Drama for Mama: So You Think You Can Dance

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By Gwen “so I wish I could dance” Rockwood, mama of 3

There’s only two weeks left of So You Think You Can Dance, and I’m going to be bummed to see this season end. It’s been the most entertaining season in the show’s history, and I still don’t have a clue who’s going to take the title. The remaining six dancers are all so good that it’s going to be tough to narrow it down to the final four and even tougher to narrow it to a final winner. Here’s a list of my favorite performances from Wednesday night’s show:

Courtney and Mark did a burlesque battle of the sexes jazz dance that was completely different than anything we’ve seen on the show thus far, and these two dancers really sold it.

Katee and Joshua performed a contemporary dance in which Katee took a flying leap and Joshua caught her mid-air (with a leg in each arm) while she was in a perfect split. It was one of those moments that makes you go “Wow” and then immediately hit the back-up button on the DVR remote so you can see it again. This couple has been my favorite all season long, and I’m really hoping they both make it to the show’s finale because they certainly deserve it.

As for solo performances, I’d have to award the best male performance to Twitch, who’s a master at blending humor and hip-hop. And I’d give the award for best female solo to Courtney whose turns and leaps were amazing. As for predictions about Thursday’s eliminations, I think the final four to advance to the finale will be Twitch, Courtney, Joshua and Katee.

Even though I hate to see such a stunning season come to a close, I can hardly wait to see next week’s finale and find out who becomes America’s favorite dancer.

If you’d like to post a prediction for who you think should win the title, click on the word “comment?” below and leave me a note.

Life With Ladybug: A quotable kid

bigstockphoto_ladybug_2853358.jpgWe’re driving down the road and Ladybug is begging for a Chihuahua. I list all the reasons she can’t have one. We drive along in silence for a while. Then she announces, “I feel like I belong to someone else.” I ask, “Like who?” Her reply: “Like someone who would let me have a Chihuahua.”

Ladybug and her daddy were watching a t.v. show about Mt. Everest. He was trying to impress upon her how cold it really is on the mountain. After his speech, she asked: “If you drank lots and lots of grape juice and went up there, would you turn into a popsicle?”

Wailing from her room after I had to detach myself from her clutches at bedtime: “I hurt my hand ankle.” I asked, “You mean your wrist?” After a thoughtful moment, she said, “Oh. Yes.”

And this gem: “My bottom tricked me. I thought I had to go poo-poo, but I didn’t.”

One day when I asked her to bring her belongings from the car into the house: “I have been working all day! I haven’t had a pinch of rest!” Six is apparently the new 16.

We were strolling through Target and Ladybug noticed a sign of a boy wearing swim trunks and no shirt. “He’s naked!” she said. After I explained that was he was wearing his swimsuit and boys don’t usually wear shirts while they’re swimming, she questioned: “Why do boys have nibbles when they don’t have babies?”

And just now, as I was typing: Ladybug was dancing and singing in front of her father as he tried to watch American Rifleman. After patiently requesting quiet, he asked, “Are you trying to make me angry?” Ladybug’s response: “No. I’m trying to make you fun.” Tee-hee.

What’s on Sale: Stride Rite shoes

girlsshoe.jpgWe’re scoping out the best sales around town so we can share the news with our fellow mamas. So if you’re looking for new back-to-school shoes for your kids, you might want to take advantage of Stride Rite’s sale. For every full-price pair of shoes you buy, you save 50 percent on the second pair. The sale began July 26th and ends August 17th. Stride Rite is located at the Promenade Mall in Rogers. The sale is only for store locations and doesn’t apply to online purchases. Happy shoe shopping!

If you spot a great sale (50 percent off or more) anywhere in Northwest Arkansas, we’d love it if you’d send us an e-mail to let us know where it is. We’ll share the info here on the website in our new “What’s On Sale” category. So check back here often!

5 Minutes With a Mom

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Job: Architect

Child(ren): Lydia, 3

How long have you lived in Fayetteville? For 13 years. Kristen earned a degree in architecture from the University of Arkansas and stayed after graduation.

Best parenting advice: Snag a copy of On Becoming Baby Wise. “Someone gave us a copy and I absolutely think it changed our world. I still use the techniques I used when she was three months old. I have given that book to so many moms.”

Most relaxing thing I’ve done all summer: “Visited an old friend (alone) in Asheville, N.C. We went to a day spa and did a whole lot of nothing.”

Most interesting travel experience: “I studied for five months in Rome. You can’t beat that. I also spent six weeks in the Arctic Circle as part of an exchange program.”

How did you meet your husband? “In architecture school. I loved him the moment I saw him 13 years ago”

How do you de-stress? “I walk and listen to music (I’m really loving K.T. Tunstall right now) and cook. I’m a vegetarian and I find chopping therapeutic.”

The Doula Experience

By Sara Milford, mother of four, writer and birth activist

She squeezed my hips with every bit as much pressure as my husband had for the past hour. While I could sense my husband standing in the doorway of our little bathroom, she sat calmly in a squat before me. Sitting on the toilet, my hands on my knees which were spread birthing-wide, I shook my head back and forth slowly, breathing deeply.

“I know women have done this for centuries,” I told her in a whisper, “but I just don’t know if I can.” The words were coming out, coming from me, yet from somewhere else. My reality was in another realm. My contractions had me in the here and now like only a contraction can, but in the moment, in the many moments that made up those few short hours, I felt safe, comfortable, supported – completely different from our first birth experience. She smiled at me, encouraged us, and she squeezed as long as I told her to.

She followed us to the hospital, where I arrived fully dilated and effaced, my amniotic sac still intact. Our healthy 11 pound, 12 ounce baby boy was born within the hour, doula and husband at my side. Afterwards, they moved us to a room and essentially forgot about us. Breastfeeding went great, and when she checked back with us at our home a week or so later, snow still on the ground because of the ice storm, she assured me all was well.

After taking her Bradley childbirth classes and having her as our doula, I realized how important her role was in our birth experience. I, too, wanted to help mothers experience this side of birth, the normal side of birth in all its raw, organic beauty. Having now become a doula myself, this is part of what I strive to do today.

Specifically, a doula is a laboring woman’s servant. She’s a well-trained, knowledgeable woman who knows the process and, more importantly, trusts the natural process. Ultimately, the doula is there to help the mother have the best birth experience possible based upon that mother’s vision. Doulas put their own egos aside and serve the laboring woman.

In our area, we’re blessed with many qualified doulas. Sites like BirthNetworkNWA (www.birthnetworknwa.org) and DONA, Doulas of North America (www.dona.org), are wonderful resources for finding the right doula for you. Interview several to find which one most matches what you seek in your “labor angel.” It is important to realize that a doula does not practice medicine nor give medical advice; she will not be your care provider, just your labor support, physically and emotionally. She can help you gather information, though, should you need it to make an informed decision.

Doulas do charge for their services, though some offer scholarships, trade or payment options, and rates vary from under $200 to over $500, most often depending on experience. Considering the time a doula offers and the benefits she brings to a client, most women find her services to be priceless.

Scientific studies prove that just having a woman in the room lessens the length of labor and reduces the perception of pain. These benefits increase with more qualified, interactive women serving in a supportive role. Even for women receiving an epidural or having a cesarean section, there are benefits in having a doula, such as breastfeeding support and less postpartum depression. Husbands also benefit from a doula’s presence because she is someone he can look to for assurance, suggestions and relief, when needed.

Since the birth of our second child, we’ve had two more birth experiences – one in which we wished we had used a doula for a hospital birth and one in which we had two midwives and an apprentice in attendance at our home. A doula can come in various forms – a sister, friend, mother, midwife, nurse, apprentice – but always she’s there for you, without fear and anxiety, providing calm and assurance. A doula will see you through the birth and be there for you afterwards. She is blessed to share one of the most intimate moments in your life, and you’re blessed to experience unconditional support and a genuine, loving spirit. I wouldn’t trade our experiences for anything.

To read more from Sara Milford, a local doula, check out her personal blog, Everyday Simple.

Good Gossip: A guilt-free dish

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Welcome to the second installment of our newest biweekly feature, Good Gossip. It’s a compilation of celebrity news and interesting tidbits from various magazines, but it’s literally “all good.” No nasty stuff, nothing mean-spirited and nothing meant to humiliate other people, even if those people happen to be superstars. We’re also interested in posting local “good gossip”, too, and we’d love for you to send the mamas some guilt-free dishes of your own! Let us know if you (or a friend) had a baby, got a promotion or won that 10K run you’ve been training for. We’d love to post the good news!

Celebrity Dish

Holy Moly: Sarah Jessica Parker had her trademark mole removed (the one under her bottom lip). (People magazine, Aug. 4 issue)

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, parents of 2-year-old Violet, are expecting a baby this winter. Jennifer, 36, is 4 months pregnant. (People magazine, Aug. 4 issue)

Patrick Swayze, 55, seems to be doing well after undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer since last winter. He will continue his cancer treatments while shooting the new A & E drama series, The Beast. (People magazine, Aug. 4 issue)

The youngest of the Hanson brothers, Zac, recently became a dad. His wife, Kate, 24, and Zac, 22, have the two older Hanson brothers to help them out if they have any parenting questions. The older brothers, Isaac and Taylor, live nearby in the family’s hometown of Tulsa with their wives and five young children between them. New baby Shepherd has lots of cousins already! (People magazine, Aug. 4 issue)

Shannen Doherty will return to 90210 in The CW’s new spin-off. In the Sept. 2 premiere, she’ll make an appearance as a visiting drama teacher while Jennie Garth reprises her role as Kelly Taylor, now a guidance counselor. It’s supposed to be an “edgier” version of the original Beverly Hills 90210. (People magazine, Aug. 4 issue)

Heidi Klum, of Project Runway fame (she’s the host and executive producer) and mother of three, has started a new skin-care line, “In an Instant.” It’s supposed to be so fabulous that it will help eliminate the desire to have plastic surgery. (Redbook magazine, July 2008)

What We’re Reading to the Kids

Need some new books to read to the kids? Here’s a selection for various age groups, recommended by our resident book expert and bookshop owner, Marti Genge of Pages of Parenting Bookstore.

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Mommy’s Best Kisses, by Margaret Anastas

For Toddlers

It’s Time to Call 911, by Smart Kids

For Young girls (age 6-10)

You Can Do It, by American Girl
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For Kids

Dude, That’s RUDE! (Get Some Manners), by Pamela Espeland

 

 

For more information on these and other great books for kids, click here to visit Marti’s Pages of Parenting website.

 

All Akimbo: Back from the beach

By Kim Blakely, Mojo’s mama

Yeah, so vacation.

Is it ever really exactly what you want it to be?

Don’t get me wrong – mine was good. It’s just that I generally place too many expectations on vacations and I tend to feel a little let down when they’re over.

Eh. Maybe I just feel let down because they’re over.

I got lots of reading done. I love to read. I crave books, and I’m almost always reading one or two at a time, but like most moms I just don’t have much time to sit and enjoy the printed word. Mostly, I read a few pages here and there, while I’m drying my hair or while I’m waiting for my computer to boot up or while I’m waiting for the pasta to boil … you get the picture. So this was nice, this being able to find a quiet spot and shoving worries about deadlines to the back of my mind while I engrossed myself in fiction.

Is anyone else obsessed with the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer? It’s not really something I thought would grab my attention, but it had been creeping into several of the blogs I read and as I looked for good beach reads I decided to give it a try. I read the first book (Twilight) on the way to the beach on Sunday and was finished with it by Tuesday. I scored a copy of the second book (New Moon) at an amazing beachside bookstore a couple of days later and finished it before we pulled in our driveway on Saturday. I was so hooked that I dragged my road-weary self to the store right after all the bags were unloaded to get the third installment (Eclipse). And now I’m eagerly awaiting the fourth and final book (Breaking Dawn), set for release this weekend.

I have no idea why these books have so captivated me but, oh, they have … and no one I know personally has read any of them so I’m dying to find someone who can chat with me about them!

Now, just because I did all that reading, you shouldn’t assume that I was slacking on my resolve to dedicate time to playing with Mojo while we were gone. I turned most of the pages early in the morning, lounging on the balcony that overlooked the sand and surf and watching the sun (and the beach umbrellas) come up, and in the car while the kiddo was glued to his Nintendo DS. He’s a late sleeper, my boy, and I let him doze as long as he wanted before we got “sunscreamed” (Mojo’s word, not mine, although I would have to agree with that this is an apt description from his point of view) and swim-suited up and headed out to make sandcastles and splash in the waves.

Speaking of swimsuits, my vacation would have been infinitely better if I had somehow been able to find a way to stay invisible while wearing mine. (Note to self: check out diet and exercise plans.)

And, of course, the week at the beach would definitely have been more fun if Clomid hadn’t gone along for the ride. I took my first pill on the day we left – surreptitiously, because my mom was sitting right beside me and I have thus far been able to avoid telling her about all these TTC goings-on.

I was tempted to tell her while we were gone, but I still think I would regret it later. This is hard enough without having to drag someone else down with me.

Clomid made the hot days and nights far hotter for me, and I think it played a part in my [grumpy] attitude. I’ve had what I can only assume are panic attacks this time around – I’ve read that those are possible side effects but I have been lucky enough to avoid those until now. I had a mild headache all week, and last week it made good on its threat. It slammed into me with a force I couldn’t even have imagined, putting me almost out of commission for two days and the better part of a third. I don’t know if it was a side effect or just coincidence, but I was afraid even to try to fight the skull-splitting pain Tylenol because it did coincide with ovulation and I sure as heck didn’t want to mess that up.

So now I’m going into the two week wait, hoping and wishing that Clomid and this week of relaxation and fun in the sun will be enough to give us a chance at another kiddo to play with in the sand next go ‘round.

At least I’ll have a good book to carry me through the last few days of waiting. Even if I don’t get to read this one beachside.

Drama for Mama: Nashville Star

By Gwen, mama of 3

nashvillestarlogo3.jpgIt was the last night of competition on Nashville Star, and the final four were narrowed down to the talented three. Here’s how it went:

Shawn Mayer: She has probably made the most progress of the four remaining contestants and has finally found her comfort zone on stage. She sang “Here for the Party” and “The Dance.” I particularly liked the last one.

Melissa Lawson: The only mama on the show once again brought the house down Monday night. She sang “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” and “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” I think she’s the favorite to win, and she’s got my vote.

Gabe Garcia: He has also made a lot of progress in the area of charisma and stage presence. His voice has been solid gold since the first day of competition. In fact, one of the judges said “That voice is radio all day long.” He sang “Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Livin’ in Fast Forward.”

In the end, it was Coffey who was eliminated before the second round of songs. I think he saw it coming. Although he was definitely the best showman of all the competitors, he seemed to lack the raw singing talent that his cast mates posses. But he will get to go on the Nashville Star tour as part of the final four.

America’s votes Monday night will determine the winner to be announced next Monday at 9 p.m. Stay tuned.

Picture Mama: Compose a better photo

By Melanie Merkling, mama of 1 and professional photographer

One of the most important things to think about when shooting a picture is the “composition.” Proper composition will draw your eye directly to the subject of your picture, creating a bigger emotional impact, making the photo more interesting. There are a few basic composition principles that will add the “wow” factor to every photograph you take.

1. Less is more.
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Remove as many unnecessary objects from your picture as possible. Lots of things in the background or around the subject will distract the viewer’s attention from the focus of the picture. This holds true with clothing, as well. When photographing children I always recommend avoiding clothing with pictures or wording on it because it detracts from the beauty and simplicity of childhood.

2. Create some contrast.

Most of us do this instinctively when decorating our home or putting together an outfit, but it often gets flower-july08.jpgforgotten when taking a photograph. Creating a contrast between our subject and the background significantly affects how much our subject stands out in the picture. So if the subject of your photograph is light, try to get a darker background, and vice versa. This is a great way to add some personality to your shots. For example, I’m thinking of all those great rain boots in bright colors. If your child has a pair of these or some other brightly colored object that symbolizes this moment in their life, dress them in some white, khaki or similarly light-colored clothing and find a sidewalk, driveway or something else with little color and take some pictures of them in those adorable bright green frog rain boots or with their bright red tricycle. The child will be the star of the photo, and that special childhood memento will “pop,” giving you a fun creative picture.

3. Be off-centered.

One of the most important rules when composing a more interesting shot is called the “Rule of Thirds.” Instead of always placing the subject of your picture right in the center, imagine your photo being divided into a grid with three vertical lines and three horizontal lines. Try to place your subject at one of the four points where the lines cross. (Some cameras even have viewfinders with a grid overlay as an optional feature. See example photo of “rule of thirds” below.) Add this tip to the two previous principles, and you’re well on your way to some awesome photographs!

For more info on Melanie Merkling or to contact her directly, click here to visit her website: MELANIE’S WEBSITE

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Waiting for Shlomo: 100 things about our adoption

By Erin, adopting mama blogger

I like lists. They help me think and stay on track. Plus, I think they are more fun to read and write than just an ordinary post. So here’s a list of 100 things about our adoption:

1. We are adopting because we cannot have another low-risk pregnancy.

2. My first, and last, pregnancy ended up being very high risk with almost five weeks on bed rest and an extremely premature baby.

3. Even though Isaac’s outcome was very good, another pregnancy is just too risky for us, and we’ve been advised against it.

4. Gestational Surrogacy was an option we considered, b/c we have embryos frozen from Invitro Fertilization that we did to get pregnant with Isaac, but we decided against it.

5. Deciding to adopt was not that difficult, but figuring out the type of adoption we wanted to pursue was very difficult.

6. There seemed to be so many choices, and so much to pursue.

7. We considered international adoption, but decided we would most like to have another experience with a newborn baby, which is not common in international adoptions.

8. We decided that we don’t have the heart to go through the foster care system right now – it takes too long to be matched with a baby.

9. We decided that we did not want to advertise and search for a birth mother on our own – it seemed too financially and emotionally risky.

10. Finally, after tons of reading, and following my sister and her husband through a domestic adoption, we figured out that an agency-assisted adoption was right for us.

11. Now it was time to pick the right agency – the type, the state, etc.

12. My sister and her husband took a leap of faith in choosing Adoption Angels in San Antonio, Texas, and it paid off big time in the adoption of their baby, Jonah, just two weeks after they turned in their agency fee and paperwork!

13. That was all the urging we needed – Adoption Angels became our agency too!

14. Private, agency-assisted, domestic adoption is expensive.

15. We are so lucky to have the resources to afford this choice.

16. Our adoption budget is about the cost of a small to mid-sized new SUV.

17. When you put it in terms like that, it’s not that much to spend on the fees to bring your child home, is it?

18. We pay a set agency fee, a set legal fee, and then particular fees to support the birth mother depending upon the situation.

19. We have been officially “on the list”, meaning all of our paperwork is done and now we are waiting for a baby, since May 12.

20. After about a month, we were matched with a baby that had just been born.

21. The adoption fell through, because the birth mother changed her mind about placing the child.

22. It was very sad, and very difficult, but I am glad that the birth mother made the right choice for herself and family.

23. Our agency has an average wait period of about 6-9 months.

24. Therefore, we can expect our baby by December or January.

25. The agency says our profile is very active, and to “hang on” – we should have a baby soon!

26. They do not tell us every time they show our profile to birth parents – they will tell us when we are “chosen” or matched.

27. I am glad they do it that way, or else I would be a nervous wreck all the time.

28. At this point, I am only a nervous wreck part of the time J.

29. With our agency, you have the option of choosing to have a boy or a girl.

30. We don’t care which “flavor” we get.

31. I have been surprised by that “are you having a boy or a girl?” is probably the first and most common question we get regarding our adoption.

32. That, and “Where are you adopting from?”

33. We have had no negative comments or responses from our friends or others regarding our adoption plans.

34. We HAVE had negative responses regarding our adoption plans from Michael’s parents.

35. They are completely against our adoption plans, think we are making a tremendous mistake, and do not support us (emotionally) at all.

36. Ridiculous, right?

37. We have tried to work things out and make amends, but it keeps falling apart.

38. Right now, I don’t speak to them at all, and Michael rarely does.

39. We don’t know what will end up happening once the baby is in our arms – everyone says they will come around.

40. I hope so.

41. Adopting through an agency requires a ton of paperwork.

42. We have spent countless hours filling out forms and questionnaires

43. In order to adopt, you must have a home study, with a licensed social worker.

44. The home study includes finger prints and a background check, in depth questionnaires regarding your childhood, marriage, extended family, child rearing and discipline philosophies, readiness to adopt, and much more.

45. We met with our Social Worker three times – once together, once separately, and once in our home where she made sure we had appropriate living conditions for a child and met our son and our dog.

46. For the agency, we filled out pages of information about our background, family life, philosophy on raising children, hopes for our children, etc.

47. We created a photo album and letter to the birth mother to help her learn more about us.

48. We filled out countless pieces of legal paperwork, and had to make copies of everything and have everything notarized.

49. I would like to say that I have never done that much paperwork before, but alas, I have.

50. Going through IVF to get pregnant with Isaac involved huge stack of paperwork as well.

51. The most confusing and frustrating paperwork I have ever completed was all the documents required after Isaac was born so prematurely – SSI, Medicaide, WIC, Insurance, medical bills . . . it was a mess!

52. The thing I could not get over with all of the paperwork for SSI, Medicaide and WIC was how complicated it was – it was HARD. I can’t imagine how people who don’t speak English as their first language figure it out . . .

53. Back to adoption . . .

54. The paperwork was endless, but it was not too hard.

55. It took us about a year and a half to finally decide that adoption was the right way for us to build our family.

56. It took us about 6 months to choose an method, an agency, and get serious.

57. It took about 5 months to get the paperwork and home study completed.

58. I could have completed the paperwork and home study in approximately 3 months if I wanted to rush.

59. You might notice that when it comes to paperwork, I say “I” rather than “We”.

60. Because I did all of the paperwork.

61. Except the paperwork that HAD to be done together or by Michael.

62.Michael wants this baby, too; he’s just not detail-oriented.

63. Something that very few people know is that we actually asked someone to be our gestational surrogate.

64. It did not work out; she decided not to do it, but I’m glad we pursued it.

65. Now we know that we pursued that option and it was not right for us.

66. Before we ruled out surrogacy, we went through every woman that we know to see if there was a person that might be right – friends, family, acquaintances.

67. There was, literally, NO one who could (for many various reasons) be a surrogate for us.

68. We drew the line at hiring a stranger – it was just wrong for us.

69. I am so glad we did not pursue that route.

70. We could have been working at it for a year now, and be no closer to a baby, as well as diminished all of our financial resources.

71. I am so excited that our adoption is a sure thing – at SOME point, we WILL have a baby to join our family.

72. So, here’s the plan –

73. When the baby is born, we will pack, load up, and DRIVE to San Antonio – I already have about 10 lists for packing.

74. Yes, we will drive.

75. Why? Because plane tickets are too expensive, we will need a car in San Antonio, we won’t know how long we will be there, and there is too much stuff to bring.

76. We will meet our child, and hole up in our hotel room.

77. We already know the hotel, b/c it’s the same one that my sister and her family stayed in.

78. We will get to know our baby, take turns taking Isaac to the bookstore, the park, the mall, etc.

79. We will probably take the baby out in public a lot more than I would normally take a brand new baby.

80. We will wait for the paperwork to go through so we can leave the state.

81. When we can, we will come home.

82. Oh, we have some family in San Antonio, so we will visit with them while we are there.

83. If we are able to mend things with Michael’s parents, we will visit them in Dallas on our way home.

84. Once we get home, we will plan a baby-naming ceremony, which is a tradition in Judaism, for our new bundle.

85. Now I am running out of things to say about our adoption.

86. We are still not sure about a name.

87. We go back and forth, and have a list that changes every time we talk about it.

88. I am still the one open to all sorts of names, and Michael hates them all.

89. We have a small list that we can both agree on, so I guess it’s OK.

90. I guess this is going to have to be “90 things about our adoption”, because I am all tapped out!

Beauty Buzz: Ask Amy

Dear Amy,

You recommend pressed powder foundation for those of us with oily skin, but when I apply it with the enclosed sponge, it looks so thick and cakey. Am I doing something wrong?

Dear Confused,

Years ago I learned a great trick from a makeup artist – always apply powder foundation with a big fluffy brush, and do so VERY lightly. You want to stop when you still think you need a little more. Trust me, as the powder “sets” it will sink in and melt into a nice, lightweight but polished finish. Keep the sponge, but only use it to cover up a pesky pimple. Good luck!

 

Devotion in Motion: Upcoming Women’s Event

donna2.gifLast week a reader sent us some news about an upcoming women’s conference you might like to attend. It’s called the “Gathering in the Ozarks Women’s Conference,” and it will be held next weekend, August 1st and 2nd at the John Q. Hammons Center. It’s an inter-denominational conference for women. To learn more about the event, go to the event’s website by clicking here: www.gatheringintheozarks.org.

The conference schedule is as follows: Friday registration 4 to 6:15 p.m.; Friday evening session from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday session from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The event speaker is Donna Portow, a best-selling author and Christian communicator. She will share from her newest book, “Becoming the Woman GOD wants Me to Be,” which is based on Proverbs 31. Visit Donna’s website at: www.donnapartow.com.

Donna will be joined by worship leader Neil Greenhaw who has a degree in worship and is currently working on his Masters in Divinity. He is a worship pastor at Fellowship Bible Church.

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The Rockwood Files: The Other To-Do List

By Gwen Rockwood, columnist and mama of 3clipboard01.gif

I love a list. I write out a new “to do” list at least four or five times a week because it keeps me focused. Plus I get that little wave of control freak satisfaction when I mark through a task.

The thing is, though, there’s never anything fun on the list. Today’s page has about 12 things on it, and it’s all work, chores, errands and phone calls to return.

My Puritan work ethic says that’s how it should be, that life is not all “fun and games.” But living by the list starts to make life feel like no fun and games. One “to do” list begets another and another. The list dictates the day, and I trudge through it obediently.

Well, today I got sick of the list. Fed up, and burned out. I set it aside and made a new one called the “Other To Do” list – one that includes the things I’d rather be doing “other” than the things on the first list. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Take a nap without setting the alarm for a time to wake up.

2. Sit in a hot bath until the water gets cold and then fill it up again with hot water.

3. Get a massage and a manicure.

4. Go to the movies.

5. Sit in a quiet room and read a great book.

6. Take a photography class.

7. Call the friends I haven’t talked to in months.

8. Fall asleep on a blanket under a shade tree.

9. Have a tickle fight with the kids in the living room floor.

10. Walk the neighborhood without ever wondering how many calories I’m burning.

These are the things I have every intention of doing once the first list gets done. Because once I’m all done, I can enjoy these things without that pesky Puritanical guilt about shirking the work. It sounds like a good plan, but who am I kidding? The “to do” list is never going to be finished. Every time I get close, four or five new things crop up and get added to the list and carried over to the next day.

So I think it’s time to get serious about doing a few things on the “other” list. I can’t keep waiting for that magical window of time that never seems to open up. And I desperately need the things on the “other” list to help re-energize me to do the things on the first list.

My brother Greg knew this stuff instinctively. He was the master of the “other” list and marked through the fun stuff quite regularly. He never passed on the opportunity to go out for a great meal. He laid on the beach every chance he got. He went on a cruise, jumped off a crane on a bungee cord, bought shirts he really liked without waiting for the sale, and he acted like a total goofball whenever it suited him. I marveled at his sense of freedom to go and do mostly what he wanted, tucking the work stuff in and around his larger objective, which was to have fun. He never let a “to do” list put a stranglehold on his life.

His instinct for living at full throttle turned out to be a very good thing because his life ended long before anyone thought it would. He died seven years ago when he was 34. One of the few comforts we had was knowing he had already done many of the things he’d wanted to do. He never held back.

For me, one of the biggest lessons of his life and death is knowing how quickly things can change. We can’t control our lives with a list or a carefully planned schedule. We have to roll with the punches and try to do all we can to avoid looking back and saying “I wish I had done…” Fill in your own blank.

My brother would have turned 42 this week. So to celebrate his birthday, I’m going to post my “other” list on the fridge and mark something off it at least once a week for the rest of the year. That’s a tall order for a self-confessed workaholic. But if I’m going to live by a list, I want the list to “get a life.”

What’s on your “other” list? And when are you getting started?

What We’re Reading: Beach Books

beach-house.JPGbeach-house.JPGBy Marci Tatebeach-house.JPG

It’s summertime and the reading is easy! I’m convinced that summer was made for light, beach-house.JPGbeach-house.JPGfluffy, and fun reading. In true summer fashion, The Beach House by Jane Green features an array of characters coming together for one summer of change. Nan is the aging widow in an old-fashioned estate in Nantucket. Due to financial shortcomings, she opts to spruce up the place and rent out the rooms to a few tenants. The tenants are introduced pretty early in the book as they go about their lives that lead them to needing a place to get away. Daniel is a married father of two who has been living a lie and is ready to acknowledge his true self. Daff is a newly divorced mother of one trying to find who she was before marriage and motherhood. In the mix is Nan’s son, Michael, who is escaping from a disastrous affair with his boss. Throw in a little romance and drama and you have an enjoyable book for the dog dayssecret-life.JPG of summer.

The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain is hard to put down once you get involved with these characters. Cee Cee Wilkes is a young girl in love and willing to do anything to please her boyfriend. She becomes entangled in a horrible kidnapping plot that leads to one bad decision after another. In another state and under a new name, Cee Cee is now caring for a baby that is not her own, but that she comes to loves fiercely. The reader follows Cee Cee through most of her life as she goes on living her lie waiting for her past mistakes to catch up to her. It is easy to get swept up in this story of love and desperation. When it all starts to unravel for Cee Cee, be prepared to clear your schedule because you won’t want to put the book down for anything.

After reading a great review for this one, I was excited to get it until picking ipoison_study_tpb_small.jpgt up to see the cover, when I was sure it was not my type of book. However, Poison Study by Maria Snyder, surprised me with its spellbinding story weaving elements of fantasy, romance, drama and more. When describing this book, it is hard to convey just how enjoyable it is from a brief synopsis. So, if you get your hands on this one, give it a shot before dismissing it as not your type of book. Yelena has been locked in the castle awaiting execution when she is given the choice to become the food taster for the Commander. With a new lease on life, she begins tasting various poisons to prepare for the role. Her teacher, Valek, is a dangerous and mysterious man working as head of security for the Commander. Yelena becomes a pivotal force in the future of the country as she is drawn into political actions and intrigue. She is a smart, strong character who is finding her way as her own skills are coming to light. Written in a way that you feel like you are there, this medieval fantasy is enjoyable from start to finish. You won’t be disappointed for an escapist read on a long, hot summer day.

Submitted by Marci Tate of Fayetteville – happy wife, busy mom of two, avid reader (when time allows) and Library Media Specialist at Vandergriff Elementary School

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