try to make one tonight. If I succeed, I will post a picture.

If you make this be sure to tweet me a pic or post one on my FB page. As always leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"When Are You Moving?"

This is something we hear almost everyday. We usually hear it most on Sunday's at church along with " Oh, we thought you just moved and didn't say goodbye" because I've been busy working lately. Like I would ever do that. The answer is "We hope by January, but we aren't sure" the hold out is Marty needs a job for us to move. He is actively searching and looking for a job in his career field while I pack the house up. Our house is full of boxes and I try to pack something up every week. A new pastor at our church moved from Colorado into our neighborhood and his wife generously gave me all of their boxes. That is another funny story in itself, a blog for next week. Yesterday we got a bit of good news that might allow for a plan B for the move. We are praying this might pan out and work towards our goal of getting to Tennessee by January. We are praying about it and trusting God's leading for us. Once again, we are in the waiting room. Waiting for change but still in life here which is winding down. It's been so clear our time here is over yet we don't want to leave the people here. People here don't want us to leave. One thing I do ask is can we stop with the negative comments or trying to talk us out of moving? It makes things harder and is truly upsetting. I would support any of you moving even if I didn't like it. I have done this with many friends before and would appreciate the same support. We have to go and try this, we have to live with no regrets and we would regret never trying. We may fail and want to come back. Life is too short to not try. We still have a lot of people to see and spend time with before we go.I am trying to do that while working nearly full time. I went back to work at my husband's request to help fund our move. It has been very helpful for me to work but everyone hates it. Of course, I will still be working in Knoxville and the future. Part of this move is for me to build my career and I will share more about that later. I hope this clears up some of the questions. As soon as we know something, you know that I will share it. We just really don't know much right now except that we are indeed moving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Voting, The Right to Vote and The Next Generation

I grew up in a passionate tried and true family of Catholic Democrats. We were raised talking politics and paying attention to all going on in Washington. I often tell people " Remember Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties?? I grew up the anti Alex P. Keaton!" My husband grew up in a conservative home loving Ronald Reagan.

 Boy oh boy, what a melting pot are we! I grew up in the minority watching Republicans win for most of my upbringing, I remember crying when Clinton was elected the first time. My Grandpa thought Harry S.Truman was the greatest president ever ( I think this also was because he was from Kansas too). So as you can see, we were raise quite differently.

Anyways, today I am more reserved about politics and actually I doubt very few of you could peg my political beliefs if you tried. I think often that a book gets judged by its cover and that is fine by me. I just make my vote count at that poll and leave the bickering to everyone else. I know where I stand that is for me to know and to keep to myself.  My Gramie never voted because she grew up with her grandfathers arguing about politics and it turned her from them. Sad but very true. Remember what are we teaching our children, for they are watching us.

  I remember my last election before I could vote and riding to the polling place with my mom. I couldn't wait to turn 18 so that I could vote. Who cared about going to the clubs? I wanted to vote. I grew up watching my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents vote. The first time I voted in a election was thrilling for me.

We talk about politics in our home, sharing our views with the kids and are raising them to pay attention to our country and the issues at hand.

My kids have always gone with Marty and I to the polls. We always take them with us on election day so they can see the importance of making your voice heard. Yesterday as I got out of the car it hit me that this is the last presidential election before Conner can vote. He waited outside for the last time! Mind blowing moment.

 Last night, Conner wanted to watch something and Marty took the remote and said " This is what we do on election night, we watch the returns". Then I worked on teaching them about the Electoral college while watching the returns. We've learned it before but truthfully it even confuses me at times. My friend said something about it on Facebook and her friend reminded her of this video.

Today when I walked into work my co-worker asked me about voting. I asked her if she voted along with another female co-worker and they both answered no. Now, this is one place I will be very vocal because it's been less than 100 years that woman have been allowed to vote. Our great grandmothers fought for the right to vote and this is a privilege to anyone but especially women! I asked them if they grew up watching their parents vote? Both of them answered "no" their parents didn't vote. I was so sad to hear they aren't voters and may likely never be. I told them it is such a privilege and something we haven't been able to do very long. I hope maybe I made a difference and planted a thought in their mind. I love having the right to vote and never take it foregranted.

I am thankful this election season is over. I am sadden by the divided country and hope we can all come together and make a change. Facebook this election was nearly a civil war between friends and family members. It was tough to watch people fight and disrespect each other.  I stayed out of it, I was raised to respect others and their opinions even if they differ from my own.

I am thankful that we as a country have the ability to vote and decide on our leaders. So many other countries in the world don't have that choice. Women readers, also remember that 92 years ago we as women didn't have that right. Go register to vote!

Just my two cents, not really worth two cents.

PS as a adult, I have grown to admire Reagan as a president.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Time Machine Tuesday

As many of you know, it is my practice to go through old posts every Tuesday during NaBloPoMo. I love reading about things from the past and seeing the changes life has brought. I think that I will do five posts each Tuesday, one from each year that I've been doing NaBloPoMo.

Who doesn't love a funny Conner story. How one of my favorite bloggers Dooce saved Conner from a whole heap of trouble.

Waiting. We were waiting for transplant news, any news and nothing had come. In the beginning of the post I  ask several questions. It was Tuesday 1/11/11, we got the call at 4:34 pm, we had just gotten home from the doctor. I was making baked potato bar for dinner. The call dropped in the middle of the call. We didn't have plans and we were ready. You can read how life was three years before that. We lived our life on hold for the next three years. Every day,week,month after this blog was only harder.  Here is a look back then:

Two year anniversary of waiting. I wanted prayers for the family of our donor. The post is very short, I was in a very dark place at that time and it was a sad day for us. Today I think of our donor mom Debbie and pray for her. I actually didn't remember the date until I went digging.

Marty came home for time off work. He held out a long time but was forced into this by Stanford. It was a dark time even darker than three years before. I look back on it now and realize it was a very special time and I am so thankful for that.

I was just really thankful for a lot of things. Life is and was so good and my heart is overflowing. I had just been in Southern California caring for my Dad who was sick. So glad he is still doing really well a year later!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Nearly two years ago while Marty was recovering from his transplant at Stanford, we discovered this soup. He couldn't really eat anything and soup was the best option for him. We found them at Safeway and would go to several stores to buy them out.

When we finally moved back home some three hundred miles away, we found our local grocery chain didn't carry the soup. So I set out to re-create the soup at home and make a recipe from scratch. I started with my Grandma's cheese potato soup as a base at first. That didn't work out as well as I thought so I went back to the drawing board. After one full winter of experimenting, I finally have the perfect recipe.

Shopping/Ingredient List:
Baking Potatoes
Green Onion
Heavy Cream
White Onion
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Kosher salt

6-8 medium potatoes peeled
1 white onion diced
1/2 lb of bacon for bacon crumbles
3 cups heavy cream
3 cups milk
16 oz sharp cheddar cheese grated
2 green onions sliced
1 T kosher salt ( to taste, you might like more)
1/2 T pepper ( to taste, you might like more)


Cut Potatoes into half and quarter into bite size pieces put into a large stockpot filled with salted water add diced onion and boil until you can stick a fork through the potatoes. Use a potato masher to mash some of the pieces. Do not mash all the pieces of potato, there are supposed to be bite sized pieces in the soup.

cook bacon for crumbles. I use my George Foreman to cook mine crispy. Baking it in the oven also is a good way to crisp it.

Add heavy cream, milk, salt, pepper and cheese over a medium heat stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir until warm, cheese is melted and soup is a thicker consistency (15-20 minutes).  Add bacon crumbles and green onion, cooking for another 10 minutes to let them soften. Take soup off heat and serve.

This is a easy recipe and you can add anything to it that you love in a potato. We've never added anything else but you could. My family begs for this soup as soon as the weather turns cold. We only eat it once a month since it is very rich in nature and definitely not fat free. If you make this be sure to leave me a comment and let me know if you love it.

I love to serve this with the Easy Peasy Bread recipe on Pinterest.

Happy Birthday Cousin Series: Happy Birthday Jessie

Jessie is the youngest on the far left in this picture. Number six in line

Next in the series is my cousin Jessica aka Jessie. She is sixth in line and the third Brown grandgirl. She is the daughter of my Uncle Bill and the third grandchild to carry the Brown name. She is also the second J named grandchild. We've often been called by each others names throughout the years.

When Jessie was born and we became six "The Cousins" were truly born

Carrie, Jessie and Julie

She is also the first cousin with a resemblance to myself. Carrie, Jessie, her sister Jamie and I all have the same hair color and features. It's kind of funny in our family, the sisters children all look alike and the brothers children all look alike. Just worked out that way.

My favorite memories are of going to Jessie's house for sleepovers and playing with her really cool Barbie collection. My Aunt Donna had saved all her Barbies for her girls, so we were playing with antique Barbies mixed with new Barbies. Jessie had the best Barbie collection. 

One of the saddest days of my life was the day that Jessie moved away with her parents to Arizona. I understand why they needed to move but it was hard to lose one of my beloved cousins. Taking the trip to Lake Havasu to see them was always fun though. 

Jessie was a true easy going middle cousin always going with the flow and following along. She was always a excellent student and truly very intelligent. She was a straight A student for her school career. In college, Jessie became a mother to a handsome boy Anthony.

The battle she faced at such a young age, she faced with courage and strength. She was truly born to be a mother and fought hard for her son Anthony to have the best schooling and resources available. I am truly in awe at the mother she has been to him. It shows when you're around him, that boy has me wrapped around his little finger along with his cousins Conner and Elizabeth. 

She is now a wife and mother to another beautiful child Peyton. Peyton is a cute little firecracker who gives Jessie a run for her money! Jessie works hard for her family and it is clearly evident by the smiles on her kids faces that she is a great mom.

I am looking foward to living in the same state as Jessie again and seeing her more often. We went to visit her family last year on our big vacation and spent a fun day in Nashville with Jessie and her family.

Brown girls: Lacey, Jamie, Julie and Jessie October 2012

I am thankful that Jessie and I have grown closer as adults. We often talk on the phone or Skype sharing stories of motherhood, knowing each others kids and just being good friends. I look foward to that continuing in the years to come. She is truly one of my sister cousins.

Jessie standing next to Sarah on the left. The Cousin grew and grew

Jessie helping me open birthday presents

Jessie on Grandma's lap. The Cousins now had a boy member!

Jessie on the right. Just us girls!

Our last sleepover before Jessie moved away

Jessie sitting so nice while Andy explores next to her

Jessie laying across the back of the couch

Our famous celebrity back to school party

My kids with Jessie and Jamie's kids in Tennessee