•    A Roof Over My Head   

    Most days I feel someplace between 8 months pregnant and in a blissful state of craziness. My life is good and our life as a family is good. However, our good life as a family has found itself in a new state – under construction. Our house that was once neat, and even on occasion, charming and inviting, has become a house filled with muddy boot prints, the sounds of hammers banging and clanging, and without an important feature – a roof!

    It has been 7 days that we have lived roofless and really it has affected none of us negatively, accept of course Dad, Kris, who has slept with one ear attuned to the tarps – listening for the sound of pitter patter on plastic or the violent throws of a tarp thrashing loose under the blackened and thundering sky. Each day he has worked tirelessly to reharness the tarps, securing all 7 of them with great commitment, and then bailing out the buckets of rain water that he collected overnight. Never with a complaint or grumble. Each day he has done this with a nervous smile, and a good dose of worry that he tries not to share, but never with an unhappy heart. His spirit has remained strong and vibrant and displayed an unwavering pride in his home and in his family. For his attitude and his efforts, we are very blessed.

    Life is never predictable, and while we chose this roofing and addition project on our 1875 farmhouse, we can never predict what is around the corner, within another rain cloud, or under yet another layer of shingles. Life is filled with opportunities to be glad in the present, or to be mad in the present. While I can’t say I am enjoying every moment spent in a roofless home, I am enjoying the journey. I feel blessed and grateful for the gift of a family that works together and children that seem unfazed by the evening we spent in the basement last week during a surprise tornado warning, while Dad remained on the roof making sure a flood would not make its way into the living room. I enjoy the smiles that greet me over a hodge-podge dinner of leftovers, and the snuggle time I am given every morning as two little people end up in our bed, just in time to see the first rays of sunshine grace Main Street. It is during those quiet morning moments that I offer prayers before I roll my protruding belly out of bed, asking God to guide my day, my laughs and my struggles and to allow me to be the type of woman, mother and wife that he wants me to be.  It is during these quiet moments of prayer that I find the courage and encouragement that I desperately need to face this temporary challenge, but also to handle the ups and downs of daily living.

    Tonight as we prepare of another night with storms on the horizon and not a shingle over our head, I am reminded that although our roof is presently made of blue plastic and visqueen, my cup (and bucket) runneth over. In every day there is a treasure to be discovered and a hand to be held. While I know that this chapter will pass, I choose to gratefully welcome the buckets of rain water that may fill to the brim tonight above our heads, and the family that I have the honor and privilege of calling my own. It is my hope and prayer that when this project is completed, we can stand as a family in the pitted grass that covers our backyard and feel gratitude and peace in our hearts. A home should never be perfect, and although the clanging and banging will continue for many more weeks, our house is home to a family that loves it, and for that I am glad.

  •    Happy New Year!   

    As 2012 turned into a year of memories, and 2013 quietly slipped into the dark evening sky, our eyes were closed and our souls were resting, snuggled under cozy blankets with no shortage of pillows. Staying awake to greet the dawning of a new year was not a priority to me this year, although in years past I may have held a different opinion. Last night as our family of four celebrated new year’s eve together, we laughed, we relaxed and made a special dinner of shrimp and fried jalapenos enjoyed around the coffee table. It was an evening full of inspiration that marked a great family tradition.

    In honor of time together and treasured memories, my daughters and I created this keepsake that will proudly hang on the wall of our living room. It is made from my own lost, broken, and mismatched jewelry that I have saved over the last fifteen years, in hopes that the mate to my funky purple dangling earrings may once again appear in all its glory. A few days ago as I scanned my treasure-trove of junk and trinkets, the idea to transform these lost pieces from my young adulthood into an art project was born.

    Many of these mismatched earrings may have lost their mate under a bar stool during a good belly-laugh with friends, or in a forgotten purse pocket after an outing filled with heart-filled conversation and lots of smiles. Although many of these little beads and pendants were among my favorites, giving up the idea that their match would someday appear was liberating. While necklaces and vintage pieces from the past can add spunk to a dull winter outfit, my favorite piece of this project is the marking of two small handprints that make my world brighter and more full of life, every day of the year.

    Today as we celebrate the first day of a brand new year, I am grateful to have a family to love and a family that loves me back. I am thankful for a new year’s eve filled with little squeals of delight over old pink baubles, a hot glue gun, and the honoring of life’s most sacred gifts.

    Happy new year from team Tobbe!

  •    30 Days of Thanks – Wrap Up   

    As we taped our final post-it note on our 30 Days of Thanks calendar that has proudly hung in our kitchen all month, my 6-year old daughter suggested that we create the same thing for December. I was so touched by her suggestion, but as she explained further, I laughed inside. She explained that for December we could create a new, but very similar board, and instead of listing what we are thankful for, every day we would list an item we want for Christmas! Who can’t chuckle at the eagerness of a child with visions of gifts under the tree, letters to Santa and sometimes, real struggles with the desire to receive, more than the desire to give.

    For our home and our family, we embrace the presents and letters to Santa, but we also try to promoting giving and sharing with others – not just at Christmas, but all year long. We celebrate Santa and we also celebrate the birth of Christ and the power of this event – each day of the year. Christmas is more than a month on the calendar or a season in time. Christmas is love in action, goodwill towards men, and the celebration of the birth of God’s own son.

    Children are beautiful, bright and always ready with a new idea, even if that idea comes in the form of a daily Christmas wish-list. I am grateful for the gift of children that I have been so fortunate to mother. I have treasured learning about my daughters as we talked daily about what we happen to be most thankful for that evening. I also know that our children see their parents as teachers and observe our behaviour – even when we would rather them not be watching. Life is full of days when gratitude comes easily and days when gratitude is far from our minds, and as we turn the calendar to December, I embrace the little souls in our kitchen dreaming of presents, stockings and sweet treats from Santa. I also pray that my encouragement to embrace giving and living with a grateful heart will trickle into our Christmas memories and even into the hearts that are awaiting Santa’s arrival on Christmas eve.

  •    The Gift of Gratitude   

    Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe God chose to bless me with a happy heart. Maybe the challenges in my life are far less than the joys. Maybe all of these are true, and maybe not.

    Living a life with gratitude is something I do my best to embrace. I love living with a thankful heart not because of what it does for others, but for what it does for me. Living with gratitude is a simple decision that often requires a renewed commitment daily, especially on those days that are filled with negativity, a negativity we often eagerly create. I am a happier mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend and neighbor when I seek the good in others, my circumstances, and myself.

    Living with gratitude is never limiting, it is simply a choice that gives us freedom to smile at strangers in the grocery store, hug a friend, or send a card to someone feeling down. Being thankful for what we have will never hinder our growth, or our ability to achieve our dreams. It will allow us to embrace the everyday and to be glad in the simple gifts held in the precious present. Living with a grateful spirit doesn’t require any formal training, a high-level degree or any amount of skill. Living thankfully simply requires an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful just feels good.

    Another year will soon come to a close and as the 34th Thanksgiving holiday that I have celebrated comes alive in our home, I give thanks for the gift of a grateful spirit. I am better, richer, and stronger because of this gift, and today I cheer, Happy Thanks Giving!

  •    30 Days of Thanks   

    Living a life with gratitude is not easy, and is not necessarily encouraged in our society. Our world is busier than ever, and there is encouragement to strive, seek, and become more all around us. Living with gratitude each day is a choice that comes from within, regardless of circumstances, and regardless of what challenges may be around the corner. Life is a gift. Your life. My Life. Each life.

    If we choose to open our eyes to the wonder, the beauty, and the treasure of each magical moment, we can experience grace and peace. It is also in our times of struggle that we experience grace through the love of others supporting us, our faith in God, and our connection to those who struggle with us.

    Although I do live with a spirit of thankfulness and appreciation, I often need reminders to live gratefully, especially when I feel frustrated, or frazzled. Stress and feelings of lack can also arise when we feel beaten down by the actions of others. Seeking gratitude gives us the freedom to forgive others, to embrace our own lives, and to depend less on an event, person or outcome to give us happiness. We can only control our own behavior, but we can always control our attitude.

    This year, as Thanksgiving draws near, our family is enjoying 30 Days of Thanks in our kitchen, which is an easy and fun way for us to live gratefully as a family, to give thanks, and to laugh a little as we share each day something we are thankful for. Children learn what they live. I feel blessed, honored and quite humbled to be a mom and teacher for our two young daughters. To be given a life to shape, and influence, and then release that life when it reaches adulthood is truly a magnificent gift. Although I am never a perfect parent, I do know that I try my best and fully embrace the gift of motherhood, and for that, I give thanks.

  •    Recreation or Re-Creation? Enjoy it Today   

    It was a bright, beautiful summer day. The skies were blue and the sun was in its glory, shining with the steamy power that only an August afternoon can offer. I had been fortunate enough to spend the day with my two favorite children, my daughters. We spent the day on our swing set, followed by a picnic in the backyard and some stories on the top bunk when time for rest rolled around. We ate fresh tomatoes with sea salt, our favorite chicken nuggets with ranch dressing, and enjoyed the slurpy-goodness of a watermelon from the farmers’ market. We ended the afternoon sipping homemade mint tea, side-by-side in our blue plastic swimming pool, listening to the best “knock-knock” jokes a six-year-old ever told.

    It was a simple day. A day without the computer, or appointments. It was a day that was filled with laughter, as we soaked up every bit of juice and joy that comes from a peaceful summer afternoon without rushing. Life can often feel too booked, too frazzled, and too stressful. It is important to carve out time not just for recreation, but for re-creation. It is on days such as these that my soul is rejuvenated and revived – experiencing the beauty of nature through the examples of magic in my very own backyard – beside two little magicians who encourage me to see shapes in clouds and fairy houses in cast-off rock piles . Days such as these also don’t just arrive, they must be sought out, and committed too.

    Each day truly is a precious gift, and for me, time with my children is among my most sacred treasures. Regardless of your schedule, work load, or previous commitments, I urge you to take time away from the “must-do” list and reliance on modern technology, and spend time with those you love, or alone to restore your appreciation for the gift of your life. Give the smart phone, facebook and computer the day off. Your spirit and your family will thank you and your soul is sure to smile, especially in the privacy of your own blue plastic pool.

  •    Growing Towards the Light   

    It was a peaceful and quiet afternoon. My mind had stopped racing from a busy morning of breakfast making, teeth brushing and laundry folding. I was enjoying the laughter of my children and the freedom that comes from a few hours without an agenda when I noticed a spectacular occurrence that had happened right before my eyes, but without me paying a moment’s attention to it. It was something that had happened slowly, day by day, inch by inch, by the large window that faces west in our living room. It was something that I had walked by for months in my own home, but had stopped paying attention to, other than a weekly sprinkling of water. My old ivy that once was neatly balanced and centered atop its terracotta put was now off kilter – it was growing towards the light.

    This struck me as an example of nature’s beauty and God’s encouragement – meeting us where we are, regardless of the circumstance. This plant had the sense to lean, stretch, reach and grow each day, not to remain where I had planted it, but to grow towards the light that it needed. This reminded me of my own existence and the type of life I want to lead. I want to live a  life that mirrors the wisdom of this tender plant – growing towards light and goodness, not to reach a destination of perfection, as that will never happen, but to enjoy life with a spirit of giving to others and growing towards the light that is available in our very own soil. Surrounding ourselves with people and activities that bring out our personal best, or internal light is part of our purpose. Sharing our own light with others who live with darkness is equally part of that purpose.

    My old houseplant did not complain about its circumstances or placement in a somewhat shadowy corner of my living room, it instinctually grew in the direction of the light available just outside the window. This simple plant kept its roots firmly within its rich soil and gracefully leaned into the challenge of meeting its need for the sun. Life without light is nothing. A life filled with light, a healthy dose of moving water and a few storms along the way is a life that is full.

    May today you find the encouragement to share your light with someone who may be stuck in one of life’s darker corners.

  •    Summer Solstice   

    The temps are sizzling in Brighton and summer has officially started as we ring in the summer solstice with today being the longest day 2012 will give us. Let us embrace the stillness of the sun as our earth celebrates a pause with the seasonal movement of the sun coming to a stop before reversing direction tomorrow. It seems that the changing of the seasons and the tides of nature is ever present, tomorrow begins our journey to new chapters, not to arrive at a defined date on the calendar, but to be glad as we stroll, peddle or sing from our soul along the path that is uniquely our own to travel.

    May today bring you joy and peace. May today bring you laughter, mixed with rest, and if today your desire is to sit and breathe in the earthiness of the long grasses or linger with the sounds of the birds mingling near your garden, I wish you a cool spot in the shade and an open chair.

  •    A Beautiful Person   

    Missy Cook was a beautiful person with a laugh that could fill a room like a crowd of teenage football players fills a school bus on the way to an away game. Missy was a girl with beautiful brown hair and a smile that drew people near. She was a person that I never had the privilege of being close friends with, but throughout the time I knew her as a teenager, I admired her very much and saw her as a true leader. Missy was a leader, not because she wanted to be, but because her soul was filled with joy and that joy was something that others wanted to follow and grab on to.

    I knew Missy Cook only as a high school girl, but remember her spunk and genuine spirit vividly. I look back on the snapshots stored in my own mind of my time with Missy at Pinckney High School and I can see her laughing, running, and always sharing her spirit of kindness and warmth with those around her. Missy was loved by many people throughout her life as a teenager and clearly just as much as an adult.

    It is in days like today that I question life and death. I wonder about sickness and the unknown, and at times, I struggle with fear and anxiety – how could this happen? It is in times like this that I am reminded that without faith in God, I would be lost. Simply, I would be scared and filled with worry. It is when the bad news of a terrible loss arrives that I wrestle with the nagging knot deep in the bottom of my belly. It is in times like these that I must remind myself that God has a plan for each of us, and in Him we need not worry. We can rest in knowing that His timing is not always equivalent to our own. Knowing God is in control of my life gives me a breath of peace when facing fear and helps ease the knot that aches in the pit of my being when I, as a human, succumb to worry, or learn of someone’s journey on earth coming to an abrupt close.

    From reading the stories about Missy’s life,  her family and her footprint on the world, I can clearly see that she was a hero to many. She will be missed forever, and will always be remembered by each soul that she touched. Her family and friends were blessed to share time in her life and to experience her strength and courage when faced with the ultimate struggle. I admired the girl I saw leading pep assemblies and  running around the track at the PHS football field, and I admire the woman that was a hero to many in her final days and who has left our world in body, but not in spirit.

  •    Happy May Day   

    The May Day basket is proud and sturdy and is filled with memories of years gone by. It is filled with blooms from the Spring of today, but with the scent of family history, the sounds of laughter passed down from generation-to-generation and the hope of tomorrow. For our family, May 1st represents May Day, a day that has been filled with secret surprises and joy-filled adventures for as long as I can remember. Throughout my childhood my mom and I would sneak over to her mom’s house, my grandmother, and leave a cone-shaped wicker basket brimming with freshly cut flowers at her backdoor. The next year, my grandmother would sneak the basket back to our front door and the tradition was celebrated year-after-year, and is still honored today. This year as my own children and I carry on the tradition once again, I am filled with gladness on this gray afternoon. I love tradition and sacred gifts shared by people who love each other. I love every day celebrations and am thrilled to celebrate the first of May with great gusto.