My Meggan: $5 Family Fun

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Me & Meggan: forty years of friendship

This is my oldest friend Meggan. She’s amazing for a lot of reasons. Primarily, because she’s put up with me for forty years. No kidding. Our moms’ pregnancies overlapped. They were pals. We were birthed into being life-long friends.

If you notice at the top of the photos, were playing outside in a bucket of water. We used to do things like that all the time. We would make “potions” out of berries from the bushes, leaves, dirt and water. We would use old canning jars to store them on her grandmother’s porch. I can only imagine what it must have smelled like when that poor woman found those jars after I left every time.

But that’s what Meggan does. She makes something imaginative and fun out of whatever is handy or lying around. She tells great stories and laughs big laughs. She made parts of my childhood magical and full of wonder. Now she’s doing the same for her son.

I don’t want to think about my life if she hadn’t been a part of it. It would be far less creative, I know that.

And now she’s helping other families create their own magic. She’s continuing to make something grand out of very little.

Her book $5 Family Fun was recently published. It’s ideas for you and your family to have a grand time together for very little cash.

I hope you’ll check it out. It’s got some really good crafts and fun in there.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m super proud to be her friend.

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Mixify: a tale of balance

If you follow me on social media, you know that we went on vacation last week. I’m not gonna lie, it was fantastic. (There will be more on that in a later post.)

One of the things we did was rent bikes for the whole family. My kid learned to ride his bike this summer and has been a little obsessed with it. So we rode every day. Every.single.day. I clocked the routes we were riding. It was about 3-5 miles per day. I know for major cyclists that’s not a ton of miles, but it kept us moving our bodies.

I didn’t realize how genius a plan that was until I weighed in when we got home. It was vacation, so we ate and drank a lot more food than we normally would. But the bike riding kept things under control. I didn’t come home with a big weight gain like I usually do after vacation.

Turns out, everybody is talking about balance. In Little Rock the Mixify Tour stopped at MacArthur Park. Mixify is a series of events around the country with activities, demonstrations, tips and tools, music, and giveaways — all designed to educate teens about the importance of balancing what they eat and drink with what they do.

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

photo courtesy: Mixify Tour

See, balance isn’t only about bike riding. All the cool kids are doing it. From the Mixify folks:

Mixify is a first-of-its-kind multi-year, national program launched last September by the American Beverage Association (ABA), The Coca-Cola Company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Pepsico to engage teens through the communications channels they use every day in ways that fit easily into their lives. Developed with input from moms and teens, the program is focused on supporting parents’ efforts to educate their teens about balance in authentic, interesting and engaging ways.

The new Mixify Tour is taking that message of balance on the road with a 25-foot food truck re-purposed into a traveling balance billboard. The truck serves as the center of an event providing activities to demonstrate the importance of balancing “eat, drink & do,” access to experts like fitness instructors to answer questions about balance, group fitness classes, music and ways for teens to share their balance mixes through social media.

Our family isn’t perfect in our balance. But we’re working on it. Every dietician I know (and oddly I know quite a few dieticians… and psychiatrists, but that’s a whole other situation), gives the same advice. There can be no forbidden foods or no plan will work. It’s all about balance.
Disclosure: I was compensated to write this post about the mixify tour. However, I’m always pleased to promote events in my town that encourage the kind of lifestyle my family supports. 

Camp Lovely

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I have these friends who won’t stop doing amazing things. Seriously, y’all. Could you slack off a bit? I’m starting look positively dreadful by comparison.

The latest project from a wonderful group of women is Camp Lovely. This Central Arkansas crafting  community likes to make, well… lovely things. So many lovely things. I am jealous of their mad crafting skills. You may not know it yet, but you’re jealous too. You want to learn their secrets.

Now you have a chance to stop being jealous and start being crafty. Camp Lovely hosts its Spring craft event April 18.

The highlighted crafts of the day will be screen printing, creating our own painted geometric wooden bead necklaces, making these beautiful crepe paper peonies you see above…and more!

The all day retreat will be held at the Morgan House in Conway, AR. This historical home has been beautifully restored and could not be a more perfect setting for our event. Whether you just need to come sit on a breezy front porch or you need a day to escape and create with others, you will definitely be inspired throughout the day.

Included in the cost will be all supplies for your crafts and a catered lunch, drinks and dessert from a local favorite.

Doesn’t that sound lovely? Mark your calendars for April 18, and register for Camp Lovely. It will be an amazing time. You have my word on that.

If you register by April 4, there’s a $20 discount. You can get a full day of crafting, including lunch, for just $80. You can’t beat a deal like that…even with a stick. 

Politics in Arkansas: Let them eat cake

My friend, Kelli Marks, Christian baker, opposing HB 1228 at a rally on the capital steps.

My friend, Kelli Marks, Christian baker, opposing HB 1228 at a rally on the capital steps. Yes, that is a rainbow cupcake in her hand.

That is but a small sampling of the brilliant ideas the 90th General Assembly of the Arkansas Legislature hath wrought. That’s some solid work. I think you outdid yourself this year, ladies and gents. I can’t remember anything quite like it.

Some it passed. Some of it didn’t. Some of it is currently in a legislative purgatory, so we’ll see how that goes.

Allegedly, this blessed session ends tomorrow. That’s good news. I’m not sure how much more law-making we can take around here.

Listening to the Unheard

3rEFikyI don’t think this comes as a galloping shock to anyone: I’m a middle-class white woman.

This complete accident of my birth affords me all manner of privilege. People generally assume I’m not a threat. I can choose not to work full-time, and I’m credited with being a good mother, not dismissed as a lazy “taker.” More often than not, when someone jumps to a conclusion about me, it works in my favor.

I make no claim to fully understand the reality of minority mothers, but I get that it’s different than mine. There has been so much lately in the news and in public conversation about racism in our culture. I have a lot of words, so my natural inclination is to jump in on that conversation. But I’m not sure where my appropriate place is.

My friend Paul wrote a really lovely piece about the difficulty he feels as a white man trying to get a better understanding of race in America.

Actually, it seems that as I’ve aged, I continue to have more questions. And race relations certainly fall into my category of MWMSA – Married White Male Seeking Answers.

When these difficult questions arise, where do I turn? When the events of Ferguson unfolded, I looked for some calming, sensible guidance. Some words of comfort, some challenges, some moments of united prayer. Hoping I would get this from my Church, I received deafening silence.

When he posted it on Facebook, some people decided that was their opportunity to spew some of the most hateful things I’ve read in quite some time. Sadly, none of it was shocking. Most of it was fairly predictable, which is its own sadness. I kept thinking, can’t you just shut up for ten minutes and listen? Just listen to what the man has to say and stop yelling.

I feel like right now is the time for me to listen. To just listen. (And I feel like that’s what Paul is trying to to do too.) Not listen while forming a response. Not listen to figure out if another person’s position agrees with my world view. Not listen for a nugget I can use in a sound bite. Not listen to hear anything that I can use as proof of what an enlightened person I am. Not listen to justify my or anyone else’s actions or motives.

Just drop my barriers for the one and only purpose of listening to someone else’s life experience. To put myself in someone else’s shoes, in so far as that is possible. To simply hear the joys, fears and trials of other people who are living a different American experience than me and my family.

It’s my job to hear Brit Bennett when she struggles with the subtle racism of “good white people”:

Before the flight took off, she turned to me and said, “I’m sorry if I cut you earlier. I didn’t see you standing there.”
[…]
The problem is that you can never know someone else’s intentions. And sometimes I feel like I live in a world where I’m forced to parse through the intentions of people who have no interest in knowing mine.
[…]
I spent a four hour flight trying not to wonder about the white woman’s intentions. But why would she think about mine? She didn’t even see me.

I must take to heart the insults caused by the white saviour complex:

I guess this is where some people are getting confused because we see that her intent is good, and that makes us want to believe that the action that follows will also be good. She’s at a crossroad here – two roads diverged, etc. Had she taken the road less travelled, Ms. Tuohy might have said to her friend, “Wow, you’re being really racist right now! I’m not comfortable with how this conversation is going.” Instead, she decided to confront the teenagers…

I must better understand the concept of racism without racists:

Some whites confine racism to intentional displays of racial hostility. It’s the Ku Klux Klan, racial slurs in public, something “bad” that people do.
But for many racial minorities, that type of racism doesn’t matter as much anymore, some scholars say. […] it doesn’t wear a hood, but it causes unsuspecting people to see the world through a racially biased lens.

I’m trying very hard to be helpful in this conversation about race, not make things worse. I’d like to not make it about me, but in some ways, that’s inevitable. I mean, it’s my blog, so I can’t really get around that entirely when I write about it.

I don’t have all the answers, but I think a good step for me and lots of white people would be to shut up, stop trying to justify ourselves, and just listen.

Raise a Glass for Gladney

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For the past few months, I’ve been working on a project that makes me happy. The Gladney Center for Adoption is the agency we used that made Jackson part of our family. As you can probably imagine, we think they’re pretty swell.

Part of what makes Gladney unique in the adoption community is its’ endowment. Adoptive parents pay for the adoption costs, but the agency actually loses money on most of the adoptions. That’s because of all the services provided at no cost to birth moms. These include health care, legal services, counseling before and after placement, housing, food, clothes, job training, education assistance, and so much more.

The Gladney Fund makes up the difference in cost for each adoption. Most importantly, at least to me, adoptive parents are never in the position of having to say yes or no to a birth mom’s request. All services are managed by professionals who know best practices for how to care for women in difficult circumstances.

Our family is incredibly grateful for the people ahead of us who made all of that possible so we could be the parents to this wacky kid. And as the old proverb goes, to whom much is given, much is required. It’s our turn to pay it forward.

Thursday, November 6, at the Arkansas Arts Center, we will be among the hosts for Raise a Glass for Gladney. This fun evening of food, wine and music will benefit the Gladney Center for Adoption. In addition to domestic adoption families like ours, the center also builds families through International adoption and placing kids in foster care in forever families.

There are more than 300 Gladney families in Arkansas. If you’re reading this, you’ve already come into contact with one. Gladney related or not, you likely work, attend school or go to church with someone whose life has been touched by adoption.

November is Adoption Awareness Month. Certainly, there are many ways to be supportive of adoptive families. It doesn’t have to be this fundraiser, although you’re totally invited because I would never turn down money for a cause I care about, but do something to demonstrate you care.

Show up with cupcakes on the doorstep of a couple waiting for a child because you noticed this week, she just had that cupcake sound in her voice. Hug your friend who placed a child when she was young, and almost no one knows anymore, but she does, and she still prays for that baby every day. Volunteer to bring dinner the foster parents you know who are overwhelmed by new placements and just trying to keep their head above water. Send a note to the tween who is struggling with identity issues and wondering about his birth parents. Acknowledge the step dad who just became the adoptive dad to a kid that was part of the package when he fell in love.

Money is important because it buys the tangible things we all need. Please give what you can to any of the many nonprofits who build all kinds of healthy families. But the other parts, the real, genuine support and love that we all need to make families work from day to day, that doesn’t take a checkbook. It just take a moment to care.

Forever. Forever, forever. The (other) problem with social media and teens.

image: optenetpc.com

image: optenetpc.com

I’ve counseled more than one teen/college student about using discretion when posting on social media. This usually means no lewd photos, no information about exactly where you live, nothing you’d be embarrassed for your mama or a future employer to see.

A new wrinkle to this advice occurred me this weekend. I was looking at a young woman’s profile. She’s in her early 20s. Seems to be a lovely human. Nothing vexing about her posts….for a high school girl. There are tons of photos of her and friends 15-18ish years old, behaving like teenage girls. There are school dance photos and pics of old boyfriends. It’s juvenile…which is perfectly fine, since she was a juvenile when she posted it.

But now she’s a young adult, about to be married, looking for a job and while what’s out there is not bad or dangerous, it’s not really the impression you want to make when you’re starting off your adult life. So I’m a bit flummoxed about her predicament. Facebook is an archive of that time in her life. She doesn’t have those photos in a shoe box in her closet like I do. I don’t want to get rid of those things, but I don’t hang them on my walls either for everyone to see.

Certainly, she can change privacy settings for anything she personally posted, but she’s tagged in tons of stuff. And it’s all still out there. You can’t get pee out of swimming pool…even if it’s totally innocent pee.

So this is a small piece of the discretion on posts policy I hadn’t fully considered previously. I don’t have a great answer. I just think people really should get two social media lives if they were under 21 when they opened their accounts.

They should be allowed to grow up and behave like kids because they are kids. This just seems like a lot of pressure for humans who don’t even know who they are yet.