Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Merrily Mediocre

During this time of the year its easy to get into the "hustle & bustle" of merry making and lose ourselves (and each other) in the festivities.

I have learned this lesson the hard way...and looking back, its hard for me to decide if the experience is more sad than funny or more embarrassing than educational?

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll recall me stating that I have a hard time with moderation and balance. I can go from Ho-Hum to Gung-Ho overnight. I obsess....or am completely indifferent. Nothing or All. You get the point.
A few years ago, I was sick (fulfilling my annual quota of strep throat). I had all the tree stuff down from the attic and spread from here to kingdom-come. The naked, faux pine tree stood shamefully in the corner baring all its plastic quirks and flaws.

And my daughters had an idea!

Surprise mom with a decorated, lit tree.

A good, healthy mom would of been all "Awww! How sweet! How thoughtful! How blessed am I!?!"

A sick, feverish mom was all, "WELL! Thanks for considering me! I'm sick and in bed and you all decide to decorate without a single picture being taken?? The lights are NOT symmetrical! I NEVER put those ugly bulbs on the tree....WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!? I want you to undecorate the entire tree."

Yes, shamefully, I confess. This is a true story.

(and to add to my shame, according to spell check- 'undecorate' is not even a word, because no mother ever has told her child to undecorate a tree)

I killed the Christmas Spirit. Slaughtered it right there. The kids were so upset. I was so sick. The tree was so "freakishly festive"....and the lights were blotches of uneven sparkles strung haphazardly between branches of plastic boughs that had not been uncrunched from their summer siesta, and had not had their annual perking.

It wasn't my proudest moment.

The next week, I decorated the tree myself. The annual Amy Grant Christmas album was brushed off and played. The candles were lit. The cocoa was hot. The kids were at their dads, and  I was alone. The tree was glorious. The most beautiful one to date! And I cried. I cried for the kids. I cried angry tears at myself. Cried over the stupid plastic tree and the stupid lights that blinked at me in symmetrical perfection.

The shame has hung in the air each year. The kids shy away from decorating the tree, and last year said, "It's okay mom, you decorate and just show us where you want us to put our special ornament."


So, true to Spazzymommy M.O. I have done an about-face. A complete 180.

Our Leaning Tree :)

We went to the mountains to get a real live tree this year...and I've left the overseeing of the decorating to the girls. There are coffee-filter snowflakes hanging all over the house....mismatched Christmas ribbons adorning the tree and white lights strung in the oddest places. My house is a big, honkin' Christmas Collage of Chaos. The tree is tilted at a 40 degree angle, because we can't get it to stand properly in the tree base. But the kids are proud....and I feel that I need a little pat on the back too, because I'm genuinely enjoying the merry-making. It's not magazine worthy- not even Pinterest worthy...but it's beyond MEMORY worthy!

My heart aches each time I recall the "Undecorated Year"....and there's a funny tingle of guilt each time I see pictures of the gloriously perfect tree from a few Christmases ago....and although we have the crooked, leaning Christmas Tree with totally unsymmetrical lights- I must admit to date- this merrily mediocre Christmas is my favorite so far! :)

I refuse to stress. I refuse to create chaos with my inclination to be an exacto-freak. I refuse to be a slave to self-implemented demands for a "Courier & Ives" holiday.
SO, in light of all of the above- I am inspired to have a Merry Christmas Season in spite of myself! My heart is content in its medicoreness. :)

Have yourself a Merry (mediocre) Little Christmas.....

Shine all your lights, Cass

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Warrior Mommy

Last night after a long, long day of writing, promoting, marketing and countless phone conversations- the kind of conversations where you bounce from one line to the other.....for hours- before hanging up....

After all the dinner dishes are put away, kids are tucked into bed and night lights are softly shining on my little people's faces....that's when I take a deep breathe and remember why I do everything.

I remember the REAL importance of each job, every phone call, every brokered deal, each sale, every negotiation has ONE common denominator...my little people.

In the dim lighting I see little man's shoes spread across the floor. (The ones that cost eight hours of being "clocked in")  A new school uniform hanging in the closet. The tuition bills on the kitchen counter. The Cubscout handbook on the desk. Rebekah's violin in the corner. Sarah's new lesson books on the piano. In my minds eye I see schoolbag left in the van- full of textbooks that I still owe money on. There's fieldtrip permission slips to sign. A fundraiser book to thumb through and buy something. Anything.

In the quiet of the evening, I stand (Barely), exhausted but fulfilled. I am giving my children a life. I can't help but think of myself as a warrior. (allow me that little pleasure of seeing myself as Xena! LOL))
I battle life- taking down obstacles, people or barriers- anything that would stand in the kids way of a good life. I fight to keep things in order. I battle for their well being. Except- nothing is glamorous. Instead of yielding a sword- I hold a pen and sign checks. Instead of a leather corset- I don yoga pants. :)

Jakey's first Cubscout Community Service Project

But, my fort is safe. Lights are burning. Food is plentiful, beds are soft and snuggling with a sleepy seven year old in the warm glow of night lights give me just enough initiative to do it all again tomorrow.

Shine All Your Light in the Sun!


Saturday, July 28, 2012

( T ) R A I N

So, if you know me, or have ever ridden in my van, you know that I'm a Train fan. Train- as in "Save Me San Francisco" & "Meet Virginia".  They make my heart go all "Chugga-chugga-choo-choo" <3
I heard they were coming to town, but alas, my single mom budget couldn't justify the ticket purchase.
But nothin' stops a Train. ;) I happened to win two free tickets from a radio station via Facebook.

I have a friend whose been a long time Train fan and has seen them once before- he wanted to go with me....so we hit the mainline for Raleigh. The show started at 7:30.

We got to our seats....and Mat Kearney (the opening act) started playing....and ZAP!!!! Lightening started coming down in bolts. The sky was dark. The wind was picking up. He played three songs and was cut off in the middle of his hit song (the title escapes me) by a huge bolt of lightening.

Did you happen to catch the part about lightening???


Under the tarp
They began evacuating the park 10 minutes into the set. They never even introduced Mat!! *LOL*

Some nice ladies sitting behind Troy and I offered us to climb under their tarp...and so we did. Seven adults under there. Seven strangers very close. The rain was pouring- almost felt like hail. The wind was picking up our makeshift tent in huge huffs and puffs....and the lightening kept coming. Our butts were soaked. Our feet (sticking out from under the tarp) were soaked.

Security came screaming at us in the rain and wind, "YOU MUST LEAVE AT ONCE!!! ALL OF YOU!"

Troy, being the man he is said,"NO!!! WE DON'T WANT TO LOSE OUR SEATS!!!"

Talk about a die hard fan.

Security came back, " LEAVE!! YOU MUST LEAVE!!" Their screams were carried off by the wind.

The arcs of light kept diving towards the earth in spectacular Zeus like bolts.

I was beginning to question my fanship....er, sanity. I'm not a fan of lightening storm...especially, when I'm a sitting duck in the middle of an evacuated amphitheater...with strangers.

Um....the seats aren't THAT important. Right?

Then the police came...holding their billy stick."LEAVE THE PREMISES!!!!"

I think my desire to be hit by a billystick at a Train concert is as high on my "wish list" as being struck by lightening!

So, we ran through the puddles, through the rain, instinctively ducking each time the lightening cracked through the atmosphere. It was NUTS!!!

The show was delayed until 9:45.

We hung out in the parking garage, mingling with fellow drenched Train fans. 

The Sunset was awesome! See the bands of rain??  I wanted to see the band TRAIN!

We mingled. A lot. Made friends. Made small talk. Pulled up the radar until our batteries went dead.
Eventually, we sold our tickets to the show.

Yes, we did. And decided to watch the show from the parking deck, IF the show were to happen.

The rain never stopped. But the show resumed.

My fave picture from the night!

See the rain??? 

The show was phenomenal. They hit the stage with all the energy you'd expect from Pat Monahan & TRAIN. The set list was par-none. New stuff, old stuff, cover songs....kids invited to the stage,  a woman was asked to come up and sing "Bruises", a marriage was performed on stage. The couples first dance was to an acoustic version of "Marry Me"....it was sweet.

Due to the rain- there were a number of concert goers up on the level 3 parking deck with us. Dancing. Cheering. Singing along to all the lyrics. One particularly enthusiastic professional air guitarist stands out in my memory. We had a blast!! During Save Me San Francisco....we sang loud enough that the traffic police were looking up at us through the rain.....we got a thumbs up...and sang louder. :)

Due to time restraints there was no encore- so Soul Sister, Drive By and a cover of We are Young were done at the end....I hated to leave. The "vibes" were awesome. The music wrapped around us, echoed off the cement walls of the parking deck and embraced us in a surreal way.

Maybe it was the rain, the rolling thunder, the threats of the police officer, the loud music...the drive home...or just the happiness of "just being"....but it was so hard to fall asleep last night.

And just as hard to wake up today. :)

I will forever remember my first Train concert....because it was also my first threat from a police officer with a billy stick. LOL. :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Elsewhere and "Where?"

A few weeks ago the girls and I were in Greensboro and visited a "living museum" called Elsewhere. The museum used to be a thrift store and has since been turned into a living art project full of past treasures and junk made into evolving works of art. It's very american of me, I'm sure, but I was really impressed by the huge bin of McDonald's Toys! *LOL*

Last weekend Mike and I headed out to Hanging Rock State Park to find a rumored "secret lake" that's not on any maps of the park. We found it. In the search, we also spotted some wildlife and a few muscles we had forgotten we had!

Nosy lizard

White tail deer- he wasn't shy in the least 

The secret dam and lake was beautiful

The garden is coming along well. I'm taking pictures to make a book for Mike's Dad for his birthday.

Jakey's  birthday picture HAPPY SEVEN!!

My daughter Rebekah and her special friend. 

Soak up the sun---and SHINE! :) 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Stories: What's Your Point?

I heard a motivational speaker a few weeks ago. He was the first motivational speaker that REALLY inspired me without addressing his audience in a condescending tone. I always leave those lectures feeling guilty- like a dieter caught licking from their child's ice cream cone. *ahem* (not that I would know anything about how that feels!)
The speaker was Dennis Miller and he was speaking about story telling. 
As a photographer, this really piqued my interest, because all photography (no matter the subject) is telling a story....but, he wasn't talking about photography- he was speaking about LIFE. 
He said that all GOOD "Stories" have the following basic similarities: Lead Character, Protagonist, Ambition, Conflict & Resolution. 

Simple enough. 

All lives are "Stories". And you ARE the lead character- living out a narrative of angst, conflict and victories against a backdrop of everyday life....everyday struggles....but, in the end, after it all boils down to a headstone and a plot of dirt----is the story worth retelling? Is there enough inspiring drama there to be interesting? Every life has conflict.....but does your story have ambition AND resolution? And if not- what are you doing to properly WRITE your story?

The simplicity of his message was so phenomenally powerful. 

As a Christian and a Decent Human Being...I want my story to bleed into other peoples story...I want the chapters to overlap, the tapestry of kindness, love and charity to interweave my story with others....to be the kind soul that spurs their narrative along to a "Happily Ever After". 

One of the challenges that Dennis gave the audience was to make an effort to plot our story- and not just "accept" the narrative but actually DIRECTING it. ( Not in a "wipe God out of the story" kind of way) Add value to your actions, direction or journey in a way that you start living with purpose- begin steering your life in the direction that you want your story to take. Make TODAY matter in the long run.

Seems simple- but it's not. I have thought about this for several weeks now, and to live each day in such a way that it has PURPOSE that expands to the next day (outside of daily living ie: paying utilities so that you can run the dishwasher tomorrow...or emptying the dishwasher tonight so you don't have to do it tomorrow)....To live with a PURPOSE which will spill-out and change someone else's life for a greater purpose and so on and so on....that's TOUGH.  It's not enough to just "shine"...you may not just need to light up another persons day, but put some elbow grease into it and lend a hand...carry them...be there. Make your "story" have a POINT. A reason to be shared to generations after you. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Land That I Love

I have said this before- growing up- patriotism was taught, lived and bequeathed. Honestly, if you had to ask me (as a child) who was the MOST like Jesus....my answer would have been Ronald Reagan. I was quite sure he was able to walk on water- if the need arose. 

 Ronald Reagan was the epitome of Americanism in my grandmother's eyes....he came from nothing and became a leader of the free world and....he was a cowboy. He was Jesus and John Wayne personified in one body. Truly.  At least, that's how it seemed.



Anyhow, a thread of patriotism  runs in my blood as richly as caffeine and is a life line. I can succumb to tears at the sight of a military man in fatigues, a flag on a headstone, the reading of "We the People", or the faintest whisper of Taps. I have an unquenchable appetite for American History especially the Wild West, Oregon Trail, Gold Rush and founding of California. At one time I was convinced that I was going to name my first born Wyatt....and was going to call him Wyatt Twerp.

My love for this country only grows. My heart will always swell with pride and love when hearing The Star Spangled Banner. I will always be proud of the Red, White and Blue...from sea to shining sea, the land of the brave and the home of the free.

One of my favorite Reagan quotes: "The poet called Miss Liberty's torch 'the lamp beside the golden door.' Well, that was the entrance to America, and it still is. And now you really know why we're here tonight. The glistening hope of that lamp is still ours. Every promise, every opportunity, is still golden in this land. And through that golden door our children can walk into tomorrow with the knowledge that no one can be denied the promise that is America. Her heart is full; her torch is still golden, her future bright. She has arms big enough to comfort and strong enough to support, for the strength in her arms is the strength of her people. She will carry on in the '80s unafraid, unashamed, and unsurpassed. In this springtime of hope, some lights seem eternal; America's is."

 Keep shinin' America,


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Purposeful Endowment

I'm supposed to be packing and making (literally) last minute arrangements for my Nashville trip....but I was so inspired the other day by a radio program on NPR that I wanted to share what I heard and the mental rabbit trails that the program lead me down.  I believe in giving credit where it's due- but I have no idea what show I was listening to. The guest speaker was talking about linguistics and vocabulary and the art of teaching your children. Obviously, children are not born with eloquent (or any) vocabulary and learn it by hearing words used in context. Children are not limited. The guest host was instructing parents not to "dummy down" your conversation with your children. Children  will pick up the meanings of  words and will emulate the words into their own conversations. Sometimes, whether we like it or not. 
I'm reminded of my younger cousin who thought the front door was a "d*mn door"...and many times he'd say something like, "Mommy! Someone's knocking at the d*mn door!" Obviously, he was only repeating what he had heard and was trying to use the word in it's correct context, as was exemplified by his parents. They hear. They process. They repeat.

That's what learning is.


  1. The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught.
  2. Knowledge acquired in this way.

So, this lead me to think back to my own childhood. Realizing that many of the things I do and the way I do them were absorbed in an osmosis sort of way. Even the mundane things.( Ie: only washing dishes on the right side of the sink, rinsing in the left and drying to the far left.) My mother doesn't eat red meat. Never has. Guess what, neither do I. I'm repulsed by it, usually. But, I asked myself, am I really? Is it that I REALLY don't like it- or have I been trained not to like it by example? Then, my mind goes down another bunny trail, my Father loved steaks and meat and ate them heartily. So,  why is it that I learned from the negative reaction towards it than the positive? No one ever said "THOU SHALT NOT"  wash on the left hand side of the sink, nor did my mother ever tell me to not eat a steak...it was taught by EXAMPLE. Without meaning to instruct a concept, I learned it...and have passed it on. My oldest daughter would rather eat a plate of hamburger toppings than the actual burger.

So, beyond vocabulary....beyond dish washing and meat eating, and all the other peculiar traits that I've adopted over the years...I have to wonder....WHAT about LOVE, COMPASSION, EMPATHY?

Am I teaching these "gifts"? Am I passing on a legacy to my children- do I demonstrate how to care for others? Do I give cheerfully? Will my children grow into adults who give without expecting anything in return? Will they exercise the art of empathy instead of judgement? Love instead of jury? Where have I unwittingly taught them to perceive something negatively? (by not being a cheerful giver, hypocritically being a reluctant servant, a huffy friend, giving a sharp answer to a wounded heart etc, etc....)

For the past week or so, these thoughts have rattled around in the mind and have taken root in my heart. Last night I watched my children interact with others at VBS through new eyes. I was watching my kiddos, but looking past  them, for signs of MYSELF in smaller, younger bodies. Looking for familiar traits mirrored back at me from across the church gymnasium. Traits that I haven't meant to instill. Prejudices that I didn't realize were contagious. Watching yourself in the next generation can be a scary realization, gladly there were some attributes that I was pleased to recognize from these little mirrors of mine. :)

I hope this post wasn't a downer to anyone. In all actuality, it's quite encouraging to me that I can begin anew- each day- as a fresh example. I will endeavor to teach by exemplifying positive attributes, living life to the fullest, embracing, engaging positive influences and empowering (through encouragement)  others in their personal endeavors, by loving unconditionally....and above all keep shinin' this little light of mine. :)

Keep Shining On ~   Cass

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." John W. Whitehead, founder, Rutherford Institute

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Did You Hear About Mary Jones?

Did you hear about Mary Jones? She was quite the woman! She was married to a wonderful man and had three children.  She was the perfect example of a "room mother" at her children's schools....and the Cheerleader Coach of one of her kids teams. She was also on the PTA. On Tuesday nights she volunteered at the library as a member of the "Friends of the Library" club and on Thursdays she hosted the ladies book club; on the weekends she taxied her kids to CubScouts and Glee Club...and then raced home and  hosted the "Christian Singles Club" in her home. On Sunday Mornings she brought  Sunday School snack and helped in the nursery.

The community LOVED HER! They knew that Mary Jones was the lady to go to for anything that needed done. In fact she raised more money than ANYONE to put in new turf at the Country Club!!!

One day, Mary got sick. She was sent tons of flowers from various organizations, associations, civic clubs and church groups that she was members of. The cards were signed by people that her family could vaguely place names they'd heard with faces they'd rarely or had never seen. Mary died at home surrounded by her children and loving husband.  After much thought and consideration by her family Mary Jone's epitaph read this:


 Keep it real. Keep your priorities straight...and above all: HAPPY MOTHERS DAY TO ALL THE LADIES OUT THERE!!! :)

SHINE!!! <3

Picture credit: FLICKR by Bryan Burke

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gardening By Numbers.....

It's kinda like "Paint by Numbers"...but not really....It's more like, "One, Two--skip a few-- ninety nine- One hundred!"

ONE: Trailer to haul tractor

TWO: Peeps in truck to pick up the tractor

THREE: Really hick country songs on radio before Cass changes the station ;)

FOUR: Eyes locked on each other in a defiant stare down of wills
FIVE: Feet down the road before Boyscout changes the station back

(skip a few)

 SEVENTEEN: Mile drive to pick up the tractor at the farm

 THIRTY THREE: Yards of gravel driveway to the farm and shed

(where the tractor lives) Isn't it pretty?

(Sedum blooms at sunset)

EightySeven: foot wide garden

Onehundred: Degrees picking 4,789 Lima beans *lol*

Friday, April 13, 2012

Circularly Things That Turn....

What are these things called? Because, apparently, I have a fetish for these little spigot-esque handle thingys....which is news to me. I have lots of obcessions and interests, but who knew that this was one of them? 
Mr. Boyscout had heard tell of a rather important local landmark being demolished- and felt it was our patriotic duty to crawl between locked gates and under No Trespassing signs to chronicle the things that are- which will soon be the "things that were".
I have over 200 photos of this location- so plan on seeing more.....but today I'm just sharing these circularly things that turned.

This is the bottom side of a fire escape.... 

A THIS SIDE UP view of the staircase

 Worthy of a Pulitzer price? Nah....but I do like the contrast of the blue
against the yellow

Tons of handles, dials and knobs in this place!

The turbines. There were originally 7 or 8- but only two remain. These large wheels were attached to a conveyor system of belts that kept the plants machinery cool by a man made lake used to pump water through the facility. This is on the bottom level of a six story building. Notice the natural lighting at the rear of the picture? That's right.....enough sun coming through SIX STORIES of FLOORS into the basement. At one time this facility was the bustling den of 10,800 employees, a railroad house and several "Sister Plants" within a few mile radius.

More pipes with wheels and handles in the separate quarters for the railcars and engineers.....
It's amazing to walk through this dusty, desolate and abandoned empire of industrialism. Half of our town is named after the family that owned this facility. The labor, the lives the relationships and the town that was built within the confines of this mega-structure at one time was the backbone of our community.....and now, it's awaiting demolition. Although I have no personal ties to this family or business it was hard not to feel a pang of loss or melancholy over what was- but will never be again. The deafening silence screamed through the  brick skeleton that once was the hub of life for our town.
There is a season for everything...a time to plant, a time to sow---a time to give and a time to receive....a time to build and a time to tear down...the words of this scripture rang true on this Sunday afternoon.

It wasn't difficult to walk through the halls of this place and picture the industrial age in full swing- the ladies at the desks, the men in the offices in derbies and waxed mustaches, the shrill sound of a train pulling in to station, squeaky cart wheels loaded with textiles being pushed from one work bench to the other, the jovial calls of fellow workers one to another, the hissing of steam....the clacking of typewriters. It was as if so many years of these activities had buried the scent and sounds into the old walls...the building still breathed of bustling activities- the shadows still held the secrets of cigarette break whispers and employee gossip....The building had the personality of an old lady with a tired smile, but shimmering eyes. This old building still knew its worth, still held its head high with proud memories. She knows that it had a good, long, prosperous life and was content knowing she was going the way of all life... back to the dust and ashes with the knowledge and pride of a life well lived.

There's more of this story (and pictures) to come. I had culled over 200 pictures from this shoot....and am itching to get more uploaded. ;)

Shine all your light...live your life to the fullest- and remember it's better to be kind than right.

Shine Upward! Cass

Monday, March 19, 2012

When Kids "Snap"

Snap. Snap pictures, that is. :)

 Here's the results of my kids playing with my camera; which is against the rules, by the way. ;) However, it's fun to see things thru your kids eyes...and they get pictures that I would have NEVER taken....like the seven pictures of my badly pedicured foot on the gas pedal....or the floor of Mellow Mushrooms restaurant...and the clouds. I have a gazillion pictures of clouds.....

This is a close up of a flower on Sarah's skirt.....

 Random images like Zebra trucks show up....
 Or kinda awesome pics....like this....
 Funny Stuff....that I wouldn't have thought to snap....
 There are pluses to kids playing with your camera. It confirms how badly your hair looks in public....and lets you see the "lets get this over with" look your son makes as you kiss him in public. :)
 One of the gazillion cloud pictures. Seriously, there's like 12, 945, 389 pictures of CLOUDS. Without exaggeration. Because I would never exxagerate just to make a point. No. I promise. Matthew McCaughney helped me count them while he was here painting my bathroom. :)

Don't be afraid to let your kids use your camera! Sometimes its surprising what you find. Sometimes its embarrassing....and sometimes its downright hilarious....

If you're a waitress...never, ever tell me that your out of sweet tea. I don't take it well....as documented by Sarah. :)  This picture isn't posed....if you don't believe me, just as Matthew McC- he was there :)

Shine!!! Caffeinated or not! :)  Cass

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shamrock On!

Aye, my lads and lassies tis' been a long while since we've crossed paths! Today is the day of Irish blessings, corned beef and cabbage, green rivers, shamrocks, bag pipes and lots and lots of funny hats. (trust me on that, LOTS of funny hats) The kids and I had a great day in downtown GREENSboro today...and took lots of "GREEN" pictures of  random green greatness.

We spent our day visiting vintage shops of all kinds...its our latest (and yet oldest) obcession....meaning, we've rediscovered our love for "vintage" things.

Being in "GREENSboro" you can imagine there is much GREEN to behold....

There was a parade...but we chose to spend our time in the shops, meeting friendly shop owners and mulling over books that smell like moth balls and old women. We couldn't have been happier.

Well, at least some of us couldn't have been happier....
 Why should you never iron a 4-leaf clover? You don't want to press your luck. 

A live band was setting up...and the party revelers were moving in....they were festive, with their sparkly bowties and moss-green hair :)

This is my daughter Sarah.....I love the ribbon in her hair...

My daughter, Kiddles :)

Hope your St. Patty's Day was as fun filled and grandly green as ours! :)
May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door. 

-Shine!! Cass