Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Princess and I

About a year ago, I made a edit to my code on the blog and messed up my archives. I can't link you to this old post, so I will borrow some of the text to mark the date. This is from an original blog titled ''The Queen'' my review of the movie starring Helen Mirren based on the death of Princess Diana. Everyone knows of my obsession, if you don't then you really don't know me but I will tell you a bit of my story in this piece. Where was I when Princess Diana died:

It all started when I was five and my older sister got me up at 3 am to watch the wedding of Charles and Di. All little girls dream of being a princess and watching that wedding with all of the flowers,silk,tulle and diamonds I was enthralled. A real life fairy-tale and I never read another fairy-tale again. I would beg my parents to buy me Princess Di books and magazines. At one point, I had every book written on Princess Diana. For a period of two years, I would cut out the picture of the Princess Di bride doll every time my Gramie got a new Good Housekeeping or Enquirer. I knew every member of the Royal family before I knew all the presidents or states.

 I got a cabbage patch and a new book on Princess Di the same Christmas in 1984 and which one do you think I still have? My favorite birthday present of all time? When I was nine I was informed I was getting something big , bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a horse. My two grandmothers got together and bought me the Princess Di Bride Doll by the Danbury mint. I was shocked and amazed as I pulled her out of her box , smelled the lace and tulle and saw the "real'' cubic zirconia tiara! I put her back in the box and up in the closet awaiting a special case for her. She is so big she doesn't fit a standard doll case plus she has a 5 foot train and veil that make her even bigger. I would take her down and look at her every once in awhile but in the box she remained and eventually moved to my Gramie's for safe keeping.

Fast forward to 1997.. I am married and pregnant with my first child and the Princess Diana fairytale is long gone. I am adult and have seen my fantasy of Diana collapse into reality. The Sotheby's auction was that summer and I was hoping to get the auction book which was autographed. Marty's dad had passed away and I inherited his Grandma's china cabinet. So we drove over to Gram's to bring the doll home and display her for the first time. I go into the closet and drag out the black trash bag containing the box. I decide to take a peak and check her out and Marty was laughing at me.

 My Gram comes into the room and says "You better come see the news on the television. It's Diana she has been in an accident" all of the sudden fantasy and reality collided. It was real she was in Paris and there has been a wreck. I grabbed the doll went home to watch the events unfold.

I had a answering machine full of messages as I get home with people calling to tell me the news. My dad called to ask me if I had heard the news? As we were talking and he says " did you just see that?" and I said "no" and he says "She is gone".  My Dad delivered the news to me, my childhood idol was gone.

 I am a hysterical mess over someone I didn't know. I guess for me it was the same as it was for many when Elvis died or Kennedy died. I had people calling me for days offering their condolences and people at work doing the same. I wanted to go to LA to the embassy to sign the condolence book but Marty couldn't go and I was too pregnant to go alone. So my friend/co-worker Catt went with me to LA to sign the book a truly kind gesture. Days later,I once again got up at 3 am to watch the funeral and this time cried so hard from grief and sadness mixed with anger.

It's been 17 years ago today, I miss her, wonder what she would have become? People still give me Princess Diana books, when the royal wedding came along I received gifts from around the world. Princess Di still lives in my closet. She made a brief appearance in decor for William's wedding. Really can't wait for Harry to get married, I have all kinds of fun things to put up.In fact, I saw my paper cups my friend Jan gave me and thought with a sigh, ''Can't wait until Harry gets married.'' I plan on dragging my friend Andrea to London for that, we should have gone last time!

 Time has passed by so quickly just taking a moment to stop and remember....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Product Review: Kiss Me Organics Green Tea Matcha

As a young girl, I would beg my parents to take me to Benihana's restaurant for dinner. Sure the tepanyaki cooked in front of you is fun as a kid or adult. My mind was on other things, my sole purpose was to get to dessert and green tea ice cream. I loved green tea ice cream and eating there was the only time I got that dessert.

A few years ago, my cousin Rissa told me Starbucks made a green tea latte. I had no clue, since I am not a frequenter of Starbucks. So I started drinking those on occasion to get my green tea fix. Then Haagen Daas came out with green tea ice cream as a special flavor. Of course, none of these things are healthy or good for you, definitely not something you want to buy all the time.

When Kiss Me Organics approached me to review their product, I jumped at the chance. I love green tea,baking and was curious to try their product. Organic matcha has a natural metabolism booster, anti -oxidants, UV protection which helps promote skin health. How much better can your green tea fix get?

I ordered the Matcha Powder their exclusive retailer and received my package at light speed. The first thing we set out to make was our own green tea latte with the matcha

The recipe is included in the recipe book that comes with your purchase.  Our next adventure was making green tea cupcakes with green tea frosting.

The frosting was the best part and cupcakes were super moist. They were a green tea lovers dream dessert next to green tea ice cream.

Definitely worth the price, the powder goes a long way and can be used in multiple recipes. Highly recommend Organic Matcha Powder

*disclaimer* this was not a paid review but I did recieve the product for free in order to write the review.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

MTTB Series: That Goody Two Shoes, Sandra Dee

It's time for another edition of the ''Music that Takes Me Back Series'' which somehow inexplicably became "'MTTB'' somewhere along the line....who knows? Not me.

One of my favorite 80's songs is ''Goody Two Shoes'' by Adam and the Ants. It's always a song that has been a theme song of mine. I admit it...I am a goody two shoes. This song also reminds me of my friend Valerie, she loves Adam and is a huge fan.

Once I asked a friend about high school parties and why I never knew about them, she told me, ''Julie we all knew you were a goody two shoes and didn't do that stuff''

I've been called ''naive'', a ''Pollyanna'' and a goody two shoes for years. I don't consider myself those things but I guess that I am.  I guess that you could say I truly am a Gidget, Sandra Dee, Tammy with an edge

I really did try smoking in a Denny's on a bet with friends once and I ended up getting sick and crying while choking in front of my friends.

I just am a rule follower, who likes to be fully in control of my faculties at all times. Growing up with a sister who was out of control, I just preferred to be overly well behaved because I wanted to be nothing like her.

Guess that does make me a goody, two shoes, Sandra Dee ( who was an alcholic in real life that struggled with addiction, go figure) who is fine that label.

Love these songs, they always take me back to my youth.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Book that Changed Me

On my weekly trip to the library with E this week, I spotted a book on the " Just In" section and was immediately drawn to it.

With Love And Laughter, John Ritter by Amy YasBeck

A very small book written by his widow Amy YasBeck and when I say written, I mean written. She did this without the help of a ghost writer which is common practice with celebrity's writing books. I am currently reading The Hunger Games and really shouldn't have picked this up. Alas, I did and spent the next four hours glued to the book and finished it within 24 hours.

As many people my age did, I grew up watching John Ritter play Jack Tripper on Three's Company and to boot his father was a singing cowboy. As you know, my Dad and Grandpa love singing cowboys so I remember hearing a lot about this family growing up.

Amy weaves a beautiful picture of love and a great man. She shows the human side of celebrity that many don't often see. She shares the love of a father and husband who really worked hard to be "present" with his family. She shares just enough to leave you wanting more. It's not the well polished work of a professional writer but a labor of love instead. If you expect perfection this book isn't for you, skip it. If you love a great biography/love story then by all means read this book.

One of the reasons I highly identify with this story is the date September 11th is a very common thread or as John Ritter would say, "The Golden Thread of Humanity".

My birthday is September 11th and for many years since that fateful day in 2001, I have struggled to come to terms with celebrating in light of the tragedy. As the years have passed it has grown easier, yet the feeling remains. The Ritter's daughter Stella also shares my birthday, it was her 3rd birthday the day of the attacks. I will share a excerpt that will stay with me this year on my birthday. John Ritter himself said it best on Page 177 of With Love And Laughter;

"I asked him how we could do this. How Could we say "Happy Birthday" when we knew this day would always be the anniversary of the day this evil thing happened? Without hesitating, he said " Stella is proof that love still exists in the world, that somehow, we go on."

Two years later, John Ritter would die on the very same date. I remember working at the hospital on the night shift and hearing the news of his death. I was struggling to make it through my birthday without crying and that ended when I heard of his sudden death on his daughter's 5th birthday.

What a powerful statement and really great thing to think about. So this year on my birthday, which is special anyways, that's what I will be thinking.

The other part of the book that struck a cord with me was Amy's account of her grief. I really identified with parts of her grief and realized, some of the time Marty was sick was spent grieving our life before renal failure. Amy's thoughts on pages 202 and 203 respectively really hit me and are the best description of my viewpoint today.

" I would have pangs of disgust for myself-embarrassment,really- when I would flash back to a moment of frustration or sadness prior to John's death. I started to really beat myself up about time wasted or energy spent over petty disappointments and everyday aggravations." pg 202

"I would struggle to remember what made me sad before John died, and it would pale in comparison to my new circumstances but would excerbate my grief to know I had wasted time. I would think, This is what passed for a problem in those days? You know the good old days- a week ago, a day ago, a hour ago- back when I wasn't a widow."

Of course, I am not a widow but I did grieve our former life. Lucky for me, I get a second chance and now know that little things don't really matter and not to sweat the small stuff in life. Remember when life was simple and if it is simple, enjoy every waking moment.

I cannot recommend this book enough and in fact here is a link to Amazon to buy yourself a copy; With Love and Laughter, John Ritter By Amy YasBeck

I'm not getting paid to do this review, I just simply loved the book that much and wanted to share the nuggets of information that touched my heart.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Happy Birthday Friend Series: Happy birthday Traci!

Twelve years ago, our family joined a new church with a tiny group of young families. Conner joined the AWANA program that same year and one of his leaders was another mom named Traci. She really loved working with the kids and brought her three young boys to the same program as well. The next year, Traci became leader of Conner's program and set out to help him learn. The year before, Conner had not finished his book which was very sad for him.

Traci learned that Conner could listen to a CD to memorize his verses and gave him one. Not only did he finish his book that year, he did extra credit as well! Traci believed in finding Conner's learning style and working with it. She was truly one of his first champions in life.

We soon became phone pals, Traci was a stay at home working mom and we became friends through our long phone chats. Life had been tough for her, we had both faced battles with family leaving us and letting us down. She had a lot of walls to climb but God gave me an open door through the walls and she slowly but surely let me in and let me be her friend.

Rarely in life do I look up to people, we're all on the same level playing field in my book. I do however admire Traci's faith. She has a humble and honest faith, she sets up no pretenses and doesn't pretend to be perfect. Through the years, she has come to me, asking for prayer, showing me her downfalls, taught me many lessons about a true faith with humility, grace, honesty and dignity.

Traci used to be one of my biggest homeschooling skeptics, we had many debates about homeschooling during our phone calls. Then one day, Traci pulled her boys out of school and graduated two sons through homeschooling. She is a true champion for homeschooling now and has actually taught me many things!

She has lived a mother's worst fear, having your child diagnosed with an incurable disease. She has been a caretaking mother to her son Josh for many years. She has taught me many things about motherhood, living in the face of adversity and carrying on.

During the years Marty was ill, she was a huge supporter. Her perspective came from a place many don't understand or get because she has lived it in her own home. I truly couldn't have made it through without our many phone calls.

She won't like this blog because I have said too many nice things for her liking. She never pretends to be perfect, holier than thou, or anything other than someone trying to live their faith with flaws and all. She is real with real struggles and imperfections. Truth is, that is why I admire her.

Happy birthday Traci, I miss our phone chats or dropping by your house to chat. Though miles apart, we are still dear friends even though we may not talk as often. Wishing you a very happy birthday filled with many blessings!

Friday, August 1, 2014

The End of the Endless Summer

It's August 1st, it has been a long hiatus from blogging as I have started my new career path here in Tennessee. My plans to write my book while on my break have been waylaid by life being overwhelmingly busy with the processes of starting again here in Tennessee. Traditionally August is about music, blogging and celebrating life so I decided time to write again about our life and the happenings here in Vol country.

Sometimes we hide what is going on instead of being honest with others outside our inner circle. I have found being truthfully honest as an open book works better. People come to you, they share with you willingly because you can understand life isn't easy all the time.

This summer I have put in over 200 hrs at work, this has been a huge blessing and really kind of exciting for me. For seven wonderful years, I was a stay at home mom whose husband worked 80 plus hours a week supporting me and the kids as he faced major health issues. There were times he barely made it to work, passing out and being rushed to the hospital with blood pressures over 200/100 while waiting for his transplant.

I was raised in a family of working women, I watched my grandma take her nap on the floor each day during One Life To Live, fix her hair and go off to work the swing shift. My aunts Maggie, Patty and Jeanette all went to work and worked hard for their families. My mom has worked since I was fairly young, first as a pre-school teacher and then in her current role for the last 27 years. My grandpa's worked, and my Dad is the hardest worker anyone knows even technically working on his days off to help others. I was raised to be a hard worker, I know no other way. I never dreamed about being a stay at home mom until I had two kids and they needed me. I always knew, it was for me to work.

Marty and I moved to Tennessee for many reasons, we felt called here and without a doubt it was for me to have the current job I have. It is the perfect fit for me, helping others who are in a role that I have spent years in myself. I am really good at what I do daily and this is the job for me.

Marty has a job where he is off for the summer with no pay. So my job this summer was to work as much overtime as possible to try to fill in the gap. Moving took our entire savings until he got a job and we have been slowly re-building this past year. Marty looked for a summer job but in the south, things don't move quickly and his summer job started this week.....he goes back to school on Monday!

Marty has a lot of faith in God's provision and it has been truly amazing for all of us to see God working it out. We have made it through and our bills have been paid, we have eaten and still lived fairly normally with a few small edits to the normal budget ie. no vacations or grand eating out adventures, no shopping for non necessities etc.

Why am I sharing what most people hide? because sometimes people need to hear the real truths in peoples lives. Sometimes they need to know they aren't alone in struggling. I had a wise young man tell me,'' when people see the ''perfect'' family they aren't seeing the whole picture.''

Summer was so fun, my mom, aunt, uncle  came to visit. We went to Dollywood, traveled to see some of our Cherokee history and just enjoyed being a family together. It was so nice to see my aunt and uncle, who I hadn't seen in a few years. It was nice to have my mom here and see family.

We also traveled to my cousin Ben's wedding,  he married a beautiful girl brought a new member into our big family. It was so nice to share in their day, it was very emotional, I cried numerous times. Ben and I danced together crying wishing our grandparents could be there too. I love my uncle's family and being with people who I look like is nice.

Then July, the Tour de France, my favorite event of the summer. It was tough because I worked and couldn't really watch the race. Thankfully my friend Dot drove seven hours to spend the weekend with me watching the finale of the race. Even though I missed a lot of racing, I think this tour will be memorable to me forever because of some really special reasons that have to do with the people of the cycling community in general.

Now August is coming, Marty is heading back to school and life is returning to normal. The kids will both be in high school this year and we have a lot of work to focus on with that. Conner has two jobs, Elizabeth is baking up a storm and making new friends.

One thing this summer, we have been grateful for those friends who have supported us in prayer as we trusted God. So many were there for us, lifting us up and making the effort. As we make new friends in Tennessee, Elizabeth and I have been learning to look forward instead of looking back. Sometimes we get disappointed things aren't the same with the friends we left but then we remember life is moving forward not back. We are thankful for those who make the effort to come visit, to check in and listen to us.

We have enjoyed the beautiful summer weather, lots of really good family time, laughter, happiness and joy. One of the things that happened was Debbie, our donor Jerry's mom sent us a video of Jerry's life and bracelets. I look at my wrist with Jerry's name on it every day, I realize how good our life is because of their gift and how Marty not getting paid is NOTHING compared to where we came from. We are blessed and grateful for our life now, we are really loving our new jobs and life in Tennessee.

As tradition, August is the month I do my ''Music that Takes Me Back'' series.  Summer is always about the Beach Boys. So I will share something Marty has said to me all summer:

PSI have been working on memorizing Matthew 6 this summer:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.