Thursday, September 30, 2010

I was lucky enough... Remembering Susan..

Susan and Tony with their twins, Jonah and Claire

I feel like I'm disturbing something sacred to try to put words around something that cannot be explained..  If you've spent any time around here at all, you know that lately, I have been trying to work through the grief that came from losing my cousin, at the end of May. You can catch a glimpse of those struggles in a guest post I wrote called, "Haunted By Questions".. For a little over a week now, we have been grieving the loss of a very dear friend.. And the questions continue to accumulate..

  I will never forget that night that Susan died, yet, I cannot fully remember it. The words written in a message on facebook in a private message from a friend, will be forever etched in my mind.  I can recall Emma coming into the room and asking what was wrong... But the gap in between, I hope I never remember... I never understood the physical manifestations that people say can come along with grief...but, when I finally gathered the strength to walk to the bathroom, and look in the mirror, I could see red streaks through one of my eyes where a blood vessel had burst.  At first, I was embarrassed by my lack of control of emotion over the situation... And then, I was angry because I  felt embarrassed.  I tried once again to seek answers.  In  my Bible,  I read about people who mourned a loss by tearing their clothes, pulling their hair and clawing at the air..and, I became frustrated with the rituals that have been put in place this day and age that suggest that mourning a person that we love deeply should abide by specific rules and have a specific presentation..

 I almost wanted not to  mention it here because I know that any effort to describe unchartered territory with my exhausted words will result in inadequacy.  However, while I cannot begin to portray how much I love Susan and her family, I also can't move along with a journal about my family and faith without mentioning something that has changed my life so much...

There is so much that I've learned from the way that Susan lived life with full devotion, sacrifice and care for those she loved... I have never known a more faithful wife, mother or friend..  Nor have I known anyone who handed out grace so easily; a person who took life's trials and used them as formative experiences and opportunities to make herself better.. If you didn't know Susan, I'm so sorry that you missed out on the experience of her friendship, which turned out to be one of the best things this world has ever had to offer... And if you did...well, I love the words that Susan's aunt said at her funeral.  If you were lucky enough to know Susan, you were lucky enough.

Susan's and my life had so many similarities that it was inevitable that are hearts would be linked in some way.. We didn't talk every day.. We saw each other every time traveling brought us near each other or we could find a youth ministry conference we could fit into our schedules.   But mainly, we talked when life became overwhelming.. It would make sense that I would miss her most at a time like this...

So to Susan, I'll end this the way we ended every conversation we had:  I wish we could live in the same place.  I miss you and I love you!

You can see more of Susan's life over at her blog, Griffies Growth

Friday, September 24, 2010

Emma Sheds the Training Wheels

Since Adam looks to be the hero in these pictures and I'm never in any pictures because he is scared of my camera, I have to tell the real story about Emma learning to ride a bike.  We were feeling the pangs of guilt as we finished up the summer knowing that we hadn't met the goal of Emma learning to ride a bike without training wheels.  It hadn't been for a lack of trying.  I had chuckled under my breath many times as I watched Adam run behind her in the hot South Carolina sun.  I lightly made suggestions.  But secretly, I was wanting to just once, be the cool fun parent.. So, on a Sept. afternoon when the weather broke a tad, I took a break from spelling word and math fact drilling and force feeding vitamins and took it upon myself to settle this matter once and for all.  And, drum roll please:  The kid was riding on her own in thirty minutes.. In case you're curious about the secret of my success, I'll post my recipe for successful bike riding teaching below the picture documentation of Emma's big achievement!
Recipe for teaching a kid to ride a bike without having a heat stroke:

1.  Find a grassy hill with a slight slope.
2.  Lower the bike seat so that the child's feet touch the ground.
3.  Have the child simply coast down the hill while holding their feet up.  This will teach them to balance and give them the security of knowing they can catch themselves if they lose balance.
4.  Once they get a good grasp on balancing while coasting, move them to a flat grassy area.
5.  Hold the bike steady as they get set and then give them a push.  Do not chase behind the bike, the crazy daddy way..

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Where your Treasure is, so is your Heart

Emma gave Chloe her treasure box.  I'm not sure if this is Chloe cherishing her gift or protecting it from being taken back.  At least for now, it was a sweet sisterly gesture.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Family Friday-- Chloe's Third Birthday

I am so relieved I am that I'm able to do this post.  I've gotten in the habit of putting things high out of reach of my little miss grabby hands and I misplaced the memory card that had not only Chloe's birthday party pictures but also, her first day of preschool pictures for a little over a week.  Whew.. You have no idea what kind of trauma this put my heart through to think that another piece of her childhood was lost (her 1st birthday pictures fell victim to a corrupted memory card.  Though, my sister did inform me after a year of grieving, that she had taken pictures as well.  Aunt Denise didn't just save the day but the whole year)!  But, all is well as I found the memory card on top of the television.  

  Her only request was that she have a "pink polka dot birthday party".   So, we had a small  party with  Nonna and Pawpaw and Chloe's bestest bud Brenna and the rest of the Cooper family.  It was a small enough crowd that kept Chloe out of her shell.  Aunt Jan made her the perfect polka dot outfit for the occasion and we dotted the place up.  And, not to leave anyone out, she also enjoyed her showering of birthday packages from Nana and Papa  and has some cute boots waiting on her from Aunt Denise.  As well as a showering of cards from great grandparents.   

Still to come, accounts of Chloe's first day of preschool and Emma's shedding of the training wheels!



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Giveaway! $75 Gift Certificate From NOVICA


Not too long ago, I received an e-mail offering me a $75 gift certificate to try out the new corporate section at Novica Gifts.  The e-mail stated that I could use the gift certificate for myself or divide it up as giveaways. $75?  Awesome!

 What's Novica gifts you say?  Well, what do you know?   Great minds do think alike!   So when I asked myself that question, I headed on over to their site to check them out.  Novica is a fair trade organization that has teamed up with National Geographic to connect buyers to artisans all over the world. Novica gives artisans in hard to reach countries a platform to sell their arts and thus, better their lives.

I read the following testimonials from Novica's artists:

Made Wirata
Made Wirata
wood sculptor, Bali
"It is like a dream come true to be part of Novica, a place where I am appreciated and positioned at the same level as other international artists. Previously, with my father, brother, wife, and a son, we were living very simply, sharing two rooms in such a small house. Financially we had nothing, but we never gave up hope. Now, I employ five artisans to help me carve for Novica. One of my helpers had been working at a gas station before. He is so happy to put his skills as a carver to use. Slowly but surely our economic situations are getting better. I am now building a larger house, more appropriate for my family. Novica is such a blessing from God, for me and my family."
Nengah Sudarsana
Nengah Sudarsana
wood sculptor, Bali
"Novica has created a much better life for me. Before, I could hardly afford to live in a single room home. Now I live in a house with three rooms, and have my own car. Most importantly, I now support many other artisans who work with me. My family and I live a much better life, and five other families now benefit directly from my Novica sales. I am also able to help my relatives, especially the younger children, who now have shoes, clothes, and an education that they couldn't have before. Since joining Novica, I have also grown in my realization of how we as Balinese fit into the whole world picture. Before, I was like a lot of fellow Balinese in that my thinking was centered on Bali only, as if Bali was the world! Now I realize more how we are just a piece of the puzzle. When I read customers' comments about my products, I'm filled with a great sense of well being and pride, to be able to create something that others value. After all, in Bali we are a mere spot in a vast ocean, and I realize this now when I see customer responses from all over the world! Often I look on a map or a globe to see where my customers live. It's amazing that my carvings are now in so many various places, and I am here. It is almost as if part of me has traveled to those other places and is now residing there."
Nyoman Naranata
Nyoman Naranata 
mask carver, Bali
"People may say money is not everything, but in reality, where eating three times a day is a privilege, it is necessary to earn a living. It was heartbreaking to see my family worried to welcome tomorrow. Relying on twice-yearly orders for my living was terrible. At my shop, I would often have no sales for a month at a time. Unexpectedly, Novica came into my life like a bright light, shining over my dark life. Now I earn a steady income, and I'm able to provide a better life for my family. Novica is such a perfect place for a small artist like myself to be appreciated by people around the world. Before, people bought my masks, paid for them, and that was it. It never came into my mind that customers would thank me, and write wonderful testimonials for me, but now they do that too."

And seeing that Novica has served as a way to pull families out of a life of poverty,  I fell in love with the company.  And since I wanted to do everything I could to spread the word about this company, I went over to the website and  purchased these earrings.  Which I, not being a jewerly person at all, completely love and wear all the time and get tons of compliments on.  Go me, looking snazzy and with a purpose!  

Click HERE to read about the artist that made them.  

And in hopes of drawing as much attention as possible to Novica, I am giving the $75 dollars a way in one lump gift certificate!  So first let me say, please spread the word about this company because it's a good thing to do.   And when you're doing your Christmas shopping this year and your torn with whether or not you should get Aunt Sally another sweater that she won't wear, consider purchasing gifts like this from companies like Novica.  You might not only buy Aunt Sally her favorite pair of earrings, you can feel good about bettering someone's life and make Aunt Sally feel good about it too!.  

But, just to spice it up a little and give some incentive to spreading the word, here's how you can enter.  

1.  Visit the Novica's Corporate Gift Section and leave me a comment telling me what your favorite item is.

2. For every avenue that you spread the word about this giveaway: IE: twitter, facebook, your own blog, leave me a comment and get an additional entry for every avenue you use to spread the word.  

We'll meet back here next Wed.  Sept. 15th and I'll announce the winner and if you're the lucky duck, I'll e-mail you a code that will give you a $75 credit with Novica gifts!

Thanks for participating and happy shopping!