Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Beauty of Average

We live in a brick ranch built in 1968. In a neighborhood of similar brick structures, all sprawled out generously on a lovely plot of land that was once two generations ago a vineyard. The other homes can be seen from just about every view in our house. Average upkeep, hydrangeas, evergreen bushes, occasional summer lillies. The lawns are let go on average about a week sometimes a few days past, but never longer. You can always count on the comforting drone of a mower from some direction, on either side or across the street. The neighbors that occupy the homes are a little quirky, but steady. They are even a little predictable and yet to me they are fascinating. We live with the town pediatrician, the judge, the retired minister, a couple of teachers and several engineers. Not a bad line up. Here we all are in American middle class, tending and caring for average homes, walking our dogs or strolling our kids. I never knew how friendly the average neighborhood could be. Everyone stopping to chat as they pass around the great circle drive.

It dawns on me that I've always been fascinated with and even admired folk like this. People who do important work and choose to live rather simply. They choose to have an average American standard, tending and caring so vigilantly. I admire them. Steady. These are the kind of people who choose a path and stay with it, even if the times are changing or others are moving up and up and up. They remain. committed.

Its true that some of the world looks down on people who choose average. You see I think there is a difference between "being" average and "choosing" average.

In fact, my entire young life, people all around me encouraged my dreaming, my high achieving goals, praised my fruitful endeavors, even persuaded my college degree path. I grew up believing that I was going to change the world. I believed it in every fiber. Ironically, so did many other people my age.

My husband was also praised and persuaded. His rebellious and self-important high school years proved to me that we could be an unstoppable duo. It may have been what drew me to him in the first place, that he believed also. Just like I believed. Watch out world.

Fast forward to my 30 year-old self, lying on my knock-off memory foam queen bed somewhere in seventies suburbia. The kids finally quiet, lying in their own hand me down twin beds, doors shut. Freedom. A lonely songbird sings his evening song just outside my window in the overgrown hedge that presses close to the house, the summer light turning a dusky blue.

I'm starting to give up the fight. The drive and the fight that was in me for so long. And it feels incredible.

Like a junkie coming off some addiction that claimed her life for decades. I'm all sweaty and shaky and still find myself at the kitchen sink, hands soapy and warm and gazing out the back window at our perfectly average, flat, grass-patchy yard- imagining perfection. Imagining that my average life exists between narrow cobblestone streets in Italy, immersed, drinking a real cafe con leche, at the quaint neighborhood bar. Sitting outside, my perfectly painted crimson nails glisten in the dappled sun with every sip drawn to my lips.

I know because I was there, once. An entire blissful semester that left me with the most hammering hangover. Always dreaming of going back to paint that magical olive grove on the hill in Umbria once more. I was just a college girl, emphasis on "girl". But I saw things, tasted things that most people dare not dream of until they are much older and in the way of money.

I went on a prayer and a whopping student loan. And so here I am scrubbing last nights lasagna off a 9x13 pyrex pan imagining I'm that once not-so-average girl in Italy.

The trouble is twofold. One hand is an escape from dullness. Another hand is the desire for beauty. Neither is wrong. I'm coming off this high and realizing there is work to do. That life is not about the Italian streets of my memory, but it's about making an honest living. Working hard, everyday. Making a plan and sticking to it. Steady.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Lonely Mothers

They never tell you how lonely you will become as a mother.

Of course, the ironic thing is that you are not physically alone.

In fact, I've never been so near other little humans in my life. Always pawing and pulling on shirts and lifting up their chubby arms to get raised and plopped on your hip. Sweaty, sticky "jam hands" (as a friend of mine once said) always searching across skin as if to learn in blindness the mold of mother. Lips pulled, hair grabbed, eyes poked, and then sweet heads resting, breathing against your chest so close to your beating heart-always.

Sometimes I just want to get away. To breathe slowly and deeply, to escape the shortness of breath that so easily consumes my days. It skips and catches with every little step they miss. Every little movement thrown off. Every collision.

And yet, even with the contact, the questions and answers, the smiles and the heart tugging. Being a mother is lonely. It's ok to say it, to admit it. The correlation of your facebook activity proves it. We are deprived of higher level conversation.

Some days I just want to learn something new. To read some fascinating article and then have someone to discuss it with. I dream of going back to school, learning intimate details of specific subject matter. Then I dream of traveling with my husband, immersing myself in a new culture or language, meeting all sorts of interesting people along the way. Then I dream that I have a live in nanny that keeps me company.

None of these dreams are that far off. But some days I realize that all I really need in the world is a friend. A friend to come over and sit with me in my stinky and cluttered house. Hoodies and yoga pants and drinking a cup of sweetened mint tea. To shout over the hoopla of small voices and sword fights. To share the endless task of making lunch and cleaning up.

And when that happens... That is when you are living an open life. But for now, it is ok to accept that at times it is a lonely season. Behind the facebook screen is a life that is totally normal and even dull at times. The value of the season is hard to find when it is so close to you, grabbing you with sticky jam hands.

Trust me Momma, you are fine. Don't be afraid to dream or call a friend for now. Live an open life.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Even the Small Things

Yesterday morning my four-year-old son bounded into my bedroom, while I lay asleep, exclaiming, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!" He had found the new set of crayons and Disney 'Planes' coloring book on the kitchen table, as I knew he would. 



He could hardly contain his joy, immediately nesting into the space between my legs on top of my bed covers. Carefully selecting his first color, he awed over the beautiful array of fresh, sharp colored tips. The five different oranges and greens all neatly packed together.

I couldn't help but smile. What a lesson to us grown people. That happiness is truly in the small things in life. Let us not grow old and tired of small things, but find the wonder and beauty in even these. The problem lies in how we view it, life. So let's savor a single piece of dark chocolate, sit quietly and earnestly over a warm cup of chai tea with a friend, walk through a crunchy, sparkling new snowfall. 

Let us not become so inundated with extravagance, that we forget the satisfaction of the ordinary pleasures of life.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Making the Most of my Mommy Margin

This year I've made a commitment to changing some of my habits. Mainly, what I do with my "margin".

If you haven't been listening to the sermons at First Church in St. Joseph, I recommend them! You can listen to any of them here.

"Margin" is defined as the space between our load and our limit.

This season of staying home with the kids has been a very heavy load. In more ways than one! (mom humor insert here)

I've realized that my margin was very small. I was hitting my limit on almost a daily basis. And really, who doesn't as a stay-at-home Mom? It is honest, hard work that is hard to quantify or measure.

In the way that the dishes were all cleaned and put away and after two meals every dish we own is in the sink once again. Or the toddler is throwing yet another temper tantrum after your "Come to Jesus" talk only minutes before.

I so desperately need my margin to restore me, so I can keep going.

So I am exchanging some of the ways that I spend my "margin" or free time. One exchange is Target for Southshore Health Club.

This is nothing against Target. I do love you so, with your cutesie picture frames and shabby chic throw pillows with birds on them. I love spending mindless minutes adoring the newest seasonal platter or ice bucket, but after leaving the doors, how do I feel?

Still. Exhausted. And sometimes guilty for that needless splurge.

Instead, I go to Southshore. (Membership gift! Yes!) I drop the kids off in the nursery (PTL for that) and pretend I know what I'm doing in the gym for 15-20 minutes. My breathing gets a little heavier and the elliptical tells me I burned like 58 calories! Woo-hoo! This is coming from someone who has always hated the idea of just running. Ew.

Even if my total trip is under an hour, I feel:

ENERGIZED. Relaxed.

That is the opposite of Target. So I must choose this. Why? 

Because it helps me to be the Mom I need to be when we pull back into the garage and back into our comfy pants for the remainder of the day. I am less snippy and impatient. I have just a few more ounces of energy than I did before.

 How is this of spiritual worth? I think that God is glorified when we take care of ourselves physically too. I am learning that it is often a physical expression of the state of my heart and my soul.

I get that not everyone can make this change. But what change can you make? Is there a sacrifice worth making to make the best use of your margin?

I am still learning. I would love to hear about your margin too.




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Give Your Gift

"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another."  1 Peter 4:10

Two questions for today:

1. What is your gift? 

2. How will you use it to serve another well?

The last two-three years God has been revealing to me just how important this is! It's huge! There are so many spiritual gift tests available, which can be helpful tools. It is also important to have the gifts confirmed in you by others around you. 

Once you have confidence in them, embrace them! Run with them! Get creative in ways you can use your gifts. 

For me, I have Creative Ability, Teaching, and Encouraging, among some other lesser gifts.

I chose to concentrate in these areas with ministry. I made a decision to lead a girls small group, so that I can use my teaching and encouraging. I am embracing writing and videography for my creative outlets in the church. It becomes a sort of filter for the decisions I make, for what things I say 'yes' and to which I say 'no'. 

Find another, seek them out and serve them well today.


Friday, January 24, 2014

A GF Toddler Dip Plate

 
Sometimes the simplest ideas get overrun by routine. 
  
 I am on my 23rd day of going gluten free. I still feel great. Although I think I have experienced some wicked withdraw symptoms. (i.e. mood swings etc.) I feel better than ever. My head continues to be clearer everyday. It's strange, I can think so much better. AND my creativity is coming back to me! I have had a looong dry spell. I even picked up my guitar and painted something all in the same day. Ok, it was just a little picture frame that I painted turquoise, but still. It excites me.

Since I've been eating mostly salads for lunches I've realized how much bread and unhealthy processed foods my kids eat. So today I thought to myself, "I'm just going to make them one colorful plate of veggies and make it fun and have dipping sauces to dip things."

We do eat a lot of carrots or tomatoes with meals, but I've never made that the meal before. I happened to have a lot of random veggies I needed to finish off anyway, so it made for a great way to clear out the fridge too. 

 I gave them two saucers one with ranch and one with red pepper hummus. Since it was all finger foods, there were no forks to wash or extra plates. Bonus! 

It's the little things. I want my kids to be excited about eating healthy. Sometimes I think it helps just to put it in front of them and make it fun.







Friday, January 10, 2014

Dining Room Remodel; Whitewashing the Fireplace

We bought a new home! A super-seventies ranch! Woo-hoo! This is the first post of several, with before and after pics of some of the remodeling work we have done. 

 

This is our "family room" adjoining our kitchen. This photo was taken when we first purchased the home. The cabinets on the right were hanging over a bar in the kitchen. The carpet was super dirty and stinky and it just felt sort of crotchety. Yes, crotchety.

I love the space and we want to be able to host dinner parties so we decided to turn this into a large dining room, sort of a great room feel I suppose. The french doors on the right lead out to the enclosed back porch and then the backyard. 

 

Here, you can see the bar and we removed the hanging cupboards that were above it. I think it really opened up the space and makes the kitchen seem larger. We have since painted the cupboards, but that is for another post! The next step was to paint the entire room top to bottom as well as whitewashing the fireplace and spray painting the lovely brass guard.

Here I am starting to paint, no turning back! We better like this!
 

To whitewash a brick fireplace, you make up a mixture of half water, half white paint, preferably a flat or eggshell so there is more of a matte finish. Paint into all the crevices with an old brush. It is pretty watery and sloppy so take precautions with tarps and tape where needed. At first it seems very white, but after awhile the brick soaks in the paint and you can still see the texture and slight color of the brick. We were very happy with the results!


After the fireplace was all painted, I taped off the guard, and used newspaper to make a barrier all around and on the glass front and spray painted it with an oil rubbed bronze spray paint. It is very dark, almost black. I painted the room a very, very pale cool gray called tundra. I wanted the room to stay a light color because it doesn't get much sunlight and we decided on a darker wood floor. I also taped and painted our french doors black for a more modern look.


Here you can see the fireplace all painted. And the wood floor going in. Dan did a fabulous job on it! It is an engineered locking hardwood floor, called Vintage Hickory. It has a hand carved look and little dents in it, to give it that vintage look. We weren't sure how it would look, but once it started covering a larger area on the floor, we fell in love! It took probably about 3-4 full days of hard work on my hubby's part. Good job Daniel!


Here is the new look! We love it. It feels more like us now. Ahhh. Next up for this room is to paint the built in on the right of the fireplace (probably a darker gray) and wire our lamps above the table into the ceiling, as well as several can lights in this room, particularly above the fireplace. I think adding the lighting will really bring this room into this century. By the way, that table from Ikea seats like 16 when you put in the leaf. It's huge. Come over for dinner there is plenty of roooom! (P.S. better quality photos next time)