Worn out and stretched

october-2016-076_1_1I have this sweater that hangs in the back of my closet.  To be honest it’s not very flattering these days.  But before it was worn and stretched and washed and dried incorrectly only to be washed and stretched again, it was a delightful sweater.

I bought the sweater back during my junior year of college. I had been invited to spend a weekend with a friend in Boston.  Dad and I went shopping a few weeks before my trip.  I saw the sweater and fell instantly in love.  Never having been one for style, I tended to gravitate toward comfort.  And this sweater just breathed comfort.  But unlike most of my fashion choices, this sweater was beautiful.  It was charcoal gray with flecks of color splashed about.  It zipped up and had a hood.  I grabbed it from the rack and Dad agreed that it had a Boston look to it.  Very New Englandy.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 1999.

The sweater and I in Boston during my visit in October 2000.

The sweater traveled to Boston with me that fall.  And then to New York in the winter.  Philly the following winter.  Alaska in the spring.  Raleigh the following Christmas.  The more I wore it, the more it stretched.  The more it stretched, ironically, the more I loved it.  It had character and despite its misshapen identity, it still breathed comfort.  It lost a little of its beauty on the outside, but to me it remained beautiful.  A treasure that withstood the passing of time.

I pulled it out this morning, this first morning that has had a taste of fall.  The temperature is comfortable but the breeze is giving me shivers.  I just needed a little added layer to take the chill off.  Wrapping the worn and loved sweater around me and zipping it up, I relished its comfort, its history, its trek through life with me.

This sweater and me?  We actually share more than just travel and cold days.  You see, my body isn’t so perfect anymore either.  Back before it was worn and stretched and tired, it was a delightful body.  Time and babies have taken their toll.  Bits of it have stretched beyond repair and bits of it sag thanks to the law of gravity.  But this body?  The one Daxson reaches for in the middle of the night?  The one my babies snuggle up to when they’re scared?  I’d like to think it’s still comfortable.  It’s beautiful in a way it hasn’t always been.  It has nurtured life within its womb and stretched and given way to miracles.  Tiny little miracles.  Four of them here on Earth.  Three more securely tucked away in Heaven.  It has nursed my babies into healthy toddlers.  It has lifted those children and rocked them and held them close on the nights when their dreams weren’t so sweet.  It has spoken of love and pleasure to a devoted husband.  It has been pushed to its limits with my obsession of diets and working out.  It carries on despite its lack of good sleep, a rest from stress and access to a perfect diet.  It is faithful despite my nonacceptance, my constant criticism.

This morning, I snuggle a little deeper into my sweater and I look down at the stomach that is no longer flat.  Instead of criticizing, I praise the stretch marks, the sagging skin, the abs that will never boast of themselves in a bikini and I accept it all for what it is.  A vessel for love.  And my sweater?  I praise it, too.  For teaching me the beauty of a body well used.

**This is pulled from the dusty archives (circa 2016)…kind of a second chance for old words…so if it looks familiar, it’s because it is.  Here’s hoping that it inspires you to live a little richer, breathe a little deeper, and appreciate a little more fully.**




Stolen Words

Recently I discovered that one of my blog posts had been copied onto someone else’s website.  Literally, just copied and pasted, photos and all.  When I discovered it, by a random fluke, I felt rather violated…and annoyed.  It felt like high school all over again.

{*the names have all been changed in this story to protect the innocent and the accused*}

Back then, before the days of blogging and social media, I wrote poetry…you know, with a pencil and paper.  Every now and then I’d get all fancy and type it up on the computer and decorate it with clip art.  Clearly I thought I had been gifted with Kvasir’s blood as I had the tendency to express my thoughts and then share those writings with others as if I possessed all wisdom and empathy.  I thought I had a gift and it was my duty to share it.

One day I walked into my 9th grade Literature class and everyone was hovering around my friend Amelia.  I joined the group and nudged the girl next to me, “What’s going on?” I whispered.

“Oh, it’s Amelia.  Remember how Luke broke up with her?  Well he wrote her this incredibly sweet and romantic poem to tell her how much he has missed her and she’s considering taking him back.”

I leaned further in.  Everyone was reading over Amelia’s shoulder and oohing and ahhing.  I started to read it and was swept away by his emotion.

Until I realized.

That wasn’t his emotion.  That was mine.

Amelia looked up and caught my eye.  (I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings so the shock must have been written all over me).  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Where’d you get that poem?”  I managed.

“Luke wrote it for me.  Isn’t it incredibly sweet?”

“No, it’s incredibly deceitful.”

Shocked gasps from all around.

“I wrote that,”  I said.

More shocked gasps.

“But I don’t understand how he got his hands on it,” I added, “the only person I’ve ever showed it to was Nikki.”  In a moment of heartfelt empathy, I had shared a poem with Nikki expressing my loss over a recent breakup I had just gone through to help her feel…I don’t know…solidarity.  Compassion.  Understanding.

Amelia stood up and marched right out the door.  We followed.  She approached Luke with her typical Amelia attitude and demanded to know where he got the poem.  He stuttered that he’d written it to show his devotion and love for her.  She called him a liar.  She told him she knew he hadn’t written it.  Finally he caved.  “Nikki wrote it.  She gave me a copy of it and told me I could use it to win you back.  I had the best of intentions.”

Amelia crumpled the paper and threw it in his face.  “Those aren’t even her words.  She stole them before she pawned them off on you.  I couldn’t possibly get back with someone who keeps company like that.”  And off she stormed.

It sounds a bit like a soap opera, I know.  But that’s how it happened and for 14 years I didn’t show a word of my writing to another soul, afraid my thoughts might be paraded around carelessly or stolen by some undeserving person.  I stuffed all of my old poems in a binder and shoved them in the back of my closet.  I kept journals but destroyed most of them.  I wrote poems but crumpled them up and threw them out.  I penned long letters and can only assume that those have found themselves buried deep within some landfill.

14 years passed and I forgot about the incident.  The stolen poem.  MY stolen words.  I had my first two babies.  Facebook launched.  Blogging took the world of stay-at-home moms by storm.  Suddenly there was a platform for writing that gave anyone who had something to say an instant audience.

At first I stood back.  I signed up for a Facebook account but couldn’t quite bring myself to update my status often.  But the longer I stayed home with my kids, the more I felt a need to communicate, even if only through written word, with the larger world (namely, adults).

So in January of 2010, I finally launched a blog.  In the beginning, I mostly kept my blogs family focused.  I monitored what I said.  I didn’t give much of an opinion or broach controversial topics.  I told myself it was just an online scrapbook…a way to keep track of all the events happening in my kids’ lives without having to dedicate hours to hand writing journals or piecing together scrapbooks.

The years passed and I kept up with my blog sporadically.  I had two more babies.  Some months I wrote often, some times months passed before I wrote.  It was my space to do with as I pleased.  I started writing for Corpus Christi Moms Blog and I found that I had an opinion about some things and I enjoyed expressing that opinion so I started a second blog that was meant to be a more professional platform (the opportunities seemed endless if I ever found time to dedicate myself passionately to writing).

And then it happened.  My blog was pilfered.  Which ironically came during a dark night of writing.  I had depleted myself in so many emotional ways this past year and my blog took the brunt of my exhaustion.  Then to have my hard work stolen so someone else could make money?  I felt defeated.  What was the point of writing if someone could so easily lift my words?  So I used that as my excuse to stop blogging altogether.

And so I have stopped writing and posting.

But now I just can’t.  I miss it.  I may not be the same girl with stars in her eyes who wrote poetry while pretending to take notes in class, but I am still the same girl with a whole lot to say and a whole lot of emotion bubbling beneath my surface.  I have grown in lots of ways as the years have passed and my writing has morphed along with me, leaving behind the notion of having drunk Kvasir’s blood…I know I do not possess all wisdom, nor do my words affect all that read them.  But sometimes they do.  And even when they don’t, they affect me…they help me process my world.

So I’m getting back in the saddle, so to speak.  I’m not waiting another 14 years nor am I reverting back to my pen and pencil.  I’m just here, in this cyber spot, putting my emotions into words.  I wrote them.  And I hope you find joy or comfort or compassion in them.  I hope they speak the words you want to say, but my words and my photos are all copyright protected, so please don’t just take them.  If you’d like to borrow them, please seek permission and acknowledge me as the author.  It’s a small price to pay for admittance into my head ; )

The Tale of a Little Ballerina

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was surrounded by a world of blue and toy guns and boys.  All day long she dreamed of pink and tutus and dancing.  She watched ballerinas with wonder in her eyes and dreamed of the day she could dance across a stage just like them.

Then one day she turned 4 and her mommy asked her if she wanted to go to dance class.  The little girl remembered all the stories that inspired her: Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy and Anna Pavlova’s book I Dreamed I was a Ballerina and the little girl was delighted that her day had finally come.

She picked out her pink tights and her pink ballet shoes and her black leotard and that little girl practiced and practiced…long before she even set foot in a classroom.

Then classes began.  And the little girl marveled at the idea that there were other little girls….just.like.her.  Little girls that loved fancy and pink and tulle.

The little girl fell in love with her teachers.  She watched with awe as they danced with grace and poise and the little girl wished to be just like them.  She hung on their every word and basked in their praise.

The little girl practiced her ballet often.  She enticed her brothers into practicing with her with the promise of stickers and praise.  She went to class twice a week, with enthusiasm and excitement that never wavered.

She sat rooted in place, her heart full and her imagination fueled, when she went to the ballet productions put on in the city.  She cheered and clapped when one of her teachers took the starring role in Giselle.  She dreamed that one day she would dance across that big stage under the bright lights.

She continued to practice.  She dressed up her plain black leotard for class with as much fluff as she could…leg warmers and tulle skirts, bun covers and sparkly hairpins.  Then her costumes for the recital arrived and the little girl oohed and ahhed over the beautiful fabric and the yards of tulle.  Her costumes were hung on a fan in the school room to allow the layers of tulle to settle and every day she waltzed under those costumes, dreaming of her day.

Finally, her day arrived.  The day she would dance on the big stage, under the bright lights.  Of course, her first experience would be a rehearsal but it all felt so real because everything had to be exactly as it would be on the night of the official performance.

The little girl sat still while her mommy put on make-up.  Just a little to offset the harsh lights on the stage.  A little blush, a little mascara, some eye shadow and lipstick.  Concealer was applied to the scrape below her nose where just a few days before she had taken a nose dive off of her bike.  Her hair was swept up into a bun.  She looked adorably perfect.

She arrived early to the theater, surprised that she got to enter through the door for performers.  It was real.  Soon she would be performing!  She went upstairs into the dressing room and joined the other girls, big and small, as they all put on their costumes.  New pink tights, worn ballet shoes and her beautiful new costume.  She was ready.

Soon it was her turn.  She joined her classmates and walked up on the stage.  It was dark and each little girl tiptoed their way to their starting mark.  The lights flashed on and the music began and that little girl danced her sweet little heart out.

The little girl had to wait for her turn to come again so she could dance with her second class.  While she waited, she found her friends (the ones who also loved fancy and tulle and sparkles) and posed for photos. 

She returned to the dressing room ready to dance again.  While she prepared, she watched the big girls get ready.  They put on their costumes and applied their makeup and when the little girl worked up the courage to tell them how beautiful they were, they adorned her with compliments of their own and the little girl basked in their attention.

The little girl soon joined her second class and they watched a group of the big girls dance.  The little girl watched in awe as they twirled and spun and her eyes lit up with the idea that she could be just like them. 

It was her turn again and she went up on that big stage under the bright lights and she danced with a joyful heart.  She felt special and important and most of all, she felt she was really a dancer.  Just like the big girls.  

After her rehearsals were over, the little girl returned home to anxiously await the night of her official recital.  She hummed and danced wherever she went.  She counted down the minutes until she would dance on the big stage again.

The night of her recital arrived.  The little girl was proud to show her family how much progress she had made.  Finally, they too would know that she was a dancer. 

She gathered with her friends (the ones that love fancy and fluffy and sparkles) and when their turn came, they danced a beautiful dance.  

And when she was finished dancing, the audience clapped and cheered and the little girl knew that she had done well.  She was proud of her hard work.  Her daddy brought her flowers and she knew she was special.  She was a dancer.  

{And this is only the beginning of her story…more dancing is yet to come}

*please note that the videos are taken by an amateur…clearly they don’t do justice to the beauty that took place on the big stage under the bright lights

A Tea Party

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.  It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”  L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Katie met a kindred spirit, Eliza, at ballet a few months ago.  Fancy Nancy was the common factor (along with a love of pink and all things fancy and dancing, of course).  Katie began dreaming of celebrating their mutual love of Fancy Nancy with a fancy tea party from the moment she found out their mutual interests.

Then a few weeks ago Eliza came to ballet and announced that she was moving.  Katie was crushed.  She rushed out of class to tell me that she absolutely had to invite Eliza over right away for tea.  Eliza’s dad gave me her mom’s number and we began texting trying to work out a date to get the girls together for a tea party.  After a few weeks of scheduling and postponing and rescheduling {repeatedly} (all on my part as we’ve had a lingering cold virus hanging around), Katie finally got to celebrate their fancy friendship with a wind-blown Fancy Nancy picnic.

(Originally it was planned as a tea party, but upon cleaning out the cupboards, Katie discovered my fancy picnic basket from my college days of nature trekking and the tea party morphed into a fancy tea party picnic.)   So a few Mondays ago, we packed the picnic up and all of our fancy clothes and then we headed over to orchestra lessons.  As the picnic would be on that same side of town, we avoided trekking back across town by readying ourselves while waiting for the boys to finish their lessons.  Katie was rather pleased as I let her pick out eyeshadow and lipgloss to wear.   A freak cold-front blew in right before the tea party picnic but all of the picnic attendees were good sports.  William and Joseph insisted on bringing their instruments to play music for us (although as soon as the food came out I noticed the music disappeared!).  Katie planned the menu with brownies and pirouette cookies and lemon wafers along with sandwiches (cucumber for the more refined tea partier and peanut butter for the rest of ’em), a fruit bowl and refreshing liquids, of course, which included raspberry tea and lemonade.  It was a beautiful picnic despite the wind and overcast sky.

The actual picnicking was followed by a rather odd game of duck-duck-goose (clearly, I need to make an effort to teach the actual rules).  It started off normal enough.  Duck-duck-duck-duck-duck-goose.  But then the goose would chase “it” on a serious wild goose chase…not around the circle as it’s meant to be done.  The best part was that as soon as “it” and the goose took off, all the rest of the kids followed with wild laughter filling the air.  It was a rollicking good time and entertaining to watch.

I’d be cheating the lovely afternoon out of my favorite part if I didn’t include here the fact that it wasn’t just Katie that met a kindred spirit…Eliza’s mom, Amy, and I discovered over the course of scheduling and rescheduling that we too share a love for many things (including fancy tea parties and Downton Abbey, blogging and children’s literature).  It’s terribly sad to meet a kindred spirit only to have them whisked away.  Of course I have to remember Anne Shirley’s wisdom when she said, “Remember, true friends are always together in spirit.”  So despite the fact that Eliza and Amy (and sweet little Jed) have up and moved, Katie and I are already delighting in the idea of a reunion to celebrate all things fancy sometime again soon with such dear, kindred spirits.

These Halls of Refuge

This isn’t my house.  In fact I have never lived here.

I don’t have any roots.  I don’t have a childhood house to run home to.  There’s no specific structure that carries the stories of my childhood.  I don’t have the privilege of saying, “This is where I grew up,” to my kids.

Yet home doesn’t necessarily denote physicality.  In my heart I know that is true.

I know because I have a home wherever my parents are.

When I graduated from college, my dad got transferred to Newport.  I chose to stay in Corpus Christi and go to graduate school.  I still remember the first time I went to visit my parents in Newport.  Daxson and I flew up to Rhode Island for a week at Thanksgiving time.

I remember imagining what it was going to feel like to visit my parents.  As if I’d be a guest. You know how it is as a guest…you walk around with that bit of an unsettled feeling like you’re not completely comfortable because it isn’t your home.  You feel awkward opening the refrigerator without an invitation.  My imagination proved wrong.  I remember walking in as if I belonged there.  And perhaps in some way I did.

Then my dad retired and my parents relocated to Austin.  And I wondered, again, if it would feel odd to visit them at their new house.  But it didn’t.  It felt just right.  As if I had come home.  Yet, I’d never lived with them in that house either.

That first year my parents lived in Austin, I spent my vacation weeks during the school year at their house.  They nurtured me as if I had only been away on vacation when I came to visit.  They opened up their home to me as if it was my home, too…as if I were an absent member when I was away.  Su casa es mi casa.

Over the past decade we’ve made many trips up here.  Most have been trips full of joy…trips to celebrate birthdays and holidays and hot summer days.  But some have been trips of refuge.

When I had my first baby, I sought refuge here.  I spent two weeks with a two month old baby nestled in the down comforter of the guest bedroom.  My parents gave me space to enjoy that new baby without the day-to-day distractions of cooking, cleaning, and laundering.  I brought Joseph often, always seeking comfort and refuge.  A break from the daily grind.  A moment to breathe peacefully surrounded by the comfort of home.

As I had more kids, our visits became shorter, but no less frequent.  There’s something comforting about “going home.”  Knowing that there’s going to be a hot meal, clean sheets and plenty of help makes the visit well worth the trip.  But, of course, it’s more than just the physical benefits that make it a trip well traveled.  It’s having someone to help, someone to listen, someone to laugh with, someone to remember the details of the stories that weave the fabric of your life.

I continue to find refuge here over and over again.

When I was pregnant with my fourth baby and we remodeled the kitchen and again later when we remodeled our bathrooms, I found refuge here.  Sweet, quiet refuge away from the chaos of construction crews.

When my city had dirty water with a boil water alert, I found refuge here.  Not once.  Not twice.  Three times.  Clean water never seemed so luxurious as it did during those moments.

Now when Hurricane Harvey threatened to land in our city, I found refuge here once again.  Safe and sound.  Hundreds of miles away from the center of destruction.

I am quite thankful for such a lovely place of refuge.  Somewhere that I am welcomed in over and over again.  Somewhere that I can count on feeling safe, nurtured, taken care of.  I may not have grown up in this particular house, but I grew up with these people and these people are my refuge.

(I hope someday my kids will say the same.)



Romeo and Juliet

Personally I love Shakespeare.

In all his original ways.  The words are almost melodic with their medieval sound.

But Shakespeare is, of course, meant to be seen.  Acted out with humor and passion.

And that’s why I like WATCHING it…because even if I get a bit lost in doth and thou and wherefore, I can see what’s happening and understand the humor and the characters and their universal struggles.

And it is especially rewarding if the actors and actresses are talented and passionate and well rehearsed.

Joey and I had the pleasure to see Romeo and Juliet performed this past week by a talented group of local actors all a part of the Dead Creek Theatre Company.

What a delight to see so much energy and enthusiasm put into each role.

The lines were well learned and clearly spoken, the props were simple, the lights and music were lovely.

There was a bit of artistic interpretation added in, but they preserved Shakespeare’s original words and it really was beautifully done.

And the best part?  There’s one more night so you still have a chance to go see for yourself!


The Parenting Decision I Never Question

There are many things I do as a parent that I question.

What happens if I don’t feed my kids organic foods?  How do I effectively discipline so that my kids become functioning, productive members of society?  Which books should line our shelves?  Should I let my child do…?  Did I make the right choice when I…?

There is only one thing that doesn’t plague me.  One thing that doesn’t keep me up at night wondering.  That one thing I don’t question?  The decision to homeschool.

Don’t misunderstand.  I still question my methods.  I still question our social interaction (and sometimes the lack of.)  I still question my competence as a teacher. But never do I question my decision. 

Head over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to finish reading about the decision I never question.


Finding Balance in Motherhood

I still remember the first time I heard the phrase “Don’t put your eggs all in one basket.” I was about four years old and we had an old Atari game where you had to catch eggs in a basket and during the game, the little chicken would remind you not to put all the eggs in one basket.

I remember mulling that one over for awhile.  Why wouldn’t I put all my eggs in one basket, I wondered.  It seemed smart to me.  Then they’re all safe and snug in one spot where I can’t lose them.  Oh, but then what if I lost the basket?  Well, I’d lose all my eggs!  Or what if I dropped the basket?  Yikes, I’d break all the eggs.  I began to understand the wisdom of that chicken.

It is years later and I find myself still mulling over that piece of advice.  Now I’m not catching Atari eggs.  Shoot, I’m not even worried about real eggs in a real basket.  I’m thinking a bit more philosophically over here.

Sometimes I find myself pouring my heart and soul into these little children that have been entrusted to me.  Metaphorically speaking: I put all my eggs in one basket.

Please head over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to finish reading how I found balance in my mothering journey.

Preserving More Than Food

Every year, the conversation is the same.  My husband insists that I am wasting my time canning. I’m talking about good, old-fashioned canning.  You know, the kind with the water bath canner, the glass mason jars, the old screw top lids.  Canning.  The art of preserving food.  I argue that canning is a lost art, a delicious way to preserve the fruits of the season.

I usually only do it once a year. Sometimes twice. It’s a big production. It takes up a good part of the day (okay, it takes up the whole day if you consider the number of times I stop to tend to a child or attend to another need around the house or serve a meal) and it takes over the kitchen completely.

It’s actually all a little daunting.  I wake up on the morning I’ve planned to can and I ask myself again if I’m sure I’m up for it.  Usually I dread it a little because I know once I start, there is no stopping until each of those jars have popped and I know all of my food is sealed and preserved.  Yet, I still do it.  Pop over to Corpus Christi Moms Blog to read why.

One Glimpse (and I'm in Love All Over Again)


I caught a glimpse of him standing outside the kitchen window.  His face was turned down with his visor covering his face, his jawline the only visible part of him.  I snapped a picture of him in my mind, that strong jawline, the well defined calf muscles, the relaxed stance.  Age has been kind to him, weathered him in ways that make my heart  go crazy every time he glances over at me.

He lifts his head and catches my eye at the window.  Sure enough, my heart rate speeds up and I find myself blushing at the thought that he caught me staring at him.  Almost 15 years and I still find myself staring at him.  I can’t help it.  I like watching him walk into a room.  I like watching him laugh with his whole heart at a joke.  I like watching his eyes light up when he sees me.

For one quick moment, I wondered.  I wondered what I would think if I didn’t know him.  If I just passed him on the street or stood in line behind him at the grocery store.  One quick glance at him and I’d miss so much.

I’d miss his determination, his courage, his steadfastness, his discipline.  I’d miss how he delights in the moment, how he’s still a kid at heart, how he loves with his whole body and heart.  I’d miss his enjoyment of a glass of fine wine, the pure joy of visiting a new place, the quiet contentment of the simplicity he craves.

I’d miss all that because not knowing him, not spending 15 years with him would change my view.  So very much.  I have the special privilege of journeying this life with him.  Of seeing the moments that have defined him.  Of witnessing character formation and virtue in training.

I’m the one who witnessed the pride in his eyes when he first held each of our babies, the joyful anticipation of years to come when we exchanged vows.  I’m the one who witnessed the struggles, the hard work, the grit and determination of building his business.  I’m the one who looks into his eyes every night and reads the barometer on his soul.  I’m the one who sees what no one else sees.

Maybe that’s why I like staring at him.  ‘Cause I know what’s hidden beneath that strong jawline.  I know what drives him each day.  I know what makes him tick, what makes him laugh, what makes him smile.

I can’t help it.  Almost 15 years since I fell in love with him.  And still…I catch a glimpse of him and fall in love all over again.