Saturday, August 15, 2009


Hello friends,  Some of you read my other blog, a mixed-media life in progress... I wanted to let everyone here know that I have merged this blog with that one.  From now on, please go to for future posts from me!  

And, if you haven't checked it out yet, please head over to The Retrieval Project to see the daily art project my husband Joe and I are working on right now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

can't let 'em get the best of me

Starbucks, that is.  A few weeks ago I posted here that for the first time in about 12 years, I was about to go to work outside the home.  I recently became a Starbucks barista... and I have to admit, the job is pretty fun while I'm there, but it is kickin' my booty big time.  I work the opening shift most days starting at 4am... which means I wake up at 3am.  Holy moly... I'm not as young as I used to be!  And I'm feelin' it.  I don't have a problem getting up at that hour... or being genuinely cheerful before the crack of dawn.  But what is hard is that in the afternoons, when I'm home with my kids, I'm super tired and probably not a whole lot of fun.  I'm realizing I have to be careful not to let Starbucks get the best of me.  As in the best part of me... the happy, nice, patient me.  Somehow I've got to figure out some balance so there's plenty left for my family.  Take now for instance... I'd love to be painting, but I really should be sleeping.  I'm sitting in bed as I type, but felt like getting this out before drifting off tonight.  I need to come up with some sort of schedule that works.  There are so many things pining for my time and I have to come up with a system to make things like laundry, cleaning, cooking, playing, painting and resting not seem so overwhelming.  I do hope that this working thing is just for a season.  I really want to work from home, doing art, where I call the shots and wake up and go to sleep and have days off when I want.  But for now this is my lot and I need some balance to make it all work.  I have a husband and four amazing kids who are growing and changing, and I don't want to miss it.  I want to find a way to tend to my responsibilities while savoring precious time with my loved ones.  Right now it's a huge adjustment.  But I have hope that balance is just around the corner.

Friday, July 17, 2009

collaboration coming soon

I posted this last week on my other blog:

Status update a few nights ago on Facebook and Twitter:  brainstorming, plotting, devising, conspiring, planning, collaborating.... need to be sleeping. stay tuned.

We've been back in the Bay Area for five plus months now.... but our stuff (aka most of our home furnishings and belongings) is still in Minnesota.  We are feeling SO ready to go get it and have it here.  We're still catching up financially from the two huge moves in six months and are no where near being able to afford the trip + uhaul necessary.  So as I was drifting off to sleep the other night, my mind was whirling.  Trying to figure out a way.  We're thinking the trip total will be pretty close to $4,000.  Crazy, I know! 

Whenever you're in a situation that seems impossible, you have to look around and take stock of what's available.  Like in the Bible, when Moses was afraid to confront Pharoah to let the Israelites go out of Egypt, God asked him, "What's that in your hand?".  And He used the staff Moses carried to perform miracles and accomplish His will.

We have art in our hands.  So here's what I came up with.  If we do 100 paintings between us, and sell them for $40 each, we'd could make what we need.  So we're percolating ideas and brainstorming and coming up with a list of titles for paintings.  We'll each do our own take on each title, and everyday we'll release two paintings (one of each) until we've done all 100.  We'll be starting a new blog and an etsy shop for the collaboration.

The theme will revolve around the move, transition, Minnesota, California, new beginnings, roots, family, etc.

I'd love feedback and/ or suggestions for this undertaking.  We need to come up with a name for the project, and we could use some title suggestions for the paintings.  And of course, if you'd spread the word about this, with links to our blog and shop when they're up, that would be MUCH appreciated!

**Update:  We have a name!  We're calling this the Retrieval Project.  And we have our list of titles.  We're busy with our ideas and our paintings, and are planning to launch the project on August 1st.  New blog will be up soon also.  Please stay tuned!

Monday, June 29, 2009

make shift wagon

Such a proud moment when I opened the front door to discover what Brooklyn had made for her little brother. That's the kind of summer fun I love. A little creativity and making do with what's on hand. She pushed him around our court on this. And "He only tipped over once!" I love it. He was happy when I opened the door, but by the time I grabbed the camera and came back, he was ready to get out. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

happy fathers day

(l-r:  Herb Pfremmer - Joe's maternal grandfather, Robert Swanson - Joe's paternal grandfather, George Wright - my maternal grandfather.)

(l-r:  Mike Stewart - my dad, John Swanson - Joe's dad)  at our wedding November 26, 1994)

my dad with Mercy (about six weeks old) and me.
(I've got to find a photo of Joe's dad with our kids.)

Joe and our kids last weekend.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

give away

Oops... I was up early blogging this morning and forgot about the promised give away.  So how about I award one lucky commenter with a $20 gift certificate to my etsy shop.  Go check it out and tell me what you'd spend it on.  (This will help me know what things people like, so it helps me out too.)  If you'd like, you can also offer suggestions of something you'd like to see offered there.. it can be an idea or phrase for a painting, some sewn item, etc.  I'll draw a winner on Friday the 26th.  

coffee bean

This morning I set down my laptop and cup of coffee when my little guy sleepily toddled over to me.  Since there were two girls (Brooklyn and a friend) sleeping peacefully on the living room floor, I decided to take Judah outside.  We snuggled on the swing, and as we rocked he fell sweetly back to sleep.  I stayed there, holding him for about an hour and a half as he slept.  I listened to birds and watched them play, heard the sound of tennis balls bouncing back and forth across the nearby court, contemplated life and prayed, while enjoying the peaceful morning.

To say that this has been a difficult year for our family would be a huge understatement.  But to say it's been a good year would be an understatement as well.  When Joe walked away from his law enforcement career to pursue his creative dreams a year ago, we didn't realize the magnitude of the struggling economy and how it would affect us.  I won't go into details of all that's happening  here, and I know there are many families struggling through these hard times right now.  I am thankful, because we have really never gone without.  We've always had a roof over our heads and something to eat.  And we've been very healthy, which is no small thing.  Through all the trials and tears, there have also been a lot of blessings, a lot of growing, a lot of bonding and a lot of loving.  

One thing that I'll share that is happening now is that for the first time since 1997, I'm going to work outside the home.  I've done a few different things from home since becoming a mom, but I'm actually going to go out and earn a paycheck for a while.  (Not a large one, but it will come with benefits after a while... plus a free pound of coffee every week.. woohoo!)  It's bittersweet.  I'd rather not work away from home, but if I must, I think I'll enjoy this new job.  It's just a part-time gig.. I'll be a barista at Starbucks.  I'm a big fan of Starbucks, and I love love love working in the coffee shop at our church, so I think it will be a good fit.  I enjoy seeking out little one of a kind coffee shops, and supporting small businesses, but I have this thing for Starbucks.  They've worked hard at establishing their branding and it works.  For a girl who has moved at least a couple dozen times in just a few dozen years (true story), I find something so comforting about Starbucks.  Maybe it's the security and familiarity.  No matter where you are, you can spot that round, green logo from far off and know what awaits you inside.  You walk in to that heavenly aroma and are surrounded with all that's familiar.  A little piece of home.  You know what to order and can depend on it to taste the way you want it to.  I'm a morning person and don't mind being there early.  It's nice for us that they open so early, so that Joe can be home with the kids while I'm at work, and I can be home before he leaves.  We'll be passing ships for a while, but "this too shall pass".  

So this is my wish/ prayer list this morning...

1.  That Joe can do what he loves and be paid well for it.

2.  That I can stay home with the kids and create things for fun and profit, adding some play money to the family budget.

3.  That until we get there, we continue to rally together with support and encouragement.

I'm sure everyone has heard the analogy of the egg, the carrot and the coffee bean.  Each is placed in its own pot of water, and the heat is turned up.  The egg turns hard, and sometimes even cracks in hot water.  The carrot gets soft and mushy.  The coffee bean remains unchanged, but changes the water it's in and presents the area around it with a comforting aroma.  I want to be a coffee bean.  Of course sometimes I resemble an egg or a carrot in this analogy, but I strive to be the coffee bean.  Our women's ministries pastor always refers to coffee bean-type people as the Steady Eddies/ the Stable Mabels.  That's who I want to be.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

check her out!

Today I have a gift for you.  Not in a give-away... actually why not?  Sure, with a give away.  But the real gift here is sending you over to a sweet blog.  I met Denise on my very first day of college.  I drove by myself one afternoon in August many years ago to a place I'd spend the next four years.  Only an hour and a half from home, but a whole new world for me.  A few of us had to be there a day early, to take a test... can't remember what it was or why now, but I moved into my quiet dorm room and then met the few others on our floor (which was called "Circus Hall". Love that name).  We were all new and a little nervous, but excited.  I remember being drawn to Denise.  She was warm and friendly and there was something so reassuring about her.  I was quiet and boring, I'm sure, but I was wide-eyed and soaking it all in.  As the year went on, we all discovered other friendships, boys and activities.  Our lives moved on and we didn't stay in touch after she left the school.  I thought about her over the years and wondered where she was, and then... Facebook!  After finding her, I found her blog, and have been hooked ever since.  She's so genuine.  So full of beauty and love.  She's silly and dreamy.  She's a new mother, a wife madly in love with her husband, and a photographer who really gets in touch with her photographees (?) to bring out their most beautiful selves.  (Someday I will have a photo session with her.  Someday.)  

Today her post titled "red tent" made my day.  I think you'll like her too.  I can imagine her having a red tent retreat, where we could all go and just be who we are and laugh and cry together.  

And recently she's been blogging about dreads.  Yes, dreadlocks.  I've secretly wanted them since those college years in Santa Cruz.  And since my hair is so unmanageable these days, it could be a good solution.  But I'll sit back and enjoy Denise on her journey with dreads for now.  I told myself (and Joe) that if I still want them, maybe I'll treat myself for my 40th birthday.  So I have a few years to research, imagine and decide.  In the meantime, I told a friend who is a hairdresser, and she said she could tame my locks, so I'll set up an appointment with her and see if there really is hope.

So go check her out!  I think I'll wait for tomorrow for the give away.  That way you can spend as long as you want, just soaking up all the goodness of her blog and not have to rush back here to enter.  You can come back tomorrow.  I'll try to make it a good one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

an interview of me?

Simply Dawn, blogger and good friend in Minnesota, asked me for an interview for her blog.  She has posted the first part of the interview here.  Thanks, Dawn, for deeming me worthy of an interview!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scripture memory #11

I just started doing Angela Thomas' Bible study, When Wallflowers Dance, along with my sisters.  I went through her book Do You Think I'm Beautiful? a few years ago and it was the most personal, soul searching, heart cry of a study I've ever done.  This one is sure to cut to the heart again, in a fresh new way.  I'm a bit weary right now.  I have a three year old who is wanting control.  I realize part of it is the age.  And part of it is her need to feel secure.  There have been a lot of changes this last year for our family, and she may be feeling a bit unsure of her surroundings.  We need to try to help her feel secure in our love, in our Father's love, so that whatever changes are happening around her are not so hard to handle.  But it's a process.  And right now, it's hard.  She is easily upset and some days my patience wares thin.  I love her so much and just want to cuddle and play with her.  But when she acts out, I also have to discipline her.  And I am tired.

So I'm excited about our school year coming to an end and our summer learning to begin.  We have sort of a relaxed approach to homeschooling, not real rigorous as far as academics.  We do use assorted curriculum, but all of us enjoy learning through exploring and doing more than by reading and quizzing.  We're finished with all of our classes outside the home for the year, and this week we're finishing our technical school year at home.  I have Brooklyn making herself some flash cards for helping to remember some things throughout the summer and  Zeke is finishing up his math book.  Then we'll be reading, gardening (I really hope we do this), swimming, playing, creating art, and making memories this summer.

I'm thankful for my sisters wanting to do this study.  After I went through Do You Think I'm Beautiful? a few years ago and then heard Angela had another book out, I wanted to do this one, but never got around to ordering it.  It will be nice to go through it alone with God in the mornings, but with my sisters on the journey, sharing as we go.  One of the things I love most about God is that we can come to Him just as we are.  Not just when we're content.  Not just when we're happy and full of love.  But when we're weary.  When we are blowing it with our kids.  When we mess up in other areas.  When we're lonely.  When we're worried or angry or discontent.  Today in the study, we looked at 1 Peter 2:2,3 (which will be my Scripture memory verse for the next two weeks).

1 Peter 2:2,3  Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

In my weariness, I want to get back to really craving God's Word.  Newborn babies crave milk from their mothers.  The milk is their life source, providing the nutrients they need to survive and grow.  When babies are breast fed, they often reject formula because they don't like the taste.  They won't accept a counterfeit.  Our first baby was bottle fed.  I had trouble with nursing so we switched to formula after the first week.  She eagerly gulped it down, but her little tummy couldn't handle what we were giving her at first, so after some time dealing with her projectile spitting up (sorry for the graphic details) and trying to soothe her through tummy troubles, we switched to a soy formula.  Once we got it right, she started to really thrive.  God's Word is full of nutrients that we need for living and thriving in this life.  I want to crave it.  I have before, where I just can't get enough.  Lately I'm tired.  And I want to rest in His love, going to His Word for the nourishment and fulfillment that I need, accepting no substitutes.  

Friday, May 22, 2009

Scripture memory #10

I realized I haven't posted the Scripture verses I'm memorizing in a while.  In this post I listed the first five for the year.  Today I'll list six through ten.  I'm following along with Beth Moore and her "siestas" on the Living Proof Ministries blog, choosing a verse or passage from the Bible to memorize on the 1st and 15th of every month this year.  Here's my continued list...

6.  Hebrews 10:35-36  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.  (NIV)  My friend Andrea and I shared this one.  So nice to have a friend along on the journey... sharing life and memorizing God's Word!

7.  Psalm 9:10  Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You.  (NIV)

8.  Mark 9:23  Everything is possible for him who believes.  (NIV) 

9.  Psalm 42:5, 42:11, 43:5  Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.  (NIV)  This was for May 1st, but I was about a week late in choosing a Scripture to memorize.  I went through a few days that were very hard, feeling discouraged in so many areas.  Our rent was due and we were short (it ended up being only two days late with the full amount), I was feeling frustrated about our current situation (not making quite enough, stuff still in storage in Minnesota, wondering if we needed to make tough new job decisions again, etc), plus having a super hard time with three year old Mercy.  Then I was reading one morning in Psalms and came across this same verse three different times.  And I realized I had allowed myself to worry instead of trust in full confidence.  I made a choice then to put my hope in God... for I will yet praise Him.  Through it all.  And it made a huge difference in my attitude and my countenance.  He is my peace. 

10.  1 Thessalonians 5:15  See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another.  (NASB) This one is for the whole family.  Today I'm going to print it out and put it up for all to see and memorize.  

Saturday, May 16, 2009

new blog!

Just wanted to let you know that I have started a new blog at  This blog will continue to be what it always has been... news about what's happening at our house, pictures of the family, some inspiration and random thoughts.  The new blog, titled "a *mixed media* life in progress", will be a separate space to record the artful journey that I have embarked on. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

home tour part one

We've been in our new place for a few weeks now so I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into our dwelling.  We'll start with the backyard.  Two reasons... first, because it's the BEST part (I could stay there all day), and secondly because our furnishings and housewares are still in a storage unit in Minnesota.  We've pieced things together so that it's liveable, but I'll wait to share pictures until it's furnished and embellished with our personal touches and style (which is changing by the minute).

Here's what I see from the kitchen window...
Humming bird feeder (reminder to fill it today)...  There are other bird feeders throughout the yard also, and we get visits from a squirrel that our kids named "Dog".
Star of jasmine mmmmm... (Nice trellis maze thing that provides a little privacy from the walking/running/bike trail that runs along the side of our house, and makes a fun place to play.)
Back of the house view from the corner.  The stones you see here lead to a storage shed, which we'll fill quickly once we retrieve our stuff from MN.
I was sitting in the swing when I took this next shot.  This is a view I see often, as I sit here while rocking Judah or while hanging here with another child from time to time for a chat.  This patio is currently much more colorful with lots of chalk drawings.  Mercy is so excited she's learned to make an "M" all by herself!  You can see the lillies here... there are also daffodils, rose bushes galore, and other lovelies that I have no idea of their names, but I do want to learn to take care of them.  At the right of this photo, beyond where you can see, there are raised gardening boxes.  Some contain rose bushes, some are longing to be filled (and I'm longing to fill them... good combo!).  The kids are excited to help grow some veggies.  All along the fence on the right side, there is a raised bed with a soaker hose in place.  We just need to get out there and prepare the area and then start planting.  I was talking to my sister-in-law yesterday and she recommended a book that I'll search for at the library today... Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children.  Sounds fun!  I love the idea of a pizza garden!
It is so exciting for us to have this beautiful yard.  We have always been renters, and a lot of times yards are not kept up in rental homes, and it would be so much work (and costly) to start from scratch.. a lot of places we've lived have just had dead grass in the yard.  In Minnesota we had a very nice yard also... such lush grass... so nice to relax in.  And there was a nice corn field behind the house, which was fun.  But the trees.. oh how I'm in love with the trees here.  It's such a peaceful, shady yard with just the right amount of sun.  I hope you hear birds singing where you are right now.  Springtime is so beautiful!

Thanks for coming on this little tour.  We're hoping it won't be long before we can make a trip back to get our belongings and personalize the inside of the home with familiar touches (which will hopefully help Mercy feel more secure/less testy... oh the exhaustion right now).  Stay tuned for more home tour installments!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

happy mother's day

Have you seen this?  My sister sent it to me... thanks, Kelly!  

mom and sisters
This is a photo of my mom with her three girls thirty (something) years ago.  (I'm the one on the left.)

Happy Mothers Day to all of you moms.  And to those not yet moms, and those who have lost a mother or a child.  My heart is full of respect, compassion and appreciation for you all.

Friday, April 24, 2009

recent happenings

Whew!  Moving takes quite a toll, I tell you.  If I have any readers left here, I'll be amazed.  I think it's been over a month since I've posted.  We moved into a place of our own a couple of weeks ago.  It's not as close to my sister's house as we were hoping for, and we were not able to buy a home just yet, but it's a great place, and it's home.  Photo tour coming soon.  Or a partial tour to begin with.  We still have most of our belongings in Minnesota, so I along with one or two of our young ones will be making a trip back there in the next month or two.  So to start with, I'll show you our yard.  It's my most favorite part of this house.  So beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.  

The weather has been absolutely fabulous here lately.  We've enjoyed lots of time outside, and this new area of ours is great for the family, with parks, trails, tennis and basketball courts all around.  

Our little Judah took his first steps a few days ago.  He's so stinking cute I can hardly stand it.  This boy is a thinker, so it was fun to watch him standing there contemplating the whole thing before he actually did it.  We had some friends over that night, and he stood there watching everyone, saying "hi!" to all the kids, and then he kept looking at me, reaching for me, laughing while he stood.  You just knew he was thinking about walking.  This went on for quite a while and then he did it.  First a shuffle, and then steps.  Two I think.  He loved the applause from everyone and so he was happy to do it again and again.  I need to take a video of this while he's still doing just a few wobbly steps at a time.

I was glad he took his first steps when he did, because the next morning, I was off with Brooklyn and Zeke for a living history field trip to Fort Ross, on the Sonoma coast. It was beautiful, and a fun experience. We were all required to take on the character of a person who actually was at the settlement 200 years ago, with appropriate dress and names used the whole time. We had a group of 16 kids and 11 parents. There were four groupings... the hunters, the cooks, the militia and the artisans. We were the artisan group. While there, we made tin candle lanterns. We had been doing classes with our group for a few months before the field trip, to learn the history and do some crafts before going. Our group also did a little skit from the Russian folktale, The Turnip. (Fort Ross was a Russian American settlement.) As practiced in the original days of the settlement, we had to have a group keep watch all night long. So we had a night watch shift from 11:00pm-1:00am. The stars were amazing. So many of them, and it was a clear, slightly cool night. So nice. It was really fun to have the time with just Brooklyn and Zeke, apart from the little ones. During the nightwatch they kept taking turns sitting on my lap. Makes me realize they still want/need that and I should initiate it more at home. All in all, we had a fabulous time and will most likely do it again next year.

Joe is loving his work and has an art show coming up the second weekend in May. He has finished the painting he's submitting and he wants me to do a piece for the show also. It's a wee bit intimidating, but I'm excited to just go for it. I guess because I'm not much of a draw-er (I don't even know the correct word... sketch artist, maybe?... anyway, I don't draw well!) I'm learning that I can be an artist anyway, and am having fun experimenting. I'm doing some pieces for a womens event coming up at church  and have a few others in mind that will hopefully make it onto a canvas soon.

This leads me to my most recent exciting news.  Just yesterday I met with an artist I admire in San Fransisco. I've been following Mati's blog, not even realizing that she was so close until she posted a couple of weeks ago that she was looking for an intern.  I was quick to respond to her post, and then a little unsure if I'd be at all what she was looking for.  But we decided to meet and talk over coffee and I decided to just be myself, and if it was meant to be, it would be.  She is so so nice, and it was great meeting with her.  After having coffee, we walked over to her studio, and it was exciting for me to see her space in work mode and her original work in person.  I'm very excited to be an intern for her (yay, she picked me!), helping with office type work in exchange for some teaching.  Joe is almost as excited about all of this as I am, which is so nice.  I love that he's supporting and encouraging my emerging artistic side and giving me the freedom to get out of the house once a week for some creative adventures.  I'll start this venture with Mati in May, as a trial for us to see if we're a good match.  You should take a look at her etsy shop... she's got such great style.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, March 16, 2009

welcome signs

This is a rewind post.  Back to our drive from Minnesota to California at the end of January.  We've been here for about six weeks now.  Still at my sister's for now, so we're not really settled yet.  But it's good to be home.  I miss Minnesota though.  The friends we made, our quiet little town (strange now that I miss it... I was in such culture shock for a while when we moved there, but it really grew on me).  The beautiful sunrise over the snow in the morning.  The slower pace.  

We'll get into our own place soon, and will have our routines and such in place again.  For now we're living as nomads... staying with one sister for the most part, taking little trips to visit others. 

This weekend we're in Monterey.  Joe was asked to fill in at a tattoo shop here, and the kids and I tagged along for a visit with my sister Kelly and her family while he worked.  Joe and I lived here for about a year, before children.  It's so beautiful, with the ocean and the sand dunes.  Later today we'll go to Santa Cruz to visit Joe's sister and her family.  Santa Cruz is always a fun place to visit because it's where we met and went to college.  We love Santa Cruz.  Again, the ocean.  And the food we love, the culture of the area.  

On Friday, Michelle and I took our kids to Tahoe, to ski/snowboard/play in the snow.  It was gorgeous.  A beautiful, bright, sunny day in the Sierras.

I love California.  I love that where we live, we can drive just a couple of hours and be in the snow, or at the ocean or in the redwoods.  I love that our family is here, and our friends that have become family.  It's good to be home.

These pictures were from our drive west.  Joe drove his truck, loaded down with essentials for the next few months, until we go back for the rest of our stuff which is in a storage unit in Minnesota.  I drove the Odyssey.  We each had a couple of kids.  Judah stayed with me, but the rest shuffled around.  When they were apart, they asked to call the other, just to see what they were doing.  My car has the dvd player, and both Brooklyn and Zeke thought it would be fun to have a Shrek marathon, but they were with me at different times.  So for two days in a row I listened to Shrek, Donkey and Fiona for the length of three movies each day.  The other two days were full of games, talks, music and sleep (them, not me).  Our kids are great travelers.  We really want to do a year of homeschooling on the road in an rv sometime, journeying throughout the US.  We figure Joe can be a guest artist at tattoo shops along the way.  Maybe I'll be an accomplished artist and can sell my wares as we go.  Someday.  Now seems like a good time, since we're not tied down to a house.  But maybe when the little ones are a little older.  Although if we had an rv I'd jump at the chance to do it now.  I love road trips and think it would be a great way to learn and teach more about our country.

So this is me driving.  Not sure what day or what state.  Still snow on the ground.

I was so excited to get on interstate 80!  Knowing that it goes all the way to San Francisco Bay, right through our home town just made it so real that we were going home.

Depending on where you are, you may or may not get why I was excited for this next one.  It had been below zero for a few weeks in Minnesota before we left.  I was hoping that the day we loaded our stuff into the storage unit, it would be at least 20 degrees... but it never got up to zero that day either.  As we drove west, it got warmer and warmer.  One day we stopped for lunch at a fast food place and it felt so warm, I thought it would be great to eat outside... until I went to sit down and saw that the bench was covered in ice!  I took this picture when we got back in the car.  35 degrees was like being in the tropics compared to where we'd been!

And this sign pretty much speaks for itself.  Except that if you have a wealth of these near you, you should really appreciate it.  Because some people have to drive 20 miles to get to one.  And they are not located at the base of every exit along interstate 80 when you're in the middle of Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada.  So when this sign was in sight, it was a happy thing.

Here's another luxury you may take for granted if you live where Baskin Robbins' abound.  This is my favorite favorite treat, and the guy at the place I frequent knows my order.  But they don't have Basin Robbins in Minnesota.  I told this to the guy who knows my order (because that was one of those important searches I did online before moving).  I asked him to move there too and open one, in the name of good customer service.  He said he'd see me when I come to visit.

And last, but certainly not least, these signs greeted us when we finally arrived at my sister's house.  There were at least four of these throughout the house.

It is good to be home.

Friday, March 6, 2009

these are the days. part 1

My first "these are the days" post.  Because really, they are.  Seven cousins in one house.  Two sisters (wives/ moms/ aunties).  And two dads (husbands, uncles, brother-in-laws).  We're having fun.  Yes, sometimes things are a little difficult.  But mostly it's fun, bonding, memory making going on around here.  Like tonight when I proved once and for all that I am not the great cook my sister had thought I was.  I gracefully stepped down from the pedestal she had me on.  I was making popcorn and after starting to heat the oil, walked out of the room.  Oops.  Kinda forgot what I had started and waited too long to come back.  When I did come back, I lifted the lid from the pot, and there was billowing smoke which soon burst into flames.  I put the pot quickly into the sink but did not add water (at least I have some sense).  The flames were at least a couple feet high by this point.  I stood back while Michelle grabbed some Bisquick from the cupboard and put the fire to rest.  Needless to say, this caused quite a commotion among the kids (sleeping brother-in-law upstairs never seemed to notice... smoke detector going off and all).  No photos from this event.  We were too busy putting out the fire to think about a blog post complete with pictures at the time.  But here are some fun ones from the backyard on a much less stressful occasion.

These pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago.  Last summer/fall my brother-in-law and the kids built an amazing tree house in their backyard.  This thing is top of the line.  There are working windows, hammocks, even electricity and a tv for watching movies.  I've only been up there once because I never outgrew my fear of heights, and it is way up there.  But the kids love it.  Mercy even got to go up with her daddy one day.  I love the clear corrugated roof.  I can imagine a cozy rainy day lounging in the hammock reading, while listening to the rain over head.  

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scripture memory #5

I've been committing more Scripture to memory this year, along with Beth Moore and thousands of her blog readers.  The goal is to choose a Scripture the first and fifteenth of each month and work on memorizing it for two weeks and then pick another little chunk of the Word to study and memorize next, so that by the end of the year, it's a great new habit, and we'll be armed with truth and full of His Word.

I haven't posted all of them here yet, but these are the verses in my little spiral notebook so far for 2009:

1.  Jeremiah 33:3  Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.  (NIV)

2.  Isaiah 33:6  He is your constant source of stability; He abundantly provides safety and great wisdom; He gives all this to those who fear Him.  (NET)

3.  Jeremiah 20:9  But if I say, "I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name," His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shot up in my bones." I am weary of holding it in.  Indeed I cannot.  (NIV)

4.  Malachi 3:16  Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard.  A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His name.

and for this time,

5.  Psalm 37:34  Wait for the Lord and keep His way.  He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.  (NIV)  

I also like this one in The Message:  Wait passionately for God, don't leave the path.  He'll give you your place in the sun while you watch the wicked lose it.  (MSG)

Now if you see me in the street, please be gracious.  I'll admit I don't have these all down yet.  Maybe that's part of why I'm posting them here.  When I was in high school, I was in a discipleship class at church, and we had lots and lots of Scriptures we were memorizing.  I had a big test coming up, and I was given a great opportunity to spend a day studying.  I was in BMP (Behavior Modification Program, also known as in-school suspension).  I was caught cutting class... I know, the things you learn from a person's blog, right?  So my fellow delinquents and I were confined to this room for the entire school day.  There was to be total silence.  We could do school work, read a book, write... just as long as we were silent.  So I used the time to memorize my Bible verses.  I spent the entire day writing out the Scriptures over and over and over.  It really helped.  So I think (if I ever get a chance this week.... oh for the days of in-school suspension, forced to silence in my own little world!) I'd like to spend some time writing these five out over and over until they're inscribed on the tablet of my heart.

This week's verse was found this morning.  We went to look at a house down the street from my sister's house a few days ago and absolutely fell in love (more on that another time)... I updated my facebook status with "Jenny is praying, hoping, wishing, dreaming about the house we looked at down the street today. So perfect for us in so many ways. It's in God's hands."  A friend commented on my status and included the verses John 15:7 and Psalm 37:4.  So this morning I took some time to read through Psalm 37.  I have an NIV/ Message Parallel Bible, so I read it through in both translations.  The whole chapter is basically saying to cling to God and keep to His ways.  Don't worry about what anyone else is doing, just keep trusting Him.  He'll keep His promises and He'll never let us go.  

Since the middle of December when Joe lost his job, God has been providing for us in amazing ways.   Psalm 37:18-19 says, "The days of the blameless are known to the Lord, and their inheritance will endure forever.  In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty."  This has definitely been true for us.  I have been so impressed with Joe throughout this time.  He has been the bigger man and not lost his temper or tried to get revenge or be in competition with his old boss (as some felt he would be justified in doing).  We put all of our trust in God and had total peace that He would lead us and provide for us.  For Christmas, we had family coming to visit from Colorado and didn't know how we could provide food for everyone, but we received a couple of unexpected checks in the mail so I was able to go shopping.  Then while they were here, Joe's mom and sister-in-law and I went shopping again, and our cupboards were fuller than ever.  We ended up with enough food to last until we moved out at the end of January (just a few runs for butter, eggs and milk now and then).

The whole chapter also talks about the righteous inheriting the land.  I know we can sometimes make the Bible mean to us what we want it to, so I'm careful to claim that as a specific promise about a certain house, but I do know that God is preparing a place for us.  And according to Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."  There is a specific house right down the street that seems so perfect for us (more of a realistic dream home than the HGTV dream home I posted about before!).  It's in His hands, and we trust that He knows our desires and knows what's best for us.

I went to Beth Moore's blog this morning to leave a comment with my verse and the one she posted goes right along with it.  I think I'll try to get my #5 down this week and do the one she chose next week.  It's Hebrews 10:35-36:  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded, YOU NEED TO PERSEVERE so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.  (NIV)

I feel like we're on the verge of a breakthrough and I'm excited to see what God has in store.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

vacation mode/ my little valentine

We've been back here in California for four weeks now.  I still think my sister and her family are saints for taking in our large crew.  We're having a great time together.  It's going really really well.  All of our kids are homeschooled, so sometimes getting school work done is a challenge.  And little Judah is way off from his normal routine.  He is sleeping better than when we first got here, but it will take some time to get our usual flow back once we get into our own place.  Other than that, things are going so smoothly.  I love all the cousins playing and working together.   From the tallest to the smallest, they all genuinely enjoy each other.  And the sister time is pretty special too.  

I've been sort of in vacation mode or something, because I'm forgetting things and not in my usual rhythms of correspondence (email, phone calls, blogging, facebook) yet.  So you haven't heard from me here in a while.  I have things in my mind that I'd like to get into a post, but having a chunk of time to think clearly enough to get it from my head to the keys to the blog just isn't happening much.  

I'll give you a little glimpse of what's to come though... a couple mornings in a row I woke up with the Cranberries' song "These are Days" in my head.  And truly, these are the days.  Right now what we have here is pretty special.  I'm sure some days they're thinking it will be nice to have their house to themselves again... and somedays I think it will be nice to be in our own space where Judah will sleep good again... but for right now I want to savor these days.  I don't want to just look back and enjoy the memories of this time.  I want to enjoy every moment we have here in this sweet circus now.

So I'm going to start a series of posts called "these are the days."  You'll hear stories and see photos of this sweet season of families blended.  A few other posts will be scattered in there too.  Because I enjoy blogging and reading blogs and keeping it up helps me feel connected to old and new friends (bloggy friends included).

So for now I'll leave you with a couple of sweet photos of my little valentine and I.  Our fourth and final baby turned one last weekend.  (I could go on and on just about all that that evokes in me... but I don't have that much time or emotional energy at this writing.)  When Zeke was a baby, I put on dark lipstick and smooched him up real good for some pictures too.  (Wish I could show you, but they're not scanned in yet and the prints are in storage.)  He melts me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

remembering one year ago

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

hgtv dream home giveaway

Have you seen this? I'm hoping it's our new home. Every year, HGTV (Home and Garden channel) build and give away an amazing dream home. I've been entering for the past few years. THIS year, it's really perfect for us. 

We just moved back to California from Minnesota, and it's only about 40 miles from San Fransisco in the lovely little town of Sonoma. We are technically homeless at the moment, though we've been so blessed to stay with my sister and her family while we catch up and save to get into our own place. So I'm thinking this place would be just perfect for us. 

I'm sure there are reasons it would be just perfect for you, too... so go enter! And while you're on the site, you can take a tour. My favorite is the kitchen. And the backyard with it's amazing patio area. And the front porch. And the big tree. We recently went to Sonoma, just to check out the area. I'd been to Sonoma Train Town before, but didn't explore the area beyond that. When we went a couple weeks ago, it was a rainy evening.. but we drove around to see the nicest little town. Perfect for bike rides and walks and spreading our creative wings artistically. We also stopped at Ben and Jerry's. Have you had their cake batter ice cream??? Seriously SO good. It has ribbons of chocolate ice cream swirled about. YUM!!!

Ok, so go check out the house and enter. You have two more days. The winner will be announced in March. If you win, I promise I'll be thrilled for you and know that it wasn't meant for us. Just invite me over for a barbeque. (please!)

Monday, February 9, 2009

you can learn a lot from a hermit crab.

My sister got an email today and I asked her to forward it to me so I could share it here.  Unfortunately, the two hermit crabs pictured above are no longer with us.  Kermit (rainbow shell) died before we left Minnesota, and Santa (red butterfly shell) froze the first night of our travels because we forgot to bring her in to our hotel. 

Good lesson here though.

-Personal Word of Challenge - Are You Satisfied In Ministry?
Over the past years, I have determined to constantly be on the lookout for the Lord's leading, direction, and word even in the most unusual situations. During our business meeting, God specifically challenged me with a word that He impressed on my heart was for you.

We often find ourselves in places or situations in which we believe that we could be doing something better or more constructive with our time. I know that in the busyness of my daily schedule, every moment counts. Well, this past Sunday evening was our church's annual business meeting. Though necessary and extremely important to the operation of the body, it does often lack a certain appeal for most. Some might find themselves echoing Nathanael's words from John 1:46 where he asked, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Some might say, "A business meeting! Can anything good come from there?" Well, check this out.

Upon opening the meeting, Pastor John shared this illustration. "The hermit crab, in order to live, must continue to change its shell. However, as it makes the move to change its shell, he becomes exposed. He risks being eaten. As he gets older, he begins to enjoy the safety and comfort of this last shell so he does not make the change to a new shell. And the shell that keeps him comfortable is the very thing that kills him because his body has been squeezed to death."

Be challenged to Never Become Satisfied! Never become satisfied with your understanding of the scripture. Never become satisfied with the level of relationship you have with your Heavenly Father. Never become satisfied with the level of spiritual growth you see in the lives of those to whom you are ministering. It's okay to want more! You read that correctly. In this case, God wants you to want more! And, God wants to give you more!

Isaiah 54:2-3 says, "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes for you will spread out to the right and to the left."

I'm sure you have heard the adage "Us Four and No More." Sometimes we become so satisfied with where we are, what we are doing, and how we are doing it that we never realize we have developed the hermit-crab mentality of safety which eventually will lead us to our own demise.

Seek God this week for ways that you can enlarge your tent. Do not hold back. With ALL of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, do ALL for the glory of God. Place all you do into His hands and He will cause your plans to succeed! (Mark 12:30, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Proverbs 16:3)

Pastor Gary R. Linn

Saturday, January 24, 2009

incredible gift

First of all, I have to PRAISE GOD and share with you that Joe got a phone call yesterday from.. his new boss...  He got the job!!!  And he's so excited about it!  Not only will he be doing what he loves (which he did here too) but also working in a great area, and with so much freedom to be himself, be innovative and expand in new ways.  So starting in March, if you're in the San Francisco area and want a tattoo, let me know and I'll give you all the info.  He's also working on some painting videos that he'll start selling through his website, and has a couple of series paintings that are super cool.  In the words of our nine year old Zeke, "I think Dad pretty much got the job because his art rocks."

I'm also writing this today because I'm feeling so thankful for all that God has done.  Joe was disappointed that things didn't go the way he was hoping at the shop here, but feels like if he hadn't come, he'd always wonder "what if", and he says that he probably needed this to give him the push to expand his art and try new things (He'll be putting together an art show with other artists hopefully in a few months too).  

I honestly feel like we've been given such an incredible gift.  I have never felt so loved than I have this past year.  A lot of times we wait until we're at someone's funeral to talk about how much they meant to us.  After all the kindness that's been shown, all the meaningful words spoken, all the love poured out, I feel like someone could just toss my ashes out a window on the freeway when I'm gone and be done with it.  They don't need to gather and share memories or say nice things about me when I'm gone because they've done it for me, with me, this last year.  Old friends, new friends.  I just feel so full.  To think back at how sad I was writing this first post about our move... I knew without a doubt that God would carry me through it.  But He hugely exceeded my expectations in every way.  It's been so amazing.  And I can honestly say... worth every tear.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I was driving home last night, listening to the radio, which was set to Joe's favorite Air 1.  Thelma Wells came on for a Life Change Moment.  I have grown to love Thelma through hearing her speak at Women of Faith events over the years and reading her devotionals.  You can hear some of her story here or visit her website here.  There's something so soothing about her voice and I love to hear her read God's Word.  On the radio moment, she talked about peace and read John 14:27 from the New Living Translation.  

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.

We are packing up our house this week-- again.  We just moved here less than six months ago.  It was heart-wrenching to leave our former home (family, church, friends, area), but we knew that God was with us and I was confident that He would carry us through the transition.  He far exceeded my hopes in every way.  He came before us, provided people to help us unload our uhaul when we first got here, brought us closer as a family, and led us to a new church family that has become very dear to us.  I thought that after we settled in here, I'd just have some really sweet alone times with God and enjoy my family in this new area.  I have done those things, but what I never expected was to fall in love with so many new people so quickly.  

Things did not go the way we had expected or hoped with Joe's job, and he was let go about two weeks before Christmas.  Since then we have been praying and seeking God to guide us for our next step.  Joe has really stepped up in being the spiritual leader in our home and I have so much respect and appreciation for how he has handled the situation.  It would be natural and understandable to freak out, be angry, maybe even depressed.  But Joe has stood his ground and sought after God and rested in His perfect peace.  We really haven't been anxious about it all... just trusting God to lead us and knowing that He has a plan.  We really can't question why He would move us this far only to bring us back again.  We can see His handiwork in the whole thing, and I'm sure there's much more that we'll look back on later and realize.

One week from today (if all goes according to plan), we will be on our way again, driving across several states, back to California.  We don't have a place of our own to live yet (but my very gracious sister and her family are generously making room for us).  Joe has two temporary guest artist spots in shops in Monterey and the East Bay for the month of February, and then a more permanent position in San Francisco starting in March (that one is 99% a sure thing at this point.. he should know later this week... please pray with us about that one).  

Through it all, we've been so thankful for God's peace.  Peace of mind and heart, like the verse above says.  When you're under the shadow of His wings, it really doesn't matter if the world around you is chaotic.  He has us covered and He'll lead us, keeping us close through it all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

16 things and Taking Flight

I have a new favorite book.  Really I have two new favorite books.  One of them the fabulous All I Need is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans, by Susanna Foth Aughtmon, of Confessions of a Tired Supergirl, which I'm giving away here.  (Winner will be chosen at random tonight... it's not too late to enter!)
My other new favorite, I've had my eye on for a while and purchased it a couple nights ago.  I'm trying to let go of inhibitions and create things.  I think I might just have a teeny bit of art hidden somewhere inside that would love to get out but doesn't really know how.  So one of the things I'm wanting to push myself to do this year is to just do it.  No worries about whether it's right or wrong, good or bad.  Just try new things and experiment and develop my own style.  I started an art journal last week, which was a good start... but I was so intimidated by the blank page that I left it pretty boring.  I like simple, and I think it stated where I was (am), but I feel like I could have added more but was afraid I'd ruin it.  

Anyway, my other new favorite book is called Taking Flight.  Inspirations and Techniques to give your creative spirit wings.  I bought it because I really liked the artwork.  I love collage and want to do more mixed media pieces.  What I didn't expect was to be so encouraged and built up.  I actually cried as I was reading it yesterday morning (and I'm not pregnant.  Tired and needing my baby to sleep more at night, yes.  But this book really touched me).  
And I was so excited to find the author, Kelly Rae Roberts' blog.  Reading the book and her blog, I am finding that we have some things in common.  Her name is Kelly and her sister's name is Jennifer.  My name is Jenny and I have a sister named Kelly!  She apparently has relocated sometime somewhat recently, and our family has made a major move (soon to be twice.. more later) in the last six months.  There were a few other things too, and since I'm feeling so friendly with her, I thought I'd take the 16 things challenge from her blog.  (We're friends, so she was asking me, right?)

So here we go.. 16 random-ish things...

1.  Judah just woke up from a very short nap.

2.  I really wish he'd go back to sleeping through the night like he did for his first eight months.

3.  I really really love coffee.

4.  We're going as a family to see Marley and Me today.  

5.  We've already heard about what happens to Marley.

6.  I really don't know how people in Minnesota survive year after year in these sub-human temperatures (30 BELOW zero here this morning!).

7.  But I'm going to miss this place.

8.  That said, I'm also really excited to get back to the Bay Area.

9.  I wish I'd never stopped taking piano lessons when I was a kid.

10.  Though I would love a little more stability right now, I totally respect and admire my husband's drive, determination and risk taking in following his dreams.

11.  I love to travel.

12.  I also love food.  All kinds.  

13.  My sisters are amazing, encouraging and inspiring.

14.  I also have amazing friends.  I feel so blessed.

15.  I'm very competitive when it comes to playing games.

16.  I grew up as a military brat.  It was hard at times, but I have great memories of a happy childhood.  I love my family.