Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog Your Way Into The New Year: Top 20 Reasons from The Help

If some of you ladies out there are resolving to try something or learn something new this year, why not blog your way into 2012. If you have been considering starting a blog,  I would like to get you motivated. Don’t worry we’ll get back to features soon. Today I’m going to give you a few reasons why we think you should blog. 

Why Blog?

The Help- Change begins with a whisper.

When I started Rural Women Rock a few months ago, something switched  on inside of me- a new perspective about blogging I had not had before.  I began to see that blogging could be a tool to help others.  So many of you were already onto this idea and making a difference in big and very unique ways. Seeing this allowed me to free myself from my old perspective and move forward- I know I’m late. Better late than never right? I want to encourage you ladies who are standing on the sidelines, "It’s never to late” and it really is “better late than never“. We’re waiting.

The Help, If you have not seen this movie or read the book, consider it a must do. We are about women inspiring women here on RWR and this bit of movie magic meets all criteria- do take the time. Earlier this week, my mom, my sister, my sister-In-law, and a hoop-la of kiddos settled in and watched the Help one evening. I had been hearing ladies buzz about it for weeks, but just couldn’t make the time. I had to incorporate gift wrapping into the mix, so in my own commotion, I missed a bit of depth the first time around watching. I still thought it was an excellent movie. I watched The Help again this evening, and I was able to think about it a bit more deeply.

Here are some of the things I gleaned from the movie tonight in the perspective of blogging as a means to Help:

1. Even if they don’t seem important, our stories are important to tell.

2. It’s important to listen to the stories of others.

3. We become human to each other through sharing our stories.

4. Criticism usually comes from fear or ignorance.

5. Extraordinary is ordinary without the fear.

6. Sometimes silence gives power to the wrong people.                   

7. Sometimes doing what is right goes against the grain.                     

8. Some stories are harder than others to tell.

9. Telling the truth takes an enormous amount of courage.

10. Being yourself takes an enormous about of courage.

11. Courage can sometimes have aftermath.

12. Being criticized, scorned, or ostracized does not always mean you are doing something wrong.

13. Telling the truth sets us free.

14. Telling your story will set others free.

15. We learn and grow from one another

16. We move forward collectively by sharing our experiences.

17. We don’t have to have all the answers to tell our story- sometimes our story is the answer.

18. We rarely know the impact or enormity of what we contribute to society, good or bad, until much later in the story.

19. Life is messy anyway.

20. God fills in all the blanks when we ask………………..always!

In the movie, as she's developing her vision for her writing, Skeeter’s editor asked her, “What bothers you that doesn’t seem to bother others?”
I just heard a speaker talk about this less than a week ago, and it has been on my mind for some time. We all need burdens and visions. Your burden is what bothers you. Your vision is what you see yourself doing about it. This could be a start. If not through blogging, I challenge you to find your vision this year. I believe in prayer and the power of God. I have the desire to do God things not good things. I’ve been a long time coming on this one or possibly have matured at a slower pace than most, but I’m ready and more than willing to find my vision. Are you?

We all have our own little slice of life-our own story to tell. Something to teach. Something to give back. Some ordinary that once shared becomes extraordinary. It is built into us as a gift from God- Good or bad. We can find purpose in our own lives by helping others.  We have a chance to make a difference, and we don’t have to go around the world to find someone that can benefit from our existence. The world is at your finger tips if you will- Now that’s a reason to blog.

What are your reasons?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Some thoughts and recipes before I sign off for Christmas.

It just started snowing at my house.  I'm so excited! 
Today I’m going to leave you with a couple of thoughts and recipes, and sign off for Christmas. I’m very excited about some things we are working on, so I do hope you will click back in after Christmas. Thank you all for following RWR over the past few months. It has been amazing to experience our "rural women diversity"!  I can't wait to see where this journey will take us over the next year. Thanks ladies for making it happen!

I have made this cinnamon Christmas candy hundreds of times over the past 30 years.  My recipe came from my late Grandma Barbara, who was the ultimate rockin' rural woman.  The noodle recipe was a new one for me. These yummy noodles are making great gifts for various families we love and appreciate. Thanks Mom, Len, and Janie for a fun baking day last week.

Here are some things I’ve been thinking about:

This first one has really been bothering me. The Kardashians, Big Brother, Desperate Housewives, The Real Housewives: What is going on here?  Is this an acceptable direction for women? Can we change directions? I don't know about you, but I’m not in favor of shallow bimbos. We are better than this!

Women are encouragers- are we doing a very good job with our daughters and younger generations of women? Are we doing a good job with each other? Are we happy with Good?

How can we reconnect my generation and younger generations of women with the wisdom of older generations of women? We have a disconnect going on. How do we fix it?

I recently read that online communities for women are growing at a rate of 35% faster than any other online community. Why is this? Are we connecting well offline? Why online?

Burdens and Visions: I’ve recently heard that we all need burdens and visions in our life- it brings out our purpose. Your burden is what you feel strongly about. Your vision is what you see yourself doing about it.

Just some thoughts to ponder if you get a quiet moment. 

Grandma Barb’s Cinnamon Candy

1 Cup corn syrup

2 ½ cups sugar

½ water

Red food coloring

Cinnamon flavoring (at drug stores) to taste.

We like it really hot and use 5 tsp.

 Boil first three ingredients to Hard Crack stage. 310 on candy thermometer. Remove from heat, add flavoring and coloring. Be careful with cinnamon oil it will burn your eyes and skin- a good way to test amount of oil is to add a few drops and then drop mixture into a cup of water. Taste the piece that hardens. Add more if needed. Pour out onto buttered sheet pan dusted with powered sugar. Let cool. Score with knife while warm- Let it harden then break into pieces.

12 ½ cups flour

1 tsp salt

6 eggs

2 ½ cups milk

5 TBSP butter

We tripled a standard recipe to get these amounts. Mix and form into small balls. Run through noodle maker. We let our noodles dry for three days before we sacked them.
Have a wonderful holiday season. Be mindful or respectful of why we celebrate Christmas. Enjoy your families to the fullest and embrace the blessings of the season.

 Have a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Link To Hope Orphan Ministry

I always wonder when I send my hard earned money off to help children somewhere where it actually goes and how much of it actually gets there. Are they driving BMW’s with a salary 10x my own in the name of helping children or does it actually help?  Link to Hope Ministries is something I put my entire trust in. No middle man- just straight from your contribution directly to the orphanage. I have known Delena and her husband Dwight my entire life. We didn’t attend the same church, but Dwight and his sister babysat us when we were little. There were four of us and I’ve heard it wasn’t easy. Four kids with young parents- can you say wild animals! Anyhow, they are salt of the earth people with a mission to serve and save. I don’t know many people like the entire Link family- To live their entire lives in a town less than 1000 people and go generations with a Good Name. That’s not something many of us can do- gain trust over years of honesty and goodness. They are people of God and I think you could knock on every door of our small town and get the same answer. I am honored to introduce them to you. I hope if you have plans on giving this holiday season, you choose to do it here. Small town resources are small, but I believe sharing this will allow them to reach the resources they need to continue their work. Can’t wait to see what God does with this.
                                                        by Delena Link

When our daughter Ashley was diagnosed with cancer, not once, but twice our world was turned upside down. Everything that I had ever believed about God was questioned. After all I was a Christian lady who attended a church regularly, prayed often and read my bible. One thing I prayed on a regular basis was that God would protect my kids from this kind of illness, so when Ashley was diagnosed with cancer it was hard to understand why God wasn’t hearing my prayers.
But now, I am more convinced of the awesome power of God than ever before. I look back and can honestly say that I am thankful for what I went through with my family. I’m convinced that God could have healed Ashley instantly, or never allowed this to happen at all. But how else would we have learned about perseverance and spiritual restoration if not for the past few years.
It all started back in 2004 at the age of 10 Ashley was diagnosed with her first round of Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) then after being 5 years clear, the cancer returned, this time in her lungs. So you can understand why I didn’t understand what Gods plans was for us all.
Too many times when people are healed instantly they forget about it a week later or even that day ( like the men in Luke 17) and their life goes on as usual without giving the praise to God that he so deserves. Instant healing sometimes means that you are missing out on more important things.
An instant healing for us would have caused us to miss out on all the love and affection that was poured out on my family from this and surrounding communities and that would have been a tragedy in itself. One day I asked God why he would allow this to happen to us and he replied, “ It rains on the just and the unjust.” Ashley is a very strong girl and God has put a special bond between Mother and Daughter we have spent much time together praying , crying and being as strong as we can be.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort in trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
Through volunteering at hospitals and visiting patience and their families, we hope to share the experience and comfort that has been obtained from God through our trials and tribulations our family has endured in the fight against cancer. God grants us comfort and compassion so we can give it to someone else.
God began to open another door to our ministry.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
It’s heartbreaking to see so many children around the world who are not able to enjoy the greatness that comes from being a part of a real family. As Christians we have a desire to do all that God will enable us to do in order to meet these needs. Choosing where to help is a very difficult decisions because there are too many to choose from. Prayer is the key to finding the answer.
Our prayers went up to God where they met with the prayers Of Pastor Syam Sundar in Bapatla India, and Link to Hope Ministries of India was born. Link to Hope Ministries Orphanage was founded and is now an officially recognized non-profit organization in India.
When we met these wonderful children, they never knew from day to day if they would have a meal to eat. They were suffering from hunger and diseases. Since establishing the orphanage, we have been able to provide food, water, & electricity as well as putting the children through school. Sadly their living conditions are still unacceptable. This is what we are currently working on to change. Thanks to the incredible generosity of others, we have purchased a large piece of farm land and have begun the construction on a new orphanage that would provide better living conditions and house even more children. But the construction is only half complete and we are working to raise the rest of the funds needed to complete the building as well as purchase appropriate transportation for the children. If you would like to learn more, please visit our website. God bless you for prayers and support.
How a little girl fighting cancer moved our ministry all the way to India

Sponsor and Child or a Widow

The Rural Spirit

I have been doing a great deal of thinking about what defines the rural spirit. What sets us apart from other women?  What will help you decide if you have found friends among us?

A few trends have formed as we have gathered together. One of the first things that has surfaced is our rural spirit, and this rural spirit has nothing to do with location. We have had quite a few features from women who were not rural by location, but by essence. I am sure this is true with our followers as well. 

You may be as rural as they get location wise and not be the essence of how we will define ourselves here, but you also may be deep in the heart of the city and find us singing your song. When I wrote this I considered past RWR "features", women I know, and family members both past and present.

The Rural Spirit

She is soft in spirit but tough as nails.

We are not of a frail nature. 

We have a hardiness about us.

Her mind is deep and strong with a foundation that is unshakable- no desperate housewives here, we are not Kardashian followers, Big Brother fans, or band wagon gals.

We can get dirty and pretty all in a days work and most of the time don’t prefer one to the other.

We are keepers of family.

We are practical and resourceful.

We are honest. Good hearted. Seekers of peace.

We are marked by our good sense and authentic nature.

We do not need material things to define us.

We know where we stand and are not easily tossed with the wind- steadfast.

We are brave.

We have a mind of our own and are fearlessly directed by it.

We are not easily caught up or drug off.

We do not run with large crowds- rather we are independent and strong.

We are not in gossip circles- we are far to busy with the people and things we love.

We are friends of the weak, poor, and to the outcasts.

We are thoughtful and considerate.

We are forward thinking.

We are not afraid to rock the boat, and are unapologetic in our resolve.

We do not do things as they have always been done. We do things the best way we see fit.

We are keepers of the land, lovers of the country, and desire slow living and wide margins.

We are growers, tenders, overseers, protectors, teachers, and caregivers.

We possess a sixth sense, and it’s not a novelty but a God given compass.

We are God fearing and faith bearing.



I would love you ladies to add to this if you feel comfortable, so come on. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

I Make Mistakes by Janie Dunn

I love what Janie has to say. She is one of the kindest most authentic people I have ever met. Has she messed up or does she have flaws? You bet! Do I? Well sure! Do you? Be honest. Sometimes telling our story is hard. Some stories are harder to tell than others. But we all have a story to tell and someone needs to hear it. The truth can set us free! Have a great weekend!

I feel led to post something that is very real and very scary for me. I'm typing as I a think, so that at the end I'll take a deep breath and click the post button and it will be out there in the real world. Then you will be reading these words! That's the scary part because you might actually be someone that I see in real life. Then you will know and you might....think less of me. You might not like me. You might not agree. You might say who is she to say such things. You might not tolerate my opinions. You might take what I say the wrong way, you might spread it around town.
Oh my....panic!....I just shared my FEARS! And now that leaves me vulnerable. (How many people will you share this with? When I go out today will I get weird stares? Friendly nods? Oh dear...breathe...) See, I'd rather deal with everything by keeping to myself, in my tiny corner.
Apparently, there are things in life that you feel like doing. And then there are these things that you really don't feel like doing but you need to anyway. (Is it your conscious speaking? The Voice of God?) Rural Women Rock is something that I really feel like doing. Writing this confessional-- not on my 'feel like doing list.' But it won't leave my head, so here's the rest of what needs to be said.
I make mistakes. Some of them big. I have a lot of capability....which also translates to...I have a lot of capability to hurt someone. I have hurt people. Sometimes the hurt I can cause is just a little mistake or a double booking or most likely, a dry joke that doesn't translate in writing...misunderstood! Sometimes it's my life. I think I can cram so much in but I run out of time, or an emergency pops up and my whole schedule gets shuffled around. Sometimes its bigger than that. Sometimes the hurt I can cause is immense. Do I intentionally hurt anyone? No! However, I have been so caught up in my dilemmas, my concerns, my pain, my fears... the next thing you know I have done something selfish and stupid. I have hurt people in ways that they may never forgive. My fears and my pain seem to cause most all of my dilemmas.

I wanted to put these thoughts out there because I especially don't want you to think I am perfect. My life is far from perfect. It has been an adventure at best, a drama at worst. If I say something like, "I know what I'm talking about", I mean for myself. I know just about enough to know that I don't know much. Many times that has been called wisdom, but that's not what I see. What I see is that I have learned many lessons. Sometimes life is hard for a reason. No pressure, no diamonds.
Not only that, but if it weren't for my failures, I would not know how incredible mercy and grace feel! I know I have been forgiven by a loving Creator, who can take my worst and turn it into something useful, who can take the consequences of my actions and turn them to lessons I needed for a bigger purpose. Like a loving Father, there's a hand that has been there to guide me, help me dust off when I fall, and to pat my back and encourage me.
Because of that goodness that is in my life, I can open up and share these things with you despite my fears. I want you to know why I could not judge you. I will not be able to recommend what you should or should not do. I am not the friend with all the advice, but I will share my perspective. I will not be able to summarize whether and why you are wrong or right. I'd rather we be like sisters, who know each others weaknesses very well. I kind of want to "keep it real" around here.
Maybe this is all confusing and you are wondering what any of it has to do with being a rural woman. Perhaps it's that in a smaller world our dirty laundry seems to get a lot more attention than it otherwise would. I think it's too easy for us to disconnect from each other once we've been hurt. It's a scary world, and to let everyone have a front row seat to our potential trip ups! Yikes! To share something personal and deep, that could have a long-lasting affect.

 I'd like to try a little expirement. I hypothesize that the long-lasting affect that will occur will actually be more positive than negative. That the more women who choose to live it, the more we will grow love for each other rather than hurting each other. The more we see our sister struggles the same, the easier it will be to forgive. If we each take to time to let each other know that we are all only human, I believe we will get some kind of feel-good warm-fuzzies and I am almost certain we will like it. If you think expirements are for nerds, just remember nerdy sisters are sisters too! :)

Janie is my partner here on RWR and the webmaster of  The site is currently under construction, but we are eagerly anticipating showing it off soon!  If you'd like to know more about Janie you can read about her here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Tyranny of the Urgent

From the very beginning, this site has been about you ladies -not me.  Almost immediately, the months filled with women stepping forward to tell their stories.   RWR has taken off like a slow moving train gaining momentum each and every day. I’m excited to see where we are headed, so  I hope it’s not off a cliff . If I had thought for a moment I was going to have to talk about myself on this blog, I assure you none of us would be here. But here we are in December, and all of a sudden, I’m being forced to write. To be honest, for three days now, I have had some version of stage fright.  

When you start telling the truth, it’s amazing the amount of writing content you have. It’s not all meant to be shared, but sometimes the truth can set you free. I’ve been thinking about this for a few days now, so I’m going to just go with it. A while back I began saying a prayer.  It went something like this “Dear Lord help me to see the things I do that break your heart”.   He was listening and let me know pretty quick.  Here is the hard part- this is a little of what I got, but not all of it.

I have a tendency to think what ever I am doing at any given moment is extremely urgent, so urgent I put the people I love second to any and every project at hand. I ignore, put off, leave out, forget, neglect, and on and on and on. Sadly, I’m just realizing this, and when I say sadly I do mean almost heart sick. The revelation has almost arrested me- it humbles me, and embarrasses me. It is not fun. I do not like it. It is painful and trying, and don’t let me fool you for a moment, I am not suddenly changed- It’s really to bad too, because everyone would be better off. It’s taken me closing my store to figure out that perhaps not all my madness was caused by the long unpredictable and never ending hours at the flower shop- I’d have to admit I’m pretty much my own worse enemy. More of my madness has to do with my long unpredictable and never ending obsession with my own importance than anything else.   I easily find one urgent thing after another- not one important thing after another and there is a difference.  Don‘t worry, the Lord has found me and is dealing with me. Thank goodness- I was really wearing myself out! He’s just getting started, but I’m excited about what he’s doing in my life. I’m only telling this because I know I’m not alone. I think it is a woman thing. I might be on the extreme end of it, but I think we are all on the spectrum somewhere. Years ago, for some reason or another, I read “The Tyranny of the Urgent” published in the 60's by Charles Hummel.

Here is the jest of it:

"Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important. We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important.  The problem is that the important task rarely has to be done today or even this week".

   This little pamphlet sums it all up and gives a nice little recipe for a remedy. It has been useful to me here lately. I think with the holidays upon us, we could all stand to read something that addresses our madness. I hope you take the time.

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Monday, December 5, 2011

"Life is short and death is certain"

For those of you who missed the Sunday post, we are doing something a bit different over the next couple of weeks. We had a tough time booking December and rightly so. As the holiday madness kicks in, we decided to just go with the flow, and not try to resist what was naturally happening. Instead, we decided to give you a break from the madness and hopefully put a little more meaning in your holiday. Instead of a steady stream of personal features, we are going to showcase a few charities we trust, introduce a few women who have made a difference, and some other worthwhile holiday inspirations. We have a few things lined up, but would love to hear from you ladies. If you have something to share, please feel free to email us. We are now booking January. If you are interested in being featured, just give us a holler and we’ll get you set-up. 


I would like to introduce the late Rachel Barkey.  I first read about Rachel as she was in her final months dying with cancer.  I had the opportunity to watch her courageous testimony: "Death Is Not Dying" and follow her blog as she posted her final posts.

Heart wrenching, as a mother with childern.

Death is not a fun subject, but when you are not yet dying, pondering its certainty, seems to bring perspective when little else will. So in saying that, I’m not attempting to be morbid in an otherwise joyous time of the year.  I’m attempting to share some things that I’m hoping will inspire us all to live with perspective through the holiday, coming year, and hopefully for a lifetime.

I hope you take the time to watch Rachel's video.  You will have to find a good hour, but I promise you it will be worth every minute you will gain in perspective. Get up early or perhaps when the
kids are tucked in bed, but do take the time.  If you think you just don’t have the time, read her last two blog posts:

Last Blog Posts:

Dying Is Hard

My To Do List

The Video:

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal … to tear down … to build … to weep … to laugh … to mourn … to dance … to scatter …. to gather … to embrace … to refrain … to search … to give up … to keep … to throw away … to tear … to mend … to be silent … to speak … to love … to hate [and] a time for war and a time for peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV). 

"Life is short and death is certain."  These are the words my grandpa uses to close our familes prayers.  I've heard them my entire life, but I hear them a bit clearer as life comes into focus.  They quietly whisper, "have perspective".

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meaningful Holidays Anyone?

This next week marks the beginning of the first full week in December and a full month of something compeletly different here on RWR. We will be shifting gears and slowing down a bit to focus on making the holidays as meaningful as possible. We will be featuring a few women-run charities, taking time for others, giving back, and making a difference- sprinkled with fun holiday goodies and inspiration. What are you doing? We would love to know your ideas on how to make the holidays more meaningful.

RWR Member Sarah Stevens of Cellar Designs, who will be featured in Janurary, wrote me and further confirmed the direction for this month by sharing how her family and church has learned to "give" differently during Christmas. She shared the following:

"Have you ever heard of Advent Conspiracy? Our church has participated in this the past 3 years and it has transformed the community....and how I look at Christmas."- Sarah Stevens

The concept behind Advent Conspiracy is simple...

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

Before you think we’re getting all Scrooge on you, let us explain what we mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion a year every Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? Thanks, but no thanks, right? We’re asking people to consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one. Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.

God’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?

When Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. When Advent Conspiracy first began four churches challenged this simple concept to its congregations. The result raised more than a half million dollars to aid those in need. One less gift. One unbelievable present in the name of Christ.

Thanks Sarah!!

Ladies, do email me with anything you would like to share this month.

We won't be able to use everything, so keep that in mind. If we use your idea, we will give credit where credit is due. I'm looking forward to something a little different this holiday season- I hope we all are. I'm looking forward to hearing from you and learning from you- don't be shy!

Embrace the blessings of the season!

Kind Regards,

Kasse D.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lee Skalkos: Totally Out of Hand

I love this story and the concept behind Lee‘s business. What a wonderful Christmas gift - something special for someone special. Thank you Lee for sharing your story! I am exhausted with mass production and waste. This is something I think we can all feel good about. I encourage each of you to try and support something meaningful this holiday season- It will make a difference. You could even start hereJ    You can also find Lee in our Rural Gift Guide. Thanks Lee for your interest in our site-  Apologies for bumping you around!

Lee Skalkos captures your child’s art in sterling silver so thatyou can wear that memory for a lifetime.

Lee Skalkos is a self taught silversmith and single mom, who majored inIllustration in college. After making jewelry full time for a number of years,Lee took a break from silver to have her two children. When Lee's husband'sstep father passed away, her five year old daughter drew a picture of him and her grandmother holding a balloon, to cheer her grandmother up. This was a very special drawing that needed to be preserved. It was then that the whole idea of Child Artwork Jewelry™ was born. The original pin is below:

 Lee personally makes each pin, by hand, from start to finish, one at a time, and takes a great deal of pride in her work. She works with each customer individually, on a personal level, which ensures that each customer not only receives the very best in customer service, but also a family heirloom that will be passed from one generation to the next - A family treasure preserved forever in solid sterling silver, or gold. She also turns children’s artwork into earrings, cufflinks, tie tacks, necklaces and really “anything my customer wants, I will make”

Although Child Artwork Pins TM are just some of the jewelry that Lee creates, she feels this to be the most satisfying. "I receive a lot of satisfactionfrom making these pieces for other Moms, I know how important each artwork isto each Mom. It's hard work being a Mom! It is nice to be able to wearsomething that your child created especially for you."
"The best part of this job definitely is when the customer contacts me to tell me how much they love their pin, that just makes my day!"                                                            

The's work has been shown on 5 television shows, including national HGTV and was also featured in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Rosie Magazine, BetterHomes and Gardens, Yankee, and Victoria Magazine where she won the National Entrepreneur of the Year Award.. She is on The White House Gift List, and hasmade a pin for former First Lady, Laura Bush. Lee also makes pins for many terminally ill children in hospitals around the country. Lee is also a certified high school art teacher.

Her work may be seen at

Thank you Lee!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Women of Epicenter in Green River, Utah

Dedicated to Rural, this next duo is the creative force behind the market bags we gave during our first giveaway. You will also find their bags in our Rural Gift Guide for purchase directly from Epicenter. The proceeds go to the heart of what these women are about. I find it fascinating, and I think you will too! See what these women are doing to help their slice of Rural America. By the way, we will be giving five more of these bags away in the very near future, so stay tuned.

I hope you visit their blog.  These women are up to all sorts of good! 

Epicenter is located on the historic corridor of Broadway about 200 feet North of the Amtrak station in Green River, Utah. There, we operate an affordable housing and business resource center in a historic building. Epicenter is a 501(c)3 non-profit supported by grants, private donations, and income from graphic design and print production projects. Epicenter’s one-story renovated storefront building houses a creative studio, a small basement workshop, and four full-time employees. 50% of the driving force behind Epicenter is two rural women, Hayley Crooks and Maria Sykes, a designer-strategist duo. Sykes helped co-found the Epicenter in June of 2009, and Crooks followed shortly after to further strengthen the team. Since it's foundation, Sykes & Crooks helped in the renovation of the Epicenter office, have written grants to fund the Epicenter's programs and projects, and run the Epicenter's Design Department.

Sykes was trained as an architect at Auburn University (known for the Rural Studio), and Crooks also attended at Auburn University but studied industrial design. Typically, one would graduate from design school and pursue traditional careers in urban centers working for large design firms. We chose to move to "the middle of nowhere"; somewhere with need and potential where we could see the direct impact of our time and talents. We see ourselves as part of a change of tone occurring in the design professions, led by students and emerging professionals who want more than what the professions have settled for: working unapologetically for the socio-economic elite. We are crafting an alternative model of practice, one that can accommodate our fervent desire to collaborate and to emphasize place and circumstance. Our insistence for these ideals has led us to a radical mission taken on by “citizen architects” (and citizen designers, more broadly).

The town of Green River is a rural community of just 953 residents at the trifecta of the Green River, Interstate 70, and the railroad. We are often asked, “Why Green River?” At first, we didn’t know (and we still aren’t sure). But we know the fact that question is even asked is a significant portion of the answer. If it was easy and simple, then it would already exist. We do know some factors that answer “why.” The transparency that exists in seeing who the decision-makers are is requisite for our ability to create the Epicenter. The town is manageably small; we can have a better chance at wrapping our heads around the dynamics of a decision made by residents. Even still, because of the context, the town is different and unique enough that when we seek out prototypes and examples from other similar places it is hard to replicate here. Our satisfaction comes from the ability to create social change at an individual scale along with the opportunity for creative expression rather than monetary compensation. In school, we learned techniques of problem solving, and we tasted the impact you can have from working within a community.

Rural women rocking Green River doesn't end with Sykes & Crooks, the town has female business owners, city councilwomen, and community organizers. Additionally, young women regularly come to Green River to participate in the Epicenter's Frontier Fellowship, a program started by a young female artist, Charlotte XC Sullivan. Frontier Fellows join the creative community of Epicenter for four weeks. Fellows create projects that align with Epicenter’s mission and goals as well as working on self-initiated projects. Upon arrival to the desert, Fellows find themselves immersed in the frontier lifestyle of rural Utah. The frontier experience encourages context-driven collaborative work. Epicenter provides project support through access to the rich context of Green River, critical and collaborative support, and a myriad of resources. The Frontier Fellowship enables local, national, and international creative professionals to be involved in Epicenter’s projects and programs with our citizen-designers and staff. Fellows spend 20 hours/week working on Epicenter projects and 20 hours/week on personal projects. The Frontier Fellowship is unpaid, but Fellows are given printing privileges, wifi access, workshop access, use of a rental bicycle, Family Meal Plan membership, plenty of workspace, and their work promoted for their four-weeks (at minimum). Apply for the Frontier Fellowship at

More on Epicenter at
Handmade goods for sale at Etsy Shop
Follow the Epicenter on Facebook

Memoirs of a Reformed City Girl

I hope we all had a wonderful holiday with our families. Please do embrace the blessings of the season- they are all around us- like sweetness! Ladies, I truly feel honored when one of you says yes to an invitation or steps courageously forward to tell your story. It excites me. I have learned something from each and everyone of you. Maybe not what I expect, but what was needed. We are strong- stronger than we know, and much stronger when we humble ourselves to learn and be guided. To fit RWR into my day, I'm usually up early in the quiet morning when everyone else is asleep, and I feel grateful each morning when I am blessed with yet another wonderful story. I think you all would agree that we have had a truly amazing pool of stories (women). We are all ordinary and extraordinary beings- Isn‘t that wonderful. I am in awe yet again to read today’s post. I know you will be too. Read with intent to learn something. It's surprising what you will find. Have a great day!

Meet Chaya blogging from: 

We were citified yuppies. We drove the approved car, lived in the approved four bedroom house in the approved neighborhood, with the approved 2.3 kids (I was pregnant) and I could give the approved answers at all of the approved yuppie social functions. Our former dream home
We did have some closet behaviors, of course. To start, we’re Christians, but that’s okay, we just gravitated towards the Christian-yups. We were a homeschooling family, knew which end of the fishing pole did what and we could muster the carpentry skills to build a semblance of a compost bin. I milled my own flour and baked constantly. The smell of freshly baked bread was my gateway drug which eventually led to dehydrating, and even pressure canning (that is when you have crossed over).

My husband stumbled upon the notion of rain barrels. Our lack of these specific self-sufficiency skills led to some “unapproved” blogs about how we could all pay a price for our failing economy and that it would be a good idea to put something away for a “rainy day”. I reviewed some homeschooling curriculum about economics and it all clicked for me, too. “Hey,” I thought, “you can’t spend what you don’t have.” So novel, I know.

That was the beginning of the journey and the point of no return was in our rear view mirror. I read Carla Emery’s “Encyclopedia of Country Living” cover to cover (yes, even appendices).
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery We became radical to get out of debt: excessive couponing, even selling the Volvo and getting by with one car—gasp! Above all else, we spent a lot of time in prayer. Well, sometimes we didn’t pursue God—it honestly felt more like He pursued us. We sold much of what we owned, gave away the rest, and moved from one side of the country to the other.

We gave up all sanity if you were to ask anyone we knew, but we knew that we were exactly where we were supposed to be . . . beautiful Northwest Montana! Cabinet MountainsThree days in the car with three sick children. By the time we hit Wyoming, I was teetering in my resolve, “Carla Emery didn’t mention this,” I thought. Perhaps sanity is overrated. The dog was crossing both sets of her legs, so we pulled off at a quaint little general store/tackle shop/pizzeria/fireworks stand/laundry mat/gas station, miles from anywhere else.

The wind softly blew the dust up and the horse tied to the post pawed the ground and snorted. The checkout lady graciously led this whimpering mother back to the “Employees Only” utility sink, so that I could hand scrub three soiled lovies, lest the children refuse to sleep without them. Wyoming Sign
We finally arrived to the small town in Montana which we now call home, checked into a hotel, and immediately headed over to the grocery store for something we could call dinner. The Local Grocery Store
Something was strangely odd; bumblebees and princesses, dragons and race car drivers were walking across the parking lot holding hands and looking both ways. We walked through the door of the grocery store, met by a human sized M&M (green, my fave) who passed a baggie of tickets to each of us. We had arrived on Halloween. The entire town, it seems, goes to the grocery store on Halloween. The local icon known as “the Balloon Man” was there in his homemade clown costume giving hats and swords to the children and giving the adults funny anecdotes about his grandchildren. The grocery store passed out free hotdogs, chips, and soda. There were games and prizes, samples and—to the locals—a chance to catch up on the news while waiting in lines.

Culture Shock.

It’s been a tough year on many accounts and we have grown. We’ve gone from one end of the economic pendulum to the other. We survived those first few winter months simply by the grace of God and of others. I never knew generosity until I met the neighbors of my small town. I would find a mason jar of goat milk on the front porch every morning when I let the dog outside. Plates of cookies, homemade bars of soap, and even canned elk meat were given to us because “I had some extra…”
Arial View of Small Town, Montana
A year has recently passed. This year, we escorted a Tigger, an Eeyore, and a Piglet across the parking lot, holding hands and looking both ways. As children compared costumes and parents compared the week’s happenings, I asked my husband, “A whole year—what do you think now?”

“We are different people now,” he replied. “The culture shock is gone, and we are different.” We smiled somberly, as though that smile recorded the memories of a year.

Everything has been a new experience, from butchering livestock to homemade ice cream to community firewood cutting. There were our failed attempts at gardening in a harsher climate, our new friendships, and endless winter months playing board games with restless children. The people here are strong. The lifestyle is simple but never confused with easy.

I nodded in agreement, fighting back a tear. “Yes,” I whispered, “we are stronger.”

photo credits:
Cabinet Mountains: Alice and Jim Hayes, Loveless Realty
Grocery Store: Rosauers photo
Arial of Town: Kootenai River Development Council, Inc.

I would love for you to nose around Chaya's website and blog.  Perhaps do some Christmas shopping.

Thank you Chaya!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

2012 Holiday Rural Gift Guide!

Before we get started, I want to share with you a couple of fun sites for crafty gift wrap. I have a mega roll of craft paper left from the store, so I'll be trying my luck. This photo makes trying irresistible.

Free Printable Wood Type Holiday Tag Set
                   Kraft Supplies

I wanted to give a little plug to Livy my 11 year old daughter for helping out over the weekend, and making the pretty frames around the products. If you like them, she used Picnik (the free version).

                                                                         Cowgirl Creamery

                                                                      Rag and Stone

              Cow Art and More

                                                                         Dirty Deeds Soaps

       Christmas Cards

Thanks to you all! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Closing for Thanksgiving.....Meet Us Monday For Our Rural Gift Guide!

Major hang-ups with yesterdays Feature- Sorry Sarah.  I'm looking forward to introducing her, but we just couldn't get her photos up.  Stay tuned.  We'll get her featured. 

We think family is the most important thing, so get off your computers this weekend, and embrace the blessings of the season- We are.  We'll return Monday with our Rural Gift Guide!  Can't wait! Have a wonderful holiday and don't forget to do something for those in need. 

Kind Regards,

Kasse D.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cellar Designs by Sarah Stevens

I am very excited to introduce you to our next wonderful woman. Sarah Stevens of Cellar Designs.

I have loved Sarah’s work for a long time now. When we started RWR, she was one of the first ladies I thought of, but I didn’t even know her. You ladies just blow me away on your features. I knew Sarah was talented, but I had no idea what an amazing woman she was. You will love her too! Thanks Sarah for the inspiration! You Rock!

Blogging from: The Heart of the Cellar Door

Hi all! When Kasse asked me if I would like to participate in her blog she asked if I was
a “rural” gal. Hmmmm...the answer is no...and yes! I like a big city. I love having the
choice of events, restaurants, theatre productions, shopping and more! I like a big city!
But I think my spirit is rural. I told Kasse that my dream home is an old farmhouse. I
love old, weathered things that must have a story behind their years. I’ve always been
drawn to an old barn when driving in the country. The farmland patchwork is one of the
most beautiful landscapes one can see. I live in a rural village about 20 minutes from
the “big” city. I have the best of both worlds! So, let me introduce myself..............
I am Sarah Stevens and I am a rural gal, at heart, who just likes to visit the big city.

I have midwest roots...born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. I attended both
public and parochial schools and had a pretty wonderful childhood...from what I can
remember. ;-) My parents instilled in my siblings and myself strong kind, be
thoughtful, be unselfish, be smart, be creative, laugh at yourself and be generous. I am
grateful for that foundation. I went to Iowa State University where I met my husband,
Craig. He was in ROTC at ISU and then served in the US Navy as a search and rescue
helicopter pilot. We loved our life with the military! The deep sense of camaraderie,
pride in service and fun provided us with some of the best memories. The service
members and their spouses became our family. I was, and will always be, very proud of
Craig’s service to our country.

Craig and I have been married for 22 years and we are the bursting-at-the-seams-with-
pride parents of 4 children. Zack, is a student at UW Madison is most happy with a
guitar in one hand and a lacrosse stick in another. Taylor, our only daughter, is 16, a
junior and loves theatre, shopping and high school ministry! Luke, our 10 year old, is
our sweet content guy whose laugh can light up a room. And our caboose...Noah. He
is 6 3/4 (his idea for me to put that) and is a spirited redhead who keeps us all laughing.
They are my proudest accomplishments. I am honored to have the responsibility and
gift of being their mother!

After 9 years in the Navy we made the tough
decision for Craig to leave the military. This was not ever an “anti-military” decision, rather a “pro-family” one. It was hard to leave that life and the friends we had made....and many days we miss it very much(especially Craig). But it was the right decision for us. We moved to Florence, KY. We stayed in Kentucky for about 9 years, but felt the pull to be closer to family. We wanted our
children to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc more.  So we moved to Waunakee, WI 6 years ago. It was a tough move for our older 2 kids.....we were not winning any “parent of the year” awards that year! But it is amazing for us to look back now and see how God’s plan was so good and perfect. As always, when you pull the lens back you see the bigger picture.
Living back in the Madison area has enriched our lives. We found an extraordinary
church community that we are so blessed to be a part of. Zack and Taylor have thrived
in the youth ministry. They have gone on missions trips, retreats, and have traveled
to NYC, Mississippi, Chicago, Romania and Honduras with the youth group! Craig
has found his niche as a part of a fantastic cast and crew of a monthly production that
focuses on families with young children, teaching them about a different virtue each
production. He also helps with running the sound board on Sundays and is involved
in a men’s ministry breakfast each week. I have moved around a bit within our church,
helping at the info desk and some women’s ministries things. But I have finally found
my “sweet spot” in God’s plan for my serving life. I have always loved high school age
students! I am a part of a leadership team for our high school ministry. This year Craig
and I are hosting a weekly high school life group in our home. I am privileged to lead
one of the girls’ small groups. There is something very powerful in a group of teenagers
who normally wouldn’t hang out together, spending time with each other, caring about
each other and being a “team”. I absolutely love connecting with them and hopefully
helping them to love themselves, each other, the community around them, and God.
What an honor!

I have always loved to
create!! I was a hair
designer for 18 years.
I enjoyed the architecture
of a hairstyle and the
emotion it could generate.
It is that same combo
of feelings that led me to
my new business, Cellar Designs. The structure of something wooden, combined with
beautiful colors and powerful words can be so amazing! Cellar Designs started when I
was shopping with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law in our favorite Craft Antique Barn
during our annual family vacation. I saw these very cool photo box frames. I fell in
love.....then saw the price tag. I automatically thought “Craig could make these and I
could paint them”. So we did. That Christmas we made a few for gifts. That was the
beginning of something I could never have dreamed. Cellar Designs now has a shop
on Etsy and has sold over 300 items in 2 years! I love designing and creating new
signs that will speak to people and make their houses feel like homes.

Why the name “Cellar Designs”? I wrote about this in my blog, but I will share that entry
here with you.

People think that the name Cellar Designs came from fun nights hanging out with family
or friends and a bottle of wine. Some thought it was because I would cut the hair of
my family in our basement. Although those all could be reasons.....I never have really
shared the real reason....until now.


Storm cellars are a "must have" for a rural farm or home that does not have a
basement. It is necessary for protection, shelter, and security. A storm cellar that
works well is angled so debris of a storm would blow up and off of it, not blocking it so
it couldn't be opened back up. They are usually a bit away from the main house, yet
close enough so it could be reached quickly if needed.

For me, there is great                                       
beauty in a storm cellar
door. It usually has
large hinge straps that
help to keep it
closed.....but yet help it
to open up when
ready...and the coast is
clear. These straps
usually can withhold
great winds and the
elements for decades.
They just get rusty and
antiqued....but that is
what is beautiful about them.

When choosing a name for my business I had to think about what is most important
to me at my very core. For me.....that is God. I believe that God is my storm cellar
and much more. I believe that the number of storms we put Him through had to have
weathered His hinge straps! :) the end.... they are strong and more beautiful
with every passing year.

So, Cellar Designs was born of my gratitude to God for taking some of  those big busts of wind for me, allowing the debris to blow off the angled dorr, and help me to know when the coast was clear for me to emerge form the cellar.                                                     

I thought I would share with you a little look into my “studio”. It really is my dining and
living rooms. I have completely taken over those 2 rooms of our home! We have
talked about adding a room to our home so there would be a legitimate space for Cellar
Designs and I’d be extremely blessed if that happens. But, until then, the “studio” it is!

My favorite piece of furniture is. It is a gorgeous old cabinet that has many different 
layers of paint and is chipping and I love it! You will never guess where I found
the same craft barn I saw the first photo box!!! I use it to store all my paint, hardware,
brushes and marketing materials. A top it are some favorite signs and various treasures. 

Cellar Designs uses all the available real estate within our home to paint wooden
planks, biscuit planks together, glue and clamp signs, and stencil & vanish art. There
is not an inch of tabletop space empty!! Some people see it as chaos. I see it as
perfection!! It is my happy place these days. I love being home while the kids are at
school, listening to my favorite music (Matthew West, Adele, Glee and more), designing
layouts and painting. Then when I am done with items they line the hallway of our
home (taking up more space!!) This photo below is just a glimpse at what the “ready to
be shipped” department looks like!

My signs can be used as great descriptors of who I am,
what I care about, and what is important in my life.
I am a daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend and.... most importantly a child of God.
What an amazingly blessed life I get to live!
I hope that all of my signs speak to these blessings.......for you as well as me.

Thanks to Kasse for allowing me to be a part
your community!!
I am honored to be among so many women of
strength here at Rural Women Rock!

Many blessings to you all.... Sarah

Sarah has also just started to sell 3 signs on an awesome new Christian website.  It is  Go take a peek!  She also sells on ETSY .  Go give her a Rural Women Rock welcome on Facebook by liking her:)

 Thanks Sarah