Friday, August 28, 2009

Beyond the Busy

It's over. Summer came and went and was glorious. The heat will persist for a good month or two, but the freedom to flap about like a clothes-lined shirt won't be back for another nine months.

The resurgence of busy has worn me slap out, like jumping from a 5K to a marathon within a week. Even though we homeschool, our days are not typically spent on field trips and nature walks...much as I would like that. We have schedules and obligations much like the rest. Couple that with a little teaching on the side, my first gig in 2 1/ 2 years.

Once an activities addict, I now run from obligation and responsibility as if it will trigger relapse. Never very savvy with taking life "one day at a time," I look at Fall in its entirety and want to make like a bear. Hibernation sounds nice. And quiet.

I'm learning to find quiet in unconventional ways. Quiet is a state of mind. And a gift. More and more I'm caught day-dreaming. More and more stealing scraps of time to run off with book and journal until the tiny, pajama-clad troops come knocking.

Busy-ness is toxic. Manning says, Our controlled frenzy creates the illusion of a well-ordered existence. We move from crisis to crisis, responding to the urgent and neglecting the essential.

I do. Neglect the essential that is. I misplace my identity in the busy. The only good and true me. The one my Father calls Beloved. Desperation drives me toward reassurance.

Moving "from crisis to crisis" looks different for everyone. For me it's spilled milk and a crying toddler; a sad friend and late-night prep work; balancing it all and a too-tight budget; accepting the melancholy and simply responding to the immediate.

He is showing me though, that there is life beyond the busy. A life of calm and peace, elusive though it is on any given day. When my eyes suddenly get wet and my nerves quake, when it is too loud and too much, I beg for stillness and He tells me who I am.

Crises still come like waves upon the shore, but there is peace.


How do you find still amid the busy?

Friday, August 21, 2009

From Field to Fairway

My neighborhood is a former cow pasture. A few homes have backyards with trees and shade. We do not. Instead we have a near-acre lot and not a single tree, save for those lining the back of the property.

And because I swing toward the ungrateful end of the spectrum, I have long lamented the treeless field known as my backyard.

How will we ever afford to properly landscape? What in the world are we going to do with all this? It takes forever to mow. I wish we had a lot like _______.

I envisioned clusters of oaks and hydrangeas, surrounding a grandiose swing-set-tree-house thing. Maybe a DIY water-feature outlined with flag-stone. An in-ground pool...because it is hot here for so long and a girl can dream. I have long been discontent with the field, too much resembling its former cow-pasture existence.

Southern Living will mess you up like this.

But something happened over the summer that shook the discontent right out of me.

Five-year-old Brownie took up golf.

And by "took up" I mean hours-a-day of driving, chipping, and putting, even in the 100-degree Southern heat and humidity. Last week I rolled out of bed only to find him out there in the field, club in hand, ankles slathered with the wet grass his sneakers had christened before 7:30. He forgets to eat, forgets to drink, forgets time itself out there in that field.

Conversations are now peppered with words like rough, par, 7-iron, eagle, and chipping wedge. He talks about Tiger, Phil, and Lucas as if they're the neighbor kids. He dreams of being great like them.


Daddy, how many years has Tiger Woods been practicing?

Buddy, you need to go to sleep.

But how many years?

Oh, about 25. (just throwing out a number)


Then I'm gonna practice 26.


His technique and skill are intuitive, so I've been told.

And so, the field has become a par 3. The Man mowed a fairway and green, topping off the design with a regulation cup and flag that cost $20, pretty cheap by landscaping standards.

It's not what I'd envisioned for my lot. But my vision is rarely in keeping with His, the One who created a little boy with brown, curly hair and a passion for golf. A boy who could sure use a wide-open space for hours every day to hone his skills.

Too often, my vision is impaired. My narrowly-focused eyes don't see the gift I'm smack in the middle of.

I watch the boy all day long through the back-of-the-house windows, his resolve inspiring...

And I'm more grateful than ever for a God who saves me from what I think I want.*


Linked up with Melissa at The Inspired Room (A Beautiful Life Friday.)

Also linked up (later) with Emily at Chatting at the Sky (Tuesdays Unwrapped.)


*Last sentence paraphrased from an article by Kathryn Donovan Wiegand, "Childrearing Interlude" in Finding God at Harvard. "Thank God, who saves us from what we think we want" are Wiegand's words...they have become an oft-used mantra for me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Price My Space: Master Bedroom

The Nester's having another Price My Space party and I decided, very last-minute-like, to join in. On a whim I tidied up my bedroom today, dusting and all. This was because I was so depressed by the general state of affairs regarding the rest of the house. Sometimes I just pick the easiest task to complete, simply to feel better. Sort of like writing stuff on your to-do list that you've already done just so you can cross it off and feel productive. Not that I'd know about that.

I won't go into great detail on my bedroom. If you want the low-down on this room's Nester-inspired makeover, go here.

Picture 1: Bed & Bedding, Night-Stands, Decor

TOTAL: $290-ish for everything you see in that picture (including a headboard, but excluding the mattress) and accumulated over 9 years.

King-size headboard: $59 at Pottery Barn outlet 4 or 5 years ago. No lie.
Bedding: $50 king comforter 8 years ago; $20 king duvet 2 years ago (plus 2 shams not shown); king chenille shams $1.50 each at Old Time Pottery; mattelasse coverlet and shams ($20 - $25 at K-Mart 8 or 9 years ago and swiped from Cupcake's nursery); throw pillows: square one free from my mom; bolster pillow $7-ish 8 or 9 years ago at T.J. Maxx...also swiped from the nursery.
Above-bed decor: $5 for all the plates (shopped the house and thrift stores); $2 shelf at a garage sale 8 years ago; $5 or less for candle holders, candle, and starfish.
Night-stands / Bookshelves: $50 each at Wal-Mart 2 years ago (not the best quality but what we needed and could afford.)
Lamps: $5 each 4 years ago at Target on clearance.
Botanical prints: Free (crazy-old frames I spray-painted; botanical prints free from The Vintage Moth.)
Bridal portrait: a sweet and generous gift from my parents.
Other Accessories on night-stands: $5 or less.


Picture 2: LOVE Wall

TOTAL: $80-ish

I scored everything you see here from a clearance rack, thrift store, Hobby Lobby, or my own personal stash.


Picture 3: Pottery Barn Sumatra Chifferobe

TOTAL: less than $400 at Pottery Barn outlet and the love of my life.

I dreamed of this perfect piece for a good 3 years before the outlet had one (a little scratched) at just the right price. Lucky for me, we just happened to have the money for it at the time. Those days are long gone but I'm sure glad I have this piece. It will last forever and is super-functional and versatile...

Plus it hides our 1990 T.V.


Picture 4: Office Nook

TOTAL: $65-ish (not including very old computer...which we already had.)

Diploma Frames: $5, mats included, from Dollar General (of all places); $10-ish memo board from 8 years ago; set of 3 prints FREE from The Vintage Moth; IKEA frames also free (from my sister.)


Picture 5: Random Wall


$2 shelves from PB outlet years ago and spray-painted black; candle holder /vases free from my sister's wedding; free prints ripped out of a thrift store art book I had sitting around; $1 frames; 50-cent pears from thrift store; trunk was The Man's from college.


Picture 6: The Nester's Bird Cage

TOTAL: Free!

Yep, I scored that sweet little bird cage from her swap-meet a week-and-a-half ago...and I didn't even know it was hers until after I got it. It's the perfect memento.

And there you have it. This room comes in at around $850, including all furniture except our mattress. Oh, and I forgot to talk about my mistreatments but you can read about those here. They were nearly free.

I'd just like to mention something before I go. If you have builder beige walls and little to no decorating budget, a monochromatic look may be the way to go. In my case, I simply layered whites, creams, and taupes. You don't have to worry about matching everything up. You can paint existing or thrift-store furniture black or white and it will all look great together. It wouldn't have been my first choice but it's what I had.

As it turned out, I LOVE IT! It's soothing and restful and quiet...all of which this crazy mom could use a bit more of.

And ya'll, just to keep it real...the rest of my house is so trashed right now, you would just die if you saw it. And this is why I'm going to march directly into that serene master bedroom and shut the door.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Week of Wrong

A week of wallowing in wrong-doing, that's what it's been. Nothing earth-shattering or illegal. Just one of those days that turned into six in which I have violated the myriad commandments I set up for myself. A house of cards really. At 36, I should know that by now.

Nonetheless I painstakingly build it back up, time and again. And then I'll have a week of utter demolition, just to get the rebellion and laziness out of my system. Or maybe it's just the tiredness and melancholy settling into their familiar spaces. Sometimes I have the where-with-all to boot them out before they get comfy. And then there are the weeks like this one in which I've welcomed them in, fixed a round of drinks, and propped the ottoman under their feet.

Ate chocolate for breakfast on Monday and Thursday, which I rationalized was better than no breakfast at all, which is what happened on the other days.

Plucked away at my laptop during school hours (a big no-no) and then mistook their neglect as inattention and disobedience.

Taught the older two how to make coffee so they could serve me for a change...which they have done the past two mornings with great pride and delight, guilt washing over me as they gushed with goodwill and I with entitlement.

Gave Cupcake a half-eaten chocolate bar because he can now open drawers where I hide stuff {which I will likely never childproof} and lucky for him, I was having a weak moment.

Purposely did not set my alarm to get up and run because I knew I wouldn't feel like it and decided to just nip failure in the bud the night before. Better to end the day in failure than start that way, that's what I say.

Spent far too much time on the computer or in a book or chasing any mindless distraction instead of folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen...or cleaning anything at all.

Threw stuff in the trash out of pure laziness instead of nobly recycling it as usual.

Forgot to return DVD's to the library and now owe $21.20. Not an intentional crime but also not my first fine. I'm going to consider myself a philanthropist. The next Carnegie.

Haven't read to the kids before bedtime a single night.

That's the short list, just the stuff you can see and touch and not even all or the worst of it. The internal negligence and wanderings have been far more consequential.

And with every violation of "law," every personal failure, I am more and more filled with guilt and self-loathing. More and more aware that I am not so together. Not so good at being mommy. Not so supportive as a wife. Not worth much at all.

Disheartened and guilt-ridden, I crawl the One who bids me come. The One who does not let me stay in my seemingly-forsaken state forever. I find comfort and rest for today. I realize...again...that I am not the first to do what I do not want to do and to not do what I want to do.

I cling desperately, perspiring and the knowledge that I am wildly loved. "Not in spite of my sin and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them..." {Brennan Manning}

So I load up my brokenness and broken laws...again...and dump them in a heap at the foot of the One who can put me back together.

As He had done before. And is doing now. And will likely do again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


August 7th marked one year since the first post on this here little blog, A La Mode. To celebrate, I got myself a new header. Kate & Heather over at Smitten Blog Designs hooked me up. I got one of their free blog templates some time ago {they have a GREAT selection by the way} but wanted to customize it bit more. The header photo is one of my very own, a yummy vignette from my Paris trip several years ago with Lily. I smile and sigh every time I see it.

{I apologize in advance for any resulting weight-gain that comes from reading my you will likely crave profiteroles every time you view that header.}

I've been a blogger for a couple of years now but my original blog was just family, a way to keep far-away loved ones updated with our goings-on. I wanted something more though. Like a lot of women these days, I had thoughts to share and figured a blog of my own would be the best place to park them.

I had no bloggy aspirations. Honestly, it seemed like an efficient way to communicate with real-life friends. Recipes, frugal tips, funny stories, before & after's, great philosophical revelations...they could all find a home on my blog.

And that's just the sort of randomness you've been privy to at A La Mode for the past year. It's proven to be a delightful and much-needed creative outlet for this stay-at-home mom of three.

I didn't plan to be a writer here. I just wanted whatever I wrote about to be presented well. And I certainly didn't plan to bare my soul. Yet I have. Posts like Voices and To Thine Own Self be True surprised me as much as anyone. So I've been thinkin'...and lately I've wondered if I found my blog or if my blog found me. Clearly, I have evolved in this space. Part of me that had lain dormant for years has come alive. And that is both scary and exciting.

So you may see some subtle changes around here, changes that reflect some of that refining and defining I mentioned in my last post. Feeling free to be me is no small thing for a people pleaser like myself. But I didn't start this blog to appeal to the masses. I started it for one person. Moi. I didn't know or care about things like followers or site-meters or subscribers. Even now, the last thing I need is external pressure on a very unrequired part of my life. Because for me, when something is required it ceases to be fun.

A La Mode has been a blessing. I've "met" some amazing women who I never would have known existed otherwise. The joy of cyber-friends came as quite a surprise, seeing as how I'd never darkened the door of a chat-room and thought meeting people on-line was just plain weird, even dangerous. So you can imagine how meeting the Nester and Emily {and so many others} at the Nester's swap-meet last Saturday was simply the icing on my anniversary cake. And every single one of these ladies is even sweeter in real life. Seriously.

While I started this blog with my own intentions, I'm beginning to realize that even little endeavors, like blogs, are subject to Someone Else's plans. And that means I don't exactly know where things are headed...but I'm certainly up for the adventure.

So to all of you who read my blog--family, real-life friends, bloggy friends, and lurkers--thank you. If you've never said hello, please do! We bloggers heart comments almost as much as we love blogging.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Know Thyself, Know Thy Blog

This week Emily posted a 2-part series on refining your blog. And if you haven't checked it out, you need to.

In part one she asked readers why they blogged. My own comment to that question was a blog post in itself. I feel like I need to pay rent on the memory space my comments take up over there. {I always get a bit chatty over at Chatting at the Sky.} Why do I blog? It's a question I've asked myself many times and have yet to articulate well or definitively.

In part two she provided questions to ask oneself, questions that help refine one's bloggy purpose.

I struggled to answer every. single. question. They were not difficult questions, but they were nearly impossible for me, which posed yet another question. Why? Why are questions that get to the heart of who I am and what makes me tick, questions pertaining to why I do the things I do so hard for me to answer? Why have they always been hard for me to answer?

I have my own ideas about that one and while I am a pretty open person on my blog and in the comments I leave on others' blogs, I certainly don't share everything. And the complicated answer to that one is still being worked out privately. As it should be.

But in a nutshell, I think I can't answer what should be simple questions because that would require really knowing myself well. And I'm not sure that I do yet. I know who I have wanted to be at various stages of my life. I know who I have been in the past. I know who others would like me to be. I know who I'm not.

But I'm still neck-deep in the trenches of figuring out who I am.

Look at my blog's tag-line for crying out loud. "A little scoop for every slice of life." Hi, Avoidance called and thinks your blog is perfect. That tag-line is code for, "I don't want to be pinned down, pigeon-holed, or defined. I want to be a little bit of everything to everybody. I am a people-pleaser extraordinaire." To echo Miss Whitney, "I'm every woman."

But I'm not. I want to be. And that simply cannot be.

My Maker did not make me to be. I just wish he would have sent a Certificate of Authenticity or Instruction Manual upon my arrival. Figuring it out on my own is painful and exhausting.

Emily's questions made me swallow hard. Maybe it's because deep down I do know the answers {sort of} to some of those questions and answering truthfully forces me to accept realities I wish were otherwise.

Defining my blog? It's a good thing to do. It's something I resolve to do.

But I've got to define myself first. And that may take some time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Skateland

At the age of 8, I was a roller-skating queen. I didn't realize it at the time. Roller-skating was just something we did back then and I guess I went rather often. I remember flying 'round the rink with my friends, Beat It pulsing through the staticky speakers. I could stop on a dime or spin around into the coveted backwards-skate position, which was important for couple-skate songs like Ebony & Ivory.

When I was 10 we moved far away and I didn't skate much anymore. The last time I was at a skating rink was probably at some point in college, a decade-and-a-half ago.

That all changed two days ago.

In the midst of a busy back-to-school schedule and a stressed-out me, I had to squeeze in a birthday party at the skating rink. And though I needed to do other, more important, very grown-up tasks, I begrudgingly hauled Blondie and Brownie to a party at the Skateland instead.

{A word here about Southern grammar. We love to modify places like Wal-Mart, Goodwill, and in this case, Skateland, with unnecessary articles like "the." And we also make them possessive sometimes, just for good measure. i.e. The Wal-Mart's has bananas on sale this week or I got this cute shirt at the The Goodwill.}

So Monday, I took us to The Skateland.

I quickly decided that every American skating rink hired the same design team. And that design team did all their work in 1979 and retired. Permanently.

The same black carpet, at some places damp and in other places crusty, dotted with glow-in-the-dark neon stars. The carpet-covered benches, worn clean through on the edges. The faded yellow, chipped-formica countertops in the less-than-sanitary bathroom. Brown steel doors that buzz when they let you in, sort of like prison. Not to mention the absence of windows. Evidently natural light is a major design faux-pas for skating rinks. It might distract from the flickering purple fluorescent bulbs overhead, reminiscent of giant bug zappers or Frankenstein's lair.

I also decided that The Skateland's employment application said something along the lines of: Those without smoker's voices need not apply. And let's not even discuss the harsh reality of rental skates. Not enough Purell in the world is sufficient.

The Monday afternoon crowd was a pretty harmless one. Mostly kids and a few moms. But there were several characters who did not disappoint. They exist, in one form or another, in skating rinks around the country. The folks who have spent way too much time here. The couple-skating duo, for example...he with a Confederate flag t-shirt that read Bad Ass on the back. The teenager in the middle of the rink doing twirls of various elevations, daring anyone to hold a candle to his mad roller skills. He looked like Napoleon Dynamite doing his famous finale dance...on roller skates.

The birthday party was for kids. Moms were there as taxis and chaperones. But something about that lacquered wooden rink beckoned me close, a siren call not heard since the early 80's. So I paid the three bucks, was buzzed in, and stifled my gag reflex as I donned the tan skates. I thought to myself, Will I fall? What if I outgrew my skills? I might break something.

But as my wheels touched the rink, all fear and trepidation evaporated. My moves came back in no time. The spin, the backwards skate, the speed. I relished every moment, the musty Skateland breeze whipping through my hair as I flew past those of inferior skill, clearly deserving the title that emblazoned the back of my Confederate pal's tee.

Blondie was stunned. In her eyes, I had instantly morphed into a skating-mommy-super-hero. She and all her friends held my hands as we giggled around the rink together, me feeling dizzy and giddy as I channelled my inner-8-year-old.

Eventually the party wrapped up and our fun came to an end. As we shuffled out to the parking lot, brown steel door buzzing closed behind us, I felt like Cinderella after the ball.

Mommy, why didn't you tell me you could skate like that?

It was as if I had withheld the key to unlocking some magical secret. And in a strange and unexpected way, I had withheld something. The key to letting go of my grown-up inhibitions and pressing preoccupations. Living in the moment, letting go of my fears, being a was the most fun I'd had in a long time.

Who knew that a pair of vintage, sweat-infused roller skates and a dated roller rink was my ticket?

Mommy, I think we need to go to the skating rink more often.

I couldn't agree more.


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