Monday, March 31, 2014

Things I Learned at Hope Spoken :: Miscellaneous Monday Edition

* I am the worst traveler ever. The. Worst. If I'm not busy assuming my flight will be canceled, I'm paranoid about someone yanking my wallet. (Maybe because both things have actually happened in recent memory??) I've become heinous when it comes to driving in unfamiliar cities, left to my own devices, which include but are not limited to: paper maps and frantic phone calls to Cory. I honk at people and am honked at. I get jittery about tolls. I park in the wrong parking garages. I'm a weirdo at the ticket counter. I am always, every single time, a hair's width from not sitting my butt on the plane, for a host of reasons, and when I do? My carry-on is too heavy for my twig arms to lift it to the overhead compartment. A nice man offers help, to which I respond, "Thanks! I'm not as strong as I look." And he registers a look of, "Honey, my two year old grandkid could so take you". The joke falls flat, I question my ability to properly utilize irony, and I buckle my seat belt, already dreading the return flight.

* I used to think if I was going to forget a key toiletry, a tooth brush would be the one I'd pick. They seem so readily available. A tooth brush is a tooth brush, you know. Except now I know that "brushing" one's teeth with a hotel "tooth brush" is exactly like washing one's teeth with a shedding push-broom made of rubber, the "bristles" of which register the sturdiness of two-ply tissue. It was so large, yet so soft and flexible. Such a pointless tool. I never saw this one coming.

* People look at me like I'm Mary Todd Lincoln when I pull an actual point-and-shoot camera out and snap a few pics.

* I can waffle and waver and try on outfits and stew over what the right thing is to wear to something like this, but when it actually comes down to it, you'll find me in gingham and Converse. It's my adult security blanket.

* If you put three exhausted moms in a hotel room and draw the black-out shades, they will not wake up until 10:25 a.m.

* If you give two savvy, puffy-eyed ladies 15 minutes to look presentable for a brunch with a bunch of other, savvier, and much better-turned-out ladies, they will mostly pull it off. (This one did better than the other one.)

* Paige Knudsen? The K is not silent. I mean, whaaaaaaaaat?

* In between being psychotic on the phone while Cory tried patiently talking me through being lost on the way to the airport, I told him this, quote, "Everyone will comment on how tall I am and my man voice" endquote. I was right about the first part, but I'm sure they were all thinking the second part.

* Jami Nato is the Bizarro Emily Freeman, like on Seinfeld. Or maybe it's the other way around. Whatever. I don't know who's the chicken or who's the egg,  I just found it uncanny and wonderful. I officially dig them both.

* Tex-Mex and unlimited salsa and guac can make an "I'm not even hungry yet!" girl change her tune, but quick.

My pretend homegirl, Shauna Niequist
* I looked cute for 3 days running, properly doing my hair, wearing jewelry, washing my teeth like a dang champ. I spent so many hours with so many people I love, laughing our heads and generally loving life. No one cared about pictures. I ended up in this lone shot during that streak of legendary put-togetherness. It was taken with a person who has no clue who I am, on another person's phone, because, well, let's not re-hash that again... 

Pretty Girl Danielle

* On the last day of the conference, after I had ugly-cried all my lady-paint clean off for roughly 24 hours straight, having had only 3 hours of sleep the previous night and having lost the will to fluff my hair or properly accessorize, roughly everyone in the Universe wanted a picture of everything, which happened to include me.

* I hunch over in all pictures like a gangly weirdo. (I have known this for a long why don't I stop?)

You guys. I have so much more to say about Hope Spoken. So much goodness to share.
I'm going to do us all a favor and save the rest for tomorrow.

Meantime, tell me one thing you learned while I was in Texas.

I'm all ears. Literally.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Here's Where Things Get Weird

Back in early February, one of my best ladies in all the land came to visit, and brought her brood, too. Sarah and I stayed up until unholy hours cackling and ruminating. Our kids got on like old mates. Silas still misses Owen and Calvin resigned himself to a future arranged marriage to Audrey, since it means her brothers would be part of the deal. Alas, the weekend was everything I ever needed.

The fact that Sarah's husband was here to film our family felt sort of like an after-thought. And, incidentally, I've officially concluded that I would rock on a reality show. Real Housewives of the 'Hood. Something like that.

Cory was slated to be the real media darling (thanks, Jim!) of the gig, but we all got a bit of airtime. Still, if the photo on this post feels a bit out of place, it's only because I was half asleep on the couch when Cory did his big interview over at the island. Supportive wife that I am. (See: "stayed up until unholy hours cackling".)

I'm so excited about The Fatherhood Project. I see firsthand, every day, the way fathers shape their kids, for the good or the bad. This is important work and it's such an honor to be part of it.

Have a peek at the trailer (you'll see some familiar faces!) and feel free to spread the word!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's A Doozy

My head is a bit all over the place tonight. I've got things on my mind, including, but not limited to: that little kid who keeps calling his mom "Linda" while arguing with her about a cupcake, my current, intense desire for a DQ hot fudge sundae, and the sad truth that I still think about Phillip Seymour Hoffman at least once a day. I miss knowing he's around in the world. I'm sad for his family. I'll miss all his future talent. But at least we still have Doubt. (Watch. It.)

And there's more.

Let me just start somewhere near the beginning, because even though I have the slippery suspicion that I could drag my current brain-train out into a solid three posts, none of us has the time for that. Dinner's already half cold, amiright??

First, the good news: I'm leaving for Dallas on Thursday to speak at Hope Spoken. I'm so legit excited. And honestly, that's weird for me. Honestly and truly, I haven't always had the "best experience ever" with conferences. It's not them, it's me. I usually wind up feeling a bit adrift about who I am and what I should be doing. I've often felt just outside the circle and a little angsty about life. I'm reminded that I'm cut from a wonky bolt of cloth. Etcetera.

But this feels different. I get to see so many of my people. I get to talk out loud, up on stage, and though I will surely want to puke for thirty minutes prior, and of course I might cry seven or eight times while I'm up there, I really like that sort of thing. It's like blogging, minus all the technology. It's my chip bag, that's all I'm saying. It's my salsa bowl. It's my thang.

Straight up, if I seem not quite right tonight, it's because at precisely 3pm today, whilst sitting in the pick-up line, I fell victim to repeated and severe stabbing pains in my left ear. Long story longer, a congenial after-hours-clinic doctor diagnosed me with "constant intermittent pain" caused by a "raging ear infection".

Incidentally, I found the fountain of youth tonight. Get your first known ear infection at the age of 37+. You'll feel positively infantile.

Don't worry though, I drowned my woes in hot-and-sour soup and garlic sauce that burned my face off.

But back to my death-fear of technology. I switched my blogger domain to a custom domain earlier today - the same exact custom domain I have owned and paid for for five straight years but have never used.

So, basically, gobbledygook blah blah blarneystone, I probably messed everything up. But hopefully not. But if you follow me through Blogger, you may need to find another way because I don't have a "follower" box anymore. And if you follow me through Bloglovin' or some other necessary technological fancy-pantsery, you might need to update the link. Or not. I'm so bad at this, guys. I don't even know what to tell you, other than: Please find a way! Let's make this work! We're so good together!

This might help. Since I already hated myself enough to spend twenty minutes of my life on the phone with online tech support, I went ahead and created a FPFG facebook page. I don't know why, okay? Does a girl always need a reason? Truth be told, Silas was on his way to Ohio since I'm leaving for Texas and he was so cute and pretty sad and I started to cry real tears of salted emotion on my couch over how complicated and beautiful it is to be his Mama and the best way to quell such tears is by replacing them with tears of honest-to-goodness frustration that comes with having a "job" that you are not "equipped" to "accomplish".

Basically, my ego is writing checks my body can't cash. Or something.

Do me a solid, and find me right here.

People are saying Facebook is mere inches away from burning down to a molten pile of ash, but you know me. I'll be the last one standing.

Forever Yours and Not Just Because I Can't Find My Way Out,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Broken For Me

He walks our way, between rows of carved pews, the tips of angel wings reaching his temples across a clean-shaven head. He's here in his Sunday best, this stranger, and I hope he didn't think it was necessary. I glance down at my faded jeans, thankful for a morning so rushed and air so cold that they were really my only option.

He talks about unwarranted pardons, of two lines of text that stack word-on-word into proof that he matters, at least to someone. He shares his race car dreams through missing teeth and stands eye-level with his potential, "I got a real good job".

I fidget through church, fighting the urge to turn his way. I don't understand a single thing about him. I'm curious. Nosy. It seems he might hold some secrets to life in a way other people don't. I want to peel back anything that stands in the way of the truth that holds me in its sway. I want to take a good, hard look.

But I face front, like a good church girl would do. I listen to stories of love undeserved, of the impossibility of losing the key to home. It's never too late. You can always come back.

It's the best possible message for the man across the way. I give God an "A" for planning it out like this, for knowing what this man needed to hear and lining up the stars and galaxies and all the impossibilities of poverty and shame in order for him to be sitting there in slacks, on the other side of the church.

We're released by rows and my knees meet velvet. This is his body broken, his blood spilled, for you, Shannan. And in Christ's brokenness, I'm whole. In what was spilled, I'm full. We do this every month, and I'm starting to understand the logic behind weekly communion, though of course it isn't logic at all. It's a pulling. A compulsion. It's necessary.  I can never be reminded enough of the road that led me right here, right now.

I taste the bread, emptied of words again, finding I have almost nothing to say except thank you. This bite sticks on its way down. It's never easy anymore, and I wonder why. The old girl inside me, the one fighting to believe any good thing should be simple, worries I'm not doing something right. It never used to be a problem. It used to slide right down without costing me a thing. Maybe I should be more focused, more reflective. Maybe I don't really understand grace and redemption. Maybe I'm distracted. Maybe I take all this for granted.

Or maybe I've never been more aware of the mess I am. Maybe I can't outrun my humanity and I'm done trying. Maybe God's gift is a clearer understanding of my need for him, so well-lit and painfully saturated that it simply cannot be missed. 

I need this practice, this bending low to confess my simple-minded heart. I need the routine wonder of offering my infant gratitude to the one who defragments my humanity into what it really is, a pulsing brokenness, a needle skipping in the groove of imperfection and frailty.

I loop back around to my pew, my mouth matching the words on the screen while my heart harmonizes every stanza that surrounds me, keeping time to winter's light filtering stained glass, absorbing the reverie where tradition and history meet my blue-jeaned reality.

In a tiny church, half-full, life makes more sense after wedging a soggy hunk of bread into my cheek and speaking truth in my exhales - You did this for me. Please don't let me forget. Please keep coming for me.

It's his turn now, and my tears fall hot while he drops to his knees.
These are the tears I wanted for myself.
I don't know a thing about this man.

But I'm learning about the truth that lives and breathes in me. I know the power of that jagged chunk of bakery bread. I know the promise of the cup.

It's never too late to come home. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you've become.

Viper fangs unhinge over the contours of his skull. The soles of his shoes are black, nearly new. His pants are slung low and I'll never know the communion he shares as his knees rest on velvet and his soul touches God's.

I don't need to know.

This moment - my moment - was never about him.
The words were for me. His body, broken for me.

The bread lives inside me, pushing past my faithless heart, my vanity and pride, my ruthless refusal to get cozy with my own splintered soul.

In this community of misfits, in this shared cup, in words and notes, in the midst of my unfair judgments and staggering arrogance, God reels my heart back to him.

I'm home now. So thankful, now.
I know He'll never stop coming for me, but it feels good to keep asking, like a child, so I do.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Classification Guide to Modern Collecting. According to Me.

What is it about a good collection? I'm obsessed. 
I prefer to always be tracking something.
I'm only happy when I'm sniffing a needle from a haystack.

I like to think collecting gives structure to my inherent greed.
It feeds my unruly urge to stalk and hunt and bring home a prize. 

For that reason, I find throw-back Granny collections to be most wallet-friendly. My M.O. is to get all handsy with collections that are 1) thriftable 2) inexpensive 3) easily found, but not too easily. 

(Practicality of the collection is a double-edged sword and is both open to interpretation and immune from explanation.)

Among many others, I've had the vintage sprinkler collection and the thrift-store coffee mug collection. But a ledge can only hold so many sprinklers and a lady can only drink so much coffee. (In the case of this lady, the limit is zero cups per lifetime. I hate coffee, but you don't have to hate me back. I take my tea extra-dark and caffeinated, if that's any consolation.)

For reasons unknown to mankind, I've recently stumbled upon an odd assortment of vintage bath towels. I love them so much. I want to wrap myself up in them and parade around like a woman draped in a fine fur.

The main problem is the fact that they're roughly the size of an extra-large hand towel.
(aka, a normal sized hand towel for the claw hands.)

(Are you a newish reader and you don't know about the claw hands? If so, it means I've dropped the ball and I'm truly sorry. It also means it's time for another trip down claw hand lane.)

Here's an important question: How many items are needed to consider something a collection? I'll offer my input. For a while, I just had that one white, floral towel in the middle of the stack. At that point, I just thought it was a cute towel. The end.

Then, I added the violet/green, slightly threadbare towel. At that point, I started to think I should begin a collection.

So when I stumbled on the green towels (4! Matching!) and the blue Greek-key-esque towel, I noticed them. I made them mine. It was meant to be! Serendipity, even! Voila. A collection was born.

The tipping point for collections is obviously a clear three.
And knowing this opens up a whole world of possibilities.

Based on this strict, numeric criterium, I collect clumpy mascaras, striped shirts, soft cheeses, and hotel shampoos.


There's just no telling where this towel collection will take me. I'm atwitter.

It's already causing me visceral pain to think of all the towels I've passed up over the years out of sheer ignorance of their awesomeness. By Summer's end, I predict I'll be able to knit a "cozy" for the entire house, an amazing, technicolor dream coat of warmth and protection for the season ahead. I also predict I'll have paid a total sum of $22.

So let it be written.

In parting, I'd like to share a quote from one of my recent reads. I saved it because it reminded me so much of the most important parts of my life, but in hindsight, who's to say vintage towels and twenty-five cent coffee cups aren't among them? I took the liberty of modifying the quote accordingly.

"'Your family collection isn't your choice,' her father had said, to quell a tantrum, many years earlier, and without wanting to, she kept discovering what he had meant." - A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra*


What are you collecting right now? What's the strangest collection you've ever happened upon? Can a girl have too many collections? What's the best addition to a collection you've ever had the good fortune of discovering?

Tell me everything.

*Amazon Affiliate link

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ruby Just Because

Ruby Girl, you're such a beauty, you know it?

The days have been long around here. Heck, the years. But you have made them better. You have shown me a different way in the moments where I throw out my arms and free-fall to my basest self, the one who yells or ignores or answers too sharply. In you, I see generosity in the face of brothers who often only want to take. I see a peace-maker. I see a little girl who monkey-bars between older kinds of fun and pre-school play because that's just what she is - she's a fun girl. You're such a fun girl. I love that about you.

Mommy and Daddy talk about you a lot, did you know that? It mostly happens when you're sound asleep in bed. We keep forgetting that you're just in first grade. Sometimes we expect you to act older than you are, (maybe because you're so tall!) and we wanted to say we're sorry for that. Please stay silly, little girl. Stay emotionally fragile for as long as necessary or even forever. Keep bumping into furniture and walls because you're pirouetting across the floor. Be as confused about things as every other first-grader in the world is. It's not your job to understand or intuit our adult world yet. We should have known better.

I sat in the bleachers and watched you at gymnastics practice tonight. I love that you meet my eyes from the floor. I see you with your friends and notice the way you can be so silly but also how you stand your ground. You shot another little girl a sassy look when she tried to take your place in line. My instinct was to tell you to be nicer, but I don't know. I think you're pretty nice already. You just don't like to be pushed around. So, keep that attitude in check, Sister. But I want you to keep standing strong when people try to take what is yours. Be generous, always empathetic, always quick to find mercy and offer grace. Be gracious, but it's okay to be firm. You have time to fine-tune your responses, but don't always move just because someone says you should.

Rubes, your face tells me one thousand stories in just a day and they're usually an even mix of comedy and sky-high drama. I love the way you entertain us, and pull belly-laughs from your brothers like scarves from your sleeve. What you are is magic. You're emotional and sometimes unsure. You always run straight toward the nearest brouhaha. I think you might be up on stage when you get a little older. You might make a crowded auditorium laugh or cry, and I'll be in the front row remembering the way you wrinkled your nose at me when you could barely sit upright, the way you screamed so much louder than necessary when you were mad, the way you still giggle until you toot.

But guess what else?
Your teacher told me yesterday your brain is "wired for math". As a mama who still counts on her fingers sometimes, I can't think of many things that would have thrilled me quite like this did. Daddy and I are amazed at how your mind is growing, and how easily new concepts take root. Keep reading, Ruby Girl. Make all the boys compete with you in math. Challenge yourself. Embrace your inner nerd, Sisterfriend.

Baby, I know friends are mean sometimes. This is how it starts and maybe even how it ends, but it doesn't have to end that way for you. Remember that sting of loneliness the next time you're tempted to turn up your nose or huff away over some slight offense. Show them a different way, just like you do so often at home. Decide right now that you don't play that way and then just don't. Don't decide not to sit with certain people. Don't tell someone they can't play. When your instinct is to run off with someone new, invent a game for three, instead.

I've told you a million times, but it's true: I would pick you to play with every single day at recces. I would. But if they don't pick you, find another unpicked girl and run and dream with her until the castle walls rise up around you and the horses all have pink-streaked manes and you forget about the ones who hurt you long after the whistle blows.

You can be pretty shy, Sweet Cheeks. I want you to know that's okay. I'm sorry when I push you past what you're ready for. I don't want to do that. I want you to learn to trust yourself, even and especially when those around you have no hesitation. There is strength in quiet. I want to be better about showing you that. I don't want you believing you should pretend to feel any way other than exactly how you happen to feel.

Here are a few of my favorite Ruby Facts:

Your hands are always warm. Always.

You gave Mommy a piggy-back ride last night. Just a few steps, but LADY. Why are you so strong???

You also pulled your own front tooth last night! I'm sorry I keep asking you to smile really big at me, but I'm a little obsessed with your grin now. More than ever!

Your favorite toy "ever in the world" is your (mangy!) penguin Pillow Pet. You don't really play with it, but you sleep with it every single night and it brings you unspeakable joy. (I don't pretend to understand.)

You named your dolls Kylie after your cousin and Dotty after...I have no idea. But I love it.

We have to tell you not to blurt out the answers before Calvin when we're quizzing him in math. :)

You love horses and cold cereal. You don't like taking showers. You keep trying to act angsty about your curly hair, but we're doing everything in our power to teach you to love it.

Your prayers hold so much sensitivity, so much compassion. You pay attention, and you understand the value of caring for the people around you.

You're pretty amazing, Ruby River.
I love everything about you. I wouldn't want you any other way.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Family Is More Than Blood

Before we adopted for the first time, I had only a vague idea about "orphans". I knew they existed in damp countries where townspeople wearing shades of brown and gray stood in line for bread rations. I pictured dark-skinned babies with distended tummies and Chinese orphanage rooms lined with rickety cribs.

Not in a million years did I picture faces that would one day form my family.

One of the magical things about adoption is that God always knows. It doesn't come as a surprise to Him. His walls are lined with family pictures that would take our breath away if we were to get just a glimpse. We think the one hanging on our wall is it. We think we know things, or that our family is already complete. But we don't even know the half of it.

Fifteen years ago, I daydreamed about knobby-kneed, fair-skinned kids with sticking-out ears and (fingers crossed!) Cory's blue eyes. But God had already decided something better for me.

Our family grew, and I forget sometimes that we don't share blood. We share time and space, a history that is whole enough to carry us home. We share laughs and germs and rants and prayers. We are a family.

And still, we grow.

This afternoon I rushed between dinner prep and homework when the front door opened and Robert and his best friend Fernando tumbled in, all long limbs and pierced tongues. They sat at the island for not nearly long enough and somewhere in between their stories and nonsense, Fernando referred to Cory as "Dad". Oh, I saw this one coming. It made me smile.

Because family is so much more than blood. And no one was meant to be alone.

The needle draws us together, pulls us near, and with every stitch, we're closer to what we were always meant to be. And with every stitch, our love grows, covering us and all the ones left standing cold around us until the shivering stops and we know that what we are together is real.

I can't say for sure that you're meant to adopt. But chances are, you're meant to be impacted by adoption. In one way or another, I believe you're meant to see that what the world calls brokenness can be a thing of sure beauty, adorned in the best possible ways, unexpected and entirely holy.

It could be a niece, a nephew, a grandchild, a godchild. Maybe your best friend will adopt, or your neighbor.

Maybe you're not as close to "done" as you thought.

This week, I'm partnering with one of my favorite companies, Sevenly, for a campaign to raise funding for the adoption of children with Down syndrome

Though not all birth families feel equipped to meet the needs of a child with Down syndrome, there are families who want to knit these children to their hearts through adoption, but struggle to afford the high cost.

Your purchase of the rad tee I'm wearing, or others, like this one (another favorite of mine!) helps a child with Down syndrome find their loving forever family through adoption grants funded by International Down Syndrome Coalition. (They even have Kiddo Ts!)

Help change a life and be cute & comfy while you do it!

Outtake :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Salsa

FPFG's Official Salsa Recipe

Grab one big can of whole tomatoes and a small can of Rotel (I often use generic Rotel but I was feeling extravagant this time.)

Drain your Rotel well, but not the whole tomatoes.

Throw the canned tomatoes in your food processor you got as a wedding gift 15 years ago, and be sure to grab the bent coat hanger, because it won't work unless you jam into the locking mechanism.

Also throw the following into the processor: half a large jalapeno with seeds (or more if you like it spicier), 3 cloves of garlic (smashed and halved), a chunk of onion, the juice of one lime, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp cumin.

Pulse until you don't see any big chunks of anything.

Then add a handful of cilantro (rinse and pat dry - it can be really sandy!) and pulse again.

Don't taste it yet or you'll doubt my judgment and wonder why on earth it took so long to see the light. Stick it in the fridge and let the flavors meld for a couple hours. Serve only with White Corn Santitas.

And thank me later.

I promise, this stuff makes any day better.
And I do mean any day.

1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes and their juice
1 regular-sized can Rotel, drained well
1 to 2 limes, juiced, depending on size (I like it limey!)
1/2 jalapeno, or to taste
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and halved
1/4 cup onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1 handful cilantro, rinsed and dried

Pulse in food processor until no large chunks remain.
Chill for at least 2 hours.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Calvin's Extreme Make-Over



It's been a busy couple of weeks for our middlest homeboy.

I can't stop staring at his handsome mug. He's so excited about his glasses.

And because I simply cannot stop repeating this story, you shouldn't be exempt.
I volunteered in C's classroom on Monday, which also happened to be his first day at school with his new specs. The kids were at Computer Lab when I arrived, so his teacher and I chatted a bit. She told me how much she loved his new glasses, then pointed to hers and said, "These are totally fake." I mean, she looked super cute in them, but it surprised me that a 3rd grade teacher would bother wearing cute/fake glasses to work. Then she added, "I wear them sometimes because so many of my kids wear glasses." (9 of them!)

Have you ever, in your life, heard of anything more heart-pinching than that?
I love my life. Love it, love it.

Happy weekend, guys.
I'm taking the train to Chicago early tomorrow morning with multiple jelly jars of salsa in my pocketbook.

(And Calvin has his first Tae Kwan Do competition on Saturday!)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Evolution of My Decorating Style

Last week I came across this photo on our hard drive. It was taken in 2006 in the first home we owned, that wanna-be farmhouse (or at least that's how I saw it) on a corner lot in town.

I loved this room. I still love it.

I can pinpoint the exact magazine tear sheet that inspired the look. (And just so you know, there is nothing more frustrating in 2014 than being unable to find an online photo of something. But I just channeled my rage into devouring a bowl of Honeycomb cereal, so I should be okay.)

Somehow, all those years ago, when I was barely a Martin and not at all a Mama, when I didn't realize I was a writer and hadn't yet learned to deglaze a pan, I knew I liked white walls, a little bit of natural wood, a few judicious pops of color, and some heavy metal. I knew my style didn't involve a lot of cash or any ruffles. I knew pop art was the best art, handmade by someone I would never know, but about whom I wondered. His sense of scale was a bit wonky, but I knew his heart was good. I wish I had kept that $1 garage sale painting.

Another year or two, and we traded rooms. But aside from everything changing, not much else did. This was the girl I was, and it mattered even then to reflect who I was to the environment around me.

All I knew was what made me happy (and a tiny bit about Rachel Ashwell.) I tore pages from magazines, because what else would I have done with my free time back before the world picked up speed? There was no plan for those pages. Their fate was simply to be kept.

That corner house was never meant for forever. Not the way this one was. You know, the one I'd Never Leave.

And all at once, the internet was alive and I had a blog and a very small audience, but more than that, I had knowledge, so much more than slick pages with jagged edges. I knew things now. Pottery Barn fit my budget now, and the information came in the mail and Holy Moses, did it ever come flying through this screen.

I still knew the power of the flea and being thrifty was still important to me, mostly because it was a challenge, and so much fun. The problem was, I started to feel like things needed to match.

I was no expert, and no one put me under the illusion that I was.
But I uploaded my photos and people liked the way things looked. It all flowed so well.

 But the walls weren't white anymore.
And I always wished they were.

Every month, I would flip through my stack of mags, still tearing them out with great care and sleeving them forevermore in the plastic sheets we used to use for our "really important" hand-written reports.

The binder bulged, eventually giving birth to volumes II and III.

90% of the photos in the binder were more reminiscent of the olden days, way back around 2006, when everything was white and I didn't think a second thought about it, because no body cared but me.

Here I was, living in a beige world, all muted and serene and, dare I say, a bit on the traditional country side. What???

I toyed with shutting down that grayish blue and high-tailing it back to my roots. But I saw so many people doing it so much better, so I stuck with what seemed to be working. I siphoned enthusiasm from the comment trough and told myself this was my look, when it wasn't.

But how exactly does a girl escape from beige curtains? And is there an exit plan from cream-painted wood and 3 cool shades of blue?

What I really wanted was the complete opposite of what I had. I pined for a wild ruckus of a home that didn't match at all. I wanted rowdy pattern parties and gaudy curtains, every wobbly piece of furniture pained a different shade. I wanted a life with garage sale art, where the tree is roughly 200x the size of the couple walking beneath it.  I wanted to start over. And no one had time for that sort of nonsense. But especially not Cory.

Right at the very end, I started to rebel in snatches. It sort of started with the orange wing-back, who begged for a little color over her head....

 ...and if you give a pig a party, pretty soon every one wants in on the action.

 One day, we packed it all in and left the farm.

In a blinding light-force of strange and twisted fate, the house we would call our next home came with Dove White walls, and we didn't have a say in the matter.

Everything was changing around and in us. It was the most profound season of heart-transformation I have ever experienced. We were pummeled and yanked and shoved, but I swear, it was all in love.

And while we worked on laying things down and letting go, while we learned a new set of dance moves and fell free into the life we were meant to live, I got my gaudy on and paired checks with stripes with Mexican restaurant curtains.

My audience was larger now, but I didn't care as much what they thought. This one was for me. My life, once so serene and cozy, was now chaotic and crazy-loud. In our brand new digs on the wrong side of the tracks, when so much was changing, I needed to feel me more than ever. Forget about reflecting my Shannan-ness, I lit my vibe and flung it like a fistful of dime-store firecrackers.

I came home, to a place where "safe" made me itchy and the clash of everything ricocheted things I had known forever against things I couldn't possibly have imagined.

Perfection, or even the illusion or attempt, doesn't live here anymore. We squeeze our nickels 'til they bleed now, then find a quirky use for flattened nickels. I put strange things on the wall because they cost twenty-five cents and it makes me happy to see them there. It's okay if our neighbors think our house is new (it is) or clean (smoke and mirrors!), but I might surely die if they thought it was formal or fancy, a place where everything matched and they felt out of place.

Our home is entirely us, and we wear it like a broken-in boot. I've learned the flaw in saying I'll "never leave", but I know now that my roots jump the miles with me and I'm better off when I set a place for them.