In the moments…

I had a conversation, earlier this week, about routines.

I used to be the queen of routine. My mornings went just so. My evenings and bed times went as they should have. I fell asleep to the same thing, every night. I had a prep day, every monday, where I diced and chopped, whipped and baked. My family ate well and all of the delectable and home-made things were at their disposal. I dabbled in sewing creatively. I wrote just under 30 hours a week. I took photos, thousands of them. I preserved engagement and family photos for clients and seldom felt overwhelmed or stressed.

I am not going to lie, there was a sense of security within those predictables. I knew what was coming and when, often how. Was I happy? Sure. How could an anal, organization freak not find happiness within the confines of such a life? That life, and those impressive time management skills feel about a dozen lifetimes ago.

When we moved back to Michigan, in 2013, my routines went out the window. I tried to reestablish them, but this was a lost cause. As a wife and mother, my world was known to gravitate around the lives of my husband and kids. With my son and older daughter so far away, with my approaching high school youngest being unpredictable and struggling, and a husband whose schedule (and geographical location) changed from day-to-day, I flailed…

Prep days, for example,  quickly became moldy bread (thanks, midwest humidity) and stale cookies, (thanks, crazy schedule.),diced vegetables became uneaten bags of smelly mush. Loneliness moved in. I missed my friends, I missed my sister. I missed my nieces and nephews, but more than that, I missed my life. My marriage, my family and the way we all functioned so well within the confines of those routines. My husband often refers to the big change (which became a big change in all of us, in negative ways) with regret for taking me away from my life. What he fails to see, no matter what explain, is that it wasn’t the place that made the life, but us and our intentions.

Four years later, I am in an entirely different frame of mind and approaching an all new stage of life. (Empty nest!) There has been a lot of storms and turmoil to navigate over these four years. It has been hard. No, that’s not true, hard doesn’t crack the surface.

I am different.

I am more free than that queen of routine. Chained and shackled, then, within the perimeters of a false sense of structure and security. Anyone familiar with routine is forced to come face to face, at some point, with how easy it is to hide (and often times, disappear completely) within them.

I lack routine now, and though I love my freedom, this is a struggle I am really avoiding confronting, and it is time to change this. Now I throw together the occasional minimal prep day, simply for my ease of mind as our rental kitchen is about the size of a shoebox. We no longer eat bread or cookies, so that saves the future science project scene. I do have a fairly consistent skin care routine, so at least all hope is not lost. The personal, quiet time, though… And the writing… and the adventures in life through the lens of a camera… and the reading, even the picking up of a book… These are the areas I struggle. The solace in a cup of tea is something I’ve gravitated towards, recently. Piece by piece I am emerging from a four-year cocoon into the sunlight of a life that has possibility.

Now I simply need to learn to design the routine around where I am, who I am and what I need- and not anyone else. I ache for a life of beautiful, hand crafted moments. Today’s new routine attempt is to remember that I am the one in charge of creating those.

 

what makes a hero?

Recently I entered into a facebook dialogue about fathers. Specifically the sort of father who isn’t much of an active father at all, rejecting and abandoning their children. What made me truly sad, within the context of this discussion, was the number of people who share that very story. I know that this idea is not exclusive to fathers, but it does seem pretty common all the same.

Some time ago I read a letter my daughter meant for another. Within it she talked a lot of negative untruth about me, but the part that really pushed my emotion over the edge was her writing about her dad, my husband. She spoke about her dad abandoning her and how she had all of these daddy issues because her dad had neglected and rejected her throughout her life. The reasons she was going into such fictitious detail, in page after page was actually to deflect her own responsibilities from decisions she’d made, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this child has grown up being tucked in and prayed with, by her dad, every night that he was not away on business. She has lived through hundreds, if not thousands of movie nights snuggled into her dad’s embrace. She has maintained the second part of inside jokes and daddy/daughter dates, coloring, puzzles, projects, games, shopping, road trips, piggy back rides, video games, bedtime stories, amusement parks, etc. He has never not been present for a birthday, and Thanksgiving or a Christmas. Her dad is 100% all in…

When we think of heroes, we imagine brave individuals, swooping in to save lives, villages or entire planets. These are the things which books and movies are made of. This has, perhaps distorted our view of heroism. Men who stay home and own their responsibility- is this not courageous? My hero is my dad. My dad met me when I was twelve and placed in the house which he and his wife were foster parents. He was not my father (whom I had never met) nor the first person I called dad. I did not like or trust men (thanks, first person I called dad) and so it was an awkward and tough process. Dad can be a title, but it is intended to be so much more. Over the following decades of my life, this man would teach me so much about myself, accepting others, empathy,  and unconditional love. He would meet and embrace my boyfriend/eventual husband in the very way a father should. He would give me a pet name, be at my wedding, repair things in my life that needed fixed, lead Thanksgiving dinner grace in my marriage home, be the only person by my side during an emergency hysterectomy and be such a rock for me as I navigated adulthood through various difficult stages. This man is not my hero because he became my dad, but because I was not alone here. This man has a large number of children who knew him as dad, whose lives he helped shape. Whose lives (in my case, and a few others I know, anyway) he saved in various ways of meaning. When I think of a brave man, I think of him. Some of the kids he sheltered had dads, but many didn’t, and this man bravely stepped in to do what others either could not, or did not. I look at him and I know, without a doubt, this world is a far better place because of him and how he’s chosen to live his life.

The question I was challenged to write about was someone heroic that I admire, who embodied sacrifice and courage. I know a hundred soldiers, all of whom I admire immensely (my son tops the list) and I did not want to deflect from their sacrifice and heroism. On my heart though, were the dads. The men, like my husband and my dad, who love beyond themselves and open up their hearts to parent the unparented and abandoned as if they were their own, signing on for the whole of their lives… I was asked to choose someone I would stand up for. Regarding these two men- (and, my son. :) ) in a heartbeat, time and time again…

Partnering with the release of the up and coming film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, (you can watch the trailer here) I would like to offer a small giveaway. The promise is a story of sacrifice and love. It is about two heroes, one who stands up for truth and injustice and the other who is willing to pay the ultimate cost for what is right.  I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card to one winner. To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on here, or our facebook page, talking about your own hero- and why. (if you share this on twitter, please leave a link in the comments for an extra chance to win.)

intent & loving…

Happy Friday!

Things have been fairly quiet around here. Turning 41 and having my youngest turn 18 has been serious business. Add to that my 23rd wedding anniversary and WOW, busy busy. Plus the fact that I spent the upwards of twenty days with an upper respiratory infection. Thankfully Gen contracted whatever nasty virus I had, but in her it seemed to only live a day or two. Chw, thus far, is in stellar health. Minus being a little sleep deprived from sweet Mr. Knightley, we are doing pretty grand.

I have been thinking, over the past few days, about wanting to blog and connect with you a little bit, but perhaps it’s the combination sleep deprivation, our blustery weather outside and just beginning to feel human again, which had me unsure of what to write. Then, this morning, as I was making a small pot of tea- it hit me…

As of late, I have stumbled upon a few things I am really loving. Some have been at the suggestion of friends, some have been by chance and I wanted to share them with you.

  • I love tea. I have likely always loved tea, but sometimes I just get a little forgetful of how much I truly love tea. Then, I wind up being invited to tea somewhere and my love is rekindled. This past weekend I was introduced to a tea flavor by Harney & Sons named Paris. I have to preface the furthering of this subject with a confession. I pretty much detest bagged tea. I am a loose-leaf girl, all the way, for a variety of reasons. My only exception is Harney & Sons. I went to tea on Saturday and this flavor sounded interesting. (don’t get me started on how caught off guard I was that a tea house used bagged tea, because I will come across as a total tea snob and I really am not. I promise) This flavor is AMAZING! I immediately purchased a tin of Paris because- DIVINE.
  • Last night for dinner, I tried this recipe. While I did a couple of things differently, I have to be honest- it was DELICIOUS!
  • My friend Jen told me about the book Big Girls Do It Running. I really enjoy it because, for the most part, I find the Author’s story and approach really relatable. I am inspired to give carb cycling a try.
  • We really don’t watch a lot of TV. Occasionally Gen and I get caught up watching entire series (Currently it is 90210. The girl has a healthy obsession with the 90’s… I am so proud!) There really isn’t much that all three of us really enjoy together, but this new sitcom on NBC called Trial & Error is one we adore. So funny, we LOVE it.
  • I am not sure how familiar you are with Essential Oils. I Swear by them! Over the past few months my dear friend Debbie has turned me on to a few products (that go a bit beyond Essential Oils) that have literally changed my life. They are both in this brand, the ON Guard line. One is the throat drops. While I was sick, these made an amazing difference! Two is the toothpaste. Listen for a moment, this toothpaste, after just ONE use, became something truly special for the three of us, as well as my older daughter and her family. Amazing does not begin to cover it. (I already loved the hand soap, all-purpose cleaner and oil itself.) I am honestly not trying to sell you, just sharing what I love and am willing to elaborate if asked! :)
  • Word searches… No, I am not joking. a couple of months ago I picked up a pretty little Word Search book at Barnes & Noble. (who knew they could be cute and pretty???) I used to love them, was giving up most phone apps (time wasters) for Lent and decided to use this as a substitution. Talk about rekindling a love! For my birthday I received another pretty Word Search book and my spare moments often include doing a quick WS puzzle.
  • Our pet store (which is awesome) told us about these teething rings. They promised a life saver, and they weren’t kidding. Knightley loves them. (he loves chewing on toes, feet, fingers, chins and any other visible flesh more, but these serve as a good distraction!)
  • I received a bag of this coffee, as a gift. You guys, if you are wanting an indulgent weekend coffee, this is the one for you. It is amazing. It is too decadent to drink every day, but it is absolutely our new weekend treat!
  • Rising well before the sun. Having a chronic illness has made early mornings, over the past few years, a struggle. I won’t pretend something changed, because it hasn’t. Because of Knightley, early mornings are a necessity and I have been using that time in more intentionally positive ways. I make a homemade breakfast for my family, play with the puppy, read a little. Whatever I need to do to think less about how crummy and sore I feel, and more about the people I love. It’s not always that easy, but I have seen it shaping my days/week a little differently.
  • If you pay any attention to me at all, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of face masks and skin care. I stumbled upon this mask, and what I loved about it were the ingredients and the price. I used it this past Monday (while sipping my Godiva coffee) and it was heavenly. Five days later and my skin is still amazing. (plus, you guys, we went to dinner for our anniversary and the entire staff REFUSED to believe that we’d been married 23 years and that our youngest was 18. There is really something to be said about an intentional and healthy skin care regimen!)

I am always interested in book, show, music and product recommendations! What are you loving lately??? PLEASE SHARE!

Her Children Will Rise and Call Her…

Decades ago there was a woman who identified herself as wife and mother. She had a heart for Jesus, and this would come to sustain her more than she may ever have imagined. It is easy, in such a role, to find yourself in the details of sack lunches, ironing shirts and after work embraces, greeting your husband at the end of his day. When her husband found himself unfaithful and interested in a life & family with someone else, leaving her and her four daughters, it may have been hard to imagine herself at all- for a minute…

These days this scenario is almost expected, and there are programs and plans to help. Decades ago, this was not the case. To be the left, carrying the load, well- I can only imagine she endured judgement and bigotry at times, at the hands of others maybe so trapped in their fear. An absent husband/father and the either compassion or disapproval of others will not put food in your daughters’ bellies, so this beautiful woman had no choice.

She rose.

In an era where men were still handed most opportunities, she marched into a bank and offered them herself. She presented herself with such honesty: this would be her first job, she was an abandoned single mom, she knew she would work hard, and she did. Many years later she would retire from that very same bank. Times were so different then that, truthfully, we may have a tough time even understanding how isolating and brave this all had to have been. While her friends were lunching and sharing in each others lives, this beautiful soul would miss class parties and the like, just to keep power on in her very modest apartment. These days single motherhood is such a thing, and working mothers are very common, but this story is more. Even though single motherhood and working motherhood are among the most common elements of todays society, the fact that this woman’s life fell utterly apart and she rose in the morning, rising to give her daughter’s life. Rising to create a life that was so full of something bigger than any dollar could buy.

Rising up and moving past is not something common these days either, but maybe that has never really been on trend…

Beyond that, any of us who have been parents for any point in time know that parenthood is hard. So hard, and going at it alone only multiplies that. This incredible woman raised four incredible women. Women who went on to raise incredible kids. While no one is perfect, these 5 women have set the standard for keeping family at the center of the vitalist of priorities, also in a time when family grows less and less important.

There is not a person out there who could not learn something life affirming from knowing these girls or their mother. These days, most of girls themselves find themselves grandmothers. Their family has seen illness, loss, struggle, death and heartbreak. The tragedy which altered their world at the start of this story did not cripple or eternally victimize these five women, though it could have. It did not create an opportunity for them to settle down and live off of charity. It did not inspire deep, life long rebellion and acting out. Did it devastate them? yes. This woman, whom I admire beyond words, worked hard every day for her family.  In rising above and with such courage, she planted the seeds which would grow what was necessary, in her daughters, to stand throughout the heartaches and struggles they would face. She fought hard, for her family. She prayed hard, for her family. She was in the trenches for these girls, without ceasing. What began as clothes on their bodies and heat in their home continued through dating, marriage, childbirth, some divorce, heartbreak, health problems and even burying one of her own beautiful daughters. She still stands strong for these girls and their children, and their children’s children. Having known this beautiful soul since I was sixteen, I have to believe that if we are earning “jewels in our crown”, in heaven, for the beautiful things we do on this earth, this woman is going to have a castle filled to the brim with jeweled crowns.

Her daughters continue her legacy, rising up and fighting for the ones they love. They are united, kind and supportive and their children have become this as well. Among them is so much success, many geographical locations and, at the core of everything, family.

When I was challenged to write about a woman, a heroine, whom I have known in life who has gone above and beyond, sacrificed and inspired, there was no one else I could imagine. I met this soul when I was sixteen, visiting her tiny apartment with her granddaughter, who was my friend. I had no idea the ways that this woman would be so important in my life. She has stood beside and fought for me more than any one I’ve had. She is tiny in stature and fierce in heart, even so much as going up against my husband 18 years ago for his own adultery and abandonment. There she stood, taking him on and this man of 5′ 11″ towered over this tiny little woman and yet the only thing he was feeling was terrified. She, one of her amazing daughters (who would become my mentor and one of my dearest friends) and her own mother made three of four people who attended my wedding shower, when the world I’d lived in had all but thrown me away. I have recovered from miscarriage in her home, cried on her shoulder, prayed beside her and had so much loving conversation.

Any popular story I hear about people moving great obstacles to accomplish bold things simply does not hold a candle to her, in my book. What she had to do (and really, when she had to do it) combined with how her own daughters turned into loving mothers, fierce advocates for their family, and wild supporters of others- that is everything right there. She is a heroine with an amazing heroic legacy.

There is a film releasing on the 31st called The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. (It is based on the novel of the same title, and you can see the trailer here.) It is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, a Christian couple who save and house hundreds of Jews during WWII. This not only an inspiring and life affirming story of heroism and faithfulness, but in a time such as this, it is a necessary story of humanity tearing down the walls of religion to help others, regardless of theirs. 

The world is scattered with brave souls, their beauty and their stories there for us to learn from and do with. I am so blessed by knowing this beautiful woman who I have shared with you. Who would you have written about? I would love for you to share. On the 31st, at 12:00 a.m., I will choose a winner (at random) to receive a $25 Fandango card… (comment additionally if you tweet or FB share to be granted extra entires.)

On Marching forth…

ben-white-138743

Awhile ago I wrote about battling my own demons regarding what was happening last year, around this time, versus now. I think that maybe I had it all figured out, in my head, that by this point in my life, I would know more. (and let’s be honest, be more…) When I think of a 40 year old wife and mother, there are a series of things that I personally feel shouldn’t be in my plan. (in yours, or anyone else’s, its fine.) How after a 22 year long relationship, I we should not have separated. Sure, life would happen, and there for about a year it would happen BIG, but by that point shouldn’t we have it figured out? Or, how after losing 138 lbs, I shouldn’t gain 20. That doesn’t even make sense. What about how, after so many years, we shouldn’t be living in a tiny apartment crippled by debt.

While it would be true to say that I had other plans, the more accurate reality is that I had other expectations, for me.

Between you and I, I am trying so hard to work through those things and deal with life differently. I don’t want to live with the weight of the feelings that accompany the disappointment in my life and where it’s at. Have I made mistakes? Yes, of course I have. Have things happened which weren’t my fault? Again, of course. At the end of the day, however, it simply doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter.

I feel like my head is a little clearer, and my heart is a little less muddled and stuck in the hauntings of the past year. This is due some to praying about it, some to talking with friends and Chw about it, and due to just realizing truths about myself. This life, until the day I no longer take breath, will be a journey. There will be peaks and there will be valleys. We expect and accept this within the boundaries of the shared stories from the lives and journeys of others, but when it comes to the way we perceive our own life adventures- our expectations are tremendously different.

This month I am journeying forth a little differently. March is always BIG for me, big with the sentiment and big with the pressure. March is my birth month and my birthdays and I have always been without peace. I wanted to share with you how I plan to take control of this journey (in a healthy way) and move forward, navigating through it, to something better…

Me:

  • Do a photo of the day challenge on Instagram.
  • Do a 31 day Scripture writing challenge.
  • Read a fiction book, a memoir and a nonfiction book.
  • Be a better breakfaster
  • REALLY celebrate my birthday, how I want to celebrate it.
  • Choose books or gentle creativity on those days when life (and fibromyalgia) make major functioning too difficult, instead of turning on the tv.
  • continue striving to be intentional in the relationships I hold most dear.
  • Journal. It doesn’t matter how, just that I do.

Home:

  • keep fresh flowers home, when I am home.
  • experiment more with essential oils.
  • keep wholesome and delicious things made so that my family always has something good and desirable to eat.
  • continue the journey of minimizing and striving for less.

Family:

  • celebrate my grandson’s 6th birthday.
  • spend quality time visiting my daughter.
  • celebrate my son’s birthday, though he is far-far away.
  • celebrate my youngest daughter’s crossing into adulthood.
  • make moments momentous, without the aid of stuff.

Create:

  • experiment more with photography.
  • make significant progress on a writing project I am doing.
  • Play around with baking, here and there.
  • Do more with my hands.

Health:

  • I reiterate: be a better breakfaster.
  • try, try, try to do the ACV thing.
  • experiment with DIY tooth polish.
  • Be more active.
  • Lose 10 lbs.
  • Be more intentional and deliberate with Yoga.

Spring is such an encouraging time of year. Already I am feeling motivated by it. What about you? What are you working on or looking forward to, this spring?