You Know You’re Home

When you breathe your lungs full and the frosty air goes down.

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When you laugh for the thirty-sixth time at your husband making Grandma ask the clerk for “B” batteries during Christmas 5 years ago.

 

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When you hold back tears passing their house because it’s been 20 years.

 

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When you open doors without knocking and leave your shoes at the door.

 

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When they go down the frozen hill with their cousins just like you did with yours.

 

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When you sigh at the taste because it’s the food of your people.

 

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When you stack the presents by name.

 

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When you look at faces and see parts of your own in so many.

 

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When you watch the little ones and wonder how they changed so much since last year.

 

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When you hug a little longer at the goodbye because you know it’ll be too long before…you know you’re home.

 

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We had a wonderful long weekend away with my extended family.  The snow made it feel like we had suspended time just to live in a special world with our loved ones. 

I’m curious, how do YOU know you’re home?

Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party

How to Host a Sole Hope Shoe Cutting Party

 

 

If you remember from mid-November, I shared Sole Hope and invited everyone to my house for a shoe cutting party. Well, this past weekend was the big day!

For a quick refresher, Sole Hope provides handmade shoes to children in Uganda to help prevent foot-borne diseases. Our job was to cut the material for the shoes based on templates they give in a kit.  They send the assembled materials to Uganda and pay local shoemakers a fair wage to make the shoes.

I thought our party ended up being a smashing hit and I’m so glad several people have expressed interest in holding parties of their own.  I wanted to share how ours went and give some tips to new hosts.

Let’s get to it!

 

Preparing for the Party

Beforehand, I had the impression that we could just show up with some jeans and scissors and cut some shoes, but there’s actually several things you need to gather and do before the party. 

Materials

Here’s what you’ll need with some extra tips and detail the kit booklet didn’t cover.

  • Jeans – Take jean donations from those not able to attend and have attendees bring some as well.  Each average pair of jeans gets about 4-5 pairs of shoes from it. You really don’t need as many jeans as you think.  We had a TON of leftover jean material.
  • Fabric scissors – I can’t stress enough that these need to be quality scissors.  Jeans are not easy to cut.  Find a local seamstress and see if you can borrow some for the night.  I’m lucky that my mom has a drapery business and had a workroom full of massive scissors.  I’d say for our size party we needed 5-6 pairs.
  • Pinking shears – These are those zig-zag scissors.  I called Walmart and asked them if they had any and the lady said, “You want some PINK SHOES??” Needless to say, she came back online a few minutes later and said they didn’t sell them. I found them at the same store the next day.  These are NOT cheap.  Borrow what you can.  We got away with only 2 pairs.
  • Safety pins – You need large safety pins but you don’t need too many.  You’ll need one safety pin per pair of shoes.  From what I could tell, we made about 1-2 pair of shoes per hour per person.
  • Large ziploc bags – You’ll need 1 bag for every 5 pairs of shoes.
  • Empty plastic jugs – Ask a large family or two to save their milk jugs for a week or two.  You’ll need them to cut a half moon out for the heel.  Depending on how the plastic is prepared, you could get 4-5 pairs of shoes per jug.
  • Quilter’s cotton – So as many of us learned for the first time, quilter’s cotton is basically just 100% cotton.  The quilter’s cotton is cheaper because it’s plain.  The cotton is used for the inside liner of the shoes.  You can use jean material instead but we really, really enjoyed having pretty patterned cotton to work with and really, it’s not very expensive.  Pro tip: buy light colors so you can see your pen marks from the template tracing.
  • Sharpies – You’ll need 5-7 Sharpie markers to trace templates on both the plastic and the jean material.
  • Pens – You’ll need 2-3 pens to trace onto the cotton.
  • Tables/chairs – If you’re hosting it at your church, you might be able to skip this one, but I had to borrow a few tables so we could be at my house.
  • Cardboard or plastic folders – You’ll get a paper template in your kit but you’ll need to make several more sets of the templates to be used at each station from either cardboard or plastic folders.  I personally preferred the plastic folder templates.

Prepare the materials

If you have early jean donations, prepare your jeans to be used as material.  Cut off the top of the jeans so only the legs are left.  Then, cut down the pant leg at the seam.  You should have a nice, rectangular-ish piece of jean material.

The kids loved destroying the jeans for us.

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Prepare your plastic jugs.  Cut around the top of the jug and outside along the handle.  Then, cut close to the bottom so you’re left with the four sides.  Then, cut down each corner so you should have 4 panels of plastic ready to be used.

Set up stations

There are lots of ways you could organize your party, but I found it easiest to separate the stations by material.

 

Station 1 had all the jean material.  People there were responsible for tracing the template onto the jeans and cutting it out. 

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This station will need the jean material, fabric scissors, sharpies and templates.

We found that the jeans were the slowest moving station so it was better to have more people there than the others.  We had 5-6 people working on jeans.

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Station 2 was the quilter’s cotton.

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The quilter’s cotton station seemed to require the most attention to detail and attract folks that were most comfortable around fabrics and pinking shears. 

Fold the fabric over and you can cut two layers at once!  Since you could cut twice as much at once and was thinner fabric, this station usually produced faster and only needed 2-3 people.

 

Station 3 was our plastic station.  On one night, part of this station’s job was to prepare the jugs as described above but after that, this station simply traced and cut out the half moon shape for the heel patch.  This station seemed to attract the men and kids.  The template required here is simple and the plastic is easy to cut through.

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Station 4 was the quality control and final assembly station

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For both parties, I handled this myself from my kitchen counter.  My job was to make sure the material was cut as requested and then assemble a pair of shoes together with a safety pin.

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Once you have 5 pairs of shoes, you put them in a bag and label them with the shoe size.  You’ll need the safety pins, bags and sharpies at this station.

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Finally, I’ll just say, as you can see, this doesn’t have to be super fancy.  My house isn’t huge and I didn’t spend a lot of time decorating.  You just need tabletops for people to be able to trace and cut.  With kitchen counters, dining room tables and even the floor, almost anyone can make it work!

 

The Party

Finally!  It was time to party!  And surprise–we actually held two parties back-to-back!

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Since our small group meets at our house on Thursdays, we decided to hold a cutting party during our regular small group meeting time the day before. 

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It was a great time to get my feet wet hosting and working out the kinks as well as introduce more people to Sole Hope and produce more shoes to send!

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With everything set up, all that is needed once people arrive is a quick explanation of the stations and everyone seemed to have a natural fit of where they wanted to work.

 

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Our small group completed 16 pairs and a few partials that I finished after the party that totaled 20.  For Friday’s party, we completed 30.  We had so much leftover material that I had my own little party and cut another 10 pairs while I watched Gone with the Wind (for the first time!) Saturday night. 

So, I’m very happy to say we’re sending off 60 pairs of shoes!!  Woo Hoo!!!

 

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Tamara, Edwin and their 2 kids, Barb, Becky,
Jenn, Gracee, Emma and Lexi

Our small group totally forgot to do a group picture, but that’s the crowd from Friday night.  Both groups are fantastic people I call family and friends!  I’m a lucky gal!

If you spy the Sole Hope banner at the top of our group picture, I used some of the jean material and the sharpies to make it right before Friday night’s party.  The photos are from the kit booklet.  We just took the staples out of the booklet and then hung the separated pages right on the banner. So easy and fun!

 

Thank You!

Our parties absolutely could not have happened without the donations and help of so many people!  They might kill me, but I really want to call out some people that made this possible:

  • Lara Beth provided bags and jeans and brought them to my house.
  • Jennifer mailed a box from Virginia and sent jeans, sharpies, bags, pins and a donation.  It showed up just one itty bitty hour from the start of the first party.  What timing!
  • My mom let us borrow her work scissors.
  • Phillip and Anita donated plastic jugs and got them to our church.
  • Holly donated plastic jugs and brought them to our church.
  • Jenny gathered all the plastic jugs at the church and brought them to the party.
  • Ken and JoAnn lent us their tables and scissors and donated fabric.
  • Heather brought us white chalk we used to mark on the darker fabric.
  • Dani bought quilter’s cotton.
  • Deb is sending a donation FROM CANADA with spare American dollars she had.
  • Dave prayed over our time and all the shoes.
  • Becky and Barb brought pinking shears and lots and lots of jeans.
  • Many of the participants brought bags, jeans, cotton fabric, and scissors and gave donations. It was coming in so fast I didn’t get it all written down.
  • Scott for running all my errands–he even went to the fabric store for me-and helping with all the set-up.
  • Everyone that attended and worked SO HARD!

 

As you can see, this was a group effort.  To all of you that helped prepare and then those that attended, on behalf of myself, Sole Hope and the families in Uganda, THANK YOU!!  I love thinking of those women sewing those shoes and then those toddlers walking around in the shoes!  60 of them!!  That’s a lot of toddlers!

You absolutely can be a part!  If you want to host your own party of any size, the first step is to buy a kit over at SoleHope.com.  Please let me know of any other questions you might have!

 

Ultimately, I pray that these shoes would be a tool not just to bring physical healing, but be an opportunity to teach many about the love of Christ.   When Dave in our small group prayed over the shoes, he was reminded of the verse that says how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel.  I pray that the feet of these little toddlers are covered with shoes so that one day that verse may be said of them—beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel! Their feet will be covered so they can know and then they can go. May it be so!

7 Ways to Recover From a Busy Season

I’ve been in total recovery mode the past few days.  Preparing and selling the eBook bundle (it’s over now!) totally wiped any excess creativity and energy I had.  Let’s not even get to the daily life and work life that can zap your energy in a heartbeat. 

Not all of us are wired the same so we won’t recover the same but I thought I’d share some of the ways I recover from a busy season.

Diptic iPhone scenes from the weekend

Take a Nap

I know this  is a no-brainer that you should take a nap when you’re tired.  However, busy moms have a really hard time actually doing the thing. 

I often get massive mommy guilt that I’m taking hours away from my kids for purely selfish reasons.  But listen, resting up is the very best thing you can do for your kids.  You’re less irritable, more energetic and make a better mommy when you can rest. 

I napped last Sunday while Scott and the kids were home and then took an hour to lie down at my Mom’s this Sunday.  I’m better for it.

Take Time Off

I took the afternoon off from work this past Friday.  No big plans, just a much-needed break from expectations and more brain power.  I shirked any great expectations to clean or organize this weekend.  Sure, we did the basics, but it wasn’t the time to conquer that to-do list.

I also let go of making dinners this weekend.  We either ate leftovers, sandwiches or went out.

Get Outside

While there’s a time to stay in and sleep, there’s a time to get out too!  Friday afternoon we went strawberry picking with the kids. 

Friday evening I got out for some coffee with my friend Dani. 

Saturday we got out a bit for our town’s spring festival.  While it was chilly, it was good even for a few minutes to just get out and see some people.

Fresh air and happy people will do wonders.

Meet a Friend

I mentioned getting out for coffee Friday night.  I’ve talked about it so many times on this site, but talking with a friend is one of the number 1 ways I de-stress and relax.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to someone when you’re feeling down or stressed.

The coffee doesn’t hurt either.

Read Some Fiction

I don’t know about you, but reading fiction is one of the most relaxing ways to rest.  Reading requires zero physical effort (ok, you have turn the page somehow) and your mind can wander to a different world.

I’m currently reading through Glamorous Illusions.

Learn Something New

While I don’t recommend learning something new before you’ve had that nap and taken time off, I would recommend finding something new to learn once you’re on the up-swing. 

I enrolled in Shoot Fly Shoot’s Photography 102 this weekend and spent some time lounging around watching the videos (photo above of me watching the videos on my iPad while playing with Bella).  The rest was good but it was energizing to learn something new.

For those that bought the eBook bundle, you have a whole library from which to learn!

Renew Your Spirit

God gives us the ultimate rest.  His yoke is light.  Give your cares to him and fill yourself with his word.  Even when our bodies are rested, our souls can be at war and this step is a must if we truly want to feel energized again.

One of my favorite parts of my week each week is attending church and it feels me to full every time worshipping and learning with my church family.

 

After a few days of relaxation, I’m feeling energized and ready to tackle my week.  I hope you had a restful weekend yourself!

What do YOU do to unwind? Tell me in the comments.

A Day in the Life

I read Tsh’s Day in the Life post and was spellbound.  What is it about seeing other’s details we love?  I don’t know but here’s mine. 

 

6:00 Sleep Cycle alarm goes off. I question why, after I didn’t go to sleep until 1am the night before, I felt the need to set my alarm for 6am.  I listen as Scott leaves the bathroom and goes to have an MRI to see about a pinched nerve. Reset the alarm for 6:10 and fall back asleep after I hear his truck pull away.

6:10 Still feel like lead, determine I can take a shower later at lunchtime and reset the alarm for 6:30.

6:30 Open my phone, turn off the alarm and scroll through Facebook. Having the light in my eyes wakes me up every morning.

6:36 Determine I really should roll out of bed since I have to get the kids off to school on my own.

6:40 Try to wake the kids up and then head out to the kitchen to start on lunches.

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6:45 Check on the kids again and hear Bella crying. Let Bella out.

6:50 Check on the kids again and finish lunches. Catch Bella mid-air as she falls off the counter.

6:55 Make cereal. Sign papers. Brush hair. Take Bella out again.

7:05 Put some clothes on. Same ones as yesterday.  I let Bella out again. She finally poops and I’m grateful that’s one less mess I have to clean.

7:10 Help Emma get shoes and clean up water that’s been spilled from Lexi’s water bottle.

7:15 Get out the door.

7:16 Go back in the house to help Lexi get something she forgot.

7:17 Leave for school.

7:27 Get home and let Bella use the bathroom again in the front yard. Type this as I wait and answer Yes when Scott texts me if I want Starbucks on his way home from the doctor.

7:33 Clean off the counter and take pictures of the bar for the day’s post. The one I worked on until 1am Sunday night is a dud and the one about the bar scheduled for Friday is moving to the front of the line.

7:45 Scott walks in with Starbucks and I ask how his appointment went. He has to go back Friday to get results.  Start writing the bar post. 

8:02 Realize I need to sign in to work and finish the post as everything gets logged in.

8:10 Put Bella in her crate for a nap.

8:15 Work. The day includes setting goals for the year.  Not my favorite task.

8:38 Realize its Earth day and I didn’t send Emma to school in the earth day shirt I bought specifically for today. I also glance at an incoming email and realize I didn’t get Lexi to write a thank you note for teacher appreciation week. Fail. Go back to goals thinking I clearly need some for personal use.

9:20 Bella wakes up from a nap. I let her out. She comes back in chewing on something. I let her, glad she is distracted for a few minutes while I finish a chat with coworkers.

 

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9:30 I call in to my only conference call for the day and sit outside and let Bella play as I am on the call.

9:47 Off the call and good timing because Scott is home from helping install some sort of shelf at the chiropractor’s office and can take over Bella duty. I get back to work, starting up Kristen Howerton’s Killer Tribe session as background.

10:30 Sit outside with my laptop for awhile and let Bella play while I continue to work.

10:45 Take a break to get a sausage patty and coffee. Think to myself all I’ve had to eat was a banana. At least I think I ate a banana. I vaguely remember grabbing one when I got done taking pictures of the bar. Bella also whines and Scott puts her back in her crate for another nap.

10:50 I get back to work researching where I might volunteer for our company’s big volunteer day in June. Start Brad Lomenick’s Killer Tribe session. Also check in on Facebook quickly but don’t see anything interesting.

11:30 Decide to take an early lunch so I can shower while Bella is asleep. As I use the bathroom yet again, I remember that I didn’t just have a banana, Scott brought me Starbucks and the coffee I had mid-morning was actually my second cup. I guess that’s the type of thing you forget when you go to bed at 1am.

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12 Clean up dishes and start the dishwasher, make a sandwich for Scott as he runs in the door from seeing his grandmother and back out to help my mom at her business. I get Scott to snap a picture of my outfit for What I Wore Wednesday before he leaves.  Finish my lunch break with my prayer time I missed in the morning, answer a few emails and share my post on social media.

12:30 Back to work.

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1:45 I go get Bella up because she’s been asleep for so long and I’m worried. I move my laptop outside and let her and Tucker play.

2:08 Scott calls to say he’s done with mom and can pick the kids up on the way home. I’m a little sad.

2:46 Girls get home and I take a break to help with homework, hear stories and figure out snacks.

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3:00 Back to work out in the yard. Bella is still wanting to play and Scott starts a fire to burn brush from trimming trees this weekend and calls the girls out to play.  They’re not excited about it and just sit on their swings.

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3:30 Scott finds a blue egg in the yard and I Instagram it, taken by the color.

4 Everyone comes inside. Bella goes to her crate to take a nap, Scott and the girls start a game of LIFE and I fix Emma some oatmeal and then get back to work.

4:30 Scott leaves to see his grandmother again who was taken to the ER.

4:45 Lexi asks me to put in The Bible DVDs.

5 Quitting time! The girls are starving so I go ahead and heat up leftovers for them. I’m waiting to eat for Scott to get home because he’s supposed to stop by and get shrimp sauce.

5:30 Bella plays in the front yard and the girls and I enjoy the beautiful weather on a blanket.  I think of the neighbor whose teenager is giving them fits and say a prayer of thanks for the season we’re in.

5:55 Back in for more of The Bible. Bella wants a nap and I’m hoping Scott returns soon so I can eat.

6:10 Scott’s on his way home so I start frying some rice and reheating chicken.

6:30 Scott returns and we eat! The Bible is still playing and I continue to answer questions like why is he wearing a diaper (sumo-ish wrestlers perform for the king)?  And why is Joseph mad she’s pregnant (oh geez)?

6:45 I hang up some clothes, empty the dishwasher and reload it while Scott is replaying some of The Bible he missed.

7:00 I sit down to put this post in draft stage.  After such a late night, I’m exhausted and want to go to bed early.

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7:20 Scott asks for help with the dishes.  He got a little behind on his duties and it’s not normally this bad.

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7:30 All done with the dishes and we feed the dogs.  I Facebook a picture of the dogs eating out of each other’s bowls.  Tucker always cleans up after Bella and Bella always wants some of Tucker’s for dessert.

7:45 We go out to Cook Out for milkshakes.  It’s been months since we’ve been there.  I get Peanut Butter Fudge. Is there a better flavor?  I think not.

8:15 We’re home and I give Bella a bath on her back end. The downside to long hair.  We shoo the kids off to get their outfits for tomorrow and brush their teeth.

8:30 I lie down with each of the girls and read Stephen King’s On Writing as they read for school.

9:00 I come back out to my desk and finish this post while Scott plays Call of Duty.

9:26 Lexi comes out and says she wants me to lay with her again.  I tell her I’ll check on her when I go to bed, which I hope isn’t long now.  The pictures are giving me fits.

9:39 Emma comes out to say Lexi is already asleep in her bed.  I tell her Daddy will come and move her in a little bit.  He’s on the phone about work.

9:58 I finish this post, schedule it for tomorrow and head straight to bed.  I’ll read some more On Writing and hopefully be out by 10:30.

 

Tomorrow will be entirely different as I have to go in the office for meetings and Wednesday even more different than that as Scott will be sleeping work off and we have small group out our house in the evening.  With both mine and Scott’s fluctuating work schedule, it’s rare two days look just alike in a week but today was a pretty typical relaxed, work from home day.

 

What do your days look like?

PermissiontoPeruse.com — Changes Coming Soon

REALLY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT WAY DOWN THERE.  DON’T SKIP THIS ONE.

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Lexi does not like change.  At all.

She didn’t like it when I got an iPhone 4S that was white instead of like my black iPhone 4. 

Three months later she still doesn’t like that we rearranged our living room. 

Just this month, she started hoarding food in her room because she said she was going to live in her room the rest of her life if we really tore the wall down in the kitchen.  Just a few days later, she was happily eating breakfast on our new bar.

Change is hard for some people.  And that’s ok.

People like me, on the other hand, usually get pretty excited about change (except when you try to replace the recliner).

We love redecorating a room and do it often.

We never wear the same outfit twice.

We are constantly downloading apps just because we want to try the newest thing.

We try a new way home just to see if it’s faster.

And that’s ok too.

Neither of us are right.  We are who we are and we both need each other.

I’m sure both kinds of people read this blog so you’re going to take some news I have differently.

See, the thing is, changes are around the corner for this blog.  Big changes.

If you like change, I want you to celebrate with me!  You’re probably excited wondering what is going on and want a list of all the changes to see if you approve or disapprove.  You’d be ok if I changed the design and RIGHT NOW because that would be FUN.

If you hate change, like Lexi, you’re probably rolling your eyes and saying you don’t like it already.  Why do people have to keep changing their blogs??  It’s ok. 

Lexi has given me a new dose of compassion for change-haters.  I want to give you a big hug right now and tell you I love you, I’m not doing this torture you and I’m pretty sure you’ll like it once we all settle in.  Will you at least give it a try?

Here’s what’s coming:

  • A new blog name
  • A matching new URL
  • A new design
  • A new me with more focus
  • Lots of the same posts

And it’s coming fast.  Next Monday, April 8th I’ll be unveiling a new site.  I am so, so excited about it and ready to tell you all that’s been going on behind the scenes.

In the meantime, I have a little sneak peek over at the brand new AmyJBennett.com

For you change lovers, you can click on over to see if you like it and you change haters can click if you’d like to start preparing yourself.

In all seriousness, I do love you.  You have no idea how much I think about you and ways I can serve you through writing.  I feel like this is the next right step for this corner of the Internet and I hope you’ll step with me.

I’ll be posting for Five Minute Friday tomorrow as usual and then the blog will probably be wonky for the weekend while we get things moved over.  Lord willing on Monday morning, everyone needs to come (or will be redirected) to the new AmyJBennett.com and I’ll start explaining just how all this happened.  Squee!