Dear Reader – (day 9) Guerrilla Love

Dear Reader

I wasn’t sure if I would write about this here, but I went to our small group this morning and it’s the only thing on my mind right now. If I don’t write about this, I’m going to end up writing about my messy house or how I don’t feel like working out or how I ate too much junkfood this weekend – and we’ve already done all those things too many times.

So here it is. You’re going to get what’s on my mind.

As a group, we are supposed to decide on a project we can do to reach out to the community. We’re supposed to dream big and expect large and seemingly impossible results. We are supposed to decide and move forward and watch God go to work as we move to intentionally love the world around us.

This is the thing though.

I don’t know if I can dream big and impossible right now. I don’t know if that is really what God is asking of me at the moment.

I don’t know if I’m really supposed to focus my efforts on something that feels so big I can barely wrap my brain around it, and it makes me feel like I’m being sucked down a vortex as I puff a brown paper bag.

I understand what the author is trying to do. I get it, and I don’t totally disagree.

I just partly disagree, for me, right now.

Because I just came to understand that it’s OK to look at my life in the context of seasons. My season is not the same as your season, or my pastor’s season, or my group leader’s season, or my bff’s season. It’s ok if I can’t do it all. God loves me anyway. I don’t have to perform. My season is one with four school aged kids, nighttime activities, trying to provide home cooked meals, and civil homework time. I’m trying to keep Loving Mama in the house instead of Mama Grizzly.

It’s a season where I consciously chose not to go back to the shelter this school year because I felt I needed to be available to help out in the kids’ elementary and because I felt a stirring in my heart to make art with an abandon I’ve never afforded myself. These are all things I chose carefully and prayerfully.

Less. More focused. Reign in my orbit and do smaller but more genuine things.

So why now, am I in this group whose purpose is to focus out and big?

I don’t know if I can go big or go home. If they make me chose, I might have to go home.

And this is where guerrilla love occurred to me.

Why not stay right here in my community. duh.

And know these people well. duh.

And find out how I can best love them? duh.

Why don’t I: JUST. DO. THAT?

I don’t know if this defeats the purpose of the study. We are all supposed to do a project together.

But what if we all chose to Guerrilla Love?

What would that look like?

15 people loving ferociously and on the sly.

It might look like showing up unexpectedly to stock the freezer of a recently widowed friend with 3 homemade soups, 12 burritos, 2 roast chickens, 3 lasagnas and 3 batches of Picadillo.

It might look like muffins for the security guards at school, who keep our children safe.

It might look like hand-written notes to the people in our lives who changed us at our core.

It might look like a phone call to a friend who’s battling depression.

It might look like taking a few extra minutes after class to hug the friend who just lost her sister in a car crash.

It might look like donating funds for a sick mama.

It might look like making a CD crammed full of inspiring music for a friend whose spirits need lifting.

It might look like babysitting for a mom who’s been pent-up with her sick kids for 2 weeks.

It might look like showing up with a take-home dinner for your little one’s teacher who you just learned leaves her house at 6:30 AM with her two littles and doesn’t return home again till 8:30PM, then turns around and does it all again the next day.

It might mean sending an encouraging note to someone who’s doing a hard thing right now.

It might mean having meaningful conversation with the grocery store clerk and learning that she’s having surgery in a week, and maybe she could use a help picking her kids up from school.

It might mean taking several minutes to put away your phone and focus here and now on these people under your roof. To look them in the eyes, touch their cheeks and really hear how their day went.

And if that’s all from one person in one week – all those lives touched, about 20 – if each of our 15 people chose to consciously Guerilla Love –  that’s 300 people whose hearts have been touched.

Those are some staggering numbers. And this is how God speaks. Through us.

At first glance, it might seem small fry. . . But I don’t think it is. These are things that matter. They’re things that people will feel, genuinely. These things require us to connect, to invest, to care.  And whatever we choose to do now, for this project – it’s supposed to be something sustainable.

Isn’t this how we want to live, truly? With our eyes open, appreciating, loving, aware?

While I’m in this season, I think I can actually do this. This doesn’t feel like a vortex suck, this feels like an exhale.

I can manage this. I want to do this. I already believe in this, but now is the time to DO it instead of just think it.

Sign me up for Guerrilla Love.

Dear Reader (day 8) – Uh oh. . . .

Dear Reader

The other day I received a foreboding email from one of my children’s teachers.

She asked me to come in that same day so she could talk to me, but not to worry, my kiddo was doing great.

Regardless of the assurance tacked on to the end, my stomach turned in knots and that good ol’ fight-or-flight sensation swept through my body.

I spent the next four hours obsessing over what it could be.

Two days before, we had launched into a new study in our small group at church. “”40 Days of Community”. I have many thoughts about this particular study, and maybe I’ll write about it sometime, but I clearly remember a moment from our first day when we were watching the accompanying video.

The author, Rick Warren, said something to the effect of, “Your ability to love will be tested over the next 40 days, so be forwarned.” or prepared, or ready, or I promise you. . . . Anyway, you get the idea.

Maybe he didn’t intend it to sound ominous, but to me it did, and my responding thought was, “Uh oh. . . . ”

Because I’ve been around the barn enough times to understand that loving people isn’t always rose petals and salt water taffy. It’s not always easy, and sometimes the people we’re meant to love are not the easiest people to love and the situations are downright difficult.

His comment placed a lingering cloak of back-burner worry over my shoulders. What was it going to be?

So as I was walking into school for this meeting, my stomach churning and fighting with itself as I made my way to the classroom, the words “This is your chance to love” came clearly to my attention. “Uh oh. . . . ” I thought again.

I felt the anxiety of anticipated conflict well up inside me as my body prepared to hear what “problem” we were addressing today. I tried to prepare to be a grown-up, to hear what had to be said without overreacting, to stay calm and think things through in a rational way and respond to everyone involved respectfully; to stand up for my child if need be, but also to be able to hear, with humility and honesty, if there was correction necessary.

I hate moments like these. I don’t do conflict well.

Why I went down this rabbit hole, I don’t know. I kept reassuring myself that the teacher had clearly told me, “Don’t worry. _____ is doing great!”, so this shouldn’t be bad.

But you know, I guess we go there anyway.

When I walked in, the scene was two teachers and another mom.

Uh oh.

They all greeted me cheerfully, warmly. . . as though nothing were wrong.

After the small talk died down, and I had discovered the mom sitting next to me was suffering all the same emotions, the teachers told us why we were there.

They need a little extra help in the classroom.

BWAAAHAHAAAAA!!!!

We burst into laughter.

Other Mom and I laughed until we almost cried.

We had both been so preoccupied with what might have been wrong that we hadn’t even stopped to think that it might have been something like this.

And if that doesn’t look like icing on the cake after thinking your kid is trouble, I don’t know what does.

So, of course – because I never overcommit and always say yes to only those things I can handle – I said yes. (thickly layered sarcasm fully intended here).

But this has my wheels turning too. If this is my chance to love, then who am I going to be loving, and is it going to be easy or hard?

I hear the words echoing, “Your ability to love is going to be tested . . . . ”

Uh oh.

Day 7 – There is a prayer under there

Dear Reader

There is a prayer under there ↓  Truly.

beloved 3 framed It’s in one of the bottom layers of paint.

My husband gives me a hard time because he says it’s not really there if you can’t see it.

I beg to differ.

It’s there, mixed into everything. Just like prayers in people. On those two square feet of canvas, it’s tinting everything over the top of it, it’s mixed into the darks and the brights, and in the end it leads to the same thing – beloved. Clear, bright, and beautiful.

This is the prayer:

I pray peace and happiness for you.

That you will overcome with freedom and joy;

and once these are yours that you will be able to turn towards your people (your people!!) and give to them freely – the gifts of your touch, your smile, your grace and love.

I pray your pain be lifted, that our heart be light. That you’ll know you are passionately loved. That you are beloved.

Someone out there needs to hear this, so here you are.

Be loved. Because you are, Beloved.

Dear Reader (day 6) – on resolving who I am everywhere

Dear Reader

I’ve noticed something.

I guess I knew it before, but now that I’m writing every day, it’s standing out more.

I think I have several different “fronts” I put on when interacting with people or writing here.

In any situation, there tends to be part of me I’m holding back.

Weirdly enough, I let a select few personality traits come forward here that I don’t let to the surface when interacting with some people.

I say “some people” because there actually are some people who know every side of me.

Maybe I’ll just start with a list of confessions, so you, Dear Reader, don’t feel like you’re being duped.

  1. Sometimes I swear, okay? Sometimes it feels like there is no more fitting word than s@!& or the dreaded f-bomb. I don’t let them fly regularly, but they definitely come forward in certain emotional situations – usually frustration or anger, or sometimes in story-telling because they have a certain embellishing affect, or sometimes with certain people who use it in their regular lingo. I won’t swear freely with you unless I know a) sometimes you do too, or b) you’re not offended by it. A and B are not rock solid rules, because there have been times I’ve let loose with questionable language and walked away from the conversation suffering waves of anxiety that it just wasn’t the right place or time. With that confession out in the open now, I should extrapolate that I am feeling like it’s time I work that “sometimes” habit out of my system. Most of the time I don’t swear, and I’m thinking that’s truly the direction I need to go from here on out, because I’m a grown-up now. I try, but I’m not perfect, damn it.
  2. I listen to a lot of Christian music. Like almost every day. I know this probably shouldn’t be on a “confession” list, but Christian music has such a reputation for being cheesy and weird and “not real music” that it makes my cheeks turn pink if someone asks what kind of music I listen to. I generally play it when I’m alone in the morning or painting during the day because nobody else in my house enjoys it like I do. I find it soothing and uplifting. It puts my mind and heart where I want to be – which is, I suppose, the whole point. So there – I’m a Christian music fan. That’s not to say I don’t listen to other music. I do. Just don’t ask me to identify who’s currently top 40 right now, because I have no clue.
  3. I have a heart for people, I really do. But man, I’m human, and sometimes that’s just not the side of me that shows. I so deeply want to be loving with all my words and all my interactions, and all my conversations, but I fail at this often. Right now, I’m remembering a conversation I had two days ago that just didn’t live up to this desire. Sometimes after I’ve said something questionable, I’ll hang my head and wish I could go back with a wet cloth and erase what just happened. I try not to let that linger too long though and practice what I preach to my kids. Mistakes are mistakes and all we can do is learn from them and move on. The actual tricks are the learning and moving. #workinprogress
  4. I cannot and do not speak the same way I write. I’ve known this one for a long time, but I’m just letting you know too. I think this is true for many, if not most, people who write. Our words come out clearer and perhaps with more honesty in writing than they do from our mouths. In fact, I did an experiment with myself the other day. I had a post percolating in my mind, but I was driving. So I turned my phone to voice record and tried to dictate the post. I literally (and I really mean literally) could. not. do it. I couldn’t get the first sentence out. I couldn’t make it sound the same way out loud as it sounded in my head. So, if you speak to me in person, just be forwarned (I’m thinking of you Lisa S. . . .), you might be like, “What the. . . . She doesn’t even seem like the same person!”. . . . I guess maybe the best way to describe it is that here, you’re getting my innards. Yum.  This is why when I find out someone from real life who may not know me well is reading the blog, I suffer a serious wave of anxiety, and I feel like I’ve been inserted into “the underwear dream”. You know, the one where you go somewhere prominent and you’re standing in front of everyone in your underwear, utterly exposed. It’s so much easier for me to write when I imagine everyone who reads here is my BBF – either that, or a complete stranger. The in-betweeners – those are the ones that give me the anxiety.

That’s it for now folks. No time for a clever little wrap up. It’s 8:30 and there is a table full of  appetizers calling my name and  football game to be watched. I must go and do something about both.

xoxo!

Dear Reader (day 5) – It was that kind of morning.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

We had a “trenches” kind of morning earlier this week.

This is where it gets tricky for me, because I want to tell you all the details of the ridiculous drama that took place  in our house as we prepared for school, because here, truly, you’d be able to nod your head (especially mammas of little people) and say, “Oh heck yes, I know (or remember) those days.”

But out of respect for all the people under my roof who never chose to have a blog, some things must remain rather vague.

Let’s just say, there were over-tired people (hello. . . ME TOO) and there was an overabundance of stooooopid, yet normal and age appropriate, FREAKING OUT happening at too high a decibel. (I don’t know how much freaking out is apropos at my age, but I’m sure I hit the nail on the head as well. . . . )

And I lost my cool.  I lost my noodle. I lost my *!@%.

I might have, in a very loud and not very nice voice, threatened to carry someone into school, crying or not, and still wearing pajamas, plop them in front of the teacher, and walk away.

I’m not proud of this, but I don’t feel particularly remorseful either. The offender was wrong, and I was right. (Of course.)

But this is the reality of having kids. I don’t like when we have mornings like this, and I usually walk away from them feeling a little heart-sick. Sometimes it’s just how it goes though.

Thankfully these types of shenanigans don’t happen every day. If  they did, you might find me in a straight jacket instead of comfy old sweat pants every morning.

We laughed our keisters off when our brother and sister-in-law shared this video with us.

Whether you have kids or not, (They don’t, and – obvs – we do) it’s for sure worth the 7 or so minutes. (It’s very clean, as far as modern comic acts go.  There are a couple itty bitty bad words in there; the s-word, and on more mild one I think – but no F-bombs. Use your own judgement if kids are within earshot.)

It’s appropriately called, “What People With No Kids Don’t Know”.

“Ah yes. People who don’t have kids. There is so much you never even knew you didn’t know,” I thought that morning as I dropped my little nuggets off at school – no one crying, red eyes gone, giggling, climbing rocks, small-talking about the scary animal dreams they have on occasion. . . . No one would ever have guessed the chaos that blew through our house 20 minutes before.

These are the times where I’m so thankful for Grace – from up above and from all these people I get to call my own.

Dear Reader (day 4) – Go Anyway

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

I went for a run monday morning. It was absolutely necessary, given the weekend situation.

About three steps into this run I noticed the sky.

Gray, dark, threatening on one side, sunny and clearish on the other. I guessed the dark and threatening part was moving towards me, so I had to evaluate.

Do I want to continue on or turn around. I double stepped, ran in place, stopped for a split second, then I chose to go anyway.

Please understand – I didn’t choose to go because I’m a hard-core runner. I chose to go because the thought of doing another Jillian Michaels Bodyshred video was so, so much worse than running in the rain.

You know what the result of running in the rain was though?

I ran faster than I have ever run in the last six weeks.

The rain kept me cool.

The breeze was icing on the cake.

I didn’t feel like I was going to keel over and die from heat exhaustion.

And I ran the whole entire 3.7 miles. I know that’s not much to some of you, but to me, right now, it’s huge. This is the first time I’ve done that route at a steady pace (a slow one, albeit) and not stopped for at least a little 30 second walk somewhere along the way.

Two other things happened out there on the drizzly trail:

  1. I thought about Paul and his scripture about life being a race ( I almost always do whenever I run) and
  2. I wasn’t wearing proper attire for a rain-run.

I’ll get to both of these in order. They are entirely unrelated.

Every time I run, Paul’s words, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” ( 1 Corinthians 9:24) come to mind. I think of them because here I am running, one foot pounding down after the other, and I try to parse out the meaning of the race he’s referring to. I know we could delve deeper than I’m capable of going here. I’ll just give you where my layperson’s mind went. Which I’m not sure is typical of the verse, and I kind of veered off onto a separate tangent.

In the first few moments of a run, I always feel like it’s torture. My legs feel like lead. My ankles hurt and need to pop. I stop and shake everything out, swing my arms trying to loosen up, roll my ankle around on top of my foot to relieve that tight air bubble sensation, but then I go. And go and go. And eventually my body warms up and my ankles loosen up and my legs don’t feel like lead anymore. My breathing evens out and flows in a rhythm, and all of a sudden I’ve hit my pace. This is the sweet spot. Where I can run my pace and I’m not yet petering out.

I can maintain here for a while, and I think as I’m thumping along, “I just made it through the hardest part. I pushed past the pain and the weight, and the uncomfortableness and now here I am. I’m moving forward. Moving. Moving. Moving. . . . . ” And then I start to think about my arms.

My son makes fun of the way I run. Not because I flail, but because I don’t. The top half of my body barely moves. My chest is straight and my arms are slightly robotic. For some reason, he finds this hilarious. It’s nearly impossible for me to run with him because he mocks me for the first ten minutes and I can’t laugh and run at the same time.

So at this point in the run, I start to think about my arms and whether or not they are helping or hurting me at the moment. I straighten my swing so that I’m not twisting side to side and I’m pulling myself forward instead of swaying with each step. I think about my stride and try to lengthen it instead of bouncing up and down. I want my energy to go into moving forward instead of giving me more height in the same spot.

And this is where, inevitably, I think of Paul and how this whole process can be compared to life.

First of all, go. If there is something big on the horizon for you, even if it looks foreboding and you think it might be uncomfortable, if you know you should be out there (wherever “there” is for you) go. Do your thing, even if it’s hard. Even if it feels impossible, even if your muscles are tight and not yet conditioned for it. Go. The rain won’t seem so bad once you’re in it. You’ll realize it’s actually helping you reach your goal. Eventually, you’ll find your rhythm and hit your sweet spot. You’ll trot along smoothly for a while, and then you’ll realize you can evaluate. You’ve got this part down when you never thought you would. Now it’s time to look at all the moving parts and make them move better, go further with more efficiency, and break personal records. Run!

This is life, run it like a race. You’ve got to start it in the first place. Break through the lead legs, get going, find your pace, keep improving as you move towards your goal, run with passion! But first you just have to decide to go anyway!

****

Secondly – totally unrelated, and purely for your entertainment:

My attire.

I was not dressed for the rain, because I was not expecting rain when I dressed.

I was wearing a regular old cotton tank top, and regular old cotton, un-padded sports bra, because, honestly, my girls don’t require much. They’re tiny. (If there are guys reading, I apologize for this little bit, and I suggest you just stop reading).

So anyway, mid-run, wet cotton tank top and wet cotton sports bra (patterned and dark though! Not white!), I passed a man who (eww) watched my chest the whole way by. This was creepy, but at the same time utterly amusing to me, because I’m sure he was looking for eye candy. Iinstead he got was a Harry Potter puke flavored jelly bean. He probably went home trying to scrub the sight out of his eyeballs. He’ll pay for his rubbernecking.

In nightmares for the rest his life.

Dear Reader (day 3) – Cruddy Cable Service and Life-Giving Decisions

Dear Reader

Dear Reader –

We’re having trouble with our cable service.

Again.

I figured this particular brand of cable was just naturally kind of crappy cable service, and that’s just how that company rolls in this neck of the woods, since it’s, well, a monopoly.

But then, when one of our bundled services started blitzing out at random and unpredictable times we bit the bullet and called for a repair man – not without – of course – going through all the normal “troubleshooting” measures of unplugging this, tightening that, waiting ten seconds for this, then 15 minutes for that. We did that twice with two different telephone agents, and – of course – received conflicting information from both.

So upon arrival, the cable man said he needed to see the main hub where all the cables in the house originate.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I don’t like where this is going. . . . ”

Because, Dear Readers, the “main hub” – if that is in fact the technical term, is in a downright tricky spot.

“Are you sure?” I asked him. “Is it maybe that one right behind the TV, right here, conveniently located in the living room where most people in America would probably choose to place their primary TV?”

“No ma’am. That’s not it. It’s a cable that’s got other cables coming out of it. It’s where the main cable comes into the house.”

This was unfortunate. I had a hunch where this cable was located, and it wasn’t good.

“Huh,” I said, “I guess maybe it’s up in the attic.”

But guys – our attic isn’t really an attic, per se.

It’s a crawl space above the garage that’s been packed full of all our random once-a-year boxes (Christmas decor, other random holiday decor, stored hand-me-down clothes) and all the things we don’t really use but couldn’t bear to part with or thought might be necessary in the future (baby toys, a high chair, closet doors (don’t ask)). And if he was going up there, well. It was going to be at his own risk.

So, I showed him where the hatch was, warned him he probably wouldn’t be able to get to the cord, and wished him luck. ( I might have snort-laughed on my way out.)

He found it, alright.

But he couldn’t reach it.

We needed to move mountains of boxes for him to get to it.

And by “we”, I mean my husband.

So I scheduled a return appointment with this same cable guy, one week later so we’d have time to shuffle around the designated boxes.

And of course, we waited till the night before.

Last night was the night, friends.

We’d been talking about it since Saturday, but you know. Why do what you can do today if you can put it off till the last possible second? (This is, unfortunately, a motto by which I tend to live.)

So, thankfully, my hubs got home a little early last night.

I asked him if he was going to move the boxes – which, let me tell you if it’s not clear yet – is a truly pain in the buttocks job.

I knew he was dreading it, and I don’t blame him. I was suffering empathy dread for him.

So he put it off a little longer. And longer. And longer.

Finally, we tucked the kids in and the house was settling in for the night.

“Babe,” I said, “Are you going to move the boxes?” (We don’t actually call each other “Babe”, but that would be better than what we do actually call each other so that’s what I’ll use here.)

“Yes, Sugar Lump. (again – not what he really calls me, but equally ridiculous to what our actual pet names are) I’m going to move the boxes. I’m going to make a life-giving decision and move the boxes for you.”

The life-giving decision, you see, is something we learned about way back in pre-marital counseling. For more than 16 years now, “life-giving” has been in our spousal lingo, and whenever one of us says it, it stops us in our tracks for a minute because we recognize what’s going on.

This might be the only thing either of us remembers clearly from that weekend retreat. Neither one of us can remember what the opposite of life-giving was, so we call it life-sucking. (It’s fun to say, and it drives the point home.)

This is the bottom line: Every day in a relationship, you have to choose whether you want to give life to it or suck life out of it. This is especially true in a marriage relationship.

Because we are both adults, sometimes it’s easy to figure the other person can fend for themselves, – because they are a grown up, for crying out loud, and capable. “Why should I do that for you?” we might think (whatever that happens to be. You fill in the details).

But the why is because you love them, and because you love them, you choose to feed the relationship with life, not suck the living daylights out of it.

He was making the choice to do something I asked him to do not because he wanted to or it was easy or convenient. He would do it simply as an act of love (and deep down, he might have wanted cable back too. . . .) 

I admit – I feel like he does this better and more often than I do. I feel like choosing to love selflessly is harder for me, it takes me more effort to get over the hump of “I don’t want to”. Being aware of this though, makes it easier for me to appreciate when he makes that choice for me.

So yes, Babe. Thank you for real. Thank you for moving those boxes for me, but mostly, thanks for breathing life into our marriage instead of sucking it out.

Dear Reader. . . (day 2) On Tiredness, Poor Diet, and Hot Dogs.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

So, I woke up this morning thinking about you.

I thought this, because as my head lay on my pillow, I was utterly exhausted. My eyes were sandpapery and I felt like they were stuck together with duct tape.

My brain felt all warm and fuzzy and a little bit dizzy as my alarm clock was singing its peaceful little butterfly song at me. Damn that butterfly song.

And I thought, “I should talk about this today. . . . ”  and that’s as far as I got, because then my eyes glued back together again and fuzzy brain fell back to sleep for a quick second.

Also? The bloating.

I don’t know why I do it, but when I decide to fall off the healthy eating wagon, I pretty much do jack-knife dive into all the bad-for-me foods. I don’t just do a little slip or tumble and Ooops! back on track. I do it like I mean it and like I want to pay for it.

And oh, my bloated stomach, I feel it. It’s going to be Thursday before I’m back to normal.

It started with pizza and wine on Friday night, continued with a Ball Park hot dog at the beach on Saturday (Why??!!) followed by a much too large for one person helping of spinach dip and corn chips that night, continued with sprinklings of chocolate chips throughout the weekend, and ended Sunday evening with chocolate pizza after a wimpy attempt back onto the wagon by eating salad for dinner. (Pizza!!! I hate you right now. Actually, I love you. Which is totally the problem because you’re so bad for me. It’s not a healthy relationship, folks.)

It’s not that our weekend was difficult. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was filled with all different brands of fun. I just have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends.

Can I tell you something new that’s giving me all sorts of happy right now?

This:

Three little people in our house have started playing guitar. (Well, one’s not so little, but still. . . .)

I started to pluck away at strings myself because who can help it when you’re surrounded. I started to dream this big idea (see my last post) that I would start practicing too – since obvs, I have all the time in the world to practice and instrument I’ve never played – and then I realized I’m an old dog.

Old dog, new trick. It wasn’t exactly coming together for me. My hand wouldn’t do what my brain was telling it, plus there’s major contortion involved in playing chords on the guitar – which old lady hands refuse to do – either by not budging from their original position, or by cramping up and not moving out of their new position. It’s all fun and games friends, till someone’s hand cramps up and won’t move.

So anyway, maybe no guitar for me.

But the joy. Back to that. I jumped up and down like a little school girl when the kids started producing tiny bits of recognizable music. Music in our house!! Made by my people! Whenever they want!

I really, really hope this endeavor lasts.

We hit the beach Saturday too, (where the fateful hotdog was consumed) which was a very good thing for the Pacific Northwestern girl inside me who was feeling blue over missing fall. One sniff of warm, salty, ocean air and one long look at bright aqua waves lapping soft sandy beaches shifted my heart right back where it needs to be.

Look! A picture. I just happened to snap one to document that cruise ship in the distance. We can talk about that another time.)

Look! A picture. I just happened to snap one to document that cruise ship (which, to me, is the imaginary stuff my vacation nightmares are made of) in the distance. We can talk about that another time.

That was what did it, I think – the hot dog damnation. The waves, the smell of coconut sunscreen, charcoal smoke wafting over to us as we sat lounging in the temperate late afternoon sun. . . . That charcoal grill gets me every time. It reminds me of being a kid, and I guess that’s where my stomach was when I selected “hot dog” for lunch. Darn nostalgia.

Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I have nothing against hot dogs, in general. We eat hot dogs at home sometimes. I just usually go the uncured all-beef or chicken sausage route, and most  times I’ll forgo the bun – not because I’m trying to be all diety or anything, just because for some reason my body doesn’t react well to the whole grilled meat + bread combo.

Anyway. News flash to me: beach hot dogs don’t feel good.

****

Until tomorrow, Dear Readers.

xoxo!

Dear Reader (day 1)

Dear Reader

Friends – I’m constantly learning things about myself.

Just last week, I learned (duh) that I’m a big dreamer and less of an actual doer.

I can dream big dreams but rarely make my way to the end of the rainbow. It only came to my attention as I said so much to a girlfriend sitting across from me at my kitchen table. I’d never admitted this to myself before, mostly because it had never occurred to me.

I don’t necessarily see this as a negative discovery. In fact, now that I’ve realized it and actually said it out loud to myself and others, maybe I can funnel some conscious energy into the actual doing of my dreams.

Another thing I have finally admitted to myself? I have a penchant for overcommitting myself.

because of the aforementioned dreamer characteristic.

“Sara”, a friend texted recently, “Can you put together a team of volunteers for our next fundraiser?”

Me: “Ooo! Maybe!! What do you need?”

She followed up with details and we spoke on the phone. I even blubbered on about another dream I have percolating in the nether regions of my brain (which is quite big and nearly impossible for me at this juncture of my life – the dream, not my brain. . . ), and when we closed our conversation I had pretty much committed to finding six volunteers for an event a month away.

And you know what I did?

I flaked.

I didn’t do any of it.

I thought about it – in spits and bouts of panic, like, “Oh my gosh!! I need to make phone calls, I need to send emails! I need to get this done! I’m failing my friend!!”

And I blew it.

In fact, I need to write her and apologize profusely for completely dropping the ball.

The thing is, I kind of knew. I sincerely wanted to help her. I wanted to support her and her cause. I believe in them both deeply. In fact, you can check them out here.

But I shouldn’t have taken on another thing. And even though I was feeling all rah-rah shish-boom-bah  “I can do this!” in the moment, there was a very practical reprimand grumbling under the surface telling me I couldn’t. And not that I couldn’t because I’m a bad person, but just that my days were already full, and there was no way I could possibly add in something else and still keep afloat with every other commitment in my life.

But I told her yes anyway. Then I failed her.

This brings me to a sort-of mathematical equation to describe me as I know myself in this moment:

Bigtime dreamer (minus) the actual doing of things get there (plus) overcommitting to other things and people  (equals) setting myself up to fail and feel like a loser. Set on repeat.

So as all of this was burbling to my consciousness, I very smartly looked at this 31 Day Writing Challenge and thought, “Oooh! I can do this! It’s just what I need to jump-start blogging again!”

Hashtag: I never claimed to be a genius.

So before I recognized the supreme irony of this commitment as I was just realizing my lack of doing/overdreaming/overcommitting, I emailed some friends and readers and asked, “If you could make me write about anything for 31 days, what would it be?”

I threw out some suggestions, but I wasn’t feeling all that creative. Maybe because I was working on a painting/ doing homework with the kids/ starting dinner simultaneously. . . .

hashtag: common sense was never my best quality.

As responses trickled back to me, I noticed something.

While each person was interested in slightly different topics, there was a common underlying theme.

We all want to know someone is in the trenches with us.

We want to hear things that make us think, “Hey! ME TOO!!”

We want to relate and know that So-and-so has crappy days just like we do, and struggles with the same things. We don’t always want it wrapped up pretty and smelling like roses, because quite frankly, that makes us feel a little like doo doo to watch someone’s perfect life from the sidelines.

So this is what I decided. I’m going to write to you all for 31 days (26 now, actually). It’s going to be random and possibly misspelled and full of grammatical errors (however – and I mean this FOR REAL – If you spot a mistake, please tell me, for the love of proper grammar!!  I’d rather be told I have a chunk of spinach in my teeth than waltz around a cocktail party with wilting leaves composting in my pearly whites. Such is the same with writing mistakes). I’m working on developing a thicker skin. So just say it, friend. You’ll be helping me out.

I also am removing my self-imposed requirement for accompanying photos. I’m trying to keep this real. Remember, I just discovered I have a tendency to overcommit. So I’m trying to set the bar low to begin with. This is just going to be raw notes from me to you without all the foo-foo fancy stuff.

This seems like the best way for me to do this thing, which is basically a good and forward moving thing, while keeping it within manageable paramaters. Setting the bar low from the get go, folks. I’m a work in progress. . . .

*****

Dear Reader 2 2 Dear Reader day 3 Dear Reader day 4 Dear Reader day 5 Dear Reader day 6 Dear Reader day 7 Dear Reader day 8 Dear Reader day 9

So Anyway. . . (my morning, Christmas, and ethical goods.)

morning

So, anyway. Today was supposed to go like this:

Drop kids off

Rush home

Eat breakfast

Work out

Art until 1:30

Instead, this was it:

Drop kids off

Find straggler kid still at home (who should have been mid-route walking already)

run him to school via car

call doc’s office re: missing immuno records @ request of the school

eat breakfast

remember bills need to be paid

pay bills

make more coffee

remember there were Christmas presents I was going to order early

order early Christmas presents

YES. I ORDERED CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!

Search for vintage present we’ve had in mind for a month now

remember I wanted to order one of these

Farmgirl Paints Etsy

for someone special

get side tracked looking up song lyrics

Remember I’m supposed to be working out

Drink more coffee.

Decide I should just write a post, already on these companies I’ve both discovered and fallen in love with over the past few months, because, you know. . . . Christmas is coming.

Maybe you’re a little like me and you want to get your shopping done early.

Guys, I’m serious. I want my shopping, save that last-minute top-secret stuff for the littles, to be done by October 30th.

I’m not kidding. I want to head into November (almost) footloose and fancy free. Which means as I come up with fitting ideas right now, I’m ordering them and making it happen.

These are a couple of gifts I have on my radar because I ♥♥♥ the products, but even more so, the purpose behind their products.

Prosperity Candles

Every candle purchased helps provide a living wage for the women of Prosperity Candle, who have recently resettled from refugee camps and are working to build a brighter future for themselves and their families in the United States.

 

Friends – I seriously get giddy when I browse their website. I love that our purchases are helping right here in the US, but when we buy we’re also providing a loving place for people of the world. There is so much variety there, and the candles are stunning. You can design your own or select something that’s ready to ship. Prices range from about $15 to $45, and each product comes with the story of the woman who made them. (Be still my heart – that’s an absolute bonus in my book!)

I’m thinking this pack of three (for $30) would make the perfect purchase for me to break up between our lovely teachers, and then wrap them up with a gift card to Amazon, Starbucks, or iTunes. . . .

Fikire Pouch | fashionABLE

Ok, but then I have a soft spot for these leather pouches by fashionABLE too . . . I’ve had my eye on them for almost a year now, always keeping in the back of my mind that their price point is right near perfect for gift giving ($22).

And with this commitment statement, I feel nothing but warm and fuzzy knowing who I support when I purchase:

… we believe our role is to INVEST IN A WOMAN.  When a woman is empowered with work to do, whether in the home or in an office, she not only experiences the joy and satisfaction of developing a skill, she also creates change in those around her. FASHIONABLE’s role in this story is working with women, both locally and globally, who have overcome challenges ranging from prostitution to addiction to a lack of opportunity.  Every one of us understands what it means to overcome, and we are all ABLE to find purpose in the work we do.

Also? Their game-day scarves. Again – school teachers? College students? Die hard football fans? I think our options are endless when we consider who might enjoy wearing one of these. (And $36 ain’t so bad. . . .)FA_skinnyBanner101-GameDay

So, Ok?

Two more companies, because, friends, this has become important to me – finding companies that do good and not harm for their people. I want my purchases to build up rather than keep down the men and women who are creating the goods I use in my life.

The Shine Project. You can read the whole story here, but the gist of it is this: Ashley employs inner city youth to make jewelry so they can become first generation college students. Making jewelry becomes their game-changer. And guess what? It’s gorgeous.

_MG_1292

With so many options – bracelets (individual or stacks), rings, earings, and necklaces, it’s really hard to choose (I know, because I’ve tried. . . . ) Stacks are on the more spendy side, ( and so SO dreamy!!) but single bracelets are very affordable (ranging from $12 – $28). And c’mon now, I can totally rationalize spending a tad more if I know it’s going to help an inner city kiddo be the first in their family to go to college!

Better Life Bags. Friends? I’ve had all the heart eyes for this company since the first time I spotted them on Instagram. I am not a bag girl – I’ve never spent more than $45 on a purse, and at that point, I use it until it looks downright deplorable. So the thought of sending $100+ on a bag makes me gasp for air a little ( I know this is not a big deal for some of you out there, but y’all, we just love different things!) HOWEVER – I do so want one of these bags, and by golly, I’m gonna get one as soon as I can stash the cash away and jump that mental hurdle. Just look at them!

And (EEEP!) you can design your own! They’re adorable, durable, unique, and you are supporting hardworking women in the US.

The bags started as a hobby for designer, Rebecca Smith, but then:

In 2010, she and her family moved to a low-income area of Detroit, Michigan and her eyes were opened to what poverty, unemployment, and blight can do to a city and the people living there.

When orders experienced a boom in 2012, she turned to her neighborhood for help.  She hired a woman originally from Yemen, named Nadia, to start sewing bags alongside her.  After a few months of spending time with Nadia and paying her for the work she was doing, Rebecca saw a shift in her attitude and economic status.  Her family was finally able to afford bed frames for their four children and a dining room table.  Better Life Bags was making lives better in Rebecca’s own community.  Our mission is to hire women who have various barriers to employment to make our custom leather and fabric bags.  They are adopted into our Better Life family and given a chance to succeed in life, family, and friendship.

This is what a Better Life Bag does, beyond making you look super hip and chic. Yes, please.

And last but not least, if you are a regular reader here, or on IG, or FB, you know about these guys: Mitscoots and their Kickstarter Outfitting Project.

This is how their company works: Get. Give. Employ. They sell 100% Great American socks. For every pair you purchase, they give away another pair to someone in need, and they take pride in employing those transitioning out of homelessness to package everything up.

I love this mission, and their Kickstarter has roughly 50 hours left at the time that I’m typing this. You can shop for Christmas, give to someone in need, and help them take their company to the next level – all with one purchase. That’s a pretty sweet incentive to shop there!

Ok, now seriously. Stop distracting me. I need to go workout.

Except, now it’s lunchtime. . .