For the first time, ever, I have a spare bedroom that I have the time and resources to convert into a Sewing Room!  So, I have been unpacking all of my sewing and craft totes and boxes, and organizing everything onto shelves and into drawers.  It is amazing to me, how once everything is neatly folded, it takes up so much less space!  Abby is sharing the room with me, and has her sewing table set up.  Ironically, her space is sort of still a big mess, and mine is all neat and organized, but she is the one who has actually already sewn something! 🙂

I still need a cutting table in the middle of my room, and I’ve got plans to sew some really awesome curtains, but other than that, it is starting to really shape up.

In the process of unpacking, I have run across some stuff that I haven’t seen since Kendall and Alex were babies!  Like the “Boppy” that I used when I was nursing Alexander.  It is a half-moon shaped pillow (well, actually, it’s just the fabric now, the stuffing has long ago disappeared) that I would put in my lap, and then lay the baby on, to make nursing more comfortable.  I also found the valances I made for Kendall’s room when we lived in the log cabin, on our little farm “down the mountain” in Mill Spring!  They are made out of a space patterned material, and they still look brand new. I found a few scraps of dinosaur fabric I used to make shorts for the boys when they were little, too.  I found a very yellowed sun-catcher, and a pattern for a Baby Sling that my dear friend, Bonnie Musselwhite+, had copied for me out of one of her old “Gentle Spirit” magazines, what seems like a million years ago now.  And, I found all the magazines that she left to me when she passed, back in 2008.

In the midst of my excitement about getting a new room just for sewing and crafts, I had to take a little time out to reminisce, and even grieve when I found those old treasures.  I miss the days when I was nursing my babies, more than I ever dreamed I would.  And as much as I love the wonderful man that Kendall has grown into, I really do miss him being a little boy, rockin’ those dinosaur shorts, and so full of wide-eyed wonder at the world around him.

And, I just miss Bonnie. She gave so much to so many of us, and was such a tremendous blessing.  I don’t think she ever had a clue as to how much she meant to all of us, and how she really changed so many lives, just by being, well, Bonnie.  Even though we were the same age, she was a living example of a “Titus 2 Woman”.

“Bid the older women likewise to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands, that the word of God may not be discredited.” Titus 2:3-5 (RSV)

I love finding such wonderful ‘treasures’, and am happy that the Holy Spirit places these cool little reminders here and there, for me to find and to remember the things that really matter, and to cherish my memories.  I look forward to making many, many more!  And, I pray that when my time comes, I will have been even half the blessing to the people God has shared with me in my life that Bonnie was to me, and to so many other women.

It’s Father’s Day again, and so I thought I would reminisce a bit about my own father. I have actually been thinking about him quite a bit lately, and I have come to the conclusion that he meant well. It didn’t seem like it at the time, when I was growing up, but now that he’s been gone for 8 years, it’s a little easier to be more objective.

I was quite terrified of him, which had some good points, but for the most part it was not a good way to grow up. I never knew when I might upset him, but that seems to be the way it works with alcoholics. So I tried, usually unsuccessfully, to fly under his radar.

However, being terrified of my father kept me out of a lot of trouble. And, I do have a few sweet memories of my dad. I choose to focus on those now, and not on the unpleasantness. His own dad was, by almost all accounts, pretty mean and very hard on my dad and his sister, so clearly, Daddy did a lot better by us than was done by him. But, on to the good memories. . .

I remember, in High School, I had a boyfriend who had promised to take me to the carnival when it came to town. I looked forward to this for weeks, but when it finally got there, the boyfriend backed out on me, and was really quite ugly about it. I was crushed! So, I went home and did the most rational thing I could think of: I ran to my room and cried!

Daddy came in and asked me what was wrong, and I told him. He said he couldn’t imagine why I was sitting there crying when I actually had a date to the carnival. I thought he’d lost his mind, but as I was trying to figure out what he meant, he said “C’mon! Let’s go! I’m your new date!” I was absolutely amazed, and I have to say, Daddy was the best date I ever had to a carnival!

I also remember, in Junior High, I was on the Volleyball team, but the coach never let me play. Daddy decided to find out what the problem was, and even though I was not allowed into the meeting, apparently they had to ask my dad to leave the school office, for fear that he was going to pulverize the coach!

Daddy used to take me arrowhead hunting, and I still have some bluebonnets pressed in my Children’s Bible that he picked for me on the side of the road one Spring, on our way to Brownwood. So, he definitely had his moments. Everyone outside of our home and immediate family thought he was wonderful and charming. And, he certainly could be. He presented very well publicly. Alcoholics generally do.

I can’t help but compare my own husband to my dad, when I think of fathering, and not a day goes by that I am not grateful for Gaylon. He is a phenomenal dad! Proof? All of his children love and respect him, and want to spend time with him! I am so proud (and envious!) of the relationship my daughter has with her daddy! They are best friends, and I am so very grateful! Our boys look up to him with respect, and Kendall proudly tells everyone how much he is turning into Gaylon. (It’s true. . . his wife confirms this!)

And, I am eternally thankful for the spiritual example my husband has set for his family. He is quiet in his faith, and chooses to live it out by action, and not word, but our children know that he will be in Mass every Sunday, and that he reads his Bible almost every night. They know that he prays, and that he prays FOR them. Gaylon is steady, faithful and true, and his children know it. He inspires me in so many ways!

So, this Father’s Day, I am grateful for the father I had, not because he was a great dad, but because I am who I am today because of him, and I am REALLY grateful for the amazing man I married, and the dad he is to our children.

I cannot believe that we have been living in Texas for almost two full months!  I am happy to report that, all things considered, we are doing very well, and are very happy in our new home.

Which is not to say we didn’t get off to a rocky start.  Not quite a month after we arrived, Gaylon got laid off.  Now, most of you remember that we moved here because Gaylon had a job working for his family’s commercial plumbing business.  To say that this layoff was a huge shock for us would be a gross understatement.  However, after a brief time of wallowing in extreme self-pity and misery, I managed to pull it together and start counting blessings.  I would like to share some of those blessings with y’all now.

  1. First, we have found an awesome church: St. Williams in Round Rock.  It has three wonderful priests, and it is only 10 minutes from our new home.  There are two masses every weekday, and seven on the weekends.  We have been able to attend the 12:15 Mass on most days.  They also have a full-time Middle School Youth Ministry, complete with Lock-Ins and Diocesan-Wide Youth Rallies.
  2. Our neighborhood is terrific!  It not only has a community pool just half a block from our house, but it also has a walking trail, complete with deer.  Actually, our entire neighborhood is full of deer.  (I refuse to say ‘overrun’, but that might actually be the correct term.)  There are lots of children riding bikes, playing football in the streets and folks walking all over the place. Right now, though we seem to be having an epidemic of graveyards, six-foot spiders, zombies and glowing skeletons.  I love it!!  We have been stockpiling candy for Halloween night, and Alex is planning to carry on my father’s twisted tradition of donning a werewolf mask and sneaking up behind trick-or-treaters.  Actually, Alex is planning to take it to the next level, and intends to jump out of our oak tree as they come up the sidewalk.  Daddy just hid behind the planter, LOL.  I sure hope our neighbors have a sense of humor!
  3. We are also loving being so close to everything!  The grocery store is only five minutes from our house.  We are ten minutes from three or four cinemas, and a couple of really good malls.  So, while we have a lot of ‘country’, like the deer and lots of beautiful Live Oak trees, we still get all the perks of being ‘city’.
  4. F.I.S.C.H.E. (Families In Support of Catholic Home Education).  This has been a HUGE blessing!  This group meets every Friday for Mass, then they have some sort of activity for the teens.  The activities rotate between spiritual, service and social.  So far, we have had a Spiritual Retreat, Bowling, Campfire, Paintball, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Lunch with Fr. Jonathan and Eucharistic Adoration.  In a couple of weeks we will be doing a Murder Mystery Party!!  This group has made all the difference in the world for Abigail.  She told me the other day that she really is happy here, and is glad we moved here!  Wow.  I floated all day after that announcement. 🙂
  5. Alex got a job at a grocery store called Sprouts just after we moved here.  He is making pretty good money, and has already made plans with a new friend to go to some Comic Convention next summer in San Antonio. I guess you gotta do all that while you’re young, right?
  6. Gaylon and I are making new friends, too.  We are so amazed and impressed by the spiritual family leadership of the men we are meeting, and the way they take their roles so seriously, yet still have fun doing it!  We have been invited by one couple to attend the Texas Alliance for Life’s Annual Benefit Dinner next week at the Hilton Austin.  The guest speaker is Abby Johnson, who is a former director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility and is now a pro-life advocate.  There is a lot of controversy and hoopla surrounding her decision to abandon Planned Parenthood’s ship, so I am very excited about getting to hear her speak!  I am also beginning to wonder if we will have to pass by protesters on our way into the Hilton. . .  it is, after all, Austin.
  7. Gaylon has been able, with the help of our homeschool group, to find some side-jobs to keep money coming in for now.  We have decided to believe in God’s promises, and are trusting that He will provide whatever we need.  So far, in the past 24 years, He has never abandoned us!

We do not know exactly what our long-term future holds. But for now, the short-term looks very promising.  We are headed back to North Carolina in December for Kendall’s graduation from UNC-A, and are looking forward to reconnecting with all of our friends out there.

This was posted to my homeschool email list, and I love it!  So, for anyone who needs encouragement on the homeschool journey today. . .

As a homeschooling mom, I have read so many articles by other homeschooling moms about their perfect lives and families. After a few years, I began to feel rather desperate, because I knew that there was no way I’d ever live up to those standards!  After a few more years, I realized that those families weren’t any more perfect than mine.

Gaylon and I have tried very hard to instill in our kids a strong work ethic and strong Catholic Christian values.  We have always encouraged them to think for themselves. And many times, we have wondered if they were absorbing any of it. Apparently, they were!

Yesterday Kendall said something to me that made me so happy.  He said that every day, he is more and more grateful for the the way he was raised!  He said that he gets complimented all the time for being such a hard worker, for having such a good work ethic.  He told me he credits us for making him work as he was growing up, instead of letting him sit around and play video games.

Then, a few hours later, Alex called to tell me that he got a bonus at work, for being such a good worker, and going above and beyond the call of duty! And the day before, he took his sister out for dinner and a movie for her birthday.  He paid for all of it on his own.  She was thrilled!

Both of my boys are always ready and willing to help me out with the yard work, or even the house work.  They love to hang out with us, and we enjoy their company so much. And, even better than that, they enjoy hanging out together, something I didn’t think would ever happen!  In fact, last night, Alex spent the night with Kendall.  Not much could make me happier!!

So, finally, we can actually see the fruits of our labor!  And it really is sweet. 🙂

Just wanted to wish everyone a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! There is so much horror in our world, I am grateful to have at least one day out of the year to just focus on blessings. I am grateful, most of all, for my Husband, my Children, and my Mother. Running a very close 2nd are all of my wonderful and amazing friends who have supported, comforted, and lifted me up in prayer over this past year. I would surely be in a padded cell by now, if it weren’t for them!

We are headed out in a couple of hours to our friend, Tiffany Galozzi’s home, where we are going to enjoy her wonderful cooking and hospitality. Woo Hoo! Then, tomorrow, we start decorating the house for Christmas, and finish the day up at the Trans Siberian Orchestra concert down in Greenville.

So, today I am going to start baking homemade rolls for Thanksgiving.  We are going to be at a friend’s home this year (Thanks, Tiffany!) so I don’t have to actually prepare the entire meal, which is so nice!  And, there will be about twelve people, so that will be really nice, too.  I really prefer Thanksgiving when there are a lot of folks to enjoy it with.

We are also going to be cleaning house today and tomorrow, because this weekend, we will be putting up all of our Christmas decorations!  So, I am thinking about the Holidays, and how fast they seem to be racing toward us.  It will all be here (and then gone!) before I know it.

Faith’s friend, Anamarie, said something the other day that really made me think. I have not looked forward to celebrating Christmas for a very long time, because it seems like we are always so short on money when it rolls around, no matter how much I’ve saved for it during the year.  (This year, for example, I have had to dump almost $1000 into my car in the past WEEK!  That was Christmas money.  Now, it’s just a painful memory. 🙁 )

But, back to Anamarie.  I was driving the girls somewhere, and she pipes up in her adorable little twelve-year-old voice and says “I can’t wait for Christmas!”  And I said “Really?  Why?  What is it that you enjoy most about Christmas?”  I wasn’t being sarcastic in any way.  I really wanted to know.  Sometimes it is just so nice to get a glimpse of the world through the eyes of a child.  It’s almost always a nicer place than I tend to think it is. Well, she explained that she loves putting up the tree, and opening presents, and getting to go to both of her grandmother’s homes for more presents and for yummy food.  Hmm.  I remember feeling excited about those things.  It was a long, long time ago.  Somehow that excitement has gotten away from me over the years.

Okay, I don’t mean to be on a total downer here.  I am merely taking an honest assessment.  And, yes, I am very well aware of the fact that Christmas is not supposed to be about all that stuff, but that all of that stuff is supposed to be about Christmas.  The birth of the Savior of the world, the Christ Child.  And we do things every year to remind ourselves of that fact, to celebrate and focus on that meaning.  We light the Advent Candles every evening, and pray together as a family.  We go to Daily Mass more often, and we attend special church services.  We celebrate Wigilia, and go to Midnight Mass.  And don’t get me wrong:  I *LOVE* those things!  But I still find it very difficult to get in the mood when the time comes.

But this year, I am really going to try, really hard, to focus on the *spirit* of the season, and not worry about all the rest of it.  Yes, I would really love a big family Thanksgiving or Christmas, where all my family joined us and we had this wonderful time together, then all went to church together.  I would love to feel a sense of hopefulness about the future of our country.  I would love to think that our house is about to sell! 😛  But none of those things are real.  What is real, though, is God, and the blessings that He has given us.  So, I am focusing on the blessings, and on being Thankful for them, as we Head for the Holidays.

I have been so busy lately, that I haven’t even had time to check my email, much less blog.  Faith and I have been trying to figure out why we are so much busier this school year than we have been in the past, and we really aren’t sure.  Maybe it’s the quilting, or the violin.  Who knows?  At any rate, we have been moving at the supersonic speed of life, and I am taking a few moments (that I really shouldn’t spare!) to do a little ‘catch-up’ on here!

Faith entered three items in the Western North Carolina State Fair this year: a appliqued denim jumper, a crib quilt, and a crocheted scarf.  She got 2nd Place Ribbons for the jumper and the scarf, and third place for the quilt!  I am so proud of her.  When I was her age, I didn’t know anybody who could sew or crochet or quilt who was under the age of, say, 110!  And I certainly didn’t have any friends who entered crafts in the County Fair!

We have also started “Quilting 102”, and it already seems like it is going to be a lot of fun.  In the midst of all the sewing and quilting, we picked up a bushel of apples, and have put up a run of apple butter, applesauce and pie apples.  Mom has baked and frozen several apple pies, and we have been enjoying fresh baked apple crisps, pies, and cakes almost every night.  (Yeah, I really need to get back on that treadmill!)

Alex's Birthday Party

L-R: Kendall, Lishi, Faith, Alex, Valarie & April

Alex started classes at Blue Ridge, and that is keeping him really busy.  He is also still taking French from a private tutor, and that  seems to be going really well.  She assures me he’s doing great, anyway!  I have always thought French sounded like someone trying to speak with a mouthful of oatmeal, but that is, indeed, what Alex sounds like, so I’m guessing that’s a good thing? 😉  In his spare time, he is working at the Outback and has just joined “Company” at the Flat Rock Playhouse. We had a really cool birthday party for him this year, too.  He decided he wanted a “Victorian Era Theme Party”, so we all dressed up like we were from that time, and had a blast!  We got a couple of cool family pictures, while we were at it. (I just wish Gaylon had been here.)

Kendall has been staying busy with his Journalism studies, and finally got interested in doing something with the blog he set up almost a year ago.  He hasn’t done a LOT with it yet, but it’s coming.  He is finally talking about it, and making plans, which is a huge step!  Check him out and leave some encouragement: Kendall Brooks, Unedited.

I am trying to find time to work on a genealogy website that I have been playing with for about a year, myself.  Hopefully, I will get some time this year.  I really have some great ideas, just no time to implement them.  But, hopefully I’ll get it up and running soon!

Anyway, that’s the update.  I have to get moving now, because Faith and I are headed to Mary Jo’s Fabric Store in Gastonia today, on our way to pick Gaylon up at the aiport!  Yay!

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