A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION

My husband asked me to write this experience down. He won me over on the idea when he mentioned that it’s just the type of story my mom would retell and he wants to make sure our kids have the same stories to reminisce about.

Last week, we celebrated my 3rd daughter turning 7. For a few weeks leading up to her special day, she repeatedly asked to go to Red Lobster so she could get dessert. I have no idea why this was her particular request but, alas, it was. Since my husband was in class all day on her birthday, I was flying solo for the evening. What better plan than to take 4 kids out to a restaurant for dessert?!

We arrived around 6:00 and my children were excited, to say the least. They were getting dessert BEFORE dinner and it was a birthday celebration! We were barely in the front door before a sibling made sure someone was told of our celebratory agenda. The hostess showed us to our table, a corner booth in a sectioned off room (I later found out it’s called the ‘red room’ by the restaurant staff). Since it was the middle of the week, there were only a few occupied tables and I’m pretty sure all of them stared at us as we moved into our booth. The kids were so excited, loud and animated. I called for a hause-huddle in order to get everyone centered and calmed down.

There was one lady, sitting with a younger female (I assumed a daughter) that really seemed to be keenly aware of my crew coming into the red room. I felt judged and like we were simply annoying her. Of course, we were seated right next to her and my mom- guilt was in overdrive just knowing this woman was only going to become more and more irritated by our mere presence.  The kids calmed and they each were able to order a sundae off the kids menu. The birthday girl ordered strawberry cheesecake; she highly recommends it if you’re out to dinner.

 

16473234_10210809069976629_3187132860747866292_n

 

The kids and I had a lovely time sharing our ‘highs’ of the day- those moments that stood out as happy or good or encouraging; each taking a turn to share their own moments. Time quickly escaped us, dessert was finished and we were sitting there waiting. Our waiter, although wonderful and so helpful in our celebrating by having his co-workers sing to my birthday girl, seemed to be taking forever to bring the check. Once again, my kids were getting antsy and I was at a loss. I pulled out my wallet and even my card to pay but couldn’t seem to get him to bring the check.

To my surprise, the waiter finally came to the table but had no check in his hand. Instead his surprised us by informing us our tab had been taking care of by the family at the table next to us…. the very table that I was sure I was being judged from; that we were only annoying more with every passing second. I was blown away. Humbled. As we left, each of us repeatedly thanked them for the generosity. My birthday girl quickly noted that THIS was definitely her high for the day. I agreed and began ushering my kids to the car.

It wasn’t until several hours later, well after the kids were in bed, that I realized in the shock of my bill being paid I didn’t leave a tip for our waiter. I. Felt. Horrible. Here I had just been gifted with this beautiful display of grace and blessing but hadn’t passed that gift along. I went to Facebook with my angst. A friend who has wait-staff experience encouraged me to simply call and let them know it wasn’t a reflection of the service received. Easy.

The next day, I waited until noon to call and spoke with the manager on duty. After explaining the previous nights events, I asked if I could mail a tip or something. To my extreme surprise, the manager thanked me for calling and told me he would take my suggested amount out of the petty cash drawer and tip my waiter for me. With a very friendly encouragement to feel free to repay the petty cash next time we’re in for dinner he again thanked me for calling and wished my daughter a very happy birthday.

I shared this story on Facebook and a friend/neighbor commented on how the world had already come full circle. Just two days prior, I headed over to her house with a get well basket. Her family of five suffered the flu x 3 and the worst stomach bug ever x 4, over the course of 2 weeks! She was ragged and worn out. I packed up some chicken noodle soup, crackers and disinfectant wipes with a card wishing them a full recovery from all their illnesses. It was a simple neighborly act and I really didn’t give much though to it. She later told me that it meant the world to her.

Isn’t that how it usually goes? Something so small and insignificant to us can be huge and mean the world to someone else? I know that’s how my feeble bill being paid felt and then again when the manager covered my tip. How wonderful it is to be a part of a blessing and not fully realize how the blessing was returned, ten-fold!

signature

 

Advertisements

Saying Good Bye All Over Again

The time has finally come; we’re moving my Dad out of his home as he prepares to wed mid-October. It’s been an emotional journey, a difficult, ugly-cry, all the sobbing one pair of eyes can handle, EMOTIONAL JOURNEY. I’ve tossed so many items that lingered after my mom passed away. I’ve sat and stared at her bed, the vision of her laying there wrangled with pain the day I sent her back to the hospital; the day she left her home for the last time. I’ve fought with my Dad to get him to start packing, continue packing, find more boxes, buy more tape, sell the stuff, toss the stuff, NOT send the stuff to my house.
As my life continues with the daily ins and outs of raising four children, working part time and giving my time to ministry, I’m forgetting to take time for myself. It’s an innate part of my person that when I see a need, I help. I find a way to meet the need; either personally or through connecting someone else better suited to meet the need, with the need.  That means making calls, sending texts, coordinating drop offs, pick ups and donation locations.
Tonight, as I loaded up a moving truck and my husbands work van with my Dad’s belongings, I was forced to take a moment for myself. I was forced to cry, to sob, to weep. To feel the emotions I’ve kept so carefully tucked just below the surface. I wept for the claw-foot table that my mom adored. A newly-wed purchase from an elderly church member who was downsizing, it holds no heirloom worth. To me though, the table is an integral part of my life. It’s always been there. In a few short days, it’ll serve a new family, holding their pictures or candy dishes or potted plant. The special meaning behind the table lost forever.
Before I set to the task of penning this post, I sent this message to my dear friend. I share it here so I don’t forget, so that you can start to understand, so that another working their way through a similar situation will know their not alone:

“I hit my emotional point tonight. I just can’t. Moving my dad out of the home he shared with my mom…. oh my word. knowing I’ll never step into that room again, see her bed there and be teleported back to the day I sent my mom back to the hospital. Never celebrating another Christmas there where we all honor her through her chair by not sitting in it…
 her Adirondack chair is rotting and has to be trashed. she loved that chair. She painted it RED because there was a ‘loud’ part of her that loved being vibrant in life. Her joy came in sitting outside in that chair listening to the birds in the morning, basking in Gods creation.”
To finish the thought: I never would have thought that the mourning of my mom would come about with my dad moving. There are so many intricate parts of losing a loved one that no one and no thing can prepare you for.
I have two weeks, with my Dad living with me, before the wedding. Two weeks to try and wrap my emotions up in a little bundle so I can tuck them neatly away and be present, mostly for the sake of my children. That’s a whole new post in and of itself.
signature

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Or does it? It seems like time flies, no matter what! As I shared in my previous post, last summer was full of house projects in preparation for listing our house. Because of the extreme stress and large amount of work last summer, my husband and I decided we were going to take a much slower pace this year.

Yup. As school let out, my kiddos and I sat down to create our “SUMMER BUCKET LIST”. (Who came up with this idea?!) We listed things like ‘creek walking’ ‘beach trip’, ‘visit Gma’ (that’s 4 hours, round trip) and one kiddo even added ‘kiss a frog’. It’s August, school starts in a few shorts weeks (two maybe? I’m trying to not keep track), and we’ve crossed off a small handful of our items; ‘kiss a frog’ is actually marked off. I’m not upset, I’m not stressed thinking about how we’re going to make it all fit in. It is what it is.

I’ve enjoyed taking the kids swimming with their great grandmother (the one we bought 211 from).

Swimming with my extended family.

13938591_10209142485553060_8694965959403159389_n

Playing at the park with friends.

13754605_10209018649977248_9151098973721089466_n

Isn’t that what summer is all about?

We still have some time ahead of us and hopefully we’ll get a minor league baseball game in. Maybe we’ll get to the aquarium with friends or even embrace one more camping trip. What I know is that this summer we’ve enjoyed being a family. We’ve enjoyed playing in our yard, on the balcony and in the toy room. We’ve survived ‘work days’ where massive amounts of chores get done and my kids (unbeknownst to them) are learning life skills so they can one day manage their own homes.

School starts in a few weeks, so while the time continues to fly by, I’ll enjoy not being busy… or maybe being busy. I’ll enjoy not pushing my kids so we can make sure every item on our bucket list gets marked off. I’ll embrace watching them play in the backyard while I lounge in my hammock with a good book and a cool drink. Because those are the types of memories I want our summers to be filled with.

signature

 

From 47 to 211

A long awaited journey has finally come to pass. On April 9th, my family of 6 took the exhausted trek down the street to our new home. It’s true. We moved from 47 to 211 and yet it feels a world away. Our home was a quaint 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home with an eat-in kitchen, and 1100 sq ft to make it all work in. All four kids were in the same room; two bunk beds and 3 dressers did the trick but as they grew and their clothing measurements increased the drawers were started to get cramped. I did my best to keep the minimum or closer it to it than ever before but nothing seemed to be working. Their shoes were no longer fitting in the allotted space and the girls dresses were starting to drag on the shelf below them (were the hanging clothes of a sibling lived).

GetMedia

Nearly a year ago, my husbands grandparents approached us about purchasing their home; a desire we had had for years but have never spoken to anyone outside our four walls. With nearly 2000 sq ft, the 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom, finished basement and attic house included a dining room and office (that we always expected to use as a toy/play room). More than enough space for the 6 of us to stretch out a bit while still enjoying each others company.  As the summer approached, we set to work knocking off items on our To Do list (replace roof, paint exterior, re-caulk bathtub, etc.). We called in the troops and had a major work party one Saturday in August and by the end of September we were finally ready to list our house.  Our first showing wasn’t until October 15th but after that, we had consistent showings, nearly 3 every week. In January we accepted an offer and went into negotiating the perfect price for us and the buyer.

 

12552685_10207520884534048_4469155859441313581_n.jpg

Unfortunately, the buyers were a bit out of their price range and we were unable to come to an agreement and let the contract dissolve. Back on the market, we continued to have showings a regular pace. The constant pressure to keep a house that was only a few steps away from being ‘show ready’ was beginning to take it tolls and I was starting to loose faith in what we were doing. Throughout this entire process, my husband has maintained his enrollment in seminary, starting and completing a single class in a month. He, too, was becoming worn down by the constant pressure to sell our house.  His grandparents had been very gracious in holding their house for us but were getting to a point that they would need to list their home if we were not able to sell ours in order to buy theirs.  My heart was starting to sink.

Then, it happened. My brother-in-law asked to talk to us. He came with the proposition of renting our house until they had time to get some things in order so they could then purchase our home. After talking to the grandparents, it came out that grandma had has a dream about someone renting our house, while we rented 211 until our house could be purchased. To us, this was a clear answer that we were doing what we were supposed to do and that God had not forgotten us and things were not falling a part but, in fact, coming together! With the signing of a few papers, we moved into 211, leaving 47 open for my brother-in-law and his wife to move in.

As we get settled into our new home, the girls are enjoying being able to walk to and from school by themselves. My son and I are enjoying the walk to his preschool and I’m loving the opportunities that are to come with having a house that is now more appropriately sized for not just my family but for our family to have guests over (and not just when the weather is nice)!

Over the next few weeks and months, I hope to share our progress in moving in and then as we start to make more drastic steps to making this our home, not the grandparents house. There is much painting to be done, carpet to get rid of and a yard to cultivate and enjoy as well as a garden to tend to and hopefully, harvest!

IMG_9201

signature

What’s Your Favorite…?

“You’re afraid of not fitting in; of what others will think of you. Not sure of what and who you are, you see something you like in someone else and try it on for a while. But, it never sticks because it’s not who you are.”   ~Flora

Aren’t those words so true? It’s NOT who you are.  I have struggled my whole life with this. I have never really known what it is that I like. My answer to ‘what is your favorite…’ was always that I don’t have any favorites. In recent years, I’ve given a consorted effort to seeing what my favorites are- they’re a part of who I am!  Yet, even now, as I’m in my mid-thirties, I struggle with this. I’m plagued by not knowing what I want and how and who I want to be (or actually AM). A friend of mine has been showing how she’s embracing her true style (mostly in her home decorating) and I’m baffled. HOW does she do that? She knows exactly what she likes and hunts down items that bring that style into her home. On my side, I see her embracing her style and think to myself, ‘oooh. I like that. I should try that. How can I make my house look like that?’ and so on.  I realize it’s not fair to myself. It’s not fair to her! Her style is uniquely her, not me. In my head, I know it’s fine enough to use her style to INSPIRE me but not to mimic completely. Somehow though, I get caught up in trying to embrace someone else’s something and drift away from any work I’m accomplished in embracing my own self.

I know a few of my favorites:

Staring at the stars

night-sky-stars
Mint Chocolate (anything)

AutumnAutumn leaves
Photographs of ItalyItaly_980x300(1)
Raspberries

Pink (just about anything)
Classic clothing (cardigans and khaki’s, boatneck tops and dresses, diamond stud earrings and pearl necklaces, etc.)
classic fashion

Chipmunks and Penguins (and I love seeing groundhogs here and there)

Tamias striatus Tamia rayé (suisse) Eastern chipmunk North American mammal (order Rodentia) Mammifère nord-américain (ordre des rongeurs) Bas Saint-Laurent -- Province de Québec -- Canada Canon PowerShot A620   2006-08-30

But, those aren’t what plague me. I have lost sight of my hobbies- or maybe I haven’t lost sight but have let go of those activities I THOUGHT were me. I used to do ceramics and jewelry making, dancing and singing, baking, reading and even the physical activities like exercising and soccer, stretching and yoga. I used to LOVE doing all of those and yet none of them bring my any joy anymore.

I want to not worry about what people think of me. I want to walk confidently into a room knowing just who I am and just what I am. To be free to cast any (assumed) judgement aside and embrace living in the here and now… that would be something, wouldn’t it?

My hope, as I embark on finding who I am, is that over the next few months is to try new activities, be adventurous and open to new things- foods, hobbies, clothing styles, and more. I want to really assess what brings me joy, what makes me feel alive and then find ways to regularly bring those into my life.

Since first beginning this post, and saving it as a draft for quite some time, I’ve come to realization that I deeply and immensely enjoy DOING.  I enjoy helping others by physically doing things for them. I love volunteering my time and helping in more tangible ways. It brings me joy to coordinate volunteer opportunities and to collect donates when a crisis occurs. I’m learning to accept that sitting to knit or jewelry make is not going to bring me joy in my current phase of life.

volunteer.jpg

As much as I love volunteering, I’m finding that I’m not quite fulfilled. I’m eager for something more and I know I won’t rest until I’ve found out what it is. That’s where the trying new things and being open to new adventures will come into play. I’m ready to find out who I am, to love her dearly and embrace her fully.

signature

Thoughts on a Luxurious Life

My mother always used to say that I am a ‘rich girl with a poor girls wallet’. I’ve always had taste for the finer things in life, the quality items with matching price tag over the less than refined pieces with a more obtainable price tag. I had this special talent of looking at a catalog and picking out what I loved the most from any 2-page spread only to find the price listed as the most expensive item available. Without a doubt, I knew quality just by looking.

For the longest time, I’ve struggled with the physical image I’ve presented to the world. I have this vision in mind and yet struggle to curate that image in the every day. I don’t want to look frumpy, my children to look un-kept or cared for. There is a level of physical appearance that I feel is respectable. I was once asked why this was so important to me and I think my answer surprised the one asking. My answer was, to me, simple. I felt it my social duty to present a certain level of personal care; to make sure I was not an eyesore in someone else’s world.

A part of The Simply Luxurious Life is creating a signature style. Not just a fashion statement but in the perfume worn, the mannerisms and lifestyle choices. After having children, I definitely lost myself in the mess of daily life. My youngest is 4 years old and I feel as though I never really found myself again. As for fashion, I know I like classic staples- cardigans and khaki’s, a strand of peals and ballet flats. I swoon for cable knit sweaters and boat neck tops; bootcut jeans and A-line skirts. I’m yet to find a brand that works well with my silhouette and so I digress. This year, I will attack my self loathing  attitude and embrace making a change. I’m  not going to allow this to continue. How can I?! If I can’t live the life I want to live- which includes dressing the way I feel most comfortable- than I must do something to change.  I hope that by this time next year, I will be able to say that I’ve made a significant change and am able to embrace my signature style. I’ve written about it in the past and now it’s time to actually do something about it.

To help get me one step closer to my luxurious life, I’ve joined a group of men and women in an exercise challenge. Starting January 16th, I’ll be challenging myself to exercise for 30 minutes every day while eating a clean diet that is catered to my caloric needs to help lose weight. I’ve participated in this type of group within the last 12 months but was struggling to see the results I was hoping for. The timing wasn’t right and my body was trying to tell me that. I have to first address some health concerns- get that moderately unnerving test done so I have the answers and can move on from there, and work with my body and not against it. Family life and personal life has offered more stress than I could really actually deal with and it certainly caught up with me. I’m eager to embrace a slower more purposeful life as we enter the new year.

A simple goal I have is to purchase my first pair of Tieks. They are raved as the most comfortable ballet flats you’ll ever own. They are classic yet on par for the current trends. They are quality and that is what I am aiming for from here on out.

tieks

As I welcome 2016, I look forward to embracing the life I’ve long for for so many years. I long to Be Still, to be present in the here and now (no more running from here to there and back again), a slower approach to the day that allows for quiet time, exercise time, time to enjoy the things I enjoy, finding my comfort in my home and my body.

signature

 

 

 

Making Progress on my Bucket List

Number 8 on my Bucket List, Meet Shane & Shane.

Here’s how it happened. Tonight, my family traveled roughly an hour to ‘God’s Mountain’. It’s literally a field in the middle of corn fields. Teen Challenge has it’s training grounds there and tonight was their closing program including a graduation for several men who have accepted Christ’s gift of salvation and turned their lives around. As part of the closing program, TC had Shane & Shane as their music guests to lead worship.

IMG_9250

While waiting for the ‘concert’ to start, one of my daughters needed to visit the port-a-john. Standing outside the mobile necessity, I looked at Alex who was pointing crazy at me to look just beyond where I was standing. The two singers were walking toward me!  My poor child didn’t have a chance. I walked over to the singers and informed them that I HAD to shake their hands and thank them for the way their music has influenced my life. Their unabashed love for God and NEED to worship has helped me hold onto faith and to stay strong in my walk when life was less than desirable.

Alex came over to say hello but didn’t bring the camera! WHAT?! Dear husband needed to run back to our picnic spot, grab the camera and snap a picture. There it is; proof that I can put a check mark next to #8!!

Shane and Shane meet July 25 2015

The Shane’s proceeded to come over and sit down for a bit right in front of us. My husband actually got up and went to talk with Shane Everett (middle) and seemed to have a really nice conversation. Not to be left out, my son went to join the men in their conversation.

IMG_9245

Of course, the girls couldn’t be left out of the fun and so they all gathered around so I could take their picture with one of our families favorite musicians.

IMG_9253

The time spent in worship was so moving. These two guys really have a grasp on putting all the glory and praise toward God and not themselves. My kids loved singing along and being front and center only made the experience all the more amazing for me. To stand and sing or be still and listen to the worship being lifted up around me, words can’t really describe it.

IMG_9262

IMG_9261

I can only wonder what I’ll be able to mark off my list next. For now though, I’m thrilled that this one happened!