Pumpkin Everything

It's officially fall, loveys.

I was in Colorado Springs yesterday and completely overwhelmed by yellow and red leaves everywhere. So beautiful. And today, snow-capped peaks already in the distance and fall colors everywhere. It goes fast, I know. I want to freeze time. We bought lots of pumpkins for the doorstep this afternoon (that's about as artistic as I get unfortunately). And it's warm outside. The kids are playing in the back while Annette's Enchiladas are in the oven (see Bread and Wine for the recipe and prepare to have your life changed). Today was supposed to be extremely productive. Until we all woke up, moving extra slow, and I realized almost nothing would get done except for buying pumpkins.

There's always tomorrow.

So we'll push chores and everything else to tomorrow. Instead, we'll have enchiladas and rice and beans, and ice cream for dessert, and maybe popcorn and a movie later. And it will all keep.

(Also, the kids have come in and apparently their new names are Hunter and Fisher and they are eating dinner while completely in character. And also, apparently we are now a family who hunts and fishes a lot and the kids call me 'Ma.' One more thing . . . they will be going scuba diving later if I'm okay with it. Of course I'm okay with it.)

The hectic-ness of the end of summer and school starting and birthday season has segued into the busyness of our school schedule. Field trips. Martial arts. Tutoring sessions. More homework. And I start to feel like maybe I don't have capacity for too much more. (Which is a difficult situation because I'm supposed to start potty-training Lily soon. Sob.)

Loveys, I've just finished reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. It's a fast read and one I needed so badly. My soul just soaked it up. I highly recommend it for people who need stillness . . . and people who need change. Because, sometimes, we need both.

Sometimes one leads to the other.

It's the kind of book that I keep thinking about. I want parts of it to stay with me. When I first finished it, my immediate response was that I need to clean out my closet--simplify, get rid of stuff. Those great intentions have not happened yet, but cleaning out my closet and simplifying where I can is absolutely on my to-do list. I always feel better after taking stuff to Goodwill and letting go of excess. With school starting, I inevitably feel like we have stuff everywhere. School papers and homework folders and drawings and backpacks and shoes piled up in the closet. Time gets away from us daily, and rooms get unmanageable and laundry is--okay, laundry is always terrible. It gets to be a lot.

And life happens in the mess.

Last night, when the kids FINALLY went to bed. I poured a glass of wine and cleaned the kitchen. Jeff came downstairs and helped me. Then he sat at the island and we talked about the kids and schedules and basically everything. We talked for almost two hours, lovey. Crazy. This morning, he and I were both still saying how nice it was just to have (uninterrupted!) conversation with each other. What we want. Where we're going. How the kids are doing in school. Plans for the holidays. Car issues. Health issues. Us.

We need to talk sometimes. More than clipped conversations and short phone calls or quick texts. We need to share stuff and hear each other.

It seems like the onslaught of media everywhere stays at this off-the-charts level of constant outrage and criticism over anything and everything. I'll just be honest that I can't keep up with that. It's not healthy for me. The chaos of everyday is enough. And one of the things I want most is a peaceful home. I want my kids to be grateful. I want this space that's ours to be where we're the most happy.

There are always seasons of more stress or emotion, of course. That's life. We've lived those too. But I'll choose peace if I can. Chaos or mess or uncontrollable giggles or late nights talking quietly with Jeff for hours. These are my people and I love them so much. They don't need to be perfect. None of us are and it's okay. I just want to love them.

The kids are back outside now, in the fading light of evening. (They're scuba diving most likely.) Lily runs to keep up with them and my heart melts.

Summer is past and we're in full fall mode. My freelance projects are finished, and I'm ready to just breathe and enjoy every possible moment of the upcoming holiday season. I want to write. I can feel a new story starting in me. Outlander and Poldark are part of my life again and that is all kinds of wonderful. How's your fall season, lovey? I'm wishing for happiness for you even amid the busyness of life. Pumpkin pie and gold leaves and cool breezes and long talks and good books and more love. Grace for our people.


Birthdays and Confessions

Loveys, I recently celebrated my 38th birthday. (And yes, that sounds dangerously close to the end of my thirties.) The cake right there is one that Jeff made and the kids decorated. I loved it so much. There were gifts and cake and hugs and kisses and handmade cards and a special breakfast. Delightful things that warm your heart.

And now I'm 38.

One of my friends (who is 41 and shall remain nameless! :) told me that something changed when she turned 40. She stopped caring so much what other people think. I look forward to that actually. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm inching my way closer and closer and I can almost taste that freedom.

For me (and this could just be me) when a birthday comes around, I inevitably take stock of my life-- if I'm happy with where I am and who I am. If I'm where I thought I'd be. All that philosophical stuff. Remember that MASH game we played when we were kids? (Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House) Who would we marry? How many kids would we have? What would our career be?

Even as kids, we start wondering what our life will look like.

I check off the things that I've done. Places I've been. Is it enough?

I was reading a book the other day--the author is someone who's incredibly successful and rightfully so, her writing is awesome and thought-provoking. In the book, she mentioned her age and it stopped me for a moment. We're right about the same age.

True heart confession: without warning, it occurred to me how much more this woman is than I am.

How much more she has accomplished and will accomplish. How much more capable and smart she is. How her life sounds like a Nancy Meyers movie I'd like to watch. She probably doesn't say the wrong thing and hurt people's feelings. Everyone laughs at her jokes. She's invited to everything. She doesn't have to work hard for people to like her. She gets all the amazing opportunities.

I'm going to be real here (because I'm 38 and it's what we 38-year-olds do), doesn't it sometimes feel like it's super easy for some people? They're immediately included in the cool club. They have the right look and attitude and everyone automatically likes them. They are thoughtful and say all the right, socially acceptable things. They are never lonely because so many people are clamoring for their time and want to help them and be around them.

And you are...you.

There are all these T-shirts and coffee mugs out there, telling us You're enough. You're awesome. You're beautiful. You're Wonder Woman.

Sounds great. Enter the counter T-shirts: You're not enough. Jesus is. Stop worrying about it.

It's hard to be a girl sometimes.

We want to be perfect, while not caring at all if we're perfect. We want to be liked, but we don't want to be ruled by what other people are thinking. We want to know ourselves, but somehow we still make mistakes.

And carrying all that is a lot.

I'm not a perfect wife, mother, sister, daughter, or friend. Not even close. Honestly, I keep realizing it over and over. I wish 38 was the magic age where we start making all the right decisions, saying all the right, wise things, and living completely selflessly. Where we don't cry or feel lonely or wish some things were different.

Shouldn't I have it more together at 38? That other woman/writer does. She's out there changing the world. I just really want a third cup of coffee and a brownie. Why did she get all the great chances at such a younger age?

Maybe because she worked hard for it. (Another true confession: I'm an extremely unambitious person. That whole coffee-and-brownie thing? That's real for me.) Or maybe she didn't have to work super hard for it. Maybe she met the right people at the right time and they liked her. Maybe she's crazy-gifted and things were bound to work out for her. I don't know. But maybe it's just normal to wonder.

Here's what I know, lovey.

All our paths are different.

Anyone who seems perfect, isn't.

Even just creating a peaceful, safe home and raising good kids and loving my husband are worthwhile accomplishments.

It's hard to make friends sometimes.

It's hard to be enough or feel like we're enough. (Then there's the T-shirt conundrum from above.) It's hard to have faith.

I think checklists are normal. Mine is pretty standard--husband that I still like to hold hands with? check. Kids that I adore? check. House with a fireplace? check.

Like all of us, there are a few other things on my list that are more specific to who I am. I go over my list--then I move on. Because life is about moving forward, not always looking back. It's about who we are now. Where we're going.

There's still time.

So, here at 38, all thoughts of comparison pushed aside because they are toxic--what do I want for my life?

Loveys, I've got this old Liberty T-shirt. It's got holes in it, but I can't seem to make myself throw it away. I love sleeping in it because it's been broken in so well. It's soft and fits just like I want it to. I bought a new one last time I was in VA, but it just doesn't compare to my old favorite.

I want to wear my skin like that T-shirt. In other words, to be comfortable with myself.

To accept God's generous grace over my life. It's okay if I'm not perfect. I know I will make mistakes. And then I'll try to do better. God's grace is enough.

I want to be grateful for every gift I've been given. Going to sleep every night next to Jeff is my favorite thing. (And after 19 years together and going on 15 years of marriage, that alone can seem like a miracle sometimes. I'll take it.) Snuggling with Lily as we watch cartoons fills my heart to capacity. Cheering for Ash and Linc every day in the carpool lane makes me happy. Writing a story or two when I feel inspired leaves me so fulfilled.

I want to make my own choices and decisions--not determined whatsoever by what our culture dictates or what's socially acceptable or popular or trending. And I want to prioritize peace and contentment (and rest, when I can get more of it!).

To embrace change because it's good for me.

It seems to me that getting older is a gift in itself. For those of us who've lost friends or family members--we know this to be true. Even if nothing has gone as we'd hoped with our checklist. Even if we look at our life--at whatever age--and know that it's time to chase dreams or make changes or even accept what is and figure out what to do. Or leave or stay or dance. Or create a whole new checklist. We're here. I've written before about a friend of ours who died, and how that shook me. She and I were the same age. And I can't help but think of her. How she'd probably give anything to watch her children grow. Life is a gift, lovey.

And maybe, getting older means stripping away what doesn't matter so much, and appreciating what does. One of my favorite quotes by Rich Mullins is this:

"And everything that could be shaken was shaken. And all that remains is all I ever really had."

I read those words and they sink into my soul. Have I learned that yet? Am I still learning it? To chip away at what doesn't last, and truly see what does. Sometimes it's a process, I think. To learn what it is we value more than anything. And then hold on like crazy.

Thirty-eight looks like juggling lunches and homework and martial arts classes and dinner and breakfast and laundry. It looks like service a lot and that can be draining. It also looks like reaching for Jeff, maybe both of us are too tired to talk, and we don't care. We've made it this far, we'll keep reaching. Thirty-eight looks like all kinds of things. Laughter. Crying. Real life.

Mainly, to me, these look like the best days of my life.

The End of Summer

Loveys, my sister Laura tells me that as long as she can remember, she'd sit at the table with me and Sara--our noses stuck in whatever books we were reading.

It's true.

And now that I have kids, I've found that it's at breakfast and lunch that I can usually squeeze in reading time. I feed the kids, then sit down afterward to eat, and pull my book over to me. (The picture above is from breakfast this morning! I love ALL Ann Rinaldi books. Every time I'm in Lynchburg, I go to my fave bookstore Givens, up to the loft where the used books are, and look for Ann Rinaldi books. Way back when I was in college, one of my professors assigned us one of her books to read. I've read so many since then. She's wonderful at YA historical fiction.)

We manage to squeeze in what we love. It's just who we are. As the Jeffster likes to tell me, "You know it. I know it. Vegetable lasagna knows it." (Yes, he quotes Seinfeld. A lot.)

Sometimes friends ask me when I find time to write while juggling kids. It's here and there. Like everyone else, I suppose. We somehow make time for what we enjoy. I love spending time with my family. I love to read and write and edit books. Those are my things.

Lately the kids and I have been going to the post office quite a bit (not my favorite). Ash moans like it's the end of the world and asks me WHY ARE WE HERE AGAIN? And I tell her, when you have a mama who writes stories, you sometimes have to go to the post office to send those stories to people.

Loveys, I can't believe we're here at the end of summer. The end of the summer that finally brought me The Last Summer. Honestly, I always love fall so much, but I'm sad to see this summer end. I remember feeling so relieved that we got a summer pub date--because it needed to be a summertime release. The heat of summer needed to surround the book. Beaches and lakes and iced tea and shorts and flip-flops and cold soda. I always wanted a summertime launch party, with glow lights on the back deck and sangria and a space filled with my friends.

I feel so much gratitude for all of it. For every reader, for every message I've received, for every thoughtful review--for all of it. These are moments that I hold in my heart.

And speaking of special moments, for my Lynchburg friends, there's a book signing in the works for September that my sister Sara and I are SO excited about. I'll share more as we get closer to the time. I can't wait to see my Virginia family and friends!  

School starts this week, loveys. We've got the school supplies organized and ready on the kitchen table. We've cleaned out closets and clothes drawers. And just like that, summer is over. We wait for it so long, I can't help but feel sad as it ends. In many ways, this summer was different from what we'd thought. Unexpected trips to Texas. Losing my grandmother.

And like with anything else, what was planned just drifts away, and we keep moving with what is real for us. And with the unexpected are moments filled with grace too. Moments that are memories we'll treasure. Ash has wanted a daddy/daughter date all summer long. So to make sure we made that happen before school starts, she and Jeff went out together last night. Treasured memories made. Some things on our list didn't happen this summer. Other things--not on our list--did happen. In the end, there's this patchwork of experiences and shared moments that make up our family life together. It's raining today. The kids are thundering around upstairs. This morning as I was drinking my coffee and looking out at the rain, I smiled and thought of how I actually love rainy days and Mondays. I love this little family that's mine. This summer has had incredibly joyful moments. And also tears. Parties. Freelance projects. Travel. Fever. Bike riding without training wheels. Movies and popcorn. Sleepovers.

I'll hold on to the feeling of summer a little while longer. Green grass and flowers and flip-flops. And when it's time, I'll switch those for tall boots and leaves crunching and pumpkin spice lattes.

This summer--when my book, the one I began 20 years ago, was published--will forever be special to me. A reminder that sometimes things take time . . . but keep holding on to hope.

If you haven't yet grabbed a copy of The Last Summer, I hope you'll hop over to Amazon and order a book or download it to Kindle. (And if you haven't left a review yet, click over and mark that off your list! It only takes a minute!) I still hold my proof copy and can't believe it's finally here. A few more books arrived in the mail this weekend . . . and my heart still flutters when I open the box and see The Last Summer.

Hope brought to life.