Friday, May 31, 2013


It's been a little over a month since I declared to all the world that I planned to train for and complete a sprint triathlon. Considering it was a decision made (and boldly proclaimed) with about eleven minutes' thought, I'm proud of the progress I've made so far. Check out my Month of May Badassery (TM):

That's right-- I worked out on 18 days. EIGHTEEN!! And this wasn't a particularly 'easy' month...we were out of town for 3 days, had out-of-town guests for another 4 days, I was too ill to work out for probably 4 days...and still, 18 days of workouts!! I don't want to come across as bragging, because that's not the intent. It's more that I feel like I spend a lot of time thinking (if not writing) about what my body can't do: get pregnant, be skinny, resist brownies (perhaps some of these are related?), fit into clothes that fit last summer (yikes) yeah. I'm trying to be intentional about remembering to celebrate the things I/it can do: like work out 18 times (and some of those days had more than one workout!) in a month!

I looked back at some of the 'obstacles' I foresaw myself having back in April when I declared myself Planning to do a Tri. Some of them remain. Some of them have been obliterated! Let's check in:

1. I hate running. Like really really hate it. This is bad because at the end of this triathlon, there's a 5k. AFTER you swim 1/2 a mile and bike 14. So hating running is going to have to go.-- I still hate running. But I do it (sometimes) anyway, and I'm getting faster. But it doesn't mean I like it any better.

2. I'm scared of riding bikes and don't own one. Minor detail. It's not really that I'm scared of riding, it's that I'm scared of riding near cars. So I need to find places to ride that aren't near cars. And also find a bike. -I got a bike (mountain bike) and enjoy riding it a lot more than I thought I would. It's definitely my go-to workout and I actually feel cranky if a few days go by and I haven't had a chance to ride...didn't see THAT coming! And I ride near cars! I won't say I love that part of it (I try to find roads and trails with as little traffic as possible), but I try hard to be brave...and wear a helmet. Last weekend I even crossed 316! (A big 65 mph divided highway)

This was my workout last night-- look, 12 miles! I know that's not particularly impressive to 'real' bikers, but it is to it's on a mountain bike, so it should count double. :)

3. I prefer to spend my pool time on a lounge chair with my Kindle and a rum-based beverage. That will have to change if I'm going to swim 1/2 a mile in open water without drowning. No change here! Monday was our first time in the pool, and it definitely did not involve anything that resembled real swimming. More like reading books and floating...

4. I would need to train 4-5 days a week in order to build up the skills and endurance (although most of the workouts would not be long (hour or less)...only one long workout per week (bike ride), which could be on the weekend). I currently work out maybe two or three days a week. I'd have to make some lifestyle changes to accommodate this. -I am making working out a more regular part of my lifestyle and regularly working out 4-5 days a week! It's a lot easier since I'm mostly working out at home and not the gym, which saves a lot of travel time.

5. Because we don't have access to an indoor pool, the swimming training will not be able to start for probably another month, or whenever I deem my in-laws' pool to be warm enough. So that'll put my swimming on a tighter time frame. -True. Haven't started swim training yet. Slightly concerned.

6. I don't dope. I've heard this is standard operating procedure for bike-riding, and I'm not sure where to purchase steroids. Dang you sheltered lifestyle... -I still don't dope, but I have gained like three freakin pounds, so is that the same thing as 'bulking up'? We'll pretend it's all muscle and not due to the omnipresent baked goods at my workplace.

So it looks like I've made progress in some areas...I'm glad I listed out some of my 'fears' at the beginning because it helps me remember where I started. I wasn't always this cycling beast that whipped out 12 miles after dinner just because she felt like it...although I'm sure that's really hard to believe. :) 

So! With a solid two and a half months to go before the Real Deal, I can still proudly say that I'm training for a tri...and I just might make it.

PS. Last night, after completing my 12 miles of biking, I triumphantly proclaimed (with fist pumps) that I'd (almost) done a half-marathon. And then I wanted to throw up thinking about how real half-marathons are RUNNING and holy crap how can anyone run for as far as I just rode??? That's disgusting. You people are freaks. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

the REAL madness

Remember how excited I get about March Madness and filling out brackets and participating in the office pool and all that? It's pretty awesome. Especially since I really couldn't care less about basketball. It's just that I like brackets and guessing and luck and competing.

Please try to imagine the level of excitement I achieve when a bracket is created for something I actually care about.

That's right, playas. A Bachelorette Bracket, complete with a Des watermark in the background. Consider my mind blown.


Unfortunately, only one other person in my office cares to participate in this pool. What is wrong with people?? I play in your stupid sports games even though I don't like basketball. You can't spend 15 minutes doing research about the (shallow, strange, and desperate) now-19 men vying for Des's heart? YOUR LOSS.

Obviously I am not going to read the spoilers before I fill this out, so if you lack my self-control, please don't blurt it out to me now...I want to approach this in as open-minded and scientific a method as possible. You know, just like I approach my basketball bracket. Scientific.

That's all I've got for ya today. I figure your brains can't handle more than this, take a minute, absorb, and then go fill yours out. 

But before I go-- a huge happy 30th birthday to my bestie Kristina!!

This picture was from one of our many themed photo shoots of 2004. We fancied ourselves to be the (older, less-skinny) Mary Kate and Ashley of Georgia...I think New York Minute had come out recently, hence the appropo I Heart NY shirts. Most of the pictures from that shoot are completely ridiculous, but I really love this one because of how hard we're laughing and how happy we look. I think it sums up our friendship pretty well. Happy BD, Stine!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

what i love about blogging

Yesterday I received a comment from a blog-reader asking for some advice. She said that her sister has been trying to get pregnant for four years (TWINSIES!) and has just gone through a failed IVF (ugh.). Her sister, the one commenting, was wondering if I had any advice for her-- how she could best support her sister and be a good friend during this tough time. She wants to 'love her well' (love those words) and was looking for any advice or perspective that could help.

And this? This is why I love blogging. And I love reading blogs. And I love other people who read blogs. And I love people that blog openly- who aren't scared to let people see inside their situations that are less than ideal. Because I think it helps everyone. It helps us love one another better.

Now personally, I'm pretty sure this particular girl is probably already being a fabulous help to her sister-- just based on the fact that she's willing to actively seek out information and advice on how to support her? I bet she's doing a fantastic job already. But don't worry, I sent her a novel few tips...not that I've experienced a failed IVF (yet), but I've got the four-years-of-infertility down pat. And I'm thankful to be friends with many of you who have experienced failed IVFs and put your experiences out there for the world to see. So I have some idea of how to support people going through that situation.

And that's what I love about reading blogs. The vast world of life experiences I can catch a glimpse of first-hand. That by 'knowing' people going through so many different things, it can help me be a better friend to the people in my 'real' world going through something similar. Sometimes I cringe thinking about things I've said or thought about people's situations in the past.  I mean, only a handful of years ago, I honestly didn't know very well anyone who had gone through a miscarriage (or at least, no one who had shared openly about what it was really like). And so when I heard about someone suffering one, I'll admit- I was really confused about why they seemed so upset. I thought they should just get over it and they could always just get pregnant again. That's so embarrassing to admit. But it's true. Because no one had let me in on what it's really like, so I had nothing to base my opinions on but my own experience, which was...none. And my perspective on the situation obviously reflected that.

But now? Oh my gosh. Through both blog-friends and brave real-life friends, I've known so many women to go through miscarriages. And I hate that I do-- but I am so thankful for the openness and vulnerability of those that have offered a glimpse into what it's truly like to be in that situation. Because now I know. I have not experienced that situation-- although I certainly may, some day. But when my friends, my sisters, my co-workers...when they go through that now, I know. I know how I can help them. I know the things not to say. I know how to pray for them, how to offer support, what small things I can do to help them bear their burden. It's not going to take all the pain away. But I can certainly try to avoid adding to the pain. And I owe that in large part to brave members of the blogging community who are willing to lay it all out there for others to learn from.

And it's not just A/L/I issues that I'm learning about. The blog-world is as big and wide as the real one. I am thankful for the women who blog about the issues they face with children with disabilities. I am thankful for those who offer a glimpse into living with a deployed spouse-- they help me understand how to support my own sister. I am thankful for those who share the trials and fear associated with having children with life-threatening allergies. They make me a more compassionate person. I hate that anyone in their 20s or 30s would ever have to experience the loss of a spouse or child-- but I am thankful that they share, because when it happens to someone in my own life, I want to know how I can help. I read the blog of a regular ol' American mom who happens to be an observant Muslim-- it helps me understand what it's like to be a member of a religion that's pretty much generally reviled in my country. It reminds me to not judge a billion people by the actions of a few. I love the blogs of families who have adopted older children from China-- the challenges and situations they face are completely unique and things I never ever would have considered, until someone blogged bravely about them. I am thankful for the women who bear their souls when their marriages are disintegrating, when their hearts are breaking- because I have many friends going through that in real life, and it isn't always easy to know what to say, or to know how they are hurting. But now I can know.

I love the 'fun' parts of blogging, too- I love when 20 people get excited enough about my 'big plans' to put a plastic pool in my backyard and make some kind of redneck water park that they want to offer a supportive comment or piece of advice. That's hilarious to me and brings endless smiles to my face. I love when I ask for advice (regarding home decor, or exercising, or makeup) and you give it. Those things are so much fun. But when I got that comment yesterday, asking for tips on encouraging a sister in a tough situation, it reminded me: blogging isn't just frivolous fun. It is frivolous fun, often. But not just. Today I am thankful for the 'serious' parts of blogging...that it's making us better people. More well-rounded. Better friends and wives and mothers and sisters and co-workers. Our hearts are more open and our words are more compassionate. And for that I am really, really thankful.

And in that light- what do you wish people knew about to support people in your situation? Alison wanted to know how to support her sister who just experienced a failed IVF-- what would you tell her? Maybe infertility isn't your thing. What is? I encourage you to share bravely-- in your own blog, or in your real life (even scarier). Or even here, in the comments-- help us all understand what it's like to be in a situation we probably haven't experienced firsthand. 

And now I shall step off of my Motivational Speaker platform and get back to my day job. Just know that I am thankful for all of you and appreciative of the ways that you've opened my eyes and my heart. High five for blogging, yo!

Monday, May 27, 2013

every weekend should be like this one.

 It's been a long and wonderful weekend. I've spent blissfully few hours in front of my computer screen-- an interesting change of pace for me, but nice! But now that The Bachelorette premiere is on, I've got two hours of couch-time ahead of I may as do something productive during the commercial breaks, right?

This weekend has been the perfect balance of productivity and relaxation. On the productivity end, I did plenty of this:

And also a few miserable miles of running, which is not nearly as photo-worthy. In addition to several great workouts, I got some good work done in the gardens and flower beds. And some home decor mixing-upping...but I'll get to that later!

On the 'relaxation' side was plenty of lounging around the pool, porches, and couches with Matt's family. And eating. And playing with Timmy!

It's possible that he looks even better in my shades than I do. That's just wrong. The other thing that's wrong is that this is literally the only picture I got of him this weekend. Sad face.

Today I enjoyed my first official pool day of the season...and don't worry, I didn't ruin it by attempting to start swim training. That's for another day. Today was all about soaking in the rays with a good predictable book and frequent dips in the water. It was glorious and exactly what I've been dreaming of all the cold winter long. Hopefully my legs will look less scary in shorts now, too.

So! On Friday night, post-bike ride, Matt decided that we should rearrange the furniture in our bedroom. We've had it the exact same way ever since we moved in (four years ago), and we've played around with the idea of moving things, but never done it...until now!


View from the doorway (in the living room). Bed is directly in front of you as you walk in, with the (only) window directly behind it. I like how this looks from the living room, but hated having the only window completely blocked and basically useless, as it was too hard to open the curtains/blinds and therefore the room always felt dark.

View from right inside the door- that's the bathroom off to the right and the dresser (with paper on it) right next to you, opposite the bed.


New view from the doorway. Window is now completely open and exposed and LETS IN LIGHT!!! Bed faces the bathroom doorway now.


View from the other side. Look! Now I have a big huge wall above the bed to decorate! What to do? Gallery wall? Cool...Pinterest...something...??? All ideas are welcome! I'm so excited to have such a prominent place to do something new with!

AND I LOVE THE WINDOW!! I swear we've spent all of our spare time in there since moving things around-- normally we NEVER go in there except to sleep. But now we want to hang out and lounge on the bed, where we can see the whole backyard and our pretty's so nice! And Lola...sweet thing is in HEAVEN with a new window to stare out! She just can't figure out where this thing's been all her life. 

So that's that...sorry for the lameness of this post, but I've been slightly busy watching the strangest assortment of men on Earth try to make 'meaningful' introductions on Bachelorette and...wowwwww. Ladies, please raise your hand if at any point in your life the 'man of your dreams' was a part-time magician? A MAGICIAN? Ummm...I feel like that should be your deep, dark secret, bud, not your BEST SELLING POINT. 

So with that, I'll leave you to enjoy what's left of your Memorial Day. And your trashy TV-watching. Let's be honest. I know my audience.

Friday, May 24, 2013

friday already?

This week has flown by. And also been jam-packed. We have not had a spare down moment or eaten dinner at home even once this week. Ridiculous, I tell you. Relatedly, we have also not worked out since Monday. I feel terrible about that but am trying to convince myself that it's not the end of the world. Plus we should be able to train every day this (long) hopefully the weather and my laziness will cooperate.

Last night after we ate Cuban with our small group, Matt & I stopped by Target on our way home to pick up a few things. Matt happened to find this clearance shirt while we were browsing in the men's department.

Ha! We're not normally big on the 'ironic t-shirt' thing, but this was just too funny...and perfect for us, since you'd be hard-pressed to find bigger lovers of bacon than us. And also we're having our 3rd annual Bacon Fest this weekend! Wouldn't it just be perfect? Unfortunately, the smallest size they had was an XL, and Matt's more of a Medium, go on the $7 bacon shirt. Sad story. But at least Matt let me take this cute picture. And he walked around with the shirt resting on him like that for a few minutes, which amused me. So it wasn't altogether a loss.

Yesterday my dad told me the saddest/sweetest story. My grandparents (his parents), who live in Texas (and are in their late 80s), have been anxiously waiting to see pictures of Carley, their first great-grandchild. Now, they have a computer and email account, but very rarely use either one. My dad had helped Nana with figuring out how to access her email a few months ago when he was visiting them, but he knows that without someone there to walk her through the steps, she really gets too confused to figure it out. So the other day he'd emailed them some of the pictures (*ahem* from my photo shoot...), but knew he'd need to call and help her figure out how to open her email and find them.

TWO HOURS, people. Two hours is how long it took for her to LOG IN. Dad was describing what it was like and it was so sweet and sad, it made me tear up. And it made me realize how much we take for granted the language and concepts of technology....that people in their generation simply don't have. I mean, my grandparents are so smart- Nana was a nurse and Poppie an attorney...but throw in some age, arthritic fingers, memory issues, and a very confusing Yahoo home screen, and no idea how to tell if something is a 'link' or a clue what 'that blinking thing in a box' is (a cursor) or whether any given text is something you can click on...oy vey. Dad gave me the play by play of trying to walk her through FINDING THE PLACE TO LOG-IN, which took quite a long time before he even got to the part where she'd need to remember her user name and password (which thankfully, he'd written down, so it wasn't that bad).

But here's the worst part. Once she'd/they'd gone through ALL THAT-- and she'd managed to put in her username and password...guess what happened.


And I know that they're universally despised, although sometimes still deemed necessary (sorry, can't take it off my commenting lest I DIE OF SPAM). And I'll be first in line to complain about them and how they waste 10 seconds of my time (or a LOT more if I'm on my phone)...and even I, with perfect vision (via my contacts, haha) and sound mind, and no general problems with technology...I frequently mess them up and have to go through 2 or 3 before I get one I can properly decipher.

And after two hours of trying to log-in, with my dad doing the best he can from 1000 miles away to walk her through the 87 year old grandmother gets a @*$@(!* WORD VERIFICATION. Because she hasn't logged in for so long. And my dad said he almost lost his religion. Because there was nothing he could do to help her with that-- he couldn't see it! And she was so confused, and her eyes aren't as good as ours, and she didn't understand what she was supposed to be doing...and REALLY INTERNET?? Really??! With all this technology, can't you have somehow determined that Nana did NOT NEED THAT?

But guess what. Eventually...with, I'm supposing, much weeping and gnashing of teeth, she made it through. She proved she was Not A Robot. Hallelujah.

She broke into her email. And then it was another 15 minutes before she could find the emails from my dad. And figure out how to open attachments. And make the pictures big enough to see them.

And then she saw sweet Carley.

And my dad said she was speechless. And then she was crying. And hollering at my Poppie from across the house: "Daddy!! [she still calls him Daddy] Come in here!! Come see our new baby!!" And he came, and together they gushed over their first great-grandbaby, and they opened picture after picture, marveling at what God has done. 

And my dad, who said he almost lost his mind and his temper during the 2+ hours it took to get to this point...he said every minute was worth it. Absolutely worth it. God bless technology. My grandparents got to see the baby, and every stupid second of the struggle was worth it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

here's your sign: episode 3

First off-- thanks so much for your encouraging comments on N's post yesterday. She told me that she was crying as she read the comments and was so happy to see that in the midst of her storm she is able to use some of what she's learning to encourage others. What a beautiful cycle-- I'm happy I could be a part of it!

Now. Onto much more...ehhhh...trivial...matters.

Yesterday morning Matt & I were browsing the Aldi circular while eating breakfast. And as soon as we saw this, we knew we needed it:

An inflatable 2.5 foot deep pool? For $70?!?! Lord, yes.

Yall, it gets HOT in Georgia in the summer. REALLY HOT. And I'm a girl who likes to spend a lot of time outside (tending my plants, training for triathlons, reading on the porch...all kinds of things!)...and I'm also a girl who "doesn't like to sweat". And so the obvious solution to my problems is a pool to soak myself in after completing any sweat-inducing activities. This is what I grew up doing-- my parents have a backyard pool. My mom typically did her yard work in her bikini so as to eliminate the wasted time between sweating in her rose bushes and finding relief in the pool. Therefore this is an obvious and time-tested solution to my problems.

The difference between my house and my parents' house is that they have a fence and I do not. Oh, also they have a 'real' pool and I'm looking at a $70 inflatable pool from Aldi. So even though this seems like a great idea to me, it occurred to me that to the rest of the world, my personal nirvana might look a little bit, well...redneck.

So I took my conundrum to the wonderful people of Instagram. I knew they would help a sister out. And I was right! They responded in force and in unity of opinion...and the responses had me laughing all day.

Here was my question:

A fair enough question, I think. And I'm not implying that one is better than the other, either. Let's face the facts: I live only a few hours from the  Honey Boo Boos. We frequent the same Georgia landmarks. And my neighborhood probably resembles theirs a bit more than it does the Kardashians'. But still, I needed to know. Here's what the People of Instagram thought:

[Note: Since apparently the online version of Instagram doesn't recognize emoji, what Allison actually said was 'don't you have neighbors who keep a toilet in their front yard?'...and she is referring to this, and obviously didn't remember that those 'neighbors' live at least 10 minutes away, so...NO! But good memory!]

So the overwhelming conclusion is that this is a) totally redneck and b) a fantastic idea. I can live with that. 

The thing is, I already have the *ahem* nicest yard in the neighborhood (or at least I'm tied in the top 3 with my next-door-neighbor and across-the-street-neighbor...we all 3 do a great job). Although I could obviously reach this conclusion on my own, it is validated by the many random neighbors that stop by and tell me so when they see me out in the yard during the summer. And since we're one of the first houses in the neighborhood, I like to think that we're doing everyone a favor by starting things off with a visual bang. You're welcome, neighborhood. Now this...this is obviously not going to be doing anyone any favors. But at the worst it'll just put us a little more on-par with everyone else? So I think it'll all even out.

And also note- Matt's parents have a beautiful 'real' pool at their house, about 15 minutes away from us. So we don't lack places to swim. It's just the convenience of a place to lay out/cool off at my own home that I really need. This isn't where I'll be doing my tri training (hahahaha, although that would be pretty a 12' pool...) or serious Pool Time. This is for when you have an hour to kill and you don't want to spend half of it driving. Or you just ran. Or cut the grass. Oh man, I am so excited about this I can taste it. My summer just got kicked UP a notch!

Anyway. Many thanks to my Instagram friends for your honesty, sage advice, and support. I couldn't have done it without you. And someday soon I hope to invite all of you over for a super amazing pool party. It's gonna be the most fun you've ever had in 2 feet of water....

(For other amazing displays of Georgia redneckery, please see Here's Your Sign and Here's Your Sign: Episode 2)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

during storms

 Did you know that life isn't always sunshine and roses? I know. Crazy. Who knew? I know my life is certainly perfect and going exactly according to plan, but apparently that isn't always the case. If perchance you find yourself in the same boat, stay tuned.

I have a friend, N, going through a really tough time right now. The worst. The kind of situation you hear about and gasp and squint your eyes and say please God, not me, don't let that ever be me...and then it happens to a friend and it's just as awful as you'd imagined. And that's saying something, coming from a girl as immersed in the world of IF as I am. But anyway. The strange thing is that in the midst of a truly sucky situation, N has actually experienced a lot of growth. She's discouraged but not despairing. She's finding life in the midst of a painful situation. And it's really a beautiful thing.

I asked her to share some of her story and what she's been learning. I know that so many of us can relate to life not going according to plan-- I hope that you will be as encouraged by N's words as I am, and that when you're finding yourself buried beneath the fear again, you'll find the strength to cling to hope and God once more.
This quote has been a real and tangible truth for me of late.  My heart has been broken, I have been abandoned, and seemingly out of options.  But then...THEN GOD.  A friend shared this quote with me as well: 

"Perhaps worship is never more sweeter and worship is never more heart-felt and worship is never more honest and true than in times of trial. Because in that moment I'm not worshiping God because I think he has delivered what would make me happy. I'm worshiping God because He is God. And that is worship!" - Paul David Tripp   

When I had nothing left and I chose to cry out to the Lord as my rock, my strength, my rescuer, my healer, I found all I needed and then some.  Regardless of what storm is raging around me, God is all I need.  

Why is it that the most profound truths are learned while the storm rages?  Why must pain be part of my growth?  I keep returning to Scripture with statements like "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." - 2 Cor. 9.  My marriage is teetering on a precipice.  All I would need to do to lose it is give up hope and give up faith in the Lord's goodness and faithfulness.  I am stronger than I knew and I am not about to let the enemy win this war. I have been catapulted into trusting Him more than I ever had to in the past. When I finally surrendered to His will, asked for His glory to come in this, and His good for us, I found immeasurable peace and joy that can only come from Him cocooning me with His love.  Faith and trust in the Lord brought freedom when I succumbed to His gentle coaxing.  He asks me to hold on loosely.  When I try and trust Him with clenched fists, unwilling to let Him have whatever it is I hold most dear, I do not see all the goodness He has for me.  But when I release my fingers, one by one, or when I step out off the ledge I thought kept me so safe, I am comforted by the sweet arms of Jesus that catch me softly.  What I didn't fully realize is that I was sitting in the safety net of the Lord's hand WHILE I had been unwilling to let Him have everything.  I have been my own hindrance to experiencing the full joy of resting in the Lord.

Fear is a powerful beast.  It rages within my soul at its core.  The enemy knows how to push my buttons and activate my fear.  But over and over the Lord tells me to not to fear.  The enemy rules by fear and I am sick of it.  
    "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Is. 41:10
We are commanded in Scripture to "not fear."  It is not just a suggestion, but a directive.  When I feel the fear creeping in and when it threatens to overwhelm me, I pray.  The enemy flees at the sound of God's name.  We wield such power through prayer!  Prayer needs to stop being a last resort and should always be our first line of offense AND defense.  I have spent more time in the Word and in prayer than ever during this time.  I have been laid bare before the Lord, confessing my sins and repenting, and I have found my peace grow each day as I trust more in the Lord than I had yesterday.  Take God at His Word.  Claim His promises!   

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." - John 15:4-5

Having peace in the midst of a storm makes no sense, but it has been my experience.  It really is a peace that passes understanding.  

"The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint". - Is. 40:28-31

When at the end of the days that stretch in to weeks and weeks into months, I have Jesus, then I count myself blessed beyond measure.  My external circumstances do not define me unless I let them.  I choose to put my hope in Jesus and the work I know He is doing in me and my life.  He is not absent - far from it - I see that He is closer to me, but always has been had I taken time to notice.  I see His work in the minute details.  I have seen His blessings pop up throughout this trial.  Seeing these rays of light give me renewed hope and strength for the bigger work I know He is doing.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." - Romans 12:12

God is faithful. He is mighty to save.  He is merciful and full of grace. Period. He is pruning me and I feel so alive.  Refining is painful, but it is worth the pain.  I can choose to be angry and shake my fist at the Lord, or I can collapse into His everlasting arms that shelter from the storm while giving me strength to keep on fighting; all the while opening my hands more and more to let Him hold what I was holding so close as well as receive His blessings.  Rainbows only appear after a storm, a symbol of God's promise.  He does not allow storms in our lives to happen without having a promise behind them.  He is molding me into His likeness.  He is teaching me to trust him and walk by faith even when I cannot see the next step in front of me.  He has a grip on both of us and this whole situation and He is not letting us go.  So I actively wait on Him.  I pursue Him, serve others, and let Him do what He pleases in and through me, so that I may reflect His light to all around me.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


On Saturday night, after a day full of niece-lovin' and photo shoots, Matt and I found ourselves back at my parents' house with a few hours before bed to kill. It occurred to me that it'd been awhile since I'd dug out my old baby books and 'school days' books (grade school equivalent of baby mom dutifully recorded the highlights of each of our lives well through middle school, as well as collecting pictures, report cards, and various other artifacts in these books. WELL DONE, Mom!). I braved the dust bunnies and mothballs and found my books and was consequently highly entertained for several hours. Then I realized that if I took pictures of what I was seeing, you could be entertained too!'re welcome.

My main conclusion is that you can tell a lot about what a person will be like as an adult from how they act/perform/what they like as kids. I'm a prime example of this. I'm basically just a taller version of my 4-year-old self. But let's get some evidence, shall we?

First, a fairly irrelevant but cute class picture of my pre-k class. I helpfully pointed to myself. Tallest one in the class already! Please note that at this time ('87 or '88, according to the thing at the bottom) I had cute hair. It sort of looks like my hair now, really, from what I can tell. But remember that it's cute. This won't always prove to be the case, looking back....

After preschool I embarked on the major journey of kindergarten. Which according to all sources, I totally rocked at. But don't take my word for it. Here's what my mom had to say:

Please raise you're hand if you're surprised to learn I was the best speller, most enthusiastic at music, followed all the rules, and was suspected to be gifted?

Like I said. A five-year-old version
Never change, cutie. Except that smile. Open your mouth up a little. And maybe consider cutting your bangs straight next time.
But wait! There's more! Still from kindergarten:

This whole loving school, crying when summer came? That continued for most of my life. I liked summer and all, but I LOVED SCHOOL. 

But sweating? Psh. That's for the birds (and we all know how I feel about birds). I have many distinct memories of pitching fits about being forced to wear anything-but-a-dress. I freaked out when I sweated. I hated P.E. Hate hate hate hate hated. I took gymnastics. I took dance classes. These are both acceptable (and AIR CONDITIONED) forms of exercise that did not involve sweating (at least at the five-year-old level).

So that was kindergarten. It was amazing. First grade was much the same. Second verse, same as the first:

Isn't it great that the MOST MEMORABLE thing about me, the thing deemed MOST WORTHY of being noted in the memory book, was my disdain for sweat and pants? I rather like that. It explains why I am naturally drawn to the (rather extensive) dress side of my closet each morning. It explains why I typically decide I'm done working out once I notice myself sweating. It does not explain why I'm attempting an outdoor triathlon in Georgia in August anyway. I guess 25 more years of personal growth have helped me come to terms with sweating and wearing pants. A little bit.

By second grade we'd started standardized testing. High five for the ITBS, anyone? Here's what I remember about testing weeks in elementary school:


Sitting down for hours in the silence, filling in little bubbles, making sure you finished fastest and best? That was my JAM. We can consider this foreshadowing of the future, perhaps to the year 2006, when I decided (a year after graduating college) that it would be fun to take the LSAT after studying for a few weeks. Why? Because I freaking like taking tests, that's why. 

I won't brag about my LSAT scores. I'll brag about my 2nd grade ITBS scores, though. Check it out, yo.

The arrow is pointing to the column that tells the percentage that the student (ME) got correct. My favorite part about this whole spelling/language section is that while overall I did  very well, indicating an early love of reading and writing, please note the section (starred) I performed the most poorly in: overcapitalization.

Foreshadowing to being a True Blogger one day? HAHAHAHA. Everyone knows you're not really blogging unless you randomly capitalize words, right? I mean, who knew 2nd grade standardized tests could be so correctly predictive of the farrrrrrr away future??! Blogging wasn't even a Thing then!

Alright. Enough about what a smarty-pants second-grader I was. The rest of elementary school looked about the same (hates pants, loves school), but my hair got progressively worse. Flash forward to seventh grade and you have this:

Uhhhh...yeah. And I thought I was hot stuff, yall. But you must know: I wore glasses. I just took them off for this picture. And they were ugly glasses, too. But that shirt was from the Limited Too-- LEGIT.

I won't bore you with more. For me, the stuff in my baby books was rather correctly predictive of my future. But don't worry-- that's not always the case! Please examine Exhibit B: my sister-

My precious Sarah, who spends her days bringing light and laughter into the lives of everyone lucky enough to know her, who is a talented hair stylist that quickly draws a devoted clientele in whatever city she moves to, who was the embodiment of the popular high school cheerleader (well, the positive embodiment) and is still the beloved 'baby' of our family...well, it looks like she got off to a rough start. When I was busy loving dinosaurs and hating pants, Sarah got this:

"not very friendly to strangers- stares at people and won't smile...not friendly to people she doesn't know."

And I had to crack up because I would never ever in a million years have guessed those words were describing my sister. They far more accurately sound like me, to tell you the truth! But not Sarah!

So don't worry. Maybe your kid will grow up to be an older, taller version of whoever they are now. Or maybe they'll be totally different. Either way-- record it in their baby book (or your blog, as the case may be) now so that they can have a hearty laugh at their own expense later.
Sarah, upon receiving the news that she was a baby snob.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Master Plan success!

 Well, I'm back.

It was a long and glorious weekend loving on my new niece (and my brother and sister-in-law, too). I was none too happy to have to kiss her sweet head goodbye this afternoon, but I can guarantee that my trips home will be MUCH more frequent now than they have been for the last few years. A sweet baby to love on is about as compelling a reason to drive home as I've ever had, so I don' t imagine it will be too long before we hit the road to head back for more baby loving. Jake, my brother, estimated that I wouldn't make it til Wednesday, but I think I'll stay strong a little longer than that...maybe.

I've got some pictures for ya today, at least. Jake's holding a firm line on the 'no Facebook' picture ruling, which I am happy to respect, even though he didn't explain why and also stated that he might change his mind in the future. I asked whether I could pretty please put pictures on my blog and Instagram, though, because my friends were dying to see my new niece. He had no idea what a blog or Instagram was, and no time or desire to figure it out, so he sorta said 'okay, fine,' as long as blogs and Instagrams aren't 'like Facebook,' and left it at that. So that's where we are, but if he changes his mind and issues me a cease-and-desist, then I hope you'll hold these pictures in your memories for all the days to come. Cause my niece is CUTE!

Meet Carley Anne.

This is the dress that Emily, my sister-in-law, wore home from the hospital when SHE was born!
Matt and I visited them in the hospital on Friday morning and afternoon and then helped them pack up and head home. I mostly helped by holding the baby, obviously, and offering my expert advice whenever asked (or not asked). And I hauled a few loads of pink loot about a million miles to their car in the parking deck. And I kept track of what crap went where when we packed up the room so that later I knew where 'that piece of paper with such and such' and 'that thingy the nurse gave us' were located. This was Stage 1 (Make Yourself Useful) of my Master Plan: Hold The Baby The Most. It went swimmingly.

While Matt fetched their car and pulled it around, I videotaped our entourage leaving the hospital. This was Stage 2: Get All The Good Photos & Videos So That They Won't Want You To Leave. Once we were loading Carley into the car and discussing our transportation arrangements, Emily realized that she couldn't crawl up and over across the back seat of their (huge) SUV to sit with Carley.

 [Rabbit trail: Emily had FOURTEEN STAPLES from her c-section. In addition to the internal stitches and what-not. I'm not sure what's standard these days, but that seemed a little insane. I asked Jake how long her scar was and he holds his hands out about 18 inches apart. And swears he's not lying. But then later on he changes his story and says that the doctors actually had to use the 'pumpkin method' to get Carley know, cut a big circle, pick up her skin, yank Carley out, replace the skin-circle, and stitch? OK, sorry, that's disgusting, but we almost died laughing. So I'm not sure which story is true, but either way, Emily was in a crap-ton of pain from it, and in no condition to be sliding across back seats or doing any sort of movement at all.]

Ever the helpful aunt, I volunteered to sit in the backseat with Carley and make sure she was okay on the way home. This selfless act was well-received by all and I silently congratulated myself for scoring this important job.
That's right, suckas-- I'm the one riding with her on her first car ride! BOOM!
 After the slowest and most careful drive of Jake's life, we finally made it to their house. This was when I moved into Stage 3: Make It Seem Like You're Doing Them A Favor.

Emily was exhausted and in pain. She needed to sleep in her own bed. Jake was tired and had loads of sporting events to catch up on. He needed to focus on that. Carley was doing what she does best: sleeping and being cute. I could pretty much handle that on my own. So I made it perfectly clear that everyone was welcome to sleep and I would take care of the baby.

And so they did and I did. And they thanked me for helping them. HAHAHAHAHAHA. No, really. It was excruciating...

I'm not sure if Carley is normal or not, but here's all she does: sleep. She eats about every 4.5 hours, and then she just sleeps some more. She doesn't cry. She doesn't open her eyes. She doesn't fuss. She just sleeps. And does cute little wiggles while she's sleeping. And grasps onto your fingers if you stick them near hers. It's pretty awesome. She seriously doesn't cry. And she has no need for that eat-every-2-hours nonsense most babies apparently need. I guess this is a benefit of weighing over 10 pounds at birth? Who knows. Who knows if it will last, either...heh heh...but it lasted for the 3 days I was there, so that's really all that matters, right? I mean, I think that even Jake and Emily were rather astonished by how easy she is and how little she wakes up during the night.

 So this is basically what we did for three days. Hang out on the couch, pass the baby around, maybe go sit outside for awhile (babies need to tan, you know!)...poke at her and try to wake her up...marvel at how she will make really mean baby faces but never's pretty awesome.

On Saturday I decided to have a photo shoot with her. Jake and Emily were sleeping, I was in charge, and I decided to put some of the trillions of clothes in her closet to good use before she grew out of them. This was my first newborn photo shoot and I must say, it was pretty awesome. Pretty much she just stayed stuck however I set her, so it was really easy. We did this shoot on their dining table on the covered porch outside.

 I actually got tons of good pictures (Emily cried when she saw them later. SCORE!!) but it takes too long to resize and upload them here, so this is all you get. I thought the yellow dress was just TOO cute!

Later I entertained us by doctoring up the photos a bit on Picmonkey. I think I did a really good job.

Preparing to be the Bachelorette one day!

 Oh, the sunglasses are real, by the way. They were super cute and I thought she'd pitch a fit when I put them on her, but she didn't. Nothing fazes this one, apparently!

So all in all it was a pretty perfect weekend. I would estimate I was the Baby Holder approximately 75% of the time I was there, with the other 25% of the time being shared by the other 7 people who were present most of the time (Matt, my parents, Emily's parents, and Jake and Emily themselves). Those are pretty good numbers, so I feel confident I've sealed my position as Most Favorite Aunt (and sister/sister-in-law) for the time being. Jake and Emily seemed a little panicky when we left town, but we have plans for plenty of FaceTiming and hopefully that will help me out (not gonna help them, since I can't babysit via iPhones...) until we get to be together again in person.

Lest you think I did nothing but hold Carley all weekend, here are a few of my less-notable accomplishments: went to a county-wide yardsale (bought a book and a new bike helmet), ran a 9:34 mile (PR!), spent $$$$$ at Ulta, drank 2 new beers (summer bucket list goal), and uncovered a veritable treasure trove of laughs in my own baby books/'school memory' books my mom kept about me as a child. Don't worry. More coming from that soon. If you follow me on Instagram, you've tasted but a preview...mwah ha ha.

With that, I'm off to get ready for a new week (bah) and -most likely- stare at pictures of my sweet baby niece. And text my brother to see if he misses me yet. Yippee!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

new babies are seriously distracting

I'm an aunt (again)!! My brother's baby was born yesterday morning, happy and healthy. Here's the sad part- no pictures for you yet. I mean, I have pictures...but I was instructed to not put any on Facebook yet (and Jake and his wife haven't, either) I'm not sure whether  or not that extends to my blog (not that they're even aware it exists), but I'll err on the side of safety and save the photos and name for once I'm sure they're okay with me sharing. Plus maybe I'll get some pictures in REAL LIFE when I meet her tonight and then I can be in the picture too, and obviously that will be way better, right? 

But! She is here! She arrived via a scheduled c-section two weeks prior to her due date and she weighed 10 pounds 3 oz, so I'm gonna go ahead and say it was a great idea to not go full term there. My sister reports that Baby already has a couple extra chins and fat rolls and is about 7 feet tall (my estimate based on pictures), so I'd say she's off to a great start! And not to worry- my hair stylin' sister already had Baby's hair done up in bows, so we know this one won't be lacking in the fashion department. All in all I am thrilled to death and counting the minutes until I get to meet her tonight! I was pretty worthless for anything except staring at my phone and waiting on people to text me pictures and videos apologies for anyone that wanted me to think about anything else!

This week has been a total wash as far as tri-training. Bah. I was in way too much pain Sunday and Monday to do anything other than the bare minimum of movement. I took a verrrrry slow (21 minutes, hahahahaa) mile walk Tuesday night to get a feel for how it would go. Yesterday I decided to try biking instead, and luckily that went much better than walking, since my stomach stays basically still the whole time. So that workout ended up being a good one. And now we're leaving right after work to head to Augusta for the weekend (BABY TIME!!!), so who knows if I'll get in any more decent workouts. We haven't had a chance to get a bike rack for our car yet, so we can't take our bikes with us (they won't fit in the Matrix with all of our luggage and Lola hogging the space)...but we can run there or go to the gym (our gym has a location just a mile from my parents'...CONVENIENT!), so hopefully we'll make something happen. I'm trying to not get discouraged by basically a whole week off. And I'm trying to get used to the idea that this might happen...uhhh...every month. Piece of crap. I'll just have to train extra hard the other 3.5 weeks of the month. Bah. I hate you, endometriosis.

Last night I had to run around the yard to take pictures of all the plants to show my mom when we go home. Most of the pictures are total crap, but I am happy to announce that our blueberry bushes are full of (unripened, obviously) fruit!!

So that'll make for an easy check-off on the ol' Summer Bucket List (pick berries)! And oh yeah- ALL are welcome to 'do' the list! Don't feel like only people who fit the very specific demographic described in the title can do may notice that that would exclude even me, co-author of the list, due to my not exactly being in my 20s, yeah. We just felt like making a ridiculous title for it. :), clearly my brain is empty of everything except thinking about squeezing my chunky little niece as soon as possible (which is, sadly, not very soon...a loooot of hours and miles between us), so I'll stop boring us all now. If you have any tips about how to politely hog the new baby away from all the other relatives in the hospital, feel free to let me in on them. Good time to play the woe is me, I am childless card? No? Makes people feel uncomfortable like I might steal the baby? Is there a reason my dad went on for 30 minutes yesterday about how high-tech the anti-baby-stealing system is ("Baby has this anklet and DON'T EVEN THINK about crossing past the nurse's desk unless you are Jake or Emily because YOU DON'T HAVE THE MATCHING BRACELET and ALARMS WILL GO OFF!!!!!"....ummm yeah, I know...)...does my own family not even put me above kidnapping? I mean, I'm not...but my own niece? It'd be a little obvious, wouldn't it? Easiest crime to solve EVER! Sheesh. Give me some credit. OK sorry- back to the topic at hand: LEGAL tips for monopolizing baby cuddle time? Thanks!