Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ridiculous Fun for a Great Reason

So, I've decided to drag my family - kicking and screaming, if necessary - into an era of whimsy and happiness. 

In an effort to expedite the fun and whimsy, we've re-painted my drab walls a fluffy light yellow color known as "Winter Wheat,"  we've purchased a light blue sofa so enormous nearly everyone we know can sit on it simultaneously.

See how enormous that sofa is?  Tonight's fun had Jimmy and I plus three teens sprawled out watching Dr. Who and iCarly...

We've also rediscovered some of our favorite "Outsider Art" that we'd collected early in our married life but for some reason tucked away for years.  I think we subconsciously knew we'd need a season of un-fun in order to appreciate this new season of whimsy and happiness. 

See.  Whimsical.  We got this awesome rooster at an antique and oddities store in Chattanooga.  He's cool.

I just love this little guy.  He makes me smile!

Ok, admittedly, these guys tend to disturb some folks, but they make *me* happy.  I know, I embrace my strangeness.  These are by an artist named Todd Marone.  He does some really interesting stuff.  We were lucky enough to find these paintings on eBay pretty early in his career, so they were affordable. 

Another part of our formerly fun and soon-to-be-newly-whimsical-and-happical life is that we're doing a show!  Yes, you heard correctly!  A show, as in theater!  As in doing something that is actual real-life fun!  Huzzah!

On Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23, Jimmy and I, along with a bunch of our goofy friends will be producing Death By Chocolate, a murder-mystery dinner show.  AND - not only will it be ridiculously funny, it's a fundraiser for an amazing ministry we're a part of:  Forever Fed, Inc. which is a mobile food ministry dedicated to feeding the hungry in North Georgia. 

Forever Fed isn't just a soup kitchen where folks line up hours in advance for an opportunity to have some stuff plopped on a plate as they pass by (not to dog on those ministries - people need food...).  But, Forever Fed takes the food TO THE HUNGRY - in places where there are concentrations of hungry folks.  And, the meals are GOOD!  Yum-O!  Last week alone Forever Fed provided 1045 meals.  That's amazing!  And it's all done by these awesome volunteers who have a huge heart to share the love of our amazing God though feeding folks who otherwise wouldn't have a healthy meal.

Here we are standing in front of the truck during one of the school breaks, making healthy lunches for the kids in a local apartment complex where they often don't have enough to eat.  On this day we probably provided close to 100 lunches (each of which had enough food for 2 days).

So, head on over to this page to buy your tickets to see our show!  Not only will you have a ridiculously fun time and a great meal, but you can take a stab (pun intended) at making me break character -- now it's worth the $35 just for that, right???

Saturday, April 02, 2011

MY Method of Keeping 100% Up-To-Date on Scrapbooking

I enjoy scrapbooking. I love taking the time to make beautiful layouts of pictures of my adorable kids, my dogs, our house, etc. It's my way of wallowing in the memories and clinging to those tiny little toes and wet noses and the long-ago moments before kids when my house was clean. 

See How beautiful she is? The background paper is hand inked and colored by me.  This takes time.  Lots of time. 

Here's the problem: If I make beautiful layouts of each of the photos I take, I end up approximately 9 1/2 years behind. This is NOT an exaggeration. It's a fact. And it makes finding photos for school projects quite difficult.

So, now I have found a solution!

And yes, I'll share it with you.

Here are my raw materials:

  • iPhoto (or photo organization software of choice)
  • Shutterfly (an online photo printing source, that has cool tools)

  • We R Memory Keepers Binders
We R Memory Keepers Photo Sleeves in different configurations

  • Traditional Scrapbooking Supplies (paper, scissors, adhesive, embellishments, etc.)
And here's what I do:

Import all photos into iPhoto (or whatever you use for photo organization).   I like iPhoto because it automatically creates "Events" out of any photos taken at the same time, so that's helpful. It keeps stuff together so I don't have to wonder if the picture of Annie eating a Popsicle is from the 4th of July 2010 or her brother's birthday. 

  2. I go through and delete any unnecessary photos (eg accidental photos of the inside of my purse or unnecessary duplicates.)
  3. I upload all remaining photos to Shutterfly, keeping them organized by event, which Shutterfly would call keeping them in separate "Albums." Each major event or season gets its own "Album." In this case, the word "Album" is basically a folder, not an actual "album" that you print. For instance, "Annie's Birthday" or "Fall 2010".
  4. When Shutterfly has a sale - and they regularly do - I buy a 500 print "card" so tha I can get my prints for a little as like 9 cents or so. You don't have to use all of those prints at one time, use them as you need them.
  5. When I have some prints to use, I print whatever photos I can. They are shipped to my house. Shutterfly prints the date of the photo on the back, so if it gets out of order, it's easy to put back in place.
  6. As soon as the photos arrive I immediately slip them into We R Memory Keepers Photo Sleeves. These are basically page protectors that will fit into the We R Memory Keepers 3 Ring Binders. The page protectors are available in a lot of different configurations - because photos come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.  So, some sleeves will have slips for six 4x6" landscape photos, or have slips for 2 portrait and 3 landscape pix... they have many different sized slips for photos.  So, the photos just slide in. 

    But, Rain, these Photo Sleeves sound just like the old photo albums we used to use.  So why is this so special???

    I'll tell you why it's special.  It's special because the sleeves come in many combinations, and you can choose what order to use them in your album.  AND, you can combine them with full-page Sleeves, which accommodate a 12x12" layout. 


  7. This gets the photos into an album right off the bat. So I'm technically never behind and can always look at my photos.

    As I'm slipping the photos in, I can refer back to iPhoto or Shutterfly if necessary to know what event the photos were from.  I make sure to use one of the 4x6 slots to put a card in that says what the event and date was for each event.
  8. When I get a chance to scrapbook, I take my album and flip through and see what I'm in the mood to scrapbook. I pull those photos out and do a traditional 12 x 12 layout (or six) and then put 12 x 12 page protector right into the album where I pulled the photos out. So, as you flip through my books, you can see some pages pages where I've just prettied up the 4x6 slips, and some beautifully scrapbooked pages and some pages where I've only managed to slide photos in.

    Here's the best part:  ALL of my photos are in there.  They're all in order.  I can find them and look at them and wallow in those tiny toes.

    And totem poles.

    And Little Sisters with Big Brothers.

    And New Houses...

    And Easter Sundays.

Friday, March 11, 2011

So, Here's the First Test

Remember a little while ago when I ranted about "Slacktivist" mentality and asked you to pause before you roll your eyes at me when I ask for help - pause and actually consider what you might be able to do? 

Ok, so, here's the first test.

We're about to bring some kiddos - orphans, mostly, and others living in orphanages - here to live with families for the summer.  Two of those families are trying to raise the nearly $7,500 it will cost them just to bring the kids here.  They're SO clever, though.  They're doing a fundraiser give-away. 

So, to be clear, you could win an iPad2, or other great prize just for helping them bring some kids here for the summer.  How cool is that?

Please take just a moment and look at their blog and consider helping them out.

Of course, if you want, if you feel called, YOU could host a kid.  Really, you could.  Shoot me a message and I'll get you the info.  Some of my favorite kiddos don't have host families yet.

Helf Family Blog and Give-Away Details

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Before The Eye Roll

I'm 'bout tired of a few things.


Sick and tired, if you must know.

As in had it up to here, totally over it, done-diddy-done with it.

I'm tired of being upset.  I think I spent the majority of 2010 being just ill about things -- my kids, other people, other people's opinions of me, the government, the people upset with the government, my hair, the price of gas....  I have just been up-set.

And I'm 'bout tired of it.  So, I'm not going to be upset any more.  Well, that's my goal, at least.

But.  See.  There's a difference between being upset and being indignant.  I'm upset when someone gives me that look like I must be a terrible parent because my kid isn't sitting still.  I'm upset when the price of gas goes up 30 cents overnight.  And, I'm upset when I simply can't get my kid out of bed in the morning.  This is the kind of stuff I'm not going to let get to me any more.

Seriously.  Hold me to it. 

However, there's this whole other level of upset that I call being indignant.  That is to say that it's being upset because something is unjust -- on a larger level.  I am indignant when I look around me and see so much wealth and starving kids living right next to each other.  I am indignant when there are so many children with no parents and yet it takes $40,000 and a literal act of congress to adopt one.  I am indignant that in our community where we literally throw away pounds and pounds of food daily, the shelves of the local food banks are bare.  I am indignant when I get an e-mail or FaceBook message asking me to "sign" and online petition about something and I see how many people have slapped their name down there.


Why am I indignant about that?

Well, I'm indignant about that because this insane slacktivist mentality has so permeated our way of life that it's nearly impossible to get actual, useful support for important causes because we all feel like we've done our share by signing the petition, or dropping a few coins in a fireman's boot or changing our Facebook status for a day. 


This kind of stuff just gets me riled up.  Seriously.  How is it that the most powerful nation in the world - the country know across the planet for it's compassion and dedication to helping those in need -- has been reduced to such complacency?  I realize that there are still a lot of people who actually do step up and help.  I saw our church deliver Christmas gifts to 250 families, a friend's ministry that feeds the hungry several times a week, a team of folks who headed over to Africa to help in an orphanage that means the difference between life and death for orphans.  Another team headed to Eastern Europe to give hope to orphans. There are still people who help.  But, not as many as could.

I can't tell you how difficult it was to find enough people in our extremely affluent community who would step up and fill a 2-gallon zip-lock bag with a few Christmas gifts and write a letter to an orphan in Latvia.  Seriously.  I live in a neighborhood with 10,000 homes all valued over $200,000 and we couldn't get 150 people to do this.  Yes, I know, it's a hard year - people are struggling to make ends meet...  But there was no shortage of people in line at Target for the $400 flat-screen TVs on Black Friday.

I don't begrudge people the fruits of their labor.  I think if you study hard, get a good education, work hard at your job and bring home a fat pay check that you should be able to buy a big tv... and a Lazy Boy to watch it from.  But, if you can afford that, surely you can afford to help someone else.  Surely you can give hope to a child across the globe by letting him or her know that someone cares.  Surely you can buy a few dozen mosquito nets for kids in Africa.  Certainly you can get up early one Saturday or skip dinner one weekday and help hand out food to people who otherwise wouldn't have any.  Shoot, you probably can afford to pare down your grocery list for a week and buy double of everything so that you can give the second set of groceries to a family in need -- either because you know them or by giving them to a food bank.

We have it so amazingly good in this country.  Seriously.  Even most of those who are the worst off here have it better than many of the people in the world.  And, despite how busy, difficult or crazy your life is, I can pretty much guarantee you someone else could use your assistance and YOU HAVE THE MEANS TO GIVE IT TO THEM!


You do.

You might not know it.

You might not believe it.

You might not even want to, but, you *could* make a life-changing difference in someone else's existence. 

And, you want to know a secret?

It's fun to help someone out.  It's better than a roller coaster.  Better than double chocolate brownie chunk ice cream.  Nearly addictive.

Want to know another secret?

A lot of times, it's pretty easy, too.  Just, not as easy as slapping your name on the online petition, though.  You'll actually have to *do* something.

Now, I realize that I harangue you all about helping out.  I'm constantly asking for folks to step up and sponsor an orphan in Latvia or buy Christmas gifts for a kid in the community or provide book bags for needy kids, or help pack boxes of stuff to head overseas, or paint a house for someone in need, or make a card for a soldier.  And, maybe you don't have the money to sponsor a kid, but I bet you *can* make a card.  I also bet you can hammer a nail or make a meal for someone who's just out of the hospital, or help stuff pencils and crayons into book bags...

So, I hope you'll consider actually coming through when I ask for help some time.  Or, when someone else asks for help.  Catch yourself right before you huff, roll your eyes and think that you don't have time/money/skills to help.  Right before the eye roll, stop for a second and say to yourself, "Self, how can I make this work?  How can I fit this into my schedule?"  And, I bet you are clever enough to figure it out!

But, if you don't, I won't get upset.  I gave that up.

So, here's a way you can help RIGHT NOW!  Something that has to be finished by the morning of Friday, January 7, 2011.  You can make a handmade Valentine's Day card that we'll send off to Operation Write Home and they will send to a soldier who will then have an beautiful card to send home to his or her sweetheart.  You have the ability to do this.  It only takes a few minutes and it doesn't cost much money at all and it's actually kind of fun.  It won't change the world immediately.  It's not going to even directly save someone's life.  But, it does make a real difference because it lets a soldier know that someone cares enough about what our troops are doing for us that this person (you) took the time to make this card and get it to them.  Then it also lets the soldier's sweetie know that their sacrifice of being away from their loved one is appreciated.  And that they are loved. 

Like this one I made:

Here's also a few other ways you can *do* something the really make a difference in this world:

The Latvian Angel Project Web Site

Papa's Pantry Website

Forever Fed Website

Operation Write Home Website

Give a Kid a Chance Website

MUST Ministries Website

Simple Obedience Ministries Website