Monday, February 8, 2016

45 Minutes

One of my biggest struggles with motherhood is that there is never alone time.

We can joke about how a mom never has a moment to herself - not even to pee or shower. Even if I am home without the kids or husband, there are piles of laundry or a sink full of dishes nagging at me.

I've never understood how there can be so many outside demands of my time until I became a mom.

And it doesn't get better. It just gets different. As a mom to newborns and infants, the demand is constant for life sustaining things like food and comfort and physical care. As toddlers, we add in a new level of safety demands. As my kids have grown, their demands on me and my time haven't lessened - they've just changed in nature.

My day is generally jam packed with demands on my time, my energy, my abilities.

There's this idea that we have to make time for ourselves. And I used to do that with exercise. But even then there is a "must" sense to it. There is an expected outcome, a sense of this being a task.

Even when I sit and watch TV, I am usually doing something else at the same time.

How did I become this person? How did I get to be so... worn thin? And I know I am not at all alone in feeling this way.

I attended a retreat this past weekend. And it was filled the things you expect - connecting with others, self reflection, sharing, lots of laughter. But there was an hour set aside for Scripture reflection through a process called Lectio Divina. I've "studied" the idea of Lectio Divina and thought it sounded like something I'd enjoy. But I've never been able to make time for it. At this retreat, we were given the Scripture and then given an hour to find a place where we could comfortably read, reflect, meditate, contemplate.

I struck out down a broad path by myself. And I was attracted to a woodsy area off the path. I had brought a blanket along so I climbed in amongst the brush and trees, laid down my blanket, and sat down.

The view from where I sat


Psalm 139
13 For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetnessof it.
17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
    How grand in scope! How many in number!
18 If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
    Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.
I read the Psalm and then I just sat with my eyes closed. I listened to the sounds of nature around me. Birds and a woodpecker and geese - some nearby, some far away. I felt the sun on my face and saw the glow of light through my closed eyelids. I heard the sounds of a family off in the distance, children playing in their yard.

I read the words again. I focused on phrases that stood out to me - mother's womb, for example. I felt like I was cradled in Mother Nature's womb, secured from obvious sight, hidden in a tangle of branches.

The view of my "womb" from the path
I wanted to write. I began to jot down thoughts and impressions on the paper that carried the Scripture.

I sat still in my spot and listened but with my eyes open. The blue sky, the white clouds, the wild field on the other side of the path that will soon begin to burst alive with new growth, the tree branches that will form buds and grow new leaves.

I realized that I needed to check the time because we had an hour for the activity and then had to meet back together in the lodge.

It had been about 30 minutes. I had been sitting still and quietly with no demands on my time for 30 minutes. I was surprised but then I did a little self assessment. I didn't feel... bored or restless or anxious. I felt calm and relaxed and peaceful. Moreso than I have felt in a very long time. I had brought markers with me and spent 15 minutes sitting in my little womb and just colored. My mind was clear. My heart was peaceful.

I think that's the closest I've gotten to the idea of "zen." Not the actual Buddhist practice of Zen but the common idea of a sense of zen.

When it was time to return to the lodge, I stood and stretched as best I could from within my nest. I picked up my blanket and carefully made my way back to the path. I stretched again - more fully this time.

Over the past 2 days since the retreat, I keep going back to that time in the trees. Those 45 minutes of quiet, of being alone, of no demands, of my mind not wandering to the list of "to do's" waiting for me. The calm, the peace, the awareness of life.

And now I have a longing for more of this experience. An awareness that this isn't something I should schedule or make into an expected task to check off my list. But maybe, when life is feeling hard and overwhelming and stressful... maybe I need to go find a womb, a nest. A place where I can sit and connect to the earth and the air. Where I can be silent and still and simply exist in God's presence.


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Friday, January 29, 2016

#DoggyDateNight - Twitter Party Feb 3

Bandit Loves You!!



With Valentine's Day just around the corner, love is in the air -- and pups can sniff it too!  That's why I've partnered with Big Heart Pet Brands (makers of Bandit's favorite dog foods, including Milk-Bone, Pup-Peroni, Canine Carry Outs and Milo's Kitchen) to invite you to the first-ever #DoggyDateNight Twitter Party!
Come celebrate with other dog lovers, show off your best puppy pics, and get treated to lots of cool surprises. Just cuddle up with your furry soulmate and tag your tweets with #DoggyDateNight to join in the fun!
For those are you unfamiliar with Twitter Parties, they are really fun and oftentimes, huge, live chats on Twitter that use specific hashtags to connect participants to the conversation stream. 

In preparation for the #DoggyDateNight twitter paw-ty, I found some great doggy outing ideas at TheNosePrint.com, a site with tons of paw-some tips, tricks and advice for dog parents. (It's one of my go-to resources!)
With Valentine's Day coming up, this #DoggyDateNight couldn't have come at a better time. I'm excited to do something special for Bandit. Though I'm fairly certain his idea of a dream date is feasting on some Milo's Kitchen Steak Grillers. They are his favorite!
Readers, which is your favorite Doggy Valentine DIY Project?  Tell me in the comments below.  Plus, share a photo of your homemade doggy valentine at the Twitter Party and you could win an awesome prize!
I can't wait to see you all at #DoggyDateNight on Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 8-10 pm ET (5-7 pm PT). 
Please RSVP here to join the fun:  http://tweetvite.com/event/doggydatenight

This is a sponsored post. I do these posts because it gives me a great opportunity to support local shelters with donations of dog treats from Big Heart Pet Brands. The above is provided content - but the video is completely my own!!! 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Treetop Outpost @ConnerPrairie

I don't do it as often as I'd really like but I do enjoy getting out into nature with my kids. We tend tos tick to local nature preserves simply for the sake of convenience. I'm very excited about this new project underway at Conner Prairie and can't wait to visit this summer and fall!

Press release provided by Conner Prairie:

FISHERS, Ind. (Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016/Conner Prairie) – A four-story treehouse offering panoramic views will be the centerpiece of a new 10,000-square-foot outdoor experience set to open July 1 at Conner Prairie.

Construction on Treetop Outpost started in late October and continues today in the southwest corner of the museum’s grounds close to the White River. Several diverse activity areas will surround the treehouse in which guests can engage with natural materials, experience archaeology, build, create unique nature-based artwork, explore music with instruments and more. Also, a connecting nature walk will lead visitors through woods and along the river to the prairie.

Visitors will enter the treehouse by spanning a suspension bridge or walking up an elevated walkway.



The $750,000 exhibit being built by general contractor Hagerman Group was announced at Conner Prairie’s 2016 Annual Meeting Wednesday, during which a nationally renowned dinosaur paleontologist and popular children’s show host told an audience of nearly 300 guests that now, more than any other time in history, we have to get youth connected with nature.

“The indoor migration that has occurred in just a single generation has contributed to a growing rate of obesity, attention deficit syndrome, diabetes, myopia and other diseases among children,” said Dr. Scott Sampson, host of the popular PBS KIDS series “Dinosaur Train.” “A screen looks the same in Indianapolis as it does in Miami, Tulsa or anywhere.

“There’s a huge disconnect between youth and nature now and if we don’t narrow the gap by getting kids outside now, people probably won’t even care about the outdoors in a generation.”

Sampson, who is an executive at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and recently authored “How to Raise a Wild Child,” said adults need to instill and encourage three basic behaviors in youth to connect them with nature for a lifetime.

“Notice that nature’s everywhere. Look at it and be curious,” he said. “Let them engage. Let them grab a stick and play, jump in the mud and climb a tree. Don’t say no. And let them wonder. Kids are naturally inquisitive and want to learn on their own. Share your own stories about your life in nature and encourage them to create their own lifelong memories.”



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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

@IndianaPork #baconfest 2016

BACON!!! Do I have your attention??

Vegetarians and vegans - just look away now.

Seriously. The picture alone makes me drool.

I'm fairly old fashioned when it comes to bacon. I like it cooked on a griddle or in my cast iron. And I like it crispy. In our house, the 4 of us could easily eat 1 lb of bacon in one breakfast meal.

But I'm also really intrigued by what bacon brings to other dishes. Maple donuts with bacon sprinkled on top, for example. And then there are those chefs and food experts who know how to really utilize bacon in delicious and scrumptious ways.

And how best to celebrate such talents and such a delicious food?

BACONFEST!



This Saturday (Jan 30) is Indy's 2nd annual BaconFest. It's presented by iHeartMedia (local radio stations WOLT ALT 103-3, WFBQ Q-95, Big 98.3, and Fox Sports 975 AM and is sponsored by (of course) Indiana Pork.

The event is at the Crane Bay Event Center (551 W. Merrill St, Indy) this Saturday, Jan 30, from noon until 3. But that General Admission slot is sold out! VIP tickets allow early entry at 11:00.

From Indiana Pork:

Join us to sample bacon inspired dishes from some of the best restaurants in Indy! Hang out with the crew and enjoy delicious food! It's Indy's Bacon Fest 2016, cured by Indiana Pork - your Indiana Pork Farmers.

Ticket includes four (4) free food samples from vendors and one (1) free drink ticket. Additional food and drink tickets will be available for purchase on-site on the day of the event.


Participating restaurants include the following: Georgia Reese’s, Jack’s Donuts, Drake's, Union 50, Morton’s, Palomino, The Chef's Academy, GT South's, Revery on Main, Meridian Restaurant and Bar, Mucky Duck Pub, Louie’s Wine Bar, SoBro CafĂ©, Monon Food Company, Tastings, Bent Rail and the Ritz Charles

That list of restaurants alone makes me start to drool. There are some very talented and tasty food stops on that list. I'm eager to see what they have to offer!!

I'll be sharing pics and such on Saturday via Instagram and Twitter. Follow along, wipe your drool, and plan on buying those tickets early next year!

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Fantastic Food Fest, Indy

It's no secret that I like food. I get really excited about food. Food is about more than just nutrition for me. I'm fully on board with food, love, passion all going together, being connected.

When I learned that there was going to be a celebration of food right here in Indy, I got a little excited.

Cooking classes, local speakers, national speakers and chefs, local food artisans all gathering together to celebrate food.

That's my kind of celebration!

Fantastic Food Fest


They are offering cooking classes for kids, sushi making classes, cultural cuisine classes like Italian and Japanese. Cooking classes cost $25 per person in addition to your general admission ticket.

There are demos by local and national chefs and personalities like Ted Allen (host of Food Network's "Chopped"), Hugh Acheson (Top Chef), local mom and food expert Heather Tallman, local kid chef Sabrina Richard (she competed on Rachel Ray's Kids Cook Off), and local chocolatier and entrepeneur Julie Bolejack of Chocolate for the Spirit.

Exhibitors include everything from wine to marshmallows to caterers to farms. There's a "Grand Tasting Pavilion" where you can buy tickets to taste incredible food from local Indy chefs and food experts.

General admission is $15 for a 1 day tickets. A 2 day ticket is $25. And a 2 day VIP ticket is $55. VIP tickets offer access to a VIP lounge - comfortable seating, live jazz band, signature cocktail bar (and 1 complimentary cocktail), complimentary access to the Coffee/Cappuccino/Espresso Bar, reserved seating at presentations by celebrity chefs, complimentary coat and package check, and VIP seating at all seminars.

Kids under 12 are FREE with a paid adult ticket!

If you want to know more about all of the Fantastic Food offerings around Indy, this is your event. Come and experience farms, restaurants, food vendors, and more!

If you love food and you especially love local food experiences, this is your event!


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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Being Loved

I've been on an interesting faith journey in this past year. 2015 was a year of big change as we left our church of 11 years. And it wasn't an easy change. It was one of those heartbreaking break ups filled with angst and hurt. Like divorce.

Through it, one of my greatest struggles was that I stopped clearly hearing God. I'd reached a point in my relationship that I truly felt nudges that I knew were God giving me things to do, to say. Sometimes, I "heard" the voice. Sometimes, I just felt a knowing. But there was strong connection.

And then came all the circumstances that led to us leaving our church home. Leaving the nest. And as I struggled through those circumstances, God fell silent.

The knowing I had come to rely on wasn't there to give me instructions anymore. I was blindly following and it was pretty terrifying.

I'm starting to stick my toes back into the light again. We have found a new church and it offers each of us individually things that we didn't realize we were missing. It isn't the same. And it will take time to really recover from that "divorce." But Jeff and I both feel like we, as a family, are where God intends us to be.

The other interesting aspect of this year of great change and the changing of the year from 2015 to 2016 is that I found myself not really wanting to review 2015 and not really wanting to set goals or resolutions or even a focus word for 2016.

But there has been a little whisper. It's a whisper I haven't heard in a long time. In fact, it was about 1 year ago that I attended a women's retreat and had prayer focused on just listening and my heart broke because I only heard silence. It was about 1 year ago that I laid in bed and wept as I prayed and begged for guidance, begged to have affirmation that I was doing what God wanted of me. And I only received silence.

It's been a year of learning to sit in that silence.

I can't say that I love it. But I have learned a lot in it.

And just today, I heard a small and familiar whisper.

Up until this past year, I'd always known with certainty that my purpose was to Love Others. To love them in radical ways, in reaching out ways, in Christ like ways. To love people close to me and to love strangers. I listened and I obeyed and I shared God's love over and over and over and I felt very fulfilled in my faith. Not in an egotistical way. More like - peace in knowing my purpose.

But it was only my purpose for that season. Or it was only part of my purpose.

As we enter into relationship with this new tribe in our new church, we have each been a little tentative to receive the acceptance and love that others are offering to us. I see Teagan trying to shield herself from potential wounds. I know that I am staying behind a partial wall. There are wounds that we are still tending but are also protecting.

And in my prayers this morning, I heard it. And I have tears in my eyes now as I think about the moment. When I briefly heard a nudge, a knowing.

Be Loved

I have to admit that I'm not very good at letting other people love on me. I always want to turn the tables and find a way to love you, instead. It's not a matter of not feeling worthy or feeling that I'm less than in any way.

But it's really important to "allow" other people to fulfill their own call to love someone - to love me.

It's really important to realize that I need to be loved. That I need to be drawn in and embraced.

I'm fortunate that I have circles of people who do love me and that I accept that love. That was easy in our previous church family, as well. But that was part of why God was pushing me. When you get comfortable, you stop growing. It was easy for me to love others - in simple ways or in lavish ways. It was easy to be in the presence of people who knew me, accepted me, loved me.

God's purpose is rarely easy. God's work is hard work. And there are mistakes and failures along the way.

So in this season, I'm opening my focus on allowing myself to Be Loved. To observe others as they accept love. I'll continue to give love but I also know I'm in a season of rest. God has placed me where I need to be. In order to truly do whatever comes next on my path, I need to understand the acceptance of love offerings from other people.

It's like suddenly becoming aware of the traffic driving on the other side of the median. It's always been there but I just haven't paid any attention. And if I don't stop and observe and accept, I might get run over.

How do you allow others to love you? What are unexpected ways that you've been loved?


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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Advent: JOY

I love it when God wants me to learn a lesson.

Monday was starting out as a real Monday. One of those Mondayest of Mondays kind of Monday. Everyone woke up cranky. No one had slept well. No one was happy with anything. No one wanted to go to work or to school. We sniped and griped and whined.

The drive was awful. The weather was dreary. Everything about the day was just... monday.

Work wasn't proving to be any fun. The day started with a meeting that announced more changes - positive ones, potentially - but changes are always a bit wearing. Work load, end of year, dismal, dreary, blah.

Monday.

A day of meetings and busy schedule and a day where I needed to help pick up, pack up, and deliver our company's donations to a local women's housing group.

I co-lead a women's leadership group at work. And our primary outreach focus is on a place that provides women who are homeless due to domestic violence a place to live that is safe for them and their kids. They also receive education assistance, child care assistance, job placement, etc. These families live in this place for up to 2 years until they can thrive and sustain on their own.

It's a really great organization.

This year, our company decided that our women's leadership group would "drive the train" on the company's community outreach efforts for the holiday. So we divided the 2 buildings into teams, each team received a themed basket with a list of ideas under that theme (kitchen, bedroom, transportation, pantry, etc) and a deadline by which to have donations brought in. We also asked for volunteers to help on the day we would be picking up and loading cars and driving the donations to the organization.

There were 2 of us.

Mondayest of Mondays.

We gathered each group's donations. Some were big. Large boxes, bags full of stuff. Some were small. We walked all over 2 buildings - offices and warehouses and production groups. We hauled load after load after load to our 2 vehicles. In the rain. And the wind. We had the wind "steal" pillows and lighter items a few times. It was hard and kind of miserable work.

And we didn't have help. We had people stand and watch as we struggled with doors and weather and boxes and bags.

When we arrived with our 2 carloads of brand new household items to donate to an organization who creates a home for families who have nothing and the women who helped us carry in the donations gushed over how amazing all of this was - that this was far beyond their expectation... my partner in the job felt good.

"This is why we did this."

But I still didn't feel good.

It was still the Mondayest of Mondays. Why wasn't I feeling good like my co-worker?

I still just felt... exhausted, worn, troubled.

Today, it hit me.

It was a lack of coming-togetherness that had felt so off all day long. My family woke up not being together. We were each focused on individual wants or complaints. Same thing at work - everyone is focused on their own struggles. And the same thing with the donation drive and picking up and loading efforts.

Everyone just wants to focus on their own thing and not see anyone else's needs or wants.

It was that realization that filled me with joy. I get my kicks by seeing a need and filling it if I possibly can. I am very grateful to know other people who are also wired this same way. And most days, my family seeks to take care of each other with this same motivation.

If you're cold and I have a sweater, I will give it to you.

If you're hungry and I have a sandwich, I will give it to you.

If you're struggling to get a load of stuff into your car, I will stop and help you.

Not everyone sees the world this way. Not everyone acknowledges the reality of the experiences of other people. But for me, that's what humanity is. We're all the same, we all have struggles. And when we see someone who is really just like us and they are struggling and we have some way of making it better or fixing the problem or at least showing them that they aren't alone... that's where I find joy. It doesn't mean I can fix every problem. It doesn't mean I have any answers. It doesn't mean I have unlimited resources. It just means that I pay attention and when I see a need that I can address, I don't turn away.

Being on the receiving end of people turning away was just setting me up for understanding where my joy comes from. My joy comes not just from me being able to help. My joy comes in seeing others feel the same way. My joy comes when my daughter creates joy for another person by making them feel special. My joy comes when someone reaches out to my son to bring him a teensy bit out of his shy shell. My joy comes when someone stops at an accident scene, someone holds a door, someone puts away an overwhelmed mom's grocery cart, someone takes meals to the homeless, someone spends time with someone who is lonely.

My joy comes from knowing that compassion and love really do exist in the world.

And that's a pretty good lesson to learn.



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