Wednesday, June 13, 2012

4 Girls Weekend 2012

Blessed with great friends is an understatement. If you've been around here long enough you have certainly seen these girls. College BFFs that we all went our separate ways after graduation then met back up in 2008 for a reunion that was a blast but a bit awkward since we hadn't really kept in constant contact from the early 90's til then.

In January of 2011 we met up for another weekend reunion to celebrate our 40th birthdays and it was the best, most fun weekend of my life!! LOVED the entire thing. We consistently face*booked (can't believe that's now a household verb) for a year then in January of this year The Mexican (as SHE always says!!!) got us started on a group message of texting on our i*Phones.

Our lives have not been the same since.

On a DAILY basis with a bit of a break on the weekends we have texted until our fingers and hands are stuck in the position of the middle photo above. We each downloaded the app for the cute little icons and now have our own language where we've taken different icons and given them our own meanings. So much so that when I am typing an email, on FB or texting someone else I want to use the icon for LOL or laughing so much I'm crying or clapping hands or.....well, you get the picture. My mind now thinks in those icons.  The ones in the pic represent each of us so when we are talking we use the icon instead of our names for speed and for fun. I'm the pink hibiscus, The Mexican is the sunflower, the curly haired one is the sea shell conch and the sun is for our resident Pollyanna.

Our weekend was spent in Oklahoma where Sunflower lives. She's done all the driving before so she told us we had to drive to her this time which meant Conch & Sun drove a couple of hours, picked me up then we three proceeded to drive another three hours to reach our party destination. Fun times. Very.

The Sunflower had all kinds of fun prepared for us including a darling anklet....that we are all sporting in the pic above with our flip flops on.....which she had made that has each of our icons in charm form. Darling!!! I love stuff like that.  We each exchanged some little love gifts then headed out the door for an hour's drive to eat some of the BEST southern fried chicken and fried okra ever at a little dive in the middle of no-where-Oklahoma. You have to hover around a table to get a seat as it's first come first serve, then you eat the meal on a piece of white butcher paper with your fingers only which consists of fried chicken, fried okra, bread, pickles, onions and ranch dressing. No other choices on the menu.  Great adventure.

We then made our way to the lake where we watched the most amazing sunset and took the pic of us four in the collage below. I was so happy to post on FB that we were at the lake then realized that behind us in the pic is the parking lot. LOL!!! Nerd.

After staying up past 1:00AM ( a MONUMENTAL task for this pumpkin!!) talking we got up on Saturday morning for a Star*bucks jump-start to a day filled with shopping, a dive burger joint, shopping at Tinker* Air* Force* Base (which was such a new experience for me!!), seeing The Lucky* One (my THIRD time!!! lol!!!) in a funkified dollar theater, riding four wheelers, getting chair massages, making homemade Japanese food (The Sunflower lived in Japan with her military husband for awhile), listening to tons of old music, going through old pics and talking way late into the wee morning hours on the back patio under the stars along with a beautiful fire flickering away.

We each have other friends in our lives, of course, who are dear and special and never to be compared in any way because God allows us friendships to meet many different needs in our lives and for us to be that for someone else. The four of us love that our bond started strong back before we really knew who we were going to become as grown-ups. Sweet, sweet times with these girls.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ushering in Summer

As I scroll through the countless photos on *Pinterest* I find that there are so many thoughts, ideas, creations and motivations that have never even considered crossing my mind. I do love that website. I have already done several of the things that I've pinned onto my virtual cork boards. 

I love it when that happens!!! I feel so accomplished. Sometimes I get that crazy old feeling of being less than someone else (or MANY someone elses) should I allow myself to compare my life choices with theirs. Honestly, how can anyone be so put together that they craft daily, cook fabulous meals daily, reconstruct some massive project in their home on a consistent basis, take phenomenal photos of it all, then blog about it? Whew. That's how one can start to get overwhelmed with the plethora of photo ideas on *Pinterest*. However, if I allow myself to pin things that interest me, thus the name pin-terest (get plus interest.......that's for those of you whose might have their head in the sand about world wide web goings-on and know nothing of which I speak) then I find that I do adore my little virtual cork boards that I've filled with lovely photos and ideas of things I hope to do someday.  Then there are the things that just make me laugh on there and I pin it just because I can.
The darling little s'more teacher gift packs above came from that virtual picking place. I saw it a few months ago and knew that with five teachers for which to bless and say thank you for a year well done with my girls at school that I would be using this great idea. The one I saw and pinned was tied up with a cute chunky green ribbon with white polka dots. I opted for white tulle because I already had it. Here's hoping that the recipients of these packs will enjoy the moment they open up each package and make sweet summer memories with her loved ones while making a s'more over an open flame. 

Thank you, *Pinterest*. 

The beginning days of last summer had me begging for my next counseling appointment to hurry up and arrive. I was at one of my worst times in my life at the end of May 2011. The reality of PandaJOY coming to live with us was full-on. There was no going back to the way things were, yet there was really no sense of going forward because we knew we had a very long road of adoption through the foster system ahead of us. 

We had no idea just how very long it would end up being at the time, though. 

We had PandaGirl turning into a jealous freak kid that was very angry at having been dethroned from her 7 year princess position and was then having to play second fiddle to the newly arrived Cupcake that everyone thought was adorable. 

 I can totally see why PG would feel ousted. 

It's not like our family has come together in any normal way anyway. I mean the kid already went through her own trauma of being ripped away from all she'd ever know in China and made to adjust to her new westernized life. She watched us be excited over and over and over.......and over and over about the possibility of adopting a sibling only to have those plans thwarted for some reason or another. PandaGirl watched us be overjoyed at the prospect of getting twin baby boys from Haiti (before the hurricane hit the country) only to see that whole thing go down the drain and be completely out of our hands.  She lived through the traumatic grief of having Little Guy live with us for six treacherous days leaving all three of us with confused, stressed and broken hearts. She also has walked the mind-numbing foster system route with us.  

Adding insult to injury is the inevitable fact that she has begun to notice that she looks different than us. I mean really begun to think about it and talk about it. It breaks my heart that she thinks her eyes are too squinty and tries desperately to open them wider when taking a picture so she can look like those around her. PandaJOY has huge brown eyes. That doesn't help at all. 

PandaJOY has come so far along her jagged road as well.  The transition that she's been through has been nothing less than traumatic. I'm so proud of her, as I am PandaGirl. They both have overcome so very much in such a young life. I often ask why in the world that God allowed me to be their mom. They have such baggage and needs.......and so do I. There will be a day when I can freely write and speak of my own issues, but the time is not right. Oh how I would love to share my own story with others. My very, very close friends know. They know I'll bring it all together and one day God will use it bless others. 

Everyone has a story to tell. I've stated on here before how I wish we could all sit down over coffee and just tell our life stories. Some would be less dramatic than others while some would be so traumatic that we'd all just pass out tissues as we cried together over the brokenness experienced. 

I'm quite sure we'd all get a better understanding as to why we all act the way we do. Our yucky actions don't excuse us from being civil but there certainly are reasons why we consciously or unconsciously play out our daily lives. Just as my girls have come a very long way over the past year since the beginning of last have I. By God's grace I have been peeling off layers of unhealthy conditioning through sound Biblical Christian counseling.  Life-changing. Just when I think I'm almost there, wherever there is, I'm triggered and realize that my battle will be for the rest of my life.

In this visually stimulating world of edited photographs and web-frenzied blogs I wish I could properly convey just how much growth has occurred in the PandaFamily home over the past year. 
Stunning growth. God-allowed growth. From the outside in I can see why He allowed these girls to be mine for a time. From the daily grind I cry out many times asking Him if he really knows what he's doing in letting me parent these two. 

Blind leading the blind.

I have been reminded repeatedly through reading the Jesus Calling devotional that God's Presence is with me continually. That fact has driven me to seek His face and do His will in my own life and in the lives of these two daughters in which he's entrusted me. 
When I focus on the truth, I am a better momma. 
Better wife. 
Better friend. 
Better daughter. 
Better mentor. 
Better Bible study teacher. 
Better photographer.
Better at everything. 
When I depend on God.

I feel empowered when I focus on truth and reality. Accept reality and live through it with the power given me by the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me. Those moments are the BEST!!! Those moments have been turning into days and that, dear friends is nothing short of miraculous!! That is why this summer is filled with hope and encouragement and laughter and craziness that brings joyful tears in place of dreadful ones.  Don't be fooled. The girls get in trouble every day, but I'm better at dealing with it. 

I am living proof of God's ability to use broken messed up pieces and make a living mosaic out of it. While it is difficult to explain when you can't see all that He's had to work through in me, you can appreciate that it has been painstaking at best then add in my little Asian broken pieces and my little Mulatto broken pieces and you'll start to see the beauty of the new Piece being crafted. 

I am.

You know......even PandaKitty is adopted through the humane society and PandaDoggie is deaf as can be with his own set of special needs.  I think PandaPop is the one who needs the most prayer out of our group!! He's been our absolute rock only because he deeply knows The Rock.

The verse that has permeated my being for the past year is 
Galatians 5:1
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 
Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Summer is a more care-free time of year when we can relax from tight schedules, stay up later than usual, hang out with friends, reflect on the past school year, gear up for the next, breathe a bit and enjoy the break from go-go-go. We are definitely a go-go-go kind of family, but it's different in the summer. This one has already started out better than last year's. Much better.


(Yes. PandaDoggie is sitting....SITTING....on the back of our love seat. It's his favorite resting spot when not sitting at our feet.  I'm quite sure that grosses some of you out, but it's really the least of my concerns)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Love Was in the Air

You can see just a sampling of my first wedding photos that I did a few weeks ago. I had five weddings booked for this year, but have since backed out of all but one.  This one I did in May was a family member who really, really wanted me to do the work, so with a dear friend I reluctantly followed through on my commitment. I worked hard from 3:00pm to 10:00pm and had a BLAST!! There was really no way to go wrong because the bride was one of the most naturally beautiful young ladies I've ever met, the venue had perfect natural lighting and the weather was perfect. I don't think those three things come together often and I'm sure it made all the difference in the world. Check a bit of our work at The Cotton Crop then click on THE COLLECTION and then on to the only wedding gallery there.