For the past several days...in fact perhaps the past several weeks...words have escaped me. Maybe it's because of all the sickness in my house and especially in my own body. Perhaps that is what broke my rhythm, interrupted my streak of productive, inspired creativity. Something certainly did, because I think and think and feel but nothing coherent or worth saying out loud or on paper seems to come out. I've been consuming like crazy, reading, observing and inhaling music and words like they are oxygen and I'm desperately trying to breathe. But I prefer to be producing, not consuming. And lately I haven't produced anything I'd consider meaningful.

The only progress I feel like I've made at all in the past few weeks is in my running. Noticeable change keeps happening when I set out on a run, despite all my obstacles like knee injuries and a body wrecked by the flu. Having a goal and a plan with extremely measurable steps and meeting little goals like running a block further or a few minutes longer than last time...it's life-changing. It's addicting, I'll tell you. Every time I lace up my sneakers I'm nervous, afraid I won't be able to keep going as long as the next step in my program requires. But I don't let that fear stop me and I hit the pavement, reminding myself as I go that this training is for the goal of finishing the Run 4 The Children, and this whole project is for God's glory and not my own. It's amazing what that does for my mental and physical stamina.

You can't let fear stop you from doing things that could have huge positive outcomes. Growth comes in large measure when you force yourself to do what makes you terribly uncomfortable.

That's all I got for today.


Fashion Friday; What NOT to Wear Edition

This week's Fashion Friday is brought to us by the very attractive women I spotted at the bank last week. Of course, you'd never have any clue how pretty she was, this middle-aged brunette who drove up and parked next to us and hopped out to use the ATM. I think she did have makeup on, and she covered what I think was a cute haircut in this odd skullcap...it wasn't even cold. I can forgive the hat, and I can even forgive the thrown-on hoodie. But no one should ever be allowed to go out in public with a body that great in jeans like these.

This woman's jeans were at least one, if not two, sizes too big for her. I don't know if she bought them that way or if perhaps she bought them when she was much heavier and she'd recently lost weight. Either way, she has a serious case of the droopy drawers. Look how baggy they are in the seat and thigh. This photo doesn't even do justice to the offensiveness of this fashion blunder.

Let's see how her jeans should have looked on her. Trust me when I say that under those clothes was a slender woman.

Note the fitted nature of these jeans in the entire thigh and butt. They do not have to be super duper skin tight, which would be immodest and unattractive. But they need to be fitted and not all saggy all over the place. I don't care if they are your favorite pair of hundred dollar plus premium denim jeans, if you lose weight you need a new pair. If you have questions about how to find a pair that fit your body properly, head down to your local Nordstrom store where you will find an associate totally trained in helping you find the perfect pair. I'm convinced it's not that difficult. The woman in this photo may have a severe case of pancake butt, but the right jeans with perfectly placed pockets will go a long way for her.

Don't commit a fashion felony by wearing droopy-ass jeans.


Happy 6th Blogiversary To Me!

Nathan and I six years ago.
So way way back on February 21, 2005, I created this here blog, Water Water Everywhere. This was not the beginning of my presence on the internetz by any stretch, but it was the beginning of this space which has grown and evolved in the past six years. Six years is very long time in the realm of blogging and I'm very happy with the little community that has formed here. What began as a way to sharpen my own creativity and writing skills has become a passion, a platform, and even a gateway to some great perks.

This post was supposed to be a lot more fun and celebratory. I was planning some cool giveaways for this occasion, which I should still get to later this week or so, but I am sick. As a dog. I think it's the flu, for realz. Fever, pain everywhere, and gross cough. Woke up with it this morning, totally unexpectedly. I apologize to whoever I may have inadvertently shared my germs with, especially our awesome dinner guests last night. I'm kicking myself for never getting the flu shot this season. I had to miss church this morning which is the highlight of my week, and it devastated me. It's highly likely I'll have to miss 1:17 tomorrow night, our orphan care and adoption Life Group, and that really has me upset too. I haven't been this sick in a very long time and I hope I can kick this virus in the butt fast through lots of sleep, fluids and vitamin C. My fever seems to be gone already, which is the only reason I can even type this post. But for now, this post will have to do and I hope you'll celebrate my blog's anniversary with me this week.


Fashion Friday: How To Wear Sheer

Being fashionable and trendy does not always have to mean seeing something on a runway and then busting out the credit card to shop for it. We all know that fashion trends come and go in cycles, and sometimes if you wait long enough they reappear when you are least expecting it. See case in point...platform shoes. Never in a million years did I guess that those crazy high shoes my mom loaned me for 70's day in high school would be once again worn by every celeb and supermodel...and myself more than a decade later. Right?!

Ok back to the point. This month's In Style magazine has a feature on silky sheer blouses. Now these are specifically button down blouses but sheer fabrics in general are definitely on trend right now. Have you ever wondered if you could pull off a look like that? For real women like me with a limited budget, sometimes you just need to take the idea of a trend and put your own twist on it with what you've got.

So check out how I shopped my own closet to see what sheer tops I had and how I wear them.


Review: The Verizon iPhone

A lot of my friends think I'm way more technologically savvy than they are, so they were always shocked when I would tell them I didn't have an iPhone. The reason was pretty simple, I'm a diehard Verizon fan. I got my first Verizon mobile phone before I had kids, when my job required me to be on a plane every week traveling to big cities, tiny towns, and very remote locations nationwide. My regular, full-time, salaried job is designing wastewater treatment plants and those are everywhere and often placed as far away from the population of a town as reasonably possible. I needed a phone that worked, that got service everywhere, that didn't drop calls left and right. If there was anyone that truly tested Verizon's network, it was I.

When we founded my company in 2004, my two partners and I were using Verizon and at the time we could make unlimited calls to each other and given our budget that was important. Of course competition has changed all that and now with affordable unlimited plans it doesn't matter that we stay on the same network, but I have seen how bad the service is for both AT&T and Sprint at my house. I can even remember standing in the middle of downtown Houston on more than one occasion, talking, texting and tweeting with my Verizon Blackberry while all around me AT&T iPhone users ranted about not having service. Calling is still the most important thing to me when it comes to my cell phone and I can't remember the last time a call dropped from my end.

Of course I was envious of all the cool stuff my iPhone using friends could do with their phones. Angry Birds? Words with Friends? Easy to navigate driving directions? Not to mention the inspiring iPhone photography from Chase Jarvis, author of The Best Camera Is the One That's With You. My phone camera sucked, and as a photog that was a big deal to me. Plus my husband complained about the sound quality of my Blackberry. When my time came to upgrade my phone last June I seriously considered getting a Droid Incredible or X. But I kept hearing more substantial rumors that the Verizon iPhone was coming, so I waited. Last week I was handsomely rewarded.

Let me shout it from the rooftops, I LOVE THIS PHONE. The network is still incredible and the sound quality is WAY better than my Blackberry. So far I've downloaded the Twitter and Facebook apps, the Best Camera app and Instagram, which I am totally loving. I thought typing would be hard, but it has rapidly adapted to my typos to correct them instantly. I love the way texts are set up in little bubbles, shown as a conversation! Most of all I love the camera. The things I can do with it are mind blowing to me. So check out what I've got in just the past couple of days.

I still can't believe I took these AND edited them with my phone. I may never pick up my DSLR again! (Kidding, that would never happen.) 

My husband and I have not yet been out to dinner or on a date since I got the phone, but I am going to need to have it surgically removed from my hand before we do because he used to complain about me checking the Blackberry too much. I'm trying, really I am, but if the old phone was like crack, this one is like heroin...far more lethal. 

So now I need to know what apps to download! Tell me your favorites in the comments, pretty please? 


Why Facebook Fan Pages Are So Great

So pretty much everybody in the modern world is on Facebook now, except for my friend Ellie. That means, by default, that they have a personal Facebook page. Personal pages are great because they can be private and secure, and you can share lots of details and photos from your life that are...well...personal! Unlike many bloggers I know, I do not accept friend requests from people that I don't know in real life, or at least very, VERY well online. I'm not Facebook friends with anyone that works for my company, that's what LinkedIn is for. I have already chosen not to hire at least one person, despite an excellent resume, because of photos on his/her personal Facebook page. So I am pretty careful about who can see mine.

But since I am a blogger and a photographer, I want to share things with people who might not otherwise find my blog or website. People are on Facebook, so that's where marketers need to be, even if you're just marketing yourself. This is the purpose of Fan pages! I have been amazed at the people who have "Liked" my blog or photographer website's Fan pages that I can find no previous connection to at all. The Water Water Everywhere Facebook page is like it's own little community, separate and distinct from the community of regular readers and commenters here on the actual blog. I can post questions and links and get great instant feedback there more frequently than I can publish whole blog posts. If you want to know what I'm reading regularly? (I read and share a LOT) That's where you find out. Facebook Fan pages were recently updated with lots of new features that I'm still learning about too.

So in short, I think everyone who is trying to actively build a community around their blog should have a Facebook Fan page. It certainly works for me. I would sure love it if you'd go ahead and "Like" Water Water Everywhere to join my awesome community. You can just look to the right of this post, find my Facebook community link and click "Like" without ever leaving here...it's that simple!

So tell me, do YOU have a Facebook Fan page?

Ten Things I'm Really Bad At

Just keepin' it real around here today! I'm good at a lot of things, but these are all things I've tried and consistently suck at.

1. Interior decorating. More specifically choosing coordinating colors for walls and things.

2. Basketball. And Tennis.

3. Programming in C++. Or any other computer language, for that matter.

4. Meal planning. Also sticking to a meal plan when I do make one.

5. Cleaning carpet stains. Also mopping floors. Notice a pattern?

6. Whistling. The cab calling kind, not the melodic kind.

7. Speaking Spanish.

8. Fighting off germs in my kids. Apparently, because both kids are sick again.
Top Ten {Tuesday}
9. Push-ups. Despite lots of effort, I am still incredibly bad at these.

10. Gardening. Really really bad.

I've got to laugh at myself when I think about my efforts in these areas...and just keep trying on some of them!

Ok your turn! Tell me what you've tried but can't seem to get right...anything.


Fashion Friday, Boden Fashion Haul

Have you seen the Spring 2011 catalog from Boden USA? Their clothing has quickly become my absolute favorite because of the vibrant colors and gorgeous feminine styles. It's imported from the UK and slightly more expensive that I would normally buy, but I love it so much I will occasionally purchase one or two things online. But I'm so obsessed with their clothes that last week I turned to ebay to see what I could find, and I definitely lucked out. Check it out.


Should I Become a Stage Mom?

So my kiddo was watching TV one day and all of the sudden he jumped up and starting singing and doing the whole dance routine from the Fresh Beat Band. He's 3 and I had never seen him do anything like this, and it certainly wasn't prompted by me! Guess he's got my musical genes though.

Then last Sunday I volunteered in his Sunday school class and found out that they have performers who lead them in similar upbeat songs with elaborate dance moves. Alex was really into it, but at least that explains where it comes from.


How To Shoot More Creative Photos

Last night I attended a presentation at the Katy Photographers Meetup group by a local amateur photographer named Adam Watts. Adam says he only started shooting in 2009 with a Nikon D40, but in those three short years he has passionately pursued the craft. His work is really great, you can check it out on Flickr here. Flickr also played a HUGE role in my development as a photographer, as a source of learning and feedback. If you want to improve your photography I highly recommend sharing your photos in specific groups on Flickr and asking for feedback. Also immerse yourself in other people's work and don't be afraid to ask questions about how they did it.

I don't want to totally rip off Adam's presentation but I do want to share with you some of his key ideas that I wholeheartedly agree with. This is not the technical stuff of how to take photos, this is finding your vision. One remark that I agree with and often need to be reminded of is that creativity can be learned. It's like a muscle that needs to be exercised or else it will atrophy. Kids are born with creativity, I see it in them every single day. Eventually though the routine of adult life gets in the way. I heard a great quote last night.

The chief enemy of creativity is common sense. - Picasso

One tip that Adam suggested was simply to change up your routine. Drive a different way home from work than you normally would and look for inspiration.

Another tip that has really worked for me is to change your perspective. That means sometimes climbing up high and looking down on something to see it differently, or getting flat on the ground and looking at the world through a "worm's eye view". This is why I always were comfortable shoes and clothing when I go to a photoshoot, even if it's a wedding. As much as I like looking nice, wearing high heels is not really conducive to   getting into the positions necessary for truly great photographs.

Another important tip Adam gave is to "be weird and ignore what people might think." That goes along with getting into strange positions for photos. This also includes taking your camera everywhere with you, including lots of public places like restaurants and the grocery store. If you want great pictures, take it EVERYWHERE. Take lots of pictures, even if it's just with your iPhone. Adam said the thing that pushed his development was taking on a 365 project, where you take and share online a photo every single day, whether you feel like it or not.

I took this with a really old point and shoot camera.
Finally, forget your gear. Quit spending time thinking that if you only had a better camera or this other lens that your photos would be so much better. I can't tell you how ticked off I get when I hear someone say "Oh your photos are so much better than mine because you have a better camera." Gear is nice, but it has nothing to do with creativity and mastery. Master the gear you have now so that you don't have to think about the settings to capture your vision, it's second nature. Focus on the vision. A great way to practice this, something I do frequently, is to only take one camera body and one lens with you on a photowalk.

So now it's your turn. Fill in the blank. "I exercise my creativity muscles by _________"


Ten Reasons Mom 2.0 Summit Is My Favorite Blog Conference

Right now the buzz from all the lovely ladies (and a few guys) who attended the Blissdom blogging conference in Nashville last week is just starting to die down. So if you are envious of all the bloggy goodness that went on at Blissdom and you either are or would like to be a more serious blogger, I want to encourage you to think about coming to the Mom 2.0 Summit this April in New Orleans. I went last year and can't wait for this year's conference, and here are ten reasons why.

1. It's New Orleans, for goodness sake! Refer back to my top ten reasons I love New Orleans.

2. Laura Mayes and Carrie Pacini are the hostesses with the mostest for sure. The have incredible taste. I mean, the conference is at the Ritz-Carlton, it doesn't get more lovely than that.

3. Seriously awesome sponsors like Johnson and Johnson, Huggies, Microsoft, and New Balance. Just to name a few. Intentionally plenty of time and avenues for bloggers to really interact with brands and build relationships.

4. Heavy on the content, light on the fluffy stuff. Just check out this schedule. I'm most looking forward to the session on How'd You Get that Sponsor? The Nuts and Bolts of Pitching.

5. Rock star speakers like Carol Roth, Alice Bradley and Jenny Lawson.

6. Awesome parties. Last year's conference opened with a killer Mad Men inspired party. This year's opening party is sponsored by Zatarain's so I can get that means doing it up Big Easy style!

7. Not too many people. Registration is capped at 500 people, and last year a lot of those were very purposefully PR, brand and marketing professionals with the intent of making real connections with bloggers.

8. My super cool roomies Pam, Ellie and possibly Jennifer. We are a kick ass group of smart and strong women, that I promise.

9. Keynote conversations. Last year's keynote conversations alone were worth the price of the ticket with Maggie Mason, Gabbie Blair, Heather Armstrong and others. I'm sure this year will be just as awesome.

10. Did I mention it's New Orleans? Seriously, do whatever you can to get here. This city is incredible.

This post is linked up over at Top Ten Tuesday, go check out other top ten posts!


Last Week In Photos

Last week seems to have zipped by with lightning speed. That is, except for the three hour wait at the pediatricians office with Alex, who had been sick with a fever for six days. Got some antibiotics and BOOM! Better in an instant. So I'm going to recap last week with a few photos.

First up, last Friday night my friend's band, Forlorn Hope, played at a local church coffee house night. Well, half the band did anyway...acoustic style. They were great.

Forlorn Hope
Then there was this killer sunrise on Saturday morning.

Alex was still sick on Sunday so I went to church by myself while Mike stayed home and played games with him.

On Monday Alex as still sick with a high fever, so I took him to the doctor. But of course one dose of antibiotics and ibuprofen had him back to his silly old self.
This is his fake mad face. 

The kid is addicted to Candylane. I played 15 times this week.
Then there was Thursday, the day Houston's very own Snowpacolypse loomed large. Weather people were swearing up down and sideways that we would for sure have 1-3 inches of snow, starting sometime after lunch. Thankfully Nathan's school did not close early, but I was stunned when Mike's office closed at noon and sent them all home, before even a single flake had fallen. So he and Alex crashed on the couch together.

Unfortunately when we woke up Friday morning, there was no snow. Zero, zip, zilch. But a nice coating of ice on the entire city of Houston caused more than 800 accidents. Thankfully all schools were closed, as was Mike's office. So we tried to make the best of it at home as a family. 

My palm tree seems to have survived the hard freeze.

My oleander kicked the bucket.

Nathan LOVED all the ice in the yard. 
Finally we ended up the week on Saturday celebrating my Granddad's 91st birthday with dinner and cake. I feel really fortunate that we get to spend so much time and so many birthdays with my grandparents.
It was a major project lighting all those candles.


Thank You Water Water Everywhere Readers

On this beautiful Saturday morning, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank my loyal and engaged readers here at Water Water Everywhere. I really love it when you leave various insightful comments and participate in good discussion, because I'm not just trying to talk at you, I want to grow our little community here so we can learn from each other. You may not know that my overall vision for this space is to encourage moms (and dads too sometimes!) to live in a more joyful, content, and intentional way rather than letting your days be filled with stress and hurry and anxiety. It breaks my heart to see moms wear themselves out with worry and busy-ness, because stress has become some kind of badge of honor for mothers.

As I mentioned recently, you can now find more of my style related writing over at All Things Chic, which launched this week with tons of giveaways and a pile of great posts. What I don't think I've mentioned is that you will find more of my faith focused writing over at Seeds of Faith, a blog specifically for Christian women. I'll be posting there the first Monday of each month. Both blogs have a wonderful community of women that I have really enjoyed getting to know.

Also did you know that there is a Water Water Everywhere Facebook page?  I'd love for you to "Like" it and join the discussion over there, which is a lot more than just these blog posts. That'd be cool. As always, I welcome any and all feedback, either here in the comments or on Facebook or you can always email me directly.

I love my readers!! Each and every one of you :)


Feb 4 is National Wear Red Day!

What's more fashionable than a red dress?

The Heart Truth: National Wear Red Day, Friday, February 4, 2011. Get Involved!

The symbol of National Wear Red Day, designed to increase awareness of heart disease among women, is a red dress! The goal is to get more women taking action by talking to their doctor about their risks for heart disease and making lifestyle changes to reduce those risks.

Did you know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women? I guess a lot of people don't know that, maybe being breast cancer awareness has been so heavily marketed it would be easy to think that breast cancer killed the most women each year. So that's why National Wear Red Day was created.

Why am I talking about this today? Because my dad died suddenly of a heart attack under the age of 50. That's a huge risk factor for me, increasing my risk of heart disease by 136%. So when my first cholesterol test measured 200 and my doctor started talking about ways to bring that down, I paid attention. At that time, pre-kids, I was a couch potato and a junk food junkie. I was heavier than I should be and incredibly out of shape.

After the birth of my first baby I hit the gym hard. Pregnancy and child birth were actually good for me, kick starting my weight loss and giving me the drive to work out. My cholesterol dropped like a rock, as did my blood pressure and resting heart rate. I've been able to maintain that low cholesterol even when I'm not eating well through my active lifestyle. I get a full physical with bloodwork almost annually, because I am ever conscious of my family health history.

So today I'm joining in with my red dress, made by Liz Claiborne. And I thought I'd shop around and find a few others that I love, in case you were inclined to find one for yourself!

Here's a cute and affordable one I found at Target for $39.99.

And here's another I found at Nordstrom by Ralph Lauren. They have several great styles I like from both Ralph Lauren and JS Boutique. 

And just to present some beautiful options for curvier women, here's a stunning red dress I saw at Nordstrom by Calvin Klein

So I hope you'll take this Fashion Friday  post to heart and after you pick out your red dress, go talk to your doctor about your heart health! Now hop on over and check out some other Fashion Friday posts! 


Why You Should Create and Stick To a Family Budget

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances. Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Everyone Needs a Cash Flow Plan

PlanningUp until this past September, I have never created or tried to live within a budget. Sure my husband and I were financially responsible and secure and I tossed around the word budget, but for twelve years of marriage we never actually created one on paper. Early in our marriage we used Quicken to track our income and spending, but it was all pretty much a big pot o' money and a guessing game each month to try to stay in the black. We always were in the black, if you count the fact that we consistently put a big chunk of money in our retirement plans, but our liquid savings fluctuated...a lot. And while I thought it was great that we had any savings at all, in this economy of no job security Mike felt we needed a bigger cushion. Our spending habits were becoming somewhat wasteful and our shrinking savings was starting to stress him out, which is why we signed up for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.

One of the first things the class insisted upon was creating a monthly zero-sum budget. I very much disliked the word "budget" because it felt stifling, like a prison. But I'm a numbers girl and decided to try it, and FPU sometimes called it a "cash flow plan" which I greatly prefer. Dave's book outlines several points about having a written plan.
  • a written plan removes the "crisis management" mode of handling money
  • it helps your money go farther
  • if you agree to it and live by it, a plan will help you avoid lots of money fights in marriage
  • a plan removes the guilt and fear that you may feel when buying necessities
  • a written plan prevents overdrafts and thereby removes a lot of stress
  • a plan will show if you are overspending in a given area
These are all great arguments in my mind for creating and sticking to a budget. It has certainly shown us where we were wasteful and has helped our money go much further.

Every Dollar Has a Name
A zero-sum budget assigns a purpose to every single dollar you spend. For us the biggest change was collecting our receipts and tracking cash purchases, like coffee or fast food. Every thing else was easily categorized through the use of the software program Quicken. It downloads the info from our various accounts and credit cards, and we were able to set monthly budget amounts in the program as well.

Mike is the "nerd" in our marriage and I am more of a "free spirit", so he did the first round of setting up the budget and then called a budget committee meeting. FPU recommends having these meetings at the start of every month, and limiting them to 17 minutes. No kidding. The nerd shows the free spirit the numbers, the free spirit is allowed to suggest a few changes, and then they make an agreement to live by it. It has been a really great exercise for us to have these budget committee meetings, and the first money when I really tried to stick to it we saved way more money than expected. Almost a whole mortgage payment's worth, which went straight towards our emergency fund. Budgeting has been not just good for our bottom line, it has been great for our marriage as well. 
There's so much more I could tell you about this, but I'll save it for another day. If you've stuck with me to this point, good for you! I wouldn't write about this stuff if I didn't believe it could help people so much and take away so much stress and anxiety from their lives...which is the mission of this blog. I wrote about why I love Turbo Tax and a few cool tax deductions that are often overlooked yesterday, so be sure and check that out too. 

Your turn...do you budget like this? Are you the nerd or the free spirit in your relationship? Does money cause you a lot of stress or do you feel in control of your financial house?
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