Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday Five-O #42 {Pajamas, Trees, & Music}

Good Morning, Friends & Family!
I hope this finds you doing well!

This week, as usual, has been crazy.
We've been implementing some new training at work
and, of course, it's been a bit of an adjustment.

But in general, it wasn't a bad week.
Some really nice things happened
that I'm excited to tell you about on today's:

Last Friday was 4H Day at TJ.
Now, I used to hate 4H...
it just kind of interrupted our flow
and we could never remember what day it was scheduled to happen.
And, to be honest, the food wasn't always that great...
But now, I am happy to report that that has all changed!
We LOVE our 4H lady, Lisa,
and the food lately has been AMAZING!
Last Friday, we made chicken and rice soup
and it was SCRUMPTIOUS!

Considering I hadn't had much for lunch that day,
it was the perfect snack for me! :)

Sunday, I desperately wanted to wear my pajamas to church (as usual).
But, of course, I didn't.
I did, however, take a photo of them
as part of my January Photo Challenge :).

Yes, NLCA Students, Teachers, and Alumni, I still proudly wear my sweatshirt! :)

Tuesday, we got some bad news about my Uncle David.

He has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
He is to begin aggressive chemotherapy treatments soon.
Due to his weakened condition,
without a miracle from God, he is not expected to survive
the third week of treatments.
But my Jesus is a Healer and He knows what is best for our family.
Please keep the Kinney Family in your prayers.

Wednesday, I made a visit to my home away from home...
the Peoria Public Library - Lakeview Branch.
One of the things I LOVE about this location is
the beautiful woodsy setting.
I've taken numerous nature-y photos there
as well as an official photo shoot.
My photo challenge for Wednesday was:
The Great Outdoors.
I immediately thought of this library location.
And this is what I captured!

I have to admit,
I'm pretty sanctified proud of that shot :).

Thursday night at choir practice was...a big night to say the least.
We had new choir members in attendance,
we continued working on some new music,
and Pastor Grant started a Music Appreciation Fan Club:

Okay, it was nothing as "official" as that,
but he did have those kids wrapped around his finger! :)

How was you week?
Do you have to force yourself to wear clothing other than your pjs?
Do you find trees to be as fascinating as I do?
Do your kids love music?

I would love to hear your stories!

Thank you so much for visiting today!
I hope you come back soon!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Five-O #41 {Wow...What a Ride This Week Has Been!}

Good Evening, Everyone!
I hope this finds you doing well!

This week has been...a Roller-Coaster for me.
(How is THAT anything new?!)
And I don't mean in a good way.
I'm very excited to put this week behind me
and never think of it again.
(We'll see how well that works...)
(Hey, doesn't that sentiment remind you of this post?)

Well, just like in that post,
I'm going to focus on the positives of the week
rather than allow myself to drudge around in the negatives.

Welcome to this Week's

Friday, I started reading (again) Cast of Characters by Max Lucado.

If you've never read his books,
This guy makes Jesus seem amazingly powerful,
constantly forgiving, eternally loving,
and endearingly real all at the same time.
In a nut shell, his books give me hope.

On a completely separate note,
you know how when you're looking for a specific item for a long period of time
and you can't find it, and you can't find it, and you can't find it.
Then you (quite sadly) give up the search
and try to carry on with you life without the item.
Then one day when you're looking for something completely different
you stumble upon the original item you were looking for
and you can quite literally hear the Hallelujah Chorus 
echoing off the walls of your house.
(Anybody else experienced this phenomenon?!)
Well, that is exactly what happened to me on Saturday.
Last year in April, I purchased a black and red and orange "snakeskin" purse
and a black and red and orange and tan leopard print scarf
to wear for a special church service.
I wore the ensemble for the service and maybe once or twice more
and then SOMEHOW (not really sure how),
I misplaced the purse.
Well, on Saturday while digging through the coat closet
looking for a draft dodger, what do you think I stumbled across?
That's right! My BEAUTIFUL "snakeskin" purse!
I let out a very loud (probably somewhat off-key)
I rushed into the living room and showed my mother
my discovered treasure!
(She wasn't near as excited as I was...)
Then I rushed to my room and put my church outfit together for the next day.

What a Sweet Reunion! :)

Tuesday evening on the way home from work,
I was struck by this sight
and just had to pull over and snap a quick photo.

As you can tell from the vehicles in the background,
this is just a parking lot.
But there was something magical about the light
reflecting off these snow-covered leaves.

Wednesday evening with the children at TJ was...
CA-RAZY! Seriously!
We haven't had an afternoon that bad in a LONG time!
I think part of the problem was they are sick and tired
of being cooped up inside all the time.
Maybe, I'll make them bundle up and do exercises on the sidewalk tonight...
Anyway...despite the craziness,
I did have a really fun moment with one of my fifth graders
while I was assisting him with his homework. :)
The question was: "Which animal eats carrion? whales, vultures, or moose".
The student asked, "What is carrion?"
I answered, "The decaying flesh of dead animals."
Silence followed.
Then the student gulped and said in astonishment,
"You said that with a big 'o smile on your face.
What. Is. Wrong. With. You?!?!?!?!"

Lol! Yep, that's me...changing lives one kid at a time! :)

As many of you (or possibly ALL of you) know,
I am an AVID photographer.
I participate in photo challenges on a regular basis.
Sometimes monthly, sometimes not.
I am currently involved with a January Photo-A-Day Challenge.
Thursday's challenge was "Hair".
Now, I have had this provocation
(okay, I was trying to find a synonym for "challenge"
so I wouldn't be using "challenge" twice in the same sentence
and that's the only one I found that made sense...Anyway...)
I have had this provocation before in other challenges
and I never know what to do with it.
Previously I took photos of like 7 different people's hair-dos
(including my own) and made a collage out of it.
But I really wasn't happy with the result.
So this time, I decided I just HAD to take a photo
of someone revamping Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair".
(Laugh if you want, but I wanted something AWESOME!)
And this is what I got...

Now, tell me that's not Awesome!?!?!?!? :)
(Never heard that song?
Check it out!)
I work with School-Age kids...
I HAVE to know songs like this!

How was your week?
I sincerely hope it was better than mine!
How do you impact children's lives for the better?
(HAHAHAHA! Is THAT what I do?)
How would you respond to the challenge (or provocation)
of photographing "Hair"?

I would love to hear your stories and advice!

Thank you so much for visiting today!
I hope you will come back soon!

Blog Signature photo BlogSignature-1.png

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday Five-O #40 {The End of the Holidays...the Beginning of a Brand New Year!}

Happy New Year, Everyone!
I hope this finds you all doing well
and staying warm.
I don't know what the weather is like where you are,
but here in Central Illinois we are dealing with an Arctic Blast.
The last few days, the temperatures have been in the negatives,
Yeah...its COLD!

Anyway, enough about the weather.
Let me start off this Friday Five-O post 
by saying how happy I am to be back.
I really missed documenting my weekly activities,
but with the craziness of the Holidays
it just seemed like there weren't enough hours in the day.
But now that things are (somewhat) back to normal,
I'm looking forward to continuing my Friday Five-O Posts.

This week has been all about getting back into the swing of things...
well, at least it WAS...until the Arctic Blast hit and re-scrambled everything.

Friday, I went and had a Starbucks date with my dear friend, Alisha.
She and I have been friends for many years
but both are quite caught up in our individual lives
and don't get to see each other as much as we would like to.
With that in mind, we decided we HAD to see each other
before the Holiday Season was over.
And I'm very glad we did.
The coffee, of course, was to die for
and the fellowship was sweet.

We are hoping to get together for a Chinese date next time...
which hopefully will before 2016...

Sunday at church, I was given this late Christmas gift
from my lovely cousin, Madi.

She had told me that she was planning to "sharpie" a mug for me,
but I had no idea it would be like this...

Monday, in an effort to start the New Year off right
and to be prepared for the snowstorm that was predicted,
I made a trip to library to stock up on reading material
both for myself as well as my darling little TJ kiddos 
(who I was glad to see after the Winter Break!)

As you can see, the snow had already started...

By Tuesday morning,
it looked like this:

I know, I know...
I'm SO glad I took a minute to photograph it!

Wednesday and Thursday were absolutely FREEZING!
The local school districts canceled school
so I got to work at the YMCA.
On my way in on Thursday morning,
this sight greeted me when I turned onto the YMCA lane:

Yes, winter is cold and blustery and the sun often hides away,
but you've HAVE to admit,
THIS is gorgeous! :)

How was your week?
Are you getting back into a "normal" routine after the Holidays?
Are you staying warm?
Or has the Arctic Blast hit your home too?

I would love to hear your stories!

Thank you so much for visiting today!
Please come back soon!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Holiday Traditions #5 {A Review of 2014}

Good Evening, Everyone! I hope you have had a great Christmas and New Year's surrounded by those you love and PLENTY of scrumptious food! :) Mine thus far has been wonderful...and the fun isn't over yet! I have another Christmas celebration that has yet to be scheduled!

But before that, I wanted to get in one last Holiday Traditions post :).

Every year after Christmas, I start feeling a little blue. I call it the 'After Christmas Let-Down'. The Holiday hype is pretty much over (except for those who celebrate BIG for New Years...which I do not...), and I find myself at bit at loose ends. During these times, I find myself thinking back over the year and reviewing the ups and downs of the roller coaster ride. This year has been no exception. And, I guess if I'm being honest, it started before Christmas this year. 

As I have mentioned several times, I am an avid photographer and frequently partake in photo challenges. I did a Thankful Everyday in November challenge last month and this month I have been participating in a December Reflections challenge. I enjoy these challenges. I feel they benefit me both on a personal level as well as a photographer. To give you an example of what I'm talking about, Day 20 of the December Reflections challenge was: "This Year was...". As a photographer, this challenged me to think outside the box as to how in the world I was going to find something to photograph that illustrated exactly how I felt about 2014. Then as a person, it challenged to me to take a very close a year that, frankly, I cannot wait to put behind me.

My life changed a lot in 2014 and I did a lot of necessary changing. The changes to my life were a mix of good and bad, but I'd have to say that the changes to myself were mostly for the good. However, 2014 brought quite a bit of pain that I am ready to put behind me. Not that I won't take the lessons I've learned this year into the future with me, I most certainly will. I'm just ready to put the past in the past and leave it there.

So, anyway, back to how I handled Day 20 of the December Reflections photo challenge: "This Year was...". I settled on this photo with this quote.

This Year was...Nothing I want to live over again.

It wasn't until a few moments ago what I was reviewing this photo and statement that I realized that that wasn't completely accurate. Yes, a lot of things happened in 2014 that I have no desire to live over, talk about, think about, or...have anything to do with. I'm ready to put them behind me and never dwell on them again. But there were good times too. It wasn't a completely bad year. There were moments of laughter and togetherness with those I love. There was quite a bit of creativity and spontaneity. There were LOTS of photos taken that I'm proud of. There was a trip down memory lane that I'm VERY glad I got to experience.

So, with all that being said, and in an attempt to pull myself up out of my 'After Christmas Let-Down', I'm going to share with you a review of the good parts of 2014 :).

January was cold beyond anything I can measure!

But I dealt with it by remaining indoors as much as possible
and drinking hot tea and coffee 
out of this lovely cup my cousin gave me for Christmas.

February was a bit warmer...
well, warmer in that my cousin and I felt it was safe 
to venture out to have a snow adventure :).

March is my birthday month....
and I really wanted to celebrate it with my TJ Kiddos.
Unfortunately, that means nothing homemade...
school rules...:(
SSSSOOOO, I compromised...
and I celebrated by making my own cake out of staked Zebra Cakes :)

In April I was kept very busy 
helping my cousins get ready for ACTS Student Convention.

After all the work I put in, 
you better believe I made time to go down
and visit ACTS myself!
This amazing (but very short) trip down memory lane
initiated the onslaught of ACTS Convention stories 
that seemed to take over my blog at that time...
and, no, I'm sorry for it! :)

In May, my darling cousin, Madi,
turned 18 and graduated from High School...
and I FINALLY got to interrogate,
I mean spend some quality time with the love of her life,
Mr. Nathan Doan who has become just like family! :)
It was an amazing time! :)

June brought summer and all of it's fabulous greenery.

July was...eventful. Particularly the beginning...
but I endured and got some amazing photos! :)

August was Back to School Time!
But I made sure to still have some FUN! :).
I got to take a trip to Rockome Gardens
with my grandparents, mom and some other people from our church.

Then my darling cousin, Maranda, decided she needed her photos done :).

In September, the TJ kids and I had a TON of fun
retelling  the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood.

You can find more photos and our version of the story here.

October was Pastor Appreciation Month.
And my church decided to do something a little different in celebration.
My cousins, Steve & Amber Kinney, were asked to write a song
for the children's choir to sing.
They asked me to come on board and help out
which, of course, I was only too happy to do. :)
The song turned out great and the kids had LOTS of fun singing it! :)
Here is a portion of it:

You can find the rest of the song here.

In November, my church held a Singspiration
that turned out to be a SMASHING success!
Our miracle boy, Mr. Taedyn Ray, totally stole the show!
 (Video by Jason Rushing)
Seriously, I cannot watch this without crying...
You can read more about our Singspiration here.

Also, in November, I was privileged to get to shoot
this gorgeous couple and their family
in the midst of a Lovely snowfall! :)

I am hoping to post more of this shoot soon :).

December, of course, brought Christmas and a wide variety of celebrations.
Every year I am privileged to work with the children
at church on their Christmas program,
but the for the past few years,
I've also gotten to help out with the Youth Group's program.
This year was no exception.
Actually, this year the youths' performance was such a success
that there were asked to perform it again.
And in that encore performance, I actually had to fill in
for a young person that was out of town :).
(Video by Jason Rushing)
Do I know some talented teens or WHAT?!?!?!? :)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my point for writing all of this was to shine a positive light on a year that was pretty rough. But obviously, it wasn't all bad :). I grew a lot in my photography skills, read a TON of books, laughed until I cried on more than one occasion, and generally enjoyed God's marvelous creation. As for the opposite end of the spectrum, I'm choosing to not focus on that. It occupied too much of my time and energy while I was going through it. I'm not going to let that continue now.

You know, when I first saw this magazine cover (particularly Angelina's quote at the bottom right),
I sarcastically said to myself, "Uh, 2014 was NOT beautiful!" But now having written this post and reviewed the good times of 2014, I think I can honestly agree with Angelina. 

It has been a Beautiful Year.