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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dear Photograph

I read an article on MSNBC yesterday about a 21-year-old from Canada who came up with a seemingly simple, yet brilliantly creative idea for a website called Dear Photograph.

He was sitting in his family’s kitchen looking at photographs when he came across one that was taken at the very table at which he sat. He decided to hold it up and take a picture within a picture. And the idea was born. He snapped several others in a similar vein, bought a domain name, and started spreading the word.

The concept caught on quickly and within 3 weeks he had more than 1 million visitors. And I completely understand why.
{Picture via DearPhotograph.com}
When I saw the picture that accompanied the story (above), I was instantly intrigued. I immediately paid a visit to Dear Photograph, perusing the limited, but growing number of photos and their endearing captions.

It made me want to go straight home, pull out my box of pictures, and start playing along.  

I’m not sure why, but there’s something so fascinating about the juxtaposition of a memory within a current state—a single moment from the past within today’s viewpoint. I just love it!

Hats off to this young entrepreneur who took a simple creative idea and turned it into something countless people can enjoy, too.

If you sound intrigued, I recommend checking out Dear Photograph. Chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to start digging through old photos right away.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Indecision junction

I’ve come to find that choosing a wedding venue is very much like buying a house. You check out every available place that falls in your price range, searching for one that is perfect. But like house hunting, reception venue hunting does not come without compromise. You’ll find a few that you like, but each one comes with its share of pros and cons.

It most often comes down to deciding whether spending a little extra money on the one that checks off a few more boxes in your “wants” column is worth the investment, or whether you want to save the money and prepare for some DIY-projects and dirty work.

And so is the case with the 2 reception venues we’ve narrowed it down to. They’re very different, each with its own benefits and charm.

At first glance, one of them seems to offer some cost savings over the other. I tried to ask myself, “If money was no object, which would you choose?” An answer does present itself, but the cold hard truth is that money is an object. So like it or not, it becomes one of the categories in our list of pros and cons.

I’ve always been an indecisive person. I had my mom drive 20 minutes to the mall to look at a few dresses I was trying on because I couldn’t tell which one I liked best. If we’re going out to eat, I always make someone else throw out a couple ideas first because I can’t stand to be the one who chooses. I spend absurd amounts of times in the greeting card aisle because I have to find one that feels just right. (Sometimes I’m not sure whether these indecisive tendencies stem from my actual inability to make a decision or my desire to make as many people happy as I can—or both.)

But when it came to planning a wedding I thought my biggest challenge would be finding a wedding dress. Much to my surprise, that happened very quickly and easily for me. Even the color scheme debate is coming together. But this decision—the one that, in the grand scheme of things, is really not as big as it seems—is going down in the books as the hardest to date.  

Someone else just choose for me. I’m really good at following the rules and doing what I’m told, so you pick and I’ll go with it!

But seriously, in the end I’m sure we’ll find a place that we’ll love—just like with finding a house you love. Once you realize the things you can live with and the ones you can’t live without, you find a way to make everything else work. In fact…I’m feeling better about this decision already!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

A bit of a long story to give some background to this week's lyrics...

When I was growing up, I had a special relationship with many of my cousins. With my mom being 1 of 12 kids, I had an abundance of playmates to choose from. Of course, not all of my cousins were similar in age to me or lived close enough to have regular play dates. But the ones that were, well we were practically inseparable.

This was especially true with my aunt Morning’s kids. Morning’s daughter, Justina, is 3 years older than me. Next comes her son Andrew, my very first best friend who is only 3 months my junior. Morning and Bob (her husband) had another son, Daniel, who died just after he was born when Andrew and I were 3. Less than a year later, they had my cousin Brandon. Then, when Andrew and I were 9, they had the baby of the family—my cousin Collin.

By this time, I had pretty much taken up a permanent (pseudo) position as another one of their immediate family members. To say that Morning and Bob were like my second parents, or that their kids were like my own siblings, is simply an understatement. I was still an only child at the time, so I reveled in the opportunity to have a sister and brothers—especially the new baby.

Fast forward 18 months. It was the night of my 5th grade Christmas recital and we got word that Collin was being taken to the hospital. He had been battling the flu for a couple of weeks and after several doctor visits had offered no relief, Morning and Bob took him to the ER. My mom rushed off to the hospital to be with them. Later that night she returned with Andrew and Brandon and set them up on my bedroom floor for a sleepover. Since it was a school night, I knew whatever was happening must have been more serious than we had hoped.

Within hours of arriving at the emergency room, Collin had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the days, weeks, and months that followed he underwent countless surgeries and radiation and chemotherapy treatments to fight the rare form of cancer than invaded his brain and began to spread throughout his body. I remember feeling like we were on a rollercoaster, with good news arriving one day and devastating news the next. I had spent so much time at Children’s Hospital I practically had the hallways memorized. I loved accompanying Morning to Collin’s appointments, where we’d play and laugh and watch movies to distract ourselves from the elephant in the room.

Despite every effort, cancer won the battle with this beautiful boy, just 10 days after his 3rd birthday. It was 15 years ago this past weekend, on a warm, windy summer day. I was there as Collin, cradled in Morning’s arms, took his final breath. I’ll never, for as long as I live, forget that day.

I’ve had many people tell me I’m an “old soul,” something I take as a great compliment most of the time. So I find myself wondering if losing someone so close to me, and so young, made me grow up much faster than I would have otherwise. Losing Collin had a profound effect on me. Certainly the experience was one that shaped so many of my emotions and behaviors. It was a significant part of who I was growing up because it was something I never learned to fully accept. But I also know that it wasn’t everything. His death didn’t define me. But in some ways, I guess it did. His and all of those that followed…

{Morning and Collin - lyrics from the song that was sung at his funeral}

Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Smell of summer

There’s something about the smell of a bonfire that just instantly signals “SUMMER!” Though the weather wasn’t perfect this weekend, it was nice enough to spend some time outside. So on Saturday night, Sean and I sat on the patio at his parents’ house and had a bonfire.

It had rained most of the day and there was still a bit of chill in the air, so the fire was a perfect way to stay warm.

Scenes from the evening (as recorded on my cell phone):


I love a good bonfire! What are some of your favorite summer activities?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy birthday to my special someone

Today I'm wishing the happiest of birthdays to this incredible young man (since I will always be 3 years older, a fact he'll never let me live down, he'll forever be "young" to me):
This year is the 7th birthday of his that we're celebrating together (that's more than a quarter of his life!). I think back to the very first one and am quite amazed at where life has taken us since then.

We made it through 9 months of a long-distance relationship while he was away for his freshman year of college.
We've held various jobs, graduated college (twice for me, if you count grad school), and found full-time jobs that at least lead us in the right direction of our ultimate goals.
We moved in together--and survived. (I know it's not always the step that should come before marriage, but it sort of fell in our lap, and it's worked for us.) And we bought a house together!
We've endured the loss of loved ones.
We've grown--together.
I feel like one lucky girl. He truly is my best friend. So HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Sean!

I can't go without mentioning that today is also special for 2 other reasons.

It's Sean's parents' 27th wedding anniversary. I realize it may sound cheesy, but I just know that his dad is watching down on their family--sending his love to Sean's mom on what would be a tremendous accomplishment for them, and wishing his first born a very happy birthday.

And lastly, 1 year from today, 365 days from right now, we will be getting married! By tomorrow, it will officially be less than a year away. I can't believe it. And I can't wait. I get to marry my best friend! Someone pinch me!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Love this commercial

Chalk it up the adorable little girls or the hilarity of how real this could be, but this somewhat recent commercial from Wal Mart is one of my very favorites!


The irony of my love for this commercial? I'm a Target girl (gasp!). But after seeing it, I have a new love and appreciation for Wal Mart, at the very least for their advertising department.

Maybe it's the marketing girl in me, but I love a good commercial. And this one, in my humble opinion, is adorable and creative all wrapped up into a skin cream jar. Do you have any favorites right now?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

I know a lot of people who could use our thoughts and prayers these days, for the mountains and the molehills that are trying their patience and strength.

This song can have different meaning for every person. But for me it's always made me think of the Footprints in the Sand poem, a small reminder that we're not alone.


Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Who needs sleep?

It's 3:00 in the morning and I'm wide awake, sprawled out on the couch next to a shaking dog because Mother Nature hates me.

I've said it before but Oliver is terrified of storms. And because it's just my luck, it tends to always storm in the middle of the night, on a work night no less. I got a good 5 hours of sleep in, so I guess that's better than nothing.

But on the bright side, did you know they play Doogie Howser reruns in the middle of the night? I totally used to watch that show when I was little. I forgot all about it but was instantly taken back after just a few minutes!
{Via}
Here's to hoping I can catch a few more minutes of shut-eye before my 5:20 alarm rings for the gym.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Friday thoughts

Heading into the weekend, I’ve got a few, mostly random, things on my mind.
  • If you’re the praying type, please say a few extra prayers for my friend Molly and her family. I’ve known Molly since I was 5 years old and she and her family are very dear to me. Her dad is waiting for a heart transplant and has experienced various setbacks and challenges in recent months. Today he had another surgery. I can only imagine how difficult this time of uncertainty and waiting is for them. My heart aches that these wonderful people have to go through such hardship. They’re heavy on my mind these days. So if you have a minute, please keep them in your thoughts. They can use all of the prayers they can get!
  • Another rainy Friday? Seriously? That makes 7 of the last 8. Come on! Granted, it’s not technically raining yet, but it’s threatening, and that’s enough. We aren’t playing softball tonight (we had to cancel due to lack of players) so that makes it a little better, but I’m still tired of it. My cousin’s graduation party is tonight and I’m sure they’d prefer if people could be outside, too. So I say, “rain, rain, go away!”
  • I’m getting married in 372 days. Whoa!
  • Speaking of the above, this wedding planning stuff has made me realize even more how indecisive of a person I am. I did find my dress this week though (I. Love. It). But I’m still having a heck of a time thinking about colors. I’ve seen a dozen color combos I like but still can’t decide. Any advice? Have any perfect palettes to share? I know I’m over-thinking it.
  • Last night I woke up half a dozen times in the middle of the night and thought it was Saturday. Don’t you hate that? Maybe tonight I’ll actually sleep. And no alarm tomorrow? Even better.
  • Have I told you my best friend is pregnant? Well she is. And every time I think about it I get so excited! I can’t wait to meet that beautiful baby girl (well, I can, because she still has a few months to go, so stay cozy little girl!).
I’m all out of creativity and effort today, so thanks for bearing with my random thoughts. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer nights

Earlier this week I woke up to the sound of Oliver jumping off the bed, his way of letting me know that he needed a bathroom break and didn’t care that mommy was deep in slumber.

I threw aside the covers and stumbled blindly downstairs to let him out. He sat by his empty water bowl and stared up at me, obviously condemning me for forgetting to fill it up (bad mommy!). As I made my way to the sink to fill it up, I was forced to turn on the kitchen light and groaned as I squinted to avoid the blinding light. By the time he was done gulping his water, and was finally ready for his bathroom break, my eyes had adjusted to the light and I was officially 100% awake. Damn.

So I decided that, rather than just letting him outside and waiting for him to finish his business, I’d join him. I padded onto the deck in my barefeet, boxer shorts, and oversized t-shirt. I sat on the step as Oliver sniffed his way around the yard, apparently unaware that it was the middle of the night and it was not the time for lollygagging.

But he did force me to stop and take in the moment. And for a few minutes, I appreciated the silent beauty of a summer night.

The houses around us sat in quiet darkness and everything stood still, except for the summer breeze that gently lifted the branches from the trees. The distinct summer smell, a mixture of freshly cut grass, budding flowers, and cool air, washed over me and I shivered in my PJs.

The only sound I could hear was the distant whir of cars. I wondered who they were, these people driving around at 1:00 in the morning on a Sunday night (technically, I guess, Monday morning). The teenagers and college kids on summer vacation—the day of the week, the time of the night so far away and unimportant in their minds. The sleepless, perhaps out for a late drive to soothe their busy minds. The people whose schedules don’t fit into the typical 9-5, where 1:00 a.m. might mark their “lunch” break or drive home. It could be anyone. It’s easy to forget the rest of the world doesn’t always crawl into bed before the 10:00 news.

Most of all, the few minutes I spent basking in the summer night made me nostalgic. I remember when I was the teenager on summer vacation, spending countless hours with friends in the moonlight—at a park, in a backyard, even in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant (we had quite the hangouts, didn’t we?). During the summer, the days were spent working or taking the occasional trip to the beach. But the night, oh the night was the very best part. Friends gathered, plans fell into place at the last minute, and adventures spawned out of the most random of moments.

Ahh, the innocence of youth and summer freedom. There are days when I miss that—an entire summer off and 3 months of making memories with your friends—but honestly, I’m really happy with where I am in my life now. It’s not to say I don’t wish I could pull together a last-minute, all-night party with my closest friends on a random Tuesday night and not have to worry about getting up and looking presentable in the corporate world the next day, but I’ll take it. Being a teenager’s overrated anyway!

What about you? Do you miss summer vacation?  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

Sometimes life is all about taking chances, big and small. I think about how many things in my life that wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for going out on a limb, and it makes me hopeful. Hopeful for the scary and difficult decisions that are ahead in life, that they may result in blessed and joyful experiences. Hopeful for friends who struggle to find the happiness they so desperately want, that they may find the courage to take chances and witness the beauty of the reward. Hopeful for the sadness and grief in life, that they may never disappear, but rather heal and leave us stronger. Hopeful for the unknown, that life may surprise us with the unexpected, the extraordinary, and plain and simple happiness.


This song makes me think of all of this, and more. When opportunity knocks, answer the door. Take chances. Take charge. Don't let your dreams pass you by. Have faith. And prepare to have the ride of your life.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend recap: Pride and Preciousness

We had another fabulous summer weekend, and once again I’m disappointed that it’s over. The difference is, though, that for once I’m excited that it’s Monday – because I’m trying on wedding dresses tonight!

I think it will be so weird to put on a wedding dress for the first time. I almost have some butterflies about it. I probably wouldn’t start looking for dresses this early, but a bridal store in our area has their biggest sale of the year in the month of June. Since I certainly can’t wait until next June, and I also can’t pass up the opportunity to save money, we decided to go check it out. Plus, because we’re looking so early, there’s no pressure to find something right now. If I fall in love with one, great! And if not, no problem. I can’t wait!

So back to the weekend…

On Friday we had softball, and, as usual, it rained. I’m getting really tired of playing while feeling like I just stepped out of the shower with my clothes on.

We play doubleheaders and our first game turned a bit disastrous. We had just enough guys to play, and a few innings into the game our pitcher pulled his hamstring. He could barely walk off the field, so we knew we were in a sticky situation. Luckily, one of our girls stepped in and did a great job pitching. One of our friends had come to watch the game so he stepped in and filled a spot in the outfield—in jeans and a dress shirt, with the wrong-handed glove. But it was a body nonetheless.

Then, later in the same game, our 3rd baseman dislocated his shoulder catching  a hard throw from the outfield (and saving it from hitting a baby in a stroller, I might add). So we were officially short at least 1 guy, and we still had a whole other game ahead of us.

I called my brother and he and his friend came to save the day. And let me tell you, I swelled with pride watching them on the field. They made plays left and right, launched the ball deep into the outfield (my brother even got a homerun!) and helped us beat the trash-talking other team with runs instead of words (trust me, it’s hard not to sass back when they’re hurling curse words at you, including your pregnant best friend whose sitting in the stands). They were the most rewarding victories of our season to date (drenched clothes and all) and I loved watching my baby brother help us do it.

It’s just so funny to me to see him all grown up. I still think of him as a little kid, yet he steps into this league with people 5, 10, 15 years older than him and fits right in. What a fun time we had!

The rest of our weekend was relaxing and uneventful. We had a bonfire with friends on Saturday night. At one point, the fire reached such impressive heights that I kept my cell phone—pre-dialed to 911—by my side for a few anxious minutes. There’s nothing more fitting for a cool summer night than a warm fire, s’mores, and good friends.

On Sunday Sean and I walked around the mall for a while in what turned out to be a fruitless search for birthday gift ideas for him. I swear, he’s so difficult to buy for. If anyone has great ideas for birthday gifts, do share!

After the mall I took some photos of my friend Claire, her husband, and her siblings for their father’s day gift. I also snapped a few of Claire and her husband and her adorable pregnant belly. The photos are precious (really, they made my job easy because they're all so photogenic and easy to work with). I’ll try and share some of the shots later this week! 

And that brings us back to here. A Monday morning. A fresh week ahead. A 5-day countdown to the next 2 days of summer bliss.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All dogs go to heaven

This morning I learned that my friend Katie’s dog died. Max was a loyal and loving puppy who, in his 14 years of life, brought much joy to Katie, her brother, and her mom.

I have so many fond memories of him, too. Like one summer night we all gathered on their deck. Max came upon someone’s frozen daiquiri. Not long later, the poor dog was drunk and practically stumbling down the stairs.

The news brought me to a bit of a reflection on pets—these little creatures we bring into our lives that instantly become part of our families—and on life. (Bear with me while I get a bit philosophical—or skip this post all together, if you’d rather).

I’m not a real mommy yet, but I imagine the way I love Oliver is akin (on a much smaller scale) to the way you fall in love with your child, from the moment you lay eyes on their cherubic cheeks and tiny toes. For most pet owners, they truly are another member of your family.

We bring these animals so deliberately into our lives, knowing that by nature they’ll be outlived by our children, our careers, our mid-life crises. They’ll be next to us through some of life’s happiest and saddest moments. But not all of them. We’ll mark periods in our life by the animals that helped us through them, because the furry companion who was by my side when I graduated from high school will not be the one who’s by my side when my own children do the same.

Yet, we love them still the same. We choose them. We bring them into our lives knowing the inevitable, that in 10, 12, 14 years we’ll be heartbroken when their poor little heart gives out.

It makes me think, why in the world would we do that to ourselves? Of course it’s because (in my opinion) their love and companionship—whether only for a little while or longer—far outweigh the outcome. It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, isn’t it?

Lots of things in life are that way. There’s no surprise ending. Like it or not, we are all going to die someday. But that shouldn’t stop us from experiencing joy and happiness and love with the time we do have. In fact, it should push us to do it more—more often, more generously, more deliberately. Risks are worth taking because we get one chance, one life.

I know that many people, myself included, have their faith tested in the wake of pain and misfortunes (whether it’s the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even seemingly small stresses). It seems so dumbfounding that a loving God can let terrible things happen to good people. But I think, in some ways, we can learn from those trying times. It seems as though to have the best things in life, we must also learn to survive the bad. To know the depth of love, we must also understand the pain of loss. To realize the magnitude of kindness, we must witness cruelty. And to truly appreciate the gift of life, we must experience death.

If seeing the dirt and grime of life can make the beauty of it even brighter, then is the lesson learned? Is it worth it? And is it fair?

They’re not questions I, or anyone else, can answer. So we just keep going, doing our best, and learning as we go.

I’m realizing now that there was no real point to this post, no groundbreaking insights or life-changing wisdom. I guess I just needed to think “out loud.” Thanks for putting up with my ramblings!  

Anyway, enough of the heavy stuff. Happy Wednesday friends – we’re half way to the weekend!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tune in Tuesdays

Remember how I mentioned yesterday that I love summer?

Mother nature is trying to change my mind. But after the winter we had, I won't let a couple high heat index days get me down. So I say, bring it on! 100+ degrees today? That's nothing. I'll take that over 20 below any day.

So summer, we can still be friends!


Want to know what Tune in Tuesdays is all about? Read more here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Weekend recap

Wonderful weekends are bittersweet, only because getting back to the grind is so much harder after 3 days of fun and sun. We finally had a weekend with beautiful weather EVERY DAY!

I had Friday off, and used the day to finish my baking for Sean’s brother’s graduation party (I made chocolate covered strawberries, brownies, mini cheesecakes, and peanut butter graduation caps - recipes to come later), clean our house, and see a potential wedding reception site with my mom.

Friday night was the party and it was a ton of fun. Despite the 95 degree temperatures that had us all swimming in perspiration, we had a lovely time. The turnout was great, the desserts were delicious, and the evening went off without a hitch!



Saturday morning we helped take down the tent from the party and went to the gym. I went to watch my sister’s softball game, took another peak at the same reception site (this time it was all set up for a wedding), and then went to a baby shower for my cousin whose girlfriend is having a baby next month.

Gotta love the candy bar diaper game!
Sunday we got up early and got our grocery shopping out of the way (grocery shopping is much more enjoyable when you have someone with you to help, wouldn’t you agree?). We got some things done around the house and then went to Grand Ol’ Day, an annual street festival in our neighborhood. This year it drew over 250,000 people! I’m sure the beautiful weather had nothing to do with that!


Sean’s cousin and her husband and kids live along the street that its held on, so we stopped in and said hello. I got to meet this beautiful boy and hold him the whole time! Not even 2 weeks old yet. Such a cutie pie!

We finished the night off with a homemade meal, a nice visit with our new next door neighbors, and shakes (thanks to my wonderful mother) from our favorite local malt shop.

I. Love. Summer.

The End.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Graduation

Yesterday was graduation day for Sean's youngest brother. Hard to believe he's now done with high school!

Some photos from the evening:
Brothers!


The beautiful St. Paul Cathedral (above and below).


Do you remember your high school graduation? I do! Here's me and my best friends on graduation night (9 years ago -whew!):
{Pardon the quality of the photo - this was before digital cameras! And blond-ish hair? I don't know what I was thinking.}
 And here is Sean and I on his high school graduation night 6 years ago (we both graduated from the same high school that his brother did last night):
{Gross, not much of a fan of sharing pictures from my heavier days}

I love graduations! Sometimes they can seem long or boring, but last night the speakers were great and it made the ceremony fly by. Plus, how exciting to celebrate such a great accomplishment! Do you like graduations?

Tomorrow is hsi brother's graduation party so I have the day off to help get ready. I'm looking forward to it; it will be a great time. I'll share photos next week.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Walk this way

Remember a couple weeks ago when I mentioned I was feeling the need to change up my workouts a bit? Well on Monday I did, and boy am I paying for it!

Since Sean and I had both had the holiday off, we went to the gym together.  He decided to have me do his leg workout with him.

We started with some stretching, and then warmed up by jogging on the treadmill. We continued on to the weight room where we did 15 straight minutes of lunges up and down a ramp. A few more leg machines and 45 minutes later, my legs could barely carry me back to the locker room.

The rest of the day my legs felt quite jello-like and wobbly. Even though we were careful to do lots of stretches at the end, I knew I would be in for it by Tuesday.

Sure enough, I woke up yesterday and could hardly make my way down the stairs. As the day went on, it got harder and harder to do the smallest of things—going from standing to sitting, bending over to pick something up, taking the stairs. My friend warned me today would probably be worse.

The verdict? She was right! The pain has now localized in my thighs and hamstrings (oh and don’t forget my butt, too!), but it’s a burning, radiating pain that flares up every time I so much as think about using those muscles.

I’m quite the sight to see, actually. Imagine the view of everyone behind me on the bus as I get in and have to set everything in my hands down, and then carefully lower myself into the seat using the handicap bar. Meanwhile, the bus has already started moving forward and my legs are burning from trying to hold still. Thank God no one can see me try and lower myself onto a toilet!

Not to mention the way I walk around work with a little bit of waddle. I’m sure people look at me and wonder whether I’m suffering some great injury, wearing shoes I can’t walk in, or perhaps looking really good for being 70+ years old.

Good grief! I will say this though. The pain is pretty bad, but it’s a good pain! Clearly the leg workout I thought I’d been getting was nothing close to what I should be doing. So as it turns out, I do need to push myself a bit more. And the more I do it, hopefully the easier it will get to function in the days that follow.