Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moving Along in Life

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Getting laid off was a bummer.  Learning to sew was fun.  It has been just over a year since I started this blog, learned how to sew, and started sewing pillows on Etsy.  All three of these things were outside of my comfort zone.  I always enjoyed writing when I was in school and when I worked. However, writing my thoughts and experiences for all to see was not in my comfort zone.  Learning to sew was never on my bucket list  It is so hard for me to look at a pattern or even take the scissors to the fabric.  And last but not least, I was never comfortable with the idea of actually selling pillows. Fortunately, I have had a good experience and the feedback has been positive.  But, selling is so far out of my comfort zone.  Here, I made what I think is an awesome pillow.  Do you want to buy the pillow? Sure you do?  Come on!  Nope - not me.  But here is a small trip down memory pictures.

First, I learned how to make a pillow.

Then, I made pillows for Haven and put my daughters to work.
And, I learned how to make good pillows!

The most exciting part of this pillow gig was the opportunity to get involved and help out the Belle Isle Aquarium.

It was an interesting year - one of ups and down, frustrations and successes.  I don't think I would change anything.  I listened to my husband and took a chance by learning how to sew.  I met so many interesting people.  But, lets face it, this was never meant to be a career.  And crafting, well, it is not so lucrative.  For the past five years I have been mulling over in mind, what am I going to do when my kids are in school all day.  I am not there yet.  Vi is only in preschool.  But, this summer I started to seriously weigh my options.  So, I am quiting the pillows business and saying goodbye to my Etsy store.  Friday, I am swinging by the aquarium to empty the tank that has been housing my pillows all summer long.  And next week, I am going back to school.

My husband and I were talking about what I should do with my life.  Kevin said, "Do whatever you want.  Work in the cheese department at Westborn.  Just do something that will make you happy."  Lucky me to have that kind of support.  So, I hemmed and I hawed and decided to go back to school to get my Master's in Teaching plus Certification degree.  I am going to work on it for the next two years with the hope that I can secure a teaching position when Violet is in kindergarten or first grade.  What a relief to have a plan!  I like to have a plan - maybe that is why I have a degree in Urban Planning, too.  I feel good about this choice.  I feel good that I have some direction in my life again.

Sew, what am I going to do about sewing?  Well, I am still planning on sewing.  I am still planning on learning new things about sewing.  But, I am not going to sell on Etsy.  After I collect all my pillows from the aquarium, I am going to decide what I want to keep and what I want to sell.  If you are interested in anything, let me know as I will be offering discounts. 

As for this future of this blog....well, only time will tell if I still feel like I have something to say.  Or, I guess I should say, only time will tell if I will even have time to write a blog in between parenting, homework, and housework.  But, I thank you all for stopping by from time to time to read this little blog.  And if you really want to see me keep it going, well, let me know.  But, what I do know for sure is that trying something new is never a waste of time - even if it scares you.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Love - Hate Relationship With Grand Rapids

If you know me, as some of you do, then you know that I have never had strong feeling of love for the Grand Rapids area.  Now, I do enjoy the Lake Michigan coastline.  Fun times have been had in Traverse City, sipping wine and enjoying the sights around Leelanau, and Grand Haven will always be a favorite town.  But, as a student at Grand Valley State University in the early nineties, I was a very lonely girl.  At the time, GVSU was primarily a commuter campus.  My dorm cleared out ever Friday night.  Allendale was a long ways away from Grand Rapids and even GR seemed to empty out on the weekend.  The winters were cold and vicious.  Plus, I have always been a bit on the liberal side and I was one of only ten Student Democrats on campus.  I think there were about a 1,000 kids in the Republican club.  After two years, I said goodbye to my dear friends and completed my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.  Go Green!!!

My only reason for staying at GVSU:  Two great friends!
About a year and a half ago, my husband suggested we take a road trip to the "west side."  We used a hotel in 28th Street as our base.  From there, we spent a day frolicking around the Tulip Festival in Holland and playing at the Frederick Meijer Gardens.  We even took a short trip to GVSU.  My children were hungry and cranky so we did not stay long.  While there, that all too familiar feeling of dread filled my belly.  I felt a longing to run into some old friends, but knew I had made the right choice to leave so many years ago.

Grand Rapids and GVSU are not the same places that they were in 1992 to 1994.  Just as I have changed, so have they.  Grand Rapids has boomed!!!  It is a pretty snazzy city.  So, when the my husband suggested we take another trip, I did not hesitate.

What spurred our visit to Grand Rapids was an exhibit at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.  The GRAM is hosting an exhibit called Cities in Transition.  As an urban planning junkie this was of great interest to me.  I saw some of Andrew Moore's photographs at the Detroit Institute Arts and they are beautiful.  Kevin, being the LEED Certified environmentalist, was really interested in the GRAM building. (Kevin started his own blog -and wrote a great post chronicling fun and concrete use in GR.)   The GRAM is the first LEED art museum in the world.  It is a very snazzy building - very modern looking, sophisticated.  Very quiet inside.  My kids are not quiet and sophisticated.  I felt mildly uncomfortable.  But, tucked away in the basement is a great room set aside for kids to do art projects.  The volunteers are very friendly and the projects are based on the Cities in Transition exhibit.

My kids learning about cities.
This chocolate milk rivals Calder Dairy's chocolate milk.
Thank you Grand Central Market and Deli.  Hope you enjoy our $2 bottle deposit.
We kind of needed a souvenir. 

After some down time and very fancy pizza dinner in the hotel lobby, we headed out to the beach town of Grand Haven.  When I was in college, I spent so much time at the beach, the pier, and Tip-A-Few Tavern.  Going to Grand Haven brings back some of the happiest memories I have of living on the west side of the state.  Now, I can say that I created some great memories with my family in this lovely spot.  I am not going to describe the fun that we had with words, you can see for yourself.

Sunday morning we met my old college buddies for breakfast.  It has been over a decade since all three of us have been together.  We are all grown up, we have all moved on from college, we are all pretty different.  But, in some ways we were still the same.  The smiles, the giggles, the ways we seem to still know each other is still with us.  Oh, I think I have really missed my friends.  I hope there are more breakfasts in our future!

Of course we could not drive all the way over the Grand Rapids without a trip to the Frederik Meijer Gardens.  By the time we got their the girls were worn out.  But, the thrill of the tree house kept them going and ensured a long nap on the ride home.

No one, I mean no one can resist the mouse door.
Yep, two years ago I would have told you that I really truly disliked the west side of the state.  I would have told you I would never go to Grand Rapids for a vacation.  It is funny how I am starting to come around to liking the dark side of our state again.  GVSU still gives me shivers.  But, the new memories I have been creating with my family in Grand Rapids and Grand Haven are warming me up to more and more trips back.  I suppose I learned my lesson, never say never, again!    

Monday, August 6, 2012

Traveling to Chicago: The Generational Way!

When I was a little kid, travelling usual involved towing a trailer, popping a tent, eating food no one really enjoyed eating, food rations, fighting with my brother, breakdowns on the side of the road, and many odd adventures.  We never flew in an airplane.  We rarely stayed in a hotel room.  Oh, the stories I could tell.  We haven't gone camping with our kids, yet.  Kevin did not camp as a kid.  But, I am working on the three of them.  Eventually, we are going to get some camping gear.  But, we do enjoy travelling and exploring.  However, given the strange experiences I had growing up, I did not want to do my children a disservice of growing up "normal."  

Last week, spur of the moment, my parents and I planned a quick trip to Chicago to reunited my girls with my niece.  Yeah, my brother and sister-in-law were there, too.  No, we did not fly.  No, we did not even rent a mini van.  We all climbed into a Honda Accord.  My dad drove.  Mom and I took turns sitting in the backseat in between the girls.  My children were much better behaved when my mom was in the backseat.  When I was back there, Dad said, "I feel like we are travelling with three kids."  Yep, I am that kind of mom.  The trip went smoother than I expected.  I kind of felt like I riding in the car with the Waltons.  Mimi even learned how to tie her shoes!  Oh, how can I forget????  We also traveled with our furry friend, Rocko, who split his time between the front and back seat.  

Hello Poochie!!!!
 Once we got to Chicago, we played.  The cousins played and the adults played with the little ones.  My dad and I took Mimi and Violet to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Mimi went on the Coal Mine Tour and the tour of the U-505 Sub.  Violet took a nap!  I am serious.  She took a nap with my dad on a somewhat remote staircase.  She did however enjoy sitting in a jet engine with her sister.  

Believe it or not, they climbed in there unprompted.  
Then Saturday arrived and it was time to head home.  Not via the tightly packed Honda, but by Amtrack.  It was so much fun, despite my fears of travelling alone with two little girls by train.  My brother drove us to Union Station.  The girls were very worried we were going to miss our train.  Once we made it too the tracks, I held the hands of two nervous girls as we walked in between massive Amtrack trains.  The engines were on.  The trains were loud.  They made loud belching sounds which startled the girls.  They were very, very brave and very, very small next to the trains.  We settled in - Mimi was thrilled but Violet was still a little unsure.  

First moments on the train!
After about 15 minutes of sitting on the train, the conductor announced engine trouble.  The train needed to be shut down and locomotives needed to be switched.  While sitting on the dark, hot train the girls asked lots of questions and much to my surprised, behaved.  When the lights came back on, Violet exclaimed, "Yeah!  The lights are on!  That was so much fun!"  We spent about seven hours on the train with only two sisterly fights.  I  bought Vi a ham sandwich but she insisted on eating my caprese sandwich.  Grrr!  We survived and we all had fun.  Now, I keep fielding the question, "When can we go on the train again?  Can we do it next week?"  No more trains this summer but we do have two more destinations left before school starts in the fall.    

We love the train!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Murphy's Law Strikes Again!

Murphy's Law:  If anything can go wrong, it will.

Yep, Murphy's Law applies to my life.  Things go wrong ALL THE TIME!  In the end, everything has always worked out, but, things do go wrong.  I have soooo many examples I could write an entire blog called 715 Examples of Murphy's Law.  But, I am not going to write that blog.

Two weeks ago, a new refrigerator was delivered to our house.  Our old one was closing in on twenty years old.  We thought, let's get rid of the old eyesore before it breaks.  We love our new fridge.  Then, I the DVD player broke - the next day.  Cheap easy fix.  Then, I decided to get a new bike.  I developed a financial plan for my new bike.  Last night, our old oven broke.  The new range will be delivered on next week.  It looks like this:

Jealous much?  Yep, plain white and very basic. 
Guess what the unexpected addition of the new oven means?  Guess, just guess!!!!  Well remember this post from Sunday?  Well, I am not going to get my bike.  I am too frugal.  I have deleted my listing on Craigslist.  The bike will have to wait until spring.  Until then, the Townie bike will have to remain in my head as a distant dream.  Damn you, Murphy!