Thursday, February 27, 2014

Meet Me in the Middle

It's way late in February and I'm wearing my funk tonight like a badge of honor.
It's here, ya'lls. I'm owning it.

I can't say precisely how it found me, but then I remember that it won't ever stop snowing and my face keeps freezing off and most of our travel plans for the past 3 months have been thwarted and my family is too far and I have so much to do and and and... I feel like the funk makes perfect sense.

You know what? Why not get honest? Isn't that why I'm here? Isn't that what we all want most from each other?

Here's a short list of things I've been struggling with today: discontent, jealousy, greed, anger, impatience, selfishness, laziness, self-doubt, "the grumps", and bad hair.

It's been a real halo-tilter.

All day long I wrung my hands, then rallied. Then wrung my hands, then rallied.
Poor Silas, left alone all day with the likes of me.

I feel like God is speaking to me about some things, but I sort of don't like where the conversation is going, and I don't want to put the time and attention into really listening. Because then what? Then I have a choice to make, that's what. So instead of sitting down to talk, I keep whining about what isn't even clear to begin with. Classic Shannan.

So, just to be clear, my heart is full of crud at the moment. Lest anyone ever think otherwise, I struggle by the hour to tamp down my sinfulness. And that's on a good day.

I want nothing more than to be near to God, but I expect him to somehow make that happen by osmosis or another miraculous work of his hand. I want to fill all my hours with every unnecessary thing until demands and inconsistencies meets the rim and splash down over the sides. I clearly want to trudge to bed each night in complete exhaustion, wearing the palest shade of grief. I want to fight my very life, this high calling to slow down and pay attention. I want what I want. I want my plans to succeed. I want to run shamelessly away from obedience then blame God for not running even faster. Here's my water, God. Turn me into wine.

It's no coincidence that I'm waging war with myself right now. The timing couldn't be better.
Though it's fighting to outlast my will, all clenched fists and gritting teeth, Winter's days are numbered. And with their end, Spring.

But smack dab in-between, resting right in the cleft of now and then, is Lent.
It's new to me, but I can hear it calling.

I'm desperate to lose myself. I'm so dang tired of my own dreary company.
I'm sick of rationalizing my decisions and even confronting my sin has lost its luster.

I just want more.
All I want is less.

It's time to sort some of this out.

Thanks for listening, friends. I can't see all your faces, but I have a clear picture of who you are, and you make me better. We take turns being broken, right? We always tell the truth.

Whatever your truth is tonight, whatever it is you need to face, just know I'm nudging you to get down to business and do it. And know that I hear you saying the same to me.

All my love tonight,

When Life Gets Quiet and I Can't Deal

The strangest thing about journeying with God is that sometimes, he spreads a nubby blanket under a shade tree and asks me to rest a while.

After years of shade-dwelling, lounging around in oblivion and sweet simplicity, we were pulled out and thrust into the glare. Our retina's half-burned, our cheeks well past rosy, we took up our hatchets, swinging them wild through thick uncertainty and tangles of self-doubt. Our legs and our hearts were taxed and strengthened with every rocky path.

Over time, the fears that seized us had tumbled around and around until every jagged edge was smooth and we were left with pockets full of marbles, sheepishly wondering what on earth was ever so scary.

It's astonishing that we were ever worried about this life of ease. But we were, or at least I was. I was terrified, pacing in the pitch of night, swallowing down that persistent rumble of dread. There was no tangible "thing" I could point to, no lurking monster or strange apparition. I had nothing but my good common sense and the collective words (both spoken and otherwise) of almost everyone I'd ever known, warning of danger in these under-streets of life and in the unfamiliar alley-ways of bottom-up living.

I'd been told my entire life to walk toward light, to climb and climb, to get and have and gain and grow. I was sold the lie that I could do my job without my life ever actually changing, that I could love my neighbor and the poor theoretically, my nobility hinging on my invisible willingness to do more if God ever asked me. (Not that he would because he had missionaries for that.)

I was scared because I was stupid. And I was stupid because I was a newborn, infant Christian masquerading as a stalwart soldier of the faith, allowing my years of "service" to speak for me. My name is Shannan and I've loved Jesus since forever.  But I did not know obedience and my ability to trust God was inconclusive since my feet had only known sure footing.

Hindsight being the illuminating wonder that it is, here's a short list of some of the things that knotted my guts: poor people, graffiti, teenagers who wandered around after dark, loud cussing, language barriers, crumbling sidewalks, busted-out streetlamps, cigarette smoke, broken beer bottles, mental illness, low test scores, neighborhood hooligans, junky front porches, rumors, rotten teeth, dirty clothes, rap music, and litter.

It wasn't the threat of murder, assault, abduction, or even vandalism that had me emotionally hiding under the covers. It was mostly just dirt and brokenness - literally.

We've learned to step over buckling concrete and I don't mind saying I now see a certain beauty in the juxtaposition of Little Debbie wrappers amid splendor.

Now what?

What do we do when our house is back to its regular decibel level and the hooligans have actual faces and names?

My newest instinct is to search out a pocket of darkness and run headlong into its light. I find myself day-dreaming about a future where every clean thing is put through the wringer, compacted and compressed until I'm left holding a jagged hunk of coal like the prize that it is.

But I'd like to think I'm done making plans, so instead, I drift through dim, quiet evenings, feeling around for some meaning. I teeter on this chain-link fence, jittery as a midnight cat. Something new must be coming. I'm skeptical this rest will last long, equal-parts terrified and hopeful that I'm right.

Since nothing else seems to work, I pray quietly and out loud, thanking God that he's already here, active in my rest.

The problem is, I don't know if I completely believe it.

I can nod along with Solomon, imagining myself swaying easy with the seasons. But I don't remember requiring convincing when it comes to retreat and I've lost a good bit of faith in myself along this way. I've fallen in love with a God who calls me out past my limits. It's hard for me to picture him lounging with me on the couch.

I know for sure that sometimes we're entrusted with simply doing what was asked of us - love the poor, console the brokenhearted, make family of our neighbors - while he throws his legendary, ridiculous grace around. Christ lives in us, walks the blocks by us, so why wouldn't we run to our local wounded the same way we butter our toast, clock into work, change the oil, pay the mortgage, and soap up tiny arms and legs every day? Why shouldn't he expect us to weave his highest calling into the fabric of life we tend without question?

Getting here was the easy part. Letting roots fall down into the earth is a lazy girl's labor. Growing them out takes muscle and grit and quite possibly more time than I'd like to share.  I don't know if Relative Inactivity was ever logged on God's calendar, or if I'm dealing with my familiar refusal to do the hard work. I don't want an out and I'm sick to death of the excuses that held me captive in a middle-class ghetto of oblivion where all the edges of life blurred into something mostly pretty and my spirit was dying from a lack of truth that shows up with shared pain.

So, I wait.
My heart and bones rest while my eyes scan a full perimeter.

I do small things, desperate to believe the kingdom magic where common sense gets everything wrong. I do small things, leaning in while we all somehow, in spite of ourselves, slide closer to eternity.

Monday, February 24, 2014

For My Dad Who Loves the Wild One

If you've ever had a weekend that was the perfect blend of in and out, away and tucked in, important talks around take-and-bake pizza and overpriced but delicious fish tacos, then you understand how I felt right around 8 a.m. Sunday.

We spent 2 days in Indy with some family and it was just the thing we needed, the best kind of breather, with 50-degree temps to boot.

We woke up before we were ready on Sunday morning, after a night of too many House of Cards episodes and not nearly enough answers. Cory's big-shot smart phone buzzed - my "assistants" at Yahoo mail had sent out a mass email on my behalf, with questionable links and all the usual crud. This, after it made me change my password just a few weeks ago, to my great consternation because I'm just not a password-changing kind of girl, and go ahead and tell me I should be, but I'll let my recent post-change spamming speak for itself.

So, the whole way to church, my phone buzzed with friendly reminders from people I love. No one likes Sunday spam.

When my parent's number popped up, just as we were parallel parking, I laughed to myself. My dad, the one who swore he would never get the internet, has had it for a while now. He must have gotten my spam and I knew he'd be more alarmed than anyone.

I sat in church with Calvin leaned up against me, listening hard for an answer I needed, thankful for people who love me and keep me near to them, people who alert me when I'm buggering up their inbox, people who sit long with me around the kitchen table while I unburden my soul and snatch cobwebs from the back corners.

As it turns out, my dad didn't know about the spam.
As it turns out, he was headed into the ER for presumed appendicitis.
As it turns out, his appendix was fine, but not his colon, and he went into emergency surgery and came out with a wound they can't close for a week and a brand new set of complications.

He is fine. He will keep being fine.
He knows enough to keep relenting to the will of God, even across a stretch of months where things stop making sense.

They've had a rough season, but God never stops being good. Not ever.

So, this is another reason I blog.
Because though I'm 4 hours away and I can't be there quite yet, I can load up some pictures of his silliest grandson. Keisha can hold the Kindle up to his face and I'm sure he'll smile and he might even laugh, but I hope not, on account of the open wound.

What follows is the truest glimpse of my youngest child.

This is how he "plays".
It usually involves rogue rolls of tape or hand-knotted rat's nests of yarn.
Sometimes there is hardware or other contraband, such as markers.

I let him do this, because 1) it kept him busy for nearly an hour, right in my line of vision. And 2) it was harmless, so why not? (I'm trying to really pick my battles with this one.)

To my knowledge, he has never in his life played with the legos, blocks, cars, trains, puzzles, or other normal toys that fill our toy room.

He specializes in off-the-grid.

This appears to have been his life's work. His finest achievement to date.
"I like to decorate! Just like you!"

Every pen. Every pencil.
Hand-written "fancy letters" representing everyone in the family.

It just sort of worked, am I right?

Late Olympic inspiration hit, and he threw in a few gold medals.

The Artist!
(said in my best French accent)

This is just what we do.
Every day.

Every single day, he asks to paint.
Or he goes through half a bottle of glue.
Or he rubs colored glue sticks over the seats of all my kitchen chairs.
Or he tapes bubble wrap "curtains" to the windows.

I think he should totally be Meg's next craft helper. He'd be infinitely more entertaining than I was.

Oh, remember the pins?
We have a new method.
He starts with 5 pins each morning. He loses one for each serious infraction.
If he still has even one pin at the end of the day?
A sticker for his chart!

It is exhausting and I'm no good with complicated routines. I always forget. I'm scattered.

This was the result of his first full chart.
His first official play-date!
(His little friend kept telling him he was so funny.)

I'll be honest, I can only keep up with pins and charts and rewards and punishments so long. It's been nearly 4 years of this. It never ends. I'm not that on the ball.

When things are relatively peaceable, I just chuck it and enjoy a break.
It's probably not advisable.
You know, consistency and all that jazz.

All I know is, sometimes sanity trumps consistency.

Also, he has started making his own sticker charts, racing to the fridge and awarding himself stickers throughout the day. :)

Most good days also include some water.
Either a bath in the middle of the day, with a bunch of his beloved containers, or washing dishes.

Listen, he really likes to don hair pretties from time to time.
I usually fend him off, but on this day, I said yes and he was in Heaven.

(He's not supposed to use the sprayer! shhhh!)

This kid. He makes life so hard and so good.
He has changed the fabric of Shannan Martin in good ways and bad. I struggle most days to live my life happily, despite what he's throwing at me. It's a fight, but I'm gaining ground.

He has control issues. Anger issues.
He's a lasher-outer and it hurts my feelings, but I'm doing okay. I'm doing better than ever, I think.

It's hard to realize that success can mean detaching enough not to break down when a 5-year old hurls his best verbal ammo.

But this is life. This is the life I was given.

And in between all those rough places is this sweet little boy with a hard past, the one whose eyes melt me, the one who gives the best cuddles and can turn, just as quickly, into a dream boat of a guy, promising to love me forever and that he'll never move away, rewarding me with nightlights and stickers and stray pieces of tape, because I'm "the best" or "so good" or "such a love".

 Last week, he asked me to help him cut a heart.
Then he worked furiously for a while, and brought me this.

In that moment, I felt so safe and so loved.

One night later, he left me this love note.
I wasn't feeling quite as safe or quite as loved....  :)

I found it well after dark, after he was tucked in and sound asleep, which was probably to his advantage.

And the day had been bright enough that I unscrewed the lampshade and carried it down to Cory, where all we could do was shake our heads in stunned disbelief mixed with complete "of course he did".

Silas knows my name. He knows how to spell it and I have to believe that when he does spell it, it's almost always done in love.

Except for two nights ago when a simple "no" enraged him enough to grab his spiral notebook and jot down a hurried and angry correspondence to his foster mommy, letting her know what a mean mommy he has.

But that's really a whole 'nother story. And so our world turns.


Love you, Dad! We're praying for you and can't wait to see you soon.

Friday, February 21, 2014

For the Moms with Wild Ones

There's a boy in this house with the ability to tilt the axis of our world and our home, each and every day, with just the flick of his whims.

My head still on the pillow, moonlight bleeding into day, I listen for the first sounds he makes, because I know they chart my course.

Too early spells a long slog of disagreeable hours, their end not in plain sight.
Giggling and raised voice is precarious, too. There's a fine line between the kind of happy that lifts us up together and the kind that spins us into a hiccuping overdrive.

It probably shouldn't be this way.

I've believed the lie that this is my problem to solve while the solution hides just out of reach. I never stop grasping, falling tear-stained and frayed into the condemnation of almost everyone, or so I tell myself, my own accusing finger wagging fastest.

All this, after years of progress.

We remind ourselves how far we've come, and either the hard days are fewer or we're just more immune to the fall-out. Either way, it's a better place to be.

But we default so quickly to making him our scape-goat. Our apologies for him trip too easily off our lips, desperate to be seen as anything other than part of the problem.

This child? He's not a problem. He's the best thing ever.

I've known for so long. I've believed it in my home when things get far out of hand. I've believed it when he rockets us off-balance and we burn all day from our nearness to the sun. I've even known it through a long stretch of short winter days where, in desperation, I stuck vinyl letters to my living room wall as a reminder of what my job really is - to make everyone here feel safe, feel loved.

It's okay to get things wrong. I might forget things, be grumpy, come down too hard or let everything slip out to sea. As long as we're tucked in at the end of the day feeling safe and feeling loved, I get an A.

A few weeks ago we had out-of-town visitors on an afternoon that capped a row of difficult days. I found myself parroting those tired apologies, unable to bear another voice in my head saying I should have a handle on this by now.

She interrupted me mid-sentence, looking me square in the eye, saying, "I'm telling you this because I love you..." and my heart stopped cold, because I knew what she was going to say and I've never doubted her love. She would tell me he needed help. Maybe we all need help. She would say she saw what was happening and loved me anyway. She'd tell me everything was going to be alright.

But I was wrong.

What she said was that he was a little boy, full of "gusto", a bit squirrely, but aren't so many of them? She said she had a wild one, that all of her friends had at least one. When they're together, chaos ensues and it's loud and gusto-y, the kids taking turns as the naughty one, everyone sharing the burden, leaving no one as the scape goat.

She's a mom. She knows she wasn't seeing the half of it, but she saw enough to recognize a sweet little boy, so full of life and curiosity that it leaked out in inconvenient ways. She saw a kid trying to figure out his place, trying to grow, not to be fixed. She saw a tired mom who needed permission to trust her instincts.

It was after 2 a.m. that night when I made it to my bed, but I couldn't come close to sleep because all I wanted to do was get to work loving my child. She reminded me of my ability to do this well.

I'm at my best as a mom when I'm meeting the needs of my kids instead of my own. It's a war I'd rather rise above, but I wage it daily. I need a lot of silence, but they need my voice. I'd like to live like a vampire, up all night and sleeping with the curtain drawn. They're normal humans with normal circadian rhythms. They need me there. I crave order and around-the-clock amicability, they thrive on pell-mell energy, they fuss about toys and tasks. They don't listen all the time. They disobey and suffer from selective hearing. They're emotional, irrational, hyper and quirky. They're children. So wonderful, imaginitive, stubborn and complex.

I've spent too long trying to mold them into my lumpy image.
I've lost too much time trying to meet an ideal that just doesn't exist for my family.

In how many ways do we do this? Why are we prone to digging through the garden in search of the weed?

A true friend bears our burdens. There's nothing quite like the gifts of commiseration and solidarity in the midst of a struggle. But ultimately, a true friend makes us want to do better, to be better - a better wife, a better mom, a person who calibrates herself not according to the humans around her, but who boils life down to its simplest syrup.

All I need is to feel safe and feel loved.
All they need is to feel safe and feel loved.

The end.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Insta Art


I'm breaking in with an important bulletin, or, "A very important newsletter", as Calvin would say.

I just discovered Canvas People is offering 85% off all of their canvases right now. Annnnnd...I've been pining around for some Waterlogue activity all week. As it turns out, we don't have an iPhone for that app, but Cory found a suitable alternative, with FotoSketcher.

So....Cory played around with it a bit last night and came up with a few different options using three of my photos.

I just ordered a 20x30 inch canvas for $36, including tax and shipping!! What???! I know. And they have smaller sizes for even cheaper.

Get Yours! 85% off ALL Canvas Prints. Deal of the century!

I have no idea how long they'll be offering this deal, so this might not be the best time for neurotic waffling. I curbed mine first thing this ayem and ordered it up. I sort of want to turn every single thing into a watercolor now...especially all things flowery and springy.

Of course, you can just use a regular photo, too. That is allowed, even in this day and age when we're turning everything into something else and making "art" with the click of a button. :)

Also, remember when I said we might make a few jpegs available? Well, despite pleas from my pal Joy, I keep forgetting. So, let's make today the day.

If you're interested in Cory's legendary windmill shot, it can be yours for $15. Paypal me at and I'll send you the jpeg file, then you can print it or use it as your computer wallpaper or get super rainy-day crazy and turn it into a watercolor then slap it on a canvas. What you can't do is sell it or use it for advertising. Fair enough? I have to protect CMB's skills, you know. :)

If you're interested in one of the FotoSketcher prints above, those can be available, too, same price. Just paypal me and let me know which one you'd like!

So there, instant Thursday brightification.

Thanks for being so rad, all of you. Have a grand one!

*I'm a Canvas People affiliate, which means if you order through my site, I get a wee bit of cash for sending biz their way.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

First Love Blogging

 Every now and then, I trudge downstairs, my heart somewhere down around my ankles, feeling a bit adrift. It usually happens when I've been in my writing cave. It's the nagging feeling that I can't capture what my mind is feeling, I can't find the right words. I grasp them like slippery river stones and wonder why they're unmoldable, why it's so impossible to turn them inside out and shape them into the exact right thing.

Sometimes, if I'm not careful, or even if I am, this frustration rises until it jumps the bank, flooding over into my blog, this place that is all mine. I forget it's a sanctuary, on those nights. I forget it's a safe place, a gift given to myself. I forget that I own it. I don't have bosses, no one dictating or demanding. I lose all those truths in this wide sky of perplexity, where people and friends come to read what I have to say, to my great, head-scratching wonderment.

Back when we had extra money lying around, we worried we would lose it. The more we had, the more we stewed, holding guard, obsessively checking balances and interest rates and making plans for the future that ultimately combusted, drifting away in a thin curl of smoke.

It can be the same with you guys. (And it's totally not your fault.)

I'm no stranger to the numbers. Beyond the sheer impossibility of pinning everything down on a tidy line, I have a decent grasp on what draws you here, and what makes you stay.

But there are factions, and they compete.

On those nights when I tell Cory through tired eyes that I'm having an identity crises, I allow myself to fall victim to the lie that my job is to make everyone happy, to keep this machine fed, the joints greased and limber.

But my husband, this dream of a partner who listens to me and cares about things I care about, tells me the truth again - You started blogging so we would remember all of this. 

How did I possibly forget?

I didn't start blogging because I had the urge to share the new throw pillows I bought at Target for 75% off. I didn't even start blogging because I was a writer. I started blogging because I want to remember the way Silas makes Olympic sport out of switching his nightlights from room to room, rewarding our good behavior with "the brightest one". I want to remember Ruby dressing herself for school in four kinds of stripes and the way Calvin's hair now requires its own zip code.

I don't want to forget the ways I felt when Robert was locked up, then moved in, then back out. I want to be reminded of how my love for my husband grew when he hung up his suits and ties, signing most of his paycheck away to work at the county jail.

This is my journal, a detailed account of many of my feelings across a continuum of deep personal growth and a time of whip-lashing change.

It's also where I delight my own soul with close-ups of every flower that graces the land and grainy shots of dinner, often after I've already taken the first bite.

I have opinions and ideas, yes, but I don't have many answers. I'm not wired to be relevant and I'm usually not interested in changing anyone's mind or being the loudest, snappiest voice in the room.

I'm a deep thinker, but I hold disproportionate care for celebrities.
I get lost inside my own head at least fifteen times a day, but I also like to pattern mix and plunk daisies in a can.

Maybe many of you connect with my family's journey out of security and into some grungy places and some risk. Or maybe you wait for my words on adoption or God. Some of you just happen to like my curtains and wish I'd stop talking and show you our new couch.

I've had folks tell me I've become too preachy, too weird about God. Others find my media preferences troubling and worry over my occasional margarita.

Some wish I'd share more about the little kids, more about the big kids, more about adoption or advocating for the poor. Some of you even wish I'd return to the days of yore when I detailed my entire grocery list, to the profound confusion of most of the people in all the land.

The good news is, with my wildly unpredictable carefree blogging style, I'm usually satisfying someone.

The better news is, I don't mind disappointing everyone, if it means I'm being authentic to myself and my family, holding whatever happens to be most dear, capturing a moment and preserving it behind glass.

I just needed to be reminded, that's all. After nearly 6 years, I needed to take a look back.

So, things aren't going to change around here. Not really.
As usual, any change has been set free in me. And as a writer is prone to do, I'm figuring it out as I tap these keys.

All I ever want is to be true to my creator and myself. I want to continue to write about the hard things with great sensitivity and conviction. I want to listen and be led.

More than anything, I want to remember - always - that small things are often the biggest things.

Ever yours,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Perks of Having a Dumb Phone

I just closed out one of the more fulfilling, restful weekends I've had in a very long time. And I'm fully convinced that you guys are responsible for launching me into the awesomeness that it was.

Your comments on my last post still have me feeling all cuddly and loved. So for real. You gave me goose bumps all the live-long day. You cracked me up and made me feel weepy and newborn on the inside. In this weird cyber-world where everyone is always looking for the next big thing, trying to connect with the Person du Jour, trying to climb up and out and over, I just want you to know for sure that you are my home. I don't need anyone else in the stratosphere. You're just *it*.

Further completing this magical weekend of bliss is the fact that I didn't touch the computer for nearly 48 hours. It wasn't really intentional, I just stepped away for a bit and then sort of spaced it. I didn't need it, didn't want it. (And then there's the simple fact that after so long, the act of returning is a bit daunting.)

It was so good to take a time-out and just full-on putter. Weekends are often good for this sort of thing, but I'm usually checking my email a few times, reading blogs or blog comments, looking up a recipe, catching up, catching up, realizing it's impossible to ever catch up. So this time, I didn't even try.

For all the times I poke fun at my Dumb Phone, this never could have happened with a smarter one. There are absolutely situations where being better-connected might make my world a bit more seamless, a little easier to navigate. But I just really dig being able to sink down into my life, now and then, without that added distraction.

Also, it's cheaper, which means you can order salsa and chips from the place in town a couple times a month, buy a magazine or two, and splurge on goat cheese. All of which are so much higher on the priority list than being reachable at all times by all the people.

I know I'm in the minority here. Cory recently ended his 3-month stint without a Smart Phone and it very nearly killed him. I guess I just want to add my voice to the crowd on this one. You don't have to hop that ship. There's plenty of room here in my little lifeboat. :)

A few glimpses of my weekend:

Favorite new combo: Jail stripes + Pinstripes

We went on such a super-rad V-day date. Since we didn't buy gifts this year, we splurged and hired a sitter and went to our favorite restaurant in town, not even a mile down the street. As good fortune would have it, the special was Brussels Sprout Pizza!!!!

Then we went to the coffee shop and sat in peace, talking about important things. I had Peach Cobbler Coffee Cake and dog-eared the liver out of one of my favorite mags. We were home by 8, at which time we put on our fat pants and watched this movie, which sounds like one of those crude, frat boy flicks, but totally wasn't. It was a thoughtful little indie movie, starring Nick Miller in a beard, and the other-worldly-gorgeous Olivia Wilde.

Incidentally, this was my Valentine to Cory (one of the funniest scenes of the season and a perfect encapsulation of what makes this show so watchable):

Reading: There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene
(Can't stop. Won't stop.)

Listening: Ellie Holcomb's new release, As Sure as the Sun
(Ellie was one of my travel-mates to Ethiopia and her new album is all the Summer-day a girl could ask for. Also, Silas is obsessed with it. He likes the lady singers.)

Eating: Haphazard chicken tortilla soup

* I threw 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the slow cooker along with 2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, 2 cans of corn, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 chopped onion & 3 cloves chopped garlic (softened up a bit in a skillet, first), 1 large can of peeled & diced green chilies, 2 tsp chili powder, 3 tsp cumin, salt, and pepper. I cooked it on low for 3-4 hours, then shredded the chicken. The next day, I added 2 more cups of broth and brought it all to a boil then simmered it for a good while, adding the juice of a lime and tweaking the spices. (Full disclosure: the soup was missing a little something, so I threw in half a packet of that dry Hidden Valley ranch dip. It helped!)
We topped it with diced avocado, cheese, sour cream, and crumbled tortilla chips. DELISH!


Avery Grace (aka Avis, aka Averson)
(I sort of want to eat her teeth. Is that weird?)

Keeping company with:

Watching: Which Way Home
(I'm having trouble shaking this documentary. I may have more to say about it sometime soon.)

We also went to see the Lego movie, our first-ever family movie date! (what???!)
In true Martin family style, we got the time wrong, missing the first 5 minutes and sitting IN THE FRONT ROW. But the flick is proving to be infinitely-quotable among the shorter stack.

I also went to church (the two cutie grandmas behind me invited me to come back a pew and sit with them - swoony!), made dessert, took two naps, ate a gallon of salsa, and went to bed early. Twice.


What was your highlight?

Friday, February 14, 2014

How to Be Loved Today

It's not a secret that I love Valentine's day.
There's no reason for it at all, just the hazy idea that it's okay to set aside a day in honor of the thing that makes the whole earth turn.

Haters say it's fabricated, a ploy to sell imported, genetically altered roses and those crappy chocolates in the cardboard hearts.

I say, "Be gone, cynics!"

Yet for all my Valentinian fervor, the painful truth is that all my paper hearts met an early demise this year and I have nothing planned for my kids except cinnamon rolls from that lonely cart at the back of  Kroger.

It's like this more and more.

Back when I lived in La-La Land, I would write for seven nights running about important and significant things like my rainbow/heart patterned dish towels from Target. I once spent an entire evening attempting to snip dehydrated pink grapefruit slices into hearts.

I'm still weird and frivolous, full of hair-brained ideas and silliness. But life was so much simpler, back then.

Back then, I didn't know actual people in jail or poverty or impossible situations. I didn't know teenagers whose love had been abused until it was unrecognizable, then altogether lost. I had never thought about 6-year olds in families too poor or distracted to grab a $2 box of valentines for the class party. My phone didn't buzz with text messages from young moms asking for help through their shame. I hadn't known the face of suicide, back then, or the soul-decaying invisibility of the condemned.

I also didn't know the hopeful beauty of a criminal and a police officer kneeling side-by-side for communion. I hadn't yet seen the vibrancy of  an Ethiopian mama providing for her young with her dignity intact. I wasn't aware that sometimes being a good neighbor means nothing more than opening the door and other times it means nothing less than giving the last cash until payday. I wasn't fully aware that sisterhood can be born in the birth of a brown-eyed baby. I had no measure of my capacity to love and be loved by a big kid tethered with an ankle bracelet. I couldn't have guessed that my husband would grow a ridiculous beard and rise up to shepherd child molesters and common theieves.

My eyes were still closed to the particular bonding powers of shared suffering and easy celebration.

Though I'm still an unwavering advocate of heart garlands and small gestures, I'm maybe just slightly less so. I have peeled back the lid of the heart-shaped box and found actual beating hearts, hearts that are wild and pulsing and wounded, they might say, beyond repair.

I've sat quiet with my own bruises and been rescued over and over by a hand reaching out for mine, holding on until I trust I'm in good company.

I know that hand is the very body of Christ, outstretched by someone willing to shelve her own burdens so she can shoulder mine. I know now the only reason I walk this earth is to help cast His love about, and that sometimes the best I can do is receive.

Today, I want us all to be loved. I know some of you aren't feeling it today, or yesterday, not ever, really.

Or maybe life is mostly good except for the parts that aren't, the parts that torture your nights and cause you to cry at the kitchen sink.

Maybe we're all in some kind of pain, you know? Maybe we compartmentalize it differently, some carrying it in a vest pocket, some wheeling it around behind them in a tall stack of precarious emotion.

We're let down and we're letting down, a bunch of distracted humans sure to get things wrong.

But what if today, we did things differently? What if, in the midst of our celebrating or not celebrating or rueing St. Valentine himself, we held out a hand to one more person, intentionally, because it matters for each of us to be loved today?

If you're in, just leave a comment. Say whatever needs to be said, without pressure to say much of anything at all. Just make sure we know your name.

I can't say enough that I love you guys. You're my people. What we have here is community. We've done this sort of thing before . We've passed proverbial loaves of banana bread around the stratosphere. It just feels like it's time again.

Aim all your love to the person directly above you in the comments, then draw back and let it fly.

You can pray, if you happen to be a Jesus person. But I know not everyone is, and I happen to like it that friends outside my faith are comfortable hanging out here. So just send love, in its best and simplest form. You can comment to each other or send your virtual love through brainwaves and shallow breaths. There's no wrong way. We each have certain love to give and we need to know we're not alone. I want every single one of you to believe you've got a Valentine here among us, someone rooting for you today, cheering you on from a different corner of a wold that's ribboned with glitter and laced with drear.

Just know that you are loved, friends. Know today that despite every botched weekday and every closing door, you are cherished and special and so necessary to the lives around you.

Your Valentine,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Because happiness usually can't be bought...

But, sometimes... just can, man.

Hi. Hello!
I have so many things I want to say here. So many things to yammer about, so little time!
I'm working on a big writing project (people, I'm finally writing a non-fiction book!) and I decided a month ago that I was putting myself on house arrest (it's a theme around here) every Wednesday and Friday until it was done. (These are my only 2 writing days.)  (Theoretically.)

And then school was canceled or we had a major event every single Wednesday and Friday since then.

I'm not getting a lot done, but as a wise friend told me, every day I'm just living more of life, adding to the big proverbial pot where all my stories and words are kept.

Last night, I prayed that God would carve a place inside me for his words to land. These things always seem much less profound when it's daylight and I have some Earl Gray and Taco Bell in me, but it still holds true, even without the extra half-asleep melodrama. I'm just needing those words right now, and needing a place for them to fall.

The pot is filling and soon it'll spill. Heaven help me, this snow will probably still be piled up around me like promises kept and broken, but all the same, I'll start writing them down. Some of my words are for you right here, and some will be for a different time and place.

Until then, let's all just keep on living this life we've been given, whatever it happens to be on a given day. Let's keep turning away from the idea that we have much say in any of it, and instead choose to see it as the very thing we need, even when it feels like the opposite.

Some other free happies for today:

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple 
I'm profoundly addicted to this book. It's my favorite read so far of 2014. (I've read almost 8 books already. Thanks, snow!) I won't trouble you again with my philosophy on books, just consider yourself warned if you fall on the sensitive spectrum of readers. All I can tell you is that I gobbled this one up in 2 days, flat. It was highly entertaining and unusual and, I daresay, spoke to me at one point so poignantly about my faith. It turns out God can find me in a book with the s-word.

The Stanley Clan
Becca is my homegirl. When certain troubles pop up, she's my SOS text message, because she feels like the person most likely to understand, in all the land. But you should get to know her because her prose will send you into a permanent fit of goose bumps. The girls speaks so much truth dressed in so much beauty. She's also my go-to source for new favorite bloggers and reads (like this one), most of whom bend toward issues of justice and poverty.

Shannan + Cory : Our Love Story
I stumbled on this post I wrote last year for Danielle Burkleo. It seems fitting to share it again now, in this, the High Season of Swoonery. For those of you who may have missed it the first time.

Dig this Chick
Hang out with my friend, Nici. She makes me want to pretend to be a hippie some days. We're the same but different. You will love her.

And find tons of other stuff I'm loving for free right here on Pinterest.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I'm Gone

I've come to the conclusion that James Taylor wrote Carolina in My Mind in February.
And quite possibly at a beat-up blue desk somewhere in Northern Indiana.

Friday was our 10th school cancellation this winter.

Let's pause for a moment of reflection.


I just want some green, man.
A vast, sweeping elimination of all the white.

The good news? It was sunny today.
The bad? -800 degree windchill.
Or something around there.

In my mind, I'm gone to Carolina.
Or Florida.

Heck, I'm in Sochi. (It's really just a lateral move at this point, and I could get my "green" fix via Lithuania from the warmth of a Taipei snuggie.)

Since I've mentally checked out from my geographical reality, I thought I'd share some pics from last Summer that I never got around to sharing. For therapeutic purposes.

See that?
It's called grass.
It's called bare knees on the small humans.

We're all so relaxed and alive.
Can't you just see the sunshine?
(Ain't it just like a friend of mine, to hit me from behind?)

Here's a short list of things I'm pining for:

Flowers and other signs of life.
Walks and bike rides.
Warm cheeks.
Unfrozen nose hairs.

 Also, bare toes.
(I'm cryin', ain't I?)

Dark and silent late last night Cory and I walked to our van and I almost face-planted on a patch of ice, my vision partially impaired by the large, crystallized cloud of my own brittle breath.

To my right, there was a patio set where only the very tops of the chairs were visible.

To my left? Just a lot of snow.
Just, everywhere.

Signs that might be omens say I might not survive 6 more weeks of this.

It seems like it goes on like this forever.

You must forgive me if I'm up and gone to anywhere even slightly warmer than here in my mind.

I'm gone, I'm gone.

Say nice things about me. And lock your doors if you live in a warmer climate, because you just never know when I might turn up.