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 Growing older is inevitable, and as I age, the people dear to me age….and with age,  it’s only a matter of time until there is change…..and I’m not one for change. This past summer, my grandparent’s decided it was time for them to sell their home (the place where I spent so many nights running, playing, and snuggling) to build a more suitable home that better fits their needs.  Of course I was sad to hear the news, but I knew it was coming, the gardens and house were simply too much to take care of.  They decided to start giving away some of their things to family to make the move to a smaller house easier.  As my grandma walked me around the house, I almost broke down thinking about childhood memories of me playing dress up with my cousins, to teenage memories of me crying into my grandma’s arms, to present day sitting beside them, watching my grandpa hide quarters for my boys to find.  My heart hurt as I realized my daughter would never get the chance to spend the night in the “pink doll room” with her cousins, she would never remember playing on the swing in the backyard, she would never remember running up and down the stairs dragging her hands along the banister….and that’s when I decided to take her pictures there…so we can remember together, so I can tell her all of the stories that were born in grandma and grandpa dolly’s house. (If you are wondering why we call them grandma and grandpa dolly, it’s because my grandma owns Dolly Heaven, a doll repair shop downtown New Haven.)
     If you have ever been on Powers St in New Haven, then you’ve probably seen the big white pillars of their house (or mansion as I used to call it). In the spring, the bushes would bear their bright yellow flowers, and in the winter, the candle lights in the windows would give a soft glow through the curtains….it was magical.  And being able to see my daughter on the front steps was even more magical. 
  As my grandparent’s prepare to move into the next stage of their lives, I realize now more than ever, that although I will miss their house greatly, a house is just a house… and it’s the people inside of it that make it a home, and when I’m with my grandma and grandpa, no matter where it may be, it always feels like home.  I love you grandma and grandpa!!

P.S. My grandparent’s house is still for sale if you know of anyone who wants to buy an awesome house! You can check it out online here.

Last summer my babysitter Desi sent me a picture from Pinterest and said my daughter, Adley,  JUST HAD to be a Starbucks coffee for Halloween.  Literally, just two nights ago, my super uber duper talented mom (LINDA!!) put this adorable costume together for my little girl! (I did the Starbucks logos…I wasn’t completely useless!) I had about two minutes to snap some pictures of Adley before she was DONE and wanted to go play (I’m hoping to get more tomorrow! fingers crossed!) You could most definitely do this costume with just felt and no sewing (hello glue gun and burnt fingertips!), but my mom did use her good ole sewing machine to make it easier….no pattern used, just a picture from Pinterest and some imagination (the green straw is a toilet paper roll with felt glued to it).  So….for Halloween, I will be walking around with the best (and cutest) cup of coffee ever!
I’ll take mine decaf with nonfat milk and carmel syrup please! Of course I had to jump in as a barista!

It happens all of the time.  I will be scrolling through facebook reading random posts about people’s good fortunes or burnt dinners and looking at selfies of people who clearly love themselves…. when I see a post about someone with cancer. My heart stops for a moment, I feel sorrow for the family and I may say a quick, “Jesus, please be with them during this difficult time” prayer, or even write an encouraging Bible verse on their timeline so they know I was thinking about them.  And then something happens….my life goes on.  I continue my day, play with my children, pin another pinterest crock pot recipe that I will never make, and all is well.  Cancer may be something that goes away for me when I log out of facebook, but unfortunately for the lives of those with cancer and their families…it doesn’t go away with a swipe of a finger.  Cancer is alive and it has a face….and right now to me, it’s the face of my Uncle Rick.

My Uncle found out he had cancer this past September, right before he walked his beautiful daughter down the isle to say “I do”.  Just a few days after the wedding, he had one kidney removed and hopes were high that all of the cancer was gone. After some testing, they found it was a rare renal cancer and it had spread to my Uncle’s brain. This news would have most people waiving their white flags in surrender, but my Uncle is a fighter…and he is fighting still today. 

(This image was taken on Katie’s wedding day after giving her dad a card {it must have been a Hallmark card}….it was hard to keep my camera steady. What a beautiful, absolutely perfect day….)

If anyone has gone through cancer, you know it’s a roller coaster ride of scary twists and turns, good news, bad new…uncertainty. My Uncle’s cancer not only affects him…but everyone around him.  He’s not only my Uncle, he is a son, a brother, a husband, and a father.  For the last forty years he has been beside my Aunt Janet…he’s her best friend. I can’t even imagine what she is going through, the thoughts that fill her head when she sits still, the conversations she has had to have with him about the future.  Worrying about the unknown, about waking up in the middle of the night with no one to wrap her cold feet around, about how she will survive a week, let alone a day without him. It makes me want to climb the highest mountain, throw my hands in the air and scream until I’m hoarse, begging God to make every one’s pain go away.  

(my kids playing Lego’s beside Uncle Rick’s temporary bed)


 I think about my cousin Katie…how she puts on a cheerful face and plays with my daughter, when in the back of her mind she is probably thinking, “What if my dad isn’t here to see his own grand babies? Who will read them their favorite story? Who will sneak them treats when I’m not looking, kiss their boo boos and let them stay up late?” 

I think about my cousin Parker and how his heart must be hurting…worrying about if he will have to be the man of the house and take care of his mom.  I think about my Uncle’s father and how helpless he must feel, worrying if he will have to say goodbye to his only son. 


(my daughter sporting a Rick Strong hat)

One thing that struck me this weekend as I visited with my family, was that even though they are worried, even though they are scared…they have such an undeniable hope. They are still able to laugh and find the joy in things that would make most people cry. For instance, my Uncle is losing his hair to radiation, so my Aunt thought she would use a lint roller on his head to see if it would help with the shedding….c’mon, you can’t help but giggle a little bit. 

Their hope doesn’t come from doctors or nurses, their hope comes from the Lord. They trust God is going to walk them through this journey, because although they don’t know what the future holds…God does.  It’s already been written… Uncle Rick’s life has a purpose that God has planned long before he was born.  And as we are still believing and praying that God will heal my Uncle, we also acknowledge that the Lord’s healing may not be the same kind of healing we are wanting…because an ultimate healing is to be with God.  As I was sitting staring at the “welcome home” sign in their living room, I couldn’t help but realize how temporal this life we know is…this is not our real home. And if you know Christ, just imagine the “welcome home” you will receive when it’s finally time to leave this earth…to be brought into the glorious gates of Heaven with the loving arms of Jesus wrapped around you. Do you have the hope of Christ?

I love you so much Uncle Rick! #Rickstrong!

Who’s face do you see when you hear the word cancer? Is it yours? Is it a loved one or a dear friend? Leave their name in the comment section here or on facebook, and I will pray for each person…because cancer has a face…a name. 

I have been on a quest lately to find my youngest son almonds processed in a peanut free facility, because he is allergic to peanuts and I don’t want to take a chance with cross contamination. During my search, I became seriously discouraged by what I found. Because of two minor outbreaks of salmonella from almonds, the FDA mandated that all almonds from the US be pasteurized. Pasteurization in theory is good…it kills all of the bad bacteria…but unfortunately in getting rid of the bad, it also kills the good stuff.  When pasteurizing almonds, the two most common methods are using a high temp steam on the almonds or spraying the almonds with a nasty chemical called propylene oxide or PPO (which is a highly flammable, carcinogenic toxin…sounds tasty). Many almond growers can’t afford the steam method, so they are forced to spray this crap on your “raw” almonds….thanks FDA.  So now, not only do I have to make sure the almonds I buy are peanut free, I have to try and find ones that aren’t sprayed with PPO…and they aren’t cheap, but what is these days? And wouldn’t you know it, God would take my research about almonds and lay on my heart an area in my life that needs some work: How I talk to my children.


I want my children to be “good”, to be respectful and to listen. If you are a parent, you know this can be a daunting task, especially when they have siblings to fight with. When they don’t make wise choices, I tell them how they should behave…in a sense, like pasteurization, I want to wipe out their bad behavior…I mean, who wants to have spoiled nuts kids?!  But, there are times that I don’t talk to them in love….I talk AT them…showing no patience, no peace…just frustration and anger. Sometimes I say things I don’t mean and I’m ashamed of myself… it’s like word puke coming out of my mouth and I can’t stop once I start. So, in my attempt to make them “better” behaved, I’ve actually been making them worse by not showing them the grace that God shows me everyday.  I never imagined parenting would be so hard….that these beautiful little beings could make me laugh with indescribable joy and cry with my face in a pillow all in one day. They are my everything, and I want to build them up, to give their sweet souls peace..not tear them down because they didn’t brush their teeth long enough or pick up their ten million Lego’s on the floor. 

God, please forgive me for not taking every opportunity to show them your love and mercy. Help me to daily speak love into their lives and be an example of patience and grace. I don’t want to just  focus on their outward actions; I want to focus on the state of their hearts. Amen.

For as much as I want to be…I’m not a planner. So why wouldn’t I decide to do a last minute Valentine’s Day shoot with my kiddos?  I don’t have a studio and a bunch of cute backdrops, and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money or time trying to make something…so I came up with this simple backdrop for a total of $17…I know it could have been cheaper, but I didn’t feel like cutting out hearts. I bought a pack of scrapbook paper at Michael’s for ten bucks and then bought some red hearts at Target from their dollar spot.  My boys ripped out the scrapbook paper for me and we just taped it to a white backdrop that I had (you could use a wall as well).  It doesn’t look so pretty up close, but I knew it wasn’t going to be in sharp focus and it would give me the look I was going for.  I placed the backdrop in my dining room across from three windows and there you go…I had a quick, inexpensive Valentine set up.  Now go take some pics of your kiddos!!