Tag Archives: adventures

Re-Entry

On September 21st, I went to Africa with a team of 6 other women, through Africa New Life Ministries, a non-profit organization. Africa New Life is an organization created by Rwandans to help the Rwandan people empower themselves through education and employment.

An overview of ANLM taken from their website:

“Since 2001, Africa New Life has shared the Gospel using two hands: the hand of compassion and the hand of evangelism. Our goal is to see lives transformed through meeting basic needs, to give hope for the future for those living in poverty in Rwanda, and to share the freedom and hope found in Christ. At the heart of our model for breaking cycles of poverty is educational sponsorship. With a high school education, or a vocational equivalent, children in Rwanda have hope for the future.”

AFNLM believes in caring for the “whole child”. While educational sponsorship is at the core of their work, they believe children need other key factors to succeed such as a growing faith, community development, and a healthy body.

Their mission statement, powerful and simple, drew me in immediately:

Africa New Life exists to transform lives and communities through preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and acts of compassion.”

Our days in Kigali were filled with activity. Being a team of women, ANLM asked if we would consider focusing our trip around spending time in relationship with women and children, offering encouragement and support. We were thrilled to have that opportunity, so on our trip we completed 15 home visits. Eleven of these visits included meeting children that are sponsored through monthly donations by various team members. The sponsorship program provides education and medical assistance. Sponsored children also attend a monthly Christian day camp and a four-day bible camp each fall. We were able to touch the sweet faces of children that we had only known on paper previously. A powerful experience that I will write about another day. The other four home visits were to women enrolled in a sewing program through ANLM’s Women’s Vocational Center. In between visits, our days were packed with a full on Rwanda experience. We attended a Christian women’s conference. We lived a day in the life of a local woman, right down to cultivating land and gathering water. We gave presentations on business skills, and health and wellness to women in sewing and cosmetology programs. We walked through a genocide memorial museum. And we spent even more time connecting with our sponsored children outside of their homes.

There is so much I want to express about my time in Africa. It will forever be one of the most important and joyful times of my life. I cannot wait to share my thoughts on education, local culture, short-term mission trips, the genocide, post genocide healing and reconciliation, worship, values, and sponsorship.  

But for today, I want to discuss re-entry. Sunday we returned from Rwanda, and we are elated to be home. But coming home brings a big bag of mixed emotions. And as someone who has always been a deep feeler, re-entering the life I left less than 2 weeks ago has been plain hard. Previous service experiences and mission trips have left me well versed on the internal struggle that occurs when you leave a life changing experience, so during the trip I began bracing myself for impact. Processing the emotions involved in re-entry is important and is an essential and necessary step for personal growth, but it is hard work.

Africa New Life Ministries scheduled a debriefing session with Pastor Fred, their executive director, for the day we left. During it, he addressed re-emersion. Looking straight at us, laughing knowingly, he said gently, “Now, when you go home…PLEASE…do not sit around your home feeling bad about what you have. Enjoy your life! Just don’t forget about us. Don’t forget what you learned. Go home and be an ambassador for Africa New Life.” This was a gift. By addressing the internal struggle he knew was imminent he normalized our feelings in advance. It made me tear up. Pastor Fred genuinely hoped we would heed his advice.

I have had a hard time heeding.

I feel disoriented. It is as if someone put a mask over my eyes, spun me around, then took the mask off and told me to walk.

Last Tuesday, while getting ready to start my day and chaperone a field trip, I noticed I was still washing off the red stain of the soil we walked on while visiting homes in Kigali. A few days ago I was delivering food to starving families and talking to people with HIV. Now I was preparing to shepherd first graders through a fire station to learn about safety. This felt bewildering. I went to the field trip in a fog.

I want to be able to share meaningful things when asked about Rwanda, but I am overwhelmed by trying to find words that properly capture joy, sadness, hope and despair all at once. Instead, out come words like “good” and “amazing”, which feel lame and weak.  

I want to accurately express to my husband how my heart broke at the exact same time that my soul was lifted. But words fall short, so I find myself staying silent…nothing depicts the whole picture, so I just don’t.

I want to hide in my house, as if I am experiencing some sort of grief, instead of rejoining the world.

When I open my stocked pantry, I feel shame and guilt. Every family we visited received a bag of maize flour, sugar, rice, beans, peanuts and salt. Enough food for a month, and they will likely attempt to stretch it much further. We have a full pantry and will probably still run to the store this week.

I want to be a different, better person. And I find myself thinking about it while staring blankly in a Starbucks line, the irony hitting me like a ton of bricks.

I wish that my children could grasp the sweet hand they were dealt.

Then I think about how my children are just like me. I slept on a bed in a mosquito net, while the families I visited that day slept on dirt.

Before we left, I wrote this on our team Facebook page:

“God has always been at work in Rwanda, and the Rwandan people are making incredible things happen for themselves, as it should be…Pray we remain humble, remembering that God has been at work in Rwanda for a very long time, using Rwandans…We will get to see His work and participate in their journey, but they have got this.”

Why is maintaining this perspective so difficult?

Why do I put this burden on myself when they have God?

I believe that God’s plan involved equipping me to help. So I will straighten myself out and mobilize. Rather than wringing my hands, I will listen to Pastor Fred’s advice and here is what I will do:

I will not focus on what I cannot fix, instead I will encourage and support the ongoing efforts of Rwanda and Africa New Life Ministries. 

Instead of standing at the sink obsessing over why I get to have water, I will smile thinking back to the day we waited for our turn at the water pump. The time spent waiting for water provided women a rare pause from constant manual labor and multitasking. If it has not rained the spout only trickles, so people wait. We witnessed how this small pause made space for community. The ladies chatted and laughed. No doubt they laughed about us… I hope they did. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Lamenting that we have easily accessible water while they do not is useless. So, I will put my resources and time towards providing accessible clean water for others. (Pssst…Living Water International)

Instead of hiding, I will rejoin my community. Rwandans value community. Rwanda’s emphasis on relational living has no doubt played a large role in their ability to move forward post genocide. My team and I will honor that by returning to our own communities. These are people who supported our dream to travel to Africa, made it possible, and then cared for our families while we were gone. These same people will be there to help us process our experience and to encourage us to apply what we have learned here.

I will appreciate my families access to education and medical care. If I mope and spin my wheels about why I get to have those things, it takes from the energy I could use to make those things accessible through sponsorship and sharing the mission of ANLM.

But all of that is a work in progress.

My heart is still grieving the imbalance in this world.  And my soul is also filled with gratitude over experiencing a beautiful new culture and country. But I know I will find a new normal. And that knowledge is in part why I am holding on tight to the tension of feeling shaken and hopeful. I want the part of me that broke to stay broken, but I know that it will heal.

I’m praying for a solid scar.

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.

*************************************************************************

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!!

********************************************************************

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.  

*********************************************************************

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!!

***********************************************************************

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.)

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.

Millie and Phoebe

When we work on the blog together, we tend to become distracted.  This is probably shocking news to no one.  And this could also be the reason our blog finally came together once Katie moved 5 hours away. During one particular “business meeting,”  when we were probably discussing the basics of computer application programming interface, we somehow found ourselves looking up Goldendoodle puppies. We decided Amanda needed a Goldendoodle named Wrigley to pay homage to G.R.’s long time love of the Chicago Cubs (that might have been a ploy to get him to go along with puppy). And over time, we’ve joked about that cute imaginary puppy that would likely never actually exist.  Until…..

A few weeks ago, one of our dear friends discovered some puppies were born. And the puppies were going to be ready for their new homes around Christmas. And there were only two girl puppies left. And if we wanted them, quick decisions were necessary because we weren’t the only people that thought these puppies were cute.  And our friend started dropping texts to Trey and then SOMEHOW those got passed along to G.R….NATURALLY.  And next thing we knew…..all of us adults completely lost our minds and said yes to getting SISTER PUPPIES!

And then we all met up, picked up our puppies and we’ve lived in complete bliss ever since.  JUST KIDDING!

In actuality, the day after Christmas the Smith and Regas families met up in Ranger, Texas to pick up our new Goldendoodle puppies, Millie and Phoebe. Or as we sometimes refer to them, Chaos and Homewrecker. Actually, both girls are super sweet and affectionate.  And both immediately requested a picture together with their new fathers.

Trey and G.R. are thrilled to be adding more girls to their homes! They hope these girls will have strong personalities and lots of feelings.
The fool in this picture smugly believed she just scored the world’s most mellow dog. That’s cute.

Wanting to set appropriate expectations about their new lives right away we took them directly to a Dairy Queen by a gas station and ate on the ground next to a garbage can while clutching them. We should mention, this was after we got kicked out of the DQ for bringing in dogs. The DQ owners apparently don’t understand we have a blog with upwards of 20 followers.

Moments later things went bananas when bees swarmed our children and Amanda learned she was sitting on gum.

We’ve now had the pups in our homes for a week and a half or so.  Personalities have emerged.  The dogs have some quirks. Which, of course they do. Because why would we have normal animals?  We compared puppy notes recently

According to Amanda:

Phoebe enjoys savoring the bitter spray purchased to make her stop chewing on all of the things ever. She longs to eat anything doused with this and now opens her mouth so it can be sprayed directly into her mouth. Now I can only hope the salt from my tears will act as a future chewing repellant after she eats our baseboards.

Phoebe also prefers to sleep in ways that seem horrible and assure the need for an expensive spinal surgery within three years.

And the report from Katie…

Millie, well she holds the title as the first dog or first anything for that matter, that has inspired me to pick up a new morning habit of coffee.  That’s right, I never felt the need to drink it in college, or while teaching, or while raising three small children, or caring for multiple other pets.  But Millie, she didn’t place a high level of importance on the day/night cycle for a bit.  And no matter how close or far away we put her at night, she used that gifted voice to let us know she wasn’t happy about the attempted force of sleep.  Of course, with her stellar puppy-like ability to fall into a peaceful dead-to-the-world slumber during the day, she did not lack for beauty rest.  Just look at her….

In the past week and a half, I “may” have held a family vote one night at dinner to see if any Smiths thought we had made the world’s biggest mistake. Luckily it was a unanimous no. And I’ve possibly thanked my husband for telling me that our family was complete after three children because being up at night for just one week brought back repressed memories of what it was like to have newborn babies in the house and feeling like I’d never run on a schedule or sleep again.  

Thankfully, Smith family life has finally clicked with this sweet little lady, and she’s fallen right in line.  Except when she has the puppy crazies and her head looks like it might spin off her body from the twisting to chew anything on her puppy teeth.  She is quite enamored with her VERY big brother, Tucker.  And Charlie the cat is completely obsessed with her.  Or thinks she’s prey….TBD.

Hey puppy, you see my paw? Watch how it whacks you over and over again!
“Hey Tucker, I love you.” -Millie

Just look at Mosby telling Amanda his initial thoughts on the new family addition.

Stop trying to shame me, Mosby.

And so, it’s entirely possible that The Adventures of Phoebe and Millie will be making quite a few appearances on Sprained Funny Bone. I mean, who doesn’t love cute puppy pics? And we know these puppies are going to be trouble. And what frustrates us with these teensy monsters will be your ticket to mock us. So join us at @sprainedfunnyboneoninsta on Insta, because you are not going to want to miss this hot mess.

 

PUPPIES!!!

Christmas Lights: Someone Help Us

The night after Thanksgiving we decided to check out Christmas lights. The location was 45 minutes away but drew us in with its unique setting: four million lights placed along a 2-mile path through a park.  

What you are about to read is the story of our 2 hour and 45-minute voyage, just to start that 2-mile path. It is a tale of struggle and survival, and ultimately overcoming insurmountable odds to experience the magic of Christmas. As narrated in my head.

……………………………………….

Man, it took 45 minutes to get here!  But that’s totally fine. The memory will be worth it. First Christmas outing of the season! Going to be awesome. I guess we just sit in this line for a minute.  Turning on Christmas music. Yay!

………………………………………..

We have been waiting awhile. None of these cars are moving. It’s fine. I have pretzels. I’ll pull them out if this takes much longer

………………………………………..

Passing the time by playing “Guess the Character.” My six year old just gave clues to describe Dumbo by saying “He’s a boy. He has a very long front tail”, and I was able to restrain myself from giggling. I handled it like a boss. (That’s what she said.)

………………………………………..

Mother. It just dawned on me that porta potties line this road. They knew about the waiting. Dear God. They knew. What have we done?

………………………………………..

Evie has cried, laughed, whined and cried again. All within the last minute.

………………………………………..

We live here now. It’s fine. We will combine Christmas cards and change of address cards. It’s cute when people do that.

………………………………………..

The tone in the car keeps vacillating between joy and Hunger Games

………………………………………..

To use this time wisely, I have mentally devised the perfect house staff. Tony Macelli as our nanny, friend, and confidant, Sookie St. James for the chef, Mr. Belvedere as our butler.

Our driver: David Hasselhoff and the Knight Rider car, KITT

………………………………………..

My family has begun turning on one another. As matriarch, I remain steadfast. I will now role model a positive attitude amidst the negativity

………………………………………..

It will be a cold day in hell before I tell these fools about the pretzels I’m packing.

………………………………………..

If one more version of Jingle Bell Rock comes on, as God is my witness, I will lob this iPhone and its Christmas Pandora station straight at that Snoopy inflatable.  

………………………………………..

Mary gave birth in a barn without an epidural after traversing afar on a donkey while in labor. I can wait in this line.

………………………………………..

I hate Santa.

………………………………………..

My husband just pointed at one lit up house in an otherwise empty subdivision and tried to convince the girls it was the light show. I swear I saw them considering the option of going along with his deception

………………………………………..

I have started choosing people to do life with if we need to form alliances.

My picks:

1: Cargo Van family is my top choice because I am imagining the Von Trapps. The Von Trapps make a fun song out of everyday occurrences and clothes out of anything. They also escape their enemies like a boss. This family will make us matching alliance bandanas from their car seat fabric. 

2: The Christmas group traveling in the Hummer limo because I am not that strong, so I will need a place to rest while the others do whatever happens in an alliance. Plus it probably has a fridge with snacks. No alliance is complete without snacks.

3: The bearded guy in the car with the smashed-up side. We are going to need that kind of grit.

………………………………………..

Santa Baby is on. Again. We get it. You’re seductive

………………………………………..

Common law marriage has now kicked in for anyone sitting in this line that brought a date.  

………………………………………..

Police lights are coming up behind us! A rescue effort! It’s a Christmas miracle!

………………………………………..

The worst has happened. It turns out the police came to create a second lane. People who have not been waiting at all are being allowed to merge in and form a new line. This act has defeated and shattered my husband. Rocked him to his core. He can only whisper “This doesn’t make any sense. None of it makes sense.”

………………………………………..

Christmas music hurts my feelings. Everything is hard. I miss my old life

………………………………………..

This line is moving! Our cars are moving! Sweet mother of all that is holy and pure. We are moving! I will never take not being in line for granted again. I am going to start living my life differently. More generously. You never know when you will be stuck in standstill traffic. We must live every day like this might happen again.

Aw, man these lights are beautiful. Just look at our happy kids. All four of us will always remember the quality family time we set aside tonight to foster family bonding. We nailed this. I love this family. Christmas is the best. 

We are so doing this again next year.

Pinterest Amnesia

I cannot craft. Everything about crafting trips me up. I bought a glue gun a few years ago and nearly lost an eye, and that doesn’t even make sense. Here is what I have to offer craft wise: I will make a batch of margaritas for your crafting party.

Even after eleventeen thousand disastrous crafting ventures, I keep trying. It reminds me of the phenomenon referred to as labor amnesia where one “forgets” the pain of labor. People believe this occurs so we can muster up enough courage to procreate again. I find this idea alarming. If we can forget that we have expelled an entire human out of our body, we probably don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of keeping track of them afterward. However, I do believe in Pinterest amnesia. Pinterest amnesia is a very real (it’s not real) coping mechanism. One that allows us to bury the trauma associated with past Pinterest fails. The shame and regret experienced when Mod Podge ruins our projects and our lives are swallowed up, erased from memory. Allowing us to continue looking at our Pinterest boards with hope. 

Pinterest amnesia is how my  friend Lori can make something like this and still soldier on to pin another day:

img_0972

Her goal was to teach her children the symbolism behind candy canes. And yes, maybe she missed the mark. But if anyone ever needs to know what a tapeworm strangling some licorice looks like, Lori has provided a visual. Thank you, Lori.

Because I have The Pinterest Amnesia, I attempted these three crafts/recipes. Which, by the way, most of you could nail, and I highly recommend. Even though things went wrong during the process, they still ended up kind of cute. Except for that middle one. The way I flubbed that one was to completely forget about it until my 6-year old daughter asked where it was on Thanksgiving. She then teared up after I gave her the news. I gave her a dollar for her therapy jar and sent her on her way.

Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Edible Thanksgiving Turkey Place Card or Centerpiece from firstyearblog.com
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Turkey Fruit Platter from The First Year Blog
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com
Pilgrim Hat Cookies from Sippycupmom.com

We started with the turkey place card holder made with pears. We hit our first glitch straightaway during the first step. I struggled to get the first pear to submit to me and stand up after being halved. After consulting the directions, it came to light that I had not yet read any of the directions. I was not supposed to cut the pear in half because a halved pear cannot balance. I sacrificed the pear for no reason. So we brought in a green apple to act as runner-up to the pear, who was unable to fulfill his role. But there is always a silver lining. We got to watch G.R. confront his texture issues whilst trying to eat a grainy pear.

Then, we faced a grim reality. None of the pears were capable of balancing. The author of the craft had warned of this dilemma and encouraged checking the pears balance potential before purchase, which tells me Walmart grocery pick up is not yet available in her area. I tend to live on the wild side of suburban life, so I let the grocery pick up associate choose my pears. And you know what? I am not even going to call Walmart to complain about the instability of the pears they sell because it is the holiday season. I choose grace. We are over-comers in this house, so we stoically jammed toothpicks up the pears hindquarters to prop them up.

Things went further south because I had gone rogue, deciding against purchasing candy eyes. We already had google eyes in our craft bin, so I decided to practice frugality and save the 98 cents. That left wiggle room to afford the $4,683 worth of fruit the crafts required. Unfortunately, I had failed to factor in the humongous size of the google eyes we owned.

Our turkeys look like they attended a riot just after being tested for glaucoma.

fullsizerender_1

Or maybe they are still reeling from taking a toothpick up the badonk. That seems fair.

But you know what? Making them was fun. We laughed. We spent time together. The kids tried the dried fruit and liked it, allowing me to give a moving soliloquy on the merits of just freaking trying things because you might freaking like them. Yes, my daughters bounced between 14 different emotions during the process, but that’s how everyone acts during the holidays, so I just found them to be festive. And I think crafts are nice during the holidays because they bring me to my knees, a convenient position in which to pray, and that keeps my focus on the actual reason for the season. It’s all beautifully connected.

Someday I will say to our girls, “Remember all the fun we had making those turkey pears? Let’s do that with your kids!” And hopefully, my daughters will look back on the experience fondly and agree wholeheartedly, only recalling when it is too late to turn back how our fingers transformed into bloody stumps from sliding dried fruit on sharp toothpicks. But it will be okay. Because they will be in charge and I am going to laugh at them.

The holidays can feel strikingly similar to navigating a Pinterest craft. A lot of emotional highs and lows. Continually jumping back and forth between having perspective and losing sight of it. Attempting perfection and then being humbled when it is not achieved. One day you might step outside and note that all your neighbor’s homes are lit up like a magical winter wonderland, and then turn and look at the Halloween pumpkins that still adorn your porch. That happened to my friend (me). Hopefully, in the end, we will carry the positive snippets away and forget the rest. We can call that holiday amnesia.

Stay tuned for Christmas crafts. I will make stuff like this fancy replica of a Christmas poke cake. Try to guess which one is mine.

523f7c37-183f-4b42-8bef-14a27b79c7f4

Happy holidays!

 

Back Off Bears

Last June, Katie and I took a trip to Colorado to launch our blog. Our husbands, excited and supportive of us, pushed us to use the time to write and plan while free of children and responsibilities. So we zip lined, ate, drank, hiked, ate, rafted, and drank all week and started our blog 6 months later. These things can’t be rushed we explained.

While we were on the mountain I was absolutely convinced we were going to be eaten by bears. It really seemed likely. Rather, given our collective life experiences and general personality traits it felt entirely unavoidable. And the best advice people have for bear confrontations is to look tall and speak loudly. This is useless, I am always 5’4. On my tiptoes I can aim for a questionable 5’5, but I will never “look tall”. That’s not even a thing. But I am quite loud, and in this situation that becomes a coveted life skill, which is kind of nice and flattering. But flattery was going to get me nowhere, so I just accepted that this was how I was going to die.

image1

As we walked through the mountains I was on high alert. But time passed and I began thinking: what is this strange feeling? I don’t recognize this sensation. I figured out I was relaxed. Immediately I knew this meant an attack was imminent, probably underway. I had grown complacent. I needed to step it up, scan the periphery. So I scanned and looked for a black bear.. or a grizzly bear.  For all I knew, it could have been a Berenstain Bear, because I had no actual clue what I was looking for, but I was certain that when our eyes locked it would become clear to both of us. All of my senses were heightened while my eyes darted around.

Which was unfortunate, because the exact moment that I realized I had dropped bear duty (I’m not fixing that sentence because it’s just such a glorious happy accident) and decided to buckle down, Katie gasped. Loudly.

She gasped in a way that one should ONLY gasp if one of the following is occurring:

1) You have caught on fire.

2) You just gathered yourself after tripping badonk over noggin on top of a bear cub, only to stand up and find the mother “looking tall” and looming over you while making a Chewbacca noise.

3) You realized the guy you didn’t fully understand in India circa 1999, but said yes to anyway, is now putting a monkey on your head and taking a picture, which is apparently a thing they do to idiot tourists, and then when you’re all “Listen, I do not need a monkey on my head, nor did I ask for one,” they fight you on it. Then you are out money because you know you can’t explain what happened to the Indian police, who have now been alerted, and while you know the police understand what happened, there is a vibe of solidarity amidst the monkey guy and the police forged upon the fact that they both agree you are an idiot. And traveling to foreign countries to help forge common bonds among people is nice, so you pay the money. And your friend does get the picture, so even though you have a monkey disease now, you also have a picture marking the moment you learned that you can get a passport and go on a religion class field trip to India, but it does not make you worldly. And your life is now divided into the part before the monkey was on your head and your new life afterward.

10291097_10152733270007360_1886496954809836869_n

(Note: Let’s talk about my people pleasing tendencies another time, shown above through my forced smile.)

So, Katie gasped and I swear to you on all that is holy and pure and right in this world, the adrenaline surge that swept through my body could have powered a small city.  During those  seconds I made plans to befriend the bear, and for my funeral and became excited about how I would finally be on the cover of People. When I thought about my funeral I knew exactly which friends would be laughing over how I had died, and I contemplated how much I liked them for that fact alone. I also knew that I wanted The Fray to sing “Be Still”. And I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit of a let down that I didn’t die so The Fray won’t be singing at my funeral, but I take solace in knowing that even had I died, The Fray do not know me and would definitely not have sung at my funeral. Thank God for small favors.

So I looked over at Katie, ready to face my fate. And she was gazing happily at a deer that had frolicked upon us. Or an elk, or a caribou, or a marmot, one can not really know. Here is what I do know, it was not a bear and we did not die.

The End.