Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Our Kitchen - The Debut

Glory, glory, I love my new kitchen. It's the kitchen of my dreams, really. It's so small that we once wondered if there was room for the island, but there was and it works and I happily spend much of each day shuffling along the alley between the sink and my main food prep area.

The two upgrades we made were cabinets (white rather than oak) and the flooring (laminate rather than vinyl). We love both, though the laminate is mid-grade compared to the high-grade we had back at the farm and it does scratch more easily. Honestly, we cringe to think of what we spent on the high-grade stuff. This works well for us, was very affordable, and I'm a girl who doesn't mind a little patina.


Lighting makes such a difference in a room. I bought the white chandelier 9 years ago off ebay for $200 and I might as well have bought a brand new Mercedes. It felt super splurgey. But it has lived with us in 3 homes now. I can't imagine leaving it behind.

The over-sink light was $25 from Lowes in the outdoor section. We have no fancy under-cabinet lighting because this was a very bare-bones build and I truly can't say that I miss it.

See? Small. But functional! And happy.
It's quasi-eat-in, with the dining room table smack dab between the kitchen and our living room.

Repeat after me: Small houses build close families!
Or something like that.

{Click here to see more of our dining area.}

The island pulls quadruple duty (breakfast bar, food prep, homework station, junk-mail display) houses the trash can. (You can't imagine how dire my dad saw our trash can prospects in the little kitchen.)

We had the island custom built at Green Oak Antiques in Rochester, IN. The builder let me root around in his crazy-town work shop for reclaimed decorative wood (totally scored on those flowers!) and the main panels are crafted from old doors.

We screwed a bin pull onto the other side of the island to loop a dish towel through. Life saver!

The stools were found at TJ Maxx.

 Cory tiled the back-splash using subway tile from Lowes and a charcoal gray grout.

The bread lives in a locker basket. And the metal tag came from an old telephone pole at our farmhouse. 

Despite an overall lack of storage space, I waved my Impractical flag and opted to forego upper cabinets on both sides of the sink. We had open shelving in our old house and loved the look and accessibility.

The dimensions made it difficult, but after searching high and low, I found the perfect shelves at Joss & Main. Are you familiar with Joss & Main? You need to be! I have found some of the best things there - super unique and affordable. The sales change every day, so it's always fun to check in. All you have to do to get started is give them your email address. They don't sell it to other companies or any of that nonsense. It's fantastic! Go here to sign up.

We keep our everyday dishes on these shelves -- they're used too often to collect dust.

The little flower painting was bought eons ago for $5. It used to live in Ruby's nursery, back in the day.

What we lack more than anything in our kitchen is drawer space. I've gotten creative! I found this vintage metal caddy at a thrift store for $3 and the silverwear and cloth napkins now call it Home.

The other side of the sink has a vintage battery display for my thrift store mug collection and dish towels.

It felt risky to do two different things on each side of the sink. In the end, we scoff at symmetry up in here. 

And did you catch the artwork above the mugs? I had no choice!!

I popped the Katie Daisy print into a frame I already had and called it a day. Eventually I'd like to find something larger and with more contrast for the area, but right now, this is just what I need to see every single day. I love it. 

We're still rocking the napkin curtains. They are better than ever here.

The best part of this space?? The sliding door!

It came from the school I attended for 13 years. We bought it at the pre-tear-down (sniff sniff) auction for $8. I think it may have been the door to the nurse's office, which is peculiar because I don't remember our school ever having a nurse.

Cory hung it himself using this method after realizing that a real track can run hundreds of dollars.

I found the art at a sale a few months ago and it was instant love. The guy said he brought it only because he thought someone might like the frame. (The frame???) And to quote him, "My wife said 'Jim, what the h*ll are you doing bringing that junk in here?'"

Ladies, listen to me: This is why we thrift. This is good work we're doing here. Humanitarian, practically!

I bought it for $15 and I can't stop loving it.

There you have it. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to get you the answer!

Wall color: White Dove - Benjamin Moore (We had 6 whites to choose from. ha!)
Island color: Twilight Meadow (Valspar at Lowes) 5007-8A, eggshell finish
Countertops: Pionite Graphite Talc (AG361 suede)
Floors: Inhaus - Shenendoah Hickory (Timeless Impressions collection)
Cabinets: Wellborn - Franklin (maple, white)
Cabinet hardware: Lowes
Island: Green Oak Antiques
Open shelving: Joss & Main
Love Has Come print: Jerusalem Greer
You Shall See Wonders print: Katie Daisy

*Joss & Main links are affiliate links 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Clear Eyes

Today the gift I've been given is an hour, one whole hour for myself, with some extra minutes besides. So here I sit, fresh from an appointment at the optometrist, still wearing my vest, scarf, and yellow rain boots.

The bad news is, I didn't need glasses. (Cory was hoping... He has a bit of  a Tina Fey thing, okay? I'm sure he crushed on Lisa Loeb back in the day, too. I'll ask... Did you, Honey?)

The good news? I didn't need glasses.

It was my first visit with this doctor and what I really wanted to do was spend the rest of the day with her. Homegirl was drier than my hands in January. She walked in, took one look at my rain boots and said, "Wow. Your boots are LOUD. You probably stop traffic in those." I'll be honest, she seemed almost annoyed. They troubled her.

She grew more annoyed when she realized that my vision was "quite good". "You're one of those people", she said. I asked her, "Is my right eye still good? Because I've been feeling like it's not as good..." to which she replied, "It's very slightly not as good as your left eye, which is perfect. So maybe it's psychological. Or maybe you're just ultra sensitive after seeing everything so perfectly clear for your entire life."

Lord, I loved her. True story.

Now I sit here by the window and the house is mostly dark. A train screams down the tracks. Thunder rumbles outside and rain snakes the pane. This is one messed up January.

The day after our visit with Robert we got an automated email saying he had been transported to prison. I'd spent the morning smiling so hard my cheeks hurt. This was my status update on facebook: Yesterday's awesomeness keeps bleeding unexpectedly into today. Love it when that happens!

Within 30 minutes we got the news.

I won't bore you with a detailed account of everything we felt at that moment and in all the moments to follow, but I'll say this, you can know something is imminent but it doesn't lessen the sting when it happens. I felt sucker-punched for days. I cried almost every time I was in my car. He's far away and I feel it. We didn't get to say goodbye. We won't see him for at least a month. We won't even talk to him. 

I worry about my boy. Yes, he tattooed FEARLESS down the entire length of his forearm, but you and I both know better. We grieved. Calvin and Ruby grieved. And all I can do is guess about how Robert is handling it.

So right here is a new step of faith. Our toes inch ever-forward and we cling to the things we know for sure. We will them to never leave our minds, and especially his.

Amid this hurt, I look back to that night in the windowless room and I sit in wonder over the ways God loves us. His timing could not have been improved. He knew the whole future and made sure Robert went away wearing the fresh hug of our love for him.

He's somewhere temporary right now, but we'll keep waiting for the news and then we'll settle in to a new routine.

After my eye appointment the receptionist gave me a little card with my next appointment - February 2015. My instant thought was, The next time I'm here, this will all be over. He'll be home.

Happy rainy Tuesday, friends. Hope your day feels scrubbed with the knowing that all you are is completely loved.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Whole Point of Home

I find myself thinking a lot about what "home" really means. Only lately have I caught a glimpse of its truest heart.

Somewhere around the time we moved into our new home things got hectic and messy and before I knew it, I was hosting parties without having my crap together. I was answering the door with no mascara and putting guests to work. It started to not matter so much if the floor was dusty or the soup burned. It was just having them here that mattered - whoever they happened to be.

It seemed like the best way to roll, or at least on some days. (I still harbor the propensity to over-fluff on occasion.)

Community and hospitality are like salt and pepper, baby. They're locked at the elbows.

Community doesn't care about the details. It's happy to lend a hand. Hospitality isn't about impressing guests. It's about opening the door into your world - where you live. It's all of you, whether it falls on one of your glitziest days or one of the yoga pants ones.

It's fully welcoming. Entirely at ease. It's shoes on the carpet or feet on the coffee table. It's babies in the bathtub and picky teenagers texting at the table.

(My dream is for a guest to ask if she can take a nap on my couch. So for real.)

Sometimes, hospitality and community collide with the fine china.

And you feel the love down in your joints.

My Sarah invited me and a few others over for a feast fit for the Dowager Countess last night. I demanded  suggested her signature Chicken Marbella and smashed potatoes. We threw in the salad, bread, and another round of Jolly Gin Fizz.

I walked through her door and the room felt like a hug.

Her home is always beautiful, always inspiring, always comforting. It's who she is.

And that is true hospitality.

I've sat at her table so many times, in so many homes. I've received the gold-star treatment more times than I can count, but I've felt just as loved when it was deli salsa and lime chips.


I want to keep getting better at hospitality. I want to pass that treasure like a dish.

I want to always have room at the table, even on left-overs night. I want my door to stay kicked open, even when the beds aren't made and all the spoons are dirty.

This, this invitation to come in, is worthy of our practice, our attention, maybe even our discomfort.

Our homes are not our own. From the walls to the rugs to the tiny soap on the dish, it has all been shared with us with the expectation that we'll share right back.

 My friend Edie swims straight into the deep end of hospitality in her new e-book, 31 Days to a Heart of Hospitality.  Edie, who lost her home in a fire just two years ago, has journeyed to the far corners of Home - what it means, where we find it, how best to share it with those around us.

Purchase your copy here for just $5.

How do you feel about hospitality? Is it second nature for you? A challenge? Do you, like me, want to keep getting better at it?

(*Read more about my mad love for Edie here.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Today I poured the cereal, packed the plastic drill for show-and-tell, wrote the query letter, practiced the spelling words, roasted the cauliflower and watched gymnastics practice with a red paper bracelet wrapped tight around my wrist.

It's the kind of paper bracelet that won't fall apart if you wear it in the shower. It crossed my mind to cut it off before I hopped in. But I chanced it, it survived and now I don't know when I'll take it off. I want to hold on.

They handed one to each of us yesterday afternoon then sent us through the security gates and into the heart of the jail. For months I've sat in the waiting room with the rows of chairs bolted to the floor and the video-phone booths. But I stepped across that threshold, walked alone with Cory down a long stretch of institutional gray, everything a hard edge, everything an assault on life and joy. A knob of heartbreak lodged low in my throat, and I kept on walking.

Yesterday was my sister's birthday. It was also Robert's 19th birthday. Through the best-ever turn of events, we were granted a face-to-face visit with him, so we scooped it up and ran. 30 minutes to sit in the same space with him, study his face, hug his neck.

We walked into a small room, they locked the door behind us, and we walk back out four hours later.

I loved this boy from the first time I met him, on his 17th birthday, wearing short sleeves in the snow.
I loved him more when he sat on the other side of our dinner table and passed the mac & cheese.
I loved him when I took him to the dentist for a check up. 
I loved him when he disappeared for 7 months and I worried about him every single day.
I loved him when he came back without an explanation. (I loved him when I realized I didn't need one.)
I loved him when I drove him to his boys the day they were born.

I loved him.
I love him.

But I knew I was in trouble when I locked eyes with him a courtroom. I knew there was no going back when I had all the facts and none of them mattered.

With every letter, every call, every minute spent looking at him through the janky jail video phone, that love went deeper. With every unexpected tear I sobbed for him, the happy ones and the sad ones, the anchor sank.

So we said all the things we needed to say, and we said them with nothing in between us. We said some hard things, lots of honest things. We talked about ashes and beauty. We told him the truth about our love, and though it hadn't been a secret, we all felt the crisp edge of brand-newness ricochet off the walls of that little gray room.

He gave us some things in return, things that stay sacred. His love rained down on us in the form of trust, trust as raw and infant and beautiful as the trust of our other three kids when they knew that they were ours and decided it was good.

They brought him a dinner tray, let him out for a bathroom break, and every time, every single time, the officer looked at him like he was special because he is.

He showed us his biceps, his tattoos. He leaned in when it was important to listen, his dark eyes steady as the walls around us. He entertained us, impressed us, cracked us flat up.

We made our promises and he made his.
He hugged us so hard. (no tazers!)

I will never make sense of the brutal life he was handed. I'll never lose faith in the God that preserves a boy's joy and spirit in spite of all of it.

I don't know what I've done to deserve my perfect-for-me children. I'll never understand the way God can gather a family from the far-flung corners and wedge us so tightly together that it physically hurts when one of us is missing.

The future looms blurry and uncertain, but in the precious gift of four bright hours, everything that almost existed snapped into focus and found its home.

In those hours, in that dreary cinder-block room, our child was born.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Robert: I go to court next Thursday.

Me: I know, I wish I could go, but I don't think they'll let me.

Robert: They'll let you. You went last time.

Me: Right, but that was a fluke.

Robert: You need to go!

Me: I wish I could...

Robert: (grinning) I'll hug you if you go...

Me: You cannot hug me!

Robert: Oh, I'll hug you.

Me: Robert, we got reprimanded for making too much eye contact with you last time!

Robert: (giggling) What are they gonna do? Put me in jail?

Me: (laughing) They might put me in jail.

Robert: They will not put you in jail. And what could they do to me? I'm already going to prison!

Me: hahaha...

Robert: But they probably would taze me....

Me:Yeah, that might be a problem.

Robert: I been tazed twice before, once by a cop when I was 13 and once at a tazer party.

Me: Cory saw someone get tazed once and he said it looked like the most painful thing he'd ever seen.

Robert: I mean, it doesn't feel good. But a hug from my Mama? Totally worth it.

{cue the wide splitting of my heart}

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Keisha Suzanne


Just as you miss home more on your birthday, we miss YOU more on your birthday. If I could, I would zap you right here on my couch -- just like the old days. I would take you to Mazatlan for lunch and cook you whatever you wanted for dinner. There would be garlic and laughter and none of our silly arguing. We would watch mindless TV or sit side-by-side-by-side (with Cory!) working on our laptops.

The kids would act completely insane, like they always do when you're around. I might even do you the high honor of allowing you to play with them while I snuck upstairs for a nap. :)

Instead, you're a world away, delivering precious babies. You're loving them into this world and those babies have no idea how lucky they are to meet you when they first open their eyes.

We miss you, but we're so proud of you. When it's time, we'll mob you, feed you, hug you as hard as we can. But for now, we'll love you state-side. We'll pray for you and talk about you all the time. We'll never forget you, not even a little. We'll be inspired by your courage and humbled by your love. We'll believe that you're never safer than where God sent you.

Feel our love extra today.

All of us


Keisha's blog

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Going Means Walking in The Rain

I'd like to introduce you to my friend Tricia. Some of you may know her as FringeGirl. We're both old, blue-haired ladies in this blogging world. I feel like I've "known" her forever. Her heart is fixed on God, she oozes encouragement, and the girl is stinking funny. I read this post covered head to toe in goosebumps and knew all over again that I'm in "this", whatever it is, with her.

She gets it. She gets me, to my core. I'm so honored that she has chosen to share this soul-beauty here with us.

When Going Means Walking in The Rain - by Tricia Gillespie

Noah's Ark - this is what I see every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake up.  This amateur painting on an old cabinet door reminds me of times it rained so hard, I never thought it would stop.  I felt like I was drowning, not just me, but my little family too.  Some days it took all we had just to keep our heads above water. I think that's why he painted it for me, to remind me of the rain and the rainbow that follows - the promise of the rainbow.

Sometimes "Going" means walking in the rain and pleading with people to get on the ark.  For the love of God and all things sane, just please get on the ark already.

Bo painted me this ark.  Just two little letters in a name for a man with such a big heart, and an even bigger drug problem.

He was the elusive guy who we constantly worked to track down.  Word in the neighborhood was we needed to talk to him, get him.  He was losing his battle with drugs, not just him, but also his wife.  And you see, they had these two kids.  The kids who had to fend for themselves for days at a time while their father was off on a crack high and their mother locked herself in the bedroom with her pills.  For days.

They were the ones God put on our hearts.  Go to them.  Find them.

When we did find them, our world was turned upside down.

Middle of the night phone calls and piling the babies in the truck, so we can go hunt him down.  "Where are we going?"  My three-old baby girl would ask.

"Going to find Bo."

"He's lost?"  She always wanted to know.

"Yes, in a way, he is lost and he needs some help finding his way back home."

And I would sit in the truck with the phone while my husband pounded down the door of a crack house, only to find he'd moved on already - moved on to the emergency room, our next stop.  Then on to jail.

Over and over again.  Walking in the rain.  Bringing the kids food in the rain.  Talking and talking in endless circles until we felt like we were being pulled into a whirlpool.

And then one day, so many days later, more than forty days and forty nights, something happened.  That larger than life man with the little name and insurmountable problems fell on his face before Jesus and cried out for forgiveness.  First him and then his wife.

The rain didn't stop though.  There is a high price to pay for sin, and we sat as they hauled off his kids.  Maybe it was for the best, we hoped.  We prayed for the best.

And we kept pleading with them to get on the ark, two by two.

I wish this little family had a happy ending, but sometimes the joy is in the little things - the tears, the brokenness, the reminder of a rainbow.  Maybe the going is more for us than them.  Maybe it is to remind us that there's a flood coming and an ark built, and it's our job to shout "Get on the ark!".

My little girl still has the wild stuffed cat Bo gave her.  She still asks about him, wonders if he ever found his way back home.  She reminds us how nice he was, and she walks into my bedroom and looks at the ark.

There's a rainbow waiting, but first we must walk in the rain.

Tricia's blog
Tricia's twitter

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Closet Revival - What Happens When You Work With What You've Got

I've fallen victim to that "thing" lately where I'm very sure I have nothing in the world to wear. The timing couldn't be worse.

I was never a frequent shopper or a big spender, but if I was near Old Navy I would stop in and TJ Maxx was my secret lover. I used to stalk clearance racks and buy skinny cords on J Crew's Final Sale annually for $20 a pop.

Yeesh, don't even get me started on J Crew. There was a day when I wouldn't think of going "home" to Ohio without fitting in a J Crew outlet run.

More and more, I've learned to stay away. I've forced myself to stay away. Because as Howard the cat is my witness, I cannot go into one of my favorite stores without walking back out with something in my claws. It's a proven fact.

I can't pinpoint exactly when all of this started to change for me. I have a hunch it was somewhere around March 2012 when I read Jen Hatmaker's book 7. Dang that girl.

Then we moved and reallocated our funds and suddenly, there's just no room in the budget for surprise stripes or impromptu plaid.

A month or so ago I started to tell myself that I deserved to do a little damage. Just the tiniest bit. One hit. A quick fix.

But the strangest thing happened. I started to see what I already have with fresh eyes. And I realized all over again that it's not about needing "something", it's about wanting something new. Different.

If you remember nothing else that I ever say, remember this: Layers are your BFF. They will surprise you, energize you. They will inspire you and make you feel like the genius that you most certainly are not.

 Exhibit A
 I bought the jeans six months ago at TJ Maxx with a store credit. I could elaborate, but I'll only say this: fate smiled at me that day.

The rest of the outfit pre-dates my youngest child.
The button-down and t-shirt pre-date my oldest child.

I dare you to layer a button-down under a t-shirt under a cardigan under a blazer.
You will emerge feeling brand new.
You will emerge with limited range of motion in your rotating joints.

{The bag: my friend Jason Loper made this bag. I can't stop carrying it. It's roomy with a contrasting liner. I can sling it on messenger-style. Adore-adore-adore it. Pretty sure it's no longer available, so go on and hate me.}

Layering tips: Pull button-down cuffs out of the blazer. If you have a lining in your blazer or jacket, roll it! Instant texture and funk. The goal is, lots of layers in lots of places. A bunch of random bracelets tops it off.

Exhibit B

You may have already seen this, but bear with me, because it seemed like the dawning of a new age when I thought of layering this long stripey T under a fleece jacket then topping it with something super fancy.

Juxtapose, baby.

If you worry that it's all wrong, it's probably just right.

 Just gonna put this out there - it's awkward posing for pictures like this.
Also? Cold.
I get impatient and sometimes it shows.
I never know what to do with my arms.

My neighbors across the street are always watching.
It's...uncomfortable when I stand just outside the front door and Cory takes pictures from the porch.
Mostly for them.

Also? My eyes aren't in Kansas anymore.
Reality has come knocking.
Exhibit C

Stripes (always, always, always stripes!) with plaid.

Then, what the heck? Tie a 25-cent thrift-store table runner around your neck and pin it down with a weirdo vintage button.

But don't forget the belt! Tuck just 1/3 of the front of your shirt in and let some belt peek out. In a perfect world, it matches nothing else you're wearing.

Sidenote: I bought the jacket 12 years ago at TJ Maxx. Tawelva. When I brought it home my mom laughed hysterically and asked if it was for a 2 year old.

This clearly isn't rocket science. It's not even 7th grade Intro. to Physical Science.

The truth is, most of the time I'm not too worried about all of this. If you know me in real life you question my taste on a regular basis. You wonder why I've given up. You wonder why I had you over for potato soup and I was wearing the blue shirt over the gray shirt, then the next day I blogged about the Chinese Buffet and there I was, wearing it again. You wonder if I might have worn it a third day. (You wondered right.)

Again, I blame Jen.

In the midst of my closet revival I started thinking, This is it! I shan't make another purchase for the rest of the month, nay, the season!

Then I made a fateful trip to Old Navy to buy Cory a pair of much-needed jeans and walked away with a $7 sequined tank. It happens.

So, I'm not making any big proclamations tonight. I'm just here to advocate for looking twice when you believe you haven't got a thing to wear.

Let's wear something ever-so-slightly crazy tomorrow, wanna?? I've so got your back.

*7 link is an Amazon affiliate link.