flotsam and jetsam

flotsam and jetsam

The past two weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I've missed being online, blogging, and responding to emails. (Sorry I've been AWOL!) Here's a quick recap for you... Between back-to-back meetings in Denver we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Red Rocks.

We enjoyed some sunshine in California, and got to spend a day with one of our former interns.

We then headed to Seattle for a bit, where we spent an evening with Sydney & Co. and met Nadine. We arrived back in New York on Saturday night, and the very next day took the train downtown with my brother...

to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant...

and watch the Yankees sadly get beaten by the Mets. (Even though we lost miserably, I'm glad to have made it to a game during the final season at their stadium.)

And who can resist a baseball-game hot dog?

(Which of course isn't helping me at all with my fat arse...)

Niel and I visited a kennel (I'm not really sure what to call it actually...) where we could see and pet a bunch of different breeds of puppies. The discussion continues... but we're much, much closer!

In less than 24 hours, Niel will be on his way back to South Africa and I will be in Wisconsin. Pray for us!

flotsam and jetsam


  • Mandy made me a rockin' new banner for my site.
  • I got my hair cut a little bit shorter, and it's now longer on the right side then the left...
  • Remember that scary before picture of my tonsils? The after picture looks identical.
  • I got my work email inbox down to 11 messages. It hasn't been that low in at least six months.
  • Xobni revolutionized my life. (If you use Outlook, you should check it out.)
  • My man will be home in a few hours! Yesssss!
  • I've listened to Ingrid Michaelson's Keep Breathing 211 times since I downloaded it 3 days ago.

What are some one-liner highlights from your week?

flotsam and jetsam

It's Easter, and I'm mindful of the fact that there is always redemption. When my situation looks bleak, I need to remember that God can bring life when it looks as though there's none to be found. That makes my heart smile. Interesting bites from my week...

  • Last Easter I used my last egg-dying kits, so this was the first year in a very long time that I didn't color eggs. I decided to color my flotsam and jetsam instead. Though it was egg-less, we had a great day. The Thrive family of staff and interns came over for a braai (barbecue) and we had a fun time together.
  • I was out of the office more than I was in it this week... leaving me with 219 emails still to answer! (219 emails = busy week ahead!)
  • We closed the ministry Thursday and Friday to celebrate Easter with a long weekend off from work. Our staff and interns seemed appreciative of the extra days to relax and recoup.
  • Some friends have been visiting with us this weekend. I've really enjoyed the down-time I've gotten to spend with them... it's been good for my soul.

  • I wore an African dress to an Easter service at a local church. The mamas loved it! Joyce and I sort-of matched in our African Easter dresses, and we took pictures together for the first time ever!
Joyce & Alece
Joyce is so beautiful!
And she was so proud that we were wearing similar-looking seshoeshoe (suh-shway-shway) dresses. 
Easter dresses
Take a good look at my long locks... I made my haircut appointment for Friday!

flotsam and jetsam

It's hard to remember what happened this week; I'm exhausted. (What else is new?) In addition to a plethora of hair-related phrases, here are some Google searches that led people to my site.

  • get a call from spongebob - I have no idea...
  • suzisusana - Huh?
  • downside to eating a lot of cereal - There's a downside? Gasp!
  • is it ok to be a little ocd? - I sure hope so! (If you haven't been reading long, you should follow that link. You'll learn a lot about me!)
  • how to decorate a bathroom, where can i get lace toilet seat covers, lace toilet tank cover - Those 3 made me laugh out loud. I have a pretty good guess what page of my site these Googlers ended up on. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to read this. It will change your life forever. Or at least make you laugh.

flotsam and jetsam

I was reminded of a beautiful passage in Isaiah in which God says, "I will also hold you by the hand..." I decided to look for His hand in mine this week. And I was strengthened by all the His-hand-in-mine moments I discovered along the way.

  • This week was full of heart-connecting conversations with our interns. Humbling and strengthening all at the same time.
  • Thursday mornings are so good for me; my missions class is the highlight of my week. This week we spent over 30 minutes digging into the rich truths of Micah 6:8. 30 minutes on one verse, with ferocious note-taking and lively discussion---it was fantastic.
    • Someone I've never met emailed and said, "Keep on writing...you're a very good writer."
    • A friend asked me to send her some prayer requests so she can continue being a "rope holder" for me. Months ago she'd written and reminded me of how Paul's life was saved because some people helped him escape danger by lowering him in a basket through a wall. The people who held the ropes to let him down to safety made a huge difference in Paul's life and ministry. My friend offered to "hold the rope" for me by standing with me in prayer for personal needs. Her email this week reiterating that meant a lot to me.
    • I received a package in the mail from a friend. It had two flavors of Vitamin Water for me to try out (and it's the best thing I've found for masking the disgusting taste of my uncoated penicillin tablets!), cookies, and a webcam. Mostly, though, it was filled with love.
    • One of our previous interns sent me an email about how impactful last year was, and how much my input transformed her life. I read it over and over so that the words would soak into my heart.
    • I've enjoyed the myriad of feedback, suggestions, advice, and encouragement about cutting my hair. If you haven't voiced your opinion yet, please do!
    • I am oddly comforted by the fact that my loved ones back in the States moved an hour closer to me yesterday.

    Look for the unexpected ways God's hand is in yours this week.

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    Some snippets from my week:

    • My assistant flew back to the States for a furlough trip. ::cringe:: You're missed, Charlene.
    • When I left for Hope House on Friday, I had absolutely no energy. I ended up holding Nkosi, a teeny-tiny one-year-old, who seemed equally energy-less. He lay on my chest as I lay on the grass for a good portion of the afternoon.
    • We had some pastors from the States with us this past week, and they came over for dinner one night. I'm not a very good cook and tend to stress out when I need to cook for people I don't know very well. But all went well, and they seemed to enjoy my sauce and meatballs. Phew...
    • Because I was gone the week before, I taught a double-header missions class this week. I went into it hoping that 2 1/2 hours wouldn't seem to drag on for the interns, and knowing they were probably hoping the same thing. We ended up having some incredible discussions and even went over our allotted time. We finally stopped three hours after we started, and the interns couldn't believe so much time had elapsed. Soooo good.
    • Yesterday I did absolutely nothing. I stayed in my pj's all day and lounged around the house. It was my first day off in over 3 weeks, and I fully embraced the spirit of nothingness.
    • I've been taking nasty uncoated penicillin tablets three times a day for the past two weeks. Sadly, my tonsils don't seem to have noticed. I've got a month longer to go, and I'm holding out hope that the pills will work their magic.

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    I got home this afternoon after 7 nights away. I wish I could say it was a vacation or at least spent on a beach, but... Nope. I was in the capital city for a training conference. At least it was hotter than Harrismith is, and I even swam once. (Quite a big deal for me, with my aversion to water and all...) So I've got some stories for you. In addition to our crazy shower escapade, Kelly and I managed to have some other crazy times. (Can you believe it?!)

    We stalked the national bird of South Africa, which is quite a formidable creature. Of course, by "we", I mean Kelly.

    During a break between sessions, we walked over to our guest house to discover that the front door was locked. Since we only had keys to our bedroom, we hung around in the hopes that someone else had the front door key. Each person who approached asked why we were outside. "The door's locked," we'd explain. No one had the key. As we started making phone calls and trying to figure out a Plan B, another pastor wandered over. He asked the unavoidable question and received the inevitable reply, but his response dumbfounded us. "Oh my God," he said, his eyebrows furrowed and his eyes forlorn. It was hard not to laugh at his oh-so serious-ness. I really wish you could read his statement the same way we heard it -- with his thick African accent that I've been mimicking ever since.

    There was only 1 other woman attending the event--"Bishop Esther". And Kelly and I were the only whities. It was like Cross-Cultural Differences 401. We laughed at things they thought were serious, and what had them doubled-over in giddy laughter, we just didn't think were funny at all. Women weren't invited to get their meals first; ironically, we were graciously shown our place at the back of the line. Since it was someone's birthday, I was approached and asked to lead us in song because that's a woman's job. I kindly declined, knowing that was the lesser of the two evils; eventually a pastor took the lead. He had us all join hands and then he led us in a chorus of "Happy Birthday". I looked over and Bishop Esther was only holding hands with one person. Her free hand was lifted high in the air, her eyes clamped shut. For "Happy Birthday"?! I just had to shake my head and smile...

    Sadly, several of the pastors visibly looked down on females, and snubbed us openly and publicly. During one session, a pastor who was involved in hosting the event, went through the room and split everyone into small groups, and sent them outside for discussion. He skipped over us entirely. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe he was saving us for last. When the whole room had emptied except for us and Bishop Esther, his intentions were a little more obvious. "Is that everybody?" he asked. Someone pointed out that the women were left. "Oh, Bishop Esther, I'm so sorry..." and he told her which group to join. Then he started to head outside to his own group, with Kelly and I very noticeably the only two people left seated in the room. Someone again pointed it out. "What about those other ladies?" To which he so perfectly replied, "What ladies?"

    "Oh my God."

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    This week went by far too fast. And it seemed far too busy. Yet when I try to think back on what happened, I'm not coming up with much. Hmmm...

    • I visited an ear, nose, and throat specialist in the city. I've always had huge tonsils and battled with constant infections. Now that we have medical insurance, I figured I could/should look into what could be done about it. We discussed removing my tonsils, and all the wonderful side effects that could come with the surgery. For now, I was prescribed a 6-week course of penicillin: three pills a day. The doctor thinks it could help shrink my tonsils down a dress size or two.
    • Off-and-on over the past year, I've watched Judging Amy. And this week, I watched the very last episode... of all six seasons. It was bittersweet to finish.
    • A staff member and an intern both turned 21 this week. Parties ensued.
    • I laughed a great deal over this:

    Somehow... that's all I've got. Shame.

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    Better late than never...

    • Monday night, we had a rockin' Superbowl party. Too bad we didn't get to see the American commercials... that's the best part of the game!
    • Each Wednesday morning we gather as a team for prayer. But none of this popcorn-prayer business. We all pray simultaneously. We've been doing it this way forever so I don't really think much of it. But one of our interns recently wrote about how these prayer times have affected him. It's incredible to me how much our interns will grow this year -- through planned and unplanned development opportunities.

    Each Wed. morning we have corporate prayer with the staff. It is done "African" style. That is all-together as the Spirit leads you. The first week was nerve-wracking as I had very little idea how to do this and I did not want to come off as doing something "wrong". The last two weeks have been much different though. I have truly gotten into the prayer, being honest, truthful and emotional as I almost never am during prayer. God is working richly during these times and I'm so thankful for them.

    • We took the interns to a touristy/artsy town over the weekend. We were gonna go hiking in a national park, but the rain changed our plans. On the drive home, I had the best DJ I've had in a long time. Kelly played lots of fun songs, including "Gaston" from Beauty and the Beast. Everyone was amazed by the fact that I knew all the words!
    • I've discovered that I really enjoy reading memoirs. I'm about halfway through "Tough Choices" by Carly Fiorina, the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company. I'm particularly enjoying the book because Carly didn't use a ghostwriter. She wrote it all herself, and she's surprised me with her style. Some nuggets? Sure.
      • Character was everything, and character was defined as candor, integrity, and authenticity. Candor was about speaking the truth, and about speaking up and speaking out. Integrity was about preserving your principles and acting on them. Authenticity was about knowing what you believed, being who you were, and standing up for both.

      • Challenge comes from the reality that your best is required and falling short is possible. Learning comes from rising to meet that challenge.

      • Sometimes it's important to see what's coming down the road. And sometimes it's important just to put one foot in front of the other and not look too far ahead.

      • About determining a career-path, or discovering your purpose: I had to find something that challenged by mind and captured my heart. ... Be fully engaged in a pursuit worthy of my talent and passion.

      • A boss's confidence is a powerful motivator. Because they saw potential in me, I began to look for it in myself... Believing in someone else, so they can believe in themselves, is a small but hugely significant act of leadership.

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    It's Sunday morning. 11:11 AM.

    • Our new interns joined us for their very first Thrive staff meeting. We rolled out our ministry-wide mile marker goals: three things we'll be working together to accomplish by the end of the year. If our goals were easy to achieve, we wouldn't need God or each other. Good thing we set goals that are enormously challenging then...
    • I taught my first Missions class of the new year. When one of the interns asked me to repeat something so she could be sure she wrote it down correctly, my heart about skipped a beat.
    • Some friends came to visit, and I took a day off to spend time with them. It was a wonderful treat.
    • Niel and I drove to the nearest city, Pietermaritzburg, to watch a movie yesterday. "The Bucket List" had me in tears.
    • I emailed all our staff and interns this picture with the note: Please see the attached memo regarding a new policy we are implementing, effective immediately. Only a few staff members even answered--and not a single intern. I think they've all misplaced their sense of humor.

    • This is the most amazing thing I've seen in a long while.
    • February started. I'm still struggling to wrap my mind around that simple fact.

    Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Highlights from your week?

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    • A friend I've known for 12 years, but have only talked to on the phone a handful of times, called me. It was so great to catch up with Shineanea. (Sorry, friend, I had to get that in there!)
    • I ate breakfast burritos... one of the small joys of my life. Mmmm...
    • We've received some great feedback about the new ministry site and it's been so fun to see people interacting through comments on the field blog. Yay!
    • Some missionaries in another part of SA spent the weekend with us. It was wonderful to hear about the work they are doing, and I do believe I've made a new friend!
    • A friend got me hooked on email Scrabble (I didn't even know there was such a thing!), and now I've got two games going simultaneously. Lemme know if you want to play! (Don't worry--I suck!)
    • I got to talk to my friend Kitty -- twice! And she got me to smile the biggest I think I ever have!
    • Niel and I went rally-driving through the mud on our base. Fun times!
    • I was asked to be a guest blogger on another website! How cool is that?!

    And that's a wrap!

    flotsam and jetsam

    Let's see...

    • It was wonderfully encouraging to look around last Thursday and Friday and see all the women being ministered to at the conference. God was clearly present.
    • We took the interns for a day-trip through Lesotho. It was a gorgeous day, and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.
    • I've been having a great time with my friend Laura (who's visiting from Seattle). I love having people we are utterly comfortable with, stay in our home.
    • I sat for a long while today on a hammock swing on my porch. It was peaceful and relaxing. (I had to stop myself from swinging a few times, though, because it was making me nauseas. iii!)
    • This year feels like it's slipped through my fingers. I'm trying to hold tightly to the bit that's left as I know it'll be gone before I know it.
    • Laura and I have shared many a laugh over this:

    flotsam and jetsam

    One-liners from my week:

    • Kelly and I had Bible-School-night for the first time in weeks (months?); as usual, our shared laughter and conversation was the best part.
    • I listened to The Goo Goo Dolls' Better Days 73 times in one day.
    • I reconnected with someone from my very first mission trip; I'm so glad to be back in touch with my ants-pants friend.
    • I downloaded an album I loved in ninth grade (and haven't heard in well over a decade), and I still knew the words.
    • I decided to get in on the poll action; cast your vote now!
    • Some of the interns trick-or-treated at the staff houses on Halloween---an intern first!


    bunch o' crazies...

    • "Spring ahead, fall back" doesn't happen in South Africa; the extra hour that's now between me and you somehow makes me feel farther away.
    • A friend and I ran through a field--amid rain and hail--to get a picture of some naked sheep; although the picture didn't turn out so great, we laughed a lot, so...mission accomplished.

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    • Our pastors' conference went really well. I hadn't been able to attend the last few we hosted, so I was glad that I could make it to this one. Niel tore it up when he spoke; I love seeing him in action like that!
    • I had a great time with Isaac, John, and Andy who came in to speak at the conference. They are "comfortable" to be around, and I felt energized by the time we spent with them.
    • Niel makes some dang-good cheesy potatoes, and he made them twice this week! Mmmm...
    • I got to visit a LaunchPad class for the first time all year. It was great to see a curriculum I wrote being taught...and being taught so well.
    • I am loving Blogger's new "subscribe to comments" feature!
    • I played Scrabble (didn't do so hot) and Parcheesi (enjoyed sending people back to start) for the first time in years. I think I may stand alone in my extreme enjoyment of "the royal game of India".
    • I've watched this video at least a dozen times this week, and laughed every time:

    flotsam and jetsam

    Way too much to catch up on from the past two weeks...

    • I started something new that may continue as a weekly ritual. (As much as I try to fight it, I am a pretty predictable person; I enjoy routine and tradition more than I wish I did at times...) Four-Minute Friday. I think of a theme or a starting point, start the clock, and just start writing. For four minutes. And I just see what comes out. I expect those posts will always be rather short and fairly random.
    • A few weeks ago I got published in an online magazine. I am overwhelmed by the response I've continued to get from it. It's amazing...
    • Spending 3 days "unplugged" was hard. I missed feeling connected as only the internet can make me feel.
    • Niel and I have now been married for over 7 years! (Congratulations to us!) The best is yet to come, my Hombre...
    • Natalie left today. There is a strange hollowness in my house. In my heart. I miss you so much already, 'talia. (And it must be said: You left your mark behind. Starbucks enchanted the visiting pastors tonight with that lovely noise you taught him!)

    flotsam and jetsam

    This week went by unbelievably fast...

    • Youth camps ended Sunday afternoon, leaving everybody pretty exhausted, but internally energized.
    • The interns' family members (who were visiting for Family Days) flew home;I got teary watching the goodbyes at the airport.
    • I really enjoyed getting to know the parentals while they were here with us. We had a brief Q&A time with them (on our fun overnight safari), and they asked some great questions. I always love hearing Niel share how he started Thrive and what lies ahead for us. His passion is so evident; it's one of the things I love most about him.
    • I spent a few days up in Joburg with the interns and some of the staff, volunteering at a Willow Creek conference. We made registration packets, stuffed thousands of lunch bags, and served however needed. I really enjoyed seeing our team in action. Everyone worked hard and maintained positive attitudes -- during the busy work times as well as the lulls -- and I was proud to hear how much the Willow staff and other volunteers appreciated not only our help, but our presence.
    • I learned that Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic.

    I am spending this week unplugged... No internet. No email. No blogging. (I cringe at the thought!) Comment away so I have lots to smile about when I get back online!

    flotsam and jetsam

    380 young people attended youth camps! It was a busy blur of a week, and I am wiped out.

    Each camp was completely different. During Camp 1, we had 50mph winds; Camp 2, pouring rain. Camp 3 was a bit of a muddy mess, but we didn't have to drastically change things around like we did during the first two.

    I took 1394 pictures. Try narrowing that down to a reasonable number of photos that anyone will want to see!

    Here's my best attempt.

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    It's been an intense roller-coaster of a week...


    • The very best thing that happened all week: Niel returned! It was so great to see his handsome, smiling face as he walked through those automatic doors at the airport! I missed you, Hombre!
    • Not long before Niel arrived, some of our interns' family members flew in. We are hosting what we call Family Days -- a time for parents to visit for one or two weeks, to serve alongside their child and experience firsthand what their life in the internship is all about. It's been a joy getting to know the family members that are here, and we've definitely appreciated all their help.


    • Before heading up for staff meeting, Niel and I ate bagels for breakfast! He picked some up for me at a bakery before heading to the airport in New York. It was such a treat to get to eat a bagel.
    • After a full morning of meetings and trying to catch up on things, Niel and I headed off-base. We spent the entire afternoon together at a coffee shop and then sitting on the grass -- just talking. It was so refreshing!


    • I took a friend to get some tests done at the hospital. I hadn't realized how worried I actually was until she was taken away to start the procedures, and I started crying. She's gotten test results back since then, and there is a peace in knowing what's wrong. Thankfully, so many serious/scary things were ruled out. God is good, and I'm learning to trust Him anew...


    • Thrive Church was great! Worship was awesome, and it was great to hear Niel share again after being away for four weeks...


    • Interns' parents joined us for our weekly ministry at Hope House (the local orphanage). Two new babies were brought in just 45 minutes before we arrived. I got to hold one-month old Lerato for a while, and got great joy out of looking at her beautiful face as she slept...
    • One of our interns was injured a few weeks ago. On Friday afternoon it was decided that she would return home to get some tests and possibly surgery. The sting of that decision hit me hard -- we are losing one of our own! -- and then telling her fellow interns was even harder... Many tears have been shed, and many more will fall even after she gets on that plane tomorrow.
    • My day ended with a pillow fight. (I can't remember the last time I had one of those!) It was a fun stress-reliever. All that laughing was a pretty good workout, too!


    • Youth Camps began! This year we are hosting 3 back-to-back camps, and 124 kids arrived Saturday morning for the start of Camp 1. It was an incredible day, with the highlight being the end of the first session, when so many young people made commitments to follow Christ.
    • With our restaurant and conference room under construction, we had to get creative for camps. Plan B: We are using big tents for meals, meetings, and games!
    • I've taken more pictures than anyone will ever care to see... And since I'm still snapping away, I'll literally have thousands by the time this week of camps is done. I'll weed through them at some point and make a slideshow of the "best of" pictures...


    • It was so windy here today. So windy, in fact, that the big meal/meeting tent ripped in two! We took down the tents and came up with Plan C -- we used the interns' living room for meals, a session, and a movie tonight! (I still can't believe everyone fit as well as they did!)
    • Niel spent most of the day out fighting fires on surrounding farms. With the wind as strong as it's been, the fires were spreading fast -- at least 10,000 acres burned.
    • The forecast for tomorrow is winds as strong as 75 mph. Please pray with us for safety and protection of everyone here as well as our property.

    God still declares "Peace, be still." To the wind and the weather, as much as to my heart...

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    I can't believe it's time to pass along my flotsam and jetsam thoughts already. Where did this week go?!

    • Apparently Monday was "National Hug Day". I hadn't known this obscure fact until I arrived at staff meeting, where I was greeted with a big bear hug by one of our interns. That tangible expression of love was a great way to start my week.
    • My blur of a workweek was interspersed with some random fun happenings. There was round-two of "Girls' Night" for all the staff and intern girls. (No face masks this time; just casual conversation, which was just perfect!) One of our staff members invited all the female staff over for a braai (barbecue), which was wonderful. I grabbed a smoothie with a friend and got to hear her big news (that I'd been waiting two weeks to hear!). My home was the venue for a birthday bash yesterday...at which I managed to get soaked by water balloon madness.
    • I watched "You've Got Mail" for the first time in years. I'd forgotten how much I truly love that movie. Haven't seen it lately? You should rent it...
    • Several years ago, someone sent us an ice cream maker as a gift. With all our 70/80 degree weather lately, I felt inspired. So this weekend, I busted it out and fired it up for the first time this season. My friend and I have a mental list of things we want to do together; we were able to check off "make and eat cookie dough ice cream" by the end of the weekend.
    • I basically did nothing today. I can't make that statement very often, so this is one for the history books...
    • My hombre comes home tomorrow! (There is great rejoicing in the land...)

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    Normally, I jot down some thoughts during the week so that I can remember what happened come Sunday night when it's time for my mental download. I don't know how my week escaped without me making note of a single thing, but somehow it did. All I seem to be able to recall, unaided, is what Natalie and I have been up to this week. Here goes...

    • We have a new "walkie-talkie" tradition. Most days we've gone for a walk after work, and it's always a great time for us to download with each other about our day.
    • We also take real lunch breaks. Wow. I haven't done that regularly in a long time. That's a habit I'm hoping planning to continue with. Slowing down mid-day is good for my soul.
    • Yesterday we drove to a city about 2 hours away to do some shopping and catch a movie. It was great to get out of town, and although I was tired, I enjoyed getting to drive for such a long road trip. (I am so in love with us having our own car. It's amazing.)
    • We now do Thrive Church on Thursday nights, which makes Sundays -- refreshingly -- a day of real "Sabbath rest". Today was absolutely perfect. Slept late. Lounged around in PJs till noon. Got some work done. Caught up on some blogs. Packed away my winter clothes and went through all my summer stuff. Looked through old pictures. Shared conversation, tears, hugs, and laughter. Perfect day indeed. For both of us.
    • My hombre comes home a week from tomorrow! (Okay, that's not me-and-Natalie related in anyway, but definitely worth celebrating!)