Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Life all around me...

Sugar and flour may not seem like much on their own, but with a little inspiration, these ingredients will bring a smile to anyone's face. Endure the photos of the sweets to finally arrive to the sweetest of them all and my new little piece of inspiration...

Happy Graduation WBHS!

Happy Birthday Cookies!

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

More Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Baby Shower Cookies

Bridal Shower Cupcakes

Easter Cookies

For some reason, since February 14th, I have been feeling somewhat uninspired to write. I think about it sometimes but my eye for the inspiring has been blind. Yesterday, a small spark of inspiration finally reappeared. Call her my muse if you like, but Kelsi Morgan sparked my fire once again. Holding that sweet little new life in my arms reminded me that life is happening all around me. I have been numb to it, jaded I guess. I have gotten into my own little routine in my own little world and have failed to be grateful and amazed by the life I witness every single day.

Having the privilege of being a stay-at-home mommy has afforded me opportunities I would never have had otherwise. I have been able to watch my sweet Layla Paige grow like a weed right in front of my eyes. I have witnessed her tiny little life unfold before me, and it has been nothing short of amazing.

During my time at home, I have developed a new love for cooking and especially for baking. I am by no means a master at my craft, but I am getting better. My developing skills have given me the chance to be a tiny part of the lives of others... some I don't even know. I can't say that my baking will ever make a fortune for me or that it will even bring in more than a few dollars here and there, but what it does bring me is excitement, fun, and challenge.

I have been invited to share in so many life changing events, and I have finally come to understand that life is what inspires me. The privilege of making the cake or cookies for some life event is so much fun. Dessert always makes people happy, but dessert that is pretty and tastes good and that is made from scratch with love makes people ecstatic! Making people ecstatic is my passion in life!
Over the past few months I have baked for wedding showers, baby showers, graduation, birthdays, and most recently, the birth of new baby! I love being a part of life, even it is just with sugar and flour. It makes me excited to know that people are turning corners and passing through life every single day and that in some way, I may have made that passage a little sweeter.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sushi and Sweethearts

As I wiped the night time from my eyes and untangled myself from the pool of sheets wrapped around my body, I rolled over to the sweetest smile I have ever seen. My little blue-eyed Valentine (and my big blue-eyed Valentine) had crawled into bed with me this morning. My sweet girl was grinning from ear to ear, so proud of what she and her daddy had created for me. She was waving a sheet of white paper that had been folded into the shape of a greeting card. There is no better way to wake up than right beside the sweetest two people on the planet. Valentine's day has never been a holiday that I have made a big deal out of, but have used it more as an excuse to go out on a date with Chris and buy him gifts. I also enjoy the occasional pink and red decorations and the endless possibilities when it comes to cookie decorating and red velvet cupcakes. Besides the desserts, dates, and decorations, it has never been an incredibly meaningful holiday to me. This year I did spend a few minutes reminiscing about the first Valentine's day Chris and I spent together. These thoughts then turned into a conversation between us about all of the Valentine's Days we have spent together complete with dinners out, a limo ride, a sneezy bouquet of lilies, sweet gifts, and last year's quiet night at home recovering from a C-section and enjoying decadent chocolate truffles made by my sweet husband.

This year, Valentine's weekend has been spent with both of my Valentines. We enjoyed sushi last night, and Chris made dinner at home tonight. More than the "Hallmarkness" of the holiday, this year, it has just been more of reason to cling to each other and revel in the beauty of family. This year, every minute I have spent with my two Valentines has been a lesson in giving and receiving unconditional love.

My handmade card this morning said it all, and made me truly appreciate this season of love:

We want you to know that we love you and appreciate all you do in our lives. You go out of your way every day to ensure that we have the special love we need to get through our day. We love to hear your voice and look forward to your beautiful face. Thank you for being such a strong mother and incredible wife. You make our lives easier and more enjoyable. We feel so blessed to have such a special person like you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cake and Career

It's been a long time since I have posted anything. Much has happened, and things are changing every day around here. Several times I have sat down to write, and I can't make myself type the things I need to say. I can't seem to wrap my brain around all the thoughts swimming around in my head.

My little blue-eyed girl turned one about three weeks ago. I can't believe how much she has grown. I can't believe I am the mother of a one year old. She is on the verge of walking, and she is picking up the signs we are teaching her very quickly. "More" is the favorite, and she is also doing and understanding "down," "food," and "please." I am working on "thank you," but that one seems to baffle her still. We had a beautiful "Winter One-derland" first birthday party. It was filled with warm winter soups and breads, blue snowflake cupcakes, and blue and silver ribbons, cascades of snowflakes, and glittery snow everywhere! Dear friends and family joined us to celebrate, and everything was absolutely perfect!

That little Layla never ceases to amaze me with her kisses, love pats, curiousity, and sweet spirit. She pulls up on everything, laughs like a crazy woman when her daddy plays with her, and figured out just today how to open the wrapper of a Lindt truffle. By the time I got to her, the entire truffle was in her mouth and her little cheeks were puffed up like a chipmunk storing up for the winter. I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time when I saw her.

My family, my Chris and Layla, are my rocks, my stability, my inspiration. Over the past weeks I have been wondering, "what next?" And I still don't know. I have been fortunate to have a whole year at home working hard to teach my little girl everything I can and love her as much as I can every single day. I have been able to make my home comfortable and welcoming. I have learned how to be a healthy cook and supporting wife. I have learned what it really means to be a mother, and what it really means to love unconditionally. I have spent a lot of time taking care of everyone, and I would not trade any minute of that for the world. But, I am learning now that I have to take care of myself too. If I can do that, then I am better for all the other people I take care of.

The one thing I have done for myself all along is exercise, eat right, and work hard to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I have hit that weight, and am working to lose about 5 more pounds. It is so wonderful to fit into the designer jeans Chris bought for me 5 years ago on Valentine's day! That makes me so happy, but there is more to life than fitting into designer jeans. I have always known this, but I am really starting to understand now just how much more.

I am in this constant battle in my mind these days. I am struggling with where to go next. Thus far, I have pretty much just floated through life, settling where I land. My first job after college was the first and only job I interviewed for. The job I took next was one that just fell into my lap. I was not even looking. A friend told me about this job, I sent in my resume, interviewed, and accepted the job all within a 5 day period of time. In the past 8 years, these are the only 2 jobs I have had. Four days after Layla's birth, my company closed its doors. I have not been back to work since.

Now, the time has come to find a new career. I can't imagine taking Layla somewhere and having someone else care for her. I know where we choose to send her will be just fine, and that she will be very happy. But, I dread the day I have to drop her off, walk away, and go to work. I know that my family needs me now to help pay the bills. I have to find my place again in the real world, and not just in my little world of Willow Pond. I just don't know where that place will be. Soon enough I will figure it out, and soon enough our lives will change, yet again!
*Photo courtesy of Ryan Justice*

Thursday, December 31, 2009

357 Days

It has been weeks since I have been able to sit down and write, and I have missed it. So much has happened during this holiday season, but with all of the craziness, reflecting on all of this has taken a back seat to cooking, cleaning, packing, unpacking, wrapping, and unwrapping. As I sit here, this New Year's Eve 2009, I can't help but to get a little choked up as I think about how my life has changed this year. Eight days into 2009, at 9:53pm, the cry of tiny baby shrieked through the bright and sterile operating room. This cry rang in my ears welcoming a new and amazing chapter in my life. In one brief second, we were no longer a couple. We were a family. And, in the year 2009, my sweet little family of 3 has grown and changed with every single day. Since that day, January 8, 2009, I have experienced 357 days of bliss. I am not going to sugar coat reality. It has been hard. Each day has been challenging, and some completely frustrating, but even through the chaos and confusion, I have found myself happy every night when I fall asleep, and ready to smile every morning as I wake to the sweet little sounds streaming through the tiny monitor on my nightstand.

Watching Layla grow has been absolutely unbelievable. I have read all the books and have done all the research. I knew what to expect when I was expecting and I knew what to expect in the first year. But I never knew how I would feel through all of this. The only way to describe my feelings each and every day of 2009 is complete awe. I have been awed by a tiny blue-eyed girl. The amazement I have felt for her ever changing personality and mental and physical development has brought me to my knees several times. I sometimes think about Mary thousands of years ago, holding a tiny baby, listening to Him cry, and never, in her wildest dreams being able to imagine what He would do with his life. I know my tiny baby is not the Christ child, and I know she will never die to save the entire human population. But I know that Mary was a mother, just like me, and that just as she was amazed and awed by her son, and just as she was proud of everything her son did, I will be amazed and awed and proud of my daughter.

My hope and prayer for this New Year is the same this year as it was last year, and I will venture to say that it will be the same in each year to come - I hope and pray that Chris and I will be the best parents that we can be, and that we will teach our daughter everything we possibly can. I hope that our relationship as husband and wife continues to grow stronger with every smile and every tear. I pray that my little girl will learn about unconditional love by the strong example set by her parents. And I pray that we will never be jaded by the sadness and negativity that surrounds us. I hope that we will always find the beauty and happiness in life, and that we will always find a moment to show our gratitude for what we have been given.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Thrill of Hope

Have you ever truly listened to the words of "Oh Holy Night"? It is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written, and I have listened to it and sung it a million times. I could recite the words on command, but last night, as I drove home from a quick trip to Wal-Mart, I actually listened to this song. I am not going to lie. I cried, and not just a few tears. And I did not have to come up with an excuse when I came in the house with watery and puffy eyes since I have a sinus infection.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared, and the soul felt it's worth.

I guess I never thought about the worth of my soul, but to God, it is a valuable posession. I am just in awe thinking about the birth of a tiny child that put a value on my soul. This tiny baby made me worth saving. This sweet boy gave me the promise of life with God, eternally. The knowledge of this gives me hope...

The THRILL of hope, the weary world rejoices.

I have never thought of hope as thrilling until last night. Hope to me has always been a word I have associated with sadness and hard times. You always talk about hope in difficult situations as sort of a light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is something you cling to in dark times. Hope to me has always been a quiet guide to a journey through a difficult situation, but thrilling? Really? Thrilling to me is excitement and adventure. I have never thought of being thrilled in the midst of sadness or fear. But from now on, I want to be thrilled. It makes challenges seem a little less difficult when you place an element of excitement on them.

On a small scale, I am thrilled with the hope of new opportunities for me and my family. This past year, minus one salary, has been a little scary. But thinking about it in this new light gives me the thrill of hope. I am encouraged by this new hope. I know that God has a plan for our family, and I know that if we are not hopeful, God's plan will not be fulfilled.

On a much larger scale, our society has fallen into a dark time. We are at war with other countries and ourselves. We are so concerned with making people comfortable that we do not challenge their beliefs and gloss over the fact that this season is Christmas, not "the holidays". The reason there are holidays at all is because of Christmas. And this Christmas season, I am filled with hope that we will share our message of why we have Christmas at all. I am thrilled in the hope that this world will no longer be weary, that we can all rejoice in the hope of this child that gave our souls worth.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the Angels' voices.

Though it is raining and cold today, this morning is new and glorious. It is a new beginning for me. I was taken to my knees last night, though not quite an Angel, Kelly Clarkson's voice carrying over my XM radio was enough to thrill me with hope for this holiday season and the year to come.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Art of Please and Thank You

With the holidays fast approaching, I find myself out and about quite a bit more. Between grocery shopping for all of those holiday functions, Target runs for anything and everything, and all of the gift shopping, I am in the stores and on the road quite often. I guess I am not surprised, but I find myself quite angered by the rudeness and general disregard for others. As I drive down the road and people pull out in front of me, refuse to get into the left lane to allow other cars to merge, or fail to use their turn signals, my road rage tends to get the best of me. When I am shopping, I am just amazed at the number of people who stand on one side of the grocery aisle while perusing the shelves on the other side of the aisle, therefore taking up the entire aisle with just them and their cart. I guess they think that if they just pretend not to see you then it's okay and they don't have to move.

The other day in Target, my mom, my sister, Layla, and I were shopping and just minding our own business. I stopped at the end of an aisle to reach down in Layla's stroller to put her shoe back on. This took all of 30 seconds, and when I stood up, there was a woman and her cart standing there giving me the evil eye and trying to push her cart through a space that was all of 6 inches wide. Rather than saying "Excuse me," she just stood there and stared at us. Finally, I said, "Oh, excuse me," and stepped out of the way. She barrelled her way through, and for the remaining 45 minutes that we were in the store, this same woman purposely came down the aisles we were in to stand and take up the whole space so that we would have to turn around, and cut us off ever time we tried to turn down an aisle. This woman had to be in her mid to late fifties and was acting like a child. I could not believe her behavior.

While shopping at the Five Oaks Shops in Sevierville last week, I was so angered by the number of customers and employees sitting outside on all of the benches puffing away on their cigarettes and forcing me, Layla, and my parents to breathe in their disgusting second-hand smoke. Today, I e-mailed the manager of the mall, and just brought to her attention how unfair this is to all of us non-smokers, and how much I hated that my 10 month old baby had to breathe in this disgusting smoke. Her reply to me :

Dear Mrs. Blankenship,

We are sorry that smoking has caused you to have unpleasant experiences in our center. However, we have met the Nonsmoking Criteria set by State Law and are in compliance. We have also asked all store employees to abide by our No Smoking Policy and to smoke outside in the back of their store.Our customers are special to us and we would like to send you a gift card as a form of apology. Please forward your address to us.Again we are sorry and wish you and your family Happy Holidays.

Seriously? A gift card? That is supposed to make my second-hand smoke exposure better? Really? I was shocked. Just because it meets state criteria does not mean that is best. I could not believe that a gift card was her solution to this problem. I promptly responded to her, and I told her that a gift card was not the solution. I did not want a gift card, and would just choose to do my holiday shopping elsewhere this year.

Enough with my rant. I have said all of this just to say that this holiday season, I am making it my purpose in life just to be a nice person. I am going to smile at people, say please and thank you, keep myself and my cart on one side of the grocery aisle, say "excuse me" to people when I need to get around them or if I am in their way, hold doors open for people, and if someone has a problem, I am going to try my hardest to come up with an intelligent and accommodating solution. I am doing all of this not only to make myself a better person, but also to set an example for my little blue-eyes. She is watching every move I make and hearing every word I say. I want her to be a good person. I want her to have respect for others, and I want her to have good manners. Respect and manners are so rarely exhibited any more, and it saddens me. We are all human and are all deserving of both of these. I am so excited to teach my little lady the art of "please" and "thank you."