Friday, December 19, 2014

Looks Like I'm "That Mom."

I have a very important question for all of you working parents out there, especially the mamas.


I am quickly finding out that I might be the worst working mom in the history of the world. If I had been around during the initial feminist movement, they would have thrown up their hands and said, "Forget it! Back to the kitchens!" and abandoned this whole plan.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean.

The other day, I dropped Micah off at preschool. That sentence sounds simpler than it actually is, so let's back up just a little bit more. Usually, I drop Micah off at a friend's house whose daughter attends the same preschool as him because the classroom doors don't even open until 9:00 and I'm technically supposed to be in my first meeting at 8:45. Anyway, I drop Micah off and then proceed on to Thomas's school where I hover like an annoying mosquito outside his classroom until they finally take pity on me and open the door at around 8:47 despite that they aren't really supposed to until 8:55. I smile and wave at my kid before turning and sprinting to start my work day.

That craziness is a NORMAL day. This particular day was even more ridiculous because my friend/taxi was on vacation for the weeks leading up to Christmas so I had to figure out how the heck to get my kids to school and get myself to work all at reasonable times.

The best I could do was bring Micah with me to Thomas's school and then drag him along as we ran like heck back up to the van. We drove well above the speed limit, reaching Micah's school at a mere 8 minutes late. This particular morning, I noticed that all the kids were dressed up and looking very festive. Little girls in Christmas party dresses, boys in their clip-on ties and Sunday best. I realized that my kid was the only one in slightly-scuffed jeans and a dinosaur t shirt that I had originally counted as a victory because they met my only three qualifications for an acceptable school outfit:
  1. He hadn't worn them yesterday.
  2. They'd been washed since the last time they got peed in or crapped in.
  3. They fit.
Panicked, I scanned the room and my heart sunk when I noticed the announcement board that let the parents know that the class Christmas performance would begin promptly at noon and to make sure to be present and seated by that time.

Well, frick.

I knew for darn sure that I wasn't going to be able to bail early on what was already going to be a crazy busy day at the office to go catch the show. Furthermore, being at Micah's school at noon to whenever wouldn't allow me to be on time to pick up Thomas when his school let out. So I asked his teacher if pick-up time and place today would be the same as usual and she assured me it would be.

Later that afternoon, I worked right up to the last minute I could before hastily closing Outlook and shutting down my computer. I threw my stuff together and placed myself in a primo position to be the first parent in line so I would get Thomas right out of the gate. We hustled as quickly as one can hustle with a three-year-old in tow and managed to arrive at Micah's school only 2 minutes past his pick-up time.

Every coat hook was empty.
The classroom doors were shut tight.
The hall was quiet.

Thomas and I walked up to the door and peered in the window. There was Micah, sitting alone. His teachers had collected all his stuff and had it ready to go on the front table. They noticed me and came to open the door.

"I thought his pick-up time was the same as usual today! Was I mistaken?" I asked, my voice laced with embarrassment. Thomas had already wandered over to the carpet to play his own little version of hopscotch on the letters.

"Well, the rest of the children just went home with their parents after the Christmas show, that's all," came the reply.

The rest of the kids. Went home with their parents.
Only my kid was stuck there waiting.

I had done everything I possibly could and it still wasn't enough. I didn't dress him in red or green because I misplaced the cute little class calendar because I was also trying to sort through the reindeer craft, the reminder that I still needed to return that homework from last week, the notice about re-enrollment beginning next month, and a half-eaten piece of string cheese. I didn't come to listen to his class sing Christmas carols, so he was left behind, watching as every single other kid in his class got to go home early with the parent that had been in the audience, laughing and smiling as they sang goofy versions of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman.

I was "that mom." The mom that makes the teachers shake their heads after the doors close behind her. The mom that makes more excuses than pipe cleaner crafts.

Do I regret accepting a day job earlier than our original plan? Absolutely not. I have loved this job from the first day I arrived. It was totally the right move and I believe that with my whole heart. God prepared the path for me to take this job and who am I to question his plan?

What I did not plan on was how difficult it would be to navigate the rest of my life outside the office. Drop-offs, pick-ups, conferences, doctor appointments, remembering all the papers and permission slips and dress-up days. I think I might be the only parent that is NOT clamoring for a chaperone spot on the field trip to the petting zoo or signing up to volunteer in the classroom for the entire month of January.

I know I'm a good mom. No, I'm a great mom. My kids light up brighter than our Christmas tree when I walk in the door and scream "Moooommmyyyy!!!!!" I know they miss me a little more now than when I used to be home during the day, but that does not mean that I love them any less or that they are disadvantaged in any way.

I find myself straddling the divide between the "working mother" and the "stay-at-home mother" and identifying with the struggles of both, feeling the pressure put on both, and wrestling with the guilt the world wants me to feel because I can't seem to do either well enough. 

It's no wonder I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Lights on Glen Cove

Writers block has been a killer lately so I've started and erased a new post about five times already. I blame sleep deprivation or maybe the spontaneous diabetes I've surely developed from all the sugar cookies, buckeyes, and truffles I've consumed in the last couple days. I was really, REALLY trying hard to put the kibosh on all my sugar intake and avoid it all costs. That whole breast cancer scare kind of sent me into a bit of a tailspin where I wound up eating my feelings a lot so I fell off that wagon pretty hardcore.

That's what January is for, right?

Well, rather than ramble on about something you're only mildly interested in reading, I thought I'd share a video instead.

Last night after dinner I told the kids to drop what they were doing and to go get their pajamas on because I had a surprised for them. They raced off to change and I told them all to grab their favorite stuffed animal. Five minutes later, all three boys, Luis the bulldog, Gabby the tree frog, and George the monkey were piling into the van for a spontaneous bedtime field trip. As we drove, I told them to point out to one another as many houses decorated for Christmas as they could. The twenty minute drive was filled with exclamations of wonder and awe and things like, "Did you SEE the size of that snowman?!" and "Dat is the most beautiful thing I ever saw in my LIFE!"

It was pretty spectacular.

Isaiah eventually caught on that I was taking them to see a famous light display in a neighboring town. The brother of a friend of mine goes ALL OUT with the Christmas lights on his house and even designs a show around four different songs that play on a specific radio station. He then uses the attention the lights draw to his house to collect donations for the local food pantry.

We pulled up to the house, flipped off our headlights, tuned in to 87.3 and were immediately amazed. I was so focused on the show that I nearly forgot to turn in my donation! I hopped out of the car to put my bag of canned goods in the donation bin on the front lawn and got back in the car just in time to take this video.

You can hear the boys singing along in the background, especially Isaiah. He just loves to belt out some Idina Menzel.

And you know what? They wouldn't stop talking about how this surprise was one of their best Christmas moments ever and how they would remember this forever. I'm pretty sure I will too.

(Thank you Stark family!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lumps, Prayer, and Funbags

"What does one even wear to a mammogram?"

I flipped through the items hanging in my closet, experiencing a strange cocktail of frustration and fear. They had told me to wear a loose-fitting shirt, but it has been so freezing around here that I couldn't imagine leaving the house with less than three layers on. But, ever the rule-follower, I wanted to make sure I was following mammography protocol.

"I don't know what to wear."

My poor husband looked at me and asked with a certain level of "well duuuhhhh" in his voice, "Aren't they going to have you take your shirt off anyway?"

I wore a sweater.

Nine weeks ago, I never thought I would be sitting in the waiting room by the Breast Care desk awaiting my first mammogram at the age of 31, surrounded by ladies who would likely be heading to Denny's after their appointment for their free cup of coffee and discounted eggs and toast. Feeling like the toddler in the room only added to my mounting anxiety.

Can I just make a suggestion? I realize that hospitals have to be very vigilant about costs, but I think the robes in the mammography locker room need to be cuter. It's not like a labor and deliver robe where we just accept they're ugly because there's a very good chance there will be blood, mucus, vomit, and goodness knows what other kinds of fluids being strewn about like a rogue sprinkler with a loose hinge. And furthermore, the robe doesn't really matter anyway because you become so focus on the holycrapthisistheworstpainintheworld stuff that you don't even realize that your personal appearance is starting to resemble someone getting ready to be an extra on The Walking Dead.

But the robe in the mammogram room is only covering the top half, so I still had on my dark wash boot-cuts and heels. It's a bit comical when you see the ensemble being finished off by what looks like a jacket made of Quilted Northern.

Outfit issues aside, I did make it through what was one of the more nerve-wracking days in recent memory. I submitted myself to a thorough fondling by a delightful woman named Jean who I'm pretty sure has given breast exams in her sleep. I mean, chica was efficient.  Usually I need at least a glass of wine before something like this happens, but it was only 8:00 in the morning and I had to go back to work at my church job after the appointment, so I figured that was probably frowned upon. Not that alcohol is unbiblical. It's not. I'm just pretty sure it says something in Proverbs along the lines of "only the foolish woman partakes in excessive libations before rigorous breast manipulation." That's probably not in there. If it were, how else would so many children have been conceived?

I'm a terrible person.
I'm probably going to get in trouble for making jokes about the Bible. 

Back to the boob story. The weird thing (only one?) about the manual exam was that darling Jean couldn't find the lump that had caused all this business. Nine weeks ago, my doctor found it during my routine check-up and had me come back several weeks later to follow up to see if it had gone away. Instead, we found that it had stuck around and made a cozy little home in my breast and we even discovered a second little friend he had invited along to the party. The look of concern on my doctor's face was for real.

The "c" word came out.

Sweet heavens, not THAT "c" word. How vulgar do you think I am? I like my doctor very much! And I would never, EVER use that word in any situation. Anyone who uses that word deserves to get back-handed.

Speaking of, I felt like I had been back-handed when the words "cancer" and "possibility" came out of my doctor's mouth in the same sentence. She was recommending a mammogram and ultrasound, but was also quick to point out that she was being cautionary, not reactive. There was nothing she found in the exam to lead her to believe that I had some mack daddy aggressive tumor in there that needed treatment ASAP, but there was enough to lead her to believe that we needed more information, that it was better to err on the side of caution. It could easily be nothing. But cancer was in the conversation.

So there I was, a week and a half later, standing idly by while Jean arranged the girls into the right position on the machine so she could flatten them like a panini press. You know how when you have to take out the garbage and the bag is really full and heavy? It's hard to just toss it up into the big garbage can or dumpster, so you have to swing it a bit like a pendulum to get a little momentum going?

Yeah. It was like that.

I felt like even more of an idiot during the ultrasound. I had to keep fighting the urge to look at the screen and ask, "Is it a boy or a girl?" Every time I glanced over there, I just saw images that looked like what our TV used to look like back in the day when signal went out and you were stuck with a bunch of wavy lines and junk. Super not-interested. I caught a glimpse of a cover of a magazine on a rack on the far wall and I actually found myself interested in what Kim Kardashian was up to these days.

Y'all, that is what we like to call a "warning sign."

In my case, however, it was a sign that I was in a good place. I wasn't freaking out. Last weekend I was thinking about how I should make sure to buy some life insurance before my appointment just in case the news was bad and now here I was in the exam room, exposed and at Jean's mercy, thinking more about celebrity gossip than the possibility of a mass in my breast.

It was a "peace that surpasses understanding" alright. I highly doubt it's what Paul had in mind as he penned his letter to the Philippians, but I still maintain that my lack of panic was an answered prayer. I had so many people praying for me while I was there. They were praying for clear scans, for strength, for courage, and for a peace to come over me so that I could trust God with whatever resulted.

I felt it.

And I haven't even told you the best part. My scans were CLEAR. Neither the tech nor the radiologist could find the lump that had sent me there in the first place. There was a little inflammation on a lymph node and some fibrocystic tissue hanging around in there, but the actual large, hard, tender lump that had tormented my thoughts for more than two months was NOT THERE.

Now, I'm not saying that all those prayers caused that lump to disappear. I'm well aware there are a good number of explanations for why that lump went away like it did. All I know is that one day it was there - I could touch it and feel it - and then suddenly it was not.

Do I believe that the God of all creation could have maybe, just maybe, heard the prayers of a few of his kids and done a little mini-miracle in the left boob of one of them?

Yes. Yes, I do.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Evan and I met when we were in high school and both of us were involved in the performing arts – forensics, choir, theater. I still remember a day when we had Mock Trial practice after school and the two of us nearly got into trouble because we were focusing more on writing notes back and forth to one another on the chalkboard than we were on the witness testimonies and cross-examinations that still needed a whole lot of work.

It was my sophomore year and becoming involved in these activities was like discovering a hidden corner of my heart that I never knew existed. The thrill of being on stage was like nothing else. Some struggle with stage fright, but when the house lights go down, the faces of the audience all fade away. It’s just you – as that character – shining in the light. It’s downright intoxicating.

I could sing then. There were never any moments of delusion where I thought about auditioning for American Idol or anything, but I could hold my own. I was “painfully shy” Princess Winnifred and Lucy the therapist, giving advice for a nickel per patient. I competed in competitions with the Madrigal choir and as a soloist.

Singing was part of something that made me special.

And now it’s gone.

My voice started to deteriorate in my later years of college. I attributed it to just getting older and my voice dropping, but each passing year brought more significant vocal failure. After each child was born, even my speaking voice dropped further and further.

I’m starting to forget what it once felt like to speak and have it be heard in the back row. I’m losing the memory of throwing my arms out wide and singing in full voice.

At least twice each month, my voice weakens and then quits. I will squeak through about a day or two of complete vocal failure before it returns. My children will ask me to read books to them at night and I usually can only complete one book before Isaiah takes pity on me and relieves me of the duty.

If it were just my speaking voice, I would chalk it up to nothing more than an inconvenience. After all, I’m not under any delusions that the world wouldn’t be a little better off if I didn’t talk quite so much.

What’s hard is when I’m trying to sing in church and a note that should be right in the middle of my range comes out as nothing more than a breathy squeak. Sometimes I can drop down an octave and sing along with the male baritones of the congregation, but it is much more common for my voice to just quit entirely.

This week I am seeing an ear, nose and throat specialist to see if we can figure out what’s going on. I’m pretty certain it won’t end up being anything too serious, but I would certainly appreciate your prayers. It would be wonderful if an easy fix could give me back the ability to worship without sounding like I’ve swallowed a pack of razorblades.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday and Apostrophes

It’s Black Friday, so that means one kid has already watched his Curious George Christmas DVD twice, another kid has already ripped a hole in his snow pants and come inside wailing for hot cocoa because he is soooooo cold, and the other kid has played puppet-master to a Lego rancor and a Star Wars action figure who engaged in an epic battle fit for J.J. Abrams.

Speaking of epic, have you seen the trailer for Episode VII? Right after I pushed Play on the video I said a little prayer, “Please don’t let this suck.” After the disasters of Episodes I – III, I’ll admit I’m a little skeptical. Not gonna lie – the trailer left me impressed. Can’t wait for next December when “the force awakens.”  

We try to remain very hermit-like on Black Friday. I have no desire to wrestle with anyone wearing Tweety Bird pajamas over a flat screen TV I don’t even need. The idea of standing in line for hours in single digit temperatures for a cheap Barbie doll that looks like Queen Elsa sounds insane to me. Nope, I want nothing to do with it. Quite frankly, I really wish I didn’t have to actually put on real pants at all today, but I’m pretty sure my boss would frown on that if I showed up for work in my pajama pants and the fluffy pink slipper/socks I’ve been shuffling about in all day. I probably should wash my hair at some point, huh? 

I like to use Black Friday to start the decorating for Christmas. Usually we would have used the time when both Evan and I were home to get out the tree and start shaping it to look real-ish and hanging the ornaments. Instead, he sold me on the idea of a real tree this year, so the plan is to find a local tree farm and go cut our own on Sunday. In the meantime, I was still able to bust out the totes of the rest of the decorations and get things looking a little festive. That’s the way I love to do Black Friday – in the comfiest clothes possible, listening to Christmas music, “decking the halls” with my kids. It was great. 

The other big goal for today was to get our TV mounted on the wall so we would have more room for the Christmas tree when we brought it in. Evan had redeemed some airline miles to get a wall-mounting kit and started tearing the electronics apart while I pulled out stockings and the Little People nativity set. He suddenly realized that our HDMI cables weren’t going to be long enough and that he was going to have to make a run to Target…

On Black Friday.

Is it bad that the thought in my head was, “Better you than me!” 

Long story short, a series of frustrating events including a forgotten wallet, poorly labelled packaging and a failed Google search ended up with us putting everything right back where it was – no TV mounted on the wall and a very frustrated husband.

So if anyone is looking for something to do tomorrow and wants to come over and mount our flat screen on the wall, I’m sure Evan would appreciate it.

Oh, and since I know many of you may be using your vacation days to stuff and address your Christmas cards, I want to take a moment to issue a very important message. Please, for the sake of my sanity, take a moment to review how to make your last name plural. I swear, I have almost unleashed a stream of obscenities not even suitable for HBO in past years when filing through my pile of mail only to find an adorable photo card ruined by a rogue apostrophe. 

Friends don’t let friends use unnecessary apostrophes.

I tell you this because I love you.

For a much funnier post on this very important topic, I invite you to venture over to Kate’s blog to get all your pluralization questions answered. This is especially important if you are reading this post and there is a pile full of holiday cards and envelopes spread across the table in front of you. 

STOP. NOW. Please don't make me have to give myself a sound face palm when I open your well-intended Christmas card. I won't be able to bring myself to hang it up on the pantry door with the others if that cursed apostrophe is there. I'm sorry, but I just can't do it. It would just be there all December, mocking me, heckling me, taunting me.

Please accept my many thanks...and also my apologies if I just offended you.

But you know what offends me? Apostrophes used to pluralize last names.

Wishing you love and appropriate apostrophes,

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Waving Hello!

We just wrapped up our first Thanksgiving meal of the week and most of us are indulging the tryptophan by lounging in the living room and watching The Wizard of Oz. I figured now was as good a time as any to make my re-entry into the world of blogging. So this is me, waving an enthusiastic "Hello!!!" to you through cyberspace! 

 The break has been good. It’s actually been nice to not feel the guilt when I’ve gone a few days without posting. And you know, I’d really like to keep that going. I need to write, that’s certain. But whether I post every day, every other day, or if it ends up being a week or so in between, I need to be ok with that. I’m going to do what I can do and I need to learn to be content with that and not feel guilty if it’s not up to par with what the standards of the rest of the blogging community.
I’m going to try to go back a bit and sometimes just write regular old family updates, posts that originally built this blog. Well, that and posts about how angry I was at Brett Favre for signing with the Jets. But I refer to the Green Bay Packers with the pronoun “we” so I think that totally counts as a family update.

Isaiah – We just had his parent/teacher conference a couple weeks ago and he is really doing very well in school. He is reading above his grade level and excelling in so many areas, including math and art. He has the incredible gift of a mind that can both compute and create. From what we can tell, he continues to be a real ladies man who charms and befriends girls easily. This is the kid who came home from Kindergarten with a girl’s digits No joke. Lock up your daughters, friends.

Micah – This kid continues to surprise us at every turn. He knows most of his letters and is actually ahead of most of his 4K class when it comes to this. Where he struggles in with several speech sounds and few processing situations. His teacher works with him one-on-one quite a bit because he has a hard time focusing and understanding instructions when he is in a group setting and she described a situation where the kids all had a little pile that consisted of a number of pieces of three different objects – candy corns, acorns, and pumpkins. The students were instructed to sort them into collections of like objects, but Micah just lines them up end to end. We have started the referral and evaluation process so we are looking forward to seeing how some additional services will help Micah learn more effectively.

Thomas – Thomas is such a hoot. He has developed this very mischievous laugh that lets you know he is either plotting world domination or preparing to poop his pants. We’ve tried four times to potty train this kid and he is having none of it. He just turned three at the very end of August so I know it’s not something that’s a now or never kind of thing, but I certainly would be in favor of sooner rather than later. His teacher is just as impressed as we are with his knowledge of letters, numbers, and shapes and his vocabulary continues to grow every day. Sometimes the things that come out of this kid’s mouth make us laugh and shake our heads.

As for Evan and I, our lives have been busy but fulfilling. Evan interviewed for a new position at work and landed it shortly after, so he is currently filling two roles at work until someone is hired to take over his previous position. It’s been an interesting transition for him to move from the quality department where he has worked for the last ten years over to the operation side of things, but I know he is going to thrive in his new position as a project manager. I got a teeny taste of what I might be like to be a wife of someone in upper management a couple weeks ago when Evan invited me to come along to a business dinner when two guys were visiting from one of their plants in China. I found a last minute babysitter and Evan taught me the names and positions of everyone who would be there as we drove to the restaurant. I got to put my schmoozing skills to the test around a hibachi grill and I'm fairly certain I didn't embarrass Evan too badly.

My job at the church has really been wonderful with the exception of that one day when I took a wrong step and fell head-over-heels down an entire flight of stairs and smacked my head on the floor upon landing in full view of no less than a dozen people in the Chapel lobby. I tried to play it off and save face as best I could, but when I limped my way down to my office and found the door locked and nobody around to open it for me, I just crumpled into a heap and cried. If I’m being honest, that day wasn’t so great. I may or may not have jumped down my office-mate’s throat as soon as he walked in the door because CLEARLY my misfortune was all his fault! Other than that one day, I have nothing but great things to say about this new position. We have really exciting things happening in the ministry as we enter the months before the big conference; auditorium tickets sold out in only 13 minutes this year! I’m working hard on designing the apparel collection for this year, writing a intro-level Bible study for men to download after the conference, filling in all the details for the program, and setting the groundwork for some cool new projects and products for future development. It’s really a whole lot of fun. The best part has been the incredible group of people that God has placed in leadership that I have the privilege of working with every day.

Of course, managing all this craziness continues to be exhausting. To be honest, I’ve had to write this very blog post in three shifts. Shift number one came right after our Thanksgiving guests had left and the kids were quietly settled in to their movie. I had to quit about ten minutes in because I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I blew it off and went to go take a nap. Two hours later, I tried to write again, but it turns out that those same kids needed to eat AGAIN. I mean, hadn’t we just fed them at lunch? Am I the only one who sometimes gets legitimately surprised at the fact that my children expect me to feed them actual meals multiple times a day, each and every freaking day? After I had prepared them a home-cooked meal of organic produce served with wild caught fish and they sat quietly, savoring every bite. Whatever, so I spooned some Greek yogurt in some bowls, threw some raspberries on top, and called it dinner. One of the three may or may not have had a bowl of dry Kix. But here we are! Happily clicking away at the keyboard for the third time this afternoon!

But now I’m going to have to call it because it’s getting to be bedtime already and I can almost guarantee the kids won’t do it on their own.

It’s good to be back.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Whispered Words

The problem with my blog is that people read it.

It's taken me a little while to figure out what exactly my deal is and why I've suffered from such a terrible case of writer's block every time I've tried to write something in the last few weeks.  Sure, I pulled out a zinger about how working at a church is making me fat, but I've really struggled to write my heart lately. After shoving three mini sausage biscuits in my face this morning at a fantastic event where the whole staff got to hear the incredible stories of how God is at work in missions across the globe, we wrapped things up the best way we know how - with a buffet.

As I snarfed down the jambalaya and eyeballed the cheese tortellini on my neighbor's place with a look that said, "Are you gonna eat that?" I got into a conversation with a co-worker who I really don't interact with very often. She works in student ministry so our paths don't cross much. Despite that fact, we somehow got to talking about me and my writing. This gal was just gushing about my writing talent and how awesome of a writer I am and how she just loves reading what I'm writing and I'm all like.....Whaaaatttt???

That's when it hit me.

They are reading it. All of it.

All the way back to 2008 when I was even more of a mess than I am now.
The posts where I vented about how my toddler was perfecting his audition for the role of Satan's spawn in the upcoming Wes Craven film.
My words of anger, depression, sadness, loneliness.
The seasons of severe struggle and the times when I was so self-centered and screwed up.
The posts from just last month when I was so self-centered and screwed up.

It's all there. Out there for the whole world and all my colleagues at church to see.

In the beginning I didn't care.  Blogging started off as a way for me to share with my family what was going on with the kids - diaper blow-outs, new teeth, first steps, joys and struggles, tears and laughter. It evolved into a way for me to express myself and I developed into a writer.

I didn't become a writer by sticking to stories about baby food, nap schedules, and the super-fun clothes I get delivered to me every so often. I became a writer by describing how I was seriously going to sell my kid to the circus if he didn't get this whole "nap time is for sleeping not ripping all the pages out of your books" thing down. I became a writer when I stopped whispering and started shouting on the page. I became a writer by pounding the keys as the tears came hot down my cheeks as I felt like I had to defend myself against hateful words. I became a writer when I wrote honestly, uncensored, freely and without fear.

I've lost that.

Can I be honest with you now?  Truly honest?

I'm a total fraud.

I do not have my act together.
I am not the kind of person you should look up to.
I am so deeply broken and messed up.
I am incredibly ordinary.

My mistakes make me cringe. My actions and inaction has hurt family deeply and somehow I still find a way to place the blame somewhere other than on my own head. As much as I try to resist the urge to gossip, it is a habit far too easy for me to slip into. I do a terrible job of representing my precious Savior in this world. The words of my mouth are rarely pleasing to Him. The meditations of my heart are even worse.

I used to write about these things and let the clicking of the keys be therapeutic. But now I've become so scared of the reactions to my words that my words have gone silent.

It never used to matter that my blog was public because it never really came back to me. Now I feel very exposed and vulnerable, afraid that anything I publish will be read by my office-mates, the lady at the reception desk with the super-cute scarf, my Operations Director, my Senior Pastor.  To be clear, I'm a huge fan of accountability and I firmly believe that it is a crucial element of effective discipleship, but I would argue that it is most effective, powerful and appropriate within the confines of a small group or friendship where trust has been built and nourished, where grace is allowed to flourish.

If there's one thing I've learned in my years of blogging, it's that grace is often scarce on the Internet.

There are also amazing, supportive communities that shower you with grace (I'm looking at you, Thrive Moms and She Reads Truth), but I think we can all agree that the comments from the notorious Anonymous can be incredibly dangerous and hurtful. I once came very close to deleting my blog because someone told me I should give my kids up for adoption because I was a terrible mother and they'd be better off with someone else.

I am not ashamed of my brokenness and failures. In fact, I have come to the place where I actually boast about them because it makes the gospel that much more personal and powerful. But am I really ready to get back to a place where I am clicking "Publish" every time I put the struggles of my heart into words?

Maybe I don't want to risk the sideways glances, the concerned emails, the seemingly harmless conversations that begin with, "So....I read your blog...."

It's a lot of pressure. That kind of pressure is turning something that used to be an escape into something that looks more like a snare. I don't want to just pick and choose and only blog the pretty things because I don't think that's authentic and it's just not the kind of blogger I am.

Successful bloggers are concerned with followers, affiliate numbers, traffic, sponsors, advertisers and networking. There are so many bloggers that I admire, that are amazing writers, that have the kind of blog that makes me wonder why I can't be more like that. I've tried and tried for six years to become that person and I just can't do it.

So maybe I just need to not be a blogger anymore.

Maybe I need to just cast off this fear once and for all and just become a WRITER. 

Whatever that looks like.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day Three

Last day of the SNAP Challenge and I went into today just hoping to not skip meals and not try to substitute snacks for meals. It has been much, much harder than I expected to be able to eat a complete diet on such a low food budget for the day. It really would be a heck of a lot easier to just microwave some EasyMac and call it a day, but I'm pretty sure that stuff gives you Ebola.

Too soon for Ebola jokes?  Noted.

Ahem.'s how things went on the last day of the challenge! (Please don't write me nasty comments for my poor taste in humor. I'm well aware that I'm not all that funny and sometimes horribly inappropriate.)

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Avocado, English Muffin: $0.75
  • 2 scrambled eggs: 0.25
  • 1/2 avocado: 0.25
  • spoonful of salsa: 0.05
  • Whole wheat English muffin: 0.20 

This breakfast was delicious. I chopped up the other 1/2 of the avocado from Day 2 and paired it with a low-cal wheat English muffin.  Of course, I had to eat it cold because Day 3 happened to fall on a school morning when I was trying to get all three kids' lunches packed, pants on, shoes tied, backpacks stuffed, breakfasts eaten, syrup scrubbed off faces, and coats zipped. I'm not sure if I actually remember tasting any of my breakfast, but at least I remembered to take a photo of it! 

Lunch: Honey Crisp Apple with peanut butter: 0.80

  • Apple: 0.50
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 0.30

Not a huge lunch, I realize. But I got in some protein, so I'm going to call it good!

Dinner: Turkey Leftovers Sandwich: $1.25

  • Deli Turkey: 0.40
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper: 0.25
  • 1/2 avocado: 0.25
  • Baby Spinach: 0.15
  • 2 sliced wheat bread: 0.20

I used the leftover roasted red bell pepper from last night's chicken sandwich and the rest of the avocado from breakfast to make a really delicious grilled sandwich for dinner. I used the lean turkey I bought on my little grocery shopping trip along with the fresh baby spinach and used the mashed avocado as the glue to hold it all together. I grilled it in a skillet on the stove-top and I was really pleased with the result. 

Snacks and Beverages: $0.30

Since I came in a full $1 under budget after my meals, I splurged a bit and helped myself to a can of Diet Pepsi and a little air popped popcorn with sea salt for a snack. That added about another $0.30 to my total because the last time we bought soda we scored a sweet deal at Target of four 12-packs for $9.  

Total for Day 3: $3.10

Thus ends the SNAP Challenge. What have we learned? More than anything, I found out the hard way that it was practically impossible to eat full MEALS and stay under budget. I really had to stick to small plates, sandwiches, and snacks in order to pull it off. It was especially hard to incorporate filling proteins like chicken breast and I didn't even attempt to use fish - way too expensive!

I can't even imagine how tough it would have been to try to do this for my entire family.

Big thank you to Abby for encouraging me to give this a try and to blog about the process. It was definitely eye-opening and even a little bit of fun. Not gonna lie though, I was really excited to splurge on coffee and ice cream the following day!

Monday, October 13, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day Two

Even after a budget victory on Day One, this day had me nervous. I was shocked at how close I had cut it even with the little bit of food I ate, so I knew this day would probably be a bit harder. Also, I didn't want to just default to the same things I had made on the first day, so I had to get a little creative.

 Breakfast - Oatmeal w/ Apples: $0.51

  • 1/2 cup Quaker Oatmeal quick-cooking oats: $0.30
  • 1/4 diced Macintosh Apple: $0.05
  • A few dried cranberries: $0.10
  • sprinkle of Pumpkin Pie spice: maybe $0.01 if I'm generous
  • splash of milk: $.05

My friend Abby, the coordinator of this little experiment, recommended to me that I incorporate oatmeal into my diet for the challenge because it's filling, healthy, and CHEAP. This breakfast was on the money. And seasonal too! To jazz up the typical oatmeal, I added apples, pumpkin pie spice, and cranberries. Extra fruit and flavor without ruining it. It was excellent. I have a feeling I will be repeating this meal a lot over the fall.

Lunch: Ummmm.....nothing.

I blew it. I totally meant to pack a lunch to bring to work this day, but then the morning got nuts and it completely skipped my mind. By the time noon rolled around, I just stayed at my desk and just carried on.

Dinner: Chicken Sandwich w/ Red Bell Pepper and Avocado & Broccoli: $2.18
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: 0.95
  • Roasted red bell pepper: 0.34
  • Avocado: 0.25
  • Healthy Life whole wheat bun: 0.39
  • Broccoli: 0.25

I found a great deal on these frozen chicken breasts a while back and I seasoned it with a little salt & pepper and cooked it up on the stove stop and finished it off in the oven while I roasted up a red bell pepper and steamed the broccoli. I peeled the skin off the bell pepper and cut it in half, saving one half for another day. Half an avocado made this sandwich DELICIOUS! I was really happy with how this meal turned out and it was surprisingly affordable.

Total: $2.69

In all fairness, I skipped lunch so it made it a little easier to stay under budget. I think I did a better job of eating more balanced meals on this day though. My breakfast was packed with fiber and fruit and my dinner had lean proteins and a lot of vegetables. I saved the other half of the avocado and the roasted red bell pepper to reuse tomorrow at lunch so we'll see what I can come up with.

I'm getting a much better idea of how much I actually spend on food on a regular day during this challenge. It's been really hard to stay under $4! When I eat "normally," I'm guessing that I would spend somewhere around $7 or maybe even more, especially if I didn't eat out at all.

One day to go! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

SNAP Challenge - Day One

Let's review the rules of this little game. The whole goal is to get people to recognize how hard it is to a nutritious, balanced diet on the limited budge provided by the foodshare benefits of my county.  You can find more information about the SNAP Challenge here, but let's talk about how I did on my first day. I'm listing my meals and my best attempt at figuring out the cost of each.

Breakfast: Green Smoothie - $2.00

  • Spinach - .20
  • Banana - .20
  • Greek Yogurt - .75
  • Honey - .75
  • Milk - .10

Ignore the random Pumpkin Pie Spice in the photo. I had it out on the counter for something else and then I just absentmindedly left it there when I assembled this photo. If you'd like proof that I hadn't had any coffee yet, there ya go. I'll admit that I didn't really measure these ingredients so this really is a guestimate. I tossed in a small handful of spinach from the groceries I bought the other day plus a whole banana. I have a tub of Vanilla fat free Greek yogurt in my fridge so I threw in a large spoonful of that, squeezed in about a tablespoon or so of honey and a splash of milk before finishing with a few ice cubes and blending. It made more than enough for a satisfying breakfast and I felt pretty good about the protein, potassium and other vitamins present. For $2, I thought it was a pretty good start.

Until I remembered that I only had a TOTAL of $3.89 to spend for the ENTIRE DAY.


Lunch:  Chili - $0.80

My husband made a ginormous batch of chili the other day that made for a perfect re-heat. He used a pound a half of lean ground beef, black beans, red kidney beans, tomato juice, spices, and a few noodles just for fun. To be honest, it was practically impossible to figure out how much this would cost so he helped me come up with a decent attempt. The beef is about $4 per pound, so that means the meat was $6. The beans are each about .50 per can so that adds up to $2. Tomato juice? Approximately $2. Pasta? Maybe .50. All together, he estimated that the total batch of chili probably ran about $16 and yields at least 20 Sarah-sized servings. Since my man got himself a math minor at college, that was good enough for me. 

Dinner:Yogurt and Granola - $0.90

So, that left me with $1.89 to spend on dinner. Not great. Thankfully, I ate a late lunch so that chili was still satisfying me pretty well when dinner time rolled around so I really didn't need very much at all. I had a container of raspberry Greek yogurt with a little sprinkle of granola on top and that's it. My favorite 4-packs of this yogurt run about $3.19, so that come out to $0.79. Add in the granola, and my mini-meal only cost me about $0.90.  

Snacks & Beverages: Zero!

I didn't count the coffee I had in the morning because it's the coffee from the staff area of my office that is provided for us, so I hope that wasn't breaking the rules. Other than that, I just had water.

Day One total - $3.70

I stayed under budget on my first day, but I will confess that at about 10 o'clock at night when we were sitting there watching TV, my tummy started to growl at me a bit. Apparently my yogurt cup was a poor excuse for a meal and my belly was letting me hear about it. Honestly, I have no idea how I would have actually made myself a legitimate meal and still stayed under budget because even with the meager food I ate, I still barely made it. Day Two could be a real challenge indeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Weight Loss Battle - The Dreaded Rebound

When we first moved here, I was kind of crazy. Don't get me wrong, I'm still quite crazy, but I find that I'm crazy in a completely different way. Don't you just love it when bloggers start posts that make absolutely no sense?

In 2012, I lost 75 pounds. I started in January and by September I was weighing in at the lowest weight I had been since my first year of high school. For the first time in a long time, I felt confident in my own skin and comfortable wearing fun clothes. I actually felt pretty.

At my lowest weight

I also obsessed over every bit of food I ate and felt like I had to run an extra two miles or spend another hour at the gym if I ate a single cookie. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for healthy eating and exercise but looking back on it now I think I was a little too concerned with the number on the scale and not nearly interested enough in learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long haul.

Right after I reached my goal weight, we moved to a new city and I found it was difficult to keep up the old routines that had worked so well for my weight loss.  I used to go for a run after putting the boys to bed because I lived in a village of 700 people. I rarely even saw a car go by, let along run into someone else. Now I live in a city of 70,000 and I'm afraid to run at night because I don't want to get hit by a car or encounter some sort of crazy person who bashes me over the head with a rock and throws my body in the river. Back then, I only worked two nights a week. Now I work two jobs that add up to about 55+ hours each week. By the time I finally get home at night, I'm too exhausted to even lace up running shoes, let alone work out. And the mornings? Forget about it. I've tried. It's already an uphill battle trying to get me out of bed in enough time to get everyone ready for school and work and I find it impossible to wake up earlier.

It sounds like such a cop-out to give the old excuse of "I'm too busy" to exercise, but that is where I find myself. In addition, I've lost my grip on the diet that was so effective and returned to my old ways.

Where has this left me? Without pants that fit and a bad attitude, that's where. I've only rebounded by about 10 pounds, but that still makes me mad. On top of it, I've lost all the muscle tone I developed when I was doing Crossfit workouts like a boss.

Where I'm at now - about 10 pounds over my ideal weight

I'm sick of it and I want to do something about it, but I feel stuck. Maybe I need to go back in the blog archives and read my own advice. Maybe I need to just suck it up and get up early or stay up late, but I'm already so tired that I don't want to risk getting even less sleep.

Just remembered that I need to be on the lookout for coupons to get cheap Halloween candy for trick-or-treating. See? I have problems.

I know people doing this clean eating thing, the Shakeology thing, the Beachbody coach thing, the PX90 thing, the Insanity thing, all the things. I've seen all the things. Heck, I did one of The Things. Maybe I just need to jump back on the WW train and get back after it. If it worked once, it would likely work again. As for figuring out how to get my butt back in gear and exercising? Now that's a struggle I really have no idea how to remedy. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

SNAP Challenge Shopping

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I wasn't able to get to the grocery store when I would have liked to this week. This led to my children eating peanut butter sandwiches for dinner about three nights in a row and to me received a text from my friend Abby asking me if I had dropped off the planet or if I was still doing this whole SNAP challenge thing.

It would drive me crazy to deal with people like me sometimes.

But I finally made it to the grocery store and I was ready to so my shopping specifically for this challenge. The whole challenge is to try to keep the cost of your food to under $3.89 daily. I figured that I would just multiply that by three and that would be my budget at the grocery store.

Armed with my $11.67 budget, I grabbed my cart and got to work.

Basically I tried to choose items that I knew I would eat, that were at least somewhat nutritious, that I could stretch out to last a couple days, that were cheap. As I shopped, I snapped photos of each item I was buying so I could keep track of my total.

Of course, I forgot a very important detail. I'm terrible at math.

So much for staying under budget! I bought everything anyway because I realized I likely wouldn't be eating ALL of this food in three days and that I would also be using some resources that I already had on hand in my kitchen. Hopefully I didn't lose points right out of the gate.

It wasn't until I got home and started unloading things that I realized that I hadn't really planned for actual MEALS. Looking at the small collection of items on the counter, I started to worry that I was going to be really hungry and that I'd missed the point of all this entirely.

Thankfully, my husband was making a huge batch of chili which is very cost-effective and could easily be used in this challenge. Score.

Plan for Day One:
Breakfast - maybe scrambled eggs with avocado? Oatmeal?
Lunch - reheated chili
Dinner - pasta? Something involving the chicken thighs I got for super-cheap last week?

There's going to be so much more math involved in this thing than I realized. Wish me luck!

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