Wear It Well Wednesday: Dress at the Lake

On any given day, you may find me wearing shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Or baggy pants and a tank top while I scuff around our house wearing slippers. On home school days when we don’t go farther than our yard or the park down the street, I don’t put much thought into outfits. But on Sundays, you can count on my wearing something more put together.

So it’s nothing out of the ordinary that this week’s edition of WIWW comes from what I wore to our church service last Sunday. The button-down dress is a cast-off from our friend and ministry partner Vivian. The boots were handed down to me from my aunt Anna. Even my socks are hand-me-downs, although they had never been worn when I got them.

The water behind me represents the lovely Lake Como, where my boys have done a bunch of fishing (and I’ve done a bunch of walking). In fact, Woodrow and Garfield found this sweet spot near the water at Lake Como Park for the photo for me.

dress-from-vivian

I love all the details on the dress:  folds, tucks, cap sleeves. And the wilderness scenes are special, too.

I gave away some other items last week that Vivian had recently sent us. A mom in need, along with her 2 daughters, stayed at our house for a few days. The mom–we’ll call her B–asked me about some make-up, so I showed her the stash Vivian had mailed in her latest parcel to our family. B picked out several new and unused pieces (eye shadow, mascara, eye make-up remover) and was grateful to get them–as I was grateful to share them with her.

We just never know what God may have in store for the things we give, which I think is an added reason to be a cheerful giver. In every gift, there is great potential.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Wear It Well Wednesday: Black, White, And Aqua

Today’s showing of Wear It Well Wednesday is the first since I cut my hair. We took this shot on the way home from church a few Sundays ago at Lake Como Park, and as you can see, dealing with the sun and shadows presented a bit of a challenge.

I not only donned this outfit that Sunday; I also wore it the afternoon before to watch (and thoroughly enjoy) a musical called “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” with my good friend Angela at the Winter Park Playhouse. Mike had been out of town the entire week–the entire exhausting, difficult week–and I sorely needed to get dressed up, get out, and spend time with a friend. After the show, Angela and I walked to an up-and-coming coffee shop called Foxtail and continued our visit.

So this outfit did double duty this weekend. Here’s the low down (As you know, all my WIWW posts feature hand-me-downs and other second-hand pieces because, well, that’s more or less my wardrobe):  The black-and-white dress is a cast-off from my aunt Anna; the aqua necklace came from our friend and ministry supporter Vivian, who has sent two big boxes of goodies from her family’s closets to us in the past several months. Much of what she (and Anna) sends us gets sold at consignment stores to help fund our Women of Vision fundraising efforts or sent to Cru staff in other countries. But I’m thrilled that I got to keep these 2 pieces from them. My sister Rachel gave me these boots (that she no longer wanted) over a year ago.

black-and-white-dress-at-lake-como

The shadows don’t do much for my face, so let’s just focus on the outfit. My sons do not relate to how I like to get dressed up to go somewhere, but opportunities for me to do so are few and far between. When I can, I embrace it–and usually wear hand-me-downs. Happy Wednesday, dear readers!

Kindness In the Books

When I coached P.E. classes at our home-school co-op for a few semesters, several students blessed me with gifts on Teacher Appreciation Day. Often, those gifts took the form of chocolate–one fellow home-schooling mother handed me a bag of chocolates on one of those days and whispered, “You don’t have to share these, you know?”

This pink-hued message has been one gift that has lasted longer than the sweet treats of those Teacher Appreciation Days. The student who presented me with this told his mother that I was his favorite teacher at our co-op’s Tuesday afternoon classes. Maybe the sentiment behind the gift prompted me to hang on to it–and to keep it in such a prominent place (my nightstand) in both our old house and the one where we’ve lived for a year and a half now.

where-there-is-love-there-is-life
Where There Is Love, There Is Life

Currently it rests atop my great-grandmother’s Book of Common Prayer, next to a shell the boys found recently. I’m honored to continue cherishing this gift of my student’s kindness from a few years ago.

And speaking of kindness…a story I wrote about giving and generous living appears in the recently-released book Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Random Acts of Kindness. My word of the year for 2014 was “gift,” and the story I penned for this book revolves around how the word “gift” helped me remain mindful of opportunities to serve and bless throughout the year. We all have those opportunities for blessing others in our lives, if we have the eyes to see them and the heart to engage in them.

chicken-soup-for-the-soul-book

If it were colder here in Orlando right now, I’d curl up with a cup of hot tea and peruse the stories shared by the 100 other writers contributing to this book. Instead, I’ll get comfy under the ceiling fan and read their inspiring words.

I hope you’ll be inspired by these stories, too!

February: The Month of Love

It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day and pink and red and cupcakes:  the month of love–although shouldn’t every month be one filled with love? I digress.

I’m blogging today about things I love. Maybe you’ll love them, too!

heart-and-note-cards

Hoopla for audio books. I read aloud for hours each week to the boys:  in the van (if Mike’s driving, of course); before bed; often during school hours. But I also like to play audio books for them, and in this way, they get to hear more great stories. In December, they heard The Jungle Book on audio. In January, we finished The Secret Garden and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. They’re currently listening to Swiss Family Robinson. And it’s all for free with my library card through Hoopla. This site offers e-books as well as audio books, for adults and for children. This site offers a map of Hoopla-participating libraries, so you can discover if Hoopla titles are available to you, too.

My apron. For Christmas, I asked for (and received) an apron–purchased second-hand, of course. In fact, we had gone to Goodwill during a break between 2 shifts for a Cub Scout fundraiser, and I spotted the apron while browsing. I slyly handed it to my husband and suggested he ask the boys if they wanted to get this for me for Christmas. They balked a bit at first–I think it was only September, to be honest–but he convinced them it might be the easiest present they’d ever buy. They acquiesced, and I’m proud to have it (as we might say in Mississippi). Here I am wearing it during a morning of baking orange-pumpkin bread with the boys, using an orange (satsuma, technically) grown by my grandfather along with pumpkin that I pureed and froze last fall. {This pic is prior to my haircut of last month.}

allison-in-apron
Doesn’t everybody have a world map in her kitchen?

The apron does more than keep flour or olive oil off my clothes; it reminds me to be intentional, mindful. When I take a moment to tie on my apron, I think about being fully engaged in the moment, thoroughly involved in the act of kneading bread or chopping celery for a soup or shredding cheese for chicken taco chili. I put on my apron and, thus, put on a mindset of focusing on the task (and joy–well, mostly joy) at hand.

Tim Tam cookies. When we lived in New Zealand, Mike and I became fans of a cookie called Tim Tam (I always refer to them as “Tim Tams” when I talk about them in the plural form–but the package just reads “Tim Tam.” Anyway…) For years, we could enjoy these only if we knew somebody visiting South Africa or Australia who might bring them back for us. Well, these treats apparently have crossed the pond. Mike and the boys bought these in Orlando (at a national grocery chain) and presented me with this package for my birthday last month:  

tim-tams             

If a person can find happiness in a cookie, I suppose it’d be this cookie. If you want to have the full Tim Tam experience, you can try a Tim Tam Slam:  nibble off opposite corners of the cookie, one on top, one on bottom–i.e., bite off the top right corner and the bottom left corner–and use it as a sort of straw for drinking up coffee or hot chocolate. And give your drink a chocolate infusion. So far, I haven’t tried this with hot tea, and I don’t anticipate giving it a go, either. I’ll just take my Tim Tams plain, thanks.

It’s only February 1st, so I envision finding lots of other things to love this month. I hope you find many lovely things this month, too.

So I Got A Wild Hair…

This post comes with a caveat:  You might not want to try this at home.

I, however, was more than glad to. Because sometimes, good gravy, you just have to do something CRAZY. My favorite friend Lynn told me years ago that she sometimes just has to do something wild. For her that was once dying her hair a deep, rich shade of fuchsia.

For me, my recent itch to do something unexpected resulted in a new haircut. An “I made it myself” haircut.

before-hair-shot
The “before” shot:  There’s approximately a foot of hair I’m displaying.

At age 26, I donated my hair to Locks of Love. My sister Rachel cut one fat ponytail from the back of my head, and I was good to go with a short, slightly shaggy haircut. After Rachel whacked off the ponytail, I did NOTHING else to it. Later a woman complimented my “trendy” haircut. My next Locks of Love contribution took place at age 28, exactly one week before I got engaged. My third hair donation flew all the way from New Zealand (I was 31 this time), after I received a beautiful cut from a stylist who did the job for free since I planned to give my hair to Locks of Love. After that, I mailed off my fourth Locks of Love gift at age 35 and assumed I’d finished growing out and donating my hair.

I paid for a haircut for the last time in June 2012. Since then, I’ve cut my hair myself (or not at all), and I’ve had it various lengths over the past several years. For a while, I kept it at shoulder length or so. Then I thought, oh, why not? There are other organizations that accept donations of hair, and some even accept hair with strands of gray. Which I happen to have (just a few, mind you).

So I gave moderate attention to my bangs from time to time and let the length go. In December, I measured my hair and realized that my ponytails could make the cut. (See what I did there?) I’d already decided I would follow my friend Tabatha’s lead and donate to Children With Hair Loss.  She’d done her research in finding an organization for the hair that she and her daughters planned to donate. And I cut it tonight. Myself. Gathered the hair into 2 ponytails and sniiiiiiipped.

ponytails
I cannot explain the face I’m making.

Y’all. Sometimes the outlandish things we pursue are not healthy. But this one? This one was pure liberation. I’ve had short hair, long hair, REALLY short hair. It was time for another short ‘do. I’d anticipated that I’d follow through on this at some point this year, maybe in the spring or summer. But after I washed my hair today, I knew…I shall cut this hair TODAY. I’ll get it in an envelope and mail it to Children With Hair Loss tomorrow.

ponytail-in-hand

After I cut the ponytails, my husband trimmed the back a bit. It’s still a work in progress, and I may trim it a little more here and there. It’s like a new toy; I keep playing with it, flipping the bangs from one side to the other, sticking bobby pins here and there.

So, for free, I have a new haircut–and an ongoing project right on top of my head. And I got to satisfy my impulse to DO SOMETHING in a way that allowed me to give of myself. Sometimes we just have to dance with that wild hair.

 

Wear It Well Wednesday: Winter Layers

This past weekend brought some genuinely cold weather for Orlando. On Friday night, the temperature dropped to the mid-30’s–and I was delighted! As much as being cold (and not being able to get warm) makes me feel absolutely deprived, I welcome any frigid weather we get here because I know it’s exceedingly rare.

I needed to dress more warmly on Sunday than I normally do, so this is the outfit I assembled. My cup runneth over with hand-me-downs, y’all! Both our friend Vivian and my aunt Anna bestowed heaps of second-hand items upon me over the holidays. I’ve sold a fair amount of it to help fund our Women of Vision giving projects (we’re getting close to our 2nd goal of $400 to support clean water projects undertaken by World Vision.) Much of what I didn’t sell will travel overseas to Cru staff who can use it; other pieces I kept for my own wardrobe.

Behold, this week’s Wear It Well Wednesday installment:  Hand-me-down khaki pants from my mama; shoes (short boots, which are called ‘booties,’ I think) from Anna, along with the dark purple jacket. I can’t remember if the dove gray tank is from Anna or Vivian (Thanks to both you ladies, though!) The necklace came from Vivian, too.

coffee-garden-photo

We took this picture outside a shop called the Coffee Garden, which I’ve visited once for a chat with a friend. I’ve wanted to shoot a WIWW photo here for months, but I needed to wait for the political signs to be taken away, since they obscured the colorful picket fence. But today, I got my shot!

What about you–how are you layering for the cold this winter?

My Year in Books

I look at the list of books I’ve read in 2016 (for myself, not the dozens and dozens I’ve read aloud to the boys) and realize it’s pretty short for me: only 28. Several years ago–before I began volunteering with Cub Scouts–I read 53 in one year.

I first made a list of all the book I’d read during the summer I was 10 or 11. I remember showing the list to Daddy, eagerly pointing out that I’d finished over 30 books that summer. My brother made fun of me for being excited about something like that. And I got embarrassed and stopped making lists of books I’d read.

Then in 2011, I decided it was time to resurrect my book list-making. I’ve faithfully written down titles of the books I’ve read for the past 6 years.

bells-on-post

So, just 28 in total this year…But here are a few of my top picks from 2016:

Funniest book:  Girl Walks into a Bar:  Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle, by Rachel Dratch (of Saturday Night Live fame). Some laugh-out-loud moments in this book, for real.

Most compelling book:  Girls Like Us:  Fighting for a World Where Girls Are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herselfby Rachel Lloyd. Want to know more about the plight of women caught up in sex trafficking? This book is eye-opening and not for the faint of heart.

Most inspiring book:  Grandma Gatewood’s Walk:  The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trailby Ben Montgomery. It has the word “inspiring” in the title, and it was indeed. The subject of this biography was the first woman to through-hike the AT, and she did it–get ready for it–at age 67. She also was a pioneer of ultra-light hiking. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. But it’ll stir up your wanderlust, for sure. (p.s. “Wanderlust” is one of my favorite words.)

Best novel:  Summer of My German Soldierby Bette Greene. True confession:  I’d never heard of this book until I saw it on a list of banned and challenged books. It’s aimed at a teen audience and is from decades ago. I can see how it might be controversial:  a Jewish teen hides an escaped Nazi POW during WWII. But the most emotionally satisfying part is the relationship between the young Jewish girl and her family’s Black housekeeper. If you read this novel, get ready for the “truth bomb” {I kind of hate that phrase, actually} that the housekeeper drops on the main character at the end.

Most challenging book:  Beneath the Neon:  Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegasby Matthew O’Brien. This book was challenging partly because I struggled at times to finish it. But it’s also a challenge because this story of a journalist who feels compelled to explore the entire system of drains and tunnels running under the city of Las Vegas results in a man who seeks to heal the hurt around him. Some of the story doesn’t have much “story” to it. But when this man encounters homeless people living in the drains, setting up beds and make-shift shelters there despite the water, he seeks to DO something to help these folks. He started a community project to assist the hundreds of people living there (young and old alike). His site is called beneaththeneon.com, and his project is Shine A Light.  

A few on my list for the upcoming year:  The Medic (the story upon which the movie Hacksaw Ridge was based–what a powerful film!); Behind the Beautiful Forevers:  Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai UndercityWarriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High; and I’ll be finishing one I’ve recently begun reading (that was a Christmas present):  The Hospital by the River:  A Story of Hope (about the fistula hospital built to help women in Ethiopia by Australian doctors Reg and Catherine Hamlin).

As far as fiction…I also received a book called Jonathan’s Journey for Christmas, which is a novel, a spiritual allegory. Apparently, I sent my husband an email last year requesting this book for LAST Christmas. He forgot about it and instead gave it to me this Christmas. When I opened it, I thought–Wonder how Mike knew I wanted this book? We both forgot about it, evidently.

I’d like to share with you the entire list of what I’ve read this year, but I keep that list in my journal–which I left at my parents’ home when we visited for Christmas. Mama will mail it to me when she sends my birthday package, so I have to wait another week or so for that. In the meantime, happy New Year–and happy new year reading!