Tuesday, August 25, 2015

alive and well and crazy and atlanta

So the blog took a bit of a....ahem...hiatus. The honest truth is that a lot of really hard stuff happened in my life and it was so hard that I couldn't even write about it. Sometimes words can't describe or even give justice to the sheer enormity of a situation.So I went silent. For three long years I've thought offhandedly, "Maybe I should start blogging again?" I would sit down to write and I'd end up on Pinterest or shopping online. (Total time suckers, by the way.) Now I'm ready. I have the time and I have the words. I'm looking forward to sharing. 

 Here's the family. As you can see, Matt and I haven't changed much over the last three years, but our children have grown like weeds and time has flown faster than I might ever have imagined. I'm the proud mother of a 4th grader and a kindergartner. These two boys are the joy of my life....next to their daddy of course. 


About a year and half ago I went back to work full time and I have to say that I love my job. It blends lots of my favorite things...clothes, fitness, and community. I work with amazing people that challenge and inspire me every day. I feel blessed to have a job I love....so many people hate going to work and most days I don't even feel like I'm working. I never went looking to go back to work and the job found me. Matt was supportive from the get-go and he picked up the slack during the transition of me not being home as much. 
 
This man...he might be the most wonderful creature that God put on this earth and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he put him here for me. Matt spoils me - not with gifts or expensive vacations, but in the every day little things. He tries to make my life easier every. single. day. He makes lunches, he puts kids to bed, he folds laundry, he brings boys to soccer and is just generally helpful. I've gotten really used to all that help! And just when you get (too) comfortable, life changes. Matt just took a job that will keep him in northern Georgia/Atlanta area Monday-Friday and I'll be the single working mom during the week. It's a great job and an incredible opportunity and I'm so happy for him. It wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but we made it together and have felt such an incredible peace every step along the way. I have never looked back and wondered if this is the right move. When we first starting telling people about this new job situation, we got a lot of these responses: 

"Oh, that sucks!"

"I just couldn't do it. I couldn't be without my husband."

"How are you going to handle it all? What will you do?" 


What will I do? I'll try to make Matt's life easier every. single. day. I'll pick up the slack. I'll give him the freedom to take this new opportunity and run with it. I'll be hyper-organized and flexible and go-with-the-flow. I'll be at soccer practices and school plays and parent/teacher conferences. I'll wake up an hour earlier and fall into bed an hour later. Why? Because it's my turn. Matt has stepped up to the plate at every turn as I started working full-time with two very active boys. He made my life so much less stressful and he never made me feel guilty about all the extra he was doing. Here's the other thing: Matt believes I can handle this. If he didn't, he never would have taken the job in the first place. Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that Matt trusts me to handle this and I want to make him proud. In a few weeks our "new normal" will actually feel normal and eventually this will be a season in our lives we'll remember and we'll reflect on all the ways we grew during that "tough time". The amazing thing is, I can see that we're already growing and here are the two things that are already standing out loud and clear. 

1. The time we spend together is so much sweeter. 

2. We appreciate each other so much more. 

All in all, some pretty great things are already coming out of a not-so-ideal situation. We're going to rock this (with a little help from family and friends)! In the meantime, you can pray for us if you think of it. We'll need a lot of those. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Dear Ones

Matt and I have really amazing friends. We have other married couple friends that have become our extended family. We eat dinner, we go to coffee and our kids play. We live life together. Even more than that, we're invested in each other. Outside of my family, these are the people that are with me for the long haul. At my lowest points, they've been there...letting me be me and loving me all the while. I've told Matt more than once....

Me: "We'll never get divorced."

Matt: "Why do you say that?" (Maybe he thinks differently? Ha!)

Me: "Because our friends would never let us."

I know that's a little bit naive, but I don't care. I like to think that's the truth. I know I'd come up swinging with love if any of my dear ones needed me.
You know, it wasn't always like that. Matt and I got married and moved back to where we'd both grown up and there wasn't really anyone around. We'd had a tough pre-wedding time and a tough first year of marriage. We sort of hunkered down from exhaustion and blocked out the rest of the world. After a while we both really began to feel that void in our lives and began to ask God for friends. It was a simple prayer, but an earnest one. It worked. Eight years and countless dinners, babies, and birthday parties later we're still going strong. We've picked up new people along the way, but those first married friendships will always have a special place in my heart.

Here's why....

I don't love these people because they look just like me or we both have kids or because we grew up in the same town. I don't love them because they're democrats or republicans and I don't love them because they're Christians, Muslims, or Jews. I don't love them because we all go to church together and I certainly don't love them because we all have the exact same views on everything. I've recently been reminded of that in a big way. I love my friends for WHO THEY ARE. I love the determination that I see in my friend that runs marathons...not because of how fast she runs them. I love the heart of the friend who sends a card in the mail to let me know she's thinking of me....I don't love her because the card is so great. What's so wonderful is how uniquely and wonderfully made we all are....

Each of these people brings something unique to my life....they all have specific gifts and talents that make them, well, them...and then they're kind enough to pass those parts of themselves on to me. Little pieces of each of them infiltrate my mind and soul and I think of them at unexpected times throughout the day. Parts of who they are pass to me and slowly help mold who I am, and hopefully make me better than I could be on my own.

Each of these precious individuals see the world differently. I love to pick the brains of my friends who think nothing like me. I'm sure they get tired of it since I'm a verbal processor and can talk things through to a fault. I'm emotion-FUL (though Matt says it's just my made-up way of saying I'm emotional) and I'm passionate and I can't always see black and white in a situation. My world is usually completely gray. There are plenty of people who disagree with my perspectives. BUT...
Do I always agree with their takes on life? No.
Do I chastise them for it? No.
Do I love them less because they think differently than me? Definitely not.
Do we stop speaking because I just can't see where they're coming from? If that's ever the case, please, please grab me by the shoulders and shake me! Remind me that we are all God's children with the right to our own opinions! I've been frustrated when others can't see things MY way, but that doesn't give me the right to post nasty, pointed things on Facebook or treat them as any less important than I did before I found out that we think differently on some issue.

I recently wrote about how important it is to let your voice be heard when you have strong convictions about something. Five days after that blog was posted, I was asked if I would be willing to make a public statement about where I stand on a particular issue. Can I just tell you that at that moment, I was sooo angry at myself for ever writing that last blog post! In my mind I threw back my head and laughed, thinking that God has one heck of a sense of humor, but He also wanted me to put my money where my mouth is.... so I did. I've regretted it a few times, but only because I worry that it might affect friendships that I cherish. I have hope that we can rise above that. I hope we're bigger than that and I know that Jesus is bigger than all of it. It was hard and it's still hard and it will continue to be hard. You can pray for me if you think of me.

When we let the issues become bigger than people, then everyone fails. When we let our plans get in the way of the people we love then those plans mean nothing.
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." - C.S. Lewis

Friday, January 20, 2012

Taking Sides

Ever felt stuck in the middle? Do you listen to people you love fight and argue while you diplomatically try to see BOTH sides? You're quiet, determined to be the peacemaker....you're resolved to not be involved and praying to God that neither of them look at you and ask for your honest opinion. Maybe you can be quietly invisible until this storm passes. Maybe you can slip out while the others are distracted by their own bad tempers. Maybe you can pretend the whole thing never happend. If you don't talk about it, then it doesn't exist, right? This will keep you safely neutral....Switzerland.

What are you afraid of?

We've somehow convinced ourselves that the noble thing is to stay neutral. I will forever have my parent's voices whispering in the back of my head, "Don't be the squeaky wheel..." I've tried to live that for a long time and have simmered in frustration over never having a voice. I've watched people I love be hurt time after time and I've convinced myself that staying quiet is actually "taking the high road".

Such crap.

I've been blinded by fear. I want to be accepted by those around me and I want people to like me. So I stay quiet.

Never taking sides or speaking our minds might mean that we're never at the center of conflict. It feels safe. No one will get mad at us and no one is disappointed in us, but it's not authentic. I'm not advocating that people be argumentative and obstinate, stubbornly fighting for their own way around every turn. BUT...God gave us a brain! He created us with the ability to think and reason. We have a beautiful gift of discernment and we should act according to our convictions. Burying those convictions to avoid conflict will only bring frustration and stress. No one will ever really know us if we don't let them, and we certainly can't complain about a situation's outcome if we're never heard.

Matt's family loves politics. This was super intimidating to me when we first got married. His youngest brother was in high school at the time of our wedding and he was one hundred times more knowledgable than me about the political process and the nuances of our government. Dinner time at my in-laws' house includes long conversations about presidential candidates. (I nod my head and smile and pretend to know just what they're talking about....but not so much.) My mother-in-law proudly posts her political beliefs on FB and my brother-in-law "live tweets" all the presidential debates. They put it all out there and they don't apologize for it. I think that's awesome. I'm sure there are plenty of people that don't agree with them and sometimes they don't agree with each other, but they go with their gut and fight for their convictions.

Fear can very often be the driving force behind neutrality. I know that's been true in my own life. I am super outgoing and really open with my experiences, but have found myself staying silent when there's been controversy - not because I thought it was the wise thing to do, but because I was terrified of losing friends or people not liking me. I've recently realized that if my friends can love my silly, obnoxious, talks-too-much self, then shouldn't they love me when I share a well-formed thought even if they don't agree with it?

So, my friends....don't rest in neutrality. Speak now, or forever hold your peace.

"When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret." ~ Shannon L. Alder

Well said.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Back in the Saddle....

I've written blog posts and then deleted them. I've written down my thoughts and then I thought better of sharing them. It's a scary, scary thing to be brutally honest with your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes life is so crazy, emotional, and traumatizing that it's really hard to put it into words....written or verbal. We've dealt with some difficult situations this year that have not only changed how I view the world, but how I prioritize my life. It's been a good, stressful, stretching kind of year and I thank God for...most of it. I'm working on thanking God for all of it.
In time.
I'm working to get this blog up and running again. I enjoyed it so much when I was posting regularly, but if you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. So for a time this blog was silent. I'm feeling more peaceful and can proceed with real, honest posts about life and kids and love and marriage and everything in between. The Lord has given me an honest heart...and I derive so much joy from sharing my heart with friends.
This was from today's post on www.momastery.com. (If you haven't heard of this blog, you should check it out...it's awesome.) Glennon writes, "So I decided that’s what God wanted me to do. He wanted me to walk around telling people the truth. No mask, no hiding, no pretending. That was going to be my thing. I was going to make people feel better about their insides by showing them mine. By being my real self. But I was keeping my trendy jeans. I decided they were part of my real self......I’d found my thing. Openness. I decided, based on firsthand experience , that it’s more fun to say things to make women feel hopeful than it is to say or omit things to make women feel jealous. And it’s easier, too. Less to keep track of and monitor."
O.M.G!! I felt like she was speaking my mind! I've been struggling with my desire for authentic, real commjnication and what would happen if I chose to really share openly. Her bravery and freedom has freed me. Thank you, Glennon.
As I write this, there are toys whizzing by my head. Life is crazy. Life is hard. I'm glad we have each other.
More to come...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Up in the gym, just workin' on my fitness..."

I was never very passionate about exercise. I've never been an athlete. I've never been very physically competitive. I ate what I wanted and then I married a man with super human metabolism and I not only ate what I wanted, I ate whatever he wanted as well. I got pregnant with my first baby. I ate pizza and ice cream my entire pregnancy. Oh. My. Goodness. It was not good.

This is me in February, 2006.


Different angle, same outcome.


It was the first time in my life that I actually needed to diet and exercise. I went on the South Beach Diet and started doing some moderate exercise and I was able to get down to a size where I felt comfortable. I had another baby. I did much better during this pregnancy, and after he was born I began to diet again and also began running. I found that the running was therapeutic. With two little ones at home, it was the only time of the day that I found myself totally alone. No one was going to bother me, no one was going to ask me for anything, and no one was going to interrupt me! I began to get stronger. I liked what I was seeing.

I decided I was going to run a half marathon. I'd ALWAYS wanted to do that. I didn't think I could. I proved myself wrong!


My family was waiting for me at the finish line. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. Not only did I finish something I set out to do, but I was showing my children how important it is to have a healthy, active lifestyle.


Here's one of the whole family after the race.


I haven't run any races since then...I've been busy with other things! I've always loved the Les Mills Body Attack program. It's a high impact cardio/sports training class. They offered it at our old gym, but when we switched gyms they didn't have it there. At the beginning of this year, I saw that Body Attack was coming to my gym! I was thrilled. I started attending classes, and after one of the classes, the instructor asked me if I'd be interested in teaching! Shocked and flattered, I told her I'd think about it. I honestly didn't think I'd be able to do it.

The training was going to be at my gym....Matt said he'd watch the kids....the only thing holding me back was my own self-doubt. If you've never done or seen Body Attack, it's pretty hard core. It's a fun, amazing work-out but it's definitely hard work. Reluctantly, I signed myself up for training.

Training weekend came. It was exhausting. But you know what?

I passed.

I only passed the training. I now had three months to learn and perfect technique, coaching, cueing, and build up my endurance so I could talk and teach while doing the class. I've never taught any kind of aerobics class before. Before the end of three months, I had to send in a video of me teaching a class. I then had a four to six week wait before I heard if I was certified or not. I heard back a couple of weeks ago......

I PASSED!!!!!!!

Well, I actually got a "PASS WITHHELD". I have nothing to hide. I absolutely didn't fail and I did better than I ever thought I would. This means that I had one area to work on. Coaching. I needed to improve the instruction I give during the class. The group fitness director would have to sign off that I'd improved in that area. She says that I've improved a ton in this area and she's already signed my form and I never have to video tape ever again! WOO-HOO!!

I didn't think I could do it. I doubted myself. I proved myself wrong. :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Catch Up

When I started blogging, I promised myself that I wouldn't become one of those bloggers that disappeared for weeks at a time...oops. I did just that. I feel like I've fallen off the grid in general, as it's been so very crazy the past month or so. School ended and summer is in full swing. I always feel anxiety and quite frankly, panic set in a day or two before school ends. I start doubting that I'm going to be able to entertain and enjoy the five-year-old and almost two-year-old day in and day out for the next ten weeks. The fear passed and we've settled into a daily routine that I am really enjoying. I hope my boys are enjoying it too.

Hayes graduated from preschool. He had a special singing part in the graduation program and I thought I was going to literally burst from pride. He took his part so seriously and I know he really wanted to do his best. I think he was great...good thing I'm not biased.

"Mommy, I never took my eyes off Ms. Kristen. I watched her the whole time to make sure I was doing the right thing." Aaahh, my little first-born rules follower.


This kid sung his heart out!


Here's Hayes getting his Pre-K diploma. This is his teacher, Ms. Shelley. We love all the teachers at our preschool. They're precious with my boys! Hayes set a goal to not get his "card turned" (a behavior modification method in his classroom) the entire year. He did it! Matt and I had to make good on our promise of a new razor scooter if he achieved his goal. It was the best $35 I've ever spent.


Not the greatest family picture, but better than nothing! I was glad we could capture this moment. Notice how Grayson is blowing kisses to my dad, who's taking the picture.

My sweet Hayes is headed off to kindergarten in the fall. It's hard to believe that time's gone this fast. It's amazing and a blessing to see that he's truly excited about the upcoming school year! I'm sure it helps that his Nana is a teacher at his elementary school and he's been hearing about this place his entire short life. I'll take it - excitement over fear and apprehension any day! We're going to soak up the summer and all of our days together before this new chapter begins.

Speaking of baby birds leaving the nest....we've had some front row seats to the "birds and the bees" right on our own front porch. A robin built a nest on the top of one of our gutters and laid some eggs. The babies hatched a few weeks ago and since then, Grayson and I have made daily trips to the front porch to visit the "bay-beez", as he calls them. Sunday, one of the birds was in the garden below the gutter. Matt picked him up with gloves and put him back in the nest. (sweet guy!) Apparently, yesterday was the day that all the "bay-beez" were going to fly the coop. I looked out my front door and this is what I saw....

What a cute baby bird! Gray and I had fun talking to him.


He didn't seem to enjoy us as much as we were enjoying him.


His brother or sister was still sitting happily in the nest. This little one left the nest later and all three babies got flying lessons from their mama in my front yard. So many metaphors spring to mind!

Sidenote: 2 out of these 3 "bay-beez" didn't make it. We found 2 of them D-E-A-D in the front yard and shoveled them off to the garden before Hayes or Grayson could find them. RIP, little birds....Mother Nature's a mean old b#%tch.

Regarding my last blog post, thanks for the sweet words and kind messages I've received. I have wonderful friends and family. Though I'm still working through some things, life is good and I'm blessed beyond measure.

This post was short and sweet, but I'm working my way back into things. I've missed my blogging outlet!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Status Update (No Pun Intended!)

I'm so behind. I've put my blog on the shelf. There's been too much to life happening at once to organize it into words. Life is full - full in good ways and full in hard ways.

I went 27 days with VERY LIMITED Facebook. It's been so good for me. I cut my FB fast short after the tornado and power outage...it proved itself extremely useful during that time. I'm easing my way back in, but I find that I truly don't enjoy it the way I used to enjoy it. I've broken the FB addiction and I didn't even need a 12 step program. Imagine that.

PHOTOGRAPHY

I received a camera for birthday in August. It's a real camera - not a point and shoot and not a cell phone. (Though up to this point I thought my iPhone camera was more than adequate...I was horribly wrong!) It sat mostly unused and when I did use it I pretty much always shot on automatic....not really that different from a cell phone. I've been learning to actually use my camera...on manual. Those words struck fear in my heart. My sweet friend Katie gave me one of her extra lenses and I purchased another one that my sweet friend Lindsay recommended. Here's a few of my first indoor shots of the kids...on manual!


I know they're not perfect...and anyone with any knowledge of photography could easily give me lengthy, scathing critiques but I don't care. These capture the personality and sweetness of my kids and that's what I was after.

EMBROIDERY

I've been super busy with embroidery orders. Here are a few of my favorites...


TORNADOS

April 27, 2011 was such a strange day. A tornado came too close for comfort in my home town and another tornado ripped through my college town, destroying places I frequented and areas I hold dear. Please pray for Tuscaloosa.

I have no idea how to word this, but I also found myself (through no fault of my own) in a very difficult and complicated situation in my personal life. I was dealing with my own personal tornado. It also left a path of destruction that will probably take quite a while to clean up and rebuild.

After 18 hours without power (I know that's nothing compared to what some spent, but it was definitely my limit) and a 4-5 day projection of no power, we decided to take the kids to Franklin, TN to stay with my in-laws. I needed to get OUT of this town. ASAP. We spent five wonderful, relaxing days with Matt's mom and dad and I could have spent another five. We to a horse farm owned by friends of Matt's parents and the kids got to ride ponies and go boating on the lake. We went to a street festival in downtown Franklin, I got my hair cut (FINALLY!!!), and we were able to have all the comforts of home, mixed with the comfort of being surrounded by family. I know many people that stayed to wait out the power outage came away from that experience with wonderful lessons and blessings. Even though I left, (and I'm so glad I did) I had a profound experience of blessing. I'm so thankful for family that loves us unconditionally and will bend over backward to help and support us in any situation. I see how God used these tornados to work in my life and I'm amazed at His timing. It's always perfect.