Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My safe place

A few weeks ago, I was talking to one of my sweet co-workers who reminded me of why I blog in the first place. It’s not to impress, complain, annoy or even to delight.

It’s really just for me. It’s to reflect on what’s going on in my life. It’s to remember what it’s like to be a mother to my two beautiful children (growing pains and all), fun events that take place and life things that take up space in my head and my heart. There’s no timeline or deadlines or pressure to perform.
There have been seasons in my life that I have lovingly and consistently written about. And other times that I’ve pulled away. The past many months have been more of the impersonal-pull-away variety. BUT since I’m trying to muddle through this whole vulnerability thing, I’m going to start back up. I want to remember things. Even the hard things.
I love my fam more than I could ever express. But being a mom and a wife and a friend and a daughter have all come together lately in a mountain of pain and difficulty. Since this is my space, my safe place and where my heart can breathe a little easier, I'll write. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Loss & Love

Some days are harder than others. 
Though she didn't live near me and I didn't see her enough, 
she was (and is still) my family.

And to one? 
She was her life.
She was her passion and her everything.

How do you say goodbye to someone like that? 
How do you keep going day after day?

How do you see someone you love grieve the loss of her most beloved? 
And still manage your own grief?

How do we process and navigate a life without the one who completed it?

When we open up our hearts, we make them vulnerable. 
They are susceptible to the grandest of all beauties, the saddest of all sorrows. 
Yet being vulnerable is what allows us to feel those emotions that make life worth living.

I don't have the words to comfort a loss at this greatest of levels. 
I don't have enough tears to shed the sadness I feel.
I don't have warmth enough to push out the cold, hard reality.

But I have love. Deep down. Way down deep there is Hope, there is Love and there is Comfort.

As long as that spark is there, that soft glimmer of light,
I know it can blaze, once again, into an all-consuming fire.

Our lives are forever changed by the love, beauty and grace that Cheryl brought to it.
And I am beyond grateful to have known her and loved her.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The blizzard

I finished a book earlier this week that had numerous memorable quotes. I connected with many of the words, but the following quote seems to describe my life lately.

“There's an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that's been rumbling around inside me ever since I first read it, and part of it goes:

'Blown from the dark hill hither to my door
Three flakes, then four
Arrive, then many more.'

You can count the first three flakes, and the fourth. Then language fails, and you have to settle in and try to survive the blizzard”
John Green, Turtles All the Way Down 

That's the way my life has been these last few months - I can count the first three or four things that tumbled into my life (or ripped through, as the case may be), but now I'm just trying to survive the barrage of endless happenings.

It's been a pretty rough year, arguably the hardest year of my life.

The challenges started in April. I woke up with a pain in my neck, and through a series of doctor's and chiro visits, tests, MRIs and x-rays, I found out I had a herniated disc in my neck. Thankfully, no surgery was needed. I went to physical therapy twice a week for 3 months and dwindled down to now I'm only going once or twice per month. I don't have the pain I was having (it was terrible and there is so much more to this story, but it's long and I don't feel like reliving it right now), but I still have some nerve issues depending on how I use certain muscles.

The same day I received the news that I indeed had a herniated disc in my neck, my mom called to tell me some test results she received about recent respiratory illnesses she had been having. She was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a disease that affects her lungs - it causes scarring, and it is terminal. This news has changed our whole family's lives, but obviously and most notably my mom's. She is on medication several times per day, she is now on oxygen almost 24 hours per day, she had to change some eating habits and exercise, and is learning how to slow down a little bit and say no more often. This news is staggering. Honestly I am still processing it and working through my own thoughts and feelings. There are days I'm overwhelmed with sadness and grief and other days that I pull on my bootstraps and get to work, thinking optimistically, positively and with great faith. I'm sure there is so much more I could say about this, but I'll leave it here for now. 
The third blow of this year was delivered by my sister the last weekend in October. My stepmom had called to tell her that my dear aunt, Cheryl, has lung cancer. Not only does she have lung cancer, but it has moved to her brain. She only has a short time left with us. This is my aunt who fits so perfectly into my family - she is my aunt Karen's partner of 30 years - our beloved, Cheryl. This news has also rocked my world. And I am overwhelmed with feelings. They come on me at times with such intensity that I literally have to sit down. Again, I could go on and on about this, but for now this is what I can share.
This fall has brought with it so many challenges, joy and sorrow. I have to make the choice each and every day for joy. Many of these challenges and heartaches take me down into the depths, but I still must choose joy. God is my ultimate Comforter, Provider and Protector.
As if the previous incidences aren't enough to keep my brain and body occupied, here are some other things that went down at my house this fall:
One of my very best friends came to visit me for a week. It was mostly a great visit because I got to see her and hug her and talk with her and be in her presence, but her reason for coming was due to some personal problems she's been having, so there was an air of sadness hanging over the visit.
I turned 37 - entered my late 30s last month. I was celebrated in several different ways and am so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. 
Xander had an amazing soccer season where they were undefeated - he was fantastic! He was so exciting to watch and I can't wait to see how he continues to progress in this sport that he loves so much.
Amelia Jayne turned 6! We had a unicorn party for her at the house, which included decorating your own unicorn horn, making unicorn poop slime (it's a thing, y'all), playing unicorn horn ring toss, and making edible necklaces. It was a busy but fun day!

Erin and Nathan turned 40 (sorry, Nathan - he'll BE 40 in less than a month) and we threw them a surprise 40th birthday party at my mom's. Star Wars theme - May the Forties Be With You. ;)
We went to the beach the weekend before Halloween to spend more time with family - my mom and JD, Erin, Nathan and their kids. Then we had some friends over for Halloween night - ate chili, drank wine, lost children, found children and generally had a blast!
David's office is overrun with work, which is a great problem except that they don't have enough people to work it, so he's worked several 60-80 hour weeks lately.
My Dad retired and we are going to celebrate him and his 39 years as a commercial airline pilot. We will be going to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville for the celebration this weekend.

We had lice at our house for over a week. Y'all. This is a new thing for me - I've never had lice before nor have my children...leave it to my social, outgoing and touchy-feely child to bring them into our home. It's been a slight nightmare, but the good news is that I'm getting really good at spotting them and picking them out of her hair. If I weren't so disgusted by them I could start a business de-lousing homes. Gross.
And here is yet another quote that reverberates in my heart. I will leave you with this:

“Every loss is unprecedented. You can't ever know someone else's hurt, not really - just like touching someone else's body isn't the same as having someone else's body.”  

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Amelia Jayne's Birthday interview - Age 6


TV show - Cupcake Gemma on YouTube 

Movie - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Song - Hello by Adele

Musician - Adele

Food - watermelon

Candy - Dots

Toy - Mooncake (her unicorn stuffed animal)

Activity - Art

Cereal - Chocolate Cheerios 

Vegetable - carrots

Drink - milk

Game - playing school with friends and stuffed animals

Book - Everyone Loves Cupcake by Kelly DiPucchio (followed closely by Everyone Llves Bacon)

Restaurant - Chick Fil A

Holiday -Christmas

Animal - unicorn

Color - Turquoise 

Vacation - the Beach

Sport - gymnastics

If you could change your name to anything, what would it be? Unicorn-tastic

If you could have anything you want this year, what would it be? "A real unicorn!”

What do you love most about Mommy? "That she loves me."

What do you love most about Daddy? "That he loves me."

What do you love most about Xander? "That he plays with me sometimes."

Friday, September 1, 2017

Books I've Read May-August 2017

Hands Free Life
by Rachel Macey Stafford
This was great, y'all. I had to overlook some of her sappier tendencies (and this is coming from a sensitive and sappy type) but the underlying message and encouragement oozing from each page had me. There were practical applications for each of the habits she mentioned and forgiveness on each page. Start where you are and really live your life. I found myself being so much more intentional and I've really taken stock in what's important in my life. I'm thankful I read this.

Cold Tangerines
by Shauna Niequist
This book was like talking to a friend. I want to be her friend. She struggles with so many things I can relate to - weight, pride and connection to name a few. Many of the things she wrote left me vigorously nodding my head and agreeing with her wholeheartedly.

Present Over Perfect
by Shauna Niequist
A couple of girlfriends and I did an online study with this book. I've known about Shauna for a long time but had not read any of her work. After seeing the first video I knew I was going to love her. And I do. She's just the right balance of real and honest. She's not too funny (which is intimidating to me! Like, I LOVE Jen Hatmaker, but we could never be friends - she's too witty and hilarious. She'd get bored with me fast!) but she's humorous enough that I still like her. And this particular book took me a loooong time to finish due to the time it took me to digest it all.

The Same Kind of Different as Me
by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
This was interesting and sad and inspiring and encouraging all at the same time. I especially found Denver's portion of the story fascinating and gut-wrenching, but without Ron's part of the story Denver's may never have gotten told. It was worth the read. I like a story about unlikely friendships.

Of Mess and Moxie
by Jen Hatmaker
Jen comes through again!! She is so amazing and I love her books. Everything about it is so real and so relatable. I laughed and cried and laughed some more. Whether you are dealing with marriage issues, parent issues, raising children or just being a woman in today's culture I think you'll love it.

by Shauna Niequist
I cannot say enough about Shauna Niequist. We really could be friends in real-life. I love reading about her life and her experiences. This was another winner.

Amelia Jayne and I continue to listen to audiobooks together. This summer we've listened to the majority of the How to Train Your Dragon series - books 4-9 to be exact. There are 12 in the series, so we're almost finished! It's been much better than I expected. The story lines have taken an intricate and sophisticated turn. I've been really impressed and have thoroughly enjoyed them. She and I have been reading the Boxcar Children series together during her "homework" time - we're on the second book right now - Surprise Island.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Books I've Read - January-April 2017

Evolving in Monkey Town
by Rachel Held Evans
I think one of the reasons Rachel Evans intrigues me is because she asks hard questions. She doesn't tiptoe around anything, but she doesn't pretend to have all the answers, either. Not anymore anyway. And that's basically how I feel. I always thought I kind of knew things. I was pretty much a know-it-all, but the older I get the more I realize that I really have no clue. And so I appreciate people's questions. Questions that make me think of things for my own self - not taking other people's truth for truth, but discovering the truth for myself.

Hidden Figures
by Margot Lee Shetterly
I obviously wanted to read this due to the movie. It wasn't even on my radar prior to seeing the movie trailers. I loved reading it during February (which was completely coincidental) because it tied in nicely with all of the Black History Month information I was sharing with my second graders at one of the schools I visit. And then I loved when I finished it up in March - when I spoke to those same second graders about Women's History Month.
The book was written very factually and without much fanfare. I would have enjoyed a better "story," though the facts and information themselves were extremely interesting and timely. I'm looking forward to watching the movie (which I'm sure will be dramatized for cinema sake) and am considering watching it with my kiddos. I look forward to these shared opportunities with my children to expose them to positive role models of all races, religions, cultures and genders.

A Long Walk to Water
by Linda Sure Park
This was so worth the read! It's technically a Juvenile fiction, but I would recommend it for anyone 10+! I might even let Xander read it. It was a riveting story that intersects two lives and how they are affected by the lack of water in Africa. Very moving and heartfelt.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling

Amelia Jayne and I have listened to all three of these Harry Potter books on audiobook. She just loves it!! Which makes me so happy, too. Jim Dale is phenomenal (I'm pretty sure I've said that on this blog once or twice) and if you haven't yet listened to the Harry Potter audiobooks, what are you waiting for?!?!

How to Train Your Dragon
How to Be a Pirate
How to Speak Dragonese
by Cressida Cowell

Amelia Jayne and I also listened to these together. AMAZING!!! David Tenant reads this series and he is phenomenal!!! The stories are cute and funny, too.

The Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Amelia Jayne and I read this book together - it was a condensed version of the original with illustrations by Charles Santore - beautifully illustrated.

I don't know what else to say except that my girl LOVES to read. She would almost always choose to curl up with me on the couch and listen to me read than any other activity in the world. She hasn't quite grasped the concept of reading on her own, though she knows many words as site words (love, to, mommy, daddy, Xander - she knows these words because she adores "writing" letters and notes to us all) and she knows all of her letters and the sounds they make. I am so excited for the reading switch in her brain to click on. I can't imagine all the things she'll read! And I can't wait to continue exploring the world of books with her.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kindergarten ready

Oh my baby girl! She'll be headed to kindergarten in the fall. It's so hard to believe! And not long after that she'll college. ::sniff::
She's all registered for the Mandarin Immersion program (like Xander), had a tour of her new school, and is up-to-date with health records. It's getting real up in here, folks.
I had a parent-teacher conference with her preschool teacher so she could tell us all about how Amelia Jayne is ready for kindergarten. She knows her letters, their sounds, is interested in books, writing and reading, plays well with her friends, works well in a group, but my favorite thing that Ms. Jodi told me about my girl -

"She has such a kind heart."

I knew this already, but to hear it from someone not related to her just made my heart swell. With that kindness and sensitivity comes some heartache, too. Ms. Jodi said that she is often so concerned about her friends and keeping peace with them (and for them) that she forgets to take care of herself. I've seen this happen often with my youngest. Her heart is so big and she cares so much for others that she sometimes lets herself down in the process, because she almost always chooses to make the other person happy.

One night while David and I were talking and my heart was breaking for my sweet-hearted, giver of a daughter, he reminded me, "Isn't it better that we have to teach her to stand up for herself? It's a lot harder to teach someone to be kind and loving to others." And yes, I think this is true. BUT, it's so hard to watch when people take advantage of her sweet disposition and generosity. As her mother, I can only do so much for her - she's about to go out into the real world and learn all of this for herself. She's already experienced some of this, but her preschool teachers have been amazing and have really worked with her to help her through these situations. Her kindergarten teachers won't take nearly the amount of time and energy to help with social situations as her preschool teachers do.

And I know she's in for a world of pain. I feel her pain - so fresh and so raw - I've dealt with it my whole life. Here I am, this people-pleaser of a mother, watching her struggle with my struggles. And it just breaks my heart. I am thankful to be her mother and to be sensitive and in tune with her so that I can go through this journey with her. I know there will be a lot of tears and a lot of laughter and a lot of love.

So in just a few short months we'll begin this new journey. I'll be a mom to school-age kids. No more babies, no more littles, just a pair of the sweetest, brightest biggie Littles that the world has ever known.

Deep breaths.

I think we're both ready for kindergarten now.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Xander's Birthday interview - Age 8


TV show - "I like watching soccer on TV."
(This is true. He's not much of a TV watcher unless his sister is watching TV or we're watching a movie together as a family. His choice would be to play on the Wii U.)

Movie - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Song - Can't Stop the Feeling

Musician - Justin Timberlake

Food - pancakes

Candy -Dots

Toy - ocelot (his stuffed animal from Minecraft)

Activity - "Making art that recreates famous artists' art."
(They've been focusing on this in his art class at school. He's been exposed to artists I didn't know about until college! It's pretty incredible.)

Cereal - Count Chocula
(For the record I've never bought these but they did a mock election at school last November where they voted on cereals - and that was his favorite one of their choices.)

Vegetable - carrots

Drink - diet Dr. Pepper

Game - Lego Star Wars Force Awakens on the Wii

Book - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
(He started reading this a couple of weeks ago.)

Restaurant -McDonald's

Holiday -Christmas

Animal -snakes

Color -Blue

Vacation -Beach

Sport - Soccer

If you could change your name to anything, what would it be? Weirdo Dude or Cool Man
(Oh the joys of 8-year old humor)

If you could have anything you want this year, what would it be? "Nothing, I've got everything I want. Well, a new nerf gun."

What do you love most about Mommy? "Getting hugs and kisses from her."

What do you love most about Daddy? "Playing Xbox with him."

What do you love most about Amelia Jayne? "Getting to play with her."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Books I've Read - September-December 2016

Mere Christianity 
by C.S. Lewis
I tried to read this book years ago, but it was just too heady for me. My preacher mentioned it in one of his current series and it dawned on me that I should try again. It's brilliant. I am in awe at how progressive and amazing C.S. Lewis's mind was. His story is so fascinating to me and his insights into God are still too "heady" for me. Man, am I glad I went back and read this now. I'm sure it's one of those that I can read again and again and learn more and more each time I read it!

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
by Donald Miller
Ever since I read Blue Like Jazz I truly appreciate Donald Miller. This book came out in 2009, but it only just landed on my radar earlier this year. I loved this book - Don is so honest and real and just self-deprecating enough for me to feel like he truly understands humans. There are a couple of slow (read: boring) parts (in my opinion) but he has so many great snippets of wisdom and he's just so real that I found myself intrigued. If you've never read Donald Miller's books, I'd recommend it.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 
by Lewis Carroll
I had always wanted to read this children's book and since Amelia Jayne and I are always in the car together I thought this might be a good audiobook for us. The movie is whimsical and bizarre, but the book is just downright weird! Lol! I thought she would ask to turn it off many times because it really is kind of difficult to follow, plus it has 19th century language that we don't use and that she definitely didn't understand, but she didn't seem to mind. I'm sure she didn't get everything that was going on, but she laughed at certain parts and seemed to enjoy it!

Scary Close 
by Donald Miller
His most recent book. This was mostly about his relationship with his girlfriend and now wife, but told in the same great tone that is Donald Miller's.

Jesus Feminist
by Sarah Bessey
Oh, Sarah. There were many things about this book that I loved. I especially love the way Sarah Bessey writes. Her tone and language are refreshing. I felt so encouraged while reading this book - kind of like she is for me. I don't know if that makes sense, but I just felt understood and accepted. Here's a quote from the book that I just love and identify with:
"In my black-and-white-rhetoric-only years, I struggled with understanding or accepting the tensions of God. I struggled with the Both-And nature of most of God's work and character, preferring the linear Either-Or.
He is both just and loving, the Lion and the Lamb. He is truth and grace. We practice works and live by faith. We are in God's Kingdom and not yet living in the fullness of heaven today. By his stripes we are healed, and our suffering perfects our faith. Men and women are equal in worth and value, and yet we are servants of one another. Jesus tells us God is our tender and good Father, and yet in other metaphors, he is more akin to a Lover. Our marriages are a symbol of Christ and the Church, and yet according to Paul, it's better to remain single. The paradoxes of the Christian faith abound, and they used to drive me a bit crazy. Because, well, which one is it? We want to know because then we would have a new law and new mandate, and life would be much easier."

This is the kind of stuff you'll read in this book. So good. I'm pretty sure that I've just realized I'm a Jesus Feminist. :)

Searching for Sunday
by Rachel Held Evans
I am grateful for her perspective and vision and wisdom. I struggle with many of the things she writes about because, like her, I grew up conservative and evangelical. But, I am being introduced to my Jesus in a whole new way and realize that my Father in heaven is far bigger and greater than any of my little thoughts or the tiny little teachings that have come across my ears. God's love for his people is bigger than anything I could ever comprehend. And He truly LOVES all people. Love wins.

"I confess to citing these numbers ominously myself from time to time, especially when I want to make a point about how millennials are losing faith in the church over issues related to politics, sexuality, science, and social justice. I may have uttered something along the lines of "adapt or die" in my writing once or twice. I may have jumped the gun and administered last rites. But lately I've been wondering if a little death and resurrection might be just what church needs right now, if maybe all this talk of waning numbers and shrinking influence means our empire-building days are over, and if maybe that's a good thing. Death is something empires worry about, not something gardeners worry about. It's certainly not something resurrection people worry about."

"I don't know exactly what this new revolution will look like, but as the center of Christianity shifts from the global West to the global South and East, and as Christians in the United States are forced to gauge the success of the church by something other than money and power, I hope it looks like altars transforming to tables, gates transforming into open doors, and cure-alls transforming into healing oils. I hope it looks like a kingdom that belongs not to the rich, but to the poor, not to the triumphant but to the meek, not to the culture warriors but to the peacemakers. If Christianity must die, may it die to the old way of dominance and control and be resurrected to the Way of Jesus, the Way of the cross."

What Now?
by Ann Patchett
What a beautiful little treasure I stumbled upon! I'm going to leave you with these quotes from this short, but poignant and invigorating essay.
"There's a time in our lives when we all crave the answers. It seems terrifying not to know what's coming next. But there is another time, a better time, when we see our lives as a series of choices and What now represents our excitement and our future, the very vitality of life. It's up to you to choose a life that will keep expanding. It takes discipline to remain curious; it takes work to be open to the world - but oh my friends, what noble and glorious work it is. Maybe this is the moment you shift from seeing What now as one more thing to check off the list and start to see it as two words worth living by."

"If you're trying to find out what's coming next, turn off everything you own that has an OFF switch and listen. Make up some plans and change them. Identify your heart's truest desire and don't change that for anything. Be proud of yourself for the work you've done."

The Little House on the Prairie
by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I listened to this audiobook with my baby-girl. I was so surprised she sat through the whole thing. She asked very poignant and interesting questions. I had kind of forgotten some of the racism and political incorrectness that's mentioned in this book due to the era in which it was written. I'm willing to embrace our history and teach it to my kids so that we don't repeat it, but it makes for some slightly awkward conversations. I'll look at it as an opportunity that presented itself for me to teach my daughter open-mindedness and acceptance of others who are different than us.

The Year of Magical Thinking
by Joan Didion
This was supposed to be a book I had previously abandoned and I ended up abandoning it again! I'm pretty sure it's over between us. It just moved too slowly and, though the storyline seemed interesting, it bored me. And ain't nobody got time for that.

Life Together
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This was interesting. Kind of slow at times and honestly reminded me somewhat of C. S. Lewis, due to the time period, I'm guessing. I am fascinated with Bonhoeffer these days and plan to read a biography on him soon.

Love Does
by Bob Goff
Yes! Love Does!! This was sweet. I find this incredibly challenging to apply because I tend to live inside of my head too much and don't always allow my knowledge, interests or emotions to move into action. Unfortunately I often tend to hang back and am fearful of actions. This has certainly given me some food for thought...and action. :)