beautiful, birthday, books, creative, entertainment, family, food, gratitude, journey, list

It’s Friday, I’m in love… {plus a little something…}

Happy Friday!

It is STILL my birthday month, and darn it if I’m not going to milk it, at least a little! I also officially received my first birthday gift, from my very sweet friend! (Thanks, friend!) I am so touched by generosity and love…

Anyway, This Week! (am I right? I’ve heard the murmurs and I just want to say- me too, you guys… ME TOO.)

This (never-ending) winter has been brutal in all the weather and a non-weathery ways. Maybe if we all join hands, squint our eyes, jump up at the same time while shouting “SPRING!” we can jump-start things! (get it? Jump start… Yeah, like I said, it’s been a week.)

Let’s get to it, shall we?

  • As I shared, last week, I have embarked on a Keto adventure. So far, (one whole week in… Call me an expert! Ha!) I am really liking it, for a multitude of reasons I won’t really bore you with. (unless you ask… then I won’t stop.) So far my biggest disappointments have been the amount of carbs in my beloved coffee creamer, how absolutely sick the Keto flag-fat Bulletproof coffee makes me, and that putting even five strawberries in my daily smoothie will throw my entire day’s carbs off. (can we take a moment of silence for daily smoothies, because guess who isn’t doing them anymore? This girl…) So yeah, that’s a lot of whining about the down sides, (which are the only ones, actually, for me) but there have been a lot more things I’ve discovered that i LOVE! (like, LOVE LOVE LOVE!) I’ve made my favorite 5 minutes food ever (sans recipe) and I want to eat it EVERY SINGLE DAY… I also discovered this amazing little snack. You guys… I can’t even tell you how amazing this is! (The mozzarella is my FAVORITE, which is so weird because I’m not a big mozzarella fan.)
  • Also, while I have shared products from this company before, (#foreverfan) I recently discovered their Peanut Butter Cups and… But when they are Keto friendly too, and so freaking delicious… I CAN NOT FAIL!

At this point you’re probably thinking to yourself this chick better not share another Keto related thing, or I am done. Well, sorry to sound like the annoying new girlfriend of the high school quarterback, but sit tight for one more thing? Because, while the first two things are totally delicious, healthy and for EVERYONE (#hailketo), this can be too. It’s super helpful…

  • The Carb Manager App has been a life saver. I was STRESSING out before I dove in. I mean, how would I manage all of the math and percentages??? Anyone who knows me knows my brain has limits, and most beyond third grade* math exceeds them. When I received my diploma, my brain retired from such nonsense. (*I mean the math I did in the third grade, not the intermediate college level stuff expected of children in elementary school now.)
  • Did you guys watch the Oscars? They were pretty fun, this year, which is a relief. Also, it helped that I actually liked many of the movies, for a change… Francis McDormand won for best actress and was so happy she won! Not only was her performance stunning, (Three Billboards is an incredible film!) but I absolutely adore her! While the public, at home behind their phones and computers, love to criticize her for being weird, I think she is doing a remarkably fantastic job of showing what her priorities are, while delivering beautiful performances that just might teach us something if we pay attention. Plus, her speech… COME ON!!!!! She’s a Gem, and we need to look to the gems like her if we want to admire Hollywood, and not the airbrushed, polished fake narcissists… (and once again, Guillermo Del Toro’s speech moved me incredibly! Can he come be my motivational life coach now, please?)
  • This one… This one might be my favorite of all of the things… I LOVE movies. (I know, I’ll allow you a minute to compose yourself over the shock you surely must be feeling regarding this most recent confession… *cough*) I love books, (notice the non-cap letters… This was intentional.) As a little girl, I loved books. I often surrounded myself, in a lump on the floor, with them. The first “big” book that I remember falling in love with was James and the Giant Peach. When they made the movie, well into my grown years, I was beside myself with excitement. I still, to this day, love the book SO much… While I didn’t love the movie nearly as much, I still hold the book among my most sacred of first loves…

TODAY, March 9, A Wrinkle In Time is finally here! (FINALLY!!!!!) I love this book too, (though it’s not my J & t G P!) and have been so excited, for the better part of forever, for this movie to be out. Every time I have gone to the theater, one of the several trailers have played, only building my anticipation more…

Just in case you aren’t familiar with the book or film- From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic that takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light, good versus evil and, ultimately, the triumph of love.  The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Oprah, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, and Storm Reid as “Meg Murry.”

Storm Reid is Meg Murry and Levi Miller is Calvin O’Keefe in Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timless classic directed by Ava DuVernay.

One of the things I really love about the story of A Wrinkle in Time is the timelessness and relevance.

In honor of what looks like an extraordinary adaptation, and of course my birthday month (!!!) I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card away! For a chance to win, simply leave a comment with your favorite children’s book!

Good Luck!!! (and don’t forget to enter my other giveaway, for a Lifeway gift card!)

beautiful, entertainment, family, holiday

The most powerful man in history… {A giveaway +}

With Easter so near, it’s that time of year when the classic Bible movies air back to back on cable, (my grandma loved this, even though she owned them all on VHS anyway) and all of the chocolate animals imaginable start disappearing off store shelves. Personally, I love Easter. I was married Easter weekend and it just feels like such a natural NEW season.

It’s also become the trend that networks begin airing documentaries and introspects regarding various religious topics. I have had the unique experience of being behind the scenes of aspects of these productions, over the past few years, and it has all been a lot more fascinating and educational than I would have thought. This Easter, continuing this pattern, CNN is airing POPE: The Most Powerful Man in History. Here’s the special’s synopsis:

POPE: The Most Powerful Man in History explores the truth about the one world leader who is neither politician nor general – but commands the attention of both. For more than 2000 years, the head of the Roman Catholic Church has wielded unimaginable influence – shaping the world and our daily lives in surprising ways. Now, combining never-before-seen footage, exclusive interviews, and dramatic recreations, this upcoming six-part television series focuses on the men who have held this unique and complicated position, and reveals the unexpected true stories from the Vatican’s past.  The series also delves into the important historical moments that forever changed the Catholic Church – from the foundations of the Reformation to the origins of a new religious order within Catholicism – the Jesuits.  The series premieres on Sunday, March 11 on CNN. Narrated by Liam Neeson, Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History, is a six-part CNN Original Series that explores how 12 apostles became 1.2 billion Catholics today, linking recent news events surrounding the Vatican with their unexpected origins.

My husband is a lover of all things history, and his zest for things has seeped in to me. I am pretty excited about this special! Equally as exciting is a give away I have agreed to share with you! Are you familiar with Lifeway? I have a $25 gift card to Lifeway, for one of you! Which is cool, right? (to enter, simply leave a comment on this post or one of the social media shares. Winner will be chosen numerically, altering between sites in the order of blog, facebook, twitter, instagram, repeat)

BUT WAIT! That’s not all… There is a contest, in support of the show, in which someone (you???) could win a once in a lifetime trip to Rome! Inspired by the upcoming television premiere of Pope: The Most Powerful Man In History, contestants can vie for the opportunity to win by visiting the website: Giveaway begins March 8 and ends on April 15.


The winner of the giveaway will receive the following:

  • Airfare and five nights of hotel accommodations for two in Rome.
  • A $500 gift card.
  • A rare and private tour of The Vatican.


The Vatican is home to some of the greatest works of art including The Pieta, Raphael’s Transfiguration, Leonardo Da Vinci’s St. Jerome In The Wilderness, the statue of Apollo Belvedere, and a painting of The Last Judgement by Michelangelo, located inside The Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is famous throughout the world as the location where The College of Cardinals from The Roman Catholic Church, meet when a new Pope has to be elected.

beautiful, creative, entertainment, family, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, journey, parenting

My first Christmas Gift, of the season…

My heart is all a flutter these days as darkness blankets the world earlier and twinkly Christmas decorations span the city streets. Part of my adult heart still feels a bit surprised when evening brings such Christmas magic to life. Isn’t adulthood kind of like that? Each holiday season seeming to approach sooner, and never seeming to hold quite enough of those peaceful, magic-filled moments we crave… Maybe it’s just me. (It isn’t though, right???)

Being a movie lover, and a Christmas lover (Christmas itself and not the consumer induced frenzy of chaos and clutter that seems to misrepresent the season, anyway) I find that movies really do act as the glue which binds my season together. For roughly forty-six weeks of the year I am a pretty critical film watcher, with fairly high standards, but come early November I melt into that girl who loves nothing more than spending a snowy afternoon or at-home-evening in front of the fireplace with a Hallmark Christmas Movie on TV and a cup of something deliciously warm and comforting in hand. Sure, its cliche. I’m pretty ok with that. These are among the rare moments I have ever shared with my mother. This is the very description of many a Christmas season moments in our home, once my motherhood was the route of my journey. Of course though, Hallmark is not the only source of Christmas movies which hold my heart… I love so many, from the really funny ones (Christmas Vacation, Elf, Surviving Christmas, A Christmas Story) to the heart-layered-lovely ones (Step Mom, The Family Stone, The Holiday) and so many beautiful classics (Miracle on 34th st, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Bishop’s Wife)… Many of these fall on my must watch every year list, which naturally inspires one to wonder: does this girl do anything other than watch Christmas movies in November/December??? The answer to this, naturally, is sort of… They are almost always on, in the background. Sometimes I focus on them, sometimes they simply go about their two-hour time period bringing comfort, like an old friend, while I go about a work project, gift wrapping, card signing, baking, or mundane household chores.

If I am being honest though, I’d have to admit that my all time favorite Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. This Christmas is finding me at 41 years old. For as long as I can remember, my holiday seasons have held this movie as a part of life’s festivities. It never grows old and I somehow still manage to cry and draw kernels of wisdom and truth from George’s story, despite the fact that every inch of it is already stitched into my heart. Though Michigan may not be my favorite leg of this life’s journey, one thing I truly love is at Christmas time when we bundle up (because the weather here is usually pretty rocky on this day, and Ann Arbor seems to intensify the rockiness of the weather) and head to the Historic Michigan Theater for a Sunday December afternoon showing of It’s a Wonderful Life. The seats are snug and tiny, and every inch of our surroundings are rich with history and family sharing millions of moments just life the one we’re partaking in. The theater has both warm popcorn and beverages, and proceeding the film there is a jolly man playing the best of all fun Holiday jingles on a larger-than-life pipe organ. When ever I think of Christmas and the bits I truly love, this one always illuminates my mind first. The entire afternoon is sheer perfection.

I love my old school, time-honored favorites. I am a sucker for the new Christmas movies too. There are already two out, and I’ve seen them both. (Like I said, I am pretty die-hard about this whole Christmas movie thing. Speaking of Die Hard– ALSO a Christmas movie I love! ) The movie I am REALLY looking forward to this season is The Man Who Invented Christmas. (Fun fact sidenote: I also read A Christmas Carol every December)

The Man Who Invented Christmas tells the magical journey that led to the creation of Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), Tiny Tim and other classic characters from A Christmas Carol. Directed by Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), the film shows how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination to conjure up unforgettable characters and a timeless tale, forever changing the holiday season into the celebration we know today.


THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS releases in theaters on November 22.

As if it isn’t exciting enough, I also have a behind the scenes featurette to share!

So tell me, are you feeling in the mood for Christmas yet? Well… I have a little Christmas giveaway to add to the spirit. I would love to give one of you a Christmas movie DVD pack. I’m leaving the title’s a secret, BUT to make it fun- I will tell you that each of the three films has some significant tie to this movie The Man Who Invented Christmas! Intriguing, right? Entries end at Midnight Thanksgiving day!

To enter to win this awesome little package all you have to do is leave a comment RIGHT HERE, about your favorite Christmas movie. That’s it. (and yes, Hallmark movies COUNT! They totally do!)

beautiful, books, entertainment, family, friendship, gifts, gratitude, journey, parenting

Her Children Will Rise and Call Her…

Decades ago there was a woman who identified herself as wife and mother. She had a heart for Jesus, and this would come to sustain her more than she may ever have imagined. It is easy, in such a role, to find yourself in the details of sack lunches, ironing shirts and after work embraces, greeting your husband at the end of his day. When her husband found himself unfaithful and interested in a life & family with someone else, leaving her and her four daughters, it may have been hard to imagine herself at all- for a minute…

These days this scenario is almost expected, and there are programs and plans to help. Decades ago, this was not the case. To be the left, carrying the load, well- I can only imagine she endured judgement and bigotry at times, at the hands of others maybe so trapped in their fear. An absent husband/father and the either compassion or disapproval of others will not put food in your daughters’ bellies, so this beautiful woman had no choice.

She rose.

In an era where men were still handed most opportunities, she marched into a bank and offered them herself. She presented herself with such honesty: this would be her first job, she was an abandoned single mom, she knew she would work hard, and she did. Many years later she would retire from that very same bank. Times were so different then that, truthfully, we may have a tough time even understanding how isolating and brave this all had to have been. While her friends were lunching and sharing in each others lives, this beautiful soul would miss class parties and the like, just to keep power on in her very modest apartment. These days single motherhood is such a thing, and working mothers are very common, but this story is more. Even though single motherhood and working motherhood are among the most common elements of todays society, the fact that this woman’s life fell utterly apart and she rose in the morning, rising to give her daughter’s life. Rising to create a life that was so full of something bigger than any dollar could buy.

Rising up and moving past is not something common these days either, but maybe that has never really been on trend…

Beyond that, any of us who have been parents for any point in time know that parenthood is hard. So hard, and going at it alone only multiplies that. This incredible woman raised four incredible women. Women who went on to raise incredible kids. While no one is perfect, these 5 women have set the standard for keeping family at the center of the vitalist of priorities, also in a time when family grows less and less important.

There is not a person out there who could not learn something life affirming from knowing these girls or their mother. These days, most of girls themselves find themselves grandmothers. Their family has seen illness, loss, struggle, death and heartbreak. The tragedy which altered their world at the start of this story did not cripple or eternally victimize these five women, though it could have. It did not create an opportunity for them to settle down and live off of charity. It did not inspire deep, life long rebellion and acting out. Did it devastate them? yes. This woman, whom I admire beyond words, worked hard every day for her family.  In rising above and with such courage, she planted the seeds which would grow what was necessary, in her daughters, to stand throughout the heartaches and struggles they would face. She fought hard, for her family. She prayed hard, for her family. She was in the trenches for these girls, without ceasing. What began as clothes on their bodies and heat in their home continued through dating, marriage, childbirth, some divorce, heartbreak, health problems and even burying one of her own beautiful daughters. She still stands strong for these girls and their children, and their children’s children. Having known this beautiful soul since I was sixteen, I have to believe that if we are earning “jewels in our crown”, in heaven, for the beautiful things we do on this earth, this woman is going to have a castle filled to the brim with jeweled crowns.

Her daughters continue her legacy, rising up and fighting for the ones they love. They are united, kind and supportive and their children have become this as well. Among them is so much success, many geographical locations and, at the core of everything, family.

When I was challenged to write about a woman, a heroine, whom I have known in life who has gone above and beyond, sacrificed and inspired, there was no one else I could imagine. I met this soul when I was sixteen, visiting her tiny apartment with her granddaughter, who was my friend. I had no idea the ways that this woman would be so important in my life. She has stood beside and fought for me more than any one I’ve had. She is tiny in stature and fierce in heart, even so much as going up against my husband 18 years ago for his own adultery and abandonment. There she stood, taking him on and this man of 5′ 11″ towered over this tiny little woman and yet the only thing he was feeling was terrified. She, one of her amazing daughters (who would become my mentor and one of my dearest friends) and her own mother made three of four people who attended my wedding shower, when the world I’d lived in had all but thrown me away. I have recovered from miscarriage in her home, cried on her shoulder, prayed beside her and had so much loving conversation.

Any popular story I hear about people moving great obstacles to accomplish bold things simply does not hold a candle to her, in my book. What she had to do (and really, when she had to do it) combined with how her own daughters turned into loving mothers, fierce advocates for their family, and wild supporters of others- that is everything right there. She is a heroine with an amazing heroic legacy.

There is a film releasing on the 31st called The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. (It is based on the novel of the same title, and you can see the trailer here.) It is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, a Christian couple who save and house hundreds of Jews during WWII. This not only an inspiring and life affirming story of heroism and faithfulness, but in a time such as this, it is a necessary story of humanity tearing down the walls of religion to help others, regardless of theirs. 

The world is scattered with brave souls, their beauty and their stories there for us to learn from and do with. I am so blessed by knowing this beautiful woman who I have shared with you. Who would you have written about? I would love for you to share. On the 31st, at 12:00 a.m., I will choose a winner (at random) to receive a $25 Fandango card… (comment additionally if you tweet or FB share to be granted extra entires.)

adoption, beautiful, confession, family, friendship, gifts, gratitude, home, journey

A house/A home…

I have the heart of a true dog lover…

When Chw and were young and a bit crazy, and two new kids living in upstate New York, we grew our little family with an adorable little roly-poly Golden Retriever puppy named Makaila. Makaila became the very best friend of our little Gen, when she came home to us.251415_10150202049326277_874492_n


When Makaila was five years old, an adorable little newborn black and barely white puppy fell into our laps. We named her Paisley, for no particular reason other than I had dreamed of getting a puppy named Paisley the night before. Paisley was tiny and dependent and bonded to me very, very deeply. As she grew, my heart wrapped so tightly around that precious little dog.

In August of Makaila’s ninth year, we learned she had bladder cancer and in a very short amount of time she made her way across that rainbow bridge. We had her cremated and her ashes were scattered at a Christmas tree farm, which I still think is the loveliest of things…



A couple of months later Paisley was lonely for a canine companion and we foolishly jumped at the first puppy we found. She is called Emma and she is a character. She and Paisley never hit it out. Emma can be funny, but she is seldom sweet and often her soul is more fire than love (in a sassy and prideful way, of course). She is the most un-dog any of us have ever known, she has made home what it is and we love her quirky ways all the same.



Ironic as it seems, this past August was Paisley’s 9th year and she too found her way to the Rainbow Bridge. It was sudden and gut wrenching and a piece of me went with her. I think a piece of all of us, even little Emma, went too. She was the epitome of love in a dog. The most pleasing, comforting, loving, accepting, reassuring creature I have ever known…

Emma has had a tough time recovering the loss of the other canine presence. She lost herself a bit and is finally emerging. My husband assures me there will be no future dogs for us. My heart both sighs with relief at his words, and aches to beg for another.

I love my kids and they make the two of us a family, binding us together and bringing about rhyme, reason and purpose… But our dogs, our dogs have made our houses home. They’ve breathed life when the darker times convinced us there was none. Their wet noses have whispered love into the loneliest of moments and often been the only things that dragged me from the pits of a depression hell in the dark days.

Dogs make the world a better place…

Tell me about any pets you have loved?

Thanks to the release of the new film A Dog’s Purpose (based on a WONDERFUL film, of the same name), which opens on 1/27, I am happy to give away a $25 Fandango credit to one reader! The giveaway ends at Midnight on 1/26! To enter simply comment here with your story of a dog you’ve loved.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer. And just in case you missed it, here’s a link to a post I wrote about their charity support.