Saturday, November 27, 2010

Get Free Holiday Cards from Shutterfly

CJ's first Christmas with Santa

One of the signs that Christmas is coming soon to our house is a visit to the mall Santa to have CJ's annual photo taken. I think that RJ and I are usually more excited about this visit than our son. But this year as a 3-year-old, he at least knows who Santa is.

In order to make our lives easier, we've used Shutterfly the past two years to make our Christmas cards. They let you choose the cover photo and then your own inside design. We go with the Santa photo on the front and then a couple of winter photos inside with a Scripture verse and Christmas greeting. I also love the Cranberry Swirl and Holly Frame card designs.

To make Christmas gifts easy, we also make CJ calendars for his grandparents. These adorable calendars feature a CJ photo for each month, tailored to each set of grandparents.

Using personalized photos helps connect us to family and friends at the holidays. If you have a blog (Facebook profiles/postings and private blogs are not eligible), you can get 50 free holidays cards from Shutterfly -- sign up here.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Every Time a Bell Rings ...

The young woman looked tired as she approached my desk. With blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, she carried her toddler on her hip. She said she needed help. 

She told me how she, her husband and their three children were stranded in Atlanta, far from their home. She needed gas money to get back home and she needed food for her children. As she talked, she tried to keep from crying. Hearing her story – and those of others who frequently visit where I work – is the hardest thing I deal with in my job. As a non-profit on a major road in a large city, at least once every couple of weeks someone stops at our door and needs help.

Our official stance is that we partner with a local ministry that provides assistance to those in need. But unofficially, my heart breaks when I hear their stories. I know that some of them have questionable intentions. But, my job is not to judge. I try to give a listening ear, give them information and do what I can.

Usually I end up feeling crummy and inadequate. I hold back my own tears and hide behind my professional mask.

But today, even though I wasn’t able to give the young woman all the help she needed, I hope to help people in need during this holiday season.

Do you hear that? That's the sound of a "virtual bell" ringing. FlyLady (an organizational mentor that I mentioned in an earlier post) is hosting a Salvation Army Online Red Kettle. The donations collected will be used to help those in need this Christmas. Her Kettle is just like those you see when you're out shopping.

If you'd like to donate, just click this linkHer goal is $10,000, which seems huge! But I would love to know that the money collected will play a small part in bringing hope to families this Christmas. As the Salvation Army says:

“When you put money in my kettle, expect change.
Expect those who have lost everything to find help and hope.
Because the money donated to my Online Red Kettle will change lives –
for the better.”

If you give to the online kettle, pleave leave a comment below.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sisterchicks: Can't Live Without Them

"Sisterchick: a friend who shares the deepest wonders of your heart, loves you like a sister, and provides a reality check when you're being a brat."

Tonight I'm having dinner with the "chicks," a group of my friends who try to get together every couple of months. Getting to see them makes me think of all the great friends who fill my life. The chicks started when we were all in the singles group at a local church. Now, we've morphed into a group that includes single women, married ones and a couple with children. Through the years, we've shared the joys and tears that come with friendships that last. Although our ability to attend the chick gatherings is sometimes spotty, we're welcomed back without reproach or questions.

Although different duos and trios from the chicks have taken international trips, we've never managed to take a trip together with the whole group. When I read the Sisterchicks books by Robin Jones Gunn, they made me think of what it would be like if we ever manage to do a trip with all of us. Reading the Sisterchicks series is one of my guilty pleasures -- easy reading that is sometimes preachy, but well-intentioned and entertaining. I especially love the one that takes place in Venice because it reminds me of my trip there.

Besides my chicks, I'm also thankful for the friends I've made through my jobs. I've been lucky to have jobs at non-profits where the work I do makes a meaningful difference. But, I've also made incredible friends along the way. Sometimes, I think God led me to a couple of jobs just so I could meet these people!

Finally, I'm grateful for the friends I've made while slogging through my high school and college days. My friend, SF, especially waded through the drama of dating (and not dating), procrastinating and burning out during my college years. She loves me no matter what and has seen me through some of the best (coaching me through CJ's birth) and worst (heartbreak) times of my life.

At this time of year when I think about giving thanks, my friends top the list. Please share with me your favorite memory of a time with your sisterchicks or your favorite book about friends.

Monday, November 8, 2010

War Eagle!

Although I have married into a family of Auburn fans, it's really all about the mascots for me. Saturday, I went with RJ to an Auburn homecoming game. We wished a Happy 30th Birthday to TIger VI, who retired in 2006. She's a beautiful golden eagle who used to fly around the stadium on game days to get the crowd pumped up. Aubie, the teams' other mascot, also showed up at the birthday party. I loved watching his antics on the sidelines during the game.

Although seeing the Auburn Tigers win their homecoming was exciting, getting to see Tiger and Aubie was a highlight for me. I guess this is what happens when your high school team tried hard, but didn't have any wins to show for it, and you go to a college without a football team.

After the Auburn win, I got to see first-hand the tradition of rolling Toomer's Corner. After their victories, fans join at this intersection to roll the trees. It was a chaotic blizzard of toilet paper. The children on campus really loved seeing if their rolls would make it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

On Friday, I was a mystery reader at my son's preschool. Before arriving, I wondered how disguised I would be for my reading. The class is made up of 3- and 4-year olds who are pretty sharp. As soon as I walked in the door wearing my "Zoro" mask, one of the little girls in the class hollered out a greeting, obviously recognizing me. My son ran over from the reading circle to grab my legs in a happy welcome hug.

I played ignorant and told them, "I'm your mystery reader. You can guess who I am when I'm done with the book." Although I had a back up book in my car, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, I read a book about an adventurous pumpkin provided by my son's class. Nothing's cuter than 15 preschoolers actually paying attention to you reading.

I wish I had read my pigeon book to the class. Even though it's definitely a children's book, I love it! The pigeon has such a great personality and I'm sure every preschooler can relate to being told "No" whenever they want to do something great like drive a bus. I love the illustrations by Mo Willems.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

Since I refuse to get heavily into Christmas planning before Halloween, now it's time to get serious about preparing for Christmas! One of the most valuable resources I've found is Flylady's Cruising through the Holidays. I admit that I've been "flywashed." Before I stumbled on Flylady's Web site about two years ago, my house was always a mess and I dreaded having people over because that meant scrambling around to clean up my house.

With Flylady's (a.k.a. Marla Cilley) approach of babysteps, I've been able to get better control over the chaos 15 minutes for a time. Now, I'm usually 30 minutes away from being able to have friends over. I do still have issues -- like I would rather do almost any duty than wash dishes -- but I'm moving in a good direction. Before using her tips, I always felt overwhelmed at where to begin with housework. 

My favorite thing about Flylady's tips is that they're FREE! Of course, she tries to earn cash for her Web site by offering items for sale, but I've never felt pressured to buy and love the fact that her tips are sent out by email. To keep me on track, I look at her Holiday Cruising Missions that involve small projects to get me ready for Christmas by the end of November.

I'm not keeping on track with all the missions, but it's been helpful to start thinking of my budget for Christmas presents. Since we're in a new house this year, I hope that some early planning will help us figure out where to place our decorations and get everyone in a festive mood. After all, I don't want to spend the season preparing for baby Jesus' birth stressed out and irritable.

Any fellow "Flybabies" out there?