FRiday Favorites: Project Repat

It has been 20 years since I graduated from college.  Yes, I am old! I went to a small women’s college nestled near the North Georgia mountains that I loved so very much.  It was the perfect school for me.  It was just far enough away from home that I got away from my little hometown, but it wasn’t too far away that I couldn’t easily go home to visit on the weekends.  It was also the perfect size school for this shy, innocent teen at the time.  I loved every minute of my 4 years there.  Even though I hadn’t planned to, I joined a sorority and met the most incredible women who I have bene lucky enough to call friends. While I was there, I collected a plethora of t-shirts as I think most college students do, and I have hung onto (or at least my mom hung onto) them for the last 20 years with the intent of one day creating a quilt out of them to capture all my memories.  At one point my mom was going to try to do it, but she really didn’t have the time or know how.  Then she was going to have a friend to do it, but life always got in the way and it just never happened.  Of course, it got brought up every now and then over the years that we really needed to do something with the shirts or get rid of them.  Well, it may have taken 20 years, but I finally was able to get it done! My mom ended up getting my sister and me gift cards to Project Repat for Christmas to cover the cost of a full-sized quilt.  It then took another 6 months before I got my act together and mailed in all my shirts, but I finally did it, and I couldn’t be happier that it is finally done.  

The gift card was for a full-sized quilt which allowed for 30 shirts in 12X12 squares.  My first chore was to go through all of my shirts and select the 30 I wanted to use.  That was not as easy of a task as you might think.  There were some of my sorority letters that I decided to keep in the hopes that maybe one of my girls will pledge the same sorority one day.  Wishful thinking, I know!  Anyway, once I had selected my 30 shirts and chose the color backing that I wanted them to add to the quilt (I chose grey), the instructions were to cut the shirts so that just the side you wanted shown on the quilt was mailed in.  They had a video to watch that showed you how to cut them, and it was super easy to follow.  My fingers did get a little sore after cutting up 30 shirts, and it was a little heartbreaking to cut them into pieces.  I had to keep telling myself that it would be worth it in the end.  Next, I packaged them up and mailed them in, which was a little nerve wracking.  I was terrified that they would get lost in the mail.  In fact, they did end up taking a few detours along the way, and I thought they might be lost forever.  Thankfully, they eventually showed up in the right location.   I did end up paying an extra $20 over my gift card in order to make the square size a little larger (14×14) to allow me to use some shirts that had a larger design. I didn’t want anything to get cut off.   There was one shirt that got a little off center and got cut off a bit, but I will forgive them for that because the rest of it is so amazing! It took around 3 weeks to get the quilt back once it arrived at their facility.  I cannot tell you how much I love the end product.  It is exactly what I wanted and is now one of my all-time favorite things. 

I highly recommend Project Repat if you have a collection of shirts you want to keep. It is certainly a cool way to hold on to those memories.  I don’t think they are very expensive, and they offer sales and discounts throughout the year so it is a very affordable option if you are unable to sew it yourself.   I have actually been saving all of my daughters’ gymnastics and cheer shirts for all these years to do the same for them when they graduate from high school.  I thought it would be a neat thing they could take to college with them.  Anyway, I am totally in love with my quilt and I know that I am going to be curling up with it for years to come. 

Anchored,

Time for a Break

I love my children with my whole heart. In fact, they are a large part of the reason that I am no longer teaching.  For so many years I had given my heart and soul to my students to the detriment of my family.  I’m sad to say that they always got the stressed out, worn down mom and were often put on the back burner. I finally realized that it was time to give my heart and soul to my family, and that required me to walk away from the classroom.  I just didn’t have the capacity to do be a good teacher and a good mom at the same time.  It truly has turned out to be an unexpected blessing.  No, it hasn’t been easy giving up that second income and relying solely on my husband’s income and I really miss my students, but there have been far more rewards that have made it all worth it.  I have always had a close relationship with my oldest daughter.  She is a lot like me in many ways, and I just get her (for the most part).  Our relationship has only grown stronger since I stopped teaching.  I love that she feels comfortable talking to me about important things.  On the other hand, my youngest and I have butted heads majorly for most of her life.  She and I are like oil and water, and she has blamed me for every single thing that has ever gone wrong in her life.  She is the kid that would argue with me just for the sake of arguing over whether or not the sky was blue. For many years, our relationship was quite combative.  She would yell at me and I would yell right back. That was basically the only way we communicated.  Over the last couple of years, I have really worked to repair our relationship and learn how to best communicate with her.  Thankfully, we have done a 180 and get along so much better.  I think she actually likes me now!  I truly love the relationships I have built with both of them now that I devote the majority of my time to them.  

Again, I love my children. I really do! However, I NEED A BREAK FROM MY CHILDREN! Yes, that is really what this post is all about, and I am totally not kidding.  Being secluded with them for the past 6/7 months has been A LOT. It was great at first.  We got to spend time together and actually talk to each other instead of running from one thing to the next never really having time to even see each other much less talk to each other.  Now, however, they are just bored out of their minds, and they come out of their rooms and just sit and talk NONSTOP, mostly about nothing important at all! They even follow me from room to room not even coming up for air.  They both have ADHD and talk super fast anyway.  When they aren’t doing anything to burn off all that excess energy, they instead talk.  They talk and talk and talk, and they do not recognize my cues that I am either busy or not listening at all.   They are completely oblivious. They just continue to talk about nonsense.  It seems to have amplified with the start of school, too. They hold it all in while they stare at their computers.  Then at the first break in their day, they just explode.  For example, my oldest just came down because it is her lunch break.  She went on a 10 minute spiel about the new update on her phone. I had to remind her multiple times that she needed to be eating her lunch instead of talking to me.

Each kid as a different show that they like to watch with me. I DVR it and then we watch it in the next day or two. In theory, this is a good thing. They still want to spend time with their mama which should make me happy, right? WRONG! I cannot stand watching T.V. or movies with them because they do not stop talking through the entire show.  I can’t pay attention or even hear what is going on in the show because of all the talking and questions about every little thing. If they would just be quiet and listen, they would know what was going on.  IT DRIVES ME NUTS!  I honestly can’t imagine living inside their heads.  Their brains work so different from mine and it seems to be running 90 miles a minute, and I just can’t keep up.  Half the time, they talk so fast that I can’t understand them.  Sometimes I can’t even follow the conversation because they jump all over the place and it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I know that is part of living with ADHD, but wow! Sometimes it is overwhelming.  I guess I should be thankful that they can at least hold it together for school.

I know that I just said at the beginning that I love that they talk to me, but I don’t have to love it 24/7, do I?  Sometimes, I just need a break.  I need an escape every now and then.  When we are stuck in the house together for 90% of the time, I just get a little stir-crazy and need some time away.  They really need to go back to school!!  They need someone else to talk to besides me.  I think all moms feel that way sometimes.  It doesn’t mean we are bad moms and don’t love our kids.  It just means that we are human, and we need to take time for ourselves to recharge (or our ears to stop ringing).   I told my husband on Saturday that I needed a mommy break, and he kind of laughed and told me that I should enjoy it while it lasts.  He says one day I will want these days back.  I know he is probably right.  It’s easier for him to say that because he isn’t here getting the brunt of it all day, everyday. I just really like quiet time, and I’m not getting much of it lately. I need it to be quiet in order for me to think and be productive. That is the difference in my brain and theirs.  They need constant noise, and I can’t operate with noise. 

I’m going to say this a third time…I love my kids.  I love being their mom.  I love their unique personalities.  I just need a break sometimes, and right now is one of those times! Seriously, can I just walk around with noise canceling headphones?

Anchored,

Fall Target Style

Leaves are starting to turn, the temperature is dropping, and I am in heaven! I know it isn’t officially fall yet, but, in my book, fall is here! It is my most favorite time of the year.  Beautifully golden leaves, pumpkins, cozy sweaters, jeans, boots, warm jewel tones, plaid, the start of school…I love it all! I especially love fall clothes.  I may even have a slight obsession with sweaters, boots, and jackets.  I can’t help it.  I just love how cozy they make me feel.  To get all of you in the fall mood (I’m already there!), I have chosen some of my favorites from Target’s new fall releases.  Some of these are just too cute to pass up.  I actually had to limit myself or this post would go on forever.  I left off shoes and jackets for now.  However, if you love those two things like I do, I highly recommend checking them out on Target’s website because there are some adorable ones available right now, and I don’t think they will stay in stock for long.  

Dresses

Mixed Print Short Sleeve Dress/Floral Print Long Sleeve Babydoll Dress/Long Sleeve Tiered Dress/Short Sleeve Waffle Knit Babydoll Dress/Puff Long Sleeve Sweatshirt Dress/Long Sleeve Babydoll Dress

Tops

Long Sleeve Lace Detail Knit Top/Ribbed Long Sleeve Knit Top/Puff Long Sleeve Blouse/Striped Bishop ¾ Sleeve Blouse/Long Sleeve Waffle T-Shirt/Animal Print Cami

Bottoms

Mid-Rise No Gap Waist Twill Skinny Pants/High-Rise Corduroy Skinny Jeans/Alligator Pattern Faux Leather Pencil Midi Skirt/High Rise Wide Leg Pants/Super High-Rise Skinny Jeans/High-Rise Full Skinny Jeans

Loungewear

Cropped Hoodie/Animal Print Pajama Set/French Terry Crewneck Pullover/Buffalo Check Cozy Pajama Set/Tie-Dye Lounge Joggers/Tie-Dye Lounge Sweatshirt

Seriously, how cute are these? Fall style is definitely in the air!!! I think I NEED that faux alligator skirt and lace detail top! I may or may not have just added them to my cart. <wink, wink>

Anchored,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Time to Get Crafting

I am a crafter by nature or maybe genetics as my mom is also a crafter. I think maybe part of it is the teacher in my too.  I love making things and being creative.  I am one of those people that will see something cute and think, “I can make that.”  Instead of just simply buying it, I either then kill myself to recreate it or buy all the supplies to make it and never follow through.  This is why there is an entire wall in my office of shelves that are full of crafting materials and unfinished projects.  It isn’t that I don’t have full intentions of completing them.  It is that for so many years, my life was so crazy that I never really had the time to devote to finishing things that were for fun, so they kept getting put to the side.  Now that I have some more time on my hands, I have gotten around to a few projects like the new wreath for my front door that I am totally in love with.  (I won’t even tell you how many unfinished wreaths/door decorations I have just waiting to be done.  Let’s just say it is an outlandish number.)  It is usually the projects for my house or for me personally that never get done.  Things that I do for others are much more likely to be finished. That usually means that it is either a gift with a deadline or I am being paid to create it.  No, I don’t have a crafting business to add to my long resume of job titles, but I have been known to create things for family and friends for a small fee.  I’m not really good at charging people, so I typically only charge whatever it cost me to make it. I know…that isn’t good business, but it is what it is. 

While we were in South Carolina last week, I decided to embark on a new crafting/home improvement project.  Since we bought and moved into our house a little over a year ago, we have had the same Roman shades in the living room that came with the house.  We have 4 windows that have an arch at the top, so these shades had to have been custom made.  Traditional Roman shades don’t work with the arch so I have been searching for a similar shade that would work with the windows to replace these since they do not match the rest of my décor.  That task has proved very difficult and has been a source of much angst.  I found people that could custom make them for me, but they were going to cost me a fortune.  I finally decided that I was going to attempt to make them myself.  Keep in mind that although I am a crafter, I do not sew or own a sewing machine.  My one attempt to make curtains using my mom’s sewing machine years ago was a total disaster, and my grandmother ended up taking them apart and remade them.  I don’t know why sewing is difficult for me, but I could barely figure out how to operate the sewing machine much less than sew a straight line.  How is it that I am going to make Roman shades without sewing them you ask? Well, I am going to attempt to use that iron on tape (stitch witchery) in place of stitching.  I may be totally kidding myself in thinking that I can make this work, but I have to try. 

My task while in SC was to get my mom to help me find all the materials that I need to make the shades including fabric. Well, finding a fabric that I liked, that would work for the project, and that had enough yards in stock proved to be quite difficult. I needed a fabric that was a little stiffer to make it work.  My windows are basically floor to ceiling, so I needed more yards than any fabric store had in stock.  Every time I found a material I liked, we quickly discovered there wasn’t enough.  My mom later had the genius idea to look at regular curtain panels that I could convert to the shades.  The task then was to find a curtain that I liked that had 4 panels in stock.  This was much harder than anticipated.  I guess many places are low on inventory due to COVID production delays.  Anyway, after two days of looking, I finally found something that I like that I hope will work.  The fabric isn’t as stiff as I would like it to be, but I am hoping it will still work.  I may spray a ton of starch on it to see if that helps.  Now, I believe I have all of the pieces and parts that I need to get started.  I think my biggest task will be cutting the length of the panels to the right width.  I am not sure I will be able to cut it in a straight, even line.  At this point, though, I am not sure I care how it looks as long as it matches.  I seriously have not wanted people to come in my house for the past year because of the totally nonmatching shades. 

I seriously don’t know why I do these things to myself when I know it is going to totally stress me out! Actually, yes I do.  I would much rather kill myself trying to make them for around $150 than to pay someone else $1000 to do it for me. Can I really make shades without sewing??? Stay tuned to see the fruits of my labor.  It could be a masterpiece or an utter failure.  It may take me a whole year (or two) to get it done, though, so don’t hold your breath.

Anchored,

Patience, Grace, and Prayer

I have been MIA for a little bit because we made a last-minute decision to head to South Carolina to visit family one more time before the crazy life of virtual school and cheer begins. We practiced a little social distancing but got to see everyone at least for a little bit.  I do have to admit that social distancing in South Carolina vs. social distancing where we live is night and day.  At home, you rarely see anyone without a mask, and stores and restaurants are fairly empty.   Down there, people were hanging out together in groups, not wearing masks, and stores and restaurants were crowded.  Schools had been in session for a couple of weeks and were in person.  We started school here today, and it is 100% virtual.  It’s just a totally different mentality, I guess.  It makes it hard to know which way is the right way.   Despite the differences, we had a great time and were hopefully cautious enough. I despise the long drive to and from every time, but it was worth it to get to spend time with the ones we love.  My one regret was that I didn’t take a single picture! I guess that means I was just living in the moment.

As I mentioned, school started for my girls today.  It is certainly not a normal first day of school by any stretch of the imagination with school being 100% virtual for the foreseeable future.  I did make them get up early and get dressed despite the grumbles I got.  We shall see how long that lasts.  I also made them go on the porch for a first day of school picture, which they said was pointless and dumb.  Then, I was forbidden to take a picture of them at their computers!! Got to love this age! I mean, I have to get at least one, right? I have to post them along with just about everyone else I know today, right?  No, they weren’t in their usual cute first day of school outfits, but it is still a momentous day. It is hard to believe that I have a junior and a 7th grader.  Where has the time gone? I have no idea how long virtual school will last or if or when things will ever get back to normal.  I just pray that my oldest child’s last 2 years of high school aren’t ruined because of this virus.  I really do hope that they will be able to go back to school and enjoy the traditions and rights of passage that come with these last few years of school.  I do like the fact, though, that I didn’t have to do any back to school shopping this year.  We didn’t buy new school supplies as my “school supply collection” from overbuying during my 17 years of teaching provided the majority of things they needed.  I haven’t bought them new clothes in a while either because they have been barely getting dressed for months.  I figure at some point we will need to do some clothes shopping. Maybe for Christmas???

I know that this school year isn’t like anyone wants or cares for, but it is the card we have been dealt.  We might as well make the best of whatever our situation may be. My heart is with teachers all over the country, whether it is their first day or 15th day.  I can’t imagine the stress you are all under. While I am not in the trenches with you anymore, I know that your hearts are hurting for your students and that you are giving it every ounce of energy you’ve got trying to meet the needs of every student.  Give yourself some grace and try to remember to spend a little time on you in the midst of it all. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done, but it is important.  I was never good at that and it is part of why I am no longer teaching.  I don’t want you to burn out like I did.  You’ve got this and you will get through it.  Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be your best year yet! No matter what, you are all deserving of Teacher of the Year this year! 

Parents, I encourage you to also give yourself grace. I know this is hard for you too.  I know you are juggling a million different hats, and you are stressed to the max.  You can do it too. When you are frustrated or discouraged, take some time to walk away, take some deep breaths, and then jump right back in with a smile on your face.  You’ve got this! I also need you to give grace to all the teachers working overtime to meet the needs of your child.  It isn’t their fault that the technology is not working.  It isn’t their fault we are in this situation.  They are just doing their best. The only way to get through this is together…you, your child, and your child’s teachers. You have to support each other or we will never make it over this mountain before us. We are all in this together.

This year isn’t going to be easy for anyone, but we can get through it together with a little bit of patience, grace, and a whole lot of prayer.  We can do it! 

Anchored,

Shop with Purpose

Over the past couple of years, I have really become more and more aware of the tragedy that is fashion in the world and what a negative impact it has on both the environment and on the people that create it.  I have really tried to seek out socially conscious, ethical brands that are taking a stand and are trying to change the fashion industry as a whole.  Does that mean that I only shop with socially conscious brands? No, I don’t, but I am trying to do better by doing my research and buying better.   Sometimes that means that I have to spend more than I like to, but it makes me proud knowing that I am shopping with a purpose. Whether that is through fair trade, through brands that think about the environmental footprint their products leave, or even brands that give back, I want to do better. Below are some of my favorite ethical/sustainable fashion brands.  I encourage you to think about what you are buying and do your research about brands to see which ones are making a real difference.    

SAVE LANDS

Save Lands is a socially conscious brand that plants 12 trees for every item they sell to help fight pollution and preserve the environment.   

Better World Long Sleeve Tee/Let It Be Hoodie/Bee Happy Cotton Candy Tie Dye Hoodie

REFORMATION

Reformation’s design mission is to make effortless silhouettes that celebrate the feminine figure by sourcing the beautiful, sustainable fabrics to bring those designs to life quickly. 

Marla Zip Sweatshirt/High & Skinny Jean

EVERLANE

The Organic Cotton Crewneck Sweater/The Organic Cotton Long-Sleeve Crew/The Texture Cotton Cardigan/The Modern Breton Tee/The Forever Sneaker

PASSION LILIE

Passion Lilie is a fair trade and eco-friendly apparel brand with a mission to empower artisans in India by creating dignified employment opportunities. They are also committed to using eco-friendly materials throughout the supply chain and preserving the artistic and cultural talents of their artisans.

Navy Stars Midi Skirt/Odin Midi Skirt

THE MUSTARD SEED MARKETPLACE

The Mustard Seed Marketplace is a new store that I found and love.  They believe that your purchases can make an impact on the world. They are committed to fight against human trafficking, keep families together, and help artisans around the world to thrive. 

Empire Dress-Navy/Long Sleeve Tee-Cayenne/Open Cardi-Riverside/World Changer Tee/Peplum Top-Checkmate

ABLE

Able is an ethical fashion brand that is challenging the culture of the fashion industry by creating transformative opportunities for women to rise up out of poverty. They invest in and educate women so they can earn a sustainable income.  

Renuka Puff Sleeve Tee/Srishti Knot Front Dress/Sangeeta Mock Neck Dress/The Aracelly Skinny Jean

Next time you go to purchase something, think about who made it and under what conditions it was made. Think about the impact you are making on the Earth and on the humans who are working to create the things you wear. Can you proudly stand behind it? Choose to shop with a purpose!

Anchored,

Book Club: My Dark Vanessa

I was a totally book nerd this month and read 4 books! That’s a lot for one month for me.  I usually do good to get through one and maybe halfway through a second with my crazy schedule, so I am pretty proud of myself. It really boiled down to interest.  As you all know, I really love historical fiction, and I got stuck on a historical fiction series that I was really enjoying.  I wanted to finish all three books in the series before I started my book club pick for this month.  It was a series by Pam Jenoff, who also wrote The Orphan’s Tale, which was my book club pick last September.  I really enjoyed that book, so when I saw she had a series; I knew I had to read it.  It was initially a 2-book series, but then she released a prequel book to the series making it 3 books total.  I was uncertain whether or not to start with the prequel or start with book 1 as she wrote them.  I decided to go with the order in which she wrote them and read the prequel last, which I think was the right decision for me.  The books are entitled The Kommandant’s Girl (Book 1), The Diplomat’s Wife (Book 2), and The Ambassador’s Daughter (Book 0.5). If you are a fan of historical fiction, particularly books that take place during World War I and II, this is a great series.  I love that each book could also be a stand-alone title too.  While some characters overlap, each book has different main characters.  Anyway, I highly recommend this series as I really enjoyed all three books.

Now onto my actual pick for August, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.  This was Russell’s debut novel, and it became an instant New York Times Best Seller.  I knew from the beginning that this pick might be a little controversial or at least make some people uncomfortable.  It is a sensitive topic.  Although not based on a true story, this novel seems like it has been ripped right from the news headlines of the past few years as part of the “Me Too” Movement.   I will admit that it was a little more graphic than I was comfortable with at times and hard to read at some points. I understand the need for it, though, to get the full scope of what was going on and a better understanding of the psychological aspect of it. The book should definitely come with a warning as the topic could trigger some very negative feelings for anyone that may have experienced something similar.  Having daughters near the ages of the main character at the time her abuse began really sent my mind into some dark places as fears about them began to creep in.  Just be aware of the sensitive and graphic nature of this book before you jump into it. 

This story rotates back and forth between the past and the present as a way to show how the events of the main character’s childhood trauma occurred and the impact that trauma left on her for years and years to come. As a self-conscious, naïve, 15-year-old student away at a boarding school, Vanessa had become a loaner after a fallout with her best friend and former roommate the previous year. This left her vulnerable to the eyes of her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane.  He prayed on her vulnerability, her curiosity, and her need to feel desired and wanted by another human being.  This was a classic case of grooming as he used her vulnerabilities and insecurities to make her feel like what they were doing was totally normal.  He played on her interests in poetry and literature by initially complimenting her on her writing and giving her provocative books to read that glorified adult/child intimate relationships.  He made her desire him in ways that never should occur at that age. He singled her out and made her feel special and desired.  Vanessa as an adult said, “to be groomed is to be loved and handled like a precious, delicate thing,” and that is exactly how he treated her.  He manipulated her into thinking it was all her fault that he was the way he was with her.  SHE was the one that chased after him.  SHE was the one that was willing.  SHE made it hard for him to resist. He told her, “I never would have done it if you weren’t so willing.” He also made it very clear to her what the consequences would be if she ever told anyone what they did together. He told her he would be ruined.  He said he would be fired, and she would get kicked out of school.  He told her he would end up in jail and she would end up in foster care.  He even told her she would never graduate or go to college.  Her response was always, “I’d die before I tell,” and she really meant it. The way he manipulated her psychologically was beyond comprehension for me.  It sickens me to think that things like this happen all the time in real life and that these men can get away with what they are doing to these children.  The ways in which he continued to manipulate her far into her adulthood was just incredible, and the hold he had on her was unreal.  It left her totally broken and damaged.  She was so messed up that she moved from job to job as an adult doing menial administrative work that had nothing to do with her degree or interests.  She coped by abusing drugs and alcohol and lived a life of misery with a skewed view of what a relationship should look like. It truly was a sad situation.

I do think this was a very well written story that really showed how easily children can be manipulated and taken advantage of.  The psychological aspect of it was truly fascinating to me and so well done by Russell.  I could really visualize how everything that Strane did and said to Vanessa affected her every thought and action.  He knew exactly what he was doing and every single thing he did was calculated.  It is an extremely hard topic and, as I said, could be very difficult for some people to read. It is hard for me to say that I would recommend this story to anyone because I do think there are people that likely shouldn’t read it.  I guess I would say that I recommend it with conditions.  You have to be well aware of what the story is about going into and be prepared for the graphic nature of some of it.  It is a very dark story.  I am glad that I read it, and I think that it gave me a lot to think about, especially when it comes to talking with my own daughters about sensitive things like this topic.  If you feel like you can handle this topic, I think it is a very well written story that truly captures what it is like for so many children who are taken advantage of and abused both physically and mentally. Just know that I warned you before you jump into it.

My next pick is, hopefully, a much lighter read.  For September, my choice is The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  It is a story about a young girl who is slowly dying from the pollution of an over-populated city life.  Her mother is willing to do whatever it takes to save her and agrees to move to the Wilderness State, the only untouched, protected land where no one was allowed to inhabit until now. It is to be a sort of an experiment to see if they can survive in nature without destroying it.  Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about this novel.

“In this wry, speculative debut novel (after the collection Man v. Nature), Cook envisions a crowded and polluted near future in which only one natural area remains, the Wilderness State. Twenty people volunteer for a government experiment in how humans fare in the wilderness. It’s been so long since anyone tried that no one remembers. Among the volunteers are Glen, ‘an important person’ at the university; his wife Bea; and Bea’s daughter, Agnes, and they, along with the others, collectively called “The Community,” learn to eke out a precarious existence hunting with bows and arrows, tanning animal hides, and negotiating dangerous terrain. As the years pass unmarked other than with Bea noticing a fourth annual appearance of violet blossoms, the volunteers gradually abandon their communities to the study, though they remain expected to obey rules enforced by Rangers, never stay in one place longer than seven days, never leave a trace as members die off. More waitlisted refugees, called Newcomers, arrive from the city, and Bea perseveres, driven by hope for Agnes’s future. Cook powerfully describes the Community members’ transformation from city folk to primal beings, as they become fierce, cunning, and relentless in their struggle for survival and freedom, such as when Bea faces off with a mother coyote. Cook’s unsettling, darkly humorous take explores maternal love and man’s disdain for nature with impressive results.”

Will you come along and read with me?

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Baking 101

My 12-year-old has decided that she either wants to be a baker or a photographer when she grows up.  Meanwhile my 16-year-old has no clue what she wants to do with her life, but that is beside the point.  The 12-year-old has decided that she needs to practice her baking skills; so this summer I have taught her how to use the mixer, the oven, the stove, etc.  At first she was wanting to bake something new every day, but I had to quickly put a stop to that.  I was running out of eggs and milk way too fast.  We have cut it down to once or twice a week that she has been wanting to bake something constantly.  She has mostly been making box cakes, cupcakes, and cookies.  We haven’t yet ventured into her making things from scratch.  The first few times I was in the kitchen with her going step by step with everything to make sure there were no eggshells in the food and that she didn’t burn the house down.  She now has proven to me that she can handle it and has graduated to doing it on her own as long as I am somewhere in the house.  This makes her so excited as she has always loved being independent.  Plus, it has given her something to do and look forward to while we are stuck at home.  She is also enjoying constantly making fun of her sister because her sister is still too afraid to take things in and out of the oven by herself. 

While I am happy with this newfound interest, it does come with 2 huge problems.  First of all, she is an extremely messy baker.  She hasn’t quite learned how to ice things yet.  Part of it is that she doesn’t really like icing, so she never uses enough which makes the cakes crumble.  I know what you are thinking…what kid doesn’t like icing?!?!? Remember, this is the kid with all the food issues.  Anyway, I don’t know how she manages this, but she always ends up getting icing EVERYWHERE!!  I find it days later in places it never should have been in the first place.  It’s insane!  One of the things I have to constantly remind her is that if she is going to bake, she has to clean up after herself.  She seems to think that means just putting everything in the sink for her sister to wash.  You see, they both have dishwashing jobs.  The youngest loads and unloads the dishwasher and the oldest washes the pots, pans, and other things that I don’t like to put in the dishwasher.  It is really just a constant source of arguments between the two of them. It’s a work in progress for sure.  

The second problem, and probably the biggest, is that we constantly have all these sweets lying around the kitchen.  I think I gain weight just smelling them baking.  Once she has a finished product, she insists that everyone in the house tries it right away.  We have to ooh and ahh over it or she thinks she is a failure.  Then, she is constantly shoving more and more of it at us because she knows she can’t bake something else until the current baked good is gone.  Her dad isn’t really into sweets all that much, so he will eat it that first time just to please her and then not again.  Her sister likes cookies but isn’t big on cake, so she will sometimes refuse to even try it.  This causes much angst too.  Basically, it leaves me, the one who has a weakness for cakes and cupcakes, eating it all.  I think I have gained like 10 pounds just from eating all her creations.  I don’t know what to do about this dilemma because I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I cannot keep eating all this myself.  We threw out almost an entire cake last night because I just couldn’t eat it.  I am hoping that she doesn’t notice, but I am sure she will.    

Despite the mess and the added calories to my diet these days, I really love that she is interested in baking.  It gives us a common ground. When I was 11 years old, one of my mom’s best friends taught me how to bake and decorate cakes.  By the time that I was 12, close family friends were actually paying me to make birthday cakes, and it is something that I still love to do.  As I have shared before, my youngest and I butt heads A LOT.  We are like oil and water 98% of the time.  Baking is one thing that we have sort of bonded over recently, and it gives us something to laugh and talk about.  I have really tried over the past couple of years to really work on our relationship.  Things have gotten way better than they used to be, and this has sort of been the icing on the cake (pun intended).  I really love that we have this in common.  I guess it is worth the extra calories if it means we aren’t yelling at each other all the time. Bring on the cake!

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Obession Overload

It has been so crazy seeing all the back to school posts over the past couple of weeks while my kids still have 2 more weeks of summer.   It is also interesting to see that the majority of the back to school posts I have seen have been kids in masks because they are actually going back to a school building.  I don’t know if they are going to school 5 days a week or if it is a hybrid situation.   All I know is that it appears that they are going back to some degree.   It seems like all of my friends and family down south (Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina) are all going back to school in person.  I don’t think I have seen any posts yet of kids doing 100% virtual learning. I wish I could say the same for our area.   I honestly don’t think our school division here has any plans to go back to school at all this year.  They say that they are working on a plan to phase students back, but I haven’t seen any real concrete evidence that this is actually going to happen, and they refuse to answer any questions about how it will work, which leads me to believe they have no clue. 

I have to admit that the whole school situation has become sort of an obsession for me.  I am following everything super closely and watching every single 8-hour school board meeting while beating my head against the wall trying to get a sense of what they are thinking and what the plans are.  So far, I have very little faith in their ability to figure out how to get us all back in the buildings.  I also get sucked into reading discussions on social media that pertain to our school system. I never get into debates with people, and I have never offered my own point of view or commented on anything.  I just get sucked into reading everyone else’s opinions and the solutions being offered.  I read article after article that gets posted.  I follow news stories about the states that have returned to school and how it is going.   It really is insane how much of my time is wasted obsessing over it.  My friends here that want to know what is going on, know that they can call and ask me because I am following it so closely.  I don’t really know why I am so obsessed with it.  I don’t know if it is the teacher in me, the parent in me, the fact that I have nothing else to do, or a combination of all three.  All I know is that I need to stop.  It is consuming me.   It is just that it has been 167 days (yes, I counted) since my kids have stepped into a school building, and I have no clue how many more days it will be before that actually happens again. That thought terrifies me.   I know my kids and know what they need, and they need to be in school in person as soon as possible.  I know that neither one of them is going to handle virtual school well.  

I have said this before…I will not argue with you about what is best for students because, as a former special education teacher, I know better than most how different each student’s needs are.  I also know that we are all at different comfort levels when it comes to safely returning to school.  I believe that as parents we are the best advocates for our children, and we know best what is most important for our kids.  What is best for your child may not be what is best for mine, and that is ok.  I know with my whole heart that both of my girls need to actually go to school, and I wish so bad that we had that option.  What is funny is that, although I strongly believe they both need in person school, the reasons for that for each kid are vastly different.  One of my kids needs to go to school in person because she is an extremely social person and needs face to face interactions with friends and teachers and more hands-on, interactive learning.   She got very depressed during the spring when we were confined to the house with no outside interactions.  I am terrified for her mental state when classes start back virtually.  My other kid needs in person learning because she can’t pay attention and focus during virtual lessons.  She has even admitted that she can’t pay attention when staring at a computer all day.  She needs more individual attention from her teachers and the structure that comes with being in school.  She struggles with managing her time and schedule with virtual school.  I am afraid of her falling even further behind academically and not being prepared for college in 2 years. 

I tell you all this to say that my mind is working overtime, and I know that many of you are in the same boat.  You may not have reached the level of obsession that I have, but I know that you are worried about school to some extent.  I want you to know that you aren’t alone.  The whole situation SUCKS! There, I said it! Whether your kids are going back to school wearing masks and social distancing or you are praying that your WIFI holds throughout the day, we are all in this together.  We are all doing the best we can with whatever circumstances we have been dealt even though none of them are ideal.  We have to have faith that it will all work out in the end.  I know I have to just accept that this is how it is going to be for the foreseeable future and make the best of it for my kids.  Here is me committing publicly that I am going to stop obsessing and just let it go.  Whatever happens will happen, and we will get through it.   It is time to move on and accept the things I cannot change.  

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Fashion Finds: End of Season Deals

I don’t know about where you live, but the weather here has been a bit bipolar. It can’t make up its mind on whether or not to move towards fall or hang on to the last bit of summer. Whatever temp it is where you are, fall really is just around the corner, and I can’t wait. The good news is that it means that many stores are putting items on clearance to make room for new fall inventory. That means that you can find some really great items for incredible prices. I have scoured the internet looking for the best deals and found some great staples for a good price as well a few trendy items that are heavily dicounted. Hurry and grab them before they sell out of your size! Keep in mind that prices are subject to change at any time.

  

Loft Outlet Tie Front Shirt ($19.99)

Loft Outlet Shirred Sleeve Henley Tee ($11.99)

Target Ruffle Long Sleeve Dress ($25.89)

Target Rose Slip On Twin Gore Sneakers ($17.49)

J. Crew Factory Flutter Sleeve Top ($20 with code WOW)

J. Crew Factory Striped Cotton Blend Tank ($8 with code WOW)

J. Crew Factory Embroidered Scalloped Tiered Dress ($18 with code WOW)

Nordstrom Rack Jessica Simpson Ankle Bootie ($24.49)

Nordstrom Rack Badgley Mischka Sleeveless Pleat Top ($22.48)

Aerie Scoop Neck Tunic T-Shirt ($11.98)

Aerie Crew Pullover Sweater ($19.98)

Happy shopping!

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*This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.