Thursday, November 10, 2016

Who I'm Really With

Another day set aside to work on what I will say to a group of women who have graciously invited me to share my thoughts and humor (and dare I say, wisdom...probably not) and here I sit blogging instead, but I need to write to get some things off my mind and heart and then I will be free to focus. (Ladies of FFBC, I promise I will say more than "Jesus loves you!" although in reality that would be enough.)

I have been so encouraged over the last 36 hours. Not because my candidate won, because I didn't vote for him, and not because she lost, even though I wasn't with her either. 

(And I didn't write in my own name, though I was tempted. This would be my platform: Coffee, drunk while still warm, uninterrupted bathroom time, and salted caramel chocolate for breakfast - this exact kind. Get some. And get me some more. And excuse the poor photo quality. Ain't nobody got time to edit pictures because as I established I'm not supposed to be blogging!)  

And I also wasn't encouraged because of any great hope I have for things getting repealed or new things being passed, or things being left as they are, or new justices, or anything government related at all. 

Because who knows? I don't have a crystal ball. 

The thing I do know is that at the end Jesus comes back, and I get to go with Him to a wedding feast. 

But even that, while unbelievably encouraging, and really unfathomable, isn't what has me so encouraged about the last 36 hours. 

For the first time in my life, I have friends, actual friends, not acquaintances, who don't look like I do, or always think like I do, or throw birthday parties like I do. Some of them could be considered elderly (although I heard 80 is the new 20) and some are babes to me. Some I can barely understand and I know they don't understand my loud southern voice. We don't have the same language, but I adore them, and I'm pretty sure they like me. They are my friends

I was a part of a group text on election night. Six of us were texting, fingers flying, being continually floored by the history playing out before our eyes, and within that group of six at least three different candidates were represented.  

I was with a lot of these people yesterday, in the brutiful school our darlings attend and at Bible study in our church home. I hugged them. I was teary with them. We discussed amounts of wine consumed the night before and how much coffee we needed to get through the day. We squeezed hands and exchanged meaningful glances. 

And at the end of a day where my path crossed the path of so many different lives and cultures and ended with tucking three freshly washed, delicious smelling girls into bed, reading the next chapter from Alice in Wonderland, and then going to find my husband, who was reading an actual book, this is the thought I had:

We are with each other.

We are not with any one candidate, or any one belief system, or even one theology. We think differently. But we are with each other. We are doing this life together.

I was so proud of all of us. 

And one day, we will all be with Jesus. 

And until that day, Grace.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Is it Plagiarism if You Speak It?

Being the if-it-isn't-on-the-calendar-it-won't-happen kind of girl I am, several weeks ago I marked off this day as a day to sit and prepare for a speaking engagement I have next weekend. Nothing, no nothing, would interfere. I would drop the people off at school and return to my cozy, clean home and write the day away.

I had a long list of things I needed to do yesterday in order to make today perfect - I didn't want to be distracted by the laundry that needed to be done and the dishes left in the sink and the general disarray of our house. 

I also planned on going to the three grocery stores I frequent regularly, buying specific items from each one so that all my coffee and snacking needs could easily be met today.

But yesterday started off with the baby, who usually bounces around for roughly 93% of her day, claiming her stomach hurt, so right off the bat the day was way different from what I planned. I did get a lot of snuggling done and even a nap and exactly nothing to prepare me for today. 

So my house still looks like this:

Send help.

As a result of yesterday's getting nothing on my list doneness this morning I tried to cram a days' worth of errands into 90 minutes and said to heck with the household chores, they will still be there when I get around to them six months from now. 

I started out by screeching through the school parking lot, kicking children out doors and screaming about not forgetting their lunchboxes and be kind and oh, yeah, Jesus loves you, now hurry up and gather your crap and get out!

Then I tore through Kroger throwing everything and anything in my cart. I bought ten pounds of butter because it was an awesome sale. I forgot bread.

Next stop was a pet store (part of Dante's seven circles) to buy a hamster to replace the dearly departed one from the first grade who lived a grand total of three days. I walked in and announced I needed a hamster stat and when she asked me if I wanted to hold it I almost threw up. (Have we talked about me and animals yet? A future post...) When she told me he could chew through the cardboard box they put him in I demanded they double box him. I careened back through the school parking lot and passed him off to the secretary (my hero) and flew home, unloaded groceries and took my first breath of the morning.  

I have several thoughts of what I want to say to this sweet group of women the Lord is entrusting to me for 20 minutes or so, so I walked around perusing my overflowing bookshelves looking for books that jumped out at me as having similar themes to what is swirling around in my head. And that picture at the top are the ones I pulled. Quite a variation. They all "spark joy" for me when I touch them or think of them or talk about them, so I'm now kinda leaning towards just pulling together 20 minutes worth of quotes from them. I don't believe I can add to "Live right on." (Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry) or "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt." (If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits? Erma Bombeck) or "I'll complain and joke about parenting and kids, but every parent knows its a heroic endeavor and we participants need to laugh at it." (Dad is Fat, Jim Gaffigan)

Parenting certainly got in the way of the plans I had for yesterday and today. Hopefully flipping through these books can show me the humor in it, the worthiness of it, the sacredness of it.

And I just might get a speech out of them, too.

Grace for Hamsters and Speech Writers and Days That Don't Go According to Plan,

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Campground People

It's been a while...

But let's pick up where we left off, shall we?


I am a convert.

I. Love. It.

I know what you're thinking, some crazed person has hacked my blog.

Nope. I love it.

Well, actually...

I don't love it.

I don't love the bugs or the smoky smell that clings to every part of me or the work involved in planning out meals or the sweating/freezing (because it's either one or the other in this here area of Tennessee). 

I also don't love the dirt that sticks to my bare feet and no matter how hard I try to avoid it ends up in my bed or the whining about when we will get there or the nagging I am forced to inflict upon my husband when he is driving way too fast with the giant house we are pulling behind us (ok, I kind of like nagging). 

And I don't like the fast showers I have to take when there aren't water hook-ups at the campsite and we are depending on the potable water holding tank and I'm slightly annoyed by all the new terms I have been forced to learn like "potable water," (a.k.a. drinkable. Why can't we say drinkable?) "gray water tank," (a.k.a. gross water that goes down drains from showers and washing hands and cooking) and "black water tank" (a.k.a. the grossest water you can imagine which comes from exactly where you are imagining and contains exactly what you are imagining).

Also don't love the words "dump station." Because dump station. Ew.


I love building a fire and sending the girls to gather dry leaves to add to the fire and hearing them giggle when they throw armfuls at each other. I love watching the flames lick the cleanly split pieces of cedar and seeing a girl wrinkle her darling nose at the cinnamony smell it emits which makes her sneeze.

I love putting on sweatshirts and snuggling into my camping chair with a girl because my chair is so much comfier than hers even though they are identical and accepting her excuses because she won't fit on my lap for too much longer.

I love roasting marshmallows and blowing them out for the girl who continuously burns hers and I love eating just one more piece of Hershey's chocolate.

I love watching the girls strike out on their own on bikes we gave them a second ago but are now too small to go to the playground where they will make friends with the Boy on the Green Bike as he will come to be known.

I love biking to the Outpost to buy a push-up pop and sitting on the porch eating it and talking to the lady who runs the store and wants to wait to sweep the porch until after we've finished our treat so she doesn't get dust on our orange ice-cream so we just chat a bit while she leans on her broom.

I love hearing the whole camp whoop and holler when the team forces the game to double overtime and feeling solidarity with people I can't even see in the growing darkness but who are obviously kindred spirits. 

I love the crazy coincidence of camping next to kids Preston teaches and watching him interact with a child who adores him and parents who are appreciative of him. I love when we hear "Coach Brooks!" hollered out by some big guys he taught five or six years ago but still want to tell him about the blue gill they caught. 

I love how the girls share a chair and one annoys the other by trying to kiss her cheek.

I love how the Baby says the sunset is so pretty she will remember it forever. And she thanks us for bringing her here.

I love how the Homebody reluctantly admits she likes coming here and maybe we should go ahead and reserve a place for next Fall Break.

I love reading the Psalms by the fire. 

I love looking out over the lake and listening to the waves lap against the rocky shore and watching the girls trying to convince each other the snake is gone and teaching me about mussels and finding shells by the hundreds, all of which must be taken home with us.

I love how my Favorite's eyes sparkle across the fire when we are silently laughing over the question of who will marry whom and when, which is being very seriously discussed among these children who are all still in single digits.

And then how our eyes get misty when we realize in that same glance how soon their weddings will come and how we both know we are wishing we could freeze this moment, in this place, and be here forever. In a flash all this Crazy will be gone.

All those things can happen here at our house. We can build fires and have meaningful conversations and forget bedtimes and kiss each other's cheeks.

But they don't. And no matter how much we say they will, they won't. We get distracted by the next assignment, the upcoming event, the need to make a grocery run, the ball practice, the dinner, the voice mails, the emails, the texts, the bills, the jobs, the cars, the supper. The Busy.  

Life at the campground is messy and dirty and buggy and smelly and smoky and full of snakes. So that I don't love. 

But I love who we are when camping. We are relaxed and kind and patient and loving and fun. Busy, which seems to steal all those things, doesn't exist at the Campground.

So now we are a part of The Campground People, a conglomerate which I feel should actually be a sub-population group and have equal representation in Congress. We'd vote in two day work weeks and the national nutrition guidelines would include 3-4 servings of hot dogs a day and fitness regulations would mandate biking to the store to buy a candy bar and participating in the camp kickball game and in good conscience we could only recommend three showers per weekBecause potable water shortages. 

I hope you have a place where Busy doesn't exist for your family. 

If you're lucky it's at a place with room service.

But for us it's by the dump station. With the rest of The Campground People.

Grace for Busy Seasons and Strength to Get to the Next Campground,

Saturday, July 30, 2016

To Camp

First of all, I just want to know if this stuff ever happens to other people? I mean, it seems like this kind of nonsense happens to us all the time. I even looked at Preston at one point and said, "Does this crap (I used a different word which will anger my mother if I type it here) happen to other people? For real. Or are we crap magnets?"

A big part of me thinks we must just be those people stuff happens to. A prime example would be about two years ago our rear windshield got SHOT OUT, of all things, on Hilton Head Island, of all places, and we had to drive home in pouring rain with cardboard and duct tape across our car, and it kept coming off because DUCT TAPE ISN'T WATERPROOF and an eight hour trip took forty-two days. When we were telling the story to our dumbfounded community group someone even commented, "Man! Ya'll always have the best stories." Best. Right.  

So is it just us who gets dealt the hand full of jokers?

I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

Last post I believe we discussed buying an RV, which if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know we did. Technically, it's a travel trailer, which means we pull it with the truck. It is 28 feet long and the truck is 19 feet long so we are roughly the size of a cruise ship careening down the highway. 

It has been parked DIRECTLY in front of our house all summer. Like the good redneck family we are. 

We finally got a chance to camp in it last week when went to a state park close by. During literally the hottest week of the summer. Lillian goes, "I hope nobody gets breast stroke." Um, me, too, kid. Or heat stroke which is probably more likely.

The RV has AC and this particular park has some awesome natural grotto swimming holes with freezing water, so we knew we'd be fine even though we were camping on the surface of the sun.

Until Eva unintentionally almost caught a dadgum copperhead with her bare hands while she was trying to catch minnows in the aforementioned picturesque grotto. And then Preston had to reason with his four women that "the snake is more scared of us than we are of him." 


But we happened to be at a place where literally the only path out was to swim, so I gritted my teeth and fake agreed with him so everyone would get back in the water and we could escape the viper pit of death.

While hiking to a different grotto, the snake spotting girl almost stepped on another copperhead. Preston continued insisting the snakes are scared of us. More lies.

And while swimming in the different grotto, we saw six more copperheads. Six. They were not afraid of us. However I do think they were afraid of the Hispanic grandmother who was yelling at Lillian and me to "Vete! Vete! VETE!" out of the water because I know I was quick to obey her commands even though I wasn't totally sure what she was yelling. She had spotted two more, NOT swimming along the rocky edge, where Preston had tricked us into believing was their favorite spot. No, apparently these copperheads are the owners of that grotto because they were swimming right out in the middle beside my husband who had taken the older two girls to cliff jump. 



Into Copperhead Lake. 

At that point I said, and I quote, "I'm sure you are right that the venomous demon snakes are super scared because they sure seem to be, what with their hopping right up onto my raft and grabbing a sip of my coke, but I am done with this and so are these children I bore." (All characters exit grotto behind woman in sexy skirted bathing suit.)

We did have a really nice two days, played lots of PayDay, where we discovered one child regularly swipes $1000s from the bank when no one is looking, thus answering the question how she ended up with $2.7 million and the rest of us each had ten bucks, baking cakes inside hollowed out oranges, and including the girls, for the first time, in the discussion of what our family wants to be about this year. (We added a "Our family wants to be about no cheating at PayDay" clause.) The girls made friends with some other kids camping close by and rode scooters and bikes, and played on the playground and slapped mosquitoes. Summer stuff. It truly was bliss.

Guess the cheater. She looks so innocent.

First trip deemed successful. Good times had by all. Time to head out. Everything is packed and everyone is in bathing suits because we are headed straight to an awesome pool in the nearby town for a few hours before we head home.

Unplug everything. I'll get the water unhooked. Uh, hey, Preston? I think this tire is flat. Yup, sure is. Mutter bad words. He'll change it when he gets the truck hooked up. I'll go bring in the slide-out.

Uh, hey, Preston? I know I just told you about the tire, and you seem super excited about that so I'm thrilled to be able to tell you this information: the slide isn't working. I AM pushing the button. Yes, the right button. Fine, you push it. Maybe your finger is magic. (sarcasm is beginning to creep in) No magic fingers. More bad muttering. Sweat is dripping. It's 100 degrees with a heat index of 80 million. My sexy thick bathing suit/dress made for grandmas has become an item of torture. I have lost 50 pounds. Preston's shirt is soaked. 

Try to charge battery that appears to be dead. Not charging. Muttering has gone up a decibel or ten. Girls sent to play with new friends to prevent their ears from falling off.   

Hook truck up to reroute RV battery to truck battery through the rotogirders. Or something. Doesn't work. Cannot google problem because no cell service here in Copperhead Hollow. Walk to bathhouse where signal is the slightest bit stronger. Call manufacturer of travel trailer. Leave voice mail. 

Sweat. Death is imminent. Or breast stroke. 

I drive to the check in point to assure them we won't be checking out on time. I have a cell signal, thank you Jesus, so I google the problem and discover all slides can be cranked in manually.

Rush back to site to tell muttering husband. 

Search desperately for the slide motor. Eureka! Behind couch. And under it. Behind locks. Guarded by pit bulls. Never to be reached. 

Phone miraculously rings! The manufacturer is returning our call! And cannot help us in any way! 


Search for crank that is supposed to be with the trailer specifically designed to reach it. Previous owners must have it. Oldest child comments, "Maybe this is why they sold it to us so cheap." Parents are not amused. Child wisely returns to TV show she is watching.

But, Preston! He has packed tools! 

Rig up something. Rigged something will only work for a few inches, then slide motor will again be out of reach.

Encourage Preston to use the mallet to smash through the whole entire RV and campgound dinette. Things can always be replaced but you will have a hard time finding another wife to take on this mess. Takes his chances on a new wife. Asks neighbors for crank. They in turn ask more people. No one has this magic crank. Once again smashing is suggested only to be met with eye rolling. Apparently he does not value his life. 

Preston concedes he will need to saw. Asks around for saw. Finds one. I consider staying.  

Lie on back with sharp saw slipping around from all the sweat and begin to saw into the dinette. Saw slips. Major artery knicked. Slap on a bandaid and saw some more. Sweep up the sawdust. It's sticking to my sweaty neck and causing hives. I obediently sweep considering who what all I could possibly smash with a dustpan. Neighbor knocks. He has asked a ranger for help. Apparently rangers are helpful. This has not occurred to us. Rangers arrive with the elusive crank. Rangers also help change tire. Angels sing. In ten minutes we are on our way. Three hours after our original departure time.

The problem has since been fixed; it was in fact the battery. Had we driven into the town 20 minutes away and purchased a battery... 

Well, Martha, at least you got a blog post out of it.

I let him live.

Grace (for Preston),

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

To Camp or Not to Camp? Is that a Serious Question?


Saying the word, typing the word....really just reading the word feels like a sigh of relief in my brain.

Summer has always been the goal, what I am living for, the dangling carrot. I never liked school. I wanted to go because that is where my friends were, but I did not want to learn anything. 

What I really wanted was Summer. Time to read a book a day and see my friends without the side order of learning.

Plus we usually took really fun vacations and always saw cousins with whom we jumped (or pushed) off the pier into icy Lake Michigan, stayed up late playing pitch black games of Capture the Flag or having Skip-Bo marathons, set up roadside stands to sell the plethora of cucumbers my mom just could not turn into one more batch of pickles, and presented "shows" from which our parents are still scarred. 

Summer was the Bliss That Lasted Forever. 

I fortunately married a teacher as well as became one so, if possible, summers became even more magical. We would sleep until 10 am, go to the pool, read an entire book, return home to nap because all that lounging at the pool wore us out, grill some supper and go to Blockbuster to pick the evening's entertainment which we would start around 10 pm. 

Then we had kids.

They ruined everything for a while. 

Did I type that out loud? 

But now they are fun. We like hanging out with them (for the most part). I think we are in the "golden years" of parenting: they can dress/wash/wipe themselves, play fun games instead of Candyland all the dadgum time (which kind of makes me want to sit down and sob when I think of Queen Frostine and Grandma Nutt and that freaky gumdrop guy), and they think we are awesome. 


And with these summers off Preston wants to show the girls the world. Or at least our continent. 

And as a single income family making serious teacher bank, we will be staying at all five star hotels.

Or camping. 

But we don't camp, and I have been very vocal over the years about how I will never camp, despite having some of our best friends who love to camp and want us to come with them. I will hike and sweat and cook over the fire and get muddy and swim in the pond scum but when it is time for bed, I need a bed in a house. 

(Also, our friends went camping a few weekends ago and there were actual shots fired in the middle of the night and a call to arms, of which they had none, and so that story did not make me want to leave my house much less camp. Everything turned out totally fine, but still!)

Quite the conundrum.

But because I am madly in love with My Redneck, who surprisingly never really camped either but really, really wants to show our kids the world

I will learn to camp.

So far we have camped twice, for a total of three nights. Let me entertain you with stories from those 72 hours.

First of all, you have to take SO MUCH STUFF. It took a full half day just to get all this crap together. (notice there is not a line item "coffee mugs")

Everything is finally loaded. We are ready to pull out. 

"The Good Lord is trying to stop us! Please don't fix the tire! I think I see the Baby Jesus' face in the shape of the deflated rubber! Flat tires are a sign, Man!"

But being the Redneck he is and knowing all the car things he knows the flat tire was not the deterrent I hoped thought it would be and really only slowed us down by about 15 minutes. 

We got our tent set up with no fighting (a Christmas miracle if there ever was one) and blew up all the air mattresses, which then barely fit. Apparently a six person tent is really only for six people if those six people are newborns. 

But we got all the mattresses jammed in there and had a decent evening. 

Exhibit of decency:

After plenty of sugar, we settled in for night one, and the best I can say is that we survived it.

Here were the issues:

1. A queen air mattress. 
  "Be still!" 
  "Scoot over!" 
  "I'm already hanging off the edge!" 
  "Why didn't you stop growing at a reasonable height?" 
  "When you move I literally fly three feet up in the air."

2. Freezing temperatures paired with thin sleeping bags and no extra blankets and a person who did not pack a sweatshirt because he said his wife was rushing him and therefore had to buy one from the state park gift store which was too small but they didn't have any in size Enormous and ended up trading with his wife who had packed her favorite sleeping sweatshirt (which technically belongs to him) because it is huge like a blanket and would keep her warm and now she had to suffer with the stupid state park sweatshirt that was not as huge and comfy.

3. A child who needs to use the bathroom all of the time. All. Of. The. Time.

4. A cold walk through tall dewy grass with the Bathroom Child. In the dark. Actually make that four cold walks.

5. The tent was outdoors. As in not in a building. 

But we survived and had a rather nice morning around the fire cooking sausage and drinking coffee straight from the French press.  

Before the next trip we decided we needed a bigger tent, more the size of our house. A friend Preston works with gave us a huge 8 person tent his family no longer used, we bought one of those screen houses to put around a picnic table so the bugs wouldn't make me nuts, and we headed off to another state park sure we would be amazing campers this time since we had already done it once for 20 hours. 

Again, we were able to get set up quickly and with no fighting. Preston and I traditionally argue when things like maps or instruction manuals or life are involved. But I am determined to camp and make it pleasant (or at least not miserable) for everyone so I kept my trap shut. Another Christmas miracle.


Except Preston only packed four chairs. Now I'm no mathematician, but last time I counted we have three kids plus two adults which equals five.


He offered to stand all weekend. I agreed.

Also the coziness was affected by the campers next to us, who just graduated college or more likely were just released from federal prison, who played music at the very top of the limit of sound volume while giving themselves alcohol poisoning. One time "Backstreet's Back" by the Backstreet Boys came on whatever station they/the entire campground was listening to and one of them hollered out, "Hey, everybody! Did you know Backstreet's back?" which for some reason struck me as hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing. Our youngest thought they were awesome and was dancing on the picnic table. The oldest, in typical oldest fashion, kept telling us all the rules they were breaking, and the middle girl wanted everyone to focus so she could continue beating us at All The Games. 

When they were still doing shots from their red solo cups at 10:30pm and the dropping of the F-bomb was becoming more of an every word thing than a drop, I insisted we call for backup. Like SWAT or the Green Berets or at the very least Seal Team 6. Preston felt like the park rangers could probably handle it. And they did. 

But then I couldn't sleep and had to take Bathroom Child out twice and had to go twice myself and the zipper on this tent mimics the wild screeching of a howler monkey so the night was rough. And that is the mildest description I can give without dropping the F-bomb myself. 

The next day was great. We cooked pancakes and hiked and played tennis and swam in a grotto and slid down natural water fall slides and saw beauty that robs you of breath and felt the satisfaction of having exhbitied courage. We discussed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at length and laughed and saw wildlife and in general had the best day.

Then comes the night. 

Shot Drinkers next to us had vacated the premises, clear skies, a million stars, tired little girls whom I was actually able to get showered in the bath house without puking or passing on my ridiculousness about how disgusting bath houses are. (although I did panic when one girl started to take off her flip flops and another actually leaned on the wall of the shower) 

It's going to be a great night. 

Except for those pesky summertime pop up thunderstorms that happened to pop up directly above our tent. 

The rain puddled on the rainfly exactly above my mattress. Of which we all now had our own and five twin size mattresses do not fit in an 8 person tent at all so even with the bigger tent we were all jammed up against the sides. And anything that is touching the side of the tent allows water to seep in. I will let you draw your own conclusions about that and your conclusions are right.

So Preston ran around in the rain yanking on the rainfly so it would stop dripping onto my forehead, throwing chairs into the truck, being my hero, while I soothed the child who is sure there will be a tornado every time it sprinkles and also the girl who was suddenly crying about missing the dog no one pays attention to. 

Everyone was so tired we did eventually fall asleep and sleep through a few more rain showers. 

As soon as the night was over we started another great day and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. 

So basically the problem is the sleeping and bathroom situation.

Solution: We are going to look at a travel trailer this weekend. 

Here it is:

And here's future Preston:

I don't know if RVing is considered camping or not to some of you people who rough it, but that is the direction in which we are leaning. I just cannot see us traveling for weeks or even a month at a time setting up and tearing down camp every day or two, walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and in general being exhausted without having serious marital strife.

And Preston has been pushing for the RV route all along because I swear that man knows me better than I know myself and he has never thought tent camping was really an option. 

So he has been researching travel trailers for the past four months and now, with my blessing, has negotiated a deal with a good ol' country boy who has a trailer to sell exactly like the kind Preston decided we need in order to do this. This guy just really seems to like our plan and has hit it off with Preston and is selling his RV to us at a major loss to himself. (Have you noticed how good ol' boys have a tendency to do things like that? I want to be more like that.) I've seen pictures and though it's not new it has a bathroom and a kitchen and a set of bunks and a bed for us. As long as the pictures match the real deal...  

This kind of camping I do believe I can do.

We have already figured out the trips we will take for the next seven or eight years. 

I cannot wait to see the girls' faces when we ride bikes along the rim of the Grand Canyon, drive across the Golden Gate bridge, watch Old Faithful erupt, canoe on Lake Louise, weep at the Lorraine Hotel, ride horses on Mackinac Island, eat lobster in Maine, remember our own trip to the Alamo, and take in a baseball game with their daddy in Busch Stadium. (I just threw that one in there. I can already tell you the girls' facial expressions when we have to do that: grim.)     

And maybe I am all pie in the sky and it will be a disaster and we will sell it after we take it two hours down the road for a night.

But we want the girls to experience things we cannot offer them here at Redneck Headquarters: to see how others live, to eat local cuisine, to overcome their fears, to make new friends (even with shot drinkers...maybe especially with shot drinkers), 

to appreciate all things and all people God has created. 

And maybe love and appreciate home a little more, too. 

To that end, I have been compiling a list of books to read to prepare us to see all the things on our first adventure next summer, to help us learn about why they are important, why we are stopping there, how our history was changed by what people sacrificed there. If you have suggestions please send them my way.Also, I cannot recommend highly enough this book I read about on Ann Voskamp's blog last week. I took it to the library yesterday and checked out a whole stack of picture books which the girls promptly poured over for two hours.

I really think this will be good. I hear from so many people about memories of trips their families took in RVs and how much fun they remember having. We want to be those people. I want more of this:

So to camp or not to camp?

For the 

Or maybe glamp.

Grace for Family Vacations,

P.S. A few updates:

1. I blogged a while ago about blogging for Compassion International, and while they remain my very favorite charity organization, I could not keep up with the schedule and had to admit I had bitten off more than I could chew.

2. About six weeks ago I wrote about how I would be blogging more again. All I have to say about that is it continues to be my goal. So in all likelihood, I'll see you again in about three months. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Finding Myself

This year.


If you have followed my facebook posts since last summer, read this blog, seen me drop my children off, talked to me for more than one minute, you know this year has been a struggle for me.

Kindergarten took me down for a bit.

I feel like my role has always been clear, I've been walking the path I fully expected, life has thrown some curve balls but nothing I couldn't hit.

Age 0-5: Babyhood, toddler, preschool years. Become chubby baby, throw temper tantrums, attach self to mother. Nothing unusual.

Age 6-18: Student. Learn things. Progressively harder things. Get into college.

Age 18-22: College student. Slight variation from previous studenthood as it is super fun. Get degree. Also meet man to marry. Marry him.

Age 22-27: Teacher. Boss around 11-14 year olds. Teach them things in between bossing. 

Age 27-36: Mother. Take care of my own baby, toddler, preschooler. All at the same time. Survive. That is all. 

Age 37-Jesus: Who am I now???????

I had a rough fall. Rough. Cried a lot. Missed my babies. Couldn't figure out what my point was. They are gone all day. What is my life about?

For the first time, EVER, I felt lost. Unsure of what my next step was, what the plan was, what was I working towards?  

And not that life wasn't hectic, because the exact opposite of that was true. Gone were leisurely mornings in front of Sesame Street, lying on the floor changing Barbie dresses hundreds of time, strolling the field picking flowers. 

Instead we have a mad dash every morning, getting everyone out the door with All The Things Signed (WHY must so many things be signed every night? There isn't enough ink in all the world for all the things that have to be signed.), making sure everyone has their lunch, and one they will like, making sure things are tucked and braided and all the morning things that crush me

After school is hectic, too. Homework has kicked into high gear this year, piano is a thing, there have been two after school clubs they have participated in that lasted a few weeks. 

So we were busy. 

But even though my hours were filled, I was becoming sadder all the time. Weary of the things I was doing. The things that simply felt like "fillers."

Why the struggle?

I think I was grieving the end of the Mothering Small Children Season.

Which honestly, wasn't my favorite season because it is so, so hard. I did not expect to experience the emotional depths of despair where I found myself. I still functioned, and wasn't lying in bed all day, but everything was gray, tasteless, overwhelming, almost too much.

Over Christmas break I read a book a friend recommended called The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. There are sections you fill in that help you make sense of your time, what is important, what you want to do, self-help type stuff.

And I recently read a quote from a Shauna Niequist book which I underlined, highlighted, circled, folded down and copied into my journal:

"It's not hard figuring out what you want your life to be about. What's hard is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about."

And I'm a person who feels better with a plan, a clear next step, a list. Love me a list. I've been thinking this through since Christmas, talking and praying with Preston, and gradually coming back to the light. 

So what follows is my manifesto, who I am now, what I want my life to be about, and what I don't, what I'm making space for 
and what I'm letting go: 

*This isn't really in an order. Don't judge that the girls are way down.*

1. Jesus. I want to breathe Him in and out. Which means I need to know Him. Which means I have to get up early because that calm hour before everyone else is awake is when the Holy Spirit whispers to me through His Word, through the light gently creeping through the windows, through the smell of the coffee and the warmth of the blanket tucked around my toes, the prayers scribbled in my journal. That hour is golden.

2. For #1 to happen, I have to go to bed at a decent hour. So that means I can't be about staying up late watching Kimmel or Friends reruns or reading about the latest idiocy of Donald Trump on Twitter. (Sorry to be political. I just CANNOT...I mean, Trump? Really???) And I really like to do all those late night things. But that morning hour is more important.

3. Piano. I have gotten back into playing, just for myself. I plink out some songs, sing along with the old hymns I remember singing on road trips with my Grandpa, and feel refreshed. The girls love it and think I play so beautifully. They are wrong, but it's fun. I'll sit in the room below theirs as Preston is settling them into bed and play "The Old Rugged Cross," "Jesus, What A Friend For Sinners," "Great is Thy Faithfulness," and mix in a little "Piano Man" and "Fur Elise." Those memories, those words are a balm to me.  

4. Playing piano in the evenings means I do all the night kitchen things like prep coffee, wipe counters, and make lunches at different times. I've worked it out, making coffee at supper cleanup, making lunches in the morning, and counters may just feel sticky. Ok, not may. If you lean on the counter you will be glued down. Which brings me to my next points.

5. I really like things picked up. Clutter, hoarding, leaving crap everywhere, the things my family is obsessed with, all make me crazy. So I pick things up constantly, yell at people to pick things up constantly, establish places for all the things. But I have had to just suck it up and accept that children live here, and I will be picking up after them. A lot. If I want the clutter under control. So I pick up. And yell. 

6. Cleanliness is not as important. It feels like it should be, and I don't want to live in a cesspool, but I just don't have a day a week I'm willing to give to that. And hiring someone to come in to clean is also out. So when you come here, counters may be sticky in spots, baseboards will be dusty, and the windows definitely won't be washed. I don't have a cleaning schedule. I clean it when I notice it. So although I would love a spotless house, I don't want it enough.

7. Exercise. I like the idea of it. I don't actually like it. So occasionally when things get a little jigglier than I'd like you'll catch me pumping iron, banging out a couple of miles, doing a video. But I really hate it. I love a walk through the woods, a hike to the high point of the farm, a bike ride. But an hour or even thirty minutes of planned out exercise isn't going to happen regularly. So my life isn't going to be about fitness competitions. Letting go of those size 0 jeans and going to trust my husband when he says I'm gorgeous, my stomach is beautiful because of the stretch marks that mean we have three children, and the fact that I reflect the Lord God. So not going to become a slug, but don't look for me on the cover of any magazines.

I did play that night, too, but only after I sat on the sidelines a while. 

8. My Redneck. Fifteen years of marriage is nothing to sneeze at. It has been hard. But he makes me more me. He makes life better. My spirits lift when he walks in the room. I want to serve him. Love him. Put him first. Whatever that means. Which can vary season to season. But I want to connect with him and know what it is he needs from me. 

9. Making sure I connect with Preston sometimes means I stay up late (even though #1 and #2) so I can see him when he comes in from whatever school event where he has been pouring himself out, allowing him to crash, heating him some supper and chatting, quietly sharing details of the day. Or it might look like letting it go when his clutter is all over the kitchen counter, or driving the girls out to wherever he is in this giant, urban sprawling city, so he can see them for five minutes. This is important. Because he is.

Waiting for Daddy...

10. Our girls. I want to show Jesus to them. All the time. This means I spend most of my days doing things for them, for the good of our family. No longer the diaper change stuff, but the packing of lunches, volunteering at school, cleaning (sometimes), chauffering friends, checking homework, sitting at the piano as they plink out their own lessons, jumping on the trampoline, catching the biggest frog because no one else will touch it, listening, praying, preparing meals, shopping for groceries, making appointments, holding hands while they get 87 cavities filled, praying some more, reading aloud.   

11. So I can do #8, 9, and 10 well, we have made the decision that even though they are all gone all day I will not return to full-time work at this point. Some women do and do so well, (I know some) and they amaze me. We actually thought and prayed about this quite a bit as there are several teaching positions available at the school the girls go to. Two salaries would be awesome. There would be so much more freedom in our lives. But for the good of the four I love most, and for my mental health, full time work isn't something I can do. Maybe someday I'll go back. I do love to boss. But my job now is taking care of our home and those God has placed in it. Making it a place of grace. Facilitating a space where my people can come and be refreshed to go out and be who they are created to be. I'm in charge of that. And it is a full time job. 

12. Gardening, yardwork, mowing, even weedeating. I love to watch things poke up through the earth, to be outdoors, to help facilitate beauty. My preferred nailpolish color is dirt. This is important, and we are making space for it in the schedule and the budget.   

13. Cooking. It was hard for lots of years to put a decent meal on the table because three other people were at my feet, on my hip, all up in my grill (literally). Now I have gotten back into it, the flash of the blade while dicing onions, the smells when the spices are added, the colors in the skillet. I am making time for that again. 

14. Reading. I love to read. I used to read a book a day in the summers. I am putting down my phone so I have time to read. Amazing how much time is freed up when I put down my phone.

My current reads...

15. Writing. I love this space. This blog. This place where I can process and put it out there and laugh and just maybe encourage another momma. It has taken a back seat. But it's important. I'm going to do my darndest to move it back up towards the front burner. 

Looking at that list, it seems long. 

Basically, I have come to the conclusion life is hectic. All the time. And sometimes we go through seasons where we aren't able to choose how our days go, we just live right on and do the next thing, like when a move comes up or caring for an elderly parent, or picking up shifts to pay the exorbitant car repair bill. 

But even in those days, I want to make room for the things that refresh me, that make me feel like my gifts are being used, that bring me joy. These are the things that make me who I am. 

And then, I am learning, those seasons where I don't get to choose the hectic are more manageable. 

And also, every single day, without fail, I breathe the prayer, "Lord, this is Your day." So even though I now have a list, that is my real manifesto. I think it has to be in the life of a believer. 

Thanks for processing along with me.

Maybe I have made it to the other side of the gate, so to say. The sadness of the fall has past, the new life of the spring has come. And I am discovering and remembering anew just who God made me to be. 

And now I have to be done with the task of blogging because I have to go prepare to camp. TO CAMP! Believe me, I am not choosing this. I really can't even fathom it. But four people who live here think it will be fun. So off we go. I'm sure there will be a blog post next week. And who knows...maybe next year's manifesto will involve making space for camping. 


Grace and grace and more grace,