Monday, July 21, 2014

It is In Vain (The True Side of the Story)

Praise God for birthday parties at the pool that double as cheap babysitting, nearby Starbucks with free Wifi, and a husband who suggests I bring along the computer "just in case" I don't need to stay at the party because I might be able to do some writing.


Quite honestly, I don't really know how these "real writers" do it.  It's an incredible feat just for me to carve out the time to write the occasional blog post, let alone chapters and pages that make some sort of cohesive sense.  If I think too hard about all the obstacles that stand in the way of my bucket list dream of publishing a book.....well, let's just say that I suddenly feel like I'll need something stronger than this Shaken Peach Green Tea Lemonade.  (Which is delicious, by the way.)

I owe you a lot of posts - a recap of the food of Savannah to supplement the run-down I gave you of Tybee Island, the story of how we took our kids camping for the first time, a review of the last few Stitch Fix boxes that I have sorted through and then haven't had the time to write about, my decision whether to get another tattoo or not, and finally some sort of open call for advice on how to get my four year old to quit crapping his pants.

Like I said, lots to write about.

Today I want to take full advantage of the kid-free time I've been gifted along with the Venti Iced Peach Tea that I got for free because the barista forgot to put the lemonade in it the first time and write about something that has been really important to me over the last several weeks and to give you Part Two to the topic I introduced last week.

PSALM 127.

Remember how only a few days ago I wrote about getting up earlier in the morning so I could make the best use of as much time as possible for writing, working, reading, studying, exercising?  I got sick and tired of feeling like I didn't have enough time to do ALL THE THINGS and decided to do something about it.  I set my alarm for 5:10 am and rolled out of bed with a "suck it up, Buttercup" mantra. In the efficiency department, I felt like I was killing it and I was so thankful that God had given me a way to find more time to do all the things I was committed to. 

It was great....until my body caught on to what I was doing and started to revolt.  I struggled to keep my eyes open when I drove to my second job, found myself tripping over my words because I was too tired to speak to my students during small group, and overreacting to everything because I didn't have the patience or energy to endure it. 

A couple months ago, I was wrestling with the same question I am now - How am I supposed to find the time to do all the things I need to do and still live my life in a way that is healthy and fulfilling?

Already exhausted, already burning the candle at both ends, already stretched thin, I agreed to taking on a summer job, more hours at another job, plus accepted an additional volunteer commitment at church.  I had no clue how I was going to pull it off.  I prayed and begged God for help.  I asked for more time, more energy, more endurance, more wisdom, more efficiency, more dedication.  As hard as I was working, it wasn't good enough. 

On the brink of my busiest summer ever, I sat down to blog one morning before lunch.  A notification went off on my phone from Instagram and I grabbed it to check it out.  Someone had "liked" a photo I posted on the #lampandlight Bible study hashtag and for some reason, I clicked on the hashtag and started to scroll through some of the latest photos.  My eyes were immediately drawn to a photo of Psalm 127 even though the photo only showed a couple of the verses.  I paged through my Bible until I found it.

Friends, I don't know that I've ever been smacked so hard in the face with Scripture as I was by Psalm 127.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early 
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.  (Psalm 127: 1-2) 

Over and over I read it, thinking about the late nights, the early mornings, the worry I felt if I had to ask off work for one day, or the fear I feel every day that I'm not working hard enough.

It was MY LIFE.  Right there on the pages of Scripture.  And God was telling me in no uncertain terms that the way I have been managing my work life and my time has all been in vain.  All of it.  Pointless.

I have often made the joke that when I am dead the epitaph on my headstone will read, "At least she worked hard."  What I desperately wanted was sleep and rest and peace and I was choosing to sacrifice it.  For what?

Just stop it.
Unless you trust me to build the house, your efforts are wasted.
You cannot do everything, be everywhere, please everyone.  Trying to is pointless.
Staying up just a little later, waking up just a little earlier is only leaving you exhausted.
Instead of trusting me to provide, you worry and fret, feeding your anxiety with fear.
Just stop.  Sleep.  Rest in me, my beloved.   
You don't need MORE.  What you need is LESS so there is room for ME.  

I wrote those two verses up on my cute little "Scripture of the Week" board that hangs on the wall in my kitchen.  Each day as I slammed my coffee, I looked at it, read it, and rushed out of the house.  That was nine weeks ago and I haven't been able to bring myself to wipe those words off the glass and change them because I honestly don't think it's sunken in to my thick skull yet.  I've memorized it, repeated it to myself while rolling silverware, underlined and marked it up in my Bible, read and re-read it over and over and over again.

Only to decide what I really need to do is to start getting up at 5:10 am so I can get more done.

*insert face-palm here*

Father, forgive me.  Forgive me for my stubbornness, my disobedience, and my pride.  I get some sort of vain pleasure in the admiration I get from people when they praise me for all I do and proclaim, "I just don't know how you do it!"  I soak up their amazement like a sponge and wear it like a merit badge.  Have mercy on me for my unwillingness to surrender to what you have made so clear to me, for my tendency to display my sin like a trophy for others to admire.  Could it be that I am simultaneously worshiping busyness as an idol and looking to others to worship me for my ability to manage it?   

How could I have let this happen?  How did I let my pride take such a strong hold on me? 

Someone once warned me that to sincerely pray the last two verses of Psalm 139 was incredibly dangerous.  I've known for months now that I was too busy, too stretched, and too tired to give what you were asking of me, but I never would have thought it had gone this far.  Thank you for your enduring patience, your steadfast love, and the forgiveness that I know I have in Christ.  It is only though Him that I can ask you to turn your face away from my sin and guide my steps forward on a path that you have determined, helping me to trust you above all else.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to rise early in the morning to be efficient with the time He has given me, but the motivation behind my "anxious toil" is where I have gone horribly wrong.  Just in the last week, this Psalm has been heavy on my heart and God has started to open a door that maybe....just maybe...could provide the opportunity for me to find some balance, toil in vain a whole lot less, and lean into my Savior a whole lot more. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Early in the Morning (One Side of the Story)

Mornings and I don't really get along.

Ask my husband and he will tell you that there have been many mornings where the only thing that could get me to emerge from my grumpy blanket cocoon was a cup of hot coffee being thrust directly into my hand.  Sometimes even that didn't cut it and I would fall back asleep in defiance of the snooze function on the six alarms I usually set on my iPhone. I type this it is currently 5:52 AM.  And I've been up for nearly an hour already.  My first cup of coffee is sitting directly in front of me and will need a refill in just a couple of minutes.  The decision to start setting my alarm for 5:05 AM was not an easy one for me and I'd be lying if I said I didn't not-so-silently curse to myself that first morning when my phone woke me up.

I just needed to find more time.

Now, I know my family and some close friends are going to read this and some will roll their eyes, others will lightly bang their fist on the table, and still others will send me a thoughtful yet concerned email about how I'm pushing too hard.  And you know what?  They'd be right.  I'm not going to sit  here and claim that getting up in the 5 o'clock hour is easy nor is it the ideal situation for me.

So why am I doing it?  Why have I dragged myself out of bed with the golden dawn for five days in a row now?

Because I've been feeling suffocated.  Writing is like oxygen for me and I haven't been able to find time lately to breathe.  When an opportunity was presented to me to do some volunteer writing at church, I felt like a window that had previously been locked with the shades drawn had been thrown open in front of me, an invitation to take long and deep breaths.  I said yes when the offer came, without any sort of consideration for how I would actually pull it off.  I just wanted to breathe again.

I asked God to help me find a way to write.  My prayer for some time now has been that God would place opportunities in front of me that would help me identify my gifts and figure out ways that I can use them for his kingdom.  All too easily I can fall into the trap of feeling useless and get stuck asking myself, "Why would God want to use me?  What do I even have to offer?"

Every. single. time. I have asked God to draw me up out of that pit of uselessness, He has delivered into my lap an opportunity to serve in a way that allows me to put his handiwork on display and celebrate some of the gifts that he knit within me in the dark and secret places.

I brew my own coffee now.  Most mornings I sit in front of my computer with my Bible open and either work on a new piece for church or for something to post here.  Other days I leave the computer closed and just sit on the couch with my journal and allow the Lord to just speak quietly with me.  Even though it seems like my youngest son somehow caught on to my little plan and has started to wake up and fuss from his crib the second I start the coffee, God has already blessed this time I have borrowed from the wee hours.

Now.  There is a problem to all of this.  I work....a lot.  In addition to the mornings that I spend working at Camp, I work somewhere around thirty-five hours a week during the nights and weekends waiting tables.  Most nights, I don't even leave work until after 10:30 at night, sometimes even later.  The math doesn't really add up to very much sleep and this is something I have been struggling with for a long time now.  I'm not so naive as to think the lack of rest isn't going to affect me.  In fact, I already felt the effects yesterday when I sat down with my students to talk about the raising of Lazarus only to find that I struggled to form the words and felt like Lazarus probably had more energy than me.

My prayer is that I can find balance.  I need to be able to do the things that make me feel alive while still getting the sleep that actually keeps me alive and able to function.  I'm working on it, I promise.  In the meantime, I need to make sure to keep my coffee cupboard well-stocked.

Coming up soon - My thoughts on Psalm 127, how it's been on my heart for weeks now, and how this entire post was all wrong.  

(I never said everything on my blog would make sense.) 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Moment in Madison Square

My feet pounded hard into the pavement as I turned the corner onto Bull Street.  My camera slammed against my hip over and over again as I hurried toward the south, anxious to beat the rain that threatened in the distance.  As I approached Madison Square, I was slowed by the gaggle of teal-clad women ahead of me, tiptoeing with trepidation across the street so as to not dirty their shoes or, even more importantly, drop the handfuls of white wedding dress they carried.  Coming back to myself, I watched them delicately and carefully carry the bottom of Bride's dress over the bricks as her crinoline crinkled around her with every step.  Reaching the square, I crossed to the other side to continue on my way.

That's when I saw him.

There was Groom, standing with his back turned in the middle of the square, looking down squarely at his shoes.  He stood perfectly still, hands clasped, his eyes turned down and shoulders locked.  Like a soldier at the ready, he waited for her.

All at once, I was overcome with the weight of the moment and I found I couldn't take another step.  Suddenly very aware of my frizzy hair and rumpled t-shirt, I scurried to a more conspicuous spot to make sure I didn't inadvertently wind up in someone's living room photo album.  I retreated to behind a tree, my destination all but forgotten, and watched.

In mere seconds, I was undone.  Under the canopy of the Savannah oaks, the gravity of the moment came barreling into my chest and before I knew it, the tears had started to drop from my cheeks.

Bride, you looked absolutely breathtaking.  I could go on and on about that mermaid style dress and how it was perfectly suited for you, how the simple pearls you wore around your neck danced a bit as you took deep breaths.  But my dear, it was your eyes that held my gaze.  Your bridesmaids fluttered about you, arranging your dress, tucking a small lock of hair behind your ear, spreading your veil out perfectly behind you, but you didn't really even notice they were there.

Your eyes never left him.  

Groom, you were unmoved.  Resolute to fight the temptation to wheel around to lay eyes on her, you stayed.  Hands clasped and eyes locked on the ground, you waited as the anticipation filled the space between you.  She continued to gaze at you, watching you as your mind swirled with thought of her.

Then just like that, you saw me.  Groom, you lifted your head and your eyes came away from your shoes and fixed on the woman on the bench with the teal iPhone lifted in your direction.  At the very same moment that your eyes met mine, Bride's eyes dropped for an instant to compose herself before taking her first step toward you.

For that split second, it was just you and me.

I wanted to tell you so many things.  I wanted to tell you how beautiful she looked, how she gazed at you with such joy, and how I could see how much she loved you even from behind a tree across the square.

But I also wanted to tell you that this moment doesn't last forever.  I wanted to tell you about the unmet expectations you are guaranteed to struggle with, the confusion you will experience, the late night arguments, and the frustration when she just doesn't understand.  I wanted you to know about the incredible blessing of children and their uncanny ability to simultaneously strengthen and break you.  I wanted to tell you about the shift that happens inside of you when that ring goes on your hand.  That suddenly your life is no longer about you, that it must become about her.  That gorgeous creature behind you is looking to you to carry her, to cover her, to lead her, to hold her, to protect her. 

Her eyes lifted and she took that first slow, purposeful step toward him.

Do you know why I was in Madison Square that day?  I was on my way to Forsyth Park to see the fountain and walk the oak covered path.  I wanted to ask a kind stranger to take a photo of my husband and I in front of the fountains, one I could frame and hang on the wall to commemorate our trip to Savannah to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

But he wasn't there.

I sat in that square alone that afternoon because we had a fight.  I wanted to go to Forsyth Park right this very instant because the clouds in the distance were threatening to rain on my parade, so we needed to get a move on.  After a three hour walking tour of the city in the morning and more walking on the agenda for the evening, he was more interested in taking a bit of a rest in between so as not to burn out before dinner.  I was unwilling to relinquish my hold on my precious itinerary, so I stormed off in a huff, determined to just go by myself thankyouverymuch.

I entered Madison Square angry, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed.

But you, Bride and Groom, helped remind me of what was truly important. God brought me to that exact square, at that exact moment for a very specific reason.  He wanted me to see YOU.

He wanted to remind me of the slow, purposeful steps that it takes to sustain a marriage over a lifetime.  He wanted to make sure that I remembered that he was the one who joined us together ten years ago and no matter what struggles, betrayals, unmet expectations, and disappointment came our way, he would never leave us or forsake us.  He wanted me to remember the way that Evan looked at me on that day, ten years ago, full of the same love and adoration I saw on the faces of Bride and Groom.  I realized that I still catch him looking at me that way, even now.  He wanted to gently tell me that ten years was only the beginning for us, that he had some fantastic things in store for us and many more memories for us to make, maybe even some to photograph and hang in a frame on the wall.

Bride and Groom, I wish you abundant blessings.  I hope your wedding day was everything you dreamed it would be and that the rain that drenched us later as we walked through Bonaventure Cemetery didn't disrupt your celebration too much.

I'm grateful to have been privy to this moment between you even more thankful for the things it gave me to think about as I continued on to Forsyth Park on my own.  I took a super-lame fountain selfie and returned to the hotel where Evan and I talked about our disagreement that afternoon and moved past it.  We laced up our walking shoes to go grab a coffee down the street and I told him all about the magical moment I experienced in Madison Square. 

My super lame fountain selfie.  :)


Thursday, July 10, 2014

On Tybee Time

The delightful food of Savannah isn't confined within the city limits.  Think Hilton Head, but more Jimmy Buffet.  Laid back, friendly, affordable, and exceptionally delicious.  This island rests a short drive from Savannah down Hwy 80 and is well worth checking out.  We spent three days here and could have easily lingered much longer.  Here are just a few of Tybee's gastronomical highlights.

The Crab Shack

This joint is enormous.  Tons of seating, both indoor and outdoor.  We ate out on a huge patio with a wooden floor constructed surrounding gorgeous mature trees, right on the banks of the water.  The wind blew across the deck, causing the lanterns to gently sway from the trees.  Be sure to walk around The Crab Shack and really explore all it has to offer; maybe even say hello to the several cats wandering around the parking lot.  Live alligators (yes, you can feed 'em!) add the final touch to this tourist stop, but all the over-the-top decor would be useless without good food.  And believe me, the food is GOOD.

We saw this on another table as we were being led to our seat and immediately we knew it was what we wanted.  This is the sampler platter for two people.  It has crab, crawfish, shrimp, sausage, potatoes, corn, and mussels.  We didn't use forks.  Like, at all.

This was the first time I had crawfish and it was a teeny bit of a learning experience.  I tried that whole "suck the head" thing for a whole instant and immediately regretted it, but I can vouch for the tastiness of the tail!  The rest of the platter was killer.  My hands were coated in crab shells and butter by the end of it and I walked away a very happy woman.

The Breakfast Club

Don't miss out on grabbing a great diner breakfast at this spot on Hwy 80.  Drive toward the beach and look for the line of people waiting to get in.  We waited about 20 minutes to be seated and it was well worth it.  My favorite part was when our server made sure to clarify for us that our grits and toast would come with butter.  It was clear that the butter was not optional and it made me smile.

Evan got the shrimp 'n grits with sauteed spinach.  At first, he couldn't even get his head around the fact that this meal could even be considered breakfast, but after he took a couple bites there was little convincing needed.

As for me, I went with the mahi mahi with grits and eggs simply because this is not a meal I would ever see on a menu in Wisconsin.  I skipped the toast and tartar sauce (ain't nobody got time for that) and still only managed to put down about half of this colossal plate of food. 

Tybee Island Social Club

I'm going to make this simple - Social Club had me from the first sip of the mojito.  Evan got a traditional and I went for the strawberry version.  The food came very quickly and we were swiftly transported to Food Heaven.

Pictured here is the Chorizo Burger (with chipotle mayo and bacon), crab stew (heavenly!!!), black beans, and fish tacos (OMG).  Part of me wishes we would have gone back here for a second meal because there were so many other things on the menu I wanted to try, especially the shrimp and crab nachos.  Don't skip this one!

Sting Ray's Seafood

I know it probably sounds like I have nothing bad to say about any of the places we ate and that everything was too delicious for words, but that's actually the truth. Sting Ray's was no exception.

Evan got the crab and shrimp platter and I got the low country boil. For the record, he happily gave up that enormous stack of crab legs there because he loves me so much.  (Whatever, I totally stole them, but I definitely gave him a handful of the sausage you see there.)  The margaritas here are RIDICULOUS.  If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw a photo I took after more than a couple of them and for that.....I apologize.  :) 

If you stop in to Sting Ray's, try to sit outside and ask for Marissa.  Thank me later. 

There are plenty more options out on Tybee Island for your tummy to enjoy, but these are the ones we are able to hit in our limited time there.  I'd love to hear your feedback, experiences, and comments!  If you are planning a trip down to Tybee, I'd love for you to pin this post on Pinterest and check out them out for yourself.  

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Leaving the Beach Behind

As it turns out, transitioning back to normal life after vacation is no walk on the beach.  (See what I did there?)

Within 24 hours of walking back through the front door and dropping our suitcases on the floor, Micah dropped a deuce in his pants....twice.  We struggled to let the dog out because the mosquitoes swarmed around him as if he were some sort of magnet and I would up swatting at the buzzing little demon for the next twenty minutes.  Instead of the sand between my toes, I stepped on a stray Lego. 

And the laundry.  Oh my word, the laundry.

But I quickly became intoxicated all over again by Thomas' giggle when I tickle his belly.  The way Micah's cheeks get all red when he gets frustrated is equal parts infuriating and adorable.  And then there's my Isaiah, my little mini-me.  He's attached himself to me tighter than I've seen in recent memory.

But gracious, am I exhausted.

I have a ton to write about our vacation, from the beautiful sights to the food that caused me to gain seven pounds in a mere five days.  Oh yeah, you heard me right.  Seven pounds.

Totally worth it!  

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hey Y'all - Greetings from Georgia

Panoramic shot of the beach and pier on Tybee Island, GA

There are a few things Georgia has already taught me.

1.  Southern accents are contagious.

Despite my hardcore Wisconsin ya der ey that permeated every word that came out of my mouth on the plane, I swear to you that I wasn't even through our first meal here and I had already thrown out a "y'all."  I mean, I know I'm half southern on my mother's side, but it came out smooth and easy.  Within 24 hours, I could already hear the vowels in my voice changing to sound more akin to the smooth tones of those uttered south of the Mason-Dixon line.  By the time we leave, I'll have a full on drawl.

2.  Grits come with butter.  Period.

We went out for breakfast and Evan ordered the shrimp & grits immediately after the waitress agreed with me that when eggs are served with shrimp & grits, it becomes a legitimate breakfast.  I ordered mahi-mahi with grits and eggs because I knew that is a breakfast option I would see precisely NEVER on a menu in Wisconsin.  Our waitress, bless her heart, didn't even give us a choice in the matter, but sweetly cooed, "Now y'all's grits n' toats are gunna come with buttah, okaaaayyy?"  Yes, ma'am.  You don't argue when it comes to butter on grits.

Don't let the photo fool you.  I've been having a really hard time relaxing.  Yeah, that's a bunch of crap.  It rocks here.

3.  Southern hospitality is a very real thing.

Y'all, we haven't even set foot in Savannah yet.  (See what I did there?  I slipped in a "bless her heart" and a "y'all" like it's part of my normal vernacular.)  We have yet to walk on the streets of the city known as the "Hostess of the South" and already we have been made to feel more than welcomed.  Every single person we have encountered has been super nice, down to the random dude I called on the phone to ask about if we would be able to see the fireworks from the beach by our condo.  It's incredible.  We were locking up the door to our condo on the way to the beach one day when a neighbor insisted we take all the leftover food they had that they wouldn't be able to bring with them.  Suddenly we had a mega-sized tub of instant mashed potatoes and more Totino's Pizza Rolls than we would ever eat in a lifetime, but the gesture was there.  And it was adorable.

4.  I am madly in love with Tybee Island.

Picture Amity Island from the movie Jaws...except without the shark.  That's Tybee.  Spending only one day on this beach with perfect weather has absolutely slayed me.  It was 93 degrees or so, but the breeze off the water paired with the schools of dolphins romping nearby and the alabaster sand was a combination too powerful to resist.  My Kindle and I had some quality time on that beach.  Oh, and I enjoyed hanging out with Evan too.  :)  Add in the close-knit community and the delicious food - forget about it.  I never want to go home.  Or at least, I want to come back every year. 

For the record, I ran my whole "Tybee is like Amity Island from Jaws" analogy by a local and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree before she promptly announced that I was absolutely right.

Everyone say a prayer that we don't get eaten by a shark, okay?  Thanks. 

P.S.  A few moments after that top photo was taken, a police officer drove by on the beach and kindly informed us that glass bottles weren't allowed and that it would super suck to get a ticket for it.  I marched my butt back to the condo for a couple red Solo cups pronto, partner. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Last Ten Years

 The last ten years have been the hardest of my life.  Ok, so the last ten years have been the last third of my life and those years have brought me three babies, so I suppose that isn't all that surprising.  But this is supposed to be the "anniversary post."  This is supposed to be the day when I write all kinds of mushy and flowery things about the man I married and about the incredible journey we've taken together, how I'd marry him all over again, and how I love him more every day.

But that's not the post I want to write.

I want to write about the struggles we've had and the mornings I've woken up with puffy eyes, the evidence of the tears that kept me awake the night before as I sat with my back turned to him. 

I want to write about the hurtful words I have said to him and the wounds they have left behind.   

I want to write about how the expectations we both had on the day we got married were completely out of whack and how the reality of marriage ended up to be nothing like either of us imagined. 

I want to write about the fights, the slammed doors, the heavy silences.

I want to write about the days when I wondered if he even really loved me or if I actually loved him at all, the days that I asked myself out loud if we had made the biggest mistake of our lives by getting married. 

I want to write about the terror I felt on our wedding day and the apprehension that plagued our marriage for years. 

I want to write our story.

Our story is not the kind you will find in a paperback novel at the airport and it certainly isn't the story we thought we would be writing.  It has been filled with heartache, betrayal, disappointment, addiction and resentment.

But our story is also a story of incredible healing and grace.  Ours is a story of redemption and the power God has to rebuild what has been broken and to resurrect what is dead.

Ours is a story of how love isn't enough.

I want to write the story of how a marriage on the edge was rescued by the overwhelming love of a Savior, who is very much still in the business of restoration.  Page by page, our tale is being re-written by the Author of creation.

I want to write our story, but I'm just not ready yet to put it all out there.  To push the Publish button and have it in black and white for all the world to see.  To not be able to pull the curtain back over it ever again.  Soon, but not yet.   

For now I am going to say how grateful I am for the man who has dug in his heels and refused to yield when things got hard, give praise to the God who did the work of softening our hearts so that healing could even be possible, and write how thankful I am to be given the chance to continue to write this story.

Evan, there are no words I could use to fully express what you mean to me and after the ten years we have experienced together, I can safely say that I am so blessed to be doing this life with you.  You have stood by me and believed in me even when I couldn't bring myself to believe it possible.  Thank you for your devotion to me and your surrender to your God.

I couldn't ask for a better partner in this life.

Happy tenth anniversary, my love. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

If I Don't Gain Five Pounds, I Didn't Do it Right

I live in a state where we deep fry our cheese and wash it down with a beer the size of a labra-doodle.  We walk around our state fair munching on pickles, bacon, cookie dough, and other such oddities that have been breaded and deep fried, sometimes coated in chocolate, and served on a stick.  There is a whole building dedicated solely to serving cream puffs the size of your face.

Wisconsin is no stranger to belly-busting food and drink.  Spend one afternoon at Summerfest and you'll see I'm right.  I love a good craft beer as much as the next guy and don't even think I'm going to walk away from the fair without a cream puff.  But here's the thing.  It does make it hard sometimes to eat well.  In the year that I got serious about losing weight, I avoided a lot of the things I otherwise would have gone hog-wild on, beer and deep-fried food on a stick included.

But sometimes it is okay to just say To Heck with It and go a little wild.  This summer I am choosing to ignore the Bob Harpers of the world and for five days, I am going to ignore pretty much every single food rule I have created for myself to ensure that I keep the weight off.

Why?  Because we are going south.  Very very SOUTH.

And the South knows how to do food and I don't want to miss a mouthful.

Would I even be doing Georgia justice if I didn't have sweet tea at least once? 
How could I live with myself if I landed back in Milwaukee without having sampled some southern fried chicken and grits?

We never ever get to travel together like this so I will be darned if I am going to let caloric concerns get in the way of me having a good time.  We are going to be walking all over the place and I am going to attempt to at least be mindful of my portion sizes, but I'm not going to get all hung about about it either.

Basically, my attitude is that if I don't gain five pounds on this vacation, I didn't do it right.  I can lace up my shoes and hit the pavement to run it off when I get back to reality.

Here's just a preview of some of the naughtiness we plan to have on our plates:

1.  Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room
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My whole approach to planning our food stops on this trip was built around the recommendations of a former local who I trust completely.  She guided us away from some of the more well known touristy places and toward a couple different options instead.  Her first recommendation was to skip Lady and Sons (Paula Deen's restaurant) and stand in line for a seat at Mrs. Wilkes' table instead.  The website describes the experience like this - "Tabletops are crowded with platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. The menu changes daily so regulars can have something different every day. Stop by and enjoy the special pleasure of a meal shared with neighbors and strangers."  Sounds to me like this place could be good for two or three pounds all on its own.  Can't wait!

2.  The Crab Shack

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 A good portion of our time will be spent out on Tybee Island and despite this place's touristy vibe, the food is said to be so good that it's worth it.  Low country boils, fresh crab, shrimp, and live freaking crocodiles make this place a must see.  Plus, my darling friends from church bought us a gift card to this joint, so this will likely be our very first foodie stop upon arrival!   

3.  The Olde Pink House
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I made reservations months in advance here for our one "fancy pants" dinner while we are in Savannah.  Often heralded as the best restaurant in the city, The Olde Pink House is an eighteenth century mansion that apparently also houses a haunted bar.  The word on the street is that the She Crab Soup alone is worth making the trip.   I'm packing a pretty dress and we are looking forward to having a wonderful dinner here after we clean up from tromping around in the Bonaventure Cemetery. 

4.  Zunzi's

According to my sources, this place is absolutely ridiculous.  Featured on The Travel Channel, this take out joint had to open up a second location with dine-in seating just to accommodate the demand for their sandwiches.  With the star of the menu called "The Conquistador," how can we not give it a shot? 

5.  Jen's and Friends

I have given my solemn oath to make a stop here, order a basil lemonade, and then walk out the door with it to embrace Savannah's open container laws.  Be watching for the Instagram photo where I tag Stephanie Howell and she gives me a virtual fist bump all the way from Italy.   

That's just five of them, y'all.  I'm not even going to try to pretend that I'm not planning to eat and drink my way through Tybee and Savannah while we are there.  I've saved up the cash and I'm fully prepared to pay the price on the scale.  And it will be WORTH IT. 


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My Days at Camp

Five days a week, I am surrounded by dozens of kids aged four to about six.  Apparently sometime this spring I lost my ever-loving mind and decided it would be a good idea to teach at the summer day camp held at my church, giving up my summer opportunity to sleep in and spend the mornings in my pajamas watching cartoons with my kids and not showering.

As it turns out, it was not a good idea.  It was a great idea.

I get to jog around on the grass and encourage kids to "Chase Teacher Steven," a game that is infinitely more fun than "Chase Teacher Sarah" would be.  Teacher Steven is young, lanky, has about 2.5% body fat, and stands about six feet tall.  Chasing him is fun for the kids.  Chasing me would be more akin to cow tipping.

There are so many cool things about teaching at Camp Notgoingtosaytherealnameinanefforttomaintainalittlebitofprivacyformyselfandmystudents.  First of all, the energy level of these kids is off the freakin' charts.  Even after a couple rounds of Chase Teacher Steven, they are still as jacked up as if we had handed them each a king-sized Pixie Stick on their way inside the building.  They land in our large group room and we teachers have to make sure we remember to check our pride at the door because we are about ready to get crazy up in this hiz-ouse.  We jump on one leg, spin around, shake our bodies like a Polaroid picture, and march around the space along with the kids.  Even if they aren't winded by the time that one song is over, the teachers are usually already breathing hard before worship even starts.

Worship is one of my favorite things to do at Camp.  The kids get so into it and I love to hear their little voices screaming praise at the top of their lungs.  The songs get stuck in my head so deeply that I often find myself at my night job standing in the server bar bouncing around and singing "Everlasting Love" or "Big God Story" while I wait for the bartender to give me my martinis and old fashioneds.  (For those of you who don't live in Wisconsin, Google "brandy old fashioned" and prepare to have your cocktail-making mind blown.)

Sometimes I have to sit out in the hallway with the kid who is afraid of the hot dog obsessed puppet with no eyes.  Then there was that one day when I filled in for the woman who usually brings the freeze pop obsessed puppet to life.  As I crawled behind the puppet theater wall and put the puppet on my hand, the significantly more youthful teacher in charge of the other puppet warned me, "Your arm is going to get really, really tired."  As it turned out, the muscles in my arm were set on fire, but I was so distracted by the burning sensation in my thigh muscles as I held my body in a squatting position for ten minutes that I barely noticed until later that my arm had turned into Jello.

The different personality types really come out of the woodwork during small group time because we suddenly find ourselves trying to keep the "active" children seated on the carpet when all they really want to do is roll around and take their clothes off.  Meanwhile, the introverts just want to crawl into a corner and watch the rest of the kids fight over who gets to raise their hand first to give what is always the correct answer at church camp - JESUS!!  The Bible geek in me confuses the living daylights out of my kids by clarifying that the Bible says that Jonah was swallowed by a "big fish," NOT a whale and then we somehow end up talking about the time the kid sitting on the letter B spot on the carpet stole all her brother's Goldfish crackers, but we turn that right around to needing to ask God for forgiveness for being jealous and greedy and Boom!  Gospel.  Nailed it.

It's a hoot and a half.

Later we go outside and spray the kids with Super Soakers and run away before we get blasted in the face.  Last week I ended up with whipped cream on my face.  On Fridays, we spend a half an hour trying to keep our kids from killing one another in the bounce castle and I pretend I know how to paint faces.  The cherub-faced little punkin sits down in the chair in front of me and announces, "I want a unicorn!"  I glance at the plate of oil crayons in front of me and respond, "How about a rainbow or a heart?"

Here I am rocking my super-artistic abilities to draw a flower on this young lady's cheek.  I've disguised her face both to protect her privacy and also because she'd probably be embarrassed by my masterpiece.

And then there was that time when I brought my class over to the pond for our fishing day and I found myself hollering "Don't cross the streams!" to an audience who really couldn't appreciate my cleverness and pop culture references while they got their fishing lines all tangled because they kept crossing over one another.  At least I know I'm hilarious.  The best part was when one of my students who had been holding that worm in the water so patiently for nearly twenty minutes finally got a bite on her line.  I turned to look and saw an insane amount of splashing on the water, so Miss Linda rushed in to help her reel in what has become known as The Big Fish.

See?  Not a whale.  It was like God was making sure they knew Teacher Sarah was right about Jonah.  :)

By the time the parent show rolls around on Friday, the kids' faces are covered in sub-par drawings, their hair is coated in colorful chalk, and their bellies are full of hot dogs and freeze pops, but their hearts have been nudged into the path of God.  There is praise on their lips, joy in their hearts, and important questions rolling around in their minds.

It's the most exhausting job I have ever had, but most Kingdom work usually is. 

Monday, June 30, 2014


As I sit here and watch Parenthood while I procrastinate on doing all the things that need doing around here before we leave for our vacation, I figured I had better do something about the blinking cursor and the blank pages on this here blog.

It turns out that having zero free time is not exactly conducive to cultivating creativity.  In the few moments I've had to put my fingers to the keys, it's been frustrating not to see anything come out.  There are snippets here and there when I hop on Instagram or Twitter for a few moments, but it's been an uphill battle lately to stay plugged in to my "real world," let alone maintain the connections I have in my online one.

The good news that my very wise husband reminds me of nearly every day is that this is just a season of life that won't last forever.  For a little while, my online presence will be fading in and out as best I can sneak it in.

One thing I'm learning to do a little more is delegate, so I've gone ahead and hired an assistant.  I just needed someone to help me keep up a little better with checking and responding to email, spell checking my snarky Facebook status updates, and maybe a little light cleaning here and there.  Hey, I can't be expected to do everything.

Maybe I'm already working him too hard. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Talking 'bout Tybee

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Funny story.

I was standing out at the bus stop with Isaiah on the last day of school when a woman in jogging gear approached me, ear-buds danging from around her neck.  She squinted her eyes at me for a second and then smiled and asked "Hey!  Are you going to Tybee?!"

Why yes, random stranger who apparently knows where I plan on taking my vacation for some unknown reason, I am going to Tybee.

After the initial awkwardness, I finally understood that jogger stalker lady was actually my neighbor from down my street and she was super excited about my upcoming vacation because she too was going to be leaving for her own Tybee retreat the very next morning.  She told me about the last several times she had been down there and had seafood at The Crab Shack and how beautiful the beach is there.  We chatted for a few minutes about our plans to bask in the Georgia sun and gorge ourselves on good food before we parted ways so she could clean her house from top to bottom prior to her departure.

It didn't hit me until about an hour later.

HOW exactly did my neighbor know about my vacation plans if I clearly never told her?

Ohmygosh.  My neighbor, with whom I don't recall ever having a conversation, must read my blog.

History is repeating itself, Julie!!  And I suppose now would be the appropriate time to say:  Hi Barb!  And no, I don't think you a really a "jogger stalker lady." Hope your vacation was awesome!

As I write this I am reviewing the itinerary I couldn't keep myself from creating for our upcoming trip, but I've decided to really throw caution to the wind and NOT color code it.  I know, I know.  I'm really growing up.   I still need to type up the instructions suggestions for the grandparents when it comes to taking care of the kids and make up packing lists for each kid.  And then there's the whole task of figuring out all the crap that I need to pack and still keep my suitcase under 50 pounds.  What if there isn't a hair dryer in the condo?  Should I bring my own even though it takes up about half my suitcase?  I haven't even thought about if I plan to blog while we are there.  I'm not even sure if there will be time!  Maybe I should pencil that in to the itinerary. 

Can you tell I don't travel much? :)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A New Kind of Crazy

Oh, Internet.  I love you so. 

I'm seeing all these adorable blog posts all over Facebook about summer and the many different stories and songs already being written about it.  Topics are about everything under the sun, from how to keep your kids academically challenged through the time off of school all the way to allowing your kids to be bored to allow room for creativity to flourish.  My favorite so far is probably the women who said she doesn't want to over-schedule her kids this summer, but a few weeks at day camp is enough to prompt her to let loose a "hell yeah!" 

Summer is a beast, man. I'm just trying to survive.

I know, I know.  We were all moaning and groaning like crazy in winter when it felt like we were living north of the Wall, but I'm not just talking temperature here, folks.  I honestly have no clue how you parents who are working those "real jobs" do it.  You know, those jobs I keep hearing about where you go to work in the morning wearing real pants and cute shoes, sit in a ergonomically correct chair, have a "business lunch," and then get money put into your bank account every two weeks.  Sounds pretty magical to me.  Anyway, you folks who exist in this fairyland are amazing.  How in the name of John Snow's lovely locks do you manage SUMMER

The kids are home and the word on the street is that they need to be cared for beyond a dish of food and water and the occasional pat on the head.  Many of you choose to bring them to a day camp like the one I am working at where we try to wear them out as much as possible so that when you pick them up they are ready to crash hard.  As a matter of fact, most of us teachers crash pretty hard when we get home too.  Your kids are exhausting.  (And by "your kids" I also refer to "my kids" since my own little maniacs are also attending the camp where I work.  We're all in this together.)

But what about those weeks when camp isn't in session?
How do you manage pick up and drop off if the hours don't even remotely match with your work life?
What about the younger kids who aren't old enough yet to come hang out with us?

Props, parents.  Summer is billed to be this huge sigh of relief, this collective exhale where we all get to kick off our shoes, bask in the sun, and let loose for a couple months.  As I'm coming to find out as my kids get older, summer is just a whole new kind of crazy.  T-ball practices, trying to get my money's worth out of my zoo pass, birthday parties, waterparks, church camp and more.  And having to fit all that in the seams of a grown up life that hasn't really changed all that much is mind blowing.

As for us, our mornings begin even earlier than they did during the school year and I have threatened my husband with physical harm if he fails to help me pack the boys' lunches the night before.  I get home from spending four hours with dozens of kids age four through seven, pound a reheated cup of coffee, get the little one to bed for a nap, fight the urge to leave the older boys to terrorize the neighborhood while I also succumb to the siren song of sleep, get changed and get ready to go to my night job where my step count sky-rockets as I serve pints of beer, bowls of corn, and plates of flatbread.  It takes every ounce of energy I have left in me to hold my eyelids open long enough to drive myself home at night.

My poor husband.

All that's left for him is a completely depleted shell of a wife who stumbled in the door empty, cranky, and likely kind of hungry.  None of those things add up to me having a very amiable disposition.

But my kids can't stop raving about it.  Sure, it's only the first week of this adventure, but they are loving every second of it.  Water Day!!!  Hot Dog Day!!!  Sliiiiimmmmeeeee!!!! I catch them singing worship songs when they don't even realize it.  What else could I ask for?

Earlier this week, on the night I didn't have to work at night at the restaurant, I had a whole list of things I needed to do during the afternoon that I hadn't had time to get to otherwise.  I put the baby to bed, set the big kids to playing, and resolved to get right to it.....after I rested for a few minutes. 

Then this happened:

And yes, those are paper talons on my son's hand.  He made a whole set of ten thanks to the friendly folding gurus at Camp.

How is your summer going? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Curious Monkey

This kid just kills me.  He doesn't just wear Curious George on his T-shirts, friends.

He lives it.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Real Time Blogging

I don't really believe in jinxes, but I do know that when I watch a Packer game I have to be very careful not to vocalize such thoughts as

"Wow, they're really running the ball well today."


"Rodgers hasn't thrown a pick yet this season!"


"It's amazing that there haven't been any serious injuries yet this season."

because inevitably the moment such things leave my lips, the runner is getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage, my QB throws a Pick 6, and our center goes down with a blown knee.

Therefore, I have explicit orders when watching a game not to even breathe a syllable of such things out load, lest I bring down fire and brimstone on my team.

In short, I'm a jinx.

What I'm wondering is if the same principle applies to typing thoughts on a blog.  If I actually put them "out there," is that equivalent to speaking them and therefore inviting the jinx to apply its terrible curse?  And does it only apply to sports?  Or even just football?  I mean, ask any dude who has shown up on the cover of the Madden video game and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that such things are real, man. 

Dare I even type these words?  I think my computer might be working again.

I've been successfully navigating the Internet for about 30 minutes now with no cursing or yelling into a pillow, so that's a very good sign.   I still can't get anything to show up on my computer from my Photo Stream, but I'm not going to get greedy at this point.  I'm just grateful to be able to check my email, watch stupid YouTube videos, and read crucial Yahoo articles about how Ben Affleck is beefing up to play Batman.

So, I'm back.  And since it's Father's Day, I suppose I should be sure to include the traditional Ode to Dad photo.

So glad you're home, honey.  These boys adore you and I think you're pretty great too.  It's a lot of fun to do this crazy parenting gig with you and I'm looking forward to

Oh snap.  Game of Thrones is on.  Time to go.

(And that, my friends, is a blog post written in legit Real Time.  Out.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Attempting to write a mini blog post from my phone.  My poor computer isn't doing well. Apparently it has been infected with Malware, whatever the heck that is.  All I know is that I can't connect to the Internet, which is 96% of what I use my computer for. 

Obviously blogging is a bit more difficult without Internet.  My to do list has been piling up this week with computer tasks that need doing, but even the herculean efforts of a very generous IT dude at church haven't been able to rescue my ailing machine. 

A new computer is very much not in my budget right now, but I'm hoping I don't have to bury it yet. 

Is there any kind of computer antibiotic for Malware?

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