Saturday, November 15, 2014

Messy Cars and Embarrassing Moments

Loveys, I was thinking of my dad this week. And how, when I was just a young'un growing up in Conroe, Texas (no idea why my pioneer voice is coming out but let's roll), he used to get so frustrated with how utterly messy my mom and my sisters and I kept our minivan. My mother was a working mom, and we were on the go every second of every day. My dad would take the cars and clean them out all the time. (He also always took out the trash at our house and straightened the millions of shoes that we left by the front door. I think it's probably quite a chore to be the lone man in a house of all girls).

Anyway, I am now a grown-up woman with children of my own, and yet I'm apparently not any better at keeping our Acadia clean. Do you know that feeling, loveys? When you rush through the carpool lane at your daughter's school, already running late for work, and when the car attendant opens the door to let her out . . . half-eaten cheeseburgers fall to the ground? And your daughter stumbles through the McDonalds wrappers while she tries to get out of the car? Maybe that hasn't happened to you.


Yes. We may not have it altogether at the moment. And my car is dirty. So yesterday, I had a lunch date with two friends from work, and one of the women said she would ride with me.

Oh dear.

I'd meant to clean out the car post-McDonalds embarrassment, however, I haven't got around to it. And yesterday I'd stopped at the grocery store on the way to work for two chocolate-iced donuts and one regular (no judgment please). (*Side note: why doesn't Colorado have drive-throughs for donuts? Texas figured this out decades ago. What is the problem? Not all of us are drinking smoothies and going for a run when it's five degrees outside. Some of us need a chocolate-iced donut before staff meeting in order to maintain happiness.)

Anyway, I mentioned that my car was a little messy when we walked out to it together, thinking that I really needed to turn down the radio the minute we got in since I'd been blaring Dirt by Florida Georgia Line on my way into the office. I grabbed the donut bag (I'd only eaten the two chocolate-iced and left the regular one in the bag, which was sitting in the passenger seat) and threw it in the back, along with my work binder and papers that were on the seat as well. There wasn't anything I could do about the McDonalds bag on the floor. She kicked it over.


So I'm asking Jeff to take up his husbandly duties and go clean out my car today. (I'd actually do it myself, but it's like five degrees and snowing, remember? This is why women get married.)

Anyway, I was up late working last night and will be doing that again tonight, sadly. But we've got to go brave the elements eventually because Ash needs a bigger jacket. I had to hear her whine every morning this week that she felt weird when we put her jacket on. Weird, meaning the arms are tight and her long-sleeves are bunched up, and the sensation is one she cannot live with. So it's time for a bigger jacket.

I'll be so glad when my deadline has passed (that is, if I hit it, which is doubtful). I miss my friends. I miss watching TV with Jeff. I miss not feeling so anxious. It's been a long week. But holidays are coming! Thanksgiving! I'm looking forward to all that yummy food and being with family. And I'll be putting up my tree as soon as Thanksgiving is over, and starting to plan my ornament party for December. Good tidings of great joy are headed our way, lovey. December magic. Twinkle lights. Glowing fireplace. Romance. Presents. Jesus. Christmas carols. Gingerbread houses. (You could add weight gain to that list, but this pregnant girl is trying not to think about it, so please be sensitive.)

I love Thanksgiving. And I love Christmas. And I love Jesus. And Jeff. And cookies. Christmas and Thanksgiving come but once a year, loveys. Make these days count. They're precious.

(And try to keep your car cleaner than I do.)   

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pressed for Time

Loveys, do you ever feel panicked? I have a deadline on Monday. It's making me feel rather panicked at the moment. I'm not ready for it. The truth is that I seem to have things to do in every direction I look. And when I look down, I just see this growing baby belly. And my hands feel swollen tonight.

I'm tired just now.

I was up late last night working, and I most likely will be up late working Saturday and Sunday as I try to hit this deadline. Also, I keep having distracting thoughts of gingerbread cookies. Do you know I love gingerbread cookies, lovey? Well, I do. Who knows why. I didn't grow up eating them. I am fairly certain my mother has never made a gingerbread cookie. But I like them and I want one (or ten) really bad.

My hair is still wet from my shower, and I'm feeling like I wish bedtime had gone smoother tonight. Jeff wasn't here, and I had to tell small people to brush their teeth and get into bed more times than I should have to, and it made me very frustrated. You know how it goes. Then after the fact that no one has been listening, those same small people want you to tell them a bedtime story. At which point, you are just unable to be rational. I know bedtime stories are good things. But not when no one has listened to you and your hands are swollen and you feel panicked.

I'm so glad tomorrow's Friday. Even if I'm pressed for time. Even if this weekend will consist of a lot of work for me. Even so. I'm ready for Friday, and my chances of getting a gingerbread cookie will look better.

It's been frigid here in Colorado, loveys. Truly. So cold. And it's been sort of an emotional couple of days for me with so much on my mind. Heavy thoughts, in some cases--worry for friends who are sick, and fear of so much that can go wrong for all of us. Then just the pressure of work looming over me and much to do. Then other things that overwhelm me or are unexpected. (Did I mention I had another tragic bangs cut? Seriously. Enough to make a pregnant woman weepy and wonder why no one understands her when she says, Not that short.)

So it's Thursday night and I'm thinking to myself, Sometimes I'm just not enough.

Sometimes I'm not going to finish in time. Some days bedtime is going to make me a crazy person. Sometimes frozen dinners from a box are going to be part of our life, and I will pretend I don't see all the laundry. Sometimes I need quiet and time to myself but it doesn't happen.

But then, sometimes it does. And if I'm not enough then . . . well, I suppose there are worse things. I might finish, I might not. I might have the energy to cook dinner tomorrow, I might order pizza. I might have to push through the weariness for another several days before I feel calm and rested. All of that can be done, and has been done before.

The heat just kicked on in my house. I'm home. Warm. Safe. My bedtime-story-less children are sleeping soundly across the hallway. Jeff is here now. I was able to have lunch with two of my sweet girlfriends today and that was a boost. I picked up a good book from the library.

Life is filled with stress and blessings. Both come and go at any time. It's a matter of holding on to who we are in the middle of it, I think. It's a matter of letting our shoulders rise and fall and saying, If I'm not enough this week, I just have to trust that God is.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How's Your November?

Loveys, how are you today? Let's talk Pink News.

We're having a GIRL!

Exciting news (for everyone except Lincoln. Poor thing was desperately hoping for a brother. I told him she might like superheroes. You never know). So it's time for me to starting thinking pink and finding all those boxes in the garage filled with Ashtyn's baby clothes. I can't believe I'm halfway through this pregnancy. Seriously. It's like I'll be delivering any minute (except for all those pounds I still have to go).

Other news, so today the beautiful and very cool Melissa Tagg is doing a giveaway of my new book Recipe for Love. Go enter here! AND I've got an article posted on my friend Ashleigh Slater's webzine Ungrind today. I'm talking about marriage and fish sticks, ya'll. You need to read this. Click here to find the article.

Speaking of Recipe for Love . . . it's available on Amazon now! Yay! I'm so excited. I loved writing this story. Go grab a copy and let me know what you think. I saw the first two reviews up on Amazon today and that thrilled me!

On another note, how's your November coming along, lovey? This can be such a hectic month. We're only like eight weeks out from Christmas, or something crazy like that. What in the world! This month always seems to zoom by. We're spending Thanksgiving with family, and I have a deadline to hit before all that fun starts so I'm thinking this November will be a blur. But I hate for the fall season to get past me without doing a few things I love. We had sweet friends over for dinner Sunday night, and then I had a couple of girlfriends stop in Monday morning for a November brunch. I really want to try to host at least one brunch per month to get together with the girls God has brought into my life. It's going to be a goal of mine. But next month, my one main goal is to host my annual ornament party (girlfriends, get ready!).

Since November can get crazy, it helps to set a few goals early on (and give yourself grace if you don't meet all of them). For myself, I want to think through my gift-giving this year and really plan ahead so I'm not scrambling mid-December. This is our last holiday season as a four-person family, I want it to be special for my kids. That means gingerbread houses, movie nights with popcorn, decorations, and so on. Time with friends can be hard with so much going on, but I want to keep in touch with our community during this season when we can. My parents will be in town next month so Jeff and I are thinking of spending a night away at a B&B. I need to plan that and make it happen. I need to get started on Honey Bear's baby scrapbook.

Things to do. Things to do.

Deadlines. Holidays. Baking. Cooking. Cleaning.

It's hard to keep up, right? So I'll set goals. I'll breathe easy when things don't happen and feel encouraged when things do.

Happy November, lovey. What's on your goal list?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Messy Houses and Perfect Fall Days

Loveys, I felt very pregnant yesterday. Large and tired and frustrated by a messy house that I didn't feel up to cleaning. I'm sitting here this morning, trying to work up the motivation to clean. I know it has to be done. Next to me, sweet Lincoln has taken to trying to eat his cereal like a puppy. (More to clean up.)

It was a good weekend (despite the largeness and the tiredness and the frustration). Actually, all the goodness started before the weekend. My sweet friend Robin Gunn was in town and we got to spend a little time together, which is always a huge blessing for me. She's one of my VERY favorite authors (Christy and Todd, anyone?) and chatting over smoothies with Robin on a perfect fall day is a recipe for happiness for this girl. Every minute was fun.

After all that loveliness, I headed over to my sister Sara's house Friday night. She made some yummy minestrone soup and we watched Downton Abbey for hours. It was the kind of kid-free night I truly needed. I got to be at Sara's clean house for a while, before returning to my messy house.
Saturday we decided to take a quick drive up toward the mountains. I needed a river. And right now, with fall in full effect, it's great to enjoy the scenery. We just drove up toward Evergreen, Colorado (a little town I love and wrote about in Table for Two!). The drive was beautiful. There was this hilarious moment where we're winding around the mountains and suddenly the radio gets a signal and we hear Boyz II Men belting out End of the Road. Literally, Jeff and I both start singing at the same time. Children of the nineties, you know. :) We ended up heading over to John and June's house for dinner. Which was also wonderful. June fed my family and we spent some time at their lovely (clean) home. I love nights like that.

Sunday was rough. The kids didn't want to go to church. We ended up sitting in the sanctuary with two squirmy, noisy children, and leaving early. Jeff wasn't feeling well all day and we were both frustrated with the kids. I had a ton of work to do so I absolutely had to hole up in our home office all afternoon. Showers and bed time for the kids felt more draining than usual. Ashtyn--sweet little thing that she is--is quite fascinated by my growing evolving shape. So she was making these totally innocent comments last night that ended up making me feel larger than ever. I could see Jeff's concern as she was talking. And then she magically came and apologized to me later (I'm very certain Jeff was behind this). I don't mind, truly. She's six and it's all quite interesting and that is okay. But I'm sensitive as it is, so I can't help it if I get weepy. And then I realized I'd missed Death Comes to Pemberly on PBS. NO! How is that possible? I saw all these tweets about it and went into despair last night.

Now here I am. In my kitchen. Wishing Blanca Brumble would stop by. Alas, Honey Bear and I are about to roll up our sleeves and clean house. There's nothing else to do but dive in. Laundry, dishes, toys--good grief. Doesn't it seem like housework can snowball so fast? You go just a few days without tackling it, then it's this mountain you have to climb.

But a little Ninja Turtle just came over to me for a hug, and that does help. :)  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Okay with Imperfect

How's your week going, loveys? I'm sitting here at home with a cup of coffee, my desktop and my laptop, wondering where to begin. I've got a stack of manuscripts on the corner of my desk that I'm not looking at. The edit that has my attention is pulled up on my laptop. I'm listening to Snow Hill's cover of Be My Baby (loving it). I just gulped down about half my cup of coffee since it was on the verge of getting too cold for me. And I'm thinking about how I feel at the moment.

I'm okay.

Right outside my window, fall is in full effect. The air is cool and sweet and every time I drive down the street, leaves swirl like I like them to. And the song on my playlist just switched to Home by Dawn Landes. My bangs are making me a little crazy. I'm not sure I should have had bangs cut again. (I will tell you this because if I have this discussion with the Jeffster, I get no sympathy.) I'm wishing this baby would start kicking. I'm thinking I need a new pair of black boots. And maybe new eyeliner.

Does your mind do this to you, loveys?

I've been all over the map lately. I think it's pregnancy. And maybe just me.

Let me just tell you, I'm okay with imperfect.

I was thinking the other day about my faith journey. I think I get more okay with imperfect the older I get. I rely on grace more. I see Scripture through the lense of a lot of stories about imperfect people, and I think, God must really love us. David and Abraham and Peter and Thomas and Rahab . . . with messed up, beautiful stories. And we're all just people. Needing to love and be loved.

And I don't need to try to be perfect.

I'm okay that my kids aren't perfectly obedient, vegetable-loving munchkins that go to bed the second I tell them to. They're just mine and I'll take them as they are. And I'll love them like no one else because they're mine. I think God must feel that way about us. When he saw David commit adultery and then murder and then be broken by his own choices--I think God loved him because David was his.

I think God can use any of us.

I'm easily distracted. I lose my temper. I'd rather have dessert than anything else. Sometimes I lose my train of thought mid-prayer and suddenly I'm writing my grocery list. I'm nervous when I'm alone in the dark. I'm obsessive about things like TV shows or books I'm addicted to. I don't really like talking on the phone very much. I wish I had more personal time. Even if Lincoln has gotten out of bed for the tenth time, when he tells me he wants another kiss, I'm going to give it to him.

I'm not the perfect wife or mother or Christian or friend.

I'm okay with that. It's not even on my to-do list.

I've been touched by grace in ways that changed me. I've reached down inside myself to find forgiveness that really means something. I've chosen belief when I'm not even sure. I've loved even when it made me cry and I wasn't sure I could. I know the things that matter to me.

Perfection is overrated, lovey. Don't worry about it. God keeps loving us.

And the song just switched to Today by the Smashing Pumpkins.

There are things to do. Maybe a second cup of coffee is in order. It feels good to just breathe easy and be thankful and know I'm loved. I don't have to be more than I am. I'm loved regardless. You are too, lovey.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Good for the Soul . . . Autumn Musings

Loveys, it's been a fallish, chicken-and-dumplings kind of weekend at the Bruce home. I'm thinking about the fact that tomorrow is Monday and I have so much to do this week. It's a very busy week for me. And now I'm looking down at the belly as I type this--also thinking that Honey Bear and I are tired and need to go to sleep as soon as I finish this blog post.

It's been a full weekend, with wonderful, good-for-the-soul moments in abundance, along with a few horrible moments (getting cussed out by two women in a parking lot over a parking spot and feeling so livid that I was ready to fight, pregnant or not. Only by God's grace did I bite my tongue and leave.). I suppose we take the bad with the good. Anyway, beyond that wretched experience, we also had lots of family time this weekend (something about taking my kids to buy pumpkins and seeing their excitement over Halloween costumes just delights me!). And fall just sort of feels romantic to me, I suppose. Cool breezes and beautiful scenery and holding hands with Jeff--all excellent things.

Another excellent thing is beautiful, transparent conversation with wonderful friends. My friend Tammy came into town Saturday night, and she and I and our friend Nancy stayed up late at my house, talking and catching up. Tangible moments of laughter and honesty and friendship. As Tammy said, it's good for the soul. I think I needed that more than I realized. It filled me up.

Here, right at bedtime, doesn't it just seem sometimes as though our minds are racing? Too many thoughts to even keep up. Everything we have to do. Life is made up of so many things. But I look back over the last couple of days, trying to remember what took up all of our time--and I stop and smile. The kids squealing with happiness as they picked out their pumpkins, their tiny hands and gorgeous faces filled with joy. Hearing Jeff tell me he thinks I'm beautiful (despite the fact that I'm growing by the hour) and feeling thankful that he can stay calm when I'm so upset I'm practically having an out-of-body experience. Hearing Tammy and Nancy laugh while we sit together and talk about anything and everything and appreciating the freedom of people who will take you just as you are. Red leaves everywhere. Chicken and dumplings on the stove.

Good for the soul. We take happiness and blessings as we find them, lovey. And we let the rest go.

And sometimes we seek out what we need. Deep breaths. Date night. Hugs and kisses from our kids. Friends. Pumpkin bread and coffee.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Happiness in a Bottle

It's almost eleven and I've been working all morning. A little tired from a long week, to be honest. My days have felt full and I'm slow to catch up. I'm a tad run down today. Ash is home, off from school, and I've hardly heard a peep from her (other than when I was forced to play Indian princess with her for a bit and help get all the animals to safety in Lincoln's room). She's such a homebody, that one. The realization that she didn't have to go anywhere, that she was free to stay in pj's and play all morning--sheer happiness for this girl. She's upstairs playing away (mostly wrecking Lincoln's room while he's not here), and she's just so content. Really. I wish I could bottle that kind of happiness.

I suppose it's that way for all of us, to an extent. You wake up on a free day, nothing pressing, and can do whatever you choose. We have so many responsibilities--and I'm fine with that and thankful to be able to work and help take care of my family--but a little play time in pj's is always a good thing.

Anyway, a quiet, productive morning has been good for me. Yesterday was sort of emotional. I had an OBGYN appointment, loveys, and I sort of yelled at my doctor.

Not really.

Well, here's the thing, I was planning to take one of those tests that tells you a lot about the baby and even the gender and all that sort of thing. It's a simple blood test. Not a big deal to me. I think the doctor was trying to communicate to me that lots of women have strong feelings about this kind of test (finding out possible issues beforehand). That's fine. I don't feel that way. I wanted to know the details of what the test will tell me and such, the accuracy and all that. She was saying something like 99.6 percent sure. Which sounds pretty sure to me. This is the first time I've met with this doctor and I have a feeling we just have very different personalities. She seems hyper.

I'm tired. Not really into hyper.

Anyway, at some point she was just raising her voice and saying off-the-wall things about how she can't promise the child won't have asthma or that we won't get into a wreck on I-25. I'm not sure what got her so riled up.

I told her I'm not really worried about asthma, and really, she can calm down.

Jeff was sitting with Linc in the corner, trying to find a game on his phone for our child who would not be still or quiet. At the sound of me saying she could just calm down, his head snapped up like a rubber band. I could see the look on Jeff's face--a little concerned about what I was about to do, a little amused about the whole situation, suddenly very present in case he needs to get involved. The doctor gets even more flustered, saying she is calm. But since she's now super flustered and even standing up--she's seems less calm than ever and I'm just sitting there watching her.

She left kind of quickly after that, with a sort of a mumbled apology.

That's fine. But the whole experience was not great for me and my raging hormones. I went from excited to hear the baby's heartbeat and to check in with the doctor, to feeling very frustrated and unsure what her problem was. Maybe she's not very in favor of that blood test. While she was assuring me some women have strong feelings about it, I was shrugging and saying it's just a blood test. It doesn't bother me. But she seemed to want to be sure I'm aware of how other women feel. In that moment, of course, it's my decision that matters, not anyone else's. It was an awkward situation and put a cloud over me for the rest of the day.

Jeff shook it off by the time we reached the elevator and told me not to worry about it at all. Sometimes I think he's better at shaking things off than I am (more than sometimes). Anyway, we did in fact hear Honey Bear's heartbeat, which was strong and beautiful.

And it's finally Friday. One of my book projects will be sent to typeset later today, that's always a good feeling. There's more work to be done, of course. I will have a busy November.

Today, breathing easier from the stress of yesterday, hearing the sounds of Ashtyn playing upstairs--my spirit seems to be calming. I walked through the kitchen and passed the chalkboard we have. Here's what it says:

And my soul drinks in the words like water.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Grace for today. Hope for tomorrow.

Now I have Ashtyn sitting next to me (or Soft Paw as is her Indian name today), eating yogurt and then asking me to warm her up. Lincoln will be home soon (I should do something about his room). It's cloudy today but we'll be seeing friends tonight and that gives my heart a boost (I should do something about my hair so they aren't all horrified). And it's the weekend. Time at home with my family.

So I breathe in and breathe out and accept God's grace for today and hope for tomorrow. And it's enough.