Month 16: Dear Jackson and James

Month 16

Month 16

Dear Jackson and James:

I really can’t believe you’re 16 months old today.  It’s gone so fast, just one year ago today you looked like this:

james and jackson aka the dumplings 4 months

Month 4

On this 16th day of January in the year 2015 — your official 16 month birthday — these are a few of your favorite activities, actions, people and things.

Jackson - Month 16

Jackson – Month 16

Favorite Person:  You love your Mama more than just about anyone.  You have matured in that you no longer double over into a complete meltdown every time I go to the bathroom.  Runners Up:  Daddy, Hilda and Melanie

Favorite Food:  Blackberries and Tamales

Favorite Activity:  Pretending you are a vacuum cleaner and Dancing

Favorite Video:  Sesame Street Usher ABC

Favorite Outdoor Activity:  Pushing the turtle lawnmower

Favorite Outfit:  Anything Mama picks out because no one else knows how to dress you

Favorite Bath Activity:  Throwing everything out of the tub

Favorite Utterance:  Mama and du-dy-du-du (as if you are having a conversation, which you probably are)

Favorite Hairstyle:  Windblown with a splash of cottage cheese

Favorite Nap Activity:  Beating on the wall

Favorite Item:  Your blanket

Favorite Book:  Cleo in the Snow … I have no idea why.  Maybe you want to live in Colorado.

James 16 months

James — Month 16

Favorite Person:  You love your Daddy more than just about anyone.  Mama generally comes in a close second, followed by … Hilda, Melanie, Rachel and just about anyone.  You’re a lover not a fighter — except when a man stands on a street corner wearing a red suit and a white beard.

Favorite Food:  Bananas and Spinach & Cheese Ravioli

Favorite Activity:  Dancing, sorting and tormenting playing with Raylan

Favorite Video:  5 Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Favorite Outdoor Activity:  Collecting balls and eating rocks

Favorite Outfit:  Anything Mama picks out because no one else knows how to dress you

Favorite Bath Activity:  Splashing

Favorite Utterance:  Mama and Da-da-da

Favorite Hairstyle:  Windblown with a dollop of Cream of Wheat

Favorite Nap Activity:  Throwing things in your brother’s crib

Favorite Item:  That ring on your head, otherwise known as “your crown”

Favorite Book:  Brown  Bear, Brown Bear … Mama loves to sing it to you.

I know it seems like every time I take a picture of you you’re covered in food or dirt or or some combination of the two.  But you see, that’s what you look like all the time.  That moment when I dress you for the day, that clean, pristine moment … it lasts about five minutes.

This is you and it’s the only you I am interested in capturing.

I love it when you hug my legs, call out my name and give me big slobbery kisses.  I love watching you figure things out.  I love watching you interact.  I even love watching you fight, and lately, try to make each other feel better.

Happy Birthday, sweet Dumplings.  You’re my own personal reality show, and honestly, I never want to miss an episode … except for that one where you follow me around screaming for 20 minutes.  I’ll skip that one.





by month:

by Category:

Pinterest Project 1: Office Makeover

I can always feel when my life is on the cusp of a major change.  I start purging and ordering and pushing things out which no longer serve any purpose.  I listen to show tunes.  I watch Hart to Hart reruns.  I lament about how much I miss the 80’s.

This is all a form of internal rebellion.

Sometimes everything in your life is pushing you — or in some cases pulling you — to head in a new direction.  I am not the kind of person who lets those sorts of internal rumblings go.  I never have.  I tend to start heading there, if only subliminally.

With every major life change I’ve ever been through, first comes the thought bubble containing the vision.  The thought bubble showing the desire.  Some people cut out pictures and put them on a vision board, some people keep it in their head and some people let life happen without much thought to it at all.  Today many people visualize with the help of the world’s largest vision board, Pinterest.

My biggest goal for the year is to move.  There I’ve said it out loud.  This is not a well kept secret for those who know me.  I don’t mean a small neighborhood change move, but a life altering move.  A move far away from our current residence.  This particular thought bubble has me pinning a lot of home stuff for a home in the future.

Sometimes if we work too much in the future it depresses the present.  I think you have to find the balance on getting where you want to go without losing site of where you are.

My husband says I am a dreamer and he is a work horse.  He is right about one thing, I am the only dreamer in this relationship — but I too am a work horse and can get easily bogged down in what must be done and forget where I want to go.

Life is not just about what happens to you, it’s about how you happen to life.  Having a vision I am accountable to is everything for me.

My practical side can easily push the dreamer to the curb, until one morning (like today) you wake up and go into your office, stand in the doorway and cry.


My office is an embarrassment.  I feel neither creative or inspired when I sit at my desk.  I hate to go in there.  Apparently, it now makes me cry.  Of course, that could also be hormones.  I am after all, 45.  The only thing I love is the self-portrait charcoal of my Mom on the wall, my great-grandfather’s pocket watch and a Tex Moore painting.

The things I love are buried amidst the crap.  It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and yet, here is my office.

Messy desk - underneath

I don’t even know what to say about this.  It’s humiliating. I broke my chair and never replaced it because if I have to look at (much less spend money on) one more ugly, black office chair, I’ll scream …  so currently I choose to borrow my husband’s ugly black office chair or kneel on the floor. It’s so uninspiring I don’t even know what kind of chair to buy.

You might be asking yourself, why on earth would she reveal such chaos?

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Friends, I have a problem.

I reveal this giant eyesore hoping I might actually fix it from the shame I feel from having shared it. Of course, again, I’m 45 and completely comfortable in my imperfections.  At this point, the only person I feel any need to impress is myself.

And she is one tough customer.

What’s under that desk?  I have no idea.  I have not been able to look underneath it since before the babies were born.  I just keep re-stacking it neatly, though it looks particularly bad right now because I have been throwing stuff out in that trash bag.


I don’t know what to say about this corner.  Bill Clinton was president when that television was purchased.  That television weighs more than both of my children combined.


This is my husband’s desk which has become a receptacle for random hats.  The picture is crooked.  You already know how I feel about the black leather desk chair.  The sight of it makes me cringe.  It’s worse than a man lounge chair, it’s a man desk chair.  It takes up half the room.


Meet Sterling the penguin.

My husband loves Sterling.  I bought this penguin butler for him one Christmas before we lived  together.  I had no idea when I married Jonathan, I was marrying Sterling … and the 20 year old stereo system in our living room.  Sterling is going to be a part of our lives for as long as he can hold up that tray and see through that monocle.

I now embrace Sterling.  Who am I kidding, I love Sterling.

I think Sterling deserves a better office.

I recently wrote about all of the things we had purged.  The things we did not use or did not LOVE.  For the record, it did not include this room.  And yet, in many ways, this room is the most important room.  This is the room where I need to go every day and feel a sense of accomplishment, and instead I run back to my bed and work on my laptop.  I like my bed, but every Feng Shui book ever written will tell you not to work there.

One of the reasons it looks like this is that I have twin toddlers and there is very little time for me to spend in here beyond working.  But, the number one reason it looks like this is because I am somewhat ambivalent about this house.  I am way out of love with it.  In fact, if this house were a marriage, we’d be divorced.

But, we need to get along right now for the sake of the children.

This is the office I have today.  It’s completely imperfect.  Embrace it anyway.  The wanna be perfectionist in me hates it, but the person who stood in the doorway and cried this morning … that person needs to make it better.

Sometimes it’s taking little steps in life — like fixing up a work space, or cleaning out a closet, or hiding small cosmetic imperfections with a glue gun and some paint — that can impact your life for the better.  Changing your environment literally can change your life. I have always believed that.  I think our homes are a living work of art, constantly changing and evolving.  Reflections of where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.  If your environment is stagnant, your life is stalling.

Appreciate the life in front of you, so you can find the life waiting for you.  Okay, Oprah?

Seriously, being grateful in the present moment, opens up so many possibilities. I really thought I was, until I walked into my office this morning …

So, office, it’s time we became friends.  I don’t have to marry you, I just need to date you for awhile so I can get some work done without bursting into tears.

This is my inspiration board for this very small project.  The transformation from a dull, drab work space to a creative space.

It takes more imagination than money to make that happen.  Do you have any spaces in dire need of a makeover?

Start pinning and re-doing.  We’ll both feel better.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes with before and after pictures at the end of the month.

Happy Monday ~


by month:

by Category:

Shoot Out 2015: Week One

I was on Pinterest last night and came upon a quote …

“Nothing Will Make You Feel Better Except Doing the Work.” 

THIS should be my motto for the year.  From where I sit right now, truer words were never spoken.  I have never had more obstacles and hurdles to jump through to get it done.  But the only way I feel true accomplishment at the end of the day is if I have done something labor intensive that moves the dial of my life forward.

“I’m gonna” really learn how to work my camera has come out of my mouth more than once since I made the plunge to buy my Nikon D600 camera and three lenses in 2013.  In an effort to remove, “learn how to work my camera” from my bucket list, I enrolled in an online photography group — Shoot Out 2015.  To supplement this, I’ve begun watching Photoshop tutorials through my membership.  For those of you who do not know you should check it out.  If there is any program you want to learn, I would be surprised if you did not find it here.

I laugh at how much time I had prior to September 16, 2013 to sit in a chair and do whatever I wanted.  I would not trade where I sit today for anything, but I believe we all need time alone to sit and think and dream.  Silence for the mind.  Of course, I might believe this because I am an only child who grew up with this sort of unencumbered alone time.  I would spend hours and hours alone, especially when I went to Arkansas during the summers.  I had no friends my own age there.  I spent a lot of time running around talking to cows and dogs.  I have had some pretty amazing conversations with cows and dogs.  I often found them easier to talk to than actual people.

On some days, I still do.

It’s 5:15 a.m.  Sipping fresh, hot coffee.  It’s so quiet in this house it’s almost creepy.  I’ve been forcing myself to get up and take this time in the morning for myself.  It’s not easy, but it’s been worth it.  I’ve written more this week than I have in a long time.  This is keeping me sane amidst so much chaos.

If something can help keep you sane, you need to bear hug it and never let it go.  Ultimately you’re a better person to be around, at least I know am.

The Shoot Out group and Photoshop work well together.  I need to know how to work my camera better and edit the pictures —  not only for my personal photos, but work photos.  It’s a win-win for all aspects of my life, but I know once you really know how to work the camera you are rarely in the pictures.  I’m okay with this.

For January our assignment is ten composition photos.

“No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”

Claude Monet



1.  the nature of something’s ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.

2.   a work of music, literature or art

The nature of something’s ingredients.  I like it.  It’s a good visual to keep in my mind as I move forward.

Each week I will write about and share my work here, as it helps to keep me accountable for both classes — Shoot Out 2015 and Photoshop.  Every month we get our assignment emailed to us and we are encouraged to upload our finished photos to the forum for feedback and discussion.  I have not uploaded to the forum yet, but here are the first five photos I am going to work on for composition:

James with Fry Los Angeles Zoo, January 2015

Baby with Fry
Los Angeles Zoo, January 2015

Jackson Enjoying Berry Oatmeal January 2015

Berry Oatmeal Baby
January 2015

Here, Eat This Leaf. January 2015

Here, Eat This Leaf.
January 2015

Excuse Me, Brother! January 2015

Excuse Me, Brother!
January 2015

Peek-a-Boo January 2015

January 2015

My main subject will be the Dumplings, though I might venture out and take some other shots as well.  Next week, I’ll upload them after Photoshop correction so you can see what I did.

I love these photos.  My favorite place to shoot photos is outside.  They always look better without much effort.  The boys keep you on your toes when trying to take a picture, for sure.  Sometimes I take hundreds of shots just to get one or two good ones.

I love this time to be able to write uninterrupted — just sit in a chair, alone, in complete silence and do something I love. Think. Dream. Write.  It takes a lot of discipline for me to do this, as I am the worst sort of sleeper.  I am not a morning person nor am I a night owl.  They say morning people rule the world.  I am researching how much truth there is to that statement and I’ll get back with you.

Have a blessed weekend everyone!


by month:

by Category:

What Kathie Taught Me.


Kathie Slaughter March 22, 1949 - January 8, 2015

Kathie Slaughter
March 22, 1949 – January 8, 2015

Dear Kathie ~

I can’t think about some of the very best parts of my childhood and not think about you.  You were present in so many moments and memories.  I would not be the person I am today without you.  Really, I wouldn’t.  Kids learn empathy and understanding through their experiences and you gave me so much at such a young age.    I would actually get in fights with people if they used the word “retard” in my presence.  Retard might as well have been the f-word in my house.

I have met a lot of retarded people in my lifetime, but I can tell you not a one of them was as innocent and sweet and pure and loving as you. Not one.

One of the very first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about you.  The Red Panty Distraction of 1978.  I still can’t read it without laughing.  And well, today … laughing though tears.

I remember when I first began to realize that you were different from me.  Your mind was different, your ability to learn was different … your olympics were different.  Remembering that time with you today is so incredibly special for me.  I can’t tell you how blessed I am to have it and how much richer my life is for it.  I am a better human being because of knowing and loving you.  I hope I can pass that on to Jackson and James.

Kathie, James and Jackson July 2014

Kathie, James and Jackson
July 2014

I knew you were different because everyone told me you were.  But it took me a long time to believe you were really different.  I just thought you had never had the right teacher.  I would get out books and make charts and try to teach you the things I was learning.  You could spell your name.  I was convinced it was only a matter of time before you could spell mine.

During that time of complete innocence for both of us, I saw you as one of my very best friends.  When we would go to bed each night in the summer, you would tell me you were getting married and you were having a baby and you were going to work.  I believed you.  In fact, I wanted to help you.  I loved going to school with you and meeting all of your friends.  You were so proud to show me off to everyone, calling me Tige just like Mawmaw.

You were born in a time, sweet Kathie, before it was applauded by society for you to be the face of a Target advertisement.  You were taken to public school in 1955 and sent home.  You were born at a time before every cause (and non-cause) had a banner and a constituency.  Mawmaw and your Daddy drove anywhere and everywhere to find out why their beautiful infant baby girl suddenly began having grand mal seizures.  And never stopped having them.  They could be controlled but at the cost of your spirit.  When they were under control you were so doped up it was hard to find Kathie in there.

Mawmaw liked you smiling and feisty and telling everyone, “You just don’t know!!”  We all did.  I love telling people they just don’t know because of you.  Because honestly, most of the time they don’t.  We’re all just blowin’ smoke a good chunk of the time — at least you had enough sense to call it like it was.

I think Mawmaw chose to move to the middle of nowhere so she could give you and her some peace from the judgment of others.  I never heard her say that, but looking back, it makes sense.  She took you and Annie up to the top of a hill, built a house and enrolled you in a special school.  She lived life on her own terms for as long as she could.  She probably toyed with your medicine too much because she hated it when you were doped up, so the seizures got harder and harder — and falls became more frequent.  The seizures were finally winning.

I’ve never judged Mawmaw for anything concerning your care because I was not the one who gave birth in 1949 to a beautiful baby girl named Kathie.  When I think about the same situation for Jackson or James … well, I can tell you I would go to the ends of the earth to give them the best life I knew how to give.  And that’s what she did.

Despite the hand life dealt you, you made friends everywhere you went.  You loved company.  I remember when I was a kid, everywhere we would go, you would practically tell a stranger on the street to, “Come to Arkansas!”  “Come for supper!”  if you thought they were worthy.  Basically if they engaged you, they were worthy … if they ignored you, well …

You knew how to read people probably better than anyone ever gave you credit for.  You knew when they accepted you and when they didn’t.  When they didn’t a supper invitation was off the table.

I know from talking to Mom that many of the aids at the nursing home took it as their personal mission to watch over you.  Especially Sara.  I know we’re not the only ones mourning your sweet spirit today.

Even though you were born at a time when young children with special needs were not welcome into the folds of society, your family always did.  Your Mamaw Wines, your parents and your sisters were always there for you.  For the past several years your K.K. has watched over you since the day you moved to Hot Springs.  She watched you bounce back time and time again … until you just couldn’t anymore.

Today I thought a lot about how I wish I could have done more to help.  What if I was closer?  Less busy?  Could I have been there more for you, my sweet childhood buddy?  My aunt. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know one thing.

There is nothing.  And I mean nothing I could have done for you that would even begin to repay what you gave me just by being a part of my life.  All of our lives.  We are all better for having known you and loved you.

You, Kathie Slaughter, are the purest soul I ever knew.  I know that even if all the rest of us are going straight to hell, there is a heaven up there waiting for you.  There has to be.  You are one of the angels sent to teach us and today you went home.

Love Always,


by month:

by Category:

Mission 2015. Use It. Love It. Or Lose It.

New Year's Day 2015

New Year’s Day 2015

We drank nothing … except a mug of hot tea.  The meal was, of course, Chicken n’ Dumplings.  We rang in the new year in front of the television.  It was rather pathetic, especially since I fell asleep at roughly 8:30 p.m. and Jonathan woke me up at approximately 11:59 p.m. to kiss me.   The ball dropped.  Happy. New. Year.

The boys slept soundly; snoozing into 2015 without incident, unless you consider James moaning an incident.  I no longer do.  I call it his sleep process.  Jackson just hits you with a couple of loud cries and falls back to sleep.  His sleep process.

I woke up on January 1st feeling no different than I did on December 31st, which is always the case.  But for some reason, as the day wore on, things began to eat at me and I gave into the resolution making euphoria that happens every few years for me.  At first, it came down to three very specific things.

Use It. Love It. Or Lose It.

And so it began.  Suddenly bags of clothes, electronics and other miscellaneous stuff left our home.  Even Jonathan got in on the action.  If I did not use it or love it — I lost it.  With this simple statement came a home cleansing usually reserved for spring.  It was liberating.  The entire mood of the house improved.  I am sure January must be The Container Store’s biggest month of the year.

I wrote recently that I do not make new year’s resolutions because new year’s day seems to happen in the middle of a sentence.  But for some reason this year was different.

This year, as I sat eating my Slow Cooker Black Eyed Peas and Iron pan, perfect cornbread (with green chilies), I thought more intensely about the year.  I had actually been thinking about it for several weeks.  So much so, in fact, that I bought a brand new Filofax A5 in Calipso Purple.  I had no idea there was such a large Filofax community.  The organizational dreamer in me finds it as exciting as I did Hello Kitty in 3rd grade — but the grown-up in me finds it rather scary.  Did you know you can get a charm for your Filofax?  At this point my Filofax and I are just getting reacquainted … charms are a long way off.  I came to the realization that as wonderful as my digital calendar is (and it is) the act of writing things down and carrying my life around in a pretty purple leather case is something I was missing in my organizational quest.  I could probably do it without the case … but I do LOVE it.

As I began marking up my Filofax with important dates and other information I thought about what I wanted to show the boys not only in my character, but life.  There is so much we deal with in life and many of the ways we respond to things we absorb by watching our parents.  Good habits are great.  Bad ones are difficult to shake.  I have never been so cognizant of my own actions.  How I deal with stress.  Delayed gratification.  Goal setting.  Keeping promises.

They watch everything you do.  So do it well.

I tell myself this every morning when I get them out of bed.

I am certainly not getting any younger, and the boys are growing so quickly I barely have time to document it — though you would never guess it from my Facebook posts.  Last year at this time you could set the Dumplings anywhere and take a picture.  Now it’s like trying to follow around a couple of jack rabbits.  All action all the time.

Action Jackson January 1, 2015

Action Jackson
January 1, 2015

Sweet Baby James January 1, 2015

Sweet Baby James
January 1, 2015

When I woke up on January 2nd, I wrote these five statements in the front of my Filofax:

  1. Use It. Love It. Or Lose It.
  2. Show it.  Don’t speak it.
  3. Don’t just Pin it.  Do It.
  4. Design your life.
  5. Be kind.  Have compassion … most importantly for yourself.

Number One.  We have made great progress on number one as a family and it’s only January 7th.  I think this way of thinking is a life change.  It’s something I want to ask myself about everything I currently own and want to own.  It’s a good barometer for purchases and forces me to live with more purpose and conviction.  Surround yourself with things you love.

Number Two.  I am famous for “I’m gonna … “ This year I’m not gonna say anything about what I’m gonna do or not do.    People will either notice or they won’t, but “I’m gonna” puts me in a constant state of prepping for doing, rather than doing.  Just do it.  Just be it.

Number Three.  I love Pinterest.  I find it very easy to pin my dreams, likes or goals and feel some sort of accomplishment at the end of the pinning session.  Granted not all pins are meant to be done, most are for inspiration, which is another reason I love it.  It gets my creative juices flowing.  I’ve already started doing some things I pin, starting with the Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas I made on New Year’s Day.  I’ll admit, I destroyed the whole vegan vibe by adding a ham hock.  I’m southern, not vegan.  Unfortunately, there is no vegan in my freezer — though I do love many recipes from this site.  For 2015 the mantra is … Pin it.  Create it.

Number Four.  Designing your life is easier now than it ever has been.  Many jobs can be done from anywhere.  Life can be lived anywhere.  It’s good to be mindful about the life you want.  Live it with purpose instead of just letting it happen to you.  I honestly think this is one of the secrets of success.

Number Five.  How I react to a situation is now more important than it ever has been. Reaction is a choice we make in the moment and what we choose can change everything in an instant — often with dire consequences.  I believe our children pick up anxieties, stress response and other habits (both good and bad) from the people they spend the most time watching.  The Dumplings understand so much now.  It’s truly amazing.  I can already see their responses if they sense stress or anxiety from either one of us.

I have a lot of plans for 2015.  Really, I do.  But I’m gonna not tell you.  I’ll show you.

Right now, I have some Dumplings to get out of bed.  I can hear the moaning.


by month:

by Category: