March 22, 2012

Exciting news!

I've moved!  Come visit me at

I promise to have all the things you love about this one, plus more features like snapshots, quotes, and thoughts about anything and everything. 

Drop in and drop me a line!

February 3, 2012

Where I've Been...

As some of you who are friends with me on Facebook know, I lost my mind a few months ago and decided that working full-time and being a mom were not nearly enough to keep me busy.  After all - the hours between 2:15 a.m. and 5:30 were not booked!

Whatever was a girl to do?!  Well, if you were this girl, and you were smack dab in the middle of a class you were taking at the university called "Personal Finance," you got really scared about the fact that you and your husband were going to be forced to become the old people who live off of canned cat food in your retirement - but only if you've been diligent about clipping coupons.  Otherwise, be quiet and chew your kibble! 

This class was excellent, and I think it's one that should be required of all high school seniors.  I remember when I was in high school (wayyyyy back in the day), our "financial training" consisted of being required to write out fake checks (no problem...  I can totally write out fake checks, even to this day!) and balance a fake check register in Mr. Olaveson's (he who was too busy chatting with the jocks to help anyone with a question) math class with nary a budgeting lesson in sight.  I was now prepared to survive on my own!

And survive I have, sometimes by the skin of my teeth.  However, I thought it would be good to take this class and maybe learn a few things I hadn't yet picked up in the 20+ years since high school.  Plus it fulfilled the Depth Social Science requirement that I needed towards my degree (also 20+ years in the making), and seemed more relevant to my needs in life than "Western European Politicians and the People Who Love Them" or something similar, so sign-up I did...

So what was my main take-away lesson?  We will never be ready for retirement, and our best hope is that Jesus returns to sweep us up to heaven before then or we will indeed be those sad Friskies-eating octagenarians.

One of our in-class exercises was to figure out what we need to keep our current standard of living, what we expect to get from Social Security (hahaha... excuse me while I try to stop my tears of laughter), what our savings and liquid assets amount too (sorry - here comes another hysterical fit of laughter), and how many years left until we can retire to calculate - TA DA! - the amount we should be putting into our retirement accounts each MONTH.

Are you ready for this? (Because I certainly wasn't).

To live at the same standard we currently do (have you seen my house? the Taj Majal it's not!) - we need to be actively saving $1800 per month.  That's right: One Thousand, Eight Hundred George Washington's EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH.  That's $21,600 every. single. year. That's more than half of my salary!

Anyhoo, plagued by nightmares of our future, I decided it was time to quit "pussy-footing around" as my grandma would have said, and get serious about finishing up my degree, so I plan on taking at least 2 classes every semester and should finish up in just over 4 years (Whoo-hoo - I'm almost a junior! Just three-tenths of one credit away...).  

Which leads me to the whole point of this long, winding story:

Last night I came home from work to find Savannah on my laptop.

"I need you to get off of there so I can do my homework," I said.

"Give me a minute," she said, rolling her eyes.

So I went in the bathroom to change into my comfy pajamas.  Unfortunately, while I was in there one of my sadly-neglected novels that I'd been reading before classes started whispered to me from it's perch: "Psstt... over here.  Just a few pages won't hurt ya. You'll like it..."  But you know how it is... One page turns into another, and then it's just a slippery slope to an all-nighter on the bathroom floor, butt numb as it sits on the bath-mat, your eyes weepy because you just cannot believe that's how the author ended the book after all you've given up for it.

Resigned to my fate, I had just turned another page when Savannah knocked on the door and then entered. 

"Why aren't you doing your homework?" she asked, eyeing me sitting indian-legged on the floor, book in hand.

"But I'm soooo tired, and I just wanted to relax for a minute," I whined replied in turn.

"Don't make me count to five!" she snapped and then started the count-down as I scurried to my computer, her no-nonsense eyes boring a hole in my back.

She's going to make a fine mother some day! But will she help carry our bags of kitty-food when we're older?

January 7, 2012

Top 10 (but who's counting?!) of 2011

Lately I've been pathetic about practicing my photography, as well as blogging.  Actually, I've been pathetic about a lot of things , and I don't know why.  Hopefully the start of a new year (along with taking not one - but two! - classes at school) will help get me going again. Or leave me blubbering and talking to myself in a corner. Either way... :o)

Anyhoo, over at You Capture this week the photo assignment is to show your top 10 images from the last year. Now that I can do... I've tried to not repeat others I used earlier in the year, but some of them I couldn't resist sharing again. I know it's a few more than 10, but I did narrow it down from 40 or so (you're welcome!).

So, in no particular order, here are mine:
Here, nature's own version of sepia tone.

Savannah and some friends at her 12th birthday party had me taking tons of pictures. Looking back at them all now, this seems especially poignant as they're all walking away from childhood and entering those "tween" years.  I can't believe how much these girls have all grown and matured these past few months. The time flies by much too quickly for my tastes...

 Our adorable little Fiona... I can't believe how much I still miss her! 

Couldn't resist this shot of our flowering crabapple tree, right after it snowed. In May. Welcome to Utah, people.

Braden - My crack-up of a son.  You can just see the personality sparkling in his eyes!

 I couldn't resist reshowing this picture of my Dad and his owner, Tiny.  :o)

 Evan... How'd I get such handsome, fun boys?!!!

Savannah and the new trampoline.  If I would let her live on that thing, I believe she'd do it. 

Summer in Paradise... It truly doesn't get much better than this.

Savannah's little friend at the zoo... Even though these little prairie dug bubbles were horribly hot, I had to drag her away. 

 Another repeat, but I still can't get over the emotion I feel from this photo. 


My first encounter with a hummingbird (or sphinx) moth. I had never seen one before, but they are so cool! They're huge and, like a hummingbird, their wings beat breathtakingly fast. I never thought I'd say it, but I think I now have a favorite insect!

Finally, a picture of my goofy daughter. I love this picture just because I can feel her personality shining through so much. 


I have a tendency to take more landscape photos, I think because they're so much easier.  Mountains and trees don't make faces or groan when you take their photos like my family does.  However, going through the photos from the last year, my definite favorites are those photos of people that are not staged but show the emotion.  My goal for the next year is to expand on catching those day-to-day moments. And hopefully I'll have a few more posted before this time next year. Wish me luck!

December 18, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

Every year at this time, my thoughts turn inevitably to my Grandma Collins.  This week marked the 7th anniversary of her death, although, truthfully, I lost her several years before that, erased entirely from her memory – but hopefully not her heart – by Alzheimer’s.  

Christmas was probably my Grandma’s favorite holiday.  She loved its music, its excitement, and the joy of giving – she relished finding the perfect gifts for everyone she loved.  She also loved getting Christmas cards and letters in the mail.  Each night after my grandpa would get home from tuning pianos, I would sit down and read them all the cards, letters, and personal notes from their myriad of friends across the U.S.  Each letter would bring a minute or two of reminiscing about that particular family.   

In addition, she and Grandpa both loved to give of themselves as well.  Grandpa was the president of the Idaho Council of the Blind, and so every Christmas season was filled with Christmas parties and caroling, and making sure that those who didn’t have much were taken care of.  I remember one year we sang for inmates in the jail, and another where we sang carols for mentally under-developed adults who lived in a group home.  After the singing, we handed out toys our group had bought.  Never have I seen more excitement and appreciation as I did that day from those adult “kids”! The fact that my grandparents couldn’t see those excited faces didn’t matter.  They could feel it…

Being blind, my grandparents didn’t have the luxury we take for granted of going shopping whenever they wanted, so Grandma would pick a day, and off we’d go to conquer the stores!  

Probably my least favorite activity at that time was that annual Christmas shopping spree. 

Someone, usually grandpa and his driver, would drop us off around 9:00 a.m. when the mall opened, and they’d pick us up again after dark, where we waited out on the curb, surrounded by "gobs and heaps" of packages, breath steaming in the cold air. 

Feet throbbing in tempo to the piped-in Christmas tunes over the mall sound system, both of us carrying bag after bulky bag, grandma and I would trudge along, me in front and she at my elbow, through the vast halls of the Yellowstone Mall in Idaho Falls.  Well, I should say I trudged – she was always still sickeningly chipper and practically floated along in her white tennis shoes. We’d been at it for at least 8 hours, but to me it felt more like days at that point… 

We would hit Every.Single.Store in that mall, walking up and down Every.Single.Aisle as I described all the things we were passing.  Toy stores were her favorite, and we always had to listen to the Tuneyville Choo-Choo train – a battery operated toy that played records as it chugged along – until the year my grandpa bought her very own as a surprise present. I don’t think it ever failed to produce her laughter. 

After we’d combed every inch of that mall and exhausted all its treasures, we’d dash across the busy North Yellowstone Highway, playing a real-life version of Frogger, to hit the other mall - whose name I’ve long ago forgotten - where we’d repeat the entire process. 

Finally arriving back at their home – Mad Manor my grandparents affectionately called it – she and I would lock ourselves in her bedroom and wrap and label presents for what seemed like an eternity, occasionally opening the door so my cousin Kenny and brother Forrest could haul out the latest batch to pile under the tree.  


Today is December 18th, exactly one week until Christmas.  Even though I’ve spent countless hours wandering aimlessly through stores, alone, as of now I still have not finished my Christmas shopping, written the family letter, addressed Christmas cards, done any baking or candy making, or even begun to think of what to do for neighbor gifts.  At the rate I’m going, I may have everything finished around March, IF I really push it! 

Both malls are gone now, as is she, but I’d give anything to have Grandma back beside me, hand on my elbow, scouring stores.  I wish I’d known then and appreciated more what was really the perfect gift…

Merry Christmas, Grandma!  <3

November 29, 2011

Introducing: Lucy

Meet Miss Lucy... the newest member of the family.

After losing our sweet little Fiona, the house just seemed too forlorn so we made the decision to adopt another dog.  Tom has always had a soft spot for Cocker Spaniels, so we found this little girl.  She's almost 5 months old, and really needed a good home with people who would do more than just leave her in her crate all day.  Don't even get me started...

Needless to say, she's already made herself part of the family.

She loves the cats, especially Morris, another new addition who adopted Tom at work.  Unfortunately, kitties and automotive shops don't mix well (floor-dry is not good kitty litter!), so he brought him home.  He's also the sweetest little thing.  Plus, we like to color-code our animals! How could we turn him away?

Lucy is a busy little soul who is happiest when she is shredding paper.  Newspapers, Reader's Digest magazines, and paper towels are high on her list of favorites, although she will stoop to toilet paper rolls and Savannah's homework in a pinch.  

We're working hard on breaking that lovely habit.  In the meantime, I vacuum my floor more regularly than I've done in a while, so it's not all bad. 

Luckily, she loves to play with her toys and is easily distracted from the paper mess.  She has tons, and empties her toy box about 27 times a day.  Now if only she'd learn to pick up after herself!

She already thinks of herself as the guard dog of the family.  Every. Single. Night. when Braden comes home from work she barks at him, asking us: "Who is this stranger who keeps breaking in?!"

It's okay Lucy, we think he's pretty strange too!

We've got our eyes on you, Braden! ;o)

November 12, 2011

For Fiona...

My little dog - a heartbeat at my feet. 
~Edith Wharton

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Create your own digital collage

Oh, my sweet, fuzzy, feisty Fiona. It’s been 3 days since you left us, and still I can’t quit crying… We all loved you passionately, and I know there’ll never be another quite like you.

We brought you home just over a year ago after you were bought completely on a whim. I was browsing the pet ads on KSL, surely a whisper from God, and ran across your picture which I showed to Daddy.

“Call them now!” he said, so I did. That was the best call I ever made.

Braden and I jumped in the car and drove over an hour to meet you. Completely smitten, we brought you home. The people we bought you from were your second owners, and we became your fourth. Apparently they had sold you to someone else who returned you after a few days, saying “this dog won’t ever socialize.” They warned us about this, afraid we would do the same.

You’re the same mix as our beloved Annie – part Cavalier Spaniel and part Shih-tzu, but you looked and acted completely different. Feisty from the get-go, you were never a cuddler. Life held too many adventures for you to stay in one spot for too long! Totally a people lover, you’d make sure to spend your time with one of us at all times, pausing occasionally to perch against a leg, gazing at us with those big chocolate eyes, your saucy grin, getting a quick love, and then romping off to the next great adventure.

I miss the way you pretended you couldn’t get up on the couch or the bed. You’d act all pitiful and helpless until one of us would finally give you a hand, only to jump down again two seconds later to go check out something else. 

If doggies have ADD, I’m sure you had it! 

Imagine my surprise when I saw you jump up on our bed the first time when you thought no one was around. After we got the new mattress pad, it really was too high, so from then on I had to always lift you up. You’d sleep with Savannah every night until about 5:30 a.m., then you’d come in to be with us. You had the funniest little way of “talking” to us – not really a whine or a bark – so you’d come around to my side of the bed and let me know what you wanted. I’d lift you up and wait for you to finish your little ritual: find an open spot somewhere near me, twirl in circles roughly 27 times, then BAM! You’d throw yourself against me. Sometimes that didn’t seem to work, so you’d start all over again – circle, circle, circle, THROW! – finally ending the process with a satisfied sigh.

I could go on and on with many memories and things I love about you, but honestly, my heart (and poor, weepy eyes) can’t take any more of this walk down memory lane at the moment. You may not have fit with the other families you were placed with, but for us, you were the world.

Love always,
Your people mommy

September 20, 2011

The Traveling Memorial

"It doesn't require any particular bravery to stand 
on the floor of the Senate and urge our boys in Vietnam 
to fight harder, and if this war mushrooms into 
a major conflict and a hundred thousand young 
Americans are killed, it won't be U.S. Senators who die.  
It will be American soldiers who are too young 
to qualify for the Senate."  

~George McGovern
My first try at "Texture Tuesday."  I used the Life is Good texture, and then added a watercolor effect.

Last week, our valley was privileged to have the Traveling Vietnam Veteran's Memorial brought to the local fairgrounds, an 80% sized replica of the original. 

My dad served in Vietnam, and I remember looking at yellowing black and white photos of him and the friends he served with, shirts off, cigarettes in hand, hamming it up for the camera.  Even though you could tell they were goofing around in the photos, every pair of eyes still held a haunted look, one that I imagine hasn't changed for our troops in the field today.  

It took many years for that look to leave my dad's face, and I still have never heard him personally talk about it.  Everything I know of his time there comes from my mom, the story told in a hushed voice how many of the men he served with, his brothers in arms, died in a shot-down helicopter the day after he was discharged and sent home. 

I also grew up hearing stories of how Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home - truly despicable.  My husband is a veteran of the conflict with Ferdinand Marcos in the Phillipines back in the 80's.  My uncle served in Iraq in the ongoing war there, and our son Josh previously served a stint in Iraq and is now in Afghanistan.  I have seen that same look on all their faces... I try to imagine them being treated like the Vietnam vets were, and it literally breaks my heart.  

This was a beautiful tribute, and I'm so glad that I got the chance to see it.  I still long to see the original in Washington, D.C., but until then, I have this memory...

Photos of the "Utah Fallen."

Gold dog tags for every U.S. troop member who has died in the War on Terror.