Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just a Slice


This post is part of a contest to win a scholarship to She Speaks, a women’s conference by Proverbs 31 Ministries. She Speaks is for aspiring speakers, writers, and ministry leaders who desire to learn how to “make the most of their messages, the nuts and bolts of speaking, writing, leading, and influencing.” Lysa is offering anyone the opportunity to win one of three Cecil Murphy scholarships to attend She Speaks for FREE. Click here for all the details. Even if you're not aiming for the scholarship but you'd like to go, hurry and register. The conference is filling up fast.

I hope to see you there!

{My post is longish. I apologize.}


My favorite people have always been the ones who tell stories. Spin a good tale and I will love you forever. My granddaddy was the first great storyteller I knew, his voice the perfect blend of Georgian drawl and impeccable grammar. I don’t even remember the actual stories; I just know that almost everything he said seemed as if it were part of one and I could never stop listening.

I am not a great storyteller, not in the epic or even ordinary sense; I just have a deep and abiding love for words. A friend recently said to me, Words are your friends. You really have a way with them. I floated on that compliment for days, buoyed by the hope that I might one day find a place among real writers.

As a schoolgirl, I endured math and science but relished spelling and vocabulary. I delighted in Greek mythology and history and the eccentric teachers who taught me to love them. In retrospect, it’s no real surprise that I settled on history as my trade. History, at its best and purest, is simply great story-telling.

Years later, I made my way through graduate school and visualized the book I would write once I became a bona fide historian. I had one requirement: it needed to be someone's story.

But the wonderful arrival of my firstborn heralded the beginning of the end of some of those book-writing dreams, which was just fine. I was overjoyed to be a mother. In the meantime, my academic dreams faded to gray. The story about slavery and freedom and against-the-grain Southern folk was shelved. In its place sat chronicles of motherhood and sleep-deprivation and survival...and of course the unspeakable joy that children bring.

In the midst of it all, writing took a backseat and I moved to the classroom. For the next five years I taught American History to college kids and served as a tour guide for a humble, nineteenth-century church founded by Southern abolitionists. I loved what I did...the teaching, the storytelling, the audience.

I didn’t know how much I missed writing until I left career and came home three years ago. That hard-wrought homecoming was just as much figurative as it was literal. In coming home, the layers piled on by performance and pretense began to peel away.

I began to write again and it home.

Through writing, I've begun to find myself {and yes, I do know how cliché that sounds.}

Writing is where I go when I can’t make sense of life, which is often. Writing comforts me in times of fear, anxiety, and confusion. It celebrates with me in times of blessing.

Writing reconciles me to my reality.

My stories these days are not so much stories as they are “vignettes,” a vocabulary word I still remember from the 12th grade, meaning slice of life.

A slice is about all I can eke out on most days. I write about motherhood and home, life and faith. I'm honest about my journey as a contemplative mommy with no place but a laptop and journal to bare her over-thinking self. I owe a lot to my word-friends; writing has saved me thousands of dollars in therapy, something I remind my husband of when everyone has run out of clean underwear...again.

But there's more to it than just the free therapy. While motherhood is sacred and a mission in itself, there are other causes dear to my heart, issues I can’t stop thinking about, stories that need to be told. If "the pen is mightier than the sword," I long to embrace writing as a form of activism, to lend a voice on behalf of those who cannot.

As for a book, maybe one day. The dream is still there. But for now, I've just got some stories….and some causes that I believe may need a mommy crusader, a word-wielding swashbuckler who just happens to drive a minivan.

My skills, however, could use some coaxing and coaching. I need help with things like finding my voice, maintaining continuity, telling the story powerfully, knowing my audience, the "nuts and bolts" stuff. I have so much to learn! That’s where She Speaks comes in. This is the third year I’ve longed to go. It seems like a perfect place to hone one’s writing within a context of encouragement and faith.

I sincerely hope this post will land me there, but even if it doesn’t, it always feels good to tell a little slice of my own story.

What becomes of it all...well, those pages have yet to be written.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Adventures of Broccoli

I'm watching them more these days, intentionally stopping my always-important business to just inhale the "mundane" moments that appear when I least expect them. To forget the multiplying mess my table displays. To focus instead upon the play encircling its borders during a Monday lunch.

The personification of broccoli? Really? Have they been doing this stuff all along and I was too busy to notice?

As green florets played freeze tag around the plate before landing on the Ranch-dressing "base," the pony-tail shape of one stalk reminded Blondie of a poem she memorized and then promptly recited to the broccoli audience...with brother's help. {I didn't even know he was listening all those days long ago she spent learning it.}

As for Cupcake, he laughed with delight in between mouthfuls of peanut butter and repeated every word they said.

I just watched. And laughed. And felt the fullness of gratitude well up inside. And then I got my camera.

It won't always be this messy...or this imaginative.

Life bursts forth, like Spring, into every nook and cranny of this season in my life. I'd simply been too much of a grown-up to let go and watch it unfold, too caught up in hurrying and scurrying and tasking...seeing the act of lunch as a chore to complete rather than a sight to behold. Funny what happens when you're not looking.

{And I hereby declare that it is forever okay, constructive even, to play with one's food. Couple that with the not making beds or folding laundry from last week and I am well on my way to mayhem.}


Monday, March 15, 2010

From Laundry to Literacy

I dream of having various reading nooks tucked away in our home. You've likely seen them in magazines or scattered about the blogosphere: cozy window seats with well-dressed children perched atop designer-fabric-covered cushions, overstuffed chairs in a clutter-free corner with natural light streaming over the pages of Robinson Crusoe.

The stuff of dreams to be sure...or so I thought.

Yesterday Brownie was undeterred by a pile of laundry atop the furniture, too taken with a good story to be bothered by all the undone surrounding him. I sighed with lament that I cannot even keep our sofas clear of junk, that there is no special place for my little readers to get cozy.

Apparently I'd overlooked this particular "nook." Brownie paused from his story and said, Mommy, this sure is a comfy place to read a book. He is my hero, ever the optimistic and grateful soul.

As for Blondie, she found my unmade bed and messy bedroom just perfect.

Sometimes it pays not to fold your laundry or make your bed.



The winner of the Padalily giveaway is: stash mama
Congratulations! And thanks to all for entering.
Don't forget to usecode SCOOP to get 20% off the Padalily of your choice.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Glimpses of Home: Busy Birdcage

A sweet friend recently surprised me with the loveliest pedestal birdcage. I directed her sister's wedding and she thanked me in birdcage. It's so lovely. I can't tell you how much I love it.

I decided to paint it blue and put it in my living room. It's basically the only thing in our very-lived-in room that has no functional value other than prettiness. A girly spectacle that houses moss, a fake nest, and a chippy ceramic bird.

I should have known the bird would have a flurry a friends just an hour later.

Nothing here is sacred...

Or perhaps everything is.



Don't forget to enter the Padalily giveaway. Winner announced Monday!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's a Giveaway!

Giveaway extended until Monday, March 15th. Check out this video to see the Padalily in action {and for a good laugh!}


Hello Padalily.

You are clearly one of the coolest products ever invented. My arms and back wish they'd had you to ease the load when they toted baby Blondie and baby Brownie around in those cumbersome infant car seats oh-so-many years ago.

I tried to hold the car seat in the crook of my arm. Really, I did. I know it's better for a new mommy's tummy and back. I know it allows a new mom's hands to be free for other things like diaper bags and holding their bigger kids' hands. But my arms are wimpy and I gave up, forced to carry the car seat by my side as it slammed into my legs with each step. By the time I reached the church nursery each Sunday, I felt like I'd been through war.

Where were you then, Padalily?

All of my friends who had babies pre-Padalily are jealous. Clearly, you are the superior baby shower gift. And when I give you away at a shower, all of the other gifts are sulking in the corner amid the discarded gift bags and curly ribbon. Boppy feels old and deflated. Hooded towel knows she will always be important but wishes she was made of gorgeous fabric like you. Even the monogrammed onesies, so tiny and timeless, are no match for you, Padalily.

You are the perfect gift, a plush and stylish pad that wraps around the handle of an infant car seat. You are arm candy for mommies and eye candy for babies. You are my go-to baby gift, easy to wrap, easy to ship, easy to give, and easily the favorite gift of any mother lucky enough to unwrap one.

Your designer fabrics cause me to swoon and that amazing foam stuffed in between your gorgeous and colorful prints makes me wish you were the size of a mattress. I long to take a nap and dream of you right now.

Coco Blue, I love you.
Coco Blue-

Retro Camo, I would follow you into battle.
Retro Camo-

Divine Damask, heavenly.
Divine Damask-

Kashmir Karat, there are no words.
Kashmir Karat-

I love you even more because you were invented by Lily Winnail, an amazing mom who was tired of her bruised arm and brought you to life at her sewing machine during baby's nap-time. Now she juggles three kids, a home, and a full-time business run out of her guest room.

Thank goodness she no longer juggles an awkward-to-hold car seat and an ice-pack to soothe her sore arm.

She knows that moms juggle enough things as it is.
An infant car seat shouldn't be one of them.

So, A La Mode readers unite! I beg you, for the love of mommies, save their arms one Padalily at a time. Helping a new mom out has never been so easy...or so stylish.

So click on over to the Padalily site and get shopping. And because Lily is so generous and just happens to be my best friend, she's offering us a sweet deal: 20% off your order! Just enter the promo code SCOOP when you check out. There's also an amazing sale this week only: buy one Padalily, get one half off!

So go ahead, buy 40. You have my permission.

And when you no longer have your infant car seat, you can use the Padalily to cushion the handles of your green bags or the shoulder straps of duffels or large totes. You can wrap it around seat belts or use it as a little bolster pillow for your older kiddos when they fall asleep in their car-seats.

To be entered for a chance to win a free one, just leave a comment and let us know if you've ever heard of or seen the Padalily before this post. You can even tell us which one you'd pick if chosen as the lucky winner. I'll randomly select a name from the comments on Monday, March 15th. Giveaway closes at noon EST on Monday the 15th. The winner will get to choose the Padalily of her choice, compliments of Lily.

Be sure to provide a way I can contact you {blog or an e-mail address in your comment.}

You can also follow Padalily on Facebook. You'll be the first to know of new designs, sales, and the latest Padalily buzz. This helps spread the word to all your friends and it only takes 10 seconds. Lily greatly appreciates it!

Good luck my friends...and may the mom with the heaviest baby win!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Boxing up the Bows

Nine years ago I gave birth to a 7 pound, 9 ounce bundle of baby girl.

She was born March 2nd. By March 3rd she had a bow in her hair, a little parcel of pink yarn tied into a bow and stuck to her newborn head with a smidgen of gel.

Her birth ushered in pink-colored visions of tulle and patent-leather Sunday shoes. I clipped teeny tiny barrettes into her fine baby locks and squeezed chubby toddler legs into ruffle-bottomed tights for church.

All along the way I've relished every part of little girldom. Years later I can still recall each outfit, each pair of little shoes, each special occasion...and the hair-bow that commemorated it.

For years we've had an entire bathroom drawer devoted to the housing of bows and ribbons, bows she no longer wears but that I couldn't bear to put away.

About a month ago I realized it had been well over a year since a bow had graced her thick, blonde hair. I knew the time would come when we'd say goodbye to bows but these kinds of transitions are not the sort we celebrate with pomp and circumstance.

I'd put off the task for months, preferring to keep my emotions closed up in a dark place just like the hair-bows. But on a random Thursday evening I finally got up the courage to do the unthinkable and the inevitable:

I boxed up the bows.

Giant tears plopped into the drawer, mingling with the polka-dots on the brightly colored grosgrain ribbon. Clearly, I have a hard time letting go.

I struggle to relinquish her to the passing days and the changes that come as little girls grow into bigger girls. She thinks it's silly that I cry over the loss of each baby tooth and she certainly didn't miss a step when I cleaned out her bow drawer. Rather, she was thrilled to have more space for her growing collection of earrings and nail polish.

She fixes her own hair now. I bite my tongue when I see that her pony-tails are crooked. I watch her admire older girls and try not to notice as she fiddles in the bathroom with new hairstyles that are a bit more modern and grown-up. I suppress a giggle as I count numerous bobby pins and clips she uses to hold her big-girl hairstyles in place.

I wish I'd never begrudged a single moment of hurrying to fix her hair so we wouldn't be late for stuff I can't even remember now. I think of all the times I quickly brushed through her tangles while she said Ouch! and I felt annoyed. I think of the countless moments I twisted rubber bands to secure her braids or clipped a hair-bow in without a second thought, unaware that those days would be gone in a flash.

Saturday was her birthday party. I took her and a couple of her friends roller skating, followed by pizza, cake, crafts, incessant giggling and much nail polish. As she got ready for the big event, she asked, Mommy, can you help me get the tangles out and blow-dry my hair? You're better at it than I am.

I jumped at the chance. And it probably comes as no surprise that I fought back tears as I brushed and dried, brushed and dried, the trivial becoming ceremonial as I fixed my girl's hair...even though there wasn't a hair-bow in sight.



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