Easy Letter Play with Alphabet Stamps

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With Jack being three, we’ve begun to take on a little bit of homeschool preschool. We’re not using a strict curriculum or even a set schedule, it’s mostly just following his interests and his lead and getting him comfortable with school-like activities, pre-literacy skills, shapes, numbers, etc.

Today’s activity was a real hit! We had purchased a jar of alphabet stamps from the fun in a jar collection by Recollection (available at Michaels) earlier this summer. I’m unsure if this item is still available, but I found this gorgeous option on Amazon for only $7.96 with free shipping for Prime members! I’m tempted to get one of these for the boys since it has both upper AND lower case options, as well as numbers and some punctuation as well.

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Jack enjoyed spelling out his name and Aidan’s with the stamps, as well as copying words from his Melissa and Doug See & Spell puzzle set by stamping each letter on his paper. It was great to see how comfortable he was getting with the idea of sounding out letters phonetically into words without the frustration of needing to write each individual letter.

Some quick and easy ideas for incorporating alphabet stamps into your own homeschool routine or letter play:

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The Prosperity Gospel and the Truth About Suffering


A sweet friend of mine took to Facebook to share the news of a new and difficult diagnosis she was trying to process. She was grappling with news of a condition that will be a life long struggle with pain and disability, and she was turning to her friends online for some much needed support. 
A few comments down, it happened:

“Don’t speak that over you. You do not have *diagnosis*…I rebuke that in the Name of Jesus! God wants you well. Speak healing over yourself.”

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Just a day earlier a well meaning connection had sent me a private message on Facebook, suggesting I should listen to a sermon titled that exact same sentiment: God Wants You Well. The sermon description included the lines “[Religion] even tries to make us believe that sickness is a blessing. That’s just not true. God wants you well.” Seems like a pretty positive message right? I mean, Jesus DID go around healing the blind and asking the lame to walk, so clearly He doesn’t want anyone to be sick…right? He only wants blessings for His followers: all the good and perfect gifts from the Father, and everything else? Well those are the attacks of Satan – obviously.

Friends, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but as great as that sounds? It’s totally not Biblical – not even a little bit.

Take a seat, grab your coffee and your Bible if its handy, and lets dig in together to see what God REALLY says about suffering. I’m taking on 7 key points where we can compare the teachings of the prosperity gospel side by side with God’s word, and see just how much they don’t sync up.

The Prosperity Gospel says: Rebuke Suffering
The Bible Says: EXPECT Suffering

1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as thought something strange were happening to you.

1 Thessalonians 3:3
…that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this.

1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good

1 Peter 2:21
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps

The New Testament is absolutely littered with references to suffering, especially if you dig in to the writings of Paul. (There’s a guy who did his fair share of suffering. )We’re reminded time and time again of the truth that suffering is to be expected for followers of Christ. When Jesus told us to pick up our cross to follow Him? He was preparing us for the reality that the Christian walk would in no way guarantee us “health, wealth, and prosperity.” Quite the opposite. Paul tells us in Thessalonians that we are destined for suffering, choosing a word that communicates the idea of the very purpose for which something was created – like a salt shaker is made to hold salt. As appealing as it is to believe that a life following Christ is one where we leave our troubles behind us, the truth of Gods word sheds light on a very different reality.

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When God Pushes Pause

 

The blog has once again been eerily quiet.

There was such a year of build up to creating this site, with God opening doors I could have never ever dreamed and with opportunities coming together in the most providential of ways. It was amazing to experience how when you are willing to simply say yes to whatever and wherever He leads, the journey is beyond anything you can ask or imagine. It was all of the truths of “immeasurably more” coming to life and exploding off the page. It was magical.

And then right when the opportunities were most abundant?

HE PUSHED PAUSE.

If you follow my social media channels you will have likely seen the reason behind the recent silence on the blog. After 15 years of continuing health issues a surprising twist has come to light. Countless misdiagnoses and failed treatments and incredulous shrugs from doctors who couldn’t agree on a name for the symptoms that seemed to be multiplying more rapidly than ever all culminated in a unexpected identity for my captor:

LYME DISEASE

With the key finally in hand to the mystery of my crippling illnesses, we set out to finally banish my issues once and for all, only to discover we had been dealt a double edge sword. This particular diagnosis, it would seem, is only a beginning to a very long road indeed. Treatments are difficult and uncertain. Doctors who are knowledgable of the condition are few and far between. Insurance companies all but refuse to cover any of it. The diagnosis isn’t so much an ending to this struggle as the beginning of a new one.

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Why I’ll Never Teach My Children About Stranger Danger

stranger dangerWe hear it all the time: “It’s just not the same world out there anymore.” The world is supposedly a much scarier and more threatening place than the days of old when we would ride our bikes to the store with no parents in sight and blow our allowance money on candy and silly knick knacks with hardly a care. “We know better now,” we’re told. Keep a close eye on your kids at all times. Be aware of the dangers of others adults when you’re at the park or using a public restroom. Be wary of anyone who’s too friendly. Teach your kids about “stranger danger.” The world is so much more perilous these days and you simply cant be too careful when it comes to our precious children.

As a mom of two small boys you might be surprised to hear I disagree 100%. And whats more – I have never, and WILL never, teach my kids about “stranger danger.” Never. In fact, I hope to raise my kids to be ready and willing to interact with strangers in safe and appropriate ways, and I regularly encourage them to do so. I’m not a “free range parent” as they are currently known, but I admittedly make some parenting choices that would make many people these days more than a little uncomfortable.

Now before anyone starts calling CPS (or filling my inbox with hate mail) try to give me a minute to explain.

First off, I just want to take a minute to point out that the idea the world is less safe that the one we grew up in is a common misconception. You might be surprised to learn that all of the crime statistics actually show our children are SAFER today than we ourselves were back in our days. Don’t believe me? The folks over at Free Range Kids have compiled an incredible amount of independent research and statistics on this helpful page to show just how much safer our world really is. So why does it seem so much more dangerous? It all comes down to perception really. Crimes are more widely covered by the media these days in a way you simply didn’t see in our childhood. A child goes missing in a small town in Idaho and it can be national news coverage in the same day, and instantly flooding every social media feed for weeks. Statistics agree though: stranger abductions are remarkably rare, and the alarming majority of all crimes committed against kids are by family members or close friends. In short, the likelihood of a child being grabbed while walking to school or playing at the park is almost negligible.

crowdatparkOn top of all this media coverage we also need to take into account how much internet hoaxes have exponentially compounded the problem. Have you seen the story making its way around Facebook for the past few months about supposed attempted sex trafficking of a child in a Target store with their mom? A little internet sleuthing quickly reveals the story is 100% false, and that both the store manager and the local police have absolutely zero record of any incidences even remotely related to the one described on Facebook (despite the story clearly describing the authorities being the one to tell the mom about the sex trafficking ring.) And this is far from an isolated incident: urban myths have taken on a new level of reach in the social media world, and parents everywhere are bombarded with messages of supposed dangers around every corner. It’s pretty understandable why parents everywhere are feeling afraid.

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Easy DIY Watercolor Project for Preschoolers

My sweet mama has a birthday coming up soon, so Jack and I set up some super inexpensive supplies we had on hand and made her a piece of art I know she’ll treasure. This project is super simple and Jack needed very little instruction other than “try to fill up all the white with your colors” and he was happily entertained at the table for longer than Im usually able to keep him in one place.

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All you need for this project are:

* Thick Watercolor Paper
* Washable Watercolor Paint Palette
* Brushes
* Scrapbook “Thickers” Letter Stickers
* Cup of Water
* Paper Towels (for blotting and clean up)

Instructions:

1. Decide what you want your art piece to say. We opted for “Happy Birthday GRANDMA love JACK”

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2. Place scrapbook thickers onto your water color paper. Make sure to press them down all over so they have a tight seal.

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Conferences, Canes, and Chronic Pain

The Winshape Retreat, Location of the Pursuit Conference

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks, but I’ll do my best to condense my overflowing brain in to something resembling a blog post.

Recently I was in Georgia for the 5th annual conference for the Pursuit Community (an amazing nationwide ministry you can read more about by clicking the link in the top of the “Friends & Sponsors” section in my sidebar.) As has held true year after year at this event, God showed up in incredible ways. This year’s verse ruminated on the theme of “a new thing.” I came to Georgia with open hands, ready for God to show me something incredible without my own constraints and expectations getting in the way, and yet I was still utterly blown away by what He revealed through speakers and attendees alike, all speaking the same messages to me over and over.

Mary Marantz at Pursuit Conference

I felt consistent confirmation that God has laid a path before me that is uniquely my own. Sure, this industry is full of experts and mentors and plenty of well intentioned advice, but over and over He spoke plainly to my heart that His plan for me is a NEW thing: not a repeat of anyone else’s story. He hasn’t called me to be the next “so and so,” but rather to embrace the story He has written specifically for me. More than that though, He’s given me a calling that He created me perfectly equipped and suitable for in every way – not in spite of my weaknesses and struggles, but BECAUSE of them. His strength is perfectly displayed in my weaknesses, His story beautiful showcased in His faithfulness and grace to me each day. I felt confident that I don’t need to #hustle or knock down doors to make all my own opportunities, I need only to be ready to obey whenever He says to go, and be patient on His perfect timing. The Joy Parade is going to be exactly what He wants it to be exactly when He wants it to be it, even if I don’t always have an exact vision for what that is. Sometimes admitting we don’t have all the answers is the first step to something so much bigger and better than we could have imagined for ourselves.

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Let The Wild Rumpus Start | Jack’s 3rd Birthday

I can hardly believe my littlest miracle is already THREE, but alas, it appears to be true. This year we took our inspiration from his current favorite book, Where the Wild Things Are, which he affectionately refers to as his “Wild Rumpus Book.” And a Wild Rumpus certainly seemed appropriate for our little monster. We opted for a Saturday morning brunch, complete with pancakes, bacon, a yogurt bar, and plenty of donuts. There was even a mimosa bar for the grownups to enjoy. We chose to have an “open house” get together, rather than a traditional birthday party, so that we could enjoy the time with our guests and just let the kids be kids. Overall we had a grand time and I would call the rumpus a big success.

Here’s a gallery of some very quick photos I snapped before the days festivities got underway (and before we added all 5 lbs of bacon to the table! YUM!) Much of the party was DIYed by yours truly, but I will include links on the bottom in case you see something you want to snag. (I tried to include a link to a similar item whenever I could.)

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People of the Internet, You’ve Been Had

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People of Internet,

You’ve been had.

In the past couple years we’ve borne witness to an interesting set of trends. Various hashtags started gaining popularity that claimed to be celebrating the #authenticlife, but they were unusually ripe with photos of farm to table feasts on custom built farmhouse tables, cleverly staged journals with pristine latte art, and gorgeous minimalist home decor without a trace of evidence that real live people actually inhabited these homes. We saw an Instagram “celebrity” go viral for posting an extremely public breakup video to the very app that gave her a platform, only to start rapidly growing a following on her very well marketed (and highly monetized) site promoting her newfound position as a leading voice for being “real” online. Conferences and retreats have popped up left and right with speakers who market themselves brilliantly as experts and success stories of their supposed fields and vocations, but if you peek behind the curtain you discover the only job they actually hold is that very self marketing, speaking, and teaching. It’s a bit like when we find Dorothy pulling back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard of Oz is in fact a tiny little man pulling levers and dials, and its all been a cleverly designed trick all along.

There is no Wizard folks.

photo-1449535423830-de3f6546aabdThe internet doesn’t actually care about authenticity. Social media isn’t actually growing more appreciative of the vulnerable and exposed. Many of the biggest names who claim to have a way to sell you a path to success don’t actually have success in anything other than selling success.

Yeah… kind of Debbie Downer today, right?

But hear me out fellow citizens of this crazy online world. I am NOT advocating for cynicism or apathy. I’m in no way hoping to simply burst the bubble only to sit back and watch the damage. This isn’t just a case of “misery loves company.” Rather, I’m hoping we can all find a little Dorothy in ourselves right now and be brave enough to pull back that curtain, call out a clever con for exactly what it is, and put the illusion to bed in order to make way for something better to rise in its place.

The good news is this: the underlying reason for this trend’s success is that so many people ARE in fact craving a more authentic experience online. The bad news however is that its going to be much scarier to achieve than we hoped or expected. We like when we are seen as brave and vulnerable, but we’re not nearly as in love with the reality of living that out. It’s messy. It’s embarrassing. It’s anything but glamorous. It’s counter cultural in every way. And yet the only way we can hope to see a more authentic form of community online is to be willing to come to the table first, knowing full well we might be out there alone and exposed. It’s risky, but all the best things certainly are.

photo-1447914178647-198e7e4a70b5Can you imagine if we all stood up and saw the false hashtag #authenticity for what it really is and demanded something better? What if we stopped celebrating pseudo-vulnerability and held ourselves to a higher standard of bravery? What if we didn’t just share the carefully curated highlight reel that fit the persona we worked so diligently to cultivate, but opened our personal closets and admitted we aren’t any more on top of things than anyone else? What if instead of self promotion and viral marketing, we just put our work out there and let it speak for itself? What if we actually created the #authenticlife we claim we so desperately crave?

And therein lies the bigger challenge. It’s easy to criticize what we’re against, it’s a lot more difficult to actually do something about it. I could get up on stage after stage speaking against false authenticity and write blog after blog calling out the online culture of deception, but what can we actually DO about it? It’s not good enough to know where we don’t want to go if we still don’t have a plan for where we should – it only leaves us stalled and stagnant.

Claim your personal stake as part of the solution:

Calling out pseudo-authenticity doesn’t solve nearly as much as stepping up to the plate with the real thing. The only social media accounts you have any certainty of affecting for change are your own. Make a commitment to take personal responsibility for your online citizenry and focus on your own domain. Lead by example.

Don’t misinterpret inappropriate sharing as authenticity:

No, you don’t need to post all your dirty laundry on facebook in the name of being more authentic. There are most definitely situations that call for privacy, especially in the name of respect. No one enjoys seeing martial spats played out over social media, and disputes with friends are always better handled face to face rather than publicly on facebook. Most importantly: authentic sharing is NEVER sharing information that isn’t about you or isn’t yours to share. Gossip isn’t a tool to better community, it only encourages people to hide their vulnerabilities even more, lest they become ammunition in the wrong hands later

Take regular stock of your social media “big picture,” and compare to the real story:

There’s a difference between not airing your dirty laundry and presenting the false idea that you don’t have any laundry to begin with. It can be a tightrope walk for sure, but it CAN be done. Look over your social media account regularly and ask yourself if the story you present overall is an accurate representation of the real life person behind the screen. If you aren’t sure, find a close friend you trust and ask them to weigh in. Ask yourself: if someone who had only known you online were to come spend a week in your home, do you think they would be at all surprised at the person they would see? If your answer is yes, ask yourself which parts of yourself would be most surprising, and how your might more accurately represent them moving forward.

Real authenticity is almost always scary to some degree:

If you have never experienced that nagging instinct to self preservation, or had to will yourself to press post on some less than flattering aspect of yourself, its a good idea to examine just how authentic you’re willing to be. Yes, there are those rare folks among us who maintain such an incredibly healthy self esteem that no amount of unflattering photos or admitting of their flaws holds any sort of fear. These are the exception though, and not the norm. For most of us, the idea of sharing our mistakes with the world gives us more than a little bit of pause. For many its outright terrifying. If you’ve never had to urge to hit delete or felt the weight of just how vulnerable it is to feel exposed? Challenge yourself to share something uncomfortable and see how folks respond.

Resist the urge to adhere to a label or niche:

One of the most insidious ways we start to take on false personas is by allowing ourselves to step into a comfortable label online. Nobody is just a DIYer, just a Christian, just an attachment parent, just a #girlboss… the list could go on and on. When we take on a label its often too easy to take it on as a role to be played, with proper costumes and guidelines for who the character should and shouldn’t be. Theres a reason that you’ll see so many similarities between bloggers who blog in similar niches – it can be all to tempting to let those labels define us and start to filter our other choices through those roles. Authentic people are much harder to fit into a box. You might be a blogger who doesn’t like coffee, a hippy mom who also enjoys rap music, or a fantastic designer who’s living room usually looks more like an abandoned daycare than a plug for HGTV. Real people are more than one thing, and we wont all look the same.

The Best Question to ask before EVERY post:

“Are you sharing this to build better community or to build up yourself?” Real authenticity is always about building connections, not building a platform. Authenticity is never about gaining the high ground, but about leveling the playing field. Authenticity is never about being liked, but about being known. Authenticity cant be planned, staged, coached, or branded. It has no cares of what will be retweeted, repined, reposted, or double tapped. It is because it IS. It’s truthful, it’s real, and it’s without agenda. Anything less simply misses the mark.

We can do this, people of the internet, I know we can. It’s not too late! With bravery and intention we can still right this ship.

The only question that remains is whether we really want to.

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Im Not Ready to Quit Yet

photo-1438480478735-3234e63615bbThere comes a point with most all chronic and incurable illnesses where you reach the stage of acceptance. You learn to let go of your unrealistic expectations and find ways to make life with your particular handicaps livable. You surround yourself with excellent supporters, you give yourself an extra serving of grace, and you make your own definitions for success.

And then sometimes there are days like today; days when you throw all that aside for a minute and take the bravest step of all: you let hope sneak in again.

Today I went to a new doctor. We looked over the history of everything thats been tried already, and then promptly threw it all in the trash. We went back to square one and allowed the hope of new options and answers to come alive. We made the choice to go back to the starting line with a new set of eyes and open ourselves up to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we’ve missed something, or that medicine may have new answers to offer this time around.

And nothing could possibly be scarier right now than hope.

Acceptance is such a healthy phase when you finally reach it. So being willing to let it go, without any assurances that anything will come from it? Thats terrifying. Right now it feels like a huge step backwards – back to a time when my imagination ran wild with possible outcomes and worse case scenarios, when I was bounced from misdiagnoses to failed treatments and back again, and I had no way of knowing what the future might hold. Being willing to let hope in also means letting go of the comfort of having everything all figured out. It means giving up being settled in order to set out on a long and arduous journey – knowing full well that it may come full circle right back to where you started.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. Letting go of it all because maybe, just maybe, there is something better out there for me. Maybe Im clinging to something so much less than I could have if I’m willing to try. And yes, Im fully aware that I might get the same answers, the same lack of solutions, the same diagnoses that will bring the same cycle of grief – all to end up back at acceptance once again. But that’s a risk I’ve decided to take.

So I dropped off most of my blood at the lab (ok not really most of my blood, but it sure felt like it,) and made the difficult commitment to begin the process of weaning off a medication that has been a huge part of my routine for a long time now, so we can start trying new options and see if theres a better outcome somewhere else. In typical fashion, this is an “it’s gotta get a bit worse before it can better” sort of thing. Coming off this particular med is a bit of an ordeal, with a complicated step down regimen and cross weaning process onto the other medication. The side effects of this process alone made me reconsider.

But ultimately, hope is never the wrong choice. I never want to get so comfortable in my acceptance of my condition that I stop being willing to consider Im wrong. Risk is scary, but apathy should always be scarier. It’s simply never time to completely give up; there’s always got to be room for the possibility of hope. And sometimes, on days like today, its time to let that hope out of its hidden corner and let it take the wheel. I have no idea where it’s going to take me, but I know I’m committed to finding out just how far this road goes and where it ultimately ends up, even if thats right back here at the beginning again.

Either way, I’ll know I saw this thing through. And thats worth it.

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31st Birthday Wishlist

birthday wishlist

Today is my birthday! So far today I’ve received the flu: sore throat, body aches, fever, fatigue… yeah. I don’t remember registering for this. At least it gives me an excuse to eat copious amounts of ice cream and watch all the old seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, right?

So what IS on my birthday wish list this year? Check out some of my most coveted items from my Wishing and Swooning board on Pinterest these days.

1. BAGS: A girl cant ever really have too many great bags, can she? (My husband says “Oh yes she can,” but we wont listen to him now will we.) No matter how our size may fluctuate through the years, a great bag wont ever stop fitting ;) These days I have my eyes on the chicest little leopard foldover clutch from Accessory Lane ($45.99). It’s the perfect pop of leopard print without being too overwhelming, and adds just the right touch of fun to a polished look. For future speaking engagements I’ve been eyeing this fantastic weekender bag from Sole Society. ($79.95.) Its the perfect size for a quick overnight getaway, and it even has a separate compartment on the bottom just for shoes!

2. BEAUTY:  My amazing mama was in town this last week and actually surprised me with one of my most coveted beauty items! The gorgeous Everything Eyes Palette from Bobbi Brown (a Nordstrom exclusive item) has $139 of value at a $75 pricetag. I love that Bobbi has already coordinated the colors for perfect eyeshadow looks, and even included 4 amazing travel brushes that fit right IN the compact. I can throw this right into my bag and chance from day to evening on the go, or just touch up my look wherever I may be. Plus the colors are universally flattering and age appropriate for anyone, Bobbi’s signature when it comes to her cosmetic line. I’ve also been eyeing an amazing new lip line called Lip Sense, which seriously holds up to its claims of being smudgeproof all day color. Google for some videos from their sellers and you’ll see: these colors hold up to just about ANYTHING you can throw at them. For somebody who speaks on stage for part of her living? Im thinking a collection of their amazing colors might be in my future.

3. MUGS: I collect coffee mugs (much to my husbands dismay) and am always looking for great ones to add to my growing collection. Two of my most wanted right now? The fantastic “Stressed, Blessed, and Coffee Obsessed” travel mug from Be Still Clothing company is definitely my #1 must have ($18.00). It’s like they designed it just for me! I’m also eyeing this adorable “Coffee, Because Adulting is Hard” mug from Etsy, because lets face it, Adulting IS hard. ($13.00)

4.CREATIVITY: I’m always looking for ways to play with my creative side, and so this years list includes the amazing Minc foil applicator set from Heidi Swapp. This incredible little crafting device lets you make gold foil prints at home, and Heidi even sells a variety of other colored foils and accessories to let your creativity really shine. Im also coveting the amazing Lightroom editing collections from VSCO ($59.00.) I use the mobile editing application from VSCO, but Im dying to add their beautiful film style editing tools to my Lightroom suite.

5. CUTE COMFORT: When you are a #spoonie, you’re always looking for comfortable loungewear thats still chic enough to be seen in. This amazing “I Woke Up Like This #Tired” sweatshirt is pretty much my life story! ($42.00) Im dying to get my hands on one. This adorable “Coffee Is My BFF” loungewear set from Target is both cute AND affordable, ringing in at only $17.99 for both pieces.

6. PAIN RELIEF: Life with chronic pain means your fantasy wish list looks a little bit different than most, with items specifically geared to minimize pain and maximize your ability to be a functional human being. Since my husband and I are currently spending our nights on a 12 year old mattress that honestly belongs on a trash heap somewhere, my biggest fantasy would be an amazing memory foam mattress with an adjustable base. But…. that may have to wait until we win the lottery. A little bit more reasonable may be this 2″ Foam Mattress Topper ($57.99) that might make our current mattress feel a little more tolerable for the time being. If all else fails, I could use this Shiatsu Massage Pillow ($34.95) to imagine I have a live in masseur ready to tend daily to my aches and pains. A girl can dream right?