Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Remembering Memaw

Sara Clayton Griffith Leporati
January 22, 1927 - January 26, 2010

Mama: What does Mamaw Chapman say?
Me: Here Sammie, here Susie!
Mama: What does Papaw Chapman say?
Me: Aaaammmm!
Mama: What does Papaw Leporati say?
Me: Want some junk?
Mama: And what does Memaw say?
Me: Aw, honey!

I guess I was two or three when we'd go through that routine. Mamaw Chapman calling her cats; Papaw Chapman after drinking a glass of milk; Papaw Leporati offering me junk food; and Memaw getting on him for it. Maybe that's my earliest memory of them...

I went on trips with Memaw every summer from the time I was 6 years old until I was a sophomore or junior in high school. In the beginning, Eric and Papaw went with us. Then later on through the years, Leigh Ann joined us, Eric quit going, Papaw stayed home, and Aunt Sue and Aunt Melodie went with us. We'd always leave early in the morning, so I'd always spend the night there. I always had the hardest time going to sleep because of all the excitement, and more than once Memaw would have to come in the room and tell Eric and me to quiet down and go to sleep. Sometimes on the trip, Eric and I would get into an argument over something. Memaw would turn around to face us and tell us rather firmly to "stop that bickering!" And we did.

We always had a lot of laughs on our trips, whether it was in the moment or looking back later on. Once we pulled into the parking lot of Po' Folks restaurant for lunch. I started crying that I wasn't going to eat there. I wasn't poor, so I wasn't going in. I don't know what Memaw said to me, but I finally calmed down enough and we went in. I don't know what I expected going in, but when I walked out I loved that place. The food was amazing!

Once, Papaw belched rather loudly at the breakfast table in our hotel restaurant. Memaw was horrified and scolded him for it, but Eric and I couldn't help laughing. After her initial embarrassment, she laughed about it too - a little bit. (It seemed Papaw often did something that Memaw scolded him for, but he would just sit there and grin about it.)

Another time when Memaw, Aunt Sue, Aunt Melodie, Leigh Ann, and I were leaving a late-night supper from our hotel restaurant, Memaw burst into a laughing fit. We didn't know if it was the wine or the late hour or a combination of both, but we couldn't help but join in. We stumbled across the parking lot, howling with laughter. The image of what we probably looked like made us all laugh even harder.

We always ate well on our trips. She'd always encourage us to eat a big breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Pancakes, grits, bacon, eggs, toast, juice, milk, etc. Lunch was usually fast food, but not always. Then supper was a big deal. One year we were walking through a mall and realized we hadn't eaten supper yet. We spied a Baskin Robbins nearby, so we all had banana splits for supper. After we bought them, we took them out to the benches across from the store and basically served as a live advertisement for them. People would see us eating our ice cream, then they'd go in and get some for themselves. We always said our banana splits should've been free for all the business that came in after us.

Holidays were always a big deal. Every Easter, Memaw would hide plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and robin's eggs and sugar-coated gumdrops all over the yard for all the grandchildren to find. She'd always save enough of the large L'Eggs pantyhose eggs for each of us to have one. Papaw would usually put money in those. Memaw always had big chocolate bunnies for us to eat, too.

Christmas was another big family holiday Memaw loved. Several times, I was able to help her decorate her tree. I specifically remember her 12 Days of Christmas ornaments - 12 flat ceramic bell-shaped ornaments with each day's gift painted on one side. Every Christmas Day, the whole family would gather at her house for lunch, then we'd pass around gifts to open. The living room would be littered with wads of wrapping paper, and usually several of us would throw balls of it at each other. Another wonderful Christmas tradition was going to see The Nutcracker ballet with Memaw and Papaw every year. To this day, I love listening to that music.

Ah, classical music. Memaw listened to it all the time. Often I'd spend a Friday night at their house. We'd stay up late, watching British comedies on PBS while she rolled her hair up in her pink foam curlers. Saturday mornings, after a breakfast of cereal and half a canned peach or toast and a slice of pineapple with Miracle Whip and shredded cheese atop a lettuce leaf, she'd turn on some classical music and start cleaning house. Back then I hated that music, but I grew to appreciate it and even love it.

I remember sitting in the swing with Memaw after helping her with some yard work, breathing in the scent of the jasmine (or forsythia?) that grew nearby. She always had flowers in her yard. Her favorite was magnolia. There was a huge magnolia tree in her front yard that was a good climbing tree for a while. She had a few paintings of magnolias framed and hanging on her living room walls. When she moved out of that house after Papaw died, she gave one of them to me. Magnolias are one of my favorite flowers, too.

She also had a weeping willow in her front yard. That was another good climbing tree! Eric and I would pull off a branch, strip the leaves, and pretend we were fishing in the ditch in the front yard.

For a long time, until I was in the 6th grade, we lived near Memaw. First down the street; then around the corner. It was nothing for me to ride over on my bike and hang out with her and Papaw for a while. Often I'd stop by on my way to play with my friend Jean, who lived a little further down the street. I lived a few weeks with Memaw and Papaw to finish out my 6th grade school year after my parents and sisters moved into our new house in Calhoun.

Sometimes Memaw would hop on her bike and ride to our house to get me. We'd ride together around the bend and gawk at an old abandoned plantation house. I think it was called Whitehall. We got up the nerve to go inside once. I remember there being old magazines strewn all over the place. Memaw loved all things "hysterical", as she jokingly called it.

Memaw was really into genealogy. We'd often go traipsing through cemeteries, looking for family names. I remember we once wandered through cemeteries in eastern OK - Poteau and Salisaw - looking for Theobalds, I believe. I think we found a Fuller family plot in Calhoun, too - just minutes from where I lived during my high school years. She had done a lot of research and had written a few paragraphs to go with some old photographs she had framed and hanging on one of her walls.

There was a lot of history involved in most of the trips we took: Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania and Ohio (family history); Kentucky; Oklahoma; Florida; Tennessee; Georgia; Arkansas; Missouri; etc. Whenever we returned from a trip east, we'd always stop off to tour the Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi.

Memaw was the secretary at the First United Methodist Church for 31 years. I went to kindergarten there, and I remember waving to her when our class line would occasionally walk past her office on our way somewhere. Sometimes during the summer, I'd go to work with her. I'd sit at her desk and type away, pretending I was doing an important job. She'd sometimes let me into the library so I could find a book to read. That's where I first found The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Sometimes I'd go to church with her and Papaw. I remember being in a Sunday school class there right after Melissa was born. The teacher introduced me and shared with everyone that I had a new baby sister. Another time I went, it was communion Sunday. I thought it was intimidating that everyone went forward, pew by pew, to take communion, and I never wanted to go on communion Sunday again. I preferred the quiet, "private" way our much smaller Baptist church passed the trays of broken crackers and tiny cups of grape juice down each pew. Still, I loved going to her church. It was more beautiful and more formal than any other I'd been in.

One thing I remember often being in Memaw's kitchen was a big jar of brandied fruit. Whenever she made it she'd keep it on the counter, and she'd spoon some on top of my ice cream or pound cake. The pineapple chunks and cherries were my favorite! Daddy had a fit whenever she did that, but she'd just laugh and say it wasn't hurting anything. Later Mama would slip in there and have a bite of fruit from the jar.

Memaw loved animals. For as long as I can remember, she'd always had at least one cat around. Sonny Boy was a yellow-and-white striped tabby. He was followed by Little Gray (who came to be known instead as Big Gray), a gray-striped tabby. After Gray came Spooky, Boots, and one more I can't recall the name of. She had them until she went into the nursing home.

I remember a large dog she had named Puffin. I was little, so I tend to think he was a Great Dane, but I know that's not right. He was just big. Maybe he was a boxer like Sayid, Melissa and Lindsay's dog - who Memaw loved. She was in the nursing home when they got him, but they'd take him by to visit her and she loved every minute of it. Even when she couldn't remember people, she would remember Sayid and call him by name.

And there's the story about a white horse that showed up either in Memaw's driveway or under her carport one day. She went on and on about that horse and how it looked in her window at her, but everyone just laughed and said, "Sure it did." I think it happened a second time because she somehow had a picture to back it up!

Memaw loved excitement, too. She had a police scanner that she listened to quite a bit. On one of our many trips, the weather had gotten bad. Leigh Ann and I couldn't go to the pool, so we sat on the bed playing cards and listening to the radio. "Every Breath You Take" was just coming on and Leigh Ann said something about The Police. Memaw jumped up from her chair, ran to the window, and asked, "Where?!? Where are the police?" At home, she kept binoculars handy in case anything happened in her neighborhood. And she kept a magnifying glass handy for looking at books with pictures of the Kennedy assassination or the Civil War.

She had no tolerance for bad drivers. Whenever someone cut her off in traffic or did something just plain stupid, she'd shake her fist at them and yell, "Baboon!" Billy and I gave her a Beanie Baby baboon for Christmas one year as a joke. She loved it! She said she was going to put it in her car and point at it whenever she saw a bad driver.

Memaw would take me to The Piccadilly for lunch a lot. We'd push our trays as we walked down the cafeteria line. I always got the same thing: a cod fillet with fries, hush puppies, and extra tartar sauce. Memaw would always get me a bowl of Jell-o for dessert. When the old Twin Cities Mall was still open, we'd walk through and get an Orange Julius.

I remember Memaw kept a bottle of nail polish in her refrigerator. When I asked her about it, she told me it lasted longer that way. She always had nicely manicured nails on her hands and feet. I don't think I ever saw her without polish on. She never wore anything bright and flashy. It was always a pale neutral color, just enough to give a shimmer.

She was always well-dressed. Even her pajamas were nice! I don't think I ever saw her in a pair of shorts or blue jeans. When we went on our trips, she'd wear nice slacks and shirts - and Keds. She even did yard work in what I thought were nice-looking clothes. When she "dressed up", she always looked beautiful, classy.

She was always active and independent. After Papaw died, she moved to a smaller house in a safer neighborhood. She lived there alone with her cats and took care of the yard herself. Of course, she had good neighbors who were willing to lend a hand any time she needed help. Once she fell in her backyard and broke her hip. After surgery and a quick recovery, she was back at her own house, taking care of everything the way she had been.

It was hard to see her health and mental faculties decline so quickly. I'm not quite sure when it started, but looking back I can see it as long as 4 years ago. I don't think it was as hard on me as it was for my family who lived in the same area as Memaw. They saw her all the time, and I only saw her occasionally. Once she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I knew things would never be the same. I cherish the memories I have of the good times. They replace the sadder, more recent memories when Memaw wasn't really Memaw anymore.

Ah, there are so many memories of Memaw. More than I could ever hope to put in one blog post. While some elude me, others are vivid. I'm sure I'll remember something different tomorrow.

Here's the obituary I found online. One correction: Joey LaBorde was her grandson, not great-grandson.

In Loving Memory
Sara C. Leporati
1/22/1927 - 1/26/2010

Sara C. Leporati
Mulhearn Funeral Home
Sterlington Road, Monroe

A celebration of the life of Sara C. Leporati will be held Friday, January 29, 2010, at 2:00 PM at First United Methodist Church, Monroe, with Dr. Larry Stafford and Rev. Jo Ann Cooper officiating. Burial will follow at Mulhearn Memorial Park Cemetery under the direction of Mulhearn Funeral Home, Sterlington Road, Monroe.

Sara was born in Monroe, LA, on January 22, 1927, to Ralph C. and Sara Fuller Griffith and passed away on January 26, 2010, at The Oaks in Monroe. She was a legal secretary for several years at Hudson, Potts, and Bernstein, and retired in 2003 after 31 years as secretary at First United Methodist Church in Monroe. She was a past member of Ft. Miro Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Northeast Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society. Prior to her retirement she was honored as Ouachita Parish Older Worker of the Year.

Sara was preceded in death by her parents; her husband of 51 years, Louis Leporati, Sr., in 1995; brother, Jack Griffith; sister, Ann Zeagler; and great-grandson, Joey LaBorde.

Survivors include her brother, Dan Griffith; daughter, Sue and son-in-law, Don LaBorde; son, Louis “Bo” and daughter-in-law, Ginger Leporati; and son, Doug Leporati. Also survived by grandchildren, Eric LaBorde, Leigh Ann LaBorde, Ashley and husband Billy Todd, Melissa Leporati, Lindsay Leporati, Yvonne and husband Rusty Knox, Joshua Leporati, and Joseph Leporati; great grandchildren, Brooke and Tori LaBorde, Caleb and Jacob Todd, Grayson and Philip Knox, and Sawyer Houston; as well as several nieces and nephews.

Pallbearers will be Louis “Bo” Leporati, Doug Leporati, Don LaBorde, Robert Morris, Billy Todd, and Rusty Knox.

Honorary pallbearers will be Anna Gray Noe Sunday School Class of First United Methodist Church.

Visitation will be Thursday from 5:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Mulhearn Funeral Home, Sterlington Road, Monroe.

Memorials may be made to First United Methodist Church, 3900 Loop Road, Monroe, LA 71201.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Over the Hump?

I'm in my third week of watching what I eat and counting calories. I think I'm over the always-hungry hump! I noticed both yesterday and today that I haven't had the urge to eat too much. If that's the case, then things should be much easier!

I've lost 6 lbs. and 3 inches since I started. On "Measurement Mondays", I enter various measurements into my iFitness app and it charts my progress. Apparently my abs are going to be the hardest place to lose; those measurements haven't changed at all... On "Weigh-In Wednesdays" and "Sneak Peak Saturdays", I enter my weight into my iFitness and Lose It! apps so I can see my progress. I actually weigh myself every day, but I only enter it into my programs twice a week. It's been a pretty steady drop, and it's been going a little faster than I thought. I'm targeted to reach my goal weight on June 23, but if I reach it earlier, I'm going to keep going to my final date to see how much I can lose. Believe me, I can stand to lose more than my goal actually is. I set a lower goal because I thought it was going to be really hard.

I've started exercising some most days, too. I read recently that exercise helps, but not to the degree that good nutrition will. So instead of worrying about how many calories I get to burn each day, I'm working harder on watching what I eat and exercising a little to get me going in the mornings. If I get in a good walk or maybe even a run here and there, that's just a bonus.

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 2010-02

It's that time again... Here's what we're eating this week.

dirty rice (Tony Chachere's mix - delicious!), salad, crescent rolls

I'm not sure, but it'll have to be soft. The boys will be having some dental work done: Jacob - a filling and some sealant; Caleb - two baby teeth extracted.

chipotle panko-breaded chicken strips, creamed corn, salad, crescent rolls

Bob and Deb Chisholm will be joining us for some homemade veggie pizza, made on the best-tasting crust ever. They're bringing salad; I'll make brownies for dessert.

leftovers or sandwiches

blackened tilapia, butter & herb rice (another Tony Chachere's mix), salad, homemade bread


What are you cooking this week? Inspire me!

Click here for more menu plan ideas.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ten Best Movies I've Seen Recently

I used to participate in a weekly meme called Ten on Tuesday. I don't remember the last time I answered one, but I'd venture to guess it's been at least a year. I'd like to start posting my lists again as part of my goal for blogging more this year.

We don't go out to movies often, but since we now have DVR, I've been recording several things I've wanted to watch. We hardly ever rent movies from Blockbuster or even RedBox, and the ones I've checked out from the library have been scratched and usually quit working 30 minutes into the movie. That said, most of the movies on my list are going to be older ones.

1. Return to Me - David Duchovny, Minnie Driver
I love Minnie Driver! I think she's beautiful and the few movies I've seen with her, I've liked. This one was great - a new favorite. I just finished watching it just before starting this post! I cried like I cry when I watch Steel Magnolias, my all-time favorite movie.

2. Diary of a Mad Black Woman - Tyler Perry
I love the Madea movies! Sometimes I wish I could get away with saying some of the things Madea says... This has been coming on TV a lot lately, so I almost always watch it. The storyline is good, and I really like the character of Orlando (played by Shemar Moore).

Last weekend I watched Madea Goes to Jail, but it wasn't as good as this one or Madea's Family Reunion. I think it might be the same old jokes, which are getting old.

3. Where the Heart Is - Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd
Here's another older one I had always wanted to see but never took the time to watch.

4. Up - Disney Pixar film
I love all the Pixar films, and this one was no exception. Since I fell asleep during the last 20 minutes or so, I need to watch the end.

5. Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
Surprise! The only Star Wars movie I haven't seen is Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. The originals were okay; I mostly found things to make fun of in them, which isn't hard to do after having seen Space Balls any number of times. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace was okay. I wasn't wild about the boy who played Anakin Skywalker. But I really enjoyed episode 3!

6. Bewitched - Nicole Kidman, Will Farrell
Fun movie!

7. The Stepford Wives - Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Bette Midler, Jon Lovitz
Lots of great actors! The movie was surprisingly good. I gave my mom the DVD for Christmas several years ago, but she said she was disappointed in it. I think she prefers the original.

8. The Proposal - Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds
We watched this movie Christmas night with my parents and sisters. I like almost anything with Sandra Bullock!


I've watched other DVRed movies recently, but I erase them after I watch them. Now I've forgotten what I've seen. Maybe I'll save numbers 9 and 10 for two I haven't watched yet: Julie & Julia and Night at the Museum 2. Oh, and Star Trek for a bonus 11. Maybe I'll find one more for an even dozen!

The End

One of my goals for this year was to make a decision on whether or not to continue as a Pampered Chef consultant. After a lot of thought and some discussion with Billy, I have decided to end my time as a consultant. I still love the products and plan on buying them in the future as I need them, but the business side of it just wasn't for me.

I've been fighting that decision for the past year. In fact, I had almost decided to stop last year, but the company restructured part of its consultant network and I thought I'd give it another shot.

It was half-hearted, though. I got out of the habit of making my nightly consultant calls and it got to the point that I hated to ask people to host shows. Most of my hosts either had a connection with the seminary, which didn't lend itself to very profitable shows, or lived out of state, which took my profit to pay for gas. My lack of interest during the spring and early summer led to me losing my career sales and my 2% commission increase. A few people came to me asking to host shows, and they were good ones, but it still didn't revive the old passion I felt for the job.

One option would be to go inactive for the next six months, which would leave me the option to reactivate my status anytime during that period. I considered it, since I'd still have my consultant discount for anything I'd want to buy myself. One drawback to that is my bank charges a fee for each month my account doesn't have a direct deposit. Another drawback would be having to figure taxes next year for minimal activity.

My other option would be to send in a formal letter of resignation to the home office. My resignation would become official on the first business day of the first month after they had received my letter. If I went this route, I'd be able to close my business account with no penalties, and I would have little or no tax issues to deal with.

This morning, I mailed off my formal letter of resignation to the home office. If they get my letter in time, which they should, I will no longer be a consultant as of Monday, February 1, 2010.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan Monday 2010-01

I lost track of all the old Menu Plan Mondays I used to participate in, so I thought I'd start numbering them differently this year.

chicken quesadillas with homemade salsa

homemade pizza

taco soup and tortilla chips

leftover night


sandwiches - This is our usual fare for nights our small group meets.

sandwiches or cereal - And this is our usual fare on Sunday nights while AWANA is in session. If there are still some leftovers to eat, you're in luck.

Click here for more menu plan ideas.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lose It!

I've had this app called Lose It! on my iPhone for a year now. With it I'm able to input my weight and plan a weight loss program to fit my needs. Not only does it set a daily calorie budget, but it keeps up with how many calories I've taken in and burned through exercise each day. (It has a database of exercises and food items, including restaurant options.) One of the newer features allows me to invite my friends to join my "team" for encouragement and accountability purposes.

When I first installed the app on my phone, I was really excited about using it. Each week when I'd weigh in at the gym, I'd update my weight. It was fun to see it going down faster than I had planned. It was also good to see how exercising would cancel out some of my calories and I could see occasional times when I could splurge a little.

Then life got busy and I didn't want to make the time to keep updating everything. Then I stopped exercising and watching what I ate.

Lindsay has the app on her iPhone and she joined with another friend to keep accountable for losing weight. She asked if I wanted to buddy up, too, and since accountability is what I need to keep going right now, I agreed.

Today has been my first day using Lose It! since April or May. I've been more watchful of what I've eaten so I'll keep within my calorie budget - and I'm starving! I munched on a bunch of carrots sticks for my afternoon snack instead of eating another granola bar (I had one for breakfast) or eating a few mini candy bars that are hidden from view (but I know they're there). I ate a pretzel, hoping it would ward off that nagging hunger until supper. Not working! I'm going to try to hold out. Tonight is breakfast supper night (pancakes & bacon) and I only have a little over 900 calories left in my budget... At least I can make up for it with exercise tomorrow if I need to. :o)

There are so many things I like about this app, but one thing I don't like is that when you make a lot of home-cooked meals, it's hard to determine your caloric intake. If it's not a ready-to-eat, processed food, you have to figure out the portion size and calories per portion yourself. I don't have the time or interest to do that. I guess I'll be estimating calories for a good portion of my days.

I have a second fitness app on my phone - iFitness. It has an exercise database, complete with how-to videos. I can set up a routine, log my progress, and use the weight monitor (though I need to buy some bathroom scales) and body measurement features to track my progress more closely than with just the Lose It! app. According to iFitness' BMI calculator, I'm overweight for my height. I agree. However, if I were two inches shorter, it shows that I'd be obese. Huh? I doubt that, but then I don't know the definition of obese. It may be true.

It'll be interesting to see how my weight loss goes this time around now that I have an accountability partner - and two programs on my phone to help me keep track of everything.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Cubbies

Tonight during story time at Cubbies, Evie was talking about sin. The conversations that followed were hilarious and precious...

Evie: When I was 3 years old, I took a piece of candy from a store without paying for it.

Matthew: Can I have a piece, Ms. Evie?

Evie: No, Matthew. Listen to the story. Do you know what it's called when you take something that's not yours? It's called stealing. God tells us not to steal, but I stole a piece of candy.

Matthew: Did you eat it?

Evie: No, I didn't get to eat it. It melted in my pocket.

Matthew: That's funny!

Evie: No, it's not funny. When my grammy found out, I got in trouble. I was punished. I had to go back to the store and give them the candy and tell them I was very sorry for taking it without paying for it.

Matthew: Oh, I'm sorry, Ms. Evie!

(You've just got to know Matthew and hear his sweet little voice to get the full effect.)

Evie went on to talk about how Mary was going to have a baby, Jesus, and He never sinned. One of the little girls raised her hand and announced that she's never sinned. Evie told her that all of us sin, but the little girl was insistent. Rather than argue the point, Evie went on with the story...

Evie: Mary was going to have a baby.

Matthew: Audrey (another Cubbie) has a new baby at her house.

Evie: Yes, Matthew! She does! And Mary was going to have a baby, too. Jesus!

Matthew: No, her name is Lauren Elizabeth.

Evie: Yes, I know Audrey's baby sister is Lauren, but Mary was going to have baby Jesus.

Matthew: Hmmm...

You never know what these kids are going to come up with. I love my Cubbies!

Friday, January 8, 2010

An Experiment of Sorts

Every school day, the boys have to write an entry in their journal. They each have two topics to choose from. Since Jacob is a first-grader, he's only required to write one sentence or a short list of items. Caleb has to do more, but it's a struggle to get him to write much at all.

I think I read in a magazine once about letting kids have their own blog pages where they can write whatever they want, and they can share it with extended family members. I remembered it the other day and started toying with the idea of letting the boys do it. When I mentioned it to them yesterday during school, they were both excited about it.

Today we set up their blog pages and they've each posted one entry. It's a private blog, invitation only. Currently the invitations are just to grandparents and aunts, but we might branch out a little later on and include a few of the boys friends' families.

My main goal in this is to get the boys to write more, but I have more specific goals in mind for each of them. I'd like Jacob to improve his basic skills: spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Caleb has the basics down. I'd like him to branch out more in what he writes - to improve his sentence structure and express more creativity. I hope this works!

2010 Goals

A week into the new year and I'm finally getting ready to set my goals for the year.

1. Lose some weight!
Seems I set this every year. It's something I really want to do; I just like food too much to be very successful... Two areas I need to work on: moving more and portion control.

2. Get my jewelry business off the ground.
This includes settling on a business name (still not too fond of "Ashley's Bead Box"), getting a jewelry blog up and running, and having a few shows. Valentine's Day is practically right around the corner. It's the next big jewelry sales event, but as far as promoting my jewelry goes, I'm not prepared for that just yet. I'm setting a goal of having a show in time for Mother's Day.

3. Blog more.
I'm not talking about the jewelry blog here, but this personal blog of mine. I averaged two posts a month last year. I hate that! I love to write! I blame my lack of time/interest on Facebook. :o) I'm already doing better than last year!

4. I'd like to do something more with my photography.
I realize this statement is really open, but so is my goal with it. Yes, I'd like to participate more in the weekly Photo Friday challenges - but I want to do more. I bought Tom Ang's book Digital Photography Masterclass to help me learn more about my camera and how to take better pictures. Next on my list is his book How to Photograph Absolutely Everything.

I'd also like to sell some of my photographs. I've been looking into stock photography websites to see what that entails. Amy, a friend of mine from high school, sparked my interest in this. She listed some of her photos just last year and has already sold one.

Another thing I'd like to do here and there is to take local road trips for the sole purpose of photographing what's there. Billy and I want to make a photo wall in our entry, full of photos we've taken. Since our house has earth tones throughout, we want to have the pictures done in sepia tones, matted in off-white, and framed in dark brown. I have an idea of the types of photos I want to showcase, but we need to get out and take them!

Last year I started my Project 365, but it stalled after just a few weeks - if that. I'd like to have some sort of photoblog, but I don't know to what extent. Maybe another time, I'll try the project again. I love the idea of it, but it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. Especially for a stay-at-home mom who only gets out a few times a week.

5. I'd like to make some decision about my future as a Pampered Chef consultant.
I've found other things that I'd rather do than set up kitchen shows and worry about keeping my consultant status. Holding the shows is fun, but calling people to host them is the part I don't like. I'm not a phone person, and once I got out of the habit of making my nightly business calls, it's been nearly impossible to get back into doing it. And I'm not the go-getter type to recruit people to join my team.


That's probably enough for now. I'm sure there are some things I've forgotten, and if I think of them later I'll add them. I also realize my goals this year are not as structured and measurable as last year's, but that turned out to be an epic fail. :o) I don't want to be so strict on myself.

So, what are your goals for 2010?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January 2010 Book List

This will be a different type of entry since I will keep adding to it as I read more books this month. I'm an avid reader, but I have no idea how many books I read each year. This year I'd like to keep up with not only how many I read, but also which ones I read and a little blurb about what I thought of it.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling

I remember one of my students, Christine, was so absorbed in these books when they first came out. They were surrounded by controversy, and I didn't want to jump into the mix because I didn't know the content and wasn't interested in reading it. As the Harry Potter craze continued through the years, I became curious, but I never made the time to read the first one until now. Caleb is reading more advanced books and might decide to read this series. I wanted to know what it's about before he jumped in.

Meet Harry Potter. He has lived with his relatives, the Dursleys, since he was one year old. They hate him because he's from a wizarding family and lie to him that his parents were killed in an accident, the one that left a distinct lightning-bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. But on Harry's 11th birthday, he finds out the truth from Hagrid, a grounds keeper at Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. The Dursleys are unable to stand in the way of Harry's wizarding education, so they reluctantly let him go. At school, he befriends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger - and makes enemies of Draco Malfoy and his goons. He also experiences a lot of grief at the hands of one of his professors, Severus Snape. As the school year progresses, many things are revealed about Harry, his past, and his destiny.

It's a very well-written story. Good plot, good characters. Many may object to the subject matter (wizardry and such), but it's enjoyable fiction. I enjoy a good story, though some people may think some of the things I've read in the past have been of a questionable nature.

I finished the book in just a few days and have already checked the second one out from the library.

2. Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

I kept seeing the book Three Cups of Tea everywhere - the library, bookstores, Costco. My friend Ursula mentioned that she had read it for a book club she belongs to and told me it was really good. It took me longer to read it than normal, but I enjoyed it. It's about a man who worked to build schools in Pakistan for village girls who had nothing more to hope for. He struggled to get his first school built, then things blossomed. Even after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 made that area more volatile for Americans, he continued to go into that area and help the people there, convinced that education is the key to conquering terrorism. The respect shown him and Americans in general is inspiring.

On New Year's Day, Ursula was telling me she was starting to read his second book, Stones into Schools, which chronicles his continued school-building in Afghanistan.

Wow! I love these books! They're really eye-opening about the plight of people in the outer reaches of Afghanistan, how hungry they are for education - especially for girls - despite the orders of the Taliban. The relationships that Mortenson builds with village leaders and the "Dirty Dozen" on his team in Pakistan and Afghanistan are heart-warming. His passion for the education of the people there is contagious.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

The book begins with Harry Potter spending the summer after his first year at Hogwarts with his unloving relatives, the Dursleys. Because of their fear of his wizardry, they make things slightly better for him, but just barely. Harry can't wait to get back to Hogwarts for his second year, but once he's on his way, problems start arising. As things continue, other students in the school start pointing fingers at Harry as the culprit. Things come to a head when he is compelled to save the life of Ron's younger sister, Ginny - nearly costing Ron's and Hermione's lives in the process.

The writing continues to be great in this second book. The plot is intriguing, and I found myself having a hard time putting the book down. I can't wait to get into the third book, but I have some other books checked out from the library that I need to read first. Maybe the urge to get on with the next Harry Potter book will make me read those faster...

4. Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings by Tyler Perry

I love Madea in the movies, but the book just wasn't that funny. There were parts that were humorous, but nothing really made me laugh. The book was also pretty crude, but that's Madea, too. I can't say I'd recommend this book, but if you want to read it, get it from the library. Don't waste good money on it.

5. How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God's Will and Decision Making edited by Douglas S. Huffman

Our home group is reading this for discussion. Every two weeks, we read a portion, then discuss it at our meetings. It's been divided up so our study will last through 10 meetings (about 20 weeks). I'm not sure what I think about it yet, though we've been reading it for about a month.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


At first I thought it was a case of some bad gas. On one of my early Saturday morning trips to Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, the van started shaking and sputtering when I was stopped for a light. The next day, as we were driving home from church, I noticed the "Check Engine" light was on. Billy checked it out that afternoon and decided the problem didn't warrant an emergency trip to the Mazda dealership.

Then came Christmas and all the busyness that tends to come with the season. I drove the van when I needed to, always a little worried that it would sputter to a complete halt. Thankfully it never did.

Just last week, as the boys and I were making our weekly trip to lunch and the library, I noticed the van wasn't shaking anymore when it idled. Bad gas? Maybe so..., but the "Check Engine" light was still on, and I wasn't sure that would have an effect on it. Low and behold, after we left our last stop and headed home, the light went off! Maybe it was bad gas after all...?

New Year's Eve, the boys and I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things for our party. No "Check Engine" light! No shaking and sputtering! I filled up the tank (at a different place than the last few times) and was thankful that the problem had somehow remedied itself.

Today was my first day to drive it again. No "Check Engine" light! No shaking and sputtering! For long. Then it started back - ever so slightly. When we left Wendy's after lunch, the "Check Engine" light came back on. Oh, well...

I guess a trip to the dealership is in order after all. Hopefully it won't be anything major.