Thursday, November 30, 2006

21 days makes a habit

This past Monday marked 21 days since I started my health challenge. 21 days since I gave up carbonated drinks, refined sugars and starches.

This, people, means that I, STACY KOCUR, have not consumed a Diet Vanilla Coke from Sonic in over three weeks. ME! I can hardly believe it myself. I haven't had Diet Coke for breakfast, even though there's been a bottle of it in my fridge most every morning. I've been drinking water. And occasionally, tea.

A few days in to my new lifestyle, I was craving Coke BAD. (You know, in Texas, all carbonated drinks are called "Cokes".) So I marched right into Target, made a beeline for the cosmetic aisle, snatched up a Bonne Bell Dr Pepper Lip Smacker, and proceeded to drool. It was as close as I could get. And it worked. I carry it in my purse, and now I have another one on the desk in my studio. It's yummy, in a "Oh-I-remember-this-taste-from-way-back-in-1979-way". I really didn't think it could get any better.

Today, I got a package from my most wonderful friend, Beth. Inside was a sweet note about being proud of me for giving up my most favorite thing... and how I can do all things through God who gives me strength... and a little something to make it easier, this:

WORD TO THE MOMMAS. This thing is DELICIOUS! If you see me walking down the street sucking on it like a pacifier, rip if from my paws. I don't need no stinkin' pacifiers!

But THIS. THIS I need.

Thanks Beth! :D :D :D

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I have the best friends. Really and truly, I do. And I'm lucky and blessed that so many of them live right here in Fort Worth! Today, I'm writing an open letter to Jerica. She's 10 years my junior, and is still livin' a carefree single life... still making life's big decisions... still finding time to do the things she wants to do and having the resources to make the things happen that she wants to happen. She doesn't have kids yet, isn't married yet (although David, her adorable boyfriend, needs to hurry on up about that!)... basically, we have nothing in common.

And yet, we do. We have our shared passion of inner city ministry. And here's the deal: in my former life, I was Jerica. When we first met, we had an instant connection. We understood each other. Our sarcasm was on the same plane. Our outward personalities are different, but at the root of us, our inner personalities are a lot a like. We are people pleasers, yet we sometimes come across as harsh. We are independent, go-do-it women, yet we deeply desire and even depend on others' approval of us.

A couple of years ago, Jerica invited me to lunch. She wanted to talk about things that she knew only an older friend could help her with. I was the one she chose. I was honored, and yet, a little freaked. When did *I* become the older friend?? Ever since, we meet quasi-regularly for lunch, and our quick-I-don't-have-much-time-today lunches always stretch to two hours or so - and we always ALWAYS leave conversations unfinished. There just isn't time to talk about everything on our hearts. I wish we could get together more often, but there's this thing called LIFE. We have two of them that just don't seem to be on the same track most of the time.

But I love my time with Jerica. She got a phone call once when we were together for lunch, and I heard her tell the person on the other end, "I'm having lunch with Stacy.... she's the lady I have lunch with every couple of weeks... you know, my mentor."

MENTOR? Again, I kinda freaked out a little. When did *I* become a mentor? Again, I was honored. And humbled. Because even though I'm ten years older than she is, Jerica has given me sound advice and shared amazing perspective with me, and truly, in so many ways, she is MY mentor. I'm blessed to have her as a friend.

Love you, Jerica!

Saturday, November 25, 2006


My friend Colleen is wise. So when she suggested this theme as a blog topic for my weekly challenge (that I issue on, I knew I had to do it.

What are 5 nuggets of wisdom that have been imparted to me by people I've cherished? How do those nuggets show up in my daily life... or do they? Have the words of wisdom shaped me? Which nuggets have I passed on to people who cherish me?

1. "Fill your mind with the things that are lovely and of good report."
This nugget was spoken (or rather, emailed) to me by a friend I've never met in person. I know her only as Scrapper Pearl. After I posted about my depression last summer, she sent me a beautiful email which I immediately copied to my "Smile File". She said many wonderful things and gave me countless nuggets, but this one stands out. She suggested that when I'm working my way out of depression, that I "do what it takes to get better, your beautiful children and your husband need you back...medication, therapy, journalling, hymns....". Well, Pearl, I did it. I filled my mind with the things that are lovely and of good report, and YES, I did get better, and YES, that advice shaped me and molded me. And YES, I've passed it on to others - my daughter, as a matter of fact. Thanks, Pearl, for your pearl of wisdom! I love you!

2. "Be always sure you're right, then go ahead." - Davy Crockett
My Grandpa Lewis lived by this quote, and never missed an opportunity to impart its wisdom on my siblings and me. I can see how the quote was reflected in the way he lived. He never spoke out of turn, never had to eat crow, never needed to apologize for saying something in anger that he really didn't mean. I hate to admit that I'm still working on learning this lesson. I rarely make sure I'm right before going ahead. I've eaten enough crow to sprout wings and fly. I've apologized way too many times for speaking in anger. It would do my Grandpa proud if I'd heed his advice. I'll try harder, Grandpa. I will!

3. God doesn't need our flattery. He finds glory in our honesty. -Luke Brawner
Luke is one of my outer-fringes friends, but I love him like a little brother. He fronts a band I love called "Poor Rich Folk". Maybe you've heard me mention them a few times. ;) At every concert I've been to, they've performed a song called "Leaves Like Eve's", about how we try to hide our sin from God, how we try to talk big and holy when we're in prayer, how we try to make God believe that we're all into Him when we're really not at all. And how that's so pathetic. God doesn't need me to try and flatter Him. He doesn't need false adoration. He'd much rather hear me say, "God, I can't find You, and frankly, that doesn't bother me much right now." He'll find much more glory in my HONESTY than he could ever find in my flattery. Those words ring so true to me, and I'm proud to say that Luke's lyrics have shaped how I approach God. He knows my heart anyway. He just wants ME to know it, too. And unless I can be honest about my heart, I can't allow Him to shape me and change me and make me whole. Thanks, Luke! (...and Jon, and Andy, and Randy....)

4. "It is OKAY." - Ali Edwards
Okay, so I've never met her. I've never even exchanged an email with her. But I stalk her blog, and I consider her a friend. I wonder how freaky she'd think THAT is? She often says, "It is okay", in reference to scrapbooking screw-ups and life screw-ups alike. And you know what? She's right. It *IS* okay. I love that.

5. "Waugh a Widdle." - Ian Kocur
Once upon a time, I asked Ian, "What makes you happy?" He answered, "Well, sometimes when I get in trouble, it makes me a wittle bit happy. Because sometimes when I get in trouble, I just waugh a widdle." Crack. Me. UP!!! I could stand to laugh a little when I'm gettin' in trouble. Good advice, Ian. :)

blog challenge:
What are 5 nuggets of wisdom that have been imparted to you by people you've cherished? How do those nuggets show up in your daily life... or do they? Have the words of wisdom shaped you? Which nuggets have you passed on to people who cherish you?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Let Every Breath

There's a song I love to sing at Fortress. I close my eyes, I lift my face to the sky, and I sing from the bottom of my soul. I don't care how loud I am or how off key I might be or how many people are looking at me funny. When I sing this song, I am so much more than singing: I am worshiping in every sense of the word.

My Jesus, My Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days
I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord, all the earth, Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I'll love You, forever I'll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.
Written by
Darlene Zschech

This Thanksgiving Day, I offer up this song.
To you, my God -
who instills in me strength and fortitude
who leads me to paths of healing and understanding
who blankets me in truth and opens my eyes to deceit,
who frees me to make my own choices
and disciplines me without punishment,
who stands beside me in adversity
and weeps with me in despair
and has mercy on me in anger
and rejoices with me in hopefulness,
who loves me as His daughter,
His chosen one, His beloved -
who never fails me,
never forgets me,
never disappoints me,
who always cherishes me
always believes in me,
always cushions my fall
and leaves the light on for me
(and all of this just this past year!) -
to you, My Father, My God -
with every breath, and all that I have,
may I never cease to worship you with my life.

Every thing I'm thankful for
on this Thanksgiving Day
is because of You.
I'm lifting my head and singing it loud.
I hope the neighbors hear me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

turkey butt

I should probably be writing a more reverent post on this Thanksgiving Eve, and I'm quite sure the mood will strike sometime tomorrow and I'll wax poetic about all the things I'm thankful for.

But for now...
turkey butt!

I crack myself up! When people ask me why I don't cook my own turkey, I always tell them that the reason is one-fold: I refuse to put my hand in a turkey butt. No Thank You. Then they always say something along the lines of, "Uh, you're confused. You don't HAVE to put your hand up the turkey's butt. It's the neck...."

Yah. Theoretically, I know that to be true. But even so, I refuse to put my hand in a turkey butt.

And so, this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm ecstatic that THIS arrived yesterday:

Turkey Butt. LOL!! The truth is, I just like saying it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

grumpy grumpy joy joy

I wake up grumpy. Always have, probably always will.
It doesn't matter how much sleep I get, I hate to wake up in the mornings. It takes me a good two hours to wake up and be human. Before that, I'm just on autopilot.

I married a morning person. I've largely succeeded over the years in corrupting him and making him a night owl. But his true colors still shine brightest in the mornings.

Mostly, he's learned to leave me alone while I'm waking up. I don't want any chit chat, I don't want any hanky panky, I don't want any chipper happy joy joy, thank you very much. Shut up, leave me alone, and keep the blinds closed. Hmpf.

Sunday morning, Darren got crazy. He started harrassing me in a fun-loving way about getting out of bed. I wouldn't budge. I couldn't even chew him out; all I could do was growl. He pounced on me. He ticked me. Eventually, when I made it to the bathroom and started brushing my teeth, he kept joking with me and being all annoyingly happy until I wanted to knock his head off. I glared at him in the mirror and grunted.

"You make me smile," he said, grinning from ear to ear.

"You're a freak," I retorted. "How do I make you smile when I'm bein' cranky?"

"Because even when you're cranky," he answered, "there's this underlying joy about you. And it makes me smile."

And dadblast it, that made ME smile. GRRRR! I checked it real quick, though, and said, "HUMPF! Yo momma!"

Then he gave me a giant squeezy hug and went on his way, finally leaving me in peace to enjoy my grumpiness with a big ol' smile on my face.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Things I like, A to Z

No one I ever ask remembers the song from the early 80s called "Shopping from A to Z". It went like this:

C - (can't remember)
etc etc etc

I thought it was sung by that same chick who sang "Mickey", but I've never been able to find it.

Anyway. Tonight, my friend Jenny posted this little question on ScrapShare, and I answered. THought it would make a good blog post. Most of you have read it, so feel free to hit your back button now. LOL!

A is for apple cider. LOVE it this time of year. With orange juice and cloves.
B is for bra. I need some new ones.
C is for cranked UP - the volume level my car stereo was at today. Dani, Brittani and I rocked OUT, and I liked it!
D is for Dani. It's cool when you really LIKE your teenager.
E is for eggs. I've been eating a lot of them lately.
F is for Fortress, which blesses me and my family daily.
G is for gauchos. Most comfortable pants I've ever owned.
H is for heifer, 'cause I just like that word.
I is for ice from Sonic.
J is for Journey. Still love their music, 20 years later
K is for Kyle. I've always loved the name. Used to name all my male characters Kyle when I was a kid. Now my youngest's middle name is Kyle.
L is for laughter. I like it loud and raucous!
M is for music. I like all kinds, and I gotta have it daily.
N is for nighttime. It's when my imagination and creativity come alive.
O is for Oprah.
P is for potatoes! I'd rather have good mashed potatoes for dessert than dessert itself.
Q is for quarters. Darren works with the dude who designed the Texas one. I like quarters 'cause it makes my heart happy to be able to give a kid quarters for the Coke machine at church.
R is for reading. Gotta do it every night when I go to bed, even if it's 3 a.m. and I'm exhausted.
S is for scrapbooking. It's good for my soul.
T is for Tomlinson. GO LADAINIAN!! 101 NFL career touchdowns!! (He's from my hometown team, TCU Horned plays for San Diego.)
U is for USA. I'm a patriotic American.
V is for Volkswagen Beetle. I drove a '72 model in college and wish everyday for another one.
W is for water. I drink gallons of it these days. No more Diet Vanilla Coke for me! Can you believe it?
X is for Xtreme. My doc required me to make a drastic plan to lose weight. I am doing it. Xtreme measures, and I'm succeeding! Xtremely proud of myself! Gonna be Xtremely fine in about 18 months! LOL!
Y is for youth. I like that I can still be zany and fun, even at 37.
Z is for zzzzzzzz. I love to sleep. I just don't much like to go to bed. heeee!


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder

So it's the week of Thanksgiving. I should write a thankful-for blog, right? It's on the list along with "get Christmas cards ready", "buy groceries", and "don't forget to clean the baseboards 'cause Mom's coming".

I was thinking about the thankful blog tonight, wondering how to put a new twist on it so that it doesn't read like every freshman's creative writing assignment, when I stumbled on the above quote.

I. AM. ALIVE!!! I know it to be true, because my heart is ever conscious of my treasures. I am one of the most blessed people I know. I sometimes actually feel guilty for the blessings bestowed on me.

But tonight, my heart is conscious of a specific treasure. My best friend. My dietician. My personal chef. My husband.

The middle two things are fairly new. It's true that Darren's always done the majority of the cooking around here, but 3 weeks ago, he became dietician, meal planner, personal chef, and cheerleader. You see, I had a little chit chat with my internist. He wasn't happy with my weight, and gave me two weeks to decide on a drastic plan. He gave me four options to explore: gastric bypass, lapband, HarrisFast (liquid diet), or lifestyle change. It took me about 10 seconds to rule out the first three.

Two days after that appointment, I left for a five-day scrapbooking vacation with friends. While I was gone, Darren studied, devising a plan for me based on the Curves weight loss system. He planned a menu, including my breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners, and he went grocery shopping. Every night for the first week, we sat down in the evening and I chose what I wanted to eat the next day, then he spent a half hour or so preparing and packaging it all for me. I felt like Oprah! All I had to do was go to the pantry and pull out a pre-meausured snack, or to the fridge to take out a ready-to-heat meal. I've always said that I could lose weight too, if I had a personal trainer and a chef. Now I have it.

The first week, I lost 4 pounds. It's a start. My doctor will be THRILLED. Darren has been amazing. Not only is he doing all the prep and work and encouragement on the outside, but he's doing a lot of praying on the inside. He wants nothing more in this world than for me to be healthy. He dreams of the day I can climb mountains with him again.

And I know his prayers are working, because I've faced dozens of temptations and obstacles and near-sabotages that haven't even TOUCHED me. (As I type this, I can hear my sister munching on yummmmy sweet grapes 4 feet behind me, for instance.) I have no will power. I've proven that for 18 years now. This resolve I have? This will power? It's a God thing.

And it's a Darren thing. He's my treasure. My heart is conscious of it. And I'm ALIVE!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Ahhh. Sweet silence. The whole household is asleep, even the three cats. I've turned off the TV. This is bliss.

But in the silence, I'm starting to notice that even silence has a sound.

I hear the whir of the computer. I hear the occasional clicking of the light bulbs. Outside, the wind is gusting, sometimes hard enough to rattle the windows, sometimes causing the trees to scritch-scratch against the siding. I hear a train whistle, a siren, a car barreling down the main street that is one house away. My swivel chair squeaks a bit when I move. The ice machine comes to life for a second here and there, even though it's not hooked up to anything. The house settles and creaks. My fingers clack away on the keyboard. Someone upstairs is moving. I only THOUGHT they were all asleep. I hear the thud thud thud on the 89-year old hardwoods.

Sometimes I crave silence. Sometimes, in the car, I'll make a rule: NO MORE TALKING UNTIL WE GET OUT OF THE CAR. It usually lasts about 10 seconds, but I try.

Tonight, it's a funny reality. Here I am, surrounded by the silence that I so often crave, and I don't want it. I'm gonna play a CD. Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten". (Thanks, Beth!) But I'm gonna enjoy it in silence. I'm gonna actually be able to LISTEN to it.

Ahhhh. Sweet silence.

Monday, November 13, 2006

10 Years - Happy Anniversary, Fortress!

Recently, I had the great privilege of creating a photo timeline for Fortress Church. I started it with the earliest photos I could find of the building that we occupy. This structure, built in 1905, first housed a boarding house for railroad workers. In the following years, it served as a hotel, an appliance store and repair shop, and an antique store. Fortress acquired the building in 1995, and it's now listed as a Cultural and Historical Landmark here in Fort Worth. It was the neatest thing learning about the building's history while I did this project.

But even neater was learning more about the history of Fortress's early years. When they bought the building, it was in such disrepair that it couldn't be occupied. So for 8 months, the church met out in "The Barn", a creaky old building that was once used for antique auctions. So bad was the roof that one Sunday when it snowed outside, it snowed inside as well. When it rained, the churchgoers knew where to sit to avoid the drops and where to place buckets to catch them. It was cold and drafty in the winter, and hot and stifling in the summer. And still, the people came. From the nearby neighborhoods and homeless shelters, the people came for food, comfort, and acceptance. From the outlying neighborhoods and suburbs, the people came to love, to serve, and to be blessed.

Today, every nook and cranny of the building has been cleaned, remodeled, repainted, reappointed. Every square inch is put to use. The barn is still standing (barely), and is used for storage. Last spring, Ms. D was storing some cases of juice boxes out there. One night, the alarm sounded, and Michael responded in the middle of the night to discover a man running from the barn carrying a case of juice. It's pathetic, isn't it? Stealing juice from a church. It gets worse. Also last spring, Michael planted flowers only to have them stolen right out of the ground.

Inner city ministry isn't glamourous. In the beginning, very few people thought that Fortress Church could survive. But survive it did, and not only survive, it thrived. It grew. It dreamed. It persevered. People come and go; after all, inner city ministry is a dirty, sometimes ugly, sometimes thankless job. There's a high rate of burnout. There's a lot of hopelessness. There've been times when our numbers of regular volunteers have dwindled to so few that we wonder, "Is God trying to tell us something? Should we just shut down and go to a megachurch somewhere?" But those questions are just lies that Satan feeds us. That became evident to me (again) on Saturday night.

As people streamed through the doors to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, I was struck by the diversity. We had an older couple from a suburban church who'd never been to Fortress before. It was entertaining watching their reactions to people and activities. There was a family who is near and dear to all of our hearts, who sort of ebb and flow from the Fortress family. It was so good seeing them all there again, together with each other, and together with us. I had to wipe tears when Mr. Clark refused my handshake and insisted on a hug instead. The teen girls who I love so much - all sisters - came with their Mom. Volunteers from affluent suburbia sat among families from the projects. We ate together, we worshipped together, and we reminisced together as we watched an amazing video that chronicled the last decade.

Fortress is so much more than a church. It's a home, it's a safe haven, it's a place to rely on, it's a positive force, it's a light in a dark world, it's an after school program, it's a hot lunch, it's a lesson in manners, it's a cheerleader and a believer in bigger things, it's a reminder of hope, it's a computer lab, it's an advice column, it's a soft place to fall, it's a scrapbooking center, it's a homework help room....

but mostly, it's a family. That's the word that kept singing to me as I watched the video. "It's like a family," Lety said. "It's family. It's always there when we need it," said Mr. Clark. It IS a family. It doesn't matter if we meet in the barn, or in the park down the street, or in my house, the church is wherever the family - the people- go. People who've been there in the past, and people who are here in the present - we're all family through Fortress. Saturday night, I was thrilled to meet two past ministers. I told them both that it was almost like meeting a celebrity, so high are the pedestals that they've been placed upon by the Fortress folks. They both just laughed it off. But as much as I joked about meeting Fortress celebrities, it was really more like reuniting with long-lost brothers. Truly, Fortress wouldn't be what it is today without the people who've given their blood, sweat and tears over the last ten years. It wouldn't be what it is without the people who love the ministry here and dedicate their lives to being in the thick of it.

Fortress blesses me. Every day. I prayed for best friends several years ago, and they came to me via Fortress. As I said on the video, I never in a million years dreamed I'd work in inner city ministry. It's embarrassing to me now to admit that I didn't even realize that Fort Worth HAD and "inner city", so comfortable in suburbia was I. But when we happened on a worship service at Fortress, we knew we were home. We never looked back. We've been richly blessed because of the ministry there, and by the people we've come to know through it.

God smiled on Fortress Saturday night, I know he did. How could He not have, when His greatest command was being fulfilled over and over by people of all different races and backgrounds and economic status? "Love your neighbor as yourself."

That's what Fortress does.
Thank you God, for leading me to this place.

View photos here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rite of Passage

Aidan has a problem with scissors. Earlier in the school year, he kept coming home with holes in his pants. Perfectly snipped holes. Not even frayed yet. Freshly cut holes. Hmpf. He was grounded from scissors at home for 3 weeks, and to Aidan, that's a big deal. He loves art and his scissors are one of his favorite tools.

Then last week, he cut his hair.

I know that every child goes through this. Dani did it when she was 2. She still had her baby curls, and she lopped one of 'em off at the ear. I was devastated, and called my Mom crying.

"She cut her curls off!" I bawled.
"It'll grow back," said Mom.
"Her curls won't come back!" I wailed.
"They might," said Mom.
"But she's in a WEDDING next weekend!"

The only way to fix the hack job she did was to give her a super short Bob. She toddled down the aisle with the same haircut Darren's Mom wore. Her curls never came back, either.

This time, with Aidan, I didn't give a hoot about the style. In fact, it was so funny looking - long bangs with an inch-wide chunk missing right in the middle - I had to stifle the laugh. Other people didn't bother stifling it. One of the kids at church said, "Your hair looks like your mouth!" Well, by George, it does. Looks just like Aidan's gap-toothed smile. Anyway... when I first saw the damage, I stifled the laugh and bellowed,


"Me, but I threw the hairs in the trash," he answered in one quick breath without pausing between 'me' and 'but'. See, he was PROUD of that 'cause last week, he got in trouble for leaving his teeny tiny paper cuts all over the family room floor. He actually thought he'd done good.

I asked him if he'd looked in the mirror. He had. I asked if he liked what he saw. "No," he said, hunching up his shoulders and lowering his chin. "You need to take me to the hair cut place so they can fix it."

"I will NOT," I replied. "I don't have any money. You'll have to go to school like that all week."

"But they'll think I look STUPID!" he wailed.

"Well Aidan, you DO look stupid!", I replied.

Sometimes, the best punishments are the ones you yourself don't even have to hand out. For the next day at school, his teacher gasped. "Aidan! Did you cut your hair here, or at home?" When he said home, I'm sure she sighed audibly. Then she made him stand at the front of the class while she lectured about the proper use of scissors. HA HA!

Lesson learned. I hope. He's at the hair cut place right now, getting it fixed. I was starting to get used to it. He had mastered the comb-over. Crack. Me. UP!!

What are the odds that Ian learned from Aidan's mistake and won't repeat it? Slim? Yah. I was afraid of that.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I've been missing. I know it. You can stop emailing me now. Everything's okay!

I've just been super busy, and I let the ol' blog slip.

But I'm back! Just as soon as this weekend's over. I have a week's worth of stuff to do before Saturday, and only 2 days to do it. Fortress is celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and I've promised to create a photo timeline, but.... I'm still in the "gathering photos" stage. And since I've only been there for 3 years, well, that's kinda tricky. I should've started this months ago. :)

I started a new blog today. It's an exciting adventure for me, because I'm writing for a specific audience, for PAY. It won't be a lot of pay, mind you. It might only be a few dollars here and there. I certainly won't ever get rich writing it. But it'll keep me honest. I'm required to blog 10 times every week. So check back often! (scr)apropos

I'll keep blogging here, of course.
For me.
I need it. I've missed it.

See ya after Saturday! :D

Saturday, November 04, 2006


November is my favorite month of the year, largely because of what's happening this weekend: I'm at my annual ScrapShare Texas retreat! There are 35 women here, and if I may say so, I think we might be the funniest, most talented group of 35 women on the internet! I think I've lost weight this weekend already; the laughing has been an aerobic workout. My sides literally hurt as I type this. :D

This retreat began 2 years ago when I planned the first ScrapShare Texas retreat at my house. ScrapShare, my scrapbooking home on the 'net, had just lost one of its most beloved members to cancer, and the loss made us realize that our friendships, even though most of us had never met in real life, were real and strong. We decided to waste no more time. We decided to start meeting in real life. Since then, ScrapShare retreats regularly take place all over the country. The first weekend in November is always set aside for the Texas one.

Scrapping is what brings us together. We go to great pains to make sure our luggage meets the weight limits for the airlines. If that means that we only bring one pair of jeans so that we can fit 24 fluid chalks instead, well, so be it. That's the nature of the beast.

What's funny is, we all plan and pack and stress over what photos and supplies to bring. I actually worried that I'd run out of photos before the weekend was over. But no. What happens every year is that we end up talking and laughing and eating and laughing some more... and scrapbooking becomes secondary. We drag all our supplies out, we organize them, and we even work on layouts, but really, it's all about the friendships.

This year, I think, is the best retreat yet. I've met and bonded with women I've not met before, and I've reconnected and reminisced with friends from past ScrapShare Texas retreats. We've laughed at each other, cried with each other (seriously.... there are always tears during the Sister Swap), and played practical jokes on each other.

Meanwhile, at home, our families are holding down the forts, delivering Kindergarten fundraiser junk that arrived yesterday (WOO HOO!! Impeccable timing for ME!), cooking the meals, handling the kids' schedules, changing the diapers, chaperoning the birthday parties.... all so we women can enjoy some R&R. We deserve it. This one weekend a year invigorates me, rekindles my scrapbooking spirit, renews my passion for what I do and makes me HAPPY. :)

Thank you, Darren, for supporting me and my friendships, for helping me cultivate them by allowing me the freedom to be Just Stacy instead of Mom. I do love my kids, from the very depths of my heart. This weekend every year cements that when I catch up the family scrapbook. But it also cements who I am outside of being a Mom: a scrapbooker, a friend, a woman.

Here are my sweetest friend Denise and my most ornery friend Gaye, chatting in front of my wall of layouts. Still two full days to go! Imagine the POSSIBLILITIES!