Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Eulogy for Sylvia Jean Bounds Gunn

My mother Sylvia Jean Bounds Gunn at my wedding

After a long five-month battle with cancer and other health issues, my mom went Home to Heaven on March 31, 2016.  My daughter and I had the privilege of spending most of that time with her caring for her needs. Her funeral was on Friday, April 8th, and I spoke about her life.  Following is the speech that I gave.

Good morning!  I am Ava Kinsey, Sylvia's daughter.  I want to thank all of you for coming today.  I also want to thank you for the love, support, and kindness that you have shown my mother and our family over the last five months.

Many of you know Sylvia as your cousin or your friend; some of you know her as your sister or your aunt; I have always known her as my Mama.  I'm not sure, but I think Mama may have been my very first word.  I have always called my mother Mama and it is the sweetest name I know.  This is why I prefer for my little girl to call me Mama.

Today I want to share with you a little bit about my mother's life as well as just a few of the things I have learned from her as her daughter.

One of my earliest memories is as a very young child, perhaps as an infant, being held with my head in Mama's hands and bounced up and down "wooo!" and seeing her smile at me.  All of my life, Mama has displayed a happy, positive, joyful disposition in all circumstances.  She truly embodied the Scripture that says "Rejoice evermore."

It has only been in the last few months that I have recognized just how important a mother's smiling face is to a child, even a grown child as myself.  The last three months in particular were extremely difficult for my mother and it was hard to see her countenance change from a cheerful one to one heavy with pain and sufffering.  I also think about one day in particular during the last few months when I saw a text on Mama's phone that tickled my funny bone.  It made me laugh really hard.  My little girl Gracie immediately perked up and started happily laughing with me.  That's when I realized that just like my mother's happy spirit affected me, so did my spirit affect my little girl.  My mother was a joyful person.

Some of you may be familiar with the acrostic for JOY which serves as a recipe for adding joy to your life.

The J in JOY stands for Jesus First.

Mama was a wonderful example of putting Jesus First.  When we were children, she read Bible stories to us.  I was excited the other day when Tony and I were cleaning out Mama's shed in the backyard and I found a big, red book that has a sketch of Jesus on the cover.  It was the children's book of Bible stories that Mama used to read to me at bedtime.  I look forward to reading it to Gracie.

Mama also carried us to church.  She didn't just send us to church; she carried us to church.  That's Southern for "she brought us to church."

Before that, Mama was a church pianist.  She began playing the piano in church as the main pianist at the age of ten years of age!  She continued playing in church until the last six months of her life.

She also served as a church kindergarten teacher, Sunday School teacher, and helped with the Meal Ministry by fixing meals for the shut-ins of the community.  She truly was an example of someone who put Jesus first in her life.

The O in JOY stands for Others Second.

Mama was a caregiver for over 55 years.  When she was eleven years old, her baby brother Steve was born into the family.  Mama used to say that he was her baby, but I never understood that until a few months ago when I found out that when Uncle Steve was two or three months of age, Grandma gave him to Mama to take care of at night.

Later as a teenager, my grandparents worked and Mama had to take care of her brothers during the summer.  She cooked, cleaned, and did chores around the house, garden, and animals.  Whenever Uncle Ben and Uncle Steve didn't do what they were supposed to, she was the one who got in trouble.

Later she had the boys and me and took care of us.  We were always well taken care of with good food to eat and nice clothes to wear.  She also imparted unto a love for reading and learning and ensured that we received a good education.

After we were grown and had good jobs, she took care of Daddy when he had dementia. She also took care of a lady for several years and then she took care of Grandma until she died.  Finally, she took care of Grandpa.  She was an excellent caregiver for over 55 years.

The Y in JOY stands for Yourself Last.

Mama took care of others first and herself last.  She rarely asked for anything and it was hard to buy Christmas and birthday gifts for her.  However, she had no trouble standing up for her children.

Mama was a wonderful example for the verse "In honor, preferring one another."

When Mama first became sick, she didn't want to be a burden on us.  It took several talks to convince her to accept our help.  Little did any of us know that over the last five months she would have
  • 7 trips to the Emergency Room
  • a biopsy
  • 31 radiation treatments
  • 6 weeks of chemotherapy
  • 6 hospital stays
  • 3 ultrasounds
  • 6 CT scans
  • multiple chest xrays
  • 3 PICC lines
  • numerous breathing treatments, well over 1,000
  • and many rounds of antibiotics
She lost 19 pounds in 9 days and became bedridden in about a week's time.  {This doesn't cover even half of what she went through.}

Very little of the whole experience could be called easy.  However, Mama never complained about her situation, but focused on the hope of getting better.  From her, I learned how to be strong and do the hard thing.  Standing up here and speaking is not my thing.  I can teach children, but standing up here like this is not easy for me.

Although it was hard seeing my mother go through what she did and taking care of her, it was not a burden, but it was a privilege.

One final thing that my mother taught me that has had a profound effect on my life is that she taught me about Heaven.  When I was six years old, we went to the family cemetery -- the same place where we will go after we leave the funeral home today -- so that my mother could clean some of the graves.  I remember running around, climbing on the perimeters of the graves and jumping off as six-year-olds will do and seeing all of the graves and asking, "Who's this?'  and "Who's that?"  When I pointed to a particular grave, I was surprised to learn that it was of my twin sister.  It was never kept from me that I had a twin sister, but that was the day I remember learning about her.  My mother then told me that my sister is in Heaven with Jesus and we will see her again someday.  We know that babies and small children go to Heaven because of what it says in the Bible.  King David lost a baby boy and he said (paraphrased), "He can't come back to me, but I shall go to him."  She gave me a very real, secure belief in that place called Heaven where those of us who are saved will go to spend eternity.

When Mama was in the ICU, Uncle Ben read Psalm 23 to her and she requested that he also read Psalm 100.  I learned that Psalm 100 is her favorite psalm.  My little girl memorized Psalm 100 as part of her Kindergarten Bible class.  I asked her if she would recite it here at the funeral and she said, "Mommy, you can say it all by yourself."  As I recite Psalm 100, keep in mind that if I sound like a Kindergarten teacher, it's because I am.  I teach my little girl who is in Kindergarten.  More importantly than that, listen to the words of Psalm 100 and see my mother's life.

Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: The Prince Who Was Just Himself

I was invited by Handlebar Marketing to review this book.  I received the book for free in exchange for my honest review.

The Royal Family are excited to be expecting a third child.  Upon the new little prince's birth, they notice that he is a little different from other children, but they love him just the same.  His older brothers are kind to him and he is a happy little fellow.  

Amazon writes, "When the youngest prince disarms the cruel knight Scarface, the nation’s most dreaded enemy, with an act of compassion, everyone finally realizes how good it is that each person is unique."

My daughter and I enjoyed reading this book.  The illustrations are cute and have enough details for my daughter to be interested in viewing the pictures.  The story prompted some great dialogue about how people who are different from us have good qualities and how we should be kind to others no matter if they are different.

My daughter enjoyed the book, but in some ways, it may have been a little young for her (she's 5-1/2).  I really don't think she will be asking me to read it to her again.  I will suggest it to her in a couple of weeks to see what her response is.
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Saturday, January 3, 2015

15 Goals in 2015 - Update

Click here to read the 15 Goals in 2015 introductory post.

We just got back from going out of town to visit with my husband's family.  We had a nice time, and Gracie loved playing with her cousins.  Since we were out of town for several days, I did not get very much accomplished.  That's ok, because I know that I need to be somewhat flexible and it is, after all, only the beginning of the year.

Here are some things that I have accomplished during this short week:

3.  To declutter and organize the house, garage, and shed.
     a.  Declutter 365 (Facebook Group, Webpage for January)
I have completed the first three days of this challenge.  Granted, I already had them set up, but I'm still going to count it.  I've also read the Facebook Group posts and have gleaned ideas from the many comments.
5.  To improve my photography taking and editing skills.
      a.  Project 365 (My facebook group)
So far, I'm doing well with taking and posting a photo a day.  I posted iPhone photos, but did take photos with my "big camera" but am not able to post them while out of town.
7.  To read 15 mentally-stimulating books (i.e. not fiction) (and blog about them).
I reviewed my Goodreads "want to read" bookshelf and also stalked my friend Valerie's bookshelves on Goodreads to get ideas for more books to add to my list.
In addition to the above, I want to read:
     a.  Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
     b.  John Adams by Dave McCullough (I may change to a different book by him.)
     c.  41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
     d.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
     e.  Pioneer Girl:  The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
     f.  A Little House Traveler:  Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America by Laura Ingalls Wilder
    g.  Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson
    h.  Laughs, Luck...and Lucy:  How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time by Jess Oppenheimer
     i.  Life Skills for Kids:  Equipping Your Child for the Real World by Christine M. Field
     j.   The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Jean Fritz

One of my goals is to lose 15 pounds, but I really need to lose more than that.  I just wanted to name it 15 because of the year.  I weighed myself on the morning of January 1st and recorded it in my app called Happy Scale.  I have not weighed myself since I was out of town, but I will weigh tomorrow morning when I get up.
I definitely did not adhere to my "No sugar, starch or soda" rule, because I knew it would be nigh impossible.  In face, I rather enjoyed eating whatever I wanted.  Thursday night, we had shredded BBQ beef, black-eyed peas, Amish macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and 7-layer salad.  Friday morning, we had carb overload for breakfast (cinnamon rolls, donuts) and snacked in the middle of the day (including a delicious pineapple-cream cheese cheeseball with Ritz crackers).  For supper, we ate at a restaurant called D'arcy's Pint which is supposed to be like an Irish pub.  I had an Irish boxty for the first time which was absolutely delicious.  I also had a ponyshoe which is Texas Toast covered with meat and french fries and cheese sauce.  The boxty was the best, hands-down.  This morning, we didn't have breakfast.  I thought we were supposed to have a breakfast casserole either yesterday or today, but that did not materialize.  We did have delicious lasagna, 7-layer-salad, black-eyed peas, and garlic bread for lunch.  We were on the road after that and stopped at Lambert's for supper.  I had catfish, green beans, peaches, fried okra, fried potatoes and onions, black-eyed peas, and, of course, a roll.  The main reason why I love that place is for the fried potatoes and onions, but all of their food is good country cooking.
I hope to talk about more accomplishments next week!  Thanks for reading!

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

15 Goals in 2015

Happy New Year!

A friend of mine (Susan of ByGrace) posted recently about 15 goals to complete before 2015.  I liked the idea, but I knew it would be impossible for me to complete what with all the Christmas prep, illnesses, and everything else going on.  However, I then thought that it would be fun to come up with 15 goals to complete next year.

Here is a list of my goals.  I brainstormed the other day and then finally honed them into a list this morning.  Granted, it's a little more involved than a simple list, but

1.  To read the Bible consistently and all the way through.

2.  To participate in a personal Bible study.

3.  To declutter and organize the house, garage, and shed.
     a.  Declutter 365 (Facebook Group, Webpage for January)

4.  To increase opportunities to grow my photo business.
     a.  3 new clients
     b.  Prints to sell for home decorating and postcards
     c.  Garage studio
     d.  Themed mini sessions

5.  To improve my photography taking and editing skills.
      a.  Project 365 (My facebook group)
      b.  Shoot in manual mode more often.
      c.  Go through book tutorials (Digital Photography Masterclass)
      d.  Study photography tutorials on Pinterest.
      e.  Edit using Lightroom.

6.  To complete 15 crafts or projects (and blog about them).
      1.  Two to three photo books.
      2.  A dress for Gracie
      3-15.  To be determined.

7.  To read 15 mentally-stimulating books (i.e. not fiction) (and blog about them).
      a.  Free to Choose by Milton Freidman
      b.  A book by David McCullough
      c.  41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush
      d.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
      e.  Pioneer Girl:  The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder
      f.   A Little House Traveler:  Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America by Laura Ingalls Wilder
      g.  Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson
      h.  Laughs, Luck...and Lucy:  How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time by Jess Oppenheimer
      i.   Life Skills for Kids:  Equipping Your Child for the Real World by Christine M. Field
      j.   The Lost Colony of Roanoke by Jean Fritz
      k.  To be determined (please comment with suggestions)

8.  To begin reading all of the Caldecott Medal books in order.
     Next year, we may read the honor books, and when Gracie is older, we will read all of the Newberry Medal books.

9.  To lose 15 pounds.
     a.  No sugar, starch, or soda. (When I say "no," I mean heavily restrict.)
     b.  Drink more water.
     c.  Begin exercise program. (Kettle Worx, Jillian Michaels, walking)

10.  To provide 15 social interactions with Gracie's and my friends.
       a.  Play dates
       b.  Game parties
       c.  Craft parties
       d.  Gracie's birthday party

11. To increase opportunities to serve others.
       a.  Help Mama declutter and with large projects.
       b.  Write notes.
       c.  Visit shut-ins.
       d.  Operation Christmas Child

12.  To complete K4 and begin K5 (Abeka Homeschool).

13.  To increase opportunities for Gracie's extra-curricular activities.
        a.  Swimming lessons in the summer
        b.  Violin lessons (maybe this spring, but possibly beginning in the fall)
        c.  American Heritage Girls in February
        d.  Soccer in spring and/or fall

14.  To prepare for unexpected events. 
       a.  House inventory
       b.  Will
       c.  Emergency prep

15.  To begin writing a book.
I have no idea how many of these goals I will successfully complete, but I think that it will make 2015 a fun, productive year!
I will try to give weekly updates on Saturday nights.
Will you be attempting any goals this year?
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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Every year, I take Gracie's photo behind the Santa display at the Mall, and, usually, I use it in our Christmas Card.  Gracie will be 5 in January.

 The family photo was taken by my niece Kaylee when we visited California for her high school graduation.  She is studying photography and has her own Facebook page.

My baby girl is now in K-4.  I have been homeschooling her this year using the Abeka curriculum.  We enjoy it very much!  I had been wanting to take photos at the Davies Plantation which is located 10-15 minutes away.  I finally took the opportunity just days before they closed for the winter.  I look forward to going back in the spring to take more photos!

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Add a Gray Box for Text in Your Graphic Using Photoshop Elements

Here is a tutorial for adding a gray box for text in your graphic using Photoshop Elements.  I have Photoshop Elements 10, but the same procedure can most likely be used for other versions as well.

Please excuse the weird echo in the audio.  I didn't know how to fix it and didn't want to do it over.


One thing I neglected to mention is about the layers.  There are three layers in this file.  From bottom to top, they are:  the photo, the box, and the text.  Whatever is on top is what will show up on top of the others.  You can easily move the layers by clicking and dragging into their new spots if necessary.

I hope you find the tutorial useful.  This is my first screenshot tutorial.  I've watched many others and thought it would be fun to make my own.  If you have any ideas for future tutorials, let me know!
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Monday, November 3, 2014

Contacts Sync for Google Gmail // Organizing Contacts into Groups

When I did my series on {Almost} Paperless, I mentioned an iMac app, Cobook, that I used as an Address Book on my computer.  They made an update to the app and changed their interface.  I didn't like it, and I didn't like how they imported my Facebook friends into the app resulting in many contacts with little data (just links to their Facebook profiles which is not useful to me at all).

I did some searching and found an app that has worked really well for me.  Contacts Sync for Google Gmail is an app that syncs the contacts in my Gmail address book with the Mac app Address Book as well as with iCloud.  This results in my iPhone, iPad, and iMac all being synced together.

Contacts Sync for Google Gmail has apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.  If you have a Mac computer, then you only need the app for the Mac.  You can use the resident app Address Book to organize your contacts into groups, and then use Contacts Sync for Google Gmail to sync them to your gmail account.  You may have to go to your gmail account (on the web) to find and merge duplicate contacts.  The initial setup can take a while while you tweak everything, but after that, it works like a charm!  You do not even have to have Contacts Sync for Google Gmail up and running all the time (although you can since it does offer Auto-sync).  If you do not use Auto-sync, be sure to sync every time you make changes to your address book or to your iPhone contacts.

If you do NOT have a Mac computer, then you will use the app for your iPhone or your iPad.  I can't help you any further with setting up groups.

Organizing Contacts into Groups (using the Mac app Address Book)

For best results, I set Address Book up to only show my iCloud contacts.  Here is the Preferences window:

When I enabled my Gmail accounts, it showed duplicate contacts (since they were all synced together).  Having only my iCloud account enables just makes it easier.

Below is a screenshot of my Address Book app showing how I have organized my contacts:

I have several main categories:  Business, CBC - my church, Christmas Cards, Church - other people/organizations besides my church, Family, Friends, Miscellaneous, OCC (Operation Christmas Child), and OtMP (my photography business).  Most of these are further subdivided into subcategories.  (The My Contacts category is one that Gmail generates on its own every time I add a new contact on my phone. It's somewhat useful for finding new contacts that need to be put into my groups.)

First, I put every contact into a main category (Ex: Business - all) and then I also put them into the appropriate subcategories.

The only thing I do not like about Address Book is that it does not tell me on the Contacts view all of the groups that the selected contact is in.  I have to go to to see that.  I have not yet checked all of my contacts to make sure they are in the correct groups, but I know it will be somewhat tedious to use and Address Book; however, once it is all set up the way I want it, I shouldn't have any problems after that.

One final piece of advice:  while you are reorganizing your contacts and are tweaking your groups, make sure you save a backup of your contacts before, during, and after the process.

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