christmas on bartram way

I like to think that this Christmas has proved that I've allowed myself to chill out a bit. And by chill out I mean not spend a gazillion dollars on garland or on the ribbon that I would have really preferred on our packages. Not obsessing over the wrapping of our neighbor gifts or buying Christmas party plates when I had perfectly acceptable party plates at home [THIS IS A BIG DEAL]. That doesn't mean that I haven't loved decorating our home for our first Christmas on Bartram Way, but I used mostly what I had plus some free clippings from the tree farms and some landscaping clippings from around the neighborhood. Don't tell the HOA.

You could attribute that to actually having places to go and people to see this year. Or a grounding from our favorite advent readings. Or maybe a good ol' dose of God-given maturity? That'd be nice too. Whichever way [none being anything I did myself], I've certainly enjoyed a sense of simplicity during the Christmas season this year.

There's been long lunches with friends before braving the mall, shopping for an adoptive family, wrapping gifts to Christmas music, dinner with neighbors, Sunday School Christmas parties, and lazy mornings together making pancakes with red and green chocolate chips. Simple things that are so much more important than the things I distracted my lonely self with last year.

Not being able to fathom missing a week together when our leader was out of town, my small group girls came for dinner. And though we missed the wisdom and company of our surrogate mother and friend Terri, we laughed and told stories and asked advice and passed around the babies. We ate the most simple and cozy things I could think of: soup and bread and pie. And drank Candice's eggnog which shut up all of us non-believers. Over five hours later, after the last friend had left, the candles had burned completely out - a sign of a perfect night. There was no frantic deep-cleaning, no special homemade dish with stuffed this and sautéed this, no new outfit or playlist or floral centerpiece. There was soup and, in fact, thanks to Jenny's brilliant suggestion to the group text an hour or so before, we all curled up around the table in our pajama or yoga pants. Complete with holes.

A couple days later, our downstairs was filled with all of our favorite ninth graders. This is when I put the Christmas party plates back on the shelf at Target. Again, this is a big deal. That night we were reminded that serving platters don't matter. The chip bag will work perfectly fine. And just how funny a white elephant gift can be.

I'm very thankful for Christmas 2013. I don't say all this to make it seem like the last few weeks have been obnoxiously perfect. There are still worries and stress. We miss the loved ones we lost this year. I get anxious for what I hope 2014 will bring. But I'm thankful for the changes that have come since last Christmas and what we've learned from them. For every Saturday morning pancake made, every pot of soup, every friend who steps through the door that makes this seem more like home.


mcdisney family vaca

About this time last year, we [the McMahone side of our extended family] decided we were going to do it. We were finally going to plan our once-every-two-decades Disney vacation. We started in January and planned and researched and made reservations and shopped and packed and made reference guides and printed maps and obsessed over the gazillion WDW blogs out there with more tips than you could read in a very long lifetime. Which is probably why my sister and I ran with excited flailing towards one another right in front of Bay Lake Tower.

I hadn't been since I was seven years old [and probably won't go again for another 20 years so that my legs can be fully recovered], and I didn't really know what to expect. I'd say I embraced it: Cinderella's castle gave me chills, and I felt no shame talking to animatronic characters. And expected a response. I also may have teared up a little during Enchanted Tales with Belle. I mean...it's Belle.  

Even though three of us ended up at the Disney ready clinic throughout the week [praise Jesus for steroid shots and z-packs], we'll remember the amazing fireworks and parades, Audrey completely warming up to characters [it was a Christmas miracle], our bonding moment with the Seven Dwarfs, and a week's worth of memorable family dinners in a 50's kitchen, a Norwegian castle, an African marketplace, a beautiful greenhouse, a Victorian hotel, and the main table in the ballroom at the Beast's castle [right next to the Christmas tree]. 

With all that research, we've got a wealth of now useless tips to share [in .pdf form], but the one I'd say is the most important is to have ridiculously adorable matching t-shirts. We are not a matching t-shirt family. We don't participate. But at Disney, the happiest place on earth, you are practically worshipped for a good family tee. We originally planned to wear them on a shorter day with less photo ops and ended up washing and wearing them two more times. The McDisneys were a hit. 

The one thing that I didn't realize I would love so much is how Disney World is a creative-minded person's dream. There is nothing not designed with purpose: trashcans, drinking straws, light posts, everything. Walt was a dreamer. And those that continue his legacy are too. They encourage details and quality and creativity. Sometimes my head wanted to explode. 

It was a wonderful, hilarious, exhausting, memorable trip. Maybe we'll do it again in another fifteen years. Boudin said we're never leaving for that long again. 


wannabe florist

I have a degree in Sociology. The deeply useful, guaranteed job security kind of Sociology. Also, the imaginary kind.

Through a couple of connections, I got a much-wanted internship in Governor Jindal's office where I felt like I worked hard to stand out so that I would be given a full time position once I graduated. Just like I thought I had done all through high school and college and camp life.

It's all about me here, clearly.

And when a move to South Carolina took away my [at least] four more years of "job security," I felt part "Hello, brave new [creative] world!" and part "I'll be on my couch looking for government desk jobs." That transitioned to me crying on that same couch after no responses to both government job inquiries and asking local florists if I could clean their buckets and sweep their floors. That was May through January.

And on my birthday [January 31st - mark your calendars], I, somewhat randomly, saw a post by the wonderful Sarah looking for an intern. And by the next Wednesday [after a good six days of barely eating because of nerves] I was a part of the wonderful Fern Studio.

Since then, Sarah has taught me things that my hilariously classic floral classes didn't. She's given me opportunities that I never would have imagined. She's trusted and encouraged me into a place where I am suddenly entrusted with my own events at times. My dream job. I can hardly believe it!

It was God's perfect timing and gracious will, an unbelievably generous mentor/boss lady, a patient and uplifting husband, a dad who has told me my entire life that I needed to be in a creative career [which I never believed], and a cheerleader of a mother.

I did nothing. I cried and whined some. I talked about how most goals in life had come easy. And then I remembered [and continue to remember] that my merits and my abilities and my talents are not my own. They were given to me for a purpose. And on my own they are useless. I was given this blessing of a job, and I am so undeserving.

A little day in the life: 

After being picked up from the cargo hanger, before processing each stem. 

The beginning of the design process. 

The inevitable disaster. 

The final product. 

I love knowing a bride will be holding this as she walks toward her groom!  

Packing up [for a small wedding]. 

Not pictured: lots of hauling buckets, dirty fingernails, sore feet, plenty of emails and phone calls, and beautiful venues and wedding parties. It's a dream! 


summer 2013

Since I have been an uninspired blog-keeper this summer, a general update.

This summer has been one of transition. To a new house. To a more-official floral design position. To parenting a new pup. To much-needed involvement. To a hint of normalcy.

This normalcy looks like full calendars - a personal [possibly unhealthy] love of mine. So full that is calls for mini family meetings and plenty of time spent plugging in reminders and appointments and events into the calendar. I know that this is a very normal thing in the life of the average American [and beyond]. But for the last twelve months, our weeks have been the bare minimum. When you are a new member of a church or a business or a community, involvement is limited. Read: people-time is limited. This summer I am beyond thankful for the Lord providing us with busy days filled with events that need florals, church ministry responsibilities, dinner with new friends, family that needs celebrating.

This time last year, I was going to the grocery store because it was my only source of human interaction while D was at work. I know now that that was a season with purpose. But these days I wouldn't be surprised if I saw someone I knew in the Piggly Wiggly or Publix or (dreaded) WalMart. A wonderful, welcomed change even if I'm in need of a good hair-washing.

Summer 2013 began with our move to the new house. Things are shaping up, and there may possibly be some pictures soon since I'm learning to rangle the shedding dog and mulching area rug with this and this.

Less than a week later, we headed south for Anna's [who is absolutely "the apple of our eye"] first birthday party. It was all hands on deck for decorations and favors and food. At one point, D was slicing apples and cutting tiny little hearts out of their centers for apple and peanut butter sandwiches. We're rocking his all-boy-family world one birthday party at a time.

June, and then again in August, was peak wedding season bringing plenty of design and learning time. I did my first solo wedding and had the opportunity to assist Sarah with several more beautiful events. We ended the summer with bang: a two-wedding weekend with five venues in two days. I can honestly say that I've never been more exhausted in my entire life. Granted I've never run a marathon or given birth or, you know, climbed Mt. Everest. But I was worn slap out, y'all. And thanks to a poorly-chosen maxi dress, I was shuffling my chaffed self in on my extremely sore feet. Here's to adrenaline and pure creative satisfaction for carrying us through.

A trip to Ruston brought wonderful time with family, a bittersweet cleaning-out of Mamaw Mc's house, fresh Ruston peaches, and a tearful meeting of my best friend's baby boy. The pace at which our lives are moving is overwhelming at times.

We lost D's grandmother midsummer. It was the most sudden of any of our grandparents. And it's still hard to think that she won't be there when we visit this weekend. We had, as always, a lot of sweet family time through that heartache.

August began with a trip to Florida to spend some time with my dearest Ashley before her big move to the Middle East. It was perfectly timed, perfectly planned by a God who cares about details and emotions and friendships. We spent some time on the sand, around the table, at the outlet malls, and [most importantly] in our pajamas. We talked about memories and what life will be like after the move, what is most saddening and most exciting. An unexpected but completely perfect project was taking Ash's pictures and laying out her prayer magnet. Isn't she a beauty? We completely failed in our "no tears, just say 'see you later'" plan. So we cried and hugged and cried some more. And since then, we're thankful for international texting apps and email and prayer.

To wrap up a summer full of busy weekends was Audrey's SIXTH birthday. She's SIX. Impossible. We had a tea party with enough flowers for a small wedding ceremony. That evening, the entire fam went to the birthday girl's restaurant of choice - Chick-fil-A - where it's not difficult to get a table for thirteen on Saturday nights.

Today we are headed south for the wedding of one of D's groomsmen. This weekend will usher in [in my mind] an official beginning to fall bringing with it pumpkin-flavored purchases and LSU football. Here's to looking forward to sweaters and mums and Christmas trees and filled calendars.