A Grace Full Life


Dear 17 Year Old Self

I know you are looking to the side because the guy at Photorama told you to.
Look out the window, wistfully.
I bet you had no idea what the word wistfully even meant back then because "C in English" that semester because "senior year boyfriend".
I am writing this letter to you today because there are some things we need to talk about.
I am helping plan our upcoming 30 year reunion in 2018 with some amazing friends.
Some of those friends you aren't even close with right now but let me tell you, in 20 years you are going to discover this thing called "Facebook" and it will blow your mind.

I know the reunion is still quite a few years away but we are already preparing and going through the yearbooks, contacting old classmates and seeing my picture staring back at me, well it got me thinking.
What would I tell that girl with the feathered hair and the perfect skin.....oh the perfect skin.....sigh.

Dear 17 Year Old Self....

I see the lack of confidence in your eyes.
Do you know that over the next 28 years, you have become one of the most confident people I know?
Guess what?
You end up getting up on a stage in front of 500 people and say the word sh$%.
Right now I can't even write it and yet, you said it.

photo courtesy of Brandi Lee

Dear 17 Year Old Self......

I see that you are falling in love with a boy and you want it to last forever.
It won't and that is okay.
But here is a tip:
Order the steak not the salad.
If you are afraid to eat on a date, you are on the wrong date.
Know that if you can't make it work, it's okay.
Go and eat lots and lots of ice cream.
Because you are going to want to skip the rebound.

Dear 17 Year Old Self......

I see that you are content to never leave your small town.
But you will and when you do, you are very sad.
You will cry as you cross the Ohio border but you will eventually fall in love with your new home.
Very, very slowly.
You will still miss Ohio very much, your family, your friends and your memories will always be tied in with your hometown.
And you won't ever intend to lose that love, that pride and that tradition.

But please do this for me: travel before you get married or at least before the children come along.
Because then a paper version of you will be doing it and you will end up getting very, very jealous.
Long story.

Dear 17 Year Old Self.......

I see that you think you will never amount to anything important.
You will.
You will do things you never thought you could ever do.
You will become a writer!
Yes, you!
You write a blog!
I know you have no idea what that even is.
It is an awful sounding name for an online diary.

You make little to no money doing it!
But you are doing it!
And you end up writing for a major website too!
What is a website, you ask?
Remember the paper you wrote about computers in sixth grade on which you received an F?
Let's just say you totally understand now.
It is exciting, frustrating at times, it doesn't at all pay the bills, you are quite literally a starving artist but it is your passion.
You have found what you wanted to be when you grew up.
It took you many years to figure that out.
That is okay as many people don't figure that out in their lifetime.

Dear 17 Year Old Self.......

I see that you think your grades define you.
They won't.
You aren't your grades.
You won't go to college right after high school, instead you will decide to work full time for many years.
You will eventually register for your first college course at age 24.
It will take you many years to finish because life will get in the way.
You will get married, will work full time, have a beautiful baby girl, get divorced (it's okay, trust me), move back home with your mom and dad (thank you eternally mom and dad!), become a single mom and figure out a way to go to college full time with grant money and work at the college tutoring students (yes, you!).
You will end up graduating college at age 36 with highest honors.

By the way, you will have tears in your eyes as you cross the stage to get your diploma, wishing your teachers from high school could have seen you in this moment. 
I can't wait for you to get to this point of your life. 

This is the thing: life doesn't have to be perfect and you don't have to have the perfect plan to fulfill your idea of success.
Your teachers will tell you to be organized and you need to have a plan.
Everyone has a different path.
Follow yours.

Dear 17 Year Old Self......

I see that you think you are afraid you will lose all your friends after high school.
You will.
And you won't.
You won't lose the ones who matter.

Psst, guess what?
We are still friends with Wendy.

I know you really only wanted to know that.
And now?
We have so many more amazing friends!
Because when you get older?
You have friends who really care about you.
Not what you can do for them.

Beautiful inside and out friends.
The kind you can text in the middle of the night.
I wish I could share all of their pictures here but you will meet all of them eventually.
You will go through some heartbreak along the way, but trust me, it is worth the wait.

And see those two down below?
Do you remember them from high school?
Let's just say they will end up saving your soul one cold February day.
Just you wait.
Only make sure you aren't in the bathroom when the doorbell rings.
Long story.

Dear 17 Year Old Self.....

Brace yourself: mom and dad aren't always going to live close.
Like, they live FAR FAR AWAY.
I know you can't imagine a world without seeing your mom and dad every single day, talking to them, confiding in them.
Sadly, you don't get to see them as often as you want to but you are still really, really close.
Your relationship with them is stronger than you ever thought possible and your children adore them.
Was there any doubt?
And guess what?
They are your best friends now.
Was there any doubt? 

It is pretty amazingly awesome.

Dear 17 Year Old Self.....

I see that you are falling in love with a boy and you want it to last forever.
It won't.
But wait until you see who you end up with.
He cares for you in a way that you can't imagine.

You'll have lots of ups and downs but you will stay together because life isn't about how you look in those jeans or what kind of makeup you wear.
It's about every day life.
It's about doing the dishes, staying up with sick kids and paying the bills.
It's making sure you do things that show you care for each other.
It's about having each other's back.
It is give and take.

And you have children.

They are so smart, amazing and loving.
Who run to you when they come home at the end of the day.
Who draw you pictures that look like this:

Who send you texts that look like this:

So hurry up and get here.
Because life is hard, messy, amazing, beautiful, rough, fun, terrifying, but most of all it is all completely worth it.

I can't wait to see you at the 30th reunion!
I will be the one in the glasses and the short hair.
Who knew.....


17 year old me at my Homecoming and my oldest daughter at her's last year


How To Be "Amish" and Make Your Kids Mad at You This Halloween. If the Amish Celebrated Halloween to Begin With.

This article appeared on the Chicago Parent website two years ago where I was a regular contributor.
It has been edited to fit with my blog. 

I have a secret.
I haven't "bought" a Halloween costume in almost 11 years.
Don't let this get out or I will be disbanded from the 'Mother of the Year' club.
I am kidding. No such club exists. I think.
If you don't know much about me, know this: I am cheap.
Well, in certain areas of my life, I am cheap. No, actually, I am cheap in all areas.
And one of the areas I hate spending money on the most is Halloween costumes. I mean, they wear them for one or two occasions a year and then done.

If we are lucky, they can use them to play dress up or to go to school in when laundry day was busy.
KIDDING! A little.
But I am here to let you in on how you too can save money. No more $50 costumes that come in a package, no sirree. Here is how you can be a costume hero without having to skip paying the gas bill this month!
I have girls but you could use similar ideas for boys' costumes.
The idea is to use as much as what you have around the house as you can and then just buy a few accessories.

1- Black Cat

Basically you need black leggings (most of you have this), a black top (long sleeve since we live in Chicago).
Shoes don't count as I tell them to wear those of the broken in variety because they will be doing a lot of walking.

All I needed to buy were the ears and the tail (the tail actually was her request. Had it been just cheap me, I would have skipped it). I did find an ear and tail set at a Joann Fabrics for under five dollars. 
Add black face paint (one dollar at the dollar store) to make whiskers and you are done!
Cost: Six bucks total.

2- Pop Star

When my now 13-year-old was 7, she wanted to be Hannah Montana for trick or treating. Back then, Hannah Montana in a bag was everywhere in stores for only $29.99.
So we went to the local kids' resale shop and found a cool funky top and pants.
When she was 9, she wanted to be Lady Gaga. We went to the same shop, found a cool funky dress, a red beret and used some old funky sunglasses.

Looking back, it wasn't much but we used our creative juices. And I love that. 

Oh and the cast was from a soccer injury. AND OMG SHE IS SO LITTLE HERE SNIFF SNIFF. 

For both outfits, we only spent $5 each!
Add a cool wig (usually around five dollars or less at discount stores), some fun makeup (mom's makeup is fun when they are still little) and what we call "church shoes" and you have yourself a pop star!
Cost: Less than a lunch at McDonald's.

Thing 1 was a creation of my daughter's as well. See, the cheap apple doesn't fall far from the cheap apple tree. She had the red top, red leggings. All we did is buy the wig and glued some white felt onto the red top. 

3- Jessie from Toy Story/Cowgirl

Ellie was into all the Toy Story movies BIG TIME from the age of 3 until kindergarten. In preschool, she wanted to be Jessie and saw a costume from the store that was pretty expensive.
I said, "let's try to make it on our own!" Which is code for "mommy is cheap!"
All I did was use a pair of jeans she already had and bought some cow print fabric at the craft store for less than three dollars. 
I had Rebecca help me sew the cow print "patches" onto the jeans which took five minutes.
Then I took a white long sleeve top she already had in her closet and used fabric paint to add the little embellishments that Jessie has on her top. Add a cowboy hat I got at the party store for two dollars and we had Jessie!
Cost: Eight dollars!

4- Police officer

Two years ago, my 13-year-old wanted to dress up like the po-po. Only she didn't want a "Goodwill costume" like "every year."
Heh heh.
Suuuure, hon.
So this is the thing, my father-in-law was a police officer his whole life so he has a garage FULL of crap (I'm sorry, "memorabilia") that he can share with her.
This was the vision I had in my head: One of his old uniform tops with badge used as a dress (since she is small) tied around the waist with a belt and black leggings underneath?
Doesn't that sound cute??
She didn't buy it. Oh well.
It's OK. I got off the hook for 11 years.


Halloween 2015. Nothing To See Here. Nothing To See.

Every year since the inception of this blog, I have been writing about my fall decorating.
It's kind of a big deal around here.
Back in the olden days, I used to share tutorials of things such as how to make crafts and something called...tell me if you have heard of it...DIY.
It is an abbreviation for "do it yourself ".
You don't need to hire out to decorate your home for fall!
Don't believe those bloggers in Utah who have five kids and who's homes look like they just got paid by Better Homes and Gardens because they just did.

I left the DIY genre years ago for a few reasons:

- I didn't at all relate to most of the home decor bloggers, save for a couple who are still friends with me on my personal Facebook.

- most of the ones I was running into honestly didn't have a personality or at least didn't have one around me. Or maybe it was their reaction to me. I have a personality, so I know it wasn't me.

- I am funny and DIY and funny apparently don't mix. You can't do both, dammit. So I left. Took my tool box and skedaddled. MANIACAL LAUGHTER. Don't be sillyI don't have a toolbox.......

That being said, I don't do many DIY or decorating posts any more because I feel like that isn't the pulse of my readers here so I don't really dwell on it.
Except when it comes to Fall.
Fall is when I am down with decorating and documenting it on the blog.
When it isn't Christmas.
Because who doesn't want to see 10-15 pictures of the same damn pumpkins that were on my mantel last year?
I know you have been anxiously awaiting this post.
It is here.
It's okay, you can rest easy.
It's been a long year waiting, hasn't it?

The only that changed is I added a silver milk can from the Target dollar spot.

Look, I realize that among the people in my daily life I am in the minority as far as decorating my mantel for each season but you must realize the pressure on decor blogs for this kind of crap.
It is intense.
Like Dancing for the Stars as it pertains to all things autumnal and I used to fall victim to it.
Oh sure, I occasionally get a tinge of wanting to re-paint my entire family room and go all minimalist when I see some of my favorite decor blogs.
It is hard to quit.
I liken it to what those who have a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte addiction must be going through.
I feel you, I really do.
Like, I would love to re-paint that room above all white then take that nasty mauve tile around the fireplace and turn it into some sort of plank wood.
But that would cost money.
And take energy, neither of which I have a lot of any more.

See that table above?
I wrote about it a long time ago on the blog, I am sure the post isn't really great because in the beginning my posts kind of sucked.
I used a lot of smiley faces, my paragraphs ran together and I incorporated quite a few bold letters.
I don't know why.
Any way, this table started out as baby vomit in color then I painted it black then I painted it this color, no idea what the name is because I am such a damn good DIY blogger.
I love this table though and I only paid four dollars for her five years ago.

See that lamp?
Also from Goodwill three years ago, you can read all about it here if you dare but I only paid $3.99 for this lamp.
Which is why I can't complain about the crooked lamp shade.
That crooked lamp shade.
For three years I have been straightening it, then re-straightening it.
I love it too much to get rid of it but it does give me a little case of hives every time I see it.

But the shade perfectly bookends my crooked picture frames, so it's all good.
We strive for the Haunted House look here.

That metal thing on my dining room table was a free gift from a Southern Living at Home party I hosted my first fall in this home ten years ago.
I love that thing because all you do is throw the fake fruit in there and boom you have a centerpiece.
Perfect for crooked families like ours.

Yes that is a mirror on the table.
It looked cool.
Also I didn't have anywhere else to put it.

It looks put together but I just threw that leaf garland up there like I have been for ten years.
Admit it, the mirror looks cool.

You can't stop looking at the mirror.
Maybe it is you that has the problem?
Like yourself much??
By the way, these pictures were taken while everyone was at school/work.
Usually this table is covered in my husband's work stuff/Anna's cheer stuff/my computer/Ella's school stuff.
The mirror sees so much........

Basket o' pumpkins.
Not as much fun as a barrel o' monkeys but a lot less stinkier.
I got that basket at Marshall's this summer on clearance for three dollars.
I don't know why I felt the need to tell you that.
I am such a bragger.

That sign I made when I had a crafty bone in my body but really anyone can make it as it takes no energy whatsoever.
Go to Dollar Tree and get a mini picture frame, any color.
Paint it to the color of your choice, I chose black because Halloween but it could be green or orange or red, you pick.
Then go to your computer and type the words boo on a word program.
Hit print and cut to fit the frame.
That is it, folks.

I know what you are thinking:
I should have a show on the DIY network.
I am getting my agent working on that.
But I need to get an agent first.
And have a remote interest in having a show on television to begin with.

A bowl of acorns!!
I found these in the dollar spot of Target and I couldn't resist.
Yes, it was an impulse buy.
I put them down, then picked them up.
Then put them down.
Then picked them up again.
I reasoned that I could have bought a box of cereal for the price of these stupid acorns but heck if they aren't adorable.
And hearing Ella say, "look! baby acorns!" every time she comes in the house from the backyard is worth every penny.

Here is a "pro tip".
No it isn't, it's a tip I just made up but wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about.
See? I really could have my own show.
I sound like I could spread the manure really good.
Anyhoo, decorate with fruit.
Real fruit.
Then you can eat your decor.
How fun is that?
Only don't decorate with cookies or pie.
Or you won't ever have decor.
Unless you live in Gwyneth Paltrow's house.
But she probably decorates with kale or some sh$%.

There is that 31 sign, not to be confused with Thirty One products.
By the way, I think I made my 31 sign before Thirty One products became popular.
Here is the post where you can learn to make your own sign.
Because I know you want one.
It was a really popular post.
No it wasn't but let's bring it back because I think I was just ahead of my time and it wasn't appreciated.

We got this little guy at Cracker Barrel on the way home from Chattanooga last summer and let me tell you, we are suckers for the CB gift shop.
Whoooo boy, I can't help myself in that place.
Goo goo clusters?
Yes please!
Seasonal toys that play the cymbals?
Television shows from the 70s on audio tape??
Don't mind if I do!
Maybe I should be the spokesperson for Cracker Barrel?

I have had these Halloween books out since Anna was little.
She loved them so much and now Ella loves these too.
I loved watching Anna get so excited when she would see these appear after not seeing them all year and now get to re-live that with Ella.
I will bring these out even when Ella outgrows them and someday, the girls will have these books to pass on to their kids.
There is just something about the books you had as a child.

So there you have it, another Halloween mantel post.
Kind of feel like you wasted ten minutes of your life?
Like eating Chinese food for your brain.
You end up hungry for more ten minutes after reading it.
But then it gives you an excuse to read more of my posts.
Or go eat some fried rice.
Now I am really hungry for fried rice.
At 9 am. 


My Top Six Favorite Blog Posts. Because Five is Too Few. And Seven is Too Many.

Occasionally I run out of words.
For those who know me in person, this may come as a shock, but 'tis true.
I love to talk.
Mostly about my kids because I think they are great but I do love to talk.
By the way, Ella scored her first goal on Saturday!
She loves soccer and so I am sharing because her life is full of worry about school and friends and such so for her to be thriving at this, well, I am boasting.

I also feel I need to share with you that I am no longer writing for Chicago Parent.
I know a lot of you don't read my stuff over there but a lot of my local friends do and so I am putting it out there on here because I just don't have the balls to talk about it on my personal Facebook.
I made the decision to stop for many reasons but here is one: I need to focus on my family.
My girls are really busy right now and it seems to me that it is kind of ironic to write for a parenting website when I really need to be in the trenches of parenting myself.
This blog doesn't require me to be on a deadline, keep up my numbers etc. so it isn't a "job" per se.
I do have money making sources on my own time that help me bring in extra income but they are on a schedule that works for me.

This isn't to say it wasn't a hard decision.
I cried when I sent the resignation letter.
I cried when the reality hit.
But I am really happy where I am now, in the throws of motherhood, working the concession stands, cheering from the stands, helping with the homework, being there for my girls, hanging out with my family, OMG I AM SO DAMN HAPPY.
It is all good.

Here is a blog post I have had in the hopper since last spring.
It is one of those posts that I used to laugh when I would see bloggers share.
They don't have any material so they are using up old stuff.
Yep and damn proud of it.
Oh and I will be sharing those old Chicago Parent posts every once in a while.
Because I wrote them, because I am proud of them and because I can.

1- The Curtains From Hell


 no sew curtains

This post will always be a favorite for many reasons.
Because I worked so damn hard at these curtains.
And they lasted, like, two years.
Yes, they are now gone.
Guess I need to work on a new curtain tutorial.
Or buy them at the store like normal people.

2- My Baby Is Growin' Up


 my girl

When my oldest daughter (who is now 15) turned 12, I wrote this post.
I had no idea how much harder it would get each year.
Not really harder just my heart is heavier, more bittersweet because her time at home is dwindling.
It's so interesting how we get so excited when they gain another year when they are itty bitty.
Then around age 9 or 10 it starts to sink in.

3- Kindergarten Sucks


This was one of the hardest posts to write.
Because I wrote it as I was going through it.
When I read my words now, I can feel the pain of both Ellie and I.
And THAT is why I am so glad I blog.
Because when she is going to college, she will see how amazing life is and how much change is involved.
Now that she is doing better in school, it is a little easier to read this.
But I couldn't re-read this post until a month after I wrote it.

4- They Say You Can't Go Back


If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a sap.
A big old sappity sap sap.
And for some reason, this time of year, I get weepy about where I grew up and who I grew up with. 
So, of course, I write about it.
But I am lucky in that I have great friends who keep "home" in my heart all the time.
They know who they are.

5- Why I Blog


A Grace Full Life Blog

 When I started writing in 2010, I never realized how much I loved putting words on a screen or how cathartic it would become.
It was a stress reliever in a very stressful part of my life.
Because of blogging, I have handled situations in my life so much differently than I have in the past.
And I am such a better person because of it.
Here is my 2011 reason for blogging.


6- My Favorite Teacher

Mrs. Pierce

An ode.
To a beautiful spirit.

Thank you to every single one of you who read my words every week.
I appreciate you in every way.


Just Like Selfies, Shelfies Aren't Getting Done Around Here. #StreamTeam

I don't like taking selfies for many reasons.
The main one is I don't take a good picture.
If I looked like Reese Witherspoon, I would probably hold a camera in front of my face all the damn day long.
Heck, if I looked like Reese Withoutherspoon, I would probably hold a camera in front my face all the damn day long too.
I can hear my dad laughing at that from Tennessee. 

So when Netflix asked me about what shows I have been wanting to watch for a while but have been putting them off....aka "shelfies".......I had to think.
And think.
And think.
And think.
It has been a long while since I have turned on Netflix.
I am ashamed to admit it.

I love Netflix with all of my inner being.
My children would probably suffer some sort of mental breakdown if Netflix were to inexplicably disappear from our interior landscape.
To say that they appreciate Netflix on a deep level is an understatement.
My seven year old and Pee Wee Herman are on a first name basis, I am ashamed to admit.
Well, ashamed and a little proud.
Okay more ashamed than proud but I digress.

It has been a mentally exhausting month in our world and in a sentence, I have forgotten how to turn on my Roku this month.
In a recent week, I think I spent maybe one hour watching television and most of that was spent watching local news coverage of a manhunt for men that didn't even exist DON'T GET ME STARTED.
So I really need "shelfies" more now than ever before.
I need them to save my soul because Real Housewives and Celebrity Wife Swap aren't cutting it.

Only I don't have an interest in murderous drama's about the White House any more.
I don't want to see crime or death or cheating.
I need to see love and happiness and rainbows.
I really do.
I think we all do, quite honestly.
I think a lot of the problems we have in our world today stems from what is coming out of that box in that little room next to the kitchen.

So all of my "shelfies" are feel good in nature.

I love documentaries and I can't wait to start this one.
We take education for granted in this country.
This one will make me appreciate how lucky we are for what we have.

I love animals and I love watching shows like this with Ellie, so I can't wait to watch this one with her.

I love Steve Carrell, this was a no-brainer.

If I am starting a new series, why not an old new series.
And why not a really feel good, old fashioned happy one?

I have never watched one episode.
So this is a definite "shelfie".

This documentary we have seen a couple of times and love so much.
It is heartwarming and inspiring.
If you haven't watched it, you really need to.

Really, why not?
Sometimes you need to re-visit old Friends now and again.

What shows have you shelved for later?

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. Meaning, for the next year, once a month I will be writing posts about how my family is using our Netflix. They provided me with a Roku and a voucher for my Netflix account.

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