On Being a Coward

I had mentioned before that during our Les Mis sparring session which included several nights of watching two versions of the movie, Jesyka (her blog here) and I also drooled through basically the whole season of Basketball Wives, had some good serious conversations, and stumbled upon an Extreme Couponing epiphany. Several of the episodes showed people who were not buying groceries to be stored away in some basement apocalyptic shelving unit, but rather were getting these free goods to give to charities.

What a novel idea, we thought.

We vowed by the end of April to try our own feeble attempt at couponing so we could do the same.

I have to be honest, though. I really feel awkward writing posts like this, as if I’m saying “Hi – Look at me! I tried doing something good!!! I’m going to heaven, nanny nanny poo poo stick your head in doo doo.” It really does bother me. But then I remembered the first time I kinda stuck my neck out there to share my attempt at doing good… It was this post (click here), about the homeless bags. Several of you told me that after reading it, have either thrown it out as an idea or have actually done it with friends, bible study groups, etc. And Jesyka even said that it was only after reading that post that she decided to take a chance and post her first ever comment on my blog, thus beginning a strange start to a stranger friendship.

But really, my semi-recent obsession with focusing outward goes back further to this post I wrote: click here.

I’ve always been a “do-er”, which normally entails doing things for myself, for entertainment, but never really focusing on other people. It wasn’t until I had Ruthie, I think, that it started to shift dramatically.

It started to shift so much that Ryan and I began having long talks about how we wanted to raise Ruth, what kind of community (spiritual and otherwise) did we want her surrounded by, what did we want her to learn. This led to us joining another church, being (more) proactive in charities, and taking leaps of faith with friends to try to do. Just try to do. That’s it, really.

Our pastor had a great sermon last Sunday on the need to strike the balance of brain and heart. Studying the bible is awesome and necessary, but you also need passion. And heart. And a certain “umph” to do. Ryan and I are right where we need to be in this spiritual community of studiers/do-ers. I am excited and grateful.

But there’s also friends in my local community that feel just as compelled. They’re not hard to find. You just have to talk about it and commit to trying.

Jesyka came over one night for a little planning session. We had just started subscribing to the weekend newspaper, so plenty o’coupons were to be had.

In our small town, we don’t have a lot of options as far as retailers go, so the ability to find huge savings was difficult.
But I do have to say, Walgreens is pretty darn awesome. I’m sure most of you know about the points system and that if you get so many points, it’ll take off five dollar increments towards your next purchase. So we basically looked at this first shopping adventure as a starting off point for the next time…in which we can save even more.

I took cutting out the coupons very seriously.

And folding the coupons to go into the baseball card plastic holders even more so.
Check out that skill: Amount off, brand, and expiration date all visible.

Hey, it’s the little things.
Jesyka tried. I told her to never make that face again. (See? I’m always being charitable, even with my advice.)
And this is the loot we came up with. We were able to make four packages of all of this and spent, now I can’t remember exactly, was it $25-30 each? So just over ten dollars a package, not so bad. Next time will be better because of all the points we’re accumulating.
We daydreamed about how to go about handing out these four boxes. She knew of a pregnant woman that was in need of some goods and got it delivered to her through another friend. I knew of a family that lived directly behind us that could use it as well. One of the boys is always riding around our townhomes and talks openly about what they (don’t) eat.

My heart was screaming at me to take one of the boxes to his mom.


I’m a coward.

Everytime I got the cojones to do something, I’d imagine flubbering all over myself when talking to her:

“Hi! I’m Carolyn. I heard you were POOR. Have some food.”

“Hi! We’re helping out the NEEDY, take this food.”

“Hi! Your son’s hungry. Feed him this.”

Ugh. I could not get over my fear of what would come out of my mouth. I know this is when I should’ve taken a deep breath, prayed for the Holy Spirit to help me with words, and just done it. As someone told me once, you can’t fail if you try to do good.

But I just couldn’t. And everytime I see him, I think of a missed opportunity…. Seeing something I put together to directly help a family in need.

Instead, I packed up the boxes, along with an old blanket, and it took it to our town’s food drive/thrift store.


They were of course happy to receive the items, and I know that they do a lot of good for the community. I think I just wanted to help directly… hand-to-hand. Instead of like “paying towards the administration fees” as I know I’m doing when I donate money to charities.

The good thing is there is always someone in need, always another opportunity. Look around, you’ll see too.

…now back to the regularly scheduled program: Ruthie. And the shoes she put on backwards all by herself.
Ruth shoes

A Good Saturday

I love me a full day. Granted, ‘full’ could be also construed as watching a Survivor marathon 8 hours straight, so please feel free to define it any way you’d like.

But today I felt productive: both in chores and quality time.

Everyday we officially wake up to this little lady staring at us. I say officially because it’s only the last couple of hours that she’s in bed with us. Yes, I’m still breastfeeding. And yes, I have moments where I want to chop off my breast Amazon woman-style just to be done with it, but most other times I enjoy holding this growing girl in my arms.

So when she wakes up at 5:30 for her early morning feeding, I stumble back into bed with her and we sleep for a couple more hours, if we’re lucky. She wakes up, yells at both of us mamamamamadadadadada, then Boo (minus the K), and I reach down for a couple books for her to read as we close our eyes a little while longer.

Some days we have energy, others we don’t.

This day we did, so Ryan fixed us his homemade sausage, cheese, and egg mcmuffins. Protein points for this pregnant lady.
I literally could eat those all day long, but controlled myself and managed to squeeze a day’s worth into a morning meal. I took over breakfast duty to let Ryan and Ruth watch Saturday morning cartoons, which consisted of (what else?) He-Man & She-Ra the movie.

Ruth just wanted to read. That’s all she wants to do now. She’ll pick a book from the shelf, hand it to you, then scoot backwards into your lap. No matter what I’m doing, I stop to read to her because if there’s one activity I want her to enjoy, it’s reading. No batteries, no electricity, no controllers needed. Just you, the printed page, and preferably something to eat. My mom remembers holing up eating buttered popcorn with a book in hand when she was younger. It will take me less than a nano second to continue that tradition. Because, really, the only qualification needed for a family tradition is buttered popcorn.

So while Ruthie read by the sunshine, I hung out laundry in the sunshine.

To be able to still hang out clothes in mid-November is wonderful.

I had vintage laundry cart that I’d wheel up and down the line. It looked like this:


But the cloth was coming apart and it was hard to transfer clothes easily from the dryer, across the living room, to the vintage hamper. So I’d have to use a regular platic hamper to make the transition. One thing I hate is having several different things that do the same job. So after searching online, I found this guy:


I want it if only to have an excuse to wear a jean on jean ensemble. Whomever has me as a secret santa, this is available for just $40 more than our max budget of ten bucks. Go ahead, splurge.

After I got a little sun on my face, I plopped chicken into the crockpot to cook for the day.

After it’s done, I use the bones and fat along with left over vegetables to make broth overnight. After straining it Sunday morning, I was able to get 10 cups out of the deal. Two birds, one stone. Lovely.

After a morning nap, the family drove to The Dollar Store because we were on a mission. I wanted to start a family tradition each Thanksgiving of volunteering, but Ruth is not old enough to scoop soup out without a baby spoon. And I can’t imagine the agony of being hungry only to have your food ladled 1 teaspoon at a time.

I thought we could do something else in the meantime. We chose to participate in Operation Christmas Child. You fill up a “shoebox” with toys, sanitary items, etc, attach a label with the age and sex of who you are buying for, and drop it off at various locations. The label also has a bar code that the company scans so you can track where your package is going.

Since there were three of us, we had three shoeboxes, one for each of our sexes and for the age range closest to us. 1 male: 10-14 years, 1 female: 10-14 years, and 1 female: 2-4 years.

Ruthie was a blur of excitement as we shopped for her girl.

I had absolutely no idea what to buy the boy. Ryan said, “Don’t worry, I got this.” And promptly came back with an armful of boy games. I nixed the snot rockets, but everything else was solid. Even though Ryan would be a perfect dad for girls, I still hope he gets a little boy someday. He would be so excited to build and destroy with a mini-him.

Ruthie, in the meantime, really only wants a green apple and she’s happy. Not quite into destruction… unless it involves spaghetti.

I’ll give you three seconds to spot my belly button. Go.

We arrived home after buying a ton of items only to have it total to much less than expected. Gotta love the dollar store. And gotta not love walking in and seeing that you never plugged in the crock pot. Ah, the trials of a homemaker.

It almost ruined my day. Almost.

But luckily we headed to the park and that always perks me up.

Ruthie thinks she’s a big girl playing on the slide by herself. Don’t you dare try to help her either. And Lord help us if another kid shows up, because then Little Miss Show Off comes out to play. A boy joined her in the playhouse and she at first stood there, repeating ‘Hi’ a thousand times. He didn’t notice. So as he hesitated at the slide entrance, she got a determined look on her face, basically pushed him out of the way, and slid down.  

Do you like how we never take her out of her pj’s?  I mean, if we’re all in pj’s then we’re just a really cute mitchy-matchy family, right?

Besides, after our park jaunt, we went home and immediately all took a nap. So basically we’re just super prepared.

When we woke up, dinner was made and kombucha was drunk. By Ryan, at least. It’s not advised to start drinking kombucha regularly if you’re pregnant. It’s really good for your digestive system, but it detoxes your body, so you don’t want the detox to think the foreign entity trying to grow in your uterus is not supposed to be there. If you’d already been drinking it regularly, I guess I’ve read it’s safe.

And since Ryan’s stomach was troubling him the past couple weeks, what better timing to force him to start!

I mean, look at this!! Doesn’t it look yummy???
Mmmmmmmm, pulling out the mother. Tasty!
You don’t eat the mother. Save it for your next batch. With each batch a new mother is grown. You can see in the first picture there are several mothers floating at the bottom. Pretty appetizing. 
But for how much they’re going for in health food stores, it’s nice to see I can get a good batch out of only 4 bags of tea, water, and sugar. Amazing.

So after Ryan choked it down (although he did say it tasted like apple juice), we played with Ruthie, hiding Cookie Monster in various places for her to find.
Thankfully she’s a serious child. And finding cookie monster and pulling off his head was serious business indeed.
The day felt long, like mid-summer-it’ll-never-go-dark day. And we needed that, big time.

Hunkering down before the holiday storm. And I couldn’t ask for a better pair to spend it with.

Family Game Weekend

I am so very lucky to be able to stay at home. It’s been a hard and easy adjustment at the same time. Hard in that I am now responsible for someone at all times, someone who has not yet got my sense of humor and, I’m assuming, is saving all of her laughs for one big explosive guffaw. And easy in that I have the time to make the adjustment. If today doesn’t go smoothly, tomorrow is right around the corner to try again.

But one aspect I’m especially enjoying is the flexibility. For instance, while R went on a business trip for 5 days, I visited my parents who live 4 hours away. Those times to connect are priceless for both me and Ruthie.

We started the week relaxing by the fire. I don’t really call that pose relaxing, but whatever floats your boat Ruth. One of us should at least have abs. And it sure ain’t gonna be me.


My sister came over later in the evening for a game of Scrabble. I used to hate that game, but now it’s one of our staples at mom and dad’s. Ruth did her obligatory “lunge and attack” welcome.


The next day aunts, uncles, and cousins came over to play Family Feud, eat pizza, and chit-chat. My favorite part of the day, actually, was us all cramming into the kitchen to talk. Ruthie met up with her third cousin, K. I’m so happy to have another little one around Ruth’s age.

Now I understand how my oldest sister felt, wanting her kids to grow up with cousins. Her youngest is about 4 years older than Ruth, which is no big deal when you’re out dancing in your mid-twenties… but right now the gap is extraordinary. At one point a few years ago, her husband tried to bribe us into having a kid so they would have others to play with.

The statute of limitations has apparently expired because he never paid up.

Look at those blue eyes! Just like her mama…

Snuggling with her oldest cousin, W. Poor W. He really needs some boy cousins. R wasn’t here to steal him away for a game of football unfortunately.


Before Family Feud began, we watched little K turn into a blur as she ran around the living room. Ruth studied her very intently. I was studying my mom’s white socks. She’s the President of Michael Jackson’s Over-55 Fan Club and takes the white socks/black shoes very seriously. It’s cute.


Then we plopped down into teams for Family Feud. Mom was the moderator. Well co-moderator. Her socks were also hosting.

See that empty seat? Yeah, there’s always an empty seat somewhere in my photos. Wanna know why? Because I’m always taking the photos. It kind of bites, actually.

So I asked my sister to take one of me.

And I used it as an excuse to see if there was anything up my nose.

There wasn’t.

Throughout the game, my mom made Ding Ding Ding and Buzz noises to indicate if our answer was correct. At one point, we were concerned that we’d have to call 911. She would say DingDingDinalupoding or Bivffff. And you could tell she was really trying to say the right thing. My future flashed before my eyes and I reassured her that they still had a spot in The Shack if need be.

D stepped in with the answer, thanks to his iPhone. If he hadn’t, we’d still be sitting there watching her try to get the right word out.


A family photo with Unc and K was simply not having it. Ruth avoided eye-contact so she wouldn’t feel embarrassed.


A couple other things happened over my trip which I’ll talk about later.

But first, check out the flea market where Ruth decided to have a blow out on our way home to Arkansas. Awe. Some. Ruth hadn’t gone boo snake (anyone else heard that phrase? My grandma would say it) for 5 days and when does she let loose? 90 minutes into our car ride. I even called it beforehand, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

After our walkthrough and clean up, we stopped for gas and, while there, saw someone who needed a Blessing Bag. Remember those that we made? I gave away two on this trip alone. It was great.

I sure did enjoy my time and am so thankful to have had it.


Don’t take it for granted.

You’ve got that lovin’ feeling…

After I wrote my post on “The Balance” between enjoying life and helping those in it, our friend T immediately invited us over for a patio fire and discussion. While I didn’t get to hang out by the fire that much (Ruthie has taken quite a liking to this thing called milk), we did collectively agree that we need to move past talking and into doing. Do, do, do. Action speaks louder than words kind of thing.

As he wrote in an email: …it’s a big deal, you know, loving people and pointing them to God. I think it’s the reason for our existence.

That pretty much sums it up, now doesn’t it.

And so we decided to start meeting on a regular basis to make word on our decision, and I’ll be documenting each get together. My intent is not to boast about our doings in hopes that your estimation of me will rise (although, I think we can all agree that with my track record it wouldn’t take much to see an improvement. Oh look honey, she took out the trash. She’s a saint) but rather it’s for encouragement. If I told no one, I’d still be tickled pink… however we need to be each others’ cheerleader and inspiration. As my mom said, “You never know what ripples you may cause..” Would T have asked us over to have such a pointed conversation? Probably, in time. But maybe that post helped speed up the process.

Also, I’ll be sharing these to give you ideas. I think we could all use a little help that department. I certainly didn’t come up with Blessing Bags (to give to homeless people on the street. Keep them in your car and deliver as needed.) I happened to be reading one blog that linked to another blog that linked to another and there you have it, the internet. It’s a wonderful thing.

For our first get together, I invited everyone to The Shack (you know, to keep us humble) for chili, vino, and bag-making.

I set up all the items, buffet style. This would be the first time people actually got around our table in what would be, let me see… how old is ruth, over two months. Normally we find a spot that’s easy to collapse into, shove our face and then grab her so the other can eat.

I had offered to buy everyone’s items, but T wanted his son to be a part of the entire process. This is something I had not considered, and love. Our children need to know these things didn’t just come out of thin air. We are setting aside money (and time) for people…. because they are that important to us.

Ruth slept through the buying trip.

Here’s what we put into the gallon-sized bag:

  • Cough Drops
  • Socks
  • Tylenol
  • Band-Aids
  • Gum
  • Combs
  • Kleenex
  • Soap
  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Handi-Wipes
  • Granola Bars
  • PB Crackers
  • Mouthwash
  • Chapstick

Along with a scripture:

(you can print this and many others off from here)

Ro had a great idea of including feminine hygiene products, like maxi-pads, in future bags. Again, that’s something I’ve never considered before. This group thing is already working out… throwing out suggestions to keep our minds thinking.

She and her boys came over to have a glass of wine and chit-chat before the dads came home… if you call chit-chatting me spending who knows how long in the bedroom trying to get Ruthie to sleep. How nice am I? Hi! C’mon in… hey, hang tight for a couple hours while I hole myself up in the bedroom, ‘kay? There’s some Comet under the sink for J to drink, just make yourself at home.

Because we quickly realized that The Shack is not baby-proof. Unless Comet really is on the menu, then I’m the most thoughtful host on the block. I found some locks and plug-in covers and her oldest ran around sticking them in for me. The covers, not his fingers.

He also kept an eye (or ear, to be more precise) out for Ruthie. Several times throughout the evening he would run up to me and say, “Miss Carrie! Ruth is crying.”  Oh, huh, kinda forgot she was back there with all the excitement.

The dads came home and we squealed as J walked his longest stretch yet to his papa.

Then another big and little friend came over. C’s wife is out of the country at the moment, otherwise she would have been there front and center with us. We ate a quick dinner and got to work. Side note: I cannot eat chili anymore while nursing Ruth. I think that’s self-explanatory.

And while it made me happy to see this unfold:

These are what really inspired me… seeing the future generation in on the action:

Little S-man, right in the thick of things. This guy is hilarious. The first thing he said to me when he walked in was, “Miss Carrie, we saw some animals that you may be interested in eating.” Well, don’t mind if I do, S. I love me some chickens!

And this blue-eyed boy… too young to partake in the bag-stuffing, but soaking it all in. Seeing and then imitating!

And this girl. Oh, B! After petting Ruth’s head and calling her Bee-bee, she hopped onto a chair and got straight to work… like she was born on an assembly line.

Even Ruthie jumped in. Sort of. She was more concerned with keeping her head up than putting a purple comb into a baggie, but we all have priorities, I guess.


By the end of the night, I was one happy mama. We ate and talked and laughed…which is what we normally would have done anyway, so why not throw a little ‘do good’ in the mix?

Drop me a line, I’d love to hear your stories.  And if you have any ideas for us to tackle, please send them my way!

If only to confuse you more…

… on the heels of my latest post on http://www.givingbeyondmyself.com, I had an epiphany. If I truly am trying to create balance in my life, why have two blogs? Why can’t silly and serious coexist for me?

So, forget that second blog. This is the one and only.

And so you are up to speed, here is the first and second blog post from my “other” side (cue scary music: dun Dun DUN).


PINTEREST – 11/4/11

I didn’t know that when I created a Pinterest account, it would awaken my heart. Maybe not awaken per se, but at least reinvigorate it. Give it an electric shock and slap it in the face, forcing it to get up from its peaceful slumber in its comfortable little world.

I certainly didn’t expect it. But I wanted it.


All I was looking for were old farm house photos. You know, to pin to my ‘Dream Home’ board.

And this image popped up.

both photos from (source)

I was swept away with the romanticism of this photo. The stove… the table… what’s in that tub… the bottles of milk… the wood floors. All of it. I daydreamed about my own future kitchen, not in a “shack”. What elements of this photo would you put in that kitchen, Carolyn? Oh! The floors definitely, the curtained shelves, the old stove restored, and this.. and that… and this… and that. I was having so much fun planning out my future beautiful home.

And so I went to this girl’s page to see what other photos she had. And my heart stopped.

I didn’t want to click on it. I hurriedly scrolled past it to see what other old-timey fun photos there were. But up the mouse went. And then quickly back down. And then up a little more slowly.

You need to click on it, Carolyn. You need to see it. And so I did.

And I wept.

This was the caption to the photo:

Stricken child crawling towards a food camp [1994] Photographer: Kevin Carter. The photo is the “Pulitzer Prize” winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan Famine. The picture depicts stricken child crawling towards an United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat him. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken. Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

I hugged the little girl that was napping on my chest. And wept some more.

In this time of Thanksgiving, how can I not thank God for everything given to me. For the chance to stay at home with my baby, to see the chunky rolls on her body that we all love, for food on the table, for a shack that has heat and a roof and electricity, for medication when we are ill, for clean water to drink, for clothes on my body, for, for, for, for.

I squeezed my eyes and I thanked and I thanked and I thanked. And I awoke. Again.

When I was 12 or 13, I found a $100 dollar bill in the coat closet. It was caught in between the shelf above the coats and the wall, in the money envelope that my grandmother gave us each christmas. By now it was mid-summer, and I wondered how I could have forgotten about that enormous gift. And then I realized that I hadn’t even missed it. The thought of it apparently never crossed my mind. So later that I night I was by myself, flipping through channels, when I stopped on an infomercial for ‘Feed The Children’. I watched as this man went to homes right here in the USA where families were living in squalor without basic necessities. Without hesitation, I wrote a short note, folded the money inside of it, and mailed it off. And I had never felt more at peace.

Where did that girl go? The one who so freely gave without a single thought?

But I found her again. Instead of talking, I will be doing. And, hopefully, you will be watching my progress, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and partake in it

Because I need your support. I need your encouragement. And I need your accountability.

Starting on Monday, I will be beginning the Couch to 5K program. And after 9 weeks, I will be starting training for the 2012 KC Half Marathon in October. It’s not as sexy as saying I’d do a full marathon, but I know my limits. And who knows, a full one may just be in the future.

No more of this.

And more of this.

But how will this help people? That will be coming in future posts. It involves you, and it involves me, and it involves helping those that need it.

Am I crazy for pledging to do this? Yes. Do I have enormous doubts in my ability to finish? Yes. Will I need to pray for strength and commitment? Yes. Do I want my daughter to be proud of me? Yes. Do I have the photo of the African child as my desktop? Yes. Will I look at it everyday and say a prayer? Yes. Will I ever let my heart go back to sleep?

Absolutely not.

THE BALANCE – 11/6/11

I have to be honest with you. After I published that first post on here the other day, I kind of had bloggers’ regret, so to speak. Not that I would have to put my money where my mouth was and start hacking up my lungs running, but because I felt exposed and dumb. Like a kid again, convinced that everyone would laugh at me.

I remember someone in college that drank too much. Way too much. And while it was happening, comments would be made like “He/She needs to stop. He/She needs to change. Etc. Etc.” Then they did stop and they didchange. And guess what? Everyone immediately starting saying, “Where’s theold person? Where’d the fun person go?”

It was the same group that acknowledged the problem who then belittled the person when he/she tried to improve.

I was incensed and became cynical of the people surrounding me…. Of the people not surrounding me…. Of everyone. Maybe cynical isn’t the right word. Maybe I was more afraid of them. Scared of losing my footing in the social setting if I, too, decided to change into someone not willing to be held in the “airheady, silly girl” box. I mean, I know you guys take me seriously. You took me seriously when I said I made a fool of myself at a Halloween party, you took me seriously when I messed up a recipe, and I’m sure you took me seriously when I said I yelled at Ryan during my labor. Yes, you definitely take me seriously when I’m a nerd.  But I just wonder, will you take me seriously when I’m being serious? Are you asking yourself right now, “Where’s the old Carolyn? Where did the fun Carolyn go?”

And that’s okay if you do. Rest assured, I will still be my normal idiot self. And I’ll still write about idiot moments on cuethebanjo because otherwise I’d get buried alive in them.

But I’m finding a balance right now, in how I live my life and how I want to involve Ruth.

I look at her and wonder who she‘ll become. I want her to be a leader. To not be afraid of others and charge her own path. I want her to know the blessings she has and appreciate them. But I want her to also know the struggles as well.

It’s the balance that’s important.

I have spent the last few days staring at that photo, crying in the shower, and wondering why I ate seconds at dinner when I was already full because a flash of that little child would come to mind. I would lose my appetite, I would admittedly watch with resentment as Ruth wiggled around in the crib knowing that she would luckily have someone pick her up and love on her, and I would get upset about all the things we have.

How is this fair, I thought all weekend long, that I have this or that. That I can do this or that. When I wanted to sit down and relax, I would think of those that don’t have that luxury and would get up to do the dishes or another load of laundry.

It was during one of those dishwashing moments when I realized that it’s just as bad to not be joyful in what you have as to not be sorrowful in what others do not. God wants us to enjoy life as well as help in it. Yes, I want Ruth to know the blessings she has, but do I want to berate her with them? No. Do I want her to feel guilty about them? No. I want her to be grateful and use them to lead others. To be happy, but humble. This is my duty that I owe to her.

Creating a balance of joy and sorrow and knowing how to use both emotions is a beautifully hard thing to accomplish. But I intend to try.

In the meantime, I’ve got to go make a fool of myself today and you’ll be sure to read about it. Whether it will bring you joy or sorrow, well it’s a fine line isn’t it.