Saturday, November 26, 2011

And finally...Happy Birthday Part 3

And a cool coincidence with Thanksgiving...(only I forgot to post it until today)...

31.  I am thankful for airplanes and skype.  Good to see the faces of friends and family and know that they are only a plane-ride away.

32.  I am thankful for grandparents who love us, and our children, with lots of energy, lots of time, and lots of themselves.  And a mom who talked to me about the 3-finger approach of "Praise the Lord" that I secretly rolled my eyes at, but that set the tone for my own journey of gratitude.  It made the vocabulary not so foreign to me.  Thanks, Mom.

33.  I am thankful for the opportunity to sit on a couch in Melbourne, FL on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a book while watching the restless sleep of my new-mom best friend, kindred spirit, or in the words of Anne of Green Gables, bosom buddy.  What a gift just to be in the same room with her!

34.   I am thankful for kids who work hard raking leaves.  $1 a bag with no help from Mom or Dad.  That would be 10 bags.  That would mean Dad is out 10 bucks.

35.  I am thankful for the little street urchins we call neighbors...the gang of 4th Ave.  I love watching this array of kids playing in our yard.  I love their persistence and their acceptance.  


36.  No, I'm not 36.  But I just couldn't stop.  I am thankful for the gift of grace.  And mercy.  In the words of Voskamp, "The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. And it’s the art of gratitude that makes joy possible. Isn’t joy the art of God?"  But I am finding, as I am seeing more deeply and practicing the art of gratitude, that I fail as often as not. I can in a split second recognize something to be grateful for and then give into the urge to feel stress, frustration, overwhelmed.  I turn on the precious ones in my way, or withdraw in self-comsumption from my dear husband.  

But... there is grace.  And mercy.  And its new every morning.  I am flawed.  But I am grateful for that, too.  It is a constant reminder to look outside of myself.  To the only one who did it perfectly, knows me fully, and loves me deeply still.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Birthday, Part 3

And on we go...

21.  I'm thankful for fairies dancing in my back yard, kung fu fighters, and fireworks.  Independence Day with friends was a good reminder that we do have friends here.  And community will come with time.

22.  I'm thankful for the resilience of a 4 year old.  A broken arm on his birthday, a move across the country away from friends and grandparents, and food allergies, asthma, chiropractors, naturopaths, voo-doo trial and error...this kid has been through the ringer this year.  But he has been so tough, so brave, so...resilient.  I am grateful.
23.  I'm thankful for water-proof casts.
24.  I'm thankful for good books.  Poisonwood, Narnia, Hunger Games, Piggie and Elephant, Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, Madeleine, Jesus Storybook Bible...some for sharing, some for retreating, all for savoring.

25.  I'm thankful for 305 West Glenwood.  A lot of good life lived.

26.  I'm thankful for 3 good years spent within driving distance of family.  We cherish those years of convenient relationship.

27.  I'm thankful for local farmers.  Farmer Terry of Oneonta, AL was our first.  Mr. Paul of Rochester, MN is our current.  I love that I know and shake hands with the men who labor daily to feed and care for the animals that are our sustenance.  I love that Taylor Beth jumps hay bales with the little girl who gathers our eggs.  Beautiful circle of life.

28.  I'm thankful for gingko trees in AL and Maples in MN, both lit up on fire in autumn sun.

29.  I'm thankful for the "hard" of transition, for it forces me back, deeper still, to stand on the rock.  It takes me to the end of myself.  And reminds me to be thankful.  Reminds me of grace and mercy.  And joy.

30.  I'm thankful for full nights of sleep.  Uninterrupted.  Except for the occasional nightmare.  Or sickness.  Or need for nearness.  For that I am thankful for rocking chairs and the pallet by my bed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Part 2

I should make a gratitude is in no particular order.  The next installment...

11.  I'm thankful for my new camera.  As one author puts it, "The lens is my ink, for cameras have sensor eyes, and pixels record."  My D70 had a mishap last fall.  My husband was gracious and generous enough to bless me with a D90 for Christmas.  Best gift ever.  Except for the year he got my first, the D70.  That was pretty fantastic, too.  I am especially grateful for it when it is in the shop for repairs.  And especially grateful that those repairs were covered under warranty.

12.  I'm thankful for my new laptop.  This has been the year of technical difficulties.  Or technical deaths, whichever.  Either way, I'm thankful for the replacements.

13.  I'm thankful for this guy...
My partner, my friend, my Luvuh.

And this guy...
Always makes me smile.   Still smiling in year 34, with 10 years of marriage under the belt.  In the words of my dear friend, Lauren, "I would much rather do nothing with you, than do something without you."  Well said.

14.  I'm thankful for frogs.  Weird, yes.  But this summer our backyard here in MN was swarming with frogs of all sizes.  Tiny frogs, fat frogs.  Frogs that all ended up in our window wells.  The monkeys became enamored with them.  It became a part of regular summer morning routine.  They helped our MN mornings to feel normal.  All because of frogs.

15.  I'm thankful for my swagger wagon!  I know.  Don't judge me.  I never thought I would embrace the mini-van persona, but here I am.  Loving it.  For more than 2 monkeys it is a dream.  I think I'm cool enough.  Maybe.

16.  I'm thankful for family hikes.  I love being outside with my family.  With nowhere to go.  Just walking.  Until someone falls apart.

17.  I'm thankful for the joy of watching my eldest ride a bike by herself for the first time.  It is such a thrill, but also a bit terrifying, to watch her independence grow.

18.  I'm thankful for chapter books and reading lessons on the front porch swing.  Miss that swing.  Loved those moments.

19.  I'm thankful for Queen Anne's Lace growing wild on the side of MN highways.  A reminder that sometimes beauty doesn't need any help from a human hand at all.

20.  I'm thankful for strawberry fields with friends.  The summer-ripe juices of berries and season-ripened sweetness of old friends reunited still fresh on my palate.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Celebrated a birthday this week.  Thirty-four.

They become less and less exciting.  But more and more reflective.

At the suggestion of a dear friend (thanks Mother!), and as a birthday gift to myself, I am making a list of thirty-four things for which to give thanks on my thirty-fourth birthday.  It has been a crazy year and I have much to be reflectively thankful for.  Here goes.

1.  I am so grateful for a community of women who have loved me well and often, challenged me continually, and encouraged me intrinsically.  They span the globe and they span the life-spectrum, but I would not be the same without each one of them.  You know who you are.  I love you.  And today I stop to say thanks for you.

2.  I am thankful for three fabulous monkeys who, yes, make my life more hectic and complicated, but also add so much richness and meaning.  Motherhood did not come to me by choice or decision, but come it did and, six years down the road, I know and see the wisdom and blessing in it.  I am thankful for the ways it has molded and shaped my perspective of life and the world, even myself.  I know myself more fully because of them.  I laugh more readily, appreciate more completely, and love more deeply.  All thanks to three little people I like to call my monkeys.

3.  I am thankful for chocolate.  Dark, please.  Really dark.  And sometimes with almonds or cherries.

4.  I am thankful for running.  My sanity.  And Moving Comfort sports bras and Nike running shoes.  Running wouldn't be the same without them.  And I wouldn't be the same without running.  Sometimes far, sometimes not.  Never fast.  But always moving forward.

5.  I am thankful for coffee.  Good coffee.  What the Hubs calls my sanity.  He says my whole demeanor relaxes when I get my hands on a good cup of coffee.  Just one is all it takes.  I learned to drink it black this year.  But I still prefer a touch of cream and a drizzle of honey.  Yes, honey.  The earlier the better.  I'm not sure that this is good.  But it is something I feel grateful for.

6.  I am thankful for quiet.  Little snippets of quiet.  The elusive moments of my week when I can be still.  I am oh, so grateful for those.  Especially when they include coffee.  Or chocolate.  Or both.

7.  I am thankful for Target.  A steady job, with hope of a future, and a steady income.  With benefits.  And that doesn't require regular out-of-town travel.  That is something to be very grateful for this year.  I am well aware of how rare and special this is.

8.  I am thankful for one house payment.  This time last year we had two.  In a housing market that is all too unpredictable and down right despicable, I am very grateful for just the one.  It might be small (the house, not the house payment).  It might be humble, but it is ours and it is our one and only.  Thank you, thank you.

9.  I am thankful for craft nights with the girls in AL.  We sometimes had 3-4 sewing machines going at the same time!  Usually coffee.  Sometimes wine.  Always good times.  I miss those nights now.  But I am so grateful I had them then.

10.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to homeschool my first monkey last year for kindergarten.  It was hard.  It was frustrating.  But it gave me the opportunity to really bond with her and learn her in ways deeper than parenting to that point ever had.  We pushed through the hard.  We pushed through the frustrating.  And I got to see first hand the growth.  I got to witness the light bulbs going off.  That is a gift to a Mom.  And I honestly can say I miss her now when she is away.  And I so look forward to holidays and weekends when she is home.

So there are the first 10.  More to follow.  Don't want to overwhelm.  And I want to invest the time to really reflect.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

River Run

Civil Wars, Adele, Mumford and Sons in my ears, the soundtrack of the life-gift River Run.

Mud on my shoes.

No stroller, no toddler ticking time-bomb.

Time to stop and explore strange flowers, muddy trails, waterfalls, limestone cliff-boulders.

I feel life pumping in my veins, in my ears, in the sweat beading up on my temple.

Reflective thoughts begin to seep from the depths where they have been pushed down by the incessant details of the "now"...

     "Why did I ever think I hit my peak in my twenties?  Whoever told me that my twenties would be the pinnacle of my existence?  I feel so much more alive, settled,, mid-thirties, then I ever did 10 years ago.  And the life-giving part of acknowledging your age and aging is realizing that it is only getting better!"

     "Perhaps the further I move from myself as I add to the number of people I am daily responsible for, the closer I am actually getting to myself, knowing myself, loving who I am.  Could self-denial be the key to self-awareness?"

These thoughts I don't get to visit as often as I used to.  But today the River Run afforded me the space, the time, the opportunity.

This day I am grateful for a 7 year old birthday party on the other side of town so that I could make the excuse to stay out and enjoy a River Run instead of returning home before pick-up.  I should afford myself these "excuses" more often.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I had forgotten in our 3 years away the behemoth, street-smart squirrels in Minnesota.  I don't know if it is the same with all big city squirrels everywhere, or if the harsh winters over time and with micro-evolution have evolved this tougher, smarter, more resilient race of rodent.  Either way, these dudes are relentless.  

From our street we have seen, yes, your common everyday gray, fluffy tailed squirrel.  We have also seen black squirrels, albino squirrels, fat squirrels, mean squirrels.  But this summer we saw a rare species that stopped us in our tracks and begged the question...

"What is that???"

A rabbit?  (Plenty of those.)

A gopher?  (Plenty of those, as well.)

And then truth dawns...It's a tailless squirrel!

For a time we have been aware of critters gnawing on our lovely pumpkins, but the other day we caught him in the act.  Lo, and behold, there was the elusive, tailless squirrel elbow deep in our jack-o-lantern!  And the brazen thing sat there and kept gorging while I took pictures through a glass door!

Our little friend is the picture of resilience and survival to me.  We can feel the bitter chill of winter coming in our bones, and, believe it or not, he will stick around for it all.  Today I am happy to do my part in fattening this little guy up for the long winter ahead.

And I will look forward again next spring, as the first green shoots peak their heads out of our winter blanket, to meeting our little friend again.

My role in the circle of life  ( I did buy that pumpkin, after all) makes me grateful today.  And laughter.  I can never underestimate the power and grace of laughter.

PS...This post is in honor of Squirrel #406 and Squirrel know who you are.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


And the list grows.

Ann Voskamp writes a blog over at  I decided to take a peak last night.

Somehow I landed on a post titled "10 points of Joyful Parenting".


It was all at once convicting and encouraging.  Heartbreaking and hope-giving.  Challenging and relieving.

Please take a minute to check it out.

I am so thankful for the blessing of this list and plan on printing and displaying it so that I can use it as a regular reference.

Today I was grateful to "fight feeling with feeling".

I am praying for "strong words".  "Grace words."  I am all too aware of the "death words" (and "death tones") I have spoken and how it has taken life from my dear ones.

I am so thankful for today's small opportunities to draw close to my individual children...
(I like to call this our Calvin Klein shot.)

Impromptu hugs for the eldest which I cannot disconnect from the impromptu "I love you, Mom" I got tonight while fixing dinner...

Extended story time with the middle followed by an awesome team workout in the front yard.  He's got a mean push-up.  Or ground-up as he calls it...

And sweet, cuddly rocking chair songs at naptime with my baby.

This is not to say that I haven't always done these things "pre-manifesto".  But today I was present in those moments.  I felt real joy in the midst of them and my natural response was to "treasure them up in my heart."

And this is not to say that the day was filled with complete peace.  But these small moments gave me hope.  And some joy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Eucharisteo, Part 2

Lee asked me this evening, "So on a day like today (that should give you an idea of the state of my soul this afternoon), what does a "Thankful" blog post look like?"

My answer..."Today I am thankful that yesterday was a great day."

I was being cheeky.

As I thought on it I realized that good yesterdays are most certainly something to cherish.

This was part of my good yesterday that I am treasuring today.  The rich red of the maple in our front yard.  Every morning, in the midst of my rushing and bullying to get everyone in the car I walk right past it.  It should shock me awake, like a shot of caffeine.  Most days I keep walking, keep barking.

Yesterday...and this afternoon, actually...I stopped.  I looked.  I saw.  And I captured it as a reminder to myself.  Every year this tree, after all the other fall colors have begun to fade from their annual glory, this tree, a late bloomer, shocks to life!  It did it in 2007.  It did it again in 2011.

My autumn is coming.  My shocking to life.  Just wait for it.  It will come in its season.

     "How does one live ready, and always?  Yes, ultimately only Jesus.  Yes, this premature dying to self, birthing into the cross-life, the grace cocoon before emerging in to the life unending.  Without this Jesus, no, no one can be ready.
    "But, someone, please give me - who is born again but still so much in need of being born anew - give me the details of how to live in the waiting cocoon before the forever begins?"  (Chap 2, pg. 29) One Thousand Gifts

Born anew.

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation..."  Psalm 51:12

Mrs. Voskamp goes on to look at the final hours of Jesus' life on earth, how he spent his time.  And interestingly he broke bread with brothers and gave thanks.  The greek word for "gave thanks" is eucharisteo, the root word being charis, or "grace."  He took the bread, knew it to be a gift, and gave thanks.

And then another derivative of the same word, chara, or "joy."  And there it is.  

In Voskamps words, "Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving."

And so, my commitment to more chara joy.  The next 30 days, the days leading up to our own national Thanksgiving, will be days of my own personal thanksgiving.  I want to have eyes to see the small wonders around me every day that give life, full life.  The here and now.  And I want to give thanks for those things.  And here I will journal that thanks.  Even it means being thankful for the wonders of yesterday.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Eucharisteo, Part 1


This post may seem a bit like a knock-off for those of you who have read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

!!Spoiler Alert!!

This post could possibly spoil the fun if you have not yet read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

Proceed with caution.

Let me back up and give some background to what has brought me to here...

We are still in the throes of adjustment.  To moving.  To starting over.  To starting school.  To having to be somewhere (ON TIME...tricky one for me) everyday.  To new friends, accents, climate, and germs.

As mentioned in previous posts, life has been very full of late.  And the fight for joy has been a brutal one in my inner self.

This past week the monkeys and I traveled to Indiana to visit my grandmother and all four of us ended up with a stomach bug.  This all while Daddy recovered from the flu at home, and after what feels like multiple other viruses and ailments that have been ongoing since the summer.  And this all despite an exceptional effort on everyone's part to live a healthy lifestyle.  By healthy, I'm talking NO sugar, processed foods, grains, or dairy.  Ever.  Regular excercise.  Supplements.  Chiropractic care.

Naturally, I found myself asking, "What gives?"

And why am I allowing it all to make me so angry, so bland, such a pill.  Is this really the life God lead us here to live?  Is this really living?

I have plenty of thoughts surrounding it all, more than one blog post could manage.  Those thoughts we will save for another day, another post.  But with Lee I did share.  The resounding sentiment for us both..."Why are we here?  Why are our souls so downcast within us?"

And then the whisper..."Put your hope in God."

But what does that mean?  How do I work that out in my seemingly menial day?  Week?  Month?  How does that truth begin to change my mood?  My heart?  And again...Where is the joy?

In an old life I could probably muster it up.  Will it to be.  Though how long it would remain, who knows?

As I pondered our current state of affairs, and as I have been preparing myself, both mentally and thoughtfully for the upcoming holidays, I had the thought of starting a "Thankful Tree" with the kids.  And then the connection between joy and thanksgiving starting clicking a bit in my head.  And I thought, "Why not start my own "Thankful Blog". " Tis the season, right?

I started reading One Thousand Gifts a couple weeks ago, slowly working my way through the first chapter.  Between sick kids and sick Mommas and Daddies, reading has been a slow and tedious task.  But the timing, as always, has been impeccable.  Later the same evening as my conversation with Lee I read this...

(Background:  The author is writing after waking from a nightmare in which she was told she is consumed with cancer and has little time to live.  She wakes panting for breath and life.  And then asks herself, "What life?")

     "For years of mornings, I have woken wanting to die.  Life itself twists into nightmare.  For years, I have pulled the covers up over my head, dreading to begin another day I'd be bound to just wreck.  Years, I lie listening to the taunt of names ringing off my interior walls, ones from the past that never drifted far and away:  Loser.  Mess.  Failure.  They are signs nailed overhead, nailed through me, naming me.  The stars are blinking out.
     "Funny, this.   Yesterday morning, the morning before, all these mornings, I wake to the discontent of life in my skin.  I wake to self-hatred.  To the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing.  Always, the failing.  I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets.  I live tired.  Afraid.  Anxious.  Weary.  Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes.  Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough?  But this morning, I wake wildly wanting to live.  Physically feeling it in the veins trembling, the hard pant of the lungs, the seeing it in the steady stars, how much I really want really live.  How I don't want to die.  Is that the message of nightmares and dreams?  To live either fully alive...or in empty nothingness?
     "It's the in between that drives us mad.
     "It's the life in between the days of walking lifeless, the years calloused and simply going through the hollow motions, the self-protecting by self-distracting, the body never waking that's lost all capacity to fully feel - this is the life in between, that makes us the wild walking dead."  (Chap 2, pg. 26-27)

It's the in between that drives us mad.

Drives me mad.

No more in between.  This is my first line of attack in my fight for joy.  I will be thankful.  Hopefully thankful.  For 30 days I will be hoping in faith that as I learn the discipline of gratitude, the Spirit will bless me with eyes to see.  Eyes to see beauty.  Eyes to see life.  And I will journal this journey to joy.

So for Day 1, I am so grateful for Sabbath.  True sabbath that, unfortunately, I have not given myself in a long time.  Thanks to a Dad and a zoo, I was afforded a good hour of quiet and solitude, except for the Civil Wars serenading in the background, to prayerfully think and blog.  The gift of rest.  The gift of life.

More thoughts on thanksgiving tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2011

She's Baaaaack!

I am proceeding a bit sheepishly.  Not sure why I allow a computer, a nebulous online journal, to make me feel guilt.  It's like that friend that you know you should call (not naming any names) but soooo much time has elapsed that you justify why it's not a good time, and then sooo much time elapses that you become a chronic non-communicative bad friend.  I am a chronic non-communicative bad friend.

It has been over a month!

I could list the excuses...

  • sick kids for 2 weeks
  • sick Momma for 2 weeks (at one point I was wondering whether or not my next blog post would be announcing the conception of monkey #4)
  • busted camera (uh-gin)...good news...its still under warranty
  • high maintenance toddler (took me three tries to get one of those)
  • LIFE!
The last one would be the all encompassing excuse.  Actually, its a pretty darn good reason, if you ask me.  I think I have been waiting for our pace of life to slow down and to easily and smoothly settle into it.  I have now accepted the fact that it will not be slowing any time soon.  It simply is what it is.  I will embrace it, pray for more capacity, and move on with life.

Now that that is over, we can all look forward to upcoming posts complete with eye candy and musings.  And since it's Friday, and since my camera is broken (along with the SD card that held all of my pictures dating back to September), here is a little Happy Friday randomness.  Just because I like it.  And just because it's Friday.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Letting go...

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  THE first day of school for us...EVER (excluding preschool).  Boo.  And yay!  The past 48 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions.  Mostly denial.  Haven't I been planning for this all summer?  And now that it is the day before why do I all of the sudden feel so unprepared and panicked???
Sweet TB.  As I tucked her in to bed tonight I had an overwhelming urge to crawl in with her and hold her all night.  Perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic, but I don't think this transition is just redefining's redefining me!  It's been just us for 6 years now.  She has been my one constant.  Consistently kind.  Consistently compassionate.  Consistently free-spirited.  Consistently goofy.  Consistently stopping to pet every single dog of which we have come within 50 ft.

Consistently there.

My best friend (go Lolo!) is in labor with her first babe at this very moment.  As I reminded her this afternoon, once they come out, you can't put them back.  She is preparing to let go of her life as she has known it.  And to experience joy and life in a way she could never dream possible.

It got me thinking of my "laboring" over the past 6 years with my first.  How did we get so far so fast?  From diapers and "re-re's" to riding bikes and learning to read.  We've traveled a lot of miles.  I've let go of a lot of myself.  And I'm a better woman because of it.  We've come through a lot of rough patches.  But we really know each other.  And isn't it so good to be known? 

So I'm letting go of a season.  With sadness.  But with hope.  Because I know she has a Father who cares more for her than I could ever dream.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Small Things

"Do small things with love."  -  St. Therese of Lisieux

Ran across this quote on a friend's facebook page (thanks Melissa) and thought of it as I pilfered through some of the summer's photos.  I do love this little guy.  Bandaging that knee has been a great privilege of mine this summer.

Take 2

Hairy Eyeball...

Take 2...

And 3...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

So I'm playing a bit of catch-up with my blogging.  With a bum computer for the latter part of June and early part of July, I got quite behind on picture editing and blogging.  But I'm committed, dad gummit, and I will continue...even if that means moving a bit backward.

In June we had the great privilege and joy of picking strawberries at Lorence's Berry Farm in Northfield, MN with our dear friends, the McCowens.
The weather was perfect, the monkeys were happy, and strawberries were abundant.  Couldn't ask for a better formula.
The only rules were...

Stay within the rows...(Matthew running all the way around the aisle in order to follow the rules...pretty impressive)
 And eat... many...
 ...strawberries... you like...
And eat we did.
In fact, we ate until strawberry juice dripped from our chins...and down our elbows.  No better way to eat a strawberry in my opinion.
Even P got in on the action.
Look at those sweet chubby hands.
Hands and knees hard work.

But well worth the bounty.

The only thing better than the strawberries...
Sharing it with friends.  Friends we never in a million years thought we would be reunited with in this way.  But are oh, so grateful that we are.
And as I said before...boy, did we eat.  (Full bellies, by the way.)

And our bounty?  Weighed in at 12 lbs...each!!!