Me, Naked

This is not a pornographic essay (my parents read this, and not really my thing). Nor is it an expression of artistic nudity (parents still reading and – you guessed it – also not my thing).

This is an essay about why each of us – and especially women – must learn to love and embrace our imperfect bodies. Because they’ll never be perfect – not by our body-obsessed culture’s standards, anyway. Why not save time and be happy now?

 I recently watched an interview with a woman who had lost a huge amount of weight (over 170 pounds), and proudly (yes, proudly!) submitted a post-weight-loss bikini photo to Shape magazine. Problem was, she was a real woman modeling real effects of massive weight loss untouched by plastic surgery. This meant that, though her arms and thighs were trim and her waistline had shrunk a great deal, she had significantly large folds of extra skin hanging from her torso. Because that’s what really happens, people!! Shocking, I know.

 The thing is – she felt GREAT about this photo, because it signified how far she’d come, extra skin and all – and was stunned and offended when Shape initially refused to publish it, asking her to put a shirt on (they changed their mind amid a media firestorm; full story here: http://www.today.com/health/woman-whose-weight-loss-bikini-pic-went-viral-gets-shape-2D79644325 ).

 Moral of the story is this: She knew she was healthy, regardless of the fact that the resulting image of her healthy body was far from what any of us see on magazine covers or billboards.

 Which got me thinking – “Wait a minute, I know I’m healthy, too – even if a large lunch and lack of sit-ups can make me temporarily look 3-months pregnant. Even if my breasts were stretched from 13 months of breastfeeding and have a newfound interest in gravity, and I may never have a truly “flat” stomach again because it was stretched out by a 9 ½ pound tenant who left it in not-quite-the-same shape (in other words – Anderson, you’re not getting that damage deposit back). “

 My BMI (body mass index) is right where it should be, I can run 5 miles, and my blood pressure has never been lower. Maybe I’ll never look quite like my pre-pregnancy self naked, or in a bikini, but I can feel great in a one-piece (what’s wrong with that?) and if anyone other than my husband or doctor has a vested interest in seeing me naked, I question their motives.

 I know, for sure, that though I may look a bit looser and rounder and softer, and somehow “less than” in society’s most skeptical eyes – I am, in fact, stronger, healthier, and more capable than I have ever physically been.

I’m not saying I’m impermeable to our culture’s influences or expectations. But I’m working on standing firm in what I know is true – I’m working on it every day. And you know what? Honest to God, in many ways – I’ve never felt more beautiful. And no one can take that away from me.

 

 

Flying Solo

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Earlier this month I took a big leap outside of my stay-at-home mom bubble and hopped a plane – alone! – to Chicago for three days. My old college roommate, Catherine, was about to turn 30 and graduate from med school and I thought it was the perfect time to plan a trip to celebrate. I also selfishly was ready to spread my wings a bit and prove that I could do this – be apart overnight from my 14-month-old for the first time ever!
I eagerly awaited this trip for weeks and weeks and dreamed of it being this relaxing, rejuvenating and luxurious time where I could stretch my legs walking the big city, read for four uninterrupted hours on the plane, indulge in bubble baths in my OWN hotel room…. You get the idea.

In some ways the trip was exactly what I had felt I needed and hoped for, and in some ways it wasn’t.

First, the flight:
The last four flights I had been on included Anderson, so it was quite the change not having to juggle a diaper bag, nurse, change diapers, or get a baby to nap on my lap while on the plane. It almost seemed too easy, like I was cheating or something, to board the plane with just myself, a small bag and a book. It was nice to be able to listen to music and zone out, to get lost in a book and not be accountable to anyone else on the plane. But I also got nostalgic and a bit homesick every time I heard a baby cry. It never annoyed me in the slightest, in fact I actually found the sound comforting. I sort of missed the sweet soft skin and warmth of a baby’s body against mine on the flight, of shuffling through board books and watching the hustle and bustle of an airport and flight through a baby’s eyes. There were things that were nice about flying alone – don’t get me wrong – but I was reminded that the extra baggage required to take a baby on board was ultimately pretty priceless.

The hotel:
Yes, it was nice to have a bed to hog and a TV to watch whatever I wanted, but I was also loneliest at night all alone, towering above this foreign place. I had the hardest time sleeping and tossed and turned until well into the early morning hours both nights. It was almost as if things were too quiet, too sterile, too simplified. I missed my own hastily made bed, the hum of Anderson’s monitor beside me, the random knocking sound of our quirky refrigerator. A hotel, no matter how nice, doesn’t hold a candle to home (and mine wasn’t THAT nice…. Here’s looking at you tiny square pillows made for a guinnea pig).

The celebrating:
It was good to see my longtime friend. We had a lot of catching up to do on our very different lives. She introduced me to three amazing restaurants and made sure I was well-fed and well-acquainted with where I was going (I would have been lost without her…). I was reminded that emails and texts can’t replace the ground you can cover catching up in person. I’m glad we made the time for each other, and that I got to walk with her in her home city of the last four years before she moves across the country yet again. I find it fascinating to witness a life path so different than mine, and am so proud of all she has accomplished!
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The city:
It was a bizarre sensation to be so completely untethered to the identity I wear like clothing every day here in Seattle – that of a mother. I have typically one or two small blocks of time on my own each week at home, to run errands, do my appointments and so on. But having an ENTIRE WEEKEND devoid of my mom hat entirely was a strange and almost disorienting feeling. As I walked for miles through the city, smelled the food and crossed over the river, window shopped, and got coffee, I figured I probably could have passed for a single, local woman about town. I did things I never ever do by myself or at home.

Like spend two blissfully quiet, meditative hours meandering through an art museum:
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Or spontaneously attend an Aretha Franklin (yes, seriously – Aretha Franklin!!) concert at the famous Chicago Theatre:
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I had a good time in Chicago. But undoubtedly and by a mile, the BEST part of my trip, was coming home to this:
back home with baby
I did not fully realize how much I had missed him until he was in my arms again. We were glued to each other for about an hour; I didn’t want to let him go. My coming home again to Anderson was one of the sweetest moments of my life. He made these sweet cooing sounds and showed me smiles I’d never seen before at the sheer joy of our reunion. I knew in that moment there was no place in the world better than this.

How You Do Anything

How You Do Anything

We’re moving later this month, and that has sort of put the pause button on home decorating, but when we’re into our new place, one thing I am itching to do is frame and prominently display some quotes that inspire me.  One that has stuck with me as 2013 has faded into 2014, is this:

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” 

I came across these words as the cornerstone of the editor’s letter in Real Simple magazine’s current issue on balance. The RS editor writes that sometimes, when we feel so overwhelmed that we’re not sure we can do anything well – like we just don’t even know where to start – we need only to choose ONE thing, and do it well

For her, one harried, hurried morning, that meant spending 15 minutes she really didn’t have (know the feeling?) making her son the exact home-cooked breakfast he wanted.  Schedule and to-do list be damned, that morning, for that 15 minutes, she focused on making her son an exceptional breakfast.  And you know what I think?  I think her son, and his mom, will probably remember that breakfast more than they’ll remember what was on the news that morning, or who forgot to put the trash out, or how many minutes they may have been late to school or work.  She made that egg dish as if, by it, her life’s work would be judged.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

My husband is really, really good at this.  He is the type of person who will respond to each of the hundreds of emails that come through his inbox each day.  He’ll make time to call his mother on his drive home.  If he’s making us a meal, he often takes time to make me these perfect little bite-sized “snacks” of whatever he’s cooking, so I don’t get hungry while I wait.  He is extraordinarily generous and kind in the way he treats people, be it his employees, his neighbors, or a homeless man on the street. Aaron is someone who typically pushes just beyond what any given situation calls for.  He chooses to do ANYTHING the way he wants to do EVERYTHING.  I believe all those little “anythings” will add up to the big “Everything” that is the legacy of his life.

I have been meditating on why I have felt so compelled by these words.  To me they have felt like a call to action – consistent, character-molding action.  And I have questioned whether such a seemingly tall order can co-exist with my “Sometimes you just have to buy the cake” philosophy.  I’ve decided, it can. 

For me, this challenge isn’t about striving for perfection, or pouring 110% into all we do to the point of exhaustion.  It’s about being fair.  Fair to ourselves, fair to all of those around us, and even in our character.  I think there are several realms in which this challenge is particularly engaging:

One is in our public vs. private lives.  How many of us are guilty of talking, acting, ignoring, neglecting in private, in ways we would never dream of in public?  They say that our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, and our actions become our character.  What a challenge it is, to behave as if others are watching, even if they’re not. 

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Secondly, it makes me think about how unequally we treat the people in our lives.  For example, I might be bitterly rude to the barista who’s “making me late” for an appointment, then two minutes later be all smiles and easy breezy “life is good” as I float into that salon.  Or I might reserve all my patience for my baby, and none for my dog. 

This idea brings to mind a passage from the New Testament, which implies that, as Christians, our character is judged not by how we act in church, or on Facebook, or with the people we find easiest to be around, but with the most difficult, inconvenient, downtrodden, burdensome people in our lives:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  – Matthew 25:40

So if I’m rude to my barista, it’s basically like I’m being rude to God?  Yep, she’s His child.  He’s offended.  And Lord knows I could go on and on with examples…. You get it. 

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”

So this year, I strive to be consistent with my character, with the effort I put into my words and my actions that mean something to others. 

Now, we don’t always have 15 minutes to spend cooking an egg.  And for that I have another quote I refer to often.  This one I want to put next to my bed, so it’s the last thing I read each night before I go to sleep:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finally, never forget that no matter how you fill your days – by being a lawyer, or an egg chef for a 4-year-old, or a teacher or a CEO – the work you do matters and how you do anything is noticed by the people in your life. You have a chance, every day, to be GREAT at whatever it is you do.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” 

Frozen

Frozen

I want to apologize to anyone who has ever needed me, and I haven’t been there.

Today, our family on Aaron’s side memorialized a family member who died way too young. One year ago today, Aaron’s cousin, Johnny, was taken suddenly and tragically, leaving behind a wife and three young, sweet kids.

It is truly unfathomable to me how I would even go on living if I were in his wife’s shoes. Attempting to wrap my head around that reality is like trying to solve an advanced physics equation or explain the existence of God – I don’t even know where to begin.

Today we went out to breakfast with Aaron’s family and everyone took turns talking to Aaron’s uncle, the father who suffered the heartbreaking loss of his son one year ago today. For a number of reasons (time, logistics, passing a phone around), I wound up being one of the only people who didn’t personally speak to this uncle today, and offer my condolences. Aaron said he offered his on our family’s behalf and not to worry about it, but it has stuck with me all day.

Lying in bed tonight, reflecting on this day with Aaron, it occurred to me – there was a small amount of relief in not talking to the uncle for this reason and this reason alone: I don’t know how to handle tragedy. I really struggle with what to say or do, whether my words would be helpful or a hindrance to someone else’s grief. I am uncomfortable in the presence of others’ grief. That probably sounds pretty selfish, but I just kind of…..FREEZE. I don’t know what to do, when I see someone crying, know they are hurting, or fear a heart is breaking. It’s as if I’m protectively scared that if I get too close to someone else’s pain, my heart might break, too.

I have friends and family members who have been broken to their core, suffered deeper losses than I’ve ever known, and who probably could have used more support and love than I knew how to offer in those moments, months, years… Tonight, I know this. And tonight, I am sorry for my shortcomings.

This last month has been the month of half-written blogs for me. I haven’t published anything because I can’t seem to finish anything. Anything I’m happy with, at least. I have this yearning to write and I have things I want to say, but I wonder if my words are relevant enough, important enough, interesting enough. I hold myself to a high standard as a writer, and yet I know (or I certainly believe, anyway) there are far better, more compelling writers than me. But the world needs each of us, all the time, to give exactly what we can, no less and no more. That is why I write.

So this is not a perfect essay – it’s not catchy or thoroughly edited. I didn’t even plan to write it 20 minutes ago. But it’s from the heart. Tonight when I had this ‘aha moment’ in bed, admitting to myself and to Aaron that I don’t know how to respond to tragedy and sadness, my husband told me I’d hit the nail on the head simply by admitting my weakness, and my desire to not be numb, to not freeze – to do more. He told me that, in the face of tragedies he has faced, it would have meant so much to him if his friends could have simply told him that they didn’t know what to say, they didn’t know what to do, but they wanted to be there for him.

There’s something about this time of year that lends itself to quietness. To reflection. To gratitude. If the holidays carry with them a sort of drunken, carefree spirit in the air, January follows with the sobriety of a cold shower. When the Christmas tree is down and the lights dim, we realize that it’s how we live these other 300+ days a year, that make those ones in December worth celebrating. And some of those 300+ days are bound to include some bad news. Some hard times. Some conversations we’d rather not have and facts we’d rather not face.

I’m learning that even when we want to freeze, and hide, and convince ourselves we have nothing to offer – we DO and we SHOULD. Our friends need us to care – more importantly they need us to let them know that we care – even if that caring is clumsy and vulnerable and not at all practiced. Let people know you care. They really may never know it if you don’t.

Thankful for WHAT?

Thankful for WHAT?

This month there have been two particularly hot topics burrowing deeper and deeper into my Facebook world – two “lists” that have been making the rounds and into my life day after day.  One is lists of things people are thankful for, in honor of Thanksgiving month.  While most people will share something involving things they are grateful for today (Thanksgiving), many of my friends have been sharing something each day for the whole month of November, stretching the thankful thoughts out a whole 30 days. I think it’s great and have enjoyed reading.

The other “list” that has been circulating is a things-you-don’t-know-about-me list.  This is where someone posts 8 things you probably don’t know about them (like, everyone thinks they’re an extrovert but they really just love being alone – OR – they have a terrible fear of elevators – OR – they recently reunited with their high school sweetheart after 20 years apart).  I also think these are great and have enjoyed reading.

In an effort to be a creative writer and to challenge myself to think a little outside the box for this Thanksgiving post, I have decided to combine these two hot topics into a hybrid Things-You-Don’t-Know-I’m-Thankful-For list. 

I believe a lot of the things that we tend to say we’re thankful for this time of year are the predictable and safe things to talk about – health, family, happiness, safety, food, shelter, security…  Look, these things are huge and good and authentic and we SHOULD be thankful and SAY we’re thankful for all of them.  Of course.  I am thankful for all of those things too – deeply, sincerely, undeservingly thankful.

But – I can’t help but wonder about all those deeper, rougher, messier, more complicated gems of Thanksgiving each of us has within our own story.  The things that aren’t pretty or simple or safe, but that have helped forge us into who we are today.  It is those things that I also want to pay tribute to today.  So bear with me folks.  This is an unconventional, yet necessary list.  I wouldn’t be who I am without it. 

 

1.  When Things Don’t Go My Way

Some of the shiniest silver linings and most beautiful blooms of my life have stemmed from the rocky soil of heartbreak and the bleakness of failure.  In high school, getting cut from the cheerleading squad, while devastating to my all-consuming 15-year-old social life, opened the door for me to spend the summer working at a Christian camp that is a cherished part of my life and family history (I’m riding the horse):

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and gave me distance from some friends who weren’t so good for me after all.  When I was in my early 20s I experienced my first (and only) real romantic heartbreak.  It was like being underwater unable to catch my breath, or like a drug addict going through painful withdrawals each time I looked at my message-free phone or passed a place we used to go.  But that break up ultimately re-focused my course, my self image and my standards, and I am such a different person today because of the road I have taken after emerging from that wreckage.  Thankful. 

 

2.  Therapy

It’s something that still isn’t spoken of or encouraged in many families and social circles.  There is often a stigma or shame attached to the words “therapist,” “shrink,” or “mental health professional.”  And THAT, my friends, is a shame.  These people save lives, save marriages, help save us from ourselves in ways that everyone else in our lives is often too “close” to be able to do. While it started out as a stretch of my comfort zone and something I questioned whether I really ‘needed,’ appointments with my therapist have grown to be some of the most cherished hours on my calendar.  There is something uniquely special about having someone in your life who doesn’t know anyone else in it, and who is there for YOU, to listen only to YOU, and advocate for YOU.  My therapist helps prepare me for the battle that is daily life in a complicated world.  She is my treasured sounding board for all the things I really want to say to real people in my real life, and gives me a place to flesh out those thoughts as I work up the courage to say them out loud.  I am thankful for the team she and I have become, and the important work that we do. 

3.  Atheists

As a person of faith (or one who tries really hard to have faith that some days comes easier than others…), throughout my life I have tended to shudder in sadness at the mere mention of this word: atheist. It has always felt like a personal assault on MY God, a rejection of MY intimate faith, a mockery of MY beliefs.  But you know what?  I am thankful to have people who believe differently than I do in my life.  I think their doubts and their anger and their love and their questions and their honesty make me sharper, more compassionate and less complacent in my own beliefs.  I believe we’re all on some kind of a faith spectrum, let’s call it zero being no faith in God at all, and 10 feeling as rock solid sure as you possibly can in everything you believe to be true.  On a good day, I’m at a 7 or an 8.  But have most us had days, seasons, even years in our lives where we’ve hovered at a 1 or a 2, or even a zero?  I think that at the very least, we need to be comfortable talking about these very real peaks and valleys, beliefs and doubts on this scary, uncertain human journey we all share.  Personally, I choose to believe God loves us no less when we claim we don’t know Him, as when we claim we do.  He loves us in our honesty, in our struggles, and in our faith.  The pieces of other people’s puzzles are not for me to belittle, judge, or solve. Recently, we had Anderson dedicated at our church, because that felt right to us.  This was a symbolic, joyful day for our family, and I appreciated all the love we felt from friends and family, near and far on the faith spectrum. 

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4.  Divorce

Many people don’t know this, but I am Aaron’s second wife.  It feels weird and foreign to even type those words, because I don’t think of myself that way.  Ever.  I only think of myself as his wife.  His one and only wife.  Period.  But, for some reason I have never been uncomfortable talking about the fact that he was married and divorced.  That is his story to tell, but as far as it has impacted our story, I can’t help but feel thankful to live in a country and culture where people aren’t stoned or disowned (or worse…) for making the painful, HARD decision to end a marriage that isn’t right for them.  I would never take divorce lightly, or wish it upon anyone, but I also can’t ignore the fact that some of the best couples I know are part of second marriages for one or both of the people.   I also can’t help but feel that something about the experience of going through a devastating divorce makes many people even MORE loving, MORE faithful, and MORE grateful for their relationships moving forward, and a BETTER husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend because of the brokenness they have known.  I’m only 30, but I can already count at least three friends my age who have been married and divorced – two of the weddings I attended.  I don’t know the details of their stories, but from the glimpses I do have into their current lives, these friends each appear to be healthier, happier, freer and more gentle people in light of what they have been through.  I would imagine divorce can be a very lonely, alienating, confusing and painful place to be – especially for a young person who never saw it coming.  We plaster our Facebook walls with photos of engagements, weddings, and anniversaries, but you almost NEVER see a post or a photo indicating someone got divorced.  Those revelations come slowly and quietly, through an absence of photos, an absence of the mention of that person’s name.  The rest of us awkwardly assume a divorce has occurred after enough of these absences, but most of us prefer to never actually ask the person directly.  I can’t speak for these people, but I would imagine that they would like the freedom to talk about it, the knowledge that they are accepted and supported, and the friendships they have relied on as a married person, to continue beyond divorce.  Maybe that is a gift we can all strive to give our divorced friends.  No judgment, just love.  And a listening ear if they want it. 

5.  Baby Weight

I have always been a thin person, from a thin family.  I really never had any experience with being overweight, feeling overweight, struggling with dieting or exercise or maneuvering the heavy-ness of my body to do simple daily tasks.  Until I gained 50 pounds while pregnant. 

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I still have a good 10+ pounds of extra “padding” almost 9 months post-pregnancy.  One of my fellow young mom friends and I were just talking yesterday about all things post-baby-body.  From the struggle to make the time to work out, to how we feel about ourselves naked, to considerations of plastic surgery that many women face – we talked about it all.  This was just one of many such conversations I’ve had with various women over the past year.  Thankful for women I can “talk about it all” with! 

One thing I really can’t respect is women who cringe at the thought of what pregnancy would do to the mere physical appearance of their body, to the point of deciding against it (though these vain, narrow-minded people probably shouldn’t be mothers anyway IMHO.  Oops, did I just say that?) or DO get pregnant and deny their bodies much needed pregnancy calories and fat intake, valuing their own body image over the health of their baby.  It makes me shudder with disgust, to be honest.  I’m all for feeling good about your body, but not at the expense of your baby.  So I am thankful for my “baby weight” because it is a constant reminder that I am here on this earth serving a purpose so much bigger and more important than myself.  I would, without question or debate, rather live the rest of my life in a black one-piece bathing suit, with a soft belly and a happy, nourished family to show for it, then give back the most amazing, sacred experiences that are pregnancy, childbirth and a baby that is worth any bodily sacrifices 1,000 times over. 

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So on this Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for all the things that everyone else is thankful for, and fully, authentically so.  But I am also thankful for the things on this list that aren’t often talked about, that have woven together the unique, imperfect, sometimes uncomfortable but ultimately genuine fabric of my life. And I like my life, and it wouldn’t be MINE without each of these things.  So for all of it, I am grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving.    

 

“I pray for you, that all your misgivings will be melted to thanksgivings.” – Jim Elliot

 

Sometimes You Just Have to Buy the Cake

Sometimes You Just Have to Buy the Cake

Earlier this month, I paid a visit to my doctor because I was a ball of stress – though I didn’t know it at the time. 

I had been experiencing tightness in my chest and some occasional labored breathing for a few weeks – symptoms I had experienced off and on in the past but always chalked up to some “logical” excuse:

“Oh my bra is just too tight because I’m pregnant.”

 Or

“It’s bad posture – I just need to do those ‘chest wall’ stretches my doctor recommended.”

Or

“Breastfeeding is just taking a toll on my body – it must be what’s literally ‘weighing me down.’”

Nope. 

Several sleepless nights, a few mini panic attacks, some crying in a hospital gown, one chest x-ray and one EKG later, all signs pointed to a classic case of STRESS.  It’s like that feeling when you have a lump in your throat and are trying not to cry, but that “lump” was in my chest.  Both my primary physician and my therapist seemed not at all surprised by this diagnosis –a textbook manifestation of mental and emotional stress through physical symptoms. 

Huh.  This was not what I was expecting.  I mean, I’m thrilled I’m not on the brink of a heart attack and all, but a diagnosis of STRESS??  How on Earth do I treat that??  And how did I get it?  After all, I’ve GOT this motherhood thing down, right??  Not perfect by any means, but sooo much better than my worst fears of chronic sleep deprivation, utter isolation or post-partum depression.  I really, truly thought I had been doing pretty darn swell! 

But as many have now gently reminded me – no matter how good or how hard things may seem – a new baby is a new baby.  A HUGE life change, period.  Even good stress is STRESS.  And even good change, is CHANGE.  And many things have taken a backseat to prioritize being a good mom – my personal relationships, exercise, sleeping and eating as much and as well as I should.  It’s all worth it, right??

Well, it is until it’s not.  It’s not worth it to skimp on sleep and exercise and processing my emotions in a productive way, because more than anything, my child needs a HEALTHY MOM.  Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually HEALTHY.  So for him and for me I am following my doctor’s orders:  running until I break a sweat, continuing to talk through life with my therapist, eating better, sleeping better, and most of all – NOT SWEATING THE SMALL STUFF!  Or trying not to, anyway….

I’m even trying to not sweat the BIG stuff.  Not as much as I usually do, at least.  Compounding the change and the stress of my current “new mom” life, we just almost bought a house, then didn’t buy a house, then found out we need to find another house to buy.  Soon.  Like probably right-around -Christmas soon.  And there’s no inventory!  And it’s a cruel seller’s market!  And we love our neighborhood and don’t want to leave!  The schools are so great here and we can walk to everything!  And! And! And!

Stress. 

Even if it’s positive and life is exciting, stress creeps into the need to constantly fight for the BEST for my life and my family – the BEST house, the BEST school, the BEST homemade cakes for his future birthday parties. 

Going along with the cake example, this recently struck me as the perfect analogy.  Maybe you can’t always have your cake and make it, too.  Maybe I can’t have an immaculate, organized home all the time AND be rested.  Maybe I can’t spend hours on a from-scratch home-cooked dinner every night AND have the energy left to actually ENJOY a conversation with my husband.  Maybe I can’t stay up until midnight watching TV AND have the energy to run the next morning. 

Maybe I CAN have all these things, but more likely, I just can’t. 

As anyone who follows my writing knows, this little health scare came on the heels of my 30th birthday resolutions, which included goals to “Learn to sew and make my kids’ Halloween costumes,” “Make my kids’ birthday cakes” and “Grow a vegetable garden.”

Life is all about choices.  Priorities.  Making the most of the time we have.  For me, right now, I need to train myself to let go of perfectionism and embrace the GOOD.  I want a GOOD home for my family.  I want my son to go to a GOOD school.  I want my family to have GOOD meals.  GOOD seems doable.  I can do GOOD, and still find time to run, smile, and chill the heck out. 

So listen to your inner sanity.  It’s telling you, in its little lumpy, pesky voice, “If you want to live the sweet life, and really have the presence of mind to ENJOY the moments that matter – sometimes – just sometimes – you have to put away the apron and Just. Buy. The. Cake.” 

By the grace of God, I have managed to remain blissfully clueless about Pinterest to this day.   

And for the record, I totally bought Anderson’s Halloween costume this year. 

Falling for Fall

Falling for Fall

Falling for Fall:  Why this Season has become my Kindred Spirit

 

I had my tennis shoes all laced up for a walk, baseball hat covering my unwashed hair, and was about to snag baby from the crib when I heard it.  The “tink….tink tink” of rain against the metal parts of our house.  I’ve been hearing it at night lately, too.  A soothing sound that prompts me to pull the covers around me even tighter and drift into a deeper slumber than I’ve had in months. 

Plan B:  put baby down for a nap and sit down to write.  As the rain gets louder outside, I crack my windows so the forceful sound invades my house, and breathe in the pure, tranquil air that is unique to a fresh downpour. 

Aaaaahhhhh. 

Refreshing.

I’ve been really, really trying to wait until at least September 1st to write about fall.  But I can’t.  I am just too in love with this very specific turning point in the year, and I can FEEL that we’re in it.  Right now.    

It’s that time of year when you realize you are OK letting go of the vacations, beach days, outdoor adventures and warm nights that come with summer.  OK with packing up the shorts and unpacking the sweaters.  OK with fewer dinners from the grill and more from the slow cooker.  More than OK is how I feel.  I LOVE fall. 

Up until about five years ago, I was a summer girl, through and through.  I thought summer would always be my favorite season.  I was happy as a clam to spend endless hours baking in the sun (insert skin cancer warnings here), getting tan as can be (and here), dipping into every lake, ocean and pool within reach (and here).

Growing up, like all American kids, summer symbolized freedom, and fall symbolized the surrender to those three dreaded words:  back to school (also known as back to alarm clocks, back to homework, and back to pasty white skin).  Maybe a big part of my newfound adult adoration of fall, is that none of these changes apply to my post-student self (well, except the skin tone one…but I wear a lot more sunscreen these days to begin with).

While summer tends to embody a carefree spirit, spontaneity, letting loose, and stretching ones boundaries – FALL represents stability, a return to the comforts of routine, a renewed appreciation for home, a cozy hibernation after the long exposure of summer. 

Summer has always been summer and fall has always been fall.  I realize it is I who have changed.  I have become a person more in tune and akin to fall and all that it represents – it has become my kindred spirit.  The older I get, the more I LIKE summer, and LOVE fall.  It has come to be the season that most represents the values I hold dear:  Home.  Family.  Tradition.  Comfort.  Introspection.  Peace.

Plus, it is just so damn hot in my house all the time.

 I am ready to stop sweating over the stove. 

Godspeed, fall, Godspeed. 

The greatest thing in the world is not where we are, but in what direction we are moving.”- Oliver Wendell Holmes

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30 for my Thirties

30 for my Thirties

Feeling grateful to be 30!  Had a great birthday with little A and big A, and scribbled together this list of a few of the things I hope to fill my days with over the NEXT decade…my goal is to have ALL of these outings, accomplishments and quirky experiences (like milking a cow) proudly crossed off my list by the big 4-0….wish me luck!

30 FOR MY THIRTIES…

1.  Write a novel

2.  Buy a house

3.  Grow a vegetable garden

4.  See Zac Brown Band live

5.  Get a short, sophisticated haircut

6.  Volunteer to lead a PEPS group

7.  Give Anderson a sibling

8.  Read 100 new books

9.  Camp on a beach

10.  Ski and stay in a quaint little Colorado ski town

11.  Travel internationally – it’s been too long!!

12.  Learn how to cook with shellfish

13.  Make my kids’ birthday cakes

14.  Learn to sew and make my kids’ Halloween costumes

15.  Get caught up on photo albums

16.  Run a half marathon (extra points for a full one ; )

17.  Do some sort of home improvement task on my own, like tiling a bathroom or a kitchen back splash

18.  Become a published writer again

19.  Family vacation to Yellowstone National Park

20.  Become certified to teach childbirth/parenting prep classes through Swedish – and teach!

21.  See more sunrises

22.  Go to a Seahawks game

23.  Take a road trip spanning at least 5 states

24.  Milk a cow

25.  Adopt a puppy

26.  Have a really, really organized home

27.  Create a piece of art I’m really proud of, to hang in our house

28.  Join a book club again

29.  Be more intentional about visiting out-of-town friends

30.  Love others as I want to be loved, and never be too serious to laugh with my kids.

Farewell, Twenties

Farewell, Twenties

Today is my last day as a twenty-something. 

To celebrate, I am eating Golden Grahams for breakfast as I write this. 

My twenties have been good to me.  From being in college, to setting up a college fund.  From living at home, to buying a home.  From never having had a long serious relationship, to being with Aaron for five and a half years now.  Life has certainly changed and evolved over the last decade, mostly for the better. 

This blog won’t be perfect or polished, as I’m squeezing it in during nap-times, to make sure I get it done today.  I just wanted to write on this day, as a 29-year-old, to mark this time in my life, look back and look ahead. 

Obviously it’s impossible to encapsulate (or even remember) all the major milestones of an entire decade in a short blog entry, but I just wanted to give a shout out to some of the events, experiences and people that have made my 20s memorable. 

Before age 20, I had only traveled to three states:  the West Coast.  Since then I have traveled to close to 25 more and have witnessed so much more of our country’s natural beauty, vivid culture, kind people, and feats of human achievement.  I love to travel and can’t wait to see the rest of the states…heartland here I come!   

Throughout these travels I’ve had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like attending the National Prayer Breakfast in D.C. and the Country Music Association awards in Nashville.  To be surrounded by people of such talent and achievement always inspires me. 

I’ve driven the skinny bridges over the Florida Keys, traveled Southeast Alaska by ferry, ridden a mechanical bull in Vegas, walked along the creeks of my husband’s tiny hometown in Iowa, and laughed until I cried at Book of Mormon on Broadway.  I could go on and on of course, but these are just a few experiences that have shaped me, stuck with me, or in the case of the bull, shamed me.  ; )

I have gotten to write! The beginnings of a novel that’s been in the works for several years now, for local television and magazines, for my University’s paper, and now for this blog.  I have discovered some of my favorite books, like Snow Falling on Cedars and The Secret Life of Bees.  I have re-ignited a passion for reading and writing.

I have learned how to be a business owner alongside Aaron and have witnessed the brilliance and brawn he exerts daily to make our company thrive, and to provide for our family. 

In my twenties I lost an amazing grandmother and gained an incredible son. 

I married my wonderful husband.

I got to walk through each week of pregnancy with my also pregnant best friend.  A journey I will never forget. 

I have had my mind blown by the magnificence of the human body through the wonder of giving birth. 

I have met so many good people, forged new friendships, and allowed those that had run their course to drift away. 

I have gained nieces and nephews, brothers- and sisters-in-law, a mother-in-law and our family dog.  All have made my life fuller and richer, and have taught me a great deal. 

I have celebrated with both of my parents as they retired after decades of work providing for my brothers and me.

I became a runner!  Not a hardcore everyday runner, by any means, but someone who actually makes it all the way around the lake.  Amazing! 

I have seen my friends do amazing things like become doctors and mothers and world travelers and philanthropists. 

I have had seasons of drought and seasons of plenty in my faith.  Both have been important. 

I will close with a passage from The Color Purple, which will be the last book I read in my twenties as I plan to finish the final pages today:

“She say, Celie, tell the truth, have you ever found God in church?  I never did.  I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show.  Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.  And I think all the other folks did too.  They come to church to share God, not find God.” 

I love that passage.  To me, it’s a reminder that God isn’t fancy or formal or formulaic.  God is in us, and seen through us, His greatest creations.  We share bits and pieces and glimpses of Him with one another more than we’ll ever know.

So bring it on, 30!  I am BLESSED to have reached this age and would not dare take it for granted or look this gift horse in the mouth. 

Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. –Author Unknown