Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Recommended Book - One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella

Do you have a big, audacious goal for your life? No matter what it might be, you will find inspiration and encouragement by reading this book. Jena Lee Nardella shares her journey of founding Blood:Water together with the Grammy award winning band Jars of Clay. For those unfamiliar with Blood:Water, it is a nonprofit organization based in Nashville, TN working to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa. Jena was fresh out of college when she began joining Jars of Clay on their tour bus each week to create the vision of the organization and get started with making it into a reality.

This book offers a refreshingly honest perspective of the ups and downs of dedicating one's life to such an audacious goal. Jena shares just as openly about her biggest fears as she does her biggest dreams (and about Jars of Clay and their love of karaoke). I found her voice conversational and felt as though reading her book was similar to what it might be like to sit down to coffee with her. 

Jena is about the same age as me. In many ways, it was nostalgic to read about her perspective of the evangelical Christianity of the late 90s and early 2000s. I identified with her as she questioned whether or not we were missing the point by listening to Christian music and wearing Christian-themed t-shirts. Should there not be so much more to our Christian walk? Not only that, but I felt like I could relate to her tone and thoughts processed throughout her story. I found it fascinating when I read a few posts on her blog after finishing this book that she and I share the same Myers-Briggs personality type (INFJ). No wonder why I could tell I liked her as I read!

The mission of Blood:Water reminds me very much of the old saying about how if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day... but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Jena and Jars of Clay envisioned and created an organization that doesn't just throw money at a problem in society. Instead, they focus on relationship-building. They teach people in Africa valuable skills that contribute to their own personal health and overall well-being. They don't just build wells and medical clinics - they build community.

As a supporter of Blood:Water, I found it fascinating to read Jena's perspective on how the organization built its foundation and grew from there over the last ten years. I've been a fan of Jars of Clay since the mid-90s, and after reading this book I'm an even bigger fan. More than that, I've realized that I deeply respect Jena. I read this book over the course of five or six evenings before going to bed, and I finished it yearning for more. I want to be a part of continuing this story. I don't want this to become another book that goes on the shelf. Instead, I want it to serve as a constant reminder to dream big, work hard to fulfill those dreams, and most importantly, to love God and love others with all that I have to offer.

I received a copy of this book for free as an advanced reader. My review is my honest opinion. You should buy this book!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Life and Times of Tucker

I realized I haven't shared much about Tucker in quite some time. I suppose this is because it's not just me and him anymore, haha. However, he is still a very important part of our lives!

Adam and Tucker love each other. Connor and Tucker love each other. This makes me happy. :)

Tucker turned 9 years old back in April. I think he still has a lot of life in him as he is still super playful and active.

Granted, he also loves to sleep. One of his newfound favorite spots is to pick a step on the stairs. Specifically, he likes to curl up on one where the sun is shining in from a nearby window... but once he's warm and cozy and falls asleep, he doesn't seem the notice that the sun moves.

He also likes curling up beside me on the couch while I work.

Tucker is particularly interested in Connor's toys. If he's here and has things pulled out, Tucker is right in the middle of the action. I think he's aware that there is something out in his territory that he doesn't regularly see.

He also loves to sit on my nightstand under the lamp at night once we get into bed. I think maybe he likes the warmth from the lightbulb. Generally, he'll sit there anywhere from 5-30 minutes while I read (my nightly routine), but eventually he'll come over into the bed and curl up on one of us.

I'm really glad he loves Connor. There are definitely times when Connor is being a bit loud that he will take off and hang out somewhere else in the house, but it is so sweet when Tucker curls up with Connor (when he's being still).

Like any cat, he loves to curl up in unusual places. He's got quite a few including on the shelf in our closet, under the guest bed, and on top of the kitchen cabinets if he can get up there before we intervene. However, one of his favorites is to curl up on my computer if I walk away from it for a few minutes. I guess he likes the warmth?

He loves running all over the house, especially up and down the two sets of stairs. He loves all of the windows we have and the easy access to watch all sorts of wildlife in the yard and happenings in the street. He is cuddly and affectionate, just like he has been since he was a kitten.

He definitely still knows I'm his mama, and he's partial to me. But he also really loves Adam. Generally, if we're watching tv in the media room, Tucker wants to be on him. During the day he hangs out with me, and at night he rotates a bit but usually sleeps against me.

He's also started sleeping on Connor's bed a lot lately. I think it means he loves him and misses him when he's not home, just like Adam and I do.

I'm hopeful he has at least another 5-6 years with us. He's really just the best cat ever, and I'm thankful we have him in our life.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Second grader!

I almost can't believe it, but our son is a second grader! He's had a full week of school under his belt, and he is already such a little man.

Right before school started, we gave him a new bike. He has not really had a lot of experience on a bike, and this is his first without training wheels. We are definitely working on confidence and balance, but I have a feeling he'll be flying around the cul-de-sac with his neighbor friends in no time!

I just can't get over how big he is getting! He is already over four feet tall. It won't be long until he is taller than me! I am constantly blown away at house smart, funny, and kind this kid is... Granted, he is JUST like his daddy. Sometimes when I look at Connor I realize that I can sort of see the future. Not only does he look just like Adam, he also has his personality and mannerisms. It's sort of crazy sometimes.

Adam and I are so proud of him and all the ways we see him growing into such an amazing young man. I am so thankful to be his stepmom, and it's fun to think about all that life has in store for him and for us!

Friday, August 14, 2015

One Year in Our Home!

Technically, we closed on our home last year in June. However, we didn't move in until August. So we're sort of at the one year mark now. In some ways, I feel like we've lived in this house forever because it feels so much like home. In other ways, I feel like there's no way we've been here a year!

We want to take photos out front every year, and this was our attempt this year. I determined that I need some better chalk because what we used didn't work very well on our sign. We might try this photo again soon if I can make a better sign.

We have worked hard over the last year to make our house our home. We've painted. We've worked in the yard. We've decorated. We've slowly but surely found all the right touches. We've changed out a few of the big light fixtures. We've changed out the ceiling fans. We've gotten some new appliances. We've added a backsplash in the kitchen. We've ripped out hideous tile around our fireplaces and added some nice stone.

There's also still so much we'd like to do. Our spare bedroom as remained more of a storage unit the entire year. I'm determined that by the end of the year we will sort through it and find a place for everything in there or get rid of it. A lot of what's in there is the stuff we want to hang on the walls... for some reason, this is the hardest project of all for me. So maybe by Christmas we will have things hanging where we want them, and we will have set up that room to be something useful and not just a giant closet. We also have a ton of Dave Matthews Band concert posters (no surprise there) that we want to frame, so we're thinking of telling our family we want gift cards for Christmas to places where we can get them framed.

We also dream about the other things we want to do but that will take some time and some budgeting to accomplish. We want to remove the mulch in the yard and put in rock beds. We want to paint the kitchen cabinets, get new countertops, and add new light fixtures in the kitchen. We also want to replace the black appliances with stainless steel. We did that already on the fridge and dishwasher, but we still want to do the oven, stovetop and microwave. We want to update a few more light fixtures throughout the house. We want to redo the deck. We'd love to refinish the hardwoods. I know it may take years for some of these things, but half of the fun is just daydreaming about what we will do when we can do it.

Regardless of all the material items, this house is our home because of the love held within it. Like right now... we're sitting on the couch in our media room. We've been sipping on some wine and listening to some Jars of Clay while we both piddle a bit on our computers side-by-side.

So much in our lives has changed over the last year. We're so much happier now that we're not in Indiana. I really can't even explain what a miserable place we found it to be... at least where we were living. We both started grad school in the last couple of months. That's certainly been a game changer in terms of our schedules, to say the very least. We are also thrilled we are able to see Connor so much more than we could when we lived in Indiana. We don't regret going there temporarily for a single second as it was a great job opportunity for Adam that allowed us to set a foundation for our future together, but we're thankful to be so close to family and friends again.

It's been a good year, and I can't wait to spend many more years in our home!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Our Second Wedding Anniversary

I can't believe it's already been two years since this amazing day...

Adam and I are big on experiences instead of gifts. You might recall we headed to Denver for a long weekend last year to celebrate our first anniversary. This year we have a Labor Day weekend trip to The Gorge to see DMB again, so we thought something more low key would be in order.

We decided to make a reservation at one of the nicest steakhouses in town (and apparently one of the top 10 in the country) - Kayne Prime. Connor was with us for the weekend, so we dropped him off at Gram's for the night and got a few photos were here awesome weeping willow. Seriously, I love this kind of tree.

We had the most amazing evening. We were asked if we were celebrating anything, and we were treated to some champagne. We had a cheese board. We had bacon topped with cotton candy - who knew that was a thing? It was delicious. We had steaks and potatoes and corn. We had an awesome bottle of a Malbec from Argentina. I considered dessert, but I just couldn't do it.

Kayne Prime is highly recommended. We loved every bite, and the service and ambiance were top notch. It's definitely pricey, but for a special occasion it was perfect!

After dinner, we wandered around the Gulch for a bit and stopped for a cocktail at another bar. We headed home and curled up on the couch with a movie. It was truly a perfect evening.

Sunday was our actual anniversary. We picked Connor up, and he and I hung out with friends at the pool while Adam did some homework. That evening, we all three looked through wedding pictures and watched our wedding video. We got up and danced in the living room when we got to the "first dance" part. Connor loved watching us, and he was excited to dance with me when we watched the first dance I had with him. 

It was a perfect anniversary. I can't imagine anywhere else better to be other than at my home with my two Riddick boys. I'm so thankful we became a family on August 9, 2013.