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Pat Benatar is my interior designer

5 Mar

lovecloseupThis is not the first time I have had a harebrained decorating idea inspired by Pat Benatar. No, my friends and Internet acquaintances, this is the second time.

Back in the halcyon days* of college, I decorated my first non-dorm apartment by cutting out hundreds of cardstock letters and adhering them to the living room wall to spell out the complete lyrics of “Love Is a Battlefield.”** At the time, I was totally into eighties music, and I thought “Love Is a Battlefield” served as a fierce yet fun anthem for life at the peculiar meat market that is BYU.

wall2 wall3This project may have factored into me meeting and falling in love with my husband. But that is a story for another day.

Now, in our current apartment, we have a big, blank wall along a space that basically functions as a hallway in our open-concept living/dining room. I felt it presented the perfect opportunity to reintroduce “Love Is a Battlefield” into our lives. (I was going to wax philosophical about what the song means to me now, but I’ll save that for yet another post.)

Also on my brain was a series of murals called “A Love Letter for You” that’s featured on buildings throughout West Philadelphia along the Market/Frankford Line. We used to live in Philly, and I love finding ways to connect our current home with our former homes. I love the tender sentiment of the murals–as the artist Steve Powers described, it’s “a letter for one, with meaning for all.” And I loved the style of lettering, so I wanted to emulate it in my own design.

Images from here, here, here, here, and here.

I was hoping for a slightly more refined look than my college version, so I opted for a watercolor look. I sketched the letters and traced them on to some watercolor paper I had painted red and blue. Then I puttied them to the wall. I have to admit, it was tricky to kern the letters evenly by hand. It reminded me of this lovely video of stop-motion typography.

And here is the result! (As always, please excuse my amateur iPhone photography.)

lovebednookbattleHere’s a rough outline of the process. If folks are interested, I may scan the templates for my lettering and share the files here.

1. Sketched outlines for letters. (You could also pick a font and print out the letters at the desired size.)

2. Tried to enlarge letters by making a shoebox smartphone projector. Alas, it failed.

3. Used the old-fashioned grid method to enlarge the letters I had drawn.

4. Painted a bunch of pieces of watercolor paper with red and blue watercolors.

AWESOME TIP: Did you know you can flatten the curled edges of watercolor-painted paper by simply ironing it? Just put it on your ironing board upside-down and iron it on a medium or low setting. (Thanks, Mom!)

irontip5. Traced the reverse outline of the letters on the back of the painted papers.

6. Cut out the letters.

7. Adhered the letters to the wall with putty.

This is the wall I see from where I sit on the couch and the dining table, and I am loving the view!


* Is there anything other than days that is halcyon? Someone with more linguistics knowledge (coughAllisoncough) please search COCA and share the answer.

** My roommates, thankfully, were cool with it. Some of them also shouldered the arduous task of removing the letters from the wall at the end of the year–I’m forever grateful!


#DiaperNeed and the NATO phonetic alphabet

13 Sep

This post was not sponsored in any way by Huggies or any other organization–it’s just a cause I care about and wanted to share with you. 🙂

Dave and I live terribly exciting lives, so our date night yesterday featured watching Divergent from Redbox and consuming ice cream. But before we started, we did something a little different. You see, I’ve had a small collection of Huggies Rewards codes piling up on my desk:

huggiesenvelopeThis week is Diaper Need Awareness Week, and it was just the motivation I needed to finally enter the codes. They can be used toward things like gift cards or entering sweepstakes, but you can also donate them to Huggies’ Every Little Bottom program, which provides diapers to families in need. Huggies donates one diaper for every three points donated (you can usually get about 10 to 40 points for a large package of diapers).

Along the way I’ve collected the codes, figuring it was more efficient to enter them all at once in a batch, and last night, I enlisted Dave’s help. Since they’re long strings of letters, we decided to make use of the handy NATO phonetic alphabet as Dave read them off to me:




Got it!

That’s pretty much what we sounded like. And it was fun! Within half an hour, we were able to donate enough points for 159 diapers. We got to feel like retro radio operators and help a good cause with minimal effort, all at the same time. Of course I wish I had a ton of money to throw at this worthy cause, but since I don’t, it’s nice to have a small way to contribute.

There are so many worthy causes out there, but providing diapers to needy families is something close to my heart. I think of it often in the midst of my own seemingly endless cycle of diaper-changing. Dealing with dirty diapers every day–heck, being a parent–is harrowing enough without having to worry whether you’ll be able to buy food or diapers. And when families (most often, single mothers) struggle to provide clean diapers for their child, it can make it more difficult to go to work or school and lead to further problems, like depression.

If you’d like to help families in need of diapers, one wonderfully simple thing you can do is tweet about it. For every tweet using the hashtag #DiaperNeed (through this Sunday), Huggies will donate a day’s worth of diapers to babies in need. You can even just retweet this:

You could also organize a local diaper drive or volunteer at a local diaper bank (learn more here). You could donate to the National Diaper Bank Network; Help a Mother Out, another network supplying diapers and supporting mothers and children; or Giving Diapers, Giving Hope, which specializes in providing free cloth diapers to needy families. (Although many families need disposable diapers to have access to childcare and early education programs, cloth diapers are more financially and ecologically sustainable, so it’s a wonderful thing to support as well.)

I wish I had realized earlier in the week that it’s Diaper Need Awareness Week, but hey, it’s a cause we can support year-round. Let’s HOTEL-ECHO-LIMA-PAPA those little bottoms in need of diapers!

diaperneed{Image via National Diaper Bank Network}

Reach (with your whole heart)

29 Aug

This post is inspired by Five Minute Friday: Kate Motaung provides a one-word prompt, and you write for five minutes flat–no extreme editing, no overthinking. I am a slow writer and hate to leave thoughts unfinished, so I note the five-minute mark with an asterisk and then plow ahead ’till the work is done.

Also, the FMF blog community is helping build a South African community center! It’s wonderful. If you’re so inclined, you can learn more and donate here.

Today’s word is REACH.

IMG_0192-web2A small reach: It was a reach to rekindle this blog. A reach, because I’m used to writing for an institution or publication, not myself. A reach, because I extend a piece of myself, word by word, not knowing who will receive it, or how: with silence? with gratitude? with indifference? with scorn? A reach, because blogging has nudged me to be a more proactive commenter, with each comment and reply a gentle grasp for connection.

A bigger reach: It was a reach to write, to write with rawness, of the suffering of fellow humans.* A reach, because who am I to have an opinion on life in a world apart, on suffering I will never know? A reach, because with each word I say, This I feel. And feelings can be rejected. Or wonderfully, reciprocated and appreciated.

These words from a radio broadcast this week drifted into my ear and stayed blazoned in my mind:

“… shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?The thing that underpinned this was excruciating vulnerability, this idea of, in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”

It is a reach to feel fiercely: to love, to fear, to hope, to believe, whole-heartedly. It is a reach–perhaps the boldest reach of all–to then share our whole heart: to declare, not unlike a trusting child to a parent, This I feel. Here is my heart and what it is made of. Do with it what you will.

To reach is the most joyful and painful requirement of love, of marriage, of parenting, of friendship, of writing, of God. When we reach and offer our whole heart, we tend to treat others’ hearts with compassion. To reach is to be human; even more, it is to be human toward our fellow humans.

When the husband/daddy’s away…

15 Jun

Dave was out of town for the past two weeks on a business trip. For his last business trip, I got to fly to California to spend time with my family, but this time, I held down the fort at home. So, when the husband/daddy was away …

… the wife/mama:

Missed the husband super much.

Finally caved and bought an iPhone. Not a substitute for a husband, but it’s a makeshift substitute for husband’s directions when I am out and about and desperately lost.

Dumb phone vs. smartphone.

Dumb phone vs. smartphone.

Made a batch of cookie dough and feasted upon it after baby’s bedtime (and made it last one and a half weeks… impressive?).

If this is what rock bottom looks like, then life isn't too bad.

If this is what rock bottom looks like, then life isn’t too bad.

Invited the sister missionaries from church over for dinner and relished the good company (they even took out the trash for me!).

Opened jars without manly help (there was a close call with that jar of applesauce, but I scratched by with a victory).

Tried to spread other adult interactions throughout the week like a play group at the park and a trip to the National Archives with Sydney (alas, earlier plans to visit the zoo were rained out).

Aaah such a big boy!

Aaah such a big boy!

Neglected blogging (sorry).

Scrapbooked it up for the first time in a long while, and loved it.

A creative mess is preferable to idle neatness.

A creative mess is preferable to idle neatness.

Wanted to write a thank-you note to every military mom in the country (I’m writing one today for a start).

… the baby:

Was on his best behavior. Seriously, Lars was simply a peach the whole time. (Not to say it wasn’t tiring, of course, but he was about as good as a nearly-one-year-old can be.)

Stood on his own a few times (for a few seconds) and got super fast at his hybrid mobililty technique of rolling + crawling + walking along stuff + sitting + pivoting.

Enjoyed Skyping with the grandparents.

Chilled at the pool (a much more enjoyable experience than last summer, when he screamed at me for dunking him into the not-warm-enough water).

poolbabyWaved “night night” to Daddy’s spot on the couch every night before bed (because of the time difference and Dave’s work schedule, we usually couldn’t Skype with baby).

And today…


photo 3


I’ll sit with you

8 Jun

It was one of my first Sundays attending our new ward (congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and Lars had been a bit too squirmy to sit in the chapel, so I took him out to play in the foyer. I chose a seat in an armchair. On the couch next to it sat a woman from the ward–I’ll call her Nancy.

“Come over here and sit by me!” she said.

“Sure,” I said, and scooted next to her.

We introduced ourselves and chatted briefly. Then another woman came into the foyer.

“Excuse me,” Nancy said, and walked up to the woman–I’ll call her Beth.

Beth,” she said, emphatically.

I hadn’t met Beth, but I recognized her name–the bishop had recently announced over the pulpit that her father had passed away.

Beth,” Nancy said. “I’m so, so sorry.” She took her in for a long hug.

I wish I had been able to take diligent notes (or have better memory) of the conversation that followed, but a few things stood out as I observed from the background.

Nancy asked how Beth was doing. She asked how her family was doing. Beth was open about her feelings. “It’s hard,” she said. (It’s hard to wade through grief. It’s also hard to honestly express your sorrow and graciously receive sympathy.)

Nancy responded with openness as well. She mentioned a similar personal situation–the death of one of her own parents–but didn’t try to compare or give advice. She used it to validate Beth’s feelings. “You’re right, it is hard.”

Nancy asked about funeral arrangements and asked if help was needed. “It will be just a graveside service,” Beth said. “That’s just fine,” Nancy said.

Nancy asked if there was anything else she could do. Meals? Cleaning? Watching or picking up kids? Beth reassured her that she and her family would be fine in that regard.

“Well, if you ever want me to come over and just sit with you, I would love to do that. When my dad died it helped me to have someone to talk to and distract me. We can go out and get frozen yogurt if you want. Whatever you want to do, whatever you need. Call me this week and let’s do something.”

Again, a gracious, welcome response: “You know, I think I would like that. I think I will call you.”

The next time I feel at a loss at how to help someone grieving or struggling, I will remember that line, that offer of a woman who knew just what her friend might need: I’ll sit with you. I will remember her friend’s gracious acceptance. And I will be grateful that I had the privilege to eavesdrop on this exemplary interaction between two sisters.

I love you, every little bit

23 Mar

For Valentine’s Day, Aunt Heidi sent us a cute board book called I Love You, Every Little Bit, and it’s become one of my favorites. (Sample lines: I love your itty bitty feet. I love your cheeks, so round and sweet. / I love your hands that hold me tight. I love your eyes so twinkly bright.) I like how it captures how head-over-heels a parent feels about their child from head to heel.

Obviously, I think my child is adorable and generally the best baby in the world. What parent doesn’t? But I’ve been surprised at how much I marvel and obsess over the most minute details of this little person. I insist it’s not in superficial way–I mean, I would love my baby no matter what he looked like. My love of his physical features stems from my love of the person, not the other way around. And a little further under the surface, it stems from a love and awe of the Creator, a gratitude for the wonder of coming to Earth as part of the Plan of Salvation to enjoy a physical body and the joys and challenges that entails.

So please excuse me while I gush: A small ode to the glorious features of my sweet baby boy.


I love…

Your deep brown eyes, which give me new love for your daddy’s eyes. Your impressively long eyelashes. Your perfectly arched eyebrows.

Your distinctively dimpled chin. Your just-right ears. Your cute button nose: Upon birth it looked exactly like it did in the ultrasound pictures, which was somehow very satisfying. The shape of your head–a strange thing to appreciate, I know, but numerous people have commented on it too.

And oh, those cheeks. That’s what they–anyone and everyone–say when they see you. “Those cheeks!” Such volume, such rosiness. They beg to be squeezed and kissed.


I love…

Your previously gummy and now toothy smile. Your neck, the life of many a tickle party. Your silky, golden hair, particularly the fluff on the top and the unruly tufts on the sides. Your hands, which somehow manage to be both delicate and chubby, complete with tiny dimples on the knuckles.

Your belly, with just the right amount of chub. And oh, those thighs. My one assurance that you must be getting plenty to eat, because my are those legs luscious. And ticklish!


I love…

Your toes. These toes curl (and sometimes grasp toys) like monkey toes, and viewed all in a row resemble a corn cob. Never would I have thought I would deign to kiss toes–such questionable cleanliness for a germaphobe like myself. But to heck with that. These toes are scrumptious.

I love you, every little bit.

Super cute holiday moment

30 Nov

Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square. Photo by Neil Durbin/Flickr


Let’s set the scene: Dave and I just finished a satisfying lunch of Auntie Anne’s pretzels, which we had enjoyed on Penn campus. We waited at the corner of Walnut and 34th. The light turned to “Walk,” we kissed goodbye, and parted–Dave headed toward Penn campus, and me toward home.

One minute later, I spontaneously decide to stop in at the GAP down the street for an undisclosed holiday-related purpose. I spend a minute or so perusing merchandise in the far corner of the store, then turn to go. As I turn, I see it in a flash: my husband. The husband that I just kissed goodbye approximately two minutes and half a block ago.

Dave: Oh, crap.

Me: Wha…wha…wha?

Dave: Uh…

Me: So, what might you be doing here?

Saleslady: Er?

Dave: Um…disregard everything I just said.

Saleslady: Uh…okay?

Me: Wow. This is awesome/hilarious. Um…I think I should go now.

Dave: I think we should both go. And pretend this never happened.

So there it was, we were both caught shopping for each other. It’s kind of a goofy, less depressing version of the infamous Gift of the Magi story. OK, so it’s only vaguely like that story. Anyway. That is your precious romantic holiday moment of the day. Enjoy!

Speaking of romance, there are few things more romantic, nostalgia-inducing, and delightful than the city at Christmastime. I just spent the evening shopping at Rittenhouse Square, and tonight was the night that the Rittenhouse Christmas tree was officially lit (lighted?). Christmas music was playing on the Square as I bustled along the sidewalks with my bulging bags of goodies, and I felt like the words of the song “Silver Bells” had come to life around me. As I walked home, I was elated to notice that the twinkling lights on the Cira Center, a few blocks from our house, glowed with stripes of red and green lights. It was simply magical.