Friday, July 5, 2019

9th Annual 30 Day Photo Challenge Contest!

It's time for all that hard work to pay off!!! Before we get to the contest this year, I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for participating. Every year, this challenge gets bigger and bigger...and YOU get more and more talented. It is always hard to choose photos for the contest with so many wonderful submissions! Thank you, everyone!

These are the 15 nominees for the contest this year.  Each will be captioned and then numbered, at random.  To vote, please click on your favorites in the poll at the LEFT of this post, in the blog margin
.

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ONLY VOTES REGISTERED THERE WILL BE COUNTED.


You can vote for more than one picture if you'd like, I will set it up so that you may vote for one or all of them. The only way for votes to be properly counted is to register them in the poll. Leaving a comment isn't enough. The poll may only be visible on web editions, not mobile. If you are on a cell phone, click the link at the bottom of the post to "view web version", which will allow you to vote. The voting will end at Noon MST, Wednesday, July 10th.

Anyone who visits this page can vote, so get your friends to join in the fun!

Also, if you're on a web version, you can click the images to enlarge them and scroll through them easier.


The prizes you are all playing for are listed at the bottom, with links to the amazing sponsors. Please show them some love and good luck!


CONGRATULATIONS to Gayleen Plakunov, this year's winner!
Second place will go to Susan Porter!

1. AJ DeBie. Angry Sky.

2. Christy Cline. Looking Up.

3. Gretchen Chateau. Ladybug.

4. Jeannine Frechette. Rainbow Fish.

5. Gayleen Plakunov. Morning. 

6. Glenda Hughes. Canyon.

7. Jennifer Green. Determination.

8. Kelly Acker. Inception.

9. Ally DeBie. Happy Accidents.

10. Melissa Keen. Liberty.

11. Paula Gill. Splash.

12. Rhi Jordan. Pole.

13. Ruth Murphy. Hibiscus.

14. Sheryl Hoolsema. Flight. 

15. Susan Porter. Bloom.


Here are some of the prizes you are playing for!!! Please visit the links and show the prize contributors some love! Thank you so much for your participation and enthusiasm every year!

Prize combinations and packages are always subject to change, because life happens! I do try and spread the love to the top winners each year, so I will notify you individually at the end with what you're going to receive. 

Local winners (Boulder County only) will be eligible for a Henna 
prize pack generously gifted by Henna Me Healing

A handmade custom sign, generously created by Paula Gill! 

An essential oils prize pack, thanks to Athelas Oils.

A gorgeous handmade nest pendant from Oak Tree Jewelers

A Color Street prize package from Nicole Murphy

A Rodan and Fields gift package, with bonus leggings from Lydia Barry

A handmade CACTUS pendant from Magnolia Avenue


A shop voucher from Penny Jules.

A prize package from Mom Cave Designs.

A package from NuSkin and Avon by Leslie

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

To The One Who Made Me The Parent Of An Adult

I really haven't been stalling writing this entirely. I have been actually busy, I swear. I have also been stalling, because let's be honest...this is the birthday letter I have been the least excited to write since I started writing them all those years ago. Terrible idea, that was, by the way. Great way to make me cry in a predictable fashion, anyway.

So, you're officially 18 years old. Officially an adult. Responsible, at least in the eyes of the law, for the things you do, even if you still can't do a lot of stuff like drink or rent a car. Ah, our bizarre system of tiered adolescence.

I was thinking for a long time about what I was going to write. I could go on and on and on about all the things that have happened in the last year, and there are a lot of them. Instead of dwell on that stuff, I figured I would just do it quick and dirty style, then get to what I really wanted to write about this time.



You made drum major and had an absolute blast, doing your trademark dance up on your perch every time the marching band performed their field show. It earned you a few nicknames, that dance did, and I'll never be able to listen to Take On Me without seeing the butt shimmy in my head. You joined the jazz bands, as in plural, and made combined league honor jazz band on your first try, playing an instrument you'd barely even touched before this year. Which is crazy. You made district honor band too, played snare in the winter drumline and won another first place medal...although to be fair, this year, you all were only competing against yourselves, having gone up to a more difficult classification in competition, albeit one in which there wasn't any.

You went with the band to Disneyland, and although I know that you were disappointed that you didn't get to march in the parade there, you did eat the cheapest food you could for the entire trip to save up so you could buy yourself the Indiana Jones whip you've been dreaming of since you were about 9 years old. And you still haven't figured out how to use it without whacking yourself in the face, Dr. Jones. (Inside joke bahahahahaha)

You finished the year by winning both the Spirit Award and the John Philip Sousa Award, which is pretty freaking amazing when you really think about it since the Spirit award is nominated and voted on by the students, and the Sousa award is chosen by the faculty. They all really do like you. A lot.

You're still probably getting your name spelled wrong half the time, though. And while we're at it, it's going to be mispronounced most of the time, even by people who know better. At this point, though, I am sure that you're used to that.

You graduated from high school on Saturday, already planning the future at college. Away but not too far away. Close enough to come home if you really had to, but far enough that I know you won't do that very often at all. I told someone yesterday that this summer was a bittersweet one, because you are absolutely the kind of kid who goes away to college and might never actually come home. I could see you traveling and doing summer programs and getting jobs far away just for the experience...whether I would want you to come home or not. It isn't about what I want. It never really was.

You can always come home, though. Always. I'll be cooking enough food to feed a small army for a while after you leave anyway, most likely, since I'm conditioned at this point to feed you.

You've accomplished a lot, and like I said, we could go on and on about that, but I don't want to. You've never really cared all that much about that stuff, and we never expected any of it, so even if we live in a society that only rewards certain things, they often aren't the things that really matter.

Let's talk about the things that do matter, then.

Like how you know that you can come to me and quietly ask for help. Still. That you trust me enough to help you navigate this process, knowing that you'll be going away in just a few months. That makes me so proud that I can't really even describe it in detail. I'm glad that you are mature enough, self aware enough, to recognize when you need to lean, and that you know that if you aren't sure how to do that or where to go, you ask.

I cannot overstate the importance of this life skill, my dude. I cannot. It is enormously huge, and in this world there are millions of people my age who 100% have not figured this part of life out. Just imagine how much of an advantage that gives you in the department of shit that really matters.

You learned to let go of the things that weren't meant for you, even if it hurt, without resentment or anger. Yet another life skill that most adults haven't nailed down yet. You saw that those times were opportunities for growth, not just another door slammed in your face. And let me tell you...the real world really fucking sucks sometimes, and there are going to be a lot of doors slammed in your face, especially in the career universe you seem headed towards. You're almost always going to hear more nos than yeses. How you cope with rejection will shape you far more than the times someone said yes.

You have kept your kind heart and open mind and you've kept on telling people that you love them and that you care about them. You scream it at them sometimes, which is gratifying for me, the parent who has often yelled things like "make good choices" out the window at you. It's hard, loving people as much as you do sometimes. Don't let any one person dim that light inside you. Don't let heartbreak or false friends or betrayal change who you are. Who you are is pretty freaking amazing, and unfortunately, there are people out there who will take advantage of that truth. And when they do, you have to make choices about whether to forgive, about whether to allow them to remain in your life...just don't let them dim that light. It's yours, and it is rare and beautiful. I wish that there was a way to protect you from the awful things that people will do, but I know that I cannot. I have already failed at doing so.

I can't keep your heart safe, but I hope that I have taught you resilience. I hope that I have taught you that listening will always teach you more than speaking. I hope that I have taught you to defend those you love, to stand up against the things that will harm them, and to do so with honor and integrity. I hope that I have taught you to keep an open mind, and to always always always consider the perspective of others before making up your mind about anything. I hope that I have taught you to advocate for the rights and interests of the most marginalized person in the room, and if everyone in the room looks the same, you've got to find a different room or make the one you are in inclusive. I hope I have taught you to follow your passions, to ignore what other people say when they believe they are being helpful but are actually trying to control you. I hope that I have taught you to be patient and kind to yourself, to learn from your mistakes, to apologize without reservation when you've harmed someone else, to grow and do better. I hope that I have taught you to allow yourself time to mourn, time to cry, time to scream, time to run, time to heal. I hope that I have taught you to force yourself to find downtime, and then to make sure that you make yourself a priority.

I hope all these things and so much more, just as I have spent the past 18 years hoping that I was making the right decisions, that I was doing the right thing for you, that I was giving you the tools you'd need someday.

Because the honest truth is that I had no idea what I was doing. I was winging it the whole time.

I was.

And I think we did okay. I hope we did okay.

As a parent, I have always tried to be consistent. I've always tried to make my choices out of love, not fear. I have always tried to keep my mom's advice in mind, because she told me when you were very little that if it wasn't going to matter in ten years, it shouldn't matter today. And although she was wrong about a lot of things, she was absolutely right about that. I've always tried to keep my focus on the long game, not the minutiae in the present.

And you've already shown yourself to get it. You even chose to forgo a year of drumline because there were other things you wanted to accomplish. So you did them, and you found your way back. Then you drug your sister along for the ride.

They all look up to you so much. They really do.

And if I'm being completely truthful, so do I. You're so much more mature than I was at your age. You've accomplished so much more. You are far more self aware than I was when I was twice your age. You know what you want, but have never once been willing to harm someone else to get it. You are kind and considerate. You are always the perpetual older brother, checking on your friends.

I asked too much of you over the years, with your siblings, with your friends, with so much. I asked too much of you, and it wasn't fair.

And you were always there, ready to help, ready to scoop up a baby, ready to be my eyes and ears on drives to school and home. You were always there.

I hope you know that I will always be here for you too.

I'm so proud of you, and I love you to infinity and beyond.

Go do amazing things. Well, go do more of them. And do some fun stuff along the way too.

Love,

Mom

Thursday, April 18, 2019

To The One Who Proved She Could Do It, Over and Over and Over

It's entirely unsurprising that the second I sat down to write this, I got text messages from you. You are constantly sending me emails and texts about all the things all the time.

Then there is the leaning and the lap sitting and the neeeeeeeeeeding.

Always.

You are not a low maintenance child, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn't have you any other way.

"Can we get something to eat?"



It has been such an intense crazy busy year for you, and you just keep signing yourself up for more and more stuff. More commitments, more responsibility, more opportunities, more. MORE.

I have had the conversation with you only about a million times this year about how you need to make sure that you don't over-commit yourself, that you have time for just you. And you say you know...just like I say I know. I KNOW.

And then you sign up for something else.

"I'm not jumping, Mom. Gosh."
You played on the travel team for volleyball, missing the middle of the season with a strained Achilles, but came back at the end for the tournament (we won't talk about what happened during it...), then shagged balls at state. All the sports.


It seems like you just turned 13. I don't even know how we already got to 14. I don't. Time doesn't make sense anymore and I have given up trying to understand it.

Just after you turned 13 last year, you were running track. Now you're one of the team managers. This time last year, you were training for the triathlon. You keep telling me you aren't going to do it this year, but I'm not sure that I believe you honestly. You know you can make the distances, and you know that your brother will do it with you if you harass him enough.


You were the HBIC for Comic Con, and made your brother (made, ha. he wanted to) dress up as Archie. You've watched every episode of Riverdale at least 4 times I think and when Luke Perry died last month, it devastated you. Me too. Oof.

You practically begged me to let you help shoot the wedding I took on over the summer, and you did a great job. It was awesome having you there as another set of eyes, and I think it made you fall a little bit more in love with photography.


When I decided to drive to Kansas at 3am for a wedding, you were the first one to hop in the car. You're generally the first one to volunteer for anything like that. Still. I keep waiting for you to outgrow wanting to be so present all the time, but you haven't shown any sign of it yet.

You're always the person there in the stands, cheering for your siblings. You show up for people, whether they realize it or recognize it. You show up. That means a lot, trust me. It will matter more and more the older you get.


You're been cooking and baking more and more, are hoping to start the culinary program in the fall...but only as long as it doesn't interfere with marching band. Because you want to play this...


Yep, that is a big giant sousaphone. You played it in the Halloween parade. As much as I thought that experience might scare you away from continuing to play this instrument...nope. You love it even more now.

Unless you decide to try out to march drumline, though...

Bahahahaha.

I blame your brother.



Speaking of music, you have played with the orchestra several times. You've played with the Denver Brass at Brass Fest. You played at Tuba Christmas. And then there is the matter of drumline.

Oh, drumline.

You have been waiting years for this, knowing that when your brother was a senior, you'd be eligible to join as an 8th grader. You knew it was going to be hard and time consuming...on some level. I don't think you really realized how hard or time consuming it would truly be. But you did it. You stuck it out. You got moved around on instruments several times. The show evolves constantly throughout the season, and your natural proclivity to resist change was tested. You had to learn how to go with the flow. And that mistakes really and truly are opportunities to learn. Bob Ross was right.


You had to get up early and stay up late to finish homework. You had to forgo things with your friends, you had to skip basketball season altogether. You had to power through illness including crazy high fevers during state. You dealt with all of it, you did it. And I am so proud of you. SO PROUD.

And I know that you and your brother have a much stronger bond for having done this together. I think you understand each other a little bit better now.



And, seriously. You played the freaking cowbell for the first time in a show in front of the entire high school. That is badass.


Bad. Ass.

I cannot imagine being brave enough to do anything in front of an entire high school when I was your age.

You've worked hours and hours for NJHS, put together a project for it, volunteered at the Humane Society. You've babysat, offered to make random cakes for just about anyone for just about any reason. You've put together care packages for friends. You worked pride and other events with me. You baked cupcakes and brownies for the drumline so many times that I think they are just starting to expect you to keep bringing something. You helped take over the GSA your big sister started at the middle school this year, and have watched as it has grown bigger and bigger at every meeting. You are handing it off to a larger group of students than we could have ever imagined.

And you know who did that??? You and your sister.

GSAs are proven to make schools safer for all kids. And you and your sister are doing that.


You'll be finished with middle school here in a few weeks, moving on to high school. You bought yourself a sweatshirt months ago you were so ready to be there. Always in a hurry, you are.

You'll be starting high school with a bunch of friends in every grade since you've already been doing drumline, which is a huge help...not that you've ever needed help finding your people. We've already got the fall sports parent meeting on the schedule, and I don't know how you're going to manage it all...but I know you will. You prove that you can, over and over and over.



Your Dad and I are so proud of you, of who you are becoming, of who you've always been. Keep being spicy. Keep being 87 years old. Keep wearing your slippers and carrying your blanket everywhere. Keep showing up for your people. Keep doing that laughing thing where you don't make any noise, just make that super uncomfortable face until a snort sneaks out. Keep doing that.

Keep loving everyone and everything as much as you do. I know it is overwhelming to feel so much all the time, but know that even if it hurts more sometimes, it also makes you amazing. Your big giant heart is a superpower. Never ever forget that. And don't let the world change you. You're perfect just the way you are.


I love you, baby girl. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

To The One Who Is Part Pterodactyl

Dear Freckles,

Your birthday festivus kicked off in the wee hours of the morning, just after midnight at your favorite place in the whole wide world - BINGO! I kid, I kid. I know that you absolutely hate working bingo, but know that it's a necessary evil for band trips. It is what it is, right?

As of the second the clock ticked past 12, you officially became sixteen years old. How is that even possible?


As I write this, you are snuggled up on the couch with your baby brother, playing with the Spider-Man walkie talkies that he made me buy for you so that he could share them. I know it is absolutely what you have always dreamt about owning, right? Hey. He's 4. And in his universe, the sun rises and sets on all of his older siblings.

Then again, you are the one who gave the kid a bit of an ego problem by singing him that song about being handsome. He truly does randomly tell strangers that his big sis tells him he is very handsome. 


I guess you aren't wrong. I suppose.

So, you are another year older. This one is a big one, and will mean that at some point this year, you'll start driving. I have high hopes that you'll be better at parking than your big brother is, and that I will consequently hear fewer complaints from the next younger sibling in line.



You've done so much this year that sometimes it is hard to believe that you're still only a teenager.

You ended up joining the soccer team last year right around this time, and I know that the situation this year isn't anywhere near ideal, but maybe...just maybe...you'll find your way out on that field again. Seeing you fall back in love with the sport last year was actually pretty goddamn amazing to watch. 


And maybe it works and maybe it doesn't, but you know I will support you either way. Besides which, your schedule isn't one with a whole lot of blank spaces since you are working and playing in the pit orchestra for the upcoming theater production at school. 

ALL THE INSTRUMENTS.

Seriously. You got another ukelele for Christmas, which you absolutely adore. You've even started teaching other kids how to play ukelele, which is pretty amazing. 


And then there is the matter of the bassoon. One of these days, we will actually have reeds for it, but until then just keep studying fingering charts and waiting. Tick tock.


You joined a county-wide advocacy group where you are doing super small and inconsequential things like helping draft curriculum materials for public schools and teaching students about their legal rights in school. NBD.

I said a few years ago that you were going to change the world someday, but the crazy thing is that you're already doing it. And you're only 16.



You're doing it to make this society a better place for everyone. For you, for your friends, for your family, for everyone. Always slaying those dragons even when you're fighting with your own at the same time.

That's being brave, by the way. It isn't about not being scared. It's about doing all the things even when you are scared. It's about being afraid of what could go wrong and being nervous about whether people are watching you and telling that little voice in your head to shut up for a second because you're doing it anyway.



It has been a year of getting some questions answered, which inevitably just led to you asking more questions, but at the end of it all, the conclusion was actually pretty simple and straightforward even if it might not have ever felt that way on your end.

You are who you have always been, you are who you were always meant to be.

You are. Even if that means that you might be a little bit different than other kids your age, different is never going to be a bad thing. Your uniqueness, your spirit, your determination...they all make you who you are. And who you are is pretty freaking awesome.


It might even be a superpower. (no capes, though)


You're already working on your siblings, trying to get your Halloween theme pushed to the top of the short list for next year. You started planning out your Comic Con costumes basically the day DCC ended last year.


You started doing commissioned art pieces, and some of them have been so perfect for the intended person that they couldn't have possibly requested something more fitting for that individual. You set up a separate IG account just for your art. A few years ago, you had an entire novel written online before I even knew you'd been doing that too.

You make memes and send them to Dad/Cap/Mr. Clean in the middle of random afternoons.


You make me laugh. You make me so far beyond frustrated at times that I can't even quite put it into words. You make me worry. You make me proud. You make me wonder what you're going to come up with next...because for as long as I've known you, you've been one surprise after another.

You don't just think outside of the box. There is no box.

There never was a box. 

I can't wait to see what you have planned for this year.

I love you, baby girl. Happy birthday. (Pterodactyl scream, flappy wings)

Mom

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