Thursday, April 23, 2015

What Have We Done?

It's day 2 with the new puppy.

Tim, Margaret, Shadow and I are in the "What the heck have we done?"stage. Let's hope it passes quickly!

We do NOT like change, so it takes us a while to warm up to new situations.  Good thing Charlie is the CUTEST PUPPY EVER. He is playful, cuddly, and charming.

But...

The poo!

The pee!

The sleeping in our bed because we are too tired to crate train him, even though we want to/intend to.

The chewing on my shoe while my foot is in it.

For me the hardest part is waking up so early. Shadow and I had the whole "Let's go back to sleep thing" mastered. Getting up two hours earlier than usual means I'm extra crabby and extra hungry.

I've set up shop in the kitchen all day so Charlie can feel safe and contained. Funny how I am such a homebody, but when I can't go anywhere, I want to go somewhere.

Shadow has quickly gotten tired of Charlie sitting on her head, peeing on her bed, and my favorite: chewing on her toenails. Here's a pic of the toenail situation in action:

Do you like Shadow's, "I am not amused" face?

Shadow just wants to be left alone, and at this point has chosen to hide in the foyer on the other side of a baby gate. I think she just needs to give Charlie one big growl to let him know how she feels, but she's too sweet for that.

When Margaret and I were talking about our adjustment yesterday, it made me realize this is much like bringing a second child home from the hospital.

Remember this?

Your first child suddenly looks like a GIANT in comparison, and you wonder how he/she grew up overnight.

You are tired and you don't know the new baby well enough to know what makes him/her tick, which stresses you out.

Family routines are disrupted, and you sometimes wonder 1) If you have made a huge mistake 2) If you will possibly be able to love and care for the second one as much as the first 3) If the age gap is just too great for them to ever bond and play together 4) If you will ever leave the house again.

So that's where we are today, and my experience with mothering Jack and Margaret tells me that it will ALL work out.

Many, many more cute puppy pics to come!





Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Retail Tale

I tried not to write about it, knowing that most people tweeted and Facebooked their reactions bright and early on Sunday morning. Even I dusted off my twitter account with this tweet, which found its way onto Mashable:



But you know me-- I've never been current with anything, as evidenced by my stirrup pants in the mid-90's.

I want to share with you the bizarre experience (non-experience) of hitting the Lilly Pulitzer sale at Target Sunday morning.

I am not a Lilly girl.

I've never had a stitch of Lilly Pulitzer clothing, although I must admit I've admired the cute and colorful little girls' shifts for a long time, and I like preppy clothes. When Margaret began plotting and planning for the Target sale several months ago, I learned that Lilly is reaching a new generation.

Margaret made a wish list, counted the money she had saved up, and even negotiated with me an advance on the 3 remaining baby teeth she has left to lose.

She read blogs for sale day strategies: "Hang out near the dressing rooms to find what others have discarded," and found the store phone number so we could call ahead to check the store hours.

As a parent, I enjoy getting into what interests my kids. With Jack that meant listening to the ins in outs of Legos and the Harry Potter series. For Margaret, lately, it has been learning new makeup techniques, finding out that full brows are back in, as long as they are "on point" and yes, getting up extra early on a Sunday for a special sale at Target. And, if a cute and colorful Lilly Pulitzer home accessory or bangle came my way, I certainly wouldn't spurn it.

Well, you probably know how this tale goes. We got to the store before it opened, joined a surprisingly long line in the parking garage, and waited our turn to enter. The doors opened at 8:00 and our feet crossed the threshold at 8:03. Though the glass doors at 8:02 I could see patrons mouthing something to us. Were they really saying, "It's all gone?" What?

It was kind of like when a nice old man stands on the side of the road waving wildly and saying something to you, but you don't understand what he means until 100 yards further up the road when your path is blocked by a fallen tree. He has tried to warn you, but you don't put two and two together until you see it for yourself.

What Margaret and I saw was one small, empty rack in the women's department and one in the girls' department. We saw maybe 8-10 people checking out, floral items piled high on the conveyor belts.

"We might as well try the dressing room thing," said my defeated girl, but when we made our way there, no one was trying anything on. It had gone straight from the racks, to the lines, and was making its way out the door, before 8:05 a.m.

I had been thinking of how smart Lilly Pulitzer was to court teens with low priced items (the shorts Margaret wanted were only $12) and establish a relationship with them while they were young. It would have been a great move on their part, especially for young, label-conscious teens whose moms never introduced them to the brand and are not willing to pay boutique prices for clothes. Perhaps when those same teens grew up, they would already be loyal customers.

Margaret was most peeved at the ladies dressed head-to-toe in Lilly, who heaped the clothes on the belts, "They can afford them already; why do they need to buy the stuff I can afford?" she asked.

But as I stood there, a different thought came to me: that there was never any intention of having supply meet demand. To do so would dilute the designer brand. I'm not sure what the intention was, but the experience left me annoyed and Margaret mad and feeling foolish. I wanted to refuse to ever let her buy anything Lilly Pulitzer.

First world problems, for sure.

After a cup of tea, we headed to church for a little attitude adjustment. Later that evening we found out that a friend had a Lilly shift dress that her daughter had outgrown, so now Margaret is rocking the pink and she didn't have to spend a dime.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Heirlooms in the Garage? Why Not?

So, I thought I'd update you on how the whole garage-mudroom thing has been working for us since we had it built last fall.

I love it! LOVE LOVE LOVE it!

It is wonderful to have this gorgeous, orderly wall of built-ins greet me multiple times a day. Each "locker" has ample room for multiple coats, and all of our baskets aren't even full yet.

I was hoping to improve the value of the house, and I think the project accomplishes that. The built-ins are more than we need, but I wanted to make sure it would appeal to a larger family if we sell our house at some point down the road.

Realistically, I need to tell you that the SHOES still make their way inside and onto the kitchen floor, but I'm happy they have a "home" in the garage. For sports equipment and dog paraphernalia alone, this mudroom rocks.


Earlier this week I decided to put three framed pictures on the wall. One is a watercolor my mom painted in high school of her family's home (now a bread store in Morgantown, WV). The next is a Mary Engelbreit print that reminds me of her because she had the same print (but smaller) taped to our fridge when I was growing up. The third is watercolor still life my mom painted shortly after she and my dad got married. I have the white pitcher depicted here in my dining room.




It might seem weird to have such meaningful items hanging in our garage. It might also seem that they could get damaged being so close to the elements. But two of these have been languishing in various unfinished basements over our last three moves, while the flower print was hanging in our out of the way guest room. Moving them to the garage means I see them multiple times every day and get to enjoy them! I don't think that anything will happen to them, but it it does, I will have seen them more in the past week than I did in the previous decade.

My own mom modeled this for me.

That lady was making gallery walls before any of us knew they were called gallery walls. Our front hallway was a mix of mirrors, large and small, expensive and cheap. Our tiny powder room served as a gallery for framed sepia-toned family pictures of grand parents and great grandparents in old fashioned suits and white dresses. She joked that maybe it was a little offensive to have family heirlooms surrounding a toilet, but the truth is, because she took them out of albums and hung them on the walls, I saw those photos multiple times every single day, I knew who was in them, and they  became much more a part of my childhood than they would have had they been anywhere else in our old farmhouse. Now a few of those photos are on on display here in my office, still part of my daily life.

I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed about hanging (or not hanging!) artwork on the walls in this house. I tell myself that I should paint first, and then I just put it off...again. I just can't seem to make decisions, and the sheer volume is daunting. So I'm glad I was able to quickly put something up, in the garage of all places, that makes me smile.


Fashion Friday: Stitch Fix #3!

My new Fix from Stitch Fix is here!

I was actually wearing the cobalt blue dress from last time when my new box arrived.  Have I told you I wear this at least once a week? It's as comfy as a t-shirt, but it looks so put together and the knit is thick enough to not be too clingy.

 Today I wore it to speak at a luncheon for  Haven a wonderful Grief Support organization in Northern Virginia.



I wasn't sure about this new fix, because spring/summer is my LEAST favorite time of year to dress for. I'm all about jeans/boots/sweaters. Also, I wasn't sure if anything could top my last fix, when I loved and kept all 5 items. Plus, I have gained a few pounds, so although I requested that my stylist send me roomier items, I wasn't sure how that would play out.

Today, things didn't start so well.

My first item was a super soft maxi dress (Fiona Maxi Dress, $78). I've never had a maxi dress, and this was sent  to get me out of my comfort zone. It was in navy/white (my favorite color combo) and had a sweet lace neckline. And as far as roomy-goes, there was a lot of fabric and coverage. Problem was, it was super UN-flattering to my figure. Not THAT terrible from the front.


Total maternity from the side. And there is no sweet baby in there. I do not need anything clinging to my stomach and thighs, thank you very much. NOT A KEEPER.


Teal green t-shirt (Sam hi-lo t-shirt, $44) with drapey fabric. This is a good color for me, and I like how it covers my butt. Margaret likes it, but I think it's nothing special for the price. NOT A KEEPER.

Gray blouse (Meryl Tulip Print, $54)  LOVE THIS! It's expensive, but I love that it looks different from anything else I have, and because tulips are my favorite flowers! I could see myself wearing this all the time.


I like it paired with the stretchy jeggings I got last time from Stitch Fix. I wear these every day and even slept in them on my long trip to/from Armenia. Verdict on tulip top? KEEP.

Soft coral cardigan (Abrianna Longsleeve Cardigan, $48). Comfy and flattering? Yep. Also, I don't have anything in this coral/orange, but I want to try it. KEEP.

Which brings us to the last item: dangly gold earrings (Romana Tiered Charm Earrings, $28). I've been looking for super lightweight gold earrings that won't tug on my lobes. KEEP.

Here's another view with my typical ponytail:


What do you think? I'm glad I told them I gained weight instead of just hoping I'd slim down before my next fix came. This fix was a lot of fun, and I think I will keep 3 items:

Earrings
Coral Cardigan
Tulip top

If you are interested in trying out being "styled" by a professional stylist, maybe Stitch Fix is for you.  

I wanted to let you know that because Stitch Fix knows I sometimes share my fixes with you here (and I get credit for sales that come from this site!),  I got to give them my feedback this week.  I passed along that readers want fixes in plus sizes. 

A fun, in-home shopping experience should NOT be limited to those under a certain dress size!

 I hope they are listening.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Maybe Courage is Simply Standing Still

Today I'd like to welcome back Noelle Juday. Like me, Noelle believes in the beauty and power in sharing our stories. Noelle blogs regularly at NBrynn, where you will find everything from her daughter's gorgeous ballerina birthday party to insight about marriageparenting, and orphan care. Please welcome Noelle as she shares more of her story with us today.

~:~

With Spring so fresh and full in the air, my mind has been racing ahead to the thought of summer sun and future fun at the beach. Coaxed by these daydreams, I spent nap time yesterday afternoon with my face toward the sky, reading on our back porch. As I felt the warmth and relaxation of the sun on my cheeks, I was quickly transported to my last day at the beach last October. 

On that Fall day, with the chill of winter rushing into my hometown in Columbus, Ohio, there I stood near the edge of the shore in Daytona Beach. With warm sunrays on my back, I watched the rolling waves tumble toward me, slowly splaying themselves out onto the sand and then gently, gradually making their way back to the ocean. The waves moved so rhythmically, that for several moments I stood entranced solely by their steady sound. Roll, crash, flow, roll, crash, flow, roll…

I had spontaneously flown to Florida for the weekend with a college friend, both of us married now and several kids later, needing some breathing room from our daily routines of potty training and vacuuming and the relentless demands of toddlers. 
Both of us needing a space to reconnect with ourselves, to remember the things that beat most truly and passionately within us, to acknowledge the things standing in the way of living from that truest place.  
We had spent the first twelve hours of our trip talking, a quantity of words that only friends with history and days without demands could allow. We had walked the beach - together and alone - laid in the damp sand and felt the crisp wind blow through our hair as we read and wrote throughout the day. We had relaxed in the beachfront hot tub, slept without an alarm and nourished ourselves well all weekend.


I had come to Florida, hesitatingly at first, and then in service to a friend, but soon realized how greatly I needed the space away myself. Hundreds of miles from home, relaxing my body and spirit more than I had done in months, I let my heart speak. I let it lead. I let my soul set the agenda and I found it worn with wounds from friendships, heavy with love for my children, longing for more closeness with my husband. 

These three themes – friends, kids and husband – soon merged into one, and I saw with clarity a deep thread of fear binding them all together. I wrestled with this realization at first, but as the weekend wore on and I allowed my heart to organically overflow, I found the bubbling over was always about those I loved most dearly, or rather, about losing those I love most dearly.

I do not think of myself as a fearful person. If anything, I was the daredevil in my family, giving myself a concussion at seven from trying to stand on my bicycle seat while whizzing down a large hill. Later, I would be the first in my family to travel abroad, flying solo to India for a two month mission trip, and then the first to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, paying my way through school one sixty hour work week at a time. I have lived abroad for years, given numerous speeches, dared to love despite heartbreak.  

And yet, I saw so much of my struggle in friendships was rooted in years of hurt and betrayal that had left me terrified of never having a close friend, of losing the friends I felt were barely in my grasp at any given moment. I saw how this base need to be known and loved sat screaming in my soul most days, a longing for intimacy in friendship that always seemed a step or two away. How, in seasons, that longing became so defining and consuming within me that I could not give or receive friendship through any other filter. I saw that my fear was tainted everything.

The next morning my heart was pierced when I read, “So much of parenthood is negotiating endings, the unceasing process of disconnecting the strings that tie our children to us, preparing them for a life on their own.” I saw how fear was tainting my parenting as well. As much as I had known in my head about separation and raising children to part, my heart received the news with fresh terror, and I found myself journaling for pages about my fear of losing emotional or physical closeness with my two little loves, let alone the anguish of ever having to say goodbye. 
Many days, I am trying to check all the right boxes to keep my kids safe and close, when in reality I know that life is not nearly that predictable.
Perhaps most surprising of all, I found my heart turning with sorrowful longing toward my husband, yearning to love better, regretting not having loved more. I sensed with clarity a level of self-protection and guarded intimacy I have carried in our relationship throughout all our years of marriage. “The other side of the same sword”, as I had journaled - the need to protect for fear of losing. 

Fear.


I saw this thread of fear tainting my view, affecting the things that mattered most to me, and I wanted to rip it out, to disconnect from it forever. I wanted to walk ahead, unhindered in intimacy, loving deeply and freely. I got it into my mind to perform some sort of ritual on the beach during our final day, a ceremony marking this moment in time in my journey. I wanted to symbolically release the fear and walk into a new season of being.

And so there on the beach, watching the waves roll, crash, flow into the vastness of the ocean blue, I decided to give my fear to the water. I found the line on shore where the waves consistently met sand, leaving a rim of bubbles and a trail of smoothed earth. Then I found a piece of reed and wrote in large letters, “FEAR.” I closed my eyes and imagined my soul releasing the fear, watched the waves gently washing it away from my heart. I asked God for help. I breathed deeply of the salty ocean air, as I pictured myself walking into a new season of generosity, vulnerability, courageous opening up. 

When I opened my eyes, I was surprised to see that within a matter of seconds, the tide had mysteriously ceased reaching my spot in the sand. 
There I stood, “FEAR” still written large and loud beneath my feet. 
I quickly became overwhelmed with self-consciousness as rows of people strolled past me. Face burning, I started to panic, wishing I had picked a more private ceremony and a more discreet word. My insides squirmed at being so publicly displayed, my soul written out in large letters for the world to read.               

After what seemed like an eternity of standing with my "FEAR", confused and embarrassed, I considered simply wiping the letters away with my feet. I could re-write the word closer to the new shoreline and watch it quickly evaporate into the waves, finally concluding my little ceremony. I tried to reason myself into this quick escape, but couldn't quite bring myself to brush the letters away. Perhaps coaxed by the freedom of the weekend, my heart found a voice and told me to stand still. 
And in standing, I knew that this was the real ceremony. Not the magical, instantaneous disappearing of “FEAR” from my life. Not the effortless washing away of years of self-protection and wounded worries. This - standing awkwardly, uncomfortably, boldly with my fear in hand, displaying my fragility and longing to the world – this was vulnerability, this was intimacy, this was the new way of being I wanted to walk into. This is what it meant to live generously in relationship, not forever free from fear, but courageously pressing on in spite of it.
And so I stood - for ten minutes? Twenty? I stood with my discomfort, receiving each and every awkward glance. I breathed in the sting of vulnerability and I waited with my fear in hand. Finally, a brave, strong wave broke all the way up shore and washed away my writing. I watched the letters melt back into the earth, both relieved and disappointed. 

My self-made ritual had ended, but I knew the real work had just begun. I knew that my own journey toward wholeness would take far more time, far more patience, far more courage and resilience to be complete. I knew, now, that sometimes courage is simply standing still, staying put when you'd rather run away, pressing in when your cheeks burn red and when it feels way too scary or soul-bearing to even take another breath. 





Monday, April 13, 2015

I'll Have the Wedge Salad

Sometimes it seems like Tim and I have a bit of a Claire/Phil Dunphy Modern Family vibe going on. Of course I don't exercise as much or put away the quantity of wine that Claire does, and I am reasonably sure Tim was not on his college cheerleading squad, but when they start talking about Claire not knowing how to use the remote control/s, or Phil being, well, Phil, the similarities are eerie.

No episode has driven this home quite like the WEDGE SALAD one. Have you seen it? It aired in Feb 2011, and it was as if Phil and Claire had an inside peek into Tim's and my marriage. Claire was beyond pissed that Phil wanted to tell her about this super-duper new salad that an acquaintance had turned him on to-- when Claire herself had been singing the praises of the wedge salad for years! Phil tried desperately to figure out why Claire was so mad, but there were so many possibilities over the course of a given day, he couldn't pin it down.

Wow. You see, I've struggled mightily over the years with feeling like either Tim is not listening to me, or if he does listen, he discounts my opinion while enthusiastically supporting the same opinion if it comes from another source. Gah!

This became so standard early on in our marriage that my sis and I had a running joke about it. When Tim and I went searching for our first couch together, for instance, my sister said, "Pick the one you want and have Hal recommend it." Hal, one of our friends, somehow became the arbiter of all that was good and desirable to Tim, even if Hal I and said the same damn thing.

Whether it was a new restaurant, a Bible Study class, a TV show, or some home improvement idea, it never hurt for Tim to hear how much Hal liked it first.

I remember reading about a fun family activity called geocaching where you go on a hike and follow clues to find a small treasure in the woods. I mentioned it to Tim a few times with absolutely no reaction. Was I speaking out loud? In English? Then, I left a few Boy Scout Magazines with geocaching articles on his desk, with "Read Me!" written in Sharpie. Nothing.

One day, more than 6 months later, Tim was delighted to tell me about a new pastime he had heard about: Geocaching! And faster than you could say, "Wedge Salad!" he had gathered up a fanny pack, a portable GPS unit, the kids and the dog; "Team Shadow" was off in the woods! I am not sure what gave Tim the idea (Hal had moved away years earlier) but I know he likely doesn't think it was me. Tim took to geocaching enthusiastically and it became a wonderful way for him to connect with the kids on outdoor adventures-- just like Claire had I'd envisioned.

Now you may think that you would NOT put up with this sort of nonsense in your marriage. Shouldn't Tim listen the first (or fourth) time I suggest something, whether it's painting the fireplace white, or going on a trip?

I get it, I do.

But a lot of marriage is trying not to become so irritated with the other person that you want to do them bodily harm. It's a dance. A long, long, long dance with ample opportunities for compromise.

I have judged other people's marriages when they look different than mine, only to realize that their dance is just different than ours. For instance, I remember hearing of friends who would squirrel away new purchases from their husbands so they wouldn't have to admit they'd gone shopping. Or they kept a stash of fun money in their dresser so they wouldn't be held accountable for spending it. I told myself there was NO WAY I'd put up with a spouse who was all up in my grill about my spending habits, but I later realized, just because financial transparency wasn't a hot button issue in Tim's and my marriage we had plenty of our own.

We are similar in our spending and saving habits, raising children, and our focus on faith and integrity. But in other areas, we diverge a lot. He's active, while sleep is my favorite thing. He likes to do. I like to be. He processes things s-l-o-w-ly while I make decisions quickly. We vote on opposite sides of the aisle. And the list goes on.

I have learned that if I wait until I receive an enthusiastic response about painting walls, hanging pictures, getting pets, or going on a family trip, I'll be waiting a very long time. My old M.O. was to get annoyed and discouraged because we never seemed on the same page, and then give up on what I wanted amid a lot of huffing and puffing. Or I'd hope against hope that someone like Hal would show up and give me a ringing endorsement. I now know that Tim's agenda is going to be different than mine about 80% of the time. Even if we both want to trim the bushes, trust me, they will NOT be the same bushes.

Over time (and well over age 40!) I've learned to go ahead and set things in motion, then give Phil Tim a chance to warm up and catch up. I narrow down choices for him, so he has a say but doesn't have to sift through a ton of information. He does the same thing for me when it comes to investments and remote controls. I try to be extremely clear about what I want, whether it is stopping at a rest area ("I HAVE TO PEE RIGHT NOW. I DON'T CARE IF IT'S NOT LUNCHTIME YET") or about getting a puppy for Margaret ("IT'S TIME.") In the case of Shadow and Charlie, I located the dogs, then gave Tim's brain and heart a chance to catch up. It didn't take long.

It's a dance. And with all the smushed toes and missteps it really helps to remember that Phil has some awesome character traits AND Claire is not always a peach to live with either.

P.S. I think we'll have a wedge salad for dinner. Here's the recipe.



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Listen to Your Mother and a Giveaway!

I love thinking about the words of wisdom from my mother: "Don't be afraid to leave a man at the altar" and, "Anna, quit trying so hard." Each mom imparts something different to her kids, and in different ways. I don't know of any other mothers who gave angry, quarreling kids good china bowls, sent them out into the yard and wouldn't let them back in until the bowls were broken, and of course, the fight had morphed into laughter. My mom was pretty creative.

Eight months after Jack's death I was honored to take part in a spoken word event in Washington, DC called Listen to your Mother. I shared a piece I'd written about how very DIFFERENT I felt from others as a bereaved mother. You can watch the video here.



I was grateful for the chance to share my story, and I was blessed by the stories the other participants shared, either of mothering, or having been mothered. Each year since then, I have gone to the show and been inspired, usually though laughter and tears. This May the show will be in 39 cities and it is a wonderful way to celebrate motherhood.

And there's more exciting LTYM news! Today, a beautiful book containing essays from various Listen to Your Mother shows launches into the world.

Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We're Saying Now edited by Ann Imig plumbs the depths of motherhood.

I will treasure my copy, and I have another copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The reviews are coming in and they are excellent. You can check the book out here:



I love hearing women's stories. Thank you for being part of mine!