Faith · Fitness · Health · Love · Parenting · Perspective

2 Steps Back and 5 Forward

5F2B2 Steps Back and 5 Forward: An effort to get to know yourself and who you are made to be, deeper than the outward reflection shown in the mirror.

A local women’s group did a short exercise with the ladies who were present. It is a Christian non-denominational group for new, seasoned, young, and older. A lovely mix of women.

*I follow online because although it is God-centered, it still isn’t a Best Yes for my time when I add in the driving to town and back and how it disrupts my family’s schedule.*

The exercise asked the women to say or describe two things about themselves that are negative.

  1. I overshare details and stories… then spend anxiety-ridden time mentally re-hashing all the oversharing moments that just spewed forth from my lips. Ugh. Thank goodness I don’t publish on here every thought I actually say out loud. Awkward!
  2. I get extremely frustrated during transition times with my kids. Daycare pickup is the absolute WORST. I’m overwhelmed. They’re talking and arguing over each other for my attention. We all end up with our feelings hurt when I have to SHUT IT DOWN.

^^^ It honestly didn’t take much to come up with those. ^^^

The exercise then asked the women to say or describe five positives. I’ll take this one step further, in honor of the book I’m currently reading – Walking with Purpose, and say it can’t be about my job or my duties as a mother or wife.

giphy4Ummmm…. Hmmmm… Maybe…. ?

  1. I am compassionate for ALL things. I catch spiders and release them outside. I don’t want anyone to suffer. If it has to be the end for a living creature, I want it to be quick and painless. Hungry? I want to feed you. Confused? Let’s figure this out.
  2. I very rarely rush to judgement. I like to gather my own research before forming an opinion. I have friends from all sides of the political, geographical, and faith spectrum. Discussions, when respectful, are thought-provoking and enlightening, even if I disagree with the other parties.
    giphy5
  3. I am determined. Four years and two babies ago, I decided if I ever wanted to get in shape and feel good mentally, physically, and emotionally, I had to make it happen. No one else could do that for me. It was MY job to exercise; MY job to make devotion time; MY job to figure out where my life was going. Yes, I have a husband, two littles, a job, a pet, family, friends, etc… but what was my path? my goal? Was I just supposed to feed small people and handle advertising from my computer? No.

    I have a bigger purpose. It is one that is constantly evolving and coming into focus as I make another trip around the sun.

  4. Honesty. I told my children that if they ever ask me a question (which they do 3:1 for every statement – truly, I counted), I will ALWAYS tell them the truth. Don’t want to know about Santa? Don’t ask unless you want the truth and history behind Ol’ Saint Nicholas. What happened to Nana & Papa’s old dog? It died because a body gets old and unable to heal. NOT that it went to live on another farm with other old dogs…. Right Mom and Dad?

    I really think honesty is key here. We sugar coat too much to the point where the next generation won’t understand reality.
    giphy6

  5. Love. Love for my family. Love for my friends. Love for people I don’t even know. I am unconditionally loved by God and want to share that love with those around me.

    I separate love from “like” and “enjoy” and “happiness.” Sure, those are comfortable feelings, but in the uncomfortable is where we grow, support, and care for one another. It’s easy to give a high-five or a smile at the end of a game. It isn’t as easy to sit with a bestie after her engagement ends or know what to say when a friend miscarries, but those are the places that love illustrates beauty. Spending time volunteering to give a hand up to the less physically fortunate or going to an elder care facility and touching a frail, lonely hand, that’s love. Parenting with grace (so hard sometimes!) is another form of love.

    We don’t all “do” love the same way, but think of the world if we all “did” real uncomfortable love in SOME way for somebody.

So there it is. My five positives and my two negatives are out there. Time well spent looking a little deeper into myself.

Much love — Jen

Family · Love · Parenting · Perspective

Pink Sequins

Pink sequins. That’s what my daughter chose to wear this morning for school.

pink sequins2We could have argued about it. The pink sequins adorn her dance recital costume – a pink sequined sleeveless leotard with a pink glittered tulle skirt. She chose to pair it with a pair of faux-denim jeggings, her favorite Minnie Mouse sandals, and a mint colored bow. She asked for a “ballerina bun” in her hair. Glowing with happiness, she was pretty proud of the fashion statement she put together .

There was no argument this morning. The outfit covers everything it needs to. It fits our 3 rules about dressing for school:

  1. Covers all the necessary body parts.
  2. At least close to seasonally appropriate.
  3. No major holes or stains.

It’s not just that I’m tired and nursing a migraine for the second day. It isn’t just that this is the end of the line for this year’s school. “Pick your battles” doesn’t completely cover it. Although she is absolutely adorable and made her dad melt when she pranced out in it, that’s also not it.

This is about trust. Yes, you read that right. How could letting her kid wear a pink sequined dance costume to school be about trust?

It occurred to me a few days ago that I’m constantly asking begging my children to make good choices about things that we, as adults, care about. Her father and I have high expectations for both children’s decision making skills. This situation was something that SHE has strong feelings about.

My little fashionista followed our rules about how to dress appropriately. She picked out the outfit herself. She dressed herself. These are big things for a four year old! This was her saying “Look mom! TRUST me! I’m listening!”

This was a BIG deal in her little world.

Pink Sequins

One of the most eye-opening moments as a parent comes when you realize that this little child is, in fact, a little person with unique opinions, big feelings, and an original personality. Inquisitive, stubborn children grow into complex, intelligent adults who make millions of choices. As a parent, it is my job to guide and trust her on these small glittery choices. By doing so, someday she will make larger decisions with faith in herself.

Moment by moment, she’s growing up.

Faith · Love · Perspective

She Lives On.

On Monday, we attended a beautiful funeral. Funeral and beautiful in the same sentence. That’s hard to write. It was throat-tightening hard to attend too.

The phone call 14 months ago that told us Mary Ann had pancreatic cancer took our breath away. She was young in years and spirit, vibrant, with her first grandbaby just having arrived a few months earlier.

She fought like a warrior. Full of grace. Determination. And yet always with a smile on her face. An easy, smooth laugh. All characteristics her three children have.

I’d only met and spent time with her here and there when events with her daughter -my husband’s college friend, wife to his best friend and now my close friend- brought us to the same location. I knew Mary Ann on a surface level. After hearing her eulogy written and read by her daughter, I know the joyful and loving soul I experienced was just the tip of the iceberg. Her love, faith, and kindness was deep and all-encompassing. She was beautiful.

She IS beautiful.

She lives on in the example she gave in her marriage. She lives on in the way her children love and forgive. She lives on in all the lives she touched through her service in the church and community.

She LIVES. Her body was tired. Her soul no longer needed it. She IS smiling with God, greeted by Jesus with a joyful embrace.

I sit at my desk – Friday evening – work is done and over, typing this as tears stream down my face. Her physical life was beautiful but her soul IS beautiful.

I am completely inept at funerals. I don’t know how to console anyone. I never ask if someone is ok, because honestly, no one is. But Linds, I hope these words bring comfort to Ash, Chris, Gary, you and your family. I faithfully believe them.

We love you all.

Love · Perspective

Orlando

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What a beautiful whirlwind trip! First I have to thank all my family, bio and in-law, for adding my littles to their lives for a few days. They also encouraged me to relax and enjoy this trip… which was necessary as it is the third of four weekends I was out-of-state in February. By the time I touched down at the end of our 5 days, I was thoroughly convinced life needs to change.

Day 1: On the first of two flights, I sat across from a nice young lady headed for San Antonio, TX. The winds were strong on both take-off and landing and we simultaneously gripped our armrests. A quick jog thru Houston and then some seat shifting… I ended up getting to sit with my husband and a nice older man from Southern California. We chatted about various topics until we parted upon landing in Orlando. I’ve heard that is something only Midwest people do. We strike up conversations with absolute strangers and expect them to talk with us.

Fast forward thru the chaos of Orlando baggage claim… and getting our rental car… and not being sure how to turn the headlights on or dim them in said rental car at 10pm while pulling onto a busy highway… 

We’ll brush past 10-15 minutes of waiting at the four star resort/ hotel/ timeshare in line to check-in for our room that was supposed to be a nice suite, but ended up being a small room with 1980’s decor, a wall of mirrors, and fluorescent lighting with a 2-3 minute delay after you flipped the switch with two full-sized beds… but it was clean. So I’ll give them that… 

(Although we were promised a suite on Sunday, the hotel never came thru with that offer. Oh well! We weren’t in the room for much more than showers and sleep anyway.)

Our bellhop was amazing. I believe his name was Fadi. He looked to be about 20yrs old. Very helpful. Very knowledgeable. And bless his heart, he tried to get the room situation straightened out. Didn’t happen, but he gets huge bonus points for trying. He also provided us with a pizza delivery service number that would deliver until midnight, which was good since it was 11pm before we got to our room. 

Day 2: We skipped breakfast and slept. Our first stop was for an early lunch at Gator’s Dockside. I ate alligator tail! It was delicious. Honestly. As we joke in the midwimg_0566est, it “tastes like chicken.” After a tasty lunch paired with an excellent mojito, the hubs and I decided to explore the southern part of Orlando, Kissimmee, and St. Cloud. 

It was like we were dating again. Jokes. Flirting. Free flowing laughter. Hand holding <– This is rare in our relationship.

Unplanned stops. Spontaneous and easy. But honestly, how did we travel before GPS???

Our ultimate goal for the day was a bowfishing trip on Lake Tohopekaliga. We are both novices at bowfishing but I’m usually up for anything that doesn’t involve claustrophobia. Riding on an air boat was also on my bucket list. Check it off!

It was a gorgeous evening on the lake. Our target was tilapia. Any tilapia we got were already spoken for by some locals (we didn’t want to freeze them and ship home). Any other fish like the gar or chub were quickly enjoyed by all the gators swimming around the lake. It was a fabulous evening and we were fairly successful for first time bowfishers.

Day 3: SeaWorld. I’ve been once before in San Antonio. Neither of us are much for amusement parks or themed anything, so Orlando is kind of a stretch in terms of entertainment. Fortunately, SeaWorld isn’t all just rollercoasters and rides. We took the time to see every single animal there. The guilty feeling was thick because we were doing this without the kids.

After cleaning ourselves up following miles upon miles of walking and multiple sunscreen applications at SeaWorld, he took me out for an extremely nice dinner. Cloth napkins. Cloth tablecloths. Salad forks. The works. Our children would not have eaten a single thing at that restaurant. And amazingly, I’m not sure we even talked about the kids at the table that night! It was all him and I conversations. We have so much more in common than just children. After almost 15+ years together, I love that we can still connect like that.

Day 4: The ARA Rental Show at Orlando Convention Center. Over 600 booths. That was our main goal for going to Orlando. We stopped at booths and checked out equipment for four hours. It was very educational for me.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not followed by dinner at Chuy’s topped off the day. 

Day 5: 2am CT/ 3am ET. That’s what time we got up. Oh Mylanta! Our rental car had to be returned to the airport after a 30 minute drive. Who knew the airport was a special kind of crazy that early in the morning??? Props to the Orlando International Airport and those hard-working people for United Airlines. They were hustling, assisting, and moving people in a pace that upon reflection, was incredible efficiency. We were thru the check-in process, baggage check and security in only 40-45 minutes.

Have I mentioned that going through airline security is a humbling experience? It puts EVERYBODY on the same playing field. Everybody is shoe-less. Everybody is arms up and imagescanned. I’ve been patted down and my bag dug around in. It doesn’t matter if you a glittering with diamonds and carrying a $1000 bag or wearing a worn out backpack with flip flops on. Everybody has to go thru security.

I’m good with it. Pat me down. Ask me questions. Root around in my stuff. Remember that fear I have of flying? I want everybody to land safe and sound. And honestly, after having babies, there isn’t anything you are going to see on that scanner that half a room full of people at the hospital didn’t already witness…

Reading Material for the Trip: I finished the book “Present over Perfect” on the trip. We were literally landing on our last flight as I read the last page. Present over Perfect. What a sea change! 

For most of this book, I shook my head in shame. It was like she was reading my internal thoughts. On this trip, I decided to be completely present with my husband. Perfect? Not even close to possible, but present. Absolutely. I’m so glad I did.

Now it’s time to start practicing it at home and with my friends. I’m starting by saying no to something going on tomorrow and yes to an invite that means hospitality. Not perfection.

Welcome. There will be dust on the floor and cups in the sink. Come on in.

 

Love · Perspective · Uncategorized

The Scientist – Dating my Husband

One of my favorite songs the past few weeks is “The Scientist” by Coldplay. It came out over a decade ago, but recently it caught my ear. It’s easy to sing. I enjoy the minor tones. And I love the message that I take from it:

Come up to meet you, tell you I’m sorry
You don’t know how lovely you are

I had to find you
Tell you I need you
Tell you I set you apart

Tell me your secrets
And ask me your questions
Oh, let’s go back to the start

I’m not sure if I’m taking the written message the right way, but to me it’s all about making that connection. Making the EFFORT to make that connection

Running in circles
Coming up tails
Heads on a science apart

Nobody said it was easy
It’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard

We’ve been together since 2000. My oh my. That does seem like ages ago.

I was starting my senior year of high school. He was starting his sophomore year of college. Our dates consisted of Messenger chats and him coming back to my high school for my sporting events and a few hours of time together after they were done.

I did go on a date with someone else in college. I wanted to test the waters. See if I wanted to keep doing the long-term thing or date other people. It was a resounding “I don’t want to date anyone else” moment by the end of that night. I knew how good I had it. My husband was and is a keeper.

Fast forward almost 17 years. We’ve been married for 11.5 years. We’ve grown up and learned strengths, weaknesses, and held each other when it hurt. There’ve been fights and  frustration. Moments where a drive alone was necessary.

I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
Tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh, and I rush to the start

And we keep coming back together to figure it all out.

Dating each other is important. Me giggling on the couch. The way he laughs when something funny catches him off-guard. Real time together. Snippets of time in the kitchen alone without the kids. Flirting. That arm slipping around me while I’m washing the dishes after dinner.

Asking those questions that neither of us really want to, but know we need to. Then working through the answer.

Raising our children together.

Running in circles
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy
Oh, it’s such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard

I’m going back to the start

I don’t want this to sound like we are struggling. We are deeply happy. But to stay that way, we have to keep going back to how we connected. To keep that passion and interest in each other- Ask what he’s reading. Give a little pat as I pass by. Keep dating each other.

Keep going back to the start.

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Faith · Family · Health · Love · Perspective

Socks on the Floor

I read a woman’s journal entry today on her site. It is titled “Stop Being a Butthole Wife.” It was blowing up on Facebook news feed. Most of my friends are young wives or husbands. Many have children. It fits for where we are in life.

It is obvious by the number of times it has been shared that it touched a nerve. So here’s my perspective on relationships and what I took from her writing:

  • I can’t even fathom what it means to lose a spouse. I don’t think devastated is a deep enough word for that level of hurt. My husband and I joke about who would be on our “list” if something ever happened to one of us. Honestly, it ends up being a humorous analysis and conversation. At the root of it all is the FACT that he would want me to be happy and move on if he was no longer alive. I reciprocate that sentiment.
  • All those little nitpicky things like socks on the floor, his belt and pocket contents on our kitchen counter, and his mug next to his chair where he ate graham crackers and milk before bed – TINY inconsequential occurrences. These really don’t matter in the panoramic view of our life together. That I know they exist feels comfortable to me. This is his house too. He rarely comments about my bra hanging on the bathroom doorknob and when he does, it’s because company is coming… We try to extend grace to one another.
  • There is so much beauty in a committed relationship. We submit to each other daily thousands of times a day. Why do you always have to be right? You don’t. A huge weight is removed once you confidently are able to recognize that. Do we agree all the time? No, we aren’t playing make-believe house. Disagreeing is healthy. It means we both have a voice. It allows us to maintain ourselves as individuals.
  • I ordered flowers for two different funerals today. My nephew had brain cancer at 18 months and is now a healthy 9 year old. My dad had cancer twice – stage 4 the 2nd time. He is 5 years with no detectable cancer now. We lost my mother-in-law at age 54 two years ago in March to a sudden brain bleed. The innocent get sick. We are helpless to fix it. Those we love pass away.

People – socks on the floor don’t matter.

Maybe I’m writing this because I learned a number of years ago that perfection isn’t possible. I was a perfectionist until I united my life with my husband’s 11 years ago. I was a butthole wife at that point. Young. Naive. Ridiculous. Trying to make my life pinterest-perfect. We’ve had this conversation. I’m still a work in progress, but I know we are in this together for the long haul.

I’ll keep picking up those socks and he’ll keep reminding me about my bra on the doorknob before our company walks in the door. It’s a partnership of love and grace. And it’s totally worth it.

Family · Love

Blowing in the Wind (aka Parenting)

Parenting is like the wind. We have days of solid calm. There are days of sweet, springy air that seems to breathe soft and slow. Moments occur where it whips into a frenzy, then settles back down. Sometimes it blows hard, fast, and full of dirt.

Lately, the wind has been blowing hard and full of dirt; as in knock my child down hard. My yard is littered with tree branches. My favorite hammock is shredded. The birds struggle to fly against the wind. The weather is a very literal analogy and reflection to parenting as of late. Nothing seems to be calm. My children are asserting themselves and tasting tiny drops of independence. We are working to guide them with this new found responsibility. It has been a bumpy road. A bumpy road that almost led to a glass door being opened and blown by the strong winds and broken today after our son was told NOT to open the door multiple times.

What a delicate balance it is.

The truth is that some parts of parenting are not enjoyable. The quote “this hurts me more than it hurts you” is applicable no matter what type of parenting plan you are striving to follow. My son thought his world was ending when he was not allowed to play with his grandpa after the door incident. We listened to 30+ minutes of sobbing from his room. He was safe and physically not hurt, but his heart was breaking. He emerged still sad but coherently told us what the bad choice was and what the better choice would have been. Did I want to go comfort him? Absolutely, but sometimes bad choices mean losing out on something fun.

There are frenzied whirlwinds where we ask “do fits get us what we want?” (NO, never) There are fleeting days of solid calm. Snack goes smoothly. Eyes close easily for naps – PTL if they happen at the same time! They work out arguments without needing a mediator (ages ~2 and ~4).

Mostly there is some sort of wind. It keeps us on our toes and brings in fresh, new experiences. What is life without the spice of variety?

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Blow beautiful child blow.

The winds push and swirl.
While you dance carelessly and twirl.

Blow innocent child blow.

The gentle wind speaks soft.
Your fancies soar like clouds aloft.

Blow wise child blow.

The harsh winds bluster.
Your innocent world they fluster.

Blow strong child blow.