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The Grateful Tree

Today, I am over at my friend Becky’s blog writing about my daughter’s grateful tree. You can read the post here.
 

 
Growing up, I always thought that I was such an easy child to raise. My parents hardly had to do anything, as I made good grades and was obedient. Except for the time that I seriously protested the family dinner when my parents started the Fit For Life craze diet in the 80s, I was a pretty perfect child. You would have protested the special mayo and alfalfa sprouts combo in the Pita bread as well, trust me.
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Dear Miss Martha – I don’t want a month, I want a cure

Ah, October. The month that I, as a Phoenician, look forward to every year. It’s typically the time that temperatures are finally under 100 degrees and I can finally walk outside again without risk of heat stroke. I crank my air conditioner to 70 degrees, just so that I can bundle under blankets, order a pumpkin spiced latte, and post a picture to instagram to feel that I somehow have something in common with all my east coast friends taking pictures of red leaves, scarves, and pumpkin patches.
 

 
When I crawl out from all my blankets, put my shorts and flip flops back on and step outside into the Phoenix fall world, I immediately feel assaulted by the blanket of well intentioned people wearing head to toe pink. Pale pink, blush pink, and neon pink. Doesn’t matter the shade, it’s just an assault to my eyes. October is no longer the month that ushers in fall, it’s the month that every grocery store looks like it came directly from the set of the Steel Magnolias movie when Julia Roberts got married in a sea of pink Pepto Bismol.

The phone calls come pouring in from telemarketers and neighbors trying to collect money for their organization of choice or another 3 Day Walk. Because who do you call when you want money to fight cancer? That’s right, you call a person who has or has had cancer, because they surely want a cure, right?

I was doing ok with the first couple of days of October until yesterday.
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Visual Storytelling

Be responsible for the energy that you bring into the room


 
When I get to college, I will finally get the freedom I have been seeking. My life will finally begin.

When I get married, I will finally start living the life that I desire.

When I have a child, I will finally be complete, and become the woman I know God wants me to be.

When I get that promotion, I will finally have a successful career.

When I get more money, I will finally have the home that I can properly entertain in.

When I lose weight, I will finally be able to buy cute clothes and be in the family pictures.

I have spent a good portion of my life looking towards the finish line. When I finally reach that white powdered line, then all will be good and content in my life. I have never uttered those words out loud, but I haven’t needed to. My inner tape recorder, implanted firmly between my two ears, keeps replaying this same message of the glory and myth of the finish line, as far back as I can remember.
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Dear Emily – On your 10th birthday

Ten years ago, I was rushing to the grocery store to get more milk and food for Ben. He was 16 months old and eating at an alarming rate. Dad was at the library studying for his last final for law school. Rebecca was nearly five years old, busy rubbing my belly as she was excited for your arrival. Our happy family of four was getting ready to outgrow the comfortable booths at restaurants and would have to adjust to the hard chairs and tables after your arrival. Dad proudly told his sports-loving friends that we were preparing for the transition from man to man defense to zone defense, since we would shortly be outnumbered by children for the first time in our marriage. It was going to be three kids versus two parents.

We were surrounded by U-haul moving boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap. Dad had accepted a job in Phoenix as a new attorney, and we would be moving to a new city only tens days after your birth. A home had been purchased and your room was already painted pink from the little girls who lived there before us. Dad had assembled a toddler play set and it was waiting for you and Ben on the back porch of our new home. We were anxiously awaiting your arrival.

You came into this world on April 25th, 2003 at 5:30 at night. You were the smallest of our three children, at 7 pounds 2 ounces, and Dr. Maciulla told your daddy that you were perfect and that he was in big trouble. Rebecca was stroking your head and Ben made you cry because he kept trying to kiss you with his hard pacifier in his mouth. Their love for you was palpable, right from the start. The next morning, when Dr. Maciulla came into the room to check on us, he asked how my little Mighty Mouse was doing. Wow, was that term prophetic for where you are almost ten years later!
 

 
Dad and I couldn’t love you anymore. It’s impossible. We consider it a joy and a privilege to be your parents.
 

 
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Currently

Currently I am wishing I could freeze time. My four kids are at such fun ages and are all at really good spots in their lives. Jeff and I are soaking it in.
 

 
Currently I am laughing a lot and scratching my head as I parent a teenager, two tweens, and one toddler. On this week’s shopping list, I had a note from Rebecca that she needed tampax, eye makeup remover, and contact lens solution. Jeff then texted me that Sam was out of overnight diapers. I briefly wondered if having siblings so spread out is going to be something my children won’t remember favorably when they are older. Then a moment follows where the love is just so intense during an after school tickle fight and it relieves my unspoken fears. (more…)

Rekindling a passion – photography

This past fall I put my camera up on the shelf. I was struggling to understand my life and its circumstances. If there was ever a time I needed to dust off the camera and start snapping away, it was then. My outlook probably would have been different.

For me, when I look through the simple square frame on my camera body or on the back of my phone, I am able to see stories. I am able to see the good in myself, family and others simply by looking through that lens. I’m able to see stories happening in front of me without a camera as well, but often the camera gives me an unspoken permission and creative push to see more deeply into those visible in my viewfinder.
 

 
I’m ready to start working on my life list again, but I’m working hard at increasing my energy level – my physical energy as well as that spark from within that had nearly been extinguished. I want to move with an intentional slower pace at this stage – I want to savor the experiences, rather than frantically try to check things off a list.
 

 
This past month, I’ve been picking up my camera and my iphone and shooting. Between the endorphins of exercise and taking pictures, I feel that spark being rekindled. Oh, how I have missed that feeling.
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Do you see what I see?

Four children.

Four extremely different children.

Four children whose mirrors constantly show a reflection of who their mother is from four different viewpoints.
 

I am a better person because of those reflections that shoot back at me through their bright eyes, tear stained cheeks, air fist pumps, or the shrugging of shoulders.

In other words, I can tell within seconds whether I have been nominated for Mother of the Moment or whether my children are interested in becoming wards of the state.
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Operation: Print Those Pictures!

I take an insane amount of pictures. Before the digital era (B.D.E.), I had triple prints printed of every roll of film at my local Costco. It was often costly, considering how many pictures included closed eyes, chopped off heads, and even unflattering butt shots of myself taken by a then toddler.

My mother and mother-in-law however, loved the B.D.E., because they constantly were getting my extra pictures. Now I take so many more pictures, but they are saved on my laptop or shared here or on social media sites. My immediate family is pretty plugged into social media, but some of my extended relatives wouldn’t know the difference between Twitter and Instagram if their lives depended on it. So uploading pictures to a family Shutterfly account is about to happen.
 

 
After 7 months, we are finally feeling settled. We sold most of our belongings and have slowly bought only things we absolutely love. We have had a couch in the front room for two weeks and are waiting on two leather sofas for the back family room. As I was taking pictures of the back room, I noticed I had many empty frames that had been displayed for over a month. Why? Well, honestly I have no idea. It certainly isn’t because of a lack of available pictures. So I declared the need for immediate action, thus the birth of Operation Print Those Pictures!
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I’m choosing to tell my story

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of our words, stories, and pictures. While I have been regaining my energy and moving forward from a difficult time in my life, I have been thinking about my story and the story of my family. The past month I have been praying and dreaming about the chapters of my story that are left to be written.

I specifically have prayed about whether to continue telling my story through this blog. I committed several months ago to not making an impulsive decision and to really have a peace before moving forward either way.

While my blog reading has been very scarce, I have read these three posts that have spoken volumes to me. And, yes, I do believe they were placed in order of how I needed to hear them.

First, I read this post from Breakfast From Strangers when they interviewed Susie Davis.

Her quote, “I try to live my eulogy today. If you want people to say nice things about you at your funeral you need to be living that way now.”

After facing scary health issues over the past decade, I found myself tasting salty tears of joy and hope as I read the entire post. Her words simply reminded me that I am responsible for the energy that I bring in to the room, whether that be my home, workplace, or local breakfast shop. I am responsible for my choices and responses to my circumstances, no matter how many days or years God promises me.

Then through instagram I read this post from Hayley. I was sitting in the preschool parking lot and wanted to roll down my window and tell everyone of those young moms, “Read this!” I thought that might be construed as over the top, so I just clapped out loud to myself in my mom vehicle.

You see I have this desire to want to do it all and do it well. I know that is impossible and impractical, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from trying or at least secretly yearning for that desire.

So when Hayley wrote,

“That means I’d have to admit that I’m not good at everything and I can’t do it all. And that stings.”

Oh, could I relate. I forwarded the post to Jeff and this was his email message back to me.

“Hey – This reminds me of a friend of mine who isn’t writing, even though she has a gift. She doesn’t have the energy she once had to bake cupcakes, scrapbook, entertain, and exercise due to some (crappy) circumstances. She will again, just not now since this isn’t the season for it. But since she can’t do it all and do it well, she pushes her other gift of writing aside. I wish that girl would realize that standard of having it all together is just not going to happen. Life would be boring if it were that perfect. Maybe you could relay the message to her? Love you.”

I relayed the message to that friend. She listened.

And finally, I read this last week from Anne at Modern Mrs Darcy, after she attended the Killer Tribes Conference.

She shared this quote from speaker Ben Arment who said, “Frustration, sorrow, and heartache are unbelievable motivators. Frustration is a gift. My prayer for you is that great frustration would befall your life.”

But when Anne wrote this the tears fiercely welled up in my throat…

“And you better believe I’ll be dreaming about how those negative things (frustration, sorrow, and heartache) can be turned into something beautiful.”

I realized that my silence with blogging was directly related to fear. My fear of inadequacy. My fear of illness and death. My fear of not having it all together. My fear of giving you all the energy that I have, and it just not being enough.

So today I am choosing to step out of the fear and into the light. Today I am choosing to tell my story again. Today I am moving forward just as I am, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.

Blessings sweet friends,
Jenny

This picture is of a street in my neighborhood that I purposefully include along my walking/running route. Never hurts to be surrounded by positive people, thoughts, or street signs.

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