My Dad: The-Servant-Dendrologist

I’ve learned a lot from my Dad. How to gut a fish, value hard work, roof a house, grow almost anything (except desert plants!), find my way around in a city, draw 3D houses and great trees, take a group picture without causing a riot, be a servant, feed a sick turtle, share my faith, eat sunflower seeds… this list goes on!

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One of my favorite pictures of dad and I

One of the biggest things that my Dad gave to me was a love of gardening and the outdoors! He is a Professor of Forestry at Virginia Tech, so there were always an abundance of bizarre tree species and science projects around the house. As long as I can remember I have been “helping” Dad in the garden, and thanks to his endless patience with me he passed on his green thumb. In High School and early college he suggested that I pursue horticulture, since I liked it so much. I shrugged him off in typical teenager fashion, thinking that was ridiculous. Years later, after floundering around in different majors, I finally took my dad’s advice and pursued a degree in Horticulture at Virginia Tech.  Better late than never? *facepalm* To this day I am thankful for all of the outdoorsy things he taught me, especially “specialty” skills like reviving plants that other people threw out, collecting maple sap to make syrup, caring for sick or injured wildlife and just exactly why forest fires are actually a good thing.

“Dr. Dendro” collecting photos for his DVD textbook “Woody Plants In North America”

Day in and day out, Dad also taught me how to work hard and be a servant to those around me.  Lots of little lessons really have left an impact! Just to name a few:

“The latest you should be is ten minutes early”  taught me time management and respect for other people’s time.

“Make the juice” refers to making the next pitcher of orange juice when it is empty, so that it is ready for the next person.

At the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. I am rocking corduroy suspenders!!

“In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurels of victory there is glory to be found if one has done his best” is a quote from Eric Liddell, Olympic champion and missionary to China. Dad reminded me of it often, encouraging me to work hard and do my best, no matter what the outcome. Knowing that he would be proud of me if I worked hard, regardless of the grade I got or where I placed in an event, was a big deal to me.

“Change is good.” Believe it or not, I used to be CRAZY shy and really hated any type of change… even something small like getting new carpet! Dad taught me that change is not only good, but inevitable, and gently nudged me out of numerous comfort zones.

“The fish gutting lesson” can be summed up as – Instead of taking  a break in the middle of your job, work hard to finish your task so that you can fully rest afterwards and enjoy a job well done.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dad is an avid Steeler, Pirate and Penguin fan!

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phillippians 2:3 really sums up Dad’s heart. He always puts others first. This was especially visible to me in High School, when he donated an enormous amount of time to lead our church youth group. He took on what basically was another full time job to organize weekly youth group meetings, service activities, lock ins and mission trips. 

Dad – master navigator (before fancy cell phone GPS) and teenager wrangler for youth trips.

His giving went far beyond youth group, though. He is always using his handyman skills to help those in need, whether is is paining a widow’s deck or fixing a leaky roof for a family in need. I will NEVER forget a particular project where Dad was crawling under a run down rural trailer to fix a plumping problem – in the mud and sewage and all. Who does that?! My dad. That family had a need, and he knew how to meet it. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but now I realize that selflessly giving so much of your time and talent is a real rarity in this world. Dad, I am forever grateful that you made giving normal and a part of every day life! It’s a habit that I strive to carry on every day.


While Dad passed on a lot of serious life lessons, he is also a goof ball and knows how to play hard. He played rec football for years with guys half his age, and loves to fish! I can’t say that I have the football and fishing genes, but that is ok with me. I still have spent plenty of time watching his fish and play football. Work hard, play hard!

Today on Father’s Day, it is neat to look back and realize what an impact my dad has had on my life.

Dad, you didn’t just teach me important life skills, but you taught me how to be a servant and how to leave this world better than when I came into it. You’ve built into me lessons that are already paying  forward to those around me. Eventually those lessons will keep on giving, even after you are gone. That’s one serious legacy, and I love you so much for it! 

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photo by Abby Grace Photography

to Mom

To Mom, who let us play in water, mud, dirt, grass, piles of construction rubble and sand filled with cat poop. Who let us explore and learn, dirt and all… even if the dirt followed us into the house. I am sure it was hard enouh to keep us clean without us rolling in the mud. That’s some serious Mom Love.

To Mom, who packed us all up and moved to Canada for six months so Dad could do research. Looking back, Canada holds some of my fondest memories, but, I am also starting to realize just how much courage and patience Mom had to have. Three kids under five, one of them only a few months old? To a place where she didn’t know anyone else, and had to put up with black fly infestations and buy milk in plastic bags?! That’s some serious Mom Love.


To Mom, who ever so patiently let me bring the outdoors in. Who let me festoon the rafters, literally, with all kinds of nature. Who let me repaint things on the porch, dig up old vessels from the woods, fill them with leaves and acorns and branches, and “decorate” with them. These photos may not be too shabby, but, I promise you… my décor was no Better-Homes-And-Gardens. She let me do it anyways. That’s some serious Mom Love.

Lynchburg-based National Guard infantry battalion conducts departure ceremony

To Mom, who loves her son in law so much, even though he is as far from normal as you can get. Who loves him when he is far away, though all of the changes the military throws at us, and helps me do the same. I mean, let’s be honest here… I didn’t marry the most low-maintenance guy, and to have a Mom that supports him, and supports our marriage, means the world to me. I couldn’t do it without her. Loving your daughter’s husband as much as your own son… that’s some serious Mom Love.


To Mom, who raised us five kiddos. I have to say, I think so far we have all turned out pretty swell! To keep us five clean, feed, and educated was enough work on it’s own, but she taught us how to cook our own food, make crafts out of anything, ask questions, find answers, clean up our own messes, play fair, work hard, dig deep, love, forgive, serve. She didn’t just keep us alive, she turned us into amazing human beings with the character to accomplish big things and leave the world better than when we came into it.  That’s some serious Mom Love.

To Mom, who patiently allowed, and even encouraged, “extra curricular” activities of all sorts. Although we might not have been athletic, we made up for it with recorder, guitar, piano, ukulele, infant cats, crazy puppies, runaway lizards, immortal fogs, turtles, fish… not to mention endless creative craft projects like painted rocks, clothes, carpet, wood (painted anything really)… sewing things, gluing things, stapling things, you name it. Dad may have been the “official” painter in the house, but, Mom was the one that really lit the creative fire in all of us, in one way or another. Sarah writes, Matthew does computer-y program-y stuff (obviously I don’t understand it), Rebekah is in art school, and Jordan is a piano-music-jujitsu prodigy .  We could have all played soccer and been done with it, but Mom let us do our own thing. That’s some serious Mom Love.

To Mom, who has seen me come full circle in the journey of figuring out what I really love to do. From beginning playing outside in flowers and dirt, to bringing them inside. She taught me reading, writing, and arithmetic, then watched me change majors a billion times in college. She supported me as I give up the security of a nursing degree to pursue something arguably less stable, and then gave up finishing college to get married and move far away. Now here I am, back at where I started – playing with flowers. Giving me the tools I need to ask questions and find my own answers, and watching me as I make myself dizzy trying to figure out life, and loving and supporting me through the entire thing… that’s some serious Mom Love.


To Mom. I love you, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. You didn’t just raise five human beings – you’ve helped mold the very best parts of me. You’ve given me courage to try new things, and PATIENCE to keep trying. That’s a gift I can never repay you for.



simple do-it-yourself garland

This is about the time of year when home decorating can go one of two ways.
shutterstock_113605411One, you sit back, look around, and say “my, the house looks so festive and lovely!”

Or, you sit back and go “my, the Christmas decorations could really use some help this year.”

In my case, we are in our new home, and when I pulled out the bin of decorations, well, there just weren’t enough to go around. The result were blank spaces around the home, void of Christmas cheer. Black holes where the lights and glitter and greenery suddenly ends.

I needed some more Christmas cheer!

shutterstock_341003540Being on a budget (time and money) and considering the outrageous cost of decorations that you only have up one month a year, I set out to make some of my own. I like to keep things simple – quick, easy, low cost. December does NOT need more stress, especially from trying to make some Christmas extravaganza spectacular 500 step-with-a-hot-glue-gun craft you saw on Pinterest.


Introducing – the easiest holiday garland you with ever meet. It will make your wallet happy and keep your mind sane.



Keep it simple, folks.



This isn’t huge and elaborate, but is it a great way to add something simple to an empty space. It is is easy, and something your can have the kids helps with, without losing your mind.


Here is what you will need.


~Twine or Ribbon (heavy twine for a larger garland, or use thinner twine or ribbon for a more delicate feel). Use what you already have around the house; no need to buy something new if you don’t have to!

~Evergreen clippings from around your yard. I went to a Christmas tree lot and asked if I could collect some of the left over clippings that they were going to throw out! Even if you are in Tucson you can find some yummy smelling evergreens.

~Scissors for the twine and clipper for the branches

If you are in the Tucson, eyucalyptus is great for this project! IMG_2376It is very common around town and in parks, and many people have them in their yards. They have green-gray leaves that hold their shape well, and sometimes you will find little clumps of green berries as well.

Use what you have around you! Go outside and make a lap around your yard, snipping little pieces off of the trees around you. Make this project YOURS. 

You will want to take the bigger pieces and cut them into smaller pieces, roughly the same size. I say roughly, because we are keeping this simple, remember? No need to pull out the measuring tape here. IMG_2375

Next, lay the pieces out on your table and form a pattern that you like.

This will make is easier when you start to put this all together. If you have different sized clippings, put the larger ones in the middle and the smaller ones towards the end.


Now it is time to put it all together!

Cut a piece of twine or ribbon WAY longer than you need. You can always cut it shorter at the end, if you don’t need it all. You will need a lot more than you think, so measure it out, and then add some more. When you tie the knots around the branches it will take up a lot of that extra!

Next, find the middle of your string (again, just estimate). That is where you will start. It is easier to start in the middle and work out, doing one side a time. Don’t ask me why, but, I have tried it both ways, and it just never seems to work out very well when I don’t start in the middle!



Grab the piece of greenery that is in the middle of your layout (one of the bigger pieces) and start with that.

Tie a simple knot around the stem and pull it tight. Nothin’ fancy, we aren’t in the Boy Scouts! Just a plain ol’ loop, not even a double knot.  As the greenery dries, it shrinks a little, and you want to be able to pull the twine tighter if you you need to, to keep it from falling apart. It also helps to tie it in the middle a little bit, instead of right at the very top of the stem.

You can also losing tie the knot first, then pull the clipping through and tighten it.

Once you have that first middle piece, just keep moving on to your next clipping! You don’t have to measure how far apart to make them, just eye ball it.



If you add one and it is too close or too far away from it’s neighbor, adjust it before moving on to the next one. It is much easier to adjust them one at a time as you go, instead of trying to shift them all at the end. Again, I learned the hard way.

IMG_2382You might find that the clippings turn sideways when you tighten the knot. That is ok… try re-tying the knot, or, tying it at a different place on the branch.  Or, if you like the way it looks, just leave it! This is YOUR project, remember? Go with what looks nice to you.

It’s starting to look pretty nice, isn’t it?!

Keep adding pieces until the garland is as long as you want, or you run out of twine, or, you run out of branches.


To hang it up, you can make a loop at the end of the twine, or, just wrap it around a hook or nail. It’s up to you, so do whatever is easiest and whatever looks nice to you.



You can hang your newly created beauty indoors, or outside. I made one to clip my Christmas cards too and love it! Use little clothespins, paperclips, binder clips, or whatever you already have handy.




Some last minute tips…

~Don’t hang your garland close to a fire place or candles. The greenery will dry out quickly and burst into flames if near an open flame. That’s not the way to spread Christmas cheer.

~You can mist your garland with a spray bottle to help keep it fresh, but, evergreens and eucalyptus will age beautiful as they dry. So don’t be sad as they fade. Enjoy the change and appreciate the transition from new to old.

~Keep it simple. I say it again, because it is so easy to get caught up in the season with decorating and trying to get things to look perfect. Make this your own. Enjoy the process. Put on some music and grab a cup of tea. If we are all so busy with trying to MAKE Christmas, then we end up missing it entirely. 

Don’t miss Christmas. 

Before you know it, January will be here and the decorations and the dust and the glitter will go back into boxes, to stay in the dark til next year. So enjoy this season!


I hope this post was helpful and inspired you to create something of your own this season! I’d love to see what you make!


more than a piece of cardboard: the must know’s in creating your first business card

I have to say folks, I am super excited about my new business cards! They came out just the way I was envisioning… simple, clean, to the point.


You love?!

I have seen a lot of business cards over the past three years, and because I am still stuck in the stone ages I have piles of them in my desk.

 I’m by no means a marketing expert, but, I do feel like I have a good sense of when a card looks good or not.

I think that most of us do, even if we don’t realize it. Have you ever looked at a card and thought “wow I like that!” Or, are there certain business cards that are easier to remember?

I have been known to ask my husband to help me look through the piles of cards and saying something like “it’s the blue card! With his face on it! With a shiny logo!”

I’ve never had any marketing training, but, I know when something looks good to me or catches my eye.

THIS card in particular is a favorite!

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Alex Gurevich- Fabric Eleven

I first saw this card before I actually met Alex… but I immediately thought “this guy is good at what he does and I need to know him!” That is the kind of impression that a good card can make. Alex is now at Fabric Eleven, and if you think this card is sharp, you should see his new one!

Noticing details about things that catch your eye can make a difference when you are starting a business and developing your branding. When a logo or brand catches your eye, take one step past “wow, nice!” and ask yourself “ok, WHY do I think this looks nice?”

In my case, I always like a fresh, clean looks. Light colors. Clean text. So when I was developing my logo and first business cards, I followed the same “rules.”

I am pretty happy with the results!

It also  got me thinking… why are there so many BAD business cards out there?!

I think that one reason is because when you are first starting, it’s easy to say “oh, I am brand new, I don’t have a budget for marketing or a logo, I don’t know how to deign something…” and just put it on the back burner. When you first start, getting a business card is exciting, but, if you don’t have a brand and logo figured out BEFORE you will end up just picking a design you like, but doesn’t make sense for you business. Just because you don’t have a budget to have someone design your cards for you doesn’t mean you have to have a ” ho hum” card.

So get things rolling, here are three secrets to consider when you go to order your first business cards:

  • Stay away from designs that are the “top choices” or “most popular” designs. 

    I love VistaPrint and think it is a great resource, but please please pleas don’t chose a pre-made design from the first page. Most likely there are a few other hundred business owners in your area with the exact same design. How you will set yourself apart if you card looks the same as someone else? Find a design you like, and then ask yourself, “WHY do I like it?” Is it the colors? The style?  Here is a design that I think really stands out, but, is not super elaborate:

    Natalia Rodriguez – AM Heating and Cooling

    It is not how fancy a design is, but whether it is easy to take notice of and remember. If you see a card that does that for you, that”recipe” of that pre-made design and use it as the framework for YOUR own card. DON’T COPY… just use the idea. For example, AM Heating and Cooling has their logo on one side of their card, and that’s IT. There aren’t any other distractions, which means that people are more likely to recognize it.


  • Your business card design needs to make sense for your business.

    Don’t go with a theme or style just because you like it. Yes, you may love the floral pattern, and it may be a great design, but if you are a tutor… that doesn’t make sense. Go for something with pencils or books! If you are a landscaper, have a tree or yard tools or a lawnmower. Even if you don’t have a logo, you can still have a BRAND. Chose a color theme and stick with it.

    Victor Thompson – Green Toes

Just looking at Green Toes‘ business cards makes me feel more relaxed, and that it what they want! They have a color theme that they stick with for all of their marketing, and now anytime I see THIS green, I think of Green Toes! One you have a color or image that represents your business and what you offer your clients. Then, add the finishing touch…


  • YOUR face! People want to see YOU!

    They know are remember faces far better than they will remember a name. Eddie here is a PRO at creating a brand around who he is… he always wears a bow tie, and that is how people recognize him!

    IMG_2220 (1)
    Eddie Arriola – Eddie Arriola Insurance Agency

    His logo actually incorporates a bow tie, too, but I think that people already connected that with him before the logo came along. It was only natural to stick with the bow tie theme.

    See the bow tie?! Love it.

    Even if you don’t think you look that great (although Eddie always looks fabulous), a picture can go a long way in helping to establish a working relationship with your customers and business peers. If you are part of a large company, having your face on your card will help set you apart from all the other folks in the business. You don’t want to blend in… you want to stand out. Yes, yes, I know I broke my own rule with my new cards… but I felt like a picture of my face AND my flowers was just too busy. In this case, I felt like the flowers won out. I might change my mind later, but, I am happy with the balance. In general though, you can’t go wrong with putting your face on your card. YOU are your brand!


Last but not least… when you are brand new at something, ANYTHING, it is great to have a buddy. A mentor. A friend. Someone that is a step ahead of you, that has been there and done that. Someone that can come alongside you and say “hey, your logo sucks.” Or, “you need a different color in your brand.” This person needs to be your friend, so they can say the tough things, but, even more importantly they need to be SUCCESSFUL. If they aren’t successful in their own business, how are they going to help you in yours? If THEY don’t have a great business card, how can they tell you if yours looks good or not? Here is Erin’s card… pretty sharp, don’t you think?

Erin Nutting – Integrity Insurance Services

Simple, but, everything about it says INTEGRITY INSURANCE SERVICES. Her black and white theme and letter “i” is recognized all over town, because she created a theme, and stuck with it… and when you stick with a theme, it turns into a BRAND.  That is the goal, folks! One day, your brand might be so effective, you will have people dressing up like you for Halloween… but that will have to be another post.


Hope that these “secrets”are helpful, because they really shouldn’t be secrets! Being new to business doesn’t mean you have to have a business card that looks like it. Let’s spread the word!

the pause

A friend and fellow artist once told me, “be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire,” so that is what I am doing. In a world where the sole focus is the next dollar, the next appointment, or the next item on the to do list, I want to make people stop. To breath deep. To see color and texture.

Flowers make us do that, and that pause is what sets my soul on fire.



I grew up in southwest Virginia with a dad who gardened and a mom that encouraged me to bring the outdoors in. Home of the orange and maroon Hokies, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and hazy pink summer nights. The abundance of wildflowers and vegetation were always attracting me to play with, care for and arrange. I remember one particular time when a family friend had a new baby, and I put together fall leaves and wildflowers to make some kind of door hanging. It never made it to the friends house, because the dusty leaves all fell apart, and it actually wasn’t very pretty,  but I guess it shows that even when I was little I was trying to pull nature together in a bundle to give to people.


Another time my dad said “maybe you consider doing this {working with flowers} as a career!” I shrugged him off, as many teens do to their parents, but later I realized that he was right. If I could take my talents and combine them with something that brings me and others joy, AND income… that is what we were created for.  Life is too short to not make a difference, and to not do something that you love. When you can find that sweet spot where the two meet, it really something special.

Kind of like when you meet that special someone who patiently walks through the pile of  left over greenery all over the kitchen floor, instead of getting mad about it. Or someone who understands that if you want fresh groceries in the house, then a little extra cash needs to be budgeted to buy some grocery store flowers (yes, I bribe myself to go food shopping by getting some flowers to play with when I get home). That’s Andrew. When we were dating he learned pretty quick just to send me bulk flowers and let me fix them myself. He has never fussed about the mess I made when I am arranging  (and it’s a big mess, folks) or complained that I am always drawn to dark pink blooms (when pink is his least favorite color on the planet and he would rather not have any in his house).  Thank goodness he isn’t allergic to pollen, too! Yep, he is a gem. It always amazes me that he would rather me do something I love and that makes me happy then do something that makes a lot more money, but I am miserable at.


Life can be crazy, though, and it keeps you on your toes not matter how great your soulmate it. There are house repairs and dogs and job schedules and grocery lists and bills and endless to do lists…  but flowers are my way of taking a break from it all. It’s soothing and satisfying, and just smelling them makes my brain smile. In order to smell the roses, though, you really do have to stop. If you hurry too much you will miss the gift that flowers bring! Quiet moments are hard to come by these days, and hitting the pause button is even rarer. It’s something you have to commit to, to practice.

I think I’ll practice hitting the pause button with flowers.

Want to join me?