Saturday, March 31, 2012

Home Alone

Don't judge.

A few weeks ago I let Calvin stay at home alone for ten minutes. He was burned out from a doctor's appointment in the big city and we still had to go to Nana's house to pick up the Littlers. He started whining that he just wanted to go home, so I tossed out one of my well-played "options".

"You don't want to drive six more minutes to Nana's house? Okay. Do you just want to stay home alone?" Because of course he wouldn't want to stay home alone. He'd be terrified!

So I clearly wasn't expecting him to get all saucer-eyed and smiley at the prospect.

I'll admit it, I had a strange amount of freedom at a pretty young age. The freedoms, they make little sense, in hindsight. For example: I was not allowed to watch Smurfs. I was allowed to walk to a movie theater to see Star Wars with my brother when I was in the 2nd grade. I was not allowed to go to dances in Junior High. I was allowed to fly to Belgium for a month with one adult and three other kids when I was 11.

All of that to say, I have nothing but admiration and a tiny hint of perplexity for the way I was parented. And yes, times have changed, blah blah blah. I try to find the balance. But I really like encouraging independence.

So - I let the boy stay. I knew Cory was on his way home from work. He'd be there in about ten minutes. At the very last moment, I remembered that we don't have a land line and handed Calvin my cell. (I'm practically the poster Mom for safety and responsibility!) I told him, "If you need anything, push this green button and you'll call Daddy."

I swear he looked a little power-drunk as he walked alone through the back door.

Later, after we were all reunited and every small person was counted and logged, Cory told me that Calvin had called him on his way home from work. Just to chat. Cory's signal dropped and Calvin called him right back, but it went straight to voice mail. In Cory's words, "I almost cried listening to his message."

I can't even tell you how many times we've listened since then.

And I get it - you probably aren't interested in hearing a random voice mail from a random kid that you don't know. But last week I stumbled on this post. I had forgotten all about Bolly Bobo. I wouldn't have thought it possible at the time, but were it not for that old post, the memory would be buried under a pile of laundry and dirt and salsa. I was reminded all over again why I really blog. It's to remember.

But seriously? My boy's voice is the cutest thing this side of the Mississippi, so you should probably have a listen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Plan, Stan

After all of these months, after an entire winter and most of a fall, we seem to be making progress toward our future.

There were moments of big doubt, especially when we were told that the abandoned, broken-down homes were going to be torn down in December. Then January. Then definitely, definitely February. Like for reals, February.

Every time I was I was in the vicinity, I'd drive over to the neighborhood, ramping myself up to be surprised by a big, burly crew of demolitioneers. I think I might be an eternal optimist.

As suspected, once things started to move, they picked up all kinds of steam and velocity. A couple of days ago, the blue-prints had to be finalized.

So we hemmed and hawed and stewed. We narrowed it down from 6 options to 2, with Cory preferring Option A and me preferring B.

Then, without warning, I hit a wall. I holed up in our bedroom and sang disco songs and 1990 cereal jingles in a whisper. I stepped it up a notch and spontaneously serenaded myself with "Honestly" by Stryper. You know Stryper. Spandex bumble-bee pants? Heavy liner? A chorus of voices that set all the dogs in the 'hood to howling?

Cory kept hunting me down like a bad cat and I'd duck and dodge and then, when pressed, I would say things like, "Just surprise me."

I was not even playing.

It became clear that I was being less than cooperative. I put my mad interpersonal skills to use and intuited from Cory that this was some kind of a big deal.

It's so weird to be building a new house. I've said it before,  I'll say it again.

It's so weird to be building a new house.

This was never a dream of ours. We are very roll-with-the-punches, "It has character!" kinds of people. We paid real paper money for a house with countertops that hit at my lower hip and a bank of cabinets not tall enough to house a box of cereal.

It's a lot of pressure, to have to make decisions like whether the door should move a foot to the left. I mean, maybe it should move. Maybe we will hate life if it doesn't move. Maybe we'll move it and for the next 800 days wish that we hadn't.

All of it feels very counter-intuitive to what we're setting out to do. This doesn't feel like simplifying, right now. It feels a little like complicating and fussing around.

It also feels kind of fun, especially now that we flipped a coin and gave them our final answer.

In a few months, we'll be living in a house that we had a hand in "building".

It is not our dream house right now, but I have hope that once that sort of thing gets moving, it'll pick up all kinds of steam and velocity. I'm so ready to be home.

*To read more about where we're going and why, go here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

One Side of a Heart - On Adoption

Some time last week, we celebrated Silas's "Gotcha Day". It's the twenty-something of March and that's all I can tell you for sure. Oh, and we didn't really celebrate it at all, only due in part to the fact that I was lying limp and ragged near death's door.

Gotcha Days are a bit elusive around here. For one thing, Ruby's Gotcha Day is also her birth day, and it seems unfair for the boys to get two days to her one. For another thing, we were in the hospital ushering Ruby into the world during Calvin's first Gotcha Day and then Silas's Gotcha Day falls right around Calvin's birthday. Mostly, we're just too busy celebrating regular life with our regular family to specifically honor that one day that they came.

I can hear all of the adoptive Mamas of the world sucking in a collective gasp of air and indignation over my confessed sacrilege of one of Adoption's holiest days. While they're already fainting in the aisles, I'll go ahead and admit that I do not know Ruby's precise birth weight (even though I was there) and we do not regularly celebrate the Korean New Year. Or Kwanza.

I have struggled, over the years, to cut my groove in this adoption thing and the reason is really simple: I don't see myself as an "adoptive mom". I'm just a mom. I'm a big, bad, don't-dare-mess-with-them-or-you'll-answer-to-me Mom. They are all I've known. They made me a mommy. I'm theirs and they're mine. I tell them eight thousand times a week how much I love being their Mommy and how thankful I am that we are a family. But that might be over-simplifying a few things.
Silas's Gotcha Day was hands-down the most traumatic day of my entire life. If I were a method actress and had to shoot a scene where something terribly emotional was happening, I would conjure up that day in March and shut the set down. I would find myself in a tiny room full of plastic toys that sang songs I couldn't place. I go there, and it's hard for me to recover. I see it all again. I can't forget a thing. I hear it all. I feel once more the fingernail drag of bone-deep pain down the front of my soul. So much happened in that little room. So much that I was not prepared for.

With each adoption, I clung to differing shreds of willful ignorance.

With Calvin, the possibility for trauma and attachment issues hung loose and ghost-like on the horizon. When I got to "those" sections of the book, I closed the cover and went to sleep. I didn't want anyone muddying up my rosy future before I'd even seen his face. It seemed too hard and mostly, it seemed like a big waste of time, because he was just a tiny baby.

With Ruby, I read some of the sections, but only because I knew I wouldn't need them, her being our precious, well-adjusted daughter, born of the most beautiful open adoption.

With Silas, I highlighted a few paragraphs here and there, but we'd be fine because he was in a foster home. He was not institutionalized. He had not experienced trauma. He was strongly attached to his caregiver. Plus, in the grand scheme of life, he was still really quite young.

Of course, half of me knew there was always the chance. I knew that Silas's age would make it trickier. I knew it would be a different kind of ball game.

But I did not know our precious son would spend two entire years (and counting) running toward us and away from us at the exact same time.

I did not know that the moment we took him in our arms and ran, trauma would be inflicted.

I did not know we would seek help from three different specialists in the span of a single year.

I did not know that a child, so wiry and beautiful, would so fully deplete my every emotional and physical resource on a daily basis.

There are other things I didn't know.

I didn't know my 7 year old son would cry because he misses his birth mom.

I didn't know my daughter would be on the receiving end of racism clothed in "they mean no harm".

I see a world opening its heart to the millions of orphans who desperately need a family and I feel immense hope. These kids, no matter where they're from or what their background is, need a new last name, a forever one. They need family traditions and trips to Dairy Queen. They need warriors to fight for them and mommies and daddies to kiss and tickle them.

They also need the freedom to feel the hurts no one else can understand. They need the space to never have to choose between the life they didn't get to live and this one right here. They need a free pass from computing that the two could never be mutually exclusive.

With Silas we have had a front-row seat to the heart-busting-up trauma of being taken from all you know. These are children, and children are smart and intuitive. They understand more than they can verbalize, and what's left unsaid leaks out in tears, rage, and banged-up self-worth. I'm thankful to have seen it with my own eyes two years ago, because I might never have believed it otherwise. I might have looked past the fight to hold on to a history. I might have remained naive enough to hope that the two older kids did not suffer the exact same losses.

So we hold their fragile hearts with the tenderest hands. We try to anticipate the emotions that shift the weight from one side to another without warning, but we often get it wrong. We feel the slip of trust through the cracks so we reach out and grab it by the ankles. It's not always practiced or ideal, but we promise to never let them hit the floor.

And maybe that's what adoptive parenting is like. Maybe it's a bit like a field day water balloon toss.

Maybe it's less about memorizing the right answers and more about looking them square in the face during every question, every doubt, every sadness. Maybe it's leaning in to a kind of pain that we do not know and will never understand just so that they aren't there leaning alone.

Maybe it's less about finding the exact right therapist to tell us what to do to fix the problem and more about promising to never tuck the child with the broken heart in at night without a kiss and a hearty sniff to the head.

The books are valuable. They are there to help, and I don't suggest my path of willful ignorance. But at the end of the day, the bright-spot surprise days and the grim ones where it seems like it will never get better, they are ours and we are theirs.

Maybe our days never will get better. Maybe two years really can turn into forever. But that child knows he is fully loved, all the way to the top, in times of sunshine and weeks of drear, and that is the point of adoption.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Wish I Could Say I've Been on a Tropical Vacation

I seem to have lost a bit of time, here. All I know is, it was a beautiful Friday, I was out taking a walking, blissfully drinking Dr. Pepper from a can, scheming about painting my toenails green for Paddy's day, then I blinked my eyes - a slow, groggy kind of blink - and when I opened them it was a beautiful Friday and my toenails were green. And I was very nearly dead.

I've been thinking a lot about my re-entry to the blog world. I never meant to go away, you know. But once one finds oneself "away", it's crucial that one re-enter under optimal conditions. I'm not foolish enough to believe that any one of you cares to hear more about the illness that kept me away.

So, my illness. It was one for the history books, not only for the fact that it was TWO ILLNESSES IN ONE. People, I couldn't make this stuff up.

First, I got the flu. The good, old-fashioned influenza that everyone is always a bit confused by. To clear up the confusion, I'll say this: if you ever have one of the happiest Fridays of your life and it's almost 80 degrees even though it's just mid-March, if you end up going to dinner at Wendy's just for the hay of it then watch your kids play at the park, if you breeze home in your sexy mini van, get the kids to bed and then realize that you are covered with goose bumps, and then your goose bumps get goose bumps, and then your goose bumps' grandbabies get goose bumps and you have no idea what's going on? You might be coming down with the flu.

Just go ahead and order up your casket, because you will need it.

If, three days later, just when your symptoms are starting to subside, you fall prey to the worst stomach virus this side of the Montezuma, you'll know for sure that your luck is worse than the Devil's himself.

Three separate times I called Cory at work crying, "I think I have caaaaaaaaaancer!" I thought for sure that I was dying. And on the off-chance that I wasn't dying, I would think to myself, "Well, this is it, Shannan. You'll be spending the rest of your life in bed and your children will remember with decreasing clarity the days when you walked upright and cooked them food." 

Between the time I got sick and tonight, here are some of the things that have happened:

* Calvin turned 7. I don't want to talk about it. I rallied for a few hours on Saturday just long enough to let a dear friend throw him a proper party.  I wasted all my dinner and breathed germs on the kind souls we tried to bail me out. I stumbled home half-crying. I think I kissed Big Boy goodnight, but I can't promise.
*My mom drove straight through the night after a shift at the nursing home to come and take care of me for a day.

*I developed three bed sores in their earliest stage 1) right ear 2) left ear 3) right hip beneath my under-britches seam.

* I lost 10 pounds. That's what happens when you don't eat anything for almost a week. I'm trying my dangdest to find the lost pounds, but my stomach still isn't himself. Yes, my stomach is a boy. Aren't they all?

*I dreamed that Rush Limbaugh tried to assault me in public, but I thwarted his attempt by grabbing a paper out of his hands and tearing it into tiny pieces while I ran screaming off toward the horizon.

* I found my first gray hair. I don't want to talk about it. I thought it was really, really blond at first. But then it was also wiry, you know, thicker than usual. Incidentally, if I could happen upon an entire head of gray hair, I might not look half-bald. It's a trade-off I'm willing to consider.

* My 7/9 experiment ended. I'm going to keep it real: I planned to push through until Easter, make it a Lenten sort of deal. But then I wore the exact same shirt for 3 days straight and all of the  connecting nights and when the dust finally cleared I was on day 30 and it seemed like a natural stopping point. I needed a little something in my life and that "something" happened to be inky blue, 3/4 sleeved, tiny gold buttons on one shoulder, hip length. (I've worn it two days straight.)

Dear, kind giveway winners? I haven't mailed your books yet. But at least I remember that I haven't sent them, which is more than I could say five days ago.

Bear with me as I sneak back into the atmosphere. I'm on a steady diet of probiotics and Mexican food, so I should be back to 100% in no time.

Thanks for waiting. I know now that our love is real.

Very Truly,

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vintage Spring

Friday was a most fantastical day.

And yes, I do understand that it's now Monday (almost Tuesday, but who's counting) and true, I do say every now and then that I prefer to blog in real-time. But trust me. I have my reasons.

So. Friday. The dew points and the barometric pressures and the meteorological powers that be gifted us with yet another plum perfect day. If I'm not careful, I scare myself into thinking that it's much later in the year than it actually is. Twice this week I've feared that I missed my sister-in-law's birthday (it's in May).

I worked up a sweat on one of our three walks and I freaked out because I need it to stay right here, you know? There looms the possibility that at this pace, we'll be seeing 140 degrees by June.

I know that any and all Joes, regular or otherwise, can appreciate the precious gift of a Summertime day smack-dab at the end of Winter, but little people help. They just do. 

They skip to school and twirl around in their "longish" skirt.

They have artistic license in determining what matches.

They say things like, "Bemember when it used to be summertime and we saw that horse do that one thing?"

They use "besides" as a universal transition word.

Mommy: Careful, don't bonk your head!
They: Besides, one time I had a lady bug in my hair!

They stroll around like any smart three and a half year old would do and they refuse to wear shorts. They opt for fleece pants. In fact, they appear to have developed a crippling fear of shorts over the past six months, but that's not something I care to delve into right at the moment.

Before long, we'll be moving on down the road and we're having more moments of wistfulness over leaving. But we've got the Summer, baby. 

Come to think of it, we've also got the Spring.

And even the tail-end of Winter.

(See what I mean? Confusing.)

 So with my three small charges, I plan to live it up and if Living It Up means we plunk quarters into the pop machines by the now-defunct Dollar General (R.I.P.) five out of seven days, well, so be it. Some happiness can be bought.

Subsequent to all of Friday's general awesomeness, I was bitten by a rogue, rebel-force bug and spent most of the next three days pining with an inexplicable fierceness for a light-blocking sleep mask. You think I'm joking? It was all I could think about. And really, it was all I could think about because my brain wasn't working at its optimal bandwidth. I got out of bed only for the necessities and considered stopping off for a siesta on the way to the necessity-room which is roughly four feet from my bedroom door.

Today, I am faced with the hope that I may yet live to see my 36th year, despite the facts that 1) I have the sinking suspicion that there is a small, rotting carcass stuck in my stomach and 2) everything I eat tastes like rotten mint chip ice cream.

Hey, you asked.

I haven't opened my laptop since Friday. I couldn't summon the energy to read a book until this afternoon, and even then, it was touch-and-go. So fill me in. What kind of excitement and tomfoolery did I miss? Got any good celeb gossip for me? Please tell me Tim and Faith are still together. And Kelli and Mark. Did you eat anything especially delicious over the weekend? See any good flicks?

Dear flu shot,

Fine. You win.
See ya on the flip-side.


Friday, March 16, 2012

A Wish for the Weekend

We're only half-way through Friday and I feel like it's been the weekend for four days running, baby.

This sun is a wonder.

"This corn is an angel." (Name that movie.)

I'm here in my jeans and my red henley. Have mercy, do I ever want one more t-shirt and a skirt. STATE kind of stinks in that way that isn't really cured with a washing. I'm sorry for saying that your climate was more hospitable, Jen Hatmaker.

I keep thinking about that danged yellow gingham shirt with my turquoise cable knit v-neck vest. You understand.

The other pre-school moms look increasingly puzzled when they see me.

I bought a sweater for $4 a couple of months back that can only safely be worn when it's in the low 70s, which happens to be right now. It begs the question: Is it the best choice to buy a sweater (no matter how cheap) that can only be worn on a handful of days each year?

These are the kinds of things you'll find yourself thinking when you dive on in and wear the same thing every day for a month. For all of you saying, "I already do that!", well, prove it.

(I'm thinking more about the "7" food thing, too. Just fair warning.)

For now, I think I might take a shower. Is it weird that I shower in the middle of the day? I think so, too. But it's call "Silas". It's called, "he wakes before dawn, these days". It's called, "I begrudge the morning, so sue me." I shower when he naps. Then I don't want to use the blow dryer because it's too loud. Then I march around for the rest of the day with a head of the most regrettable hair.

You know what's funny? I came here with the intention of posting just the picture. Maybe a pithy line or two. I was going all bare-bones minimalist. I was going to shock your britches off.

And here we are, a few hundred senseless words later.

I truly don't know why you keep me around.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Gift of an Extraordinary Day

Mr. Weatherman says that it should have been in the low fifties today. Instead, we saw seventy. So I understand, every ordinary day is a gift. But today I'm here to tell you: So are the extraordinary ones.

On an extraordinary day, you'll fix the limbs of a naked tree against a blue satin sky and notice knots of red gearing up for a show. Suddenly, it doesn't matter if the pipes keep clogging or the beige makes you crazy. Spring is coming, Girls, and she makes things better.

We laced our shoes and tied Charles to Silas's back. We took some detours and walked on low stone walls. Around the bend, we found a Pussy Willow tree. It's been too long since I ran my thumb across one of those buds, all bundled up in their little fur jackets, the brave trumpeters at the gate announcing her arrival. My mom used to clip branches for me so I could wrap them in soggy paper towels and take them to my teacher. I could almost feel the bungle in my fist and there I was again, 35 and 9 at the very same time.

The kids skipped and ran, fresh air on forearms and cheeks, a prelude of everything that comes next. We were all thinking the same thing - Summer's coming! But we didn't dare say it out loud. Because for one thing, it could still snow. And for another? I didn't want to hurt Spring's feelings before she even officially landed. There's nothing worse than being relegated to opening act, especially when you're so dang good at putting on a show.

I've spent the last three months wondering where I went and if I'd ever crawl back out. Can it be as easy as a sunbeam and a breeze? I tell myself that I'm not that kind of girl, the kind that requires coddling, the kind whose joy is situational or seasonal.

But today I felt that ease. I wish I could tell you that I found it back in January, but that just isn't true. It must have been suffocating under all the layers, hiding out in the dark.

We ate both meals outside today.

We painted a birthday card for Daddy on the driveway.

Later, I overheard an argument through a blissfully open window.

Ruby: You're MEAN!
Calvin: No, you're mean.
Ruby: Besides, you're meaner!
Calvin: Well, you're the meanest girl in the Universe!
Ruby: No, you are!
Calvin: Well, I'm a fox and you're a plump chicken.

(I had no choice but to intervene at this point.)

Me: Well if Ruby's a plump chicken and you're a fox, I guess you really are the mean one.
Ruby: Yeah!
Calvin: {silence}

It reminded me of the classic time when Calvin was three and far too verbal for his own good. He was really, really upset at me. I don't remember why, but history would say that it had something to do with not being able to wear one of his sports jerseys. It would have gone something like this:

Me: Calvin, I said no.
Calvin: But Mommmmmyyyyy!
Me: Enough. I don't want to hear any more about it.
Calvin: (crying a little) Well, I'm from South Korea and you're from...from...NORTH KOREA!

Homeboy cuts to the bone.

For dinner, we high-tailed it to the park where we ate our picnic and then spent 30 minutes coaxing Silas to do his urgent business in the campground "bathroom". (Silas remains almost undefeated, FYI.)

We gave Daddy the gifts we lovingly chose for him: A pencil holder for his desk, a four-pack of highlighters, a match box car and a pack of baseball cards.

We hit up DQ on the way home. Calvin read snippets from his Lego Encyclopedia and Ruby shared her Arctic Blast with her brother without a second thought. Silas doled out his most affectionate words, "I tickle yewwwww!"

Straight up. I've never done a single thing to deserve this kind of happiness.

Dear gingham shirt and favorite jeans,

I wanted you so bad today that I got the shakes.
I had to leave the closet door shut. I didn't trusty myself.
But at least I had STATE.

See ya in two weeks.

I'm too scared to check the forecast for tomorrow, but I'm hoping that today has some sort of a time-release effect. I can already feel the ice dripping off of my cold, cold heart.

I'm back.

And no, that's not a warning.

And yes, that is indeed a threat.

And absolutely, I will be making a batch of salsa this week and eating it all within two days.

And thank you in advance for agreeing that switching from my wool bag to my Spring bag was not even optional today and that a purse isn't really an item of clothing anyway.

More yours than ever,

Tilt Your Face to the Sun

The scrawny-legged Freshmen class of the flower garden has arrived with slumped shoulders and braces and man, are these girls beautiful. They don't know it yet, just the way you didn't know and I didn't know. They're whisper thin, they bend with the breeze. They know enough to hope that they'll bloom into something more, but they're not putting a deposit on a slinky prom dress quite yet. They're sick to death of hearing the flat-chest jokes from the snotty hostas, all round and hippy. But everyone knows, hostas were made for the shade. They'll live and die without anyone feeling particularly inspired or wowed by them. They're filler. But don't tell them I said that or they'll key my car.

Life swells into color as I lean into that decadent, glowy, frog-song summertime lullaby, and I'm already taking stock. I'm caught up between daydreaming about stretched-out, sticky weeks on this patch of earth - you couldn't make me leave if you tried - and frantically cleaning it within an inch of its life so that someone else might fall asleep under the delicious heaviness of air that blows through open windows rather than duct-work.

I try to picture last summer, and the best I can do is a 1980's film-strip version - the kind my 4th grade teacher wheeled in on special cart, on loan from the oppressively low-ceilinged library. The images were grainy, the far-off voices didn't quite track and there was always the occasional blank.

I look back and see sun and rain, dirt and grass. I can see it, but I'm not sure I was actually there. I can't smell the roses, or even the hot dogs.

Tonight I read something my friend Nici wrote, and all I could do was nod my head. My world last summer spanned only as far as the length of my arms. True, my arms are ridiculously long, but they are not long enough to hold the gift of three hazy months, lined up like onion shoots. To do that, to fully hold the gift of summer, it takes more than hands and arms. It takes clarity and steady breath. It takes eyes able to see up past the clouds. It takes a heart with room to store up the sunsets.

My summer was spent within arm's reach - all the time, every minute - of my youngest. This boy who now sings me out of frustration and hugs me into hope has taught me the better part of the Encyclopedia Brittanica of Adapting, along with the Unabridged Webster's Dictionary of Patience.

He has struggled to resist our love. He's lashed out at everything new - everything us. He's waited for us to get with the program. He's waited for his heart to push all of its furniture into the very middle, freeing up all the rest for love that he never knew he needed.

His tears and mine have collected in a bottle and I think we're both surprised to see that what we hold in our hands is the recipe for forever. I never knew forever called for a bottle of tears. I never knew I could learn so much from watching a baby cry.

This summer, I'll reach down, over and over and over again, and hoist him up. My hands have memorized the dimensions of his ribcage. My arms wonder what they ever did without his weight.

But in between my carting him around, he'll run.

He'll play wild and shirtless with sweat tracking down his temples. He'll pet the kitties and do his best to keep up with his brother and sister.

He knows for sure, this time around, that he is fully loved.

Wheel that rickety film-strip out of here, Mrs. Artz.

We're ready to live this one.

Monday, March 12, 2012

General Happiness

Every other day I read a post alternately extolling the virtues of /condemning Pinterest.

"It opens up a whole new world of inspiration!"

"It makes me hate my regular life."


We could put an end to the tired debate if we'd all just come together and spend a little time with Jeremy.

Pinterest brought me this, and for that I will be forever grateful. I cannot tell you how many times homeboy has carried me through a dark hour. You cannot look at him and be in a bad mood. I've tried. I do not know the origins of this photo, and I don't want to know. I want the story to continue to live and thrive within the confines of my own personal noggin. Because in my version, his name is Jeremy, he dabbles prematurely in fantasy novellas and he is not even playing about his unicorn bike.

At some point, Pinterest also reminded me of my beloved Kissing Koolers. I need you back in my life, Cherry Cola Kissing Koolers. I had almost every flavor, but we all know you were #1.

This also feels like the right moment to come clean: I miss my skinny jeans. There. I said it.

                                                               via hey jen renee

I pinned this twice, if that tells you anything about my affinity for note writing. It was all about the fold, people. You don't need me to tell you that. And might I add that LOL means "Lots of Love" in the original Greek?


Oh, help me. This makes me laugh so hard. I can't explain it. No really, I can't explain it. I tried once, to my mom. She stared back at me with a blank look. And she's a cat person. I gave up and found the actual photo for her and she eeked out a small laugh, so apparently the appeal is not genetic.

What does it say about me that I find this endlessly hilarious?

 via I have no idea. I tried, but the flickr account no longer exists

In a perfect universe, the nations of handicrafts and rap music would collide every single day.

(I have a latent "thing" for rap music, but we can talk about that another time.)

One of my more recent finds.
So wrong that it really is right.

And I've searched high and low but can't re-trace my steps to this gem: 
Beer before liquor, never sicker. Toothpaste before orange juice, dead. 

I can't speak to the first part, but the second part filled a hole in my soul that I had never even acknowledged. It's what we call a deep, universal truth. I feel more whole as a person, more fully FPFG, after having that put into words for me. I need to repent for not re-pinning that kind of genius. I should know better by now.

I could go on and on, but the jury is already back with a verdict and they didn't even take a lunch break: Pinterest makes life better.

But just in case you still don't believe me, I'd like to turn it over to my soul sister, Miss Lasagna Soup of the Divine Order of Suppertime.

We rest our case.

Spill your guts: What's the best thing you've found on Pinterest? 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Believing vs. Doing vs. Being (and Ohio)

We're fresh off a much-needed trip to Ohio. It was fast, but we managed to cram in a whole lotta nothing. We decided on our way down that we weren't going to go anywhere or do anything while we were there.

But then I remembered we were only 15 minutes from La Fiesta and our plans swiftly accommodated my urge. La Fiesta was a hot-bed of happy reunions and so it goes... there's just something about going home.

We breathe a little easier there. I'm not naive - I understand the vacation factor. We're unplugged and the only distractions are the junk-food cabinets (yes, there are 2). There are lots of extra hands and I sleep like I'm 15 again.

Photo courtesy of Calvin. FYI - this is my favorite picture of my Dad ever in the history of the world.

The kids lounge around in pajamas then hike up their work pants and head out with Papaw. No one wants to leave.

The ride home started quiet. We were tired and pensive, well aware that a shift is looming.

We're half-way through rentaldom and hoping for some answers about What Happens Next later this week. So what does happen next? I don't know. I have ideas. I have big hopes. I have uncertainties and sometimes, I have a furrowed heart.

Is this what it means to be called? You tell me.

I hear a lot of talk about what Christians should be doing, what we shouldn't be doing. I hear people telling themselves that it's not about "doing" at all - it's just about believing.

I think it starts with believing and ends with believing. But there's more, in the middle. I think that sometimes, someone's believing starts with someone else's doing. I think faith without works really is dead. We can't untwist the double helix.

For such a long time I thought it was all about being - being good, being nice, being responsible, being high in attendance and low in Rock n' Roll.

And all this time, all I had to be was in Him.

So shut down that voice of judgment and rest a while. Find yourself there, in Him, where all He wants is all of you.

But be ready, because His heart is contagious.

This next week is full of so many good things. We'll be busy. We'll feel the sun on our cheeks. Maybe answers will find us or maybe our faith will be stretched another notch or two.

It doesn't really matter, because I have all I need.

He gives us these days of rest so perfect that our hearts feel a pinch of that happy ache. He gives us strength for what comes next and trust that whatever it is, it will be right and He will be there. His gifts include a sliver of the very same heartbreak He feels for the young child who was harmed or the innocent families who bury their young half a world away.

This world is hurting and He's the fix. He draws us into His redemption in spite of our own brokenness and compels us to hunt down chipped hearts and cracked souls. We know them because we are them.

We don't get things right and He still saves a place for us, still calls us valuable, still finds us charming and funny and endearing and quirky.

That is the grace that saved me. It may have taken thirty years, but I'm thankful tonight that it finally made its way out of my head and into my heart and my gangly limbs. Because until I started to really understand my place at His table, I was burning up the road without even moving. I was exhausted and failing, feeling useless to Him in my messy state of affairs. Right when I'd heard enough of the hollow drone of faith that was really just religion, light spilled in through the very cracks I'd been trying to repair.

Photo courtesy of Calvin. And hey! I cut my hair.

Maybe you never get it right. Maybe you've written yourself out of His schemes because you're too shy, too busy, too tired, too weird. I'm right there with you, and I'm suggesting something different than giving up. I'm saying we decide to lean on in, with our banged up ideas and the questions we would never ask out loud, trusting that He'll carry us to where He wants us.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

7/9 Redux and some Winners

We had recently put our house on the market back when these pictures were taken by our famous photographer. We were still in that anxious/exciting phase where you know that there's something on the horizon, but you can't quite see it. We were barefly tasting the exhilaration of flinging ourselves into an unknown future. It was all brand new. I like new things.

Now, 18 months later, we're living in our carpeted paradise, we have no idea where we're going from here or when and I wear four-day jeans and a red henley on a date to Carrabas.

I miss that day, that one up there at the top. It had its charms and it just felt a little easier, a lot less queasier. And yet, we know that this is right. This.

Here's the honest to goodness truth:  When I say that I like having you on this journey with me, what I mean is, "I need you on this journey with me like the salsa needs its chip." It's difficult to explain the ways we have felt isolated through the past months. So when we find people who think a little or a lot like we do, we have to resist the urge to dig our fingernails into them, haul them into the BDR and lock them in the closet. We want to keep them. They make us feel less redonkulous. More normal. Less alone.

You are those people to me. We "get" each other. And sometimes? We don't. But we give the benefit of the doubt. We keep learning together. We celebrate our differences.

We're homies. We just are.

I can't even tell you how your comments crack my business straight up and encourage me. I'm forever leaving your comments in my inbox because I have big pie-in-my-mouth dreams that I'll conjure the time out of thin air to personally respond to all of you. Then I realize that I have 200 emails in my box and I remember what my life is like right now and I know it's not going to happen, so here, right now, feel my love. Do you feel it? Try harder. Now? Do you feel it now??

One of my favorite comments on the giveaway post was this one: "I struggle with excess. I blame it on His extravagant love for me. And then I look around at all this clutter and know...this can't be's really just me." - Abby

Abby Girl, when did you climb into my noggin?

As for me, I'm still loving, neigh, adoring my pared down wardrobe. I mean it, people. When Jen Hatmaker said in her book that she enjoyed wearing the same thing every day I didn't believe her. I got the vapors just thinking about it, which is precisely when I knew that I had to try it.

I thought I'd be all miserable and cheaty but I'm not, which makes me wonder if I have been taken captive by the machine that hooks us in the gills with BOGO and sinks us with snarky commentary on the foolish celeb who dared to wear the same thing twice. We have been hard-wired to believe that we need different stuff, newer stuff. I can't tell you how many times I've justified a new purchase not because the old item is worn out or no longer fits, but simply because it's old, and by "old", I may mean 3 or 4 years.

This wardrobe fast has allowed me to shove the judgments of others off the table, and I'm starting to see that those (silent) voices play a large part in my compulsion to keep mixing it up, adding to the pot. It doesn't feel acceptable to publicly wear the same thing every day. People will talk. They'll think I've lost my mojo. They might think I'm depressed. Or worse, unimaginative.

Please understand that I will go back to wild layering and I'll probably even live to shop again. I'm not saying for a minute that picking out a fun outfit is bad. I'm simply saying that there's something to be learned through a forced departure from the norm. Just try it, ya'lls.

Several of you have mentioned (and I had the same thought on my own) that it would be hard to do 7 or 9 items of clothing for a month when you work outside the home. I get it. Totally, absolutely.

The good news is, this was never meant to be a formula. Jen did 7. I'm doing 9 (plus coat, shoes, and my striped pj pants.) There are no hard and fast rules. This is a framework. A starting point. Get creative. Pray about it. Find your own way to intentionally sacrifice or simplify in the area of your wardrobe. Your way doesn't have to look like mine or hers or his.

Now. We have winners. A dearly beloved reader personally bought and shipped to me 2 additional copies of 7 for the giveaway. We've got threebies, Party People!!!

1. Kim - White Whispers 2U
2. Victoria - As Time Goes By
3. Melissa in PA

Email me your addresses, ladies, and I'll get your books out to you.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I've Got 99 Problems and This is One

Sweet heavenly hosts, do I ever have a problem with buying other people's junk.

I scooped up this little beauty at a serendipitous estate sale last week. It was serendipitous for a few reasons. 1) My town never has estate sales. 2) I happened upon it during a kidless moment.

Okay, so only two serendipities.

The bracelet set me back $4 and I'm not gonna lie, I wore that baby around the house for an hour or two, even though it's against my rule to wear any adornments (save the cuff) this month. I just love the quirk, that's all. It reminds me of me. And you.

I also came home with a watercolor of a local haunt. Score! 
(This was my big ticket item at $8)

See? It really is a real place!
(Photo courtesy of Meadowbrook Farm Photog)

This spoke to my soul for $0.25. 
I brought his homlier siblings home, too, but mostly just out of sympathy.

Then there's the fabric. I have a big, bad problem when it comes to fabric. The problem is further compounded by the fact that I don't sew. Not even one single stitch. Tell me I'm wrong to buy 3 different kinds of gingham. I dare you. Tell me I shouldn't have scooped up that red and white vintage, button-up VEST. Mmm Hmm.

In the end, I walked out $16 lighter.

I think I've made my point, but just in case...

Yesterday I finally made a stop to our local auction barn. I've wanted to go for ages but never had and I see that now as a real travesty. There was a vintage orange Pyrex bowl that I had my eye on, along with a yellow ceramic deer planter, but in the end, my better judgment and my time constraints collided.

 I call this one, "Oh no they di'int." 

I don't know what was going down, but it was clearly bad news.

But the fabric! 
It's really not even fair to call this fabric.

These are textiles, people. 

 With old, vintagey, yellowed labels.
 I see this stitched into a big, bulky shoulder bag. 
A true carpet bag, if you will.

Or, you know, a footstool. 
Because we could all use an upholstered foot stool.

So yes, I hear you. I feel you. I fill you.

We are many in number. We have trouble ignoring the siren call of thrift.

Here's the deal ~ I'm not saying that this is bad. I'm simply saying that for me, it has become more important to be intentional about what I bring home (with the notable exception of the fabric hoarding, for which there is no excuse or exemption.)

I love the idea of a home that is collected and inviting and inexpensive. But at the end of the day, if you already have two perfectly functional bowls that are the exact size as the really cute orange one?

Walk away, sister. Walk the stink away.

In related news, I've decided to extend the giveaway for one more day, since a fantabulous reader has offered to throw a few more copies into the kitty. I need to confirm the exact number before I draw names.

I'm loving being a part of this discussion with all'ayoun's. This is fresh territory. I've been taking notes. I have plenty more to say about it all and I hope you do, too.

What I believe to my core is that intentional simplifying can change us, draw us closer to the heart of Christ. That's the point.

Thanks for walking with me, homies.