Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stuffed Giraffe

I wrote a few days ago about the "Fun with Elmo" book I made for my two-year-old grandson in a desperate attempt to gain his favor.  I needed to earn a spot in the heart of his adorable little sister, too, so I had to think of something I could make for a not-quite-one-year-old.  Since giraffes have a special significance in my family, I found a pattern online to make a small stuffed giraffe just right for tiny little hands.





I used some patterned fleece I already had and strategically cut it to give the giraffe a little more color and interest.  I braided some thin ribbon to create the tail, which I stitched into the seam, and "embroidered" (term used loosely) the eyes with plain black thread.  Stuffing the giraffe was quite the challenge, but I succeeded (eventually) and hand-stitched the opening as tightly as possible.

It isn't perfect, but toddlers aren't terribly discerning when it comes to concepts such as quality and durability.  It's soft, it's colorful, and I'm pretty sure that's good enough for now.



Friday, November 14, 2014

Fun With Elmo Toddler Book

I don't see my youngest grandchildren nearly often enough.  Before my most recent visit, I decided to make a small bribe gift for each of them so they might remember me fondly (the other two granddaughters live with me, so they already don't like me).

My two-year-old grandson loves Elmo, and since I have the Cricut cartridges "Sesame Street Friends" and "Sesame Street Seasons" I thought a small book would be fun to make for him.  I decided to include very simple words to help him learn to read (and also to keep the project easy for me; yeah, I'm a tired grandmother--see note above mentioning the two who live with me).








I kept the backgrounds simple since I wanted to laminate the pages, and as you can see from the photos, multiple layers don't laminate well.  (Also, I'm a little lazy.) After laminating the pages and trimming the excess, I put it together using my Bind-it-All.  My favorite page is "Run, Elmo, run!" because I thought I was actually clever for once.  (If you aren't impressed, neither was anybody else.)

Overall, it was a fun, easy project.  And I got to make something for one of my favorite people!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Every Day God Gives Me a Do-over, and For That I am Truly Thankful

First, I hope my neighbors didn't observe my meltdown last night.  Second, I'm sorry my family did.

I'm falling apart.  Years of relentless stress have taken their toll.  I just don't have the energy it takes to go on.  But go on I must.  There are children to be raised and a home to make.

I've written before about the difficulties I've faced trying to raise my granddaughters without benefit of a healthy childhood to prepare me for life.  I'm not sure why, but God keeps picking me up and blessing me in spite of myself.  God is good that way.

Life isn't perfect.  We're still digging ourselves out of the financial hole we fell into when the economy tanked.  I'm struggling to be a mother to two beautiful, wonderful children who deserve so much better than what I have to give.  But we still have our home, crumbling though it is after two decades.  My husband has a job, and it seems it might finally start to pay enough that we can stop draining our home equity and retirement accounts (since we've pretty much depleted them by now). And we are relatively healthy for a couple of old folks.  But most of all, God watches over us.  And that brings me more joy than I can ever express.

I was reading a blog today about a woman who is losing her husband to cancer.  I can't imagine how a person gets through such an experience.  I've grieved when I lost loved ones, but my husband is my best friend.  Even when I want to strangle him, I know my life would be so empty without him in it. I pray God will give us both many more years so we can finally experience each other without the constant strain of raising a family.  I want to travel with him.  I want to walk on the beach with him...and only him.  Heck, I just want to have dinner alone with him.

I pray God will give me the strength to be a better person and help me appreciate all I've been given. But most of all, I pray He will guide my path so that I can honor Him.  It's the least I can do.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

He Loves Me (and you, too)

If you feel hopeless or alone, please spend a few minutes listening to this amazing song.  And know that Jesus gave His life for you.  He loves you so much that even if you were the only person on earth, He would have died on the cross for you.  For you.   And if you already have a personal relationship with Jesus but can't really feel it at the moment, maybe this song will bring it all back to you.  I know it did just that for me.

I haven't been shy about revealing that I've been suffering through severe depression for a while now. (Yes, Christians can be depressed.)  It hasn't been easy and it isn't pretty.  And much of it is due to my unwillingness to relinquish my anger and bitterness to God.  I've prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed some more.  But listening to this song,  I can't help but feel chills just thinking of the awesome love of God.  No matter how hard I try to pull away He always pulls me back into His loving embrace.  Thank you, Jesus.  I love You, too.





(And thanks to Chris Tomlin for sharing this beautiful song.  I can't wait to buy the CD when it's released tomorrow!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Today, Iron-on Vinyl; Tomorrow, Graphic 45

I've been in such a deep depression I can't seem to get anything done.  I'm not trying to be a drama queen, but IT HAS BEEN BRUTAL.  A lot of factors have played into my funk...isolation, spousal disagreements, tough financial times, menopause, and the granddaddy of them all (or should I say granddaughter)...dealing with a teenage girl.

But today I decided I won't live forever, so if I'm waiting until life gets perfect to get up off my computer chair and back away from Facebook, I'll be dead first.  So I decided to thank God for the blessings He's provided for me and actually do something.

I cleaned house and did laundry over the weekend, so it sure seemed fair that I should spend this Monday doing something fun.

But first, the teenage girl decided to push my buttons.

She was home "sick" today, but all I saw was a teenager talking on the phone and playing her keyboard.  The school projects that are due this week didn't seem to be getting any closer to finished. I told her to get off the keyboard and do some homework since she was apparently feeling better.

"I don't have anything due anytime soon."  (I knew this wasn't true because the quarter ends in 2 days.  If she has a project that isn't due until next quarter, it will be a first for me.  And I'm an old lady who's been around long enough to see it all.)  "Get off the keyboard and get busy with your homework!", I said a little more emphatically.  To which she replied...

"Ummm, NO!"

God's never-ending grace and mercy stopped me from committing a felony.

I try my hardest to teach the girls to be responsible and respectful.  But at this point in my life, somedays I just don't have it in me to engage in battle.  This past weekend was horrendous and I simply didn't have the energy left to deal with her.  But I have an ace up my sleeve and she will regret her actions in a couple of days.  And no, I won't need to commit a crime to get my point across. Yeah, you don't mess with me, especially when you don't have all the facts.

Anyway, now that I'm rolling down the hill toward my last few years, I decided it was time to waste some craft supplies and just have fun.  I don't usually allow myself such luxuries.  I won't use my iron-on vinyl because I don't have the perfect project. I can't bring myself to actually embellish a t-shirt because I'm not sure anyone will wear it.  I won't make a decorative item if I don't think I have a specific use for it.  And I have yet to cut a single sheet of my ever-growing collection of Graphic 45 paper.  (I thought it was something to keep and admire, like a coffee table book.)

But today, with a sense of urgency only a woman approaching her 60s can understand, I broke out the iron-on vinyl.  And a t-shirt.  Actually, I used two t-shirts!  Oh, and my forgotten I-Rock iron-on gems.

It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Why didn't I do this sooner???  Sometimes it's worth using a few supplies for no other reason than to enjoy life.  And enjoy life I did.

I'm still working up the courage to crack open that first pack of Graphic 45 paper.  And who knows? Maybe I'll even use scissors.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Teepee

***This post was written a long, long time ago and I never got around to publishing it.  But the facts remain the same.  And as far as I know, the teepee is still standing.***


Honestly, I can't remember the conversation I had with my daughter because it was months ago, but at some point she had mentioned that her son would love to have a teepee for his second birthday (or maybe she just said she would love for him to have one).  "I can make that!", I foolishly said.

The pressure was on.  When I realized I wouldn't be able to make the 400-mile trip for his party, I knew I had a little extra time (until my next visit) since there was no way I was paying to ship 6-foot poles and a big, heavy tarp.  If I was willing to pay for that, I might as well pay the $150+ going rate for a ready-made teepee.

And oh, how I now wish I had.

I had several months to figure out my plan of action.  I researched DIY tutorials (and by "researched" I mean occasionally I'd start an internet search, glance at a few, and get back to Facebook).

There are a myriad of methods for creating a teepee, and decision-making isn't my thing.  I simply couldn't choose one.  So to begin I just set about looking for 6-foot poles.

I couldn't find any.  At least not any that would keep my project from venturing into the $150 budget range.  Again, I might as well buy a teepee.  I settled on 4-foot bamboo poles thinking I could make that work.

I'm not a magician.  I couldn't.

My husband insisted we already had a brand-spanking-new giant canvas drop cloth, which is the fabric of choice for the budget-minded DIYer.  And budget-minded I am.  Eventually I asked him to prove it, and he dragged a canvas cloth out of the basement.  I washed and dried it and left it sitting around a while.  You know...for inspiration.

I researched some more on how to make a teepee.  I learned a lot about what my family and friends were doing on Facebook.

And finally, it was less than a week until I would be making the trip to visit my grandson, two months after his birthday.  I needed to find poles.  I needed a plan.  I needed a big glass of wine.

I pulled out my giant Mason Jar tumbler and filled it with a couple of bottles.

I knew I would never even get started until I sent my perfectionism on a much-needed vacation.  Once that was out of the way, I started to give this project a serious look...after I caught up with what everyone was doing, or said they were doing, according to Facebook.

Now, all the DIYers I found on the internet who made teepees seem to have magical places where they do their shopping.  They were all talking about the 8-foot poles they got for 37 cents each, and the cheapest wood I could find were some 8-foot pieces of lumber that were so warped I couldn't think of a use for them other than firewood, and they were nearly $1.50 each..  I ended up finding slightly better quality 6-foot 1x2s for around $2.50, but I could tell splinters were going to be a big problem.

My teepee style was pretty much dictated by the fact that my wood poles weren't smooth.  To protect my precious grandchildren, I would need to make triangular panels with channels to slip the poles into.  I also figured this would make the teepee a little more sturdy.

And I finally took a good look at my canvas drop cloth.  Not only wasn't it big enough, but it had been used.  But I was desperate enough not to care one bit about a few paint spatters.   I laid out the canvas to be sure it was large enough, which it was, but there was a seam down the middle and I needed the extra inch or so of fabric contained within that seam.  With no other choice, I started ripping out the seam.  It wasn't any old seam--it was a french seam with two rows of stitching down a 150" length of heavy, plastic-backed canvas.  But I kept at it until my fingers bled.  Suddenly, a few subtle paint splotches seemed like nothing compared to bright red blood stains.

I measured not once, not twice, but many, MANY times before I made the first cut.  Still, somewhere along the way my math was wrong.  My channels weren't quite wide enough.  Back to the drawing board sewing machine.  I knew this would affect my overall dimensions, but I soldiered on.

Finally, with my perfectionism still on a break, I got the canvas cover finished and ready to install.

It didn't quite fit.

I figured out a way to tweak it a little and maybe make it work and before I had time to agonize too much, I ran with it.  And once I got the cover in place, I couldn't get the poles to criss-cross in any way that would work.  Just before throwing the entire thing in the fireplace, I enlisted my husband to help.  He was able to get everything lined up just the way it needed to be.  By then my perfectionism was banging at the door, so I spent a few more hours trying to get everything perfect.  That never happened, but I did have a functional teepee.

Then my teenage granddaughter came into the room and asked if that wouldn't be a dangerous thing for a two-year-old to play with.  She had the nerve to suggest it might fall on him or his baby sister, and began to kick the poles to see if she could make it fall.  This is why I don't keep weapons in the house.

The whole process was a nightmare.

I briefly toyed with the idea of writing an actual tutorial, and took pictures along the way.  After making multiple changes over the course of a few days, it became evident that I neither had the talent to tell anyone else how to do something nor a finished product that anyone would want to re-create.

If you're still with me, here's a picture of the finished teepee:




As usual, the best I can offer in the form of advice is what not to do.

Don't use 1x2s for the poles.  Use something round, like a dowel or bamboo.  And if you must use some other type of lumber, go for a small, square shape.  Just be sure it is sturdy enough to support the cover material you choose.

If you are using a pieced cover rather than a circular one-piece, don't try to get the top edge of your cover all the way up to where the poles cross each other (if you don't know what I'm talking about, get off Facebook and do your research!)

Don't wait to get started until a few days before you need the finished product.  It will always take more time and money than you ever imagined.

And finally, find a well-written tutorial from someone who knows what they're talking about, not a blog post written by someone who clearly has no idea how to build a teepee because she wasted far too much time on social media and drinks too much.

Looking at the picture of my teepee, it looks like I did a pretty decent job.  But really, it's just a whole lot of smoke-and-mirrors.

Maybe I'm a magician after all.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Definition of Family

The grandmother of my younger grand/daughter*, Chatty Cathy, posted a slideshow on Facebook titled "Chatty Cathy and her family".  (Well, something like that, but it used her real name.)  My first thought was, "Oh my goodness, which of my most-unflattering pictures did she share without my permission this time?"

Silly, silly me.

There were no pictures of me.  Or my husband.  Or our oldest grand/daughter.  There were just pictures of Chatty Cathy, her paternal grandmother, her biological father and her birth mother. No pictures of the people who are providing every last dime of her financial support, who nurture her and show her love every day, who comfort her when she's hurting, who help her with her homework and tuck her into bed at night.  No pictures of the woman who cleans up after her (endlessly) and provides her with healthy (and delicious, if I do say so myself) meals.  No pictures of the middle-aged man who works two jobs and juggles what's left of his hard-earned retirement funds to provide a home, clothes, food, medical care, and all the other exorbitant expenses that come with raising children.  No pictures of her big sister, who loves her as only a sister can, and who is probably her most-trusted confidant at this point in her life.  There were actually pictures that my husband and I had taken while on vacation with Chatty Cathy that had been cropped to remove all traces of us. The "family" slideshow consisted of pictures of the people who created her but only show up when they choose, and based on their lack of financial support, must assume that she forages for nuts and grains in the wild when she gets hungry, and wraps herself in fig leaves or animal skins when she gets cold.

I know I need to let it go.  I need to find a way to shed the anger and frustration.  Somehow I need to pull these raggedy old exhausted bones up and just get over it.  But today I'm too tired.  I've already done eight loads of laundry, cleaned more than a woman whose children are grown should ever have to clean, cooked a big meal, attempted to repair yet another piece of equipment in this aging house, tripped over a boatload of kids' shoes that should be in the cubbies that take up way too much of the hallway that leads to the laundry room, and fought (to no avail) to get the girls to do chores.  And I've been cursed out by a teenage malcontent.

Sounds like family life to me.

*Grand/daughter:  A biological granddaughter who is being raised by her grandparents as if she was their own daughter.









Saturday, September 13, 2014

No Escape

I am so....tired.

I cook.  I clean.  I do laundry.  I pick up stuff after able-bodied people who could pick up after themselves...but won't.  I cook healthy food that nobody will eat, even after I "baby it down" for them, because that just doesn't happen to be what they want at the moment.  I turn clothes right-side-out before washing them because it's too much of a bother for those who wore them to do so even though it would make my ten loads of laundry a little easier to do.

I tried to train the grandchildren to do the right thing by using discipline.   You're late for school because you wouldn't get out of bed?---You don't go anywhere fun that week.  You smart off to your grandparents---You're grounded from the phone and internet for a few days.  It all seemed logical to me.

But I don't live in a vacuum.  I share parenting responsibilities with someone who doesn't often see eye-to-eye with me.  We've had screaming matches about it.  Many, many screaming matches.  I'm ready to be hardcore and he's not.

It isn't as simple as parents who disagree.  It's about stressed-out middle-aged people who should be enjoying life and each other's company instead of dealing with day-in and day-out child rearing and the sacrifices that go along with it.  It's about having been through the parenting trials and tribulations once and coming out on the other side with a sense of failure and exhaustion and not wanting to re-live the hell from the previous few decades, but not 100% sure how to avoid it.

This evening I had a fight with my husband because I need someone to support me, listen to me, let me vent, and maybe---just maybe---offer an encouraging word.  He just can't be that guy.  It isn't how he thinks.  If he can't fix it he just wants to walk away.  And I'm not looking for answers (there aren't any), just a shoulder to cry on.  It's hard to cry on a shoulder that's already retreating into another room.

I won't even go into the childhood I had.  Suffice it to say it didn't give me mad coping skills.  Just a desire to make a better life for myself down the road.  Which I thought I had...until someone else's choices stole all mine away.

I just had a sixteen year old tell me "Screw you!" because she couldn't have a grilled cheese sandwich instead of the dinner I spent two hours preparing in between washing her inside-out clothes.  Yeah, I gave up my life to raise you.  You're welcome.

I'm ready to move on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

That One True Friend

Life is difficult.  Most days I feel alone.  I struggle to feel useful.  I rarely feel valued.  And there's always the nagging feeling that I should have accomplished so much more in the five decades I've spent on earth.

How does anyone get through the day without knowing God and feeling His love?

I'm not preaching here; I'm SO not qualified for that job.  But in the past few years, in my darkest days, I've come to feel such a sense of peace knowing God is in charge.  I want everyone to know that feeling.  In my everyday life, I fail so miserably in showing the same grace to others that God has shown to me.  I'm not His best representative here on earth.  But I want everyone to know, in our moments of deepest despair, God is there for us.

I'm not an outgoing person.  Frankly, in the past decade I've found myself becoming more and more isolated. I've always suffered from low self-esteem, and, let's face it, sometimes people can be unkind and judgmental. When I left the workforce to be a stay-at-home grandmother I found myself avoiding the outside world as much as possible.  No interaction...no judgment.

But I want anyone who is hurting (and who isn't?) and anyone who is lonely to know they can have comfort in the arms of Jesus.

Have you ever had that one friend who would do anything for you?  Imagine that friend being willing to die for you.  I heard someone on the radio say that he had a friend who had gotten into some trouble and was facing a prison sentence.  He went on to say he realized he would never be willing to serve prison time for his friend even though they were very close, and that it really put into perspective what Jesus was willing to do for us.  He took the death penalty for our sin.

If He was willing to do that for us, don't you think He cares enough to listen to our problems and be our friend?

The last several years have been extremely difficult for me.  I had been looking forward to some time alone with my husband after our youngest child left for college, when all of a sudden we found ourselves raising our two granddaughters.  I was angry and bitter for a very long time (I still have my moments).  And honestly, I've reached my breaking point more than once. There are still days when I'm not sure how to go on.

But slowly I've found myself reaching out to God in a way I've never done before.  And I find He's always there waiting to spend time with me.  God never promised to make our lives perfect, just to carry us through whatever we face.

Life hasn't been easy, especially the "middle-ages".  Nearly losing my mind wasn't pretty.  But it has been the best thing that's ever happened to me.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

A (Grand)Mother's Life

I've reached my breaking point...again.

I desperately need to escape, if only for a few days.  But I know it can't happen.  There are messes to clean, meals to cook, laundry to wash, and children who need a little guidance and a lot of love and attention.

I'm tired.  I'm lonely.  I'm broke (financially).  I'm broken (emotionally). And I'm under more stress than I ever thought I could survive.

But I'll wake up tomorrow and take care of business as always.  Because somebody has to do it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tomorrow

I've been going through an overwhelming struggle for a while now.  Most of my days are consumed with depression, loneliness and isolation.  I can't quite figure out how I got here.   And I can't seem to find my way out.

I'm old and tired.  I've been raising children for almost four decades, and I still have another ten years until the youngest finishes college.  We've been struggling financially since the economy tanked, and our nest egg flew the coop long ago.  But I also know I have received many blessings.  My husband has a job (actually two--thank God for a hardworking man).  The children are healthy, and for the most part stay out of trouble (driving your Nana crazy isn't a crime, although maybe it should be).  And even though it's crumbling after nearly 25 years, I do have a home, albeit one with several non-working appliances, a leaky roof, and a septic tank that needs thousands of dollars worth of repairs.  Yes, sometimes life stinks.

And I feel God's love every day.

But it's still hard.  The closer I get to God, the more I think I'd rather be in His presence than in the presence of so many unkind, selfish and sometimes evil people.  But that isn't my choice to make.  God placed me here for a reason and it isn't my job to question that.  So for now I need to suck it up and complete the task I've been given.  If Jesus could do what was asked of Him, who in the world am I to wimp out now?

There's a song I love, "Before the Morning" by Josh Wilson, that sums it all up in such a beautiful way.   I hope you'll watch the video below.  It isn't easy suffering through the trials that make us who we need to be.  But God knows what He's doing.  And He's here to hold us up every step of the way.

I'm sitting here in the dark before the morning.  I'm ready to watch the sun rise and face whatever tomorrow brings.  I know God will be there waiting to accompany me on my journey.  And that gets me through the day no matter what happens.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toddler Matching Game

I wanted to make my two-year-old grandson a small gift I could mail inexpensively, so I decided on a matching game.

I started with a double-sided 12x12 sheet of cardstock, and cut it into 3x3 inch pieces, which gave me 8 sets of cards.   I used the Cricut cartridge Boys will be Boys to cut images that I knew would be perfect for Logan.

After piecing the image layers together and attaching them to each card, I realized the cardstock wasn't really as sturdy as I had hoped.  I decided to cut another heavier sheet of 12x12 cardstock and glue it to the back of each card. 




I then laminated all the cards using my Xyron Creative Station and the two-sided laminate cartridge.



Did you know you can cut the laminate right up to the edge of your paper?  I only recently learned this in the product description on the Xyron website.  I do suggest that you make your layered image small enough that you have a wide, flat margin around the edges of the card to allow the laminate to stick firmly to the card base. 


Eight pairs of cards is probably a lot for a two-year-old, but I figured his parents could start him off with only a few and gradually add more as he progresses.  (Okay, I admit that as his grandmother I think he's a genius and can match as many cards as you put in front of him.)

I thought a small drawstring bag would be the perfect container for the game, so I dusted off my sewing machine and made one.  I decided to personalize it with iron-on vinyl.  I used the Cricut Craft Room design program to size and arrange my letters (from the Cricut cartridge Plantin Schoolbook) so that I could easily transfer them to the fabric bag. 


In hindsight (which seems to be my preferred method of looking at things), I probably shouldn't have used the cord lock since it could possibly become detached and create a choking hazard.  I guess I just got carried away because I was actually making something!

My sweet grandson sharing his new toy with his sister.  






Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Journey...so far

This is the story of who I am.  It's about God's grace and redemption.  And how it's there for everyone.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my fragile mental health and just how much time I have left before my impending complete nervous breakdown.  I struggle to get through most days.  The reasons are complex and span 55 years.  Suffice it to say...I'm broken.

Some nights things are so bad I lie in bed and hope to take my last breath.  I don't want to live.  I don't deserve to live.  I've let so many people down.  So many people have let me down.  Life is hard.

Sometimes I have a good day and I feel like the pieces of me are starting to mend.  Then something happens and I come unglued.  God keeps picking up the pieces and carrying me to where I need to be.  I don't know why He doesn't just leave me where He found me, and move on to someone with more potential.  But He loves me.  For some reason, He loves me.

I've tried too many times to navigate my life without my GPS (God's Plan for my Service).  I veer off course, but He's always waiting for me to turn to Him to help me find my way.  Usually I listen for a few minutes, then my mind starts telling me, "We got this.  Bootstraps.  Pull.  Yeah, we can do it."

I can't.

I've been asking the wrong question.  It isn't "Why is God allowing me to suffer so much pain?"  The question should be "Why am I not willing to listen until I'm completely broken?"  And broken I am.

My heartache and disappointment aren't God's way of punishing me for my sinful, willful ways.  It's His way of calling out to me, "I'm still here.  Just reach out for Me."

God has a plan for each of us.  We might never know exactly what that means.  At least not here on earth.  But we aren't here by accident.  Each of us is here for a reason.  I try to recognize that fact each and every day.  But more often than not, I convince myself that I'm not making any difference in the world.  In my self-centered, distrustful way, I believe I'm God's one big mistake. 

I always feel like such a failure.  I let God down on a daily basis.  Multiple times.  But God doesn't really need any of us to do His work.  He allows us to do so for our own good.  He can do anything He wants without any help from us.  He wants us to need Him.  He wants to be our friend.

I might never be bubbly and happy, or the person who lights up a room.  That just isn't who I am.  I'm human and I carry a lot of baggage.   Huge, heavy baggage.  But deep within me, joy exists.  I know God loves me.  And that gives me a sense of peace like nothing else.  Maybe I can't find a reason to LOL.  But within my soul there's happiness.  Sometimes it's buried deep within.  But it's there.  God loves me.  Me.  He loves you, too.  I hope you know that.  I hope you feel it.

I've heard it said that even if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would have died just for you.  If you can wrap your mind around that, you will understand what keeps me going.  Honestly, I have a hard time comprehending that most days.  I feel insignificant.  I feel unworthy.  I am unworthy.  But Christ died for me anyway.  Or for that very reason.

Sometimes I think my existence on earth hasn't made even the smallest difference.  I'm raising my granddaughters, but I'm doing a lousy job.  I'm tired and resentful, and unfortunately, it shows.  I try to be loving, but honestly, I'm simply burned out.  But in the midst of the chaos of our lives, both girls are growing into loving, thoughtful young ladies who strive to be Christ-like.  I'm not sure how much of that is because of me or in spite of me.  But I do know that God can use even the most flawed humans to do His work.

Despite my reluctance to go on sometimes, I'm still breathing, thanks to God's neverending grace and mercy.  If you haven't already, I hope you will reach out and take God's hand.  He's there waiting just for you.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mason Jar Tumbler

I had seen so many cute Mason jar ideas that I decided to save my empty Classico spaghetti sauce containers, which just happen to be Mason jars.  We must eat a lot of spaghetti because I have amassed quite the collection.  I wasn't sure what to do with them all.  But then I saw the cutest Mason jar tumbler for sale, complete with a flower cutout in the lid, and an idea popped into my head:  Maybe I could use a steel-rule die to cut a design in the lid of one of my many jars.  Unfortunately, they were all the really large 32 ounce containers from Costco.  Oh well, this was just an experiment.  I can always save the finished product for those really bad days when I need a Cougartown-size glass of wine.  (Yes, Doctor, I allow myself the recommended one glass of wine per day for health benefits.)

Looking at the depth of the lid (these aren't the two-piece lids that come with empty canning jars), I decided the Movers & Shapers dies from Sizzix would probably work best. The only one I had that might possibly work for my project was a small keyhole die. It was almost the same depth as my lid, which was about the depth of an original Sizzix die, so I knew I could safely feed it through my Sizzix Big Shot.



Once I had the Movers & Shapers die in place inside the lid, I realized it wasn't as tall as the sides of the lid, which meant it wouldn't make contact with the die cut machine.  I knew I needed some rather thick shims, so I reached for another Sizzix die to cut a few circles from heavyweight chipboard.

 
One pass through my Sizzix Big Shot provided enough circles to create the height I needed.
 
I placed the lid and keyhole die between two cutting plates and ran them through the Big Shot.  It cut through the lid pretty well with just a small piece that didn't cut completely.  I used gentle force to separate the stubborn areas.
 
Now for a word of caution about using the die in this manner.  The steel-rule shape in my die pushed through the wooden die base slightly, either because the total thickness of my shims created too much pressure (looking at the picture above, I think I got carried away with the circles) or because I needed to use a more solid shim to provide a sturdy base for the die (or both).  My die still works fine, though. 
  
 
The cut edges of my lid were a little rough, so I used a file to gently smooth them.

Since my lid was gold, I decided to use Martha Stewart Craft paint in gold to cover the lettering.  Nobody really wants to know they're drinking from a spaghetti sauce jar.


A few coats of paint later, my jar was ready to serve as a very large tumbler.  I make no claims as to how well this will hold up to repeated uses (or the dishwasher), but it was fun to experiment. 
I think these would be cute to make for an outdoor summer party.  The lids would help keep those pesky bugs out of the lemonade and iced tea.  I would suggest using a smaller jar, preferably one that can be safely gripped with only one hand.

Sadly, the Classico Spaghetti Sauce at Costco is now sold in a slightly different style jar.  Time to move on to a new obsession.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentines for the Grandchildren

The past week has been difficult, to say the least, and I didn't get cards made for my grandchildren.  (Chatty Cathy was definitely disappointed.  The Princess doesn't care because she has a date!)
 
These are from last year.  The monkey and sentiment are from the Cricut cartridge Sweethearts.  For extra fun I used googly eyes and attached the head with a homemade version of action wobbles.  I embossed the background using the Cuttlebug folder Heart Blocks (pink paper for the girls and red for my grandson). 


 
 
Thanks for visiting my blog!


Valentine's Day Card for my Husband

 
 
Since it's actually February 14th already, I'm starting to doubt I'll get a Valentine's Day card made for my husband before the day is over.  I haven't had a spare moment all week.  Chatty Cathy came down with the flu on Saturday, and about the time she started feeling well enough to go back to school the snow started piling up outside.  It's been a crazy week with kids and hubby underfoot, and cardmaking just wasn't a priority.
 
This is the card I made my husband last year.  The background paper is from the Recollections stack Love Letters.  The die cuts are from the Slice design card Je t'adore. 
 
Thanks for looking! 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Wives with Knives

I'm tired.  My granddaughters made it clear to me yesterday that they think I do nothing around here.  I did a lot of nothing today.  And by "nothing" I mean seven loads of laundry, picking up crap all over the house, helping my granddaughter with a last-minute craft for tomorrow, repackaging the six pounds of ground beef I bought at Costco, cooking dinner, etc., etc., etc...

I thought I'd get a break from cooking today.  Usually we have take-out for Sunday dinner, but since tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday I was planning to cook all the fattening foods that are taboo the rest of the year.  I don't watch the Super Bowl, but I try to make it a fun day for my husband since he does.  Anyway, I figured if I was cooking tomorrow we'd get take-out today.  Made perfect sense to me.  But I guess I was alone in my thinking.  So I ended up cooking a fancy meal of hot dogs and cole slaw.

I doubt most married couples fight over cole slaw.  My husband and I do.  I like onions in mine and he doesn't. 

The fact that my husband hates onions is usually only a mildly annoying issue.  Until he ticks me off about something else.  Then it feels like grounds for divorce.

While I was doing my early preparations for dinner this afternoon, I made a comment to my husband that made him angry.  Suffice it to say I was right and he was wrong.  Trust me on this.

Well, he thought he could get snippy with me.  Not a good idea when I'm holding a chef's knife.

I grabbed the ingredients for the cole slaw:  cabbage, carrots, mayo, etc.  I started chopping and grating and mixing.  I was tired.  I was hurt.  I was angry.  So I did what any self-respecting wife-with-a-knife would do: I grabbed an onion and started chopping.  And then I dumped the whole thing into the cole slaw.

Revenge is a dish best served with onion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Tile Photo Coasters

For the past few years I've given my adult children gift baskets for Christmas.  It's hard to know what to buy them, and I can't afford lavish gifts they can't buy for themselves, so making gift baskets just seems to be a nice way to give them gift cards or cash without it seeming so impersonal.

Mostly I've been filling the baskets with homemade candy or cookies.  But after a while it just gets stale (literally and figuratively.)  This year I decided to take a stab at making candles for my daughters in addition to the usual junk food.  I tried making small candles for my granddaughters last year, but it didn't end well.  For some reason I thought I could make even bigger candles for my daughters without having practiced once in the past 365 days.  Yes, I did the same thing over again expecting different results.

Insanity.

But those candles made it into the gift baskets anyway.  (Maybe I'll post about that another day, just for kicks.)

Since I couldn't imagine my son-in-law lounging in the tub with a scented candle, and he would be sharing the gift basket with his wife, I decided I should make something a little more manly that he could appreciate.  Or at least something he could use.  Tile coasters with pictures of their children seemed like the perfect handmade gift.  Yes, chunks of stone sitting on the coffee table in a brand-spanking-new home with two children under the age of two is the perfect gift.

The tutorial I used can be found at leelala.net.  Here's my take on the project:

I purchased 4 x 4 inch tumbled stone tiles at Home Depot in a package of nine for just under $5.  I liked the rustic look of these.  They looked like they would hide mistakes imperfections well.


After editing my photos to the color and size I wanted, I taped tissue paper to cardstock and printed them. (This can be tricky with some printers, so be prepared to make multiple attempts.)  I then trimmed off the excess tissue paper.  Using a foam brush, I coated each tile with Mod Podge and gently applied a photo.

As you can see, bubbles and wrinkles will happen.  I gently pressed the wet photos to smooth them.

I allowed each tile to dry completely, then applied the first coat of Mod Podge over each photo.  I applied a total of three coats of Mod Podge, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next.

Due to the irregular shapes of the tiles, there were a few photo edges that had to be either trimmed down or glued and pressed down against the sides.  I waited until after the initial coat had dried to do this.  I also brushed a couple of coats of Mod Podge around the sides to help seal everything.

After my final coat of Mod Podge had dried, I sprayed a couple of coats of clear acrylic sealer over each photo to further protect the coasters, allowing the first coat to dry complete before applying the next. 

When the sealer was completely dry, I cut four pieces of felt to apply to the undersides of the coasters.  A standard sheet of felt I purchased at Michaels was large enough for all four coasters.  I used Scotch Quick-Dry Adhesive to glue the felt to the tiles, but I'm sure many other brands of glue would work just as well.

Who wouldn't love to see these adorable faces peeking out from under their coffee cup?


In hindsight, being that it's 20-20 and all, here's what I learned:

Don't attempt to work with tissue paper and Mod Podge with too little sleep and too much coffee.  Shaky hands, glue and tissue paper aren't a good combination.  Especially when you've run out of time to try printing the photos again and the home improvement store has closed for the holidays.

Which brings me to number 2:  Don't wait until Christmas Eve to get started.

Be gentle with the tissue paper when placing it onto the Mod Podged-tiles.  Now is the time to kick your perfectionism to the curb.  If your photo isn't perfectly centered, just go with it.  Trying to move it could cause you to utter foul words you didn't even know you knew.

And again, perfection isn't your goal.  When you get bubbles in your tissue paper photo, and you will, just gently work them out as best you can.  And the crinkles that will appear out of nowhere?  Those just give it character.  Keep repeating that until you believe it.





Saturday, January 4, 2014

Man vs. Woman

I woke up feeling sick yesterday morning, and today I'm feeling even worse.  In the ensuing 30+ hours I've completed 7 loads of laundry, loaded and emptied the dishwasher, shopped for groceries and, when I realized the only thing I felt like eating today was soup, I chopped up a whole bunch of potatoes, onion, celery and ham and made myself ham and potato soup.  In a few minutes I'll start repackaging the economy-sized meats I purchased yesterday so I can freeze them.  And I'll wash the pots and pans I used earlier to make the soup.  Then I'll start dinner.

My husband woke up sick this morning.  He spent the first few hours lying on the sofa watching movies.  When that got to be too much for him he announced he was going back to bed, which is where he is still.  Oh, and he did manage to eat a bowl of my homemade soup before going to sleep.

Who says women are the weaker sex?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penguin Christmas Card


Last Christmas I helped my granddaughter make a last-minute card for her teacher, who loves penguins.  And by "helped" I mean that I made a last-minute card for her teacher. 

The penguin is from the Cricut cartridge Winter Frolic.  To create the snow, I cut a strip of white cardstock the same width as the red background and tore the upper edge to give it a fluffy, "snowy" look.  I then enhanced it with the Cuttlebug embossing folder D'vine Swirl.

Because I can never seem to get anything done in a timely manner, my holiday cards will always be posted a year late.  After all, who really wants to see a Christmas card on December 26th?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Pretend Babies and Life Lessons

For a while my now-15-year-old granddaughter has being telling anyone who will listen just how much she wants a baby.  I can't possibly convey how alarming these comments are to me, a woman who already finds herself finishing out the last years of her life raising someone else's children.  I can't live forever.

A few days ago we learned she would soon be bringing home an electronic baby doll as part of a class at school. I've always thought this could be a real eye-opener to a teenager who thinks only of how cute babies are, and doesn't consider the never-ending (and I do mean never ending) work involved in raising children.

The baby was delivered early.  I thought I had a few more weeks until the big day, but due to circumstances beyond my control the baby arrived yesterday.  My family has being trying to find time to drive to the mountains and enjoy the fall scenery for several weeks, and finally we thought this weekend would be a good time.  Not so with the unexpected arrival of our great-grandchild. Already the new mother complains about any attempts we make to get her into the great outdoors; I can't imagine making her go hiking on a chilly Saturday with a newborn in tow. Some things just aren't worth the struggle.

Last night we went out to dinner as we usually do on Friday nights.  (No date nights for hubby and me--it's almost always a party of four, one kids' menu, please.)  I thought maybe the baby would cry all through dinner giving my granddaughter a taste (no pun intended) of trying to eat with one hand while soothing a screaming baby with the other and fending off angry looks from other diners.  That's always been my experience with small children.  But no, my new great-grandson never made a peep throughout the entire meal.  My granddaughter enjoyed her meal without interruption and with the use of both hands.

After dinner we did what we always do to round out a nice, romantic evening with the kids--we went to Costco.

We were quite the sight-- a haggard old couple followed by a teenage mom carrying her baby through the store, and an embarrassed younger sister hanging as far back as possible. A few unpleasant looks were thrown my way by the other patrons who didn't seem to notice this wasn't a real baby. (Being the "mother" of this teenager, I'm sure this unfortunate pregnancy was my fault, just as has been every other bad thing that's ever happened in the history of mankind.)  But the baby never cried or whimpered at all.  My granddaughter's arms got tired after a while, but since she wasn't doing the grocery shopping she had the freedom to find a comfy chair and sit a while.  So far I was seeing nothing that would discourage my granddaughter from jumping into motherhood prematurely. 

This morning when I had so hoped/needed/planned to be enjoying a crisp, autumn day surrounded by God's beautiful handiwork,  but stranded at home with my granddaughter and faux great-grandson, I listened with astonishment as my granddaughter took a leisurely 45 minute shower, using all the hot water that I had planned to use for my own shower, and preventing me from getting started on the 7 loads of laundry I had to do today.  And her baby slept through every single minute!  I haven't had an uninterrupted shower in over 35 years.

I seem to be the only person who has been taught a life lesson this weekend:  even fake babies have a way of interfering with my plans.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Birthday Card for a Young Man

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My nephew was turning 18 and I couldn't come up with any ideas for his birthday card.  I knew I wanted to emphasize this milestone birthday, which eventually led me to the numbers theme.
 
Using Cricut Craft Room (CCR) and the free cuts available in Cricut Craft Room Basics, I welded numbers from 1 to 17 in different sizes and orientations to fit on a 5x7 card front.  It was a little tricky because after welding quite a few numbers together the program started to act a little unpredictable.  I think I saved my project and exited the program a time or two in order to get it to work correctly.   Also, to help me size my number shape to fit the card, I added a 5x7 rectangular shape from CCR Basics on a separate layer prior to beginning my number shape so that I would have a visual aid to help me plan my design.
 
After I was pleased with my number design (or when I began to fear that CCR would lose all functionality if I kept tweaking the numbers), I cut just the layer that held the number shape.  I wasn't satisfied with the color of the cardstock I had chosen so I used a brayer to roll ink onto a Darice embossing folder called Dot and ran it through my Sizzix Big Shot.  I cut the number 18 from the Cricut Cartridge Calligraphy Collection.
 
To assemble the card I glued the number shape onto a patterned cardstock rectangle from the DCWV Timeless Type stack, which I cut at 4 3/4 x 6 3/4.  I then wrapped hemp cord around the middle of the rectangle a few times and knotted it on the left side of the card front.  I adhered the number 18 to the right side using foam dots, then glued the card front to a 5x7 kraft paper card base. 
 
Thanks for visiting!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Precious Legacy

I've been struggling against God and His will for my life for a long time now.  I guess it's human nature, and contrary to popular opinion, I am human.  But I had other plans, and I couldn't convince Him to get on board.  Trust me---in these situations, it's a losing battle.  God always wins.

I love my granddaughters more than life itself.  But I always thought that when I finished the task of raising my own children (and it wasn't an easy one), I'd have many good years left to spend with my husband having all sorts of exciting adventures.  But before our baby finished high school, we found ourselves raising our first grandchild.  And then our second.  Fifteen years later, our lives are consumed with school, after-school activities, post-after-school activities, and all the expenses that go along with such an exciting lifestyle.

I've been known to grumble about these responsibilities (sometimes on this very blog!).  But once in a while, when I pull myself out of the black hole of despair and back to reality, I realize the task God gave me isn't without its rewards.  I have two beautiful, kindhearted, loving granddaughters who warm my heart and make me feel hopeful for the future.  They have persevered during some very difficult times and are becoming wonderful young women.  And somehow, my selfish outbursts during times of extreme distress don't seem to have harmed them.  They are thriving.

When I read stories in the Bible of all the great men and women who came before me, I feel shame.  My time on earth will only be remembered, briefly, by those in my very close circle of family and friends.  I won't go down in history as a remarkable person.  I doubt a Google search of my name will yield any results five years after I'm gone.  But if my greatest legacy is that I gave two precious children the best life possible, I can live with that. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another Giraffe Card for Teresa



I've written several times about my sister, Teresa, her love of giraffes, and the tragedy that changed all our lives.  She recently had another birthday, which under the circumstances is both heartbreaking and a blessing.    As much as we hate to see her suffer, as long as she lives we have hope that God will give us a miracle and bring her back to us.

I thought I had used every giraffe image on every Cricut cartridge I own until I remembered Noah's ABC Animals, which I had only recently purchased (and by "recently" I mean within the past two years--not nearly enough time to have actually used it.).  It was nice to have something new that I hadn't sent to Teresa before.  I'll always make cards with giraffes for Teresa, at least until the day she wakes up and tells me "Enough with the giraffes!!!"  I long for that day.

In addition to using Noah's ABC Animals to cut the giraffe, I used a Spellbinders die from the Labels 25 set for the blue background.  Adding a little ink and twine made me feel like an artist.

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hey, Dude

I'm starting to look like a dude.

I thought I hated it when I was called "ma'am", but I'm pretty sure the first time someone addresses me as "sir" will push me completely over the edge.

I've noticed a degree of masculinity creeping into my face and voice.  Even my body no longer has womanly contours.  And I seem to be developing a bad case of male-pattern baldness.  It's sad. Really, really sad.

Today my granddaughter came into the room and addressed me by her grandfather's name.  I corrected her, but she didn't even realize what she had done.  It just seemed so natural to her.

Old age sucks.  Becoming an old man isn't going to make it any easier.