Thursday, May 28, 2015

May Stitch Fix Review - Lace, Emerald, and other Lovelies

Every other month, the beautiful box with the teal circular seal arrives on my doorstep and I clap with delight because it is time to go shopping! I cannot tell you how much I have loved using Stitch Fix over the last two years to do almost all of my clothes shopping. I can't even remember the last time I set foot in a mall.

Wait, I did go to H&M for a couple tank tops to wear under stuff and I think I remember fighting off an anxiety attack because of all the people standing at their kiosks in the middle of the walkway. No, I'm sorry. I don't want my eyebrows threaded, a spontaneous neck massage, mud scrubs from the Dead Sea, or a bedazzled iPhone case. I just don't. All I want are two $6 tank tops, so stay away from me.

I don't do well at the mall.

Instead, I get the majority of my clothes through a personal styling service - STITCH FIX.

Super Quick Recap of Stitch Fix:

  • Sign up and get excited because you DON'T have to go to mall to shop for clothes! 
  • Fill out your detailed Style Profile. Be very, VERY honest. 
  • Start a Pinterest board dedicated to your personal style and include a link to it in your Style Profile. This is invaluable information for you stylist to chose the best items for you! 
  • Schedule your first "Fix" and work yourself up into a frenzy as your personal stylist chooses some great clothes for you to try on
  • Pay your $20 styling fee and wait for the goodies to arrive on your doorstep
  • Receive a box full of items hand-picked by a personal stylist, just for you, based on your profile and your requests. 
  • Try everything on, keep what you want, send back what you don't. (The $20 styling fee comes off the price of anything you choose to keep and if you buy all 5 items, you get a 25% discount!)

P.S. If you see anything pictured here that you would like your stylist to try out on you, PIN IT to that Pinterest board you share with your stylist. Make notes on the Pin about why you like it - the fit, the style, the color, whatever! The more info, the better your Fix.

Let's lead off with one of my favorite items from this particular box - the perfect maxi dress:

Gilli Rae Maxi Dress - $74
Necklace - Stitch Fix (waaaay back from my third Fix!)
Fitbit Charge - Mother's Day Gift from my hubby 

I love this maxi dress. The length is spot on. It's not so deep a v-neck that I feel like I have to have a tank top underneath to avoid flashing the neighbors. The ruching around the waist creates the illusion of a smaller midsection which is fantastic. I love that the straps are a little wide at the top and the fabric is soft and comfy. Honestly - love everything about this dress.

Keeper. For sure.

Wells Grace Emmy Embroidered Lattice Detail Blouse - $58
Level 99 Dilan Boyfriend Jean - $108

I asked my stylist for something that would be appropriate for work, but that would transition well to summer. As an added bonus, I was hoping for something that might give me the option to show off my tattoo.  My stylist, Patrice, gave it a good shot with these items, but both were are miss for me. I like my tops to fit a little loose so that I don't feel like my muffin top is on display for the world to see, but this one was so billowy that I thought it made me look frumpy. The cut of the jeans was just wrong for my shape. Really happy to put those back in the box because they were the most expensive item in my Fix.

Here's the back of the top. The beading all down the back was really lovely and the lattice detail at the top is pretty cool - and my tattoo did poke out just a little there! But......let's be honest. I'm going to need to hit the gym a whole lot more if I'm going to make this view look good. Ahem.....

Both the blue top and the boyfriend jeans were sent back.

Skies are Blue Topanga Crochet Detail Flutter Sleeve Blouse - $48
Renee C Alondra Ruched Pencil Skirt - $58
Corso Como Del nude heels - Zappos
Black clutch - borrowed

I surprised my husband for his birthday with a weekend away and I was anxiously awaiting our dinner reservations so I could bust out the SPANX and debut this new outfit - both pieces from this particular Fix. The second I put on that emerald pencil skirt, I knew it was going to find a new home in my closet. The white top with the lace detail was the perfect top to pair with it. I felt comfortable, confident, and even a little swanky! :)

And here is the outfit with the black blazer from April's Fix on top - it was just enough to keep the chill off as we walked to and from the restaurant.

So I kept the white lace top, the emerald green pencil skirt, and the lovely grey maxi dress. All very versatile pieces that I absolutely LOVE. Huge shout-out once again to Patrice, my personal stylist. She knows what she is doing!

Want to look back through my previous Stitch Fix boxes to get a better idea of what this is all about? Click on over this way, friend. It's my favorite way to not shop for clothes.

Ready to get started?

I am a Stitch Fix Affiliate, which means if you purchase anything through Stitch Fix, I do receive a little commission. But I love me some Stitch Fix and have been sharing the love long before I knew what the word "affiliate" meant so I wouldn't be telling you about it if I didn't love it. Thank you for helping me continue my love affair with Stitch Fix and keeping me from having to go back to shopping at the mall. I don't think I would even know how anymore. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Not Impressed

Bible studies are a wild ride sometimes.

Monday morning, my reading was about Goodness as a component of the fruit of the Spirit. The writer did not pull any punches and her words went right to my heart.

God is not impressed by you.

Ok, so she may have written in the first person so that it didn't sound so aggressive, but that's how I copied it in my journal. She elaborated about her history as a people-pleasing, self-righteous young woman who thought her self-procured acts of righteousness earned her God's good graces and favor and how the truth of the matter was that she was focusing all her energies on producing "bad fruit" rather than abiding in the Spirit, who produces goodness.

I'm the kind of person who wants those accolades. I get all jacked up and tingly when people go on and on about how impressive it is that I do this, that or the other thing. So I work harder, try to be good all the time, looking for that next fix.

God is not impressed by me.

Talk about a wake-up call. When I read that, early that morning while I was still in the process of consuming the coffee that turns me into a functioning human, it really messed with me. In a good way, I suppose. Still, it shook me up. I've been over here dreaming big and making plans for a huge career move, writing and planning and building up the nerve to take a leap of faith. Do I have what it takes? Can I really do this? Do I even have anything special to offer that makes this possible?

God is not impressed.

Oh. Ok, great.

In a moment, all the cheering I had been doing for myself stopped and I thanked God for bringing me back down to earth, for reminding me that all my efforts are not going to impress him. Right about that moment is when I got it all twisted and started throwing myself a little pity party.

I called my husband and it all came spewing out of my mouth -

"Who the heck do I think I am?" I demanded. "Why did I ever think I could do something like this? I simply will NOT put my family's security at risk on a whim. I was a fool, a prideful, selfish, crazy fool. What I need to do is get my head out of the clouds and refocus on doing my job, supporting my family, and getting a better attitude about the whole thing. This blogging thing? It's a cute little hobby, sure. But turning it into a CAREER? No. That's for people much stronger, much more talented than me. God is not impressed by me."

Evan did a wonderful job of just letting me rant and get it all out before he began his rebuttal. He was quick to point out that my words were not what my precious Father would say about me. He was insistent that I was allowing the Enemy's lies to sound true. Would my God, who loves me and gave Himself for me, call me crazy, untalented, and foolish?

God may not be impressed by me, but he definitely loves me and wants what is best for me.

So I chilled out.

And the next day, I returned to the study on the next element of the fruit of the Spirit - Faithfulness.

The author wrote her study mainly from Hebrews 11, the "Hall of Faith," where very flawed human beings were used by a perfect God in ways they never could have imagined. Over and over again, the author tells the stories of people who followed God "by faith" despite their failings and doubts. I remembered Moses, who stood in the very presence of God Almighty and asked "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" Or Sarah, who laughed in God's face when He promised her a child in her old age. The author of Hebrews writes about Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Isaac, David, and the countless others who through faith put one foot in front of the other and navigated the best they could around the cruel edges of the world,  their hope firmly rooted in the promises of their God.

Diana, the author of the Bible study, reminded us that Jesus tells his disciples, the very ones who had a front row seat to his ministry and miracles, that it was not the size of their faith (or their accomplishments or qualifications) that mattered, but he instead compels them to turn their small faith into a lifetime of faithfulness.

I love how Diana summed up her point - "The fullness of God's purpose for each of us comes when our faith propels us to offer up our lives for the glory of the Kingdom. Not later, when we feel more qualified or can see just where he is leading us. Right now. Just as we are."

God is not impressed by me and my feeble efforts to be good or to increase my faith. But he is eager to fill up my brokenness with his grace, to take hold of my tiny grain of faith and grow it into something amazing for His glory.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I feel so very unqualified and unprepared. But my prayer is that I would hold on tight to that mustard seed of faith - a gift of God -  and take those steps, relying instead on the power of the Spirit of God, whose remains in control, whose plan is better and who keeps His promises. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bath? We Don't Need No Stinking Baths!

TRUE CONFESSION: When we had only one kid, there was a whole PROCESS with baths. There were bedtime baths with lavender body wash meant to encourage peaceful sleep, lotions, blowing of raspberries on tummies, etc. Almost every night.

Now we have two additional kids and they are huge. We can't even fit them all in the tub anymore and their idea of "playing" usually results in tidal waves that flood my bathroom. It's a whole thing.

Last week, Thomas brought home a flower from preschool and Evan helped him plant it in a pot for our back patio. He sent me this photo of the proud, dirt-caked kiddo and I smiled at its adorableness.

Cute, right?

This exchange is what followed:

Later, my husband admitted that he's only "mostly sure" he even washed Thomas's hands.  

So we don't give baths every night. Heck, we don't give baths on any sort of schedule at all.

They get baths when they step in dog poop when they've been having barefoot races around the house.
They get baths when they've been digging in the sandbox all night and their fingers are crusted.
They get baths when the oldest comes out of his room in shorts and we notice his knees are black.
They get baths when one pukes.
After haircuts.

But most often, they get baths after one of us looks at the other and asks, "When is the last time the boys had a bath?" Then we wait a couple days and they get a bath.

As for the post-bath rituals?

All three boys run around like wild men for a while before we can finally corral them to get their PJs on. They towel off a bit and then comes the Butt Powdering.

Even my oldest.

They are going to kill me when they are teenagers and this still lives on the Internet.

Also, there are a few things that are not actually baths that count as baths in our book.
  • Playing outside in a downpour
  • Swimming in a chlorinated pool
  • Swimming in a non-chlorinated pool
  • Splashing around in a kiddie pool half-full of stagnant tap water
  • Jumping in a lake
  • Getting blasted repeatedly by the neighbor kid with a Super Soaker
  • Being cornered by your brother and drenched with a hose
  • Being cornered by your dad and getting doused with a 5 gallon bucket full of water

An article from the Washington Post entitled Why You Should Stop Giving Your Kid a Bath Every Day came across my Facebook news feed and I found myself shouting slightly as I read it - "Yes! This is what I've been saying!" I realize I'm totally outing us and that there is a very real possibility that we will forever be known as "The Stinky Family."

So if you see us kicking our kids out the front door during a warm summer rain, pay no mind. It's just bath night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


It feels kind of like when you're working really hard on a project and your neck hurts, your eyes are burning, and all the typing, scrolling and clicking has left you convinced you'll be needing emergency carpal tunnel surgery. Everything is going along fine, words are going on the page, the presentation is coming together, what have you.

Then the screen freezes and your stomach leaps into your throat. Panicked, you start clicking like a lunatic, hoping and praying that it will magically recover and come back to life.

Look, I understand that those of you who are reading this on a computer with an apple on the cover might not have a clue what I'm talking about. It must be great to be so awesome all the time.

For the rest of us, that panic that sets in when all your hard work hangs in the balance is absolutely terrifying. Can anyone relate?

Now take that feeling of helpless terror and multiply it a couple dozen times and you'll get a little sense of the kind of feelings that are swirling around in my gut right now.

I've put in so much work over these years, work that has left me exhilarated, exhausted, fulfilled, and frustrated. I've had my fair share of successes (getting my teaching license) and failures (failing to get a teaching job). There have been times of incredible joy and blessing, especially the opportunity to be a stay at home mom to my young children, something only made possible by nights and weekends wearing an apron. I have endured year after year of late nights, tired feet, sore knees, knotted muscles, and burned hands. Serving put me through college, paid our rent, fed our babies, fixed our car. 

Serving has been the lifeline for our family.

No, it's not my dream job. Heck, I never would have imagined I would have done it for as long as I have. But it has taught me so much.

I've learned to sacrifice and work hard. There have been countless times when I have had to miss something I really wanted to do because I work different hours than my peers and colleagues. It's really when I can't volunteer for something important to me, attend a special event, or even plan a date night with my husband without feeling like an air traffic controller. It's a lot of late nights after I've already put in a full day at the office. It's a lot of early mornings devoted to important things that just don't fit anywhere else - blogging, showering, exercising, additional sleeping. I miss out on a lot and others have to pick up my slack in the areas of my life where I just don't have the margin. For a long time, the guilt this created was very difficult for me. I still don't like feeling like my commitments create a burden for others, but I'm getting better about accepting help and understanding that it is not my job to do ALL THE THINGS.

I've learned to manage about fifteen thousand things at once.  My friend Heather doesn't like me to whip out my planner in her presence because it gives her a headache. Frankly, it kind of gives me a headache too. It also gives me a little bit of a sore shoulder because the thing is freaking huge….awesome, but HUGE. Anyway, my chaos management skills are on point. When my section is already full but I'm asked to pick up three tables in the private room only to turn around and realize that my fifteen-top is ready to pay and they all want separate checks, my brain goes into overdrive and I have to navigate through the crazy of that moment. The same skill set applies in the mornings when one kid wants scrambled eggs, one wants cereal but without milk, one wants a bagel just barely toasted enough with peanut butter and then there are also three lunches to be made and the dishes to put away and clothes to be put on and shoes to find and backpacks to fill and homework logs to initial and permission slips to sign and oh crap, we never let the dog out. Chaos management should really be listed as a skill on my resumé.

People are my favorite business to be in. My job is different every day. No two people are alike and that keeps me on my toes. I love to tell stories, make people laugh, and create relationship. People are the only investment we can make in life that will pay eternal dividends.

Serving has shaped my character and my skills. Perseverance, time management, multi-tasking like a BOSS, customer service, patience, sales, dependability, discipline, integrity. There have also been shifts where I have learned that I am a very flawed human being who still has a LOT of work to do when it comes to handling stressful situations and stressful people with the mercy and grace of Christ. I suppose we could categorize that one as humility. Heaps and heaps of humility with a large side of repentance.

I've also learned that I can't maintain this pace a whole lot longer. I need to make a change.

Eventually the time comes where the things I am missing begin to out-value the things I am gaining.

This is the part of the post where I get all vague on details because I can't go into more specifics yet and you get all mad because I'm being a royal tease. I do apologize and ask you to just hang in there. There is still a lot of work to be done and questions to be answered before the time comes. At this point, I don't even know what "almost" looks like. A month? A year? More? All I know is that my time is waning and God is working on something new.

For a while, I will be living in the land of Almost. 

What I can tell you is that I feel like I'm staring at the frozen screen of my entire working life, holding my breath and just hoping like crazy that when it finally starts moving again, that I didn't waste all that time and work I put in. For now, all I can do is trust that God has been using the last two decades as training and pray that His will for me will be made clear. For now, I tap my toes and cross my fingers, waiting for the restart to be complete and to get to work on a whole new adventure.

Almost there.

Of course, the second I become convinced of that, God will make me wait. Cuz he's like that.

If you need me, I'll be over here working on being patient and not freaking out. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

5 Simple Ways to Bless Your Server

You've probably seen the posts all over the Internet about why everyone should work in a restaurant at some point in their lives. Many of them are hilarious, well-written, and terrifyingly accurate. If you have some time to kill, do a quick Google search and see what I mean. Go ahead, I'll wait. Just promise you'll come back because I have a little bit of a different story to tell.

Oh, hey. Nice to see ya.

Before we dive in here, let's get a couple things out of the way. First, my qualifications to even be blogging about such a topic. As I've discussed here previously, I have worked in food service for 20 years and have waited tables for 14 of those years. I have worked in everything from catering to fast food to family-owned diners to upscale casual. I have two college degrees from a highly regarded university and a teaching license, so anyone who jumps to the conclusion that I must be some kind of deadbeat high school dropout who has settled for grease-slinging can just take a hike right now. We good? Good.

Second, for the purposes of this article, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you go out to eat to be waited on, to be served. You don't go to a restaurant to mix your own drinks, cook your own food, or clean up your own mess. You go to a restaurant to have someone else do that for you....for a price. Fair to assume? Great.

The goal of this little post is to show you how you can make your server's night by barely even exerting any effort. All it takes is a little thoughtfulness and you, yes YOU, could be that table that makes your server smile at the end of the evening and decide to come back for just one more day, even when her aching feet and bruised spirit are screaming at her to quit. Just last week I vented a little about an experience I had as a server that left me in tears.

You could be just the blessing your server needs. And it's not even that hard. Let's get started.

1. Acknowledge I am a real person with real feelings.

  • Smile, look me in the eye, use my name when you speak to me. Ask questions, value my opinion, use manners. I actually really enjoy talking to my customers, so let's talk about how much we love football, let's discuss what kind of beer you might like, or laugh about how you managed to spill something on your shirt already. Engage me in pleasant conversation and just like that, you're my favorite table! 
  • Listen and pay attention when I'm speaking to you. I promise, I'm only saying what my manager tells me I have to tell you and it won't take up too much of your time. And guess what, you might learn something! When someone asks me what the specials are after I just spent the last two minutes telling the entire table about them, it makes me feel like you think I'm not worth your attention.  
  • Don't purposefully waste my time. It's incredibly disrespectful and makes me feel like you see me as the talking monkey who recites the specials and brings you the food you ordered. If you have no intention of ordering dessert, please do not make me recite all twelve of them, "just so you can hear about them." If you need more time with the menu to decide what you would like, that is just fine. SAY SO. Making us stand there and stare at you while you move your finger down the page, reading every single menu item aloud is nothing short of infuriating. Meanwhile, you are keeping me from providing good service to my other tables.

2. Do what you can to make my job easier.

  • To the best of your ability, limit the number of trips I have to take to your table. When I wore my Fitbit Flex on a double shift last summer, I walked over 27 THOUSAND STEPS. My feet and joints are taking a beating every day. Anything you can do to bring that step count down a notch or two is greatly appreciated. Here are a couple ideas:
    • Ask for multiple things at a time. Once, I had a single table who asked for all of the following things, but one at a time, so that each item required a separate trip - Water, water with no ice, lemon, straw, extra napkins, ketchup, ranch, side plate, new fork, more lemon. They hadn't even eaten anything yet and I already wanted to slap them. 
    • If you want split checks, tell me right away and then - for the love - do not launch into an impromptu game of Musical Chairs. 
    • Sometimes you want to chat for a bit after your meal and you don't want your server bugging you to see if you are ready to pay your bill. Just move that book off to the edge of the table when you are ready - it's an easy, visual cue that I can come back to the table and it saves me a bunch of trips and awkward conversations.
  • Don't touch my tray! You may think you are helping, but trust me. It's a recipe for disaster. 
  • Move your iPhone out of the way so there is a place for me to set down that food you ordered. 
  • Math. Can you at least TRY? Or maybe use your smartphone? When I am slammed and I need to close a check FAST, this kind of stuff does not help:

3. Be aware of your surroundings. 

  • Look around a little and try to be mindful of what's going on. Is the restaurant busy? Is the lobby packed with people waiting for a table? Does your server have that panicked look on their face? Read their body language, pay attention. This also helps when understanding why drinks might be taking a little longer than you are used to or why your server is rushing a bit through the dessert menu. Take into account what you see, extend some grace and behave like a considerate human being. Everyone will thank you for it. 
  • Look at your watch or phone and consider what time it is. Not every server is scheduled to close the restaurant - usually only ONE is. The odds are good that many of the servers working in a given night shift also worked at lunch so they are BEAT. I cannot tell you how many times I have been held hostage by my last table. If your server keeps trying to casually walk by and gracefully look to see if you're ready to pay that check yet, by the third lap it would be great if you would take your conversation to the bar so you and your friend can keep chatting and your server can go home to their family. Good way to figure this one out is to simply ask your server. Don't be a Camper. 

4. Respect our job as a JOB. 

  • Sure, we enjoy our job, but it's not always easy or fun. It's hard work that requires a ton of energy, a never-ending supply of patience, and an ability to deal with difficult people on a constant basis. It is not for the faint of heart. It is a job. And it is a job that pays us somewhere around $2.33 per hour. Yes, the system is totally screwed up and it makes no sense that we are one of the only super-developed countries who still use this antiquated tipping system.
For a somewhat foul-mouthed yet spot on explanation of the tipping system in America, check out this video(WARNING: Strong language. NSFW unless you're wearing headphones.)

None of us designed the system and there's not a single thing we can do about it. It is what it is, so can we all just accept it and move on? Servers rely on gratuity for our income, plain and simple. Here's how you can respect that:
    • Don't make jokes when the check comes - Do we walk into your office on Friday afternoon and make cracks about how you won't be getting your paycheck this week? Something tells me you wouldn't find it very funny, especially if your boss told that same joke every Friday. We hear it all the time and we HATE IT. 
    • For many of us, this is not our career of choice, but we are putting in honest work for honest pay. There is honor in that and it deserves respect. Yes, some of us are college students, but there are also those of us who are working other jobs during the day and changing our clothes to come wait tables late into the night, all to support our families and make ends meet. We are teachers, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, ministry leaders. We are trying to save up money to pay for braces, groceries, or a car with working airbags. We are writers, dreamers, actors, college graduates and high school kids. Don't assume you know your server's story. Instead, ask them to tell it. They just might surprise you. (See #1)
    • Understand that a good server takes time to develop. Contrary to popular belief, not just anyone can do this job well. My husband will be the first to admit that he would last a total of 45 seconds with a tough table before he would get fired for calling someone an idiot. 
    • Tip 20%. That's all I'm going to say on that one. 

5. Be Realistic and Honest

  • We want you to enjoy your experience. Honestly, we do. We take pride in a job well done and part of that is making sure that you get exceptional food in a timely manner. We want to do everything in our power to make sure that happens. But, not everything is within our power. Here are simple ways to make this goal easier for us to achieve:
    • Understand what is outside of my control. I do not determine the prices on the menu, the temperature of the restaurant, the presence of bees on the patio, the song on the radio, the presence or absence of your favorite dish, the time we open, the time we close, any and all restaurant policies, state law, the amount of cushion on your chair, and so on and so on. Just use some common sense here, please. 
    • Be honest - we cannot read minds. If your salad came with the wrong dressing or your burger is undercooked, tell me. If you know you drink a crap ton of water and it's probably just best I leave the carafe on the table, tell me. If you have a peanut allergy, FORTHELOVEOFSANSASTARK TELL ME!!! If your food came out cold, we poured the wrong beer, the soda tastes flat or you are unhappy with your meal in any way…..please, say something as kindly and as soon as possible. You know, when I can actually do something about it. If you keep silent until the meal is over and you've scraped every last morsel off your plate before you start to rail at me about how the salad was too small and didn't have enough avocado and last time it had onions and you would have preferred it with salmon and there wasn't enough dressing and you are just really disappointed…..I'm going to want to kick you in the shins. But, since I value my employment, instead I will have to smile, go tell my manager that you are being a prize idiot, and make you wait an unreasonable amount of time before I adjust your check and bring it back to you.
    • Tell a Manager - If you get exceptional service, ask to tell the manager. We get yelled at a LOT, both by customers, co-workers, and frequently by our many bosses. It can get very disheartening. When someone goes the extra mile to give us a genuine complement, it goes a long way. 
**One caveat here - Don't be that guy who bathes us in compliments but doesn't back it up with a good tip. This is high on the list of things that make us want to chase you out into the parking lot and beat you with your own shoe. Last time I checked, I can't call up my mortgage company and ask to pay them in compliments this month.

I sure hope you've found this helpful. Can't wait to hear stories of how we are revolutionizing the customer/server relationship, one table at a time. Now get out there and be a blessing, in word, deed and gratuity!

God speed.

Got a restaurant story to tell? I would LOVE to hear it. Share in the comments! 

P.S If you watched the video, I hope you'll join me for an upcoming post I'm working on entitled, "I Love Jesus, but sometimes I cuss a little."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Meeting Benjamin

When my niece was born, I had the distinct honor to be there for her entire birth. I stood by my sister as she labored and took photos like a madwoman as My Prize entered this world. Having been on the birthing side of things three times, it was pretty sweet to get to witness everything and see how amazing birth is from the eyes of a spectator. Turns out, it's not nearly as exhausting that way. 

My new nephew was born a couple weeks ago and I was straight up chomping at the bit to meet him, so I pulled into my sister's driveway on Mother's Day, armed with a pile of presents for My Prize (niece), My Bonus (nephew), and my sister (sister). When I walked in he was sleeping, but I honestly didn't even care. I scooped that baby up, he opened his eyes and fixed them right on me.

Then I started to cry.

Not just little leaky tears, but full-on, river down my face tears. He was just so perfect. So beautiful and fresh and sweet. He reminded me of my boys when they were brand new and there was no helping it.

He had me. Forever.

For a split second, I swear I felt my uterus twitch.

Then I felt the thunder down under as he demolished his diaper and his entire outfit and suddenly it all came rushing back on me. The projectile poop, the constant feedings, the sleep-induced delirium that once caused me to try to fill a ketchup container with milk. Waking up soaking wet, covered in sour milk and sweat. The constant rocking, walking, burping, changing, soothing, and pacing.

How is it possible I had forgotten that much? I remember being deep in the trenches, awake and crying at 2 am with a furious newborn in my arms, wondering if it was ever going to end. Would I ever sleep again? Would I ever feel human again? Would this baby ever get on some sort of a schedule? Would I be able to have any semblance of a life outside the house ever again? Would I ever wear real pants again or should I just buy stock in yoga pants?

The answer was yes. Yes to all of it.

Sleep returned. A schedule happened - kind of. I do still love yoga pants (who doesn't?) but those jeans did eventually button. I found friends who had been going through the same grueling boot camp I was and we drank buckets of coffee while we talked about it, cried about it, laughed about it.

It was so very hard.

And so very wonderful.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Every time I hear "Smells Like Teen Spirit," I remember.

I remember what his room looked like, the way his whole face flushed the first time I made it clear I had a mega-crush on him. And then there was that moment when he became my very first kiss….ever. It was like lightning was surging through my entire body and in an instant I fell head over heels for that boy.

He was left-handed, so I would sit on his right side during catechism class so we could hold hands under the table because we were both oh so spiritual at that time in our lives and we couldn't have the pastor busting us for our scandalous antics. I can't even imagine what my mother must have been going through as she sat in the parking lot of the church and waited for me to finally come out because I was taking my sweet dandy time saying goodbye to my boyfriend. We tied up the phone lines for hours. 

Honestly, I don't remember if I was 12 or 13 years old, but I do know that at the time I was convinced that this boy was IT. This absolutely, positively had to be what love was like! I got the tingles every time I saw him and he was all I thought about for every waking moment of my existence.

There was a day when we spent a good deal of time together doing a whole lot of "not talking" and Nirvana was playing in the background. It was the late nineties, after all.

Now here I am, a grown-up.

About twenty years have passed since Kurt Cobain became the soundtrack to my very first make-out session and in those years, Facebook has made it possible for us to stay in touch. Sure, we went our separate ways in real life after I broke his heart, tossed it on the pavement, and danced on top of it while I got ready to launch a campaign that I now like to call my "Teenage Spiral of Poor Choices," but I'm pretty sure he's moved on.

Thank goodness he did not get stuck with me because as my husband will readily testify, I am a teeny bit emotionally high maintenance.

Anyway, he posted photos on his Facebook wall a while back that made my scroll-happy finger stop cold. Suddenly my tongue felt like it had swelled up in size and my stomach jumped up into my throat.

There he was, down on one knee. And in the next photo, embracing a woman with a sparkling diamond ring on a very important finger.

Nothing will stop your mindless Facebook scrolling faster than catching a glimpse of your very first boyfriend popping the question to a stunning brunette with porcelain skin, flowing curly hair, and perfectly manicured nails. Suddenly there's a grunge rock song stuck in your head and you're having flashbacks, all while experiencing emotions that make absolutely no sense at all.

I mean, I was happy for him, of course. I guess that goes without saying. Maybe not. All I know was that I was immediately very aware of my stretch-marks around my midsection that my boys left behind, my scraggly cuticles, and my wild hair that should have been cut weeks ago. There may or may not have also been a significant zit on my cheek that I was getting ready to register for its own zip code. 

But there was something else swirling around in there that I couldn't quite put my finger on. It wasn't jealousy exactly, but it was a sort of strange curiosity, a sense of "What if?" that I couldn't shake.

What would my life look like if I had made different choices back then?

Seeing him get engaged was a very real reminder of how much life we both had lived since we spent those moments with Kurt Cobain being seared into our memory. He was a representation of my youth, that blind, naïve view of love that I had when I thought it was all about the tingles and butterflies. We knew nothing about sacrifice, selflessness, or submission. For the love, we couldn't even drive yet and cellphones didn't exist!

Even though I have been married for more than ten years, this boy - this MAN -  still holds that exclusive spot in my past as the first boy I ever kissed, the first boy I ever loved. Even after all this time, I think I was still enjoying the fact that I hold those roles in his life as well.


Am I really that proud? Am I really so attached to the artificial, idealized version of myself that I experience authentic feelings of animosity when that fiction is replaced with reality?

Before I could stop it from happening, I was scrolling through every photo, acting like a true Facebook stalker. With every click, I compared myself to her.

She's thinner than me.
Prettier than me.
Her hair is how I've always wished mine would look.
She has a successful career and I'm still a waitress.
How the heck does she get her teeth that white?
Holy crap, that diamond is enormous.

And into the spiral of self-pity we go.

But in the middle of feeling sorry for myself as I looked at their engagement photos, I saw something else. I saw the way they looked at one another and the sparkle in her smile. I could almost see the lightning bolts shooting out of his fingers as he rested them on the small of her back.

It was Tingles and Butterflies.
Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Because maybe that's how love starts - all naïve and thrilling, laced with lightning - and it grows into something much deeper and profound that you only begin to learn about after you've been immersed in it over time. Love becomes about sacrifice and struggle, being willing to let yourself be vulnerable and exposed and allowing all your faults and failings to be fully known. It's downright scary at times, but nobody tells you that. Let's face it, you wouldn't have believe them if they did. After all, lightning.

The timer on the coffee pot dings and he takes out my cute teal mug, remembers to add just enough coconut creamer. Not too much. My husband brings me my morning cup of coffee, sets it next to the computer while I read my Bible and write. He helps our son clean up the wet sheets after he comes into our room to admit his accident. He kisses me goodbye and promises to fold the laundry when he gets home from work tonight.

Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Customer is NOT Always Right

Dear Sirs and Madam,

You were wrong.

You were the guests who came into the restaurant where I work as a part-time employee. You were seated in my section and I was the one who had to endure the next hour and a half of serving you. From the moment our encounter began, you treated me with disdain and disgust. Every word spoken to me was delivered with a tone of annoyance and superiority.

You were wrong.

Part of me would understand your cruelty if I had done something, anything to deserve it. If the food took too long, if I had messed up your order, if I had spilled red wine on your new silk tie, or ignored your needs. Then again, even if I had done my job as poorly as possible, it still would not have warranted the treatment you gave me.

But that's not what happened, is it? If you and I were both being totally honest, we would have to admit that everything went just as it should have. Your questions were answered politely. Your order was taken and delivered correctly and in a timely manner. There was absolutely nothing that prevented you from choosing to enjoy your meal from start to finish. Your empty plates testify to that fact.

And since we are being totally honest, I will admit that there was that one thing I messed up.
I did forget to bring you that extra glass of ice the first time I returned to the table with your first round of drinks. I admit it. Sure, I brought it to you moments later, but I do confess my initial oversight.

But you had made up your mind about how you were going to conduct yourself long before that ice was forgotten, didn't you?

I had a smile on my face every time I approached your table, wearing it like a shield. As much as I wanted that smile to protect me from your attacks, there was only so much I could do before they hit their mark and started to wear me down. You complained about everything and took every opportunity to attack my every action. It didn't matter what I did or how I did it - it was wrong.

Never a please or thank you.
Never a kind word of any sort.

When I didn't bring you side plates with your soup, that was incompetent.
When I did bring you side plates for the dish you planned to share, that was inconveniencing you.
When I asked if you would like more wine, I was being pushy.
When I didn't offer you more wine, I was being inattentive.
When I refilled your water glasses, I was smothering you.
When I let them run low, I was neglecting you.

When I offered to bring you more hot water for your tea, you accused me of rushing you.

Then I brought you the check. I placed it in the middle of the table, standing straight up.
A few minutes later, it was lying flat, moved to the edge of the table. I approached, smiled, and asked if you were ready for me to take care of that for you. With an icy tone in your voice, the like of which cuts straight down to your heart, you hissed, "I haven't even looked at it yet" and slammed your hand down on top of it.

Forgive me, but after everything you had put me through, I was in no rush to return to the table. I was already fighting back the tears that threatened to break loose from behind my eyes. My pulse was racing. My face felt hot.

As I took care of my other customers, I kept a close eye on you to make absolutely sure I would give you absolutely no reason for further complaint. As you sat and chatted with one another, I made sure your water glasses were kept fresh and full. I watched for you to grab my eye or to hold up the check to indicate you were ready. The last thing I wanted was to give you any further reason to hurt me.

And then the three of you started to stand up, so I breathed deep and approached, the smile I've developed over the last 14 years of serving returning to my face. I asked if I could process your payment for you.

You looked me up and down, gesturing at my person with your hand. After you had assessed me from head to toe, wrinkling your nose slightly and deeming me to be unworthy of another second of your time and attention, your words came snarling out at me like venom:

I don't know! Is that what YOU DO? I don't know what it is that YOU DO. We are leaving, so you go ahead and do whatever it is that YOU PEOPLE DO because we are leaving.

With that, you turned your back on me. I smiled, biting my tongue so hard behind my teeth that I drew blood, and wished you a pleasant evening.

On the way past the hospitality desk, you took the time to stop and give a formal complaint about me.

You called me rude. Overbearing. You said I rushed you and ignored you. You called me incompetent.

I could have fired back. I could have stood up for myself, demanded to know why on earth you felt it was ok for you to treat me like a hunk of garbage you found lodged in the treads of your shoe. I could have dug in my heels, stood my ground, and launched my own assault.

I felt like chasing you out into the parking lot and demanding an explanation and an apology.

But I didn't.

Instead, I slinked out the back door of the restaurant, took a seat on a plastic milk crate, and had a good cry. I was just so angry, so hurt, so discouraged because of how you had treated me. I finished my shift and then went home to drown my sorrows with chocolate cake and an episode of Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

For that evening, you wounded me deep enough to make me doubt.

In the morning, I woke up still slightly sick to my stomach, still slightly worked up from the night before.

But here's the thing. It took me until the next morning to really realize it, but once I got it, it hit me with a vengeance.


You were wrong about everything.

You were wrong about the things you had a problem with during your dinner.
You were wrong about the rude way you to spoke to me.
You were wrong when you ignored me and insulted me.
You were wrong when you slandered me.

Because I know what is True.

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am the hand-crafted masterpiece of the Creator of the universe.
Though you treated me like I was worthless, the truth is that I am a prized treasure. I am worth dying for.
I am loved beyond measure, a ransomed daughter of the King and nothing, absolutely NOTHING you say or do will change that from being True.

And one more thing.

I'm a damn good server.

You were wrong about that too.

Your server

Friday, May 8, 2015

12 Posts I'm Loving This Mother's Day

There is a LOT of good stuff out there on the Internets. I want to make sure that my mamas out there are well stocked with reading material for their morning propped up in bed with a cup of hot coffee and homemade blueberry pancakes served on a lap tray.

Who are we kidding? You're going to read this stuff when you lock the door and sit on toilet for as long as you darn well please because....Mother's Day.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. This is a very small sample of just a few of the pieces that really make my heart leap in my chest when I read them. Some of them are from just this week, some are from years ago. Some make me laugh so hard I pee and others make me cry ugly tears.

Nobody ever said motherhood was pretty.

The Hilarious

On What Really Matters

Photo Credit - Brooke Collier Photography, used with permission

Losing a Child

Love is Greater Than Blood

And one more bonus one from me, one that I'm really proud of:

I'll leave you with a video that my friend Kristin posted to my Facebook wall that had me experiencing my favorite emotion - laughter through tears. 

*Name that movie.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

10 Things That Made My Threenager Lose His Mind

Thomas is in a difficult season right now.

Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, causes him to launch into a fit. When he wakes up in the morning, the first thing out of his mouth is usually one of these phrases:

1. Can I play games?
2. Can I watch a show?
3. I don't want to go potty!
4. I don't like breakfast.
5. I want to stay in PJs.

If our response to any of these questions goes contrary to his desires, his face immediately morphs into something unrecognizable and a shrill siren comes flying out of his lungs. The corners of his mouth turn so far down that they kiss his shoulders, something rivaling those ears from that "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" song. The tears explode from his eyes and his response to his parents' tyrannical rule is always the same - BUT I WANT TO!!!!

That's our cue to get out our Serious Voice and firmly lead Thomas to see things our way. The kid goes potty, gets dressed, eats breakfast and is sent off to school with a smile on his face and everything is peachy.


Sure, until we get into the van and he flips again because Micah walked around the wrong side of the van or because he can't wear his baseball glove to school. Or perhaps it is because Isaiah found a penny on the ground and now Thomas is convinced we are holding out on him and comes storming back into the house and demands we pay up - "You give me coins!!!"

If we can't laugh at the lunacy of parenting a three-year-old, I think we can all agree that we would just end up curled up in the fetal position under piles of dirty laundry eating old Halloween candy.

Ten Things That Made My Threenager Lose His Mind - This Week.

1. He dropped a Cheerio on the floor.
2. His brothers were singing the Beyblades theme song.
3. I didn't do the voices right when I read David and Goliath.
4. The monkey tail was missing from his costume.

5. His preschool does not allow Power Rangers Samurai swords.
6. Shoes - Had to put them on, had to take them off, wrong color, wants to put them on himself, can't put them on himself, can't find them.
7. The scrape on his knee that heeled more than a week ago is still visible.
8. Pooping.
9. He dropped a nickel inside his carseat. INSIDE it. (How does that even happen??)
10. Mommy made him take a selfie.

Then I told him if he quit his crying, I would let him push the button when we were done.

And I got this.

Nailed it.

You just earned yourself some iPad time, punkin.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What Child is This?

"Someone take care of this baby so I can go home to my son."

I can still remember the sickening feeling in my gut when the nurse quietly rapped on my door in the dead of night. Instead of getting the sleep everyone kept telling me I needed, I was silently suffering in my hospital bed. I curled myself around my still-swollen belly, kneading the thoughts in my mind like dough. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the face of my toddler and I missed him so terribly. When I opened my eyes, I felt crushed by the quiet of that delivery room and the solitude only added to my anxiety.  My arms were empty and ached to hold my boy. I wanted to feel his warmth pressed against my chest, let him tuck his head into the space under my chin.

I felt cold, lonely, and vacant. I wanted nothing more than to pack my hospital bag and make a break for it.

It was the craziest thing, you guys.

I didn't love my baby.

Everything had gone perfectly according to plan. I had taken profile photos of my growing belly, decorated a nursery and bought a brand new crib. To be fair, the only reason #2 got a new crib was because the one we used for our first got recalled because apparently it had been blamed for a few infant deaths. So we returned that death trap that our first baby had slept in for the last 22 months and got New Baby a sweet new one.

I had learned lessons from becoming a mama the first time that I knew would serve me well the second time around:
  • Get the epidural as soon as possible
  • Start popping stool softeners like Tic-Tacs until that first horrifying bathroom encounter is over
  • Raid the hospital bathroom and smuggle all the mesh panties and ice-pack maxi pads you can into your suitcase
  • Buy industrial sized containers of Tucks and Preparation H
  • When labor is difficult and the doctor suggests placing a commode on top of your hospital bed and having you squat over it and try to push the baby out like the most terrifying bout of constipation of your life, go ahead and pass on that.
  • The contractions that the uterus puts out while it's trying to put itself back to normal are almost as painful as labor contractions. Why does nobody tell you this until you've already turned down the pain killers? Take the drugs, honey.

I even went into labor on my own this time. Less than 5 hours from start to finish. When it was time to push, I looked at the clock and told my nurse that we had 45 minutes to get this baby out before midnight because I didn't want my baby's birthday to be September 11th. He was born at 11:56 pm. The cord was wrapped around his neck, but my doc got him squared away and put him on my chest. I looked at him, my second son, and the first thought to cross my mind:

Good God. He looks just like my father-in-law.

(Forgive the chins, everyone. Unlike certain British royalty who shall not be named, I cannot look like a cover model right after giving birth.)

Once I had moved beyond the realization that I had just birthed the miniature version of my husband's father, I handed him over to be cleaned and weighed and measured. The nurses checked him out while my doc continued to hang out in my nether regions. At one point I heard her chattering something only to hear a ginormous SPLOOSH, followed closely by a "Whoops." 

Can I just go on record here and say that a Sploosh followed by a Whoops is not exactly the ideal sequence of events you want to experience when you are laying spread-eagle on your back? Makes for great blog material though.

While someone was sent to handle the clean-up on aisle two, I gazed over at my newborn as the nurses took care of him. My husband snapped photos and my little one was wrapped and handed back to me. We smiled for photos together, he and I. But something didn't feel right. I had done this before and knew what I should be experiencing right now, but it wasn't there. That attachment, that bond that a mother is supposed to feel for her child just wasn't there. I felt like an actress, smiling and sharing photos of our new bundle of joy on Facebook, but not feeling that authentic connection with him at all.

Since it was the middle of the night, my husband went home to get a decent night's sleep before returning in the morning to bring our oldest to meet his new baby brother. I was left alone and as the time passed, I became more and more convinced I was having some kind of psychotic break or something. Every time I had to nurse, my resentment of that child grew stronger and the detachment more pronounced.

Then that gentle knock. The nurse padded in, pushing a wheeled bassinet holding the hungry newborn. She went about her duties, pressing on my belly while I stared off into space. If she asked me any questions, I don't really remember them. She updated me on how long the baby had slept and encouraged me to try a different hold when nursing this time. Gently, she gathered him up and handed him to me and I took him with numb hands. Smiling softly, she left me alone with him.

I propped myself up in bed, adjusted my gown, and put him to my breast. The second he latched on, my insides came bubbling out in a torrent I couldn’t control. My mind swirled and I thought I might vomit or pass out. Instead, I just sobbed. My whole body shook and heaved as I looked down at the stranger laying in my lap.

After some time, when I had endured as long as I could, I pushed the call button and the nurse returned. Her smile quickly vanished when she got a look at my face in the dim light.

"What's wrong?" she asked.

How do you vocalize feelings like this? What words could even communicate the complicated emotions I was feeling when I didn't even know how to define them? The horrible truth came stuttering out of my mouth before I could even consider the ramifications of what I was saying.

"I just….I need….someone take care of this baby so I can go home to my son."

Acknowledging that, saying the words and giving those feelings life only made me feel worse and I broke down into a blubbering mess right there in front of my nurse. The tears fell freely and landed hot on his little face as I cradled him in my arms.

What was wrong with me? I didn't even feel like he was part of me.

Thankfully, I'm apparently not the only new mother who has lost her mind in that postpartum haze and my nurse was so gracious and patient with me. She handed me Kleenex when the amount of snot pouring out of my nose started to reach dangerous levels. She listened as I babbled on and on about how I must be crazy and how I didn't know why or how, but that it was scaring me how much I just did not love my baby.

I did survive that hospital stay and we brought our son home a day or so later. We kept a close eye on me for postpartum depression because I struggled with these feelings of detachment from him for quite some time. We made sure to communicate openly with my doctor about how I was feeling.

After a few days, the clouds began to part a little.
After a few weeks, though I was exhausted and spread thin, my heart had really started to warm to that little person who was demanding to be fed every hour and a half.

Five years later, I still have a hard time connecting with Micah sometimes and that kid often says and does things that make absolutely no sense to me and I wonder if that postpartum struggle never really got better after all. I mean, the other day I asked him if he needed to go potty. He said no and then proceeded to crap his pants about two minutes later while he sat right next to me. All I could do was execute a face-palm maneuver, clean it up, and hug that kid. And Febreeze the heck out of the couch cushion, of course.

I love him so much it hurts sometimes. And he still looks EXACTLY like his grandpa.

It didn't get better overnight, but it did get better. I don't know why I went through what I did when he was born because I didn't experience anything like it with either of his brothers, but it did serve as a good reminder to me that I really have to take this whole parenting thing one day at a time and that those haunting feelings of guilt, shame and fear can take root even on that very first day.

All I know is that we mothers wrestle with the feelings that we are doing something wrong every time we take a breath. There is so much at stake. This job, this calling to be a mother, is beyond what we are capable of on our own. Where our kids are concerned, we are simultaneously at our strongest and also at our most vulnerable. We desperately need a power beyond our own, the support of those who have an unlimited supply of grace and encouragement, and a sense of humor to be able to look back on it all and laugh a little in the midst of pain.

And if we're lucky, we will make it through all those seasons of sleep-deprivation and tears and come out on the other side to a new season of new challenges, new joys, and a new set of reasons to thank the Lord that he has entrusted us with this incredible and overwhelming gift of these crazy kids. We may even find a few more like us to join arms with, drink glasses of wine after bedtime, and cry together over spilled breast milk.

Let's encourage one another this Mother's Day. Whether we have been moms for fifty years, five years, or five minutes. If our babies are here in our arms or waiting for us in Heaven. If we are moms whose bodies have labored through delivery or have labored over paperwork and background checks. Nobody's journey of motherhood looks the same, no right or wrong way to get there. We are in this together, united through our imperfections and collective awesomeness. 

I'm certainly not saying that postpartum depression heals on its own with time or that postpartum mental issues are something to laugh about. Certainly that is not the case. If you or someone you know has struggled with this, you know all too well how devastating it can be. I don't claim to be an expert on it by any means and I would encourage you to be honest and talk to a trusted medical professional if you are afraid you may harm yourself or your baby. For more information on postpartum depression and other postpartum mental health issues, there are lots of resources online as a good place to start. Try March of Dimes, Postpartum Support International, or Postpartum Progress.

P.S. Upon further review, I guess kidnapping someone else's baby would definitely be a WRONG way to get to motherhood. I would advise against that. 

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