Friday, December 31, 2010

2010

2010 was a whopper of a year. There were some really amazing moments and events, but mostly my 2010 was hard. As in really hard. As in one of the hardest years of my life. Over the last week, I've been thinking about what I am grateful for and trying to focus on what has been good.

Above all, I can say that without my faith in Jesus, the events of this year would have been all but impossible. I've learned about God's sustaining love, and I have learned the pain of the shadow of the valley. Over the course of the year, I've felt both closer to and further from God as I ever have. I'm grateful that I believe in a God who is present in my daily life and while not always delivering me from my difficult circumstances, is always Love.

I'm grateful for my dear husband, J. He is a wonderful father, provider, husband. But most of all, he is, to me, a steadfast friend. I think what we experienced this summer could have put a wedge between us, but rather we grew closer. I truly believe that there is no one on earth who is more my advocate than he is. I feel incredibly grateful to have him as my partner.

In 2010, I embarked on my journey to become a Holy Yoga Instructor. The time that I was in school was amazing on every level. I learned a ton about the practice of yoga. I learned how to interact with God and embrace my faith in new and unexpected ways. And I met some of the most lovely, fabulous women during my week-long intensive training in Arizona. I am especially grateful to have met and been befriended by Rachel, Belinda, Mary, Dianne, Rose, Christine, Lori, Brooke, Maria, Connie, Misty, and Polly. These women, in unique and delightful ways, reflected the light of Christ to me and they, along with my HY training, were bright spots in 2010.

On May 3rd, I learned that I was pregnant with our 4th child. I was really excited, even as I was scared about what having four kids in six years would mean for my sanity. I spent the next several weeks really sick, as I always am when pregnant. I was so focused on how gross I was feeling that I didn't really bond with my baby that much. I was so focused on getting to the half-way point, which is when I started to feel better with my other three. I was focused on moving past the yucky part and getting on to the fun part of being pregnant. Yet, on July 30th, at my routine ultrasound, I learned that my child was a son, and that he had died.

I've mourned the loss of my Matthew a lot in the last five months. It has been the hardest thing I have dealt with in my adult life. I've mourned his death, but I have also mourned that I wasn't more present during Matthew's brief life. I was wrapped up in me...how I felt, what life was going to be like for me with four babies, just waiting to get back to feeling like myself. And because of that, I missed out on his life. I thought I had all kinds of time to get to know my son--I was wrong. And yet, I am still so grateful for my son's sweet life. I miss you, baby boy, and love you nonetheless.

In August and afterward, I received an outpouring of support from my friends. I'm so incredibly grateful for CB, JT, DD, KA, LS, NC, and the community of Warehouse 242, who helped make this fall survivable. Thanks to each person who showed me love and grace during this impossible season.

Our 5th Annual trip to the beach with our dear friends was also a highlight. Amazing friends, gorgeous scenery, time alone, time with God, time with friends, time with the kids, time with J. It's one week where we slow down and enjoy. I wish it was a month. Or two. But grateful for what it is.

My Second Saturday Book Club is something for which I am also appreciative to have been part of this year. These are smart, engaged women and we read great books together. Our meetings are one of my favorite mornings of the month and it is such a place of camaraderie and refuge.

I've been incredibly blessed to teach a Holy Yoga class myself. And I'm deeply grateful to Memorial UMC for letting me teach there and to my sweet students who continue to show up week after week and let me know that it is meaningful to them.

And, of course, my three sweet monkeys...I'm so grateful for my life as their mama. They are my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. I cherish my job and am so appreciative of the fact that I get to stay home with them. Their smiles, laughter, accomplishments, hugs, kind words and antics make life full and rich.

So, there, 2010. You gave me a rough ride, but there was richness, redemption, and joy in midst. Let that be part of the story.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Take the Kids to Disney

High Five from Tigger at Magic Kingdom

Steel Drum band at Animal Kingdom

Gospel Choir at Epcot

Meeting Mater & Lightning McQueen

Last week, J & I loaded the kids in the van and headed South to Orlando. We've been wanting to take the kids to Disney for a while...it is a special place to us as it is where we spent our honeymoon (long story) and our girls have been asking to go to see the Princesses and to Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse for a while now. After Matthew died and we realized that our winter plans weren't to be what we thought they would, we decided to take the trip. I also needed something to look forward during this time (my due date was Jan. 3rd...more to come on that in another post).

We stayed at a wonderful resort, Buena Vista Suites, thanks to my sweet Aunt Lesa who works for their parent company. We packed our 4.5 days in Orlando FULL! Sunday was Magic Kingdom, Monday was Animal Kingdom, Tuesday was Epcot, Wednesday was Hollywood Studios, and Thursday was half a day at Downtown Disney before the l-o-n-g car ride home.

We had a lot of fun, but we also exhausted ourselves. I learned several things.
1) I really love Disney World and think they do entertainment better than anything else that I have experienced. I know it is cliche and expensive, but I really enjoy it.

2) They were amazingly accommodating of a Gluten-Free diet! I had to wait longer for my food and typically had to speak to the manager, per their policy, but most places had GF options and info was readily available at Guest Services. That made mealtimes go so nicely.

3) The sit/stand stroller that I borrowed from my friend KA made THE difference in our being able to enjoy our days. When necessary, we could get two kids sitting & one kid standing on the thing. Otherwise, we'd have been pulling our hair out.

4) The holidays are really, really crazy there. I've always heard it was very crowded this time of year, and YES, that is true. Very, very crowded. The day we went to Epcot, I almost had a panic attack in the cafeteria because there were so many people. I realized that I really don't like crowds. I knew this about myself, but thought I could emotionally muscle my way through it. It was a bit too much for me and the crowds were the one downside to the time.

5) Getting one of those little guide/hint books would have been well worth it. We wasted a lot of time trying to figure out where to go, what to eat, where the character meet & greets were. I wish I'd done a little more homework on the front end.

6) Four theme parks in four days is a bit much for a Kindergartener, preschooler, and toddler. And for their mommy & daddy. If you go, plan in a buffer/rest day.

7) We went to a lot of the shows/performances while we were there. Finding Nemo the Musical, the Lion King, Beauty & the Beast Live...and my JL was captured by the art of live performance. She is obsessed with ballet and was always a star singer in the preschool chorus. And watching her watch the performances was really spell-binding. It was almost as if, at six years old, she really understands the artistry of such things. She's not the kind of kid who is a ham and wants the attention that being on stage brings. Rather, she's captured by the grace of movement and music and sees the joy in it.

I watched her fixed on the ballet-dancing "birds" in the Lion King, and began to ask myself about my expectations for her. I wondered how I would feel if that kind of thing was what she wanted to pursue as a grown-up. While I see those actors/dancers/musicians as incredibly talented, how would I feel if that is what she wanted to be, instead of a doctor or architect or teacher or social worker or...? It has made me wrestle a little bit with what I define as successful and what kind of dreams I have for my kids. Do I really want to allow them to pursue the desires of their hearts? Or am I going to manipulate them based on what I think is best? I hope the former, but (shamefully) I have dealt a little with some slight expectations that she would be "more" than a ballerina or actor. But, I hope that I can move into a space of feeling that 100%, really, if that is what she wants to be, then that is what I want for her.

Overall, we had a blast. The kids found it magical, we rejoiced in being blessed enough to give them (and ourselves) this gift. It was a great diversion and time for our family. We can't wait to go again.

Stainless Steel Baking Pans


A few months ago, I treated myself to a couple stainless steel baking pans. I purchased a muffin pan and a square cake pan. I've been eager to try stainless steel for a few reasons. 1) I'm deeply uncomfortable with any teflon-coated pans, which my only other muffin tin is. While I always use liners with it, my babies eat a lot of muffins, and I try my best to keep them away from toxic exposures. 2) I'm mildly uncomfortable with aluminum bakeware, due to some evidence that aluminum accumulation in your body isn't awesome for you. If you know me at all, or read this blog with any regularity, you might imagine that I'm not in favor of the whole trend of silicone bakeware...trying to move away from plastic wherever possible. I've never seen a glass muffin pan, so...that leaves me to try stainless. I like it--it seems to cook well and can go in the dishwasher. I have seen little to suggest much ill effect from stainless steel. It isn't non-stick, but I'm ok with soaking a dish and using a little elbow grease to get it clean. Next to try, a loaf pan... :)

(photo from Amazon.com, where I purchased said pans)

Take a Writing Class--Update

Last fall, I took a writing class through the local community college. It was an interesting experience, for sure. But the most wonderful thing about it was meeting the talented and warm instructor, Maureen Ryan Griffin.

Since the end of that class, I've been able to participate in two more workshops taught by Maureen. These workshops are called The Gift of Memoir/Motherwords and I've enjoyed them immensely. In them, we explore memories and thoughts around family. It has been really therapeutic for me as I continue to mourn the loss of Matthew and grieve other difficult relationships. But it has also allowed me to celebrate some of the wonderful routines of life now and memories I have of times gone by.

I've also enjoyed meeting the other women in the workshops. Most of them are quite a bit older than me, yet it is so fascinating to me to see how the common things in life are the common things in life and everyone has a story.

More than anything, Maureen has helped me to see that writing is a worthwhile pursuit, even if I am not sure if I have anything to say or there is any "purpose" for my writing. She's taught me that writing is an act of engaging with the Creator and pursuing that creation is a form of worship. And that is a wonderful lesson.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Indian Food + Girls' Night


My birthday was a couple weeks ago and I used it as an opportunity to continue my exploration into Indian Food and invited several of my favorite women friends to supper at Maharani. I was so touched by these girls joining me out for a really fun night.

I'm blessed with an amazing assortment of friends...
  • I got to know SS in our 2nd Saturday Book Club. She and I share a passion for thoughtful parenting, real food, and reading good books. I admire her intentionality and love that she is a native Southerner.
  • CB and I met several years ago in a small group at church. She and her husband lived with us for about a year and she's a delightful, deep thinker and has a quiet strength. She's also an excellent photographer.
  • DD and I have known each other a long time and our friendship has grown much deeper in the last couple years. We share a desire to change the world and I love her wit and sense of humor. She makes me laugh a lot. She's also a fabulous designer and my home is a lot prettier because of her influence.
  • AR is the person that I've known the longest in Charlotte. We met at work when we were both working for a non-profit agency that supports people with developmental disabilities. We share a passion for people with special needs and have lived through a lot of seasons of life together. She's a great nurturer.
  • KA and I met eight years ago on both of our first day at a new job. She is the most enthusiastic person I know and I love her zest for living. She's an amazing mom and has a deep passion for early childhood learning. She's a fantastic listener, too.
  • I got to know KD when our first children were babies in the same daycare--they now go to Kindergarten together. :) She is so smart (just finished her PhD!), manages her time like none other, and is one of the best cooks I've ever met. She is insightful and wise, but also so much fun.
  • EH and I met when I commissioned her husband to paint a painting for J's birthday. She is an amazing artist herself and has a sweet, sweet spirit. We share a love of yoga.
  • MS is a fabulous woman. We do book club and small group together and I love her honesty and reflective way of living. She's a fantastic gardener and inspires me to try to grown my own food. She has the warmest smile.
  • MB and I met when we were single 20-somethings who had just moved to Charlotte. For years, we met every Tuesday morning to pray together. We were bridesmaids in each others' weddings. Now our little girls are sweet, sweet friends. She and I are really different, but in an opposites attract kind of way. I love that we share so much history and the way that she encourages me to think outside my typical stream.
  • LM is great. We like to be crafty together. We also love to talk about healthy, yummy food and good books. She has a tender heart and my kids adore her. She's a microbiologist and teaches me stuff I kinda don't want to know about microbes. ;)
  • And, lastly, JT. JT is smart, kind, honest, real, patient, and generous. We met at work and gave birth to our first babies within 6 days of each other. We talk about everything under the sun. She listens to me, challenges me, encourages me. We love to talk about how we see God at work in our lives and our favorite TV show, Chuck. She inspires me to be a better wife, mother, friend and disciple.


The night was so much fun. I enjoyed the adventure of trying new food while sharing time with these incredible women. It was a very happy birthday, indeed.