Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thinking Big

I've been wanting to post the next part of my reflections on the past year and goal setting for next year--I already had this written two weeks ago--but y'all know how the two weeks before Christmas are. Super busy, but I wasn't stressed because no papers to grade! No misbehaving students! Woo-hoo!

Once the kids were out of school on the 18th, we started finalizing gifts and food for our celebration with my family here and Justin's family in Louisiana. It was so fun to see C get excited to give gifts to others; I'll have to post pictures of the gifts she made me and Justin.

Anyway, this exercise is from Kate Matsudaira, who designed the Spark Notebook and now the Spark Planner. I got mine early in December and started writing in it today. It's gorgeous--see?


Kate has been sending out emails to help us think about aligning our yearly goals with what's really important to us.

I know the whole "What would you want your obituary to say?" idea and may seem trite and overly morbid as well. But I found it incredibly inspiring. The words just poured out of as I considered what I hope people will remember about me. Some of these things are already true for me (I think) and others are aspirations. So without further ado...here is my Thinking Big post.

MAKE A LIST OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE WHO MATTER MOST...

1. Justin

2. My kids

3. Mom and Dad

4. My friends

6. Extended family

7. Church family and our pastors

NOW IMAGINE YOUR FUNERAL...
FOR EACH PERSON ON YOUR LIST, MAKE A NOTE OF WHAT YOU HOPE THEY WOULD SAY ABOUT YOU AND YOUR IMPACT ON THEIR LIFE.

1. I hope Justin would say: "Ali was my heart. She felt things so deeply. Even though she fought depression and anxiety, the point is that she FOUGHT them instead of giving in. At times I wanted her to "snap out of it" (it became a joke as she showed me that wasn't always possible). She wouldn't give up, she said, because of me and the kids. She couldn't end it all because she couldn't--wouldn't--do that to us. That was a huge gift and I know it cost her a lot at times.
     "She may have had bleak times, but most of the time she loved to laugh, even at my corny puns. She was always learning, always full of information she had read and was dying to share. She adored our kids and was a great mom to them, finding ways to nurture their talents and interests as well as sharing hers with them (for example, reading). She was their biggest fan but she didn't like it when I got upset on the sidelines because she hated conflict. When they disobeyed, she balanced out my sternness by providing a calmer perspective. When we disagreed, she insisted that we "fight it out" instead of letting things fester.
     "She never stopped trying to improve. When our marriage struggled, she took responsibility for her part and learned to 'speak' my love language more fluently. She also advocated for her needs when necessary.
     "Overall, she never quit loving God, her family, and her friends."



2. Allowing for their individual experiences and personalities, I hope C and L would say something like:
     "Mom was our refuge, a soft place to fall. We could always go to her when something was wrong and know she would listen and validate our feelings. She never told us we didn't or shouldn't feel a certain way. Sometimes she started to give advice before we were ready to hear it or tell us how to handle a situation, but as soon as she realized that, she would back off. As we became teenagers, she would say things like, 'Wow, that sounds tough. What do you think you're going to do about that?' She always believed we could handle our business and we knew she would be our sounding board if we needed to run things past someone first.
     "Mom was open about her struggles with mental illness. She believed that 'secrets make us sick' and she didn't want us to grow up knowing something was wrong but not that she (and Dad) were dealing with it. When we were little and saw her crying, she would tell us, 'Mommy's just sad but I am going to get better.' And she did. She set an example for us of someone who had an invisible illness that many people think of as a character flaw, but she chose to be open and vulnerable in her writing and in person so that other people could be helped by her experience.
     "Mom wasn't the most obsessive housekeeper, but she was a good cook. She believed that spending time together as a family was more important than anything else except our relationship with God. In fact, she pointed us to God; not only were we at church almost every week, but she served in any way she could, especially as in the prayer ministry. Mom knew how to pray and showed us how by example. When we were little, she would pray for us whenever we were scared or sad or just needed to go to sleep. Even as we got older, we knew she prayed for us every day. Finally, Mom lived her belief that she just wanted two things for us: one, to love the Lord, and two, to find and follow His purpose for our lives."






3. My parents have told me many times now that they are proud of the woman I have become. They are unbelievable parents. They embody everything I hope my kids will say about me in the years to come. They have told me--and proved--that their love and support is unshakable. They've encouraged me in everything I attempted, and sometimes when I wasn't ready to attempt it yet. They affirmed my efforts as a mother, from becoming a stay-at-home mom, to a working mom with a full-time job, to a mom with a part-time job. They have listened and given me invaluable advice ... I will cherish it forever. I wish they would outlive me but not because I died young; I'd love for them to live to 110 at least!



4. I hope my friends and extended family would say something like:

     "Even when life got so hectic that it was hard to connect, Ali was committed to our friendship. I could always call or text her when things were tough and she would drop everything to be with me. She also made time for us to spend together for no real reason, just to hang out. She would send notes or emails or texts or call us to let us know she loved us and specifically why.
     "Ali prayed passionately for us when we or our families were struggling, but she didn't lecture us. She knew how to just be there for someone when they are hurting. She always brought something to make us feel better, and it usually involved carbs and chocolate. She would send us funny things to make us smile.
     "She was REAL. She was willing to share her struggles, both to ask for help and to help others. She always loved my kids like her own and insisted that I tell her if hers were misbehaving. She believed in dealing with issues instead of pretending they weren't there. At the same time, she was a peacemaker. She didn't like conflict for no reason, but if it was there, she faced it with love so we could move forward."

5. I hope my pastors would say (speaking for my church family):

    "Alison was a deeply committed member of our church. First of all, she loved Jesus all the way down to her core. Nothing was more important to her than finding and following His heart. Religion and rules were not important to her and were discarded if they interfered with experiencing His grace. She was passionate about her method of witnessing, which she called  "not being a jerk." Although it upset her to see Christians acting hatefully, she tried really hard to forgive them, too. She made it a priority to look for the good in people and to be respectful of everyone, no matter what their beliefs. (If they were jerks, see above. However, she learned--rather late in life, because she was a recovering people pleaser--not to suffer fools gladly, but to speak the truth in love.)
     "Alison served the local church in some capacity at every point in her life. She did not believe in simply warming a church pew. She was involved in children's ministry, youth ministry, music ministry, small group ministry, benevolence ministry, prayer ministry, and world missions at various times in her life, as the need arose and her gifts were needed. She gave freely of herself and did not demand recognition.
     "Alison was a giver. She gave cheerfully of her family's finances, faithfully supporting the kingdom of God with tithes and offering. She chose to give from their gross rather than their net income, because she said she wanted a gross blessing rather than a net blessing. She believed she was blessed to be a blessing, and that she was meant to be a conduit which God's blessings could flow through rather than a reservoir in which they would stagnate. She not only supported the local church's efforts, but also world missions in countries like Haiti and Lithuania. She gave in practical ways when asked, such as supporting a Haitian orphan and loading bags for canned good drives.
     "As the daughter of a longtime pastor, Alison was a huge supporter of her pastors and their families. You never heard her criticize them; rather, she prayed for them and their children daily. She often let them know in person or in writing that she loved and appreciated them. She was also voracious in her desire to hear God's Word; she always, always had her notebook for taking notes during a sermon. She showed love to people in the church, going out of her way to welcome visitors and new members. She was a vital part of our church family."


And there you have it...what I hope people will say about me when I'm gone. I also made some goals based on these thoughts. I'll come back soon and post my motto for the year and the goals I've set!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mini Book Reviews--Fall 2015

The book titles are linked to Amazon for your convenience!

1. Strong and Of Good Courage--31 Devotions on Spiritual Warfare by Leann Guzman.



Full disclosure: this book was written by my oldest f1riend  friend I've known the longest. It's awesome (along with her first book of devotions, Women of Blessing: 31 Days of Flowing in the Favor of God). If you are looking for a great devotion to start in 2015, this is an excellent choice. It's not a creepy, mystical approach to spiritual warfare; rather, it's full of wise, practical advice you can begin applying in your prayer life right away. Buy it! It's only $10, so it's a good deal. (I probably should have plugged her book earlier so you could order it for gifts. Oops. You could order it anyway and give the person a printout of your Amazon checkout screen. There.) Five stars.

2. The Smartest Book in the World: A Lexicon of Literacy, A Rancorous Reportage, A Concise Curriculum of Cool, by Greg Proops

I always liked Greg Proops on "Whose Line Is It Anyway" so I picked this up on impulse at the library. I didn't finish it. For one thing, it has waaaaay too much about baseball for my taste. I'm not a big sports fan in general, although I do enjoy watching a game now and then, but reading about baseball is definitely not my thing. The whole book sounded like he was trying too hard to be clever and likable (a common occurrence with books written by comedians, I've noticed), Also, I have no idea why Facebook kept choosing this book cover as a picture when I linked any post to Facebook. Two stars.

3. Dear Mr. Knightley, by Katherine Reay

Well, it's finally happened. I've read a Christian novel that I liked. And that didn't make me cringe (not even once) due to bad writing or heavy-handed approach to Christianity. I loved the allusions to Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Edmond Dantes, and the like. Even though the ending is a little predictable, I can't complain--such is always the case with romances. It was great fun getting to know Sam, the narrator. I'll definitely read Katherine Reay's other books--and it looks like she has several more. Four stars.

4. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black

I didn't finish The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but the premise is intriguing and Holly Black is a talented writer. Although the part of it I read is incomparably better than That Other Vampire Novel, part of the reason I stopped is that it's now basically impossible to write an enigmatic vampire hero and make him believable...at least to me. Also, I don't know much about horror, but the first half of the novel had me on edge in a good way, but then when the action began, it didn't live up to the promise. I don't know, you might feel differently, especially if you like supernatural romance/horror.
Three stars.

5. Various Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett (Lords and Ladies; Carpe Jugulum; Monstrous Regiment).

When I'm anxious and/or depressed, I can read very few things. Terry Pratchett's novels are wonderful whether I'm feeling good or awful. The first two are part of the Witches strand (I can't think of a better word) and the third is mostly a stand-alone book, although Commander Sam Vines of the Ankh-Morpork Watch plays a significant role. His books are always funny yet they are very wise. If you want to try them, you can jump in almost anywhere without fear of being spoiled. But because I am a rigid, inflexible person, I like to read them in order. Here is a handy chart if you are like me (and lucky you, for getting to read these for the first time! I'm going to start buying them in paperback and rereading.) Four-star average.
Click to make bigger, so you can actually read the book titles.


6.

Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch In the Throat: Yuletide Yahoos, Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges, by Jen Mann


I actually laughed out loud several times while listening to this audiobook. The laughter was probably helped by listening to the author read it; her deadpan delivery is perfect for her material. I now read her blog. Four stars.





7. The Lake House, by Kate Morton

I couldn't get into it at first, probably because of the multiple points of view and deliberate omission of information to keep the reader in the dark. But I continued, because Morton is a good writer who knows what she's doing. The big reveal felt anticlimactic for me, because it seemed so contrived, but I don't know, YMMV. It was perfectly fine (how's that for damning with faint praise?) Two stars.

I'm currently reading Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher and loving it. It's a perfect Christmas book.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Looking Back: 2015

I am so excited that yesterday I received my 2016 planner from Spark Notebook, which I had backed in a Kickstarter campaign. It was already funded so all I had to do was sign up and wait to receive it. I'll talk about the planner another time, but for now I want to focus on the planning sheets that the owner, Kate Matsudaira, is sending out for each week in December so we can reflect on 2015 and look ahead to 2016. Now that I'm out of crisis mode, this is an ideal time to do that. When I started answering the following questions, the answers just poured out of me.

WHAT WAS THE BEST THING THAT HAPPENED IN THIS YEAR?

I started my new job working for my husband's company instead of teaching school. It was a huge adjustment--once I caught my breath, I realized that with the exception of a couple of years when I stayed home with C, I had been tied to the academic calendar for 35 years (yes, I'm old.) But it was worth it.

OF ALL YOUR WORK THIS YEAR, WHICH ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
While my work life was nice and family life is always rewarding, I'm most proud of myself for starting therapy again to dig myself out of my chronic depression and anxiety.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING WHEN YOU HAD THE MOST FUN?
Laughing with my family; spending time with our friend group; relaxing at home alone; tending to chores I didn't have time to do before; listening to audiobooks; reading blogs; writing.

DID YOU ACHIEVE ALL OF YOUR GOALS? WHY OR WHY NOT?
I don't know because I don't remember setting any. I was so desperate just to get out of my stressful job. I successfully did that, so I think I'd say I did okay.

WHAT ARE 5 THINGS THAT WENT WELL?
1. Beginning to work for Village Cupboards. I discovered I am good at office work and organization.

2. Relationships with my husband, kids, and parents. My kids especially are a source of so much laughter and joy in my life. I'm closer to my parents than I've been in my adult life so far. My husband and I had some conflicts but are coming through them with more empathy and closeness than before.

3. Blogging (even though I just started back blogging regularly in November). I have written some of the most powerful pieces I've ever written. My heart has broken...but broken open and my vulnerability has taken my writing to a whole new level. I love blogging because I can have a  tangible connection with readers and get their input.

4. Getting to know the parents of my kids' friends. I didn't have much time for that before, unless we already went to church together. They are neat people and I'm glad my circle has expanded.

5. Therapy. My therapist says she just holds up a "mirror" to me and I process everything out loud while she listens  and occasionally summarizes or asks questions when I (finally) get stuck. I've had some life-changing insights.

WHAT ARE 5 THINGS THAT COULD BE IMPROVED?
1. Obviously my chronic depression and anxiety is an ongoing area to target for improvement. Importantly, though, I'm realizing that it doesn't mean I'm a bad person for having these episodes.  They are symptoms of an illness I deal with and I am learning to trust myself to manage them instead of freaking out, "It's BACK! THE SKY IS FALLING!"

2. My relationship with my husband. Our time together as a couple usually gets put on the back burner, and we need to make time for each other.

3. Working regularly rather than blowing it off just because I can (and once could not). I need to embody being a business owner (since I am a 25% partner).

4. Making time to spend with friends. I have spent more time with groups of women but not very much one-on-one interaction.

5. Create opportunities for our family to do fun things together to make memories rather than stare at screens. (I've already got some ideas going for this one; tune in later, as I'm going to blog about it!)

6. (Which was not on the list, but I just realized I need it.) Exercise. I didn't stay consistent with any certain routine although there were stretches of time when I was a gym regular. I need to make it a routine I will actually do on a regular basis ("No duh, Sherlock," as my 10 year old son is fond of saying.) This means it has to be super easy and so convenient that my excuses are...well, inexcusable.

I started writing about my new exercise plan, which I actually love and have done 5 out of the last 6 days (I had a sinus headache on Sunday), but then I realized it needs a post of its own.

Because it's not like it's common to make plans to start exercising in the new year and then bail out. That's never gonna happen to me. *snort*

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Monday, December 14, 2015

American Girl Giveaway

EDITED: I found a little girl who will be so excited (according to her mom) to receive this gift card! She is the little sister of one of C's school friends, and they lost their dad a few years ago. They are such a sweet family; I'm thrilled that I thought of them. 

I told the mom that she could give it from Santa, but she wanted her daughter to know it came from us so she could be thankful and "pay it forward." I told her we were definitely paying it forward since people have blessed us so much in the past. So this morning C and I wrote her a note in a card with a cute glittery polar bear on it and are sending it home with big sister. Love wins!

On Friday I wrote about my first baby turning thirteen. I teared up as I wrote the post off and on throughout the day, again when I was looking at baby pictures, and finally (of course) when I read the post to her. I was rewarded by her giggles at all the right parts, a few "awwwws" and at the end she hurtled into my arms. 

A win indeed! 

But this post isn't about my newly minted teenager--it's about what I would like to do for another little girl who needs something to make her Christmas special. 

A few years ago, C was in Girl Scouts. What is the main thing Girl Scouts are known for? That's right, the cookies. Our troop sold approximately a metric ton of cookies, not only to family and friends but also by sitting outside stores and once even a car wash, in the chilly air. A troop receives a (very small--much less than you probably think) amount for every box sold, and this funds their activities for the year, including Girl Scout camp. Our troop leader helped the girls set a goal every year for the dollar amount they'd need to reach to do this, the average number of boxes each girl needed to sell, AND then they'd vote on an awesome trip with the extra money. It was a great motivator. One year we went to Great Wolf Lodge--it was the cheapest trip possible there, what with four to a room and whatnot--and now I never have to darken the door of that godawful place again, thankyouJesus.


Anyway, a few years ago C could not attend the extravagaza, due to a scheduling conflict I can't remember. Oh, that's right, it was a special party for my dad's 65th birthday.The girls had voted to go to the American Girl Doll store and buy everyone a doll and then eat in the cafe. There were at least 25 girls in the troop.


I TOLD you we sold a ton of cookies. 


C wasn't too bothered to miss this because just on the cusp of being too old for dolls. (The average age of the group skewed younger.) I would've loved to go to the boutique (but Samantha was my favorite, and they stopped making her. I SO should have bought her even though I was an adult with no kids when American Girl dolls came out.)


C's lovely troop leader didn't just absorb the money C would have spent into the general fund; she bought a gift card and brought it back to her. However, as I said, C didn't care to buy any accessories, let alone another doll, even online. I'm glad, because now I can use the card to do a RAK!


Yes, it's been several years and the gift card has languished in our kitchen junk drawer. 


Until now.


Here is a photo of the real, actual card that can be used online or in an American Girl doll store. It is loaded with $74.00 American dollars. (I know that is an oddly specific amount, but the rules state that the exact same amount must be spent on each girl.) I've verified that the card is still completely valid and that the money is still available. That should be enough to ALMOST buy a ridiculously overpriced but still very cute doll, or some clothes, or whatever the doll owner wants. My mom once got my daughter and her doll matching PJs and they were very, very cute.




Here's what C and I want to do.


We would like y'all to nominate someone who could REALLY use this gift card to make their child's Christmas special. Not just, "Oh, I could use that because my kids are only getting eleven presents." Or even three, because that's always been my rule (until this year when I went a little nuts on smaller stuff, but that's another post.) 


No, I want this to go to someone who is truly in need. I want this to go to a mama* who is wondering how she is even going to be able to give her kiddo a nice gift. Whether it's a hardworking single parent or someone who has been hit hard by tough economic times or health problems, I'd like to take away one worry for another parent. It will be worth it to me for them to see their child's excited face when they open a great present. (I'd love to have a picture if possible. Not to put on my blog to congratulate myself, just to show my daughter that Love Wins.)


Please comment, send me a private message on Facebook, or email me at hairlinefracture at gmail dot com to nominate someone. In the event that I have more than one nominee, I will enter their names in a random drawing for the card. Be sure to leave me a way to contact you if your person wins so that I can mail them the gift card in time to use it for Christmas.


This drawing is open until 9 p.m. Wednesday, December 16 because that's right before C's bedtime and I want her to do the drawing. Why only till Wednesday? Because Christmas is right around the corner!


I'm sooooo excited now!


*Or dad. Dads totally count!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Good Deeds...Not a Humblebrag

Over at Bye Bye Pie, (a hilarious blog, by the way) June has up a post in which people can list good deeds they are doing for the holidays. (She uses the term "good deeds" on purpose, as the acronym RAoK is super annoying to her, and I agree. It's unpronounceable without sounding like a crow cawing.) The comments describing the good deeds done--it can be major or as small as "I refrained from doing something awful"--is inspiring. Here are mine:

1. I donated to a family whose 17-year-old son had to have surgery to remove metal rods from his chest. Fortunately, he is now doing well but as you can imagine, their medical bills are enormous. I don't know any more details (although I morbidly wish I did, because HOW did that happen? Of course, 17 year old boy. 'Nuff said, really.) I learned about them from our medical sharing plan, which we use instead of traditional medical insurance. Samaritan Ministries assigns a share amount to its members (the amount for a family with three or more people is $405/month) and the situation, name and address of the fellow member who needs the money to pay for their medical expenses. They ask you to send a note of encouragement with your money, which according to the letters from members, are even more cheering than the checks. 

This family was not assigned to us (we had a family whose baby was in the NICU for twelve days and is now home). Samaritan publishes "Special Prayer Needs" for those whose medical situation is not publishable, usually due to preexisting conditions. Ethan's surgery took place before they became members, or they would have been eligible. I wrote: "Please tell Ethan the A____ family from Texas is praying for him and believing for his full recovery! Merry Christmas!" 

This family is from Nebraska and we will most likely never meet. But now we are linked because we have prayed for them and given to a fellow believer in need. My children and I prayed for Ethan this week.

2. Much smaller and less effort: start any of your Amazon.com shopping at smile.amazon.com. You can designate a charity of your choice and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to it. Every little bit counts! (I order everything I possibly can for Christmas from Amazon, so my charity will be BANKING in January.) I designated the Beyond Blue Foundation as my recipient, though there are truly many to choose from. My son's elementary is even on there, although they don't need money as much as some nonprofits do!

3. Finally, I'm going to do a special giveaway this week on this blog! Super excited about it...please check back Monday to see it!

What good deeds have you done or are you planning to do?

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Thirteen

Dear Girl Child,

First of all, I feel compelled to emphasize that I am not normally sentimental. You know this, because you inherited this trait from me, along with an aversion to being touched strong boundaries about your personal space. I am the person who threw away 90% of the crap precious treasures you brought home from school/church/summer camp. I have ONE BOX of baby clothes for each child, and it's not a big box. One scrapbook album for each of your first years--and I worked HARD on those, dang it, because you did NOT inherit your artistic talent from me--and about 5 more for the whole family, and no more although I keep promising myself I'll use that app that makes it so easy. Like everyone else, Facebook is now our family album. It usually takes moms getting to the third child before reaching this level of unsentimentality. (Yes, that's a word. Because I say so, and you still take my word as law when it comes to the English language.)



I am also bad about taking pictures and videos. Now, though, I wish I had more (just LOOK at that greatness above this paragraph. But I have always been better with capturing memories with words than images, so this will have to do.

First, you should know that you were not only planned, you were AGONIZED over. By me, not your dad. He said we could have a baby whenever I wanted. (Smart man.) He was 27 and I was barely 22 when we got married. I could not imagine being allowed to care for a baby by ourselves. I felt I was still looking around for the grownup in charge and panicking when I realized it was supposed to be me. (Spoiler alert: sometimes I still feel this way.)

It took me five years to be ready.

Five years of being broke while your dad worked his tail off in various forms of physical labor and I went to college and became a middle school teacher (which let's be honest, probably definitely extended my timeline of wanting a baby). Five years of wondering if we would ever be able to own a house (I had this fixed idea of needing a YARD before we could procreate, and now I hardly ever venture out into it. Weird.) I started having baby fever but also fretting about being financially responsible. A good friend once said, "If you wait till you can afford a baby, you'll never have one." So true, but I didn't get it. Because I am an external processor, I had to talk this all out. Many times. Usually in bed around midnight.

Finally one night while I sat up in bed dithering out loud, the lump of blankets next to me your dad said, "I think you're being selfish."

What??? I thought I was being wise and thoughtful of the future because of course I had to be the PERFECT MOM bringing a PERFECT BABY into a PERFECT WORLD we had created.

AHAHAHAHAA! Excuse me while I gather myself after laughing that hard. I knew NOTHING.

I made him explain. He said, "I am not getting any younger and I don't want to be too old to play with a kid when we have one."

Now, you and I both know this would never be the case. He would've wrestled y'all on the floor if he'd been Abraham and I were Sarah; he's just a huge kid at heart. But he totally called me on my selfishness and made me realize that I was waiting for ME, not for him--and certainly not for our baby. Because I wanted to see myself as a perfect mom. He made me see that the perfect time to have a perfect baby was never going to happen.

Except...it totally did.

I can't explain how except...God, but once I meekly said, "Okay, I'll make an appointment with my doctor to see what I need to do to start trying," everything fell into place. A house we could afford magically fell into our lap. We stopped thinking about getting pregnant and...boom. Six weeks later, we were frantically remodeling our new/old house so we could move into it by the time our lease was up and I realized I miiiiight be pregnant.

There have never been a longer three minutes than the time we spent waiting to look at that pregnancy test. And there has never been a shorter amount of time between that discovering one is pregnant and quitting all remodeling duties. (Hey, that 1970s paint we were sanding off the walls had LEAD in it! I was probably saving you from having three arms or something! Your dad disagrees, but whatever, he didn't have to be pregnant for the next nine months.)

You made pregnancy so easy. I was only sick one time (On The Border, you are still dead to me). We decided not to find out your gender, much to Mawmaw Sher's dismay, since she was champing at the bit to buy adorable baby clothes. (As her post today admits, she secretly prayed for a baby girl with red hair. God apparently listens to grandmothers who have waited mostly patiently for five years for a grandbaby.) The doctor didn't have your sex written in the chart so she wouldn't accidentally say "he" or "she." She was so excited because almost no one chooses to be surprised in the delivery room these days. I still can't believe we waited. (To be honest, on my part it was mostly because I knew I didn't want to decorate a nursery twice and Classic Pooh would be gender-neutral. Gah, I was so sick of Pooh by the time your brother left babyhood.)

Anyway, you also made it easy on me by making it very clear when it was time to go to the hospital. I had been hoping my water would break because the otherwise basically useless childbirth class taught me that if your water breaks, you go to the hospital, do not stop, do not pass Go and most certainly do not collect $200. There was a couple in that class who were there preparing for the birth of their SECOND baby. I know, whaaaaatttt? They were so young and ignorant for the first child's impending arrival that she DIDN'T KNOW SHE WAS IN LABOR and had the baby at home by accident.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I DID NOT WANT that outcome. I had known since the age of about ten, when your Mawmaw told me I was born painlessly after a magical thing called an epidural that I wanted one when the time came.

Me + pain = NOPENOPENOPE.

But I had a certain amount of it after my water broke. I am sorry, I know this will gross you out when you hear it, but I didn't know exactly HOW MUCH water we were talking about. Not the modest cup or so I imagined. I sent your dad back into the house for a towel to protect the car seat "just in case" and he brought back a hand towel. Not sufficient, it turned out. I walked into the hospital with my dress dripping and the nurse joked about me messing up the floor.

It was all very funny but at least there was no question they would admit me because my water had broken. Well, it was funny from 2 a.m., when I arrived, until about 6 a.m., when I tired of walking the halls in a hospital gown, pushing an IV pole, to get my labor going. After that I lay in a bed and stared at a "focal point" the labor class had taught me to choose and thought, "This crap is getting REAL. I don't think I can DO this much longer."

Luckily, without me even asking, the doctor said I could get an epidural so they could speed my labor up, and I swear, I would've kissed the anesthesiologist if he'd still been in the room when the epidural kicked in. Things got much better after that. The next thing I remember, the doctor and nurse were so excited about seeing whether you were a boy or a girl. You were born, I listened for your healthy cry, they put you in my arms.

And there you were: 7 pounds 11 ounces, 19 1/2 inches long, blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair fuzz.

You were my perfect baby. And I had nothing to do with making anything perfect about you or for you. You were just perfect.

I don't mean you were not hard work (I'm still traumatized by the sleep deprivation you put me through.) I hope I have communicated over the past thirteen years that you are perfect just the way you are--that is, I mean that you are LOVED just the way you are, and that you will never have to earn my love in any way whatsoever. You guaranteed that the moment I surrendered to the idea of having a baby. That's why I was so scared, by the way. I was afraid of not having control. Well, motherhood is one long roller coaster ride of realizing over and over again that you have no control over all the things you fear the most. Actually, the one thing you fear the most is losing your child: to illness, accidents, death, or even estrangement. The thought of not seeing your face every day or at least hearing your voice scrunches my heart up until I think I might not be able to breathe. That started the day you lay in my arms, a baby burrito, and I realized, as the saying goes, that my heart would now forever walk around outside my body.

Out of all the girls in all the world, how did we get the very best one?

You have brought nothing but joy into our lives. (At least, that we remember. Your brother can thank his existence for our short-term memory loss.) You were bright-eyed and curious from Day One. I had never seen a week-old baby hold her head up so long; I swear it was so you could look around at people. You wanted to be held constantly but hated the front-facing carrier...and the baby swing...so I held you most of the time. Thank God you deigned to be placed in your bouncy seat for up to 15 minutes at a time--or 25 if I put on a Baby Einstein DVD--so I could gulp down lunch. Showering? Not possible till your dad got home. Some days he asked what I'd done that day and I had to think before answering, "I brushed my teeth." Oh yeah, and kept a human infant alive. Did I mention I'd never even BABYSAT a child under the age of 5 before you came into my world? I'm pretty freaking proud of myself for not accidentally sitting on you. We'd go to bed at night and I'd say, "Well, we kept her alive another day."

Until you woke up two hours later having the audacity to want to EAT, which, well, I am not proud of my attitude after about two weeks. Let's just say there's a reason God doesn't let children remember anything about their first year.

Sweet girl, your mama wants you to know I'd fight a lion or a bear or any man on God's green earth to protect you. I have tried my very hardest to nurture you but not allow my anxieties to limit you. When you fearlessly wanted to do something that scared me--like jump off the couch, climb the backyard fence, or attend kindergarten without me sitting beside you holding your hand all day--I closed my mouth that had been open to scream, "Nooooooo" in slow motion like on TV. I swallowed, put a big smile on my face, and said, "Sure you can!"

(There was this picture book called Little Quack that really helped. I channeled Mama Duck: "Come on, little duck," said Mama, "I know you can do it!" Good Lord, did I really just pull that dialogue out of my ancient withered brain?)


And the thing is, you have done it all. Everything I doubted turned out to be a lie. You proved every fear wrong. You fulfilled dreams I didn't know how to dream. You taught me how to parent you. I am only grateful that I had the sense to get out of your way when necessary.

I believe in you. As our favorite Doctor (Ten forever!) said about Rose Tyler:

"But if I believe in one thing... just one thing... I believe in her!"


And I believe in your dad, who convinced me to risk becoming an imperfect parent, which meant that I became fully human. I believe in the God who was merely waiting for me to take a leap of faith. Finally, I believe in the love that was born in me the moment I heard your speedy little heartbeat on that first doctor visit. My precious girl, I wouldn't trade anything on this planet for the last thirteen years I have been privileged to be your mother.

Now, in one week school will be out and I demand some mother-daughter time in which we will read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and talk about it, catch up with the Twelfth Doctor, practice with your newly-allowed makeup (I predict you are already better with it than I am, so please teach me your ways), agree about all the ways that seventh-grade boys are idiots, and just generally have a lazy old fun time in our pajamas together. I think you'll agree you owe me that much just from the story above.

With all my love,
Mom


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Hello...It's Me (Oh Crap, Now I Have That Already-Overplayed Adele Song Stuck In My Head)

Well, hey there. I feel a little awkward, expecting you to read this post like I didn't just jump ship and stop posting for...for however long it was. 

But then I remember that when a blogger I like reading stops posting for whatever reason, I'm not bothered by it. I think, "Awww, she's just too busy with real life right now." I wish her well and then when she posts again, I'm happy to see her pop up in my feed reader again. I don't require a tedious explanation. So I'm going to assume that anyone reading this doesn't need one either. At some point, I'll probably write about my weird relationship with social media, but not today. Today is a day for bullet points, to make it easier to catch up.

  • It's basketball season, and both kids are playing at a whole 'nother level--my daughter in middle school, my son in "select." Both require some more time than in the past, but it's not insane. My daughter practices before school and has one game a week, usually on Thursday nights. My son has two evening practices (up from one last year) and a game on Saturdays. None of his games are before 11 am, praise the Lord. Still, it's made dinners at home challenging when this week we have something during our normal dinner hour for 4 days straight. I'm not gonna lie, I cooked an actual dinner Monday night, chopped up brisket for BBQ sandwiches last night, bought the good deli meat, and forced myself not to feel guilty about it. They are now capable of making their own sandwiches. Hallelujah.
  •  Friday is C's 13th birthday. She invited her school friends and church friends, and of those, it looks like 9 or 10 are coming. Last week I called one of those friend's moms hyperventilating because I couldn't make a decision on how to organize things other than C had (finally) decided to go to a trampoline park. My friend is a school counselor, so she's very calm, and also happens to be very organized. She helped me decide to have pizza and cake here, determine the timetable, then offered to help drive. She is a lifesaver and now I am not even worried mostly
  • I'm about to have a TEENAGER. Ack! How did that happen? Seriously, she is so much fun to talk to right now. No one is allowed to tell me it gets worse. I KNOW. (I taught high school for six years, remember?) Let me enjoy it now although it may be the calm before the storm. 
  • Last night I couldn't sleep, so I got up and edited some writing for a friend, and then read Garner's Modern American Usage. It's a book on grammar. I am the nerdiest nerd ever. The thing is, he throws in some really funny (to a grammar nerd) comments. I'm just going to stop now.
  • This week I pulled the trigger and ordered probably 90% of the Christmas presents. There are a couple that need to be bought in person, and some stocking stuffers. We'll be with my husband's sister and their family this year, so I just have the main things shipped there instead of filling up my car.
  •  I WAS going to buy brown craft wrapping paper and use coordinating ribbon I got at Target and possibly make gift tags, but then I decided although that might be simplifying for some people, it would be a step UP for me and all the articles say to reduce your stress during the holidays, don't do anything unnecessary. So...dollar store gift bags it is again, with my husband wrapping a few boxes. Since he's a carpenter, his wrapping game is STRONG. I hand him the scissors and tape, put other gifts in bags, and write on the tags. We all have our strengths.
 And how are all of YOU?
 

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It appears I was a little too ambitious to take on blogging every day. Taking a break for the holidays and I'll be back!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lazy

 Too tired to write again. Or rather, I procrastinated until I was too tired. 

More to come later...

Friday, November 20, 2015

A day late for Throwback Thursday

I am tired. I still like blogging every day, just don't have the energy today. Earlier today my friend Nicole was posting baby pictures of her sons and it made me nostalgic. I don't have any real baby pics handy, but look at these pictures. It was a superhero-art project kind of day.



L's cheeks! C's glasses! Goodness, I love these two. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Busy

It was a good thing I had a post scheduled yesterday, because it turned out to be a busy afternoon. I picked up both kids, made dinner, and then suddenly realized L and I needed to leave in 10 minutes for his first basketball practice. There was no time to eat the stew first so I had him take a snack in the car; and, since he is a 4th-grade boy, he had no trouble downing some peanut butter crackers.

Justin got home right before we left. While he got ready for church, C finished her homework, ate dinner (she didn't want the stew and I was not up to putting the parental foot down, but she mentioned a healthy combination of foods she wanted to eat, so whatever) and got ready to go to church with him. I'm glad I have a super-responsible firstborn; it does make life easier.

After L's practice we didn't have time to go to church (besides, I'm sure they would not have appreciated me bringing him in such a sweaty state). He had a coupon for a free small Slurpee from 7-11, so we got that, went home to eat stew, and then I went to Office Depot to print a picture for C's language arts project. Luckily it's only around the corner, because I wasted a trip. I hadn't realized it was a picture of a book cover and therefore subject to copyright restrictions. They had emailed me after I emailed them the picture, but I hadn't checked my email. Lessons learned.

It was my fault anyway, since I had decided not to go to the shop today, which is where we print things. C wasn't upset; she decided to do without it and get the project turned in early. (Her freehand drawings are impressive enough, in her mother's totally unbiased opinion. I'll have to take a picture when she gets it back; it's an ABC book with words describing the book she'd read.) She's had a busy week, with tests and projects plus her regular homework, because the teachers are trying to get everything done before the break. She's looking forward to a well-deserved holiday: a week of relaxing!

I went back to the house and did some reading with L. He is enjoying reading more, and taking on more challenging books. His class has named him "Mr. Vocabulary" because he is so quick to point out words they are learning (the teacher encourages him to do this, and he jumped at the challenge.) He's always loved math the most, so it's cool to see him taking after me in some way.

Justin and C didn't get home till about 9:20 since the choir (they practice on certain Wednesdays) had to learn about the new sound system. I'm sure she enjoyed the extra time to talk to her friends. But neither kid complained about going to bed: an unexpected benefit of sports! L is definitely not used to being that active in the evenings, so he was tired. After Thanksgiving, his team will have two practices a week, and one is on Thursday nights--and C's games are on Thursdays. So: Justin and I will take turns with each kid. His games are on Saturdays, but luckily she only has one more Saturday tournament.

It makes me very thankful that I have a more flexible schedule now. And that's the news from our house.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Yellow

Tuesday began with rain (after storming all night), the kind of day on which you'd like to stay in comfy clothes and curl up on the couch. But I had worked from home (and relaxed some, too) the day before, and so I had to get dressed in real-world clothes and drive to work. (I had intended to go to the gym, but a gloomy, rainy day is not a good time to resume a habit I'd just as soon not have to resume. So I did some stretches, took a shower, and called it good.)

I decided to wear my plaid top from this Stitch Fix. I love the fall colors in it, but it's still light enough that I don't get too warm. Today I wore white stretch jeans and brown knee-high boots, because that is a thing that is now done: wearing white pants with "transitional" items is okay for fall. If Audrey from Putting Me Together (my favorite real-world style blog) does it, then it's fine by me.

The outfit needed something, though, so I pulled out a necklace made of wooden yellow beads. I liked the look. The cheerful color was exactly what I needed on a rainy day. See:

Oops, it was crooked.
For some reason I started thinking about the origin of this necklace. I bought it secondhand, from a woman I barely knew. Her daughter joined the Girl Scout troop my daughter had belonged to for several years; this mom and her kids attended meetings for around a year before the family moved away, but our daughters weren't in the same age group. That was one reason we didn't get to know each other.

The other reason is that I didn't like her very much. She wasn't friendly. She spent the whole time thumbing her phone or talking with one other mom. Her name was literally Pollyanna and she was blonde. (I never liked those sappy books or the Hayley Mills movie and I guess she didn't either, because she went by Polly.) If you talked to her for any length of time, she would be sure to mention her master's degree.

Perhaps most telling, I didn't like her because even though she had many children (four? five? See, I can't even keep up with them--how did she?) and a demanding job, she always looked poised and put together. I have fewer children and I never feel polished, at least not like that. She knew what looked good on her, and she wore this color of yellow quite a bit.

I may not have wanted to be friends with her, but when she mentioned to the group that she was selling some clothes before they moved, I said sure, I'd like to look at them. We were about the same size and I knew they'd be good quality (read: originally expensive). She brought a huge pile of clothes to the next meeting and I looked through them, selecting quite a few things because she was selling them so cheap.

"Where are you moving?" I asked, making small talk.

Then she told me they were moving to China to become missionaries. That's why she was selling the clothes--because she couldn't take them all with her.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. That really was the last thing I expected from this sleek, affluent woman with the Louis Vuitton bag (which presumably she was taking with her because she definitely didn't offer to sell it to me).

I thought how brave they were to take such a huge step, with four or five young children in tow (seriously, it is bugging me that I can't remember how many there were. These are the useless details I get fixated on.) They had been preparing for over a year, studying the language. Now the time had come to make the move to a place on the other side of the world.

It was brave, and optimistic. To move to a foreign country and believe that everything would work out and the challenges would be worth it. I didn't know any of this; but I could have, if I had gotten to know her before her last week in the USA.

I've since donated most of the clothes, but this necklace has stayed with me. I wear it when I need to be reminded of sunshine, and that we could all use a little of a Pollyanna perspective.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What to do after the end of the world

I'm writing this on Monday evening. Until now, I've had no trouble thinking of topics to write about. I still have a few ideas, but I'm tired and sad because the world is awful and it took almost no time at all to politicize a tragedy. So the best I can do is share the words of the amazing writer Anne Lamott, which she posted on her Facebook page soon after the news of the attacks on Paris. (This was a time when FB was NOT "of the devil," as I like to joke.) She offers no pat answers but some comfort and hope.

For now, I can hold on to these small glimmers of hope. And I'm making an apple crisp for dessert--
which I almost never do--that we can eat with ice cream because sometimes comfort food is in order.

I wish there was a website we could turn to called, "What it means, What is True, and What to do." Lots of very tense religious people are going to insist that their Scripture answers all these questions.

That's nice.

Lots of them will try to hustle us into joining them in Vengeance World. As that had just been so helpful before, right?

So where do we even begin today? What do we do when it feels like we are all doomed, and the future will only be worse, and we can't remember anything that ever helped us come through? From high school philosophy, I remember that Francis Bacon wrote, "'What is Truth?' asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer." It seemed the ultimate truth, at sixteen years old.

But I think we can do better than that. We have shards of truth, and we can gather them up, bits of broken mosaic tile that shine.

We know that this is a very dangerous place, that we are an extremely vulnerable species, that Cain is still killing Abel.

We know that "Why" is not a useful question; and "Figure it out" is not a good slogan.

We know that the poor, the innocent, babies and the very old, always bear the brunt.

So where do we find grace and light? If you mean right now, the answer is Nowhere. It's like after a child dies. Grace always does bat last, and the light always overcomes the darkness--always, historically. But not necessarily later the same day, or tomorrow, after lunch. Wendell Berry told me 25 years ago, in Advent, the darkest shortest days of winter, "It gets darker and darker and darker, and then Jesus is born." But it is only November 13! It gets even darker.

What is the answer? Gandhi is almost always the answer. Jesus's love for the poor and refugees is the answer. Adding a bit of light and warmth to these cold dark days doesn't hurt. Candles are beautiful and bring a soup├žon of solace to our souls. People living on the streets could really use your old blankets and jackets.

Grace will always show up in the helpers, as Mr. Rogers' mother used to tell him in times of tragedy. But today, right now, if you have a nice bumper sticker that explains or makes sense of what happens in Paris, it's probably best if you keep that to yourself. It is definitely best that you not share it with me. It will cause me to get a tic in my eye and will guarantee that the next time I see you, I will run for my cute little life. Everyone in his or her right mind will. So how do we even know truth, in the midst of b.s. and lies?

What is true for me is that the shootings at Sandy Hook were the actual end of the world, evil or at least the most extreme mental illness made visible. There were no answers that day, the next day, the day after that. Well, you could go to certain web sites and Twitter posts, and I will not name names, and be told how stupid you were not to see that there was only one appreciate truth. Reload! But again, that was not helpful. What was helpful was that we stuck together in our horror, grief, anxiety and cluelessness. We grieved, we feared, we despaired, and raged, prayed; we reached out for any help at all; and these were appropriate responses. I am going to recommend that we do that today, and tomorrow. Wounds and trauma revealed were healed; eventually. Some of us couldn't eat at all, someone of us binged, some of us couldn't turn off the TV, some of us couldn't turn it on. Those were all appropriate. We felt like shit, and let some time pass, talked and stuck together. And day by day, we came through.

Talking and sticking together was the answer. It honest to God was. We were gentler, more patient and kind with each other. If people are patient and kind, that's a lot. It means something of the spirit is at work. For me, that is grace made visible. It doesn't come immediately, and it doesn't come naturally. What comes naturally is, Shoot the mo-fos. So when we could, after Sandy Hook, we paused, breathed, sighed, gasped at the rising numbers. Nothing changed legally, not one word, but we came through. Hearts were healed, imperfectly. People walked, lived fully, and even danced again, after bad psychic fractures that did not heal quite right, and that still hurt some days.

We will again, but it takes time. I so hate this! Hate this, hate this, hate this, and do not agree to this, but have no alternative, because it is Truth: it will take time. Today, we try to keep the patient comfortable--ourselves, our beloved, the poor.

We're at the beginning of human and personal evolution. Whole parts of the world don't even think women are people.

So after an appropriate time of being stunned, in despair, we show up. Maybe we ask God for help. We do the next right thing. We buy or cook a bunch of food for the local homeless. We return phone calls, library books, smiles. We make eye contact with others, and we go to the market and flirt with old or scary unusual people who seem lonely. This is a blessed sacrament. Tom Weston taught me decades ago that in the face of human tragedy, we go around the neighborhood and pick up litter, even though there will be more tomorrow. It is another blessed sacraments. We take the action and the insight will follow: that we are basically powerless, but we are not helpless.

I have no answers but know one last thing that is true: More will be revealed. And that what is true is that all is change. Things are much wilder, weirder, richer, and more profound than I am comfortable with. The paradox is that in the reality of this, we discover that in the smallest moments of amazement, at our own crabby stamina, at kindness, to lonely people who worry us, and attention, at weeping willow turning from green to gold to red, and amazement, we will be saved.

P.S. The apple crisp was delicious and it made my family happy. And I bought extra nonperishables to donate to the food drive at L's school. And I contacted a friend who's grieving a death and made plans to get together.

One small gesture at a time to combat despair. One candle at a time to light the darkness. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Stitch Fix #3 Review

Hey everybody! My third Stitch Fix came on Friday and I am so excited to show you what I got. As one of my friends said when her box came, "It's like Christmas!" And it really is, to have a talented stylist choose items for you...it feels like Santa knew exactly what you wanted. In my case (and I've read others' similar comments), my stylist often chooses pieces I wouldn't have known to choose. So far she's been overwhelmingly right. It reminds me of going to Nordstrom and picking out some items to try on while the saleswoman did the same. I didn't like anything I had picked and liked almost everything she pulled. So you see, sometimes it's best to get professional help!

If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, it’s an online styling service for women. (If you are familiar with it, you can skip the next three paragraphs.) You create a FREE online style profile and whenever you are ready, you can schedule your first fix. For a $20 styling fee, you will be matched with a personal stylist who will review your style profile and hand-pick 5 items just for you! The items are shipped to your home so you can try them on with clothes and accessories that you already own so you can decide if they're right for you.

To check out, just log into your Stitch Fix account and leave feedback for each item. Keep the items you love and return everything else in the pre-paid shipping envelope that is included in your fix. The service costs only $20 per fix, which covers shipping, returns and your stylist’s services. If you choose to keep any items from your fix, the $20 cost is automatically deducted from the price of your clothes and if you keep EVERYTHING from your fix, you automatically save 25% on your entire fix. This amazing service is easy, fun, and perfect for busy women who don’t have time to shop.

Stitch Fix allows you to set how often you receive a fix; I've chosen to receive one every other month. However, you can schedule one as often or as seldom as you choose.

This post contains affiliate links, including my referral link to Stitch Fix. I receive a small commission each time someone signs up for Stitch Fix, which I use to offset the costs of my own fixes. If you enjoy the content and are considering signing up for Stitch Fix, I would greatly appreciate it if you sign up using any of the links in this blog post. Thanks! Now that I’ve filled you in on how Stitch Fix works, let’s dive in to this month’s fix!

Obligatory disclaimer: please excuse the limp hair and worn-off makeup. We took these pics right after I woke up from a nap, so I was feeling rested but didn't take into account that I didn't look as polished as I had a few hours earlier when I went to church. Luckily, the clothes were not the problem. But also, as my husband took my picture, I felt super awkward with my "poses."  I would love to have a bigger mirror in my bed/bathroom and also better light for photography. Oh well!

First up were the Yuli Lace Cap Sleeve Blouse ($68) from Pixley and the Jordyn Bootcut Pant ($88) from Liverpool. My awesome stylist Kiersten totally listened to what I asked for and carefully studied the Pinterest board I've shared with her. I had pinned several lace tops and asked for one; the ones I pinned are white or cream (and I still would like one of those) but this black top is super cute. The little cap sleeves are pretty and end at a good place on my arms so they don't look too thick; and the neckline has a small edge of sheer black chiffon which is a cute detail although you can't see it in this picture. I also liked that it zips almost all the way down the back to make it easy to put on, which is a plus since the lace doesn't have any stretch.

One note: the top doesn't have a lining at all so a cami or tank underneath is a must. I used a black one here (I get mine from Old Navy) but Justin mentioned I could probably use white underneath for a different look. I liked using a tank that was slightly longer than the top for some coverage in the back.

Obviously this top will go with all kinds of things, including jeans and heeled boots for a date night, and when it's chilly I will put a jacket on top. It's also going to be great in the spring and summer. Multiple seasons = worth the cost!

Since I was trying on the Jordyn Bootcut Pants anyway, I just put them on with the top, which I think makes it office appropriate (well, maybe not my office, which gets covered in sawdust on a regular basis, but good for a client meeting offsite). I was excited but a little dubious about these pants. I had asked Kiersten for some bootcut jeans or pants to try and she delivered. However, I thought they might be a little too small when I took them out of the box. Luckily, I was wrong! The pants are a lovely dark heather gray and the length was perfect for me (I'm 5'2"). I can wear my black ankle boots (I think the heels are about 2 1/2") or flats, which is fine since I don't wear high heels very much. My favorite thing about these pants is that they don't have a zipper. Instead, they have a wide waistband that holds in anything that needs to be held in but still feels comfortable, a lot like yoga pants (LOVE). The fabric has enough stretch that it hugs my curves, but not in a hootchie mama way. (Do people still say "hootchie mama?")

Here's a picture of the outfit with a waterfall cardigan from my first fix since I'm trying to develop my remixing skills. So far a lot of the pieces Kiersten sends me work with previous items; I feel like she really is keeping the previous fixes in mind as she chooses things for me. Sometimes she even mentions how to add in something from a previous fix, plus I have the picture cards for inspirations. This cardigan is super soft so I loved wearing it with these pants, but I will definitely add color with a top or scarf when I wear this outfit.

The next piece to consider was the Adalia Striped Blanket Scarf by Echo ($38.00). My initial reaction was, "Wow, this is a HUGE scarf," and I am a small person, so I wasn't sure it would work even though I had asked Kiersten for a blanket scarf to try. Plus, the ones I pinned all had color in the plaid, like so:
Then my daughter touched the scarf from the fix and fell in love with its softness, so I had to try it. This is the way the style card suggested to wear it--easy enough. But there are a ton of other ways. The scarf really is soft, but I need more color. I'm also not convinced that I even need a scarf this big. I can get hot really easily now that I'm 40, and I'd hate to pay this much for a scarf that makes me feel smothered. I broke the news to C that she would have to say goodbye to this scarf.
Next I tried on the Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse ($58.00) by 41Hawthorne. I had pinned this exact blouse so I was excited to try it. The off-white cami that comes with it is totally separate, which I liked because I have been known to get trapped in a blouse that has an inner attached layer. I really like the cheerful print and especially the bronze metal studs on the front and the sleeves. That's one of my favorite things about Stitch Fix: the pieces have little details that make them more special than you usually see at, say, Target or Old Navy. It's these things--along with the stylist-considered fit for my style and figure--that make me willing to pay more than I normally would.

Once I saw the photos of me in this top, however, I was not as enthusiastic. It doesn't seem to lie right in the front (the other pic was even worse). I'm not trying to pretend I have a perfectly flat stomach, but I swear the lace top didn't make my midsection bulge out like this one did. I didn't see a problem in person, but the camera doesn't lie, right? Plus, I already do have a (solid) orange tunic top. If this one had been more flattering, I'd keep it; but since it isn't, it will go back. 

Finally I saved my potential favorite for last: the Lex Textured Floral Knit Fit & Flare Dress ($74.00) by Brixon Ivy. I had pinned a skirt in the same fabric (which is a maroon and blue print that looks like brocade but is much softer) and Kiersten said she hadn't been able to find the skirt but sent this instead. Honestly, I'm glad she did. A dress is sooooo much easier than separate pieces. No worrying about whether to tuck or not, and how the waistband, etc. fits. The dress is super soft and stretchy in a "fit and flare" style which is super flattering to my slightly pear-shaped figure by balancing out my hips and emphasizing my small waist. When I saw this picture, I said, "Wow, I look very...va-va-va-voom." My husband agrees so that's great.I think Kiersten is right that it will look great during the holidays both for slightly dressy and more casual events (I don't need a fancy dress for holiday parties this year).

I added a black cardigan as the style card suggested which instantly made the dress more casual, especially if I add tights with the ankle boots. I also tried the navy knit blazer from my last fix which looked awesome for a business meeting. I'd probably wear knee-high boots with that. Sorry I don't have any pictures for those last two; my photographer had gone on strike.



 So there you have it! Here is the official tally of Stitch Fix #3:
  •  Yuli Lace Cap Sleeve Blouse ($68) from Pixley - KEEP
  • Jordyn Bootcut Pant ($88) from Liverpool - KEEP
  • Adalia Striped Blanket Scarf by Echo ($38.00) - RETURN KEEP
  • Moni Geo Print & Camisole Blouse ($58.00) by 41Hawthorne -RETURN KEEP
  • Lex Textured Floral Knit Fit & Flare Dress ($74.00) by Brixon Ivy - KEEP
UPDATE: When I did the math, it was more affordable to keep everything with the 25% discount than to send anything back. So my daughter can share the scarf (I like it better as a shawl; it's big enough!) and I will try the blouse again with a more supportive cami. 
Again, if you are interested in trying Stitch Fix, you can sign up and cancel at any time if you decide it's not for you. If you do decide to try it, please consider using the link below to sign up so I can get a small commission.

Alison's Stitch Fix Referral Link

I think I might schedule a fix after Christmas (using Christmas money, woot!) so I can start wearing the items sooner than Jan. 15, so stay tuned!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments here (you can comment anonymously), on Facebook, or send me an email at hairlinefracture at gmail dot com or PM me on FB.

What do you think about the items in this fix? Did I decide correctly what to keep and what to return? 

I tried to link up to Maria's Stitch Fix link-up post where there are several other bloggers sharing what they got in their fixes. I don't know if mine got on the page but regardless, you might enjoy looking at more clothes!


Tournament

Yesterday was my girl's very first tournament as a middle school basketball player. They had three games, two of them back-to-back.

And she and her friends on "B" team rocked it! Tournament champs.

They all played very hard and were a real team. I look forward to seeing them learn more basketball skills as the year goes on, but they already have things that can't be taught: heart and hustle.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

This Post Is Bananas

Hi guys! Today is a busy day--Justin has to work and C has her first-ever basketball tournament, so we will be tied up all day. So I planned ahead to share a recipe. This banana bread is my husband's favorite because it's not dry at all (I hate the word "moist." But it's acceptable (barely) when describing baked goods.

This is actually Emeril Lagasse's recipe. I've never cooked any of his other recipes; I think I got this from a kids' cookbook he did and that I checked out of the library. It did not make me yell "BAM!" but it is delicious and has joined our favorite recipes.

Emeril's Banana Bread
  • Shortening, butter, or cooking spray
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder (I have no idea why this uses both; perhaps they do different things?)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large loaf pan, or two smaller pans, or a muffin tin--whatever you have is fine. Mash the bananas in a small mixing bowl. [I just noticed that the original recipe specifies to peel them first. I guess you do have to state that in a kids' cookbook!]

In a larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil, and sour cream. Stir until smooth.

Add the cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, salt, mashed bananas, and nuts and stir to combine.

Add flour and stir till just combined. Do not overmix or your bread will be tough! [I think this was the first recipe that told me this. Light bulb!] Pour batter into pan(s) and bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes for two smaller loaves, 80 minutes for a large one. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn out of pan to finish cooling.

Also, I realized too late that I had accidentally thrown out the pecans I'd been saving when I cleaned out the pantry this week. I substituted chocolate chips, forcing myself to use restraint because my husband doesn't like things that are "too chocolatey." I don't understand that, but whatever. I'll almost certainly like this version better.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Apparently any chocolate in this recipe is "too chocolatey" for my husband. He was very nice about it, though. C has a mild allergy to bananas so she's out. But the boy loves it so I'll freeze the other loaf (or send it to a teacher; they need strength for this time of year.)