Monday, November 30, 2009

Wow, I have been so incredibly busy since my last blog post - in a good way.

(photo by gardawin)

Last weekend flew to Washington, DC for an ACSI convention. Since I fly out of Salt Lake City these days instead of Chicago or Denver (like the past 3 years) I can NOT find a direct flight to anywhere. So, i had a layover in Denver. In fact, i extended my layover and got to spend 2 days in Littleton with my mother and my sister. It was wonderful.

DC was great. Gosh, i'm a little discouraged because I have had a really hard time at conventions this year. Not many responses, not nearly as many as we usually receive or that we desperately need. DC was a fun town. I got to take the Metro, which was a fun experience, navigating the underground of our nation's capitol. I was surprised to find it a bit fun and exciting! While i was there, i got to have dinner with a great friend and her husband!! It was amazing to see my sweet Maryn, and see her with her hubby as newly weds! Definitely the highlight of my trip out there!

I got home around midnight on Tuesday night. Justin, Anna, and the boys got to SLC for Thanksgiving around 2:30 Wednesday afternoon. We had so much fun with them!

Our Thanksgiving spread was amazing. It was the first time i have actually hosted, planned, and cooked Thanksgiving dinner. Anna and I spent most of Thursday in the kitchen and it was fun to hang out together and cook with our boys in mind and gratitude in our hearts. Wonderful!

Friday we went SKIING!!! My first trip downhill skiing in15 years, actually. And it was fun! Landon and I took Diddles up and down the bunny slope and I was amazed at his ability. He just turned 5 2 weeks ago!

I was sad to see everyone leave yesterday morning. I spent the afternoon putting up Christmas decorations in our house and lights outside.  Last night as we were driving home from Redbox, I was admiring all the Christmas lights on the houses in the neighborhood. I was excitedly anticipating my masterpiece, and as we drove into our driveway, i was so embarrassed i almost started to cry! I have the most pathetic display of Christmas lights in the entire neighborhood. I will share pictures some day.

I am relieved that I am not traveling for ACSI again until February. So, friends, I will be here more regularly. Thanks for continuing to read even though I have been on hiatus without warning off and on this fall. You are great!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

blood:water mission

Landon and I love this ministry

They have a new project for Christmas that I think is incredible. Check out the video:

Give the Gift of Clean Water from Blood:Water Mission on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

more Things i'm Loving Lately

some things that i'm really enjoying right now that i was thinking you should know about and maybe give a try:

Aquafresh iso-active foaming gel. We are die-hard Aquafresh brushers and have been for many years, so we thought we'd try this funky new stuff. It is incredible. My teeth are squeaky clean!

Jon Schmidt's CD. This man is an amazing pianist and a wonderful performer. I was very fortunate to see him live with a few girlfriends in September. He's awesome. This CD features him playing piano, with some Cello and percussion accompaniment .

Socks. I noticed that the last time we did laundry, there were lots of socks! That means that fall is full-blown here! No more Chaco's for now - or no more Chaco's without some thick fleece socks, at least.

"In Christ Alone" is such an amazing song. I love singing it and I finally printed off the chords so i can pound it out on the piano. It's amazing. (this isn't my favorite version - but at least this one allows me to imbed the whole song - the getty's only let me imbed the first 30 seconds). Isn't it beautiful? "Here in the love of Christ I stand!"

This hour between 7 and 8 when i get to hang out and drink coffee and play around before I begin my work day! I've even been able to watch the sunrise lately.

Real Simple. I love this magazine. I cranked out some of last month's recipes recently, which were a little quirky. We usually love the recipes and I really enjoy reading this mag every month. Full of wonderful ideas, encouraging stories, and great resources. Just got my December issue in the mail yesterday :)

Aveda Men exfoliating conditioner. Mom buys Landon and Janelle and I fancy shampoos each year for Christmas. She got these for Landon last year and i LOOOVe the way that Aveda products smell. Landon only uses the conditioner when he has long hair, which hasn't been since before the summer, so I get to use it as much as I want - he says - so I have been. And i Looove the way my hair smells!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Landon just asked me when I'm going to finally post another blog.

"I donno," I said.

"But what about your constituents?" he prodded.

Hm.... that would be.... you.

I've been wanting to return to some posting - sorry for the week lapse. I just always feel like the first post after a lapse in posting should be something substantial or meaningful. But honestly, I don't have anything like that right now.

Something that I've been struggling through lately are my feelings about wanting to return to Africa. Living in Kenya was difficult. What I saw in the people and the land there tore me to pieces. The people are betrayed in every way: by their government, by the missionaries, by their land, by each other, by G**....... The land is as neglected as the people. What was once a place where people could grow and thrive has become a place that is robbed and left barren. But the people, and the land, are strong and though struggling, pushing on - breathtakingly beautiful. I will never be the same, having experienced Kenya and her people.

And when i think back on my time there, I wish so desperately to return to those there that I love. To return to a simpler life - everything, though much was heartbreaking, was so clear, so sure. Priorities were not difficult to sift through, stewarship was not hard to delegate.

I miss the children. I am currently reading Melissa Fay Greene's  "There is No Me Without You", which is the prompting of all my wishing and remembering and wondering about Africa. It is a remarkable story of an Ethiopian woman who answered the call of her community to shelter and care for AIDS orphans. And her story touches me deeply - not only in a way where i am inspired and feel warm and wonderful thinking of the good that she has done in the world. But it touches me deeply - opening and festering places in my heart that I have tried to ignore and forget - I have been touched deeply by a few dozen orphans. And somehow, their ministry in my life is beyond anything else I have experienced. Though I witnessed the suffering of a nation and I wondered to myself if God was even present in such a place, I saw him in those children. every. single. day. every. single. smile. every. single. tear. They are his. He is theirs.

And I feel like some part of myself is lost being separated from these kids, being disconnected from their lives and their ministry. I miss them desperately. I want to kiss their cheeks and hold their hands and sing their songs and lift them high into the air and swing them around and love them again with my whole heart. I want to see their beautiful faces and hear their angelic voices and experience life with them again - with them the world is radiant and I am whole in it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

there were all these things that i wanted to tell you while i was away.

but now i just can't think of them. and for once in my life, i'm not really in the mood to write anything. so...

sorry. maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ragnar 2010

I need a team of 12. how 'bout you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Style - for lack of a better term

I was thinking about style the other day. What's my style? Eclectic? I don't really care all that much. Most of my clothes are still from high school  - when Mom bought me enough clothes to last at least 10 years. Well, it's been about 8. So I guess my style is probably more late 90's. Probably mostly just casual. More work-from-home convenient. But i was thinking to myself, if i could pull off ANY style that i wanted, what would i do? I had a little fun thinking through this and browsing google images.

So these are accessories that I know wouldn't really fit with my own personal style (or especially, my budget), but for some reason, I wish they would. These are styles that  I know i can't really pull off, but wish i could:

anthropologie's scarf

 (photo by firenzerasta)

(photo and cuff by loveatfirstblush)
Leather cuffs

(necklace and photo by missrubysue)
Bib Necklace

(crown and photo by whichgoose)

That's about all i could think of for now. Cute ideas, huh?

for now, i'll just remain a fleece and jeans (and fanny pack?) kind of girl

Monday, November 9, 2009

Russell Crowe movie marathon

Last week we unconsciously rented three Russell Crowe movies in a row from netflix.

A Beautiful Mind

The Insider

Mystery, Alaska

Good movies. Good actor. I especially love Mystery, Alaska. Those movies that take place in beautiful mountains always make me want to just give in and get rid of everything except my sleeping bag and snow shoes and finally embrace the wild mountain woman inside of me that sometimes is really difficult to deafen. If you haven't seen this movie, you really should. There is wonderful scenery, it's hilarious, and heart warming in a Rudy sort of way.  Here's the trailer:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The worm

My mother always had the most beautiful hair. When i was growing up, it was always very long, very thick, and very curly. Oh, and a beautiful red. You know, in the 80's, long curly hair was the best a woman could do (along with thick full bangs that made us each look 3-5 inches taller). Mom always had idealic hair throughout my childhood.

When I was growing up, we loved doing each other's hair. Mom always woke me early enough in the morning before school or church to do my hair. It was always perfect (until soccer and kickball with the boys at recess). Mom taught me how to do a french braid and a fishtail braid on my barbie dolls. She bought me books so that i could learn other hairstyles. I loved doing hair. She worked evenings throughout my childhood and there were a few years where she would let me do her hair before she went to work. I liked our arrangement - doing each other's hair. It made me feel really special.

Another hair hobby that we shared during my childhood were "worms". Mom would weave beautiful colors into my hair with beads. I felt so beautiful with these long exciting "worms" in my hair (that's what she called them - why is that?). Hers were always really long, and she wore them forever. Until they fell out on their own.

One evening this last month as i was watching a movie, i thought to myself, "worm". it took me about an hour to construct this hemp worm in my hair. It reminds me of my mom. And it makes me feel cool - just like it did when i was a kid.

The worm on our anniversary

Friday, November 6, 2009

The morning after Halloween night, Landon and I went for a hike on a trail we had never visited before.

We drove into a canyon  tucked into the mountains behind a rural community and monastery. Driving deep into the canyon, we commented on how beautiful this place can be even when the only color we see is brown - the different shades of brown make it such an incredible landscape. We parked outside of an iron gate that was closed. I guess there is a camp there, but we saw no sign of residence. The only indicator of human life outside of us was the Jeep that we parked beside. Landon hid our keys under a rock on the hillside and we crossed the bridge over the river and began our hike deeper into the canyon, through the almost barren trees.

Landon commented on the forest. It was dense and deciduous - something we haven't seen since Illinois. And we liked it. We could tell that the trail had been traveled on. We didn't see any footsteps, but the fallen leaves were a little dirtied and there was horse manure every once in awhile. Although, everything was very quiet. The trail was very muddy in the parts where the sun was able to touch the ground, and completely frozen in the parts that were shaded.

 We should have been hiking beside a stream. But we didn't see it or hear it. We kept walking. Farther into the canyon, beyond hearing and seeing the road, beyond hearing and sight of the camp itself. Deeper into the canyon. We still hadn't seen anyone or heard people at all. Though i was keeping my eye out for others - there was that Jeep...

As our trail started turning and tucked deeper into the trees, i saw Duvick rolling in the dirt on the trail beneath a tree. We ran to see what kind of mischief he was in (we know from experience that a dog rolling in the dirt means one of three things: poop, vomit, or dead things). It was a tiny deer carcass. The pieces were strewn all over. It was mostly bones by now. The body was Duvick's rolling place, the head further down the trail, the leg bones and fur were strewn about. I couldn't believe we had encountered a carcass actually ON the trail.

 Lion, I thought. I tried to remember the lions we saw in Africa. I remembered them hunting, remembered them stalking their prey. Tried to decide how to keep any lions away. But i know that mountain lions are different. They are solitary. I wouldn't know if a lion was stalking us until it was upon us.

We continued deeper into the canyon. I love to try to identify the trees, the flowers, the rocks, and the animal scat. so i tried to concentrate on the smell of the dead and rotting leaves beneath my feet, and the tree branches overhead. What a beautiful world. I came upon what i thought was animal scat. I knew it couldn't be dog or human because it was very furry. After a short analysis of it, we discovered that it wasn't scat at all, but a piece of an animal.

Just up the trail we came upon our second carcass. This one was fresh. It was missing the meat, the guts, but the entire thing was intact, minus a few limbs, and it was still covered in fur. This carcass was similar to the last. It was similar in size, also a deer, and left to rot right on the trail.

At this point I was starting to feel uncomfortable. We continued walking and I looked for jagged stones that i could carry in my hand. i found two that were pointed, thinking that if anything jumped on me, i could jab these rocks into them. To avoid that possibility, i started banging the rocks together periodically as we walked, hoping the loud clacking would echo through the canyon and scare any beasts away.

I then started thinking that maybe there was something worse in this forest. This was the morning after Halloween, after all, and I wondered about any ceremonial or ritualistic sacrifices that could have taken place here. I was hoping that we wouldn't find the owners of the Jeep.

Our trail intercepted a stream and we sat down so Duvick could have a drink. We took our Nalgenes out of our pack to hydrate. I wasn't too thirsty, though. I was distracted by the forest. I remembered from our time in Africa that the best place for the predator to get the prey is at the water hole, and this was the first sign of water we had seen all day. So I smacked my stones together and searched the trees and the surrounding mountain sides. I listened carefully for movement. I heard nothing.

Landon read that this trail would intercept the approach of some wonderful rock climbing deep into the canyon if we only stayed on it for about an hour.

"I'm a little scared," I said. I was trying to master my fear, though. Landon tells me that I need to learn to control my fear (he mostly says this to me when we're rock climbing and I'm near tears when i know i need to make a scary move). I didn't want fear to ruin my day, or his. So I shrugged, "...I just wanted you to know". So far Landon hadn't asked me about the stones I was carrying, and I was too embarrassed to tell him that I was keeping the lions (or whatever else may be in the woods) away. ha. crazy woman.

So we went deeper.

Soon after the trail turned from the stream, I saw Duvick sniffing and licking something beneath a tree. As I approached the dog, my heart started racing at what i saw. Unlike anything i had ever seen before: a gigantic dead carcass. The rib cage was giant. The jaw bone, disconnected from the skull, was as big as my forearm. The femur was long and thick. The skull was covered in a thick fur. a moose, i thought to myself, or a horse.

Lions don't take down moose OR horses.

I wanted to keep moving. I didn't want to stand there. I didn't even want to get close to it. I wanted to leave, NOW.

"Just a little further and then we'll get to the cliffs. I really want to see what kind of climbing is back here," Landon said, the dead animals not bothering him a bit.

"Landon this is getting a little freaky. Lions don't eat moose. At least not this time of year."

He laughs.

We continue into the woods. I think if i would have been standing still, I would have been physically shaking. My mind was racing, trying to find an explanation for the huge dead creature. Not a lion, nor a bear would do this. Something larger had to do it. Like a man. And as I have been reading New Moon lately, of course i imagined that possibly a vampire might have done this. I liked the idea of someone from the Cullen clan being responsible for the carcasses MUCH more than the idea of some gang of satanists sacrificing animals in some ritualistic pagan worship. But i don't believe in vampires... So that leaves.....

I started hitting the rocks together much more often. It soothed me a bit, to be making a loud noise in the quiet and still forest. It made me feel like we had a presence here. We were not prey that could be easily stalked and captured.

"Well, we've been hiking for over and hour and I haven't seen the cliffs, have you?"

I casually said, "nope. sorry. maybe we should turn around and go back?"

Landon saw the desperation in my eyes. He laughed and complied. He thinks it's funny when i'm scared. Well, only when i'm scared for no good reason (in his opinion). Like during tornado warnings, when i'm cowering in the hall closet with the flashlight on. That's funny. When our car stalls in the middle of Banana Hill at night - when we were advised not to drive at night through the African villages, and then the people start approaching our car and pushing it backwards down the street, Landon doesn't laugh at my fright. That's not funny.

Our hike out was quick. We passed over the three carcasses again, stopped at the stream to get Duvick some water again, while i waited, antsy. I continued to click my rocks making me feel better: armed and annoying.

When we got to the bridge, I threw my stones into the stream and breathed a sigh of relief. The Jeep was gone.

Landon got mad at Duvick for eating crap that was hidden in a bush next to the road, and we drove out of the canyon with the windows down to keep the smell of human feces and rotting carcass in the back seat with the dog.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

Two Weeks  left to get your Operation Christmas Child boxes in!

and this year you can track your box by giving online! What a fun and educational thing for your kids to do this year for Christmas. Landon and I enjoy putting together our boxes every year and we are so excited to see where they will be this year.

National collection week is November 16-24

McBrayer Family Jewels

Well, another year has gone by and our little angels keep growing in size and in number!!

I'm never sure how to introduce them to you. I don't want to give too much info in case some of you are crazy stockers. But because most all of you are my friends and family, i feel like you sort of have an idea of how the McBrayer family works, but it's a little cloudy. I'm pretty sure my little sister actually has created a family tree to keep things straight!

Landon has 4 brothers and 2 sisters, all of which are very happily married to wonderful people. And all of us (that would be all FOURTEEN of us) are within 8 years of age. Which makes for a lot of fun when we're all together. But having 7 families all within baby-having years makes LOTS of babies! We now have 4 nieces and 4 nephews, all currently under 5 years old. (and remember, four of them were born within 6 months of each other in 2007?) Amazing.

We LOOOOOVE love love our nieces and nephews dearly and wish we could see them more!

here's a recent picture of the Southern McBrayers (minus Kale and Saeran - the newborns)

These sweeties are Merritt and Brent's babies: Griffin (almost 2yrs) and Avery (3 yrs).
They're expecting a little sister or brother next summer!!!

This beautiful little fairy is Greenlee (2yrs), Garrett and Crystal's little girl.
She is also expecting a little bro or sis next summer!

Aw, sisterly love is so sweet! Addison (2yrs) with Saeran Hazel, her brand new baby sister (born on Halloween)!
These girls are Peyton and Ann's kids.

This sweet baby boy is Kale Michael born Oct. 8. Preston and LeeAnn came home from their year in New Zealand with a bun in the oven!! And he is finally here!

These squirmy McBrayers are Justin and Anna's boys. They've been in CO for a year now, so we have gotten to see them often (does 3-4 times a year count as often?) Aeneas (2yrs) and Patrick, who is having his 5th birthday in a couple of weeks!

Aren't these kids beautiful!!??!
Compare them to their pictures last year and also in 2007.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I woke this morning thinking about regrets.

of course there are certain things in my life that i regret saying - that's no surprise - i don't have the "think before you speak" discipline mastered quite yet.

but mostly, i regret un-reconciliation. I am non-confrontational to the extreme. This is something I've learned about myself through my marriage.

I remember when Landon and I were dating, very seldomely but occasionally he would call me up and say, "Sheels, I've got a bone to pick with you. How 'bout dinner tonight?" (or something like that) And so the rest of the day I will be completely distracted, near becoming physically sick while i wait for the bone-picking. And then over dinner, i can not eat a bite as we talk about something minor (probably discussing something that i had previously said). We leave, hand in hand, conflict resolved: Doons with a weight off of his shoulders, and I, weak and exhausted from my a day of being completely worked up over anticipating the confrontation.

I still am this way. We have learned that these kind of conversations do not happen over dinner - because i won't be able to eat at all. And in general, i avoid confrontation completely. It's exhausting. I'm completely inarticulate and so emotional that i rarely can convey my ideas anyway. But i'm working on it. The McBrayers have a term for someone like me: "stuffer". In order to avoid the confrontation, I stuff everything that the "dumpers" would usually just deal with and leave refreshed and satisfied. I'm a stuffer.

Though the problem with stuffers is that there's only enough room for that "stuff". Eventually, in a moment of insanity and panick, the stuffer is bound to "dump". And oh boy, does my husband know this all too well, to my dismay. If i tell you stories of my dumpage (which are very few and far between - you know, i usually just stuff), you would probably laugh your head off. The problem with these moments where the stuffing overflows into dumping is that all the "stuffing" gushes out. So in these moments, i am completely incoherent, relaying things that were issues last month and two weeks ago and you always and you never, and..... I pity Landon when this happens. He can make no sense of my hysterics, and we both feel confused and helpless.

Okay, wait, i'm not sure how I got to "stuffing" here. Well, back to regrets.  My biggest regrets are losing relationships because I was not strong enough to persevere through the conflict. The longer I live, the more and more I realize that the greatest beauty and the greatest blessings in life are relationships. They are also sometimes the greatest challenge and source of the greatest pain.  I wish that i wouldn't have given up so easily on some of my relationships just because the confrontation and conflict resolution seemed too difficult and painful and long-lasting at the time. losing them really are my greatest regrets.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Things I'm loving lately

Tootsie Rolls

(photo by musicrox)

Living in a state where the number of children per household is much larger than the national average, i thought to purchase twice the amount of Halloween candy than i usually do. I guess i probably spent $15 on candy (and i think that's A LOT - maybe i just don't really know). At the end of the night we had 2 (TWO!!!) groups of trick-or-treaters. And the first was sent to my house by their sweet mother who is my friend, delivering yummy pumpkin cookies for us. Since they were our only kids all night, i told them to take whatever they wanted. They took all of our candy except the tootsie rolls. They left those behind for us. Tootsie's are my most favorite candy, so i was pleased.

New Moon

(photo by ALA)

I'm doing a re-read of New Moon in preparation to see the movie in a few weeks. My sister downloaded the audio book on my ipod while i was home this summer, so I'm about 300 pages into it and i've only actually read about 40 pages. It's great to get to listen to the book while i'm traveling through airports and on airplanes during this busy convention season. Can't wait for the movie to get in theatres. It's so fun.


(photo by Ola Czechowska)

I will definitely contribute an entire post to this. But I am so excited to have two new baby McBrayers in the family in the last few weeks! AND two more McBrayers on the way. Not to mention that 4 of my friends are pregnant. Wow! Babies, babies, babies! Just love 'em!

Meeting People

(photo by spring stone)

It's been really fun to meet people at ACSI Conventions. This is my fourth year going to conventions, and it is so fun to reconnect with people I have seen in past years. This last week i had my booth smack dab between two amazing men who started their own ministries and God was using them mightily to make a huge difference in the lives of many people. And i was so humbled and blessed to be next to them and hear their stories. They blessed me a lot.

Though my favorite thing about conventions this year is meeting sponsors! I sent an invitation to people who sponsor our students that live in proximity to our convention location. i have been SO BLESSED to meet and hug and chat with our devoted sponsors. It's such a treat to put faces with names and finally get to thank them personally. I am amazed by their generosity and dedication and am so humbled and grateful to know them!