Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It is 2:35 AM on New Year's Day ... and I am lying in bed ... reflecting on 2008 ... having just rocked in the New Year with our new Wii Rockband 2 (Mama on drums, Daddy on guitar, Meg on the mike and Isaac on the grumpy, why-won't-anyone-play-with-me-right-now). I am usually not one for new year reflections ... but 2008 was a truly wonderful year for our family. And I am feeling the need to pay some respect to the joys we experienced.

Please join me (or bear with me) as I show some appreciation for the following events that we enjoyed in 2008 (not in any particular order & likely missing some key events):
* We sold our home in the country.
* We moved into our new city home.
* Isaac started peeing and pooping in the potty.
* I began successfully selling handmade goodies on the internet.
* Halis joined the Hampden gun club and took up target shooting.
* My health improved considerably (I am almost 100%).
* We were able to sponsor Isaac's biological siblings in Haiti to attend school.
* We were able to communicate with Isaac's bio 'mother' with the help of 2 incredible friends.
* One of those incredible friends shared a hug with my son's bio 'mother' --- from me, all the way to Haiti.
* One of Isaac's bio-siblings sent us a sweet letter.
* Facebook brought my high school best friend and I back in communication after 15 years or so.
* Halis, Isaac and I paid a visit to that friend and had a great time!
* I became seriously committed to my photography and greatly improved my skills.
* Halis and I paid off all our debt!
* I was able to generate over $5,000 for some of my favorite charities.
* My Memere celebrated her 85th Birthday.
* I made some amazing friends in the blogging world (likely including you!).
* Halis and I enjoyed more "dates" than we have throughout our entire marriage.
* Isaac greatly improved his vocabulary, math, and soccer skills.
* Halis was able to spend more time with Isaac and I due to cutting his commute time by 75%.
* We increased our time spent with the Goodales by about 300% since moving to the city.
* Halis and I read several books that we have been meaning to read ... including the most profound book I have ever read (you can e-mail me for details if interested).
* Halis asked me to marry him again (down on one knee & with new "bling" to boot).
* Isaac moved right next door to his Bobo & Poppy and visits them whenever he wants.
*My brother secured a good job.
* Meaghan made the local hockey team and chose Halis's jersey number for her own.
* Isaac fell in love.
* We purchased Rockband for the Wii --- how did we ever live without it? Our family totally rocks now.

*** And the list could go on and on ....

But the greatest gift of 2008 was our move to the city. Though we loved the country life while it lasted, our family life --- the time we spend together and with family and friends --- has improved 3-fold. And I have to say, that in all my life, I have never experienced more joys than I did this year. More laughter, more friendships, more security, more romance, more personal fulfillment, etc. I know that part of it is because our conditions have improved (financial security, closer proximity to family & friends, etc.) but I also think that some of my joy can be attributed to my new & improving ways of appreciating and participating in what life has to offer ... of giving my time and energies into that which feels good and saying no to those things which don't ... feeling gratitude for all that surrounds me, etc. At least, these are the attitudes that I strive for but don't always achieve :) Life is good ... and I intend to live a life of believing that out loud.

So, welcome 2009. I hope to enjoy you as much as I did your predecessor.

And to my readers ... I sincerely hope you each enjoy the greatest year of your life!



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Daddy's New Toy.

Mama got Daddy a Nikon D60 for Christmas ... partly because he expressed interest in learning photography ... and partly because I want a photography buddy. Either way, he is totally enjoying it. I also gave him David Busch's D60 Guide ... and he has been reading it veraciously. I have a feeling that my photography buddy is soon going to surpass my amateur level of expertise ... and we may end up getting a little competitive (as usual --- have I ever told you that we compete each year at Christmas to see who can generate the most Christmas cards to be sent to our home? I won this year).

Well, Halis has already set up a Flickr account: A Dad In Love. And his first pic is of our son and my Dad --- eating pancakes on Christmas morning. I love it. And I look forward to the beautiful pics he will take in the future.

Enjoy the camera Daddy --- soon we will be having a friendly competition over whose photos can generate the most flickr comments :)



Sunday, December 28, 2008

Visiting the Veterans.

I have tried to write this post --- in my head --- since Christmas Day. I am just not certain that I can properly articulate the depth of both the beauty and the sadness I encountered when visiting our local Veterans Home for Christmas (a "rest" home, long-term care facility for veterans). It was a wonderful experience overall, and I intend to make more regular visits because of it. But, it was not without its difficult moments...

Halis, Isaac and I arrived at the Home after supper on Christmas Day. We brought arm loads of gifts for 9 of the residents --- people whom we knew were not going to be receiving visitors that day. We arrived with a basket of my mom's homemade goodies, a soft fleece blanket and a wrapped gift (or two) for each of the residents we were visiting. We had our list of names and their room numbers, and we set off to share gifts, smiles, stories and friendship with each one.

Our first visit was so lovely. This elderly man was so incredibly excited to receive visitors that he was absolutely stunned and tickled at the same time. We gave him our gifts, hugs (after asking permission), and chatted with him about his room, his music collection, etc. He was so thankful ... and he gave us such warm feelings. I felt so blessed to be able to make him smile so big ... just by sharing time with him.

And that was pretty much how the all the visits went. We entered each room after asking their permission, wished them a Merry Christmas, shared our gifts, and chatted awhile about whatever came to mind. Every person (except one) was happy with our visit ... and so were we. Some had varying degrees of dementia. One man believed me to be a relative of his, and I played along. He also believed that the gifts I was bringing to him were gifts that I had stolen ... and that they were from his dentist. I told him that I was simply admiring them and asked him if he would like help opening them. As we opened them together, he showed me what they were and asked me not to take them again. And again, I played along. One woman was so enamored by the way I wrapped her gift, that as we were leaving her room, I watched her try to rewrap it. One man began devouring my mom's goodies the moment he received them. All went very well ... and Isaac was better behaved than I expected. But there are 2 visits that were somewhat "difficult"... at least emotionally ...

One particular man told us that he had only been there for a month, in order to heal his back, and that he was looking forward to taking a fishing trip at Grand Lake Stream in the spring. After taking a look around his room, it was obvious that he had been a resident there for well over a year or so ... and that he would not be taking a fishing trip anytime soon. It broke my heart ... and I just wanted to put him in my car and take him fishing anywhere he wanted.

The other visit was quite unexpected. In fact, he was not on our list, but the head nurse told us that he had not received any visitors that day and wondered if we had any goodies left. We did, so we paid a visit to Raymond. He was like no other resident that we had visited. He felt like family right away (perhaps it is because he reminded me of my Pepere who passed away several years ago). Raymond was warm, funny, flirtatious, and lucid. He was the only resident that Isaac took to and happily played with. But he was also quite sad. He had been desperately hoping to see his daughter for Christmas. It seems she dropped him off to the home just weeks before and has had little time for him since. Prior to his stay at the home, he lived with his daughter (and son-in-law) and is having such a hard time feeling so alone. Telling us his story nearly broke my heart ... and it brought him to tears. Halis and I did our best to cheer him, but what else could we do? We stayed with him for longer than we did the other residents, and when we left, I hugged and kissed him, promising that Isaac and I would return soon. He stared straight through me while holding my hand and emphatically stated, "Really. Thank you. Really. For spending time with me. It is the most important thing we can do for one another. I truly appreciate it." And tears welled up in his eyes ... and mine.

As we got into our car, I turned to Halis and said, "Why does it have to be like this?" .... He replied, "What?" .... "Getting old," I said, "Why does it have to be so hard and lonely? I mean, it shouldn't be like that."

That night I cried myself to sleep, thinking of Raymond & the other residents all the while. My visit with them was wonderful ... but also heart-wrenching. No one should be "left" behind. No one should feel so alone. The following morning, I KNEW that Raymond was going to be a part of my life from now on ... that Isaac and I would visit him as much as possible ... and that I would do everything I could to be sure that Isaac grows up valuing the wisdom, emotional well-being and beauty of the elderly. Halis and I surely did.

So, tomorrow afternoon, I am going to surprise Raymond with another visit ... and feel blessed by his company. I so look forward to it. I am thankful that some sort of divine intervention brought us together in the first place ... as he was never on my Secret Santa list in the first place.

Life can be so damn beautiful when we open our hearts to others ... and to the possibilites of every day that we are given. And as Raymond reminded me ... the most important thing we can give one another is time.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope I articulated it well enough to maybe prod someone out there to spend some quality time with an elder in their life who may be feeling lonely... or perhaps to inspire someone to make a visit to their local long-term care facility. You will be glad you did.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

May you & yours enjoy the Merriest Christmas yet!


The Renshaw - Sirimoglu Family

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wreath Making 101.

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine invited me over to his garage to teach me the art of making evergreen wreaths. He has been making them almost his entire life ... since before he was even school age. He told me stories of how during the holiday season he and his siblings were required to make 100 wreaths each before they could come in from school. His parents would sell them for 50 cents each by the side of the road, in order to help make ends meet. So, when this friend makes a wreath ... my oh my ... his hands work fast and furious ... and his wreaths look amazing. He makes it look WAY easier than it actually is (although truth be told, with a little practice, it is not a hard craft).

We gathered around a make shift table ... filled with hoops, evergreens and bundles of wire ... and went to work making wreaths ... while telling jokes ... gossiping ... and complimenting one another's work. Good Times.

I love the way my wreath came out, but had no plans to make another this season ... as what took my friend less than 10 minutes to make ... took me over an hour. But I think I have found a new holiday tradition ... and look forward to possibly making 2 next year :)

The top of the wreath got a little squashed in our last snow storm, but you get the idea ;) Of course it was absolutely glorious when it was freshly made.

Enjoy your holiday traditions ...


P.S. I found this great book for those of you who want to try your hand at wreath making as well. I think I am going to pick up this book too, so that I can make wreaths year round.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The End of Handmade Children's Products?

I wish that I didn't even have to refer to this recent article from another blogger ... but it is a MUST read for anyone who wants safe toys for their children, who believes in buying local and handmade, and who supports creative economies rather than the "big box" stores.


Thank you,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Nutcracker: Our Christmas Tradition.

Every year that I attend the Nutcracker, I come home with a fancy that I too can fly across a stage in a single delicate and utterly gorgeous leap ... landing into the arms of a powerful and handsome young man ... while a crowd of appreciative onlookers are awed and inspired by my gracious and seemingly impossible ballet moves. Ahhhh... what a lovely thought. Silly perhaps, but lovely all the same.

Tonight's performance was a collaboration between the Robinson Ballet Company and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. It was gorgeous and magical ... as always. It was also Isaac's first Nutcracker performance. I was hoping to imspire him to take those ballet lessons I have been begging Daddy to approve of ... but it seems that Isaac was most interested in where the dancing sheep and wolf went off to. Oh, and the sweets during intermission. Then, just 20 minutes shy of the ending, Isaac declared that he wanted to leave because "Mama, I don't want to watch this anymore." ... which then became "Mama, I don't want to see that again." as we were walking out of the auditorium. Perhaps my dreams of watching my son entrechat and pas jet├ęs across a stage have been dashed. Or maybe I can bribe him with sweets.

All in all it was a great beginning to what I hope will be a wonderful Christmas week.

Enjoy your holiday traditions.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Perfect Gift For Those Who Are Adopting.

Isaac - at the orphanage - just days old.

When Halis and I first started our adoption process (4 years ago), we were so overwhelmed at the financial cost of it all. At first, we were angry that it should cost so much to unite a child with their forever home. But upon further inspection, we began to understand the costs involved and conceded to make every effort to come up with all the money we needed as fast as possible. Then, when we got our first photo of Isaac (shown above), we went into overdrive to fund his homecoming. Believe me, it wasn't easy --- and truth be told, we went into alot of debt. But he is home! And all is well.

Yet, I never stop thinking about those who are financially struggling to adopt children. It is such a unique and painstaking undertaking. Often, parents need to come up with an extra $20,000 - $30,000 within a year or two after making their decision to adopt. And it is my contention that the beauty of adoption should not be exclusive to the wealthy. Since bringing Isaac home, I have wanted to create a fundraising non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to give grants to adoptive families to help defray their costs. Though I have yet to even initiate work on that project, I have been consistently looking for ways to get involved in the adoption fundraising community. And I just found a GREAT opportunity for both adoptive parents and for those who wish to help bring their children home...

A Gift Registry with a Purpose! is the only online adoption gift registry service where you can detail your expenses on a customized wish list and receive cash gifts for your adoption. Invite your family and friends to share in your journey and contribute to your wish list.

Join us for the holidays--sign up for our newsletter and be entered to win a free Gift Registry Package. Drawing will be held on December 30th.

This holiday season, share the gift of adoption with your family and friends.

What a great idea! Wish I had thought of that :) I made a "Secret Santa" contribution to a family this morning, and hope some of you might consider doing the same. For those of you adopting ... what are you waiting for? Sign-up and share the link with family and friends. Many will be thankful for the opportunity to assist you in such a beautiful endeavor.

Enjoy the journey.


Monday, December 15, 2008

What I Did This Weekend:

I made hundreds of magnets ... putting together sweet magnet sets for every taste ... and for every stocking hung by the chimney with care. Just $6 per set ... some in my shop now ... more on the way. Oh, and pins too!

Enjoy your holiday shopping.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Secret Santas.

I think I finally know what I want to be when I grow up : a Secret Santa. The "real" kind. The kind that belongs to a Secret Santa Society. The kind that goes around spreading wealth and good deeds to unsuspecting people. I would wear a big white mustache and beard (along with my red Santa hat) so that no one would recognize me ... and I would pass out $100 bills, candy, hugs, and good deeds. I would be like Larry Stewart ... a modern day superhero ... and the "original" Secret Santa. And I would learn the secret of life, just as he did ... that it feels oh-so good to give. That giving IS receiving. And that we are all ONE.

I am not a millionaire, so I will start small. But I have no doubt that the universe (God) provides us all that we need in order to do what we feel called to do. What a wonderful world. Thanks Larry.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Ooohhh.... Ooohhh... Ooohhh ... Check This Out ...

I am so excited. I just got an e-mail from one of my wholesale buyers, "Cinda Lou" ... she sent me an article that featured her shop and my upcycled journals. Ah, sweet publicity.

Her shop ... and my goodies ... were featured in the Holiday Gift Guide in Alive! Magazine ... based out of Columbus, Ohio. HERE it is.

I am so thankful. First "Alive!" and then on to "Oprah" and "Martha Stewart Living".

Thanks for sharing the joy,


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Humble Christmas Wish List.

As I have mentioned on this blog ... I aspire to be a better "giver" ... in any way possible ... not only because it is good for the community, my son, the planet, etc ... but mostly because it feels so darn good.

After much thought on how my family and I might "give" on Christmas day, I decided to place a call to our local Maine Veterans Home. I pitched an idea to Shirley, their activities coordinator, to visit with residents there who would otherwise not be receiving Christmas Day visitors. Shirley was most receptive and said that our visit would fulfill a great need at the home, as much of the community visits the home during Veterans holidays but not during the Christmas season. I then asked Shirley if she could compile a list of the residents that we could visit along with their holiday wishes from "Santa". She did. And when I received it, I was most humbled by it.

Here it is:

Mr ___ wants a 6-pack of O'Douls.
Mr ___ wants a Red Sox sweatshirt.
Mrs ___ wants a pair of size 8 slacks.
Mr ___ wants some hard candy.
Mr ___ wants 2 black t-shirts.
Mr ___ wants some cheesy snacks.
Mr ___ wants tube socks.
Mr ___ also wants a 6-pack of O'Douls.

Wow. So simple. So sweet. And I cannot wait to play Santa for these folks on Christmas Day. What a gift for my family ... to be able to meet the humble Christmas wishes of those in our community who have served their country. I think I am way more excited for this visit than for any other part of Christmas.

I have purchased a few other treats for those on the list (blankets, soaps, etc) and would welcome any other goodies that my local friends would like to contribute. But more than that, I wish to encourage others to make similar efforts in their own communities. It is amazing to me how many people are in need of a friendly word and deed ... and how easy it is for many of us to fulfill that need ... with a bit of effort and a smile. I encourage you, the reader of this post, to make a phone call today to see how you might be able to make Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, or Winter Solstice) brighter for a fellow human being (or two or three). After all, that is what the holiday season is all about, isn't it?

If you do so, please comment here about your efforts. Let's inspire one another!

Much Love,

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Annual Christmas Tree Hunt : A Story Told in Photographs.

I love New England. I love my family. I love the family of friends that we have created. I love Christmas. I love this Christmas tree hunting tradition.

I am grateful.

I hope you are enjoying your own holiday traditions. I'd love to see them!



Friday, December 5, 2008

Wild Dill.

In my pursuit of a toy train for Isaac --- wanting one that was locally made and lead paint free --- I found Wild Dill, an amazing online toy store that sells locally made, all natural toys. They not only have some of the nicest products for kids that I have ever seen, but they also gift wrapped my entire order for free. Their prices are fair, their toys are healthy, and their service is great. I highly recommend these folks for your Holiday gift giving.

And if you plan to do some shopping on their site, I have two checkout codes you may wish to use:

Free Shipping on your order of $65 or more: Thanks1

$10 off your order of $65 or more: Thanks2



P.S. A friend sent me this link --- a great resource for searching out "healthy toys".

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Slightly Naughty Pins.

1 Stack of Multi-Colored Cardstock
1 Stack of Vintage Magazines
1 Friend w/ an Excellent (& slightly warped) Sense of Humor
1 Bottle of Jim Beam
1 Bottle of Coke

Mix all together ... with wild abandon ... while the kids are playing Wii ... and here is what you get ...

Ahhh ... that was fun! My fave is the lovely woman who is surrounded by the words "Free From Constipation Worries". I felt so innocently-naughty while making some of these silly pins ... ya know ... like when you were a little child and you belted out a swear while you were all alone... innocent enough ... but also deliciously naughty :)

There are many "naughtier" ones that will not be shown here ... but I swear that they were my girlfriend's idea! Really. She's such a rebel. My Mom thinks she is a bad influence on me. I think she is prime best-friend material. We plan to get "naughty" again tomorrow. Woo-hoo!

Enjoy your day.



Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fred Claus.

I rented this movie yesterday and have already watched it 3 times. I am actually laughing harder with each viewing. And Isaac loves it too. I think I may be developing a crush on Vince Vaughn :)


Fred Claus Trailer - Watch today’s top amazing videos here

Love, Jodi

Monday, December 1, 2008

The New Winter Ensemble.

There is something comforting about a matching hat, scarf and mittens. And something so darn cute too! Isaac feels ready for the snow ... and can't wait to play soccer in it (so he tells me).

So, Happy December everyone. I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving. We surely did. The leftovers are almost gone now. And we are getting giddy about the Christmas season. Decorations will go up this week, presents will begin to be wrapped, and our annual trip to pick out our beloved Christmas tree will happen this upcoming weekend. Very exciting.

Enjoy your day.


P.S. Congratulations to Nicole & Suzie B. They both won goodies from my etsy shop in the 100 Sales Giveaway (Isaac drew two names instead of one). Thank you all who participated.

P.P.S. I was able to raise $45 for Haitian Roots during Friday's Borders gift wrapping (see previous post). Every bit helps :)