Living Whole in the New Year

Loveys, I'm a dessert kind of girl. You know this about me. I love cheesecake and chocolate pie and brownies. The holiday season, of course, brings gingerbread cookies and pumpkin pie and  peppermint kisses. All of which make me so happy.

Then came January first. I decided to try Whole30. Really, I had a feeling I could do with a reset from my deep love of all things sugary.

So here I am. (I've never eaten this much fruit in my life.) And I confess I'm thinking of turning Whole30 into Whole21 and stopping early. Seriously. All these fruits and nuts and eggs and All Things Healthy are somehow making me gain weight.

The goal wasn't to lose weight, but certainly it wasn't to gain. So. I might slowly reintroduce a piece of cake into my life soon.

Food is such a part of togetherness. There's something about sitting around the table with close friends, eating something delicious, pouring glasses of wine, talking late into the night--those moments are some of my absolute favorite. For me, they are life-giving. But equally life-giving is the need for less after indulgence. A cup of coffee and a quiet morning, time for reflection. A clear mind and a helpful to-do list. I need both. Connection and the beauty of food and wine together. Then a break.



I feel like I need that in so many ways--not just a reset from sugar. I've been a little bit of a homebody this month. Some of it has to do with the fact that if I'm going to eat somewhere, I pretty much need to bring my own food. But also, I've slowly been organizing cabinets and drawers. The terrible part of this is that things always seem to get worse before they get better! Still, afterward, I breathe easier. Yesterday, after chaos for weeks, I made myself organize Lily's room (well, as much as I could before I fell over from exhaustion). It was time. Too much chaos makes me start to twitch until I have to do something.

Balance is hard to come by, especially in the thick of family life. This is definitely true for me. But whether I'm over here re-setting for 30 days or 21, I think it's good to just know ourselves. To be in tune with who we are and what we need.

Do you ever feel the need to explain or apologize for the things you enjoy?

To enjoy dessert. To enjoy food. To enjoy music or dancing. To enjoy TV and movies. Or maybe to enjoy taking pictures. Or shopping. Or clothes. Or being alone.

I think sometimes we feel we have to temper down who we are or what we enjoy, maybe so people know (or assume) our lives are balanced. The older I get, the more free I feel to just enjoy what I enjoy. To strive for balance always (and make a change when I know I need to, like this month), but to be okay with the fact that the things I enjoy might not be what someone else enjoys and that's okay. It doesn't invalidate my feelings. It just makes us all more interesting.

There are a lot of difficult things that come with getting older--but the freedom that comes with age is, to me, one of the good things. I think living whole is more than just the food we eat. It's embracing who we are meant to be.

For this year, I want as many life-giving moments as possible, for myself and my husband and my children. What about you, lovey? What are you passionate about? What needs more time this year? What needs less?

Let's get to it.

Beautiful Moments During This Holiday Season

This week I had a group of women around my table, eating breakfast, drinking mimosas and coffee, and talking about all the things. You guys know that those are my favorite moments. And Christmas makes it that much more special to me.

I love Christmas. Truly. And hosting a little Christmas gathering has been part of my life for going on nine years now. I still remember the first time I decided to see if some friends wanted to get together for a little party and maybe exchange ornaments. The day after the party was the day I took a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant with our second baby (Lincoln!).

Every single year has been special to me, though friends have come and gone (and always some remain, for which I'm grateful). The night before the breakfast party this year, I was thinking of Colorado. I looked at pictures from years past. I missed my old friends and thought about the new ones who'd be coming over in the morning.

As the door opened the next day and my mom came in, bringing with her extra mugs and hash browns and pastries and quiche, I remembered that last year she'd just had surgery for breast cancer and couldn't come. This year her hair is growing back, she shared stories as we sat around the table, and having her there was a gift.

Time goes by so fast, as we all know. How has it been a whole year since her surgery last December? We've lived hours and minutes and days since then, and now Christmas has come back around.

At breakfast, we read quotes around the table from the book Little Women, and this one stuck with me: Such hours are beautiful to live, but very hard to describe.  

It reminds me of last year. The very difficult moments of watching my dad's health deteriorate as he battled cancer, then the moments of packing and moving and saying goodbye and closing a chapter of our lives, then even still, the day we heard that my mother had cancer.

It's a privilege to go through such things together. To have people we love that much.

And this year, I watched my mom from across the table and felt the same way I often feel when I'm talking to my dad--just relieved that they are here. Thankful for a little more time, knowing it's not promised to any of us.

I start this next decade with new friends around the table, and old friends forever in my heart (and not too far to visit!).

Last night, Jeff and I and the kids ended up all downstairs on the couch. We watched a movie and ate popcorn and laughed and were all cuddled up and tangled together . . . and there was this moment. Lincoln's head was on my shoulder. Lily and Ash were snuggled up on Jeff, and I was watching my family, not the movie, thinking, I can't be happier than this.

Because such hours are beautiful to live.

Not because anything spectacular is happening, but just because we're surrounded by people we love.

These are my favorite moments of the holiday season, because these are the hours that, to me, are beautiful to live.

Conversation with friends.

My children and Jeff all around me.

It's never perfect and never needs to be. It's enough for me.

Tonight is like every other night at the Bruce house. My kids suddenly have one million things to talk about and are as thirsty as camels at bedtime. Jeff and I can finally take an hour to watch TV together, but I'll probably fall asleep. After so many loads of laundry this weekend (and still not finished. Good grief), the sock pile is like Pike's Peak in my bedroom. And we've got another very busy week ahead of us, inching closer and closer to Christmas Day.

Some of those beautiful hours are stored away inside of us, and we carry them with us.

Here at Christmas especially, I start reminding myself of the things that don't matter and the things that matter so much.

My kids might not remember every present, but I hope they carry with them the nights we spent together and all the love.

I know I will.

(And for my mom and dad, I carry those things too.)

Merry Christmas, loveys. I hope this season is filled with beautiful moments for you and your family.

And for all my reader friends, I'm super excited to share with you that I'm releasing a holiday e-novella! I hope you'll hop over to Amazon and download this short, Romano family Christmas story.

Chilly Nights, Toasted Marshmallows, Warm Fires, and Apple Pie

Loveys, it's that time of year. Mornings and nights are chilly; afternoons warm up. The kids want to roast marshmallows. I'm in the mood for homemade apple pie and pumpkin pie and chocolate pie--basically all the pie. (Also, I'm already listening to Phil Wickham Christmas--Ash just said, "Mom, it's not even Halloween yet." #DONOTCARE)

Here's what I know: Life goes by in a blink, so do what you love. 

This past weekend was all of that for me. Gathering with friends and talking about books around a beautiful table. And then having a last-minute fall dinner party one evening at our house. For me, there's nothing like people coming together to eat and drink and talk and laugh. These are my favorite things. Add in a blazing fire and cocktails and music and candles and awesome friends and I'm a very happy girl.

I'll tell you the truth: I feel like I'm not great at keeping up with everything (mainly LAUNDRY). House stuff, work stuff, kid stuff--and back to the house stuff. I'm overwhelmed by clothes and laundry and dishes, and I'm tired of making dinner. I keep saying I won't take on projects and then I somehow end up doing it because--well, I guess I want to buy stuff and go places and since I don't feel like cooking, I kind of need money to take the kids out to eat. You know what I mean.

And all of those things are constant in my life (and important), but they can make me tired and drained and even overwhelmed.

We need things that fill us up. Make us happy. Give us life.

So amid all the things that are always happening, I need to pencil in food and friends and conversation. Because in those moments we're reminded (I'm reminded) how much I absolutely love my life. I woke up this morning and looked next to me. Jeff was asleep and Lily was asleep curled up on him. And my first thought was, Thank you, God. Because cozy mornings fill me up and make me happy. Watching Lily blink those sleepy eyes and move closer to me--I love those moments.

I need all those moments. When I'm sitting with girlfriends outside under twinkle lights, talking for hours, or when we're with our people out by the fire, eating apple pie after dinner, or when it's barely light outside and one of my kids (or Jeff!) snuggles up to me.

Fall is best when it feels cozy, don't you think?

Our calendar is so full this month that it feels like words are falling off the pages and I can't keep track of it all. Some seasons are like that. (I'm pretty sure it's like this for a lot of us!) But the house smells like pumpkin spice. It's Friday, hallelujah. Homecoming at LU is tomorrow. The weather is crisp and perfect.

I love every minute.