2010 Soundtrack

ok, it's been a few weeks since I've done a playlist.
(mostly because grooveshark got all new and improved on me and i couldn't figure out how to import the widget....but i think maybe cross your fingers that I got it down this time).
If my life were a movie, it would be really boring one. And occasionally funny. But the soundtrack would be awesome. This is a soundtrack for the year, and I copied from some john foreman (and vivaldi) and broke it down into seasons. 5 songs each: winter, spring, summer and fall. And most of them have some sort of significance about what I was thinking, going through, doing, listening to or shows I was watching...but that's about all I'll say about that...listen for yourself. And make up your own...it was kind of fun.

wide open spaces

The other day I took a jog through town. My husband’s home town. And I ran past the high school and through a few parks and past the cemetery. It isn’t my town. I don’t know who lives in what house, but I’ve been here enough to know my way around. And if I’m honest. I know these streets a little better than the ones in my own home town. I probably send more Christmas cards to this zipcode than my own. It is classic West Texas small town. There is a drag that teenagers still cruise right down the center. I know where to get the good ice. That you can’t buy beer at all on Sundays. How I like my Coney. My way around the local WalMart and United. Which pew to sit in and where we will eat afterwards. Where to get a decent cup of coffee and one of the best breakfast burritos of all time. To expect friends and neighbors to drop by just because often bearing baked goods. I know that if I go to Dos or Hastings or the Coney that we will run into people. That know me, even if I don’t know them. Because they taught my husband’s 3rd grade Sunday school class or coached his soccer team when he was 6. And they will be friendly and ask about Shaun and his daddy and my kids. And I better be prepared to answer and show pictures and smile.
And my home town isn’t exactly huge. But it is always changing. I get lost on jogs and ask for recommendations of places to eat. And I wouldn’t know my third grade Sunday School teacher if she bit me. And I’m not complaining. I like that my town has a Target, a Barnes and Nobles, multiple movie theatres an abundance of coffee shops and I’m most likely not going to run into anyone if I go to Shipleys without brushing my hair. I don’t have to worry about how it looks if I buy beer at the grocery store of if people will talk about my new hair color.

And when we visit this place it takes me a while to get used to time moving slower (and the internet). No where takes more than a few minutes to get to. Well, unless you are headed out to eat somewhere nice and then expect an hour drive into Amarillo or Borger or Canadian. But there are no worries about crowds or rushes or traffic, except Sunday lunch at Dos or what used to be Furrs. There aren’t a lot of choices of places to go. Occasionally the movie theatre is open. Last night we saw the only non-cartoon movie on a tiny screen in what my husband likes to call the broom closet. The seats creak, don’t have cup holders and probably haven’t been cleaned since 1977. If you drop an m&m from the back row you can hear it clink as it rolls all the way down to the front. But the popcorn had extra butter and the tickets were only 6$, and I was just happy to watch a movie that didn’t have talking animals for a change. But other than that, I’m not ever really sure what to do with all the space.

Today, I went for another jog. And I went the opposite direction and right out of town. And all I could see were cotton fields and dirt roads and tumbleweeds. One even took me out from behind. The road and the dirt and the empty fields just seem to go on forever. Trees and houses and cars were sparse. And it just felt so big and open and empty. And I wanted to feel a little more of that, so I kept running despite the cold and wind until my calves and lungs burned and then I turned around and walked most of the way back. Slowly, because there wasn’t really any hurry. Untangling tumbleweeds from barbed wire as I went just so I could see them tumble back across the highway.

And it isn’t just the landscape. This whole town seems to be filled with space.
Time that I can’t fill at Starbucks or with friends or with shopping malls.
But only on cold wooden floors with my kids or playing cards at the kitchen table or reading another book on the couch. And this emptiness is something that I often long for before visits. And then get uncomfortable and bored and ancy with pretty quick.

I have never done well with space.
Give me a lull in conversation and I’ll tell a story.
Give me quiet and I’ll turn up my radio.
Give me an hour at home and I’ll fill it. Probably not with anything productive. If I can’t fill it with my kids or my friends I’ll quickly suck it away on facebook or reading blogs or with one of the three or four books I am always in the middle of.
And with people too. I resist the heck out of it even when I sometimes know it is best.
I’m afraid that with people, empty space will be filled with someone better at it.
With time, I’m afraid that I’ll miss out on something fun or important.
With God, I’m afraid that I’m not doing enough or doing it right.

And it should come as no surprise to you that, prayer has never been my strong suit with God.
Or “quiet time”
Or listening.
Because they all require space.

And so here in this place I’m trying to embrace the empty space.
And the quiet and the slow that it provides.
Breathe a little deeper.
Spend more time on the couch.
Less time on facebook (although I've done my share).
More time listening.
Less time saying, “hurry up”
More time staying put and less time running around.
And addressing some of those spaces in my heart that I have been avoiding.

And when I go on another jog tomorrow. I’ll dress a little warmer. Turn down the music a little. Enjoy my slow pace. Listen. Watch my back for tumbleweeds. And then, go get that Coney.

recycled advent: last one

One last recycled piece....

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3: 17 (NIV)

I have a reputation as the over-the-top birthday party girl. Last year, my son turned two, and we had a petting zoo, crafts, face painting, Chik-fil-a, and of course ice cream. I know that I should simplify, and I feel guilty about not, but I have given in. I love it. I love making a huge deal out of his big day. I don’t mind blowing my budget or even decorating fifty cupcakes. I have already started planning for next year’s party, and it is only nine months away.

We make a pretty big deal out of Christ’s birthday too. Stores start putting out decorations right after Halloween. We blow our budgets, we decorate, we send out cards, we cook, we shop, and we overbook our calendars. Sometimes I worry that all the presents and commercialization has cheapened this holiday. That we are so busy that we forget that it is indeed a birth we are celebrating and not that crazy-looking bearded man in a red suit. Every year, I tell myself that I am going to simplify: spend less, commit to less, and rest more. These are valiant resolutions, and occasionally I even keep a few of them.

I don’t think God minds though. It is His Son’s birthday after all, and He is surely a proud Daddy. He didn’t hold back either. No other holiday has more tradition, more events, more decorations, or more presents. The stars even shined brighter. God has never been about stuff, yet three kings from the East brought this tiny baby gold, insense, and myrrh. And I thought my parents spoiled their grandchild! Don’t give those retail stores all the credit, God knows how to celebrate in a big way. It isn’t about all that stuff of course – it is about His Son.

I know this whole season is supposed to be about centering ourselves on Christ during this crazy season, but don’t forget that it is indeed a celebration. Indulge for the day in that. Bake some cupcakes, and break out the ice cream (yes, even in December).

And since Owen is now 5 (and a half he likes to add), I wrote this a while ago.

I’ve toned down on the birthdays. But only a little. There were still pies in the face, water balloon fights and too many little boys to count at the last party.
And I love that it is Christmas day and well after noon and most of us are still in our jammies. On the agenda for the rest of the day is hopefully a nap, some good food, maybe a jog or some dominoes and a movie.
The presents are opened. The rest of the family isn’t showing up until tomorrow. And no one is sending me to WalMart to pick up some last minute items.
But a few hours ago I wondered into an almost empty church with my mother in law. Still littered with candles and programs from the candlelight service the night before. I received communion, again. And awkwardly spent a few minutes at the altar. The preacher’s kids were still in their pjs. One was crawling under the pews and another was screaming from the balcony while I prayed. They were hyped up on cookies and new toys. She tried to quiet them while we prayed. But I kind of liked the noise. It was supposed to be a celebration after all.
Merry Christmas friends, it's not too late for cake. or cookies. or fudge. or pie.....

advent week4 love: i know

This morning was kind of cold and Shaun was already gone when the kids woke up.

They both found their way into my bed and under my covers. I’d say we were snuggling but Owen and Tess were mostly just poking each other, kicking me and asking me to get up and make cinnamon rolls and turn on cartoons.
I tried pretending to be asleep.
They didn’t fall for it.
I tried stealing my covers back.
They decided to be on the same team for once and pulled harder.
And I knew it was time to get up and get breakfast and shower and all of those other things I needed to do before church.

But first. I squished Tessie and told her I loved her.
She gave me a slobbery kiss on the cheek, told me she “lubbed” me. Looked at me sweetly and asked for a cookie with about a 10 syllable please tacked on to the end.
Becuase she knows I am sucker for that kind of cuteness.

Then Owen.
I gave him a good squeeze and told him quietly that I loved him the best
(and yes, I tell Tess that too).
And he just shrugged and said, “I know.”
Before pulling my covers tighter.

And maybe that could be my favorite response.
To know.

And I’ve written about this before. But I struggle a little with those words.
Not with Shaun or my kids but almost everyone else.
I have a hard time spitting them out and even writing them down (and yes, I occasionally do anyways, but not enough). But I have an even harder time letting them sink in. Knowing.

And it is easy enough to respond. To say I love you back.
But hard to believe.
To really know.
That I am loved and picked and chosen and worthy.
And not to have to question or analyze or try and earn it.
From my family, from my friends and even my God.

My kids have both sung their share of “Jesus loves me” at church.
And I’m sure I did too when I was their age.
And it is easy to hear and sing. At 2 and 32.
But I rarely hear “me” at the end.
I have kind of replaced that kind of me with “everyone” under which I collectively fall.
Because of course Jesus loves everyone. And I am part of everyone. So logically I belong in their somewhere. And a lot of good people try to love like that. So they will love me. Because we are supposed to love everyone.
Which is kind of an easier story to buy.
Than someone just loving me.

But that isn’t the story being told.
Christmas is about God showing up in the flesh for me.
My name is engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).
He knows exactly how many hairs are on my head (Matthew 10:30).
He saves my tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).
He knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139).

And that is personal.
Not a big collective love.
But the kind that knows my innermost being.
And a kind that loves me the best.

And I hope that next time I hear it.
In a silly kid’s song. Or from my husband. Or my kids. Or a friend. Or whispered quietly in the wind and into my heart.
That I will shrug securely like my son did this morning.
And just say, “I know”.
And mean it.

on repeat

I’m not sure when exactly this started to happen, but it feels like it was just Christmas or Easter or some season that I have already done before.

And writing about it makes me feel a little tapped out. Like I am just on repeat. Posting the same old posts (well partly because I am).

And the seasons are getting away from me. Slipping by faster and faster, hardly before I can get my tree up it is time to take it down.

And I wonder if it even matters at all. To do the same show every year. The same parties. The same extra 10 pounds and buying the same presents that I really can’t afford.
And church is a little bit on repeat too. We sing the same songs and talk about the same teenage girl and the story we have all heard hundreds of times. 

And of course, It matters to my 5 year old who checks the advent calendar every day. And tells me that there are only 2 more days til Christmas because there are only two more links left on the chain he made at school. Like ripping off paper chains will make it come faster. Every day his wish list grows longer and he worries about Santa finding him at Gram and Grumps house. But he could drive around and look at Christmas lights every night without complaint. And Tess could sing Jingle Bells dozens of times without ever tiring. And they could both watch Elf over and over and laugh harder each time. There are not enough cookies or Santas or parties.  They are eager for the day to get here but not for it to be over with. They are not tired or overcommitted or on repeat.

They are excited and hopeful and joyful. And all of those things Advent is about. Except maybe not so much about Jesus as I’d like. Because a few days ago when I asked my kid whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas he told me “Devon Webb” who I think is a kid in his class who had a birthday this week. And R2D2 has mysteriously replaced Jesus in the Little People nativity scene. But they will get it eventually. One day they will understand the point. One day they will be more excited about giving than opening up their own presents. One day they will drive their own kids around night after night to look at lights or to sit on Santa’s lap or stay up late baking cookies for another Christmas party.  One day they will untangle their Christmas lights one more time and put up the same tree and try to tell the same story about the same baby. Again and again. Year after year.

And I hope they do it with the same wonder and joy.  I hope they never get stuck on repeat.
Just like my God. Who loves to tell the same story of love over and over. And listen to my same pleas without growing tired. Who forgives every time I ask, often for the same old stuff. And who whispers my name as many times as I need to hear it.
That Jesus didn’t just come once some two thousand years ago, but that he managed to stick around if I just look. And that maybe I need to be reminded  over and over in these same seasons that he can be found in hearts and people all the time. Again and Again. Every year and Every day. And it never gets old.
 (and the pictures are from Christmases past. Because I don't really get tired of looking at them either).

a real christmas letter (take 2)

I love going to my mailbox this time of year. Usually it is only filled with junkmail and bills. This month it is filled with friends. Their faces and letters make me smile.

The Christmas letter has always baffled me a bit. I love reading them and getting to catch up on people's lives. But I have never quite known what to say and never mailed off any of my own. Most of these letters seem a bit too polished. I don't mean grammatically.......more like some of the stuff of life has been left out. One of my good friends has always joked about writing a REAL Christmas letter. Starting out with something like, " This year we filed for bankruptcy" or "we managed to stay married for another year" or "my son is failing half of his classes". Imagine the response those would get!

So I will attempt a REAL letter. Some of the highlights as well as some of the lows.
(and this isn't my first attempt, I did a few years ago and posted it here.)

I started the year with a colonoscopy. Which was so not fun, but what better way to start the new year than with a shiny clean colon. And not so many answers on what is wrong with my stomach than I started with. Except maybe that I could use a little more sleep.

My Spring and early Summer was long and hard. Friends were sick, people died and I had way more questions than I had answers. I started to want to really pursue the idea of justice and compassion rather than just read about it. But that was going to require me to rethink some things. Like how many pairs of shoes I really needed or if I could limit my Starbucks intake to a few less times a week. I got only a little bit better at it. And I mostly didn't answer any of my questions. But startedt to stop being afraid to ask them.

Owen was much healthier than last year. We didn’t get pneumonia or chicken pox or shingles even once. And I think the people at Cooks ER might not even remember us by name any more.

Tess on the other hand had ear infection after ear infection and finally we scheduled surgery. I was hoping for a whole new kid. One who sleeps and was a little more laid back. And what I got was my Tessie without any ear infections. Still firey and high maintenance and easily woken. Months later she does sleep better. And even very very occasionally all night in her own bed. But mostly she ends up at some point in our room kicking one of us in the face. But there is no more screaming in the middle of the night. Well, unless she kicks one of us in square in the nose.

Owen started kindergarten this year. And loves it. He is learning a lot. He is starting to read pretty well on his own and can count over 100. What he hasn’t learned however is how to listen, to sit quietly, to not interrupt and to get his work done instead of talk to his friends and be silly. But lets be honest, neither has his momma.

He is also playing some serious soccer. Well serious soccer for a 5 year old. About a year ago we were bribing him with ring pops and pulling him out from under the covers on game days and offering up a nickel every time he touched the ball. Just about the time I was about to let him quit he started loving it. He may be the littlest and least scoring jaguar on the team, but he is by far the best dancer. And I think a kid who can play defense and dance at the same time must be pretty talented.

Tess is two. Officially a toddler. And with Owen I didn’t really understand what was so terrible about two. With Tess I know. This girl can throw a serious fit. She is stubborn and sensitive and knows exactly what she wants. Which is usually another cookie or chocolate or to put on all my make up or to watch “Princess and the Frog” AGAIN. But she giggles and wrestles and is so incredibly tender with her dozen baby dolls and loves to give kisses and is so stinkin cute that I think I'll keep her. She is super smart, starting to grow a little bit of hair and can out dance Owen in a heart beat. She potty trained herself on her second birthday like some magical gift for her mom. But only sortof. She is equally likely to poop in the potty as she is in the middle of the living room floor. But on the upside, we don’t have to buy diapers anymore. Clorox wipes, however we buy in bulk.

A lot is the same. We have the same house and the same jobs and the same dog and the same cars and the same messy kitchen. This blog and my thoughts on writing are in exactly they same status they were a year ago. We are all a little bit older and wiser and a few pounds heavier. Except maybe Shaun who goes to the gym more religiously now than ever, but I think that has more to do with the fact that we don’t have cable any more than it does actually working out. And there has been some new. A new tattoo, a lot of new questions, a brief stint with a nose ring, new books, new budgets, traveled to some new places and made some fantastic new friends.

Which I think makes for a pretty good year. Even if I don’t skip over the bad parts.

(and special thanks to my friend Rhonda for getting these amazing shots and for my friend Tina for help designing the card).

recyled advent week3: joy

Another recycled post. the topic was happiness and the original title was
"pursue something else" but it isn't such bad reminder about where our joy should come from. Not presents or lights or even homemade cookies....although I do really like cookies.

Americans like the idea of happy.
of pursuing happiness.
It is even one of our inalienable rights at least according to the Declaration of Independence.

But I think maybe we should pursue something else.
like love or joy or peace or contentment.

and leave happy alone.

Don't read me wrong. I am neither bitter nor cynical. Even my problems are good problems. I am positive. Half full. And most days I laugh a whole lot more than I cry.

And simple things like a dance party in the living room, an hour alone in Barnes and Noble, the yellow pajama pants my son picked out for me for mother's day, potstickers, clean sheets, someone surprising me with coffee, jeans fresh from the dryer, a good song on the radio, or squeals of delight when I walk in the door all make my heart sing.

They make me happy.
For a minute.

But when the squealing turns to screaming, my new pants are dirty, the sheets are in a jumble on the floor or the coffee runs out....where does that leave me?

And happy isn't always good.

I remember talking to a favorite old friend right before Owen was born.
She told me that she was leaving her husband. That she wasn't sure she loved him anymore. That she just wasn't happy. So she was leaving.
There was another guy who made her happy and she was going to give that a try for a while.
She was pursuing happy and threw away of lot of good things in the process.
I wanted to hop in my car and drive the three hours to see her. To love her. And then shake some sense into her.
I think maybe we are all so often unhappy because we are pursuing something that won't last or an ideal that doesn't really exist. The fake picture we saw on the Cosby show or read about in greeting cards.

Happy is short lived. Experiential. And we keep desperately looking for it. Hoping for it to show up on our doorstep, in shopping bags, bottles, other people and pills. And it often makes it's brief appearance and then moves on to someone else.
I want to seek something a little more permanent.

A joy forever etched in my soul. That is still there even on days where I struggle to smile. In being content. Like Paul. Paul wrote the "happiest" book of the bible, Philipians, while rotting in a jail cell. Because his joy didn't come from his circumstances or his new favorite pair of pajama pants. But from Christ.

And He is surely worth pursuing.


On vacations and breaks it is easy for me to read a book a day.
I  type hundreds of them into my computer.
At parties, I’m often the girl talking and laughing the loudest.
I pay attention to song lyrics.
I don’t filter the ones that come out of my mouth very well.
And I’m trying to get better at saying the good ones out loud.
I tell my toddler to use hers all the time, rather then just hitting her brother.
I tell her brother to use less of his while the teacher is talking so we stop getting bad notes sent home.
I like puns.
And can tear up a crossword.
I’m a little out of control with the texting.
I can’t write an email that isn’t at least three paragraphs long.
If someone writes me nice ones I read them over and over again at least a half dozen times.
If they say them outloud I try really hard to let them slip in. To believe them.
I probably use twice as many in any given day than my husband. (or more).
I try to be intentional with the ones I use with my kids and my students.
I fill empty spaces with them.
I try not to use ones I don't mean.
They are really hard to take back.
I am a kick ass scrabble player.
When I am nervous I use even more of them.
I try to say I’m sorry for the times when I am careless with them. (alot)
I know first hand the damage that they can do.
And the way just a few can change your whole day. And sometimes even your whole life.
Sometimes they are my best gift.
But I am also, forever putting my foot in my mouth.
I often misspell them.
I say far too many and don’t listen to other people’s enough.
And sometimes I read a few that I just can’t get out of my head.
Like these…..

And suddenly I am quiet.

recycled advent: peace

Almost exactly a year ago I was on my way to a little town in West Texas for the first in a season of funerals on my husbands side of the family. Peace and funerals aren't usually words that I put in close association. But when I got home and tried to come up with something to write about peace for the second week of advent, this is what came out.
And also exactly what I hope, for my friend that I wrote about in the last post who was in town to bury her grandfather. She just wrote me a long rambly email telling me about all the things that went wrong over the weekend. But that the last memory she has of her grandfather was him dancing and singing in the kitchen with his wife. Despite all the family drama and mishaps and even in the face of cancer. Peace sings and dances (and is apparently a baseball fan).
(now for the recylced part)

"4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Phillipians 4:4

The small house was filled with people. As usual, we were a bit rowdy and loud, even on this grim occasion. Owen ran circles around the living room. Tess scowled at anyone who tried to hold her. Too many people were in the kitchen and I was on at least my second cup of coffee.

But the little quiet old man in the room managed to get our attendtion because he wanted to say a blessing.
And we were silent.
And he thanked God for his wife of 66 years. He thanked us for being there. He thanked God for the food that had been prepared.
Even if we the cinnamon rolls were a little burnt.
His voice was barely over a whisper but we hung on his every word.
And he started to tear up. And so did the rest of us.
But he thanked God for his wife.
That he would bury in a few hours.
There was no anger or doubt in his voice.
And that is peace.
To be able to pray and thank God in that huge cloud of grief.

Over breakfast he would tell me that they had a routine.
That every night starting about 5:30 that they would play gin rummy.
And have a few drinks.
And start dinner.
And go to bed.
Every night for as long as he could remember.
And now he’s not so sure what to do.
Every night without her.

Later he would seem so sad and so fragile as we shivered at the graveside.
His wife, was my husband’s grandmother.
And I had only met her a half dozen times,
But tears still slid down my face and I watched his shoulders shake as he cried in the pew in front of me.

But I kept remembering his prayer at breakfast.
And I know that this was a man he knew and trusted in the Lord.
A man who wasn’t sure how to get through the next evening.
But could still pray.
And that is a peace that transcends all understanding.

Are you going to blog about this??

I picked up one of my favorite people at the airport yesterday.
I hadn’t seen her in ages and we had about an hour to cram in as much as we could.
And for me, intentional conversation and time limits make me sweat.
I usually need a little while to warm up.
But if I was only gonna get an hour I wanted more than to just talk about the weather or the flight or our favorite new songs.

But we did ok and conquered the vast assortment of conversational topics from ky to eulogies to the fact that maybe we never really get over it. Motherhood and girlfriends and losing passion. That it gets easier and that maybe that is enough and the best we can hope for. There were laughs, hugs, and swear words and our very own baggage claim. And she was even better than I remembered.

Twice she asked me if I was going to blog about this.
I told her probably not.
And I wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed.
Maybe both.
(and yes, I fully recognize that me blogging about why I’m not blogging about this pretty much defeats the point).

And this wasn’t the first time I’ve gotten that question.
Not even the first time this week.
It came up over dinner with my friend Julie a few weeks ago too.
And I’m not ever sure what the answer is supposed to be.
If friends are hoping I will or hoping I won’t.

And I’ve read a lot of really good blog disclaimers on the internet in the last few weeks and figure it is probably time to make a few of my own. (here is one of my favorite blogging disclaimers)

First. I don’t blog about everything. And even the stuff that does make it on here is always just the slightly public version. There is always more to the story. Sometimes I am trying to protect the people I am writing about. But more often, I am just usually trying to protect myself. And I almost never do things with the intent of blogging about it. (except for that one zumba class I took). If I don't live good stories I won't have any to tell. So really, I'm just trying to live and love well. And sometimes I end up writing about it. And sometimes I don't.
Last week for example, I got rear ended, had dinner with my friend Susan, played some crazy pranks at work, didn't get many papers graded, wanted to cry almost every night while Shaun was out of town because I was tired and felt really bad at it, my kid got in trouble almost every day at school and I wasn't sure how to deal with it, hurt my foot which meant I didn't get to race this weekend and probably about a dozen other things that I've already forgotten. And none of those things made it here or even to my facebook status.

And I don’t have some method or choosing what I write about. Usually it chooses me. There is a question or conversation or a moment that I can’t get it out of my head until I sit down and type. And you should also know that I do not process ANYTHING internally. Nothing gets solved, or sorted or understood in my own little head. Sometimes that process happens here. But not always. Plenty of things get worked out in living rooms, couches, kitchen tables, over phone calls, classrooms down the hall and coffee shops. And when I do write, there is no plan or outline or conclusion or whatever it is your highschool English teacher taught you. I just type until things start to make sense again. Or to remember. And sometimes I’m not even really sure exactly what it is I didn’t want to forget until I’ve read what I wrote.

And just because I don’t write about something doesn’t mean it wasn’t significant. Some of the most significant moments and people get very little air time here. That is honestly why I told my friend karly that there likely wouldn't be a blog post. Some things are just mine and I don't want to share them. So sometimes I hang out with friends and write about it and hit post. Sometimes I hit save. And there are all kinds of things on my computer that will never make it onto my blog. And sometimes I just send a long rambling email or text instead. And sometimes I’m just present. I’m the girl laughing and listening and interrupting rather than the girl who is taking notes or pictures, trying to spin every moment into a blog post. Not everything is material. Nor should it be.

And the online version of me isn’t the same as the real life me. Here I get to be edited (although poorly and often spelled wrong) and chosen. And I assure you I am open and honest and authentic in this space. But I also get to pick and choose. And if you read my blog for an hour and hung out with me for an hour you wouldn’t get the same girl.
Not that I try to present a different persona or fake….my heart is always the same….but because some things are just easier for me in writing.
Here you get a girl that talks about God pretty easily. In real life I might be more likely to talk about sex.
Here I use the word love a lot. In real life, I use a lot of other 4 letter words with much more frequency.
Here I like to talk about poverty and justice and service, but in real life that is something I only physically do on the occasional weekend. Turns out I spend more time at Target than I do helping people.
Here I show videos of my kids dancing in the living room. In real life, we watch far more cartoons than we dance.
Here, more often than not I get to some kind of point, in real life I talk in circles and rarely finish the stories I start…..but might tell you 4 others in the process.
Here I get to remember the highlights. The warm, big intense moments, in real life there are a thousand more ordinary moments that get edited out.
And sometimes I worry that people who read my blog and then get to know me are disappointed with the real life version of me.
With the girl that shows up slightly hung over for coffee than with her bible or ten books for you to read (ok, that last part might be true).
Or the girl that has a hard time spitting out compliments and giving hugs than the one who so easily writes them into this space.
With the girl that is more likely to tell you a funny story or embarrass herself, than talk about any real issues.

But if I had to pick. I’d rather give you the real version. The kind that spits out her drink when she laughs too hard and looks at her shoes when someone says nice things. I'd rather have real coffee than virtual coffee. I’d rather spend 1000 ordinary moments with someone than read their blog post.

And so back to the original question....
if we are hanging out in real life.
Am I going to blog about this?
probably not.
but i might. It is rarely my intent.
and i'll let you know in advance if I do. (unless I am married to you)
and you always have full veto power. (unless I am married to you, kidding)
but until then, can we just go back to laughing a lot and worry about the rest later...........

some more recycled advent and a not too corny playlist

....and some more recycled advent (still on hope)....from a few years ago. Forgive the repeats.
Just a few years ago I gave birth to a son. I took a packed bag, received an epidural, made a mix cd, and I think the hospital even had cable…..although I never thought to turn it on. I had multiple doctors, nurses, pillows and morphine ( lots of morphine). All my friends and family showed up. A few friends even waited all night (literally!) behind closed doors for that first cry. Afterwards I received flowers, presents, 19 staples, ice chips and of course a beautiful little boy swaddled tightly in his hospital blanket.
Mary, was just a scared teenager out back in the barn. No epidural or even clean towels.
I love these humble beginnings.
This is the Christ child.
God could have orchestrated his appearance on Earth anyway He wanted. He could have been beamed down like an episode of Star Trek. He could have immediately sat on a throne. Or He could have at least reserved a room for him in the inn.
Instead he shows up where we least expect him.
In a dirty trough. Small and helpless with only his scared parents and some shepherds for an audience.

At Christmas we focus on that babe in a manger. Before the miracles, before the sermon on the mount, before the resurrection. As purely the hope and promise his appearance offers. This baby hasn’t conquered anything yet, and yet even the stars shine brighter and kings come bearing gifts!
So often, I forget to come and worship. Instead I treat my Jesus like Santa Claus and bring him my list. I ask for help, I ask for rest. I ask for healing. Sometimes I ask for other people, but mainly I just ask for myself. Either way, I am asking and expecting him to deliver. It seems that I am putting my hope in his answering my requests, not just that HE IS.

I want to take a little while to remember Christ as that tiny baby swaddled in a manger. Like I held my son in the hospital those first few days. Just as a pure and precious gift. I didn’t ask him to say please or pick up his toys. I just wanted to hold him close and memorize the moment.
It makes me wonder when the last time I just stared into the manger, not the cross, and pondered all these things in my heart.

Like Mary did.

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. "

Luke 2: 16-19 NIV

(ok, grooveshark changed things up on me ....can't embed...here is the link http://listen.grooveshark.com/playlist/The_Not_Too_Corny_Playlist_final_/40420838
I'll try and figure it out later...)

....and for the music. I should still confess if you get into my car it won't be on the Christmas station although my kids are happy to bellow out some jingle bells for you....but I like these.

praying the mystery

The other day I was having a conversation about prayer with a friend.
Sort of.
Mainly it was a series of texts back and forth because even though I appear pretty open and honest in this space.
In real life, when I talk about things close to my heart I get pretty bad at it.
I look at my shoes. I change the subject. I start to mumble and talk a little nonsense.

At one point she asked me to just send her the link.
Because in 504 blog posts, there is probably one out there.
And I had to admit, that there is no link. Because there is no post.
The closest one I could find was on yoga. And I wasn't going to send her a link about my downward dog.
And I hated to have to admit that I am much more likely to talk about my favorite songs or foods or friends or even doubt than one of the main spiritual discplines.
And not because I don't think it is important or vital but because I am really really bad at it.
I've read books on it. I have things I believe firmly about it. I have things that I hope about it. I have my share of doubts. And sometimes I fast just so I will remember to actually do it at all. More often than not, I'd rather lick the bottom of someone's shoe than pray outloud. I've been doing it poorly for years, even though there are plenty of people out their who say their is not such thing as a bad prayer. They haven't seen me pray. Which really means fall asleep or get distracted or just forget entirely and worst of all occasionally bargain or beg.  I mainly just do all the talking and not so much listening. And usually it is all pretty selfish requests or me telling God what I think He should do.
Or to quote a little Anne Lammott:
"I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this."

When anyone ever wants to talk about prayer one thing I read always stands out in my head. Not the popular book on it by Richard Foster, or any St. Augustine or even the latest one by Shane Claiborne. But this silly little poem that I'm pretty sure was written just for me. (ok not really, because this guy is a pretty big time author and speaker but it still totally feels like he is talking about me). And this one page is the whole reason I bought the entire book (although there is more good stuff in it)...  "A Terrible Prayer" by Micheal Yaconelli from the book Ragamuffin Prayers

I have always been a terrible prayer.
I forget.
My mind wonders.
I fall asleep.
I don't pray enough.
I don't understand what prayer is.
Or what prayer does.

If prayer were school.....
I would flunk praying.

but prayer isn't school.
it is mystery.

Maybe the mystery is...
Jesus loves terrible prayers.
When I can't think of anything to say. He says what I can't say.
When I talk too much. He cherishes my too-many words.
When I fall asleep. He holds me in His lap and caresses my weary soul.
When I am overwhelmed with guilt at my inconsistant, inadequate praying
He whispers, "Your name is always on my lips."

I am filled with grattitude. My soul overflows with thankfulness and I....I......find myself saying over and over again, "Thank You!"
Praying the Mystery.
And thankfully my kids are a little better at it than me.
Owen prays for his friends, for the dog, for a loose tooth (even though he doesn't have one yet) and for another pillow pet. And Tess esepcially likes the part where we hold hands and pray before dinner. She wants to do it again and again. One hand in mine, the other shoving chicken nuggets in her mouth. And more confession, we don't do that every night. Or sometimes even every other night. And sometimes my kids fall asleep watching cartoons rather than me remembering to help them say their prayers and read a story while tucking them dutifully into bed. But mysteries don't have to be said properly.  Like, around the table, snuggly in our beds, or on our knees. They can just be whispered quitely while carrying those limp sleeping babes to their own beds while turning off the TV.
and because I can't help it a little more Anne Lammott....
"....when you pray, you are not starting the conversation from scratch, just remembering to plug back into a conversation that's always in progress."

reluctant advent - hope

I have a confession.
The Christmas decorations that came out before Halloween kind of pissed me off.
And I like Christmas.
And I have little kids that I want to make it special for.
Which would require me to be excited and intentional and probably bake things.

I kept thinking I'd be more into it after Thanksgiving.
But. Still not so much.
I did get Shaun to lug the tree out of the shed.
But we haven't decorated it yet. Despite my son's begging.

Friday night I took my kids and nieces and nephew to look at lights.
And was mostly tired and full and ready for bed.
Although I did manage to spin under my favorite big tree of lights until I was dizzy.
Like I do every year.

I even did a little Christmas shopping today. But mostly I was trying to get it over with. Toys R Us doesn't exactly put me in a spirit of cheer.
And to my sister who sent me home from Thanksgiving with wrapped presents. A big fat thank you and please try explaining to my 2 year old why she can't open them (including her brother's yet!). Total melt down.

My next few weekends are packed with parties and events. And I haven't even thought about cards or Santa or all of the extra calories I will be consuming in the next few weeks.

But this morning at church, they lit the first advent candle.
The one that stands for Hope.
And I loved that.

And I remembered that I really like this season after all.

My tree isn't up. There are no lights on the outside of my house (and their might not ever be). My cards aren't adressed or even ordered. I haven't wrapped a single gift. I don't have Christmas music playing in my car. And I haven't figured out what the heck I'm gonna get my dad or my husband or how we are going to pay for any of it.

But I love advent.
And those other things will get done. And I wasn't going to do any special Advent writing this year. I feel like I did enough of that the last few years and am not so sure I have much more in me. But suddenly I really don't want to ignore this season and anticipation in this space.
And to be honest, for right now I'm too busy and overspent to start from scratch....so I'll be recyling some old posts on here this week on hope. And next week on peace...and so on.

So for the first installment, a post from back in May....

Lately I’ve had some hard days.

I’ve written about some of it, other things I’ve left out.
Some of my friends keep asking if I’m ok.
And I’m really not.
But I don’t quite have time to let myself not be.

And I hesitate to say that I’m not.
Because none of it is really my grief.
It is all secondhand.
Losing a student is tough. But it is not like losing a son or a brother or a best friend.
Another friend is in the hospital.
She lost a son in August and is pregnant again with some serious complications.
20 weeks along with a little girl named Piper.

And yesterday, after my day job.
I had a play date and got to see a friend of my own that I have missed.
I made dinner for a neighbor who had surgery.
I stopped by the funeral home to give a girl a hug who just lost her twin.
A girl who happened to be Owen’s first baby sitter.
A girl whose grief and loss breaks my heart in so many ways.
And I didn’t go inside or say anything.
I just hugged her on the front steps and wiped away my tears.
And packed up my kids and was off to swim lessons.

And from there I went to see my Beth in the hospital.
And my Beth is easy. Even in a very difficult situation.
Our girls filled her hospital room with their squeals and giggles.
And we talked easily about movies and friends and her cervix.
And that it is all too soon and doesn't look good and there aren't many options.
Excpet to hope for the best.
And afterwards I ate good food with another old friend.
And went home and packed a sack lunch with a note tucked inside and put my own baby to bed.

And as I laid down, I was again consumed by all this grief.
And that I am choosing it.
Because really, let’s be honest.
It would be easier to just send a card. Or even flowers.
But giving grief a hug or driving a long way just to sit in a hospital room and eat craisons is awfully hard on my heart.
And my heart is tired. And I’m not so sure how much more it can take.
But there are still lunches to pack, and papers to grade and banquets and showers and birthday parties and soccer games to get to.

And last night, just before I left the hospital.
My friend’s nurse came in to take her temperature and blood pressure and those kinds of things. And I’m not sure why I asked, but I did anyways.
If she could let us listen to the heartbeat.
And she came back in with her Doppler and jelly.
And we heard the swish of the baby moving. And the quick lub-dub of her heart beating strong despite all the things going against her.

And for the first time in days…
I heard what hope sounds like.

and for the update....this is what it looks like:

skipping thanksgiving

One of my favorite thanksgivings wasn’t even a thanksgiving at all.

I didn’t eat turkey and no one had the day off.
The weather was miserable. Cold and rainy and gloomy.
I never seemed to get warm or dry and slept for a week on a tiny twin bed. With Shaun.
In a flat with about 4 other people I didn’t know at all.
And one I did.

We skipped work for few days, emptied out our bank account, cashed in a few old savings bonds and traded in our dollars for pounds.
And flew across the pond.
And spent the week in London.
And skipped Thanksgiving entirely.
And loved every second of it.

It was a time in my life where at parties the conversation was always steering to breastfeeding and birth control and babies.
Which was odd because we were all married with no kids.
We took  our dogs to dinner parties.
Played ultimate Frisbee on the Kimball lawn every Thursday.
Watched HGTV and decorated our new homes.
We scrapbooked and redecorated and went to late movies.
We packed up and went to the beach on an hours notice.
We stayed up late at friends houses playing mafia (in real life not on facebook) and Catan and drinking wine and beer and talking about how busy and tired we all were.
We had no idea.

And babies were right around the corner. We all knew it. Some of us were aching for it. Already trying.
But Shaun wanted to go to London first.
I had a friend who was living there for a season who graciously offered us her tiny bed while she slept on the couch and played tour guide. (Thanks Susan!)
So I got a passport and a scarf and off we went.
(And it was a good thing because the very next Thanksgiving I had horrible morning sickness).

We kissed in phone booths. Watched the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. Let the Beef Eaters show us the way around the Tower of London. Climbed the lions in Trafalguar Square. Minded the Gap. Cruised down the Thames. Set my watch to Big Ben. Took in the view from the Eye. Watched a real football game (that is soccer to most of you). Frequented a few pubs (ok, maybe more than a few). Spent hours in museums. Walked across the Wobbly and the Tower Bridge. Rode on top of a double decker bus. Tried to get a guard to crack a smile. Tried to get used to looking the other way when crossing the street. Checked out Churchill’s War Rooms. Rode in one of those cute black cabs. Spent plenty of time Underground. Ice skated outside at Somerset house. Fed the ducks at St. James Park. Strolled down Picadilly Circus. Always kept an eye out for the queen and Hugh Grant. Watched Les Mis at The Palace Theatre. Shopped at Herrods and the markets on Portobello Road. Began my Advent season at a service at Westminster Abbey. And probably a dozen other things I already forgot. I drank hot tea and ale and really bad Dr. Pepper ( apparently they use a different recipe). We ate fish and chips, great chocolates, really good pizza, steaming noodles from Wagamama and chips and salsa at the Texas Embassy. But never turkey.

And we made memories instead of green bean casserole.

90 to nothin

This week I went home for a few days for Thanksgiving.

And going home is always a little bit weird.
I am from a college town which means it is always different. Under construction. Updated. With newer hipper places to eat and shop and drink coffee.
And my parents don’t live in the same house I grew up in, or even on the same side of town. I live close enough, but don’t go home often because we usually do family stuff at the lake. And I’ve reached the age where I don’t really call my old friends the second I get into town. Most of them are elsewhere or we are too busy trying to cram in family stuff and put our toddlers to bed to go out for drinks, wrap houses, climb the band practice stand, steal street signs, sneak into apartment hot tubs or smoke cigars on the football field...not that I’ve ever done any of those things  :) …
Instead I hung out with my family, ate too much, and went for some really long runs.
On Friday, after a few pieces of pie (yes for breakfast) and put on my sneakers. Everyone was bundled up and a cold front was supposed to have rolled in …and I HATE running in the cold so I didn’t expect to go more than a mile.
But cold for College Station isn’t really cold.
And the air was warm and thick and humid and easy to breathe.
And the sidewalks just seem to go on forever.
So I kept running.

Past the local high school. And my ipod kept playing good songs in my ear, so everytime I turned around to go home I decided to keep going in a different direction.
When you are in the middle of a good run you just have to go with it.
So I went past my friend’s old house.
And my sister’s old house.
Down Wellborn.
And even down fraternity row.
And these streets weren’t quite as familiar as they sound.
I got lost more than once which is my favorite way to run.
But my thoughts and memories or high school and friends and our shenanigans were.
So I skipped ahead on my ipod to as many mid-90s tracks as I could find.
To give them their proper soundtrack.
And there weren’t near enough on there….which I’ll have to fix soon.

And even though I felt like I could go a little bit further, I figured I better head back before my husband and dad came looking for me.
And I waltzed in the door, with my music still blaring almost an hour and a half after I left to my mom waiting by the door and my husband pointing to his watch and my dad out searching for me in the car….and it was kind of just like highschool (minus the husband part).
I got myself a drink of water and settled in for my lecture and thought of all the songs I’d have to put on my play list…..

So here goes, and yes, I know I normally only have a dozen or so songs…and this one is completely out of control....just like my run, so just keep scrolling down. I’m sure I left some good ones off. Feel free to let me know in the comments.
Also, keep in mind that some of my friends were really cool listening to the Smiths and sneaking out to shows in Northgate.  I was not. I was blaring Snoop Dog and old 80s music, the Grease soundtrack and even the occasional country song from my black 2 door 88 Grand Am through my country club neighborhood filled with mostly old people who had no idea what Gin and Juice was. Impressive I know. But enjoy the rest of the tunes circa 1992-1996ish.

 (2 things about this photo. first, 90%  sure we were supposed to be in class when it was taken and 100% sure we were not supposed to be in the back of the truck that was our homecoming decorations...and also for the record "lay the cougars" would have been a way better homecoming theme than "crash the cougars"  I said it then and stand by it still.)
(my friend kate on the left. we've been friends since second grade where she not only punched me in the stomach on the playground but also had a matching chili bowl haircut as me. Mrs. Aycox to graduation day)

(who knew precal could be so much fun, my friend shannon on the left who is some super science researcher in the midwest, and in the middle my friend julie who listened to much better music than me and never wore the same outfit in a six weeks)

and since the theme of this blog post is apparently not stopping at the appropriate time...
let me add a few more things.
1) running for over 80 minutes is not my normal. running for about 20 or 30 is. And I am no super runner. Today my left knee is swollen and my right foot feels like there is something terribly wrong. I am paying for every mile over 3 that I ran. And am pretty positive I could still be running right now and still not make a dent in all the calories I consumed over the week.
2) notice the decorated dickies overalls in most of the pics. this wasn't some bad fashion trend of the 90s like Z. Cavarichis, it was just a tradition we stole from a&m b/c when you grow up in a college town you pretty much copy everything. They aslo said senior on the ass, which is downright classy if you ask me.
3) and yes, I know, one day I'll have to learn how to use my scanner and stop taking pictures of picutres. Until then....everyone that I went to highschool, camp and college with will sleep better knowing I won't be scanning any old pics into facebook.
4) and yes, i also know that this is the friday playlist and it's almost sunday. I was tardy a lot in high school too....just ask my first period Enlgish teacher.


I ate my turkey over 6 hours ago. And still fell stuffed and like puking.The head count was over 20 and food covered every available surface.And both of my parents are known for their cooking.They have both had a lot of hobbies and phases while I grew up. They learned to sail, and took country and western dancing, took classical guitar lessons and just recently they took up golfing again. But they have always been able to cook.Really really well.

I blame them for my double digit size pants and for being a food snob. My dad keeps a pad and paper by his recliner to write down recipes while he watches the food network. (I keep trying to tell him about this crazy thing called the internet, but he is old school like that). He cooks crazy fancy things that I have never heard of, follows his recipes to the letter, and spends hours destroying the kitchen. And it is almost always amazing. My mom also knows her way around the kitchen. I rarely see her use a recipe and she sticks to more classic dishes that never disappoint. They are in gourmet clubs and subscribe to food and wine magazines. They can spend hours in William and Sonoma and Sur La Tab, and they have kitchen gadgets that I don’t think they even know what to do with. There are multiple shelves of cookbooks in the living room and I’ve seen them drop more than my car payment on a meal (and I totally cleaned my plate by the way). Even as a kid I didn’t shy away from unusual foods. I know my cheeses and my olives and even ate sushi before it was cool.
So Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal around here. They start cooking days in advance. And this morning I heard the first pots and pans banging before 6 a.m. Some Thanksgivings they make a turducken ( a turkey stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck – ala John Madden) and/or a crown roast with sides and pies and a perfectly scaped table. (I think he must have a little bit of Martha Stewart in him!). And the meal is always loud and crowded and we all eat and laugh and refill our plates and glasses until our bellies ache. And then go back for more.

And we don’t have any special traditions of going around the table and saying what we are thankful for. But before we eat, the 20+ of us circle up in the living room (including Tess’s dollie) and hold hands and my dad says a long winded prayer about food and family and gratitude.
And earlier this week, I pulled up to a church just a few blocks from the school I teach at to see a line wrapped around the building. I had shown up to help pass out Thanksgiving baskets to families in need. The line of people all waiting surprised me. I hadn’t driven downtown, but only a few miles down the street. And this need and hunger in my own middle class suburb wasn’t what I was expecting. And I spent a few hours filling carts and loading cars with a simple sack of groceries and turkeys that would become these families Thanksgiving meals. A few people were embarrassed. A few barked orders about not smushing their rolls. But most said “thank you”, and “god bless you” and hugged me long and hard before I closed their trunks. Even though they didn’t even know my name.
And I have a lot to be thankful for. Like my patient husband who doesn’t yell at me when I blow my tire by hitting a curb (the day before we are supposed to drive out of town), or my kids that make me smile and laugh and encourage me to dance instead of pack or grade papers, or friends that make me almost wet my pants laughing everyday, or the ones that somehow love me anyways, and for full plates and full glasses and 4 different kinds of pie. But being thankful for what you are given. Whether it is a huge spread or a single brown bag, that is gratitude.

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