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Thankful Thursday #117: professional maternity photos

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Update: It’s the shrunken brain, I tell you. I thought I scheduled this for Thursday and woke up to discover two blogs posted today.  Since there are already comments, I’m leaving it up. Be sure to check out the Smoky Red Lentil Chili as well. :)

You remember, Stephanie, right? The one that helped us with the nursery and bought  me this maternity outfit, as well as newborn baby clothes? Oh yeah, and she also won a gift set from Swanson Vitamins (love their products!) for me by entering a contest they had on their Facebook page.  Well guess what else she did?  She bought us a photo session with Jaclyn Marie Photography! I know, my head kind of exploded too.  Even experiencing this overload of generosity, it’s still hard to believe there are actually people like Stephanie living in the real world.

I was so thankful for this because it’s something I really wanted to do, but we are saving for the future and our one splurge ended up being the 3D sonogram.  Jaclyn did a beautiful job and I couldn’t be happier with the photos.  I’ll shut up now and just let you enjoy a few of my favorites.  OK, so I could only omit like five of the photos – I love them all so much!

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Thankful Thursdays #71: tragedy makes us human

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A tornado moves on the ground north of Solomon, KS on Saturday evening, April 14, 2012. {Photo source}

Several E3 tornadoes passed through southeast Wichita last Saturday, damaging all three of our aircraft plants and causing significant damage to a mobile home park and the Oaklawn neighborhood.  I live on the west side of town, and I can tell you I’d have much rather been at home with my husband and scared doggy than at work, which happened to be quite close to the path that the tornadoes took through Wichita.

This map shows my location (A), along with three areas nearby that were hit: (B) Spirit Aerosystems (C) Pinaire Mobile Home Park, and (D) McConnell Air Force Base.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Although not officially the USPS motto, it may as well be, and it was going through my head as I continued to key mail even when our lights went out (the computers never went down, I believe they are on a backup power supply) and I feared our revolving doors might be ripped from their hinges.  Tornado sirens blared, our lights flickered, went out, came back on, went out, our revolving doors were banging back and forth against the force of 135-165 mph winds,  rain & debris pounded our roof,  and lightening and thunder cracked and rumbled outside.  Our windowless cement single-story building was designed to endure the toughest Kansas weather so that mail delivery will never be delayed due to our plant losing power or being damaged, so although many of us may have preferred to crawl underneath our desks and suck our thumbs, there really was no safer place to go and we carried on.

Aerial view of some of the tornado damage in the Oaklawn neighborhood in Wichita. {Photo source}

It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to a devoted mail carrier that endures frostbite and heat stroke in order to get the mail delivered (thank you, Dad!).  Keying the mail through a tornado definitely made me feel a little more like one of those hard core mail carriers like my Dad, but although it was a proud moment in retrospect, I have to admit I was terrified out of my mind and a tear or two might have escaped my hard core eyes.

Damage to homes in the Oaklawn neighborhood of Wichita. {Photo source}

I probably didn’t do my best work that night, but hopefully I didn’t direct any of your mail to China…I hope you’ll forgive me if I did.  I was praying without ceasing while I typed and listened to updates on where the tornadoes were headed and the devastation they had left in their wake.

Tornado damage to Pinaire Mobile Home Park in Wichita. {Photo source}

As soon as I left work, eyeing the insulation scattered in our parking lot and wondering what unlucky building it had come from, I texted everyone who I thought might have been affected to make sure they were OK.  I’m so thankful God answered my prayers—every single person reported back that they were fine!  There was some damage to homes reported, but everyone was alive and well and thank God for that!

I’m also thankful that the tornado missed my workplace.  All three nearby aircraft plants were hit and damaged by the tornadoes, the worst being Spirit Aerosystems, which is just 1 ½ miles away.  A little too close for comfort!  I wouldn’t doubt the insulation in our parking lot came from one of their buildings.  These photos shows the damage to one of their plants:

{Photo source}

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Yowza, this could have been us.  You guys can give thanks too that we were unaffected, as your mail delivery will not be affected by the tornadoes!  (We key mail all over the US and even to foreign countries-we’re pretty important! :) )

Oaklawn residents join together in the middle of the night to clean up fallen trees after the tornadoes.

{Photo source}

One thing that always touches me when tragedy strikes, is how people and communities pull together to help those affected by the devastation.  Last week I commented on how animals can make us human by learning from the kindness and love they have for each other, and I think tragedy is another thing that makes us human.  It can bring out the best and worst in a person, but ultimately, I think it brings out the best in us because we can’t stew in our own sadness when there are so many that need help.  We come together and help each other out!  And those unaffected come forward to help those in need.  It heals us, and it is such a wonderful thing to behold.

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I know it is a cliché expression, but God does work in mysterious ways.  Who knows whether he sent these tornadoes for a specific reason, or if they were just a result of the natural occurrences that happen in his creation.  I do know that all these natural disasters are a sign of the end times (Matthew 24:7), and while they are tragic, there is something beautiful about the human kindness that is sparked by them.  Sometimes I wonder…if we never had tragedy and disaster in our lives…would we be better people or worse?  (I’m speaking in the terms of this world, not the one to come, in which we will be perfect and happy!)  I’d hate to think we need tragedy and suffering in this world to give us a reason for kindness and empathy, but I wonder if it wouldn’t lessen.  Something to think about.

Why I’m thankful post-Midwest tornadoes April 16, 2012:

  • That we had 24 hours notice and plenty of time to prepare for the serious storms brewing.
  • For the sirens that warn us to take shelter.   And for the people operating them.
  • For the technology that allowed that very advance notice.  And for the people using it and delivering the notice.
  • None of my family or friends were killed, and in fact, there were NO DEATHS in all of Kansas.

And when it comes down to it, that’s all that matters.  Material things are necessary to our lives on Earth, but they can be replaced.  Thank God for sparing so many lives that night.  He is truly holy and awesome.

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If you’d like to help those who have been affected by the Midwest tornadoes, please visit the Huffington Post’s page with links to the different relief efforts helping the different areas.  Thank you!

Danielle’s Flying Pig

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Meet Danielle:

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This brilliant blonde is my middle sister (I’m the oldest of three girls, no brothers),  and she owns a gift boutique here in Wichita called The Flying Pig.  The first question people always ask when I tell them the name of her shop is why she chose it.  She has such a good answer, I’m going to let her tell you in her own words.

2600 E. Douglas  Wichita, KS  67214 / Open 10 AM – 6 PM every day

The Flying Pig was a natural choice for my shop for several reasons. First and foremost, “when Pigs Fly” conveys the idea of always reaching and working towards a goal, however unattainable it may seem, in pursuit of your dreams. I believe that we can all relate to the experience of working hard (pouring our blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly our heart), to get our own “Pig to Fly” in some manner. So the name is personal to me, and it encompasses the feeling of taking on all of the risks, challenges, responsibilities, joys, and rewards that come with having my own business.

Another reason for the name is that it is just a whimsical, fun, classic image. People notice the big Flying Pig sign and are intrigued to find out what’s inside. It’s not easy to forget a name like The Flying Pig!

In 2005, while in still college & working to get her degree in Industrial Engineering, Danielle started making homemade soaps & lip balms at home.  She got such positive feedback from friends and family on the quality of her products, and she enjoyed doing it so much, that she started a website to sell them and orders started coming in.

She graduated in 2007, and started working full-time as an industrial engineer for an airplane manufacturer.  In her free time, she was making bath & body products in an apartment she rented exclusively for producing & storing them, because she didn’t have enough space for the supplies in her own.  She sold her products on consignment in local shops, but had a bigger dream and she didn’t stop in her journey until she had reached it and opened up her own business at the age of twenty-six in 2008, in the heart of the recession.

Despite the floundering economy, in just three years her business has grown to the point where she can support herself with it.  Up until a few weeks ago, she was still working for Hawker Beechcraft, but now she is able to devote herself entirely to her true love.  The Flying Pig!

Danielle’s soaps are all-natural, made from plant-derived oils and high quality ingredients.  Many are vegan as well.  Every customer seems to have their own favorite product, and mine are her sugar scrubs and lotions.  They smell so good and make my skin super smooth, moisturized, and baby soft.  My husband uses her bar soaps exclusively, and his aunt Dorothy raves about them, claiming they’re so moisturizing she doesn’t have to use lotion after her shower.  She’s even got her husband hooked.

In addition to the bath & body products, candles, and room sprays that she makes, Danielle sells a wide-array of gift items, many of them handcrafted by local artists who sell on consignment in her shop.  Many of the artists have an arrangement with Danielle to work at the shop for free in exchange for her not charging a consignment fee for them to sell their goods there.  This allows her to keep the shop open every day of the week without being tied to the register herself.  She needs to be able to escape to the back room so she can make the soap, after all!

The place is packed with jewelry, clothing, prints, photographs, antiques, pottery, children’s items, even Amish baked goods, and smoothies are made to order.  There is a professional massage therapist with her own room in the back, and gift certificates are available.  If you’re looking for a unique gift for a special lady, you’re likely to it Dani’s shop.

Danielle also offers soap classes every Thursday.  I sat in on one a few weeks ago and it was so much fun, and not anything like the stiff atmosphere I usually associate with a “class.”  Danielle’s teaching style is very relaxed and you feel very at ease with her–all the ladies in attendance never hesitated to ask questions and Danielle had so much information to share.

One of the ladies in attendance had flown in from Detroit just for this class, which she found in an online search.  I thought that was pretty neat!  Everyone carried out Danielle’s instructions, standing around the messy round table in the back room, putting things into a big bowl, and we all laughed about how much it reminded us of witches making a brew.  They all got their own separate bowls of the master batch that they added their preferred scents and colors to before pouring into molds.

For those of you who live outside the Wichita area, you can buy many of Danielle’s products on her website, though she doesn’t have time to keep the site updated with all the new things.  Be sure to call or email her if you have a special request because she can makes soaps, etc., to order!

Giveaway!

*Update: this giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Rick! What are the odds the only man who entered would win? lol!

Danielle has offered a set of her homemade products for one lucky reader.  This bag is filled with 6 bath and body products in “Kumquat Citrus” scent: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, body powder, and massage oil.  If you would like the set, leave a comment below about your own what kind of pig you would like to make fly (i.e. your dream), or share what kind of business you would have if you decided to open one.

Giveaway is open until Thursday, 10:00 PM CST.  I will draw from the eligible comments using random.org and announce the winner on Friday.  Good luck!

Thankful Thursdays #34: I’m a real person

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I made a thanksgiving resolution to find something to be thankful for every day until next Thanksgiving.  Here’s what I am thankful for this week!

Thursday: That I somehow managed to lose .4 pounds last week, despite only counting points two days out of seven.  Honestly, I don’t even know why I’m paying for Weight Watchers any more.  Actually, I do.  I think paying for it is the only thing that’s keeping me from gaining.  I’m not following the WW plan at all, so it must be those dollars spent that is keeping me from gaining.  I think I may have just jinxed myself, though!

Friday: Once again, our friends, Ben and Ashley, invited us over to dinner, but this time I remembered my camera.  I know my Thursday posts are always on the long side, but forgive me because I’m about to share a bunch of photos of our wonderful dinner with you.  Ben is a foodie, and fabulous chef.  Try not to be too jealous, OK?

Our appetizer: fried zucchini (garden fresh) with Ben's special sauce

The master at work.

Buttered mushrooms & caramelized onions to top the steaks, and a side of potatoes seasoned with smoked paptrika and bacon.

He also made a side of lemony buttered artichokes.

Den's T-bone steak with rosemary butter. As you can tell from the lack of anything else on his plate, this was all he cared about. He was in steak heaven!

My plate! It was soooo fantastic, and I don't really even like steak usually.

Individual apple pie tarts for dessert!

Served warm with ice cream. Pie nirvana.

You might recognize their daughter, Leah, from my Bible class.  BTW, she has renamed me “Caddy.”  Or maybe she’s calling me “Catty.”  (Hope not! lol)  Not sure how she got either from “Veronica,” but it’s kinda cute and I like it. :)

Playing in the sandbox while Daddy makes dinner.

Saturday: Good local restaurants and my zany family.  We had breakfast at Lexi’s, a new diner-type place just a few blocks from our home, and they had the best, biggest, fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten.

In the evening, I went to my cousin, Racine’s, Tupperware party and she greeted me at the door in this getup, calling herself “Mrs. Discofire,” pronouncing it “disco fi-ah” in a perfect NY accent.  She stayed in character almost the whole night, and as you can guess, it was a fun one with lots of laughs.

Sunday: My Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. ALWAYS.

Monday: That we found someone who could fix my water pump for $75, just 1/4 of the price quoted to us at the shop, and that we had exactly that much money in our bank account!  Actually, we were short $5 but my Dad ended up paying us $10 (he does this once a month b/c that’s how much we pay to keep him on our phone plan) so it all worked out.  Booyah!

Tuesday:  That I no longer have to carpool with my husband!!  My water pump started leaking so bad that I couldn’t even make it two miles without having to pull over to refill the radiator with water, so I had to stop driving it last Wednesday.  Because our schedules are different, carpooling meant I had to drive him to work (across town), then drive home, then drive myself across town to work, then pick him up when I got off, and his huge extended-bed F150 is not so economical when it comes to gas consumption.  So glad we both have our own cars again.

Wednesday: I got the job!  As of August 1st, I will be a career employee for the US Postal Service.  Woot-diddly-doot!  I’m a real person now! LOL, that’s what my preacher said when I told him that I got offered a permanent position after all this time.  I’ve been a temp for seven years, so it does kinda feel like I’m real now. LOL!  Honestly, this still hasn’t settled in yet.  It just doesn’t seem real.  I’ve been a temp so long I don’t know if I can handle being a “real person” with job security and benefits.  Ha!

Thankful Thursdays #33: a good score

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I made a thanksgiving resolution to find something to be thankful for every day until next Thanksgiving.  Here’s what I am thankful for this week!

Thursday: That the water pump on my car wore out in the summer rather than the winter.  In the summer I can fill the radiator with water for free until we can afford to fix it, rather than buying two jugs of antifreeze a day!

Friday: Packages in the mail!  I won a cupcake pop mold from Five Great Kiddos and got it in the mail, along with two bags of candy melts, chocolate jimmies, and lollipop sticks.  I also got some extras I wasn’t expecting, like cloth flower pins from The Pleated Poppy,and a matching set of paper goodies including a journal, greeting cards, recipe cards, magnetic listpad and grommet tags.  Thank you, Susan, you are too generous!  I can’t wait to try the mold out and make some cupcake pops with it.  You all know I’m crazy about cake pops!

Saturday: That the move from our old church location to the new went smooth and fast. We were all done by 2 PM!

Sunday: The tremendous blessing of our new church building, which we worshiped in for the first time.  We have more room than we need, definitely plenty of room to grow into, it is in great shape, and we got it for almost 1/4 of the cost of its value.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

Monday: That my sister got an order for 5,000 lip balms shipped by the deadline.  (Danielle owns a gift boutique where she sells her own bath/beauty products which you can also order online.)  She enlisted my help among many others and when I saw how much had to be done in such a short amount of time, I was a little worried about it, but we got ‘r done!

Tuesday: That I was able to use up the rest of an open package of ground venison before it went bad.  That would have killed me-I hate wasting food, especially good food!

Wednesday:  Remember that test I took a while back?  Well, I got a good score that was high enough for them to consider me for a career (permanent) position and I had my interview this morning.  I won’t know for sure for two weeks, but the interview went well and I expect to be permanent by August 1. :)

Flashback Friday: when skinny dipping goes wrong

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My sisters and I the year this story takes place, 1996.  Left to right: Danielle (14), Franciska (we call her Lacey) (10), and me (16).

During my high school years, it became a family tradition to go camping at El Dorado Lake every summer.  And from that tradition sprung another one amongst my sisters and myself: skinny dipping in the lake after dark.  (Note to parents: if your young daughters ever ask to go swimming after dark, be on the alert!  Our own parents were never aware of our shenanigans.)

No, we weren’t so bold as to strip nude at the beach at noon with everyone gawking, and we weren’t even so bold as to fling off our swimsuits on the beach even after it got dark.  Rather, once it was pitch black, save for the moonlight and starlight, and the swimming area was completely deserted,  we would enter the water with suits on, then pull them off once we were safely submerged in the murky depths.  We managed to convince ourselves we were brave, bold, and ridiculously rebellious to dare to be naked in a public place, despite the fact that we never gave anyone even a glimpse of our nude bodies.

The last time we went “skinny dipping,” I offered to hold onto everyone’s suits so that they could swim more freely, and my sisters foolishly handed theirs over once we were in the water.  We swam around a bit, and as you can imagine, it’s not easy holding onto three bathing suits while swimming or paddling water.  Suddenly Danielle jerked, and her eyes got really wide.

“Something just slithered past my ankle!” she cried in alarm.

We all freaked out and swam like crazy to get away from the slimy underwater creature that was surely coming at us with teeth bared, ready to bite us in all manner of unprotected places.  Then Danielle’s eyes got even wider as she came to a different conclusion.

“Do you still have all the swimsuits?” she asked.

My eyes mirroring hers, I raised them up out of the water, and we all quickly did a visual count.

Oh.

No.

One pair of bikini bottoms was definitely missing.  Danielle’s bikini bottoms.  The underwater creature had just been identified, which caused a new kind of horror amongst us.

We walked all around the area where they had last slithered, feeling around the bottom, to no avail.  We finally had to face the facts.  Danielle was going to have to walk back to camp.  With no bikini bottoms.  Without even a towel to shield her poor, glistening, white butt.

When we could put it off no longer, Lacey and I got dressed and Danielle pulled her bikini top back on, looking rather pathetic.  We situated her between us to hide her the best we could while we walked what seemed like five miles back to camp.  We were as quiet as we could be and had a few close calls, but if anyone saw us in the moonlight, they were polite enough not to give a cat call or outright laugh.  We managed to even evade our parents, and keep the secret of what happened between us so they wouldn’t know what we had been up to.

The following day, Lacey and I were swimming (poor Danielle was back at camp, now unable to swim…thus proving I’m a horrible sister because I should have been the one not swimming while she wore my suit), and a woman suddenly thrust a pair of blue bikini bottoms in the air and shouted at her friends to, “look what I found!”

I screamed loud enough to raise the dead and started running as fast as anyone can run under water, screaming the whole way.  “Oh, thank you!  I’ve been looking for those everywhere!  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!”

I snatched the blue bottoms out of her hands and left her bewildered in my wake, as I ran out of the water and beat a victorious trail back to camp as fast as my legs could carry me.  I wish I would have looked back to see the reaction I left behind while the entire beach tried to figure out why those bottoms had been in the water in the first place. Their conclusions were probably not as innocent as we were, I’m sure!

And now you know why that was the last time we went “skinny dipping.”  Young people, you see, can learn from their mistakes, if the consequences are drastic or embarrassing enough. :)

The only swimming photo I have of us is when Danielle and I swam ghetto-style in the street when it flooded in 1988:

The closest photo I have is the right time of year (although two years prior to the missing bottoms incident), the right location (El Dorado Lake’s swimming area) but the wrong girls! This is me (far right) with two friends whose names I’ll keep private to protect their reputations. :)

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Wordless Wednesday: Memorial Day 2011

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