The One with Engagement Photos

The start of our Thanksgiving break included our very first solo photography gig (my first gig ever was Elise’s wedding, remember?). Our good friends, Josh & Amanda, called us a few weeks ago with a request to take their engagement pictures. We were totally honored (not to mention super thrilled) to oblige. The honest truth is we are novices. Kevin has a great natural talent for photo editing, and I like to think I have a creative photographer’s perspective that needs to be honed. The two of us discussed our plan for the shoot. I would take the pictures, do the posing. He would pick out backgrounds and photo ops, be an extra set of hands, and help keep our subjects comfortable and at ease.  
We made a great team, I think! Amanda kept saying, “I feel like this is going so great. I’m so excited about the shots you’re getting.” And Josh went from feeling a bit tense and uncomfortable having his picture taking (like most guys do), to laughing and relaxing and having a great good time. Win-Win. 
Eager to get home to our Photoshop-equipped computers, we jumped at chance to pick through the 300 plus photos and perfect the winners. I can’t wait to share a handful of them with you RIGHT NOW.  
{josh & amanda. november 2011}
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I learned a lot through this photo shoot experience. 
1) I LOVE photography. I love working with the subjects, posing them, finding the perfect angle. 
2) I needed to up my shutter speed. It’s so depressing to find out that some of the most beautifully framed photos are blurry
3) Posing subjects is way harder than it looks. Mostly because it takes a whole lot of creativity. 
4) I have a lot to learn about Photoshop.
5) Lighting, shadows, clouds, sunlight, direct sun, and flashes are essential and I need to learn, learn, learn. 
6) I’m thinking I shouldn’t feel bad about having so many “duds” in my final collection of photographs. Getting 80 great shots has to be pretty decent (at least for an amateur.) 
5) I really want to continue developing this skill. It has been a dream of mine for many years, and I can see a glimmer of reality in my future.  
Can’t wait for more opportunities like this one–friends who trust us to “practice” on them until we’re good enough to go pro (ish). :D
ps. I’m linking this post with it’s 10 pictures I’m proud of with OhAmanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.

The One with ABCs of Thanks

 There’s been a lot of thankfulness happening on my blog lately. But don’t think that’s a bad thing, do you? :) Today, at the close of Thanksgiving Day 2011, I join Rachel @ Finding Joy in her ABCs of Thanks
Finding Joy | The ABC's of Thanks
A – Ashley. my favorite sister. 
B – blogging.
C – chocolate, in most all its variations. 
D – Daddio.  love him.
E – Elizabeth. a faithful friend for every year of my life. 
F – Father-in-law, the best I could ask for. 
G – grandparents. I mean, seriously, both my Grams and all four of my grandparents-in-law rock. 
H – holding hand. 
I – internet connections. 
J – Jesus, my Lord and Savior. 
K – Kevin, the one who holds my heart. 
L – lattes. I really should drink more of those.
M –  my name. I really love my name.
 
N – notes, handwritten with love.
O – oatmeal. my favorite breakfast. 
P – piano students.
Q – Q’s awesome points in Scrabble. 
R – running. 
S – Sheryl, the friend my soul needed. 
T – time to live, to be together, to laugh, to minister.
U – Under Armour–my first UA running shirt ever. In Pink!
V – vegetables. not kidding. 
W – water for drinking.
X – x chromosomes that make me the girl that I am. 
Y – yarn, for crocheting.
Z – zeal for the Lord.

The One with the Greatest Cause for Thanksgiving

On Sunday my husband preached a sermon that was powerfully applicable during this season of thanks. He walked the congregation through the triumphs and failures of the apostle Peter. This man dropped everything to follow Jesus. He believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, right from the beginning and was blessed by Jesus himself. He was to be the Rock on which Christ would build his church. wow. Talk about impressive.

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to continue reading visit Britta’s blog. I’m guest posting there today!

The One with My Bday Day

My birthday was just want I needed. Perfect. 
Friday night, I had a living room overflowing with high school girls–giggling, sharing, blushing, nail painting, eating, relaxing. It was wonderful. And to top it all off, right as I brought out the ice cream for our sundae bar, the whole room exploded with the happy birthday song just for me! They had made a cake–complete with my name in the frosting and 26 candles. They had all signed a card–right under my nose, without me noticing. They had bought me 3 beautiful pairs of earrings from a local boutique–and I loved every pair. I couldn’t have wiped the smile off of my face if I’d tried. 
It was 10 minutes before midnight when Kevin and I finally climbed in bed on the eve of my birthday. He decided we must wait up those 10 minutes so he could wish me happy birthday and give me my birthday present–a pair of Yaktrax (for winter running) that I’ve had on my wishlist for more than year. We slept in late the next morning. He gave time to do an hour of yoga (knowing that would make me happy), then we headed out for a leisurely walk through the most beautiful cemetery ever. (Sounds creepy, but it’s totally awesome.) Kevin knows how much I love taking walks together and we spent at least an hour walking around (and still didn’t cover all the grounds.) We even climbed to the top of the “watch tower.” Amazing view! We could see all the way to Lake Ontario
By this time, it was lunch and we headed to Subway for a little date. We came back home, made ourselves awesome ice cream sundaes, and watching Gnomeo and Juliet together–all snuggled up on the couch. I, of course, fell asleep during this 83 minute movie. Go figure. But it was a perfect afternoon.
When I finally peeled my eyelids open from my nap, it was time for my date with Sheryl. Kevin was generously giving me up for the evening so we could have a girls night out. It was a fantastic night! We hit up Goodwill, had a few good laughs, and headed to a phenomenal Italian restaurant in the city. Our conversation was so sweet; we never seem to run out of things to talk about. After our meal, we took time to browse all the aisles of Bed, Bath and Beyond with hopes of finding something to spend both of our gift cards on. We didn’t decide on anything, but we had a blast looking. With barely any time left, we made a quick run through Kohl’s–Sheryl’s first time!–and boy, oh boy! did we fill that store with laughter! So great! 
At bedtime, Kevin and I crawled under the covers and I opened up the gigantic package from the MFM teens. They had filled an extra large envelope with confetti, cards, letters, and pictures. It was a wonderful surprise, and the perfect way to end my special day. 
Thanks EVERYONE for your sweet birthday wishes! Love you all!

The One with My 26th Year

Today, on my 26th birthday, I want to share 
{twenty six} things that bring me JOY. 
1}a sweet little girl birthday card from my Grams.
2}watching my facebook wall fill up with birthday greetings and feeling the love.
3} having my living room overflowing with beautiful teen girls for a night of laughter, sharing, and indulging in ice cream sundaes.
4} candles that fill the room with warmth and glow. 
5} November walks through the picturesque park, holding hands with my Love.
6} a tiny cat we named Sphinx who purrs with joy every time she sees me. 
7} girls date night with Sheryl.
8} skype calls with a group of teenagers who still love us, even from hundreds of miles away. 
9} a freezer full of ice cream
10} free Ruby Tuesday birthday burgers. 
11} God’s abundant financial provision for us. 
12} Mom & Dad making it home safe and sound from their Holy Land excursion. 
13} crocheting a special gift for a special friend. 
14} brand new nailpolish called honeymoon red. ooh, la, la. 
15} opening my first pair of YakTrax. so excited about winter runs now!
16} witnessing the progression of pregnancy in so many of my beautiful friends. 
17} having a husband who loves me even though I don’t often put meat in our chili. 
18} the scrapbooked memories to share.
19} a surprise birthday cake with candles, song, and gifts from the girls last night. 
20} receiving the wedding invitation of another beautiful college girlfriend. She’s getting her winter wedding!
21} a relaxed movie afternoon with Kevin. 
22} getting to help my sister with her resume and catching up on our lives. 
23} hearing great feedback from so many who have seen my piano studio room.
24} drinking hot cocoa
25} hearing the crunch of the dried leaves under my feet. 
26} walking in the door from Bible story to a husband with open arms, who had gotten home from class early to surprise me. 

The One Where She Misses

I would just like to say that I’m really missing my mom & dad
Here’s the thing–I’ve lived far away from them for years and years now. So it’s not that I’m homesick. It’s the fact that they’ve been on this experience-of-a-lifetime cruise to the Holy Land of Israel for the past two weeks. I am thrilled that they had this opportunity. But there’s been no communicating with them for the past almost-14 days. *pouty face*  
Most of the time I don’t go more than a couple days in without talking to my mom on the phone at least once. Sometimes we let it go close to a week and that feels like an eternity. But even in those long stretches of time it’s comforting to know they’re just a speed-dial away. Easy peasy. 
Darn Mediterranean Sea. I wish we would have thought to send them with one of our netbooks so they could have Skyped with us now again.  
Ask Kevin, I have said, “I miss my mom and dad” at least 4 times in the last couple days. I’m sad. I really want to talk to them. I should have been keeping sticky notes of what I have been wanting to tell them, just like Lorelai did with Rory. Oh well. 
Can’t wait to talk to you guys! Love you!

The One with the Official Music Studio

Friday afternoon brought a flurry of activity to our house. After having a super relaxing morning and afternoon, my brain warped into super-productive-ultra-creative-let’s-get-stuff-done mode. I’m sure my husband could have done without said mood, but he lovingly obliged. 
We had been dreaming about rearranging our living room, moving the piano, and making a more usable space out of our front “bedroom.” I honestly wasn’t sure this was ever actually going to happen. It would be a lot of work. Plus, who knew if the piano would even fit through the doorway or be too big for the space.

But I persevered. I found my trusty measuring tape and began the process of “staging.” I found that the piano would fit through the doorway–by barely an inch–and it would be the perfect size for the wall in the front room. Awesome. 

Now I had to tackle the other front-room-issues. This room had become a dumping ground for all things miscellaneous since our move. There was a large 80s style stereo system (complete with two 4-foot speakers), a stationary exercise bike, and a dresser that was functioning as my linen closet. Hmm. Think, Mel, think. 
I did some more measuring and discovered that the dresser would just barely (slash perfectly) fit into the space at the foot of the twin bed in the spare room upstairs. I immediately unloaded the drawers and transported them up to the second floor. It was at this point that I approached Kevin for help. 
I said, “I have a small job I would like your help with, and a big job that I hope you’re willing to help with.” He had no clue what he was getting himself into, but he jumped up ready to help. I was impressed. Brownie points awarded, good sir. 
The two of us hauled the dresser up our steep flight of stairs and managed to work up a bit of a sweat. It was harder than I thought it would be. Before taking the time to make the dresser feel at home in its new room, I hustled back downstairs to work with my husband before he decided he was done. :) 
We weren’t sure it was good idea to move the piano just the two of us, but we decided to give it a go. We carefully rolled it over to the front room, being careful to support the front legs. As we lined it up in the doorway, we realized how crooked our house really is. At the bottom of the door, there was at least an inch of space between the frame and the piano. At the top of the door, the piano was a quarter inch too wide. We needed one of us to lift and one of us to tilt the piano forward, while still supporting those front legs, in order to fanangle the instrument through the terribly-designed door. 
I climbed over the piano and lifted the back half while Kevin maneuvered the end. It worked! We were in! 
I finished the necessary wood-floor-dusting process and Kevin left me to “nest.” I spent the next 3 hours worked my tail off. I moved the sound system to the basement, the stationary bike to the kitchen. (Yeah, it looks kinda weird, but it doesn’t take up needed space, so that’s where it’s staying.) I hung up a full length mirror in the upstairs bedroom and made the dresser feel “at home.” I went to town with my drill, hanging up curtains in that bedroom and in the new music studio. I used a cute cloth shower curtain and rod to make a “door” for the upstairs bedroom closet. 
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My new music studio was coming together. With drapes hung, floor swept, space cleared, guitars displayed, piano in place, music posters hung, magazines laid, kid basket set, it was officially complete. And I am IN LOVE with this space! There are so many benefits to this arrangement. 
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1) I have a music studio
2) Students and parents will feel like they are in a piano studio rather than in someone’s living room. 
3) Kevin won’t have to tip toe around his house during lesson times (nor walk through a lesson to get to the bathroom.) 
4) The two of us have our instruments side by side for jam sessions. Maybe he’ll play his guitar(s) more frequently now.
5) I finally found the perfect space to hang my music posters. They weren’t quite “living room” appropriate, but they’re perfect for this space! 
6) I have an empty wall in the living room to fill with a new loveseat or chairs–more seating in our living room!
7) The futon in the music studio is perfect for waiting parents/siblings and can still be opened into a bed for guests.
8) I have space to lay out reading material for those waiting parents as well as display a basket of fun activities for patient siblings. 
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It’s perfect!!
Next on our list is finding that perfect loveseat or chairs for the living room, and procuring an official “teaching chair” (nothing fancy–old dining room chair would work) for the music studio.  

If you’re local and know of anyone interested in lessons, send them my way! 

The One with My Trainer Bob

I did it. I survived all four of Bob Harper’s Inside Out Method dvds. When I saw the complete set was on sale for $23.99 (still is!), I knew I couldn’t pass it up. I had had my eye on these workouts for many months, but never got around to spending that money on myself. I have been using the same four Jillian Michaels dvds and the same two 10 Minute Solutions: Pilates dvds for the past three or four years. It was time for a change to my indoor workout routine. 
I used some of my early birthday money to purchase the four dvd set for myself. WHO DOES THAT? Who purchases workout equipment as a gift for themselves? That’s ridiculous. But totally awesome, I think. 
When the dvds arrived, I have to admit I was actually scared of trying them. Kevin didn’t really understand the concept of being afraid of a workout, but let me tell you, that fear is a very real thing. It is a fear of the pain. the sweat. the lack of oxygen. the days and days of moaning and groaning and muscle rebuilding. OUCH. I knew if I just didn’t jump in head first, I might chicken out. So I used the old “band aid” technique–pull it off quickly rather than prolonging the pain. 
It worked. I tried at least one (of two) routines on each of the four dvds. In fact, I challenged myself to try the 60 minute workout on each disc rather than starting with the 30 minute routine and working up. Here’s what I have to say:
I APPROVE, Bob, I approve. 
A couple of the routines are crazy intense. I thought I was going to die. Jillian would say that’s a good thing. I think Bob agrees. But I conquered my fears, and I feel pretty darn good about myself and my fitness level. 
Now, if I can just put down this cookie, I’d be all set. 

The One with the Packed Shoebox

The finished product–
Our 2011 Operation Christmas Child Shoebox! 

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Kevin and I had a great time browsing aisle after aisle at the Dollar Tree on our Annual Shoebox Filling Date. Here’s what we ended up choosing to fill our shoebox with:

Sesame Street Coloring Book.
3 Mini-Composition notebooks.
Colored Pencils.
Sparkly (regular) Pencils.
A huge package of pencil sharpeners (these sharpeners actually work–I own a couple myself.)
Mr. Caterpillar stuffed animal.
Pack of 5 toothbrushes.
Extra large toothpaste.
3 pack of Palmolive Soap
Googly Eyes. (<–all Kevin)
Colorful Beads. (Kevin again. He was all about the girly stuff that afternoon. So cute.)
A collection of 3 toy magnifying glasses. (ok, so this was Kevin too.)
Multi-colored Hair Ties
A blue jump rope. (Kevin, once again. How brilliant is a jump rope? Seriously, awesome.)

It was so much fun hearing from all of you about your experiences with OCC–especially you first-timers. Did you all have a great time filling your boxes to overflowing?

I encourage you to gather your family together, before shipment day, and pray over your box–over the child who will receive your gifts, your letter, your love, and the message of The Cross.

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The One with the Age Dilemma

With my birthday just around the corner, I have been thinking about “age” a lot lately. Or maybe it’s just on my mind because it seems to be on everyone else’s mind.*

*please note–Before I get up on my little soapbox, I would like you all to know I’m not actually mad at anyone who’s ever said anything about my age. I, too, enjoy knowing how old people are and comparing life experiences. If you have ever happened to say something to me along the lines of which I’m about to write, please please please don’t take offense. I still love you. I’m just trying to work out this little predicament I seem to be in. You are welcome to share your thoughts with me at the end. :)

I am young. I am well aware of this.
look very young. I am well aware of this.

Melanie Growing 05
me. kindergarten.

Most of my life I’ve dealt with people guessing my age wrong by years and years. Decades even. Almost weekly, I see the genuine shock on someone’s face when they hear I’m *almost* 26. “Oh my gosh, you look 16!” Yes, I know. I look 16. At a recent youth conference, my husband was sporting his “My Wife Rocks” tshirt and chatting with a vendor, when all of sudden the woman stopped and said, “Oh my gosh, you guys are MARRIED? How old are you? You don’t look any more than 16!”
“She’s 25 and I’m 24,” Kevin said.

When I was actually 17 years old and my sister was just 13, I distinctly remember hearing, “Are you twins?” (by the way, we don’t look anything alike…) and “I’m sorry, but which one of you is older.” *sigh*

Melanie Growing 19
me. actually 17. senior picture.

I have a baby face. And I completely understand the benefits to this. Or, at least the most obvious benefit–when I’m 40, I’ll look 30, right? Or when I’m 65 I might only look 55? Sure, that would be cool. All I can say is, it had better turn out that way, or I’m gonna have a bone to pick with someone. (JK, Lord, jk.)

GoodbyeParty_9
me in the middle4 months ago.

Looks aside, I realize that *almost* 26 is still young. But is there anything wrong with being 26? I’m mean, I’m pretty sure most everyone who’s older than me was, at some point, 26 years old. Right? So why is my age such an issue?

It’s hard being “young.” I have been an “old soul” for years and years. When I was in elementary school, I remember preferring to sit with my mom and her “lady friends” rather than playing with the kids. But I knew I wasn’t really welcome at the adult table back then.

But here I am, an adult. Seven years from living at home with mom and dad. Three years out of college. Three years into a lifelong marriage. Paying gas bills, water bills, car repair bills. Maintaining excellent credit. Building my own business. I lead worship. I confidently speak in front of large congregations. I lead women’s small groups. I understand what copays are and what a deductible is and how to sign up for car insurance. But yet, some days, I feel like I’m still in some awkward puberty stage, where I don’t really belong with the “kids” and I don’t really belong with the “adults.”

I know this isn’t true. I present myself in a manner that asks for mutual respect from other adults. I talk like an adult. I understand adult conversation.

So why do I feel this way?

Maybe it’s because my age almost always seems to be an issue. I want to be taken seriously, even though I don’t have the extra decades of life experiences. I would love for everyone to listen to me and watch my life without ever thinking, “Aww, what a nice young lady” or “Isn’t that adorable? Melanie acting all grown up?” I know I’m as old as some of your children, and I’m sure that makes it kind of weird for you to see me as a friend. But my mom treats me like an equal now. She respects my opinion. She doesn’t look down on me. She talks to me as she does her closest friends.

That’s all I ask.

I try to remember Paul’s encouragement to TimothyDon’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

I’ll always be younger than someone right? So I’m just beginning to wonder, “When will I really treated be a grown up?”

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Does anyone understand what I’m talking about? Do you have any thoughts or suggestions for me (and my attitude) about my age? 

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