Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's Time to Say Goodbye

Everyone that knows me knows how much I love summer. If I could live year round in shorts, a tank top and flip flops, I'd be the happiest girl on the planet. Maybe all the planets. But as it turns out, where I live summer comes and then it goes and I have to say goodbye for another (too many!) handful of long months.  We had a phenomenal summer in southern Ontario this year, beginning with the first backyard barbeque/birthday party we had the weekend of May 28th.  It was 99 degrees that day. Fahrenheit, that is. (If it were 99 in Canadian degrees, I'm sure you'd have heard about it long before now. I like hot weather, but 210F is a little out of my comfort zone.) The pool was busy, the sandbox was busy and plenty of ice cold beverages to go around as the heat of the day gave way to the gorgeous orange sunset and the firebowl was lit up for an evening of s'mores, music and laughter (and mosquitos - it's just a package deal). And that set the tone for the summer of 2016.  Hard to believe that was almost four months ago but the crispy brown leaves in the sandbox tell me it most certainly was.

So as I set out to begin my annual end-of-summer clean up of the back yard and get it ready for all the trees to lose their leaves and then a long, snow-covered winter, I found some pretty awesome little souvenirs.

• Hotwheels cars partially buried in the mulch near the fence, patiently waiting for a little boy to find them and race them as fast as they can

• Pink, blue, yellow and red mostly deflated birthday balloons that found their way into and under the bushes after a birthday party... almost as if they were hiding, waiting for another child to find them and play with them just one more time

• Colorful plastic straws, bubble wands (and empty bubble bottles) & popsicle sticks buried in the sandbox

• Hair ties, sunglasses & metal s'mores skewers, in various places around the fire bowl. Leftovers from an evening of good times where the solar lanterns started to fade at the end of the night

I collected all those things and then rinsed off every plastic sandbox toy and placed it back in the bright green bin. One by one, summer fun went into the bin. I raked all the leaves out of the sandbox and then put the cover on.  I turned and looked at the bin and this is what I saw.  The shark/whale dude made me smile. 

If these toys could speak, here's what they'd have to say:

"Thank you so much for playing with us this summer! We had so much fun helping you build castles and tunnels and mountains and caves. You even took us to the pool and threw us in there! Wheeee!! Our time is over for now, but we wish you a happy Halloween, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and a great spring break!  You'll have lots of other toys to play with all winter and spring but we'll be back next summer, and we will be so excited to see you again, Jocelyn, Connor, Hailey, Roman, Landon and Liv.  Please bring Aleah with you too so we can have fun with her also! Grandma and Grandpa will make sure there will be even more of us for you all to play with.  Much love, The Sandbox Toys"

So off they go into storage until then. We plan on having a couple of autumn bonfires before the weather really turns but our time in the refuge of the back yard is quickly coming to a close. 

So until then... Goodbye Summer 2016, you were supremely wonderful. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Think it Through

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I've wanted to start a blog post with

"It never ceases to amaze me..." Mostly because, God is pretty incredible and never stops amazing me.

Today while at the grocery store my heart was heavy over an issue my husband and I seem to disagree on. It's nothing earth shattering but it's one of those issues we've discussed many many times and while it seems like we agree on it at the time, and during discussion, in practice it seems like it takes on a different interpretation. In other words, it seems like we agree verbally but his actions appear to tell a different story.

So I was frustrated with him. I wanted to talk about it again with him and was going over in my head how I would bring it up without sounding like a nag and how I was going to really get him to come around to my way of thinking (because of course, I'm right about this issue and he knows it).   I hadn't really come up with a good way to broach the subject again when suddenly the thought popped into my head  "what am I missing?"  Immediately I wanted to reject the idea that I was the one missing anything. No, it had to be him. He had to be the one that was wrong and I had to be the one that was right because... pride, I guess? No no, it couldn't be that, because he had already said he agreed with me.  So it had to be some other reason he was wrong in his actions.  Surely it couldn't be me?!

Of course the more I thought about it as I walked through the store shopping and then putting bags in the van I realized it was sinful pride rearing it's ugly old head causing me to be so adamant that I was right and he was wrong. I also knew it was the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sinful, selfish, prideful thoughts and  I decided to submit my thoughts to the possibility that I really was missing something and that's exactly how I chose to start the conversation with him when I got home.

The conversation went incredibly well, and lasted for nearly an hour while the groceries sat right there on the counter.  As it turns out, after I explained to him my frustration with how we agree verbally, his actions appear to disagree he was able to explain why and it made perfect sense. I was in fact missing something, and the most ironic thing is, it was something I once said to him about my own actions and I never even thought of applying it to his actions.  So even though it turned out I was actually right (we both were), I was also very wrong in my attitude about the whole thing.  Holy Spirit Conviction 101.

I wanted to share this because it matters a great deal that you search your own heart about your motives, your attitude and your thought process about things before you ever open your mouth.  You can be 100% spot on about something but if your attitude or your approach stinks, no one cares and no one is going to want to listen.  I knew if I came home and just dumped my thoughts on my husband it was going to put him on the defense (naturally, as it would me if he did the same).  I'm glad I took the time to mull it over in my head because that was the time the Holy Spirit used to convict me.  These are all things I already know, but they're also things I tend to very easily forget.

In this day of social media and breaking news that seems to be so tragic and emotional, it's easy to not stop and think before we react and usually with an emotional reaction instead of a well thought out one. That's almost never a good idea.

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Party Planning 101: RSVP

I've mentioned the importance of the RSVP before here at the blog but it's always timely to mention it again.

This past week we sent out these invitations for our youngest daughter's birthday party. As always, with the designs I create for personal use or for commercial use, there is an RSVP line for guests. Of course I've blocked it out here because the entire world is not actually invited :) but it's there for all the guests and their parents to see.

Here are some really really important reasons for parents planning a birthday party for kids, to hear from you, as the parents of kids who have been invited:

1. Basic party planning.  Parents need to know ahead of time how many paper plates, cups, goody bags, goody bag contents, etc. to buy.  If it's a sleep-over or a camp out party, they need to know how much space to reserve or how many extra blankets or pillows to have on hand. Adequate accommodations for all the guests is the goal.

2. FOOD.  A couple of huge categories here.  One is allergies and the other is vegan/vegetarian. These days, a lot of kids have particular food allergies and other kids have a vegan or vegetarian only lifestyle and that's important for the parents planning the party to know about well ahead of time. You don't want any of the kids to feel left out in any way, so knowing this information ahead of time can be very helpful.  It's a simple matter of talking to the parents and discussing alternatives for food planning.

In our case, with this party we're planning on having burgers, hot dogs, fruit salad, cupcakes and ice cream and one of the girls attending is vegan (no meat products and no animal by-products).  I already knew that so I talked to her mother (who RSVP'd) to discuss alternatives for her dinner as well as her treats. Of course we want all of our daughter's guests to have a fun time at the party so making a few small, simple changes here and there, makes that happen. None of the kids have food allergies but if they did we'd make sure to make those exceptions as well.

So whenever your child receives a party invitation, be sure to RSVP and let the parents planning the party know your child will be there, and be sure to mention any concerns you might have. And for the party planning parents - make sure you get back to the guest's parents ASAP and ask those important questions: are there any food allergies I need to be aware of - or are there any other dietary concerns?

Most parents these days understand different food situations and will be glad to work with you to make sure all the kids have a great time.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

It's OKAY to be Proud to be an American

Some years ago someone commented to me that it's unChristian to be patriotic the way Americans specifically, are patriotic.  When I pressed for specific details, comments about barbecues, fireworks, celebrations and general revelry and often drunkenness were given as examples. Because clearly, American Christians are the only people on the planet that engage in celebrating this way. (insert eye roll here)  While I certainly don't advocate for drunkenness I can attest to nearly 20 years of living in Canada and being among Canadian Christians who celebrate Canada Day in nearly the same, identical way Americans celebrate the 4th of July. Food, family, fun, fireworks. I say "nearly" the same way but I can't honestly think of anything that's different.

Every year as the 4th of July approaches, I see more and more condemnation of celebrating.  As if, being proud of your heritage and the people who helped craft our country's beginnings is something to be ashamed of. The older I get the more opportunity I have to think about this and just have to wonder if some of these folks who look down at being patriotic have really missed an important point.

I was raised by a single mother who taught her children the value of hard work, being honest, loving God, and getting along with folks.  I am proud to be Estella's daughter and I am not ashamed to say it. Her influence and her teaching and her passion about things were passed down to me and I'm honored and better for it.

She was raised by parents who taught her the value of hard work, earning your keep, taking care of your own, and putting family first.  I am proud to be the grand daughter of Harry and Zora and I am not ashamed to say it. Their influence on my mom, and on myself as well growing up, were passed down to me and I'm honored and better for it.

Their parents, and their parents before them, and through several generations back, my people have come from a long line of folks that had strong moral values, religious beliefs, a strong work ethic and passed them on to the generations after them.  Granted, not all of them were like this I'm sure, but plenty of them were.  There were pastors, teachers, seamstresses, factory workers, carpenters, machinists, homemakers and farmers peppered all through my family tree of generations past. I can trace my line on both maternal and paternal sides back to England, Scotland and France going back just under 900 years. On both sides, my family came to what is now the USA in the late 1600's and they stayed there. They lived there, worked the land, raised their families, and taught them values they in turn passed down to their children, and on it went.

This is my heritage and I'm proud of their hard work, dedication, and the values they passed down from one generation to the next. While we originally came from another place, there are 300+ years of Americans in my blood line on both sides of my family.   These people were in many ways, no different from all the men who's names are associated with the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. They came to the new world, they stayed there, they lived & worked there and they died there.  They would have believed these words from the Declaration of Independence that state

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

These words of the US Constitution:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

And these words from the Bill of Rights:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Celebrating your heritage or being a patriotic person doesn't take away from one's Christian faith, in any way.  No more than celebrating your mother's birthday does.

Of course we're not celebrating the current state of the country today (there's not much there to celebrate, to be honest) but we're honoring and remembering our heritage and that's always a very good thing.  Lest we forget our very own history. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Accept One Another

Many years ago I had a blog called Emergent No.  The entire purpose of the blog was to call out false teaching and false teachers within what was then called the Emergent Church movement. The motivation behind that of course, was to prevent young/new believers from being caught up in a form of evangelical teaching that wasn't actually Biblical but more culture-centric at best, and mysticism at worst. In the beginning of that blog there were three contributors including myself, and my pastor and husband and friends were 100% aware of it and supportive of it (as were many "big name" evangelical bloggers at the time - I think almost all of them linked to EN for a while, anyway). At first it was good, and then it all went into the toilet pretty quick.

My own church (not with my pastor's approval) began latching on to some of the things coming out of the movement, and before long they actually showed my pastor and his dear wife the door.  Many of us were in an utter state of shock and disappointment, and that's a great understatement. Several families left that church not long after the pastor did and eventually, the church itself crumbled into the dust.  Not too long after, even the building that held the church was demolished.  It really sucked the wind out of my sails, on a very personal level and gave me cause to become even more diligent in writing against the teachings coming from this movement.

I don't recall exactly how long that blog was operational.  Before I shut it down I deleted a lot of posts so even the internet archives aren't very reliable but I think it was about 2 years, give or take (2004-2006). Eventually, one of the guys rather involved in the EC movement actually took over the name of the blog (and has never posted, as far as I can tell).

The one thing that caused me to really take a closer look at what I was writing there, was much of what is said here by John Newton.  It's not a long read by any stretch but it's a critical read for anyone who may not even realize how much they're dwelling on the non-essentials when it comes to the Christian faith. Of course this not to say that outright false teaching should not be corrected and rejected but I believe it should be done with grace and truth. While I have always believed that, what I began to notice in my own writing was an awful lack of grace.  What really opened my eyes to it were the numerous comments on each post that were equally graceless but thanking me for the post.  "Do I really sound like that?" I began to ask myself.  Yes, unfortunately I believe I did. I began to feel so convicted I started going back through the archives deleting posts.  I believe at one point I even posted on the blog that this was in fact what I was doing, and why (in case someone had linked to an older post and it was no longer available). The more I deleted, the more I found to delete. Eventually I just had to ask myself questions like "why does this blog even exist?" and "is God glorified by what's being posted here?".  The answers were obvious and it was time to shut it down. That remains one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I thought about all this today as I re-read John Newton's words.  My friend James White re-posted that piece from Monergism on his FB with this comment:

"Please read this short selection! It says so much of what I want to communicate in reference to the unfair, ignorance-based, charity-less attacks upon godly men like Jeff Durbin. So thankful Monergism Books posted this." - source

While I don't really know Jeff Durbin (I know of him, and from what I do know, he's good people with a heart for God and a heart for the lost) I do know unfair, ignorance-based, charity-less attacks when I see them (or hear them).  I heard one just yesterday about this brother and felt kind of nauseated listening to it because it reminded me of the type of thing I used to write at EN. Almost exactly the kind of stuff I used to write. I fully admit I'm ashamed of the charity-less, unfair, grace-less things I used to write but I didn't even see them that way until it was pointed out to me by those who held to the same understanding of the faith and the essentials the way John Newton did.

I purposefully disconnected from the Christian blogging community (and what later turned into the Christian social media community) a few years ago and this was the biggest reason. Cruel, rude, unkind, hyper-critical people throwing others under the bus for whatever reason they deemed bus-toss-worthy.  There are still a few solid folks I follow (and I've found some new folks too) but I think it would do the body well to take a pause and re-read what Newton had to say.  Then maybe step back and examine their own hearts, thoughts, words, and social media accounts.  

It certainly couldn't hurt, right? 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Dear Social Media Mom (and Dad)

Just over thirty-three years ago when I became a mama for the first time, at my very first visit at the pediatrician's office I noticed a sign in the waiting room that said "children live what they learn".  I don't remember if it was a commercial poster or a local, patient donated cross-stitch display, but my pediatrician had both types of wall art on her waiting room walls and in each of her exam rooms. She was an awesome doctor that had a huge heart for children.  Either way, the message stuck with me all these years.  It was the first time I ever saw it, and the message was quite clear:

I tried.  God knows I tried, but for the next 10-15-20 years life was super hard and I missed the mark daily. Sometimes hourly.  Since then, things have changed and I only pray I'm finally at a place where I can be that mom, the mom being the good example, more often than not.

I thought about all this when the recent trauma in the last few months has hit my local community of Woodstock Ontario.  To be honest though, I've actually been thinking about it for 33 years but it really became far more real recently, as five teens in my community have made the devastating decision to end their own lives as a result of of wide variety of social and personal pressures. Three of my own teenagers knew many of these kids, and it's become an almost daily conversation around our dinner table since the beginning of this year.  In a sense you can say, the reality of these heartbreaking suicides of these young people really gave that message some critical legs.  For that reason, and in keeping with the message of "children live what they learn" I really want to focus in on one, specific example that kids have in front of them these days where responsible, adults can make a phenomenal impact.


It's a game changer, when it comes to parenting.  Many of us never had this pressure when we were growing up, or when we ourselves were young moms. It's really only become a thing, in the last 10-12 years but many of our teens are 100% caught up in this world of communication.   No two ways about it, there's a learning curve for parents who really want to be there for their kids and be a good example.  Granted, none of what I have to say will be a 100% guarantee that your kids won't hear a conflicting message (from what you have to say) or see a conflicting example (from how you handle social media), but the awesome thing is, is that as their parent YOU will be the most constant, consistent example they will ever see.  Day in, day out, week after week, month after month, year after year.  If you think your kids aren't watching and listening to what you do and say, think again. Even teens themselves don't realize how much they take away from what mom or dad is doing, saying or responding to, but the most certainly do.  That old cliche "oh wow, I've become my own mom!" is proof enough, that we are in fact, the most influenced by the way we were raised up, either good, or bad. Nurture, or lack of it, has a tremendously profound effect on who or what our kids become.

So this part... is just for PARENTS and what kind of example you're setting for your kids as it pertains to social media (SM).  You may not think it matters, but I assure you it 100% totally matters, in ways you can't even see right now. Not all of these examples will apply to you but I would encourage you to read them all, think about them all, pray about them, talk to your kids about them, and really ask yourself what kind of constant, consistent example you're being for your young people.  Moms and dads alike.

• Do you... have your privacy settings locked down so that only people that actually know you can see what you're posting on a personal level? (sometimes you might want to post something publicly, but that should be a per post decision, not across the boards) On the same note, do you talk to your kids about why they should guard their privacy online as well as offline?

• Do you... avoid online drama shows, or do you engage in them?  This one is HUGE.  Sometimes you might feel it's important to post your viewpoint and that's fine, but do you step back and walk away when the serious drama begins or do you jump right in?

• Do you... hear or read something online and let loose on what a jerk, liar, moron, fraud, creep, etc., that person is and post your thoughts where any and all can read them? Well, some people are creeps and they should be called out. But more importantly... what message is that sending to those watching?  What message does that send to young people as an example of how we as adults, conduct ourselves and how we treat people we disagree with? Almost all of us are guilty of this, me included.  Sometime it's hard to temper our responses with grace, but we MUST.  That is, if we want our young people to know and understand that sometimes, while anger is justified, grace goes a long way too. There is a way to disagree, and even disagree passionately and still not devolve into a raging madman (or woman).

• Do you routinely block those who say unkind, ungracious things so that you're not tempted to respond to them, or do you leave your settings as is, and find yourself compelled to be drawn back in?  This is a tough call, depending on the issue but you really have to ask yourself if "this" is the hill you're willing to die on.  Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things?  Are these people really going to hear and apply what you have to say? Odds are: NO, they're not.  There are people out there who just like to push buttons and keep the garbage going. It's important to pick your battles and much of the time the things people like to argue about online aren't really worth arguing about in the first place.

• Do you... post for the sole purpose of getting likes, shares, re-tweets or whatever else?  If you do, stop that right now.  Social media is not a popularity contest and what you're teaching your young person is that their self-worth, their value as a person depends entirely on what complete strangers think of their pics, videos, or thoughts.  To be blunt, that's 100% trash.

You need to be teaching your young people that their worth is centered in a completely different place.  Are they reliable? Trustworthy? Responsible? Respectable? Modest? Honest? Honorable? The value of a person or the value of what they have to share (online or offline) is based on the content of their character as a human being, not on the cleavage selfie they just posted on instagram for the sole purpose of getting likes and compliments. This never changes. EVER. That stuff fades fast, and there's a girl with a racier cleavage selfie just 1 click away.  But the girl who just posted the desires of her heart or her hopes for the future or the thing she's struggling to understand?  That resonates with people, young and old alike.  But no matter what, that should never be the reason you post anything.  Of course you want people to connect with what you post but should want them to connect with it because it's good for them, encourages them, makes them smile or makes them think not because it makes you the center of attention.

• Do you... mom or dad, ever hear your kids or anyone else say "would you please put that phone down?"  If you do, DO IT.  And do it a lot more often. Stop assuming there are more important things happening on social media than are happening in your own home with the people you live with. I can assure you, unless there is a zombie apocalypse somewhere, there's a very good chance there is absolutely nothing more important going on with complete strangers, than there is with the people you love.  Be there for them, and set the example for them.

• Do you... mom, dad, have these conversations with your young people about these things?  If yes, you rock.  If no, start. Today.  There is no time like the present to let your kids know you're living in the very same SM world they are, and you deal with the same stuff they see every day.  It might be a little different for you than it is for them but at the end of the day, it's probably a struggle for both of you in very similar ways.  Talk to them, listen to them. Ask them "well, what would you do if..." and ask them what they think you should do in key situations regarding conversations about particular issues.  Teenagers are juggling so many thoughts at once and the one thing they really really want more than just about anything, is to be heard and respected for what they have to say.  That being said, what they have to say isn't always right or good, but listen to them and gently guide them into a better solution.  A smart solution, an honorable and respectable one. Sometimes, your young people may pleasantly surprise you and offer an answer even you haven't thought of.  Tell them, how much you appreciate what they had to say about that.   You may be the parent, but the fact is, sometimes young people see things we don't see and have a viewpoint we never even considered because we don't really get the social construct they deal with on a day to day basis.  Our world and our societal values change rapidly, and younger people are more in tune with it than older folks are.  It just the way it is. This doesn't mean we compromise our values or worldview, but it gives us a better starting place to respond to them if we actually hear what our young people are saying.

In Conclusion...

This was not meant to be a comprehensive answer to anything or to say that this mom has it all down pat. Far from it.  It's just one slice, of one part, of one issue today's parents and today's young people are dealing with.  It's not easy for any of us.  It's not easy for them, it's not easy for us as parents.  But it's something we have to invest in, pursue, and be consistent with.  We, as parents, have to give our young people GOOD examples so they can take that and expound on it, and build on it. It's an ongoing thing in our home, literally every single day.  we have a 12, 15, 17 and 18 yr old still at home dealing will all of these issues day in and day out.  We open the floor for them, we listen, we guide, we pray, we hope.  I only hope the most important thing we do is hear them, and give them the resources we've learned ourselves, on how to deal with these things and how to interpret these things.

We strive every day to be those parents. I pray you will too. Your kids are depending on it, even if they don't even know it right now.  Even if you don't realize it right now. They are.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

An Open Letter to Mean People

I know I'm not the first one to ever say this and sadly I won't be the last, but I just have to get something off my chest.  If you're not entirely sure who this letter is to, and if it might actually be directed toward you, here's a short list to check off:

• Do you often find that you jump to conclusions without having all the facts?
• Do you take every opportunity to voice your ignorant opinion in comment sections online?
• Do you routinely ignore those who tell you, you could be wrong?

If you answered yes to these questions, you know this letter is for you.  Not that you're going to actually read it and go "hey, I'm kind of a jerk, maybe I should stop that" or anything, but the entire universe would think it was awesome if you did. In any case, let's begin:

Dear Mean People Everywhere,

for the love of all things good and right and decent and full of compassion, SHUT UP.  Okay maybe that was a little harsh.  Let me begin again.

Dear Mean People (now known as MP), you may not realize this, but do you know who you actually are?

You're the people that other people make comment section memes for.  You know the ones, you've seen them.  The one of Michael Jackson in the movie theater smiling with a tub of popcorn & the text saying something stupid about just being here for the comments?  Yep, you've seen that one and guess what? It's not a compliment.  You know what it is?  What they all are?  They're memes created by people that are almost as mean and ignorant as you, but not quite, so they just spend their time feeding off the mean that you blurt out like some vile case of incurable verbal (digital) diarrhea. They're memes created to mock you, and mock others that feed off the same putrid diet you're dishing out. Sadly, I think you're encouraged by them and interpret it as a sign that says "yay you, nasty person, do more of that!" I find this sad, and super annoying.

It never seems to matter what the subject is of the post or the news story.  You're right there, ready, willing and able to type out the cruelest, most ignorant, usually profanity filled comment.  It doesn't matter if it's politics, weather, entertainment news, local crime stories or someone's back yard barbecue pics.  BOOM.  You drop your bomb and the first people to see it think to themselves "please God, send the meteors, now".  He doesn't, and more people like you clog the comment section like a vile, greasy, rotten-food, hairy sink clog.  Some folks respond and tell you how awful you are, but somehow you see that as a standing ovation.

Now here's where it gets real.  Maybe not for you, because you don't seem to grasp this basic human decency concept, but where it gets real for normal, decent folks everywhere.  Your words are like finely sharpened daggers into people's hearts.  Parents, with teens struggling with all sorts of issues in our confusing times, feel like throwing up when they see your words because they see you're just another wretched example to the teens themselves who also use your kind of hurtful words.  Teens themselves who are already conflicted about tons of issues sometimes take your words to heart. Sometimes they hurt themselves at your suggestions.  Sometimes, it's forever.  People of ALL ages who may be struggling with this, that or the other, see your poison opinions and simply cannot handle it. Grandparents from back in the day, just want to take out out back behind the woodshed and have a come to Jesus moment with you, and a switch of the closest tree, until you have a revelation about your wicked ways and call everyone Sir or Ma'am for the next 50 years. Point being: you revile people.  You hurt people with your words and your ignorance.

If you're a MP I don't even know if you're still reading.  Maybe I lost you a while back but if you're still with me on this, here's what a lot of us parents do: we use you as examples (like bacteria in a dish) to our young people and we say "See that guy?  Don't ever be that guy. No one likes that guy, and that guy probably doesn't even like himself."  And maybe you don't, I don't know.  Maybe someone was mean to you one too many times and you just snapped and decided to take it out on everyone else.  I guess that's possible but please know, there is another way.  Call someone, make an appointment, get some help so you're not "that guy".


Everyone who doesn't act like you, and everyone who understands compassion, wisdom and encouragement goes so much further that hateful ignorance.

Friday, June 17, 2016

FINALLY: Justice for Tim Bosma

Tim and Sharlene Bosma

Just over three years ago, I wrote a blog post called Justice for Tim Bosma.  At that time, Tim's remains had just been found the day prior and I wrote that post with a lot of tears. I haven't posted about the details since then but I have followed the case closely and for the last 4+ months I have sat each and every day and followed the court case against his accused killers Dellen Millard and Mark Smich.

By "followed the case" I mean, I have literally sat at my work station and followed every single local journalist live-tweeting the daily court proceedings. From the first day of trial at 10am right up until today, as the jury has begun what will be their 5th day of deliberations on the verdicts for both accused. I've scheduled appointments for days court was not sitting, and hubby has graciously run errands in my place while I sat and followed the trial.  I didn't have to do any of that, but I did have to do it.  The brutality of this crime against such a great guy who adored his wife and baby girl, just compelled me somehow to put my own life on hold in a sense, and sit through this trial along with everyone else who loved and is still grieving for Tim. I didn't even know him, but if ever there was "he's Every Good Guy" from all accounts, it was him.

When I wrote that post 3 years ago, the investigation into Tim's death had just begun. Pretty much every question everyone had about the who, when, how, why, etc., has been answered as the result of that investigation and the details were more gruesome than any of us really wanted to know. Especially for Tim's parents, and Tim's wife.  And Laura Babcock's family as well, since the two accused in this case have also been charged in the first degree murder of Laura.  Something no one knew, until the investigation into Tim's murder.  It's even worse than that though.  Millard has also been charged in the murder of his own father.  A death that was initially ruled as a suicide, until this investigation just opened a huge can of worms.

I've never followed a court case before like this.  Even back when everyone and their dog seemed to be following the OJ case.  But this case was different, so I followed and I've learned a great deal about the way the criminal justice system works here in Ontario.

I've learned what type of evidence can be ruled either admissible or inadmissible, and why for each. I've learned how expert testimony is verified by the courts, and what they can and cannot say. I've learned that in certain types of cases, for a variety of reasons, legal arguments between the prosecution and defense cannot be in front of the jury, and they must be excused.  Those legal arguments can also not be disclosed publicly by any of the media or public present.  That part is very interesting.  The jury cannot hear what the attorneys are discussing but the public can if they happened to be in court that day.  I've learned much of what the jury was unable to hear was just as disturbing as what they did hear.  I've also learned how a judge charges the jury with their duties on how they're to reach a verdict.  It's a very complicated process and one that cannot be taken lightly but must be approached with all due diligence.  In this case, 12 jurors must come to a unanimous verdict (and they only have 4 possibilities to choose from) for each accused.  Each verdict doesn't have to be the same, but each does have to be unanimous.  I've never served on a jury but I can only imagine the gravity they are dealing with, as they decide the fate of these two accused.

So today I wait.  Sharlene Bosma waits. Tim's parents wait.  All the Bosma friends and family who are called the Bosma Army, waits.  Southern Ontario waits... Canada waits to learn what the jury will come back with.  While nothing can bring Tim back, we all wait for earthly justice for Tim, and many of us pray for this horrible chapter of life to be finally over for the Bosma family.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Inspired by Creation

If someone would have asked me three years ago what a Peony was, the only answer I would have would be "a flower".  I wouldn't know what color they are, what the bush looked like, how they smelled or what they even looked like. 

And then, we bought a house. We bought the house in January, it closed in May but we didn't move in until the end of June, so we really didn't know what the previous owners had growing in the flower beds in the back or front yards until the house closed and we started moving things in little by little. Much to my delight, I discovered all sorts of gorgeous flowers. Among them, a dark pink Peony bush and a pale pink one right next to it. The first time they bloomed and I saw how beautiful they are, and the first time I smelled them, I was in love. 

Over the last few weeks as I've been working in the back yard I've been watching and waiting for the blooms and they have finally arrived!  Well, the dark pink ones have. The pale pinks take a week or so longer, for some reason.   In any case, while waiting for them I was inspired to create a new wedding stationery collection featuring Peonies. I wanted to capture both the fine, intricate lines of the petals themselves as well as the watercolor look of the petals and keep it subtle and beautiful.  

Instead of using an actual photograph (like the one above) I decided to illustrate a single bloom in pure white, and make the background the watercolor texture illusion. I couldn't be happier with the way the design came out, and I decided to use a contrasting combination of fonts, keeping the bride and groom's name in a lovely, embellished script, and everything else in a traditional uppercase.  The end result is a soft, subtle contrast in color with the Peony theme and white font choice standing out.  All because the previous owners of our home planted beautiful flowers!


Saturday, June 4, 2016

I've Got The Chritis!

Fact: kids are funny

Kids, especially very short kids, at about the age of 2-ish tend to say the funniest things.  But the funny keeps going all the way up until about the age of 10 when kids still make up words to describe things. 

Some of the funniest words my own kids have ever said?

Motor-wood: chainsaw
Lilliloon: living room
Washing-shmeen: washing machine

To this day, in our family we still use some of the mispronounced words the kids first called things.  "Chicka-bob" was good job and "auda-deet!" was "time to eat".  If you're ever in our house at dinner time, inevitably one of the kids (or adults) will say "auda-deet!" and everyone (except you) will know what that means. No one will bother to explain it, unless you ask. 

Not long ago, for some goofy reason I thought about the words my brother and I used to make up to describe things when we were kids.  Just recently I talked to him about it and neither of us are certain, but I think it was him that invented the Chritis.

Pronounced like cry'-tus, Chritis is (or was, in our minds at the time) a combination of words describing the very worst things little kids can ever imagine having: a really bad cold, and arthritis. Hence: Chritis.  Because, when you're a little kid, bad colds and arthritis are the worst things you ever hear adults say or mention in front of you. So if you combine them for the worst possible medical diagnosis...

Some examples of childhood Chritis:

1. the kid in class that always smells of urine has the Pee Chritis.
2. the kid who shows up one day with a cast has the Bone Chritis
3. if you wake up one morning with a wretched stomach virus you have Belly Chritis
4. if you happen to get up one day with a creepy, spotted rash, you have the Red Spotted Chritis
5. if you get side aches in gym class, you've got the Runner's Chritis

A few months ago I woke up one day to a most peculiar, itchy rash on my arm.  I've never had skin conditions or rashes and this one was most perplexing so I announced to my husband I had the Skin Chritis!  Which made him laugh.  I had to explain what Chritis actually was. Then I had to explain it to the kids. I don't even know why I called it that, but from somewhere way deep in the back of my brain, that's the only word that made sense.  It made them all laugh and it made me laugh too.

Not long after, our 17 year old came home from a grueling day of rugby practice and announced (referring to all her bruises) that she had acquired Field Chritis.  We all nodded our heads and understood.  Hubby and I both played baseball as teens and we often came home from games & practice with the Field Chritis from grounders slammed into shins, or sliding into base and later picking gravel out of the outer thigh with a tweezers.  We completely understood. Sports Chritis can be especially nasty. Now, when any of our kids has a "thing" whether it's headache, a back ache, acne, sore throat, or even a bad hair day, it's The Chritis.  We all get it.  We've all had it, and we understand.

Yesterday I made a trip the the ER because I had what I suspected of being an ear infection.  I've never had one before (lucky me, getting to 51 years old and never having one!) but as I was sitting in the triage section of the waiting room, crying, because the pain was so intense, my thought was "I've got the Ear Chritis!" and it actually made me laugh out loud. From somewhere in my brain I became 8 yrs old and I was declaring to no one in particular...  I had the Chritis.  Thankfully, no one besides me was in triage waiting for medical care, or they might assume I had the Mental Chritis.

Sometimes, life is just funny.  Even when it stinks, and you have the Chritis, it's still funny. My wish for all reading?  That you never experience the Chritis, in any form.  But if you do, may it make you laugh, and remember that God is still in control, even of the Chritis.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Some Gardening Thoughts

One of the things I love about hard work outside is that it affords me plenty of time to think, uninterrupted.  Usually about things completely unrelated to the work I'm doing. Yesterday I thought about how it's kind of a strange feeling when you first discover how much you didn't know, that you didn't know, you didn't know.  Right?!  Allow me to explain with some examples...

Great Blue Herons

The first time I ever remember seeing one, was about 17 years ago as we were driving down the highway.  A giant pterodactyl-like creature flew over the van and I screamed "whoa! what was that?!" to everyone in the van, and probably a 2 mile radius. Of course no one in the van knew what in the world it was, so when we got home I used whatever search engine worked at the time (google was still a baby and wasn't really anyone's go-to for search engines back in the day) and looked up "a pterodactyl like bird" and discovered what it was.  There was no such thing as an image search back then either, so I had to do a fair bit of reading before I found it.  The Great Blue Heron instantly became my favorite bird ever!

The funniest thing is, a few years later we all took a road trip to my home state of Washington and on the way to my mom's house we passed a beach that was full of... herons!  Of course I was delighted and told my mom all about them and she just sort of chuckled at me.  She wondered where I'd been living the first 33 years of my life since that bird is native to the area, and pretty much always has been.  To this day I have no idea how it's possible I lived in western Washington, with water and beaches pretty much every where you look, and I never once saw a Great Blue Heron.  But it's true.

Brain Freeze

I've heard my whole life, not to eat ice cream or drink ice cold drinks too fast, or you'll get brain freeze.  Everyone hears that.  It's sort of like you hear not to go outside with wet hair or you'll catch a cold. Well, it's sort of like that but it's actually true. Once, one of my kids claimed to have brain freeze and I knew that because right before she threw herself on the floor holding her head and wailing like a banshee, she screamed "BRAIN FREEZE!!" and then cried for 15 minutes.  I should have earned the Worst Mother of the Year Award in that moment because a.) I didn't really believe it was that big of a deal and b.) I just told her something along the lines of "get up and stop acting like a fool". The thing is, I'd never experienced brain freeze myself, so I had no idea. Yet.

Last summer while on yet another road trip (I'm sensing a theme here) we stopped for lunch at this amazing little place in Wall, South Dakota.  It was about 100 degrees that day so everyone ordered an ice cold drink with their lunch.  I opted for a strawberry daiquiri. Now before I continue I have to say it was the most fantastic daiquiri I've ever had in my life.  And, they served it (more or less) in a mixing bowl.  It was HUGE, and I really wanted to finish it since I paid for it.  Well... this is where things went sideways. I mean, really sideways.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

DIY Back Yard Project Day 10

Well, my baby grass got it's first mow today :)   I was going to wait another week but the way it's growing so fast now it needed it immediately.  I could not be happier with the way it's coming in. There were some real obvious patchy spots just a few days ago but the seed is filling in so nicely I'm not even sure I'll still need to do patch work.

All that's really left to do now, is continue to water daily and get some of that awesome red cedar mulch and top up the sections around the fence.  Here are some before and after shots.  All the before shots are what it looked like in the first week after the fence guys were done, and what it looks like today.

If you click to enlarge, you can see how muddy it all still was the day this before shot was taken.

The before shot in this comparison was literally the way it looked the day the fence guys left, just five weeks ago.  The after shot is today taken from the same corner of the house. 

Before: 3 weeks ago (I'd already seeded a week prior to this)
After: how it looks today.  The PVC lattice hanging on the fence when the sand box is in use, serves a double purpose. 1. It's a handy place to put it and 2. It actually brings a little life to that drab, old, faded fence wood.  We are seriously considering having the same company back next spring to replace this back fence to match the side fences

So, this concludes the DIY Back Yard Project for 2016. It was a LOT of hard work, and worth every trip to the massage therapist! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 9

Well, things are coming along pretty well!  Better than I expected, really. Here's how it looks since my last update:

Even though I've been calling the posts by "daily" updates (and they were at first) they're more general now because the daily hard work is actually done. Yay!  Here's what I've done in the last few days since the last update:

- Filled in all the sand I needed from the picnic table all the way to the fence under the lawn swing.
- Hung all the nylon solar lanterns around the chairs where they go
- Borrowed son-in-law's saw and cut the obnoxious branch over the fence at the back of the sand box and hung the lattice board on the fence (and it's been working like a charm for keeping the cats & dogs out of the sand box while it's not in use!)
- bought a new umbrella stand and popped the umbrella in the picnic table (and not a moment too soon, as I had to clean off birdy doo-doo from the freshly painted table before I put the umbrella up

Then I filled the hummingbird and oriole feeder and hung both of those.  It's a little early for those birds yet but the key is to have the feeders out before the birds migrate back into the area so that they see the bright colors and know your yard is a bird-friendly place!

Even though this has been a huge DIY for me, I have to give a monumental shout-out to two local companies that have helped make our back yard look the way we wanted it.

Flawless Fence and Deck for our super awesome new fence and Woodstock Tree and Stump Removal for their fast, friendly service, and awesome prices when it comes to removing unwanted trees, stumps and tree branches. Both companies impressed me with their professionalism, hard work, and dedication.  I'm old school, so these things matter to me.  I can't recommend these guys enough.  If you're local and you need stuff done, give Rob a call at Flawless, and Mike a call at Woodstock Tree Service.  We're looking forward to calling Rob and his crew back next summer to rip out our nasty old deck and replace it with Awesome Deck. :)

What's left now is more watering each day, adding some fertilizer in the next few days and then the first mow in about a week. There are a few patchy spots where it doesn't look like the seed germinated at all, so in a week or so I'll do some patch treatment with more seed & more topsoil. I considered doing an edging between the sand and the grass (similar to the sand box) but decided I wanted a more natural look, so I won't be doing a border.

And then... I'll be ready to tackle the front yard.  Not nearly as much work to be done out there though. Thankfully. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What Are YOU Celebrating?

Normally I would post something like this over here at my store blog.  But I wanted to share this here simply because it's just a little more personal.

As we go through life, most of us tend to measure the passage of time with memorable events. Engagements, marriages, new babies, graduations, retirements, and various milestone birthdays from sweet 16 to 21, 40, 50, etc.  And then, there are those phenomenal wedding anniversaries: 25th, 40th, 50th.   For most people, these are HUGE events worthy of celebration with friends, family, co-workers and those who mean the most to them.

When I first began designing full time for such things, I was rather humbled and honored to be the chosen designer for the event invitations (and matching party favor stickers, postage, favor bags, etc.) for these events. That hasn't changed one bit.  When someone orders 300 of my custom designed wedding invitations, or 100 graduation party invitations, I actually get excited!  Obviously I'm not going to be there to enjoy their celebration but in a way, I get to be part of the celebration through my design. This is a tremendous event for this family and they've chose my design to be a part of it.  That's huge!  That's bigger than huge, that's incredibly wonderful huge.

Words can't really do it justice for how thankful I am, so I've created a gallery of what people are ordering to celebrate their own family milestones. You can view the gallery here.

This is my way of saying THANK YOU for choosing my design, to be part of your incredible milestone.  I cannot begin to come up with the words to express how honored I truly am, that you've chosen one of my designs for your special event.

Monday, May 9, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 8

Well, it's been over a week since I've been able to update since I literally took a week off this project while I tended to more pressing family matters.  The one thing I did keep up with however was the daily watering of the new seed, on days it didn't rain.

Today I was back at it!  Here's the way it's looking now, and what I've been able to accomplish:

1. I've hung all the solar lanterns on each fence post. Lanterns and hooks were both purchased from the dollar store. Not really for functional lighting but more for accent lighting, they're quite bright and look pretty awesome at night :)

2. Moved the compost bin to the back gate area.  We'll be composting again this spring/summer/fall to create some awesome topsoil for the yard for next year.

3. Picked up 4 super cute outdoor canvas throw pillows to give a little comfy pop of color to the lawn swing.

4. Painted the last Muskoka chair and re-painted the table top and bench tops of the seats on the picnic table.

I still have a lot left to do. More sand fill-in, shepherd's hooks for the green and blue solar lanterns that go around the chairs, new umbrella stand for the picnic table and pop the umbrella in there (it gets plenty of shade but the umbrella itself shield the table from birdy surprises), replace the firebowl and top up the bark along the fences.

The BEST news is, my seeding job is coming along exactly as I suspected.  I'm not sure if you can really see it well but about 90% of my seed germinated and is coming up quite nicely.  Because the dirt wasn't "scientifically" level :) it's natural for some of the seed to filter down to lower levels and not germinate. I'm quite pleased that those patchy spots are even less than I anticipated.  I'll wait for the first mow (in about 3-4 weeks) before I decide if I'll need to patch fill or not.  If I will need to do that, it'll be just a little seed and a little topsoil to fill in those areas.  It's been 2 weeks since I seeded, so I'll be fertilizing in another 2 weeks and likely mowing the back yard the first time about a week after that.

Where the old grass wasn't trampled by the fence work and buried under mud, it's already begging for a mow but it'll just have to wait.  Even more great news, my Peonies have defied the trampling and the mud and have both come back up as healthy as ever.  My butterfly bush didn't fare as well so I'll be replacing that very soon.

I'll update again a week from now and hopefully my "lush green lawn" will actually resemble one, at that point :)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Using Food Stamps?! You Filthy %$*#@!

The older I get the more I find myself in this strange place where I sometimes don't even recognize myself.  I find I want to be compassionate towards people. I want to help them. I want to hug them, and tell them someone cares. That's not the strange part.  The strange part is, at the same time, sometimes I want to deal with other people in a completely different way.  I just want to clip them upside the head and tell them not to be so ignorant and cruel.  Of course I know a clip upside the head never fixed anything and I'm not about to actually do it, but some people just push that button in me. I'm pretty sure everyone reading knows exactly what I mean.

If you've been on social media at all in the last 5 minutes, you've likely seen some version of this saying right here.  I have no idea who actually came up with this quote (google image search it, folks attribute it to everyone from Ghandi to their Auntie Esther) but it's a great little quote to have in mind on a daily basis.  Hourly, if need be. Especially if you're one of those people like me who have a private battle of my own.  Yes, it's true.  I'm addicted to something and no matter how hard I try to break the addiction it gets the better of me time and time again. It's horrible and I know it, but I just can't stay away from reading comments on posts or articles.  I'm not new to the internet, I know better! Yet, the struggle is real.  And I walk away wanting to clip someone. Almost every time. Which brings me to the real reason I'm typing away here today.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Mother's Day: I'm of two minds

So here we are again with another Mother's Day.  Depending on who you are, and what your circumstances are, that phrase either makes you happy, or makes you very sad, or causes a great deal of anxious turmoil in your heart and mind.  Or, you don't have any kind of reaction to it at all. It's a strange sort of thing.

Today I was in the grocery store and saw all sorts of men and women frantically attempting to select the perfect bouquet at the florist counter.  It was nothing short of a mad-house in that section of the store. Much like Christmas Eve at the mall.  People utterly desperate to give the mom in their life some kind of pretty token of appreciation. If my mom and I were closer than 2600 miles apart, I'm sure I'd be getting her some pretty carnations. I might get some for myself too :)

I've been a mother myself now for 33 years. Well over half my life now. Technically, it's the one thing I have the most experience, over all else. I've had all sorts of Mother's Days from wonderful and happy to depressing and frustrating.  In our family, we don't really have a hard and fast tradition when it comes to this day. I don't know why, we just don't.

Just skimming through my social media feeds I see so much mixed emotion about this day.  So many folks my age (50+) no longer have their moms.  I feel incredibly blessed that I still do.  I also feel so sad for those that do not.  So many remember their mamas with such fondness.  The stunning photo of her as a young woman, the funny thing she always said, or her favorite hobby. Then there are those that want a child more than anything, and for some reason they just cannot have one, or haven't had one yet. For them, this day isn't really something to celebrate, but instead it's a jarring reminder their heart's desire isn't yet within their reach.

It's always curious to me how people respond to this day.  It always causes me to think about what actually being a mother means. The short of it is, it's the most impossible, terrifying, demanding, important thing I've ever failed at miserably again and again, and it's also the most amazing, wonderful role I've ever had the chance to experience. You, and you alone, as "mother" are the one person someone else looks to as an example of how to be an awesome human being.  That role of "mother" is sort of magical and horrifying all rolled into one.

In my 51 years on this planet, I have been blessed to be the mother of 8 pretty incredible people. Brandon, Caryn, Jennifer, Jessica, Jordan, Rachel, Samuel and Ruth. Seven are by birth, and one is by choice.  Through it all, I have done things I should have never done.  Said things I should have never said.  Reacted in ways I should have never even considered. Some of us have gone through death together, moving to another country, living with different relatives, marriages and divorces, fights, bullies, being homeless, jobless, carless, churchless, but never ever hopeless.  No matter what, God be praised, there was always food on the table and an "I love you" at the end of the day.

Some of us have taken amazing road trips together to awesome places, laughed all night at the fire, sat on my bed (because Mom's Bed is where you sit to do these things) and wept together as we talked through the hard things, and spent countless hours in private messaging talking through life's stuff.  Each and every one of them have nicknames for me, and I have nicknames for all of them.

I have never been the PTA mom, and I've never had a tea party.  In 33 years have baked at least 8 million cookies & whipped up 20 million smoothies for after school snacks, but I'm never ever ever going to win Mother of the Year, unless the competition qualifications have categories for sweat pants, baseball stats, baked beans and cornbread for supper, and the most ridiculous thing Mom has ever said.  I think I might have a shot at it, in that case. I think "shut your mouth and eat!" should be the golden ticket. I'm pretty proud of that particular brainless statement.

I only hope when I'm old and creepy (I think that's closer than I realize) my kids will all remember me with the same fondness I see others expressing.  I haven't always made the best choices in life but I've always made what I thought were the best choices at the time, with my kids being my #1 concern.  Some of those have turned out pretty fantastic.  Others, not so much.  It's the way life goes & there are no do-overs.  In those cases, you suck it up buttercup & move on.

So what does Mother's Day 2016 look like for me?  Drive a kid to work, hit the grocery store for school lunch stuff and dinner stuff, laundry, message my mommy (who by the way, is THE coolest mom, ever) on FB and tell her happy Mama's day, various housework, pick up a kid from work, take a nap, make dinner & eventually settle on the couch and watch tv until I remember it's a school night and tell hubby "okay bye, I'm going to bed!".  Yep, just another day, livin' the dream. :)

And I couldn't be happier. Maybe I'll get myself some carnations at the grocery store.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fort McMurray: How You Can Help Right Now

By now, I can't imagine anyone online in the last week hasn't seen the devastating images of the Fort McMurray wildfires.  If by some odd chance you haven't, you can see them here.

If you've never lost your home or business to a fire, or if you've never known anyone that has, it might be hard to imagine what it's like to see everything you've ever owned, everything you've worked so hard for, simply go up in flames, and be reduced to nothing but a pile of ashes.

Words really cannot describe the feeling, and while there is nothing that can be done to bring any of those things back, there IS something everyone can do right this minute, that will help make a difference in the lives of so many tens of thousands of people and families directly affected by this fire.

Not only can you go directly to the Canadian Red Cross site here and donate any amount you're able, but dollar for dollar the Canadian government has pledged to match every donation:

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that in addition to the government of Canada providing future … assistance the government will also be matching individual charitable donations made to the Canadian Red Cross in support of disaster relief," said Trudeau, who was drowned out by applause from MPs across party lines." - source:

Here are some other ways you can help:

  • The Red Cross has set up an Alberta fires appeal and you can click here to donate. You can also text "REDCROSS" to 30333, which results in an immediate $5 donation to the fund. The Alberta government has announced it will match donations to the agency. 
  • Edmonton Emergency Relief Services is calling for donations and volunteers. Specifically, they are collecting diapers, baby wipes, new toiletries (soap, shampoo, tampons, toothpaste etc.) and new socks and underwear. Donations can be dropped off at the ERS offices in downtown Edmonton (10255 104th St.). They will be distributed where they are needed most. If you'd like to volunteer with ERS, please call 780-428-4422 and leave a message.
  • Citizens are advised not to go to the Northlands Expo Centre in Edmonton to drop off donations or to volunteer, as they are blocking access to the very people who need it.
  • On the Fort Mac Recovers site, residents can request help and others can sign up to donate and volunteer.
  • Edmonton's Food Bank is also accepting donations for those affected by the Fort McMurray fires. Donations of food may be left at any major grocery store or fire hall. You can also make monetary donations through the food bank's website.
  • This site aims to help pair Albertans able to open their homes, rental properties, recreational properties, and other available space to people in need of somewhere to stay.

Friday, April 29, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 7

Well, the hardest work is finally done.  Yay!!  I know it still looks sort of dumpy but there is plenty left to do.  What's done though, is the tilling, seeding and topdressing.  Most of the sand is in place and most of the recycled bark along the fence.  I decided not to hang the lattice behind the lawn swing.  It looked nice there, but I decided a much better use for it was a "not in use" cover for the kid's sand box.  Perfect solution to keeping the dogs & cats out, but still letting the sun & wind get to the sand to keep it nice and dry. When it's in use, we'll just hang in the fence behind the sand box.

What's left to do:

Fill in the rest of the sand
Fill in the rest of the bark
Re-paint the picnic table
Paint that last chair
Hang the solar lanterns on each fence post

And... possibly replace the fire bowl.  I really love this one here at WalMart.  It's very similar to the first one we ever had that was destroyed by a falling tree in a horrible ice storm, just two months before we moved into this house.  When we went shopping for the one we bought to replace it, our budget was extremely tight, so we opted for the less pretty one with a lower price tag.  It has served us quite well for 3 summers now but it's looking pretty beat up these days.

I still haven't decided where the cute little bridge our son-in-law built for us will go.  It was custom built to fit across our pond at the old place but since we don't have a pond anymore (yet?), it's just been sort of sitting at the edge of the yard. I'm still tempted to put in a pond because I really miss having that running water sound & loads of birds in the yard :)

If I do decide to be over-zealous about yet another project, it'll be a small pond like this one here. Deep enough to build up birdy landings with slate & stone yet not so big it takes up more space in the yard. Pond forms are 100 times better than pond liner kits (we've done both before) and we already have a really great pump for it.  Just a matter of digging a hole and dropping it in! Voila, itty bitty back yard pond.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 6

Well, after a couple of days of rainy weather and being super busy doing other things (one of which was resting my back since I accidentally over-did it), I was back at it today!

First, I finished laying all the weed cloth where either sand or recycled bark will be going.  Bark along the edges of the fence and sand from the picnic table all the way to the fence, under the lawn swing.

I topped the sand area with as much sand as I had but I still need more for the lawn swing area so that's on the list for tomorrow.

I put a decent layer of topsoil in the back corner of the yard where the grass just never wants to grow. I'm hoping with it being freshly tilled and nice new bed of topsoil, this will be remedied.

Then finally I moved all the chairs & stuff onto the sand, so the yard is all ready for me to seed & topdress tomorrow.

I still have a bit of work to do in the lawn swing area.  It's not level where it's sitting so I'll have to fix that.  That white pvc lattice sheet is going to hang on the fence directly behind the swing just because it looks pretty and beachy :) We still need to put the top shade on the swing, and I'd like to replace the cushions this year with matching colors to the Muskoka chairs but I'm not sure if I'll get to that.  I still need to paint that last chair that gorgeous turquoise blue and then re-paint the table top and seat tops of the picnic table. Still have a few more loads of recycled bark to lay, and then finally lay a load of pretty red bark over the top.

I still haven't decided where these lovely ladies are going, but they've been with us for so long (despite the fact some of them have broken wings, or arms lol) they deserve a lovely spot.

So tomorrow will be seeding and topdress, more sand & more bark. Hoping to get all that done in the morning as we have rain coming later in the day.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 5

Well, I have a hunch my massage therapist is going to shoot me not only 1 stink eye, but both. You can't really tell from the picture but before I layed the sand, I raked, and raked, and re-raked the entire yard to get it as level as humanly possible. And to get out all the big rocks, twigs and anything else I didn't want there. I'll probably go over it all one more time before I seed & topdress.  Yep, I've decided to seed instead of sod. More on that when I get to it. :)

As for the sandy area, I underestimated and need about 4 more feet of length at the end of this, so I'll run another strip of weed cloth tomorrow and pick up another 3-4 bags of sand for this section & then that part is done. Once the picnic table is out of the way, the area between the fence and the fire bowl will also be getting a section of weed cloth and roughly 6 bags of sand.  I'll be moving the picnic table back there when it's finished and putting a new coat of paint on the table top and seat tops, just to freshen it up.  So, the entire sandy section of the yard will be from under the picnic table all the way to the fence, roughly a 20'x8' section.

Because... I love sand!

And on a hot summer day I can sit out back with an icy cold beverage and do this, with my tootsies :)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

DIY Yard Project Day 4

Well, the weather cooperated for me today so I took my 4 bins and made a trip to Bark Mountain! :)

It looks a lot bigger in real life, but this is the gigantic pile of recycled bark at the local yard waste depot.  It's not the pretty red stuff that comes neatly bagged (or back up your trailer and buy in bulk) but it does exactly the same thing.

Unfortunately I don't have a trailer so I will have to make at least 2-3 more trips to get as much as I need, but I was able to get almost half of the work done today.

The recycled bark is fairly light-weight so I'm going to want to double the thickness of what's here.  It still looks rather yucky, but once the lawn is in, it'll look a lot better. I'm also considering purchasing a few bags just to add a layer on top and make it look nicer.

The other project I had to work on today was leveling out and raking through the area that will be covered in sand.

Currently the sandy area stops right about where those piles of sand are by the leg of the picnic table.  I had to pull it back to uncover the edge of the weed cloth since that's where the new weed cloth will start and run all the way out to the area just at the bottom of the picture. It's roughly a 10'x10' area where the new sand will be and the picnic table right in the center of it.  It'll be roughly the same square footage as the sand box so that will take approximately 10 bags of sand.

The more I work the yard the more I go back and forth between seed and sod for the lawn.  I've done both before, and they both have pros and cons.  The big disadvantage with the sod is the cost and the labor (if you do it yourself).  The big bonus is *instant lawn*.  While grass seed is much easier to apply and far less expensive, it takes a while before it looks awesome. So I'm still undecided on that part of the job.

In any case, it's coming along exactly how I wanted it to.