Saying Goodbye to Grandaddy

For Whom the Bell Tolls
Initially I envisioned a shack and an old man with corn cob pipe, a long bead, overalls, sitting in a rocking chair yelling “maw” to a lady hanging laundry in the breeze.  Not for me, not for me at all.  
That was 1995.  I listened to Michael tell stories about his granddaddy over a lunch date (our first date).  One of 11 children, his granddaddy grew up on the out-skirts of Atlanta in a depression era rental house.  Granddaddy’s father was a postal man who one day dumped his mail bag into the river and left his young family.  There was no indoor plumbing when he was young.  They grew their own food, and stored it for a season.

Grandaddy's office chair - now at my house

 There were stories of playing hookie from school.   And like a scene straight from a Huck Finn novel, Granddaddy and his cousins would play in the river.  As a teen, he rode the bus downtown to the local Sears and Roebuck to work.  He held jobs as a Fuller Brush Salesman, a loan broker, and was successful in the Atlanta real estate market.
Granddaddy is Michael’s hero. In 1995 I really didn’t know just why.  At the time, all my 19 year old ears heard was a cultural divide.  

I grew up in NY.  My grandparents had indoor plumbing growing up.  My grandfather kept the same job (that he hated) for 40+ years.  I never heard stories of living for the moment.  That is why I didn’t think it was for me.
Then I met him.  It was Father’s day 1996.  My only grandfather had just suddenly died.  I loved my grandfather so much that I couldn’t imagine life without him, that is until God brought Charles Duncan into my life.  
Grandaddy and Baby Nina
It was that weekend I saw Michael’s stories come to life.  Before me was a grandfather who amazed me.  He had a sparkle in his eye and a creative mischief in his spirit.  He loved.  He laughed.  He had this magical smile.  
That Father’s day weekend, I met a man who wasn’t fractured in any part of his life.  In fact, he was very grounded and sure of who he was.  I think that is why he was able to follow his heart in life with no reserve.  He appreciated things for what they were just as he appreciated people.  He was smart.  He was a bit quirky.  I instantly loved him and was thankful that God had blessed me with another wonderful grandfather.  
Grandaddy loved bells

So take time to listen to people that share stories.  Really think about what they might be saying, for your first impressions might be wrong and you might miss the opportunity of a lifetime; the opportunity to love, to learn, to face challenges by going “Fuller Brush.”


Finding a Filter

I love Home Depot.  I’m just such a looser when it comes to executing a brilliant shopping experience at the big orange box.  The list never seems to make it in the store with me.  I always end up coming home with the wrong watt light bulbs, the mismatched 2nd gallon of peacock feather green paint, or the 55 gallon trash bags when I needed 60 gallon size.
                              Source: capitolromance.com via Mariae on Pinterest

The biggest tragedy of my home improvement shopping adventures is when I’m sent to replace the Air Conditioning filter.  You would think that it would be simple enough.  Take the old filter out.  Bring it will you to the store.  Buy the new one.

                                                                                           Source: amazon.com via Best on Pinterest

But my creative heart will not let ease pass its’ way.  I have to find a more artistic way to remember the three sequence number of the filter.  Cabinets are torn apart looking for the prettiest notepad I can find to write the numbers on.  Often, I find a glitter pen to write with.  It is this sequence of events that I think helps me more effectively remember the numbers.  
But somehow, when I get to the store, I have nothing but a screaming toddler, a headache, and a large tote with no pad.  I grab one of every filter I can find from your hypo allergenic to the cheap almost falling out of the frame blue ones.  In the end, I return home with nothing that fits.  
Some days are similar to those shopping trips to the big orange box.  I forget the right size filter. 

Source: bit.ly via Rachal on Pinterest

You know, the days were I need a thick filter to keep the gunk from coming out.  Or maybe the days, that it is right for some of it to seep thru - but in a not so direct kind of way.  But could there be some days where a filter will only block a message that needs to be heard?  I’m not sure.

  There are times that I wish I would have the right filter at the right time, maybe for me or maybe to give to someone else.


Gotcha Day

You are beautiful.
You are strong.
You are smart.
You are prayed for continually.
You are amazing.
You are brave.
You are wonderful.
You are loved.
You are the one.
You are special.
You are a part of our family.
You are our birth mother.
Ten and half years ago, you were alone, scared, and with child. You made the choice to stay healthy.  You made the choice to let her live.  You gave her life, and thus gave us a gift.  A gift I can never thank you for.  

Everyday, I wonder if she looks like you.  I wonder which of your traits she has.  I wonder if she has mannerisms that mimic yours.  
Today she is perfect.  She is absolutely beautiful.  She loves.  She lives for the moment.  She ministers to people with a reckless abandonment.  She has the best smile.  Her eyes are endless.  She is a friend.  She is a sister.  She is the most amazing daughter anyone could ever ask for. 

Her life is good.  Her life is good because of you.  You made the selfless decision to let her go.  You put her life before your own and for that I can never thank you enough. Being a mom is a big responsibility and you answered that call in a big way.  I love you for that.  Thank you.    


Average Church Family - Skipping

The Average Church Family 
......Did not go to church on Sunday.  Well, at least we didn’t go with the kids.  The kids went without us.  Spending the weekend with Nan and Bob - they got to see their friends in middle Georgia.  
Michael and I missed church this Sunday.  Why?  To sleep, to spend time together - without kids.  I know, I know - that is not worship.  But it is something God knows we need.  Via caring parents - he provides.  
You see, I believe that there are instances where it might be OK to miss church?  What?  Crazy!  I know.  But we need to make sure there is a balance in life.  A balance between marking every “T” and dotting every “I” and to report when the doors open every time. The church is a place -- your relationship with the Lord you take everywhere with you. 
It is important to be involved with a living group of compassionate believers but there is also a time to momentarily step away from that.  There will be times that your children need you all to be a family not splitting into different hallways for the morning.  There will be times where a friend needs you to sit with a cup of coffee while you let her poor her heart out.  There will be times where your not believing family needs you to minister to them.  
Just remember, to take time and look outside those four walls with that beautiful group and remember what is going on inside the four walls of your home.  Remember that the lady at the gas station doesn’t care that you were late - she cares that you took the time to care.  Remember that sick friend alone in a hospital bed, needed you there right then.  Remember that quiet time talking to your spouse and remembering why you all began this to begin with.  That is really when Jesus shows up my friends.


Creative Me

Art vs. The Entrepreneur

Dear Creativity,
Hello, Hello, Hello........Can you here me?  Creativity, are you listening?  I can not seem to find my way to you lately.  Are you hiding from me, or am I too blind to see you right in front of me?  How can we connect my friend, creativity?  Where can we find a place to meet?  I will come to you if you just give me the details. 
I just can not seem to find her lately - the creative me.  There is this place deep down inside that I know she is screaming to get out, but the stresses of life seem to keep her at bay.  It is to the point that she is clawing her way to find it to the top.

I find myself continually putting these limitations on the creative me that seem to keep her doubting herself enough to hide in fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of being laughed at.  Fear of wasting time.  Fear of wasting resources.  Fear.  Fear is strong. So I let fear win and do nothing at all. 
Limitations pop their ugly head at times when I need them to leave the most.  You know the days that you wish your camera was better.  The desire to have photoshop to format better.  The Thursdays when I would love to have a serger.  Being tired.  Not having the right fabric.  The kids are puking.  Or having to sew something for money.  

Isn’t that crazy?  Don’t I sound ungrateful?  Don’t get my wrong, I love sewing for others - paid or not.  But sometimes I have this fab idea in my head only to not have time on my side.  I have to make the decision between taking care of my family or taking care of my creative nature - one has to loose.  
There has to be some sort of balance between being a Proverbs 31 woman and filling your heart.  Where is that balance?  Do you have any suggestions how this gal can find it again?  


I want it all.....NOw

I wants 
I have the “I wants” and I have it bad. It just can’t be ignored.  In my little mind it has sort of become an epidemic.  That is only because I have let it.  My “I wants” seem to rule my life and leaves me wondering, “ what is the fine line between dreaming and coveting?”
I want skinny thighs, not tater tots.
I want long fingers, not those of an ompha loom-pa.
I want to know where we are going to live, our house is set to close April 4th. 
I want to focus on one goal instead of accomplishing 1/8 of a few goals. 
I want to create from my heart while still having a successful shop. 
I want the UPS guy to slow down while driving on my street.  
I want normal hair not this mess of want-a-be dread locks that is starting to come in a silver streaked brown.  
I want to be a flower farmer. Near the beach.  With a large cottage.  And a really great area to write. 
I want to understand English grammar so I don’t feel dumb when I write. 
I want to give up control. Still I look for it anywhere I can. 
I want to get over the death of my dog but see him everywhere I go.  
I want to have more time with my kids while they are still children.
I want certain intangible resources.  
I want to see a funny movie.
I want to sleep thru the night for more than 6 hours - every night.
I want Chai tea to come in decaf.
I want to be a vegetarian (shocker).
I want a cream color shag rug that stays clean.  
I want a clean house or rather the WILL to have a clean house.  
I want to be organized but loath following rules.
I want to wear leggings and tunics everyday - they are so forgiving. 
I want time to invest in everyone as much as they deserve to be invested in. 
I want confidence.
I want to travel without being a afraid to fly. 
The list could go on for days and at times might make me look like a very unhappy person.  The truth is I am happy its’ just that contentment might be another story.  I think there is a fine line between using that discontentment to dream and act. Or using that discontentment to devalue this wonderful place we call life.  Have I let my “I wants” list get in the way of my “I am thankful for” list? 


Friends with Benefits - Bloggy

Friends with Benefits
I’m slowly beginning to embrace the words “bloggy friends.”  At first, it sounded so strange.  How could you have friends that you never get to hug?  How much could you really know about these people who write and are not seen?  Bloggy friends -- how could this loud, huggy, touchy feely person ever have any?

But I have found that bloggy friends are a wonderful addition to my life.  Now, don’t get me wrong -- I love my friends.  You know the people I grew up with.  The ones I celebrated college with.  The girls that were in my wedding.  That gals I have around here! They each so very special to me for so many different reasons.  
Bloggy friends just enhance an already awesome life.  I found that bloggy friends encourage you full throttle.  Bloggy friends see your heart for what it is (especially when that is all you have to offer on your blog).  This group of friends covers the world.  They have had experiences that I have had.  In the short time I have had my bloggy friends, I have learned so much about myself, them, and the other friendships I have.  I get emails and tweets on just the right days.  They are creatively forming me into the writer God intended.  

Sometimes Bloggy friends even surprise you with packages!  Can I tell you how much I LOVE getting mail?  When you are a grown up, you never get mail -- well except bills.  Bloggy friends also send you stuff! How exciting is that?  Especially when your bloggy friends work for a snack company - it can be exciting to get a package!  I felt the bloggy love the other day when @ejbarrett surprised our family with a case - yes big case, of Little Debbie goodies!  How yummy is that?  Not only did I get to have a great breakfast with Emily on my first day of Blissdom, I got some bloggy love a couple of weeks later via sugar!  
Emily, you rock!  Thanks for the bloggy love!  It was yummy!


Blue Cheese Chips - Appetizer or Meal

You make the choice.  Should the following recipe be an appetizer or a meal?  I choose meal because usually when I am craving them - I want a whole lot of them!  Especially one week of the month *wink*. They are super delicious, not fat free, and by golly the best "bar" food you can make at home.  So here you go folks - they are all yours, you know you want them.   

Blue Cheese Chips.

1 bag really good kettle cooked thin potato chips

1 container precrumbled blue cheese

1 bottle blue cheese dressing

Oven set to 350.  

Layer the chips in a deep dish glass pie plate.  Crumble the ENTIRE package of crumbled blue cheese all over those babies.  Depending on your preference, lather in blue cheese dressing.  I only use about 1/4 cup but it is really up to you.  Set in preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.  EAT. Let me know what you think! 


WIWW - Anniversary Edition

Fourteen Years ago I was a ripe ol' 21!  I got married!  Ekkkkkk.  Such a baby!  But that was 1998, and in 2012 I know it was the best decision I ever made!  I love that guy - he is my buddy.  And while I look back and think, "wow, 14 years is a long time," I don't think it will ever be long enough.  

We have this crazy story of how we got together.  I am sure along the way we made our parents nervous.  I met him at a campaign meeting.  A meeting for MY campaign interestingly enough.  I was running for Vice President of the Student Government Association of Georgia Southern.  One of the guys I was running with was fraternity brothers with Michael.  Michael was hired on to be a PR guy of sorts, but really all he had his eyes on was the "prize".  

the top scanned pic is from our engagement in Maui, the bottom is us dating - ekkk long hair!
That was my freshman year, we dated one time, worked on a few campaign events, then went our separate ways.  I didn't see him for a year. It was at the Piggly Wiggly early spring of my sophomore year, that he reminded me to "call him."  Yea right, girls don't call boys! 

A few weeks later our paths crossed again and that was it.  As cliche as it sounds "the rest is history".  We were engaged for 9 months, which was 6 months longer than we dated. We have traveled the world together, transformed a house no one wanted, waited for a baby together, and are now having the time of our lives raising four together.  

So what I wore on Wednesday is much different that what I wore today.  Thankfully, it still fits.  It might even be a little big.  Hopefully one day, I will see one of my girls wearing it as they start a story of their own!

bad scanned pic - my two favorite guys - my dad and my hubby


House buying, baby sick and not liking it

I had this cute little memory lane post for today.  All ready to go with pictures galore.  You would have loved it but I just don't feel like posting it.  Yup, just want to post about my day.  My crappy day.  Maybe I am looking for sympathy votes but who isn't looking for a vote of some kind these days?

I'm just so sick of trying.  I mean we pray, follow and still it seems like a slap in the face.  Not by God but by people --  by the system.  So where is he?  Dear Lord you can jump in at any time to protect us.

I know that some of you are gasping right now and thinking that I am a complete brat - and maybe I am.  It is just so perplexing that God called us a few months ago to stand for justice - for what the bible says is right.  Then we are continually victims of injustice.  He calls this family to respect others even when they treat you the opposite way.   We follow his call with our finances, yet we are always starting over.   At times we could have gone wild, we directly followed his lead.  He continues to lead (and while I will admit that we are not perfect) - why do I feel like I am continually chasing my tail in a never ending circle?  

I want so bad to let those people who hurt us know exactly how bad we are hurting right now, but I can't. You know why I can't?  Because it is not the right thing to do.  I struggle with being called to one thing yet wanted so bad to cave to the other.   There is my way of seeing things and then there is God's.  There is my way of justice, then there is God's.   I want to throw in the towel because it seems so easy for others yet I know that the reward is there if we just hold tight for another day.  We let the system make our decisions for us.

And on that note, I leave this post realizing myself that I have spent the whole day agonizing over a system that I have no control over.  I want so badly for those to know what they have done, what I want, how they can make it better.  But in the end the responsibility for the outcome does not rely on others, it relies on me.  I can choose to fight, I can choose to work, I can choose to participate, I can choose to be quiet, I can choose to speak loudly -- it is my choice.  No wear do I believe that the Lord has left us, but I do think that at times we think he needs to step in front of us he takes a step back.  He watches from afar.  Wondering if we will use the tools he has given us to rise above this challenge or if he will have to teach us the lesson once again.  He is one of the best fathers I know.  


Reading Chapter by Chapter

Reading Chapter by Chapter
YOu wouldn’t start a book at the end then work your way back - would you?  That makes no sense at all.  
One of my favorite books is A Time to Kill By JOhn Grisham.  It is a novel filled with suspense.  That is part of the joy of reading it.  YOu never know what is going to happen to the characters, but you are excited to find out.  The end of this story is filled with twists and turns that leave you on the edge of your seat.  Now if you started that story at the end, you wouldn’t ever have the thrill of the story.  That is why Mr. Grisham sets it out chapter by chapter - to keep you intrigued until the end.  
That is exactly what God has planned - a chapter book called “Your Life.”  That is right, you can not start at the end and find out what happens without reading thru all the chapters.  

Right now, I am on chapter 35.  It is a crazy chapter.  One day it is filled with tears and doubt about certain futures my family has.  Other days, chapter 35 is filled with success and open doors of possibilities.  In this chapter, I had to loose some of my family, unwillingly move from my house, and question a ton of friendships.   But at the same time, chapter 35 has been filled with successes, beautiful children, and opportunity. 

So as much as I dislike this chapter at times, I know it is preparing me to read the next.  The are boundaries being set in chapter 35.  Pathways being determined.  Events taking place that will carry on into chapter 36 in a fantastic way.  
God knows you like a book.  He knows your weakness.  He knows your strengths.  Pay attention as you live through the chapters.  He is giving you the tools to set the story.  


Average Family @church
This is more of a club than a post.  A place where you know you can be excepted - even on Sundays.  As much as we try to get to church with everything in place, it just doesn’t happen as we planned -- never.  So come along with the Cloudt’s as we candidly share our not so perfect Sundays.
A quiet SUnday lunch conversation with a 6 year old can open up so many doors to yourself.

Me: W, how was church today?
W: Good. We talked about Moses and a bunch of stuff.
W: Mama, what did you do at church today?
Me: Well, I went to our Sunday School class and we covered just about the same stuff about Moses that you did. 
W:  Do you teach the class or do you just listen?
Me: Well, I don’t teach but I help Dad teach sometimes.  I enjoy being with people and helping them learn more about Jesus.
W: Mama, how old are the people in this class?
Me: How old do you think they are?
W: Probably about 58.
ME: Well, how old do you think I am then?
W: About 42.
Me: Close I’m 35.

W: Wow Mama, you need to stop hanging out with those people - you are practically a teenager!  Those people are too old for you to hang out with! 

Did I ever tell you that I love quiet post church quiet lunches with my boy - he is the best!  Did I ever tell you that he is smart too?  


My Bliss Pics - Blissdom 2012

Bliss Pictures
Did I tell you that I had a great weekend at BLissdom?  Yup, I probably did!  It was great to meet some amazing men, women, rock bands, speakers, oh and did I mention Financial Peace Plaza?  
Thought I would follow up some thoughts on Blissdom with some pics.  I am thankful that I was able to attend Blissdom that is why I want to share.  If you have a blog, a shop, a desire to have either --- I strongly encourage you to start saving now and plan on going in 2013.

Just as a disclaimer - I need a new camera!

Joe Jonas - all grown up.  Well, almost!  @ohsoantsy and @lottalatte

Opening night at Blissdom - beautiful!  The desert bar - delish!

Opening Key NOte - Jon Acuff @jonacuff - A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!  I will post more on him in the coming weeks.

Famous Footwear - did I tell you how awesome they are?  Have you seen the swag pics yet?? I will share soon!


Lorax party - on our movie list now

crazy blog woman dancing - how fun!

Yes, some more Rascal Flatts please

Beautiful night shot of 1/4 of the hotel

Magnolia Gardens at the hotel.  Did I tell you how big this place is???

Day one of workshops done.- outside to get some fresh air and this is what greeted me

Brought this home for Nina.  So glad she wasn't crazy thrilled with it.  There will be a time for that later.

My morning mocha view every morning.  Think our new house should have water falls in it.

my roommate Jessica @ohsoantsty.  A loving heart and a wicked talented jewelery designer. 

UM,,, Hello Dave Ramsey - you are an amazing man!  THANk you just doesn't say enough!

So I went to Nashville by myself.  Not knowing a soul.  I chatted with people via Twitter and Facebook but was on my own when I got there.  I even met my roomie on Twitter - insanity.  But there was a path paved before I left and for that I am thankful.  Do I look forward to blogging in the next year - yes!  Do I look forward to creating in the next year - yes!  Am I incredibly thankful for this opportunity - crazy yes!