11 things I learned in January

This post is inspired by Emily from Chatting at the Sky.

:: According to BuzzFeed quizzes I am the following: Mr. Potato Head, Ann Veal (her?), a Londoner, Albus Dumbledore, Jess (from New Girl), and--my favorite quiz result--a writer.

:: DisneyLand is actually for grown-ups.

:: The right things aren't always super easy or convenient. (I seem to relearn this one often.)

:: Safeway is the only grocery store chain in the Portland area that carries those gross, fake Valentine Pillsbury cookies that I secretly love.

:: A bowl of steel-cut oats is the best breakfast in all the land (next to birthday cake--obviously).

:: My husband doesn't like cake.

:: If I have to pick a team to win the Super Bowl, it has to be the Broncos. The Pacific Northwest can't take away my Rockies roots!

:: Stephen King is a much better writer than I'd ever given him credit for. (I'm currently in the middle of The Stand. To see what else I'm reading, check out my Goodreads profile.)

:: The response I received to this post affirmed its message that gracious dialogue is more effective than any cruel words.

:: Making this place a priority makes hard things in my life so much more manageable. It's so worth it to sacrifice a night of stretchy pants for a couple hours of real learning.

:: January and I may be ready to make peace.

One of my favorite Instagram posts from January:

What have you learned this month? Are you glad January is over?


more or less nonsense

I honestly don't know what I think I'm doing by fitting in a blog post at this exact moment, because I have a timeline to keep to today. I guess I just wanted to post what will likely chalk up to nonsense before I cave and go get up the boy whose nap today was on the shorter end of things.

I've been swimming this week in appointments and visits and errands, and midweek I'm just ready for stretchy pants and hermitage. But. The missionaries are coming over for dinner, and if there's a chance that karma's a thing, I want to generate some good juju for my own missionary brother way down in the southern hemisphere. I actually have a slew of post ideas in Evernote waiting to be written up, but today shall be a nonsense day.

So, there you have it.

Perhaps after I get back tonight from more visits, I'll get Josh to watch Downton with me and chances are good that I'll fall asleep on the couch. Willing myself to Friday, I'll ride out this crazy extroverted week with hot chocolate and a queue of podcasts.

Like I said, nonsense.


hello, Monday

:: Hello, Monday.
:: Hello to cloudy skies and warm coats.
:: Hello to a rainy forecast.

:: Hello to spontaneous friend dates and Bachelor weddings.
:: Hello to toddler giggles and sharing Goldfish.

:: Hello to piles of laundry and only cleanish bathrooms.
:: Hello to bedhead ponytails and big-boy haircuts.
:: Hello to meal plans and low-key grocery shopping.

:: Hello to Valentine decorations, chocolate sugar cookies, and polka-dot scarves.
:: Hello to more Downton and Sherlock.
:: Hello to reading in the cozy and hot cocoa perfected with York Peppermint Pattie creamer.

:: And best of all, hello to cheesy, banana-mouth, big-boy haircut grins to kick off the week.


grooves and no grooves

I tried writing this post last night, but I wasn't in my groove. This week has certainly had its grooveless moments.

Like when we woke up in the middle of the night to mice scurrying in our walls. That's gross. And stressful. And when I'm lying there in the dark listening to the rodents, I think about how we'll likely have to fight the HOA to properly take care of the problem. I'm telling you, HOAs are the devil's work.

Then there's the general mom stuff that sometimes awesome and sometimes discouraging. Asher stopped eating string cheese this week, so that brings his total number of acceptable foods down to six.

Other moments haven't been as grooveless. Like when I made this recipe for steel-cut oats and it basically changed my life. Or when I actually started sewing these finger puppets for Asher in an effort to gain a grasp on my not-restful-at-all Sundays.

Almost all my shows had new episodes this week, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine maybe--just maybe--might be surpassing The Mindy Project in funniest show on television according to Charlotte. (The Golden Globes sure think so.) I also spent several hours this week catching up on podcasts, and this program has soared to the top of my must-listen-to-every-week list.

I'm also excited to enter this sewing contest in an effort to win a Bernina sewing machine. I'm almost dying from excitement over here. Except that I'm not, because if I did die, I wouldn't be able to enter. My odds probably aren't great, but seriously, I have to at least try. And worst case scenario, I win nothing and come out with a cute jacket anyway. But really, I need a Bernina. (If Josh is reading this, please take note and plan 2014 gifts accordingly.)

So here we are, Saturday morning, 11:30, and I'm still in my pajamas wearing no bra. What grooves have you found or lost this week?


when Facebook gets political

A couple of weeks ago I read an inflammatory post on Facebook about the same-sex marriage debate. And it really upset me. This post was actually by one who is on the same political side as myself--that is, against same-sex marriage--yet the words written were so far from what I believe about how God sees His children and what I believe to be my role as His daughter. The post made me feel angry and sad and frustrated.

The bare-bones truth is that we disagree with people in life, all throughout life. And we need to find a way to interact with each other in a kind way, using discourse free from harsh, polarizing words. My stand on this issue is rooted in the doctrines of my faith, and I understand that not everyone shares that same belief system. Therefore, I can't expect everyone to understand why I believe what I do. I can't change that. What I can control, however, is how I speak with people who believe differently. Cruel and unfeeling rhetoric--on either side--gets us nowhere. It makes us angry and prevents our hearts from experiencing empathy.

I can't say that I know what the political and religious atmosphere will be in ten years when my children are attending school. I can't say that I know what hardships I'll face as a woman and mother of a faith whose beliefs differ from mainstream political correctness. But I do hope that there will be those who treat me with kindness. Yes, I believe that God's laws are unchanging and in the same breath I believe that God is merciful and that we may be surprised as to how far that mercy will be willing to stretch. My place is not one of judgment. My place is one that should be full of compassion.

The moment when my crusade as a believer excludes kindness from my words is the moment when I need to step back and focus on the crux of Christianity: grace, love, and empathy. If we want people to listen to what we have to say, the tenor of our words need to invite people to listen. When it comes to battling out beliefs, the softer voice will be heard far better and clearer than the one shouting. I have to believe that in that day when I stand face-to-face with my Maker that He will care far more about how I treated others--especially those who think differently from me--than about how political I was on Facebook.

PS This local Mormon leader is a shining example of a compassionate teacher.
PPS I wrote this post in 2012 on the same-sex marriage debate.
PPPS My church leaders use peaceful rhetoric in addressing gay marriage. My church created a website dedicated to fostering understanding and compassion on the issue. I'd love to personally continue this conversation if you'd like to email me.


"an educated woman"

That's what my grandma called herself: an educated woman. About five years ago I spent eight hours recording my grandma's personal history, and after she died I transcribed her story and made it into a book for the family. At the very end, she made a point of telling me that she even though she didn't have much formal schooling, she was an educated woman. And she was.

I love this. My grandma had to work to help provide for her and her mother, and because of this my grandma never finished high school. She never went to college. She never had a diploma of any kind to frame and display. But she was educated--she was a lifelong learner. And that's what I want to be too.

Doesn't that just make you excited? It does me. And that probably makes me a little nerdy. But nerdy is in now, right? Right. It's the thing to listen to podcasts, read both fiction and nonfiction, and watch PBS and BBC documentaries. Learning is cool because it's available. What a waste if we didn't take advantage of all those opportunities to learn and educate ourselves. Especially as a mother of a young boy, I tremendously value the countless ways I have to be a lifelong learner.

Someday I'd love to go back to school and pursue a master's degree. That's a dream I truly want to see realized. And if I'm super honest, it's not going to happen super soon. Most of our education won't come from the classroom and can't be represented on a diploma. In my personal history, in that story that I leave my posterity, I want them to know that I am an educated woman. Lifelong learning leaves a beautiful legacy, and I'm going to make it happen.


there and back again with plenty of italics

I haven't visited this space in several days. The truth is that Josh and I took a long weekend away with just the two of us. I know. Aren't you even wondering where we went? I'll tell you: DisneyLand. I know, you're probably thinking, What kind of parents go to DisneyLand without their kid? Well, these parents do. Several months back, our friends Katelyn and Matt came up for a brief visit, and we casually made plans to go to DisneyLand together. And then here's the kicker: we actually made it happen.

You know when you're talking with friends and someone suggests something like going to DisneyLand and everyone thinks it's a good idea but no one actually does anything to make it happen? We made it happen. And it was wonderful. Josh and I sweet-talked his parents into entertaining Asher for the weekend (though let's get real, it's not like it's hard to get grandparents to do anything for the grandbabe), and last Wednesday, after a teary goodbye on my part, we flew to Orange County alone

We spent two full days in the parks, rode roller coasters, waited in lines, and ate way more food than we should have. We spent a day at the beach and went out for pizza. We stayed in a motel where the internet was spotty and the sheets were only slightly softer than butcher paper. The boys got along swimmingly, which meant that Katelyn and I had cumulative hours and hours of easy talk and heavy talk and lasting-friendship talk. 

{Mr. Wilson came out on the wetter side of Splash Mountain. Obviously}

{Those corndogs--you can basically feel your arteries clogging on the spot and you can't help but take another bite}

This getaway was just what Josh and I needed to remind us that we're still real adults apart from being parents. We're still us in addition to being Mom and Dad. We're still normal adults who have real, normal friendships with wonderful, wonderful people. And I'm kicking myself for not getting one single picture of all of us together.

{swiped from Katelyn's Instagram}

After all was said and done, Josh and I were so excited to see our boy and be parents again. I mean, seriously, how could you not miss this face?

{Grandma Karen kept us in good supply of Asher pics--I mean, seriously}

The lesson here? DisneyLand can sometimes be for grownups. Because kids aren't the only ones who like soft pretzels and Space Mountain.


short years

Sometimes I get advice from well-meaning empty nesters telling me that someday I'll miss these days of chasing my toddler down the hallway at church. In these encounters I muster a fake smile and say, "Yeah, I'm sure I will." But really I know that I won't miss every single part of my children's childhoods. And that's okay. What I do know, however, is that the years really are short. That particular piece of parenting philosophy rings bittersweet truth.

I took this picture yesterday, and it struck a chord in my heart. I don't know what it is about this image exactly, but I think this is one to keep forever. Is it his stance, his hair, his perfectly sized tennis shoes? This photo captures such a person.

Why, it was only a year ago that Asher slept with his blanket over his head and would correct it were Josh and I ever to interfere. It was only a year ago that Asher had no teeth, could barely sit up, and took three naps a day. I may have plenty of frustratingly long days, but boy, are the years so short. And that realization snaps my perspective back to a place of sweetness bordering on melancholy. 

Tomorrow marks one year since my cousin's daughter, Ayla, passed. So while Asher may be inexplicably clingy with rationale beyond my understanding, today I smile at the arms wrapped possessively around my neck, the toothy grins of recognition, the infectious giggles, and even the meltdowns on the kitchen floor. Because these long days pass, and someday we won't be the keepers of their childhoods anymore, but the guardians over our own experiences within their childhoods. When Ayla died, I thought I should feel guilty for being so happy with my own son. But it didn't take long for me to see that the best way to remember Ayla and love her mother, Julie, is to live and enjoy and love.

So today I resolve to infuse more love into my long days, so that the short years don't rob me of the small perfect imperfections that grace this beautiful life.


blogging it out

This month has filled my brain with a million ideas of things to do, projects to tackle, habits to form. And I guess that should be no surprise--it is January. I guess the resolution train has never really enticed me before, but this year--for the first time in a very long time--I felt like I should make a list of resolutions. I want to make strides in my writing, work on home improvement projects, and become more skilled in my sewing.

My brain wants to tackle all of these things at once, and my heart knows that holding myself to such a high standard is impossible. So that all leaves me here, blogging it out while I wait for the iron to heat so I can press that fabric that I'm using for my first-ever quilt that I'm going to start piecing. Another project on my docket. Obviously.

How do you decide what to tackle and when? Because I'm afraid if I don't make a plan for some of these things, then I'll never do them. How do you manage your brain buzz? And how do you balance improvement and progress with just being and enjoying?


exceeded expectations

My morning did not have a stellar beginning. Asher threw a couple of well-timed fits that made me sigh at the prospect of the hours ahead of me.

But I was wrong. My day was good. Maybe even great. And that just goes to show that people can really surprise you, even when they're not even 18 months old. I'm so glad I could let my expectations slide and simply enjoy this day of really cheesy smiles.


a chocolaty betrayal

I made my New Year's cake yesterday. I made Edith James cake (a devil's food recipe) and decided last minute to deviate from the prescribed frosting recipe. Turns out the frosting I used--while pretty--was far too rich for this already rich cake. So, lesson learned. Stick with the sweeter frosting.

Lest you think this post is just about frosting, let me confide to you the real betrayal: my husband confessed he doesn't like cake. I know that logically this is nothing personal, but it sure is taking all my cake-loving heart has to not take this uber-personally. In a fit of comical dramatics last night, I blurted out that had I known about this significant character flaw a long time ago, perhaps we wouldn't even be married today.

(I jest. Obviously. Mostly. But really, I love him. For the record.)

Oh the sad truth that I married a man who doesn't like cake, when cake is my most favorite treat to concoct. And what fun is it to make a cake just for yourself? (Unless it's that peanut-butter ganache delicacy that I compulsorily hoard.) Wo, wo, wo is I.

[End scene]

Dramatic much?


why I don't like sun in January

It just sounds absurd, doesn't it? To not like sun at any time of the year. But it's true. January sun is not my thing. It never has been. January is made for melancholy days, and melancholy days aren't always the worst. Cloudy skies give me permission to stay inside myself and ruminate and enjoy the most simple of pleasures. January is for recharging, drinking hot cocoa, reading books in the afternoons, and watching all those wonderful BBC shows. I muster enough motivation to do laundry, make simple dinners, and clean up in Asher's wake, but I don't expect much in the way of excessive productivity. I don't force creativity, but embrace it when inspired. I enjoy the blankets and early sundowns and chilled afternoon walks.

When the sun breaks through, I feel like I need to be adding more to my to-do lists, because don't we all know that we need to make hay while the sun shines? On sunny days I feel guilty for preferring the indoors and making cake that I will inevitably have for breakfast the next day. In January I allow myself quiet moods and try to let go of those things that aren't urgent. January sun is more of a bully to me than a friend, and I welcome those protective clouds that keep my world at bay from that bigger world.

Some--perhaps even most--of my readers welcome January sun as a happy teaser of what's to come in later months. But for me, I'm not ready for spring in January. I'm ready to hibernate, just for a few weeks. And when February comes around I'll be more open to that sun, because the sun will glisten instead of intrude. In January I prefer to seek out sun--and all the productivity and motivation and purpose that come along with it--on my own terms. And if I don't seek it, that's my business. Coming off the holiday high, by January I'm just not ready to be at 100-percent. And that's okay.

January, as much as I sometimes loath the month, is cyclical, and for the first time, I'm realizing that I like this seasonal cycle. I like having one month to dedicate to slowing down and steeping in my thoughts and plans and moods. So January, keep your clouds because they make me feel safe and validated. Sun, your turn will come soon enough.


things I wish I'd said

The day after Christmas, Josh and I made a visit to some of our friends. These friends actually live in Las Vegas, but they are currently taking up residence at the Denver Children's Hospital for treatment for a high-risk pregnancy. This child is their first, and barely a month ago, they received a startling diagnosis for their baby boy. Both mother and babe underwent surgery right before Christmas, and for the foreseeable future, the hospital is "home."

Josh and I made this visit a priority, because we could hardly imagine what kind of a Christmas our friends must be having. We sat down in the playroom at the Ronald McDonald house next to the hospital and chatted and laughed and asked clinical questions about their son's condition. It was a pleasant visit. Despite the smiles and laughs, though, I could still sense our friends' shell-shock at what they'd been thrown into only weeks before. I could see the underlying fear, the fatigue, the helplessness. And there were things I wanted to say to them--to the mother--and didn't. So here I am, late at night, writing out those things that I wish I'd had the gumption to say in person.

A mother's heart changes your soul entirely. And it doesn't even matter the type of mother you are: one with a newborn, one with twins, one with a passel of school-aged kids, one battling infertility, one with an angel babe, one with teenagers, one with children grown, one with a high-risk pregnancy. Mothers' hearts wield fierce power for love and connection.

So when I see one mother hurting, I feel a small portion of that hurt in my own heart. And I don't feel for them, but with them. The soul of a mother can connect with the souls of other women in beautifully empathetic ways. I believe that women's capacity for empathy can have the power to lighten our burdens, because if other women agree to take upon themselves a portion of another's fear, uncertainty, or sorrow, then maybe--just maybe--the full brunt of the pain is lessened slightly for the woman hurting. A mother's heart is capable of sharing pain, so that no one has to be alone. A woman's heart is capable of carving a unique path of access to the Savior's grace.

I may not have experienced a high-risk pregnancy, as my friend currently is. And I certainly don't want to make any insensitive or thoughtless claims about things I haven't experienced. I will be bold enough, however, to say that I can understand that the emotions involved in such a situation must be intense and all-consuming. I can't have perfect empathy, but I can use what experience I do have to generate the best empathy I have to offer.

I can feel with her because I know the love she must have for her son. I know the love she has for her babe can't be unlike the fierce love I harbor for my own boy. I love my son so passionately, so thoroughly, so openly that my heart is spread wide. My heart is so vulnerable, so open to injury that it sometimes frightens me. Because I will never go back to that person I was before Asher entered our lives. My motherhood has changed me forever, and my friend's motherhood has changed her. And readers, that is a scary place to be sometimes.

I wanted to tell my friend that she's not alone, because her life is full of women who will choose to feel with her. Our hearts are primed for connection, and imagine the good we could do if we choose to connect and feel and even hurt for others. So friend, when you read this, know that I wanted to say more and I'm sorry I didn't. When I heard about your son and the pregnancy and the surgery, my heart ached. I know what it's like to care so deeply and passionately for a babe, so much that you feel helpless. I may not have experienced what you are experiencing, but I too have a mothers' heart. And that connection carries with it marvelous power for good. Our prayers are with you, your husband, your babe. And I'm sorry that I didn't say this sooner.
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