24 June 2016

A Difficult Task

For those of you not on our Facebook page, and/or who haven't heard, it looks like our adoption isn't going to happen.

I could recite all the explanations they've given us, but not one makes sense. As our agency told us, it's mind boggling.

Yesterday Jack and I were out shopping, and he spotted a pink pair of pants. "Mom! I think M would love those!" I smiled and nodded.

A few minutes later he saw some ruffly dresses. "Mom, we should buy those for the girls!"

I smiled again.

"Don't you want to put them in the cart, Mom?"

"Honey, I don't think M, M, and D are going to live with us. Remember, I told you that the Judge said no?"

"Mom, you have to keep hoping if you want it to happen!"

"Oh Sweetie. I do want it to happen, but it doesn't look like they'll be coming."

"Maybe we need to pray more. You know, we haven't prayed about it lately."

I changed the subject, and he forgot. For now.

I couldn't tell him that I pray with every breath, but that I don't pray aloud with him because I don't want him to doubt God. The way I do sometimes.

A few days ago I told Ken that I wanted to buy new linens for the girls' room, the room that will now be an extra room. We're having various guests over the next few months, and I can't bear to have the girly lavender quilts on the beds. They were bought for the girls,and the thought of someone else using them makes me too sad.

It really was the sweetest little girls' room you could ever imagine. The picture doesn't do it justice.

So tonight we removed the girls' quilts and replaced them with gray and white damask quilts. The walls are still lavender; we don't have the energy to re-paint them. It's fine. The room seems drab without the bright pink rug and the polka dot bedding, but it will do. It doesn't scream "little girl room," and that was the main thing we wanted.

D was going to share a room with Jack, so no major changes are necessary in there. The next task will be the clothing. The dressers are full of pajamas, still with the tags on them. Underwear and socks still in the package. Tshirts and jeans and shorts. Dresses and jackets and boots and shoes and hairbows and jewelry and coloring books and Amharic-English dictionaries, and little pink dollhouses and a brand new 10-speed bike in the garage for D, price tag still hanging from the handles.

There's so much to do. So many decisions to make. But not today.

Next week we'll have a conference call with our team in Addis; I guess so they can tell us they tried everything they could and that this journey has come to an end. But until then, I'll hold on to the tiniest sliver of hope. Because we promised M, M, and D we wouldn't leave them as orphans. That we would come for them. And so we can't leave any stone unturned.

26 May 2016

What You See v. What You Get

It was January in Chicago. On my drive to the office, I stopped by my coworker’s apartment because he needed a ride. I fiddled with my sunglasses while I waited for him. A few minutes later, Moses’ smiling face appeared. But something ...

(I recently blogged over at CCFL. Click here to read the rest of the story.)

07 May 2016

Mama Said

The business of training little humans for life is a mind-boggling process. And let’s be honest, some parents are better at it than others.

And tomorrow is Mother’s Day, the day when ...

(I'm blogging over at CCFL today. To read more, click here.)

03 May 2016

Free Printable

Here's a free printable for any special woman in your life: your mom, your wife, your sister, your aunt, your friend. Or print it for yourself. Because you are. Really.

Frame it or use it as a card. Or hang it on your fridge.

Choose the pink framed image, or just the image. Then click on the one you want, and right click to save or copy.

12 April 2016

As promised...

We're about midway through April, and we've experienced some downright weird weather--even by Chicago standards. Twice in the past two weeks it has alternately snowed, rained, and had clear blue skies--multiple times in one day. Sometimes in the span of 10 minutes.

I did, however, want to do another bulletin cover about April showers. No one ever said they had to be rain showers, right?

I found a picture online of this great polka dot umbrella that was sold by Barneys New York. It's no longer available for sale, but apparently its image lives on via the world-wide-web.

Much to my five-year-old's dismay, I turned it upside down. [gasp]

I added texture,

a puddle,

and of course the "shower of blessings." I played around with a lot of fonts and angles to get the effect of a shower. I originally was going to make the rain blue, but it overwhelmed the picture.

Finally, I added the Scripture reference. This font doesn't come in a bold, so I made two layers and overlapped them slightly.

And finally, my dreary gray/blue cover...that hopefully has an encouraging message: God's blessings will shower down on you.

And maybe that sometimes blessings look like rain.

(Personally, I prefer the kind that look like rainbows and unicorns and puppies, but as my friend Michelle says, you don't always get what you want.)  :P

When I finished, and the image had been printed on the bulletin, I realized none of the rain is actually going into the umbrella...which it would in real life, right?  Oops. Do you think anyone noticed?

(If you'd like to print out this image, simply click on it, then right click and save it to your computer and then print.)

05 April 2016

Art > Therapy

I've recently started designing covers for our church bulletin.

Initially I used free printables for the cover, but then Easter came, and I couldn't find what I had in mind.

I've been "doing" graphic design for nearly 20 years, but for the most part, it's been basic photoshopping.

So when I couldn't find what I wanted for our Easter service, I decided to go out on a limb and make something original. I knew the main focus would be "Christ is Risen," but I also wanted to include something about death being defeated when Christ rose from the dead.

I made a pastel watercolor-y background in blue because it reminded me of a robin's egg--perfect for springtime.

I used gold letters to announce the resurrection because gold seems kingly, royal. I tried to give each letter a gradient to make it look more like brushstrokes, and although it's not super obvious on the screen version, the printed version had a bit of a glimmer in the gold letters. (I credit our awesome printer at the church office.)

Then I wanted to add the "Death, where is your sting? Hell, where is your victory?" verse, but it started feeling cluttered. Since I wanted this to be a lesser focus on the piece anyway, I used a white font so it appears that the sting of death is fading in the light of Christ's victory.

Here is the final result:

The next Sunday was April 3, and I wanted to again do something seasonal. But the only thing that kept playing on repeat in my mind was "April showers bring May flowers." (or Mayflowers...)

A fun little poetic saying, but not actually in the Bible. Then I thought about clouds, one of my favorite subjects in the Bible. Although I've personally felt like a rain cloud's been hovering over me the past few months, I wasn't sure it would be appropriate for our church bulletin.

So again I turned to Google and found a Bible verse I don't recall ever reading before.

"Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
    or the coming of rains in early spring.”   -Hosea 6:3 (NLT)

Wow. What a word picture.

And then I found a watercolor painting that was so awesome, and I really, really wanted to "borrow" it for my cover.

But somehow, stealing an image for church didn't seem quite right. So I again set out to create my own version.

Turns out I'm pretty slow figuring out all the amazing features Photoshop has to offer, but oh.my.goodness--there are some amazing features on Photoshop! I started with this photo of pink rain boots I found online.

I added a whole bunch of filters and brushes until they looked water-colorey. And a little less bubble-gum pink.

(See the little circular puddles of rain under the boots? No idea if they are correct in terms of direction. Making them was nearly the end of me...but I liked the effect.)

I downloaded some free fonts that looked kind of rainy.

Then I made a paintbrush in Photoshop in the shape of a raindrop and added about a million of them in varying sizes and colors.

And then the flowers. I needed something bright and cheery to add a splash of color, but creating actual flowers is beyond my skill level. So I found some clip art flowers, changed their size, shape, and color scheme, and played with them until they looked like they could actually be coming out of a rain boot.

(Does anybody really plant flowers in a rain boot? Would be a cute idea, but who would want to fill an adorable pink pair of Wellies with soil?)

Approximately 29 hours later, I had created this:

I wanted to emphasize two things: First, the truth of the verse...He will always come to those who seek Him. And second, even rain--dismal as it can be at times--is part of the process of creating something beautiful.

I added a faux matte frame to this version. I popped it in a $2 Ikea frame, and I love it for spring decor in my office.

I'm working on more cover art for April, so come back soon to see my latest creative adventures.

27 February 2016

Floods, bric-a-brac, and other awkwardness

A dozen years ago I had a coworker named Nancy*. We were both in our thirties, but that's where the similarities ended.

Nancy was outgoing, audacious, and always the life of the party. She loved being in a crowd. She dressed in the latest fashion and couldn't resist a pair of shoes that had 4-inch heels.

I, on the other hand, was an introvert, trying to survive a job that required me to be outgoing, assertive, and personable. I had to meet lots of new people and establish relationships with them. It exhausted me. I tried to dress in style, but much like now, I wasn't usually successful.

One day Nancy and I were comparing our high school experiences. As a teenager, Nancy was the extroverted party girl. She died her hair pink and blue and orange. She was at every football game, dated lots of boys, and hung out with the "in" crowd. She dressed in the wildest clothes and was fearless.

As I thought back to my high school experience, I could only describe it like this: I was the complete opposite of Nancy. I was a rule follower. I tried to blend in. I didn't want to be noticed because it was usually for something like being the tallest girl in the school.

I wasn't invited to parties, and if I had been, I wouldn't have known how to act. I probably would have said something that sounded good in my head but got jumbled on my way to my mouth...and ended up coming out all wrong. I was tall and painfully skinny, and since there was no internet back then where you could buy tall-girl clothing, my pants were usually too short.

(My mom suggested sewing bric-a-brac on the bottoms to make them longer, but I declined, deciding floods were better than bric-a-brac.)

I confidently told Nancy we *never* would have been friends in high school. But, I was so glad we weren't teenagers anymore and could be friends with people who are different from us. As I recall, we had a good laugh and went back to work.

During the next week, Nancy was quieter than usual. She suffered from debilitating migraines, so I assumed that was what was wrong.

But after several attempts at small talk, I realized the normally outgoing Nancy was giving me one-word answers. She wouldn't look up when I walked past her cubicle. I started wondering if she was mad at me. I searched my mind for anything that could have upset her. I replayed conversations we'd had.

But I didn't replay the one conversation that mattered. I had filed it away in my brain as inconsequential small talk.

Finally I couldn't take the silent treatment any longer. I summoned all my introverted courage and approached Nancy. She was shocked when I asked her if something was wrong. Of course something was wrong! Did I not remember the terrible thing I had said?

Her anger was intense. Clearly her animosity toward me had been building for days, and I had been clueless.

Finally she recounted our conversation about high school, and I was equally shocked that she was upset by it. But then I realized her recollection of our conversation was different than mine. She was seething as she said, "You said you wouldn't want to be friends with me because I was too wild! I'm not good enough for you."

Wait. What?

No, that wasn't it. I said (or I thought I had said) that I was intimidated by girls like Nancy because I was so socially awkward. I *thought* I had said I was glad we could be friends now, because we were so different in our younger years.

But that wasn't what Nancy heard. Just like in high school, I had tried to say something that made sense in my head. In fact, I saw it as complimentary toward Nancy and slightly self-demeaning toward myself. But somewhere on the path from my brain to my mouth, the words had jumbled. And Nancy was hurt. She'd suffered in silence for nearly two weeks.


Why do I tell you all this? Because I can be a clod sometimes. My words, my sentences, my paragraphs, my stories come out all wrong. My timing is terrible. I think I'm posting something interesting or helpful, but others think it's a personal, passive-aggressive attack on them. They think I'm sending out a coded message via social media that only some will be able to decipher. (Trust me, friends. My brain is not that complex.)

So if I've written something or said something that hurt you, please forgive me. Please assume the best about my intentions. Please know that generally speaking, I like most everyone**.

And if you think the latter part of this blog is about you, you're correct. This time it is about you, and I hope you will accept my apology.

*Names have been changed. Stories are true...at least to the best of my recollection, which admittedly isn't always the best.

**Unless you're unkind to children, animals, the elderly or the vulnerable. Then I probably don't like you. But I doubt those kind of people read my blog.