how i came back, part 1: or, when you look at your child and feel nothing

Monday, July 29, 2013

By the time we packed the moving van, I was a mess.

Hands by barnabywasson
photo by barnabywasson at flickr
In the weeks leading up to the move, my husband flowed between excitement and nostalgia, overwhelm and relief.  My kids were teary, staring into the great yawning unknown.  Teachers hugged the boys tightly, sweet friends left endearing good-byes on my doorstep and voicemail, grandparents showered us with time and attention.  Emotion welled up all around me, and I felt ... nothing.  No twinge over leaving my babies' nursery, no fear over the financial risk, no excitement about the adventure.  I had flatlined.  Even in the moment I knew it was all wrong.  Somehow, I had to reconnect.

do you love it? I do.

When my daughter is enchanted with her outfit, she throws open her arms, jumps a little dance, and says, "My beautiful!  How do my look?"  That's sort of how I feel this morning.  Ta-da!  It's a new blog!
Etsy is not paying me to sing their praises.  I just love them.

As you can see, I'm out from under that heavy, sterile black design, and I'm no longer begging Google to simultaneously translate Portugese and HTML for me (I actually did that.  It went exactly like you think it did).  Google let me down, but as usual Etsy was the cure for what ailed me.

Did you know you can buy affordable, pretty-but-not-cutesy blog templates on Etsy?  And that for a very nominal fee, you can also have them installed?  (She could have charged three times as much and I still would have paid her to do it). Kathy at Nudge Media Design rescued my weekend and my blog.  I couldn't be happier with the result, and I have enough left in my budget to look at doing something with a wide mercy's sparkling new Facebook page.  Thank you thank you Kathy, and God bless the artists at Etsy, each and every one.

So, hi!  For some of you, you've hardly known anything about me other than my most recent post.  It will take me a little while to fill in all the blanks, but feel free to look around.  And if you ever need any blog work done, skip the cursing and go straight to Etsy.  You'll be so glad you did.

how {not} to build a blog

Friday, July 26, 2013

If you are reading this from my site (as opposed to a feed) you can see that my blog's a mess right now. I have tabs that don't apply (stock?  As in, chicken?) and buttons that lead nowhere and the whole thing is too busy and don't even try to find the date on individual posts, because friends, they just don't exist.

You have my husband to thank for my mess.

The thing is, I've been doing some writing on the side.  And I hope to be able to do something with that writing - even if it's just a little something - mostly because I feel a deep need to look outside of my own four walls every now and then.  I need to feel as though I too am throwing a penny into the fountain of life.  Not that I'm wasting my days at home, but that my day also includes contributing to something bigger than what's for dinner.  Anyway, so I'm writing, and pitching ideas, and hoping for the best.  Which means I need a little better blog layout than what I've been using.

This week my husband and I looked at budgets and designers and prices, and the verdict is ... that's probably not going to happen right now.  My budget is 85$.  Want to know what 85$ can buy you in the world of blog design?  Not much.  Also - and I don't mean this nearly as snarky as it will sound - but all of the designs that fell into my price range were just so ... cute.  My husband said, "We've landed in the smocked and frocked corner of the internet."  Indeed.  I love your smocked blogs, you guys, every bit as much as I love your smocked children.  It is just not me, you know?  Instead all of the blog layouts that appealed to me were usually gaming blogs, which is especially funny since I was not even cool enough to own Mario Kart in the 7th grade.  I'm not sure what that says about me, but there you have it.

After perusing the 568th pink and white polka dotted blog design, my husband looks up and says, "Why don't you just do your own?  You could do this."  He was obviously blinded by his undying love, and forgot he is talking to the woman who can hardly even scrape up the will to organize the top shelf of a closet, and that I only have approximately one hour of daylight to devote to my little blogging habit anyway.  And because I am a crazy, crazy person, I thought, why not?  So I have been attempting to use a free template, and customize it myself (I did not create the template - let's be clear that I have absolutely no ability to decipher and write code, unless you are talking about my five-year-old's handwriting, in which case I'm your man).  The result has been me staring at a screen waaaay past my allotted blogging hour, saying things out loud like, "How the hell do you unzip a file?"  At one point this afternoon (I wish I was exaggerating, but this actually happened) I looked up to find my daughter sitting on the baby's head, while my middle son was walking along the top of the couch and singing the My Little Pony theme song.  And I said maniacally, "SURE!  I'LL JUST CUSTOMIZE MY OWN BLOG!"

All of that to say, my site is a mess, but it's got nothing on my house right now.  Nevertheless, I remain hopeful.  I can nurse a baby while pushing a stroller, wipe a heiney while talking on the phone, and vacuum an entire house without eating a single Lego.  What's a little HTML?

But if you see my children sitting on top of the van, crowded around a jar of peanut butter, it may be time to intervene.

* * PS Two hours later, I found the perfect template - it's easy, it's clean, it's yellow and gray.  And the tutorial is written in Portugese.  * *

in the middle of a long morning

Saturday, July 20, 2013

"In his posture I see his defiance, and I know it is going to be a long morning ..."

I am over at Middle Places, talking about what parents in the throes of raising small children need most from their wider community.  Click here to read more.

when God leads you off a cliff

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

photo by the very talented Jesse

I really like guacamole.

And raspberries.  Iced green tea, blues and purples, riding my bike, Imagine Dragons, colorful tattoos, romaine lettuce over iceburg.  This scene is my favorite from any tv show in the past year, and this song captures an emotion I can't quite put into words.  

It's hardly worth reporting, right?  I like green tea.  We all have favorite songs.  Who cares.  

I care.  Six months ago, I did not have a favorite ... anything.  Trying new foods was not on my radar, nor was finding a new show on Netflix or reading a new book.  Six months ago, I was just surviving.  

{pretty, happy, funny, real} birthday edition

Friday, July 12, 2013

My favorite family blog is Like Mother, Like Daughter.  It is primarily written by the mother of seven adult children, who talks often about creating an emotional, spiritual, and educational safe haven for your family.  I love hearing the perspective of someone who did not limp across the finish line.  After all these years, she remains passionate about her vocation.  Anyway, over at LMLD they host a carnival called {pretty, happy, funny, real}.  This week I thought I would play along.  


Yesterday was my 35th birthday.  So far, 35 feels pretty good!  I celebrated with fish tacos, delicious cupcakes, and dear friends.  It was the happiest birthday I have had in a long time.  And I just loved the bright confetti against the white frosting.    


My dear friend from Seattle (in the black shirt) and me

One of my favorite friends is visiting from Seattle this weekend.  It has been a few years since we've had time together, and I am so glad to see her.  She, my best friend (who moved with us across the country four months ago), and I are all cut from the same cloth.  I just love time with them - even when it is spent trying to keep my children from scuttling down cliffs. 

Who takes their toddler hiking and forgets her shoes?  I do.


My toddler girl cracks me up.  She is two years old, and can ride her five-year-old brother's bike without help.

Her older brothers could not even pedal a tricycle until they were over three.  The girl amazes me!  She is completely fearless (unless you're talking about butterflies or ground beef, which both terrify her).  I imagine her as a young adult, jumping from airplanes or writing novels or doing whatever daring thing she sets her mind to do, and saying to those around her, "I've got three brothers!  I'm not afraid of this!"  


You may have noticed I wrote a post earlier this week and then took it down. 

Life is almost never linear.  There are layers and complexities and subplots and very often, we don't know our own hearts well enough to talk about more than what is on the surface anyway.  This is where I find myself when I try to talk about marriage.  I have a story to tell, and it is important to tell it.  But I will need your grace.  There will be bursts and stops, I will almost always begin in the middle, and it may take me several tries to get it right.  I ask for your patience.  But don't worry.  This story has a happy ending.  Because oh, how I love this man.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

"We need more than reason or information to nourish our faith; we're built for firsthand experiences of God through things like the Eucharist.  It's like what Ghandi said: "The world is so hungry for God that God could only come as a piece of bread.  We so long for joy that God even risked coming into the world in the form of intoxication, that risky thing called wine.

"Some time back, I heard someone say the Bible isn't simply a book that tells us what to do; it's also a story that tells us who we are.  Maybe that's why the liturgy moved me last Sunday. It took me on a guided journey in which I was reminded of who I am, where I came from, how things have gotten so out of whack in this world, how God intervened, and how history is going to end.  For so long now I've felt dislocated, and the liturgy helped relocate me.  I'm not a character in search of an Author; I have a story."

Chasing Francis, p. 99-100
Ian Morgan Cron

what's inspiring me

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

my own little beautiful mess
Over at Middle Places today a guest blogger talks about embracing life with small children, in all of its fullness and chaos, in In the Middle of a Mess.  "The love I feel for my children does not look past their mess. No, the love I feel for them includes their mess ... I don’t love them in spite of their mess; I love them in the mess. The way the Creator loves us. "   If you have little ones at home with you this summer, maybe you can relate.  I don't love my children in spite of their messes and neediness.  I just love them, period.

Her point is poignantly appropriate after reading Just Because He Breathes:  Learning to Truly Love our Gay Son this morning.  What a beautiful and agonizing story.  I was most moved by her grace throughout the article - for herself, in mistakes she made during her son's adolescence; for the ministries that encouraged a destructive approach to homosexuality; and, most of all, for her son, in discussing why he made the decisions he did.  As I read it I couldn't help but see God's grace, too, in her opportunity to reconcile with her son before his premature death.  A friend summarized it best in her comment: "... Love people just because they breathe ... you are loved by God just because you breathe.  There are ways I can do better by my children (gay or not) with this concept."  Me too.

Speaking of abandoning religion in search of grace, I started reading Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale, by Ian Morgan Cron, last night.  My priest read a selection from the pulpit a few weeks ago, and it piqued my interest.  My favorite line so far is set in a cathedral, where he is beginning to think of Scripture as a whole story, redemption woven into each individual scene. "... For the first time in years, the enormousness of the Story burst forth like an expanding universe in my chest, and I was grateful it was mine."  Beautiful.  If you are looking for a new book this summer, I recommend Chasing Francis.

Finally, my baby boy is inspiring me to ride faster. 

We have recently taken up biking as a family again.  I pull the little ones in the bike stroller, and my husband rides alongside the older two.  Imagine me on a path meandering beside a creek, mountains pressed into the sky, soaking up the breeze and the cool comfort of the shade.  It is an idyllic scene, with one hitch.  My baby boy cannot abide that stroller.

Every word that could describe his loathing feels euphemistic.  As soon as we start moving, he begins to wail.  He does not stop, ever, until he is picked up again.  If I should try to comfort him briefly, then strap him back in and continue ... well, he looks like this.


Other people create playlists to inspire them to keep a steady pace while jogging or biking.  Me?  I ride with a screeching baby strapped to my bike.  He's a pretty good motivator.


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