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In five years of blogging I received one award, and now suddenly I seem to have another one every week.  Like I said in my last award post, that’s what’s known as an embarrassment of riches, folks, because I really am starting to feel embarrassed and hope you aren’t bored with another “about me” post.  I will try to make it as entertaining as possible for you. :-)

And actually, I have TWO awards to write about this week.  So first of all . . .

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Rules for Accepting the One Lovely Blog Award:

1) Thank the person who nominated you for the award.

I am delighted to thank Jacquelyn Ward of DIY Design Mom for nominating me.  Jackie is a blogging colleague who has become a friend.  She’s currently working on an upgrade for my blog which I hope to share with you soon!

2) Add the One Lovely Blog badge to your post.

See above. ;-)

3) Share seven facts about yourself.

  • I have TWO mercury thermometers.  I don’t trust digital thermometers.  I always shake them down over the bed and am very, very careful. (Now I should probably expect calls from the EPA, or possibly my mother.)
  • I have bitten my nails since I was about 8 years old and my ugly fingers embarrass me.
  • I have never had a cavity.
  • Interior decorating paralyzes me.  We have lived here almost four years and haven’t hung a picture since the first week or so.
  • Springtime makes me giddy.  I could totally throw myself down in a bed of daffodils and lie there for hours.
  • I’m quite friendly and like getting up in front of the public, but I find interacting with people exhausting and I love to spend time alone.
  • My husband was my first real boyfriend.

4) Nominate about 15 bloggers you admire by posting a comment on their blog.  I’m cheating here by doing fewer.  It does say ABOUT, after all.

Thomasina of Three Lives of Me

Agatha of Green Issues by Agy

Gunjan of KiipFit

Randi of Poppies and Pinot

Jen of Breastfeeding Needs

Jane of Limeade Gal

Kim of The Lemon Daisy

So y’all see the rules, right?  But if it will stress you out to play, no hard feelings. :-)

And now for Award #2:  I’ve received it before, but this one comes with a new set of questions, so I’m in!

sisterhood of the world bloggers award
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site.

I would like to thank Jen Brenan of Breastfeeding Needs for nominating me.  Jen is the mother of two little ones and writes about parenting and breastfeeding.  As a former long-time breastfeeding mother myself (approximately 13 years, all told), I love her blog.

2. Answer the 10 questions sent to you.

1. How long have you been blogging?

Just over FIVE years.  That makes me an old-timer, y’all.  But I didn’t really start putting much (or the right kind) of effort into blogging until recently.

2. What are your long term goals for your blog?

I want to write more regularly–with an actual editorial calendar, and predictable types of content on different days of the week!  I want to have more of my work featured on other sites, and hope that someday I will be compensated for my work.  Although I won’t stop writing regardless!

3. What do you love about blogging?

The friends I’ve made, and the nice things people say to me about what I write, especially if I make a connection with them or help them in some way through my writing.

4. And what do you hate, or at least just dislike?

It can be a source of stress if I am not writing as much as I think I should or would like to.

5. Do you have children and do they influence your blog?

I have five kids.  They provide subject matter, for sure.  And no doubt being a mother has affected some of what I am interested in writing about–although I do have interests outside my kids!

6. What is one thing you have learned about blogging that you never would have thought of before hand?

I was completely clueless about blogging when I started.  I mean I knew NOTHING.

7. What are your hobbies outside of your blog?

Gardening, hiking, genealogy, poking around cemeteries (all of which I manage to incorporate into this extremely eclectic blog!).

8. Do you work outside of the home, stay home or do a bit of both?

I have been at home for around 21 years now.  Before that I worked part-time.  For many years I did a little grant writing and editing on the side for my mother’s non-profit, and then about five years ago I became my husband’s legal assistant.  He works from home and therefore so do I.  At first all I was going to do was answer the phone, but the job has grown.  So I do the billing, write letters, create and organize the files, do legal research, and even draft pleadings.  I probably work at least 20 hours a week. (And I still do that grant writing and editing too!)

9. How do you juggle it all?

Being able to work from home is key.  I keep all my social media open all the time and sprinkle that in throughout my work day.  I also homeschool my daughter in the middle of all that.  I control my work schedule so if I really need to I can take a day off, or work at night and weekends so I can do family things when I need to.  I never have time to blog, and I don’t clean my house.

10. Tell me one thing about yourself that most of your readers do not know?

I’m going to refer y’all up to my seven random facts above for this question, having exhausted my supply of interesting trivia for the moment.

3. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

I’m going to cheat a little here and recycle some questions I made up for some other nominations that not many nominees responded to.

1. How did you choose the name for your blog?
2. What kind of writing did you do in your pre-blogging life?
3. How do you define blogging in YOUR life?  A job, a vocation, a hobby?
4. Provide a link to your favorite blog post.
5. Provide a link to the post you think is the most popular.
6. What was your very first job and what did you learn from that experience?
7. Does your family read your blog and if so does this affect what you say or how you say it?
8. Have you made virtual friends because of blogging?
9. What is your dream job?
10. What do you do to take care of yourself?

4. Nominate 8 other bloggers, link them in your post and notify them of their nomination.

Again, if any of y’all have already received this award and don’t want to play along again, you won’t hurt my feelings.  :-)

Jacquelyn of DIY Design Mom

Kim of This Ole Mom

Louisa of Ice Cream off Paper Plates

Hannah of Miss Nicklin

Stephanie of Six Pack Mommy

Kathleen of Lifestyle Building Blocks

Brandi of Supergirl Savings

I am so flattered to have been nominated for these two awards, and now y’all know (almost) all there is to know about me.

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Let’s connect!  Looking forward to connecting! I’d like to connect with you!

Such messages are all over social media, and usually there the idea of “connecting” conveys a professional networking vibe.  Connecting helps us get jobs, drives readers to our blogs.  Some of us are very intentional about this kind of connecting.  In today’s world, such connections are vital–putting yourself out there, getting seen.

Few of us put that kind of effort into making personal connections.  Yet most of us do make them as we blunder along through life.  Just a few years ago I was blessed by an experience that demonstrated to me the width and the depth of the connections my family and I had made in our various communities.

See, this happened:

fire 1 fire 2Four years ago, when we were (blessedly) out of town, our house burned down and what we had left when the smoke had cleared and we had combed through the ashes fit neatly in a 5 x 5 storage room.

The strength and the complexity of the connections we had made throughout our lives were instantly evident.  We were in Baltimore attending a funeral when this happened and my husband’s oldest childhood friend was the first in a long line of people whose generosity and kindness not only upheld our spirits but afforded us the material support we needed.

In times of tragedy, most people expect (and can count on) help from family, and of course when we got home they all pitched in–one sister took in our whole family, while the other one adopted our dog for the duration, and that was just beginning.

What was wonderful to see, though, were the fruits borne out of many years of unintentionally building connections just by living our lives.  We received donations from our church, clothes and gift cards from both schools our kids attended and even from the school they used to attend, nightly meals from members of our son’s football team.  In many cases we had never previously met or talked to the many people who were showering us with money and gift cards and household goods and clothes for our children.  We were connected only by the communities–church and school–of which we were a part.

Connections from long ago still proved powerful, as we received gifts from old school friends, some of whom we had not seen in 20 years.  Virtual connections became real connections as friends made years ago online sent boxes of clothing.  And connections of connections chipped in as well–parishioners at my father’s church, readers of a blogging friend who hosted an online fundraiser, my sister’s dearest friends.

What I wrote in a thank you note at the time still holds true:   We’ve all heard that during our trials we learn who our friends are.  What we have learned is that we have many friends whom we never even knew about until this happened to us, and for that blessing we are grateful.   

Our connections showered us with compassion when this terrible thing happened to our family.  But not everyone has the connections we have.  I recently learned of an acquaintance who lost his home to fire a year or so ago.  He told me that only the Red Cross came to his family’s aid.  Whenever I hear of victims of house fires in need, I send a donation if I can.  Because I share that connection with them.

The real challenge is to show compassion–to feel compassion–for those with whom we have no obvious connection at all.  I remember as a child asking how exactly we are supposed to Love One Another like Jesus said.  How are we supposed to love people we don’t even know?  I do understand it now, but I can see that for many people it is all too easy to disavow those to whom they are not connected, to mark them as other and different and unworthy of compassion.

How easy to forget that we are all connected–that, as the Catholic Bishops of Appalachia wrote–we are all at home in the web of life.  That we are all brothers, children of one Father.

This post is part of the monthly #1000Speak linkup.  You can read the other posts here

1000Speak

Creative K Kids

Ten Things of Thankful

This is only the second time I’ve participated in TToT but I can still celebrate its big milestone, right?

Several months ago I started my own private thankfulness practice in my prayer life (that sounds way more holy than it is–we’re talking praying in bed before dropping off to sleep at night).  I resolved to begin my prayers by thanking God for each day’s blessings, start to finish, before I started asking Him for things.  Y’all, most of the time I fall asleep before I get to the asking part.  And I find myself excited to reflect on the good things that happen each day.  Because there are ALWAYS good things.  And doing this has improved my outlook on life–so simply, so easily.

So without further ado, here are ten things I am thankful for this week:

1.  Teddy has been home all week!  it’s a short visit because he is heading to Chicago for most of the summer to intern and Kirkland & Ellis.  I’m thankful that we got to spend a little time with him as well as for his achievements.

teddy short hair

2.  Teddy wanted to watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies while he was home, so I spent a lot of time in front of the t.v. over the weekend–very unusual for me.  I enjoy sharing things I love with my children, and I was inspired to read the books once again.

3.  I had another post featured on BlogHer!  After never ever being published anywhere, now it’s happened twice in two weeks.  Could it be a sign?  I hope so!

4.  The weather is glorious and my garden is blooming.  Yesterday I took a nap in the front yard among the clover blossoms.  They smelled wonderful and I didn’t even care that they made my nose run.

roses

5.  I was nominated for another blogging award!

6.  I scored some free tickets (another blogging perk) to some fun attractions for our next visit to the D.C./Baltimore area!

7.  The whole family was able to share Mother’s Day Brunch.

mother and sisters

8.  Emily and I made some major progress cleaning out our garage, with more to come this weekend.  This was long overdue and made me happy.

9.  Via blogging, I have become part of a lovely group of women and we really bonded this week!  Virtual friends are REAL friends!

10.  The school year is winding down!  We are tired and ready for sleeping later and not worrying about homework for awhile.

Just like my prayers, coming up with ten things to be thankful for is an exercise in gratitude that can benefit anyone!  Check out the posts in the linkup, and consider joining in!

Ten Things of Thankful

Liebster Award

I’m afraid I’m starting to sound like a broken record but I’m excited to announce that Kathleen of Lifestyle Building Blocks for Success has nominated me for the Liebster Award!  I met Kathleen over on Google +, and have enjoyed being a part of her Friday Blog Booster Party.

Like most blogging awards, accepting the Liebster Award involves answering some questions so that you can get to know me better.  So let’s get started!

  • How did you decide on the name of your blog?

That’s an easy one, because I already wrote a post to answer it!

  • Where does your blogging inspiration come from?

Everywhere! This is an eclectic blog that doesn’t fit a niche.  Sometimes it’s a news story that sets me off; another day it’s the beauty of nature or a walk in a graveyard.  There are sticky notes with a few words scrawled on them all over my desk–often I can’t remember what I meant by what I wrote!

  • What is it that you love most about blogging?

I love having a larger platform to share my ideas than just my family (and they probably do as well!).

  • What is your favorite food?

Homemade biscuits, a good steak, homegrown summer vegetables . . . I like to eat.

  • What is your favorite thing to drink (alcoholic or not)?

COFFEE.

  • What is an item you cannot live without?

Four years ago my house burned down and I lost virtually all of my personal possessions.  So I can truthfully say there is no item I cannot live without.  I like my computer A LOT, though.

  • What are eleven random facts about yourself?

1.  I was the youngest person to win the Knoxville City Spelling Bee when I was eight years old.  I went on to win it four more times, and one won the regional competition and placed ninth in the National Spelling Bee.  As a result, watching Spelling Bees makes me a nervous wreck.

2.  My favorite color is yellow.  When I was a little girl my bedroom looked like springtime–all yellow everywhere except for the bright green carpet.

3.  I have been writing since I was about four, when I used to dictate my stories to my mother.  The first one was about a girl who always wore an enormous hat.

4.  I am afraid of heights.  My knees get weak if I even stand on a chair.  I also can’t stand to watch people move furniture.

5.  I thought that I would be a perfect mother and that I would have perfectly behaved kids.  I was wrong on both counts.

6.  From first grade until I gave the valedictory address upon graduation from high school, my life was defined by academic success.  Although I know it was the right decision at the time, I still feel disappointed about dropping out of graduate school two classes short of getting an M.A.

7.  I am the product of 16 years of Catholic education.  I am a cradle Catholic and my faith is absolutely central to my life even though I fall short at living it.  Holiness continues to elude me.

8.  I love my children and would do almost anything for them, up to and including sacrificing my life for theirs, but my children are not my whole life.

9.  I am still deeply in love with my husband of 25 years, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t fight.

10. I majored in English at Georgetown University and minored in Theology.  I also took a lot of French classes, and use my fractured French to talk to my husband when we don’t want the kids to understand us or to discuss people who are sitting near us in restaurants.

11. I can make decisions almost instantly, whether it’s about what I should be buying or sizing up the character of someone I have just met.

  • If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Knoxville, Tennessee. (Which is where I was born and currently live,)

  • If you could meet anyone from history, alive or dead, who would it be?

I am very interested in genealogy so I think I’d like to meet some of my ancestors so I could get some of my questions answered.

  • What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Hiking and gardening, and I blog about both of them.

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I will still have two kids at home in five years, so my life won’t look a whole lot different.  I do hope that I will have writing published somewhere other than this blog by then.  I can’t devote as much time to that pursuit as I would like.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR NEW NOMINEES OF THE LIEBSTER AWARD:

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do the following:

  • Write a post about the fact that you’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award.
  • In this post, link back to and show some love to the person who nominated you, also nominate 11 other new blogs that would not have more than 1000 followers.  Let these nominated bloggers know that you have nominated them and provide a link back to your page to ensure that they are familiar with the Award.
  • Display the Award in your post and in your side bar.
  • Answer the questions about yourself.
  • Put your post with your nominated 11 blogs for the Liebster Award, on social media. Spread the love!
Here are your questions:
  1. How did you decide on the name of your blog?
  2. Where does your blogging inspiration come from?
  3. What is it that you love most about blogging?
  4. What is your favorite food?
  5. What is your favorite thing to drink (alcoholic or not)?
  6. What is an item you cannot live without?
  7. What are eleven random facts about yourself?
  8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
  9. If you could meet anyone from history, alive or dead, who would it be?
  10. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
  11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

And here’s the part where I am supposed to tell you my nominees, and this is the problem:  The Liebster Award is really supposed to go to a newish blogger with a smaller following.  And most folks I know in that category have already received this award, plus I have had two other awards to give out in recent weeks (an embarrassment of riches, I realize).  So I’m going to let y’all nominate yourselves.  If you fit the criteria for this award, and you have not yet received one, tell me in the comments and I will pass one of my nominations along to you so that I (and your readers) can get to know you better.

Fridays Blog Booster Party Featured

You will no doubt have noticed that I have written several sponsored posts lately–this one included–and since that’s a departure from the usual here, I want to give you a little explanation.

I was referred by some of my blogging friends to U.S. Family Guide, a resource for family fun which also connects bloggers and family attractions.  That means my readers get coupons, the attractions get publicity, and my family and I get free admission to some awesome attractions.  Obviously, I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed visiting this places if I don’t, I promise you that!

So the flurry of recent activity in this regard is because it’s almost summer and time for family fun.  I am excited to have a coupon offer that local readers can take advantage of.

welcome-to-gatlinburg

My readers will save $3 off Adult and $2 off Child Admission to all of Ripley’s Attractions in Tennessee.  You’ll need to make your purchase online and enter the following promo code when you check out: USFAMILYGUIDE  Click here for more information about this offer and about U.S. Family Guide.
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I’ll bet you weren’t aware that there were so many Ripley’s-owned attractions in Gatlinburg.  I know I wasn’t, even though I have visited some of them in the past.   The Guinness World Records Museum, Ripley’s 5D Moving Theater, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditorium, Ripley’s Davy Crockett Mini-Golf, Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, and Ripley’s Marvelous Mirror Maze are all owned by Ripley’s and are included in this promotion.  I’ve been to the World Records Museum, the Odditorium, and the Aquarium in the past, but it’s been many years and I know they’ve been updated since then so I am very excited.  One of the coolest things about the Aquarium is a tunnel that goes right through the shark tank!

I’m not sure when my family and I will make our visit but I will be back to tell you more about it when we do.  And in the meantime, if you use my promo code and visit for yourself, I hope you will come back here and comment!

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tussauds 1

Because John and I graduated from Georgetown University, and because his family still lives in nearby Baltimore, we have taken trips to our Nation’s Capital fairly regularly over the years.  And although there is never enough time to do everything we want to while we are there, and we never tire of seeing our favorite places, it’s fun to try something new once in awhile.

On our next trip, we will have FREE tickets (free is good, right?) to an attraction we have never seen.  All I have to do is write about it before we go, and review it afterwards.  Here’s what I know right now:

Have the ultimate fame experience at Madame Tussauds Washington D.C.! Here, you can snap the perfect selfie with your favorite music stars, film legends, sporting greats, historical icons, and local heroes. We are also the home of the President’s Gallery, which features all 44 U.S. Presidents.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 27:  Host of NBC's 'The Tonight Show', Jimmy Fallon (L) joins Madame Tussauds to debut five unique, brand new, never before seen wax figures of the television host at Madame Tussauds New York on March 27, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York)

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 27: Host of NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show’, Jimmy Fallon (L) joins Madame Tussauds to debut five unique, brand new, never before seen wax figures of the television host at Madame Tussauds New York on March 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds New York)

Who do you want to meet?
tussaud 3KIDS GO FREE! Free Child (Ages 4-12) Ticket to Madame Tussauds Washington, D.C. with purchase of regular same day adult admission. Present this coupon at the Madame Tussauds box office to receive one free child admission with every purchase of a regular same day adult admission. Valid for up to 6 people. Not valid on online, advance or combo ticket purchase or with any other discounts. Restrictions apply. Promo Code: V373.
http://usfamilycoupons.com/coupon.php?regionid=75&bid=11233&dealid=1317

tussaud 4

RIPLEYSBIONBaltimoreI’m excited to report that my family and I are going to receive free tickets to the new Ripley’s Odditorium at the Inner Harbor next time we travel to Baltimore to visit my husband’s family!  I’m looking forward to coming back here to tell you more about it, but here’s a teaser:

Believe It or Not!, Ripley’s is now located at the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Come see over 15,000 square feet of the odd and weird world of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! where truth is stranger than fiction. See a real shrunken head, Hogwarts Castle made of matchsticks and much much more! Along with incredible artifacts and artwork from all around the world and over 100 “interactives” take a ride on our 4D Moving Theatre and get lost in our Marvelous Mirror Maze. You can also take home your very own wax hand that you create. Ripley’s has been proudly freaking out families for over 90 years. Why just say it, See it!

We have a Ripley’s in Gatlinburg that we’ve enjoyed several times.  I know that William, especially, will be crazy about this.

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