Midwinter Lifesavers

It’s that time of year. January and its resolutions and catching up is over, February the longest shortest month of the year is ahead. Tax season is looming. It’s a good time to stop and remember all the things that are saving my life this winter.

Last year, my list included walking and the Mamaroo; the year before the list had a TV show and nesting into our new home. This year, we’re in a different stage with the girls and a different season as a family. In many ways, things seem a lot easier and we’re in a good life-groove. In other ways, the girls miss Frank a lot more, which makes this time of year and its schedule tougher for him.

I’m loving this practice of taking note and reflecting on the things that are saving us right now. So, in no particular order, here are my new lifesavers:

1) Cooking Classes
For Christmas this year, I gave Frank a series of 3 Sur la Table classes called Becoming a Confident Chef. Each Tuesday we met with others to chop, sauté, and learn all those skills that make cooking easier. Having a set date night three weeks in a row, right before tax season was probably the best gift I could have given. I could see making this an annual tradition. Bonus? We made friends with our hotplate partners and have already had dinner at their house. Serendipities definitely save my life!

img_32922) Neighbors
This made my list last year and I hope it will make my list every year. Our neighbors are truly incredible and I’m so thankful to have a community during these cold, hibernating months. From texting with my across-the-street friend to shoveling snow with our neighbor who owns a snowblower to checking in with Elle’s favorite, “Jooji” I remember that we have people in close proximity who are looking out for our family. It’s pretty incredible.

3) Facebook
I know, these past few months have seen most people renouncing Facebook and closing their accounts. (At least, temporarily.) And, while I’ve put tighter boundaries on my consumption, I am thankful for this crazy online world. I’m inspired by my friends who are out marching and protesting. I’m stretched by my friends who pose different opinions. And I’m reminded that ultimately, we are all in this together. I’m not sure I would remember that without this loud conglomeration of strong opinions all in one place.

4) Whole30 Habits
It’s been about 3 months since we finished our Whole30 challenge. In that time, we went back to Philadelphia for a week, had a month of holiday celebrations, and have started scheduling dinners and brunches with friends before tax season really hits. And through it all, we’ve been pretty good. Of course, we’ve had more alcohol, eaten more cake, and have ordered pizza for movie night. But we’ve also kept a fairly good meal planning schedule and have included a lot of our favorite Whole30 recipes in the rotation. I’m sure we’ll be doing a reset in May, but I also feel like we’re starting tax season with healthier habits in place.

5) Listening to My Gut
I’ve made some decisions lately that logically were easy to rethink. But, my gut kept telling me to make space, to slow down, to focus on this moment. It was hard to listen to this tug, but I am so glad I did. I feel like I need to be open to this year. I’m not sure what that means or how that will actually look, but by making these shifts and changes, I feel better positioned for whatever comes about.

What is saving your life right now?

Linked with Modern Mrs. Darcy – check out her linkup for more mid-winter lifesavers!

Finding Balance is a Gift

The windows are open, at least for a couple hours on this warm January afternoon. The backyard fountain is running, reminding me of summertime when it flows nonstop. Our new deck is finished and, with the sliding door open, I’m thinking about the next season and using this space that has been too unsound for us to enjoy since moving in.

img_3388During quiet rest, Bea curled up next to me with her pile of books while I read Rising Strong. I debated sending her into the playroom, which is our usual quiet rest custom. Both of us need time apart, time to reenergize. But I’ve been thinking about kindergarten a lot lately and how these days together are quickly coming to an end. So we snuggled and read and were just together for a while.

I’ve drafted several blog posts lately but none of them seem right. Perhaps it’s because of my helpers, never far, always talking. Perhaps it’s because when I want to write something deep and profound and yet also encouraging, I’m just too tired.

Like everyone else, the news is exhausting. I wake up in the morning wondering, what next? A friend recently wished we could return to the days when Facebook was newborns and what we ate for dinner. And while part of me wishes for that too, I also recognize the privilege I have in being able to turn it off. I don’t need to check the news all that often because the news doesn’t really directly impact me.

But I also recognize this reality and am finding this balance. Of feeling grateful that our lives continue without too much impact. And of finding ways to instill important values. How do I want my daughters to remember this time? How do I want them to view their childhood? What do I want our family story to say?

So, with these windows open and the true blessing of sitting at a big work table with my daughters working next to me, I’m thankful for our life right now. For the ability to enjoy this day and these moments. And I’m also looking into ways we can spend our money to support those who are far more equipped and qualified to fight injustice. I’m emailing organizations about volunteering our time as a family.

I’m remembering that finding the balance is a gift I’ve been given. And I don’t take that lightly at all.

How are you finding ways to balance the news and balance your outlook on life? What is your best way to practice perspective?

Intentionally Disorganized

I recently got my first liturgical planner in the mail. I debated buying it since Advent (the beginning of the church year) is almost two months behind us. I wondered if I should just wait until next year. And then I realized we’re only mid-Epiphany – only one season behind.

img_3381So, I ordered it and started using it mid-week, mid-calendar. And it was so freeing. Because I began the process with an imperfection, I already feel open to continue the process with less control, with more reality. It’s a bit like starting my One Year Bible reading plan mid-April, knowing that days will be missed and that it’s easier to continue imperfectly than get stuck in a cycle of perfection.

This is a stretch of an analogy, but it kind of reminds me of controlled burns that keep the forest healthy. There’s still a level of imperfect destruction that comes from keeping the forest healthy. Of course, burns happen intentionally and infrequently, but they are important, nonetheless.

Perhaps I need to remember this idea of controlled burn more in my own life. That often, organization and intention are good to work from. But sometimes, I need to be intentionally disorganized to truly appreciate a project or season. Sometimes, letting go of the details to see the big picture is a a point-of-view I need to practice more often. (Not natural for this detail-oriented person!)

As we move into a year of changes and big decisions, I’m thinking this small practice may prove to be one that keeps me peaceful.

How are you wired? Can you start midstream or do you like opening a fresh page on Day One of a journey?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Control.

Yes, I Am Able

I’ve never dyed my hair before and, as my 35th birthday approached, I felt the itch to spice things up a bit. I’m embracing my identity more and more and I felt the need to commemorate that with something totally outside of my normal look. Something fun and funky but still maturely thirty. So, we went with purple and green highlights. They are subtle and fun and everything I hoped for in a mid-winter, mid-decade change of pace.

I was talking with a friend about the -5s. Those half-decade birthdays that sometimes seem bigger than entering into the decade itself. Looking back on my other half-decade birthdays I can definitely see the pattern.

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At 15, I first watched Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting and my interests took focus and my life changed as I pursued art history. At 25, after deciding I was destined to be single, I started applying for teaching jobs overseas. And then met Frank… Now, at 35, I feel on the edge of something. Of course, not even a week after this birthday, I can’t predict how it will impact my course but I am excited for what is around the corner.

My word, Capacity, has already shown itself to be a true vision for 2017. I’ve already made choices about how my time is divided, about the commitments I’m able to make, about what our family dynamic looks like in this particular phase. I’m on a journey with some incredible women to write our life’s mission statements. Our meetings have been profound and stirring. I feel that I’m preparing myself for something significant.

Because my birthday is in January, I usually hold off on the typical beginning-of-the-year goals and wait until my birthday to reflect and make that list. This year, my goals are much more vague and simultaneously more ambitious. I feel like the coming year will lay a foundation for bigger things – ones that I can’t even imagine yet.

If the decade between 25 and 35 was about forming my adult identity – one of teacher and wife and mother – then my hopes for the decade between 35 and 45 will be years of refinement. Of knowing who I am and feeling equipped and empowered in that knowledge to make big choices. I want to live these coming years with open hands and with an attitude of yes, I am able.

I am able to stay at home and raise these two feisty, thoughtful, compassionate daughters. I am able to be part of groups and teams and organizations that are changing the world. I am able to give my time and energy to my community in new ways.

I am embracing my ability to use this time wisely. This time of staying home but of more independence. I don’t want to waste these years, not just from a parenting perspective but from a self-care point of view. How can I use this time to really be intentional about my roles, both currently and in the future? How can I use this time to prepare for whatever our next chapter holds?

What birthdays seemed “bigger” to you – the -0’s or -5’s? How are you embracing the decade you’re in?

I Respectfully Disagree

One of the challenges of parenting that I find simultaneously most draining, most hopeful, and most constant is finding the balance of teaching respect and allowing our daughters to feel and express their emotions. And believe me, there are so many emotions to feel!

img_3228From learning to share to a project not going a certain way to simply being too tired or too hungry, a day doesn’t go by without tears from someone. (And I’m including myself in that equation.) Most of the time, I want both Bea and Elle to know that they are safe and welcome to feel those feelings. I want them to know that they will always have a safe place here to process and vent and figure out their own views on life.

But we also practice socially acceptable behaviors. We practice rephrasing feelings respectfully and how to ask in a way that helps people understand our needs. We talk a lot about how we may not agree with a choice or a decision but that we have to respect the outcome. But I also want them to know that just because I’m their parent doesn’t mean my choice is always final or right or unchangeable. It’s intensive work, creating human beings and citizens of this world.

Since November, I’ve seen many admonitions for disappointed people to respect the President. That, once the election was decided, we should put away our disappointments and anxiety, forgive the divisive comments and attitude, and throw our support fully and completely behind the president-elect.

On Inauguration Day, I saw it again – Just give him a chance; We are called to respect the office of President; God calls us to pray for our leaders. These are all statements I absolutely agree with. I do hope that our nation is guided to a place of justice and reconciliation; I do respect the office of President and am so grateful we live in a nation that practices the peaceful transfer of power; I have and will continue to pray for wisdom for our elected leaders.

But respect and disagreement aren’t exclusive. I can respect the office of President and vehemently disagree with the tone and words he uses to describe those who don’t support him. I can respect the office of President and be dismayed at the fact that he would choose to threaten arts funding (which makes up .02% of the federal budget) while likely boosting military spending to $1 trillion. I can respect the office of President and give the President a chance while remaining a bit skeptical. The cabinet nominees alone have given me little reason to celebrate unity and reconciliation.

I can respect the office of President and still believe that America has always been great; that we can move forward rather than looking backwards. I can respect the office of President and speak out against discrimination and hate.

In fact, speaking out may be the best way to show my respect. I respect this office so much that to blindly follow; to support without thinking; to not give voice to the voiceless would be the greatest disrespect I could show.

We grow and we learn from each other. We are stronger when we truly take the time to listen and understand each other’s stories.

I have a feelings these upcoming years will be a lesson in learning to find the balance I’m trying to teach my girls. To learn to feel my feelings; to respect others; and to use my voice to protect and help those who will be deeply impacted by this quest for greatness.

Hopefully, through discussion and disagreement; through debate and conversation, we’ll work together to continue making this a great country.

How do you engage with others of differing opinions? Does debate energize you or drain you?

Review: Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear + Giveaway

As a child of the eighties, I have never known a time without the Religious Right. Politics and religion have always been intertwined. If you believe certain things then people assume you most likely vote a certain way. This is starting to change, as people in my generation are redefining faith and redefining political allegiance. And, like many in my demographic, I find myself wondering more and more often, How did we get here? What made this divide between ideologies so wide?

fb4In Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America, Michael Wear sets out to provide insights to those questions. A self-described conservative Democrat, Wear worked on President Obama’s initial campaign in 2008 before working within the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. His inside view into our most recent President’s faith, values, and attempts at partnering faith and politics is eye-opening.

Not only are there plenty of stories about working in the White House and the challenges of defining the nearly-impossible topic of an individual’s faith to a public policy, but Wear gives insights into the millennial view of faith and politics. We live in an era where politics is part of our everyday life. There is no separation of church and state; there is no way of separating our political values from our spiritual life.

Wear accepts this new way of interacting with politics and offers guidance and optimism to a weary population. People are tired of the divide, no matter which side of the aisle they fall on, and Wear gives hope. Not to battle each other but to recognize the significant importance of our differences and how they can honor God and offer hope to our nation.

Wear doesn’t provide the magical answer to solve all of our political problems, but he does shed light on ways we can shift our own perspectives. He introduces a new way of doing politics – not one of either/or, church/government but of a both/and approach of partnerships with the church and government. This new way forward is a big shift in thinking but one that, if we’re willing to take the journey, may be more world changing than we realize.

How does your faith reflect your politics? Are you able to separate to two? How do you support your values and your voting habits?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away a copy of Reclaiming Hope. Leave a comment about your journey in faith and politics and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, January 20, 2017. (United States addresses only.)

As part of the Reclaiming Hope launch team, I received a complimentary copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

In the Middle of the Tired Thirties

The Tired Thirties. This phrase, first coined by Sloan Wilson in Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, was used to describe that period for businessmen when they tried to balance family life with the long hours and demands of working their way up the corporate ladder. It has since been taken over by young mothers after Madeleine L’Engle used the term to describe her own experience in raising small children.

img_3103We’re certainly right in the middle of the tired thirties. The girls are at a demanding stage. Even if they can play independently, that only goes so far. And the routine itself can get monotonous: breakfast, get ready, school/playdate/errands/activity, lunch, naptime/quiet rest, late afternoon destruction of house, dinnertime, bedtime, repeat.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to use the tired thirties as an excuse. I am tired but when I take a look at what is most life-giving in this phase, it is the very thing that makes me most tired.

I suppose that’s the way it goes. What makes us most happy, what gives us the most joy, is what we give our time and energy to. Whether it’s children, a job, a calling, these things energize and fill. And they also can be consuming and draining.

There’s the balance – that happy medium. In many ways, it’s harder to draw the same boundaries around my children than I can about volunteering or work. I can’t just be done with mothering.

So I’m getting more creative in ways I can be less tired. Sometimes this means spending more time with the girls, since they do thrive on that routine. Sometimes it means taking time for myself. Mostly it means constantly changing my expectations and what works because what works yesterday most likely won’t work tomorrow.

And I’m learning that the reason these tired thirties are so tiring is probably the best reason to be tired.

How do you balance the tiring with the life-giving? Are they easy to separate or are they intertwined?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is Middle.