Thursday, October 27, 2011

flashbacks

I had a pretty severe high school flashback while driving home from work. Third Eye Blind's "Semi-charmed Life" came on the radio and whooooosh... I was back in my baggy LEI jeans and Converse sneakers. The faces of my best friends flashed before my eyes along with all the times we got in trouble for chatting in class and staying out too late. It got me thinking about how much I've changed since then. And it makes me wonder how different my old friends are today.

In high school, I was painfully shy and sometimes (OK, often) awkward. No joke. It's been documented in year books. I wasn't completely confident in my flared LEIs, and I was never the most popular girl in school. I'm still not the most popular girl in my world, but I'm ok with that. To be honest, I was pretty ok with it back then, too. Popularity seemed like a lot of pressure. I'm also still awkward sometimes. (Often.) Right now, I'm realizing it sounds like I'm exactly the same, but some things have changed. I promise.

I finally grew into my gangly arms and legs, and I can run without falling down now, which is pretty great. I would probably still get cut from the 8th grade basketball team, though.

Another new development? Dancing. I used to be terrified of dancing. I think most, if not all, people look like complete morons when they dance. I'm 100% included in that group. But I realized at some point that dancing is fun, and probably the closest I'll get to actually being a child again. I'll gladly look like a moron for the bliss that comes with my awesome moves during the perfect song.

I'm also not horrified of speaking in public anymore. I used to emotionally and (only sometimes) physically curl up in a ball when asked what I thought about something. I lacked confidence and had a squeaky I-don't-know-what-I'm-talking-about voice, which didn't help. When I finally decided I had something to say, I somehow learned how to do it. Now I'm a professional communicator. How crazy. Somewhere along the way, I learned that having an opinion and demanding (nicely) to be heard is not a bad or scary thing.

So as not to make it seem like all of my changes have been positive ones, I will also say that I am a lot more cynical than my 14-year-old self. I miss how she used to see the brightest possible scenario and used to be unconditionally merciful and generous. Life threw some cold water on my face in the last 10 years, and I wish that innocence and lightheartedness hadn't been as hampered as it was. I'm working on getting that back...

I'm comfortable in my own skin. I spent a lot of time trying to look and act the right way to fit into a certain box when I was younger. Somewhere between 12 and 25, I figured out that my box is the only one I want to fit into. It's a lot more comfortable to be who I really am and look and dress and act like myself rather than anyone else.

My world no longer revolves around boys - although I live with one, now. Ironic.

I personally can't wait for my 10-year reunion. Good and bad, people change, and that is so cool. I love to hear the stories of how people have come to be the way they are. There's always a reason.

How have you changed the most since your angsty teen years? And, more importantly, do you remember Chumbawamba?! We were so cool.


Monday, October 17, 2011

no time.

This has been rattling around in my brain for too long. Here goes...

I had an epiphany a few months ago that is kicking my martyrdom complex in the shins. It's this: Giving up the things that distract you or stop you from investing in people and pursuing your passions is not sacrifice. It's common sense. And, in my opinion, giving up things that you can't seem to live without is a great way to come to the realization that you can. And, frankly, probably should.

Life in my house is full of stress and work and school and cleaning and entertaining and such - just like most houses. I feel like I am busy all. the. time. Several months ago, I found myself saying over and over again, "I don't have time," in response to a question about why I'm not doing __________. Most of the time, I was asking myself the question. "Why aren't you writing more?" "Why aren't you playing your guitar?" "When was the last time you read a book for pleasure?" "Why aren't you spending more time with your neighbors?" "Why did you quit painting?" "Why aren't you exercising?" "Why aren't you getting more sleep?" It went on and on.

My "I don't have time" answer was just an excuse, though. I was choosing not to see the fact that I spent about two hours a day (give or take) watching television or numbing out surfing my favorite websites to "unwind." That's 10 hours of time (that I don't have, remember?) just during the weekdays. 10 hours that I could be doing a million different things that I actually enjoy doing. Instead, I was entertaining myself into a stupor.

There are so many days that I come home and literally can't think about doing anything but vegging out. I want nothing more than to drown out the constant chatter in my mind about my to-do list at work and at home so that I can just get some freaking rest. But the things I was doing weren't giving me rest. They were really effective in drowning out my busy mind, but it also caused me to disengage with life in general as soon as I walked through my front door every night. I was becoming a workaholic during the day and moonlighting as a zombie. Which my husband loved. Or maybe not.

Photo from here.
So we made a decision to turn the TV off during the week and to make an effort to have quality face time (and not the kind on your iPhone). Our first "intentional" activity was making a chore calendar, because it wasn't just my pleasure reading that wasn't happening as often as I'd like. It was my plants that were dying. And my shelves needed to be plowed for all the dust. Then we started getting creative. It's amazing how much quality time you can have when you're not competing with whatever lame fall show is on - like New Girl or Parks & Recreation. Both of which I actually happen to ADORE. But I'm growing, so I just say no. Most of the time. I'll be honest here.

We've played games and read books. Yes, two people with more than full-time jobs are reading for pleasure. Amazing. My house is very nearly spotless, for being old and dirty in nature. Plus, I've been working out for an hour almost every day. Seriously. This is a legitimate miracle. I've lost 5.5 pounds and my muscles have nearly stopped whining. I have very little interested (much less the blatant addiction from weeks ago) in checking my work e-mail after hours, which is a relief in itself. Ah, freedom... My plants are still dying, but it's not because I'm not watering them. It's because plants just die under my care. They give up and I don't know why. Maybe I love them to death.

By far the best part about this whole thing is that I feel more healthy and... engaged. I thought I needed to drown out my mind because it wasn't capable of just choosing not to fret. I was wrong.

I'll be honest and say that the first few weeks were really hard. We would make dinner and stare at each other with a twinge of panic in our eyes because we had NO IDEA what to do with the next 3 hours of our evening. But it's getting easier. And, to be fair, some of the panic might have been because we were out of ice cream.

For a while in the beginning, I felt like a martyr. I felt like I was making this grand sacrifice to be a more productive and just plain better person. But doing something that is good for me and gets me focused on the things that feed my soul is not really sacrifice. It's like fresh fruit and a good workout. Healthy and light. I feel better because of it.

We're trying to get more creative with our time and make sure that we're getting the most out of every minute. Here are a few of our ideas:

- Writing. I need to write for my mental health. The longer I go without it, the more I forget how much it centers me.
- Reading for pleasure. No explanation needed. Bliss.
- Weekly jam sessions. Me on guitar and him on the d'jembe (an African drum). We got to know each other during jam sessions in my dorm at college. These times are sacred.
- YouTube dance lessons. Yep. We're doing it. I don't even care if you laugh.
- Nightly walks around the neighborhood. This time is so refreshing. There is something about walking side by side that makes talking so easy and fun. Most of the time. We've also had heated conversations while walking (sometimes 'storming' is a better description) by our neighbors' houses. But it's worth it, and we almost always walk back into the house feeling closer and understood.
- Investing in people. I love my city (most of the time), I love the people in it and I love to get my hands dirty. But this was one of the first things to go when I was just too spent to do anything. I NEED this. If you live in Dallas, I know a ton of really fun ways to get involved! Ask me. I promise I'll have time to tell you.
- Puzzles. Remember those? My muscles are literally sore from last night's puzzle session. Apparently puzzling also makes me a little tense.

What are your favorite things to do when you have to entertain yourself?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

my summer vacation

Wow. This is my longest stretch of silence in a while. It's been an eventful summer and entry into fall with a lot of fun, excitement, trauma and road trips. To explain why I've been so quiet, I've put together the proof of my crazy summer vacation...


My parents helped us kick off the summer with a visit! As usual, they couldn't leave without buying us a major appliance. Thanks, you guys...


Next up was a visit from our friend Nicholas from Ghana. OK, we didn't actually know him to begin with, but he was our friend by the time he left. He was in town for a couple of weeks training at the Dallas Seminary, and we hosted him for a weekend and showed him how people party in America - playing putt-putt and laser tag. That's how people party, right?


Next came the wedding of the year! My BFF from TCU decided that Vegas was calling her name. So we piled in the car with my other BFF from TCU and her man and drove 1,534,976 miles to Las Vegas. Totally worth it. Did I mention BFF #1 was there to get married?!



Later in the summer, my man and I celebrated our 4-year anniversary. Twice. Once at the ballpark for a Rangers game with our Dallas gang, and once at a really fancy hotel (OK, it was a Marriott) sipping orange soda by the pool. We're so classy I can't stand it sometimes.




Somewhere in here, we had a pool party with some of our favorite kids (and their parents).



MY BROTHER CAME HOME FROM AFGHANISTAN!!


Next came my birthday and Rob's birthday. Again, we kept it very classy.





We then climbed back in the car and headed to New Braunfels to float the old Guadalupe river. We all escaped with only minor bumps and bruises and lots of fun memories.



Finally, the crescendo of our summer, we hopped on a plane and headed west to vacation by the beach. We read books, went to Disneyland, played puzzles with my parents, laid very still on the beach, slept until our eyes popped open (read: very late) and stared at each other. It was heavenly.














Best summer ever, right? What is your favorite memory from this summer?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

dad

Last month, I honored my mama with a post about all that I've learned from her. Today, it's time to give a shout out to my pops. I'm not sure if he reads my blog, so: MOM, please tell dad that I wrote about him and would like him to read it. Thanks.

My dad is a man of few words. Unless you get him talking about sports or home improvement. Then he could go on for days. Usually, when that happens, we all just kind of sit and watch. Seeing my dad get excited about something is exciting for me. He is very mellow, so if you can see passion on his face, it's a big freaking deal to him. And to me. I say that to illustrate the fact that most of the things I've learned from my dad aren't because we sat down and talked about them. I learned them by watching him live.

My dad could probably have dozens of blogs written in his honor by the people he has influenced in his lifetime. From work buddies to teenage boys, he has invested his time, energy and encouragement in the people put in his path. It's been fun to watch.

I'm never more proud of my dad as I am when I watch him teach. He used to coach my brother's baseball teams and would become a second (and sometimes the only) father-figure to many of the boys on his team. I don't necessarily think he intended for this to happen. He just met the need in them to be encouraged and challenged to meet their potential and thrive. And they did.

My dad also taught me what it looks like to be patient. We definitely had our scuffles when I was growing up, but my dad never yelled and never lost his temper with me. I can't say the same for my frazzled teenaged self. The older I get, the more I appreciate his peacefulness. My house was not a chaotic or fearful place. I know that's not often the case for a lot of kids. The fact that he taught a gangly tween how to swing a bat without losing his cool should speak volumes.

I was taught the value of family by my dad. Things were not always easy, but my dad took care of us. He has spent days, weeks and months in hotels and a trailer because work wasn't always at home. He gave up what was probably his idea of "normal" so that he could give us the things we needed. There were just as many days, weeks and months that I missed my dad, but I always understood that this was his sacrifice. I am only beginning to understand what that meant for him and my mom.

One of the most valuable things dad taught me how to do is... lounge. He has mastered the recliner unlike anyone I know (except his father). This is something I also do well (no, it's not on my resume). But underlying this hobby of my dad's is the philosophy that you work your butt off and then rest. Dad has always regulated our tendencies to GO and DO until we crash. I still hear his voice telling me to slow down when I'm overcommitted.

A really important lessons my dad taught me is that you don't have to win, but you have to try. As a kid, I played a lot of sports at which, frankly, I was terrible. Whether I struck out (Every. Time.) or we lost the game or I came in dead last or I made a free throw or we shut them out, my dad was proud that I had shown up and worked hard. I am a more loyal and committed person because of this lesson.

He also taught me how to tie my shoes, which has gotten me pretty far in life.






I love you, dad!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mom

Two posts in three days. I know. Pigs flying all about, ice skating in hell, etc.

But today is an important day. It's Mother's Day, in case you haven't heard. I can't afford flowers or candy or spa days or leopard print Snuggies for my mom. She got a card. I hope. Unless I mailed it too late like I usually do. In that case, she'll get a card. Maybe Monday. I really want to celebrate my mom, though. When I think of her, I think of the hundreds of things she has taught me in my 24 wild and angsty years. She is leaving a legacy with her children and, no doubt, with many others she has invested in as well. I can't wait to pass along her advice and quirkiness to my children someday, so I thought I should start writing it down. I hope at the end you'll share your mama-wisdom too!

Mom & dad at my wedding. 7/2007

1. When you speak, you should say what you mean and mean what you say. I cannot count the number of times she said this to me growing up, and it has been a constant reminder in my head to be honest and trustworthy.

2. It's never too late to commit to your passions. A couple of years ago, I decided that, whatever the cost, I wouldn't give up pursuing the things that put a fire in my heart. While I was working through this, I asked my mom about the things she was passionate about at my age, and I learned that she never had the chance to pursue them. I encouraged her to start. Now. And she did. It has been an incredible experience to watch her explore her heart and her calling and to begin to act on the things it tells her to chase.

USO Welcome Home, San Diego Airport

3. Taking care of business is not optional. If you know my mother, you know that she is probably one of the most reliable, consistent and diligent people on this planet. I used to think she was a little crazy for being so organized and efficient, but my mom has taught me the importance of being someone that can be counted on. I am almost the exact opposite of her in this area, unfortunately. But having a mother I can always go to when my poor planning leaves details a little blurred has made me realize that this is the kind of mom I want to be.

4. Do it well or don't do it. My mom has taught me that it's more important to do a small number of things really well than it is to do a lot of things half-heartedly. When she sets a goal for herself or commits to a project, she's all in. Watching her kick butt at work, lead a group of military moms and volunteer with the USO has been a huge motivation for me to find things I'm passionate about and then commit to them completely. If my mom makes a promise or tells you she will be there for you, you can bet your life that she will. She is an incredible friend. As a daughter, having that security and confidence in your mama is invaluable. Her friends would tell you the same.

Mom & her BFF Helen

Mom & Helen finishing a 5K.
And finally...
5. Ice cream? It cures everything. And I mean everything. Sometimes I wonder if she puts ice cream on sore muscles or on her forehead when she gets migraines. I don't actually think she does. I just wonder sometimes if she's thought about it.


An actual Rx sheet from her dentist.

I love you for a million different reasons, mom! Thank you for being a constant source of love, support and kicks in the pants. I'm a better human being because I'm your daughter.



In honor of Mother's Day, what has your mom taught you that has changed the person you are?

Friday, May 6, 2011

when my world is shaking

I'm a little embarrassed that it's been nearly a month since my last confession. Blog. My last blog. Weird.

It's midnight, and I'm sitting here unable to sleep before I write. The curse of being a writer is that not writing feels a lot like holding in a sneeze. And writing feels like taking a deep breath. Even if the words are just on a blog that tens of people read every month.

In short, life is chaos right now. I feel a little (or maybe completely is a better word) out of control. I'll be honest and say that's not the place I feel most comfortable. Or sane. I have recently settled into a place called "Wit's End," and life is very interesting here.

Have you ever looked up and asked God if He was joking? As if the thing(s) you face are a silly mistake? Or thought that maybe God got distracted by something and looked away for a second, allowing life a precious few moments to become a jumbled mess? I hope you're nodding; otherwise, I'll feel a little foolish when I say that I've done, said and thought those things. Often.

In late January, I posted this on Twitter: "Waiting for big news today. Reminded that trust is easy when things are going according to plan, but isn't fully refined until they aren't." While I got the news I was waiting (and hoping) for shortly after I posted this, I'm still in the same place. Learning the same lesson. I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of... wait. It's uncomfortable and chaotic and makes trusting that someone like God - who could just think and make my problems and worries disappear - has my best interest in mind.

The past 12 months have been some of the most unsettling and scary of my life for a lot of reasons. We have faced heart conditions, biopsies, lean budgets, a hard marriage and brothers in war zones. Life has shaken me this year. I don't say that to get pity or understanding. I say it so that what I'm about to say next will mean something.

I am not afraid of the shaking anymore. I'm not scared of the wondering and waiting. I'm learning to let go and rest in the fact that I have a future I may not know yet, but one that will be GOOD. It will be good because I am going to choose to live well and fully, even - and maybe especially - in the times that it's hardest to do so. And I have hope that even things like heart conditions, biopsies, lean budgets, a hard marriage and brothers in war zones are good for me. Not because they make me happy, but because they make me better.

This song by JJ Heller, called "Your Hands," has calmed my fears unlike anything else while walking through this year. It talks about the reality that life will shake us. This is guaranteed. But what's also guaranteed is that we won't be alone in the shaking. I've never felt more reassured.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Here. Now.

I have a tendency to look toward the future and ignore the here and now. It's a problem. And it's a really effective way to waste time. I've been reading a book that I've quoted here before called One Thousand Gifts, written by Ann Voskamp. It talks about her journey from bitterness and hurt to thankfulness and joy. I can learn a lot from her trek. It's similar to mine in a lot of ways. But, also like her, I have a lot to be thankful for. Joy could/should abound in my life. I just need to take the time to seek out and be wildly thankful for the gifts that I have.

I often look at today as a holding cell. As a time that I can't wait to get through. This time in my life was not expected, and I sometimes look at is as a very unfortunate amendment to The Plan. But the truth is that this time is a gift. An exquisite, shiny, beautiful gift. So I want to take the time to remember the things that are so uniquely "now" that have beauty bursting out of them.

Riding our bikes to get ice cream.

Blowing up an air mattress in our living room for movie night - or month.

Saturday mornings with no plans at all.

Watching him work in the yard while I sit on the back porch reading.

Pouring all of my kid-love on our nieces and nephews.

Planning our first grown-up vacations.

Trying new things and sometimes failing miserably.

Fixing up an old house. Over and over.

Painting walls and patching holes.

Walking through our banged-up neighborhood, imagining its restoration and hope.

Laying in bed face-to-face, dreaming about the future.

Making huge plans.

Playing silly games.

Being chased around the house in my pjs.

PB&Js every day of the week.

$5 movies Saturday mornings, because we're both frugal/cheap/poor.

Holding hands and going on walks.

Old appliances that rattle and howl.

Singing in the car, harmonizing together.

Fighting. Saying we're sorry.

A quiet house, full of peace and dust.

Growing up together. Seeing each other change.


I'm going to have a lot more. If I just look around, my life is FULL of hope and joy and beauty. These are the things I know I will look back on when life is busy and fast and wish I had cherished more fully. So I'm going to try my best to enjoy them well right here and now.

What are some things that you love about today?

Monday, March 21, 2011

so fresh and so green

It was a glorious day, and my husband and I were out in the yard raking leaves. My life is glamorous, yes? Also, I do not enjoy raking leaves, if anyone is keeping track. But as I was scrape, scrape, scraping the dried and dead leaves into larger piles, I couldn't help but think of a picture of grace. Of a fresh start. Our yard was brown and seemed utterly lifeless for months, but the harder we worked, the more green life shone through.


Once we got to this point, with the leaves piled high (and no doubt with creepy crawly things hiding inside), we stopped for the day. I could have, would have, quit forever, but my Yard Man said we had to come back tomorrow to clear the piles. I dramatically moan and say something about tomorrow being Sunday, forgoodnesssake. Can't we just leave the piles for a little while? But he says, if we leave the piles, the healthy grass beneath them will die. It will suffocate in the deadness covering it.

I tend to leave things almost fixed. Almost done. And not just in the yard. I can rake my junk - my hurt, my disappointment, my lack of integrity, my bitterness - into neat piles, but I tend to stop there. I tend to let them sit and rot.

I was nearly done grouching around when I started to see the green. I only looked up because a tiny tree branch grazed my head and I was certain it was a tarantula or butterfly coming to kill me. It was not. But when I looked up, this is what I saw.



Tiny leaves poking through a branch that, a few weeks ago, looked completely dead and dry. A few weeks ago, I couldn't see the beauty, but it was there inside. I feel like this tree and my grass, covered in deadness and remnants of seasons gone. Too often, I just let it sit there on top of me, always wondering why I can't breathe. Life at its fullest is so close. It's a garbage bag and a hard worker away.


Green leaves bursting with fresh color - that's what I want to look like. Not crumpled grass under crunchy leaves. It's a task easier said than done. Clearing the weight of my own deadness and hurt is work and isn't painless. But freedom comes after pain and thankfulness. So does joy.

So I will choose to be thankful - to confront my fears and hurt and disappointment and discontentment and choose thankfulness instead. My life is full if I just look up and look around, rather than burying myself in dead leaves and creepy crawlies. My "plan" is foiled, but my life is good and simple and can be happy if I let it be so.

Today, I'm thankful for the leaves that suffocate. They are the scars of lessons learned and life experienced. I'm thankful for the leaves, but I can't remain trapped under them. I won't. Life is waiting at the end of my hard work like a glass of ice water waiting to refresh a dry body.


‎'Joy and pain, they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who don't numb themselves to really living.'
'Emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.' One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp
'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!' 2 Corinthians 5:17

Sunday, March 20, 2011

home improvement 2.0

Restless Life Syndrome has struck again. After redecorating most of my house a few months ago, my kitchen was looking neglected. Or maybe I was bored. In any case, my new project started out as painting one wall - as most of my projects begin. It evolved into a full-blown redecoration project and oven and fridge deep-cleaning session.

Someday, I will have an actual camera to take better photos. Unless we strike oil in my backyard or win the lottery before my husband finishes school, these phone shots will have to do for now! Here is the finished product. What do you think?

Yes, my kitchen is this small.
I started out by painting that back wall a chocolate brown color so my birds would pop out a little more. We're still getting used to the color. My new rug was $20 at Target, by the way. The birds were also $20 at Target. Most of my possessions come from Target for $20 or less.



After painting the wall, I went looking for wildflowers to display in my jar collection. (Side note: Does anyone else collect jars? I feel like it's really grandmotherly of me, but I'm on a glass jar kick. They make really great, quirky vases for short-stemmed flowers like these. Most of mine are old salsa, spaghetti sauce or peanut butter jars.) 

I found some lavender bunches and paired them with some (fake) flowers to make several mini arrangements. It smells faintly of lavender in the room now, which is an incredibly calming scent. The kitchen happens to be an epicenter of anxiety for me and my bad cooking skills (that was bad, not mad), so I'm thrilled. My kitchen feels more natural, although most of what I prepare is made out of butter or peanut butter. 


These dish towels? $3 for three at
Target, thankyouverymuch. 

This is the new centerpiece on my dining table.
$5 at Hobby Lobby, thankyouverymuch.

After I finished in the kitchen, I had some leftover lavender, so I added to the small arrangement I had in our bathroom as well. 



I think I have to be done decorating for now... I've run out of space! We're planning on reviving our planter box this spring, so you bet I will be showing photos of my efforts, and likely begging for help as well. This is what happens to plants at my house:

It took 6 days to crush their spirit.

This one didn't even try to live.