May 28, 2013

Some Blog-keeping

So apparently, "Blog every day in May" turned into, poop-out-in-the-middle-of-it-all because May is cray-cray.

Fo shizzle.

Not sure why I felt the need to talk like a teen-rapper just then, but there ya go.  Yo.

Okay, I'm done.  I promise.

But I couldn't keep up with the every day thing as much as I wanted to, and I feel sad about it because I was totally on board.  But it feels like way too much to back-track now so here we are - hello May 28th.  

It feels like ages since I've written - so naturally, a newsy post is as creative as it's going to be for tonight.

Here's what's happening in my neck of the woods....

In a nutshell, life has been nuts!  My new job is great - really great.  I work literally down the street from my house (which  means I never, ever have to drive in traffic - holla!), and with a small group of wonderful, wonderful people - one whom I have known since childhood.  The people I work with leave me feeling uplifted, and even though I'm away from home all day long, my soul almost feels fed after spending time with them even though we are working on letterman jacket orders of all things.  But the job is in its busiest season and my brain is working non-stop until quitting time.  It's been fun doing something new and breaking out of the familiar bookkeeping routine. 

Starting next week, things will slow way down and we'll be able to regroup and tackle some fun summer projects.  I'm looking forward to the slower pace and some fun new changes.

Also, I realized that I have this grand love affair with fall, but there is so much living to do in the summer that I'm pretty sure summer is probably my very favorite time of year even if it doesn't have anything to do with pumpkin related things or planning for holiday gatherings.

It flooded in San Antonio over the weekend.  Thankfully, the waters weren't too bad near our house, though one intersection was shut down about a half mile down from where we live from where a creek had risen and was rushing over the road.  Mostly, I was bummed that the storms ruined our fun waterpark plans with friends that day.  Fun Schlitterbahn today, turned into chores day.  Not nearly as exciting.

We ended up doing the waterpark with friends on Sunday after church and got rained on part of the time and it was even almost chilly.  That wasn't nearly as exciting either.  We Texas folk are used to 100 degree weather by now and this mild 80's stuff is leaving us feeling confused!

Speaking of Texas folk, I'm happy that I'm still one of them considering that this would have been my very last week in Texas had the North Dakota plan not fallen through.  I'm very, very glad that this is not my last week in Texas.

Somehow Jacob turned three months old today. What?  He's definitely a needier baby than Tommy was and requires lots of holding and snuggling and face time.  Though we are at the point that I can put him down for the night fully awake and he can put himself to sleep and he where he also sleeps fully through the night, I really can't complain.  Also, I can NOT get him to smile for the camera or my phone - he sees them come out and immediately puts his smile away.  Stinker.  But a cute one.
Tommy almost made it to four years old without ever having a major tummy bug.  But then last night happened and shot down that awesome record.  Poor little guy caught something awful and spent all night sick to his stomach.  Thankfully, he turned a corner this morning and we pumped him full of juice and Pedialyte and water and he was able to keep fluids and a few crackers down successfully.  But oh man - was that a rough, rough night. 

It may be after 10pm, but a few chores are calling my name before bedtime.  I'm hoping in the coming days and weeks that life provides a little bit more time for rest and for things like reading and writing.  My soul needs all of that.

Like fo shizzle yo.

May 20, 2013

Day 20: Struggles

Today's prompt:  Get real. Share something you're struggling with right now.

Doing it all.  The great life juggle.

Work, play, church, ministry, friends, people, relationships, dishes, children, marriage, family, appointments, obligations, chores, laundry, parties, bills, prayer, writing, rest, sleep....

Life feels like a giant puzzle.  
Something to be figured out instead of lived.

I can plan and schedule and organize and control.
But then I'm tightly wound and enslaved to a calendar.

Day by day.  Moment by moment.  
It's all I can really do.  

Live and love.  Work and play.  Run and rest.
Say yes and say no.  Do what I can and not do what I should.

No juggling.  Just life. 

No need to do it all.  
Just do. 

More importantly. 
Just be.


May 18, 2013

Day 18: The Ant Hill story

Today's prompt:  Share a story from your childhood.  Dig deep....

(This is from the old archives of Simply Jenn-Sational written from October of 2007.  I have edited the story some and thought it fitting for today's "deep" post.)


I guess when I admit openly that I once tried to kill my brother, it sounds dreadfully awful. But it's true.  I had a murderous heart and did in fact wish my brother’s death.  Sadly, I had my reasons....

It was a crisp fall evening.  Even now, I can remember that night as if it were yesterday.  It was at the odd house on Greenthumb with the funny-looking fireplace that sat in the middle of the living room  - jet black, with a large pipe that hung from the ceiling.  Quite possibly the ugliest "fireplace" ever imagined. But, I also remember that this house didn’t have a connecting fence with the neighbors to the left of us. Which was fine by me since I made friends with the other Jennifer who lived next door.

There was a nice sized hill on the side of her house that rolled into ours and on this particular night, my cousin Chris and I were playing on this hill. We were having a great time rolling down the hill, laughing and carrying on as most 8 year-olds do, and there was my brother, tagging along in the games I was playing with my cousin. I suppose he just wanted someone to play with him too, but I was angry that I could never escape him. He was always around, always needing something.

My brother was born with severe birth defects that affected his digestive and reproductive systems. He was sown up from the back side to the belly button, had no genitalia, and had colostomies that emptied his waste on his side. His diagnosis was something called short-gut syndrome. Very rare, and very complicated. Because of his special needs, my brother required much attention - especially of my mother. I was jealous of him - he got all of the attention....all of her attention. And I wanted some of it.

And so, at the age of eight years old, I devised a way to eliminate him so I could get the attention I was so starved for.

While we were playing and rolling down this hill, I noticed a very large ant pile a little further down the way. I knew that if we were to roll down in that area, I would probably get stuck in this ant hill and be covered in them. I also knew if my brother were to get a number of ant bites, that he would probably get very sick and could possibly die from them. He was in the hospital even if he got a cold because his immune system was so poor. I was his big sister and he always listened to what I said or told him to do. So, I instructed him to roll further away from me so I wouldn’t tumble over him and then we could all roll down the hill at the same time.

But, I knew very well what I was asking him to do. I wanted him to land in the ant pile, get enough ant bites to make him sick....and then die.

I waited to see what would happen.

He went tumbling down the hill and landed in the ant pile. I still remember seeing the fire ants swarming his overalls. Immediately I was flooded with guilt after I saw hundreds of ants crawling all over him and wanted to come to his rescue.

I sent my cousin in to get my mom as I started ripping off all of his clothes.  In that moment, I was desperate to save his life and hoped that he would be okay. By the grace of God, my brother made it out of this incident without a single ant bite on his entire body - a huge miracle. I believe I had a few ant bites on my arms, but thankfully I was able to undress him and got them off of him before they did damage to his body.  He was fully undressed by the time my mom came outside and I was still brushing off his body to make sure he was ant-free.

The most wretched part of the story is that I was named the hero. I can still remember her getting on her knees, level with me.  Eye-to-eye she sobbed and held me in her arms and told me how much she loved me and was so thankful for me. That she was proud of me.  That I was the best big sister in the whole wide world....that I had saved his life.  Feeling her arms around me.  Seeing her look me in the eye with her tears - tears that were for me, tears that meant she loved me - that....that was everything I had wanted.  My mother's desperate, aching love for me.

When I look at the depravity of this situation, it makes me want to weep. I tried to kill my brother so my mother would show me that she loved me.

For a long time, I felt ashamed that I had wanted my brother dead and went to such devious means to see that it could happen. It was pre-mediated, thought out and planned. I wanted my brother dead so I could have attention from my mother - attention that I should have received regardless of how many health problems he had.  For years, I believed that I was simply a bad girl and bad sister, and if anyone knew what I really had done and intentioned, I would be disowned and then truly be alone.  It took years to see the truth in that wretched place.  A little girl desperate for love, affection and attention by her mother.  That very day led me down a long road - years worth of self-contempt, self-loathing.

I’m thankful that story didn't end with his death caused by my ant hill plot. I’m thankful the Lord intervened that day - especially in my little heart - and that the ants didn’t harm my brother. What saddens me now, is knowing that my hate and envy drove me to want to commit such a crime.  If I could go back and talk to my eight-year-old-self, I would tell her that I understand.  That I should have some of mommy's love too.

Mostly, I hold this great sorrow.  Knowing that the lack of love and affection in my home, especially by my mother, drove me to such a despicable thing.

What we all would do, just to experience love....

Me? Clearly, I would have killed for it.

May 17, 2013

Day 17: The magical picture

Today's prompt:  A favorite photo of yourself and why

There is already something magical about the air on November nights.  Crisp cool, wind full of change and excitement as the holidays approach.  But on this particular night, the magic surrounded me in abundance. I could feel it dancing around me like leaves blowing up from the street on their way to announce autumn's arrival.

It was a dressy affair - an engagement party for some new friends, Darin and Bethany.   I was getting ready and taking extra care curling my hair and applying my make-up.  There was to be wine and hors' doevers and high heels and all of it felt classy and glamorous and I remember wanting to look perfect.  Bethany had gone out of her way to include me.  When the invitations went out for the party, Todd was single, and after I entered the picture she wanted to make sure I knew I was welcome to come. 

That would have been the first of many kind, lovely gestures from a woman who would grow to be a dear, dear friend.

Stepping out of Todd's truck, taking his hand as he looked adoringly into my eyes - I had never felt more beautiful.  The night, the magic, the spark between he and I - made me feel more lovely than I had felt in my entire life.  My heart, my soul, my gut knew that I was looking into the eyes of my forever man.

There was a buzz in the room that night.  And though we were there to celebrate our friends, I didn't know many people there.  Most people were asking about who was with Todd - who was I?  Where did I come from?  Everytime we were approached by someone new asking about the young woman on Todd's arm, I felt myself beam.  I belonged there with this handsome man.  I was special and wanted and he thought I was beautiful.

Everytime I see the picture that someone took of us from that party, it makes me smile.  Our love was so young, so fresh, so exciting then.  It was just the beginning of us.  Only the start to our life together.  Anytime a crisp November wind blows around me, I can still look into my husband's face and feel just as beautiful as that young girl did back then.

It's been seven and a half years since that night.  We may have already lived through some of life's biggest roller coasters, but one thing is for sure.....the magic is most definitely still there.

May 16, 2013

Day 16: Difficulties

Today's prompt:  Something difficult about your lot in life and how you're working to overcome it.

I debated on going here.  But as I thought about my "lot in life" it was the only thing that kept coming back to me.  I'm overweight.  And the other "O" word I hate even more - I'm obese.

You see, I decided a while back that I wasn't going to write on my blog anymore about my weight.  For one, it feels kinder to myself to not write about it.  I think for a long time I was trying to explain myself to the world so that strangers and even some friends, might understand why I am the way that I am.  I was so insecure about my body, that I felt like I needed to constantly be sending the world the message, that "Hey - yes, I know I'm fat and I'm trying to work on this!" 

But at the end of the day, why I haven't written about it in such a long time, is because mostly, it feels irrelevant.  I'm simply not obsessed with trying to prove something anymore - but more importantly, I'm simply not obsessed with food.

At the beginning of 2011 I started seeing an eating disorder specialist and I went to see her for an entire year.  It was some of the best money I ever spent on myself, and was definitely the care that I needed for a life-long battle with disordered eating.  She gave me some tools to basically retrain my brain on how to eat and live with food in normal ways.  Because of it, I have experienced more freedom in this place than I ever thought possible.

Since the very end of that year, I have been consistently normal with food.  Meaning, I abide by the healthy mantra of eating she taught me of "three meals a day, and life in between."  I may not always make the best choices, but I've been getting better at consciously choosing healthier meals and adding in more fruits and vegetables in to those meals.

I really have felt free though.  I don't binge anymore.  Occasionally, I'll overeat by a few bites if I've had something extra tasty.  But, my eating is very normal.  My relationship with food is by far the healthiest it's ever been - I see it for what it is - food.  Nourishment.  Fuel.  Sometimes, very tasty and delicious fuel - but fuel, nonetheless.

After having Jacob, I think I was hoping that the weight would melt off of me.  I didn't even again the weight equivalent to what he was born weighing and I was hopeful that after my pregnancy, the weight would finally start going down.  I haven't gotten on the scales in while, but all of my clothes fit the same way, and I'm still in the same size that I've been for ages.  It feels confusing and not fair and on the really bad days, I wonder what the point has ever been to eat normally and make healthier choices. 

However, the really bad days don't look like giving up and going back to unhealthy habits and violent behaviors.  Those are the places I see huge progress and want to give myself a major-high-five because I finally can be discouraged about it and NOT harm myself with food.  For someone like me who would do that, and did for umpteen years, this is kind of a major deal.

Though my schedule feels scheduled to the minute these days, I try and go for a walk or something whenever some time opens up.  And I'm not using it as an excuse - this working full time, with two kids thing is still kicking my butt and I'm trying to figure out how life is supposed to work everyday.  Finding that balance of caring for my family, myself, my home, my husband, ministry, work and so on - sheesh!  I want to exercise and I'm still trying to figure out how to work that in to everything else - my body, my heart, my everything, needs it!

All that to say, I hate that it feels like my current weight doesn't match my lifestyle anymore.  My current figure doesn't match how I eat, how I live, how I think, or how I move.  I'm sure a radical diet or even surgery could help me - but at the moment, I don't think that those are options that would be a kind choice for me.

I may be overweight, I may be the other detestable "o" word - but I don't let it define me.  Regardless, I know what shape my heart is in, I know I make different choices, I know I am kind and that I eat normally - I know that I'm different and that I've changed, and maybe, hopefully, my body will reflect that on the outside too.

May 15, 2013

Day 15: A day in the life

Today's prompt:  A day in the life.  Share your typical day.

I had such high hopes for this blog challenge.  The blog everyday in May thing - it was a great idea.  It is a great idea.  It did however, fall during a busy season for me and I'm wishing I had more time to devote to each post.

And I thought about quitting, but that would feel like I failed at something and I want to try - even if what I have to put out there isn't as writery as I would like it to be. 

A day in the life for me means having to put my longings and passions to the side because of obligation and duty and responsibility.  Somehow, that feels like both a consequence and a blessing.

It's almost midnight and here I am at my computer, just now finding the time to write and reflect and breathe.  It's quiet and I wish I could stretch out these moments and make them last longer as time to myself is few and far between.  I've always been the kind of person to need a lot of personal time to read or pray or relax or create.  When I can stop and recognize where I've been in a perpetually bad mood, it's usually because I've squeezed out all I have in me and I desperately need some time to soak something in. 

A day in the life for me means that I put out every ounce of energy I have.  Every moment, every second, is full of life - living, working, nourishing, doing, driving, playing, caring - it's not sitting idle.  A day in the life means that if I have a few moments to watch an episode of House Hunters on HGTV, it's been a very good day.

My plate sounds full and perhaps it is.  Some days it feels fuller than others though, and most days I really don't mind.  I thrive on a good routine where things are consistent and predictable.  Even if life is full, if I can stay somewhat organized, it doesn't feel so overwhelming.

A day in the life for me means having to make lists and to plan things - doing that makes things feel less chaotic and if life around me doesn't feel like chaos, then I tend not to create it.  It means trying to find a balance for my desire to control everything and my need to be kind to myself and others - it's tricky though and I'm still figuring out what that looks like and how to extend myself and others around me grace

I'm still readjusting to this new normal - working again, having two kids, the second side job (that only requires one evening a week), youth group, church, worship team, and some attempt at a social life and hanging out with friends - and knowing my limitations. Knowing I need rest and rejuvenation and space to let my heart feel and air out.

A day in the life for me means not trying to figure out how to do it all, but just going with the flow. Tackling one day at a time. Paying attention to my needs and asking for help, turning to God when I'm feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.

A day in my life is full.  Full of work.  Full of sweet boys.  Full of laughter and love, some chaos, and hopefully some rest too.  Life is full and really, I wouldn't want it any other way.

May 14, 2013

May 14: Happy Things

Today's prompt:  Ten things that make me really happy

#1 - Todd
He's the love of my life and my very best friend.  We have our ups and downs like anyone else but being his wife, doing life with this man, and getting to kiss this handsome face every day - makes me very, very happy.

#2 - Tommy and Jacob
Who knew life with boys was so much fun?  I didn't know until I had one.
And now I have two precious little guys. 
Their smiles, silliness, laughter and cuddles make me oh so happy.
#3 -  Time to myself
I'm all about some quiet and solitude.  Whether I'm reading, journaling, drinking coffee, writing, cleaning, watching a chick-flick - I am all about some time to myself.  Being able to have it keeps me sane AND happy!

#4 - Fall, fall, fall!
Fall means it's time for pumpkin everything, scarf-wearing and autumn decorating.
Though we don't have much of an autumn season here, what we do enjoy makes me happy indeed!
#5 -  Earrings, necklaces, accessories galore!
I'm something of an accessory junkie. 
See what I mean?
I have just a few necklaces.  I refuse to name exactly how many I own.  Mostly though because I've never counted.
Something about pretty things makes me happy.  Based on my earring and necklace hoard, I should be very, very happy.  Yes?
#6 -  Throwing parties
Ya'll know I love a good party.  And throwing them is something of a specialty of mine.  Just a taste of parties past....
A lingerie shower.....
Tommy's 2nd birthday - beach bash style.
And yes, I threw a potty-training party.
A mustache-bash baby shower.
Patriotic themed going away party.
Another birthday party.
And our annual pumpkin carving party.
Parties are my thing.  Throwing them, coming up with different ideas, and having a crowd of people over is happy, happy, happy.

#7 -  Chocolate
Doesn't chocolate make everyone happy just by it's very nature?
#8 -  Making wreaths

It's my favorite new hobby.  I love, love, love making them.  Something about yarn and felt and hot glue gives me this warm, happy feeling.

#9 -  Music
Music is in my soul.  It runs through my veins.  I live it and breathe it and feel it.  Music is my passion and my heart.  All of this is the epitome of happiness.

#10 - Writing

Whether making up stories or writing poetry or venting into the pages of my journal, I have always loved writing.  Something about putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, does more than make me happy.  It nourishes me, heals me, brings me to life.  Writing, sharing my heart, my thoughts, my dreams and hopes, my story - it's my very favorite thing to do.  The happiest of happy places. 
What makes you happy?


May 13, 2013

Day 13: A Mother's Day apology

Today's prompt:  Issue a public apology.

I'm sorry I don't love Mother's Day.  I feel like I should - after all, I am a mother myself.  It's just not my favorite day.  Most of the time, I wish it could be skipped.

Mother's Day evokes ambivalence for me.  It's a holiday that is full of so much emotion as it carries the potential for so much joy and so much pain all at the same time.  Even though I am a mom myself, the day never feels easy or only happy or sweet.  Perhaps it's my attitude or maybe it's just my tender heart that feels all that there is to feel on such a day.

It's always hard to navigate through the day.  Allowing myself to be honored and enjoyed by my husband and children.  Celebrating the moms and grand-moms in my life.  And feeling the swirling chaos of all my heart holds on such a day. 

This year, my heart felt the enormity of having two children in my arms this year.  TWO.  For some reason, it feels like so many more than one.  And yesterday, my heart and my arms were full.  My cup runneth over.  There is not a day that goes by, that I don't thank God for giving me these two boys to raise.  I love them so.
But with all of the joy, there is the pain of not having my own mom here too.  Of feeling extra mother-less, because my Robin and my mother-in-law and the other "like-a-mom's" in my life can ever fill that void or take that pain away.  They're not supposed to.

I remember on several occasions, long before I had my boys, where I would be sitting in church and the pastor would ask all the mothers in the auditorium to stand so they could be applauded.  And it wasn't the recognition or the applause that bothered me.  It was the women, the few, that remained seated. 

What was their story?   Single?  Engaged?  Newlyweds?  Had they maybe lost their child?  Or could they not conceive?  Were they struggling and hoping and waiting for a positive pregnancy test?  How did it feel for them to remain seated and not stand with the other women?  Shouldn't they, shouldn't we ALL stand?

Mother's day to the childless, is a hard day.  I remember.  While in the last few years, I have learned that my original OBYGN from years ago gave me some lousy information about my body and the part about "never being able to have my own babies" (obviously inaccurate) - I do remember being one of those few women seated then.  Hoping I would have someone call me mommy someday as if I had to wait to be chosen for motherhood. 

I have a precious, dear friend who is waiting - trying and hoping and every month that goes by without a pregnancy, tears are cried and I cry them with her.  I squeezed her hand and hugged her hard yesterday, knowing how brave and courageous she was.  To show up and be at church yesterday amidst the mamas and the babies and all of the Mother's day hoopla. 

Another dear friend is like me - motherless.  Even though her mom has been gone almost as long as mine has, this year hit her hard.  She felt grief in new ways and though she had three beautiful children at her side, part of her heart was empty and hurting. 

Maybe I wish that the rest of the world could embrace every woman on this day - not just the ones who have literally birthed children.  That every single woman - single, married, barren, childless, motherless - whatever it may be, that they would be celebrated as mothers.  Recognized for who they were created to be. 

Every woman is a mother.  Every woman mothers - she nourishes, she nurtures, she cares, she loves, she does things that matter.  My heart wishes every woman could not only feel the pain that they carry, but some joy too - that regardless of who does or doesn't wake up and call them mommy every day - that they are worthy of just as much celebration and applause and recognition.

A few years ago, I decided that if I ever found myself in a church again where the mamas were asked to stand and be recognized, that I would stay seated.  I want to sit with every woman who hurts, who waits, who wonders, who hopes for the future - those mothers are the ones my heart feels most like on a day like Mother's Day.

I'm sorry I can't jump on the Happy Mother's Day train.   I'm sorry I don't really love Mother's Day very much. 

But I am more sorry for any and every woman who wants a child and doesn't have them - who goes through the everyday without someone to call them mommy, to rock to sleep, to beg to make them waffles or makes toy car messes on your floor.  I am so, so sorry. 

I am more sorry for any woman, any child, who can't pick up the phone to wish her mom a happy day, or has no one to send flowers to, or make breakfast in bed or take out to lunch.  Who feels that loneliness and ache and void. 

To you, to us, I am so, very sorry.

May 10, 2013

Day 10: Because I'm a rebel

Today's prompt was about sharing an embarassing moment.  And the only thing I could come up with was the time my watch got stuck to my sweater, and when I went to greet these new people at this event I was at with a friend, my sweater went with my hand.  So all of these people I met for the first time saw my bare tummy and even some bra action.  It was super-awesome.

And that's also the story of why I don't wear watches anymore.

But really, I just need a break.  It's been a week.  And not a bad one.  Just a - I'm trying to figure out how to do everything - kind of week.  Learning a new job, taking care of two kiddoes instead of just one, making dinner, getting to youth group on Wednesdays, finding time to pay bills and return e-mails, be married, even text my friends back - oh, and blog every day in May too?

So this is me saying I may take a couple days off from the everyday in May thing - because I'm a rebel and a rule-breaker.  And because I know when something's gotta give....
Also, is it embarassing that a picture like this of me exists?

May 9, 2013

Day 9: A Moment

Today's prompt:  A moment in your day.

Tonight at dinner the table, we talked about Jesus.  Tommy concluded that dying on the cross was much like receiving a spanking when you've been naughty.  Except this wasn't fair, because Jesus wasn't naughty at all.

His understanding of the gospel at the age of three is a beautiful thing.  He told Todd the other day that Jesus was family, that He died on the cross and that He loves Bass Pro Shops.  Clearly, we are getting through on the most important things.

At some point though, Tommy changed the subject and started talking about robo-tools.  (Wha?)  And there was some laughter, and much less struggle to eat his dinner since we've cracked down on the whole "you're eating what we're eating for dinner" rule.

Tonight's family dinner left my heart full of hope.  A hope that our table will always be full of togetherness and laughter.  A safe place where good food is served and eaten and enjoyed.  That it's a table that will welcome others with love, acceptance and compassion.  A hope that we always value the importance of sitting down together as a family and eating a meal, talking about our day and enjoying the company of each person present.  A hope that we never get too busy, too self-centered, too anything, to make the time and create the space for family meals together at that very table.

And my greatest hope - that Jesus and His great love for us, the source of all hope - is the topic of many, many more family night dinners.

May 8, 2013

Day 8: Advice

Today's prompt:  A piece of advice you have for others.  Anything at all.

Don't be afraid to let yourself feel pain.  It's only pain and pain will pass.
Feel what you need to feel, when you need to feel it. 
Cry it out.  Scream.  Grieve.  Write something.  Talk it out. Go for a walk.  Pray.
But, don't wait until later.  Don't bottle it up.  Don't hold on to it.
Pain held inside and bottled up, almost always grows into bitterness and resentment.  It looks like burned out and weary, contempt and shame.  It leaks out in the forms of addictions and unhealthy behaviors.
Waiting to feel it will only make it worse.  Waiting only makes the pain more painful.
Waiting to feel it will cost you.  It will cost you your sanity, your happiness, your pocketbook, your relationships, maybe even your life.
Give yourself the space to feel.
They're just feelings.  Don't be afraid to give them some space.  Feel them.  And move on.

May 7, 2013

Day 7: Afraid

Today's prompt:  What are you afraid of?

Ever since she died, there has been this quiet, gnawing fear that I would be like her.  That somehow we would have the exact same story and I would share her fate.  I've always been afraid that life would knock me down and I would never be able to get back up again.  That depression or alcohol, some big affair - something....something would come for me and take me out. 

Sometimes I feel myself waiting for it.  This big thing.  A piece of bad news or some awful life-altering tragedy.  It feels less scary if I'm anticipating the next heartache to come my way.  It's torture though to live in that kind of expectancy.

Maybe when your mother dies suddenly in her sleep, it's normal to be afraid of those things.  Maybe it's common to think and live that way.  When you watch someone drink themselves to death and self-destruct before your very eyes and then suddenly they're gone - no goodbyes, no last words.  Could it be me too that would leave my children to live without a mother, to live with questions, to live with their own fears that they too could end up like me?

The thing is though, I don't think she would want me to be afraid.  I think she would want me to learn from her - from all the right, all the wrong, all the tragedy and heartache.  I think she would be proud of me, especially in the places I don't want to emulate her.  Where I'm careful about alcohol - how I'll never drink it on a bad day or in a bad mood.  Where I fight hard for my marriage and my feelings and my heart because I won't settle and because I believe in more.  How I don't try and pretend to have everything together because I believe real strength is in our weakness and neediness.

I think she would be proud - I think she is proud - of the places where I have had the strength to do the things she couldn't.  There have been times when I have imagined her face for me, cheering me on, saying "Go baby, go!  You can do this!" 

Nothing else can bring me to the kind of tears I have when I imagine what it will be like to reunite with her.  When heaven is home and we're both there together.  I've always imagined seeing her face from a distance - as if she's been waiting for me.  And we don't need to speak a single word about anything - the hurt, the past, all the years I lived without her.  We'll just somehow know it all.  That it was all okay.  Somehow it was all part of some plan that never made sense until that moment.  It's that moment - that first instant of seeing her face there - my heart could burst with the pain and the hope I feel for how badly I want to have that. 

It comes and goes, this fear.  There have been times where the fear has been crippling.  Where I have felt completely terrified.  And maybe it has felt that scary to think I could end up like her, because of how painful it was to have gone through it. 

But, most days I live in confidence and security - that while I am so much like her, I'm not her.  That what is true is that her story was her own and I'll have mine.  That how we live life is a series of choices.  I think she would want me to know that I get to choose.

Maybe I'm starting to learn that to honor her life and story is to not be afraid of it.  To acknowledge how it impacted me.  And to love others from those wounded places.

May 6, 2013

May 6: What I do

Today's prompt:  If you couldn't answer with your job, how would you answer the question, "What do you do?"

That question has always made me cringe a little bit.  Maybe it's because there will always be a certain amount of shame or regret for what I didn't become, or wondering what could have been had life gone differently.  I don't let myself dwell there often, but there's this feeling of sadness sometimes when I think about the 'what-could-have-beens' in life.  It's not so much that I'm not proud of myself or my job.  But it's quite true, that I'm so much than merely a bookkeeper

Years ago, I started out as a secretary for a small HVAC company and over time I taught myself how to do some of the bookkeeping tasks.  Eventually, the bookkeeper there left and I took over.  Since then, my main line of work has been in that field.  I do taxes, payroll, enter and pay bills, create invoices, reconcile accounts - and on and on.  I never really saw myself in this line of work, but my detail-oriented mind is quite good at it.
Really, it's just my job and how I make a living.  I'm grateful to have learned the skill and can contribute to our family's needs.  But that's not all I do and it's not all of who I am. 

I'm a creator.  I LOVE to make things.  Wreaths, cookies, decorations, pies, crafty projects, chocolate concotions, gifts for others - basically if can be made with either butter or hot glue, I'm totally in.

I write.  Ever since I was a little girl, I've been making up stories, writing down pieces of my own, forming poetry and even starting chapters to silly books that I sadly never finished.  The time to sit and write anything other than blog posts these days is few and far between.  Maybe someday there will be memoirs and novels and a thousand other things that need to come out of me.  For now though, one of my greatest passions leaks out only in the form of journal entries and blog posts.

I do motherhood.  I change diapers and make chicken nuggets.  I read story books and blow bubbles and play with trucks.  I climb in tents and rock babies to sleep.  I snuggle and discipline and pick up messes.  I get spit up and pee and bath water all over me.  And for the most part, I enjoy every glorious moment of it all.
And I live.  I don't want to watch life pass me by or just be about going to work and planting myself in front of the TV or the computer every night.  I want to purpose to do something.  I swim, I sing, I party, I engage, I read, I climb, I walk, I dance, I dream, I bake, I create, I laugh, I cry, I feel, I love.  I want this life to count for something.  I want all of my wreath-making and book-keeping and mothering and party-planning and story-writing to leave a mark on this world and on others. 

At the end of the day, I don't think it really matters what any of us do.  Whether our lives feel big or small, famous or hidden, glamorous or simple.  It just matters most importantly, that we DO.

May 5, 2013

May 5: Blog Friends

Today's prompt:  Publicy profess your love and devotion for one of your blogger friends.  What makes them great?  Why do you love them?

Basically this post is no fair to any of my other blogger friends.  Like Kristie, Shay and Liz - some of my most favorite blogs and blogger friends. 

Kristie let me do a guest post once and boy, did she stretch my inner writer.  I was so honored to do it and was scared out of my mind at the same time.  Because Kristie is this ultra-amazing writer and in my opinion should be sitting behind a desk and writing all day long because she was literally born with a gift.  I love her story and how she tells it. 

And Shay not only makes me laugh from my gut, but she makes me cry and feel.  She gets me, I get her, and I love when I feel connected to someone just by reading something they've written.  Reading her blog is like reading her heart and I will love that girl for always. 

And Liz - I've watched her writing blossom and change over the years too.  I about fell out of my chair the day she mailed me her first book and asked me to review it.  She is witty and real and lovely and I would give my left arm to meet that girl in real life.

But I have to dedicate this post to one very special blog-friend, who as a bonus, is also a real life friend too.
The one and only - Lori.  Or - Superfantastic - as I've known her for years.

You see, Lori was the very first blog I ever started reading.  Lori's blog was what inspired me to start my very own.  I kind of-sort of knew her from a church that we both attended years ago and I never saw us being friends because, well, she was a democrat and I thought she might eat me for dinner if I told her I voted for Bush (both times). 

But one day, Lori commented on my blog and I had a minor flip-out because she had been reading my blog too and I was utterly embarassed because my writing wasn't worthy for her eyes to even gaze upon.  Apparently, I idolized her and her witty writing just a tad. 

As life would have it, Lori moved back to San Antonio years ago, and after we had gotten semi-comfortable leaving comments on each other's blogs, she contacted me via e-mail and asked me if I would want to meet up for coffee.  I still remember that day because I was very nervous and hoping we would have something to talk about.  And that the subject of politics wouldn't come up because I was sure I wouldn't be able to hold my own in her presence.

To my surprise, coffee was delightful and we had tons to talk about - like the importance of owning cute shoes and how much we both loved cheese.  Actually, getting to know her and hearing her beliefs and convictions over the years, especially when it comes to politics and worldviews has been a gift to me.  I've always appreciated her perspective and she always, always makes me think.  And dare I say, I'm not nearly as "republican" as I once was.  (I don't know what I am anymore to be honest.  But that's another subject for another day and I don't believe Jenni has issued politics as prompt this month - whew!)

The friendship I share with Lori was always an unexpected one.  It turned out that we would bond over things like brownies and tomato basil soup and What Not to Wear marathons.  I've also been her fashion consultant a time or two, because not only do I somehow know how to stage a house, I can put together an outfit too.

To this day, I still idolize her writing and wit just a tad.  But mostly I love her honesty, her convictions, and how she isn't trying to be anyone other than herself.  I was super bummed when I had to miss her awesome beach wedding in December.  Being pregnant and having to save for baby stuff put a damper on that trip which was highly disappointing.  Especially when I found out there was booze AND a cookie bar.

And then girlfriend had to up and get married and move to Japan or something like that with her awesome navy doctor husband.  But our writing and blogs and the fact that she knows I'll make her a grilled sourdough and cheddar cheese sandwich anytime she's in town, will keep us friends for matter who I vote for. 

May 4, 2013

May 4: Quotable Quotes

Today's prompt: Your favorite quote and why you love it

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom."

There was a time, not that long ago, where I lived every moment of every day half-alive.  I made most of my decisions based on what others would think about me and more often than not I could be found curled up on my sofa feeling sorry for myself on any given weekend.  I sat on the sidelines of life, watching it pass by.  Seeing others enjoy it and live it and wishing I was braver, or thinner, or happier - or just more of anything else than who I was. 

I used to hate myself.  And in that self-hatred I would often invite my husband to join me in my self-contempt as if I was trying to convince him how ugly, or fat, or hopeless I was.  It wounded him and our marriage and as I sit here and reflect on those years we spent together where he was the only one who saw anything lovable about me, I'm sad for all of the life and happiness that was missed in sharing together.  Sometimes those years feel wasted, but I'm also reminded how we've learned from them too.

But things changed two years ago.  The self-contempt, the constant pity-party throwing, the half-alive me....somehow, all of it came to an abrupt and dramatic end.  After years of healing and counseling and therapy, pieces of my story collided in a quiet room in Muskegone, Michigan and a battle that had been raging over me and inside of me for years was fought.  And I came out the victor. 

I was surrounded by a safe group of of people who gave me the courage to walk bravely into the darkest pieces of my story, and in doing so, I finally broke free from these chains that had held me down for the majority of my life. 

Maybe all of that sounds weird, and it might if you don't know the whole story.  And I can't tell it all here because it's not safe and it wouldn't be kind to my heart and how I treasure the experience I had that day.  But just know that I came out of that room that night forever a changed woman.  I literally have not lived the same way since.

A man named Ted gave me a name that I will claim as my own for the rest of my life.  He called me a dragon slayer.  It represented the itensity of the battle that was fought, how hard I fought and how big this thing was that needed to be defeated.  I still remember his booming voice, how his tears cracked through his throat as he handed me over my identity with his thoughtful words.  It was a day I'll never forget. 

That was the day I no longer wanted to remain tightly in that bud. 

It was time to bloom.  And I did.

That was the year I danced for the very first time.  I bought a swimsuit and I went swimming - even in front of people.  I wore a dress for the first time in years.  That was the year I came alive to my longings - that I wanted another baby and that I wanted to write and so many other things I discovered buried in my heart after all of the sludgy self-contempt had been cleaned out.  It was the year I really, really lived.  I no longer sat on the sidelines.  I was in the game.

This picture of me - the one in the dress - it's a picture of the realest real me.  The one who finally learned to love who God had created her to be.  She learned what it felt like to be really alive and she knew she was really living.  And she's not perfect and she has much she is still growing into and learning and healing from - but really, that's all part of living anyway.

This quote - I remember seeing it before that life changing night.  Wanting it to be about me.  Wishing that I could risk blooming. 

I did.  I bloomed.  And I never want to live tight in a bud, ever again.

May 3, 2013

May 3: Uncomfortable

Today's prompt:  Things that make you feel uncomfortable

I chose ten things as it seemed like a nice even round number.  Interestingly enough, answering this question made me feel a bit uncomfortable.  I realized it felt a bit exposing to admit some of the things that can trigger discomfort in me.

1) Strapless bras.  You would only understand this if your boobs are ginormous and you've been forced to wear something that required said strapless bra. 

2)  Pillows that aren't broken in yet.  You know, the ones that hurt your neck and don't have that perfected squishy feeling installed in them.

3)  When people talk about food, diets, and eating habits.  I suddenly feel like I weigh 600 pounds and everyone is judging me.

4)  Humidity.

5)  The oh-so-wonderful annual doctor's appointment us ladies get to endure. 

6)  When I hear people, especially those who identify as Christians, making ugly, judgemental and unkind comments about homosexuals.

7)  Breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debates.  Also, wearing and non-wearing your baby debates.  Basically any debate on how we should feed, clothe, diaper, sleep, educate, etc. our children.  Why must there be the debates?!

8)  High heels.  My current lifestyle does not have the time, patience or desire for those things any longer.  But shhh....don't tell my fabulous collection of heels that.  I'm hoping that someday my current lifestyle might need them again.

9)  When I'm in a group of people, a question is asked, and there is only silence as no one wants to answer.  Those moments of silence make me internally squirmy.

10)  Mother's Day card shopping.  It's hard and awkward, emotional and the epitome of discomfort for me as I try to balance my feelings and honor the moms I do have in my life.

What makes you uncomfortable? 
(If it's that strapless bra - tell me all about it girlfriend).

May 2, 2013

May 2: Educate

Today's prompt:  Educate us on something you know a lot about

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not professional home stager.  But thanks to my HGTV obsessions and maybe a bit of a natural knack for knowing how to make things pretty, it's something I've found out that I have a bit of a talent for. 

Basically, I have a crush on Sabrina Soto and I think she and I should be BFF's.

Also, I just think home staging is super fun.  I'm not sure if that makes me weird, but I'm all about making things pretty.

Though our plans changed and we ended up staying in our house (thanks to the awesome buyers who were gracious enough to let us terminate the contract), our home sold in two days.  I don't think it was solely my home-staging abilities, though I'm sure it helped some. 
Recently, a friend asked me to come over and help her stage her house to put on the market.  We went room by room and I gave her a few tips and ideas for rearranging and what to change in each space.  They even recommended me to their realtor and think I should start a staging business - though I don't know if I'm ready for that kind of undertaking.

All that to say, I thought I would share a few of my home-staging tips today since I seem to somehow know a lot about this.

In no particular order:

Make every room look as big as you can.  Put a lot of thought into how you place your furniture.  Remove pieces or downsize to something smaller if you are working with a smaller space.

Use each room for what it was intended to be.  Take your offices out of your kitchens or dining rooms.  Set up bedrooms as bedrooms instead of storage rooms or even playrooms.  A simple guest bedroom will show much better than a room only full of toys.  You can put your children's toys into bins and keep them in closet for showings and put the rest into storage. If you have a large master bedroom like me, create a sitting area or an office space.  (I tore down my craft-making area - so sad).
Don't sweat the garage.  It's a garage.  I don't care what anyone else says - if you're planning on putting your home on the market, you're still living in the space AND you are trying to declutter and stage your home, you will need that garage to store boxes and all the extra stuff you are taking out.  Again, it's a garage.  No one will decide NOT to buy your house because your garage was too full of stuff.

Clear the clutter everywhere.  Less is more.

A fresh coat of paint is always a good idea.  The small white counter that separated our kitchen and living rooms was kind of dingy and gross.  A fresh coat of white paint made it sparkle and look brand new.

Put placemats or a runner and some kind of arrangement on the dining room table.  Even a simple bowl of lemons or fresh flowers will do nicely.  If you're really ambitious, you could even set the table with a set of plates, pretty glasses and decorative napkins.
Empty your refrigerator of magnets, pictures and even your child's fabulous artwork. 

Clean out your cabinets and closets - buyers look in everything! 

Storage is key - even if you have to cram everything in to the cabinets and cupboards and closets that you have - stage them all!  Clear out what you can live without until your home sells.  Keep everything neat and organized so a buyer will be confident that all of their stuff will fit into those storage spaces just as neatly as yours!
Invest in some accessories if you don't have any.  A few candlesticks, large vases, some greenery, some simple artwork or mirrors for the wall, and a few throw pillows go a long way to make things pop and seem more appealing.  And work with what you have.  Repurpose things and move things around.  You have to put your personal preferences aside, and make your home both neutral and inviting.  The right accessories definitely help acheive that.

Get as much off of your kitchen counters as you can.  You want buyers envisioning how easy it will be to prepare dinner and roll out cookie dough and work on science projects on those counters.
Open the blinds and let in all that glorious natural light for showings.

Just say no to brass!  Even if you're home isn't that old, it makes any room look outdated.  If you have any brass fixtures of any kind (the cheap-looking yellow stuff) you can replace it with something new.  Or even better - spray paint it with an updated metallic color like brown, chrome, silver, copper, etc. and you'll save money.  Anything but brass is better! 

Touch up nail holes and paint on the walls.  The cleaner and crisper - the better!

The kitchen is the most important.  If you are going to invest any money on updates of any kind, the kitchen is where you should put that money.

Remove personal pictures on the walls.  Leaving a few things on shelves might be okay, but you don't want buyers looking at your family photos all over the walls of the home they are thinking of buying.  You want them to envision their family in this space.
Don't forget the pantry.  Give it a good cleaning and organizing.

Drawers, under the beds, and large totes or baskets make for great places to hide the things that you need but don't necessarily want out for showings. 

Put all of your bathroom things away.  Don't leave out your toothbrushes and moisturizers and hairspray.  Put those things in a box under the sink and away from immediate view.  Cotton balls or Q-tips in a decorative jar in addition to some greenery or candles and handsoap on top of your bathroom counters, should be all they see. 
Walk in closets - make them feel as big as possible.  Clear out the things you might ordinarily store in there.  Just the clothes, shoes and one or two big pieces on the shelf (like a piece of luggage or a couple of cowboy hats for example) would be all you want to display.  If you don't have walk-in closets, arrange your clothing and shoes as neatly as possible.  Clear out anything that isn't in season and pack away if you are working with an especially smaller closet. 

Curb appeal - spruce up the front of your house.  Fresh mulch, some potted plants or fresh flowers and a neatly mowed yard will work wonders.  If you've lived in your home for a long time you might think about having the home and sidewalks/driveway powerwashed.

And remember - these days, home staging is essential because it has become almost an expectation.  Definitely take the time to clean, declutter and arrange your home so that it is appealing to perspective buyers.  Remember, the goal is to get that house sold so you can get to your new place!

There may be a few things I left out, but there you have it.  Your home-staging expert (wanna-be) has spoken.  Happy staging and happy home-selling!

May 1, 2013

May 1: Life Story

Today's prompt:  Tell us the story of your life in 250 words or less

Born.  First grandchild.  Happy memories. 
Sick baby brother.  Birth defects.  Hospital stays.  Daddy's girl.  Distant mommy. 
Church.  Sundayshool.  Jesus. 
Teased.  Bullied. 
Family gatherings.  Laughter.  Games.  Cousins. 
"Shamu."  Food.  Secrets.  Body image. 
Baby sister.  Disneyworld.
Brother dies.  Mom depressed. 
Dad's affair.  Parents separate.  Devastated.  Chaos. 
Dad moves out.  Dad moves back in.  Mom moves out.  House sells.  Heart crushed. 
Food.  Weight gain.  Struggle. 
Music.  Singing.  Choir.  Success.  Failures.  Disappointments. 
Church.  Faith.  Bob. Youth group.  Good friends. 
Mom drinks.  Alcoholism.  Custody battle.  Dad remarries. 
Graduation.  College.  Vocal performance.  Happy.  New friends.  Fun times. 
Mom dies.  Numb.  No tears. 
Aaron.  First boyfriend.  Love.  Passion.  Sex.  Drama.  Break ups.  Heartbreak. 
Back together again.  More love.  More passion. 
Vocal failures.  Leave school. 
Aaron murdered.  Devastation. 
Sonic carhop.  Debt.  Lonely. 
New job.  New boyfriend.  Jerk boyfriend.  Steals everything. 
More debt.  More loneliness.  Live with Gramma.
Depressed.  Weight gain.  Super obese. 
Faith. God.  Trip to Israel.  Ducks-in-a-row.  Weight loss. 
Online dating.  Darren.  Heartbreak. 
Anger.  Rebellion.  Hating God.  Darkness.  Bulimia.  Excessive drinking.  Violence.  Strange men.  Agony.  Bleach blonde hair.  Car dies. 
God's grace.  God's love. New car.  Returning. 
New church.  Retreat.  Todd.  Whirlwind romance.  Engaged.  Married. 
Dark depression.  Weight gain again.  Confusion. 
Help.  Counseling.  Healing begins.  Marriage comes to life.  More help.  More counseling.  More healing. 
Infertility.  Happier marriage.  Montana vacation.  Hope. 
Buy home.  Tommy born.  Motherhood.
Step of faith.  Change in jobs.  Family tensions.  Grace Goups.  Community.  Friendships. 
Dragon slaying.  Living.  Dancing.  Celebrating.  30. 
Community lost.  Family.  Relationships mending. 
Marriage on the rocks.  Contemplating divorce.  God's rescue.  Softened heart.  Grieving. 
Grace.  Healing.  Understanding.  Forgiveness.  Humbled.  Healed marriage. 
Trusting God.  New community. 
North Dakota.  Bedrest.  Jacob born.  Prepare to leave Texas. 
Disappointments.  Miracles.  Faith. Grace. 
Content.  Joy. Gratitude. 
Texas!  Working mom.  Real marriage.  Full of hope.  Full of longings.  Genuine love for Jesus.  Laughing.  Singing.  Writing.  Enjoying.  Loving.  Living.