Once Upon a Time: Jingle Bell Run

So I haven’t posted in over two months. I have some thoughts on that, why blogging has been hard for me, but I need a different space to get those thoughts into a cohesive post. Right now, my parents and I have finished our Christmas (they arrived late afternoon yesterday), and we are all sitting around playing with our iPads. Mine was a Christmas gift from some sweet friends!
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Today’s Once Upon a Time is about what has become one of my favorite traditions. My dad has been running as long as I can remember (33 years apparently) and we figured out today that my mom has been a runner for about 20 years. 18 years ago, they started running together every Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. At first only my mom would tie jingle bells on her shoes, but in recent years my dad has decided he’s not too cool to do it. 😉
I have been running off and on for 8 or 9 years, and I’ve started joining them whenever I can on the Jingle Bell Run. A few years ago we even made t-shirts. Yeah, we’re that dorky! This year, my siblings are with their in-laws for Christmas, so my parents flew down to Memphis yesterday, once my dad’s Christmas Eve pastor duties were finished. This morning we got a rare treat of several inches of snow! We took our Jingle Bell Run to Shelby Farms, which was just gorgeous frosted in white. It was a great run! We only passed two people, an older couple out with their camera but I hope we made them smile!
Look how cute my parents are in their festive garb!
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I hope we continue this for a long time. I look forward to the future when I may have a running stroller to push. Oh, yes, it’ll have some sleigh bells!

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: Beanies!

In the past month, I’ve brought two of my little buddies to my house to visit the kitties. You have to understand, this is a seriously exciting activity when you’re two. But there’s something else in my bedroom both of them have picked out immediately: Bongo.

Bongo was my second Beanie Baby. I was 12 when the craze really got into full swing. Still very much a little girl (thank you parents for protecting my innocence), I got the collecting bug easily. I love cute things; at age almost-27, I still get a little melty inside when I see stuffed animals in stores. And at $5, it was the perfect thing for a preteen’s budget. After we moved to PA, I would walk to the sweet little gift shop downtown every couple weeks to check out the new selection and see if anything I wanted had arrived.

I believe my final count was around 90. I did have some of the big ticket Beanies – including both the tie-dyed Peace bear and the Princess Diana bear. Eventually I sorted through them and sent about 25 to an orphanage in Brazil. But I still have all the rest boxed up in my parents’ storage room.

All except a few special ones who accompanied me to college and eventually Memphis (and the one my mom sent me this year for Valentine’s Day :D). But even amongst those few, Bongo has always been the special one. I got him in my monkey-obsessed phase (it lasted several years, I think). But one of the special things about him was that my dad picked him out.

After being given my first Beanie Baby, I quickly got on the TY website and organized a plan of attack for adding more. Bongo was the top of my list. At that time, my dad met some friends every week for breakfast at a church member’s restaurant, which had a Cracker Barrel-style gift shop. I put him on the watch for Bongo and after not too long, he came home with a paper bag for me! But he hadn’t just grabbed any old Bongo from the shelf. He had spent some time looking at each little monkey to find the cutest face. He knew that’s what I would do (and he may have been following instructions).

Bongo has always been my favorite. As you can probably tell, he slept with me for a while. He sat on a shelf above my desk in college and now he sits on my bedside table. He’s just so cute and truly does have a great face (not all of them are sewn as nicely). However… I think a big part of why he’s got a special place for me is that he represents a special relationship and a special person. A daddy who takes a few extra minutes to pick the very best one for his girl.

xo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: A Blogiversary

Once upon a time, year ago yesterday, I wrote my first post. I thought very briefly about doing a big celebratory post with a giveaway, like many other bloggers do. But it seemed a better fit to the way I’ve blogged this first year to just mark it quietly (and a day late)… and anyway, with such a small readership there wouldn’t be anyone to vie for the giveaway. Haha.

I’ve never been a cannonball-into-the-water type of girl. I always inch myself in slowly, one toe at a time. And so it’s been with blogging. I don’t think I’ve been so much a half-hearted blogger as a cautious and hesitant one. Testing the proverbial waters, so to speak. Seeing if it’s safe to plunge in. And with such a crazy, up-and-down year, blogging suffered. I’m a routine girl. I have a hard time being consistent and disciplined when life is crazy and all over the place.

But enough of that! Life is moving on and I’m slowly settling into a new normal, although there’s still some change to come in the next couple months. It’s time to get serious about the blog. So that’s why I planned to hash out The Plan for year number two on the blog. Perhaps I’d give you a bulleted list of Big Goals like new post ideas (and I have plenty), so many shop updates per month, when in my week I’m going to set aside time to blog, etc.

And yet… looking back over the past year, and looking towards the future, that’s still seems not quite the right thing. Before those Big Goals will work, I need one thing.

I want to blog with PURPOSE.

I don’t mean narrowing a focus for the blog. I don’t mean setting goals and keeping myself on track. Those are important and they will follow. But this is what I mean:

I realized recently that in the past year, I don’t think one single time have I sat down to pray over my blog. To ask God what HE would like to do with Charlie + Lu. 1 Corinthians 10:31 say whatever we do, even eating and drinking, should be done for God’s glory. Eating and drinking are basic survival tasks. If I’m supposed to survive for His glory, how much more so should something like blogging be taken seriously for His purpose! Before I get to any goals or to-do lists, I need to sit down and spend some time praying over Charlie + Lu. And listening. My hope for this blog is that what you see in the coming weeks and months will come from a heart guided by the Lord. That doesn’t mean every post is going to be “Christian-y”! But I want Him beside me as I blog. Every time.

Even for a purposeless, hesitant first year of blogging, it’s been a good one. I wrote some heartfelt posts about things like Honduras and a special birthday. I participated in an art journal challenge, Indie Christmas, and the Spring Fling Blog Swap. I showed you a lot of Instagrams. I am beginning to meet some sweet and amazing fellow bloggers.

I’m excited just thinking about what another year could bring when I blog with purpose. For Him. Soli Deo Gloria!

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: Personality

Gratuitous cute pic of baby me – look at that enormous forehead!

I know the whole reputation of “terrible twos,” but, really, toddlerhood is one of my favorite ages. The blooming of a little person: exploration of their world, exploding verbal skills, learning to pretend and to be funny, and establishing a personality. All of the kids I’ve watched this past year are within a few months of each other. My nephew is nearly 2, and I have several good friends with toddlers. It’s so fun to see how crazy-different and how strong these little people’s personalities are!

My parents have told me many stories of how early many parts of my personality and tastes appeared. And if I look back to early, preschool memories and feelings, I can see the strong thread of Me all along.

  • I think I was 18 months old, or younger, when my mom saw me line up all my Fisher Price Little People on the edge of bathtub facing me… in age order from grandma to the baby. Yep, an organizer from the beginning.
  • I have always been a touchy, affectionate person; I can remember finding my way into every houseguest’s lap by the end of their visit.
  • I used to iron my doll clothes. For fun. Yeahhhh… that’s actually one I’ve outgrown!
  • Always the fashionista, I was just as happy to wear my tutu and leotard or dig in the dress-up box for daily wear.
  • On a visit to my grandparents before I could walk, I crawled away unseen and was finally found sitting in my grandma’s closet, sucking my thumb, cooing, and stroking all her long dresses hanging down around me. I still often unconsciously reach my hand out to touch and stroke clothes as I walk through a department store. Color and texture (and clothes!) have always fascinated me.
  • Anytime a new American Girl or J.C. Penney catalogue arrived, I couldn’t wait to look through every page with someone. I didn’t want to just look at the pretty things, I wanted to discuss everything. My patient mom spent a lot of time debating which shower curtain on a particular page was her favorite (yeah, I mean the whole JCP catalogue – I was in to decorating even then!). It was never a question whether I was an extravert or not.
  • My tender heart was easily manipulated by my family. It wasn’t uncommon that I would “sorry” myself instead of a family member when we played Sorry! I couldn’t bear to send someone back to the beginning. And I’d like to point out that they certainly took advantage of this play-pouting any time I tried to do it! To be honest, I still have some level of anxiety with competitive games; I’m normal and don’t like to lose, but winning makes me guilty.
  • I can remember how much I loved the magical days when a bath, clean jammies, and clean sheets all happened on the same night. It was such a wonderful feeling of CLEAN.
  • I have never been a morning person. On Sundays, my dad used to come into my room and make my dresses dance around and talk to me, competing to see which one I’d choose to wear to church. Eventually I’d start to laugh and join in, but without that I think I was a dreadful grumpy bear.
  • I can remember playing a game with my Playmobils where I would organize them on the floor into massive family trees (and yes, that was it). People, relationships, and organization. 🙂
  • Although I knew my stuffed animals were just fake fur and polyester filling, I couldn’t bear to say which one was my favorite. I just couldn’t risk hurting their feelings. It still doesn’t take much for me to impute feelings to animals and objects!

What about you? Did you have a personality that showed itself early on? Do you remember things which you know can see as “you”? Have your parents told you stories?

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time: Books!

This week’s OUaT post is inspired by these thoughts from Gussy Sews. Just like her family, one of our common loves is a passion for books. Luckily both my brother-in-law and sister-in-law enjoy reading as much as the rest of us, or I predict they’d be pretty left out! Both my niece (2 mos.) and nephew (20 mos.) have growing libraries – in fact my sister had a book shower for my niece. I think it’s an awesome idea… tucking it away for my future progeny.

A large part of my childhood memories of free time are those spent with a book. Curled on the couch, or perhaps “hot-sitting” – my siblings’ and my term for sitting on a floor heating vent with a blanket. One of the best things my parents did for us in regards to reading, was to only ever limit our book choices for content. I only ever remember being told I couldn’t read a book because it had themes or situations inappropriate for my age, but never because, “that’s too big a book for you.” In fact, I can remember the deep indignation I felt whenever I discovered I’d read the abridged version of a book – what had I missed?

My family didn’t just enjoy books individually, though. Some of my best and favorite reading memories are those when my mom read aloud. Every single morning, after Bible study, before we got going with schoolwork, mom would read a few chapters from a book. Sometimes it was a story from the particular era we were studying in history, sometimes it was a classic she wanted to introduce us to, and sometimes it was one we had picked out. As we listened, we occupied our fingers… my brother always drawing, while my sister and I either drew or worked on cross-stich.

This tradition only stopped when my brother left for college… when I was sixteen turning seventeen. I still love to hear people read aloud, although that isn’t an opportunity grown-ups get very often.

My mom picked the picture at the top when I requested a reading photo from her (she always gets a OUaT preview because I always have to apply to her for old photos). That’s from March 1992. I was 6.5, practicing my reading with a Bible story book we still have – I like to think that some day grandma and grandpa will introduce the stories of God’s people to my little ones from that same book.

A funny anecdote about the photo (besides the fact that, yes, I’m wearing the prairie dress): I think it’s probably taken not too long after my mom got her shoulder-length hair cut and permed. I don’t remember this, but apparently when she arrived home, I took one look at her, burst into tears and exclaimed, “You don’t look like my mama anymore!” Poor mom. I’m sorry! I think you looked lovely and it was in fact more flattering than the longer hair was!

What about you? What’s your history with books?

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time Wednesday: Bang a Drum

Whew. It’s good to feel well. I rarely get sick so this was a reminder to be thankful for my relative good health! Y’all, I was wiped out. Flu = not fun. But I’m back in time for Once Upon a Time. I promise I’ll get with the program soon and post other things than OUaT.

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When I was about 11 I discovered this book at our local library. I probably read it at least a half dozen times before we moved a few years later. The book is now out of print and I’ve never seen it elsewhere. But I found it on Amazon for $0.01 a couple weeks ago and, of course, purchased it.
It came last week and I’m nearly finished. It’s not a difficult read. Based on a true family, it’s the story of Julian and Edie and how they build their family. After their first son, they commit to adoption. Gradually what was supposed to be four kids total grows to eight. Each chapter chronicles the arrival of a new child.
Of course reading the book now as an adult, there’s things I notice which I didn’t before. The occasionally saccharine ease with which such a diverse family bonds and grows. The huge difference between the adoption process in the 1960s and now. The sometimes hilariously unpolitically correct details of the story – stocking up on broccoli before adopting a Chinese girl because, “I’ve heard the Chinese like broccoli!” *headdesk*
But something remains the same from when I first read this 15 years ago. I didn’t exactly recognize what happened at the time, but when I finished the story the first time, I knew something. I knew that one day I would adopt. I now realize that this wasn’t just a sweet idea, it was a future planted in my heart by God. I’ve dreamed of it ever since. I know it’s part of His plan for my life. To be mommy to children not all born to me biologically, but all born in my heart. So reading the book now, sappy and simplified for children as it is, I laughed and cried and felt the dream grow even stronger. It’ll remain a treasure on my bookshelf and one day, I’ll sit down and read it to my little brood and celebrate how each one of the came to me.

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time Wednesday: Prairie Dress

Gosh, I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve posted. And I was doing better, too. Sorry y’all. But didn’t I tell you that having at least one scheduled theme post would help me? If it weren’t for today been Wednesday and Imustpostonceuponatime, maybe it would be another week before I posted. I can’t believe I almost forgot, too, because I got the photos for today’s post from my mom last week…

Annnnd… enter The Prairie Dress. I have always had a thing for Fashion. Always. When I was a bitty baby, not yet walking, we were visiting my grandparents and I disappeared. My mom found me in my grandma’s closet, sucking my thumb and cooing as I stroked her long dresses hanging down.

I have also always loved history. Maybe it’s my love of people and maybe it’s having grown up the daughter of a history major. Maybe it’s the opportunity I had of being taught in such a way that it came alive (thank you Mom!). Most likely a combo of all three. But anyway… my connection with history has always included a special fascination with what people wore during each time period.

When I was five-and-a-half, I got my first (of four) American Girls dolls, Kirsten (way back when there were only 3 dolls – and, hey, why is the Kirsten doll retired?). I loved being read the Little House books over and over. I was pretty sure I wanted to travel west in a covered wagon. Only problem was we lived in Oregon, so we actually ended up traveling east. In a minivan. But that’s another story.

I’m not sure how it came about, but when I was six my mom made me a prairie dress, complete with bonnet, pinafore, and eyelet-trimmed pantaloons. It was like my dream dress. I wanted to wear it EVERWHERE. And, honestly, I did. I probably wore it to church. The picture above was taken at the historical Carter plantation in Virginia. I do remember being a little worried about wearing it there. Not for the attention factor, but simply because I knew that it dated a good 80-90 years later than the time period of the plantation. I didn’t want people to think that I was ignorant of my historical inaccuracy. I think my mom convinced me that it wasn’t a travesty and lightening wouldn’t strike if I wore a late 1800s outfit to a colonial plantation.

I have one more photo to share of me in the The Prairie Dress. And oh, is it a good one!

This, my friends is a genuine, photographic specimen of what is known as The Princess Smile. I was convinced that princesses (and all other noteworthy females) smiled with this cheesy, lethargic-eyed, lip-pursed half-smile. It seemed elegant and somewhat tragic. Certainly dreamy. I’m sure Anne Shirley would understand.

The truth is… I would gladly wear historical costumes most days. Unfortunately, though, I’m now 26 and aware of social conventions. But I do let vintage wear take a place in my wardrobe, mixed with more modern pieces (er, or not). And give me any opportunity to dress up… I’ll be there. Perhaps one of my next posts should be about my Regency ball gown… (speaking of which, mom – will you send it to me?)

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time Wednesday: Ballerina

Today’s Once Upon a Time is not exactly a story… I was scrolling through old photos on Facebook for inspiration and saw this one my mom posted; it’s too cute not to share! The serious little ballerina in the pink tutu is me and the pig-tailed, missing-teeth dancer is my big sister Katharine (we are 5.5 years apart).

My guess is that I’m around age 3 in this photo. At this point I was not yet in dance lessons myself, but the ballerina dream was already entrenched in my heart. I was pretty opinionated even at that age, so I’m sure I insisted accompanying Katharine to her lessons in my own dance-wear.

I was five when I began lessons, shortly before we left Oregon for Virginia, where we both studied at the Richmond Ballet School. Oh how I loved dancing and how I longed for the day when I’d be big enough to wear toe shoes. I used to try Katharine’s on and stagger around the house. We moved again when I was 8 and I didn’t take lessons again until I was 11, stopping just before we moved again when I was almost 13. I never got to the point of toe-shoes, sadly, but I loved to dance.

I still do. On occasion I accompany my friends to the Rumba Room downtown for their swing dancing nights on Fridays. One of my favorite workouts is a Dancing with the Stars DVD. A long time ago I realized I wouldn’t become a ballerina. But I think in my heart the little girl in my heart still dreams… of the grace and beauty, the glittery tutus (yes, I know they are pretty shabby up-close – I went backstage at the Nutcracker once), the amazing physical feats.

via Ballet Memphis

Pictures like this one still make my heart skip a beat. What is it about ballet that so captivates and enthralls so many of us girls?

xoxo,
Alanna

P.S. I have a friend who actually IS a ballerina! I get a vicarious sort of excitement about that…

Once Upon a Time Wednesday: Paint

Today’s OUaT isn’t so much a story as just a fact… once upon a time, I used to paint. starting in middle school, I believe, through high school I took art lessons from a local painter. She taught in a studio in the cute downtown area of the small town where I lived. Although it was a group class, each person received private instruction and advanced at his or her own pace. So it was really more of private lessons.

Still life... my last painting ever. 😦

I loved painting. But I stopped after high school. I just didn’t have time in college, obviously, as a non-art-major. Sadly I told my mom she could give away all my supplies… I did oil painting and if you don’t know, it’s an expensive art medium. I didn’t really think I’d paint again. Upon hindsight reflection, I think I didn’t consider myself good enough to keep it up. Which is just a ridiculous idea to begin with. Why stop doing something just because you’re not good at it?

And then, in the first year I moved to Memphis, I had my mom send me some of my favorite paintings. Actually, the last two I ever did. And I realized something. I was good. And I loved it. AND I WANT TO PAINT AGAIN!

Sadly, I haven’t ever felt like I had the money at the right time to invest in setting myself up again to paint. But it’s a goal for when I’m employed again. I’ve gone through fits and spurts of doing art again; sketching, pastels, etc. It’s something I just need to discipline myself to do (and fight the self-doubt, too). I love it when I do… it’s like something dormant in me comes springing to vibrant life.

Master copy of a Monet

I am an artist. It’s not something that will only be confirmed if I sell a painting someday. I just am an artist. It’s part of who God created me to be. It’s woven into my being.

Is there anything you used to do but don’t know, and you wish you did? Or is there something you’ve always longed to learn but never was brave enough?

xoxo,
Alanna

Once Upon a Time Wednesday: Pip

Of course y’all know about my two furry buddies, Charlie and Lucy. But you don’t know that my first kitty was a teeny runt named Pip. I adopted Pip in July of 2008. The plan had been for A. (my college roomie, with whom I moved to Memphis) and I to both get kitties. She adopted Charlie in October 2007 and he was hers until she married in 2010, when he became mine. I couldn’t afford a cat at first but after getting a higher paid job our second summer here, we set off one Saturday to find my kitten. I had a list of several places and I was adamant I would go to each place before making a decision. A. had no faith in me and insisted I would adopt the first cute cat I saw. No surprise… she was right.

Our first stop was the local PetSmart which shows cats from the local animal shelter. We walked up and this little guy was the first one I saw:

In the car headed home!

When I crouched down to look through his window, he came forward and put his paw up on the glass, like a little prisoner begging for rescue. I melted. There wasn’t any turning back. When the PetSmart employee lifted him out to let me hold him, he hissed! I liked his spunk. We had to go to the animal shelter to fill out his paperwork… the employee advised me to go quickly as the little guy had generated interest with several people. As it turned out I had barely signed the paperwork and paid, when a couple came in determined to adopt him. Whew.

He was very small – at five months, the size of 10 week old kittens – but the vet said he probably was just a runt. He was feisty, though! He and Charlie took quite a while to acclimate to each other (we didn’t do the best job introducing them). Poor Charlie didn’t exactly know what to do with such a tiny thing (3 lbs.) and would frequently overwhelm Pip (named for the hobbit) play fighting. We heard his little hiss often.

He really was just this pitiful little snuggle bug. I could be walking down the hallway and he’d sneak up to snuggle my feet, of course getting kicked in the process. He often slept draped on my shoulders or neck and I’m afraid I knocked him into the wall on more than one occasion as I turned into my sleep. All he wanted was to cuddle and he’d sidle up next to us on the couch or curl up on our laps (even when a laptop was already there). Of course we both showered him with snuggles and love.

Then early in September, I noticed that he’d had some… issues… in the litterbox. For the next month, he was in and out of the vet’s office as we tried to figure out what was wrong. Nothing else seemed wrong but because of the problems, he got more and more dehydrated. It got to the point where I was giving him water with a syringe because he wasn’t drinking enough. He got multiple fluid treatments at the vet. My wonderful vet actually did over $500 worth of treatment for free because he fell in love with sweet little Pip.

But my poor little buddy got weaker and weaker. He’d grown to 4 lbs in August, but now was below 3. I had to put him in the large kitchen closet at night and while I was at work because he couldn’t keep things in the litterbox. I fought for him, and he tried his best, but the decision was inevitable. The vet thought it was FIP, an incurable disease that’s only truly diagnosed at an autopsy. He was probably sick from long before he came to me.

I knew what was coming. And one Sunday I made the choice. That night I let him sleep with me. I didn’t care if he made a mess (which he didn’t – he always tried to use the litterbox and I woke every time to clean him up). He draped himself over my neck and as he fell asleep I felt his little head droop lower and lower on my cheek. On that Tuesday, October 14, I took him to the vet for the last time. I’m starting to cry already writing this. They were wonderful. So sweet. I think the vet and assistants may have gotten teary. I chose to stay with him because I couldn’t bear to have his last moment as me leaving him. He was so scared. So they gave him an anesthetic and I held him close, rocking him as he fell asleep. Then they came in and put him to sleep for real. I’ll never forget the doctor putting the stethoscope to his heart, so huge in comparison to Pip’s teeny abdomen, and saying quietly, “He’s gone.”

They slipped out, giving me several minutes to grieve, to stroke his head and sob over my little baby kitty. I drove home and held Charlie close. I lay face down on the floor, crying into his tummy. Even though I’d had him for only a few months, my heart was broken.

I still had to go into work, and when I got home, sweet A. had cleaned up everything of his: his litterbox and bowls, etc., so I wouldn’t have to do it myself.

My wee Pip buddy

And that’s the story of my little Pip. Sweet boy. I’ve now thoroughly cried my eyes out, but I wanted you to know my teeny first kitty!

xoxo,
Alanna