Friday, December 30, 2011

The Human 'Race'

The other day, my six-year old son, Sam asked, "Mama, why does everything cost money?"

I immediately felt guilty imagining that we'd overemphasized the cost of things and worried that he may be feeling anxiety about money. 

His question got me thinking though, "What's free in life?"  In a world filled with zero percent, no interest financing for a bazillion months, three quick/easy installments of $19.99 and over-the-top consumerism...what do we value?

It's interesting that we're called the human race.  The natural inclination of all people seems to be to gravitate toward more, better, bigger, now.  We're racing toward the shiniest, newest invention that will make our lives easier, smoother, more convenient.  And as such, we'll be more creative, interesting, prettier people.  And, yet we all know that the feeling is fleeting and we're on to the next version of the iPhone.

So, what's free?  What's enduring?  What's sustaining?  In our is love and faith. 

Maybe, by our very make-up, we'll always be inclined to race toward something, but hopefully, at the end of the day, we'll pick each other instead of an iPad.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patience & Persistence

I've really got to pull my 'big girl' pants up and stop whining.

This morning, I trekked the 3 kids to the gym and started around the track.  My goal was to run 2 miles, walk 1 and then run the final 2.  Nice fantasy. 

Half-way through the first mile, my side started to ache, my pants felt like they were going to fall down (the joys of being in between sizes) and my confidence was plummeting.  So, I jumped on a treadmill and thought, "I'll finish this out here and be just fine."  That's of course, when I doomed myself.

It is so true that it takes moments to jump off the fitness band wagon and what feels like decades to get back on it...and in many respects, after you've left, it's almost as though you have to prove yourself worthy, before you get an invitation to rejoin the club.

I'm trying to stay positive, patient and persistent especially since it's only been a few weeks, but's hard.


I've been working on compiling a list of the people and experiences I am grateful for this past year.

Recognizing that we can't do it alone...any of it...there is so much to be said for saying, "thank you, you have made a difference in my life."

To that end, my resolution in the new year is to write letters (an actual piece of papyrus with a postal stamp) to these "change makers" to express my gratitude.

But there is one change maker who has indelibly changed me, my husband.  For those of you who know the "in's and out's" of this crazy lady, you will appreciate that I am wrought with all kinds of imperfections...anxiety-prone, OCD like, demanding, forgetful and often, horribly needy.

So, when a man takes a vow to love you through all of that and more, I say, "If I thanked you daily, it would not be enough."

Here's to all of the people who have changed us in this past year...may you know how grateful we are for your love, consistency and belief in us.  Because really, without you, where would we be?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Finding the Sacred in the Mundane

I've got to admit, I've been pissy lately.

Frustrated by the endless loading and reloading of the dishwasher. Unfolded loads of laundry waiting to be attended to.  Meal planning that becomes more and more challenging with a particular child. Floors that need to be swept and vacuumed.  Bedrooms that need to be tidied.  And, a body that is exhausted from getting up at the crack of dawn to exercise.

Many moons ago, I heard a powerful talk about finding the holy in the ordinary.  I was not yet a full-time stay-at-home mother, but I knew then, that the work of the home was important stuff...albeit, boring as all get out.

So in this season of extreme neediness from my little ones...a house that seems to take a beating regularly...and a body that is desperately trying to shed weight to get do I stay joyful instead of resentful?

That seems to be the question.  Until my Sam says, "Mama...where are my jeans?  You always know where they are.  Can you make me some 'magic breakfast cream'?  You make it the best.  Can you time me while I brush my teeth?  Then, I want to show you how many jumping jacks I can do,"

And then I know, this won't last long.  This is a blip on the horizon.  And as such, I need to be mindful that this work...the work of a mother is sacred, even if mundane.

The Perils of Winter Break

This morning, I was counting down the days and feeling guilty.  Seven more.

We've played board games, read chapter books, had dance parties, gone to the park, exchanged play dates, talked about our hopes for the new year, painted rocks, baked blondies, visited family members, made Starbucks runs, cooked in the Easy Bake Oven and spent lots and lots and lots of time together.

Growing up, I thought that Christmas break was amazing...the mecca.  I played with my toys for hours, spent time with my friends on the block and in general, prayed that school would stay far, far away. 

So, why is this break so hard for me?  It seems like the kids are just fine.

If I'm honest, I thrive on routines/rituals.  I enjoy having spaced time with the girls, then with Sam, and alone with the baby.  I miss a quiet house.  I'm ready for some solitude.

Thank goodness for the sunshine and for exercise...I'm wondering though, if I should institute some adult/children play dates.  We could start drinking in the early afternoon...just to get a jump start on New Years and for some stress relief.  Sounds appealing as I'm listening to kids fighting yet again.

Anyone up for it?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Birthing Me...not a Babe

So, I've got a story for you.

It's funny now, but wasn't at the time.

A couple of weeks ago, I was late.  Not for the movies or for mass...but for my monthly date with a friend...we'll call her Flo.

Freaking out, I made a mad dash to Target with my kiddos in tow and grabbed a test.  Fielding questions from my son about what was inside the box...I made the executive decision to pee on the stick in the restroom stall.  Humbling, I know.

All humility out the door, I sat in a public restroom praying the "Hail Mary" aloud hoping that I wasn't expecting anything other than a period.

The test that day and for a few days following came back negative.  I didn't get it.  Why was I so late?

The morning that Flo did come to visit, I told my husband, "I'm good.  I'm really happy with our family.  Thankful for the health of our kids.  Grateful that I get to experience mothering a boy and 2 girls.  And, selfishly if anybody gets to be birthed in this mix...I'm ready for it to be me."

I feel bad claiming that I want my body back...but I do.  I know that many women are yearning to have a baby and would be grateful for the opportunity and my heart goes out to them.  To that end, I am happy to sell Claire.  She's cute and doesn't take up too much space. 

But for now, I'm ready to birth me and not a babe.  Is that so wrong?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hello 2012

I feel sort of "bah humbugish,"...but, some years I'm ready for Christmas to be done.

I guess it's more than Christmas, I'm ready for the new year.  I'm primed for rejuvenation, promise, and momentum.

2011 was a challenging year financially, physically, and emotionally for multiple reasons.  I think some years are like that.  It's important to sacrifice, to endure, to feel the pinch and to be stretched.  You need to know what you're capable of and to that end, I am grateful for the ways I grew particularly, when I didn't welcome it.

But for some reason, I have such hope for this new space that 2012 will bring.  I hold anticipation for a stronger me...a space that includes running, writing, coffee drinking, time spent with my husband, my girlfriends, and travel.

So down goes the tree, off come the ornaments, fireplace stockings are being traded for smart wool socks and outdoor running, the new calendar is going up with a training plan, and my first purchase of the year will be a Garmin to track my mileage, my pace, and my calories burned. 

Hello 2012...let's be good to each other.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Mile Down

This morning marked a milestone.

I ran my first mile without walking and at a decent clip to boot.

I once heard a slogan that, "Runners run."  I'm not a would-be or a fraud playing a role.  I am a runner and I need to see myself as such.

Each time I rounded the bend and caught a glimpse of myself, I thought, "I'm doing it.  I'm running.  And, really with a good play list and a doable pace, this isn't so bad."

My gift to myself tomorrow, on Christmas morning, is two miles.  Just one foot in front of the other.  That's all.

Phenomenal Woman (1st stanza)

  Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fish out of Water

I always know when I'm on the precipice of change.

Why?  Because I feel like a child learning to ride a bike....a novice practicing a language in a foreign land...a fish out of water.

I can't really describe it except to say that everything in my life is impacted and my vulnerability shines through...I feel raw, exposed and open for the world to see.

And in some respects, I bubble up with joy, because really this is the best place to be...a place filled with energy, excitement, stamina...and ultimately, I know, that I'm alive.

I'm not a huge fan of New Year's resolutions, but this year, I'm working on a few key areas of growth in my life.  I'll post some thoughts on that in the next few days.

Until then, I'll focus on sitting with my vulnerability and clinging to the hope that this life can be molded for positive change. 

Because, "Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin." (Denise McCluggage)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ten Minutes

This morning, I took my first spinning class.

Somewhere between my ass being on fire, sweat piercing my eyeballs, and closing my eyes to focus on my RPM's and the blaring of "Pink"....I heard the instructor say, "COME've got 10 minutes left...10 minutes and then you go back to reality."

And that comment stuck.  Why?  Because it's so true.

We tend to do the same things over and over every day.  We shower, brush our teeth, eat, drink, go to work, watch TV, get online, complain, make to-do lists, you name know your routines/rituals.

So, in light of the 99.9% of our life that remains the same, shouldn't we push ourselves at least 10 minutes a day to do something that is harder, different, elevated, focused exclusively on ourselves?

I don't know what that looks like for you...but for me, it was 120 RPM sprint up a fake hill that seemed very real in my mind with a goal of pumping as hard as I could until my legs turned to jello.  Nice way to start the morning. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reclaiming Me in My 30's

God, it's hard to be here.

Eighteen months ago, I was in the best shape of my life.  Push-ups, burpies, mountain climbers, running, ab work...I could do it, and felt good in the process (well, as good as anyone can feel sweating their arse off).

And now, post the birth of my third child and her year marker, I am rebuilding all over again.

I find it intriguing that everywhere I turn, I find women my age, in their 30's committing to marathons, triatholons, adventure races, and cycling.  It's inspiring...but begs the question, why now?  Why not in our 20's when our bodies could bounce back 10-times faster and we had a lot more disposable time/energy before the demands of children?

After pondering this conundrum (while soaking in the tub and downing massive quantities of ibuprofren)...I've decided it's because, we don't give a shit what the world says...we're ready to reclaim ourselves and to own a corner of some part of the world....primarily, our fitness.  We want to see that we can achieve the unattainable and reconnect our souls to our bodies. 

My 20's were fraught with wondering what I should do...professionally and personally....taking cues from failed relationships, jobs that weren't satisfying and magazine ads.  So it's no wonder that after birthing 3 babies in my 30's...I am ready to recapture me....the authentic me.

So to that end, I will carve out my training schedule for the half marathon, huff and puff through my cardio conditioning classes, and trust that there is a light at the end of the path.  Anyone up for spinning?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sound of Silence

A friend of mine has been encouraging me to do a silent retreat with her this winter.

It's not an overnight gig.  It's more like three days.  And well, since it takes place over the weekend, it may be doable with my family.

I've often fantasized about being completely alone.  I mean children screaming, no demands shouting in my head, no dishwasher, computer, phone, washing machine, oven, coffee maker, car...just me alone.

And then, I start to really think about it.  Could I be completely quiet with myself for 72 hours?  Could I give my mind, heart and soul three days of solitude?

It seems like a dream...and then, it seems a bit nightmarish...for example, what if I start really delving into parts of me that feel easier to push under the rug?  What if I feel need of the social?  What if I miss the tar out of my family or worse off, what if I love it, and I don't?

It's crazy to me that in a 24-hour period, I am rarely alone.  Alone maybe in thought, but rarely in the physical.  A silent retreat is definitely food for thought.  It may be just what the doctor ordered in the new year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Redefining 'Sexy'

I've been spending some time at the gym lately.

It's been a while, so it's nice to feel my body in motion and to work up a sweat with a goal of pushing myself as far as I can go.

It's had me thinking though...what's sexy?

While men and women pump on elliptical machines, run on treadmills, climb up stair masters, lift weights, jump rope, and sweat through classes...they are bombarded by 'People' magazines filled with models, flat screens dawning celebrities and folks to the left and right of them in "work out" attire.

I imagine that most are there for health purposes, others need to a stress release and some are there for entirely different reasons.

I used to think that 'sexy' had everything to do with the way I looked and felt in my I connected with the one I love.  Now, I'm finding all kinds of new connections to the word.

After the last few workouts, my new definition of 'sexy' is strength...determination...consistency...grit.

Tenacity is sexy.  Plain and simple.  And that's not just about how much time you spend at the gym.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Desires of our Heart

This morning, I picked up my New York Times and there was an insert for a theater company promoting its upcoming 2012 season.

One of the plays was entitled, "Insidious" and offered the tagline, "Insatiable Needs...Unspeakable Deeds."

And this got me thinking.

We're all human.  And subsequently, because we're fallible, broken, selfish...we all crave, we all have desires.  Some of those desires have to be squelched, tamed, curbed for obvious reasons.

You know what I'm talking could be as simple as wanting to buy something that you know you can't afford or even if you could, the money should be spent more sensibly on a different priority.

It could be your desire for sloth.  You choose not to use your time well or to be indulgent...and maybe you don't give a shit in the process, but you beat yourself up afterwards.

The desires of our heart.  Where do they come from?  The ones we don't want to admit.  The ones we try to pray out of our system.  The ones that draw us back but feel disasterous.

Insatiable needs.  I think we all have them.  We simply choose to not give in.  Or, we do, when it makes sense.  But maybe, we're all born with those desires that never go away...we just learn to live with them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Year of Kelly

From time to time (typically around this time), I get an inkling...a feeling that this coming year is going to be a year to tackle something new, to break boundaries, to grow...and as such, I dub it, "The Year of Kelly."

It's not intended to be egotistical or ostentatious...just simply, an effort to bring awareness to change in my life.

And boy, am I ready for change.  Now, that our youngest is a year old, I'm sleeping through the night and life looks bareable again, I've registered to run a half marathon on the morning of my 37th birthday.

I have lofty goals to grow my jewelry business.

And, I'm intent on writing as much as possible.  I don't know what form this will take and at this point, I'm not too concerned, I just want to keep getting the voices out of head and onto paper (maybe, I should be checking into medication as well.)

It's a beautiful thing to start reinvesting in yourself.  It feels liberating and scary all in the same breath.

As I approach 2012, I intend to take it slow...putting one foot in front of the other...or better yet, running one mile at a time, until one day, I find that I'm doing it.  Embracing me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

All my love to Heaven

It was like something you might read about or see in a movie.

My mom called and said, "It's time, you need to come now."  And, I did...smelling like an onion and garlic from the chicken noodle soup I'd been preparing.

When I arrived, my cousin, sisters, brother, aunt, uncle, and mom were gathered around my grandfather.  I grabbed a hold of my mom and sobbed and sobbed until my chest hurt, my eyes stung, and my knees were knocking.  (I don't think I can do this.  I'm not ready for him to die.)

And slowly after a few hours passed, a chaplain came and led a prayer.  We all held hands and quietly cried as we watched him pray over our grandfather...and then, as he left, my grandfather took in a few short breaths and peacefully went to Heaven.  It was beautiful.

As I lay here in my warm bed at home, I can't stop thinking about what "Jack" the chaplain said. 

In life, we should find a way to say four things to the people who are most important to us:
  • I love you.
  • I am thankful for you.
  • Please forgive me.
  • I forgive you.
Rest in peace, grandpa and know that you are loved.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Searching for the Christmas Spirit

Last year at this time, I was pregnant...very pregnant...moments away from delivering Claire...and the Advent/Christmas spirit could not have been more alive in my heart.

All of the packages were wrapped, the twinkle lights shimmering, the stockings stuffed, and the bassinet ready and waiting to welcome a sweet baby girl.

This year feels very different.  The Christmas cards have yet to be ordered, the packages are only an idea in my mind, I keep forgetting that there are only a few days left for "on-time" holiday delivery...and my spirit feels dampened.

We're waiting to say goodbye and with each day, we wonder when he will leave us.

In the interim, I keep thinking, "How can I awaken my soul to that which matters most?"  Because truly, if the cards don't go out and the commercial shopping extravaganza doesn't take place...would it be so bad?

My kids believe in Santa and the whole nine yards.  We have reindeer food comprised of oatmeal and glitter to help guide Rudolph to our home.  They have Santa wish lists and an Advent tree/calendar.  We say prayers every evening and read a nightly Advent story.  They pray that great grandpa will go to Heaven soon to be with great grandma.  They think that would be a beautiful Christmas present.  And, I think they're right.

In this time filled with many emotions and superficial to-do's, I am grateful that my family has been gathered, even if it has been in a hospital to relive memories, say good byes and in general, give thanks.  I suppose, that's what matters most.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Circle of Life

Last night, he reminded me of my babies.

My mom had to show him how to suck through a straw.  He was easily alarmed.  Confused.  Tired of being poked, prodded, and jostled.

Really, he just wanted you to hold his hand.  Not even talk.  Just breathe with him and provide a sense of safety and warmth. Just like my babies.

Watching the circle of life come to completion for my grandfather reminds me that when my children were born, they were wholly dependent upon us.  They couldn't feed, clothe, expel, or care for themselves without another.  And, subsequently they had to trust us to love them unconditionally, even when as caregivers, we were exhausted, frustrated or stretched too thinly.

This is the place that we find my grandfather...completely reliant upon us...which is as it should be.

I'm learning that there is no other reason that we are placed on this earth other than to love in big and in small ways.  Our purpose is not to amass the is simply to give of ourselves unconditionally to another.  And when we do so, especially when we're afraid or we think we're too busy, we are blessed ten-fold.

As human beings, we were created to love.  We respond well to it both in birth and in death.  That's all...just love.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Finding Grace in the Last Days

They couldn't be more different.

She, the eternal optimist.  He, the unfailing pragmatist.

And yet, they came from the same two people.

My mother and uncle are watching their father die.  After countless hours at his bedside...some of the most poignant being a midnight bedside prayer with cousins and parents holding hands...we realize that this is it...or is it?

My mother's cup has always been half full.  No matter the trial or tribulation, she truly believes in her heart that there is a way out and that we only need believe.  It's a powerful gift when you're feeling like your life is literally over after a boyfriend dumps you or a job just wasn't the right fit.  It's a little harder when you're looking at heart failure.

My uncle has always been a realist.  He does not bull shit.  He tells it like it is and respects those who are direct and to the point.  And sometimes, his anger gets the best of him.

Watching these two manage decisions regarding my grandfather has been a bit tenuous to say the least.  He confronts and she placates.

So, I've been praying for them.  I've been praying that God would use this time to help them find grace and peace in these final moments with their dad...that He would find ways to help them remember the beautiful parts of their childhood...that He would encourage them to see that they have more common ground then they realize...and ultimately to know that when all is said and done, they will be left with each other.  The legacy of our grandparents.

I don't envy them.  Making critical decisions like whether or not to sign a DNR are paralyzing.  They're doing the best they can given their own pain.  It's a powerful lesson that grace can find its way into our hearts if we just let it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Journey toward Forgiveness

It was 11:30am when I got the call. 

I was snuggled up with my coffee and the paper foolishly thinking that I had a moment to relax, when my mom called in need.

"Your grandfather is in the hospital.  It appears as though he's had a heart attack.  I know how busy you are with the kids.  I've called your sister...maybe you could call your brother and your other sister...I'm just."  I could tell, this wasn't easy.  I needed to be with her.

My grandfather is my last surviving grandparent and he and I have not had the easiest of relationships.  I've not been extraordinarily close to him, but I knew that going to the hospital and being with my mother was important and so, I went.

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived, I just knew that I needed to be strong.  What I saw was a 90-year old man who was weak and tired.  We spent hours together...some of it talking about his prognosis...congestive heart failure...some of it talking about his professional career, his military stint in WWI and his family.  I cried.  I laughed. I remembered. And, I knew in that moment, that this will be probably be some of the last memories created together.

I find it ironic that my graduate degree is in Conflict Resolution.  I've always been good with other people's differences, but not so good with my own.  The ability to forgive another especially when they've wounded you indelibly is not an easy thing.  But forgiveness is really the ultimate gift for the wounded because it restores trust, peace and a sense of love.  That gift isn't given by another, it's something that we give to ourselves.

And so, as I sat there with him, I knew that room was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Even if it was hard, even if it wasn't my plan for the marked the beginning of my journey toward forgiveness, as it was marking the end of his life.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


The kids have left to go sledding.  The baby has fallen asleep.  Marshmallows are strewn throughout the house commemorating a hot cocoa extravaganza.  Old mittens and hats are drying from a previous snowman-making trek. NPR is playing in the background.  My reheated mug of coffee is in my hand. And, I am alone...relatively speaking.

I'm feeling a little guilty. We really should be at church.  But you know how it goes after the first snow.  The kids want to spend countless hours going in and outside and well, I just want to stay in my pajamas and pretend that I don't have a care in the world.

It has dawned on me that there are only 21 days left until Santa comes and well, this Santa has nothing checked off her list or packaged under the tree.  We also need to get Christmas cards out to friends and family.  We should probably start preparing for our trip down south.  Oh and, I'm teaching the Christmas art lesson at Sam's school...gotta figure out a lesson plan for that.  And, and, and.

It really never ends.  The list of to do's.  The responsibilities.  The expectations that we place upon ourselves.  The silly ways we stress ourselves.  I suppose it doesn't end unless we tell it to.  So, for today, enough is enough.  If I never make it out of my slippers and I find little bits of marshmallow under the couch or beds, who cares?  Did I laugh with my kids?  Did I take the time to read an interesting article or listen to something worthwhile?  Did I pray and thank God for the blessings in my life? 

The truth is, enough is actually more than enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011

It takes a Village

I had a fascinating conversation this morning with my best friend and a speaker that will be presenting for an event at our parish.

We were talking about the power of friendship and the indelible bonds that women throughout history have held to support one another throughout the many seasons of their lives.

One point in particular was food for thought.

As a historian, she related that throughout the ages and still in many parts of the world today, marriage is a contractual relationship...often arranged by people that are not in the union.  Consequently, for years, women have relied upon multiple ancillary connections with family members, friends, and others in the community to sustain them.

In modern days, our concept of marriage has become significantly more isolated and pressuresome.  Often, we expect our partners to serve as our confidants on the majority of matters in our lives.  In no other relationship do we place this kind of expectation...which, as we've seen statistically, can create disjointedness, frustration, anger, separation, and sometimes, divorce.

The truth takes a village...not just to raise children...but to thrive on the face of this earth.  We need each other and relationships with others for all kinds of reasons.  Our role is to support, encourage, love and nurture those connections...understanding that they provide us with something unique and significant.

I am grateful for the many friendships, family relationships and acquaintences I've met along the way...that feed my soul.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Call of Winter

I'm sitting in my living room and big, chunky, fat snow flakes are falling outside.

Out of the corner of my eye, an old episode of "The French Chef" is playing and Julia Childs is teaching us how to make a modern lentil stew with chicken livers.  Hmm...

Kate is drinking hot cocoa that we whisked together on the stove and Claire is eating the pages of one of her brother's books that we'll have to tape back together before he comes home from school.

It's getting colder and while we've been so blessed to have an amazing autumnal season, I know that winter is upon us.  I've never taken very well to the season of hibernation.  I find myself loading up on vitamin D, taking copious amounts of vitamin C and trying to stay connected to others as much as possible.  I'm certain that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I'm cool with the cold temperatures, just not with the lack of sun.

And yet, research tells us that people who experience all four seasons live happier lives...whether that's true or not, I'm not sure...but living in Nebraska ensures that we see it all.

So to keep the blues away, I'm resolute to keep exercising, continue writing, and popping happy vitamin pills at every turn...with maybe a little chocolate in there for good measure.

The inside of my Dove chocolate says, "It's a bubble bath kind of day."  I agree.  Maybe there are some benefits to winter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

These Boots were made for Walkin'

So, I have these boots.  I've owned them for years and I love them.  I refer to them as my "F me" footwear when I want to feel mama turned harlot apparel. 

Last night, in preparation both for a jewelry show and a dry run at clothing options for an upcoming Christmas party, I tried them on.  I'd been missing them post the baby and looked forward to their glow with a fun black dress.

You can imagine how I felt, when I couldn't zip them up my leg.  Humiliation. Anger. Frustration. Sadness. Vengence.

So, this morning at 5:30, I told the story to my workout companion and she had a fabulous thought...use these boots as your motivation.  Whenever you want to hit the snooze button, look at the boot.  When you want to eat garbage, look at the boot.  When your ego takes over and you think you can half ass a run or lifting, look at the boot.  And when you want to feel sexy, look at the boot.

There you have it.  My hunch is that 2012 will have me mesmerized with my hottie boots in the hope that they will symbolize my quest to get back to the hottie me.

Because, these boots were made for more than just walkin'.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Finding My Way

It's funny. During my single years, I swore that I would never be one of those mothers whose life was dictated by her children's schedules.  My children would be loved, nurtured, and respected, but they would not wear the pants.

And then I became a mama.  In the first year of Sam's life, my husband and I tip-toed around the house, so as not to wake the baby.  We only played children's music in the car.  We ate organic as much as possible. We traded our newspapers for "Good Night Moon" and organized our lives (even our work schedules) around his.

Two additional children later, I'm embarking upon a new life philosophy.  I'm taking back my pants, so to speak.

I've arranged for a babysitter to come once a week, so that I can get away.  I head to the gym at o' dark thirty in the morning to take care of my body.  I'm not holding the baby while multi-tasking a million activities...she's learning to entertain herself.  I meet friends for coffee regularly.  I'm writing more than I ever have.  And, am organizing some trips out of dodge.

So, why do I still struggle with guilt?  Wondering whether I should be with them when I'm nurturing my own soul?  It's a tough balance for me.  Getting my nails/hair done is a wonderful treat, but then I wonder if I should be spending the time/money on them.  Paying a babysitter seems like a necessary sanity break, but then I wonder if I should just suck it up...they're only little once, right?

But I do have to say, that when I come back from where ever I've gone doing something big or little for me, I feel ready to love little wounds, comfort little cries, and hear the 150th Dr. Seuss story.

I guess, I'm finding my way. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Time to Let Go and to Embrace

Today is the first day of Advent...the season of letting go of the worldly to open our hearts to God's unconditional love and grace.

So, what superficial things do we cling to that often paralyze us more than helping us? 

For me, it's a false sense of control and fear.

From the time I was a little person, I've always had a plan, always known just what I was meant to do.  My parents tell a story of me in a mock-Arby's uniform taking my dad's lunch order at the end of the driveway with a steno pad.  That little order taker grew up to wreak havoc on the speech and debate team, write for the school newspaper, cheer for the football team, give the commencement address to her high school classmates and eventually go off to college and graduate school.  Always having a plan, always hell bent to succeed and afraid of anything less.

So, when the doctor said, " can do it," and my son arrived, I no longer had a plan, no road map, no instructional manual.  Suddenly, the most important gift I'd ever been given was outside of me and I immediately had to trust that everything would work out.  And for the most part, it has...but definitely, not according to plan.

As human beings, we're limited.  We have a finite amount of time, energy, patience, stamina, competency, and experience.  We want the best for our lives and for those we love...but often, we fall short due to our selfishness, neediness, and desires.  The truth is that when we let go and trust...a much better and sustainable outcome manifests itself.  We just have to believe.  It's the magic of faith.

What is holding you back from experiencing the fullness of God's love?  

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Heart of It

The day after Thanksgiving, a friend and I made the decision to support each other by going to a Cardio Conditioning class at 5:30 a.m. instead of sleeping in. 

It was a tough call but somewhere between running stairs with sandbags on our shoulders, lunging around the gym track, and racing the treadmill on an insane incline, I turned and thought, I could never do this without friends.

Upon completion of the class and realizing that it was still really early, we indulged in a hot cup of coffee and some long overdue conversation.  It was so wonderful to catch up, to laugh, to share stories and to remember that while we rarely get one-on-one time, when we do, we're not so far apart.

We both want to be more physically fit.  We both yearn to spend more time with our husbands.  We both find it challenging to manage our families, our personal goals and our desire to just relax.

That experience helped me to decide that "Black Friday" should really be spent enjoying time with our loved ones and maybe (at least for me) not inline at WalMart. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Times They are a Changin'

My maternal grandmother died three years ago.  She was definitely the heart of our family and is desperately missed especially on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since her death, my grandfather who is 90 years old and a master bridge player, has found a new lady friend.  Her name is Bonnie and she too is a widower and an expert bridge player...they met at the club.  They play cards together 2-3 times a week, share meals, grocery shop, and well, we're not sure what else.

Suffice it to say, the introduction of my grandfather's companion has been a bit of a transition.  Her children all live in different states as do her grandchildren and so, she showed up yesterday to share a meal with our family.

I'll be the first to admit, it's not easy seeing a new face bring in a cake.  Everyone was more than welcoming, but somewhere between eggnog and pie, you find yourself comparing the two...which is entirely unfair.  How can anyone compete with grandma?  The truth is, they can't and they shouldn't.

While nibbling turkey and mashed potatoes, I noticed a sparkle in my grandfather's eyes while Bonnie was relaying a story.  For a brief moment, I thought, "no way."  And then I realized, she brings him joy and companionship.  She gives him time and kindness and according to other crude family members, maybe something else.  That said, she is there for him.  And well, that's more than many of us have time for in our crazy busy lives.

And so, while my aunt and I gave each other a quick glance, I realized, the times they are a changin'...and I can accept it or be bitter over something that makes no sense at all.  Life is about love.  Plain and simple.  And, Thanksgiving is about gratitude.  While no one will ever replace my beloved grandmother, I am thankful that Bonnie has put a smile on my grandfather's face.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things You Discover When You Start Working Out Again

So, this morning, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and met a girlfriend at the gym for a crazy ass cardio/boot camp class.  Upon her recommendation and urging, I decided to give it a go.  I've trained before, so really, how hard could this be?

To demonstrate the insanity of my experience in the wee hours of the morning, I've compiled a list of things I discovered about my out-of-shape self...maybe you can relate.

  1. Burpies, Squats, Mountain Climbers, Jumping Rope, Push ups, Planks & Running-all in one setting over multiple reps hurts alot...and that is why I curse.  I curse a lot.
  2. My ass needs some new underwear.  I'm not going to lie to you.  There just really is nothing worse than your old granny pants creeping and creating an extra fat crease in your ass.  I mean it's bad enough to have a double chin, no one needs a double dimple derriere.
  3. Just when you think that the hottie instructor must be 22, right out of college and without learn that she's over 40 and has 5 kids.  WTF?  Oh Lord, how did I get to this place?
  4. Everything is better with Friends!  Just when I thought that I would throw the towel in and crawl my sad self home, I looked over at my friends and reconsidered and I'm so glad that I did.
  5. I used to think that "modification" was for sissies.  You know, those overweight, middle-aged, mothers who can't hack it.  Until I realized that was me.  Modification equals survival.  No need to apologize.
  6. Sometimes, half the battle is just showing up and trusting that some good will come.
  7. But with all that, let me assure you, it still hurts like a bitch...even hours later.
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How are you Hard Wired?

Do you ever wonder why you're wired the way that you are? 

Do you wish that you could will yourself not to procrastinate in the 11th hour or to be more analytical than visionary or to trust your intuition instead of consulting a thousand passerbyers?

For those of you that drink the Kool aid and are familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder tool...I remember how happy I was once I discovered that I didn't have to pigeon hole myself into a group of characteristics that fit a successful individual...I could be me and talented.  And by the way for you believers, my top themes are "Woo, Maximizer, Activator, and Communication." (shocker, I know).

But even knowing that its cool to be me and to relate to the world in only the way I do, I still envy friends who really deliberate over making decisions...I'm fairly impulsive or quick to act, depending upon how you want to spin it.  I envy people who are analytical and mindful that the devil is in the details...I could really care less.  I want to see the big picture and surround myself with others who can tell me the loop holes and gaps.  I envy people who make a decision and don't give a thought to what others think because they know that they've made the right choice...I seem to apologize to anyone who's feelings I may have accidentally hurt in the process.

I suppose at the end of the day, it's really fabulous that there are billions of us walking around with a unique set of perspectives, talents, strengths, etc...and it's pointless to try to be someone your not, it really masks the power that is you.

But some days, I miss being part of a corporate team where I could partner my strengths with another...then, it wouldn't be so challenging to make it all happen.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Death of the Letter

I've been really fortunate in my life to have had significant and meaningful correspondences.

And, I suppose because I'm a saver and "would-be" writer, I have kept most everything that I've been given.

From time to time, I've read through old letters, postcards, and journals and it's transported me back to amazing memories in my life.  Some of the most powerful have been when I studied abroad and lived far away from my loved ones.

Some of the letters are over 15, 20 years old and are still in fantastic shape. But through my perusing, one glaring observation comes to mind, most of them were written many moons ago with few since the turn of the century. 

We all know that with the advent of email, text messaging, facebook, skype, it is rare to receive a letter in the mail.  With the rising cost of postage and the ease of a few key strokes, most of us would rather communicate in cyber form.

But, ah, I really love ink to paper.  I am enamored by the content and the way in which the lines are written.  And my favorite part, is the feeling I get when I look inside the mailbox and see an envelope with my name written on it.  There's nothing better.

I admit that I'm guilty when it comes to not sending a handwritten letter as much as I should...but I think in the new year, I'm going to surprise a few people.  It's just too important not to.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Back to Me

It's amazing how much a tiny little baby can consume in energy, time, and priority.
Claire turns a year old next month and it's just been in the last week that I've been ready to take care of me. 

I went to my hair stylist and got all the gray out.  I went to the eye doctor and got new specs.  I went to the salon and treated my hands and toes. And then, I put on my shoes and went for a run.  I was really anxious.  No, I was terrified.  I hadn't seriously tried to exert myself in a long time and I was resolute that this day, this hour would be mine.  Equipped with a new play list and determination, I owned it.  And, praise God, restored my faith in my body and my will power. 

I don't begrudge the sacrifices that come with motherhood and I recognize that I certainly don't have to spend as much time as I do with my children...but I know now, more than ever, that if I don't take care of me, there will be nothing left for the ones I love.

So, it's time to's time to's time to's time to's time to's time to recognize that I am not exclusively a mother.  I am a woman...a complicated, crazy ass woman who is thankful to exchange the nursing bra for a sports one and the maternity underwear well for...we'll see, I'm still not sold on the thong.  But you get the picture.

Hats off to the feminine and my resolve to get back to all of me. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Feeling a Little Nostalgic

I've always considered myself an old soul.

From the time I was little, I could be found eaves dropping on adult conversation at the "big table," drinking coffee even though it was bound to stunt my growth, and dreaming about travels to far off places. 

To that end, I'd also venture to say that I'm a collector of stories, not so much the ones in books, but more so oral tales.  I'm the person that you meet on a plane and find yourself spilling your guts to...where you're from, where you're going, why you're sad that she broke up with you, why you hate your job, what you're hoping for next in life.  I'm also fascinated by my own family history and remember fondly the memories that my grandparents have shared over the years.

So some days, I find myself smack dab in the past remembering all kinds of memories.  High school, college, my first job, single living, life before parenting, first apartments, relationships, community projects, births, deaths...and I become nostalgic.  Why?

Probably because its easy to romanticize life at 21 prior to mortgage payments and babies...but perhaps it's because sometimes, it's only possible to fully appreciate parts of life when you're able to see them in retrospect.  You understand better why you are where you are given where you've been.  You understand how one event had to lead to another to create the opportunity to place you in the here and now.

And yet, with all of that...I still love hearing stories.  I love listening to people reminisce.  I enjoy the passion that comes out when they reflect on what was or what might have been. 

I especially love the story my grandmother used to tell about dating my grandfather while he was in the navy during WWII.  Apparently, he wrote her every day, but because of the postal system, he numbered each letter, so that she would have a chronology to the letters.  He asked her to do the same.  She quietly confided to me that on her letters to him, she advanced the numbers...sending letter #1, then letter #3....skipping #2.  But as she said, he was none the wiser, simply believing that a letter was lost at sea.  And well, a girl can't be stuck in her room writing all day, can she?

I hope that when the time comes, I can share memories with an "old soul" grandchild and enjoy being nostalgic, just for a bit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Few Things I Covet

Okay, I know that it's not healthy or productive to covet...but I'm human, so below are a few things I wish were mine.
  • The ability to read labels in the grocery store.  You know those people who actually pick up an item and examine its contents determining whether nutritionally or financially it makes sense to purchase.  My grocery outings with 1, 2, or 3 children typically involve throwing items as quickly as possible into the cart and repeating, "No thank you" to anyone of my children as they negotiate why "Fruity Sugar Laden fill in the blank" item should be included.
  • Women who wear running apparel in their off time and look good doing it.  You know who these people are.  You may be one of them.  I'm talking about women who look like they've just come back from a hard run/workout and quickly pulled their hair back and still have rosy cheeks.  As opposed to me post a workout dawning sweat stained pits accompanied by a nice inner thigh/outer bum ring of's really attractive, I'm sure.
  • Time.  Essentially, I covet people who make time to do the things that help us all to maintain sanity.  I stand in awe of people who regularly wake up at the crack of dawn to run, walk, do bikram yoga, pray, mow the lawn, stretch...hell, even to have a cup of coffee.  I did this for almost two years post the birth of my second and it nearly broke me.  But, I'm desperate to do it again.  Because, well, time for me never seems to find it's way during the day.
  • The ability to not give a shit.  My good friend, JM, is continuously reminding me that true happiness comes from not caring about what others think, say, perceive, or suggest that we should do with our lives.  True peace comes from just going with your gut and not apologizing for it.  
  • Oh, and the Honda Pilot.  I covet the Pilot. 
That's it for now, I'm sure that I covet many other "things"....but on this Tuesday, I think that the above are pretty cool.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Silence is Deadly

For the majority of my life, I have been an advocate for protecting children from sexual abuse and helping those who have been hurt by predators.

So, when the Penn State scandal emerged, I nearly lost it.  I wasn't surprised.  But, I was devastated.  

One night in the living room through tears, I told my husband that this culture of silence has got to end.

At what point is it acceptable to be aware of abuse and to choose to either not "out" it to the proper authorities or to share it with someone and know that nothing has really been done to end it?

Throughout the history of the world, women and children have been raped and preyed upon because they are vulnerable and weak.  Once the crime has been committed, those victims often crawl away in shame and humiliation devastated by what has happened, but often resolute to keep it a secret.  Will they be considered damaged goods?  Will anyone care?  Did they ask for it?  Are the consequences greater if they open their mouth?

I am convinced that the greatest moral imperative on this earth is the truth.  If you know of an action that is hurting another, you have a responsibility to keep opening up your mouth until not only someone listens...but someone does something to end it.

Silence is deadly...cowardice...and wrong.  Take a stand.  Choose to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves.  If you don't, we all suffer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Love Letter to Me

Lately, I've found my inner critic coming out more than I'd like or than it should.  Struggling with a myriad of short comings about myself, I decided to write a letter to me highlighting that which I should love instead of critique.

So, here it goes.

Dear Me,

Hi.  It's been sometime since we've least, in an honest and well, optimistic way.  It feels like most of our conversations have been one-sided and definitely reflections of the world and not of the way that I truly feel about you.

First and foremost, Hats off to your body. 

I know that you feel disgruntled by pregnancy weight and you wish that you could fit back into old clothes or feel more comfortable in your own skin.  But here's what I see....a body that has birthed three beautiful, healthy, amazing little people.  A face that smiles at the world and says, "I love you and want the best for you."  Two arms that hold babies, dry tears, carry groceries, read story books and feed your family.  A mind that is constantly going...thinking, reflecting, evaluating, and searching for the best way of life for her family, her community and her world.  A heart that hopes and loves.

Secondly, your home is beautiful.  Who gives a rat's ass if there are dust bunnies...cheerios on the floor...finger prints on the windows....clothes in the shoved under beds.  Your home is beautiful because it is a safe haven for those who live there and a beacon away from a tough world.

Next worries on the macaroni and cheese/chicken nugget front.  It's cool.  Your kids don't have to have organic food always and sometimes, Kraft just tastes better than homemade.  I promise you that one day, they will grow to love broccoli and asparagus, but for now, it's okay that they don't.

Your work is important.  You don't dawn a business card.  You haven't participated in a strategy session in years (at least not one that involved Power Point).  You haven't seen a "bonus" in the form of money for sometime.  And, your resume is dusty to say the least.  But you have skills.  You have mad skills.  You can multi-task like a Mother ____, literally.  You are compassionate.  Capable.  Brilliant.  And, if and when the time comes to take off the yoga pants and put on a business will....hopefully, because you want to and not because you have to.

Knowing how long that you waited to find the right person to marry and to share this life's time to enjoy it.  Trust that you can build together.  It doesn't all have to be planned.  It doesn't all have to work out.  But this life that is yours is beautiful and meaningful...primarily, because the heart of it, is you.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Simple Abundance

This past weekend was filled to the brim with family parties. 

We celebrated my niece's first birthday, my grandfather's 90th birthday, my step mother's annual "Sister's Day" weekend and miraculously, my husband and I escaped for a date night.

Daylight Savings Time simply allowed us more time to make side salads, wrap gifts, write cards, talk about where we were headed and make ourselves presentable before arriving.

Throughout all of the harriedness, one thing stuck out in my mind.  None of this is about the stuff on the agenda.  It's about the people and the shared time over a piece of birthday cake or a cup of coffee.

How often does a baby celebrate her first birthday or a man celebrate his 90th?

My life is so filled with busyness.  Things that have to be done.  Moments that have to be filled.

Or do they?  Or better yet, since moments will certainly come and go, how do I want mine to be spent?  Barking at my children...grumbling at my husband...stressed by the minutia?

Naw...for today...I'm going to relish in my decision to cherish moments with those I love instead of doing that which I think I'm supposed to.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Beauty of Difference

Lately, I've been mindful of how my children are similar and not-so-similar to me and to my husband.

This week was Parent-Teacher conference time at Sam's school.  As a first-grader, this is the first year that Sam has been in school all day and ultimately, spends the majority of his time with his classmates and his teachers.  And, Sam is indeed (like me) a classic first born.  He is very mindful of how he appears to others.  It is important to him to know that he's achieving and excelling academically.  He is incredibly future-focused and serious about what the agenda is, the plan of attack, and the expectation for outcome.  He is passionate about a handful of topics and can teach you more about those subjects than you could imagine coming from a six-year old.

Kate, our four-year old is a horse of another color.  She's not interested in impressing the world.  She's beautiful and confidently aware of herself. She's the most artistically gifted child I know and lives smack dab in the world of the present.  She seeks to amerce herself in the colors, smells, tastes, and experiences of that which is in front of her.  She has little use for time or appointments or rules.

Claire, our ten-month old is just plain crazy.  She's verbal, fearless, and in general, all about being right in the mix of her siblings.  She's also the most affectionate little one on the planet.

It's hard to believe that these three little beings all came from the same two people.  They are vastly different and beautiful all in one breath.  The challenge for Ray and I has been to honor their differences especially when they conflict with our personality types.

I'll give you an example.  Many people say that Kate and I resemble one another....that I looked a lot like Kate when I was a little girl.  It's sweet and fun to feel like I have a mini-me walking around this world.  However, while my daughter stops to smell the roses at every turn, I'm exhausted and often frustrated by her desire to constantly be in the present.  With little to no sense of urgency, she's not guided by anyone's time table and the more you rush her, the slower she goes.  Drives me up a wall.  Until she shows me the number of spots on a lady bug, a tree in the park or the perfect shade of orange...and then, I remember why God gave her to help me pause, to teach me to breathe and to remind me that all we have is the here and now.  Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

I can't wait to see how they grow up, who they become, and ultimately, how they create the beautiful dynamic that is our crazy family.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Gift of Legacy

Today is definitely a new day.

After a rough go the past few days, I've been so grateful for the support of many friends who understand the trials and tribulations of raising a young family...and who step up with really helpful and thoughtful tips to lighten the load.

Usually around this time of year, I make a conscious effort to walk as much as I possibly can to take in all of the final moments of autumn.  The reds, yellows, oranges, greens of the trees...the crunching of the leaves...the smell in the air and the presence of God's beauty literally puts me in awe.

So, this morning, I bundled the girls up and we made our usual trek to the park, around the golf course, up some hills, over a bridge and back to our home.  While Claire was gnawing a graham cracker, Kate and I gathered leaves for yet another collage and talked about how trees are made.  We tried to imagine when they started as seedlings and how old they are today.  We also talked about how many years that trees live and what they need to grow. 

I wondered if years from this moment if Kate might come back and walk amidst some of the same old trees with her little ones.  It calls to mind for me, the power of legacy and the beauty of leaving one's footprint on this earth.  We're all leaving a mark, something behind, a place holder, a difference.

There's never been a time more special for me than now, in my thirties, realizing that we have inherited a place that will someday trade hands with another.  Someone else will look among the trees, enjoy the beauty of the stream under the bridge, sweat up the steep hills and be grateful for what they have been given.

I wonder about my footprint and my passing of the baton.  How am I doing my part and sharing in the gift of legacy to those I love the most?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Having a Hard Time Lately

My husband and I have been having a hard time lately. 

It feels as though our focus on the kids and work has been consuming.  When all is said and done and the kids are in bed, the dishes are done, the laundry is put away and the house is quiet, my husband and I are exhausted.  And when we have a few moments to breathe, we yearn to "zone out" into our favorite past reading the New York Times, he listening to a pod cast or both of us falling asleep...sometimes in our clothes.

We certainly don't have it hard.  Sure we have three children under the age of six...but I stay at home which means when I don't have a jewelry party, I'm in sweats most of the day.  Sam and Kate's respective schools are near by.  Ray has a minimal commute to the office and often he is able to flex his schedule to help out with most anything that comes up.  I know that other families are tackling far more complicated sets of circumstances.

In short, I think the kids are doing more than fine. But my mom once told me that it's not the kids that you need to worry about, it's the parents.  Because when mom and dad aren't as connected as they should be, that's danger zone for the kiddos. They need to nurture a strong foundation. It doesn't just keep itself afloat.

And so how do we get back to that?  You know what I mean.  Date nights.  Long kisses.  Engaging conversations about community, politics, family, what's going on the news.  Opportunities to run, jump, walk, talk and be silly together.  Do you simply do away with that part momentarily when your kids are little?  Is it possible to reinvigorate it when they're a little older and more self sufficient?

Thankfully, our dilemma is not one that has to do with a lack of love or seems to be a lack of time, energy and stamina.  I have faith that this is a phase.  I simply want to make sure that it's addressed, nipped in the bud, and moved through.

Anyone out there know what I mean? Ideas? Suggestions? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crazy People are Maddeningly Interesting

Today, Maureen Dowd, Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times wrote a fascinating article on Steve Jobs soon-to-be released biography entitled "The Limits of Magical Thinking."  The piece explores the theory that Jobs was a brilliant lunatic who embraced a mild bipolar existence allowing him to create often at the expense of those closest to him.

Walter Isaacson, Jobs's biographer writes “Sometimes Jobs would be ecstatic, at other times he was depressed. There were Rasputin-like seductions followed by raging tirades. Everyone was either a hero or bozo."

I found Isaacson's description of Jobs intriguing.  I started thinking about all of the truly mesmorizing creatives that I've known in my members, my children, friends, co-workers, or ex loves.  Those that were/are amazing innovators were/are huge pains in the asses.  They see the world through a set of lenses that is intricate, delicate and often never enough.  They push me with their ideas....floor me with their expectations and frustrate me with their perfectionist ways.  And while, my tail feathers are often ruffled in their mind is ultimately awed and my soul stands in admiration.  I don't fancy myself a creative by any stretch...but I definitely know it when I see it.

My hope is that we can harvest, harness, and encourage the creativity that comes with this unbelievable talent.  Unfortunately, often our "results oriented" culture wants to squash it, especially in our children.  So, while it may be maddening, I hope that I can adopt Jobs' mindset...
and famous ad campaign for Apple, “Here’s to the crazy ones. ... They push the human race forward.”  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Journeying Across the Heartland

So the past five days, I've been enjoying some family time in the great state of Oklahoma with my parents, my older brother, sister-in-law and their four little boys who are around the same ages as my kiddos.

They have a really cool acreage that is an absolute mecca for children who love to run, jump, drive cool contraptions, dive into sandbars by the river, take glow in the dark hay rack rides and experience a slice of country.  We eat meals, joke with each other, let our kids run amuck and smile at the memories that they're making.

The hardest part is the drive.  It takes eight hours to get there and with a baby, it takes even longer.  My husband and I have a fantastic arrangement.  He knows that I'm the control freak and let's me do the driving.  He enjoys making up fun games with the kids, reading books, discovering new apps on the iPad, and talking about what we'll do when we get to our said destination.  I, on the other hand, view it as a challenge.  How fast can I get from point A to point B by maximizing gas, time, energy and bathroom breaks?  I also get a chance to sort of day dream in between entering into games with the kids.

But on the way home today, I thought, "I'm really tired, I just want to zone out to my iPod and pray that this car autopilots us home."  Instead, I decided to really pay attention to the scenery.  It was a gorgeous fall the 70's for most of the way.  The sun was shining.  The trees are at the end of changing colors and the sky was blue.  It reminded me of being little and going on trips with my family looking at license plates and playing the memory game.

I'm sure that to many a trip from Nebraska to Oklahoma is uneventful, boring, and prolonged.  And, to an extent, they would be right.  But a shift of perspective and a focus on the present, helps me to realize that the heartland is beautiful, that these times are few and far between and that I should cherish my son/daughter asking me if I would rather live in Asia or Antarctica.  Here's to family road trips....a cornerstone of childhood.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Little Sprucing Up...

On Monday afternoons, I splurge and have our sweet babysitter come over and stay with the girls.  She colors with Kate, watches the baby crawl around and reads to the both of them.  For three hours, I can do what I please.  It's usually a combination of errand running and winding down...but always, it's blissful.  A time to rejuvenate, regenerate, and regroup.

Today, I decided to park myself at a local eatery and have a cup of soup.  A hot, comforting, dunk of deliciousness with a warm baguette.  While I was eating, I couldn't help but eaves drop on a fascinating conversation between who I'm assuming are family members...grandmother (a stately woman), mother (the spitting image of her elegant mom) and a fabulously dressed, incredibly flamboyant son/grandson who has recently moved home from LA where he sold his home for a mint.

He was describing the bathroom decor of his former abode to his grandmother and I was salivating.  He talked about his plans for the pad had he stayed and his excitement over taking the holiday season easy.  And then he said that he was looking for the next project.  He wanted something fresh, fun, and interesting...something that he could really sink his teeth into.

And immediately, I thought, "Me...take me on."  Like a mini-"What Not to Wear" TLC could come to my home...give me ideas on decor...rifle through my closet and help me to make combos that work for a busy mom of three.  He could do it all pro bono, of course, now that money is not a concern post his house sale.

So, I dropped him my business card and told him that I could be his pet project...fresh, fun, exciting and definitely in need of sprucing up.  Grandma was thrilled, mom hugged me and he...well...gave me a high-five.

Or so, I'd love to fantasize. All of this works out well in my fairy tale dreams.

But seriously...wouldn't that be fun?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What a Day...

Do you ever have one of those mornings when you're positive that the day is just going to suck?

I'm not talking about a little bit of a suck...I'm talking about you can't get over yourself, your attitude is dismal, your outlook is bleak, your pissed at the world, and more than anything you just want to scream.

Yep, that's how I spent most of my Sunday.  Instead of basking in the beautiful autumn weekend day, I stomped around pissed at the world. Angry that my house is always a mess...angry that my kids were terrorizing each other...angry that I can never seem to make progress on my "special" projects...angry that I always have too much on my plate...angry that I still have to many handles on my hips...and angry just for the sake of being angry.

And then I did it.  While my husband was winterizing the back yard, the kids were having it out in the tree house and the baby was sleeping in her crib...I went down into the basement and screamed my damn brains out.  It was frightening.  It was freeing.  It was soothing.  It hurt and felt good all at the same time.

And the house is still messy, the projects are still on the to-do list, the kids are still pestering each other...but all of the sudden, for a brief moment, I didn't give a shit.

Scream.  I dare you. It works wonders.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

I Wish We Lived Closer

Because my parents are divorced.  Because I married a man who's home is 1700 miles away.  Because I went to undergraduate school in Chicago and graduate school in Ohio.  I have a lot of family and friends who live far away.

My husband and I try to do our best to keep in touch with our loved ones via phone, Face Time on the iPads, facebook, and text messaging...but the reality is, we really wish that we could just grab a cup of coffee and see them face-to-face.

Both of my sister-in-laws that live far away have boys.  One has two boys and the other has four.  So, I love to hear their rough and tumble stories about having a house full of testosterone while they get to hear the fun melodrama of managing princesses, fairies and ballerinas with my two little girls and dinosaurs and legos with my son.

My best friend from college lives in New Hampshire and runs a bed and breakfast in Maine.  She has adorable twin babies that are close to the age of my Claire.  We are lucky if we get to see each other once a year and now that we have more children our odds are even less.

It's a beautiful thing to wake up, grab a cup of joe, log onto facebook and see a photo of someone I love being themselves.  Likewise, I enjoy sharing our crazy family moments.  I am grateful that technology has made it faster, easier, and less expensive to share memories than it ever used to be.  I am also grateful that social networking tools like facebook and blogs help us stay connected to people we may have never known how to locate otherwise. But I really miss seeing their faces, taking in their smiles, sharing our lives and building memories in real time. 

While all of these gadgets have made our lives more connected, I wish that there was a time machine to quickly and cheaply transport us in physical space.  That would be amazing and so very appreciated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Power of Literacy

My mom loves to share that I came out of the womb reading.  Apparently by the age of four, she and I sat in the backyard and interchanged swinging with reading lots and lots of books.  My early childhood experience entailed she and I reading all the time to one another.

So, I have to say that it warmed my heart to discover that my oldest daughter is a reader as well.  She always has been.  Ever since she started sleeping in a "big girl" bed at the age of 18-months, she's gone to nap and to bed with a night light and a book.  Consequently, it shocked others, but not really me, that she was fluently reading by the age of three.  However, it can be embarrassing when she corrects her preschool teacher for paraphrasing stories when she's in a pinch for time. 

And now, on a daily basis, we all read to each other pretty voraciously.  Kate is a fan of Dr. Seuss, "Fancy Nancy", "Pinkalicious," and any book that we bring home from the library which is typically in the dozens.  Sam is a fan of chapter books...primarily, "Magic Tree House" and "Beast Quest" and anything that has to do with dinosaurs or sea creatures.  I chew on my Sunday New York Times as well as a library or book club book and Ray, well, he's constantly reading something online or listening to a podcast.

It struck me not long ago that reading is not a given.  Literacy is not a right.  Not all children are born into environments where it is encouraged or honed.  This is the greatest tragedy on the face of the earth.  I can not imagine not being able to navigate my way around a city by reading street signs.  I can't fathom being in a grocery store and not understanding a nutrition label or a sign pointing to the cereal aisle.  Most of all, I can not imagine being a parent and not being able to read medical or educational information on behalf of my child. 

When I first moved back to Omaha from undergraduate school, I became a tutor at the Literacy Center and developed a relationship with a girl who was only a few years younger than I was.  She was a high school graduate who couldn't read.  And, she was getting ready to expect her first child with a father that was in and out of the picture.  We started with phonics and moved to words, simple fragments, small sentences, magazines that were of interest, and then baby books.  The day we read "Good Night Moon" brought me to tears and the day I arrived to meet her baby girl, I was weeping with joy.

Since those early days in my 20's, I have never underestimated the power and the importance of reading.  It is a gift that every human being should receive and nurture. If you have the opportunity, share the gift of literacy with another.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Am I screwing it up?

Sam and Kate have a wall in their half chalk board, the other half cork board.  They use it to hang up art creations, to play hang man, to keep track of their work jobs and in general to have fun.

The other night, while putting laundry away, I noticed that there was a thumb tack on the floor...a straggler that probably fell off while someone was rearranging their masterpieces.

Because we have a crawler, everything on the floor is fair, just as I spotted the pin, so did Claire.  We both motored as quickly as we could to be the first to get to the safety hazard.  Luckily, I won. The experience called to mind all of the crazy things that we do to keep our kids safe and all of the ways that we go overboard to keep them stimulated and engaged. 

From a safety perspective, we have five-point harness car seats, booster seats, baby gates, plugs for electrical outlets, water floating suits for the pool, organic fill in the blank (swaddling blankets, cloth diapers, baby food, formula).

From an engagement perspective, our babies are listening to classical music in the womb, not being exposed to sugar, caffeine, wine, beer or second hand smoke.  They've mastered, "Little Einsteins" as infants and are now learning American Sign Language, French and sharing sushi with their parents.

Don't get me wrong, I happily subscribe to most of all of the above.  It's just sometimes crazy to think back to when I grew up in the 70's and 80's.  My parents smoked with the windows rolled up in the car.  I don't remember a seat belt being a big deal.  After a bowl of cereal, my brother and I were sent out to play for the day.  We got on our bikes and trolled the neighborhood looking for friends and places to build forts.  No one enrolled me in a specialized music class or recited flash cards in French.  And, I think I turned out fine.

So, when I worry about all of the things my kids are or are not being exposed to, I pause and wonder, how am I screwing them up?  Because I'm sure that the fact that they didn't have organic toilet paper is going to have a lasting effect.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Gratitude for the Fall

Even though I was born in the spring and have always held a soft spot in my heart for the season of renewal and rebirth...I've got to admit, I am enamored by the fall.

Like many, there's something about the change of the leaves, the rustle of the wind, the smell of the air and the ushering of the quiet that makes me pause.

The other morning, Kate (4), Claire (baby) and I took a walk to enjoy the beautiful autumnal day.  We're blessed to live across the street from a really beautiful park with gorgeous, mature trees and breathtaking ravines.  While collecting pieces of bark, pine cone, and leaves, we noticed a huge crane in the process of cutting down a mammoth tree.

And just like that, the tree made a huge thud as it hit the earth.  You could feel it in your belly, the rumble and reverberation were immense.

I looked over at Kate and she started to cry. "Mama, why did they do that?"  To which, I unexpectedly became emotional and said, "Well, I think the tree was dying."  And she said, "Did the tree know?" and I said, "I'm sure he suspected."

It's strange, but I've been having these kinds of cool, philosophical conversations with my kids a lot lately.  We've been aware of mortality and the seasons of life.  We've been praying for friends who are sick and for those who are dying.  We've been grateful for our health and trying not to take it for granted.

However, the reality is that life is comprised of seasons...a time to be born, a time to live and a time to die.  Fall reminds me that it is time to hibernate, to cling to those I love and to "settle in" a bit.  I am mindful that the colder temperatures and the shorter days give way to reflection and quiet.  It's not so much of a time to go-go-go as it is an opportunity to stay, to pause, and to be grateful for that which we are and that which we have been given. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No One Wants to Die

Like most of you, I've been focused over the last 24-hours on paying homage to the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and modern day Newton.  

After watching his 2005 Stanford University Commencement address, I am overcome by a singular message, "No one wants to die."  For Jobs, his world came to a stand still when doctors diagnosed him in 2004 with a rare form of pancreatic cancer and told him that he had 3-6 months to live.  In those moments, of "getting his personal affairs in order," he knew that he had lived an amazing life, but still very much wanted to live. 

He regularly asked himself the question, "If I were to die today, would I be happy doing what I'm about to do?"  If the answer was "no" for too many days in a row, he knew that it was time to make a change.

Jobs was blessed to live for seven years following his diagnosis and his mantra of, "Stay Hungry...Stay Foolish," probably ensured that he followed the call of his heart on a regular basis.

So, what is the call of my heart and am I answering that call regularly?  Because the truth is, I want to live.  I don't want to go through the motions.  I want to watch my children grow and witness who they become.  I want to grow my marriage and build my partnership with my husband.  I want to live out my purpose.  And as much as I want to grumble about how all of that would be easier with more money...the truth is, it wouldn't.

Jobs' life was a roller coaster of triumph and loss.  He was at the top of his game and in the trenches for the world to see.  But he never stopped believing.  You can't go wrong investing in what you are passionate about and that which brings you and ultimately, others joy.

Hats off to you Steve Jobs for making the world an amazing place and for having fun doing it.  Thanks to you, I smile whenever I turn on my iPod, iMac, and Macbook.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In a Perfect World

Once in a blue moon, I get sick.  It's not a good thing for the main caretaker in the house to be ill, so it's a huge blessing that when it coincides with a weekend, my better half can take care of the littles.

Not sure if it should be chalked up to food poisoning, stomach flu, the Husker game or a subconscious desire to be under the covers for the better part of the day...I found myself spending a beautiful Sunday in bed feeling sorry for myself and day dreaming.

I told a friend recently that I needed to have a "Bucket List."  In only the way that JM can say it, she expounded with, "Good God, Kelly, you have way too much guilt over all of the commitments that you currently have, I would say that you more aptly need a Fuck it list."  And maybe she's right.  But for now, here are a few things that I would love to do before I keel over.

  • Run a marathon...preferably in Hawaii
  • Surf...preferably near an island
  • Sing on a stage...Broadway would be very cool
  • Dance topless (again) in Greece
  • Skydive (I'm deathly afraid of heights, so I can't imagine this one happening...but what the hell)
  • Publicly address a really large crowd of folks on a significant social issue
  • Spend a summer at a beach house in New England
  • Quilt a keepsake to give to my children
  • Roam the streets of Tuscany with my husband
  • Explore vinyards in Europe with my children
  • Write a book
That's all I've got for now.  Funny how it's hard to dream big when you're focused on dishes, laundry, progress reports and baby food.  The beauty is the list will change again and again.  I suppose it's just liberating to put it on paper and out into the world.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Mother, may I?

Picture this.  It's Saturday afternoon before a Husker game, I'm in the grocery store with my 6-year old and 4-year old munchkins (which was a moronic decision, I know).

Our cupboards have been bare for a few days, so our list is long and my attempt at using coupons is still a work in, I'm fumbling a bit, no pun intended.

And then, all of a sudden, the devil invades my kiddos and the consummate, "Mother, may I?" comes out at every turn.  First it starts with normal things like, coconut, mango, apple juice, crostini...and then, it turns into shit, marshmallow, Husker popcorn balls....multi-colored string cheese (who on God's green earth thought that was cool?) and pretty soon...we're in an all-out negotiation battle field. 

"Come on, Mama, it's Claire's birthday soon...let's get this pink icing."  "How about this 'Explosion Cheddar Cheese Sodium Laden Macaroni?"  "You LOVE coffee...what about this Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla Nut Swirl blend?" 

I began with, "Not today."  Moved to, "No thank you."  Transitioned with, "Absolutely not."  And somewhere near the dairy section screamed, "The next child who asks me for another thing will get thrown into this cart with the groceries."  To which Sam replied, "Sweet!" 

Holy Mary, Mother of God.  I was about to beat them with my bare hands when a sweet man turned to me and said, "You're doing a great job...cut her a break, kids."  That's right, cut me some slack....or no food for you...or maybe, I'll make you eat that nasty marshmallow thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Free Pass(es) in First Year Postpartum

Given that this isn't my first rodeo, but will probably be my last, I've decided to put together a list of activities that women should not feel any obligation to do in their first year postpartum.  Who knows?  Maybe the universe will listen and women from four corners of the world will rejoice?  Just like maybe a money tree is growing as we speak in the back yard...what the hell, it couldn't hurt.  Here it goes.
  • Family Photographs...this is BRUTAL my friends.  Even if the mommy in front of the camera has miraculously lost all of the pregnancy love handles, chances are, she dawns dark circles and a face that screams, "Please, dear God, just let me sleep."  Keep the camera in front of the baby.
  • Sex...I'm just gonna speak the truth.  Any woman who is up every 2-3 hours, possibly breast feeding, probably sleeping in spurts (at best) on the couch does not want to do the nasty.  She wants to sleep.  She loves you.  She thinks your hot.  The scoop is...she's having a love affair right now with her bed and you can't just make do with your hand.  Everyone's got to sacrifice.
  • Cooking/Cleaning...there should just be a lovely person who comes weekly and tidies the place and leaves home cooked meals along with really good coffee and yummy chocolate.
  • Exercise...let me tell you right now.  If we wanted to burn calories, we would be having sex...not running, not doing yoga, not scrunching ourselves into the work out clothes that used to fit but are now well, a bit of an embarrassment.  Really, if the baby is sleeping and we have disposable energy reserves, we want to take said chocolate and watch "Lifetime" in our underwear (maternity underwear that is) on the couch.
  • Make Money....there really should just be a money tree in the backyard.  Women should not have to go back to work after 6 weeks or 12 weeks.  If they want to, have at it.  But, if it's the economic pressure or job requirement that is making the decision...well, piss on that.  Women should be allowed the time to heal emotionally, physically and to bond with their babes.
That's all for now.  I'll think of more later.  It's okay if you don't agree.  It just means that you haven't had a baby.