Saturday, December 17, 2011

Top 11 Albums of 2011

( list is not your list)

This is my second annual list of albums I thought were outstanding for 2011. I know the specter of the sophomore slump so I will try my best to deliver the nuggets of musical wisdom you so admired last time around (so this is for you Justin). Let's start from the we go!

11. Jonathan Coulton - Artificial Heart

I first heard Jonathan Coulton on The Sound of Young America and became intrigued with his work with They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh. Little did I know that Jonathan is probably best known from a song he wrote for the video game Portal which at the time of this writing had approximately 13.5 million views ( read that right.) Here it is if you are interested (Still Alive). But...I digress. Artificial Heart is solid song crafting with lyrics that are tongue-in-cheek but more honest than silly. The production is classic TMBG (cleverness and quirks abound) and is engaging all the way through. I doubt Artificial Heart made it on many lists this year but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Check out: "Glasses" and "Nemeses (feat. John Rederick)"

10. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) exhibits the best of where folk music is and is going. I am a sucker for layered instrumentation, vocals you have to pay attention too, and repetitive trance-like melodies. Call me a hipster I guess...Bon Iver's self titled album delivers on all three.  The other thing I like about this album is the "groovy-ness." At its heart Bon Iver is soulful and introspective as well as "locked in." Excellent attention to detail on creating a cinematic landscape to treat the ears and heart. According to Vernon's bio, he set himself up in a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin for three months to record his first album. Imagine if you had that amount of focus to complete something you were working on.  Check out: "Perth", "Holocene" and "Calgary"

9. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See

The Arctic Monkeys (to me) are this year's Arcade Fire. Here is what I mean... before this year I did not really like them. Though I am not sure why... Suck It and See got under my skin (in a good way) and the more I listen the better it gets. I have to admit that I was not impressed the first time I listened through all the way but maybe I can liken it to a fine wine (or so they say) it gets better with age. Any-hoo... these are not the indie-pop darlings that I assumed... Suck It and See rocks hard (spring-tube-amps-rattling rockin'). Check out: "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair", "Brick By Brick" and "She's Thunderstorms"

8. Washed Out - Within and Without

When I first played this album for Briahnna she said she thought was listening to an '80s movie soundtrack.  I think I have listened to more '80s-inspired music this year than I ever did in the actual '80s. Maybe because I was 12 when the 90s rolled around (insert "you're still a such a baby" comment by my older friends). Within and Without is the ultimate chill-out album...every song is easy on the ears and has just enough melancholy to be reminiscent of Tears for Fears and The Thompson Twins. Electro-pop goodness with reverb-buried vocals make an excellent combination. This is notably in the dance section of the record store (remember those?) tread carefully or you might run into someone from  Culture Club.  Check out: "Amor Fati", "Eyes Be Closed" and just for kicks..."Eyes Be Closed (live)"

7. Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What

Another classic by one of my favorite artists of all time. When this album came out in April we happened to be watching SNL a few weeks later when he performed. I knew it was going to be something special.Think and updated version of Graceland with more introspective lyrics and fancier production. One of my favorite tracks is the first one off the album "Getting Ready For Christmas Day" which certainly does not "sound" like a Christmas song but is full of hope and anticipation and longing. I don't have time or the space to dissect all of Simon lyrics but almost every song tugs on something in you that makes you want to listen again. Like I said...classic. Check out: "Rewrite" and "The Afterlife"

6. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

So...Colin Meloy (lead singer of The Decemberists) signed my copy of Wildwood (his children's fantasy novel which he wrote and his wife illustrated). maybe he did not do this in front of me...but I picked up a signed copy when the family and I were at the AJC (our ATL newspaper) Book Festival in Decatur, GA.  He and his wife were the keynote speakers...I know that has nothing to do with this album but I still think it is pretty cool. The King Is Dead gets high marks on hooks and its indie-pop sensibilities. After the first listen you will be singing along to many of the songs on the album...without even realizing you are doing it. The Decemberists use one of my favorite lyrical devices (making happy songs with sad lyrics). Very well done album and one I will be listening to a lot. <----- NOT ALOT Check out: "Calamity Song" and "Down By The Water"

5. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Ethereal, reverent, and transcendental... Fleet Foxes have given us a winner with Helplessness Blues. Combing melody and moodiness, Fleet Foxes soars with every think you are listening to a movie soundtrack. "So now I am older, Than my mother and father, When they had their daughter, Now what does that say about me. Oh how could I dream of, Such a selfless and true love, Could I wash my hands of? Just lookin' out for me..." recounts their song "Montezuma" (<--- BTW - Brilliant stop motion video made by a fan no less).  Well done Fleet Foxes. Check out: "Helplessness Blues" and "Grown Ocean"

4. Gungor - Ghosts Upon the Earth

WoW (to quote Chris Paul). There is so much to be said about his album...the only reason it is number 4 is that I love 1, 2 and 3 so much. This is the obvious choice for the next in line. We had the pleasure of seeing Gungor at their CD release party at the Center Stage Theatre in Atlanta. They played the entire album along with a few songs off of their last album, Beautiful Things (another remarkable album in its own right).  Let me just say this...there is no other band I can sing all the lyrics to and feel like I am in authentic worship to God. This is not a "too bold" statement (for me anyways). Apart from their outstanding lyrics, the craftsmanship of each song makes my knees weak and my heart lie prostrate in front of an Almighty God. If this is what heaven sounds like...take me now. On a side-note, check this video out from Gungor's promotional material "When Death Dies" featuring this year's Sing-Off on NBC Champion Kevin Olusola (KO) on cello (yeah he beat-boxes while playing). Please check out: "Brother Moon" and "This Is Not the End"

3. Wilco - The Whole Love

I did not think its could get any better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot but I stand corrected. If you are already a Wilco fan than I am preaching to the choir...BUT if you are not...there is no time like the present to jump on the Grammy nominated "Rock Album of the Year" bandwagon. Perhaps the most prolific band since The Beatles (I may be stepping over the line here) Wilco just keeping on ticking incarnation after incarnation. And guess what folks...every song on this album is good. Perhaps Jeff Tweedy's voice is not your favorite...I suppose it is not everyone's cup of tea but it settles nicely in between the thumping bass of John Stirratt and the rhythms of Glenn Kotche. A classic for sure... Check out: "Whole Love" and "I Might"

2. The Civil Wars - Barton Hallow

My good ol' buddy Jeff Johnston (@JLynnJohnston) turned me on to The Civil Wars...I have to give him props for touting last year's number 2, Mumford & Sons as well. Let me just say what exceptional singers these two performers wonder they were able to go on tour with Adele and hold their own. The songs are simply gorgeous and emotion-packed... Nothing too slick about the production of this album except that everything stands out as bright and shiny like a chrome bumper. How this was missed for a Grammy nomination I do not understand. Check out: "20 Years", "Poison & Wine"and "Barton Hollow"

1. Adele - 21

Best. Album. Of. The. Year. Hands down... It would not surprise if every single song on this album is a "hit"...meaning Adele's royalty checks are going to be big. Deservedly so... the rhythm section is so good they might as well be The Roots and Adele's voice flies above and beyond the best on this list (and I think this is a pretty good list). Even the surprising cover of The Cure's "Love Song" stands out as stellar. I don't want to ruin the description of this album with too many words so I will just have to say. Buy this won't regret it. Oh...and you know you have listened to "Someone Like You" for a good cry (see SNL sketch).Check out: Everything.

Honorable Mentions: Cage the Elephant - Thank You, Happy Birthday, Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong, Feist - Metals, Foo Fighters -Wasting Light, Givers - In Light, My Morning Jacket - Circuital, Mutemath - Odd Soul, R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now, Radiohead - The King of Limbs, St. Vincent - Strange Mercy, TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light, Twin Sister - In Heaven, Unknown Mortal Orchestra - self-titled, Beirut - The Rip Tide

Thanks for taking the time to read my list. If you are new to the blog... you can follow me on Twitter (@therealtimvegas or @think_inclusive). Please share if you like what you found here.


Tim and The Villegas Clan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Home, Family & Other Summer Musings

In our world summer has officially ended. It's a school night tonight, Tim will not be awake when I get home from work. The kids will be in bed before the sun sets and up before it rises. It feels like the end of an era though it has only been a few short months since we last lived that way.
Summer is a glorious time for our family. Tim is home. The amount of "family time" that we have increases exponentially. It is also a whirlwind of activity, work, vacation, etc.
Now that it's over I find myself trying to capture the ideas and feelings that this summer brought about. And, as has been the case these past few years the best way for me to do that has been to try to share it. Here goes.
Home: We capped off our summer with our annual trip back to SoCal and in all honesty this year was the hardest year to come back to Atlanta. (I cried...a lot) July marked our 3rd year in Georgia. Up until this year I would only refer to CA as "home" and GA was just where I lived at the time. When we were in Cali this time I found myself referring to GA as home. But when I'm here in GA I refer to CA as home. I find myself confused. It's almost like I am in the middle of both, belonging to each and yet not belonging to either. There's something so comforting in the familiarity of where you grew up. Sure it has changed some, but not enough to make it foreign. There's something I love about the foothills and mountains holding in the valleys and cities, the cozy and pretentious beach towns and even the highways with all the flashy billboards.
There was also something else that was impressed on me this summer that I've heard of but have never really felt. It was the sense that there is another home I belong to, a spiritual home. Perhaps it's because I've lived a good life that I've never really longed for another place, an unknown place. But I think it started this summer. It may be how overwhelmed I've become with this world, the brokenness, the suffering, etc (ex: the horn of Africa, homelessness, money crisis, war and political unrest) I've been listening to a lot of Andrew Peterson and he has a song called "The Reckoning" 
It moves me and makes me realize that I do long for "the curtain to be lifted". I know that's very "christian-y" but it has been true for me and I don't know how else to explain it.
Family: I've already mentioned it before but this year my sense of "family" drastically changed. With that has come some distress but mostly just a whole lot of love. I know that part of my idea of home is where my family is. But now that my mind and emotions have identified many others as "family" that makes it even harder to pinpoint where home is. We have been incredibly fortunate to be given amazing blood family. This summer we got to spend time with them, even ones I haven't seen in years. And on the other side of that we've been given amazing non-blood family in the form of friends and co-workers. I am so thankful that God has made a way for my heart and mind to open up to this new definition of family but it also overwhelms me (a lot).
Other Musings: This section is mostly about inspiration in the form of creation. Be it the outdoors, my children, art, music, or the written word. I have been inspired in so many ways this summer through things being created and shared. This has manifested the most in the creations of those closest to me, Jadyn and Isaiah. As every parent knows, kids are a wonder. My own are awe inspiring and I see God in them every day (probably every minute of every day). Also, seeing my "baby sister" pregnant with her first child was surreal but beautiful. Her growing belly blew my mind (when did we grow up?). Then there were the many opportunities to be outside; camping, gardening, hiking, geocaching, beach trips etc. The world around me never ceases to amaze me when I have a little time to ponder it and be in it. Literature; we are reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan in our small group and it has been like a very gentle kick in the heart and soul. Music; Gungor and Andrew Peterson have reminded me of the sincerity, truth and emotion that can be displayed through lyric and music.
So what am I trying to say? Not sure exactly, other than I keep being taught and I keep trying to be teachable. I'm trying to put to use what I've learned with my actions and share a little of it. So there you go, you're welcome.
If you want to see some of the inspirations in picture form check out our Picasa site. So many great pics from the summer

Hoping this summer has inspired you as much

Turning 5 Was Awesome!

And it is all thanks to you (all).

List of celebrations
-tepanyaki w/ Nonna, Michael, Gabriel and Avalon
-pool party at the Campbell Ranch
-brunch @ Bob's Big Boy
-tea time in Pasadena w/ Nana Ivy and Aunt Selena
-Art Party back in GA

= one lucky and loved girl

Blowing out the candles...again...and again....and again

Thursday, June 30, 2011

3 Years and Counting

(on becoming a Southerner and being okay with it)

It usually beings like this... "So - WHY did you move to GEORGIA?"

I have answered this question dozens of times since we moved here nearly three years ago. I remember standing in front of our house on that hot and muggy July day waiting (and sweating) for the moving truck to come rumbling down the street. After a few months of getting used to the accent, new places to eat and shop, and our neighborhood...things started to feel a little more like normal.

The simple answer to the WHY is that we came out here to visit my mother-in-law and family in the summer of 2007. We saw just how beautiful Atlanta is, how much there was to do with a family, that the housing prices were half of what they were in California, and it was a no-brainer. But though this is the answer I have given to many people since being is not the whole truth. The fact is that God was preparing our hearts for a relocation since Briahnna and I got married in 2003. At first, we thought it would be overseas but it turns out the Lord had more for us to do in Pasadena. We were kept busy with our jobs (Mine at PUSD and Briahnna's at UCLA) and serving at our church (Foothills Community Church) and of course with the birth of our first born Jadyn. (On a side note...she will be turning 5 this month and I have to agree with everyone that it does go by fast)

It was uncanny how things kept falling into place for our move to Georgia. After the initial excitement of the possibility of relocation we agreed to spend a few months praying about it and make our decision around the new year. I had to tell my work pretty early on because various paperwork issues and obtaining references to find a job. I was confident in the school system because my brother-in-law (who has autism) attended schools in Cobb County and the district had an excellent reputation for special education. Briahnna's job was a little more tricky but with many hours of internet research she found a place where she was excited about. We came to visit in March of '08 and in one weekend secured a house and two jobs. Praise God!

Looking back...that may have been one of the times I have felt closest to God (preparing to move to Georgia). It seems like any time that I have ever been serious about seeking His will for my life...He has delivered. In addition, having Briahnna to share this journey with has been incredible. She inspires me to be a better man everyday and I am eternally grateful for her love and support as I try my best to lead our family in the right direction.

So...why are we here anyway? First and foremost I believe that our jobs are in line with the ministry that God prepared for us here. We have a heart for people who (in general) are misunderstood and marginalized (people with mental illness and severe disabilities). Sometimes I don't think that "counts" as a ministry but then I look at our paychecks (smile). To be very honest...we are blessed tremendously. From our house, to our cars, to our clothes, to our food, to our stuff...we have more than we really even need. We continue the process of scaling down and finding the simple life that we feel we are being called to. And not even just simplicity...but creating a culture in our family of giving to those who need it the most. I am encouraged and inspired by those in our small group who are trying to live this model out in everyday life.

On the way to a family camping trip in Savannah, Briahnna and I discussed just what God is trying to tell us now. Joining Northstar Church in Kennesaw has been part of our faith renewal. As some of you know, I have spent my whole life in the church and have participated in everything from Pentecostal to Methodist denominations. Experiencing a church that has community service and giving to those most in need be a top priority was a welcome change and for me restored some of my faith in the church body. Of course there is our small group (now known as The Outsiders) who at the core are our family (spiritual) apart from the only actual family we have in the area. We are all looking forward to seeing our Cali-Family on our trip back home this month. Three years does not seem that long now that I am on the other side of thirty. Even so...I miss home and I miss my family who I rarely get to talk to because of schedules and time differences. I thought I would never leave Southern California. But moving to another state has solidified my belief that it does not matter where you reside as long as you are connected to followers of Christ that are pursuing the same ends.

Perhaps God is trying change the way we have looked at the Christian life for so "ME" focused. I know I have spent countless times sending up prayers that were only focused with what I was going through. I wanted my life to pass by without pain, suffering, or loss. But as we all know...that is not how life goes. And thank God for that...because without difficult times...I may never have known the grace and mercy of my Saviour. As our pastor says repeatedly "It's not about us." It is about loving our neighbor...the unloved...those who have no voice.

Perhaps God is trying change our priorities. Reflecting on the idea of the "pursuit of happiness" this 4th of July weekend...what kind of happiness are we trying to get? More money? More stuff? More success? More attention? If there is anything that we have learned in these last three years it is that the more we give away the happier we are. I am sure there will be another round up of things as we go through our house by summer's end that will go in the donation pile.

Perhaps God is trying to change how we think of the word "Christian". For many people, unfortunately, this word does not evoke feelings of love, compassion, and charity but of judgement, ridicule, and a particular political party. I wonder how many people who are agnostic/atheist or otherwise have not necessarily rejected Christ but His followers and what they do in His name. We need to reclaim what it means to be a follower of Christ and take His words in the Bible seriously that the most important things are to love Him and love other people.

When I was an Resident Advisor in college (APU) we went on something called a "walkabout" before the school year began. We backpacked 10 days up in the Ansel Adams Wilderness (near Yosemite). For 2 of those days we had a time of solitude. We each found a place to camp out and spent two nights by ourselves...all we could bring was a Bible and a journal and a sleeping bag. This was one of the few times I have felt God speaking to me clearly. He said (not audibly but in my heart) "if you want to know Me than know my Son". I know this is a simple enough concept but when I really think about what this means for me and my family it is a weighty matter. Jesus should be my focus and the more I know Jesus...the more I know my Heavenly Father and the more my life will look like Him.

So...I guess it all comes back to the Sunday School answer of "Jesus" (smile). So...thank you for sticking with me until the end. I may have lost some of you half way down the post but that is okay. I have come to like Georgia and the South, though I had many prejudices before coming here to visit. The accent has grown on me and so has the food...I have even found a couple of good Mexican places to eat. The scenery is gorgeous (if you don't believe me you have to come for a visit). And next time I get asked WHY we picked up and moved across the country...I'll ask if they want the long version or the short version. The short version being...Jesus.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Fun

My past few posts have been of a more serious nature, more related to thoughts, ideas, musings, etc. This post is just a catch-up on the fun we've been having in the midst of all the thoughts, ideas, musings, etc.

It is officially summer as of yesterday but for us, summer began with Tim's last day of the school year. We are now completely on summer schedule. This summer we actually sat down and planned it all out in an attempt to be more intentional about our time usage ( I know, can I be anymore type A). Of course things have come up, plans have changed, but over-all it has really helped. We are trying to have a theme for each day of the week including science, the arts, history, community service and music.

So far, we've hit up the zoo (science), went through a lot of stuff for donation (community service), Tim started teaching Jadyn piano lessons (music), put together activity packs for the children's hospital that Isaiah was at as an infant and dropped them off (community service), decorated lunch bags for our church's summer lunch program (art and community service), not to mention our family camping trip near Savannah with our good friends the Furrs (science, history and music all in one!) With lots more planned of course.

I've updated the picasa sight to include pictures from some of these things if you want to check them out.

Here are some from our camping trip. Hope you all are enjoying summer too.

Oh yeah, and I turned 32 yesterday so Happy Birthday to me!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sacrifice (or The Price of a Calling)

I'm not going to lie, this past weekend was a rough one for me. It was a working weekend (every other one is). And like most working weekends I was feeling sorry for myself and bitter towards all those who were not in my situation. Then came the message at church on Sunday. Written just for me, I'm sure of it.

Point #1 "Always remember why you work"

Friday night I missed out on this.

Jadyn "graduated" from her Pre-K class, something that will only happen once in her little life. There were performances by each class and presentations of certificates by the teachers. Thanks to our handy Flip video camera I was able to watch most of it when I got home from work. But still, I wasn't there. I tried for weeks to get the night off but it just didn't happen. (I could have called in sick but that goes against sermon point #2 "Keep your integrity")

I wanted to be there to tell her how proud I was of her, to grab her up and give her a huge hug and kiss her on the cheek. To dance along with her and clap for her. Instead I pre-recorded a message for her and hugged and kissed her the next morning and asked her to teach me the fun dances. Not ideal, but we survived and made the best of it.

The next day it was a friends double birthday party. Here's what I missed then.

Seriously?  Look at that face! I laughed so hard I almost cried when Tim e-mailed me this picture. Not to mention the time with friends I missed out on (and delicious food!)

And then Sunday came, and not a day too soon.

Point #1 "Remember why you work"

OK, so why do I work? Why do I not stay full time at home? Why do I sacrifice time with my husband working opposite shifts than him, weekends and holidays? Why do I sacrifice time with friends and seemingly the rest of the world who works on a 9-5 schedule? Why do I sacrifice sleep (one of my most favorite things)? And the list goes on and on.

The answer that I was reminded of Sunday morning (whispered ever so quietly in my soul) was, "because I've called you to". No other reason. I work for Him. At home, I work for Him. At my job, I work for Him. He has called me to both.

Maybe the night that Jadyn was graduating something I said to one of my patients will be the thing down the road they will hold on to the next time they want to harm themselves, or the next time they want to get high, or the next time they feel the world closing in on them. If I don't love them, who will? Mental Illnesses are generally not part of the heralded diseases. You don't see many 5K for Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. But for some reason God has shown me His heart for these people and has asked me to work with them. And so I do.

I admit that lately it has been begrudgingly. Which is why I probably needed the reminder "Remember why you work"

Really I have the best of both worlds, I get to work in an area God has gifted me in (psychiatry) and then I get to "work at" an area I am not so gifted in (motherhood), and I'm going to try to be thankful for it all. I'd like to think that the kids are getting the best of both worlds too, me in the morning and Tim at night.

And who am I kidding, for as much as I feel sorry for myself about the things I miss, there is so much more that I get to enjoy. (case in point: the very weekend before we had a family getaway in Chattanooga)

Rolling in the Grass

Rowing Partners

Whispering sweet nothings

Coming in for a hug landing! And I'm the landing strip

And let me tell you, that time is all the more appreciated. So I repent and remind myself "Why do I work?" The same reason I do anything, because of Love, so others may experience His glory. As my wise pastor Mike always says "It's not about you!" I'm not saying the bitterness and resentment won't happen again (like maybe on Father's Day or 4th of July, both of which I will be working) but I'll try to remember this simple truth and suck it up.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lent Conclusion: The Journey is Just Beginning

Easter. The glorious conclusion to the Lenten season. As people throughout the ages have professed "He is risen, He is risen indeed!" We spent Holy week doing special things with the kids each day including buying gifts for our neighbors, washing each others feet, planting things. It was a very precious time (some pics below).

I wanted, and had intentioned to, write a post about all that I learned. I tried and failed (I just deleted lines and lines of writing). It was too much, too deep to put in writing adequately. (if you want to know more you can ask me, I'd be happy to tell you all about it). What I can say is that I started out our Lent fast as I do every year, doing it because that is what we do, we fast. I was not prepared to be changed forever. But I am. The person I started out as, less than two months ago, I no longer am. My thoughts have changed, my focus and purposes have changed, my way of seeing things/people has changed. It seems like an eternity when I look back. And I hope that my life reflects all that has occurred. I hope I speak differently, I hope I act differently, I hope I treat people differently.

I'm not saying that parts of the old me aren't there, for example we just spent $15 at Caribou coffee yesterday just for the pleasure of it (but I did feel an adequate sense of guilt and thought about all the other ways that money could have been used, so it was the old mixed with the new). But for now, the new me is a happier, more contented me over-all. (aren't we always when we are living the life we were made to live) There have been a few hiccups/distractions/derailments already, but the detours seem shorter and it seems to be taking less time to get back on track than it used to.

What I can profess is that through many different avenues (my readings, church sermons, people I was talking to) the words of Jesus spoke truth again to me in the simple and pure way they did when I first heard them, before it all was twisted and tainted and marred by life and experience, etc. And so I claim again the title of Red Letter Christian (in reference to the words of Jesus being in red in some Bibles) and try to live accordingly.

In tangibles ways this has manifested in our home being transformed into something that is more "us" and less like a catalog or showroom. Our time, resources, finances have been overhauled and are now being used so much more purposefully and intentionally. We have broadened our sense of "family". I look at people I am interacting with and remind myself they are God's creation made in his image and I should treat them that way. I hope it shows, that I am not the same. I hope that less of me shows through and more of Him. And that's it in a nutshell (wherever that phrase came from).

please enjoy some of my favorite Easter photos and our newest home projects
Our Holy Week "worship space"

Washing of the feet

Naturally died eggs (beet, onion, red cabbage, tumeric)

Easter finery

Aquarium mural, everyone contributed

Beginnings of our green wall

Saved most of these from Lowes clearance section

Repurposed Ikea wood

Friday, April 15, 2011

Setting our minds

And we continue our journey. We are approaching Palm Sunday and I have to say that these past few weeks of Lent have felt like the passing of years. But only because so much growth and change has occurred. It remains hard for me to put words to what is happening in our hearts and souls and minds (we hope).

One thing we have felt strongly about is focus. Where is our focus and where do we want the focus of our family to be? In discovering this we decided to use our home and the empty spaces we have to serve as visual reminders. Here is what we've come up with so far, with plans for much more.

Kids interactive, magnetic prayer boards

Family Verse, above the TV on purpose

Inspirational lyrics

It all reminds me of why I got my tattoo years ago (yes, just the one). I wanted a daily reminder of who I was and where I had come from and who was to be given credit for all of that. Well now our family has daily reminders, loud and clear, setting our minds on The Good.

Out of the Depths

A Room With A View (and other Spring Break activities)

Spring Break 2011

Being that we couldn't spend money during the week we took a minimalist approach this year, but it was still fantastic.

We did take advantage of our Sunday spending day and got a great deal on a room at the Westin Peachtree Plaza downtown. All the kids need is a hotel with soft beds and a pool and they are in heaven. Jadyn now refers to it as "that hotel that we lived at". They put us on the 53rd floor and the view was phenomenal as you will soon see. What we did not realize was that we would be sharing downtown not only with thousands of girls volleyball tournament competitors, but the Wrestlemania fans as well. I tried looking for The Rock, but no luck.

And since it is our new fun free activity, we managed to get in some city geocaching which was super fun, very creative hiding places.

Tuesday we hit up the Botanical Gardens for a special "members only" night. All the bulbs were in bloom,  tulips and daffodils galore. And the orchid exhibit was in its final days. SO much inspiration in one place.

Other than that, we hung out close to home, enjoyed each others company and spent time creating and dreaming. But more of that  to come.