I have this friend. I met her through blogging. She is in my real world now. She comes to my home on the mountain to visit, sometimes she brings her cool little family.

She has enriched my life with her kindness, creativity, and authenticity. I adore her. Plus, she has a cool name, Jerusalem.

Jerusalem wrote an amazing book, A Homemade Year.  Here is what some fancy publishing kind of folks say: “This gorgeously-designed book is a guide to celebrating the rhythm of life’s calendar of events, as well as the Christian liturgical year, focusing on God’s love in our lives. Greer weaves her own faith story with original recipes, crafts and entertaining ideas, creating a vibrant, personal narrative that is a modern take on timeless traditions.- Paraclete Press”

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Here is what I say, it is amazing. The first time I picked it up, I was brought into a world of pretty (I love pretty) and was intrigued by the intentional creativity she lives out in her life.  I remember calling Jerusalem a few months ago, long after the book had come out and I had been reading it, really reading and thinking on the words she wrote.

I was in tears. It is so much more than a pretty book.

So, for her book’s first birthday, this is my message to Jerusalem: “Sweet friend, your book speaks of who you truly are. It is not contrived or for show, it is a true reflection of your heart and your unabashed love for the celebration of all things, big and small,  and of all people. I am blessed to be one of the recipients of what you put out into the world, and for that, thank you and HAPPY HOMEMADE YEAR BIRTHDAY”.

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Your friend that is afraid of craft scissors and uses a honey bun from a box for your cake, but you love me anyway,
The Park Wife

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Y’all know I love me some Andy Griffith Show, the show that portrays a time where simplicity, kindness, and love for your neighbor was paramount.

We were watching a bit of an Andy Griffith marathon at our home the other day with some of our family members that stayed a few days extra after our family reunion. We have the whole series on DVD, but we watched one that I had not seen before, or the poignancy of it did not hit me at a time in my life that I needed to hear it. It knocked me over this time.classReunion250

Andy and Barney were attending their high school reunion. Andy’s high school sweetheart walks in and…lights dim… everyone turns to watch them… they meet on the dance floor…. and sparks fly (where was Helen?). Later, they go for a walk and start talking about old times. Andy is all giddy about rekindling their romance. He then starts to wonder aloud what happened to them all those years ago and asked if maybe she could stay in Mayberry a while. She says she couldn’t, she had to get back to Chicago, she needed a place where she could expand and grow.

I was with her, I thought I was at least, I understood her reasoning, then she said there was no way she could live up to her potential in Mayberry, that life in Chicago was so different.  And, then Andy, oh Andy, says ~ well life is not that different there, it’s about being happy, that’s the main thing, isn’t that what everyone is shooting for? Isn’t that the prize of the game, to be happy?

That hit me hard.  I find myself striving, looking for that next project, that next thing to conquer when in reality, I am missing out on spending time enjoying the prizes I have already been given.

Then, I saw this. It is worth the time to watch it. The dad tried to impart to his son that being rich is not about how much you have, but about how much you can give. Oh, amen, amen.

Go grab a Kleenex,
The Park Wife

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Pie is love.

Not Pi 3.14 which we celebrate today, our 5th grader is working with Pi in his math right now, and sweet mercy, we both would rather be eating pie.

Growing up, there was always a pie at my grandmother’s house. Ira, who was like a second grandma to me, could make the most beautiful marainge that was even fluffier than my 80s bangs. When Ira made her pies, she always threw in a little of her magic love potion. That potion cured all that ailed you, from broken hearts to lost soccer games, sitting with the family eating a piece of Ira’s pie just made the world a better place.

While I am not an expert on love (nor math), what I do know is that giving love and getting love is the best feeling in the world. So, when our family (shout out to Aunt Jo and Uncle Tommy) from south Louisiana arrived last night and brought us pie from Lea’s Lunchroom in Lecompte, LA, that my friends was a pure, unadulterated delivery device for love.

Lea’s Lunchroom’s was established in 1928 and their coconut cream pie and apple pie, oh and their chocolate pie, you get the picture is the most perfect thing in the world…well, alright, except our babies and puppies and Dr. Pepper and Jesus’s love, of course, He is LOVE and we love him the most. But, the coconut cream pie, wow!

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Seriously, that is beautiful. Food art.

Lea’s homemade pies are listed in the Louisiana Hall of Fame and were selected as a favorite by Louisiana Life magazine readers. In March 2001, the Louisiana Legislature proclaimed Lecompte the Pie Capitol of Louisiana, and every governor since John M. Parker has eaten a meal at this restaurant. When your pies get you on the Johnny Carson show, you know they are good. It’s also reported that the renowned outlaws Bonnie and Clyde had a meal at the original location in the early 1930′s. Kapow!

Stopping at Lea’s has become a  tradition for families and a destination attraction for generations of customers.

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Throughout the years, numerous reporters and newsmen (even Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show in 1989) questioned Lea about the secret of his success. Lea would laugh, smile and then credit his love for people.

“I love people,” said Lea Johnson. “If you love people, you’re going to give them the best.” That  is the magic potion Ira always baked in her pies and even though she is gone now, every time I get a taste of a delicious pie, I stop and remember how much she loved me. So, yes friends, pie is love.

If you are ever headed up Louisiana Route 13, tune into KVPI for  some Cajun music with their Cajun French speaking DJ, stop by Lea’s for a piece of pie and feel the love of Louisianans and the way that they show it through their food.

Share the Lagniappe,
The Park Wife

 

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I have spent a lot of time along Mardi Gras parade routes in New Orleans screaming that famous saying “Throw me something, mista!” For those of you who do not know, that slogan for the season pretty much means “hey y’all on that big parade float, throw me some cool beads and doubloons, and hey I could use a Moon Pie too!” Since I no longer live close enough to travel down every Mardi Gras, I am known to “throw” a Mardi Gras themed gathering here in Arkansas.

While many view Mardi Gras as a raucous celebration, which I can not deny happening the French Quarter where it is mostly tourists during Carnival, I equate Carnival as a time to celebrate good food, music, fun, taking pride in the past and the hope for the future.

So, here is The Park Wife’s Guide to Planning your Mardi Gras Celebration when you can not get to New Orleans:

When: Carnival is a season; Mardi Gras is a day. The carnival season runs from January 6 (Epiphany, King’s Day, or Twelfth Night) to midnight of Ash Wednesday, although the parties get bigger and more lively the closer you get to Mardi Gras proper. But remember, once Ash Wednesday comes, Lent begins, and hosting a Mardi Gras party would be inappropriate.

Food:
Gumbo is one of the most traditional of all Mardi Gras foods. Gumbo is easy to make and serves a lot of people, which is why it is my Mardi Gras celebration favorite. Other foods I often serve are jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee (thanks to my New Orleans native college roommate who is bringing me some tails from New Orleans next week), and beignets for dessert, yes, powdered sugar will be everywhere! While traditional New Orleans food (and most food we serve in our home on a daily basis) is spicy, it is better to keep the flavoring mild and offer a variety of hot sauces for those who want to add a kick to their meal.

Mardi Gras CD

Music:
No, and I mean NO, Mardi Gras party is complete without music! Boogie down with the sounds of the Carnival Season and mix in some funky jazz and your own favorites for a complete playlist.

Oh my, for all my new Harry Connick Jr. followers (thanks again Harry for linking my blog on your Facebook page, swoon), watch Harry sing, dance, and play Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Seriously….amazing musician and performer…..

Harry+Connick+Jr+Mariska+Hargitay+Harry+Connick+oCEaRKjIjiFland New Orleans boy.

Decor: I love to decorate for Mardi Gras, thankfully, I have cool friends that can help me get my house into the Mardi Gras spirit. Check out Paul Michael Company’s Mardi Gras section, then watch their Simple Mardi Gras Wreath How-to video filmed in their Lafayette  store.

Beads, beads, and more beads: Purple signifies justice, gold signifies power and green signifies faith. Beads are a must, and luckily most party supply stores carry them. They’re also super easy to decorate with, so hang them anywhere and everywhere! As your friends arrive, give each a strand or two to wear around their neck to get them into the spirit.

maskCostumes: They don’t have to be elaborate, Halloween-style costumes; instead, party guests should be encouraged to wear things like crazy hats, feather boas or anything brightly colored, especially in purple, green or gold. Masks are my Mardi Gras favorite. Sometimes the boys and I make some to supplement our supply, those always become guests favorites.

Last, but not least, no Mardi Gras party is complete without a King Cake.

As part of our Christian faith, the coming of the wise men bearing gifts to the Christ Child is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. We refer to this as the Feast of the Epiphany, or Little Christmas on the Twelfth Night. This is a time of celebration, exchanging gifts and feasting. Today, the tradition continues as people all over the world gather for festive Twelfth Night celebrations. A popular custom was and still is the baking of a special cake in honor of the three kings, called “A King’s Cake.”

kingcakeInside every cake is a tiny baby and the person who receives the slice of cake with the baby is asked to continue the festivities by hosting the next King Cake party.

Originally, King Cakes were a simple ring of dough with a small amount of decoration. Today’s King Cakes are much more festive. After the rich Danish dough is braided and baked, the “baby” is inserted. The top of the ring or oval cake is then covered with delicious sugar toppings in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. If you can’t cook, you can buy them online.

We can’t all go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (or other towns that have parades), but, don’t just sit back and wish you could be dancing with your umbrella in a street parade.

Make your own parade. ( I think we should apply this to all parts of our life)

Now, go gather your Krewe and….

Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Park Wife

Flashback article about teaching my kids about Mardi Gras years ago.

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Thank you Harry Connick Jr. for posting this blog post on your Facebook page and WELCOME to all of Harry and American Idol’s fans who have flocked to The Park Wife to read this.

American Idol hiring Harry Connick Jr. was the best decision they ever made.  I have seen the headlines, read a few of the stories, and yes, Harry is saving the day.
Best. Move. Ever. I am loving some AI!HCJ#1

We do not do a whole lot of prime time t.v. around here, so much of what is on now in the evening is completely inappropriate for our little guys ears.  I watched a bit of AI back in the first years , but never got to the point that I had to watch it or DVR it, if there had been DVR back then. I am old school, I would have been rocking the VCR.

But, when I heard Harry would be on, I had to give it a chance. And, oh Harry, you have swooped in and saved the day. As a gal who went to college an hour and a half from New Orleans, I was blessed to attend several of his concerts. If you ever attend a concert of his, he will not only tickle the ivories, but he plays the drums, saxophone, organ, trombone, and pretty much anything else that makes music. And, he dances….AHHHHMAZING!

He’s not just funny and charming, but he really knows what he’s talking about. The man knows music, oh my, when he talks pervasiveness of the pentatonic scale and how some singers rely too heavily on those five notes, I gloss over a  little like JLo (well, except that she is GORGEOUS, really how can someone be that pretty?). Our little fiddler buckaroo had  to explain to me what he is talking about.

Harry refuses to just pat the children on the back and tell them they were awesome when they could have done better. In one episode he uttered this little gem – “I like the concept of ‘Diamond in the rough,” he told a singer, “but I think there was a little too much rough.” No participant trophies happening at Harry’s house.

And, thank you for telling the teeny bopper that the seductive lyric song was completely inappropriate for her to sing. Sweet mercy! Oh, and some of those 15 year-old girls do NOT look like I did when I was 15.

Then, there are the AI tears, mine. Big Buckaroo walked through the room last night and asked if I was alright because I had tears running down my face. Seriously, I love how AI has focused on the good and told the stories in such an encouraging light. Kumbaya people. The mamas and papas, uh-huh, when those kiddos run out with those golden tickets and their parents are there to hug them and celebrate, waterworks people.

I am so thankful they are not putting the dumb tryouts up there. They are not focusing on the really bad auditions, nor going out of their way to mock people the show feels are too stupid, too fat, or too cray-cray to consider their feelings. Well, there was the one when the guy came in with shorts, suspenders and no shirt. Believe me, it was not a good look. If you are not 2 years-old with plaid overalls without a shirt or a fireman posing for a calendar, do not attempt this fashion statement. Mamas, please teach your boys this. I do love (yes, another Harry swoon) how Harry told him that he disrespected the process and to leave.

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What do I love most about Harry Connick Jr.?   He cherishes his wife (yes, she was a Victoria’s Secret model) and three daughters. And that, my friends, is way more important than being a judge on American Idol.

I will be watching AI this season. Are you?
The Park Wife

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The previous Superintendent of our park, who is a dear family friend of ours, left an old family headboard at our house when he retired that was a total mess. He told hubby just to toss it in a fire, one less thing to move.

Well, you know how I love to have pieces in our home that tell a story……

So, hubby and I got busy repurposing the old headboard into a bench for inside our mudroom.

Headboard Turned BenchThere was a lot of old varnish and gunk on the boards so the first thing we did was seperate all the boards, clean them good with some Murphy Soap, and did a light sanding. Then, we cleaned them again.

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See all the gunk. UGH!

Big Buckaroo had to utilize a lot of his carpentry skills that he learned from his dad, a carpenter, growing up. And, I love that he is passing that on to our boys. Oh, that man is so precise in his measurements, yes, I told him to glue the thing already, several times.
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hb1The boards that were used to hold the box spring were used for the seat. I love the look of it. It makes me happy.

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You can see the marks on the seat where the springs from old box springs indented on the wood.  hb3I am seriously in love with this piece and it makes me happy every time I walk in the door and see it. Of course, there are footballs, cleats, cowboys boots and who knows what else lined up under it already.

What projects are you working on in your home?
The Park Wife

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In my previous post Faith, Family, Football and Home ~ House Design and “The Book of Manning, I talk about football’s first family and the amazing documentary The Book of Manning.  Now, following the greatest statistical regular season at the quarterback position in the 94-year history of the NFL,Peyton is leading his team to the Superbowl.

I have read and seen many stories about Peyton, how he is a consummate professional, treats fans, media, teammates and even his opponents with respect.  But, he never flaunts his Christian faith, he chooses to let his life speak for him.

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In Peyton’s book Manning, which he co-wrote with his father, the legendary Archie Manning, in 2001, the record-setting quarterback describes his faith and its importance to him.

For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. . . . as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old . . .

Some players get more vocal about it . . . and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism . . .

My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. . .

I’ve been blessed—having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.

But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him. . . . I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.

Future Saints playerI know many of you do not give a hoot about the Superbowl, I myself look forward to the food and fellowship. But, I am always encouraged as the mother of two boys that there are the Manning boys and Tim Tebow out there playing their hearts out, and that their hearts are first and foremost focused on above.

Go Broncos! And hot wings, and spinach dip!
The Park Wife

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Our home is comfy.

It is not a showplace, there are not many pictures that will show up on Pinterest of my clever, imaginative decor.

However, I spent years trying for it to be. I wanted it to look how everyone else’s did. I tried to replicate their cute houses in the subdivision even though  I lived in a state park.

Then, I turned 40 and stopped caring what everyone else thought and started filling my home with things that made me smile. Pieces of furniture that had a story to tell. Pictures that meant something to our family rather than what I saw in Southern Living.

The one thing I never let go of was using an old door as a headboard. Now fondly known as “The 2 year project”.

See, I did not want to run out to some flea market, grab a door and hang it on the wall.  So, I waited.

Then, the perfect door came into my life.

At the park where we spent seven years, we made some great friends. They became our family. One day, Big Buckaroo and “Uncle Bob” had taken the boys to one of Bob’s barns to find his old “soldier die-cast kit”. I walked around the barn and saw it…THE door.

He immediately gave it to me. Of course, that is what family does.
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I got to work on it.

O.K. full disclosure, I have worked on it off and on for 2 years. We have moved twice and oh that day job of homeschooling our kids hindered the paint stripping. For future reference, I do not like to strip paint. But, I also do not want to die from lead poisoning.

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Hubby and I finally got it stripped, then sanded and polyurethaned a few times. Oh, did I mention that my husband is an amazing woodworker and will not let me do anything half way (which is really how I roll with this kind of project).

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Big Buckaroo hung the headboard last night. Swoon!

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I now need new bedding and I have a few other project ideas to complete to make it how I see it in MY head.

But, right now, I walk into my room and smile. It makes me happy.
The Park Wife

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Paul Michael camp chandaleirAs I rang in the New Year, I, like  many people reflected on the past year. It was a great one, filled with family, friends old and new, and happiness. Those of you who know me, know that I just love people ~  to hear their stories and walk away a bit more full of inspiration, kindness and at times, truth.

So, when I was asked by the Paul Michael Company  to gather some of my bloggy gals (Arkansas Women Bloggers) for a Designed in the Delta event, I knew in my heart this was one that I needed to attend. I was needing a little piece of my soul filled like only the Delta can do.

My mom’s side of the family is all from Indianola, MS, deep in the Mississippi Delta, and I have always loved trips there because they were filled with good food, family, and love.

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So, I met up with the other Arkansas Women Bloggers at Lake Chicot State Park to this view. I had never stayed at Lake Chicot (I know, bad Park Wife), and it was wonderful. I will be back to that park!

Soul filling began.

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After a welcome reception at Paul’s newly renovated office on Main Street in Lake Village (that contains a brick oven, uh huh) we were welcomed to the Paul Michael Company’s Holiday Party.  They are headquartered quite literally, in a cotton field in Lake Village, Ark.  Seriously. Love.

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We had a blast visiting with the locals, eating, and shopping. The store is amazing and is worth taking a drive just to go there. Can I hear “GIRLS TRIP”!  They also have stores in West Monroe, LA, Lafayette, LA, and Canton, TX.

Here is the scoop: Paul has created something amazing. A business that he runs with his beautiful wife Debbie and children, continually strenghtening a family bond that is firmly rooted in looking around you and finding beauty in the most unlikely places and things. And sometimes, people.

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 An example of what Paul does: a whiskey barrell repurposed into a chair.

The next day we went to their woodshop in Dermott, AR where Paul’s son, Jake, showed us the lay of the land, where the beautiful pieces are made. There was some serious craftsmanship happening in there. At one point, Jake said “we are creating the antiques of the future”. Oh mercy, swoon.

Paul Michael Church Pew

Ashley, who is Visual Merchandiser and Product Development Gal at Paul Michael Company (and an all-around amazing woman) and the gorgeous DeltaMoxie popped a squat on one of the beautiful benches in the workshop. So angelic, so…

Paul Michael co. Church Pew praise

O.K., it got real up in there!

New Orleans doors

Doors. I love old doors. Paul, who is always on the lookout for treasures, went down to New Orleans and salvaged a bunch of doors after Katrina. When I see these, I think “who walked through these doors, what was their life like, and what will these door now become?”

Everything is 100% American made in Paul’s workshop and nearly all of the items are constructed of architectural salvage and reclaimed wood that Paul has been collecting for years. I saw the most beautiful tables made from some wood he reclaimed from an old Chicago bank they were tearing down.

Personalized Cutting Board

And, their cutting boards are amazing. I mean really, a board that you can take the meat off the grill, carry it to the table, cut on and serve on.  And, they have a trough around them so the juices do not run off. Genius.

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Here I am with Paul’s son Jake and their beautiful, fun, and SMART daughter Elizabeth. Good people right there. Of course, I had to have mine monogrammed. If it is not nailed down, it has potential for monogramming in my world.

Paul and Debbie invited us to their hunting camp for dinner. They know how to show some true hospitality in Lake Village.

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(borrowed photo from my friend Jacqueline at Creative Outpour)

Paul and I hanging out by the fire pit. He is giving me tips on how to better cook deer steak. Big Buckaroo was thankful for this lesson. I just might have been overcooking it.

Yes, I have my phone in my hand because I was tweeting with Paul Michael’s dear friend Gerogia Pelligrini, the chef known as Girl Hunter. She and I are Bffs now. O.k. we will be after we meet back up at Paul’s in the Spring.

We were served delicious food, great conversation, and many laughs. I have a feeling that table has many stories it could tell. Again, full of history steeped in love.

Paul Michael Co. Duck Camp

And, not only am I blessed to be part of the Paul Michael family now (they said they would adopt me), I was able to spend the weekend with some amazing women that I met right here in the blog world. I love me some Arkansas Women Blogger gals.

I will post later about me getting crafty with wreaths (I rocked it, surprisingly), and some of the treasures I brought home from my trip.

The Paul Michael Company is a company I can believe in, a place where I know I will get quality craftsmanship made by good people right here in Arkansas. You need to go check out their online store, fabulous stuff people. Follow them on Facebook, Pinterest (oh so beautiful), Instagram and the Twitter.

You got some deep roots and strong branches there Paul Michael.
The Park Wife

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What an amazing 2013! I have so many wonderful moments, so many amazing memories made. Sure, there have been obstacles, but I have learned from them and no, I do not like to focus on them here because sweet mercy, I like to focus on happy.

A quick rundown:

Our boys are thriving in school and life, homeschooling is still right for our family. They constantly amaze me with their curiosity and cleverness.  But, wow!  it is going by way too fast. My husband was promoted to run the most amazing state park in our state (in our opinion). And, by golly, he EARNED it. I am still amazed that God made Big Buckaroo just for me and I for him. I know, sappy, but I am thankful and blessed to have my soul mate.

(this will make you happy, just listen and reflect on your blessings)

In the blog world, I, along with some AMAZING women, launched state-focused blog communities in six additional states under my company The Women Bloggers. What we have built in Arkansas is an amazing template and the other state gals get it! They are passing on the same kind of accepting, loving, helpful spirit to bloggers in their states. To date, we have 1525 bloggers part of The Women Bloggers communities. And, it is growing rapidly. In 2014, we will expand to more states, with New Jersey launching soon!

This only works because of our mission; to gather, grow, and connect women. We want to help and encourage each other and it has been amazing to watch it grow and take hold in people’s hearts and lives. I am such a better woman for having these amazing women in my life. Thank you to all who have worked hard to make this happen.

I am so grateful for all my friends and family, you are who God uses to make me a better person. And, I am so thankful for His grace and mercy.

Here’s to an amazing 2014!
The Park Wife

 

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