Monday, July 30, 2012

The Certain Gift of a Pink House

This life of mine has doled out its fair share of heart-scratchers lately. It wears me down with scary regularity.

I keep crying Uncle, you know? And sometimes, when I cry it loud enough, I'm given a reprieve.

Last weekend was Reprieve. Capital R. So indulge me, and I'll tell you all about it.

First, Friday. Back at Christmas we were given a gift certificate to a fancy-pants tapas-style restaurant. If it tells you anything, the gift certificate was in the amount of one hundred dollars. I know, right? (Cory hates it when people say that. Hi, Honey!)

So I curled my hair and spackled my lips and off we went, though not after making stops at both Ace Hardware and Lowes, because we still have a house to build, people.

Here's what we ordered:
Pomegranate Martini (moi)
House cocktail (rum and fresh lime) (cory)
Heirloom tomato bruschetta
Guacamole with fried wonton chips
Corn and clam chowder (for Cory)
Pan-fried, pepper-crusted sirloin with shitaake mushroom sauce
Fancy French fries in a fancy paper cone with fancy paprika dipping sauce
Sauteed local sweet corn
Three berry Napoleon with lemon curd

Our bill came to $92 buckaroos. Can you even imagine? But holy cow, the food. It made my chicken taco look like it straight-up rolled out of the corner Speedway.

I spent most of the meal yammering about all kinds of ridiculosity and people-watching, though I had to squint a little because it was so fancy-dim. I wondered, who takes kids to a place like that on a random Friday? What is it like to live that life? 

I'm not gonna lie, I felt kind of blingy and luxurious. It was fun to be extravagant (on someone else's dime.)

But you know what was even more fun? Coming home, tucking kids into bed, yanking off any/all constricting garments, donning my ugliest socks, and hunkering down for some Netflix with my feet pressed up against Cory.

That right there is the best of everything. It's my go-to, slow-down, find-some-center routine and it's more delicious than local corn or shitaake anything.

Saturday we drove up to South Haven and spent the night in a rental house with Cory's brother and his wife. I knew it was a good sign when we drove up and the house was pink.

So, we did what you do. We hit the beach, slow-poked around, stayed up way too late watching TV on the screened-in porch with salsa bowls in our laps. We puttered and ate greasy burgers and ice cream cones. We shopped just a little. Talked an awful lot. Grilled steaks. Read our books.

It was perfection. All of it.

Over and over I thought, this weekend was just what I needed.

We drove home last night all sandy and pink, exhaustion wrapped around us like a hug.

Five minutes after walking through the door, Silas chucked all over the carpet. And then again in the bathroom sink. (You read that right. shudder) We got him tucked in just in time for the waterworks to begin across the hall, in suite 2. Both Biggers were in hysterics over topics ranging from, "But I miiiiiisssss the big waaaaaaaaves!" to "What will happen to me if both of you die?"

Silas ended up in bed with us and kicked me in the ribs all the live-long night.

Then we woke up today only to discover that every last one of us was grumpy and gripey, so we called some friends and met up at the walking path to blow off some steam.

Sitting there in the gazebo with my friend, things felt better again. Life is about every single moment, all of them, twisted together in a knot. You can't decide that you're only taking the fair or gilded strands. The thought was so tangible, there in the shade. This is real life, and all of it's beautiful. Every part gives meaning and perspective to the next. Just when I was ready to jump up and pluck that invisible string, really make it sing, we heard some distant screaming.

It sounded so wild and uncivilized that I chalked it up to one of those uninhibited, joyful kid screams. Only it kept getting louder and it got even crazier and then we realized that the kids weren't running toward us in crazy-summer-fun mode, they were all-out nutso-terrified-tormented screaming.

We ran to them and all the while I'm scanning every visible inch of all five little bodies, looking for a missing hand or excessive blood - any blood - because that's just how hysterical they were, and by "they", I mostly mean my kids and by "my kids", I mostly mean Ruby. I've never seen anything like it. It was traumatic.

Turns out they had been attacked by a swarm of angry bees. Like that scene in Tom and Jerry. The bees were still chasing them hundreds of yards from where they first met. Calvin was stung once on the ear but was screaming exponentially louder than his buddy, who had been stung about fifteen times, or Silas, who had a rogue bee still trapped inside his shirt.

It was revealed hours later that even poor Charles had suffered multiple stings.

We got them all de-stingered, Benadryled and showered. I thanked Jesus over and over that none of the kids are allergic. I put all of my people in jammies and made them Pizzadillas for lunch. Sarah dropped by with surprise dessert in the middle of a Monday.

This. Real life. Good. Bad. Beautiful.

The afternoon was slow and steady, all of us reveling in the quiet truth that we had good reason to mope around a little. I made Zucchini cupcakes and Spanish rice for Bible Study.

Of course, the Spanish rice was still a crunchy, soupy mess when it was time to go, so I showed up with just dessert and now I have ten servings of Spanish rice to plow through over the next several days. Of course.

All of this is the gift I've been given. And the orange-glazed cake could never be bad, but it sure as heck wouldn't have been as good had it not come on the heels of a hundred ticked-off bees.

Friday, July 27, 2012

{Easy} Dinner and a Book

Today started with thunderstorms, detoured through some sky-high baby mama drama and topped off with a valiant skirt-sewing effort.

I also made raspberry Jigglers and left all the van windows down during a torrential downpour.

Mama said there'd be days like this.

Here's something I've learned: When life takes a turn for the crazy? Chop some veggies. I promise, it helps. Whack up a cuke. Hack a sweet pepper.(Though for the love of all humanity, do so as symmetrically as possible.)

 Dice a zucchini into the neatest triangles and try to tell me that you don't feel a little more in command of your faculties and your overall life.

This meal has revolutionized dinnertime around here. I will eat this every single day and twice on Friday. I'm not even playing.

While we're on topic, I'd like to state something for the record:

A perfect world = Mexican food four times a week. Thai twice. Italian once.

Thank you, and God Bless.

I just can't quit beans and rice. It's nothing short of criminal that some meals on the Dinner Specials menu make you choose one or the other.

I don't sleep well when there isn't salsa in the fridge. I have a real problem here, as you can see.

But back to the matter at hand.

Granted, nothing about the above-displayed meal is "authentic". But it certainly carries its own weight in the home-cooked Mexicanish Cuisine genre and it does so with panache. For one thing, it's gorgeous in every way. For another thing? So cheap.  One more? So (pretty much) healthy. 

It's also easier than Kraft Mac and Cheese, though at this point we're really just bragging.

Throw 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into a slow cooker. Add one can (undrained) of diced tomatoes with chilies. Toss in a couple Tablespoons of taco seasoning. Cook on low for around 4 hours. Shred that meat.

Pile a tortilla with shredded chicken and anything else that turns your crank. I added brown rice, black beans, avocado, sour cream and fresh corn and zucchini salad.

They call it a salad. I call it one of the best solutions for late-summer zucchini overload.

When the table is cleared and you've licked the peach cobbler off your plate (yes, yes, peach cobbler for dessert); after the kids are all cock-eyed on their beds, buried in that partial-paralysis sort of sleep that only happens in the thick of summer, grab yourself a book. You've earned it.

My friend Heidi Kreider's debut novel The Secret of Counting Gifts recently hit the shelves and I'm so anxious to read it. The cover art alone? Totally swoon-worthy.

The e-book is being sold through Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords for just $0.99!

You can also buy it in paperback here.

And for all you Northern/Central Indiana peeps, Heidi will be signing copies Tuesday, July 31st from 11am-1pm at the Crazy Day Gourmet (3510 Commerce Dr., Warsaw IN). Books and companion journals will be offered at a discount price and they'll be serving Snickerdoodle cupcakes.

So there. I just planned a whole evening for you and scored you a snickerdoodle cupcake in the middle of the afternoon. Never doubt my love for you.

You can repay the favor by giving me a great book recommendation of your own. Or a dinner idea. Or both.

One, two, three, GO!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

One Way to Prove a Child's Bravery

Let me preface this post by stating that my kids and I have spent the bulk of our summer driving to doctor's appointments, with a little bit of swimming mixed in.

We have not been to the zoo, the beach, or the movies. There's been no mini-golfing. We haven't even gone to the really fun park.

I'm off my game, okay? It's this funky carpet house. Last Thursday Silas spilled yogurt on the kitchen carpet at breakfast, Calvin spilled milk on it at lunch. We fled town limits on Friday.

It's cluttery here, and very, very weird. There are boxes to be packed, along with boxes that were never unpacked. It makes for an odd scenario, and one that I'm eager to avoid.

So I'm no Mom-of-the-Summer here. We didn't bother making a Summer Fun list because I can't even find the popsicle molds. We all share one beach towel at the pool. I make the kids tear their ice pops open with their teeth.

(That last one is a lie, but I'm just one tiny step away, people.)

There is one thing I've wanted to do with the big kids, and it finally happened. We loaded up our artist friends Jess and Nora and hightailed it to DeFries Garden in New Paris.

Jess supplied real, live easels. What could possibly be more enticing?

The kids set to work.

The pond drew them all in, which pained me a bit, in light of all the flowers. I tried to "nudge" them toward the lush, layered, riotously colored flower gardens.

I totally peer pressured my kids to make a certain kind of art.

What? That's bad?

Don't worry, it didn't work.


They moved around a little, pinning down the angles and the light.

 And before long, vision took form.
You might say that bravery finds a child on a playground or a football field. Maybe even in that first teetery walk across a lunchroom, tray in hand.

I'm saying bravery finds her in a muddy palette of RoseArt paints. They gather up the guts to do it imperfectly. They risk being different or wrong. They dare to make permanent record of the collision of nature/mind/soul.

There, they learn that beauty is free for the taking. It's open to interpretation. It's alright to play favorites. There's room for every bit of them, whatever that means on a given day.

There, they see that art needs them to exist. The shimmering jacket of a dragonfly fades into water and sky without a little girl there watching it catch the light.

A pair of waterlilies stands straighter for their portrait, plucked from a sea of look-alikes.

They render an image and it all comes alive. 

It's art in itself, sitting back on a shaded, low stone wall to notice the wild, precise way that a child notices.

Next time, I'm bringing my brush.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tossing and Turning

I'm officially home from the Haltermaker weekend, by way of a one-day stop in Ohio and sloppy joes at church camp.

I'm just gonna put this out there: For all the smack I got about "stalking" Jen Hatmaker, Ryan and Jon made short work of stalking the living heck out of Brandon. I am vindicated.

(Call me, Jen!)

Tonight I'm in one of those not-so-rare forms where I feel myself turning inside-out. And not just because the van's AC went out 30 minutes into our drive home and I was stuck with 3 kids, one teddy bear and eighteen Beanie Babies in 97 degree heat for four hours.

(I rolled all of the windows up and said, "We have to put all the windows down. There will be no radio and I will not be able to hear a word you're saying to me. It's the only way we'll survive." Cue windows down, at which point I had to stuff my left ear with balled-up tissue in an effort to thwart certain eardrum rupture due to an over-abundance of wind.)

Most of my inside-outness is connected to my weekend. There was so much goodness. So many thoughts provoked. So many heart piercings.

I was reminded again of how lucky I am to be on this strange path. I'm lucky to have a handful of people on it with me. I'm lucky to have Cory, who will spend the better part of a 3 hour drive brainstorming impossibilities with me.

Here are two of my favorite quotes from the weekend:

"A call to love the orphan is a call to suffer with the orphan." - Brandon Hatmaker on adoption (Y''all, I totally busted into immediate ugly cry when he said this. Suffering seems easier when you know that you're not alone and when you're reminded it serves a purpose.)

"Evangelism is less about going at someone and more about backing up so they can come to you."
- Hugh Halter on not being a jerk-face Christian

(If you're want to hear some gut-level truth from Mr. Hatmaker, (a phenomenal speaker, so full of grace and humility) go here and cue it up to about 24:40)

I walked away just a little more changed. I'm not there yet, I won't ever be. I'm still that piece of sea glass that Jesus keeps tossing back in, allowing life to tumble me up a bit more.

My sharp edges are many and sometimes I feel like I might drown.

But this trip we're on feels like a firecracker. Turns out I've always wanted a firecracker life.

(This? No words.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Couple Things

It's gonna be a long night, people. I've made a discovery: I require copious amounts of silence or near silence each day in order to function on three out of four cylinders. {Editor's note: Are there 4 cylinders? Too lazy to Google.} This is the only explanation for why I've been staying up until 12:30 or 1:00 almost every night. It's all quite twisted, really. I'm so exhausted that I have no choice but to stay up late and decompress.

It's been a difficult summer, okay? Sleep just doesn't seem to get it done like words on pages and reality TV and, well, you do. (yawn)

Although I gave up Staying Up Late for Lent and felt like a brand new Farmgirl. 10:30 was the new midnight, baby. It felt oddly...restful.

But whatever, because I also fell behind in sanity a little, so it was a bit of a mixed bag.

Thank you for listening, and God Bless!

Okay, no. Not done. Let's shake this down numeric-style.

1) Yesterday Cory took the van in for a new tire. Then he found out that he needed a second new tire. Then he needed some kind of bolt things replaced. Then he needed new brakes. Then he handed over his other arm and one leg and drove home, only to discover that a third tire had fallen ill in transit. I'm so for real.

It reminds me of the time Cory wrecked our vehicle. Every. single. year.

He called a few weeks ago and said, "Now don't worry, everything's fine, but someone just broad-sided me and the driver door won't open." To which I replied, "Well, as long as the windshield wipers are still stuck in the vertical position, it's all good. Dinner at 6!"

2) Don't buy old cars.

3) Unless you share Cory's luck. Then go on ahead.

4) I fell victim to a strange condition a month or so ago in which one random taste bud would become inflamed. The pain was akin to a paper cut. On my tongue. I'd talk a little funny, but when I inspected my tongue (you know I inspected it), it appeared to be fine. Until the next day, when I would wake to find the afflicted taste bud black as all death. We did this for roughly 30-odd days in a row. My sources reveal that it's probably viral. I'm still leaning toward the diagnosis of Salsa Mouth.

5) Did that totally disgust you? I spoke to Cory about it a couple of weeks ago and Robert screamed, "Sick!" It felt a little fun to gross him out.

6) Remember when I wouldn't shut the heck up about Sacrilege and then Barefoot Church? Cory and I are heading to Ohio for the weekend for our church's national conference where Hugh Halter and Brandon Hatmaker are both speaaaaaakingggggggggggg! (please read in your best Oprah Winfrey voice) I call them Haltermaker. So far, they appear unmoved by this demonstration of admiration and deep, abiding respect. I've been thinking about what I might ask if I get an opportunity to actually speak to them. Here's what I've come up with so far: "Is living with Jen sort of like a big, rowdy party with good food and stretchy pants? Do you think she would be my best friend if I moved to Austin? Is she in the market for someone to brush her hair or pour her tea or wash her whites? What's her feeling on Best Friends Forever jewelry?"I think Hugh is confident enough in himself not to feel too left out.

7) It rained all last night and most of this afternoon. Hallelujah.  You'd have thought we were all pioneers on the Oregon trail, succumbing one by one to drought and every manner of westward pestilence. Even the corn had given up crying. I knew Facebook would be burning up with "PTL, rain!" updates, so I heeded my natural instinct to be weird and post a joke no one would get: "SO over this rain." Just seemed like the right thing to do. In the end, I was the only one laughing.

8) I was not the only one laughing at this little gem.

9) The rain hurled my two big kids headlong into complete disarray and utter disorientation. It had been so long that they forgot what rain was and how it all worked. They lounged around all morning in fleece bath robes and house-slippers, begging for hot chocolate. Then they finally located a little wherewithal (but just a little) and decided to go brave the elements.

 This was after she had the good sense to remove her zip-up fleece. 
And yes, that is a turtle-neck.

10) Silas was free and easy for exactly five minutes this morning and he spent it hauling a kitchen chair to the book shelf, tippy-toeing to reach up to a very high shelf, finding a bottle of nail polish I'd hidden (from him), and painting his big toenail green. The fumes game him away. I've gotta say, Short Stack's got some mad pedi skillz.

11) He's also started saying, "Mom, can I get my dress on?" He doesn't mean he wants to wear a dress. He means he wants to get dressed. I, however, choose to hear it as, "Yo, Mama. I'm 'bout to go get my dress on. After that, let's get our grub on. Maybe later we can get our swim on, G."

12) In additional to my tongue ailment, I have reason to believe that I'm allergic to watermelon. Because life really isn't fair and was never promised to be. (See #1)

13) I picked up a gallon of aqua, turquoisy paint tonight for our island. Yellow lost, my friends. But was it really ever a contest? Yellow almost never wins. True story.

13a) Silas pronounces yellow "wellow". swoon

And now, I shall retire to my boudoir where I will spend the next thirty-to-eighty-five minutes reading one of the most gripping novels I've ever read.

(How's that for a cliff-hanger?)

Seacrest OUT.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Put this on your menu

 A few times a day, I think of things I'd like to tell you, but then before I know it, my brain has expired or I'm not home or I just don't feel like firing up the laptop.

I don't know what has become of me, but I remain cautiously optimistic that it's just a phase.

A funk, maybe.

A consequence of the never-ending heatwave.

Sidnote: Saturday night I was heading out to meet a friend for dinner. I had the radio cranked way up. I was exhausted to the point that I cried salty tears 30 minutes before leaving, saying to Cory, "I'm just too tired to get ready. I'll be terrible company. I waited too long!"  (dramatic much?)

Anyway, I was spiffed up and re-energized and free as a bird, when what did I notice gathering on the horizon? Storm clouds, people.

The wind kicked up and I got the strangest feeling of giddiness. I drove on, looking out across the scorched fields, praying for that rain. I may as well have been Ol' Ray himself (the codgery farmer who lived across the road from us when I was a kid. R.I.P.)

Just when things reached a fever pitch, it was over. The clouds hightailed it both north and south and we were left without a single drop.

I was jealous. I coveted my neighbor's rain. I felt like we never get anything.

Then I bought earrings for $4 and ate a plate full of taquitos and didn't think another thing about it.

Ol' Ray wouldn't have recovered so quickly.

The point is, it has been a weird summer. We're busy in good ways and bad but mostly, I find myself just taking a breather. Or rather, I find myself so worn out at the end of the day that I take to my bed with a book and call it a (late) night.

Well, that and The Bachelorette. I do make time for her.

Why is she so beautiful? I mean, the girl is scary beautiful. And why is it already so obvious that there's no way she'll choose Jef? I blame editing. They should know better by now.

Also, is Jef a Mormon? If so, how does he pull off all the beer? The first time I saw Jef I rolled my eyes and thought, oh geez. There's the weirdo with the skateboard and the pompadour hairdo. Every season has one. But I have to admit, I now find him quite dreamy, mostly because he's 1) part nerd and 2) extremely genuine 3) normal with a capital N.

Say what you want about reality television or the state of mankind - I Love The Bachelorette. I need Chris Harrison to stay the heck in my life. I know the love will never last, but I'm that rare sucker optimist who believes that you really do see a flicker of real life and humanity. Do you see real love? Absolutely not. But look close, and you'll see the heart of some people. You'll see boys acting nervous and a girl who really loves her daughter. You'll see people make the wrong choice almost every single time and you'll start to notice a pattern, which is this: Girl must choose between guy who "gets" her and guy she barefly even spoken to because she "can't stop kissing him". She will always choose "chemistry" over stability. And they will break up in exactly 2.5 months.

It's high-def people watching, is what it is.

And it's the only television show I have watched all summer long. It's just that important. It pairs so nicely with a bowlful of Ranier cherries or a vat of salsa. I have skipped numerous seasons of The Bachelor, but I almost never skip The Bachelorette.  1) It's not as slutty. 2) The guys get along better and generally enjoy less drama. 3) See 1 and 2.

Suffice it to say, this season is a top priority. It may be so important, in fact, that a certain other adult who lives in my house also can't bear to miss a single moment. But you didn't hear that from me.

In a cruel twist of fate, we do not get ABC, so we have to wait until Tuesday to watch it online, so NO SPOILERS. We're ghetto Amish over here. We can't even help it.

Okay. Well. Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, here's the real reason I came:

I'm such a sucker for combinations of vegetables. This salad is entirely raw and was adapted from a recent BH&G recipe.

Corn Salad

1/2 c cider vinegar
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
4 ears fresh corn
1/4 c finely diced red onion
1/2 c cucumber, seeded
1/2 c diced orange pepper
1 c grape tomatoes, halved
2 T flat parsley, chopped
3 T basil, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups arugula

This is my adaptation of the original recipe, found here. When I make it again, I may try the juice of a lime and olive oil in place of the cider vinegar and sugar.

So tell me, who has been your favorite Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants of all time? I'll start: Reid. He was so weird. And for the girls, Tina Fabulous was infinitely entertaining.

No haters allowed, please. This is sacred ground on which we tread.

If you are really unable to play along, just give us your favorite summer TV snack.

Triple bonus points if you give us both.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Curtain Call

Remember when I wrote that guest post saying you should pull design inspiration directly off the hangers in your closet?

I present to you....

My living room curtains.

After much angst and consternation and the throwing-up-of-hands, I happened upon this "tapestry", from Urban Outfitters. It is only fate that dropped me unwittingly onto the bedding section of the website.

Each "tapestry" (it's so not a tapestry...) cost $30 and will make two panels.

That means curtains for 3 windows for less than $100.

Pros: It is a large-scale repeating pattern, which is what I was looking for. I like the colors.

Cons: They are ten past crazy. And I have the orange chair to contend with (have I mentioned that I don't really like things to match?)

But I'm anxious to see them up against the white walls, all the same.

The lesson here is clear: When life gives you cheap lemons, slice them down the middle and slap 'em on a rod.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How To Really Protect Your Children

Tonight, I took the kids to the little park across the street from our new house.  It's practically in our front yard.

I sit here and type words then delete them (that almost never happens), trying and failing to do justice to everything in my heart tonight. Here's the summary: We went. They played. I came home and bawled my eyes out.

Friends visit our new neighborhood and most of them say it's not as bad as they thought it would be.

On the one hand, it's nice to hear.

On the other hand, it was never really about bad/not bad. It's just where we were sent, so we're going. We're not going with expectations or a God complex. We don't have a plan or a goal.

The neighborhood, it doesn't look so bad, I suppose. It could be so much worse. We're going to live our lives and we'll need some friends. I think the neighborhood is full of good people, some of whom have had hard lives. They need the exact same things I need. I hope they will be my friend. That's what I think.

All of that is easy enough to say, until you're sitting there at the picnic table near moms who scream things at their children like, "If you don't stop spitting at me, I'm going to beat you up!" or like, "#%^&$%!" They lounge on towels on the dead grass like it's Daytona Beach, half their hind ends hanging out. Their babies drink Sunny D from bottles and wander away, mostly unnoticed.

So, this is where I'll be living. That's what I kept saying to myself. I'm moving here. I could look down the street and see Cory and Robert, painting boards in the garage of my brand new future.

It's not really about the houses on the street. Some are really bad. Some are good. A few (including mine) are great.

Isn't life always about people?

Ruby will be friends with the girl who looks back at me like I have three heads when I ask if she's going to kindergarten. She is. She's going to kindergarten. But she's not familiar with the word. All she knows is that she's going "to the one where they tell you your numbers and ABCs". Then she picks up her towel and walks back down the street, all the way out of my line of vision, completely alone.

Here's the tricky part: I want to love these people. I already kind of do. But I also feel that instinct to keep my kids the heck away. I really understand the urge to shelter them right now and then just keep sheltering them, forever. Can't I insist that they only play with the sweet little girl in braids whose mama sat reading a paperback book, doling out Oreo cookies with a smile?

I don't know how this will play out. We can't just decide not to go to the park where the sketchies hang out. We are moving to the park. We're going where they go because it would be wrong not to. It would be disobedient to say no to this.

So the Devil knows he's got me on his line and he starts yanking the hook further in. Maybe this is wrong. Maybe we'll regret it, just like they say we will. Maybe we're bad parents. Maybe we're idiots.

We walk down the hall, into rooms with the smoochiest sleeping babies. I kiss their lips, because I want to and I can. We hold their little brown hands and we pray, not even in a whisper. We pray in silence, because it's all the same to Him. Guard their ears, their eyes, their hearts. Keep them innocent. Let them see their purpose, there. Let us all fall in love.

It strikes me in those darkened rooms that I have never prayed so fiercely for the hearts of my children. I've never had to. I've never been so helpless to be everything they need. I can't do it this time. We're coming out from behind the divide and it could get ugly.

But He has promised that He's coming with us. He's told us we're in the palm of His hand. And even though He's said it a thousand times before, I've never needed to believe Him more than right now. I've spent most of my life ensuring my own safety, my own success. I've crocheted my own nets. Now, all bets are off. It feels a little wild and wooly, but it also feels strangely, stupidly right.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Come Crying to Me

Eleven years ago I found myself face down in the gutter of a life I did not recognize. In truth, I didn't even ask for it. I didn't go looking for the trouble. I didn't understand it, didn't want it, couldn't walk away from it. The details are both hazy and razor sharp.

I chose the worst possible circumstance to abandon some of the control I had clutched until my fingers cramped. I came nose to nose with my own reality, my own heart, and denial was no longer an option. It got a little ugly.

So here I was, the Good Christian Girl who had never chosen wrong, and I was every way but right. Rebellion was intoxicating up until it was soul-asphyxiating.  The dust barely settled - just enough to see the outline of a wasted life - and I knew I needed help. I needed someone to tell me the truth about things, but mostly, I needed someone to hug me and promise not to stop until a little redemption came down.

I wracked my brain and cried in the shower for one person - just one - who would suspend judgment and help love me back to life.The first call I ended up making was to a dear friend who was in no way tied to a church. She told me to get my crap together, she reminded me she wasn't going away. It was the first little step on a long, long road.

I look back and see the evidence of my salvation written all over those darkest days. I see mercy. I see God street-fighting on my behalf. What I don't see is community. Maybe that's when church started to die for me; when, in my greatest need, I felt completely alone.

The blame is mostly mine. I chose to hide out. I had lived believing the lie that church was for good people who behaved. If you don't behave, you're not ready to be there. Of course we always said we knew we were sinners, but the church I knew was more comfortable with sins like gossip and gluttony, so I stayed away. 

What I know now is that there were plenty of people in my life who would have been exactly what I needed. The problem was, I was just as pre-conditioned as the next girl to feel a little smug in the face of sin. I couldn't bear the thought of sitting on the other side of that table. I had never been shown how to love a sister through the worst of herself, so how could they know? I wouldn't be the guinea pig.

I couldn't think of one single person of faith who had walked through a couple miles of crap and lived to tell. Not one.

What I know now is that there are many who walked a similar road, they just walked in silence. Like me. It's not an indictment on my friends, my family, my church. It's an indictment on every single one of us who pretends to have it all together when we're right on the edge of losing it. I had done it plenty of times before. I knew the drill.

We've taken an unsaid oath that once we are a Christian, we're done sinning. The problem with that is, well, the sin. It's still there. It's rapping at our windows and it's busting out the panes. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Sometimes, we make it easy and just open the door.

We live in shame, believing we're the only ones because not one of us wants to be the first to raise our hand. We struggle to locate the light, because there's no one there to help us find the switch. No one wants to defame the good name of the Church by admitting to being a human. The church likes aligning with Jesus for a long list of reasons, but mostly because he saved us. What about the everyday saving? 

The gritty stories are only acceptable when they come at the very beginning of the story, when they make for an exciting "conversion story". When the dirt flies in the middle, people get uncomfortable. No one knows how to deal.

Know what else happens? People outside the church take a look and know for sure that they don't belong. They know they can't run with us.  They don't have faith in our churchy answers and they feel our judgment even when we swear it isn't there. They see our masks and decide their odds are better going it alone. Because even if it all falls apart, at least they'll have their dignity.

So maybe there's one person out there who needs to hear this tonight. To you - to you - I say,  you were made for more than this mess you're in. I was right where you are, and grace is already holding out His hand. You cannot fix it on your own. You were never supposed to try. You are broken and so am I, but when we claw through life together, we're a little more whole. God uses mangy old you and me to spread His love around. Isn't that something?

I don't ever expect you to be perfect. I don't really trust you if you pretend to always be right.  I'm honored to be present for your failures, because I know first-hand that you'll never be the same. It's mad science, the way our greatest ugliness becomes the very thing that propels us further to beauty.  It's redemption, and it's not found in a certain building on a certain day. It's not found in theology or ritual. It's not buried beneath a pile of works.

It's found when we see that our only hope and all our promise is in Him.

It's waiting. For both of us.

Survival of the Sweatiest

Well, we survived. Mostly intact. Indeed, we chose the three hottest days on the planet for our garage sale. But there was just no turning back, baby.

On set-up day, I found myself wandering out to the garage numerous times, whereupon I would look at the hot disorganized mess in front of me, slide slowly into a trance, then turn and head back inside. My brain underwent a rare type of paralysis induced by extreme heat and wimpy-ness.

On day one of our sale, my ankles started to swell.

On day two, I wore a sports bra under my tank top like it was a normal thing to do. Just the thought of hardware of any kind...I simply couldn't hack it.

Customers kept say, "There's a cold front coming in on Sunday!" I wanted to cut them.

But then there was this. Help me. Can your heart take the cuteness? My friend Sasha told me about the Lemon:Aid project through Bloodwater Mission so I got a kit and put the kids to work. They spent Friday morning serving up cups of Countrytime for donations. Ruby kept shouting, "Free lemonade! I mean...."

In the end, they earned $72, which will provide clean water for 72 kids for one year. It was so much fun to watch them get excited about it.  They are learning at a very young age that they have a responsibility to act on behalf of the powerless. Beautiful.

 Meanwhile, we came dangerously close to death in the tomb-like garage.
And now, here I sit, watching Rick Bayless make ceviche on PBS at 12:22 in the ayem. And I don't even like ceviche.

I'm terribly uncool when it comes to sushi. You just might as well know it.

Also, I've never had my eyebrows waxed. Like, ever.

I don't understand the fuss about Katy Perry.

I want people to stop picking on Jessica Simpson.

I tried to wear my apron skirt to the sale and it wouldn't zip all the way.

I need my fingernails to be short. Always, always short. When I make a fist, I must not feel them on my palm. It is imperative.

And on that note, I shall retire to my boudoire. Which reminds me: I need to tell you about the housecoat I bought at the SV.

I am old and weird.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Garage Sale at My Place

A quick run-down:

We were in FL from last Wed-Sat.
Came home to meet baby Avery and do some laundry.
Left for OH Mon-Wed.

And today? It's 105 outside. And we're setting up a garage sale. Because we're insane in the membrane.

So please, come and buy our stuff. Yes, it will be blazing hot. Yes, I will stink. Indeed, I will be sweating through my tank top. Good times!

I'm selling several pieces of swoony furniture, loads of linens, lots of wall-hanging things and other general awesomeness.

My sisters-in-law are joining me, contributing TONS of excellent condition, name brand baby clothes (girls sizes NB-2T, boys sizes NB - 4T) and additional awesomeness.

There will also be the cutest lemonade stand in the history of the planet. (More on that to come.)

We are at 309 E. Waterford St. Wakarusa, Indiana. Sale runs Friday 8-5 and Saturday 8-?

Bonus: There's a mile-long garage sale happening just a few miles over on Saturday!

Be here or be square.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Once, Twice, Three Times a Grandma

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, and sometimes it throws you two. Sometimes, things are so coincidental that all you can do is laugh.

Here's an example: Haven found out she was expecting. Then Robert found out his "Baby Mama" (his words) was expecting. Both babies were due on June 18th, which happens to be my birthday. Only then Robert's Baby Mama found out she was having twins, so now the tally was up to 3 birthday babies.

I'm not gonna lie: I sort of loved that all these crazy babies were going to meet the world and party with me on June 18th.

But then Becky went a week early (twins will do that to you) and Haven went late (as in, while-I-was-on-my-two-day-vacation late).

I met all the babies and suddenly, life seems even better.

I wasn't expecting that.

I spent plenty of time stressing over everything, worrying that no one was ready, wishing things could be different.

I wasn't expecting to fall in love three times over. I wasn't prepared for the pride I would feel over my biggest kids with their littles.

Here's the miracle of tiny babies: They are a blank slate. They're wide open with promise and grace. They don't see us through the same lens as everyone else in the room. The shadows of our past mistakes don't settle down around our shoulders, making even our good parts seem more like a fluke. They see only who we are right now. Life becomes an opportunity to be exactly who we always knew we were. Everything moves forward, nothing in reverse.

They are brand new and all they really need is love. And, well, food. And sleep. And stability. And books, they need books. And songs. Diapers, clothes, blah blah blah.

But mostly, just love.

And security.

I'll stop now.


Say it with me: Love! 

I know a thing or two about the love Robert and Haven have to give. I know it's there,  just waiting for a reason for its big, bad debut.

There will be hard days and harder nights, but God has a purpose in each of them.

So I've become that lady, the one who shows baby pictures on my phone to perfect strangers, the one who can't sleep at night because I'm spending all my time wondering how everyone's doing.

What a gift, to be a part of these lives.

It goes against my strongest instinct to not force them both to sign an oath stating that they will text me daily updates for the rest of eternity.

I guess this kinda makes me a Grandma(ish). I mean, sort of. But not really, because I'm not that old, people. Even if my wrinkled mug seems to be telling a different story lately. Even if the receptionist at the twins' doctor visit took one look at me and announced, "So, you must be Grandma!" Uh, no. I did not birth Becky when I was 13. But thanks for asking.

Becky's words to me: "Now who's gonna go saying something like that?" (insert that face. you know the one.)

My words to Becky: "Promise me that you'll never say that to someone unless her hair is white and all of her teeth are missing. All of them."

We were both a bit scarred, but it wasn't anything a fountain Coke couldn't fix.

Hey - Guess who else is entirely smitten with Avery? :)

That's her name. Avery. I love it. And know what else? One of Robert's sons is Avery. Just to make the whole thing a tiny bit more strangely, wonderfully, confusing.

But really - is she not the cutest little girl you have ever seen in your entire life?

Life just never, ever stops with its unexpected goodness.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sneaky Vacay

All I'm saying is, you know you're desperate for a vacation when you fly all the way to Florida only to fly back two and a half days later. It was lightening fast. It was extra perfect.

These yahoos came with us. Andy provided the entertainment. Timi joined me as an additional voice of reason amid the din of.....two guys who have been friends since they had baby teeth and full heads of hair.

The nice thing about vacationing with friends is that you actually end up with a few photos of yourself. Thanks, Andy!

Here's what we did on our vacation: We slept in, lounged around watching videos on CMT, hit the pool, drank pina coladas, ate fried fish for lunch, hit the beach, watched a little reality TV, read some books, ate grilled fish for dinner, watched movies, ate dessert.

Rinse. Repeat.

It was brilliant in every way.

 We did a little shell-hunting.

We got raccoon eyes.

At some point, inspiration struck and we did, well, this.

I have no earthly idea why we did it. It just seemed like the right thing to do. (Still a little bitter that Cory missed my imperfectly-executed herkey.)

Some home-front excitement/drama erupted while we were gone. I didn't get all caught up on my sleep. I'm allergic to shellfish. The starfish amputees scared me a little.

But for two little days, I was fancy-free to my core. I didn't worry about cabinet hardware or doctor's offices. I was inspired and reminded of some of the things I'm most thankful for.

The big bonus: We still have all of July ahead of us!

So, here's to the shortest vacation! {clink} I liked you, Shorty.

PS - I have key-ring winners!! 

1) Ann: My favorite artist is a local named Eileen. She creates folky/vintage collages with paper and paints over them. Best thing hanging in my house (besides my kids' work) is one of hers. Oh, and as far as famous, I love the painting Thanksgiving by Doris Lee, not because of how it looks but because of how it makes me feel.

2) Tami: My mother is a talented artist, and I must say my personal favorite! I also have always had an affinity towards the black and white images of Ansel Adams. (His Yosemite photos speak to my childhood memories.)

Email me your address, Ladies!