Friday, December 18, 2009

If we're asking what material thing(s) we'd like for Christmas...

Here's hoping it hasn't been discontinued by the time we can afford this. This has been my dream set for at least 5 years and I still LOVE it.
Estates II Bedroom Set by Fairmont Designs, 784SET. Furniture XO

Here's the Mule Chest. It's got hidden compartments and all kinds of fun features. I've got the whole set all mapped out in our bedroom. There's a place and a need for every piece. It would all fit perfectly. We need furniture, but I especially WANT this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A beautiful depiction of the most important story ever...
(A skillful eye will find my townsperson daughter near the beginning and my King son near the end.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snapfish: Share Photo Book popup

Snapfish: Share Photo Book popup: ""

A new photobook for an old reason - a special offer about to expire, of course.

Let's see if this one works. When I first posted about photobooks, I couldn't find a way on this particular photo & photobooking site to share the things I'd made. Now I'm checking to see if this new option works on the blog. Cross fingers...

Ok, well, I inserted the link. Why doesn't it work? This really should be easier.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

2009 Myrtle Beach, by Marian Salyer

I know it doesn't count as a blog posting, but it's something. It's a tiny look into what we did this summer, since I haven't posted since spring started.
Click here to view photos

Saturday, May 30, 2009

We know there's a plan, but sometimes need to be reminded.

Rather than have her color in her princess, fairy tale, or Barbie coloring books, I'm trying to create things that my daughter can do quietly during our main Church meeting that will help her to stay focused on the point of our being there. Using the practice I've gained in my research (see previous post on digital scrapbooking), I've made a special book. It still needs some work - I've got to add little dates and information here and there, move a sticker or resize a picture or two, but I'm getting excited that it's starting to look like something and I need to share it. The words are the lyrics to a sweet song by Vanja Y. Watkins. I'm curious to see how this photobooking website will post the preview, as this is one of the things I want to be able to do.

Here's a link to it, just in cast it's not working here:

Friday, April 24, 2009

We are creating memories - and trying to figure out the best way to preserve them.

Have you seen that commercial where the digital picture characters are all crammed into a limited space and one of them eventually has to be zapped because another more important picture is being added? I'm pretty sure my memory cards sparked the idea for that t.v. ad. I can't begin to guess how many pictures we have sitting in digital file form on memory cards and flash drives, on CD's, and in our computers' memories. In the spirit of trying to journal, trying to document the events in our lives, and trying to give my kids the magic of remembering, discussing, and treasuring the things we do together, I've been working on using the pictures we've never seen in print form to create personalized memory books. Now I am finding that this kind of thing can be quite consuming in many ways and downright addictive!

I suppose we can blame this spurt of creativity on the fact that I've had pneumonia and complications from newly-diagnosed asthma for almost a month now and have been confined to my bed (and my laptop) more than I normally would be. Perhaps we could point toward the fact that I've been sort of laid off at the theatre because there was not enough demand for the owners to be able to employ me for a while and I no longer have that creative outlet. Maybe this could be a result of my husband being in Hawaii and then on other business trips for the greater part of the last month (yes, including the time when I had the worst of the pneumonia.) No matter the instigating factors, the end result is the same. I am finally producing something tangible and, if I do say so myself, doggone good! I love seeing and sharing the storybooks I have created with our pictures!

To make this entry useful for the general population, I'll share some of the thoughts I've been mulling over during my recent (if relatively limited) experiences to provide a bit of a review of the services with which I've been experimenting. Each of the sites I have tried has some good qualities (some more than others) and each has some drawbacks. The following evaluations and comments are completely my own opinions, based on my own circumstances. I do not receive any kind of compensation for any of my observations, nor do I intend to cause any harm or damage to any of the companies involved. (The companies are welcome to read and consider my comments, if they wish, to get a feel for the way unbiased, real-world people are thinking about their services and products.) These are just things I've been considering as I have been trying different ways of translating our memories into print form.

My favorite storybooking site for quality and the end product is Heritage Makers. It has, by far, the most embellishments, options, backgrounds, styles, and general bells and whistles of any site I have tried. The possibilities for page layouts and personalizations are almost infinite, since the user can (and must) place and adjust every picture and every piece of anything on every page. Of course, this technology involves not only more labor but also an extra cost. The HM site is the only one I have worked with that charges a monthly fee for access to more than their basic resources. The end result is definitely a better-made product than the others, with sewn bindings (instead of glued), acid-free pages, and overall archival keepsake quality.

What I am finding with HM is that some of the bonuses are also the very things that become drawbacks. With infinite possibilities also come the aforementioned extra costs, as well as countless decisions, processes, and technical things to figure out and try to learn and remember. Because there are so many things the user must adjust, there are several toolboxes/storage areas that take up screen space and must be moved from place to place and/or opened and closed in order to access the work space. This site involves a definite learning curve and requires regular practice to keep up with the technology. For me, all these possibilites translate to more time, which is one of my most limited and costly resources. They also lead to greater frustration and more second-guessing than I have felt with the other companies, as well as to a longer interval between project start and actually being able to order, receive, hold, and enjoy the end product. When the possibilities are practically endless, it's hard to feel like I've explored all options and put everything the way I want it.

Time is also more of an issue with HM because the "credits" for products that a customer purchases ahead of time (say, in a promotional combo package or when the site is having a sale) have an expiration date. (This fact is not mentioned much when a person is making a purchase, by the way, and I do not remember it being clearly written or emphasized on any order form.) For people whose computer files and pictures are very organized and who have a firm grasp on both their visions for their projects and the technology involved, this may not be much of an issue. For our family, however, the time pressure has become a huge issue. I purchased several credits for items in May and June of 2008. I did complete one beautiful, priceless (to me) keepsake storybook in the first month after I opened the account. I love it so much and it came out so close to being perfect in every way for my purposes that I can hardly imagine ever making another one that I would love or appreciate as much. My other pictures are not quite so accessible or organized, but I thought I had plenty of time to work on the projects bit by bit. My husband, however, was notified that he was losing his job in the second month after I purchased the credits. His new job pays less than the other, so our funds are even more budgeted than they were before. Even if I had been able to complete the projects, we could not have paid the additional amount necessary to have the items shipped to us.

Our time for such projects has also been more strictly budgeted because I started working outside of our home and he started traveling more. To complicate matters, our computer had unplanned issues and eventually our monitor and scanner became useless. We, of course, have not had the resources to get a new monitor and have only recently been able to install one that works. Our home computer still has issues when I try to upload pictures to and navigate the HM site, but I have not yet been able to determine if this is a consistent problem with HM or if the problem lies more with my computer and my connection to the internet.

I did not know all these roadblocks would arise when I purchased most of the credits, but I am, nonetheless, going to have to do something with the projects or my investment (which is greater than it would be with the other companies I have seen for similar, if lower quality, products and services) will be lost. The months of premium membership for which I paid, but was unable to use, are a complete loss. What I have learned from this experience is that I cannot purchase from this company just because it holds a sale - no matter how great of a sale it is or what I dream of being able to do with the sale items - or because a friend hosts a show. I have to make rational decisions based on what is best for my family at the time and what resources I have available. If I am going to purchase items from this site in the future (which I am sure I will), I will have to have my files and ideas organized and my time set aside so that I can complete the project in a timely manner. I will also have to consider the cost of adding the premium membership to the price of the item credit that I purchase, as I cannot justify maintaining that pricey membership in the hopes that I will be able to work on projects regularly. That hope is just not realistic for my family's situation at this time.

Let's move on to another site. I'll do Snapfish next because this evaluation is the really easy. For picture printing, I have always been happy with the services and quality Sfish offers. As far as photobooks are concerned, however, I have not been impressed with it. The options for backgrounds are most limited, and embellishments are nonexistent. The whole process is relatively quick, mainly because there are not many options from which to make choices. Uploading pictures to the site is quite fast and well-organized, and the book-building process is easy to navigate. The pictures fit into a basic number of layouts and a few set sizes of windows. I cannot comment on the quality of the actual printed book because I have not yet ordered and received mine. I will add pertinent information here when I upload the remaining pictures (delayed, again, because of the problems with the family computer as well as by my general lack of excitement with the options they offer) and finish the last couple of pages in the book. (Their discount promotion ends in the next few days, so I will definitely have to submit my project soon.)

Another website I could use to turn our digital picture files into tangible book form is Kodak Gallery. I had forgotten about this one until it sent me a notice that I hadn't bought anything in so long that it was about to delete my stored pictures. As it turns out, a small photobook would fulfill my purchase requirement for the year. I thought Snapfish had the most basic program out there until I tried to make a book through Kodak. Just about the only choices to make here are the size of the book (I am trying the one for which I have a discount code), the design for the covers (both the same, chosen from a small selection) and the design of the pages (backgrounds all the same w/ limited variety and layouts.) I will post about the quality of the final product when my little photobook gets here.

As evidenced by my last couple of posts on this blog, the remaining company I have tried and will mention is Shutterfly. I have used this site for photo storage, picture printing, and Christmas card production over the past few years. Although one of the cards I made a couple of years ago printed much darker than I expected, all the other cards and prints I have purchased from them have arrived exactly as they looked online. As a member of their site, I receive regular emails and sale ads, one of which included a code for a free photobook. (Free book with paid shipping.) When I gave it a try, I had limited computer function and was not able to fully explore the options available on their site, but I did easily and quickly put together a basic photobook that arrived at my home within just a few days.

This photobook brings our family a lot of joy. (As I mentioned before, we barely have any pictures that are actually printed, so this whole group of themed pictures in book form is outstanding!) Its construction is not what I would describe as high quality; it is not going to be coming apart any time soon, but the binding is glued instead of being sewn and the book arrived in a simple cardboard mailer and plastic envelope, as opposed to the gift/protective sleeve that was also included with the HM book. The book only cost me what I paid for shipping, after all, and it has been well worth that amount. This promotion was also a success for Sfly, I think, because it got me looking at the product and giving the process a try. Now that I have learned a bit more about this part of the the website (time investment being pleasantly little as Sfly is a place where I already stored photo files for free and the site and this book-making process are incredibly fast and easy to navigate), I have figured out what errors I made in my haste to complete this first book before the discount code was no longer valid. I have also figured out things I like and dislike about this website.

Shutterfly's system has a very easy-to-access variety of backgrounds, edge styles, and preset layout options for their pages. There are not as many options for the covers, but the options they do have work well. I like that I can generally find a background and a basic picture edging I like for most of my purposes. Sfly does not have nearly the number of themes and choices as the premier version of HM has available, but it has considerably more than Sfish and Kodak. I especially appreciate the layout options for 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5+ pictures and the ease and speed with which any of these choices can be placed, changed and viewed. As I think about all the projects I have purchased and the ones I have actually completed, I am sure this one element has been the key reason I have been able to slap together so many Sfly projects so quickly.

With convenience comes limitation, of course, and I would be remiss if I did not mention my frustration with the way that so many of the layout options do not use up enough of the page space (I want to be able to see more picture and less background a lot of times) and do not allow me to make individual pictures bigger or smaller than their preset dimensions. While this program does allow me to combine text - a good selection of fonts, even - with my pictures, the size and space limitations are a factor again. Personalization of the photobooks is also limited because the website does not offer any embellishments or ways to place anything outside of the preset layouts. Without going to an outside website for templates and using a photo-editing or publishing program to embellish photos and then uploading the whole product to be placed into a Sfly book, there is no way to raise the keepsake or heirloom status of the books I make on Sfly. The end result is usually a fun, touchable, portable memory book, but not so much of a replacement for a real scrapbook or other specialized storybook.

To summarize, my experiences have taught me that Snapfish and Kodak have a way to go before their photobooks would be my first or even second choice, but I am glad to see their efforts at offering this type of product. I am excited to have learned as much as I have about Shutterfly's photobooks and other photo products and most especially to have an easy way to post the virtual products I create to my blog and other websites. I am thrilled that I have been able to combine various promotional discounts to order and quickly receive a variety of actual products from Shutterfly, as well. Although their layouts are not all completely space-efficient, they do not offer embellishments, and the available themes are not unlimited, the advantages are that the workspace within the site is convenient to use, the creative process is easy to learn, understand, and navigate, the backgrounds do come in a decent variety of styles, and the layouts and storyboarding options make it possible to put together fun books in a relatively short time. I also appreciate the fact that I can work on Shutterfly products a little bit at a time and store them as works-in-progress or just as fun projects at no additional cost. Heritage Makers delivers the ultimate quality of product, but also requires the greatest investment of time, energy, and finances. This is truly the place to go for heirloom kinds of keepsakes. They offer such a variety of embellishments and themes that there must be something to appeal to any person's style or needs. This company also makes a variety of other photo gifts and products which I have only seen on their site, as well as offering a template gallery (the majority of which templates are only available to their premier members) which can help members to jump-start various projects. I have found them to be the gourmet meal of photobook making or storybooking, as they call it. While I am not able to use their services every time, I am most thrilled with and moved by the product I receive when I do make the required commitment to and investment in a project with Heritage Makers.

We are remembering how much fun Disneyland and Walt Disney World can be.

I have been at it again. Actually, this book is just a modified version of a previous one I created and posted. (See below.) The earlier one is the 8x8 proportion, should someone be curious. This one is a slightly adapted 12x12 version. I love them both and wonder if and when I might be able to purchase this big one and see it in person. Wouldn't she get a kick out of it?! Until that time, I will enjoy sitting at the computer and flipping these virtual pages with my daughter.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Monday, March 9, 2009

NSSHP 2007 Book

Our family went to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World in 2007. It was the best trip we've ever taken to Disney, according to my oldest boys. Just the fact that these teen/pre-teen boys had such a blast and were willing to admit it told me that they REALLY loved it. We have loved listening to the event music from it and talking about it so much that I wanted to put some of our pictures together and make some kind of memory book about it.

When Shutterfly sent me a code for a free photobook, I knew just what I wanted to do with it. They've got some fun Halloween backgrounds, so it went together pretty easily. The kids are thrilled that they have a book they can look through to see shots of so many of the fun things we did. I, of course, look at it and wish I had been able to place things a little bit differently or remembered to write one thing or another on certain pages before I published it, but I have to admit that I'm quite thrilled to have it to look through and share with friends and family. Besides, when I combined it with other things I needed to get from the site (I print pictures through them) and with other discount codes, the whole book was totally free and we got a back-up copy for a great price. I love free things - free things that we actually like and use - almost as much as I love a great vacation!

View Project at Shutterfly

Saturday, February 28, 2009

We're playing Tagrit!

I've been tagged, and around my house that means we're playing tagrit. My daughter coined that particular phrase, using the term over several days before I figured out exactly what she meant. She lives for the fleeting moments when her three big brothers will play with her, and tagrit is a favorite game. Tag, you're it = tagrit in little-girl-trying-to-keep-up-with-big-brothers language.

Now I'm playing a different kind of tag - one that brings less physical benefits (I really should be playing the real tag game, or anything that would have me running or getting more physical exercise than my current chasing and transporting my kids regimen), but is stimulating, just the same. It seems to be pretty popular among those who join me in being connected to their computers for escape and amusement purposes, as well as for all the enriching and socially satisfying benefits. I've been blog-tagged by one of my oldest friends.

Here are the rules:

(1) Share 6 non- (though not necessarily un-) important things about yourself on your blog.
(2) Tag 6 blogging friends to then do the same.
(3) Let each person know s/he’s been tagged by leaving a comment on his or her blog.
(4) Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

After much consideration, I decided I’m thinking way too much about which 6 things to write and should just go on and write something already.

I use this one whenever we have events where we do one of those getting-to-know-you activities and have to tell a few things that are true about ourselves and some that are not, then others have to guess which are the true statements. No one ever gets this one right.

I paid for much of my college education with a soccer scholarship (of sorts) from our men’s soccer team. Two of my favorite men in the world (Mike "Bert" Berticelli and Chris "Rico" Petrucelli) were our coaches. After I worked for them during my Freshman year, one or both of them arranged for me to receive work-study pay for my job as their statistician and manager. They didn't have to do it; I loved the game, the team, the coaches, and the experience. I didn't ask them to pay me for the work I did, but I'll be forever grateful that they offered. They made all the difference in my life. They allowed me to quit the job I held at a department store, which meant I didn't have to waste all that time driving to a neighboring town to work and be so disconnnected from campus. They gave me not only a way to justify spending all that time at the soccer office/stadium and with the team, but more importantly gave me a kind of confidence and priceless memories that I cannot imagine having built any other way.

The same year I graduated, these coaches moved up from positions as Men's Soccer Head Coach and Men's Soccer Assistant Coach at our college (Old Dominion University) to build successful programs as Men's Soccer Head Coach and Women's Soccer Head Coach at Notre Dame University. They both went on to make soccer - and the world in general - better places in many ways. To me, they'll always be the guys who saw more in me than I saw in myself and who treated me like I could be someone important when they were under no obligation to do so. I've worn my little gold soccer ball charm on my necklace almost every day since Coach Bert gave it to me just before my Senior year.

Here's a link to a poem Coach Mike Berticelli, former Old Dominion University & University of Notre Dame Head Men's Soccer Coach, NSCAA Vice President of Education, and NSCAA Director of Coaching Emeritus wrote about Youth Soccer coaches before his untimely death in 2000:

I love the ocean. I love learning about and watching ocean animals, studying ocean science, teaching about the ocean, doing ocean-related experiments, sitting next to and listening to the ocean, sorting through seashells, and taking pictures of my kids at the ocean. I think I could watch the ocean churn, roll, and foam for hours on end. I do not, however, enjoy swimming in the ocean. No matter how shallow or deep the water, every minute I'm in the ocean is spent imagining how many of those ocean creatures could possibly be lurking in the murky waters immediately around and below me. I used to love ocean swimming, always marvelling at the power of the swells and waves and the way the tides affect the direction we end up going. Some time in my grown-up years, though, I lost my tolerance for the mystery and the possibilities of things that could invade my personal space. I don't know if it's correlation or causation, but the change seemed to have possibly come around the same time as the summer when I had a horrible case of shingles that followed a nerve around my abdomen and back area, swam in the ocean, and suffered agonizing pain from the sand and salt water rubbing under my swimsuit and into those patches of blisters.

I have a kind of love/hate relationship with numbers and patterns. They calm me. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed, a few games of Free Cell or Sudoku will help me step back and feel like I can put things in order. On the other hand, my need for patterns can be nearly paralyzing. I've been known to count the parents standing in a line on sign-up day at school, then move myself back the correct number of people to make sure I get a carpool number or lunch number I can wear without feeling like the Earth is spinning out of control. The last time we got a new cell phone, I literally broke into a cold sweat while we waited for the randomly-assigned phone number to appear on the computer screen. I begged the man to let us change if, just by chance, the new number would be some random jumble of numbers. He first thought I was joking, until he saw how wide my eyes were and how close I was to crying. My current number crisis is the order in which our new health insurance company has assigned our member numbers. They've made my husband first, then put the rest of us in alphabetical order. Dolts. How could they? Don't they know that the universe might split into pieces if, after the main policy-holder, the rest of us are not listed in descending age order?

I'm a rule-follower. I stop - fully stop - at all stop signs, even in empty parking lots. In the past, I could not stand to drive at any speed above the posted speed limit. Even now, I gasp if I look at the speedometer and realize I'm driving 5 or more miles per hour over the speed limit. I've been a rule-follower all my life. I have always imagined that my parents know this about me and made sure, when we were young, to ask just the right questions if they needed to know who did what while they were out. I know how to use creative phrasing and answer parts of questions, but if I'm asked a specific question, I will undoubtedly spill the beans.

Tomatoes. I don't like them. I want to like them. Every year I think, "This will be the year I like tomatoes!" Then I try them and, lo and behold, I still don't like them. I like looking at those cute little grape tomatoes and putting them on my family members' plates. I like making tomato sandwiches for my husband and daughter. I am fascinated by the big, huge tomatoes where each slice is the same size as a piece of bread. I especially like the kind of sandwich I make for them with toasted cheddar cheese. They look so delicious! You would think I would at least like that kind. I don't. ... Maybe next year?

I love musical theatre and performing music. I didn't realize until just recently how much I enjoy it and how much I wish I had not been so painfully shy in my youth. I could have been so much better at it if I had let myself grow to my full potential when I had such instruction available. I grew up in a town where we had opportunities that were hidden gems for the musically or theatrically inclined. Our Fine Arts Center was where I went to ballet and tap classes, tried several art/craft experiments, sang in a Youth Chorale which was led by an outstanding woman and produced several highly-talented individuals, and watched my parents and siblings participate in plays and operettas. (See my previous blog post about "Tradition.") I sang in choir at church for most of my life, as well, which probably started because my mother was the choir director for much of the time.

Our show choir director and our theater teacher in high school ran programs in which I consider myself lucky to have been able to participate. What fun! What culture! What a creative learning ground I had available! During my college years, however, I only participated in one bit of musical theatre. My then-boyfriend/now-husband is blond and I had some experience with singing/acting, so we signed up to earn extra credit by participating in our Theater Arts professor's production of "Cabaret" in the local community theatre. Through that venue, we met a unique and extraordinary group of people. That was an experience I would never trade! Oh, the stories we could tell!

Our family's more recent theatrical venues have been infinitely less - um - seedy. For several years, we did more watching of musicals - from "The Lion King" and "Mama Mia" on Broadway (and "The Lion King" Broadway tour in Atlanta) to various high school and puppet performances of "The Wizard of Oz." (I even found out that one of my former students is currently a character in Disney's touring version of Lion King!) We all sang, danced, and acted together for the first time when we dipped our toes into the waters of theater again and participated in a historical reenactment kind of pageant two summers ago. The soundtrack was pre-recorded, but we did spend many hours in the car practicing the songs so we would look like we were singing the right things and so our fellow actors wouldn't be driven away when we sang along during the show. (That Pageant, "The Promised Land", is growing and now moving to an outdoor theatre a few hours away from us. We're planning to audition for it, though, and will be using this coming summer's vacation time to participate in it. We also accompanied our oldest son while he did the Trek this last summer. (It's a pioneer reenactment/ challenging journey kind of thing that youth in our church have the opportunity to participate in every few years.) We didn't follow him and his wagon, but the rest of us were actors that he and the other groups encountered in vignettes along the way. Through our Church associations, too, I ended up adapting the script and songs, then singing and acting in an inspiring production of The Parable of the Ten Virgins. That experience was a standout moment in my life.

We got fully back into actually participating in musical theatre slowly, and originally to satisfy our middle son's passion. He has always been a charmer and entertainer, full of wit and will. When we moved to NC, we were looking for something for him to do that would help him adjust to the new area and find something he loves here. He did a few plays with FACT (Franklinton Area Community Theatre), but we really wanted to sign him up with a children's theatre camp/group a friend runs. We finally made that leap this past summer. He had such fun acting in Willy Wonka, Jr. that his older brother decided to try it, too, when they did Fiddler on the Roof, Jr. (Again, see previous posts on Tradition and Another Op'nin.) By the time they did School House Rock, Jr., we were fully committed and I had a new job!

Saying that I'm working again outside of our home is quite a big thing for our family. Aside from the fact that I can provide the boys with this cultural experience and the family with a bit of extra income, I'm also able to use my teaching degree some and my love for expression through art and music. (The reasons I left teaching involve more than just the birth of our first son, but the PTSD/anxiety are a whole other tag subject I won't go into at this time.) I'm now able to spend major quality time with all three of my boys, as the young son has even joined us in our current production. I can't think of any way I would rather spend their childhood and my time. My youngest child, my daughter, is even being exposed to the theatre in a way that is quite similar to my experiences with my parents' plays when I was little. She spends hours at the theatre with me, watching me create and transform sets, hiding-and-seeking in magical corners, and singing and learning everyone's lines along the way. (She's fully prepared to step in as understudy for any of 4 characters in the current show, should some emergency arise where we'd need a 4-year-old to fill in.) I hope this turns out to be as much of a treasure to her as my memories are to me!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We are celebrating "SnObama" Day.

Here in our little corner of the South, today was a day like no other. After all, it snowed! I find it fitting that our area got more snow today than it has in at least 5 years, more snow than it has in any of the years I have lived here. Coincidentally, the history of our country changed today. How fortunate that my kids have something to crystallize the event in their memories. Our world was blanketed and has emerged anew.

My oldest son's January 18th comment about the man we would see inaugurated as our 44th President gave me serious pause. (He is the one who decided we should call today "SnObama Day", but that's not the comment to which I'm referring.) He said, "I don't see why people are getting so worked up about it, Mom. Isn't he just a guy?" I felt suddenly awash with the conflicting emotions, among others, of satisfaction and confusion.

I've been wondering, lately, if I've done a decent job of teaching my kids about racial issues, especially in the context of our history and our country. I've always tried to teach them that everyone in the world is equally important to our Father in Heaven, regardless of race, financial situation, religion, lifestyle, location, or any other differentiating factor. (As a parent, of course, I think my own kids are the most amazing and valuable people on the planet. What I'm talking about here is something different.) I cannot say that I have wanted them to be "colorblind", but instead that I want them to know that every person's heritage is a treasure - a story to be valued and even celebrated. The phrase they will tell you that I repeat to them is that no one in the world is any better than they are, just as they are no better than anyone else. I want them to value the history and heritage that comes along with each different person, but not prejudge. I want them to believe that they have just as much potential, right, and responsibility to do great works as any other person does.

"Only a people does it." It's a phrase I grew up hearing. Way back in the 1970's, my parents put down a vinyl floor in one room in our house - fitting, cutting, and placing it on their own. My mother was somewhat proud of their accomplishment and told her mother about it. Grandmother said, "You did it?" Mother replied that she had. Grandmother said, "Only a people does it." Mother tells me that she meant that if other people could do it, there was no reason they couldn't. Although it had the potential of deflating my parents' pride in their accomplishment at that moment, our family has used the phrase over time to remind us that there is no reason that we cannot accomplish whatever we decide we want to accomplish. I guess I come by it naturally.

Today, we played in the snow. We made snow angels, threw snowballs, tried to build a snowman (the snow was too powdery to build much more than a lump with sticks poking out of its sides), rode boogie boards and sleds down snowy hills, and then came in the house to see history in the making. Today, we watched a man rise to the high office of President of the United States of America. In a country where he once would have been valued as less than a human because of the blood that runs in his veins or the place where his father was born, we saw a man fulfill the dreams of thousands. Today, we bowed our heads over our lunch of soup and hot cocoa while our new President and our nation's leaders bowed their heads over an inaugural luncheon.

In the words of Reverend Lowery, "(Let all) who do justice and love mercy say amen, say amen, and amen!"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

We are enjoying the heat!

Just a quick note for those who are concerned and in expression of gratitude to those who have lent us their prayers and support: The heat is on! Woo hoo!