Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Lord Provides!

Do you ever just need a good day. Not that the previous days have been particularly bad, you just need to have one of those "everything-goes-right-uplifting" kind of days. Well, that's what the Lord gave me yesterday. Nothing so spectacular that it makes the evening news, just things sliding into place.

I had some goals, particularly related to getting a good start with Mary Kay. I spent some time praying about those goals. And as I was praying the phone rang and it was someone to help me accomplish those goals - someone I had not expectation would call. And the phone call was motivating. So, out I went, into the world to accomplish those goals and was met with success in a way I never could have imagined. Really! It was totally cool.

Update on the camera: I'm taking it in today for a cleaning that is estimated to cost $25. That is low enough in cost for me to just do it rather than risk cleaning myself and making a devastating mistake. I don't know how long it will take, but I'm glad to be getting that done.

By the way, these photos were taken on Saturday, and either I used PSE to get the dirt out of the photos, or they are so busy in the areas where the dirt is that you can't notice it easily. Still, I haven't taken a photo since Saturday, and I'm itching to get some taken! Can't wait for the camera to be cleaned!

I'll leave you with one last thing. You know the story in the Bible where God provides flour and oil for the peasant woman who is feeding Elijah? (1 Kings 17: 7-16) He makes her flour and oil last when it didn't seem possible. Well, it seems He's doing that in my cupboards.

Each week I dread making my shopping list for fear we will be out of so many essentials that the bill will be double what I have budgeted. I've really carved that budget back and try to keep the bill for the week at about $80.

And each week I am amazed to see we have enough of so many things that I don't have to buy it yet. For example, it has been three weeks in a row that I have feared the need to buy toilet paper and laundry soap (both usually purchased in bulk at Costco and about $15 each). But each week I do an inventory and what do you know, we can make it yet another week without buying these things. And there are other things that are the same.

God amazes me in how He provides. I'm not saying there is a miracle here, but I'm not saying there isn't either. I'm just saying our supplies are lasting much longer than I anticipated and it is really helping with the tight budget. For that I am so thankful!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Camera Troubles


I've discovered a bit of a problem with my camera. It is dirty! Like really intolerably dirty! And it happened very all of the sudden. I'm not sure how, but let me show you.

This photo was taken on Thursday, and it does not have the problem:

This photo was taken on Saturday, and the problem is huge!

See all the dirt clustered in the upper third of the photo and then more sprinkled all around. Must have happened while changing lenses, but I don't remember doing that in a way that was vulnerable. Very frustrating!

No more photos until I get this cleaned!

Taking it in on Monday! Don't know how long it will take or how long I will be without my camera. Dreading that! Feeling really nervous about this whole process. Considering doing the cleaning myself, but. . . what if I muffed it up and ruined the camera. That would be so terrible that I'm willing to let someone else do it. But the thought crosses my mind that if I did it myself I'd be back to having a camera to use by Tuesday as opposed to some unknown period longer. Something to ponder during those sleepless hours I've been having the last few nights.

Other than that, a fairly good weekend. We did not have baseball try outs as originally planned, because the weather was not good enough. Sounds like last season where every single schedule event in April and almost all of May was canceled due to snow and rain. Hoping we're not headed for another repeat of that!

Today, we got 4-6 inches of new snow, with it coming down all day! That was the setting for moving Andy's office to town. Big drifts on the roads, poor visibility, and generally just the kind of weather you don't want for moving. But, the task is almost done. Andy has to go back tonight and get the computer set up, but that shouldn't take too long.

I hope you have a great start to the week.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Today in my yard

I took a little stroll there this morning.

Very different than on Sunday. On Sunday I saw this:

And I pulled out dead leaves and branches, and cleared two of the beds with great excitement.

But today, this is my garden:

(I can tell J was out there playing - he always leaves little clues that he was there!)

Today's stroll was beautiful in it's own way. Typical of March in Montana. But not offering quite the same excitement as Sunday. It's going to be an up and down thing out there for awhile, I know. What gives me great joy and hope are the little squash and basil plants growing upstairs in my house in little "green houses."

Today I'll be planting some beans, broccoli and cilantro to join them. Come June 15, I'll have so very much to plant outdoors, and hopefully by August I'll have some fruits from these labors.

I think my crafting is going to have to be put on hold until my room gets moved upstairs - too much organizing, moving, and more organizing needs to be done in the next week.

I hope you are having a great Wednesday!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Plan, At Last!

First, let me say: WHAT HAPPENED TO SPRING?!?!?!?!?! Woke up to 12 inches of new snow this morning. UGH! That's spring time in the Northern Rockies for you! All of you in warmer climates, eat your hearts out! Ha! And think about those poor Sandhill Cranes out there in the frozen white stuff!

Second, let me set the stage for the information below in case you don't remember the general gist of what is going on. Recognizing that we were getting into a financially vulnerable position due to the down-turn in the economic conditions in this country and some unexpected big expenses. We recognized that the law office has seen a decrease in private pay clients because more and more people qualify for the public defender. That means we get work, but at a much lower pay rate than we were averaging before. And, my little job at the Local Scrapbook Store is over because the store is closing this coming Saturday. (There may be some new form of that business evolving, but right now none of that is set up, so we can't count on any income there).

With all that in mind, Andy and I set out to see where we can cut back and how we can make more. We gave ourselves a two week research period, which ended today. Now, we are moving on to taking action so we can relieve the financial stress we feel. I don't want to get anyone in a panic about our situation, but I also don't want to sugar coat it. We need more income and fewer expenses. Plain and simple. I'm sure we aren't alone. It will take a while under any plan to get to back to where we want to be, but all is not lost, and we are going to be able to meet all our obligations, just a little slower than we would like.

We considered everything: selling our home (yeah, like that would be a quick fix in this market!); renting our home out for the cost of our mortgage, and then renting a small cheep place for us in town to save on gas to and from town, heating costs, and a whole bunch of other things (for awhile I would have put money down on us doing this, but no, it is not the plan); as posted about two weeks ago, I considered being a school bus driver, but that was a no go with Andy; and we've considered selling my engagement ring (big diamond would generate a bit of cash to accomplish some of our goals quickly - by the way, this was my idea, and Andy is not at all excited about it, but it remains on the table at this point); cashing out the little retirement fund we've got in reserves (this is also still on the table, although no final decision there yet either).

Here are some things that we know we are going to do.

First off, we are going to become a one car family for awhile. We'll sell the truck and plow to generate a bit of cash to create an emergency fund (our old such fund is used up). So, this is not a scene we'll be witnessing too much longer:

Another thing we are going to do is move Andy's office back into the space we have in town for meeting with clients. That will allow us to save on gas and Andy's time running in and out of town for court appearances. We expect this will make Andy more efficient, and hopefully allowing a net gain in his billings each month. It also will allow a savings on some phone issues because we won't need the business and fax lines at home anymore. I will spend Monday's in town doing office filing and other office work, but I'll still do the office billing out of our home. And I'll spend most of my days at home, which sounds great to me!

Now, here come the really exciting things:

By emptying the home office space we'll be doing some re-arranging in the house: I'm going to move my scrap/craft space into his bright, sunny huge old office, set up tables in the middle, and teach some classes out of my home. The hope here is to replace, and possibly even increase my income from this activity. My plan is to do one or two classes a month, and to invite other teachers who will now be without a place to teach to use the space as well. I'm kind of excited about this. The only contingency on this plan is if the LSS does do activities even after giving up the store-front space, I do not want to be in conflict with that. It was a great gig for me, and I would not want to create any ill feelings there, so I will do my best to always work around whatever might come out of that situation. By the way, this was Andy's idea, proving once again what a super cool supportive husband he is!

I'll also try to make a little money taking senior photos and family photos. Heck, I even have a shoot scheduled for Wednesday afternoon/evening, so I'm feeling like this might be a bit of unpredictable, but welcomed money making opportunity. I'd like to set aside money made here to buy better equipment, but we'll see where the priorities are as these plans all develop.

Then, to have something a bit more predictable than classes and photography, I've also become a Mary Kay Consultant. . . .

Okay, a few of you need to quickly pick yourselves up off the floor so you can keep reading.

All settled back in your chair? Then let me explain.

This is about the last thing I ever expected to jump into as my often sloppy, on the go lifestyle does not always include wearing make-up and taking time to put my best foot forward in the way of appearance. But, the way it all came about, I know this is where God is leading me - believe me, I prayed long and hard before I took this leap. I am so nervous about starting this business - buying an inventory is a lot of money and now I've got to sell it. Booking parties/shows/make-overs takes effort. I don't want to be the friend that you don't want around because you're afraid she'll try to sell you something. All of these things continue to bounce in my mind, but I know that I'm doing the right thing here.

It was a challenging decision. But let me tell you what happened to seal the deal.

I'd been given an invitation to become a consultant and was considering it because it allows me to continue to be Andy's support staff at the office, be a good mom to J, and to make a more regular income. A bit to my surprise, Andy was all for the idea. He didn't think it was crazy at all. He thought it went right to my heart for loving on and encouraging women.

So, I set myself to prayer for God's guidance. One morning I was praying as I cleaned in the kitchen, and I prayed "God, if this is not the right thing, would you please drop something else into my lap before I need to give my answer to my friend next week." Well, just as I ended that prayer request and opened my eyes, a still small voice (a very calm still small voice I might add) said to me "I dropped this in your lap."



I do not get that kind of a response to prayer very often, so I'm not one to ignore it just because it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Since then, what God has put on my heart is that I will do this business in the most loving and caring way possible. If someone doesn't buy product from me, but we have a chance to get together, play with samples, and just spend time together I will consider that a success for the fact that it provided woman to woman time in this crazy and hectic world of ours. I will work hardest to connect with women, and use these opportunities to minister to them. So many women are isolated, lonely, stressed, or hurting in some way. This will be an opportunity to love on them. And since the product is good and reasonably priced, I trust God that it will provide whatever He thinks we need in the form or income from this adventure.

So, that dear blog readers, is the plan.

Now, rest your weary eyes from all these words, and have a wonderful Tuesday!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Is Here!

Do you know how I know that? Well, in the Northern Rockies there are certain tell-tail signs.

For example, today we heard the Sand Hill Cranes. A sure sign of spring.

Also, this was my first day in the garden - meaning I went and cut down all the dead stalks that have been the winter garden for the snow to decorate - and in doing so, there were green bits hidden deep in the center of the plants - potential columbine, lupine, bee balm and holly hock waiting three more months before there is any hope of bright colors like this:

I couldn't even find a crocus coming up today, so it is definitely very early spring. But spring all the same!

And the final proof of spring today: it rained and then hailed briefly, and rained some more. All in a good Montana Spring Day. Big sigh!

Just for the heck of it I thought I show you some photos I recently edited - two different black and white versions of the same photo:

I like them both, for different reasons. The first one is so crisp, but the second has a dreamy quality to it. The whites are white, but not completely blown out in both of them. By the way, just to let you know, I've been reading more and more photography posts and tutorials and blogs, and I'm becoming quite dissatisfied with my equipment. That is not good, because at this point the equipment I have is what I'm going to have for the foreseeable future. So, dissatisfaction is not a good mode for me right now. I'm casting it away and making the most of what I do have - an older camera, and whimpy lens and a whole lot of heart when it comes to trying to get better photos.

Plus, I haven't been taking many photos the last five days or so because there has just been too much else going on. But, that is for tomorrow's post - I've got it all worked out in my head but need more time to get it posted, to explain the changes that are happening around here, the options we did not elect to follow, and the ones we did. There are some big surprises coming up for all of you loyal readers!

There, how's that for an intriguing ending to a post!

Have a blessed Monday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Skate Boarding Has Arrived Here!

A layout I did for the 52 Sketches . . . 52 Weeks challenge sight. It's the first time I've ever worked with one of their sketches, and I did like it.

J got to use his birthday money yesterday, and bought himself a skate board (and at my insistence, also a helmet). He's using it in the house right now because there is snow on what little pavement we have. I'm figuring that as long as those wheels are clean and smooth it won't hurt the hardwood floors. But once he takes that baby outside, well, that is where it stays.

He's wanted a skateboard since he was 4 years old and noticed the skaters at the skate park across from the grocery store. Actually, when I think about it, he would sit for hours and watch the skate park activities in Truckee, and we moved away from there when he was almost three. So, this is a bit of a dream come true for him. He woke up this morning and told me he has achieved great skills just in the 8 waking hours he's had the thing. Yeah for him!

We'll have to see how long I can hold off on having to take him to the skate park in town.

Gotta go! Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Learning! Learning!

I'm continuing to work with the Raw format, and learning. One thing I've learned: I probably need to get a calibrator for my computer screen so I'm seeing the photo colors in the most accurate way possible.

I'm sprinkling this post with a few photos I've been playing with - all shot in Camera Raw and converted to black and white. This is the only color one for today.

My goal for this day is to take some of J in Camera Raw so I can play with the skin tone in this format - the main reason I want to make this conversion is to improve skin tone colors if possible.

This day is not too busy, but has a few chores in it. Hoping to get my Wednesday night class completely prepared. Also need to do a bit of organizing in the upstairs of my house.

It's lightly snowing and in the 20's today, so not quite the typical spring break weather most of us expect. But, peaceful and quiet.

A few observations I've made lately (meaning yesterday since I have trouble remembering much beyond that!):

  • My dog is getting way too fat! He looks like a big sausage when he's laying on the kitchen floor. Wonder if this has to do with the new dog food, or if he's getting too much people food (clearing throat and looking at Andy!)?
  • J's legs are getting long - like his dad. This gives me hope that he won't be short and round like me! I'm not really that short, but the round part makes me look more short.
  • I could scrapbook for probably a year without buying anything more but adhesive - but boy do I go through adhesive quickly. And when I go to buy the adhesive, well, temptations usually set in, and I buy other things as well. May have to start sending Andy for the adhesive because he won't be tempted!
  • I love the comments that get left on my blog - so thank you! They are usually affirming and encouraging, and that is always welcome in my day!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 16, 2009


Spring Break is here and I'm charged and ready for a productive fun week! J wants to go hiking, visit with friends and just relax. He's happy and healthy and ready to enjoy his time off. That makes me so happy!

I got out and about hiking on Saturday while Andy was with J up at snow boarding lessons (again, thank you Grandma for that wonderful gift!). It was a beautiful spring day with temps in the upper 40's, and I headed to the river because I had a deep craving to be around flowing water. It was wonderful to hear a chick-a-dee as I was hiking along. I even waded across a shallow spot to one of the larger islands to tromp around. It was so fun. And I was taking photos in camera raw so that I could practice the post-processing in that format. Here is the first result:

Its going to take some practice to get this completely down, but I'm pleased with my start on this. I've got about 50 more photos to practice on over the next couple days.

I've been doing research regarding jobs and financial planning, and unexpectedly, yesterday was an incredibly encouraging day on that front. Things like discovering our house is worth more than I anticipated by a significant amount really helped me feel rosier about our outlook. I didn't realize how much it was worth before the down turn, and I also assumed that the market here had been impacted more than it was. Not that we have decided for sure to sell our house, just that it is more of an asset in our lives than I anticipated.

I still have quite a list of things to look into as Andy and I consider how to be the best stewards of what we have and meet our responsibilities. We're praying for wisdom as we go through this process - and that we don't make any of our possessions or our current lifestyle an idol.

Hopefully one week from today we'll be ready to sit down and cull through our options, and then narrow it down to three or four to present to some wise people and get their input too. My heart's desire is that we are ready to make a decision(s) by the following Saturday, and we can get right to doing what needs to be done. Whew! Feels good to be doing something instead of observing problems/challenges and trying to hide from them.

So, onward with Monday! Hope to check in here again on Tuesday!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Under Achieving - A Bit Of A Ramble!

I think I've been a bit of an under achiever the past couple of years. Not because I have a law degree and don't practice law, but because I have not been efficient in my use of time. There are so many days when I just kind of wonder around my house, starting little projects and not finishing any of them. I have so many interests and ideas, but not much to show for them.

I love taking photographs like this one:

and this one:

But I'm pretty sure a business based on that passion is not going to produce the short term income that my family needs. Still, I'm thinking I need to get efficient in laying the ground work to do something new and different with photography - or at least give it a run for it's money, if you know what I mean!

These thoughts came to me as I have been looking at my various income producing options. I'm realizing that I need to be more efficient, regardless of what I do. I did have that blip of efficiency when I was studying for the bar, before I stopped. My days were full, and I did very little of the time wasting wondering around my house. I need to learn to be that way even when not facing a big deadline/challenge.

So, on the job search front: I am not going to drive a school bus - Andy hated that idea because it is not practical for me to be working while J is needing to get to and from school, and Andy can't always arrange his court and client schedule to accommodate J's transportation needs. Okay, that makes sense. And really, I should not have expected some easy answer to the challenge of finding a source of income.

God has sort of presented something that is way out of the box for me. I'm not going to say what it is until I decide if I'm going to do it. But let me just say even considering it has been a growth experience. It was totally unexpected! It is not without risk! It works as far as having flexibility of schedule. I'm unsure about a few things, mostly having to do with the fact that it is something I never imagined myself doing and it might involve a little re-defining myself in my own mind's eye.

As I've been pondering and praying for wisdom in deciding about this "opportunity" I prayed "God, if this is not the right thing, then please just drop something in my lap." Then, almost instantly, and with a sudden sense of complete humility, I realized in that still small voice sort of way, this is the thing He dropped in my lap. OH! MY! Might be time to get over myself.

At this point the thing holding me back from really pulling the trigger on this opportunity is needing to sit down with Andy and pray about it and discuss it. Andy has just been swamped at work and hasn't had the time for that. Hopefully this weekend we'll get an hour or two of peace and quiet to sit and talk and ponder and dream and ask all the "What if..." questions.

For those of you who know me well, indecision is not normal for me, and it is very uncomfortable. But I'm realizing that rush decisions are not always the best way either. As I said, this is producing some learning opportunities for me.

So, here is the last of the layouts I did last weekend.

Hoping to get to do more layouts this weekend - we'll see! That just might be part of my increased efficiency!

Have a great Friday and a wonderful beginning to the weekend!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

1 to 5

1. Layout I did over the weekend to share with you today:

2. Loaves of bread I made yesterday.

3. Long telephone conversations with friends yesterday - I'm generally not a telephone talker, so this was worthy of remarking on.

4. Ideas for part time jobs have come to my mind - school bus driver (they are hiring); clean houses (have a lead on one client); night stocker at new grocery store that is opening up (checking this out more today); and more photography (not very reliable income is the problem here).

5. seconds it took me to open my new Studio Calico kit that arrived yesterday.

Today is my day to be pampered by my friend, which is very exciting!

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brainstorming the Possibilities!

That is the task for Andy and I this week. We're putting our minds to creative brainstorming about how to manage our way through these trouble economic times. Everything is on the table! We figure if we leave every possibility on the table, research them, and then decide we'll have a better chance of getting a good plan. Our goal is to stabilize our income so we can not have to use credit to make it through the short months, keep our property/home and keep J in private school. That may be asking too much given the way things are going, but if you don't have good goals, you probably won't excel, right? I'm looking at this as a bit of a game or adventure. The key to making this work? Prayer. Plain and simple. Here is a little layout I put together late last week. Hey, it actually looks a bit better here on the blog than in person! Wow! I'm off to start my list of possibilities! Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another Try at a Good Week of Blogging

I'm just determined to have a good week of blogging - getting interesting posts up every day, having photos worth looking at, and even having a few scrapbooking projects to share. Blogging is about so much more than sitting at the computer and typing away.
So, to start off the week right, here is a project I did this weekend:

It's our Christmas photo from this past holiday season. I think it is one of my favorite family photos for us. I and I was excited to try a tearing technique I saw on Nic Howard's blog.

So many goals for this week running through my mind - besides being a better more interesting blogger. A friend is going to come and pamper me with Mary Kay this week, even though she knows I can't afford to buy the products - she heard last week was hard and called up to announce she was coming to pamper me. And the really amazing part is I'm actually looking forward to it and don't feel the slightest bit obligated to buy. It will just be two women enjoying each other's company and playing with skin care like little girls. Doesn't that sound fun? I think so.

I'm also in need of getting those walks in routinely again. I think last week I didn't get out for a walk once. Hopefully Monday will be a day for Andy and I to get out there and walk, even though there is 6-8 inches of new snow. I'll dress warm, take my camera and check out how all those new calves are surviving the change in weather.

I've also got a class to teach Monday, so it will be a busy but fun day.

Happy new week everyone!

Random Odds and Ends

Yesterday brought so many different thoughts to my mind. I'll just share a few of them.
I went to a baby shower for the Zoe Pregnancy Center (a form of a Crisis Pregnancy Center, with the goal of supporting women in keeping their pregnancy rather than aborting). It was a great event. I got to be around beautiful babies - and take their photos! That is a rarity for me. I cried as I heard stories of young women whose lives were already challenging before they became pregnant and it got even more difficult. But in each of those stories were also full of joy and blessing as they have learned so much and drawn closer to God through the trials they've gone through. And they are making it as mothers, with joy and faith in their hearts.

My beautiful little niece was at the shower, as her mom works for the agency.It was really the first time I got to see her around babies, and she is so cute! She really enjoys them so much.

So, on to a totally different random topic. I saw this yesterday as I was driving into town.

A bison in the cattle feed lot. Now, if you live in cattle territory you know that generally ranchers HATE Bison because they carry diseases that can harm the herd. Its just another point of contention between ranchers and nature lovers. But, here they are together, intentionally. Makes me wonder what the story is behind it.

And then there is my J. He started out the day just fine:

But fell asleep in the car on the way home from snow board lessons, got home with a fever, weakness and exhaustion. But this morning he's doing great - no fever, much more energy, and happy as can be. Glad whatever it was passed so quickly!

Other things that occupied my thoughts yesterday:

  • We had a good time with our company on Friday night, and inviting people over for dessert is a great way to entertain in a more relaxed manner than preparing a whole meal.
  • My back is hurting (upper) and it proves to me that I'm getting old. I spent most of the day trying to find a comfortable position, which generally did not mean sitting unless it was on the big Palates ball.
  • The seeds I planted early last week have begun to sprout (they are upstairs in little mini green houses catching the warmth of the sun when it appears), and that makes me excited about gardening until I look out and see the 4-8 inches of new snow we've gotten over the past 48 hours. By the way, it is still snowing today.
  • I've read and heard of ladies who are hanging their laundry out to dry, and I'm trying to figure a way to do that too - of course will have to wait until we have better weather.
  • More on the spring thing: Being that it is March, we will be listening for the sound of Sand Hill Cranes now. Kind of a tradition to have a contest to see which one of us hears them first. It is always a joyful sound, although right now with a totally white landscape it would seem so out of place.
  • I sure hope spring comes before it did last year - waiting until mid June for spring was just too long for me!

You are probably bored of my ramblings by now, so I'm off!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Envelope Class

For those of you in my class last week, here are the photos of the basic structure of the book. Remember, use your left over paper to make more embellishments, journal lots, put photos where you want, and fill your envelopes with lots of love. We made all the "technique based embellishments" in class, but don't let your imagination fall flat with the paper based embellishments - make them shine! You guys are all so talented and amazing at what you do! I look forward to a chance to see your books someday!
Sorry it took me so long to get these up - this week was just a hole I fell into, and today I'm officially out - house clean, events completed, new goals being set, and relaxation being allowed.