Hello, 45…

February 6, 2018. Somehow, 45 snuck up on me as I was busy enjoying myself. I’m not one to get all upset because of my age, but I’ll be the first to say that I’m surprised how fast 45 arrived. I decided to enjoy the day by doing only what I wanted to do. Most days are dictated by the needs of others, which is fine – but today I am giving myself the gift of rest. I started by sleeping in. Well, I stayed in bed at least, until after 7 when all the girls had left for school. I shuffled downstairs for some hot coffee and found some amazing hand painted signs. They were created with lots of love and hung with even more tape. They made me smile. I drank my coffee and poured over the sweet birthday wishes on Facebook.  February 6th is my FAVORITE day on Facebook, hands down. Such fun. 

I took some time to sit by the fire and finish my weekly bible study. I was immediately joined by my plump kitty who never passes up the chance to take in the warmth. She usually lays there until her fur is smokin hot, then gets up before she bursts into flames. What a life. 

Later, after painting my toenails a sassy bronze, I decided to read a bit. This day is a dream come true, I tell you! I had received a new book from my mom for my birthday (mom’s give the BEST gifts!) Kelly Corrigan is one of my favorite authors and her newest book Tell Me More has me captivated. I set a goal for myself to read more books this year, and this is already my 5th book of 2018! Woot!

Now, being as smart as you all are, I’m sure you knew I was going to take a nap after such a strenuous early day. I mean, HELLO, I’m 45 now! Luckily, I had yet another cat join me for my birthday festivities. He is usually asleep from 7am- 4pm every day anyways, so this fit into his schedule nicely. I woke up after 90 minutes next to this furball and decided to peek at Facebook again. GAH – messages from all of my favorite people… nothing makes you feel loved like Facebook on your birthday 🎉 The girls came home from school and brought me an iced coffee – what is it, my BIRTHDAY or something?!?! I read a few more chapters of my book and then finished a project that has been sitting on my desk since August. I love heart shaped things and had a collection of heart shaped rocks that I wanted to display in a shadow box. BOOM 💥 DONE ✅ I’m having a very productive 45th year so far 😬We ended the day with Panera and presents. It couldn’t have been a better day. I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us! #halfwayto90

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Lean in…

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Not everyone will allow themselves to cry in public. I have definitely been known to openly shed a tear or two. I’m not talking about a big ugly cry, but tears on the cheeks, yes. Last week at my Bible study, I cried. It wasn’t something I had planned on doing, and to be honest, it even surprised me a bit. Now that I hopefully have your attention, I’ll explain.

I’m currently in a new season of life. These birdies that I have been raising are trying out their wings and I am nervously biting my nails as I watch them teeter on the edge of the nest. With one a college freshman and one a high school senior, the milestones come daily and it’s all a bit overwhelming. For the most part, I am able to focus on the positive and enjoy this season of new found independence – I’m doing OK (until I’m not).

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This particular day at Bible study, I was commenting on a scripture passage that we had recently looked up. It was Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece – created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” While reading this scripture out loud, the words caught in my throat and I had to pause and pull myself together. You see, I have always wanted to be a Mom. Knowing very little what it would actually involve, the idea of raising littles was a tad magical to me.  I felt that God was in agreement, since He blessed us with 4 stinky butt babes. But now, as my children have grown, I tend to wonder a little bit more about these “good works” that are meant for me. They aren’t so obvious anymore. I’m still busy, yes. Feeling productive, yes. But I am lacking that sense of being needed, feeling necessary – and frankly,  this feeling is not the greatest. What else does God have planned for me? To be clear, my concern is less whether or not He does have plans for me, but will I love these new plans as much as  I loved being a Mama to littles?!

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I read before, that in order to deal with our pain and uncertainties, we need to lean in. What does leaning in look like? For me, it looks like sorting through boxes of outgrown clothing and pouring over scrapbooks containing pictures of years gone by. It’s sitting attentively as your senior debates between colleges , when all you really want to do is pull her onto your lap and read her a Golden book. It’s repainting bedroom walls from bubble gum pink to sophisticated grey. It’s talking with other parents about how to let go, while holding tight at the same time. And it’s tears – sometimes expected, but often an embarrassing surprise. It’s a big messy box of acceptance wrapped with a sloppy bow of denial on top. Even though we experienced these emotions just last year, we are still novices at this whole “watching your child grow up” gig. 

I don’t think anyone should ever have to explain themselves when they are leaning in. It takes a lot of extra effort and is very important. It looks differently for everyone, but is crucial for all of us. Don’t think you can skip over tough things and hope it won’t catch up with you. It will. I’ve tried to ignore things, it doesn’t end well. 

So what about you? Are you avoiding a tough situation right now? Or are you leaning in? Please know that I’m here – online if nothing else – if you’d also like to lean on me!

 

 

Life lessons I’ve learned from my hair…

I’m pretty sure that most would agree with me on this point – our hair usually doesn’t do what we want it to do. I️ was born with some THICK hair. My mom kept it short when I️ was little, because she just didn’t know what to do with it. I️ don’t blame her now, but I️ sure wanted it long when I️ was little – so much that I️ would put pantyhose on my head and swing it around like it was long hair – if you have never done this, try it, such a good time! But, when I️ did let my hair grow out, the tedious chore of brushing through that mop got old REALLY quick. I️ envied those with braids and buns and piggy tails. Although I️ soon found out that sitting still while my mom coated her hands with “dipity doo” and tried to work some magic was a tad bit like torture for me. Later, in 6th grade, everyone was feathering their hair. Hard as I️ tried, my hair would have nothing to do with it, resulting in a daily battle in front of the mirror.

In addition to being thick, my hair has a ton of volume. For years it was more of a “wave”. Just enough to NOT be straight. Just enough to make me mad. I️ found that using a flat iron worked well to control the beast – so I️ used one daily for years. While on a Spring Break trip with our family, after going into the ocean and letting the wind dry my hair – my children were taken aback. ‘‘You have curly hair?” It was a bit like I️ had just introduced them to a long lost sibling. What a secret to hide from your children! From that point on, no more flat iron… I️ was determined to let my hair be “natural”. At this point in time, to me, my hair looked like I️ had an old perm. Many declared it looked like I️ had created beach waves with a curling wand. Beach waves?! I felt more like I️ had been caught in the Big Kahuna and dragged in the sand a few miles. Yes, the grass is always greener – but I have learned a few lessons  through the years from my crazy hair that I’d like to share with you 🙂

* Less is more ~ With all of the new tools and products out there, it’s easy to get sucked in. Less frizz? Amen! Bouncy waves? I’ll take two! Relaxed curls with no stiffness? SOLD. Yet, I have found, that once you find something that works, stop. Don’t keep looking. Use what you have and let that be enough. You know, don’t re -invent the wheel and all that. What you have is enough. Being content is difficult but awesome!

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* Try new things ~ Sometimes, we need a little something different in our lives. The same ‘ole, same ‘ole just isn’t cutting it anymore. Don’t go all drastic and quit your job or shave your head, or tell your neighbors what you REALLY think (now THAT’S just crazy talk!) Change just a simple thing – and see what happens. Part your hair on a different side, add a braid, air dry if you normally blow dry. Small changes can do wonders for pulling you out of a funk!
* Celebrate small victories  ~ This is a favorite of mine. On special occasions and days that I’d truly love to look good, my hair turns out like a used mop. But, on any random Tuesday , when I had already vowed to stay home all day and do laundry, it’s as cute as can be. What to do? Don’t EVER waste cute hair! Go to the grocery store, go to the bank… BE SEEN – I mean, we really never know when this is going to happen again!

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* Ask for help ~ As with most things in life, if I see something that impresses me, I ask about it! If I see someone that has amazing hair, a beautiful headband,  or a style I admire – I inquire about it! What’s the worst that can happen?! Stick your neck out – being curious and asking questions is a good thing!

* Focus on the good ~ We all know that no matter how hard we try, there is usually something that isn’t “quite” right… the left side is curlier than the right side, the front dried funky, our barrette won’t stop sliding out – whatever! Focus on what is good! If the volume is there, but the style isn’t, grab a headband that matches your outfit and move on. If your hair is especially shiny, but won’t cooperate, slick it back into a pony and hit the road. Work with what you have 🙂

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* This, too, shall pass ~  I’m pretty sure we have all had one of “those” hair cuts. You know the one… the “ I can’t believe I sat in that chair and LET THIS HAPPEN!” one.  The cut that had us threatening to not leave the house for weeks. But guess what? We lived to tell! It grew! It probably took much longer than we’d like, but it did grow out! And we learned a lesson about a hair length that we Never. Want. Again.

In the end, just like life, we have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst with our hair.

Wishing all of you a good hair day – EVERYDAY!

I’ve found a new love…

When something wonderful happens in my life, I feel that I have the responsibility of sharing it with others, in hopes of them benefiting as well. Friends – Sh*t got real this week. I discovered something that has apparently been around for awhile and kept as a secret by some obviously cold -hearted people. While shopping at World Market with a friend, she casually pointed to a small jar on a display shelf and asked me “Have you ever tried cookie butter?”. That question was the very basis of my introduction to one of the yummiest flavors I have ever experienced. Those 6 words have changed me forever, and Stacey, you now hold an even more special place in my heart.


Recently, this cookie butter phenomena has been a bit more publicized. Arby’s offers a cookie butter shake (bless them), and Oreo now offers a cookie butter flavored option of their famous cookie (on my list for my next shopping trip). The question remained – what the heck was it? Was it like apple butter, because…yuck. No, I had to assume it was going to be something I would love since part of its very description was COOKIE.  In the back of my mind, I was curious, but had never come across the product before – until World Market. And side note, I am so VERY glad that the closest World Market is a 45 minute drive for me, because I can walk in that store and start spending money like it’s my JOB. I should have known that they would play a part in this amazing introduction.

I bought two jars of cookie butter – I’m no dummy. Once home, I was so excited to open it and find out if it truly would become a new favorite. There were no serving suggestions on the jar, so I took this as a clear indication that only a spoon was required to enjoy this spread. Can we please have a moment of silence?!?!? I was 3 spoonfuls deep into this jar and I can tell you that if I wasn’t already married, I would have married it! It’s creamy and sweet and I honestly can’t imagine spreading it on anything else because then some of the flavor may be lost. It has earned itself the right to be a reward for me as I skip to my pantry with a spoon in my hand. And here’s the best part — the label reads “No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, VEGAN”.  Somebody pinch me – it’s almost healthy!!!!! 🙂


If you have yet to try this spread, please seek it out. I can’t promise that you will love it as much as I do – BUT WHAT IF YOU DO?!?! I need to hear the opinions of others – do you believe this should a requirement in every home, or is it just me?  I have it on my Christmas wish list already.  When I find joy, I share it. I hope you all have a fantastic week end and get to grab one of your favorite snacks sometime soon!

 

Worth a thousand words…

For as long as I can remember, I have loved pictures, photo albums and framed prints. My mom has an amazing wall of pictures that spans half of one room. I love to look at this wall every time that I visit and remember the people and events they captured. When I was married over 21 years ago, one of the very first things I did to help make our house feel like a home was to frame and display our favorite memories. I wanted to be surrounded by those that love me, and shared my life experiences . I’m so grateful that my mom shared her love for photography with us – it continues to be a passion of mine to this day.

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I, like most people, do my best to capture the special moments. To document the children as they grow and change right before our eyes. I take pictures of pets that will not be around forever, so that when I see a picture of them in the future, I will remember them with a smile. I take a BUNCH of pictures when we travel, so I can remind myself of the awesome places I’ve seen in this beautiful world. Memorable events like holidays and First Communions are also documented- along with goofy smiling children on a random Tuesday afternoon. All of it brings me joy and lifts my spirits on the days life seems too hard. I was so happy the time one of my friends declared that “The walls of your home look like a scrapbook!”. This is exactly what I want. I love for the company that we have to look around and see all that we treasure displayed on our walls and set on our tables and shelves.

I’m amazed at the rate technology has changed since my earlier years taking pictures. I can still remember how excited I was when I went to the drug store to “pick up my film”! It seemed like forever having to wait the week for it to be developed! I’m still in awe when we attend a wedding and the photographer has the pictures from the wedding ON DISPLAY AT THE RECEPTION! What?! We had to wait almost a month to see our precious wedding pictures! Color me green with envy! And don’t even get me started with the amazing editing options available with the touch of a finger to your phone screen. I remember trying to learn how to “photoshop” back in the day – and after lots of sweating and swearing, it didn’t end well. My children can crop and edit and create videos and more. Sign of the times, I guess – and I love that they can teach it all to me, too. I would be lost without my tech support. My high school senior saved up her money and bought a DLSR camera that makes her mama drool. She has already taken two photography classes and her eye for the beauty around her is impressive. I love to share her joy as we share our favorite pictures. Each of the children do a fantastic job of capturing what is important to them in the world – and they will be able to look back at these pictures for years to come – one of the very best ways to make memories!


In the end, photography means connection to me. Connecting me to my past, to my children, and to the world that I want to memorize in all of its beauty. If I have any advice to give, it’s keep snapping those pictures – you will never regret it!


 

After August…

 This summer was one of trips and transitions. We did a lot, we laughed a lot, I cried a lot. Let me explain. Our oldest child graduated from high school in June. He had been accepted into the College of Engineering at Michigan State University, so our biggest goal of the summer was prepping, packing and leaving him in a dorm one hour and forty-seven minutes from home. In the meantime, we also had a graduation party to throw (at our house) two family vacations, several work trips and various other camps that the girls were attending. All of this while trying to keep my head on straight and not allow my emotions to suck me down a spiraling staircase of reminiscing and yearning for years gone by.

Planning for the party was fun. It was by far the biggest event we have ever had at the house. Once we decided that we would host this shindig at the house, we made a list of about 243,946 projects that we’d like done before “D-Day”. We settled on a few and I became a contractor of sorts, finding companies and setting up appointments. We had a privacy fence installed, we power washed the house, we had carpets cleaned… and we were just getting started. Nothing puts a fire under your tush like having 125 people over! Our son is very low key and wanted the basic “good food” at the party. Easy enough. He had worked at Tony Packo’s for 18 months, and wanted their dogs and chicken paprikash for the main course. We also has chicken salad sandwiches and regular hot dogs for those who were not craving hungarian food. We had side dishes galore and an entire dessert table filled with sweets to celebrate our Spartan. I had fun decorating and sharing all of the mementos from preschool to present with family and friends. The weather was absolutely perfect – 73 degrees and sunny on July 9th – and the day was filled with family and friends that were all anxious to congratulate our graduate. After the last guest left, I took the best nap I have ever taken in my life. I was tired, but mostly relieved that all of our planning had indeed granted us a party that we will never forget.

For the next six weeks, I divided my time between searching for dorm furniture/ supplies and packing, transporting, and unpacking our family for various excursions. We spent a fun week at a cottage with extended family celebrating my sweet mom’s 70th birthday. Steve and I went to Traverse City for a work conference. Mary went to camp for a week with 3 friends and rode horses and swam in the lake, and learned awesome camp songs she shared with us upon her return. We took a final family trip to New York in August. We were thrilled to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial and much, much more. The last few days of our trip we were in Atlantic City and enjoyed a gorgeous few days at the beach.

This last trip will always be very special to me, as it ended an era. The time in which all my children lived under the same roof was coming to a close. My heart ached whenever I imagined having our oldest away at school. Would he be OK? Had we taught him enough? Did he know how very much he is loved? Would he ever change his sheets?! I would worry, question my self, doubt my parenting and fret over mistakes I’d made raising him. I prayed more than I have prayed ever before. For peace, for strength, for the ability to keep my sh*t together on move- in day. (It’s Ok. God knows I swear.) And my prayers were answered. As the day we moved him in approached, I felt a sense of calm and confidence that he – and I – would be alright.

It has now been almost a month since our oldest went to college. It still doesn’t feel “normal”. In fact, I can’t imagine that his absence will EVER feel normal. But he calls, texts, and facetimes. I have never appreciated technology more! We have seen him twice, before football games, and he looks good and that helps my heart. I’m excited for him to come home next month for the week end – its fun to have that on the calendar.  I have seen him stumble, and then catch himself. I have sat back and given advice and prayed he could handle it alone – and so far, so good. We are doing it! The transition doesn’t come easily, there are tears, stressful phone calls and worried texts. But, there is also growth, encouragement and independence. This adulting business is no joke. But I couldn’t be more proud. There was an immense amount of effort to get us to and through August.  We made it out alive – with only a few bumps along the way and swollen eyes from crying to show for it. Bring it, October! We are ready for more adventures, and no longer fear the future, for we fully understand that God is already there!

My biggest character flaw…

Everyone is good at something. We all have an area in which we excel. Some are extremely creative, organized or out going. Others are great at hosting, event planning or dealing with financial matters. It’s important to know where your skill sets are, and how they can help you succeed. On the other hand, it’s equally important to know the areas in our lives that need improvement. I am AWFUL at asking for help. Really bad at it. Seriously, I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than admit I need assistance or can’t handle something. Being stubborn only makes this worse, and gets me in more trouble. Every. Time.  I have several examples of situations that should have changed my mind about asking for help from others. But apparently, I’m a slow learner. I need to be repeatedly shown that I’m not capable of “going it alone”, nor should I even try that route. God provides these opportunities for growth frequently because He knows this is my weak spot.

Despite my inability to request help, one of my very favorite things to do is offer help to others. To see a need and fill it. To witness a struggle and make it easier for someone else to bear. The world is chock full of chances to assist others, and I love to jump right in! So – if I find joy in helping others, why do I refuse such help from my friends? Crazy. When I see the question on paper, I feel silly and shake my head. But still, I struggle. To bring a meal, pick up a child from practice, watch a toddler so a sick mama can rest – all of that would be appreciated … but would it be accepted if offered? I know I’m not the only one that tries to do it alone.

Pride. It’s a dirty word. It’s my biggest character flaw. I’m too proud to admit when life is indeed getting the best of me, or when I’m just trying to keep my head above water. There have been times that I didn’t know how I would possibly juggle all that needed to be accomplished. Those that know me, understand this – and help anyways. Their help is given in various ways. A text that contains a funny meme or an instant message that insists I am stronger than I believe.  Sometimes, it’s a meal delivered when I am unable to care for my family. Please note – help with my family and I will NEVER forget your kindness. These gestures mean the world to me, so why do I feel like sharing my burdens with those that love me is selfish? Why can’t I accept their love, smile and hug them and move on? How do I so easily forget the joy it brings me when I help others? The best part of friendship is helping each other through our most difficult days. The sickness of our children, the stress of marriage, the caring for our aging parents, the chaos of our typical Tuesday. We all have areas that we could use help in.

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Let’s make a deal. Let’s all be more honest with each other (especially on Fakebook, oops, Facebook).  Let’s try our best to be open about what we encounter that is threatening our sanity . We could even admit when we need an extra set of hands, or one less day of carpool commitment. Less guilt and less perfection. More community and more compassion. I can’t wait to help you out! My guess is that we will all benefit.