Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31 - Goal Setting

As December comes to a close, I want to thank you for participating in this month's 15-minute journey with me. I hope your life has been enriched by the activities we did together this month. I know that I stepped out of my comfort zone on more than one occasion to do some of these activities, and I was always pleasantly surprised!

For our last day together this December, I want you to think about a goal for yourself for 2011. If possible, stay away from the "usual" goals. I don't have to list them, you know what they are. Try to choose a goal that doesn't require a daily commitment, because sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves if we fail! What's something you've always wanted to do? Make that your goal for 2011.

When you think about your goal, what are some small steps you'll need to get there? Write these steps down. It's much easier to accomplish a goal when it doesn't seem so overwhelming. After you've written down the steps to your goal, make a rough timeline of when you'd like to accomplish those little steps.

For example, if you want to read a certain book in 2011, break it down by how many chapters you'd have to read each month. Take it easy - accomplishing a goal should be FUN, not stressful!

It's a proven fact that you're more likely to accomplish a goal if you have some accountability, so share your goal with a friend or family member. You can also share your goal with me - I'd be happy to email you and help you stay on track to meet your 2011 goal!

Here's to a wonderful 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30 - Plan

Before I introduce you to today's activity, I have to tell you about my walk yesterday! I had planned to walk to the library to return a book, but when I got home from work, I noticed a small gray dog trotting along the sidewalk. I slowed down and looked closer at that dog. He looked so familiar to me. He looked at me, and trotted even faster!

It became obvious to me that I knew where that dog lived. In good conscious, I could not just get home from work and put my feet up. I felt compelled to check in with his owner. I walked through our neighborhood to the supposed owner's house, and just as I approached the door to knock, a woman with a walker made her way to the door. Before I could even say anything, she knew why I was there. And, at that moment, the gray dog made an appearance.

Well, the dog was playing some sort of game with us where he wouldn't come to me - at all. The woman couldn't come out of the house on the icy steps, so it was up to me to entice the dog back to the yard and into the house. I asked her if she had any treats, and she reemerged with a cream wafer. I wanted to eat this treat myself, but decided to use it for its intended purpose.

I learned the dog's name was Ringo, so I squatted in the driveway and proceeded to command, encourage, bribe, and plead with Ringo to come back. Finally, between his owner and I, he made his way up the steps to the door, and we swept him into the house.

It felt good to help out a neighbor. I'm glad I followed the tug on my heart to do the right thing. And from now on, when I pass by that house on my walks, I can greet Ringo by his name!

Now, for today's task at hand. I've been thinking how important it is to relax, and how I usually leave relaxing for last. You see, when I get to a weekend, I end up doing all the things that didn't get done during the week, then doing some laundry, cleaning the house, getting together with friends, and then before I know it, it's Monday! The weekends slip away and I get into a go-go-go pattern.

Today I want you to think about 2011 and how you can relax. What would that look like for you to schedule in relaxation time? Would it be one day a week where you plan to do nothing except stay at home and relax? Is it one weekend a month where you commit to not planning anything? Is it scheduling a babysitter so you can have a night away from the kids? Is it having a movie night each month?

Think about what it looks like for you, and then mark some days for relaxation on your calendar. If you're feeling brave, write down relaxation days for the ENTIRE year! I did it, and it feels really wonderful. I marked one "stay at home" weekend on our family calendar for each month. I know we'll be home more than one weekend a month, but this "stay at home" weekend is also one in which we won't plan anything.

Now that we have these on the calendar, I will do my best to make sure they stay priorities. Zac and I find we are so much healthier when we have down time to relax.

I'd love to hear how you like to relax - drop me a line!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Wonderland

Make time today to go for a walk outside. Enjoy the scenery and breathe in that fresh air. For those of you living in Minnesota, make sure to enjoy this time outside because its going to get icy soon! If you're feeling artistic, bring a camera. Send me some of the pictures from your walk.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28 - Remember

I read a wonderful book entitled, "Slow is Beautiful." It encourages the slowing down of our hectic schedules. Just reading this book brought me peace - it was amazing!

In this book it talks about how sometimes our schedules are so full - even with good things - that we fail to enjoy what we're doing.

When only one thing is planned in a week, we tend to look forward and anticipate that activity. We enjoy it while it happens, and we savor it after it's finished.

Let's reflect on our Christmas this year (and for some of us, it's still going!). Take 15 minutes today to write down or type up some of your favorite memories from this Christmas. Save them in a special place and savor the holiday.

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27 - Relax Update

I found my relaxation today with my husband and sister-in-law. We each grabbed a book, claimed a couch in the living room, and read our books together. The smell of the Christmas tree wafted over every now and then, and occasionally a turning page could be heard. It was glorious. At one point I looked up from behind my book and noticed my sister-in-law sleeping, open book resting on her stomach.

Ah, an afternoon well spent.

December 27 - Relax

Sometimes the holidays can be stressful, so today, make yourself a warm drink, find a cozy spot, and relax.

One of my favorite spots in our home is the kitchen chair closest to the window. I love the way the warm sun pours in through that south window. I sit there, sometimes looking into the backyard, sometimes just staring into space. I like drinking tea in that spot, or reading a devotional.

Enjoy a few moments of peace today.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26 - Thank You Notes

Today, spend some time writing a hand-written note to say thank you for a special gift you received. Maybe that gift was time, a good meal, or a conversation. Who can you write today to let them know you care?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25 - Encourage a Child

In honor of our Savior who came to us as a little baby, encourage a child today. Even if there are no children with you at your holiday gathering, you can encounter children in the stores or in your neighborhood. Look for the good a child is doing, and praise them for it.

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24 - Your Future Self

My friend Cathy shared with me this fantastic concept - taking care of your future self. What can you do today to take care of yourself in the future? I realize that this kind of relates to yesterday's activity, but it is different enough that I want us to do it.

One example from my friend is that when she is going out of town, she'll put fresh sheets on her bed just before she leaves so when she comes home, she has clean sheets. Such a simple thing that makes you feel VERY cared for.

When she told me about this, I was going through a particularly stressful time at work. I was going to be away for a few days, so I went to the grocery store and bought some chocolate to take with me on the trip. It was a special treat that made me smile - just what I needed during a stressful work week.

What can you do today for your future self? Are you going out of town for the holidays? Maybe you could take your garbage out before you leave, or put fresh sheets on your bed like Cathy. Maybe you could pick up a pizza from the grocery store to stick in your freezer so when you return you'll have an easy meal ready to go.

Are you staying in town? How can you care for yourself? Can you check out a movie from the library to watch while you relax? What about treating yourself to a new book?

I'd love to hear how you are planning to take care of your future self. Accountability is sometimes helpful in doing this. If you're like me, it's oftentimes easier to put others first and forget about taking care of yourself. Drop me a line if you need some accountability, or also to let me know your ideas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23 - Plan and Prepare

Today let's try to do something that will make any possible Christmas day chaos go smoothly. For example, does your holiday shirt need ironing? Make time to do it today. Are you supposed to bring a dish to a Christmas gathering? Go to the grocery store today and do as much prep work on your dish as you can. How about Christmas gifts? Are yours wrapped? If not, spend 15 minutes working on that today so you're not up until 2am on Christmas day!

Plan and prepare today so that you can enjoy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22 - Christmas Music

Just over a week ago, we listened to Christmas music as we drove around looking at Christmas lights. Today the focus is Christmas music again, but this time I want you to choose one of your favorite Christmas tunes. Preferably something very meaningful to you.

The inspiration for today's activity comes from a moment I had last night while taking care of some laundry. I had begun to listen to Steven Curtis Chapman's "Music of Christmas" album when Advent sort of just came together for me.

You see, all too often I get wrapped up in all of the details of Christmas. I'm a logistics person. I love details and am always thinking about what needs to happen next. Also, I am a person with high expectations. Sometimes too high. Okay, most of the time too high. This combination does not often afford quiet evenings by a fireplace contemplating the virgin birth during this holiday season. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Instead of moments of quiet reflection about the true meaning of Christmas, I find myself quietly reflecting on my shopping list. Or cleaning list. Or packing list. Somehow the really big event in December gets elbowed out of the way by all the tiny, little, generally unimportant lists.

Today as I sat in the living room folding my sweaters and listening to Steven Curtis Chapman, it hit my heart. This month we celebrate God sending his very son to us. My small gifts to friends and family seem utterly miniscule in comparison. The way I flutter here and there to get Christmas preparations done seems so foolish. God. Sent. His. Son.

So please, choose a special Christmas song to you and listen to it today. Maybe even put it on repeat for a round or two. Think about the biggest gift we have been given, reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, and check to see if your heart is ready to celebrate God's wonderful gift this season.

If not, don't worry - there are still 3 more days until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow Angel = AWESOME!

December 21 - The Real Nativity Picture

There are a few blogs I follow from time to time. I usually read them at the end of the work day or the end of the night to wind down and relax. Today I was drawn in by one blog called, "It's Almost Naptime." Check out how the author Missy paints a realistic picture of the first Christmas in her blog post titled, "Birth Stories."

I don't want to say too much about it so that it can unfold before you like it did before me. What I will say, though, is have a tissue handy. I found myself moved to near-tears a few times.

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20 - Thankful ABC's

Well, I was finally able to buy someone coffee yesterday! After church, Zac and I got in the drive-thru at Caribou Coffee and I prayed and prayed for someone to get behind us! "Would I be able to treat someone today," I wondered. Sure enough, a little blue car with two lucky winners pulled in behind us. I was delighted when we were able to buy them coffee.

Where's the picture of my snow angel from yesterday's activity, you ask? Well, you'll just have to check back later!

Now, on to today's topic...thankfulness. When I was a camp counselor, we'd sometimes have the kids write out their Thankful ABC's as a devotional. All you'll need for this is a computer or a pen and paper. Begin thinking of something you're thankful for for every letter of the alphabet. Here are my Thankful ABC's:

Autumn colors, Birds chirping, Crisp nights, Donuts (jelly-filled), Excitement, Friends, Grandparents, Home, Inspiration, Joy, Kindness, Laughter, Mochas, Nodding off on the couch, Openness, Prayer, Quiet evenings, Rest, Snowy Saturdays, Tree-huggers, Unity, Voices singing, Whimsy, Xerox machines, Youth, Zeal.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19 - Angels

Did you get a chance to buy someone coffee yesterday? I tried to buy some snacks for the guy behind me at a gas station, but he wouldn't let me! I think the drive-through is definitely the way to go on this one; then people won't be able to turn you down. I'm giving it another go today - hopefully I will be successful in my mission!

Zac helped me in choosing today's activity. He suggested snow angels - how fun! If you're in an area with snow, get some warm clothes on, find a nice section of lawn, and throw yourself into the snow. Flail just enough to make some nice angel arms and legs, then carefully hop back up. Ta-dah! How does your angel look? I'll show you a picture of mine later...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18 - Caffeine High

Treat yourself - and someone else - to coffee today.

Whether you purchase the person's coffee who is in line behind you, or you take a friend out for coffee, treat somebody today.

If you're not a coffee person, what other way could you surprise someone?

A local Minneapolis radio station does an event called the "Drive-Thru Difference" once a month. Read more about it here.

I hope you have a wonderful experience surprising someone today. Let me know how it goes!

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17 - Candy Cane Patience

I think it's safe to say that most of us have at least one Christmas decoration up in our house. Many of us have a Christmas tree, a Nativity set (still haven't located our baby Jesus yet), or even a Christmas candle.

For today's activity you'll need a candy cane. Once you've got your candy cane in hand, sit in front of your Christmas tree or another special Christmas object. Look. Listen. Enjoy your candy cane and don't get up until it's gone!

The purpose of today's activity is to stop and reflect. To create margin in your day and to clear your head. Savor your candy cane and the sights around you. Take note of the sounds you hear. Relax. Enter into the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16 - The Story: 2010 Version

Today, get a "digital age" perspective on the Nativity Story:

The Digital Story of the Nativity

I thought this was pretty great.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15 - The Gift of Relationships

Hands down, people are the most important gift I have ever received. I am blessed to have a wonderful immediate and extended family, and somehow I got fortunate enough to also have a large group of supportive, kind friends.

I shake my head in disbelief when I think about all of the outstanding people in my life.

Today, take time to connect with an important person in your life. You can connect by writing a letter or email, calling them on the phone, or even getting together with them for lunch or coffee. Let them know what a gift they have been in your life.

I hope you enjoy this special Christmas task! :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14 - Christmas Cruise!

I hope you found yourself in the Christmas story yesterday. I think I'm one of the 3 kings, searching for the special baby and waiting with eager anticipation to see him for myself.

Today's activity - boy, I can hardly wait! - is to go cruisin'. When I was younger, my family used to pile into the van and drive around to look at Christmas lights. We'd usually have some Christmas music on; more often than not it would be Mannheim Steamroller. :) We'd ooh and ahh as we drove by the impressive displays.

Tonight after supper, grab a travel mug of hot cocoa, hop in the car, and check out the lights in your neighborhood. I hear Caribou has $2 medium hot drinks today, so I recommend starting there! Pop in a Christmas CD, or tune your radio to a Christmas station and enjoy!

If you're in the Twin Cities area, I recommend heading over to the Summit/Grand Ave area to check out the lights. Gorgeous!

Let me know if you have any recommendations for great Christmas displays, and maybe I'll see you out crusin' tonight!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13 - Part of the Story

Today let's spend 15 minutes reflecting on the Christmas story. Where do you find yourself in the story? Are you the worried Mary, wondering how and where this miracle will take place? Are you Joseph, desperately trying to provide for your family but coming up short? Are you the shepherds, taken by surprise with life-changing good news?

There is so much to be uncovered. Find yourself in the story today.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12 - Indulge!

For today's 15-minute project, you will need boots and a shovel. You are coming over to my house to help me shovel the driveway.

Just kidding!

Today I want you to think back to your childhood and some of the special Christmas treats you loved. Did you like the candy canes? How about the bell-shaped chocolates? Did you love gum drops, or maybe frosted cut-out cookies?

One of my favorite Christmas treats is the Kemps Christmas trees or snowmen ice cream treats.

My Grandma used to give those to my cousins and I at the kids' table after our Christmas supper. They always make me think of Grandma, and also of the fun we cousins would have in the kitchen.

So, today I'm eating one of these snowmen and thinking of Grandma and my wonderful cousins. What treat will you indulge in today?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11 Follow-up

Today I set up my wrapping station:

and watched The Holiday and The Santa Clause while wrapping gifts. Outside was "The Blizzard of 2010," the 5th largest snowfall the Twin Cities has ever seen, but inside I was nice and cozy. :) Here's my finished product, please ignore the slightly blurry photos. I've been wrapping for a long time!

December 11 - Cozy Preparations

Saturday + Movie + Wrapping Presents = AMAZING!

Today, spend (at least) 15 minutes wrapping up any Christmas gifts you have purchased while watching a Christmas movie. Grab a glass of cider or hot cocoa and relax while getting your gifts ready!

I will be watching The Holiday, a movie my friend Julia introduced to me last year. What movie will you choose?

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10 - A Christmas Chain

Growing up, mom always seemed to have some fantastic project to do with us kids. I fondly remember this Christmas project. I hope you enjoy it too!

Materials: Red Construction Paper, Green Construction Paper, Scissors, Stapler

Begin by cutting the construction paper into thin strips, about 1" wide. I recommend cutting across the short way so you get more strips.

Take a red strip, put it end to end so one end is slightly overlapping the next, and staple. Ta-dah! You have a circle. Now put a strip of green paper through your newly-formed circle, place one end of the green paper over the other, and staple. Now you should have two, interlocking circles.

Continue this pattern for as long as you want to. When we made it at our house, I think we wrote one thing to do each day until Christmas. For example, go sledding, make cookies, decorate the tree... I have a vague memory of this chain hanging by our kitchen telephone in the old house. Mom, you'll have to let me know if that memory is accurate!

A few other ideas for your Christmas Chain:
Garland for the tree
A "Prayer Chain" to keep special people in your prayers this season
A countdown to Christmas
A fun to-do list for all those Christmas preparations

Do you have more ideas about how this could be used? Please share them!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

December 9 - Clear Out!

I've lost baby Jesus. More literally in this moment, but sometimes figuratively during this season too. With various home projects and room rearranging for Christmas, our basement has become a catch all and it's getting a little out of control.

Baby Jesus is somewhere in my basement. Tucked away in his manger in a nice cardboard box, he's waiting for me to find him. But which cardboard box?!? Which closet? Which shelf? Where do I begin?

Sometimes it's just easier to watch TV.

As much as I try to stay on top of giving away items we don't use, I know there are plenty of things in our house that are sitting unused. They are taking up space and blocking my view of the useful, important items.

Let's clear out today. Choose 5 things you can part with, pack them up in a paper bag, and drop them off at a second-hand store near you. This task is especially good right now because many people who have had a particularly hard financial year this year will be hitting up thrift stores for their Christmas shopping. We have the chance to add more goodies to those thrift store shelves so that they can find the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

As always, let me know how it goes! I hope to post a picture of my thrift-store load later!

Here's what I found around the house - and may I add that it was surprisingly hard for me to part with some items! I hunted around for quite a bit, and found these things:

Single Bed Sheets. Two sets. We've never used them, I don't know where they came from, and I was surprised to discover them in the bottom of an overstuffed drawer. Now I can breathe easier as I try to close that drawer.

Loved this purse but stopped using it when I got another one a year ago. Have not touched it since. I found some goodies still in there when I cleaned it out - that was a nice surprise!

This container is just begging for gumdrops. We have so many wonderful containers I thought I could part with this one.

The egg-carton foam mattress. I think I got this on team from a nice family after I lost my REI air mattress at UCLA. I haven't used it since team. That was 7 years ago!!! It's time for it to go and be loved by someone else!!

Hope you can breathe a little easier now!

And no, I still have not located the baby Jesus.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December 8 - Bringing Others Joy

Yesterday our challenge took us out and about. Today's challenge requires only you, a computer with sound, and internet. I trust that since you're reading this, we're pretty much there!

Check out this short video which is sure to make you smile. I am continually amazed by these people who go to great lengths to bring others joy. What can you do to go out of your way and bring someone else joy today?


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 6 and 7 - Give

This activity is a one-two punch. And believe me, we're gonna have fun!

The first part of this challenge involves a Salvation Army bell ringer. Now, if you're anything like me, you try to avoid eye contact with these people at ALL costs when you go into a store. Avoiding eye contact when leaving is also very critical. We typically avoid eye contact because we 1.) are afraid they'll somehow force us to put money in their bucket or 2.) feel sheepish for not throwing any money in when we KNOW they know we have money. Duh. We're coming out of the store with a bag. So it confirms that yes, we had money going into the store and didn't put it in when we passed them and yes, we may very well still have some money as we're leaving the store.

So, let's do them (and us) a favor by tossing in some money today. I don't know where you live, but here in Minnesota, it's mighty cold today. As we place some money in their red bucket today, let's also thank them for standing out in the cold to raise money for people in need.

Now, the second part of our give challenge today is to give $10 to charity. Many of you give regularly to all sorts of great charities, but today, let this $10 be on top of what you normally give. Who are you going to bless today? Imagine what good your $10 could do! It could purchase a few meals, it could heat someone's house for a few days, it could buy a pair of mittens for a kid...the list goes on.

Where will your $10 go today? It gets me so excited to think of $10 floating out from each of our pockets and blessing an organization today.

If you need help choosing an organization, here are a few that are near and dear to my heart:

Luther Point Bible Camp
Sky Ranch Bible Camp
Lutheran Youth Encounter
Mennonite Central Committee
ELCA World Hunger
Global Health Ministries
TIE (Together Integrating Everyone)

If you'd like to search some other trusted non-profits, check out Charity Navigator. At Charity Navigator, you can search by topic and also see how thousands of charities are rated on organizational efficiency and organizational capacity.

Drop me a line to let me know how your giving adventure went! I can't wait to tell you about mine!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yesterday, December 5

My apologies for not posting an activity for us yesterday! My Internet was actually down and what a strange thing that was! I wanted to pay bills, but I do nearly all of our bill pay online. I wanted to see if my friend wrote to me about dinner next weekend, but we couldn't access our email. I wanted to check the weather, but no Kare11 website for me! It was a strange feeling, but also liberating at the same time. I had to relax! What is that?!?

That event has made me decide that yesterday's activity (to most likely be done today!) is to unplug for 15 minutes or more. Shut off your computer AND phone. Don't worry, tragedy will likely NOT strike your loved ones in those 15 minutes, so you will be just fine to turn off the phone. :)

Enjoy being unplugged! Listen to the quiet. Let your soul find rest.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December 4

Today, spend 15 minutes writing a Christmas card to someone who may not receive many Christmas wishes this year. Take the time to make them feel special today.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2- Back to Childhood

I hope you had a good time reading the Christmas story yesterday. I loved it! It seems too short - only a few paragraphs to document such a huge event.

Today's project takes us back to childhood.

Materials needed: a notebook-sized piece of paper (or more), a scissors

Begin by folding a corner of your paper over to meet the opposite edge. Here's a picture to help you know what I'm talking about:

Then, cut off the excess that isn't doubled over.

Fold the paper diagonally. And again. And maybe again if you're feeling adventurous!

Now, cut various shapes out from the edges. Can you see where this is going?

I like to make some long shapes and some zig-zaggy shapes. Get creative! You may be tempted to unfold the paper before you're all done. Do your best to wait - it will make the "reveal" all the more fun!

When you're satisfied with the shapes you cut out, unfold the paper.

And now you have a Christmas snowflake! A great reminder of childhood, of God's beauty, and of the uniqueness in all of us. Hang your snowflake somewhere where it can remind you of these things.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcoming December

Happy December! I'm so excited for this month's "resolution." If you haven't heard, I've been choosing a new New Year's resolution for each month of 2010. I try to spend 15 minutes a day doing something different each month. It's been a great year filled with a variety of activities and adventures!

This month I'm planning to blog each day about a 15-minute activity you and I can do "together" that creates a better you, me, and we. I'll try to give you a heads up as to which supplies you'll need in advance so you can be prepared to have fun right along with me. Enjoy - I know I will!

December 1
Materials: candle, match, Bible or Children's Christmas story
Today we'll be getting into the Christmas spirit by reading the Christmas story. Choose a quiet spot where you enjoy sitting. I'm choosing our front living room, in front of the Christmas tree. Light a candle, pause and relax, and open your Bible to Luke 2:1-20. Read the story slowly, and perhaps even read it again.

Here's my reading spot this morning:

All too often, I wait until the Christmas Eve service at church to reflect on the Christmas story. This year I want to strive to remember the true meaning of Christmas earlier than Christmas Eve! May the story of Christ's birth inform our gatherings, greetings, and giving this Christmas Season.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Great Gift

This year my business, Spectrum of Amber, held a charity photo contest. Entrants were asked to submit a photo that represented the heart of their favorite charity. I received some great entries, but the one that won the judges hearts was the photo below, submitted for the Minneapolis-based non-profit, Latreia.

Kelly Matthias, the photographer, writes, "I have a fascination with flowering vines on walls, and I think because it is such a striking visual analogy of something beautiful blossoming despite harsh conditions. The same is true for the youth who come to Minneapolis to learn and serve in the city. We have heard so many testimonies of how youth have grown up without a parent, been abused as a child, or just never had anyone in their life to support them in their spiritual walk, and yet it is often these same youth who are the ones who flourish on their Urban Plunge trip. They are the ones who, through their story and their faith, inspire not only their peers but also the adults and our staff. Often it is those who have the furthest to climb who blossom the brightest!"

Kelly's photo is now a note card, and for each Latreia note card sold in 2010, Spectrum of Amber will donate $0.75 to Latreia. Would you consider purchasing a Latreia note card set for your holiday giving this year? These note cards are ideal gifts for teachers, pastors, daycare providers, and stylists, as well as friends and relatives. If you purchase 2 boxed sets of Latria cards, you will have made a donation of nearly $10 to Latreia! Just think of the good we could do together for this wonderful, local non-profit!

So get your shopping done and support a great non-profit too! To purchase your Latreia note card sets, visit my Etsy shop or contact me via email at

Sunday, November 7, 2010

November's 15 minutes

October was a busy one for my business. Even though it's over and I'm not technically working 15 minutes a day on Spectrum of Amber, there is still much to be done and much being done!

Moving into November I find myself in a slump. The only thing I've been doing consistently in November is worrying. I definitely spend more than 15 minutes a day worrying.

Yes, I know I can't count that as my New Year's Resolution. Who wants to worry? Somehow, even though I know I don't like worrying and I don't want to do it, I still do it. Are you ever like that? What do you do to cope? How do you move on from worrying to enjoying life?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Windex and Paper Towel

Our windows are so dirty that some days I can't tell if it's sunny or cloudy.

Well, that's an exaggeration, but they ARE really dirty. While I clean the inside of the windows periodically (meaning once a year), I have yet to clean the outside since we purchased the home in 2008. Many factors have kept me from doing this, including:

Fear of heights
Fear of spiders
Fear of squirrels
Lack of time
Lack of good weather when there is time
Too many pieces to the windows (each one has 8 panels and a screen!!!)

Today enough was enough. I had waited far too long and the days are only getting shorter and colder.

When I got home, I grabbed a ladder, a purse for my windex and paper towels, and I began to wash. Zac got home from work and joined in.

Wow! What a difference 5 minutes made! 15 minutes proved even more amazing, and soon we could see the windows gleaming. Ahhhhh. I smile just thinking about it.

It feels so good to have clean windows. You can truly see the difference when you look out them now. Why did I wait so long to do this simple project? What simple projects do you have in your life that you've been putting off? See if you can make progress on one of those projects today - you won't regret it!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More Picture Projects

Recently I took some photos for a mitten-making company, Polar Mitts. Check out their new website with my photos:!

Monday, October 11, 2010

October's 15 minutes

Spectrum of Amber duties have been picking up, so I'm devoting 15 minutes each day of October to working on various projects for my business.

Today I completed some photo edits for pictures I have taken for friends. Check out Lisa's beautiful wedding cake!

Here are some naked cakes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

September's 15 Minutes

I didn't say much about my 15 minutes a day in September, and for that, I apologize. You see, I was working with a very exclusive trainer to tone my body and increase my flexibility. She's so exclusive, in fact, that I don't even know her name.

She let me take a picture of her one of our last days together. Here she is:

For those of you who don't know this wonderful trainer, you should most certainly get a wii, then purchase the wii fit "game." Game is slightly misleading because I can't tell you how many mornings I was out of breath from trying to keep up with the "game" or how many times I said to Zac, "You've gotta be kidding me! How am I supposed to do that?!?" It was physically challenging at times, and overall I think it was really good for me. I especially enjoyed the yoga. It was relaxing to stretch in the morning and start my day with this routine.

So, now you have a window into my September. :)

We've begun October now, and have had 4 days. I've been working hard at my new resolution for October - can't wait to tell you more about it!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Are we there yet?

To say that I'm excited to adopt would be an understatement. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the little ones awaiting us halfway around the world.

I am reminded of them when I see the remodeling in our home as we transform the back bedroom into a baby room.

I think of them when I teach beautiful children with braided hair and beads.

I think of them when I give myself permission to peruse the baby clothing section at Target.

I think of them when I see kids books at the book store.

They are always on my mind, and sometimes even in my dreams. To date, I have had 4 adoption dreams. In my first dream, I was handed a toddler boy; I could feel him in my arms. In the next dream, I saw the beautiful smiling faces of a set of twins - one boy and one girl. They were standing up, just above the knees of an adult behind them wearing blue jeans. The next dream found me holding a swaddled infant boy in my arms.

Last night was my 4th dream. Last night's dream was closer to reality than the others have been; you see, in last night's dream I was just waiting. I found myself in what seemed like an airport terminal. A large room with uniform chairs held waiting families, mostly women. Through the large sliding glass doors on the left of the building was a single-file line of Ethiopian children, all heights and ages. In my dream, when a bell rang it meant it was someone's turn to meet their children. I knew my time was soon - maybe just a few days. I couldn't make myself leave the room. I would sleep there, stay there, until I met my child.

Then I woke up.

I didn't even get to see them this time. I didn't get to hold them. I was just waiting.

Waking up from dreams like this is hard. Somehow in the dream it feels like we're so much closer to being parents. When I wake up, our house is quiet and the questions of where and when and who still remain out of sight.

This morning as I processed the dream and tried to move on with my day, I grabbed a onesie my friend Anne bought me. I touched the soft, pink fabric and smiled thinking about whose little body might fill that tiny onesie someday. It helped me feel closer to our child(ren) even though they seem so far away.

I'm making my child(ren) wear this. No matter if they are both boys or if they are too big by the time they get to my house. They will wear this onesie because we have wanted them for so long. We have waited for them for so long. We have wondered who they are for so long.

Now, I just hope the days aren't too much longer as we wait...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Unplanned Beauty

I want to take you back with me to one of our evenings in Door County. Zac had seen a picturesque old barn on our way up the peninsula, and he really wanted to go back to photograph it. I decided to ride along with him, and after we had taken our time photographing the barn, we decided to meander back to our hotel. The best thing about our meandering was that we had a GPS, so we could never meander into getting lost!

We saw a big storm cloud coming in, and as the sun was making its way down toward the horizon, it cast warm oranges and rich pinks onto the cloud. We pulled off on a side road, hopped out of the car, and snapped pictures to our hearts content.

As Zac was finishing up taking some shots, I sat in the driver's seat of the car. I heard a rushing sound to the north, and within minutes, a downpour was upon us! We drove along the road, navigating through the heavy rain. At times I considered pulling over to the side of the road because the rain was so heavy!

But then, it lightened up.

Soon we saw this rainbow! What a sight to behold!

After turning spontaneously down another side road, we were greeted with this view! Aren't those clouds magnificent? We were so thankful we happened upon the right place at the right time to catch these gorgeous sights.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Charity Photo Contest

Do you have a charity that has really impressed you?

Do you know of a non-profit that's doing a lot of good work?

Do you spend time volunteering with a particular organization?

Help that organization financially by entering the Charity Photo Contest! I'm excited to let you know that through the month of August, you can submit a photo entry that encompasses the heart of your favorite charity or non-profit. Get all the details here and make sure to click on the "Photo Contest" tab!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Welcome August

As I type this post, I can barely feel my fingers. I began my new 15-minutes-a-day project this evening. In August, I'm playing the guitar!

I have a hard time believing that on average, I played an hour a day for a year when I was on a Youth Encounter team. Since the end of my team year, my calluses have been slowly disappearing from not playing my guitar. My lack of guitar playing has been simply pathetic, and this month I'm putting an end to the laziness!

So, here I am, devoting 15 minutes a day to reclaiming my guitar player status, building up my calluses, and enjoying playing music!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Big Reveal

How fitting that this exciting news comes on my 100th blog post. Such a milestone in so many ways.

Sooo...I have been working 15 minutes a day (or more!) on my business, Spectrum of Amber! I'm so proud to share with you that I have lots of things up and running now.

The first is my website designed by a friend of mine, Adam Costenbader. Check out his nice work on my site here:

Also, I set up an Etsy shop so people can order my cards online. is a fantastic resource for a whole TON of hand-made gifts. You can see my shop at

And last -but not least - I've made a Facebook page so you can get updates via Facebook. Search for Spectrum of Amber on Facebook and let's connect!

Check in periodically for updates. I hope to post a photo contest on my website in August. I'd love for you to enter one of your pictures! I also will be doing give-aways on my website and Facebook. So fun!

So, check it out! See what I've been doing with my time in July!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

July's Top Secret Project

Some of you have noticed that I have not yet said what my 15 minutes a day for July will be. Don't worry, I haven't dropped the ball. I'm just working on a top secret project that will be revealed at the end of the month. :) A few of you have gotten an answer out of me, so it's up to you to keep it top secret! For the rest of y'all, keep watching! You'll find out soon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Children's Literature Stereotypes

Saturday I ventured out to my first Ethiopian cultural event. While there, I attended a children's literature workshop discussing the stereotypes found in cultural and adoption literature. My English Major Brain kicked into high gear, and I listened attentively to the presentation.

Here are some noteworthy ideas from the workshop:
  • Choose books where the main character is a person of color, and the story is just a story. For example, not every book with a person of color needs to be about the person feeling like a person of color. Choose a book that's about something else but the main character just happens to be of color. Example, "Lola at the Library."
  • Stay away from books that discuss "THE African American experience." There is no ONE African American experience; the stories are as many as there are people. And did you know that Africa is bigger than the US, China, and Europe combined? So often we generalize "Africans" but with the diversity of countries and cultures, there isn't just one African experience. See "Africa Is Not A Country."
  • Think about who holds the power in stories, and who is the victim. Are the heroes of the book consistently white? Are they generally boys, or girls? Who has the ideas and who solves the problems? Make sure there is diversity in gender and race.
  • Remember that people within a particular race look different from one another. Oftentimes we think of people who look different from us being of a different race, but I know in my family, my sister and I don't look a ton alike, and we have the same parents! It's good to choose books that show people of the same race looking different from one another. The book, "Jazz Baby," is a good example of this.
  • If the book isn't written in standard English -for example if it contains a dialect like a Southern dialect - how are the people speaking that dialect portrayed? Are they the "smart"ones of the story, or are they seen as second-rate?
  • Is the language used in the book inclusive?
One of the presenters shared that she was at the library with her 3-year-old and they were looking at a book about a princess. There was only one person of color in the book, and that person was the maid. What kind of message does that send to kids? This mom didn't check out that book because of the way it portrayed people of color.

I hope that I will put a lot of thought into the books my children have and how the books are portraying people around the globe. Regardless of what race my children are, I don't want to give them books that reinforce stereotypes or give them subtle messages that people of a particular race or gender have to be a certain way. I want them to dream BIG and not be held back by stereotypes regarding race and gender.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garden Update

It's time for you to see what's been happening in the garden!
Click here to see the "before" pictures.

Isn't it amazing how things just grow? They know what they're supposed to look like, what they're supposed to do. Each vine stretches out to find its place. I'm in awe.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

There's work to be done

The vegetable garden sits neglected in the back corner of our yard. Weeds have come up and the ground is hard and cracked.

Recently I decided enough was enough. I began pulling up many of the weeds by hand. While it began to look considerably better, I still knew there was more to do. I intended to do some tilling. I wanted to give the garden a chance to soak up the rain it would receive, rather than having it run off the compacted soil.

I threw the corner of my hoe into the soil with each swing and tugged it back toward me. My body shook each time the hoe connected with the ground. The surface was more like concrete than soil. It was tough work. Many times I wanted to quit, but when I stood up and leaned on the hoe to survey my work, I couldn't walk away. The completed parts looked so good and the rest of the garden looked...well...not so good.

This morning I'm sitting at Caribou Coffee. An early morning at church for Zac and a morning of quiet time for me. I brought my Bible, prayer journal, and a devotional book I've been working through since January.

My prayer time has not been great these days. I desire to spend time each morning reading my Bible and praying, but there's always something that comes up that I choose to do instead. The garden of my faith has become hard and cracked on the surface. The soil has not been prepped to receive nourishment and grow. I've been dormant, merely letting faith related things fall on me and not doing any work myself. I need to change. I say that I want to know God more, but my actions suggest otherwise.

So, where to go from here? I don't know, but I want to figure it out. I don't want the day to come where I meet God and say, "Yeah, I always wanted to know you more, but I just didn't get around to it."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Connecting Strangers

The rain clouds passed and the sky became as clear as it was just hours earlier. As Zac and I drove back to our hotel in Door County, we noticed a rainbow marking the rain's end.

We turned down the highway that ran alongside the shoreline and our jaws dropped. The setting sun hung low on the horizon, dipping down into the expanse of lake in front of us. We pulled a U-turn as fast as our car could go and hopped out of the car, hungry to take in the sunset.

Many others were standing on the shoreline as well, all watching the sun sink lower and savoring the last few bits of daylight. Two children played near the dock, and one grabbed the other's hand saying, "Hurry! You're gonna miss it!" They ran together to the water's edge to get a better view.

We watched as the sun visibly moved down, down, and then disappeared below the horizon.

The children began clapping, similar to the end of a great fireworks show. We all joined in, young and old alike.

Bravo, God. Another day and another work of art. You have a way of connecting strangers with your beauty.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Growing Me

In the midst of my garden challenge, I've been growing too.

There is a craft show this weekend that I'm going to be a part of; it's bigger than anything I've ever done before, and I'm a mix of nerves and excitement as it approaches!

When this show came up, I desperately wanted to do it with some other crafty friends. It felt safer somehow with the buffer of good company. Everyone I asked said no, and I struggled with knowing if I should do it at all. Zac even suggested that I pass on it this year, but something inside of me pushed me forward. I couldn't let go. I decided to do it regardless of who was in on it with me. I decided to do it for me.

I had to scramble to get everything ready. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had a task list with about 40 items on it. Some tasks took 15 minutes, others an hour and a half. I've put a lot of time into this endeavor, and I hope it goes well.

When I sell my work in a show, I feel very vulnerable. I put my photos out there - some of which signify deep and meaningful times in my life. I sit, watch, and wait to see what others think of the pictures. I have to remind myself that I can't let what they think define how I feel about what I do. I need to keep asking myself, "Do I like my cards? Am I proud of what I've done? Do I see value in what I've done?"

I recognized the growth last night when I was making up my price sheet. Usually my main factor in determining the price of my items is "Would I pay this price for this item?" If the answer is no, I change the price. Last night, though, I held up one of my framed pieces, looked at it and said to myself, "What is this worth? What is my time on this worth? What is the artistic value worth?" I think I'm starting to see what I do as valid, creative, and noteworthy (pun intended).

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Blessing and a Challenge

On the news this week I heard that in June, we have gotten rain all but two days. My garden is loving this, let me tell you. The peas are beginning to blossom, the green bean plants are reaching taller, the tomatoes are beginning to form and those carrots that I thought went missing have shown themselves.

All this rain is great, but it makes gardening difficult. I committed to gardening in some shape or form every day this month for 15 minutes. I was just outside trying to pull some weeds in the garden, and my hands got MUDDY. Sometimes my hands would slip off the weeds because there was so much mud! I didn't dare step into the garden for a few reasons: one, I could see myself slipping and falling in the mud; two, I didn't want to leave footprints forever in the garden and compact the soil.

So, I muddled through my 15 minutes, pulling weeds around the perimeter where I could safely reach without stepping in the mud. I also spent some time admiring. I think that's important in gardening too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Yes to the last day of school! Yes for the student wearing a hot dog costume playing piano in the 4th grade talent show. Yes for a line of teachers waving goodbye to students hanging out of school bus windows. Yes for good-bye hugs. Yes for summer well-wishes. Yes for good memories. Yes for growth.

Yes for a strong steady breeze under a canopy of blue sky. Yes for the hammock awaiting me. Yes for a great book to read. Yes for the grass beneath my toes.

YES! I say yes! to this day in all of its greatness. And it's only 5:00....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Checking for Growth

My favorite thing to do in the spring and summer is walk around my yard to see what's new. I do this almost every day. Sometimes twice!

We have had a gentle rain the last few days and it gave my garden a huge boost. Look what I found today -

Some plants are sprouting out of one of the mounds in the garden. Time will tell if this is the zucchini, pumpkins, canteloupe, or squash!

Green beans are looking good!

I planted the peas awhile ago when we had the early warm spell. They are diggin' the cool weather and growing tall.

And one last beautiful peony. I've enjoyed their deep fragrance and elegant beauty in the yard the last few weeks. They remind me of my grandmothers.