In Sickness + In Health, AND Dave Ramsey

Collage and Wood inc. owner Crystal Waddell with her family: husband Jon Waddell and son Asher Waddell.

When Jon and I got engaged, all signs pointed to a charmed life. But not long after, he became sick. He lost over 20 pounds in a month. He felt unwell, but all tests came back negative for serious diseases. I was so afraid he was going to die. Happiness seemed always just out of my grasp and I always assume the worst.

When he began to feel better, I was so relieved. Next came a heart attack scare with my dad, but by our wedding day, both of them were there to perform their respective roles beautifully.

Within months we were pregnant with Asher and during our “baby-moon” trip up the east coast from North Carolina to New Jersey, I had to stop and pee almost hourly. I was eight months pregnant and didn’t notice that Jon had to go as often as I did.

Jon noticed, though – and when we finally got home he said he wanted to use his step dad’s glucometer to check his blood sugar. (Tom is a type II diabetic). The glucometer read 300+.

We made the horrible joke that when I was tested for gestational, Jon got the diabetes instead. At age 30, Jon was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, also known as Type 1.

I plan on sharing more about life with a Type 1 later, but for now I want to focus on the difficulty we had adjusting to living with this disease.

I am so ashamed of my initial response to Jon, my lack of support for him. I want to go back and slap me! As I held Asher in my arms, suffering from undiagnosed postpartum depression, I remember telling Jon that I could never give him a shot, that he would need to handle his diabetes so that I could focus on being a mom.

Jon was exhausted, but that didn’t stop me from trying to run him all the way into the ground. I dragged him to club volleyball practices and weekend tournaments. I also needed his help with the new coaching business I started called “Fundamental Sports Clinics”.

All this in addition to his volunteer coaching responsibilities for a middle school football team and volunteering at church. Poor guy! But if you were to ask him about that time, Jon would say he loved coaching volleyball and the chance it gave us to travel.

We were operating our home budget on a $30,000 salary and things were tighter than a worship leader’s skinny jeans.

But Jon’s diabetes actually created an amazing bond with our team after he had an incredibly scary blood sugar low at a tournament, while holding Asher in his arms. I cried while one of the mom’s shoved every snack and piece of fruit she could find into Jon’s mouth – and we all shared relieved hugs, smiles and glances when he came back to life.

That team rallied around my family and loved like Asher like a baby brother. At the end of this season, I wanted to do something special for our girls. I wanted them to remember this special blend of awesome that connected us.

As the season came to a close, I started looking up ideas on Pinterest. I am across wooden letters covered in pictures. I calculated the cost, used coupons, and went to a local craft store to purchase a letter for each of my players. One of the parents had taken AMAZING photos over the season and there were hundreds to choose from.

Sadly these photos were collecting digital dust in a photo folder on Facebook.

Not comprehending the tedious task before me, I set out to make 11 personalized photo collages for each of my players. After the first one, I thought I should quit. I felt I could never finish! Yet I was determined to keep going.

Somehow, I finished them. And I was so proud. I hoped they would feel the love and care that I poured into each one of their collages. That they would know how much they, and this season, meant to us.

At our end of the season party, I could not contain my excitement to give my girls their personalized collages. This was 2013. Six years later, I can still remember the look of awe and appreciation from my players and their parents. They knew I loved them, and that’s all I needed them to know.

So. Why did I tell you all of this? I wanted you to know why I make photo collages, and why I started The Collage and Wood Shop. That volleyball season will never be replicated, but the memories live on forever – in our hearts and minds and for my players, a tangible keepsake collage.

I can solve that same problem for you by combining the memories into a collage into a meaningful shape: letter, silhouette, or number.

But the main reason for Collage and Wood is this: When my family needed me (and they did as we adjusted to life near the poverty line and life with Type 1); as we sacrificed my salary, I used my hands to make the only thing I had ever created as a gift: wooden letters covered with photos.

Because like Dave Ramsey said, when you’re broke and you need money: you need to WORK.

If I have a chance to make a collage for you, my intention will be the same for your players as it was for mine: to celebrate the amazing moments of the season or a career and remind her that she is seen, valued, and loved.

Welcome to Collage and Wood! Thank you for being a part of my family’s labor of love. Take a look around and see how we’ve grown!

My friend, Jon

Jon Crystal and Asher Waddell from the Collage and Wood Shop

I’ll summarize my life, 2007-2008:

Faith/Life Change > Break-Up > Homeless > Job Loss > Part-Time Job > Substitute Teacher > Teaching Job Offer > Started Working on My Masters > Bought a House.

It was a CRAZY time of extreme highs and lows. I had also started volunteering in my church’s youth group on Wednesdays and Sundays, working in the café. I felt like I was where God had called me, but I still felt so alone. In the middle of tons of people in a large church, I was so lonely.

One Sunday, I was working in the café and another volunteer walked by. “Hi, Crystal,” he said, and smiled at me. “Crazy weather, huh?” or something like that. I smiled back, replied politely and almost burst into tears. I think it was the fact that he said my name.

Hi,Crystal. Someone has seen me, someone had noticed that I existed in this great sea of people.

He became Jon, My Friend. (That’s what my mom jokes, that his first name was Jon and his last name was My Friend!) In the youth group, my friend Jon sometimes taught. The kids called him Pastor Jon and he never corrected them – I’m not sure he noticed. So I assumed he was a pastor.

I don’t remember when I found out that he was just “Mr.” Jon, and an elementary PE teacher. I was mourning heartbreak, and while Jon was kind of cute, he was obviously some kind of body builder and I thought he must be stuck up. So dating never really crossed my mind – but there some forces at work behind the scenes.

First: my own prayers. I prayed that God would reveal my husband to me by confirming the guy through a very specific word. I never told anyone what that word was. Coincidentally, Jon said this word during one of his youth group sermons. I was probably laughing when he said it, and immediately a conversation ensued in my head – I was like, this guy, God? Really?

But I started paying attention.

Secondly, the other adult volunteers in the youth group knew something Jon and I didn’t – that we would make an amazing team. So they started scheduling us at the same time, doing the same job at the front, signing kids in. I started looking forward to Wednesdays and Sundays and the time that I would spend with Jon, my friend. J

on and I couldn’t be more different. He is so disciplined in his workouts, infinitely patient with kids, and also infinitely empathetic.

He is the first person to call when you need prayer or help in any way. He is also very shy, private, and funny.

On June 18, 2011, I became Jon’s wife. On September 17, 2012, I became the mother of Jon’s son.

And THAT, my friend, is when my life REALLY changed! In a wonderfully unexpected way.

I’d love to hear what you think of the story so far? How is it like your own? How is it different? Thanks for letting me share!

From Homeless to a Master’s Degree

Ok, so homeless might be a strong way to describe my situation. I like to think of it more as “in transition” between homes. I did have options on where I could live. I could go to Chicago, and stay with my best friend, maybe work for the YMCA. I could always go home to Kansas and stay with my parents until I figured it out (NO!), or I could stay in Fayetteville, grow in faith, and live with my friend Kendra and her children.

I chose the final option. I could not fully explain why I chose to stay – I just felt God had brought me here for a reason. I couldn’t leave without knowing why. Plus, I wasn’t quite ready to admit defeat. So I stayed. I volunteered to paint a local, kind of po-dunk YMCA.

It was nothing like the grand facilities we had been throwing up all around the Kansas City metro area. The po-dunk YMCA gave me a part-time job. I filled out an application to start substituting in the local school system. I found that I had natural classroom management skills. Who knew? I made a friend at the YMCA. She was a new member, recently separated, and we bonded over our mutually broken hearts.

She told me about a program to recruit new teachers called Lateral Entry. A person could become a teacher and then earn their certification while teaching. Maybe I was destined to teach, after all!

Fast forward a few weeks and my new friend’s school expressed their need for a PE teacher who would also teach creative writing AND reading remediation. My undergraduate degree was in Sports Information – a random PE and journalism hybrid. I also had an associate’s degree in Journalism.

Once again, I raised my hand, and began teaching full-time that fall. I enrolled at a nearby university to pursue my teaching certification. Guess what? You’ll never guess! They had a Master’s degree program where I could get my Masters AND my teacher certification at the same time!

It was a crazy period in my life, for sure! As this all unfolded, within four months, in the midst of a recession, I bought a house for me and Izzy.

I went from zero closets and sharing a bathroom with young children to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath PALACE with a walk-in closet. Divine intervention? I think so!

Just wait until I get to the next part, the best part: my friend Jon.

What do you think of my story so far? Do you have a terrible situation that somehow turned into a blessing? Please let me know! And if you are in the midst of a challenging season, be encouraged! You never know when something better is coming. Keep your head up so you can see it!

How my ex’s ex-wife’s aunt (yes) changed my life

collage and wood story continued, part 2.

Upon my arrival in North Carolina in 2007, I quickly made my new home a place in which I planned to stay. One of my most important purchases: a small boxer (that wasn’t actually a boxer, more on that later). Miss Izzy Bear Blang Blang was quickly my best friend and center of my universe. When I found a job as a co-director at a local daycare, I put Izzy in her own daycare-for doggies.

I had never heard of such a thing! I quickly made a new friend with my co-director, Kendra, and life seemed to be moving in a positive direction. I coached my ex-boyfriend’s daughter’s 8-U soccer team, and Izzy was our mascot. Life was awesome.

Well, kind of. Izzy helped numb my loneliness and gave me the illusion of purpose. One day we were minding our own business when a knock came at the door. The woman explained who she was. (See blog title!) She invited me to church. I wanted to decline. I needed an excuse. I didn’t have one. I agreed to go (but planned on falling ill on Sunday). I went. An hour late, but I went. I hoped to catch the end of the service, show my face, be gracious and be gone.

Unfortunately, this was one of those excited churches that warms up for an hour and then begins the sermon. I was transfixed. I had never seen anything like this before! I decided to go back. And again, and then one day, I broke down in tears in my loneliness and brokenness and gave my life to Christ. And for about a month after that I went up for every altar call, until someone explained that you only do it once!

Not surprisingly, my ex-boyfriend was not excited about the new changes in my life. And within months, I lost my job, got dumped AND found myself homeless. (An extra fun fact: my ex had his new girlfriend move IN before I had even moved completely OUT). I was in a sorry state of humiliation.

It was not the happy ending I was expecting. But the better news comes next!

Have you ever had a time when your whole world crashed around you? How did you rebuild it? Please reply with your story, I would love to hear! I hope you are encouraged to overcome your obstacles!

How I ended up 1000 miles from home

Pretty picture of a room.

I never wanted to become a teacher. I never wanted to coach. I enjoyed both but I thought that MANAGING coaches would pay more and give me the chance to stay within the sports world. I wanted to join the ranks of a professional sports organization. I had dreams of becoming a professional athlete… but I didn’t even play for a four-year college.

So, after graduating from the University of Kansas in 2004, I started at the bottom: as a sports director at the YMCA of Greater KC. I loved my job, organizing schedules, creating a community, and implementing the Y’s Four Core Values: Caring, Honesty, Respect, and Responsibility. It was my dream job, but I didn’t understand how to plan and pace myself. I did more, more, more… until I crashed and burned out and turned in my two weeks to take a job at which I was absolutely horrible: sales. A short stint selling yellow page advertising at Yellow Book led to an even shorter stint selling phone systems at a small telecommunications company and my first ever termination.

Oh, the shame. I was so defeated. I loved non-profit work but needed more money for my student loans. And I wasn’t very good at sales. I felt lost and desperately needed a change of scenery.

This was 2007. I was 26. My boyfriend at the time was in the military, and deployed to Afghanistan. He had a house in Fayetteville, North Carolina and he needed a house-sitter. I raised my hand to volunteer, packed up my SUV, grabbed a friend and drove across the country to start anew in North Carolina.

I had no idea how my life was about to change, but I’m excited to share those changes with you! What major life changes have you experienced to make you who you are today? Please let me know! There is so much power in sharing.

Talk to you soon, Crystal

10 Easy Ways to Wear Your Team Colors on Game Day

Hello, everyone! I’m Carrie, of Team Colors by Carrie, and I am SO excited that Crystal invited me to be a guest blogger for Collage and Wood! I’m an avid sports fan and jewelry creator, and I love helping female sports fans discover the perfect jewelry accessories for game day, and every day! And I hate to brag, but I know a thing or two about team spirit!

I’m here today to help you find some fun, new ways to wear your favorite sports team colors on game day. I don’t know about you, but my “go to” outfit is usually a jersey and jeans. But let’s face it, that gets old by the end of the season, and I like to mix it up a little. I’m sure you do too!

So today I’ve got 10 easy ideas for wearing your team colors that DON’T involve a team jersey!  Sound good? Read on!

  1. T-shirt or tank – throwing on a t-shirt or tank top is so easy, and chances are good that you already have one in your closet that matches your team colors. If you don’t, you really should, and you can find tees in just about any color in places like Target or Amazon.

  2. Bandana – did you know that bandanas are making a comeback? You can wear them around your neck, tie them onto your tote or purse, or use them to keep your hair out of your face!

  3. Scarf – I love scarves, because they are so easy to wear, and come in so many colors and patterns! Just wrap one around your neck for some instant game day style!

  4. Dress – Growing up the Midwest, dressing up for a football game never, ever crossed my mind. But then I moved to the south, and was introduced to the idea of actually wearing a DRESS to a college football game! Way to take game day style to a whole new level!

  5. Nail Polish – you can find nail polish in any color imaginable, so why not pick up a bottle (or 2) in your team’s colors, and treat your hands to a game day manicure!
  6. Face paint – this one is definitely for the more adventurous, but a lot easier than doing your whole body like you often see people doing at games to get themselves on TV! Maybe something simple, like just your team’s logo on your cheek?

  7. Eye make-up – they say your eyes are the window to the soul, so show the world where your loyalties lie by wrapping them up in your team colors!

  8. Hair color – you can just pick up some temporary hair color, or head to the salon for a longer lasting solution! It’s totally up to you!

  9. Shoes – I’m all about comfort, so tennis shoes in my favorite team colors are always on my game day list! Bonus tip: change out the shoelaces in plain white shoes to match your team colors!

  10. Jewelry – I couldn’t make this list without my favorite game day accessory, because jewelry is such an easy way to change the look of your favorite outfit. Mix and match earrings, bracelets and necklaces!

Aren’t those easy? I hope you got an idea or two for your next sports season!

And just for you fans of Collage and Wood, get 25% off any purchase of jewelry by using coupon code CollageAndWood at Team Colors By Carrie, or use the link below to go directly to the shop, and have the coupon already applied!

Collage and Wood Deal

Thank you for visiting with me today!


Tips to Making a School Sports Team

“Mom, I didn’t make the team.” Ugh. Words NO parents want to hear. Read on for my tips on how to make a school sports team and avoid this conversation!

Tryouts: the best of times, and the worst of times for players and coaches. The start of the season holds such hope and promise. For those who don’t make the cut, it is a time of heartbreak and a crossroads. As a former high school coach, I want to provide some insight into how to help you (or your child) make their next high school team.

Here are my top 5 tips for making the cut:

1. Attend summer/pre-season workouts.

Summer workouts are an opportunity for you to demonstrate your commitment to a team. It’s a chance to show that you care more about the team than relaxing in the summer and getting to sleep in for an extra hour or two. 

Commitment is critical to a team’s success. Let me say that again, for the people in the back: COMMITMENT IS CRITICAL to a team’s success.

If a coach knows that she can count on you, she is more likely to keep you on the team. Also, this is a chance to show your skills, and get feedback on what you need to improve.

2. Attend camps & clinics.

If your school holds any camps or clinics, make sure to attend. Attending team camp is an easy way to demonstrate your skills, AND improve, AND demonstrate commitment to your team.

If a local college or university offers a camp, make plans to attend. You never know where you are going to pick up a new strategy or technique that will elevate your game. Not to mention you can start networking with coaches and get access to helpful information about upcoming events.

3. Get prepared. Get your physical.

Always make sure you arrive prepared for each day of tryouts. Do not wait until the last minute to get your physical – this drove me nuts as a coach and is a HORRIBLE excuse for requesting a late tryout!

Many high schools schedule on-site physicals for their attendance areas. If that doesn’t work out for you, make sure you cough up the extra $20 and get a doctor’s appointment.

Additionally, make sure you clear your calendar for tryouts AND the season. Make sure you make your team a priority or you will risk losing your spot and worse: the trust of your teammates. If you work, this will be one of the first hard lessons of choosing between competing priorities. Choose wisely!

4. Manage your expectations (you too, Mom, you too, Dad!)

Before tryouts, you should have an opportunity to REALISTICALLY assess your ability to make the team. Ultimately, your skills and talent SHOULD determine your ability to contribute to the team. This is also a major determinant in your playing time. 

If your skills are lacking, practice, get better, and brush up on the art of being a good teammate: genuinely cheer for your teammates, inspire them with how hard you work and your consistency. If you are humble and have an unmatched work ethic, you will surprise yourself and others with how valuable you are to the team.

5. Don’t be a diva.

I can’t believe I even have to write this paragraph. But I am shocked by how many kids want to play a TEAM sport – yet want to make it all about themselves.

Some players have the opposite problem of those with a “lack of talent”. She is ultra-talented and believes that team rules and expectations do not apply to her.

High talent + low commitment players = high drama, and any coach with any sense and some admin support would cut ties with this player at the first opportunity. This player is the source of low-trust cancer on any teams, and you do not want to be that girl.

I hope that you find these tips helpful, and that one of them helps you find a spot on your next high school team. Is there one tip here that stands out to you the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time,


The Ultimate Dorm Move-in List

Hey, momma.

You’ve made it through senior night – maybe more than one. You’ve survived graduation and all of the celebrations (and simultaneous heartache). I bet you thought more than once that you couldn’t cry any additional tears.

But for many moms, there is at least one more post-senior year of high school transition to make, if your kid is headed to stay on campus next fall: 

Dorm Check In.

To help you keep your cool and get that dorm decor organized, I modified a list from my new friend Amy. She dropped her son off for summer workouts and shared her dorm room essentials list with all of her IG friends, including me. This list is an amazing compilation of “all the things” pertaining to dorm room decor that her son could possibly need as he settles into dorm life. 

If you’re looking to personalize the space even further, check our our number collages, giant wall letters, or an oversized monogram for your baby girl.

Hopefully this move-in list will help ease some of the stress! 

You’ve got this, momma! Let me know what else should be on this list in the comments below!

See you next time!


p.s. And there is one thing I forgot to put on the list, but that is something for you: tissues. Hugs!

The Importance and Impact of Personalizing Your Home

Guest blog by Laura Hinton of Lifestyled You (originally published to www. on April 16, 2019)

Hi Everyone! My name is Laura Hinton with Lifestyled You and I am SO thrilled to be guest blogging for the Collage and Wood Shop! I’m an Interior Design Coach who helps women discover the life + lifestyle of their dreams through creating a home they LOVE! But more about that later!

I’m here today because I wanted to discuss the importance and impact of personalizing your home. Think about what our world would look like if every home looked identical, pretty dang boring and soulless! Imagine how it feels when you are staying in a hotel. Might look nice and provide you with what you need, but does it ever really feel like home? Probably not since it is lacking any personalization or little pieces of you in the space.

In my coaching business, I created a 5 Pillar Design Process that takes women through all the necessary steps to create a successful home that serves them properly and brings them joy. As I see it, your home is your little piece of this big, crazy universe that belongs specifically to YOU. Therefore, it should be a reflection and representation of your and your family’s personality and it should be full of things you love! It shouldn’t look exactly like any other home on the planet, it should be as distinct as you are, and I imagine you are pretty special!

Laura Hinton with "Lifestyled You" is sharing tips + tricks to help you love where you live!

My 5th Pillar, ‘Make It You’, teaches exactly that – the simple ways to make your house a home which is unique and special to you and your family. A nicely designed space can feel like a showroom vignette until it is sprinkled with a little bit of personality and your unique vibe. The room could have everything going for it, but until you personalize it, it can seem a bit sterile, uninviting, and just “off”. When you walk into your home, it should feel like YOU, have your vibe and your energy, and be filled with items that light you up! The best compliment someone could give me is “wow, your home really feels like you!” 

Your space does not need to look exactly like your best friend’s, a photo you saw on Instagram, or the set of your favorite tv show in order to be “cool or pretty”. You can certainly find inspiration from those things, and if you truly love the exact details of an image, of course you can replicate it if that suits you. However, if you feel weird because you really love colorful paintings of birds but you doubt putting it in your space because that’s not the top trending look on Pinterest, who cares?!?! If a rainbow parrot painting brings YOU joy, then by all means, put it in your space. It will make you smile every time you see it, and that’s what matters because it is YOUR home, not anyone else’s.

I’m collaborating with Crystal because I’m so inspired by what her company and products represent in this part of the design process. The ability to create a one-of-a-kind sign of your child’s name to hang on their nursery/bedroom wall is the ultimate form of personalizing a space specifically to your family. Your family name or monogram used on the front door or entryway would be stunning. Adding your own treasured photos to your space is a simple and effective way to infuse a bit of you into any room. Crystal’s photo collages are a really creative way of displaying photos. She takes that concept and turns it into something even more custom and artistic. So brilliant!

Here is a checklist of solutions to help you put a little of YOU into your space:

□ While a lot of us might be drawn to similar styles, looks, or trends, there are bound to be special items that speak specifically to you which is what makes your space unique.

□ Display things you’ve picked up through your travels, specific books you love, family heirlooms that celebrate your heritage and your history, etc.

□ Display photos of you and your friends and family and the amazing adventures you’ve had.

□ Incorporate pops of YOUR favorite color(s) into your home even if they may not be what’s “popular”.

□ Candles/scents are a great way to personalize your space. Just like your signature perfume, your house should have it’s own smell too.

□ Artwork is highly personal because it is all based on aesthetics as opposed to function, so go crazy in displaying the art that speaks to you. (Especially customized art like Crystal’s!)

□ Other people don’t need to live in your home, YOU do, so cater it to the things YOU enjoy and stop worrying about what everyone else is doing! That’s the no-fail method to creating a home you LOVE!

Laura @Lifestyled You, Interior Design Group Coaching Experience, 'Stylize Your Home'.

If you are interested in learning more about my innovative Interior Design Group Coaching Experience, ‘Stylize Your Home’, you can read about it here. I’m also available for 1-on-1 coaching to help you discover the life + lifestyle of your dreams through creating a home you LOVE!


Big People Make You Feel Bigger

Thought of the Day:

I have spent the last few weeks absorbing advice from a variety of podcasts that have led me from one super thinker to another. The first, The Rise podcast featuring Rachel Hollis, has sent me on a personal development scavenger hunt that I didn’t even realize I needed! 

Through conversations in the podcast I was also introduced to Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the book “Big Magic” which is ALL about embracing your creative self. And not to sell things, or for any other reason than this: that creativity is good for you in the same way that exercise is good for you.

Then I listened to Rachel interview Ramsey personality Christy Wright, and many others, including most recently this week, John Maxwell. WOW. I’m not cool enough for trendy language but I have learned a phrase that I think applies here: FULL STOP. 

This guy was fantastic! (Except for his cursing on the air, which surprised me and made me giggle a bit). If you are a coach, or a teacher, or a leader who struggles with opposition (isn’t that all of us!!!), you have to listen to this podcast. I made this picture graphic of one of the things that he said because it was so powerful.

So anyway, as you “live your best life” and make the world a better place in the process, remember that “Movement causes friction” – John Maxwell. It’s not always easy but it’s always worth it. Find yourself some big people that can help you enjoy your journey to its fullest!

Create your website at
Get started