All posts by Katie

Rules! Rules! Rules!

The car door opened courtesy of tiny familiar hands that I love so much.  I arrived at the carpool line extra early excitedly waiting to get the run down.  My two little elementary school ladies stepped inside the vehicle and I began the peppering of questions.  The first day of school was officially over.  I maturely squealed, “MY GIRLS!!!!  HIIIII!!!  HOW WAS YOUR DAYYYYYY?”  

They left my house 8 hours earlier completely prepared for greatness.  They sported unstained clothing THAT I IRONED, brushed teeth, combed and styled hair, healthy lunches with handwritten notes, full water bottles, filled out mandatory forms, and they received a hug and kiss from both parents.  For some, this is the norm.  In our home, this lasts maybe five days before I start justifying the smacking of the snooze button.  I tell myself that 5 more minutes will not cause us to rush too much (lies) and that frozen pb&j’s do contain protein and thaw by lunch.  And as for the iron, well, it makes a better collector of dust most days than a releaser of wrinkles.  But on the first day, I like to give the teachers false hope that these children belong to parents that will sign all the notes all year long and read all the newsletters sent home.  I usually wait until October to begin the tour of disappointment.  

So, when the response I received from my elementary school daughter started off with an incredibly deep and dramatic inhale, along with an even longer and louder exhale, complete with eyes rolled to the tippy top of her lids, I braced myself for the response.  She said, “UGGGGHHHHH!!!!  IT WAS AWWWWFUL!!!!”  I asked her why and she immediately responded with one word, three times over, “RULES!! RULES!! RULES!!!!”

She went on to explain to me that her entire day was made up learning rules.  In her opinion, school is a place for reading, learning and tests, NOT spending days going over RULES.  At this point, I asked her to smile for my phone so I could show her daddy her thoughts on the first day.  She did not smile. I might need to work on my compassion-when-kids-are-venting button.

Not only did she learn rules in her classroom, she learned rules in the cafeteria, and there were rules on the playground, and the library was not even open yet but if it had been you can bet there would have been rules there too.  Plus they had to write about rules, read about rules, repeat the rules, and she might have even come home with a new tattoo on her back that said, “RULES.”  Fine, no physical tattoo was made but a mental one was ingrained into her soul obviously.

Honestly, I do not blame her.  And I do not blame the teachers.  Clear cut expectations are so important.  Can you even imagine if the teachers had to explain these rules to every child individually?  We would have no teachers. I do not even like asking my dogs to “sit” and “stay” more than once because…..well…..all the verbalizing is just draining. So, to me, it seems logical that the first week of school would be a time for group rule smackdowns.  How many times can one adult explain the process of dumping lunch trays?  At some point, I would not blame these teachers if they just zombie walked out of the building.  They would be blankly walking with their arms straight out, eyes bulging, and repeating in a monotone voice “please tilt your tray this way and tap it on the end of the trash can in order to dump all the food you just stirred in a circle 5,000 times and mixed with the jello and vegetable medley mush.  Then please stack it on top of the last tray that our classroom friend dumped.”  Teacher’s mental survival depends upon all our little offspring knowing what to do.  

And I don’t blame my girl either.  No one likes to sit and hear how their daily discipline is going up 1,000% after summer.  And it isn’t because she is from a generation of electronic kids that have no respect or attention span.  I’m tired of hearing that from people.  I, personally, have seen scores upon scores of kids intentionally practicing kindness in this generation.  And know what group of people plays a big role in positive character development?  TEACHERS.  But to sit and listen to this information does not mean it is enjoyable.  

I, for one, have no desire to sit and convince her to love the rules.  Let’s be honest, they really aren’t fun sometimes.  In the Old Testament, the term “law” is the translated word for the Hebrew term, Torah, or “instruction.”  The people of Israel needed guidance from God.  Humans have always needed instruction.  And instruction is good.  One way God provided it was through the Mosaic Law.   It guided people morally, socially and ceremonially by having over 600 commands that covered all aspects of life.  And it gave Israel the recipe for ways to receive blessings. My point is that laws and rules have been around FOR A LONG TIME.  And my daughter is not the first person to have that feeling of “me no likey.”

Someday, she will grow up and will not have to sit and almost suffocate from listening to adults read rules out loud.  However, I do hope teachers and this family can burn certain instructions into her brain and heart for daily living.  I want her to respect others and herself, to listen before she speaks, to be able to learn and speak truth and to love others well, to make sure her binder gets signed every time she needs to go potty….  And I hope she practices applying grace to herself and to others.  Because that’s what Christ did for us. Once God sent Jesus to this earth, Christians were no longer bound to the Mosaic Law.  And thank goodness because over 600 commands are impossible to keep.  We now have the Holy Spirit in us as believers.  And we are recipients of grace by no doing of our own.  And this is great news…..for believers, for children who hate rules, for teachers who are faithfully serving children (THANK YOU JESUS), for parents who are trying their hardest to raise their family, and possibly for dog owners that find their new pair of shoes with teeth marks all in them.

Surprise!

This morning I was on a treadmill.  I looked down to see how far I had run and I was certain there was a mistake.  My legs felt like they had sprinted to Canada and at least halfway back.  The treadmill read “2 miles.”  This means one thing.  Next time I run, I’m picking a different treadmill because that one obviously cannot count correctly.  Anyway, right about the time I checked my mileage, I got a text from my middle schooler.  She was not feeling well and this meant my plans for the day were about to take a detour. Surprise for me!

As I gladly ended my non-marathon workout early, I headed off to the school to grab my girl.  Once under the loving care of her mother, I did what all modern-day Florence Nightingale caretakers would do.  I told her we had to run a few errands before I could get her home and medicated.  Nothing like buckling in for a ride around town when your head is pounding!  Off we went to wait in line at the drive thru pharmacy.

Side note:  Why is it that I will wait 45 minutes behind three cars in a pharmacy drive thru line?  I could just as easily park my car, walk into the store, head to the front of the line (because as I’m waiting all the minutes in the car, I can see there is no line inside), get what I need and be out of there in 3 minutes.  But no, there is some mystical power that tells me to stay in the most inefficient car line ever.  However, if you do go inside, you miss the opportunity to use the magical time capsule launcher.  It exists in the far drive up lane and is your ticket to exchanging items with the store employee.  You push that button and it makes a noise like the capsule is going into space, but lands in the pharmacists hands in 3 seconds.  I swear the Flintstones would have loved that thing.

So while we were waiting, my daughter decided to pull out her lunch so she could refuel during our car wait-a-thon.  And then we started a brief conversation:

Hailey:  Mom, have I told you about the lunchtime game my friends and I play called “What’s For Lunch?”

Me:  Noooo.  Fill me in!

Hailey:  Ok, so everyday, we sit down and I say, “hey guys, who wants to guess what’s in my lunch??!!!!!”  And then we all try to guess.

Me:  Do they normally get it right?

Hailey:  Sometimes.  Some of us bring the same thing every day.  Some of us mix it up.  We always laugh about it.  I love opening up my lunch to try to guess what’s in it.

Me:  Wait.  You get excited about your lunch?  

Hailey:  OH YES!  Like on the days when you pack it, I try not to ask or look at what you put in there because then I have a SURPRISE to look forward to halfway through the day!!!  Like yesterday, I opened up the thermos container and it was ravioli and I was all “RAVIOLIIIII!!!  YESSSSSSS!!!!”

And there you have it.  My firstborn has made it to her 8th year of schooling before I learned this little nugget of information about her.  Does the unveiling of her lunch make or break her day?  No. Is her day ruined on the days where she packs her own food?  Nope.  

However, it was nice to learn a small and tangible way I can provide a lift to her day.  And it got me to thinking about other people in my life.  Are there more doses of happy I could be throwing out to my friends and family? Maybe a few simple ways I could help add a “YESSSS” to their day too? I bet so and I’m on a mission to uncover them.  As for Hailey, she’s got more secret lunch surprises coming her way.

I Blame Jon Acuff For This Post

As you might have noticed, Amanda and I have been on a blogging hiatus.  It was not intentional.  We have loved starting Sprained Funny Bone and we talk about it to each other and the future of it constantly.  We are here people!  We are here!

And when someone asks me where the blog posts have been, I go to my mental list.  And then I tell them the reasons. It goes something like this, (inhale) “Well, our summers went super fast with the kids home and all their activities and friends and Amanda moved and I worked multiple camps and it is hard to find time to sit and write and it’s also really hard to sit down and instantly focus with all the kids and distractions.” (exhale)

The above is true.  

But the above is not the whole truth.

Writing is hard.  Amanda and I always joke that in the middle of writing posts, we hit a point where we are certain it will never come together.  And, if it ends up being another piece that does not show itself as worthy to post and we have to start over, we risk the possibility of having all the marbles in our heads fall out.

Writing is personal. A few days ago, I started listening to “Finish:  Give Yourself the Gift of Done” by Jon Acuff.  It is a good read you guys.  The book discusses how starting goals is not as difficult as finishing them.  Acuff presents strategies based on research to inspire and give people tools to complete their goals.  One of the main obstacles that holds people back is not laziness, but perfectionism.  To me, the word perfectionism sounds so sweet and simple to say, but all you readers that also suffer from it know that it’s an ugly little booger.  I can easily lose the messages I want to write because of the fear of not living up to my own standards.  If I do not perfectly word articles, my brain slowly loses perspective and the desire to finish my writing.  And I’ll say this, I would rather drink a gallon of iced tea and eat pickles (gag, gag, gaggggg) than let perfectionism continue to stop me from pursuing things I love to do.

Writing is worth it.  Our hiatus was just temporary.  I remembered why this blog is important.  It is again, Jon Acuff’s fault.  Once I started listening to his book, I went to his blog.  And in one of his posts, he wrote:

“Your platform isn’t for you. It’s not yours. Your name might be on it. It might be your smiling headshot that folks see each day on your blog or your twitter profile, but the platform is not for you. It’s for other people.  Readers, friends, family members, this is why we blog.  Not to get, but to give. If you don’t share your platform, it will suffocate you.”

Amanda and I never started this blog for us.  We knew we wanted to unite people, discuss all kinds of topics, and help others.  And, you guys, you know where Amanda is right now?  She’s not in Texas. Nor is she in the United States of America. SHE IS IN RWANDA.  As in AFRICA.  She is out learning about a different culture, and serving an organization that is helping women.  And these women need others.  She is not there for herself.  I can say this because it’s true and because she’s way too humble to say that herself….but I’ll totally throw her under the bus.

And we haven’t even had the chance to share that with you all.  And so, she is going to be so excited to come home and find that I have volunteered her to tell you all about her experience and to present ways that if God is leading you, you can help too.  We are committed to highlighting other people who need help.  So we will be back with our random stories, but with opportunities for us all to grow. And we would LOVE to hear from you all too if you have served others and have a story to tell.  Because, it is time.  It is time to finish our half written articles and it is time for us to keep kicking fear and perfectionism in the face.  We hope you will continue to read along with us and to share your stories too.

Grace House

She has taught me so much in the past few months and I hope I have helped her some too.

She is trustworthy, kind, humble, and gentle in spirit.  The first day I met her, she felt the need to tell me all about herself and did not keep any secrets.  At times she talked quite fast due to her nerves and the pain attached to exposing her past, but she forced herself to trust me.  She divulged past regrets, but rested in the fact that her past had allowed her to land in a safe place.  She inquired about my life, always looking me in the eye when I spoke to show she was engaged.  She sought out my advice on handling conflict with peers because it felt uncomfortable yet unavoidable at times.  She still smiles often even though parts of her future are uncertain.  And she has asked me if I will still want to be her friend in the upcoming months.  I have assured her that I do.

About 7 months ago, I met her.  I had been feeling a tug at my heart to get involved in something outside of my “bubble” so I sent an email to an organization I had heard of through our church.  Our bubbles are funny, aren’t they?  Most of us work towards creating an environment with our families that provide safety and security.  We yearn for stability.  A place where memories are made and children have freedom without parents fearing their every move.  I wonder if, as humans, we are wired to seek these things?  I’m not sure I’ve ever run into someone who has said “hey, I’m looking for a home where I could put my family at risk.  You seen one?”

My friend that I described above?  Well, about 9 months ago, she was sitting in prison.  And she was thinking prison was going to be her home for quite some time for personal choices made which did not agree with the law.  In addition to legal violations, she was also struggling to overcome addiction.  On paper, she was not the type of person I would have ever put myself around, nor my children, because she was living a life that was so different from mine.

But God had another plan for her life.  She was told she would be given the opportunity to go to a rehab type facility, but there was no guarantee she was done serving time.  Soon after she learned this, the founders of an organization called Grace House happened to be visiting the prison and handed her an application.  

The mission of Grace House “is to give women at risk the opportunity to overcome destructive life-styles of addiction, incarceration and poverty.  We provide a protected environment, both physically and spiritually, so that women may grow and mature in their faith and be transformed by the power of God.”  The women adhere to strict routines and participate in daily bible studies.  In addition, they enhance their learning through classes and listening to speakers.  The nine month program covers a variety of topics such as addiction recovery, money management, parenting skills, healthy relationships, nutrition instruction, productive lifestyle skills, music and art, and physical fitness.  In addition, the women also volunteer and serve others in the community.  And, they are assigned a personal mentor.

This is where God intersected my story with my new friend.  I would love to tell you that going into this experience, I was confident in my ability to serve at Grace House.  When I first met with the director, I was really hoping she would recommend that I either tutor some of the women with their school work or that I would teach a class.  I preferred this because it would allow me to “help” but would also keep me somewhat distant and in my comfort zone.  She didn’t.  She asked me to be a mentor and had my specific friend in mind.  She then asked me if I had any questions or concerns.  I did.  Some I voiced and some I kept to myself.  One of my thoughts went like this, “Well, I haven’t quite been in prison before, nor struggled with addiction.  Wait that’s not true….I am a 39-year-old nail biter who probably loves Diet Coke a little too much, but I haven’t struggled with addictions that could land me in jail!  Is she even going to like me?  Will she relate to me?  Will she honestly want advice from someone who has not walked the type of path she has?”  But I decided to trust the director, and with that, I ended up busting right out of my safe little bubble.

Shortly after meeting, we discovered that she and I connect easily.  We both enjoy going to the movies together.  We also like to explore the city and visit historical sites.  We speak the language of motherhood and have found that a mother’s love transcends all divides.  I know her kids’ names and can describe their personalities and she can do the same with mine.  We are both drawn to exercise, because without this healthy outlet we both find ourselves struggling.  Also, she has learned to tolerate my weekly driving debacles due to my nonexistent sense of direction mixed with my inability to accurately follow all the GPS instructions.  Not only has it been easier than expected to spend time with her, I have thoroughly ENJOYED it.  I look forward to our weekly adventures and conversations.  I love that before we eat, she reaches out for my hand, grasps it, and prays with a genuine heart.

And so, I am rewiring my thinking about my bubble.  Yes, I want safety and security and stability.  But as a Christian, it is not my job to try to create that environment for myself nor my family.  In fact, it is impossible to have that type of control in this life because suffering and human uncertainty will always exist.  But we can be assured, that as believers, NOTHING can separate us from the love of God. Paul tells us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35; 37-39, New International Version).

So if you have possibly wanted to bust out of your bubble but struggle with the “I’m not sure I will relate” or “it freaks me out” or “will I have enough time” or “what if I hate it”, I would like to encourage you.  I GET IT.  Oh, and also….DO IT.  Take your feelings of doubt and insecurity and slap them down.  Step out.  Be bold.  Be uncomfortable and courageous.  Spread the Good News of the security given to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.  He provides us with the best bubble in which to live.

In one short month, she will graduate from Grace House.  And she will not be returning to prison.  Her parole officer informed her that he was impressed by the changes within her.  He recommended to the court that she not be incarcerated and the courts agreed!  I am so incredibly proud of her and I’m also in awe of the strength she has.  She recently told me that she never knew that there was a light in this world because she had always felt a darkness covering her.  But now that she’s tasted and seen the sweetness that Jesus is, she cannot wait to go home and raise her kids. She wants them to grow up knowing what it is to have hope.  Her goals are to be with her children as much as she can, go to work, read her bible, exercise and attend weekly Celebrate Recovery meetings.  Her plan is simple and focused.  Personally, I cannot wait to meet up with my new friend in the community we both belong to because she is a blessing and inspiration to me.

If you would like to learn more about or donate to Grace House, please visit http://gracehousesa.org  

Brakes? You Mean the Coward Petal

Recently the Regas family took up the gauntlet and forged their way down I-35 to the Texas Hill Country where we live.  And to kick off the weekend, we adults went out to dinner to relax and catch up.  Once seated and settled in, our conversations started drifting into memories and stories.  And Amanda and my’s trip to Colorado last summer came up.  Have you ever told a funny story about someone and then it backfired?  And not backfire like “oh you didn’t hear the punchline” but backfire like “hey I was telling this story and now why are all of you acting like I’m the weird one?”  If so, I feel your pain.

Before we arrived in the mountains last summer, we informally created a mental to-do list of activities that varied from our daily routine.  And one of the items on my list was MOUNTAIN BIKING!  Who doesn’t love a bike, right?  And who wouldn’t want to put a bike on a slanted slab of earth?  This just made sense to me and had adventure written all over it.  I feel like all our faithful readers are currently on my side while reading along right now too.  Amanda was game too until we started hiking the first day.

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Amanda:  Hey Katie, remember how you said you want to go mountain biking?

Me:  YES!!!!!!  It is going to be so FUN!!!

Amanda:  Well, I’m just not sure I can do that.  In fact, I’m quite sure I’m not going to be able to do that.

Me:  WHAT?  Why?

Amanda:  Katie. You see the path we are on right now?  These bike paths are not meant for bikes. A human cannot keep two tires on this path. I have been myself my entire life. I can tell you with complete certainty what is going to happen. I am going to go off the path, tip over and roll.

Me:  NOOOO YOU WON’T.  You’ll be fine!  You’ll see!!!

Amanda:  Um, no.  Really.  And also, if I fall, I’m quite sure I’m not going to stop rolling until I get to the bottom of the mountain.

Me:  NOOOO YOU WON’T.

Amanda:  I’m just telling you, NOT HAPPENING.

Me:  That’s CRAZY.  You’ll be fine!!

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We never did ride those bikes.  I still laugh at the thought of her honestly thinking that if she fell she would roll all the way down to the base of a mountain.  And so I told this story at dinner, fully expecting both husbands to laugh along with me at silly Amanda.  Except they did not.  And one person in particular abandoned the Team Katie ship.…..my husband.  

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Trey:  OH MY GOSH.  Katie is unbelievable, right?  I swear she does this every trip. Did she ever tell you about when she made ME go mountain biking?

Amanda:  NOOOOOOO!!!  WHAT??  KATIE YOU DID NOT TELL ME THIS.

Katie: *eyes start darting around, feel shift in convo coming*  Huh?

Trey:  OH YEAH!  On our 10th anniversary when we were in Colorado, she made me mountain bike.  And she had gotten way far ahead of me as we were riding down the mountain.  She finally decided to stop and wait on me.  And when I got there, she’s all, “What took you so long?  Why do you have grass stuck in your helmet?  Are your shorts ripped?  IS YOUR SHIRT RIPPED?  LET’S GO!”  And I told her, “Woman, I TRIED TO TELL YOU THAT MY BACK BRAKES FELT LIKE THEY WERE OFF.  WELL THEY ARE.  THEY DO NOT WORK, I JUST FLIPPED OVER THE HANDLEBARS!  I AM DONE RIDING BIKES!”

Katie:  *honestly, how necessary are back brakes while riding down a mountain?  Internal eye roll for Mr. Drama.*

Trey:  AND THEN, we got to the bottom of the mountain.  I tried to find a bus to take us back to the bike rental place to return that dang bike.  And Katie says, “NO WAY!  LET’S RIDE OUR BIKES BACK TO THE RENTAL PLACE!  IT ISN’T THAT FAR!”

Amanda:  Wait, were you at the part of the mountain BELOW the flags?  BECAUSE THAT IS A STRAIGHT UPHILL RIDE!

Trey:  OH YES WE WERE.

Katie:  *I feel like they might not be supporting me currently and I am not liking their party pooper attitudes.  Begin sipping water and make no eye contact.*

Trey:  IT WAS TERRIBLE. And I PAID to have the experience of flipping over my handlebars, shredding my clothes and then getting to bike straight up a mountain.

Amanda:  OH MY GOSH THAT IS AWWWFUL!!!  Have you ever noticed that she totally forces you into doing things under the premise of “it’s an adventure!!!”

Katie:  Hi G.R.  Aren’t the rolls good here?

Trey:  OH YES SHE DOES.  Last trip we were on…..our entire family was EXHAUSTED by the end of the day.  What does Katie do?  Says, “Hey guys, so if you want to just stay here, that’s fine.  BUT I AM GOING BACK OUT TO WALK AROUND DISNEYLANNNND!!!!!  WHO WANTS TO COME WITH ME????”  The kids looked at her like she was on crack.

Katie:  I did NOT force anyone to come!!!

Trey:  You are correct.  You did not.  But WHO spends an entire day out and about and then decides at 9PM that they want to squeeze in two more hours?  Even if they’re alone?

Amanda: Okay, so let me tell you another story. We went to Austin and she insisted on riding the city bikes. Which would have been fine, there are beautiful parks in Austin…but we rode them in a bike lane on South Congress, during peak bar time. In the dark. And I was in a skirt. And honestly, being in the skirt was the least of my problems. I kept screaming at her and she just kept yelling over her shoulder, “You are fine! Totally safe.”

Katie:  *but it was bikes!  Bikes are fun!  Day or night!  Fold napkin in lap.*

Trey:  OH, she ALWAYS DOES THIS!  I am JUST realizing it!

Trey and Amanda:  *slow head turns towards me*

Katie:  You guys, you’re telling me that you don’t love to do all these things all day on vacation?

Trey:  I believe the key word missing here is “moderation.”

Katie:  I USE MODERATION!!!!

Amanda:  No.  No you don’t.  I mean….it isn’t a BAD thing!  But you are now outed!!

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The conversation was all in good fun and we all were laughing the entire time.  But it also got me thinking and asking questions.  Maybe we are all built with a different natural type of internal decompression mode.  Maybe some people look for new places, new experiences and a go-go-go attitude when away from their daily lives.  Maybe others crave familiarity and traditions as a way to recharge.  Maybe some like to be in control and make lots of plans while others prefer to show up and figure it out.  Maybe some are a mix.  

Do you tend to lean towards one end?  The truth is, I DO love to explore new places and be outdoors and be moving all the time.  Also, come to think of it, maybe the reason I got put in an immobilization boot for 6 weeks last spring wasn’t just my foot’s fault for giving out on me?

In my mind, a day of doing what you can normally do at home on vacation is a day that STINKS!  Vacation is for trying new things and being in new environments!  I love to end a day feeling like I DID something and have a tired body.  And this doesn’t just have to mean riding a bike…although I think it’s becoming obvious that I may have a repressed obsession with bikes.  But I love to be out and about whether on a mountain or in the ocean or at a park or visiting a museum or checking out different cities and cultures.  It feeds my soul.

My husband tends to be a person of familiarity.  But until recently, I never believed that’s what he actually WANTED to be doing.  He has repeatedly told me how he wants to go see the same places over and over again, yet I’ve interpreted it as, “Ok honey, I get it (add in a wink, wink).  You want to be boring, but secretly….I just know you want to do all the things!  And I’m just the person to help you!”  It must be so fun to be married to me.

And could it be that one set of tendencies is not better than another?  In so many areas of life, balance is key.  Exploration is important because it busts us out of our ordinary environments of home.  We get to see what small fish we are in a big world.  But familiarity provides predictability and allows our senses to relax.  The high-alert part of us gets to take a break.  All of these ways of being are critical to living a full life.   And doing a little give-and-take to honor everyone’s tendencies when we are with friends and spouses is a way of showing respect to each other.  And so, I’m going to try be more self-aware of not only my wishes, but others’ also.  And, I’m also going to work on my poker face.  Because after 16 years of marriage, my manipulative biker ways were finally exposed, which means I must figure out new plans to entice him into barreling down a mountain at breakneck speed on a bike with bad brakes. Some people just need a little encouragement. (I’m looking at you Trey and Amanda.)

How to Grow a Giant Dog On a Simple Diet of Socks, Shoes and Underwear

One day last week was National Puppy Day. We missed it because we have puppies. You can not take your eyes off them or they chew on your iPad. So, we will celebrate now with a puppy update. 

Remember how Amanda and I convinced our husbands that getting puppies was an excellent idea?  Well, per usual, WE WERE RIGHT!!! Our husbands are #blessed.

These little munchkins are now 4 ½ months old.  And also, they aren’t munchkin sized.  Millie packed on 10 pounds last month to bump up to 24 pounds, while Phoebe weighs in at a more petite 20 pounds.   Their vets keep saying scary things like..“Yikes. Did you know she would be such a large dog?” We can not remember anymore what we thought. And since we were told they’d most likely be under 60 pounds, I’m pretty sure this means one thing.  In my family, we grow super-sized dogs no matter the predicted weight.  We are the real life family version of Clifford the Big Red Dog times two.  It’s our special gift.

Our families and friends have been noting how much these dogs favor certain celebrities and fictional characters.

And so, without further adieu, here’s what we came up with.  This little sweet thing….

…she may have been born a canine but she sure resembles a certain ursine.

Hello little Muppet!  Phoebe Fozzie Bear Regas!

And Millie has been narrowed down to two doppleganger possibilities.  Please feel free to voice your thoughts on this riveting topic.

I’m glad her paws are little….I’m sure she’s done growing…
  1. Doc from Back to the Future 
  2. A Fraggle Rock

And one more thing, just to be open and honest.  When we said these puppies have been a great decision, they have.  But let’s not confuse this with meaning “easy and perfect.”  Dull moments don’t exist.  Our couch, along with any surface that’s above her eye level, is stacked with shoes, socks, underwear that she tends to nonchalantly walk by with in her mouth.

Some people have throw pillows on the couch, we have shoes we’d like to not be devoured by the pup.
Millie’s drywall snack

Oh, and Millie tends to get carsick.  I learned this when she puked three times in the car while going to pick up kids from carpool.  And then she threw up again in the car the next day.  But I’m not sure if that was due to the motion or if the sock she ate and vomited back up onto my lap was to blame.  That was a pleasant time.   And apparently, we have a spot on our wall that looks and tastes delicious….goodbye drywall.

Thanks Mills.  Our vet is under strict instruction to look for and locate her internal obedience button and push it when she gets spayed soon.  I’m just certain there has got to be an answer for her shenanigans that don’t include me having to be trained on getting her to obey.

And The Phoebes, well she is perfect. Except that these are the glasses Amanda’s husband used to wear when he wanted to see the world. He left himself vulnerable by allowing his body to sleep and you can’t let your guard down like that. It’s fine. Amanda talks a lot and can just describe things to him. Good practice for the elderly years.

Just as humans like salty and sweet together, Phoebe’s well-developed palate enjoys combining the crunch of glasses with the smoosh of soft socks.

And so, on this Monday, SFB wishes you a happy start to your week.  May your drywall stay intact, socks stay on feet, glasses be uncrunched, and underwear not have the crotch ripped out of them. God bless.

“Nice Girls Don’t Change the World”

I ordered the book “Nice Girls Don’t Change The World” last week thinking that I would add it to my stack of books I’d like to read someday.  It arrived the day before my husband and I were heading out of town for a weekend away.  And in typical fashion, I was throwing my airplane bag together approximately 16 seconds before walking out the door (note: when I’m 40, I’m so going to pack at least 1 hour before I leave….#grownupgoals).  When I realized the book’s petite size, it instantly found its way into the bag and it met all my requirements. The book was small.  The lines were double spaced.  And, there were pictures.  Folks, this was going to be a quick read and I love a quick read. Waiting on the tarmac, I opened it up and realized good things were in store for me. By the end of the first page it was clear Hybel was going to give me a glimpse into her life, personal thoughts and emotions. Cue Happy Katie in an airplane.

Hybel opens by describing herself as a nice girl for the first half of her life.  Her self description included being a people pleaser, a hard worker, a rule follower and someone always pressuring herself to be better.  This is when I checked the front cover to make sure I had not authored the book.

When Hybel turned 39, coincidentally the same age I am now, she ran out of steam.  Her internal and external selves were not in sync and she sought help.  She discovered:

The opposite of a nice girl, I learned, is a “good woman.”  Being a good woman means trading the safe, passive, people-pleasing behavior of niceness for the dynamic power of true goodness.  It means moving from the weakness and immaturity of girlhood toward the strength and maturity of womanhood.

She began to recognize how God wants us to see ourselves and our responsibilities versus the false assumptions we make about God and unknowingly live out.  And she uncovered the force of fear and all its debilitating power.  Ultimately she saw through the muck of her actions and thoughts, finally getting to the core of her purpose.

As soon as I finished the book, I mentally added this to my list of books I’d like to pass on to my daughters someday.  First I love that it is written by a woman in a different stage of life than me.  She is able to reflect and offer wisdom through her own experiences.  Reading her story and seeing how God used her struggles gives hope.  Second, life is hard.  And sometimes our own struggles seem to dominate our thoughts.  Or worse, we believe the lie that we are the only people who might be suffering because the world likes us to think that perfection is attainable.  And perfection and suffering do not exist together.  Reading about another person’s troubles helps people connect on a genuine human level and inspires us to better ourselves and help those around us.  And third, Hybel is vulnerable enough to share that when she was in pain, she reached out for help.  And at some point in my children’s lives, chances are they will need support.  I have repeatedly talked with my girls about the importance of healthy relationships and how there are professionals able to help in times of distress.  Oftentimes, we humans react by keeping pain bottled up rather than reaching out for assistance which can provide relief and guidance.  Reading stories about others who have received help lessens the stigma associated with seeking professional assistance from mental pain.

I recommend adding this book to your reading list.  Or even better, purchasing it, reading it and then passing it along as a gift of inspiration to another woman you know that could use encouragement as she navigates life.  Plus, my favorite part of the book was towards the end.  Hybel does not end her story by being content with her knowledge of what comprises a good woman.  She takes this truth, mixes in some passion and energy and describes her transformation into a downright dangerous woman.  And this is the type of woman I hope to be someday and I that I wish for my girls too.

Here is the link to the book if you are interested!

https://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Dont-Change-World/dp/0310272319/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423024101&sr=1-1&keywords=nice+girls+don%27t+change+the+world

 

Ready, Set, BREAK!

Approximately one week ago, Amanda and I were lounging outside together near the laid-back Austin, Texas.  The high was 85.  It was February and we former midwestern girls had multiple conversations about our shock over how warm and lovely winter weather can be in Texas.  We spent one afternoon hiking at a nature preserve and enjoyed fresh air while investing in activities outside the routine of our normal day to day life.  The majority of time was directed towards writing for the blog.  And we may have used up a weeeeee (meaning an entire afternoon) bit of time at a spa trying to relax “for work purposes.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my day to day life.  My house has transitioned through many phases including infant land, toddler zone, and little kid haven.  Currently, we are in the tween and elementary arena.  It’s glorious.  Everyone can converse and listen to each other and laugh and play games together.  We have replaced repetitive knock-knock jokes with riddles THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE.  Everyone can clean their rooms, put away their laundry, and help do their share in the household.  All the kids still enjoy being with the family over friends most of the time and I am so thankful for that.

However, I needed a break.

And I knew I needed out.  Inside of myself, I felt trapped in the routine of day to day life.  The winter illnesses have taken a swing at each member of our family.  The hubby has been on an epic run of work travel.  The puppy is precious.  But if you’ve ever raised a puppy, you know they look precious because they take a lot of work to train them to become fabulous 2 year old dogs.  It seems like my body has been “on duty” constantly.  I could go on and on about why I needed out, but honestly, I feel guilty about getting that feeling of wanting to escape.

And why is that?  Why is it that I have trained myself to think that I should never need time off from everyone?  I know some women who have told me they never take personal time away from their kids and husbands.  I have heard some say things like, “my kids are growing up so fast that I cannot miss anything.”  I’ve talked to women whose kids are now adults, and they say they never even thought about leaving their kids when they were little.

So when my insides are screaming, TIME OUT!  NEED…TIME…OUT…TO…BREATHE,  I often become overwhelmed with guilt.  I tell my gut to pipe down because good moms do not ever need to escape.  Good moms look at the laundry as a blessing because there are bodies to clothe in the house.  Good moms are always engaged with their kids and know their every thought and need.  Good moms look at school projects as a time to bond rather than wanting to stab their eyeballs out.  Good moms look forward to the bedtime routine rather than thinking “oh my good gravy I love you so much, but you have got to go to bed so my brain can listen to silence otherwise I’m certain it is going to explode.” Good moms this.  Good moms that.

As I get older, I have learned that my gut and the truth are not necessarily connected all the time.  For some reason, I hold myself to different standards than others, especially within my family.  And to quote Leo Buscaglia, “Never idealize others.  They will never live up to your expectations.”  I wasn’t idealizing others, I was idealizing motherhood and what I thought every other mother was doing.  Insert waving white flag once I made this realization.  I suspect many moms suffer from this.  We often stifle our personal needs while we play backup to all of the loves in our families, and all because we have this incorrect notion of what constitutes being the perfect mom. And by doing this, we gyp ourselves and even our families from getting the best version of us.  And so, I’ve been trying to take on a different perspective in recent times.

I am starting to ask questions with this thought in mind: how do I want my children to care for themselves as adults?  For example, when I think, “do I REALLY need a break?”  That answer is almost always going to be “no,” along with a “suck it up, Katie.”  But, when I ask myself, “if Reese was a mother completely run down and in need of a weekend away to refuel through writing, hiking, sleeping, hanging with her friend and getting a massage, would I want that for her?” the answer to that would be an emphatic “HECK YES, and furthermore, give me your children.”  It’s absurd to think that my children should be everything to all people.  It’s unrealistic.  It’s ridiculous.  Rest is healthy and so is getting outside of our routine.

There is one more piece to the puzzle.  And that involves one incredibly supportive husband.  When I told him that this goose was cooked and I wanted a bit of time off, he not only immediately approved, but he encouraged me to go.  And every time that I hemmed and hawed, he told me he was glad I was getting away and that he had the home front covered.  No guilt trips, no IOU’s, no complaints whatsoever…..just a desire to help and support me.  Without his backing, I am not certain that I would ever get away.

And there we have it.  That is how I ultimately I ended up lounging together with Amanda in the beautiful Texas hill country where I accidentally slept 13 hours the first night and then 10 the next. I still fight the guilt every single time I leave the family.  However, last weekend allowed me to have a conversation with my kids about how I needed out to enjoy nature and to spend time doing things that refill my personal cup too.  I want them to grow up and know that this is healthy.  We work hard in our family, and it was time to rest hard too.  And let’s be honest, it was also time for dessert….with every meal.

And so, I give you a few glimpses into the weekend that allowed me to think straight again and filled up my patience cup when I returned to my crew…

What this sign meant to Katie was “nahhhh, you don’t mean for us.” What it meant for Amanda was instant hand flapping.

 

 

Amanda took about 400 pictures of this giant dead tree. Because nothing says “refill my cup” quite as beautifully as a big dead tree.
We found where the Braverman’s hold their dinners. #whereiscrosby
Here we looked on in horror as a man was forced to vacate this spot on a beautiful 85 degree day by his girlfriend who said, “We have to go visit the Longhorns now, I already Instagrammed it.” In a show of silent solidarity for the man we stayed and did nothing for hours.

Eye Of The Storm

While showering the other day, I decided to play some music to start my day off right.  And then I heard the lyrics from Ryan Stevenson’s song “Eye of the Storm.”  In it, he references God maintaining control, protecting us, and being our anchor when life is spinning.  I immediately felt tears well up inside of me and did the most therapeutic thing possible.  I took over as lead vocalist for Ryan and let my inner Celine shine.  Within 5 seconds, Millie discovered how to throw her 7 pound body into the bathroom doors and bust out of there as if her life depended on it.  And once again, I was left alone. This time by the puppy whom, for weeks, I have been patiently letting use my house as her personal potty training zone.

The tears came unexpectedly, yet right on time.  I have been in the throes of a storm as of late.  And when Mr. Anger knocks on my door and brings his jerk friends Loneliness, Heartache, Doubt and Frustration, I typically attempt to politely introduce myself and quickly figure out why they have arrived all while simultaneously turning around and high-tailing it out of there. Only this time, I didn’t escape them. And they stuck around and put on a display that could rival Disney World fireworks. Except it was the opposite of anything magical.

It’s so gut-wrenchingly hard to watch your kids struggle.  They are no longer in my protected cocoon while at home with me all day. Those early years may have been physically hard as a momma, but these years are a new kind of difficult on the emotions.  I want so badly to make everything ok for them.  I want to put a little bitty earpiece in their cute auditory canal every morning, so I can whisper truth to them when some other kid is a turd or when I see them shouldering self-doubt or internalizing the weight of their world.  But more than wanting to protect them, I want them to stand up for themselves with confidence and to believe in themselves.  And to get there requires them learning to overcome adversity.  My head gets it.  My heart, though….fuh-get about it, it just hurts.

And balancing work-life and family-life and engaging in quality-time-with-each-other-life while being individuals who have our unique-interests-life is a constant challenge.  It reminds me a bit of a game of bowling.  There are lots of pins to take care of to win.  You try to line your life up right.  Sometimes you’re covering it all well and bowling strikes, and sometimes, well, you’re in the gutter.  And recently, I kind of feel like I let the ball go too early, tried to chase it down the alley, slipped in the lane and slid head first into the pin-clearing bar.  

And once I feel like I’m failing in one area of life, I tend to spiral and feel like a failure as a mom and wife too.  And why stop there when my brain can continue the dogpile and tell me how alone I am, and that everyone seems to be getting things right except for me and that it’s never going to get better.  Who’s having fun reading this yet?  

I debated writing this because, for real, who wants to read an article from Debbie Downer?  But then Amanda reminded me that we promised ourselves we would be authentic and honest along with our light-hearted stuff.  I hope you can relate to this moment of struggle; it is just not a part of life we like to show to each other.

Then I doubted whether or not I should share it, as I am well aware of people struggling with more challenging and even tragic situations. And once I start comparing, I end up believing I should just suck it up.  But then I remembered reading what Brené Brown wrote in Rising Strong about comparing our sufferings with others.  

Falling down, screwing up, and facing hurt often lead to bouts of second-guessing our judgement, our self-trust, and even our worthiness.  I am enough can slowly turn into Am I really enough?  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked…. Yes, perspective is critical.  But I’m a firm believer that complaining is okay as long as we piss and moan with a little perspective.  Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us.

So if you’re struggling, I want you to know that I am so sorry.  And also, that I am with you. I want a quick fix for you and me because that makes me feel good, but there are no guarantees for that on this earth. This was part of the reason that Fear got an invite to my party too. Not having the ability to solve our loved ones’ problems or get the upper hand on proper “balance” (whatever that maybe) or ensure the safety and security of the future isn’t likely either.  And it is scary to have no control over these things.

But you know what I am doing?  I’m committed to waking up every day and trying my best.  That does not mean I will be the best, but I’ll give whatever I can that day.  And I want to be brave.  And I want to be courageous.  And I want to be vulnerable.  Brown also states, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.  Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”  It’s true that coming out of my deepest valleys have led to my most significant areas of emotional growth.  But that doesn’t mean that the new struggles give me instant perspective or feel any less horrible.  All valleys stink.

But our loved ones don’t stink.  They will support us.  And God definitely has our back.  We need a foundation to go to when we spiral.  And we have One.  The book of Matthew tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30 NIV).  He will comfort us, protect us, guard us and love us through the storms.  And I know I am so thankful that my heavy times are not hopeless times.

http://www.kimberlygeswein.com

The Stocking

This Monday marked the beginning of the last week of school before Christmas break.  This means there are still Advent calendars to follow, shelfy elfs to move, business parties to attend, school parties to brave, Christmas cards to send out, sugary things to bake, wintry decor to put up (it was 65 degrees outside today so inside we pretend that this season occurs during non-sweaty temps) and gifts to gather for family, friends, teachers, co-workers, pet fish, and bus drivers.  And since Amazon came out with Prime, we should ALL be doing something for the poor souls that deliver all the cardboard boxes in all the world.  Without a doubt, we are smack dab in the midst of the holiday season.  It brings an energy that is palpable in my family and I do not take it for granted that these are precious years we will not see again.  

I love this time of year.  My kids love it too because their most favorite family tradition happens during the Christmas season.  On the day following Thanksgiving, they start begging to go to the store for their annual ornament.  A long time ago, we started a tradition where they pick an ornament representing something they love.  It could be something as simple as a TV show or movie they enjoyed that year, a sport they played, or just a piece they think is extra pretty.  Then we label the box with their name, year and age and add it to their collection.  So when it comes time to put the tree up each year, they literally jump up and down (ok, my little two do, the middle schooler likes doing it but definitely stays calm, cool and collected at all times) when their stack of ornaments comes out and they get to relive each one they have chosen since they were around 2 years old.  

We look forward to digging out ornaments like this….

Because everyone knows that cowgirl M&M’s holding guns help to make the season bright.

I remember when our tree was full of blank spaces, filler stuff, and reindeer ornaments made from glued wooden sticks adorned with twisted pipe cleaners and red pom-pom noses.  I still have all of those items.  But as this family ages, the tree has become a representation of a life of three little girls growing up into older little ladies.  Sure, I have seen trees prettier than ours because there are two kinds of people in this world. Those that take a regular tree full of sticks and pokey needles, and transform it into a sea of garland and ribbon and ornaments in complementary colors. And then there are people like me. The kind that buy a fake tree pre-wrapped in lights that still work when you bust a few bulbs putting it up.  And my version of fancy means we sprung for the $5 switch thingie that allows you to turn the lights with a tap of your foot. We slap up ornaments that have family pictures on them along with ones that document our travels.  And of course M&M’s holding guns.  Side note:  My mom use to let us put tinsel on the tree growing up and I LOVED IT.  I’d throw that stuff up there by the handful.  I also remember watching her take down all the tinsel after the holidays as I would be darting out the door to play.   And then when I’d be exhausted and come inside for a break, she’d STILL be pulling the silvery strands off the tree.  Therefore, my mother was a saint.  I will never ever be that mom.  To all you mothers who allow their children to do this, I salute you.

And as much as I love this time of year, I also struggle.  When I look at things logically, my brain tells me I should not feel anything but energy, smiles, and the sugar coursing through me from all the whipped cream cheese frosting inside pumpkin rolls and on top of ooey gooey cookies. Plus, we are celebrating the birth of Christ, which is a celebration of hope and joy arriving to our world.  And for many, many years, I only felt the joy of the season.  But starting about 8 years ago, my life went through a major transformation.  I lost my mom to cancer two days after Christmas.  And it was a brutal disease that took my vibrant and devoted mother and left her gasping for air at times.  Watching her physical body deteriorate while her mental spirit stayed strong and wanted to desperately stay on this earth permanently scarred me.  It broke a piece of my heart for my dad, my daughters who lost their grandma way too early, for myself and for the multitude of other friends and family members that loved her too.  And though I truly do love the Christmas season, there’s a darker range of emotions I also experience that go from life feeling heavy, to a sadness in my soul, to an exhaustion that isn’t from a lack of sleep.  Do I feel this every second of every day?  Nope.  Do these emotions control my mental state?  Nope.  But I do recognize that they creep up on me around this time of year and rather than deny that they exist, I’ve learned to live with them.

Once I experienced the death of my mom, my eyes were opened to another level of life.  I know I am not alone in my grief.  I have friends that have lost spouses, parents, friends and even their own precious children.  And at some point, if you are continuing to live and breathe, you will also experience loss and grief.  

There are a few things that I have learned to lean towards for comfort during this season.  First off is my faith.  And I love what Paul has to say in 2 Corinthians:  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor 1:3-4)  First off, we aren’t alone.  Ever.  God is where compassion and comfort come from and He is there during our struggles.  He knows what you are going through.  He isn’t surprised.  Secondly, He uses our pain.  He comforts us and then allows us to help others.  He forms us into people who can take our own trials and provide hope to others when they go through it.  Even though our lives here on earth will never be problem free, we can provide love and comfort, show compassion and give hope to each other.  For me, this is living out the meaning of Christmas.

The other thing that helps me during this season is being able to look back on the traditions my mom established during my childhood.  On Christmas Eve each year, she would gather all of us in the family room, pour glasses of eggnog, bring out a variety of homemade Christmas cookies on a platter, turn off all the bright overhead lights and TV and we would sit as a family with Christmas music in the background with the tree lit.  She would then start a conversation and ask us purposeful questions .  What was your favorite part of the past year?  What is something you are looking forward to next year?  I counted on having that 30 minutes every year.  It felt peaceful.  And let’s be honest, I loved cookies and eggnog too.  My own family does not continue that same tradition, but it did show me the importance of setting aside time to just BE together.  And I loved the sense of stability it gave me as a child to know that I could count on my family doing the same thing together every single year.

Along with the childhood traditions my mom established, she also left me a lasting Christmas gift.  I did not even realize how precious it would be to me when she began making them.  When I got married, she decided to needlepoint us our own Christmas stocking.  For years, I watched her pull out her bag of yarn and work on them slowly but surely.  I am certain this is where Hailey gets her love of sewing because it did NOT come from her mother.  With every new grand baby, she would select a new stocking to begin so we could add it to our mantle for the following Christmas.  

My sweet Landry was born about 6 weeks after my mom died.  And my mom was sick my entire pregnancy with her.  My mom selected her stocking and started it, but was not able to finish it on her own.  Completing this piece was important to her.  And so she received some earthly help.  Various friends of my mom took the stocking and completed different sections of it until it was done.  When I was given the stocking by my mom’s friend after my mom had died, I became overwhelmed.  Landry received a stocking that was not only made for her with the hands of her grandmother that would never be able to hold her, but also with the loving supportive hands of her grandmother’s friends.  These women lifted her grandmother up and comforted her when she needed it most.  And that is not only a lasting gift my girls have but an ultimate lesson in friendship, compassion and loyalty.

I am not sure how the Christmas season feels to you.  Oftentimes society, social media and commercials put weighty expectations solely on happiness.  It is as if anything less than pure joy means failure.  And I hope the season is a time of joy and celebration.  But please remember the Christmas story itself was full of mixed emotions. The time leading up to the birth of Jesus being born in a manger was complicated. So much that happens in life is out of our control.  I encourage you to take advantage of the abilities God has given you.  Start a new tradition for your family or your friends or for others in need that blesses them.  If you are suffering this season, allow others to come in and comfort you.  For me,  I’ll spend some time looking at all the stockings hanging on my mantel.  And there’s one in particular I’ll look at a little longer.  The one that represents a story of love, joy, comfort, hope, compassion and above all else, grace.  And those are all the emotions I will embrace this Christmas.