April 22, 2017

Resurrection Day

As a girl, Easter Sunday was all about three things: the outfit, barbecue, and Jesus.  And probably in that order.

My Grammy sewed handmade Easter dresses for all of the grandgirls of hers.  They were the kind that came with puffy sleeves, a white apron, a dainty collar and a giant bow to tie in the back.  The whole outfit was always completed with lacy ruffled socks and mary-jane shoes, white gloves and a bonnet with the same color of ribbon to match my dress.  There was, after all, only one Sunday out of the whole year one could wear a hat to church and I looked forward to Easter Sunday every year for that very reason.  Oh, and Jesus.  Yes, Jesus too.

Growing up, Easter Sunday was called Resurrection Day in our family.  My dad was pretty intense about not letting us do egg hunts or have easter baskets so that we could keep our focus on Jesus and His resurrection.  And I was mostly okay with not having those things, except I had seen one too many Cadbury Egg commercials and I spent my childhood dreaming about having a basket full of them because they looked UH-mazing.  I remember years worth of Easters where my Poppy would walk in the front door, wearing a yellow, button-down shirt, his face all aglow and joyful declaring loudly, "He is risen!"  And we would all reply, "He is risen indeed!" We would grill fajitas or some kind of barbecue where my dad had perfected the art of charring the barbecue sauce on a link of sausage, that to this day, no one else in the world knows how to do but him.  We spent the day as a family - we would sing and worship and laugh together.  Sometimes, my Poppy would talk to us about the importance of this day and what it means to us as believers in Jesus. 

Even though I went without baskets full of candy and never dyed a single egg, the weight of the day always sat with me from an early age.  Jesus - He never sinned, but was put to death on a cross.  He knew every bad thing I would ever do and gave His life so I wouldn't have to give mine - all so He could spend eternity with me in heaven.  Every Good Friday we talked about the cross and the crown of thorns, and the beatings He endured.  How the nails were driven into His hands and feet.  He died and was laid in a tomb.  And Sunday was a joyful day of celebration.  Because Jesus is God, he conquered death and rose again.  He came back to life and still lives and I know He does, because I have seen and experienced Him first hand in my own life.

One year, I outgrew the idea of Grammy's puffy-sleeved dresses and my love for easter bonnets, and as I got older the holiday changed a bit, as did our family.  The year after my brother died, my mom gave me and my best friend Kelly small easter baskets full of candy and colorful scrunchies and CD's  which was the best surprise ever.  My dad seemed a bit grouchy about it, but I saw his eyes soften and sparkle as I excitedly went through my basket of goodies.  I think by the time I was 15, he knew what he had been trying to instill in me all those years about Jesus had already been done, and no amount of candy hidden in green, plastic grass would change that.

When Tommy was much younger, I made huge, elaborate toy-filled baskets for him, giving him everything I never had as a child, including Cadbury Eggs, which I discovered at some point, were absolutely disgusting.  But a couple of years ago when Tommy asked what he was "getting for Easter," I choked on my Robin's Eggs and realized my dad was on to something back then and maybe I had forgotten a thing or two with all that he ingrained in me from my youth.  Since then, baskets have become more of an afterthought.  I spend more time with the boys leading up to Easter Sunday, pouring over the gospel accounts in the Bible, because while I want them to have colorful and fun memories to look back on in their childhood, more than anything, I want them to know Jesus the way I have come to over the years.

As our Easter traditions evolve and grow over the year as a family, there are some things I hope always stay the same.  Like confetti eggs and Todd's barbecue ribs, and taking communion together as a family. And our annual family easter-egg nose picture.  Those are my favorite.  

It is a day of joyful celebration, because Jesus is alive.

Easter morning, Resurrection Sunday, my boys had left their small baskets on the coffee table and were sitting on the couch looking at the pages in their devotional about Jesus on the cross and His coming alive again.  I listened to them talk and ask each other questions. Tommy read and Jacob pretended that he knew how. To them, Jesus mostly exists in the form of story books and Bible study lessons.  He is but mere pictures on paper and they only know of Jesus what they are taught.  But someday, all of the stories and lessons, the church-going and song-singing, will hopefully become something more.  And as I stood in the kitchen watching my young boys touch the paper-Jesus, I prayed to the Jesus who is very much alive in my heart that He would become to them, what He is to me.

April 2, 2017


We have a rosebud tree right outside of our living room window.  Every spring it sprouts tiny pink flowers on it's branches, that in a few week's time, give way to heart-shaped leaves, bright green and silky.  I look forward to watching it every year.  It loses it's leaves in November and stays barren and gray for months, until early March when I notice that it's about ready to burst forth with it's tiny, beautiful blossoms.

Spring always seems to come with some kind of transformation, and not just for my tree.  All of me - heart, body and soul - knows that it's a season of beginnings and new birth. It's the time of year when I'm most accepting of change. I always have wished that the new year started in March rather than in January, because I'm more apt to setting goals and trying new things when the sun is shining and I'm surrounded by the beauty of wildflowers and things turning green and alive.  And my March birthday always feels like the invitation to a fresh start.

Recently, I quit my job.  The one super close to home where I worked part-time and only during the hours Tommy was in school so that I could be home in the afternoons.  For almost four years I had a pretty great schedule that allowed my life as a wife, mom and employee to feel more balanced.  But as some jobs tend to go, I grew out of it.  It no longer was a good fit for me, and so I quit and quickly found something new.  And while I had to give up a schedule that I loved, and would have to start over somewhere else and earn my way back up to having a paid vacation, I knew a change was needed and so, I made one.   I am starting fresh.  It is hard, and it is good.

One of my favorite blogger/authors, Kelle Hampton wrote recently on an Instagram photo, "I love the energy in fresh starts and the fact that we can create them as often as we like."  Kelle writes over at Enjoying the Small Things.  I have read her blog for years and her story-telling and writing style feels like an open window, spring breeze and sunshine pouring in.  And anytime I meet a person like that, I tend to surround myself with them - even if it's through written words, because I thrive on sunshine.

I've been thinking about fresh starts and where I can create a few of them this spring.  Making lists, and practicing mindfulness, paying attention to my daily and nightly habits.  Making notes, some on pen and paper, about where I feel angst or stress, peace, calm and joy. I find myself wanting to try new things too - a Bible study, a hairstyle, a recipe.  Maybe take a writing course or join a book club. New things always sound inviting in the spring, don't they?  My mind is buzzing with ideas, my heart dizzy with daydreams.

Springtime always comes with invitations to new life.  And I never forget to RSVP.

March 29, 2017

A pre-internet Prom

I have come to the conclusion that I was fortunate to be in high school during the dark ages.  You know, before the internet and texting.  And memes.  If my teenage self had a Facebook my freshman year, I'm fairly certain it would have sounded a bit like this:

"OMG.  Ryan walked me to my locker today!  He is so cute.  He totally likes me."  

"OMG.  Ryan gave me his pager number!  He is soooooo cute!" 

"So, the pager number Ryan gave me was fake.  I can't believe he did that to me.  Oh well, I can't stay mad, because he is SO cute!"

"Ryan starting going out with some other girl today named Courtney.  I already hate her.  My heart is broken!"  #butheissocute

Lawd.  I'm so glad I can keep all of that to the confines of my journals and the handwritten folded up paper notes that my friends and I traded between classes.  Also, as a side-note, Courtney and Ryan broke up by the end of sophomore year and she and I ended up being best friends, so it all worked out in the end. 

I never did have any boyfriends in high school.  I had plenty of guy friends, but dating and romantic relationships came later for me.  I almost had a boyfriend once named Goober but he didn't know I liked him and he ended up going steady with a girl named Krissy who was a total brat that bullied me in gym class every day.  I was probably spared though, because who really wants their first boyfriend's name to be Goober?

Before I knew it, I was over both Ryan and Goober, and was suddenly a senior in high school.  And PROM was imminent.  

It seemed like prom was a couple's only kind of event, but I didn't let my lack of boyfriend discourage me.  I optimistically purchased two tickets and asked a buddy of mine at church to go with me.  A date, a dress and a dinner reservation at Spaghetti Warehouse (because that was my idea of a fancy restaurant in 1999) and I was all set.  The night before prom, I phoned my date (because texting wasn't invented yet) to make sure he had his tux and was good to go, but when I finally got an answer at his house, his mom answered in tears.  Through her sobs, she managed to tell me that there had been some family drama and he left the house.

Ya'll.  My prom date ran away from home.  Like, for serious.

I sobbed to my dad and told him I didn't know what I was going to do.  This was the very worst thing that could have happened and I was devastated.  He got me calmed down and told me to move forward with getting ready for prom and it would all be okay.  And because he was my daddy, I totally believed him.

My hair was done up in it's perfect curly up do that I had envisioned, with just the right amount of ringlets around my face and neck.  My nails were done for the first time in my entire life and my dress was beautiful.  It was all great, except for the slight little hiccup of not having a date and everything.  Also, I had 437 bobby pins holding my hair together, and I could feel 432 of them.

By the time I was dressed and ready to go, my dad told me he found me a prom date.  I remember feeling both excitement and sheer panic hearing this news, but because my dad was (and sometimes, still is) pretty awesome, I knew he wouldn't have chosen anyone lame or awful.  When we drove up to a friend's house to pick up my mystery date, I breathed a sigh of relief.  His name was Teddy and we were friends from church as well.  After hearing from my dad, Teddy ran out to buy me a corsage and dusted off his school issued orchestra tuxedo.

All of it was the sweetest:  My dad was totally the hero coming to my rescue so that I didn't have to go alone.  And Teddy being a stellar guy and not only escorting me, but being a complete gentleman all night.

And I won't lie.  It was a bit a lot awkward too. 

Up until that night, Teddy and I had most of our encounters with one another at church youth group where we played crazy games, like mattress surfing and chubby bunny.  And suddenly, we were in formal wear and had to practice acting like real grown-ups.

 I dug these out of my old scrapbook from my attic.  You're welcome.
When we finally arrived at prom, I had this realization that prom is essentially a dance, and I guess I kind of forgot about that part in between dress shopping and my ex-date running away from home.  Teddy and I found ourselves on the dance floor, swaying to the tunes of Boys II Men's, "I'll Make Love to You," and that's when one or both of us decided we were done with the dancing.
We decided to ditch the dance and meet up with friends for post-dancing snacks, but only after we took our super awkward prom picture.  Our prom theme was "Imperial Dreams" which translated to some kind of oriental-paper-lantern-nod-to-China type of theme where they actually put origami and packets of chopsticks on the table for decorations.  (Clearly, I was not in charge of planning this thing).

I present to you: 
Jennifer and Teddy
"Imperial Dreams"
 Prom 1999 
Prom is a totally different thing all together now than it was then.  It's totally cool to go with a group of friends and not just a date, and prom dress trends are so much more fun than they were in the 90's.  Not to mention the internet!  The Black Tux is making prom even easier with their awesome suit and tuxedo rentals.  Did you know that online tux rentals were even a thing?  Fellow friends of the dark ages, can you just imagine what prom planning would have been like had we had the interwebs at our fingertips?!  Just look at how much has changed between then and now?  (Holy smokes, when did I get old?)

Both my dad and Teddy are forever my heroes for going out of their way to make sure my senior prom actually got to happen.  Looking back, it was a bit of a bummer that my prom didn't turn out like I had originally planned. But you know what?  It was prom, and I get to say that I went.  My senior prom is a sweet, quirky and slightly pathetic memory.  And it's all mine.

March 19, 2017

The time I threw myself a birthday party

Last Sunday I turned 36.  For some reason, 36 sounds much older than 35 and I sort of forgot I had even turned 35 because I had boycotted my birthday last year for the first time in the history of my life.  I was between surgeries and I couldn't eat food and was living exclusively on protein shakes and the occasional decadent bowl of Spaghettios now and again when I was desperate to put food in my mouth.  And lets be honest, Spaghettios are only "sort of" food.  But celebrating a birthday without chocolate cake or any kind of food I could actually chew, didn't sound like a birthday I wanted to have.  So I ignored turning 35 and vowed to party it up the next year.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows I am not the kind of person who waits around for people to ask me what I'm doing for my birthday or make a plan.  I'm usually like, "Hey!  Um, my birthday is coming and here's what I want to do!"  And I also have a hard time with friends who want to keep their birthdays "low-key" or "simple," probably because I am neither low-key or simple and I look for all the reasons in everyday life to party.  It's who I am and I don't apologize for it.

And I did.  I so did.  I sent out real invitations - the paper kind that you write on and require postage stamps.  I promised myself I wasn't going to choose a theme, because once I choose a theme, I can get a little carried away.  But then I was at Walmart and passed by all of the fun fiesta things and I realized how much I love chips and salsa and margaritas, and a birthday fiesta seemed to be quite fitting.

(Also, if you don't know why our local Walmarts carry a surplus of fiesta related things this time of year, than you are probably not from San Antonio.  The whole city has a week-long party in April to salute the heroes of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto.  What it feels like though, is celebrating our Latin-American culture by cracking confetti eggs on each other's head and eating all the delicious Mexican food in the land.  Also, others may drink a few too many margaritas, but I digress.)

A fiesta felt like the perfect choice.  I had much to celebrate, including being alive and being much healthier than I was this time last year.  Fiesta's bright and vibrant colors suited my current season and so I put up decorations, just for me.

I invited my dearest friends and family.  We wore tiny sombreros and ate chips and queso and we played hilarious games.  Pie in the face showdown is epic.  And very messy.  It's a new family favorite.
The night was full of laughter and fun and I decided throwing myself a birthday party was probably one of the best ideas I ever had.

A week later, I woke up and I was 36.  My kitchen contained remnants of crushed tortilla chips on the floor, sticky counters from dripped margarita mix, and plastic yellow cups some tipped over on their side.  All of it made me smile.

There are days that I get up and look in the mirror and remember that I am a woman now.  And maybe that's an odd thing to say, but I feel like I've spent so many years figuring out what it even means to be a woman.  There are days when I still feel 11 or 16 or 22 and perhaps that's how life goes.  The older we get, we are just made up of all of the ages we've ever been.  There is still a little girl inside of me that loves play and magic and dress up.  A teenager that lived so quiet and depressed that wants to live life now like she would have then if she had been happy and confident.  And the young adult who still desires to live life or make choices that aren't the best ones, but feel like the fun ones. 

Someone told me the other day that I sparkle.  I let her compliment hit me and allowed myself accept her words that felt redeeming and glorious. There were so many years and seasons before where that wouldn't have been or felt true of me.

I'll be married eleven years this June.  I have two boys, a mortgage and a full-time job.  I'm a Star Wars nerd and geek out over Marvel superheroes and I love action movies and Bruno Mars' music.  I enjoy folding laundry and sitting in the sunshine and being by the ocean is my ultimate happy place.  I love chocolate-chocolate cupcakes and reading good books and drinking bold coffee with cream.  I am outgoing, naturally loud and am never one to shy away from the spotlight.  And I believe that it is only by God's grace and love that I am who I am and where I am today.  I'd be lost without Jesus. 

Also, I believe in party hats.

I am 36.  I'm grateful, happy.  And sparkling.

March 6, 2017

Holy rusted metal, Batman!

Throwing parties for my boys is my favorite.  I know there will come a time when they grow out of themed birthdays and maybe that's why I go over the top every chance I get because I know one day they'll be like, "Come on mom, I just want to go to the lake with my friends."   And I will sit in a pile of colored streamers and mourning the days when I was making monsters and Elmo faces, and creating superheroes and spaceships out of paper lanterns.

But for now, my boy is four.  And themed birthday parties still reign supreme.  This year was no exception. 

Jacob has been infatuated with Batman for months.  He was Batman for Halloween and he wants to watch all the Batman things on Netflix, though I have to find the ones that aren't as creepy, because Batman is a little dark ya'll.  They watch the old Batman movies from the 90's (with the exception of Batman Returns, mostly because I can't even handle The Penguin and how freaky that movie is).  My boys love the cheesy George Clooney rendition with The Freeze and Poison Ivy and where both Batman and Robin have visible nipples on their suits.  Like, really?

Anyway, Batman was the natural choice for birthday party number four for my little guy and I began planning all things black and yellow. 


And then, I happened upon the best thing ever.  Batman, himself. 

Thanks to the world of Facebook, I found the most awesome guy in our local area, The Batman of San Antonio.  He is an active member of the community, visiting hospitals, schools and heads up fundraisers for sick kiddoes.  I mean, he is pretty amazing.  And as a bonus, he makes appearances at birthday parties and of course, I had to make this happen.  I made arrangements with Batman and I couldn't wait to surprise my boy.

When Batman came in, Jacob had a look of shock, confusion and awe on his face.  It took him a while to warm up to him and some of our younger party guests totally freaked out.  Batman is a little intimidating I suppose with the dark mask and all.  Batman came with presents for Jacob and treasures for all the kids.  He told stories and answered questions and stuck around to take plenty of pictures.  He sang Happy Birthday with us and made Jacob's birthday absolutely unforgettable!  The Batman of San Antonio's motto is "Be the change."  He encourages everyone to be a positive change in the world and to live in a way that inspires good and kindness in others and I love that he came to share in Jacob's day.

I've loved listening to him tell people that Batman came to his birthday party, and Batman was in his house and Batman gave him presents.  Seriously, my mama's heart explodes creating these fun memories for my boys!  Also, now my kid knows that I personally know Batman and I feel like this gives me the upper hand somehow.

"Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman.  Then, always be Batman."

March 4, 2017


Sunny, breezy and loud, I stood there shoulder to shoulder with friends and a crowd of two thousand people up early to run a 5K.  And not just any 5k, the Color Vibe 5K.  If you haven’t heard of these runs, they are known for colored chalk-powder that is blown or thrown at you while you run the course.  Music pumped loudly while the deejay charged up the crowd.  We danced and jumped and stretched to stay warm and get ready for the run.  I was surrounded by teenage girls in too-short shorts, the serious athletes recognizable by their defined calf muscles and serious running gear gadgets and middle-aged women dressed in rainbow tulle tutus and pig-tails. 
The runners, the wanna-be runners (like myself who is more of a "wogger" - a term I coined for my awesome running move that is somewhere between a walk and a jog), the not-runners-at-all, the young, the old, gay, straight, black, white, brown - everyone belonged.  I could see with my own eyes that people could still come together and be without division or hate.  I noted how diverse the people were around me and felt a little hope for the world I live in.

And then it was time.

3. 2. 1.   

The deejay counted us down and we all let our color packets loose into the air.
For this one, brief moment, the air was hazy and thick of color and magic.  You could almost reach out and touch the energy of excitement surging through the crowd.  I had seen a video before, but it was all together something different to be right in the middle of it. I can’t remember if it was quiet or loud, I only remember feeling and it was one of those moments I felt inherently alive.  Color splashed everywhere and a hilarious pandemonium ensued of laughter and cheers and screams of delight as everyone was drenched head to toe in bright, flashy neons. 
My friends and I made our way through the course.  Stations of yellow, pink, green and blue powder thrown at us while we ran through.  I stretched out my fingertips and leaned into it.  The goal seemed to end up as vibrant with color as possible.  We jogged some and walked some.  We talked and laughed and I could feel my muscles burning as they moved, but in the good kind of way that makes you feel strong.
We finished in 44 minutes, 3 minutes under my last 5K time.  I gave myself an internal fist bump because it felt good to know I had gotten faster even if it was only 3 minutes.  Because it was THREE WHOLE MINUTES.  I felt the weight of what it meant for me to cross the finish line. How there have been so many times I would start things and not finish them.  Or hesitate to ever begin because I didn't believe in myself that I had the courage to complete whatever it was. Starting and finishing things.  It's what I do now.  
It was hilarious and fun, messy and loud.   The day felt like an invitation to live more of life.  To lean in to things.  To start things and get them finished.  To keep reaching for goals.  To feel the burn and know my strength.  To acknowledge diversity around me and see the hope - to be the hope.
To stretch out my fingertips and live vibrantly.

January 13, 2017

Dear January,

Christmas is back in the attic.  Our house and our routines are returning back to normal.  And winter has forgotten to come to Texas.  I suppose this is mostly okay, since I'm not a fan of winter.  I'm only sort of bummed about such warm weather because it's too hot to wear my new leggings and cute boots.  Also, my legs are far too white for the shorts and sandals I've been sporting.

We've known each other awhile and you know by now that you and August or my least favorite months out of the year.  I'm sorry I think you're so lame, but you usually come with long, cold, sunless and boring days.  This weird winter has come with the opportunity for change.  And I write the word "opportunity," but how I really feel about it is like winter has come to screw me over, or winter has come to scoff at me, or winter has come to torture me with change. Do you ever feel like that January? 

I've been talking to myself saying things like, "Okay Jennifer, this sucks.  Yep.  This is pretty shitty actually.  But we're okay.  Today, we are okay right?  So let's take a moment and breathe.  You want to be angry and sad?  Okay, let's do that.  Let's feel angry and sad.  You can feel angry and sad and not open the pantry or pour a drink.  Let's take a minute and think about the situation and then we'll sit down and make a plan and sort it out together."  And maybe that inner dialogue is totally weird and I'm possibly a crazy person, but sometimes, self-care means having to walk myself through something difficult as  if my sane, logical, kind self is grabbing my crazy, anxious, irrational self by the hand.  It would be like April or June coming to grab your hand and tell you that everything is going to be alright.

The last time I was with you January, we were in the hospital.  And I can't tell you how glad I am to NOT be in the hospital.  That was the worst January ever, no offense.

Why does it seem that when life finally shakes out a bit and you start feeling settled from the last place that shook the crap out of you, that something new comes and you're back to that same place of starting anew or readjusting all over again?  I suppose it would be dull to have everything the same for so long and that's what makes seasons or change or spontaneity so wonderful.  But, I guess I get a little weary sometimes with all of the change and having to keep changing right along with it.

And if I have to keep changing and things have to keep changing, can't I at least have some decent weather so I can wear my cute leggings January? 

If change is inevitable and I have to constantly keep growing and being stretched, than I want to at least look cute doing it.

Thank you for your considerations.