Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not So Itsy, Not So Bitsy!

Wednesday morning, in my bleary eyed, half asleep early morning state, I stumbled to the kitchen door to put the dog out for morning business.  As she ran onto the deck, I saw something drop near her.  I thought it was a rain drop.  Until I looked up and noticed...

A spider web.

A big one that took up about half of the doorway.

I like to look at spider webs.  I don't like the spiders that reside on them.

This is Charlotte.  Charlotte isn't showing off her full size because the web had jus tbeen bombed by a rain drop and vibrated in what must have felt like the Great VA Quake.  This resulted in Charlotte pulling in her legs close to her body.  The kids were fascinated.  Jeff and I were trying to act like it was all cool- which it was- and not show our totally skeeved out side!

I think Charlotte is an Orb Weaver.

Charlotte did something really, really cool and I wish I could have captured it on video for you.

She caught my eye as I was making Teagan's lunch.  I saw her shoot down towards the ground and start the ascent back to the web.  I watched and quickly called the kids to watch.  As she made her way back to the center of the web, the bottom of the web was disappearing.  Quickly!  She made it to the middle and the bottom half of the web was completely gone.  She swung her way to one side and came back, again bringing web in with her.

After a little research, it turns out that some Orb Weavers will eat their web and recycle it!

Teagan thought that was really, really cool.

Zach... well, he had one question.

"Mommy? Can you make she dead?"

That's my boy!  Too bad Mommy and Daddy are more squeamish about the squishing of a spider than about the spider itself.  I kind of enjoyed watching Charlotte creeping about through the glass of the kitchen door.  Part of me hopes she'll have a new web ("Some Pig!") built overnight. 

Part of me is ready to go out and buy lots of insect repellent to put around my house.

I hate spiders.  A lot.  But I hate them less when they are outdoors.  I absolutely hate them being inside my home or my office or my bathroom stall.  But outdoors where I can maintain a distance that feels safe and controlled is all good.

My spider fear also runs to spider nonsense.  I can't squish a spider.  Not because I think it's icky (which it is), not because it might jump on me (which it might).  But because if I squish it, that spider sends out a Secret Spider Signal to all the other spiders and the friends and family of the squished spider will come for me.  But if I spray it to death with hairspray, it never realizes what is happening until it's too late and it dies without being able to send out the Secret Spider Signal.

Quit laughing!  I'm serious!

Edited to add: After posting this, I went into the kitchen and Charlotte came back.  Jeff and I watched for a while, I snagged a few more pics, and then slammed the door before she accidentally blew inside. *shudder*


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Art Class

Tuesday night was Meet the Teacher night.  Not only did we get to learn all about what Teagan's day is like at school (when she eats lunch, how the teacher manages the classroom, etc)... but we took a peek in the art room. 

Art is one of Teagan's favorite special classes.  She's always loved art projects and she really likes this teacher. 

I think I'm a little bit inspired.   I've never been an artist.  I've tried and been interested but it simply isn't a talent I have.  Anything artistic coming form me is going to be about the passion and emotion and not about how it looks. 

But I figured my art could hang with 1st graders, right?

Then I saw this...

I think I might be in trouble with my art career dreams. 

Trust me- if I don't use letters to make my birds, they aren't going to be at all recognizable as an animal species!

Well, I can handle no birds in my pictures.

Uh oh...

You want me to draw limbs and branches and leaves or something??  Oh, crap.  Fine, I just won't draw trees.

I have a great love of the sky so I'll just stick to...


I am a writer.  So I can always express myself with words, right? 


Maybe I should go with bigger pictures where the detail isn't as important?

No floating objects.  Well, there goes that plan. 

Guess I'll just stick with the barest of basics in drawing...


Guess I'll just stick to blogging.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Last Minute Can Be Best Minute

2 years ago, we had to send a family picture in to Teagan's school for a project in her class.  I have no idea what that project was but I do remember taking that family picture.  We'd spent the day at the Fair or something so we were hot and tired and I had to get the family picture done for the next day.  It turned out amazingly wonderful.

I don't know how we skipped it last year.  But this year, another request from preschool for a fmaily photo, another last minute rush, and another evening of rushing around, a crazy busy evening, and a quick gathering and auto-set of the camera gives us a great family photo.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dig IN - A Taste of Indiana

I was provided with tickets for an event that I had never even heard of but that is so perfect for me that it was an ideal event to cap off my birthday weekend.

Dig IN - A Taste of Indiana

This was a festival of food, wine, and brew.  This was a "farm to fork" event where local producers provided food and local chefs made delicious dishes with it. 

Christy and I made it to about 18 out of 24 food stops.  We only halted our eating because we were stuffed.  Seriously stuffed.  Some was delicious, some was good, some was just ok.  Some was very creative, some didn't live up to the description provided. 

I think we visited 4 local wineries, often having more than one taste.  We visited 4 or 5 local breweries.  We stopped visiting the wineries and breweries because we were thirsty and wanted water more than anything.  Plus, we were stuffed. 

So here's a run down of some of what we tried:

The first thing I have to say that I loved was Christy bought us each a Wine Yoke from Best Vineyards Winery.  This allowed us to carry our wine glass with no hands which made it easier to enjoy the food stops. 

Of the wineries and breweries, there were a few I would love to splurge and buy from in the future. 

My favorite for a sweet wine was a tie between the Apple Spice wine from Wolfcreek Wines and the Sweet Black Raspberry from Best Vineyards.  My favorite for a dry red was the Chambourcin from Rettig Hill Winery.  Christy loves- I mean really, really loves- their Grand Rouge because it's a dry red blend made from the Norton grape (the only wine grape that is truly native to the US).

For the breweries, I most enjoyed the Wheat Ale from Mad Anthony Brewing Company.  Several of the beers offered were hops based and I don't enjoy that bitterness.

For the food... oh the food!!  My first observation is that I love being able to enjoy an event with a friend who totally understands what I mean when I say "To really enjoy that dish, you had to have the perfect ratio of goat cheese in each bite."

For the food, I'm just going to go down the list of what was provided in our event program.  ** Means I really liked it.  ~ Means thumbs down.  Anything else was fine, good- not bad, not spectacular.

~ Black Swan Brewpub  Christy and I first met the founders of Black Swan at the State Fair last summer where they were competing in a BBQ cook off.  Talking to these 2 guys clearly demonstrated their passion for and understanding of food.  We were eager to try the place but it's far from home.  Last winter, we had the chance to go on a day long event in Hendricks Co and we ended our day with a fantastic meal at Black Swan.  We are definite fans of Black Swan.  That said, we did not love what we had at this event.  The listing says "Summer salad with peach vinaigrette, stout glazed smoked Indiana duck breast and cheese crisps."  Black Swan was one of our last stops.  There were no chese crisps, no hint of dressin gon the greens.  The duck was delicious.

Brad Gates Catering & Events  "Duck & goat cheese dumplings with sweet & sour peach sauce"  This was yummy.  The dumpling was a sort of wonton and there was also some sort of slaw that the wonton was served on.  Definitely an intriguing blend of flavors.

Cafe Patachou "Assorted heirloom tomato gazpacho with roasted corn relish"  The cool thing about this offering was that there were 6 or 7 different heirloom tomato gazpachos offered.  Christy grabbed 3, I grabbed 3.  I don't remember all the styles of heirloom tomato that we grabbed- pineapple, chocolate, zebra, peach, and more.  We had a few bites of each, we each had favorites, and we quickly moved on.

Circle City Soups  ""My Dad's" sweet corn chowder"  My Dad's Sweet Corn comes from Tipton and is one of those items that sells out almost every week at the Farmer's Market.  Corn chowder made from it was bound to be delicious and it certainly was.  Christy loves all things corn so this was one of her favorites.

Circle City Sweets  "Indiana peach and frangipane tart"  This was a nice treat. Nice balance of flavors, easy on the palatte and stomach.

** Fermenti Artisan  "Homemade heritage breed bacon with fermented root relish and Capriole Farms goat cheese"  This is the dish that I made my earlier comment about the ratio of goat cheese on each bite.  The fermented root relish looked like shredded beets but was sweeter.  The presenters of the food also mentioned something about apples in it.  It was a cool dish and great for summertime.  I liked this dish more than Christy liked it.

** Indiana Downs  "selection of tarts"  This doesn't do it justice.  We weren't able to sample everything they offered because they were changing it up every hour.  What we had was delicious but I don't know what it was.  Something with a goat cheese consistency and taste on top, a fruit compote of some sort, and they used edible flowers as well.  Yummy and intriguing.

IUPUI Food Service  "spaghetti squash with homemade ricotta"  Didn't love this dish.  I love spaghetti sqaush so my hopes were high.  The dish was served cold and I found that I don't like spaghetti squash cold.  The ricotta was very creamy and the guy serving it said it was marscapone.  There was also a raw marinara sauce.  It was different and the ingredients individually were fine but it just wasn't my favorite dish.

Chef JJ's Back Yard  "watermelon peach smoked bison with spicy house pickle"  This was yummy! The serving wasn't too much- a literal bite and it was just right.  They served it on a skewer so you got a bit of bun to hold the sauce, the bite of meat, and then the pickle.  It was really very tasty.

** JW Marriott "Crispy pulled prok with braised native beans and rendered Indiana bacon layered with pork jus, hickory syrup, and pork emulsified foam"  This was one of my favorite dishes.  Had there been room in my tummy to have a second helping, this would have been my choice. I felt like I was eating off a fancy Food Network show. This was served in a little cylindrical cup and the food was in layers. The description given really doesn't do it justice. It was simply amazing.

~ Joseph Decuis "mini Wagyu burgers with hot pepper onion relish and havarti" This was probably my least favorite dish, unfortunately.  The cheese overpowered the flavor of the beef.  Wagyu is supposed to be a very special beef and the flavor was completely lost.  I also didn't get much from the hot pepper onion relish.  I even took off the top bun and tried a bite that really focused on the meat and relish and still didn't enjoy it.

** Keltie's  "bread pudding with caramel sauce"  DELICIOUS.  Everything about it was right.

The Local Eatery and Pub  "grilled bison tostada with roasted tomato and corn salsa, lime pickled cantaloupe with cilantro"  I was VERY excited to try this dish.  2 of my favorite ingredients are listed- lime and cilantro.  This was good but I had complaints.  The tostado was more like a basic tortilla chip.  The bison and salsa was delish.  Seriously liked it.  The cantaloupe was a small bite sized melon ball and tasted like... cantaloupe.  I didn't taste any lime or cilantro- total bummer.

R Bistro  "brined and roasted turkey, vegetable salad"  I didn't think this was a dish that would draw people in to their restaurant, necessarily.  It was good but didn't stand out.  The turkey was fine.  The vegetable salad with filled with yummy raw veggies- cabbage, green beans, radishes, I think.  It was fine.  But not great.

** Second Helpings  "beef tenderloin with fontina cheese, potatoes and savory tomato chutney"  This was delish.  I was very excited to try this dish because I love what Second Helpings does for our community.   I very much encourage you to click the link to their website and see the very cool program that is Second Helpings.  This was some of the best cooked beef I've had- the flavor and moisture were exactly right.  The tomato chutney was sweeter than I expected and the flavor popped in my mouth.

Served Cafe & Bistro  "Bees Knees: french toast wyport wine and honey, pork tenderloin, swiss cheese, strawberries. Coopers Hawk port wine syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar."  This was unique and tasty but didn't stand out as a favorite.  Some of the elements were either lost or were just unremarkable. 

** Severin Bar & Grill  "Applewood smoked lamb, grilled peach and poblano relish, bicolor corn and wild rice goat cheese fritter, blueberry demi"  This was an amazing dish.  The lamb was perfect.  The relish was ah-MAY-zing.  The fritter was heaven.  I also loved watching them cook- they had set up little cooking stations using bricks- I didn't get to see completely how it worked but it was definitely unique. 

Zest! Exciting Food Creations "Farm2Spoon caldo frijo on chili-spiced tortilla with queso fresco"  It was good.  Didn't love it.  Partially because I was overly stuffed at this point.

The other offerings sounded amazing but we simply didn't have room in our tummies. 

Next year, I hope to include Teagan in the event.  I think her taste in food will continue to expand over the next year and she could really enjoy it.  I would also make sure we plan to be there for the entire 5 hours.  I'd love to get several of the food offerings and go sit in a shady spot and just enjoy and then lay back and relax a bit.  This would help with the overstuffing thing, I think.  They also offered a speaker series but I wasn't able to get to any of them- if I plan effectively next year, I think I can make that work better, too.  I'd be sure to bring a big bottle of water, too.  Wine and beer are great but I was soon quite parched and water was a better cleanser of the palette.

Other free samples of the non-alcoholic variety came from Natural Born Juicers (loved it) and B Java Coffee and Tea (had a coffee soda that was quite tasty and perfectly brewed).

There was also live music but I didn't catch which band it was that I was enjoying so much.  They were good and played a nice variety of everything from classic rock to Bob Marley.  The tables in their tent were full and they also had people waiting in food lines winging and dancing (myself included).

We also enjoyed offerings and came very close to buying items from the Indiana Artisans tent.  I've been a fan of Chocolate for the Spirit since that holiday event in Hendricks Co so I was eager to see Julie again.  We loved tasting the maple syrup- and especially the bourbon infused maple syrup- from Burton's Maplewood Farm. 

My biggest regret is that I left my phone in the car.  No tweets, no pics, no notes aside from the things I quickly jotted down in my event program.

I have to admit that when I first learned of the event, I was very glad to have been given the tickets for free.  I balked at the price.  $20 in advance, $30 at the door (Note- bring cash!! Also note that kids 4 and under are free, kids 5-15 are $7).  However, having attended this shindig, that is an amazingly fair price.  Had I purchased my tickets in advance (which I totally would to save the $10), I would have more than gotten my money's worth with the amount of food, alcohol, and SWAG that I picked up. 

Other local eateries that support local producers and business I'd love to see there would be Scotty's Lakehouse, Oakley's Bistro, and The Loft at Trader's Point Creamery.

I Dug IN and I Dug It and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Unknown Mami


Saturday, August 27, 2011

So Cute!

Wasn't I cute 37 years ago?


Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy Birthday!!

I looooove birthdays!  I love to celebrate the birthdays of my kids, my friends, my family.  I'm not always super great at remembering birthdays.  But for those close to me, I like celebrations to last as long as possible.  With our kids, we celebrate the "last day of being 6" as well as that first day of being 7.

Today, it's MY birthday.

I'm going out tonight for a special dinner - it's a 5 course German dinner that is paired with German beers.

Saturday I'm going out on a date with my husband.

Sunday I'm going to Dig-IN. It's a farm to table extravaganza that brings farmers, chefs, breweries, and wineries together.

Happy Birthday to ME!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

They're Different

Our adjustment to first grade continues.  Teagan loves school.  She's very positive about every aspect of her day- she likes her teacher, what they learn, she can name friends she's made, she likes her special classes and teachers, she is enjoying buying her lunch this week. Teagan misses Mom and Dad.  We've got some things in place to help with that- like wearing a special necklace to help her remember that we love her all the time, no matter what.

The really cool thing is that little bits and pieces of her day are coming out more and more.

At dinner last night, Teagan started to talk about people who are different.

"Mommy, do you know what I like about people?  I like that people are different!"

I agreed with her.  I said that I thought it was really cool that God made us to all be a little bit the same and then lots of ways different.

"Right! Like, some people can talk and some people can't.  Or some kids have autism."

I agreed again- and pointed out examples of other ways people are different and unique.

"Right, Mom! And some kids have brown skin and some have peach skin.  And some talk with their hands. And some have different teeth."

She then went on to tell me about 2 kids that are sometimes in her class.  These are special needs kids.  They don't talk.  They have a special helper who comes to class with them.  One boy has a walker.  Teagan hasn't been able to go over and say hello because the class is always busy with activities when these boys come in. 

Jeff and I go to school on Tuesday evening to learn about the class, to learn from the teacher what the school day is like, and to find out more about the particulars of the school day.  I'm eager to find out the details on these 2 boys who are part of the class.

This is the second time that Teagan has come home and shared her thoughts about these 2 boys.  What I love is that of all the ways she could respond to them, she is listening to the words of the adults in her life.  I know she is repeating things she's heard from me, from church, from her teacher. 

But she could still choose to form her own opinion, to follow the feelings she might be having.  I think it would be just as easy for her to follow the fear of something different, rather than celebrate the beauty of something different.

I also think that's an amazing lesson to learn from our kids.  I hope that I always see the beauty in differences and that I continue to lead my children on that path. 

When I look at the people in my life that I consider to be my friends, that I consider to be the people I know I can turn to for help, support, guidance, or just a shoulder, I see so many differences!  I see different colors of skin and hair and eyes.  I see different childhoods and life experiences.  I see different religious and spiritual beliefs.  I see different politics.  I see people with different interests from my own, different body shapes and sizes, different abilities, different talents.  And I celebrate those differences.

And my daughter is learning to celebrate those differences, too.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

FitCity: Confessions of This Emotional Eater

Find me at Fit City today... would love for you to stop over and leave a comment on this one...


Life has been very hectic for a few months now.  The primary change is my work situation.  Same job, same people, massive increase in responsibilties and stress levels and work hours. 

I had a lovely little routine.  I had a lovely work load- I had enough to keep me busy, I had a little bit of down time here and there, and I knew I was always able to take a day off without much stress, I knew I could go for a 40 minute run at lunch or hit the gym at lunch. 

Now, I’m bringing work home most nights of the week and often over the weekend.  Now, I rarely get a lunch break.  Now, a day off means not really disconnecting from my workplace.

Big changes like that bleed out into other aspects of life.  Less working out, grabbing food when I can, bad diet choices.  I feel like my time is strained and I work hard to keep my family my main focus. 

And I’m stressed and exhausted.  And there are times that I’m angry, frustrated, beat down, and ready to quit.

I’ve returned to an old habit.

Emotional eating.

Bad day? Cheetos, please. Sudden increase in work load? Snickers ice cream bar would be great! Big deadline? I’d love a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and some Twizzlers, thanks!

I come home and eat a good dinner, sit down to do more work or to just relax or to spend time with my husband and it starts… a voice from the kitchen…

“Aye, Carumba! Chips n salsa need you!”

“Liiiiz… chocolate ice cream and syrup are waiting for yoooooou!”

“You deserve to treat youself- come make another sandwich with a side of chips!”

I’m battling it but it’s hard. I keep trying different strategies but nothing touches some of these cravings.

I’ve tried figuring out exactly what gets satisfied when I eat.  What exactly I’m stuffing down.  My best guess is that it feels like something I’m easily in control of and something that provides immediate comfort. 

The stress isn’t going to let up any time soon.  I’m spending a lot of time focusing on how to manage it better. 

But I’m currently losing the food battle.

Have you won?  Help me!  Are you currently struggling?  Let’s face it together.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making Dinner. That's Sexy!

I'm starting to think Jeff reads my blog (he does).

Monday, I posted about being the Visible Woman, right?  And one thing I said:

At home, I'm often looked to as the decision maker, the planner, the fixer, the one to ask, the one who knows.  Jeff is a partner in our family- don't misunderstand me.  I generally feel like I'm the one filling out all the forms, I'm the one managing the calendar, I'm the one stating what needs to be done and when.

Today, Jeff has taken charge and taken care of our family and it's left me feeling so happy and focused on more important things.

He picked up Teagan from school.  The two of them decided on what we would have for dinner and went to the store to pick up what they needed.  When I finally got home with Zach, Jeff had dinner almost done and it was easy to step in and help and get the kids started eating pretty soon after.

It's not a Huge Thing.  But it's an important thing and it was something I didn't have to worry about or think about or plan for.  He took care of it- he took care of me.

Who knew that making dinner could be sexy?


Monday, August 22, 2011

Women of Faith

I will admit that I didn't expect to get as much from Women of Faith as I did.  I thought I'd enjoy it and enjoy the time with my friends.  I thought I'd hear some great speakers and music.  I thought I'd be uplifted and I thought I'd cry and laugh.  And all of that happened. 

I didn't expect the complete reboot of my spiritual system.

First step when you encounter a computer problem?  You call the IT guy and he says... "Did you restart your machine?"

This weekend, I restarted my machine. 

In yesterday's post, I shared some of what I realized about what life had been doing to me lately, about my need to refocus, and about how I felt too visible and exposed.

There was so much more and there will never be words for all of it.  And it's the kind of thing you have to experience and soak in and then you realize afterwards the impact it all had.


Monkeys In Your Cage

Dr. Henry Cloud spoke about a variety of topics but one thing really stayed with me.

He spoke of behavioral experiements done with monkeys a few decades ago where the scientists wanted to learn about stress and fear and the impact those things have on our systems.  They would put a monkey in an enclosed environment and expose the monkey to high stress factors- loud noises, flashing lights, and so on.  They would then study the brain waves and chemical changes of the monkey- like the rising cortisol levels.  Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone."  Next, the researchers wanted to understand how the monkey could best manage the stress.

They took the monkey's companion- the monkey that was present and well known to the stressed out monkey- and put the companion monkey into the stressful environment with the initial monkey. 

Cortisol levels dropped by half.

We all need a monkey in our cage when we are going through the stress of life.  No matter how big or how small those stresses are, having another monkey with us helps us get through it.

I'm very fortunate to have some great monkeys in my cage.  I just have to remember to unclench my fists from my eyes and see that they are close by and reach out for them.


Don't Forget To Prune

Dr. Cloud also talked about endings and pruning.  "What is in your today that doesn't fit in your tomorrow?"  What is holding you back, what do you need to let go of, what is keeping you from blossoming?  Am I doing what God called me to do or am I doing what the people around me want me to do?  Sometimes, pruning means having to cut something good.  Just because it's good doesn't mean it's what is best for your life's purpose.

If this speaks to you, I encourage you to click over to Facebook and check out this video of Dr. Cloud explaining it.


The Shepherd Knows Where To Find Me

Sheila Walsh is a woman with a story vastly different from my own but who understands the tragedy, suffering, and turmoil of a bad past.  She's lived an amazing life and I found myself entranced as she shared some pretty intense and horrible things from her personal story that are on the same level of the horrible things that are part of my own personal story.  And then she shared the story of a serious rock bottom time in her life and the intensely personal interaction she had with a Messenger of God.

I hope the story was true. 

The message was true- no matter how far I stray, no matter how lost I am, no matter where I try to hide, my Shepherd will find me, my Father always loves me.


It Is Well With My Soul

I don't think words can express the amazing experience I had on this one... and even the video won't fully capture it.  But when Natalie Grant sang an a capella version of "It Is Well" and 10,000 women sang back to her and she had tears and we all had tears and I get chills just thinking about how beautiful it all was... it was the essence and epitome of what Women of Faith is about.  We were singularly connected and woven together with the music while we reached for God in worship. 

You can watch video of the experience here.


Emotional Release Can Be Physically Draining

Oddly, I'm not sure I can go there again right now.   I'll just say that Angie Smith's words touched me deeply and connected me to pain from my miscarriage in 2004 that I didn't realize was still so raw.  I was so glad to have good friends on each side of me who allowed me to sob in my seat and who held me hands as I cried and who hugged me as soon as I was ready.  Angie spoke before our lunch break and I felt exhausted and eager to retreat throughout the afternoon.  I was still eager to hear and experience more, to fill up my soul and spirit.  But my heart and was unexpectedly drained.  And I think I needed to go to that place in order to be truly open to everything the weekend had offered to me.


I think that covers the most important things that I took away from the weekend.  This was my first time attending Women of Faith and I am eager for it to be here again next year.  My day at work today was different- I was filled with God's grace and eager to face the tasks ahead of me.  I also really value the time I spent with women from my church.  For any of you who read this- I value every moment.  From clapping and hip bumping during the music to hand holding during my break down to getting away for lunch to a night of laughter, snacks, and a little bit of wine to making a new friend who seems like a long lost sister.

I think the thing about Women of Faith that is so important is that all of these things I took away from the event would end up being far less important in my life if I didn't have my church family, my church sisterhood, to help me stay connected and plugged in. 

"And this is the part where I just back away and hope my words fade with me... or maybe I say The End."


Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Visible Woman

There is a lot that I took away from the Women of Faith event I attended on Friday and Saturday.  I am eager to share it and also to record it so I can remember the things that touched my heart.

- Make sure you have monkeys in your cage.

- Don't forget to prune.

- The Shepherd knows where to find me.

- It is well with my soul.

- Emotional release can be physically draining.

Women of Faith is a big gathering of women from a variety of Christian faiths who come together to be renewed and strengthened.  Yes, there is crying.  And lots of laughter.  And there's hugging and eating and bonding and late night talking, too.

The conference itself is set up like a big concert- there is a stage set up in the middle of the space and giant screens at the top of the stage so you feel like you are face to face no matter how far away you are.  There are speakers- not boring stand at a podium and lecture speakers.  These are storytellers.  They share parts of themselves, their life experience, their life stories and how God impacts, saves, lifts, and carries them. 

One woman, Nicole Johnson, is well known for her dramatic presentation.  She is an actress and writes her own monologues for Women of Faith.  This year, she also shared her own personal story. 

One of the monologues she presented is called "The Invisible Woman."  I've shared a YouTube video of it below.

It's a powerful piece that I know many women connect with.  I've heard many of my mom friends talk about feeling invisible, feeling like they lose themselves, feeling like they aren't seen or heard.

I think I have the opposite problem.

As I sat and listened to Nicole's monologue, I felt disconnected from it.  I appreciated it because of the feelings I've heard others express.  But she wasn't telling my story so I didn't feel the words ringing with me in a deep way. 

I feel like I'm the Visible Woman.  And I think this is where a lot of my stress and frustration has been stemming from.

I'm not going to do the "you don't know how stressful it is to be popular!" thing.  I've always hated to hear that.  "You don't know how hard it is to be this pretty, this smart, to have this many friends." 

But at the same time, I'm realizing that it's true.

The more attention you get, the more pressure there is to keep giving what you've become known for. 

When I am living my life authentically for God, it all comes naturally.  I can focus on the things in front of me, I can carry the burdens of others, I can balance work and home and fun and commitments, I can make my kids feel special, my husband feel important, and my friends and family feel appreciated.  I can take on any extra porjects thrown my way at work, I can agree to doing this one special favor for this friend or that, I can be present and available and real with my blogging.

Lately, I've been wishing I could be a little bit more invisible.  I've been wanting to be seen less, heard less.  I've been wanting others to notice me less. 

I've worked hard for years to be good at what I do at work.  And now I'm facing the biggest challenges of my career thus far.  Making it through this season, which doesn't yet seem to have an end in sight, might mean a lot of great things.  But I'm questioning my ability to make it through this season with this workload, these expectations, these requirements. 

I've lived my life to be available to others.  I know that I've suffered greatly in the past and could easily lean on the excuses of my past breaking me, damaging me.  But the truth is that I am completely whole and strong and healthy and because I've known some intense and awful hardships, I know how much I can carry, how deep I can go for my friends.  When someone is facing intense personal struggle, I know I can be there in a unique way.

I expose myself pretty openly on my blog.  I write from my heart, passionately.  I have no clear niche- I just write what I feel.  I don't write with a purpose or intent.  I have no goals or expectations.  And in being open and honest and sometimes raw and deep, I've been honored to be part of being a special and positive impact on the lives of people I've never met. 

At home, I'm often looked to as the decision maker, the planner, the fixer, the one to ask, the one who knows.  Jeff is a partner in our family- don't misunderstand me.  I generally feel like I'm the one filling out all the forms, I'm the one managing the calendar, I'm the one stating what needs to be done and when. 

I'm pretty highly Visible.

When I am living fully and authentically in my faith, those things all balance pretty easily.

Things have gotten thrown out of balance lately and I don't thin kmy response to it has been the right one.

I have turned to God, but I'm now realizing I've done so with my own limitations.

"God, Help me through this added stress at work.  Help me to accept the demands and expectations and requests with grace and strength.  Help me to keep my family a priority.  I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel so please just get me through to the end, help me get to the goal."

See, I decided what the end was for the new job function.  I decided that there needed to be a point where the stress would stop.  I was looking to the future I had decided on.

And once I did that at work, I started doing it in other places, too.  I was asked to help with something and instead of just praying for guidance in how I could best serve Him as I helped others, I focused on what I was asked to do.  I got caught up in the start of first grade and my conversations with God were about my feelings of anxiety and my concerns for Teagan's adjustment, but I never turned that stuff over to Him and never prayed for strength and never decided to just trust Him.

I've been feeling incredibly Visible and Raw and Ragged and Exposed lately. 

Listening to this monologue made me realize that I was longing to feel Invisible.

And that was a red flag.  No one should be feeling like they want to be invisible when so many are wishing someone would just notice them, hear them, see them.  I knew I needed to find balance instead of dreaming of extremes.

I don't have it figured out yet.  But I at least know what I need to work on going forward.  I can't continue to live like I have for the past 4 months.  I just can't. 

I don't necessarily want to change anything with my current circumstances.

I just need to make sure I am focused in the right direction. 


Friday, August 19, 2011

On The Verge

I continue to feel like I'm wearing thin.

I come to terms with something, find peace with that level of stress.

And then something new pops up. 

I'm tired of feeling like I complain about my job too much.  I'm tired of feeling like I'm always trying to feel good about work again.

I feel like it's tough to be fully available to other things that are true priorities.

I sat in training for 2 days.  The training was excellent and I got excited about applying what I'd learned. 

But I also gained some insight into my work situation that left me feeling flustered all over again.

2 steps forward, 1 step back.  Hitting my head against the wall.

Teagan is having a hard time adjusting to her new school and I'm feeling helpless. 

It's been breaking my heart that she hasn't come home excited to go back the next day.  I was hoping that she would be bursting with stories to tell us about lunch and recess and her classroom and her new friends and her teacher and the school.  But getting her to tell us anything... I have to use my very best questioning techniques.  And I still don't feel like I have a good picture of what her day is like.

And worst of all... I feel helpless to help her.  I can see that she is struggling and hurting. 

I took her out to dinner las tnight so we could talk.  We went for sushi.  And we talked.  And there was hugging and I had to force myself not to cry at certain points in the conversation- like when she talked about the girl she'd been friendly with the day before who didn't seem interested in her that day.  Or when she lit up because she found out she'd get to visit Little Explorers on Sunday when we went for Zach's open house for pre-K... because she wants to see her Kindergarten teacher to tell her that she is the Best Teacher Teagan's Ever Had.  Or when she said she had no one to play with on the playground so she just walked around and went down the slide and tried asking to play with some of the kids but they said they weren't playing anything.

I hate this.  I hate feeling out of control at work and feeling helpless as a parent.

So I am especially grateful for where I'm going today and I am holding out high hopes for some serious letting go of stress, some focus on finding answers and action plans, some support from my church sisters, and some time with God.

Women of Faith

I think I need this jolt of rejuvenation.  I know I need to reconnect.  I've been praying and relying heavily on my faith but I need something more. 

For those who are the praying type, I could sure use some prayers this weekend. 


Thursday, August 18, 2011


First Day.  First Grade.

Something changed in my girl today.  It's not a bad change.  But being totally on her own in this completely big and brand new environment is forcing her to do some growing and I know she's ready.

Here is what we know about her day.

We know they offered her breakfast at the before care program (cereal) but she declined because she was so stuffed from breakfast (cinnamon rolls).

She enjoyed spending time with the little girl we met on Monday night.  She's also new and her name is Elizabeth so Teagan was excited to have a friend with a name matching Mommy's. 

The first before care worker who approached Teagan was also named Elizabeth!

Teagan and her classmate Elizabeth enjoyed recess and lunch together.

Teagan was hugely impressed by the number of school buses and the amount of kids who poured out of them.  She informed us that there are a "zillion" kids in that school.

She remember the principal making a morning announcement but didn't remember what he said.  She said they all stood up and said the Pledge of Allegiance together with the principal as well.

She enjoyed her packed lunch but didn't have time to finish everything but also said she was full.  She doesn't yet have interest in buying lunch.  She also got a snack after school in her after care program. 

Her teacher is nice and funny and her teacher and I, according to Teagan, have the same hair.

They didn't do any math.

At dinner, she told me very calmly that she isn't sure she likes school and maybe she wouldn't keep going.  I asked her why... and my heart broke when she said that maybe she just likes it at Little Explorers more.  By the end of next week, I'm betting she's changed her mind.  But right now, she's going from practically running her school (if she could ever find a way to fully trick Ms. Lori into turning over the keys, she'd totally love being the boss of the school) to feeling small and overwhelmed in a huge place where she doesn't know anyone.  She's gone from being in a place that we consider to be part of our family to being in a place where she doesn't know anyone and feels alone.

It's a huge deal to ask kids to trust us that much, isn't it?  I expect and want and appreciate that my daughter trusts me enough to go to school and turn to the adults to help her and to follow the rules and expectations.  She isn't going in to this new situation thinking that someone is out to get her or hurt her, she isn't scared or untrusting.  She believes, automatically, that she is in a good place. 


On a different note, the hardest part of the morning wasn't just walking out of the school after taking Teagan in.  We all went as a family so Zach was with us.  I am glad I took the extra time yesterday evening to rush and get the photo albums done because it seemed to help Zach feel better.  We walked out of the school without Teagan, Jeff was carrying Zach, I was trying not to cry, and when I looked at my little boy in his Daddy's arms, his face broke my heart.

He looked so lonely and sad.  It's like he just... wilted.

So we got out the album and I showed him where it was in his backpack and he smiled at some of the pictures.  Daddy put his favorite CD on in the car (Imagination Movers) and he apparently looked at those pictures all the way to school.  They got to school and Zach cuddled with his teacher and showed her the pictures.  He had a few rough spots this morning but had a perfect afternoon.  He's been telling us for weeks that if Teagan isn't at school, he won't love anyone there.  Today, he decided that he loves Ms. Cora.


I call day one a success.  We've got adjustments to make in the week ahead and plenty of learning to do.  Elementary school is a whole new world with brand new expectations and rules and requirements.  Teagan can and will excel because that's what she does.  Zach will adjust and will reach out for comfort when he needs it because that's what he does.  I'm eager to continue on this path and to watch my babies grow and blossom and achieve these new milestones of independence.

First day. First grade. First day without his big sister. 



Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Last day of Teagan's summer break.

Last day for me to go to the Indiana State Fair.

Last Tuesday that my daughter is an elementary school student.

Last day of Teagan and Zach being together like this.

Last night, we visited Teagan's school.  It was chaos.  We didn't know where to go or what we were supposed to do first.  We started in the cafeteria while most people went for classrooms first.  Teagan got to meet 3 very nice cafeteria women who were very excited to hear who Teagan's teacher was.  We found her classroom, met the teacher, found her desk, unloaded her school supplies.  We visited the special classes- art, music, gym.  We visited the before and after care program. 

It all feels good.

The build up of all the stress and anxiety was too much for Teagan and she had a giant meltdown when we left.  But once she got all the shrieks and tears outs, she was in much better spirits.

Today, we celebrate our last day of summer break with a trip to the State Fair. 

I've got an order for picture prints so that Zach and Teagan will each have a small photo album of our summer fun to keep in their backpacks.

Lots of change and transition this week.  Lots of lasts.  Lots of firsts.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sky's The Limit

I have 2 little brothers.  Well, not so little anymore.  Even though Ted will always be about 5 or 6 in my memory and Daniel will always be about 3... they have grown into young men. 

Ted just went back to the University of Dayton to start his senior year of college.  He's on the verge of... his future.

Daniel is about to move on campus at UNOH.  He's taking the first steps toward becoming himself.

If there are basic words I want them to always remember, it's what I shared with Daniel this past weekend.

Don't be stupid.  Don't be scared.

But sometimes I'm more visual and poetic and as I drove home from Ohio, it all came together in my heart.

If there is one thing I want my brothers to know, it's that the sky is the limit.  And I don't mean that in the cliche kind of way. 

I've been drawn to the sky for a long time.  I often notice rainbows and sunsets and sunrises and clouds and storms.  In the past couple of weeks, I've captured a few images of the sky with just my cell phone that I think really represent things I want my brothers to know.

Life is beautiful.

Sometimes, something looks beautiful and is beautiful but don't forget that the reason you are noticing it is because of what you don't see.  Don't forget about the sun lighting up that beautiful thing.

Sometimes, things look dark.  Sometimes, things are tough.  But don't forget that the sun is always somewhere in the sky- behind the darkness, behind you, maybe even on the other side of the world.  But it is always, always there.

Remember that trees provide shade and rest.  Sometimes, the sun and the clouds and the storms can be hard to bear.  Those are the times that you can find strength and shelter from the trees in your life.  Choose your trees wisely- strong, sturdy and wise.

Most of all, take time to stop and stare at the clouds.  Look up.  Find the Mckey Mouse ears and the circus elephant and the dinosaur.  Always remember that someone who loves you is doing the same.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tragedy at the Fair

Not a happy sharing today...

A tragedy has occured in my city.  It's made national news.  Most nights, our Indiana State Fair has a big concert.  Saturday night was Sugarland. 

Severe weather was heading toward the area.  An evacuation plan was in place and about to be carried out.  A gust of wind blew down the very heavily built up stage.

The videos and pictures are disturbing and scary.  The information flowing out through Twitter, Facebook, and various news sources happened at an intensely fast pace. 

Fatalities.  People calling in to share their stories.  People reporting being right by someone who died.  People reporting witnessing CPR being administered.  I'm praying for them tonight.

A missing child.  A 10 year old girl was unaccounted for.  She was found- she was unresponsive and transported to one hospital while her mom was taken to a different hospital.  At the time I'm typing this, parents were at her hospital and she was in surgery.  I can't imagine the terror of that family.  I'm praying for them tonight.

Triage centers set up on the Fairgrounds.  Jeff used to work for the Indiana Pork Producers every summer in their food tents at the Fair.  One of the tents is right across from the Grandstand and we watched it turn into a triage center. 

Nearby hospitals that are approved for this level of emergency were flooded with patients.  One hospital had to divert patients elsewhere for a while.

It's all still chaos right now.  Different stories, pictures, accounts. 

But some of the stories are pretty amazing.  The stage fell forward and people ran.  After it fell, hundreds ran back.  Groups of people worked together to lift steel off of victims.  Teams of strangers came together to lift giant speakers. 

Twitter and Facebook blew up with Hoosiers reporting what they were hearing on EMS (Emergency Management Services) scanners.  People were sharing prayers and thoughts.  The community sought to find a way to reach out to each other.

I've seen images of people who are dressed as though they were there to enjoy the concert but were donning gloves and working triage.  Reports from concert goers who are also nurses who leapt into action.  Reports that hospitals had immediate response of medical personnel showing up and sprinting into the building to work. 

12 ambulances were on site within 15 minutes.  Transportation was immediately in place to not only move the injured but to also transport the regular Fair-goers who needed to evacuate.

I have at least one friend that I first met more than a decade ago when I first started doing community theatre.  She works for the Fairgrounds and has since I met her.  I tweet with her - especially during the Fair.  As of this writing, I haven't seen anything from her. 

My prayers are with those who were there, those who were injured, those who lost loved ones.

My heart is also broken for my State Fair.  Anyone who reads my blog knows how much I love my Indiana State Fair.  It's like Christmas in August.  It's a time of year I look forward to all year long.  The people who work the Fair- it's a community that is now going to be hurting.  The people who regularly attend are a community that is now going to be hurting. 

I've been angry.  People pointing fingers.  People wondering if future concerts that were planned will still happen (like Janet Jackson).  People sensationalizing. 

And all I can do is pray.

Edit: I have heard from my friend who works at the Fairgrounds.  She was home for the evening when it happened.  I'll still be praying for her and her co-workers in the days and weeks ahead. 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just A Bad Day

Yesterday was a bad day.

It wasn't horrible.  It wasn't like something terrible happened.

It was just a lot of little things piling up.

I started my period a few days earlier than expected.

Jeff had a headache hit, I was running a little late, but I took the kids to school because he really wasn't feeling well.

Got to work and realized I was the only "management" type in my department.  Might sound good but that meant that my traveling bosses would call me for anything they needed.  Also meant that anyone looking for someone in my department would be coming to me instead.

I'm out of the office all next week- some of that is vacation time, some of that is off site training time.  But that means trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible and also figuring out what nights next week I will be working in the evening and also figuring out what work needs to get done this weekend.

Jeff's headache got worse and worse.

Full blown migraine.  Only the second time in the 10 years I've known him that he's had one.  First time was not long after we'd started dating.  He had a key to my apartment (there was a specific reason but I forget why now- I think just because we were neighbors so I'd given him a spare as a "just in case" thing) and I came home from work and found him in my bed, migraine, and he'd gotten sick all over my bathroom.  He apparently pukes into the toilet from a standing position.  Which is very messy.  And I cleaned it up without gagging or thinking he was gross.  That was when I knew I had some serious feelings for him.

So now he's got migraine.  We text a few times over the course of the morning and it isn't getting better.  I can't go home and just be at home with him because there is no one else in the office.  But I know he needs more medicine, fluids, food.  I take my lunch hour (which ended up being 90 minutes) to get a prescription called in, pick it up, get it to him, force crackers and ginger ale down his throat, get him to take the pills, and rush back out the door after making sure he had plenty of crackers and fluids and a dark hand towel to cover his eyes and a couple of ice packs handy. 

Back to work and my mood just continued to plummet.  Work stress, work load stress.  And thinking about Teagan and how her last day at her preschool/daycare is going.  And wondering how Zach is handling it. 

End of the day comes and I think it might be fun to take the kids to the State Fair for the evening.  There is a balloon glow at dusk and I think it would be a great way to unwind and have some fun.  But I get to thinking about what I need to do in terms of errands I'd planned on getting done... and I start thinking that if the kids are tired... well, it just wouldn't work.

Instead, I took the kids to the sno-cone place next to the school and then we sat on a curb by school and had sno-cones for dinner.

Should have been a great turn around point but things kept sinking from there.  Teagan was now worried about Daddy and the Headache That Kept Him Home From Work and Needed Special Medicine.  There wasn't going to be anything fun that happened in our evening.  Her glumness added to my foul mood. 

And then the errands started to take a sour turn.  Little things just weren't right, weren't available, weren't going the way they were supposed to so I packed it up after running 1 of 3 errands and called it a night.  Actually, I was at my boiling point waiting in line at Goodwill so I abandoned my cart and just left.  I don't think I've ever done that before.

I took the kids to McDonald's.  And I ordered a Big Mac and fries for me.  I felt certain it would be horrible.  Cold or not saucy or limp fries.  Something would make the calorie consumption pointless and leave me just feeling guilty for the indulgence that wasn't even worth it.

But it was one of the best damn Big Macs I've ever had.  And the fries were perfect.  And I haven't felt a moment of guilt for it. 

The day has ended well.  The kids went to bed and to sleep without any fuss.  I got a nice little bit of activity in with some Just Dance "sweat points."  Jeff has been able to get out of bed, eat and drink and watch TV and talk to me.  The headache is getting better and I'm betting the drugs will wipe it out completely by morning.  I've had some lovely chats with friends via text.  And I've been able to put my feet up and just... relax.

So there isn't some big silver lining or epiphany about my blessings or anything.  I don't feel like there is some great lesson to gain from my story.  I'm just trying to stay focused on the beauty of the small things- like a Big Mac and perfect fries and a few moments of relaxation- so that I can keep getting through the bad days.


Friday, August 12, 2011


I have at least 2 more State Fair posts to share but there is something weighing on me today that I need to sort through.  And blogging always seems to be a good thing when I 've got something to get off my chest.

I'm feeling very unprepared for First Grade.

Today is Teagan's last day at Little Explorers.  She has been going there for 2 years.  This was the first non-home based place we chose to take care of our kids while we are at work.  This is the place we chose as the first place of education for our kids.  And today is her very last day there. 

Thankfully, we aren't leaving the school behind since Zach will still attend. 

The next week or so is cram packed with activities and preparations for changes.  I'm not sure I can keep it all straight. 

Tonight, there needs to be some shopping.  One of the many transitions happening in the next week is that my baby brother, Daniel, is starting college.  He'll be 2 hours away from home (that's the farthest any of the 3 of us went).  The school housing is like apartment- 6 guys, 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom.  He's going to need cleaning supplies.  Big time.  I'm also wanting to hit Goodwill to see if there is a lockable trunk or something similar.  Maybe a few other odds and ends.

Tomorrow, there is a big family gathering/dinner at my mom's house.  I have aunts and cousins traveling from all over the country to be there.  I'll get some time with Daniel to work on some preparations for going off to school.  My kids will have plenty of fun time with Grandma since 2 of my aunts will be taking over the kitchen to do all the cooking. 

Sunday, I am teaching Sunday School at church for the very first time.  I'm not nervous but I am excited but also feeling a little stretched with taking on a new ministry at my church.  I have to sacrifice time with music team to do this but there is a need and I do love these kids so...

Next week, I'm out of the office all week.  I'm on vacation Mon, Tues, Fri and in all day, off site training Weds, Thurs. 

Monday is prep time for Teagan.  Haircut, inventory of clothing and possible shopping for things still needed, organization of stuff to make the week ahead as smooth as possible.  Monday evening is an ice cream social at the school where we will finally learn EVERYTHING we need to know about first grade.  We currently know nothing.  We don't know how the before and after care program works (even though we're signed up and paid for).  We don't know how the cafeteria works.  We don't know who the teacher is.  We don't know about bus schedules.  We don't know anything.  It's very frustrating to have Teagan asking me questions that I can't answer.

Tuesday is our Final Fun Day of Summer Break.  Do you even have to ask where we're going?  Duh! The Indiana State Fair for another $2 Tuesday!

Wednesday. *GULP*  The first day of First Grade.  It will be a new morning routine.  Thankfully, my boss is very understanding and I've got a pass to be late for that training.  After Monday night, we'll have a better idea of what Weds morning will look like. 

I'm anxious and excited for Teagan.  I'm worried for Zach.  He's expressing a lot of unhappiness about Teagan not being with him at Little Explorers.  Thankfully, I know the teachers and staff there are well aware of his feelings and will take good care of him during this transition.

Friday, I'm off on an overnight trip to downtown Indianapolis with a big group of women from my church for the Women of Faith conference.  I won't be home until end of day/evening on Saturday.  It should be fun but the timing is stressful.

What's funny to me is that I am personally feeling stressed about how Teagan will get along with a whole new set of peers.  I'm worrying about things that don't usually matter to me- Does she have cool enough clothes?  Do first graders even worry about that?  Will it matter that she doesn't care about Justin Bieber?  Is she going to feel awkward, shy, or out of place?  Is there something I should be doing to help with that? 

I don't think there is a way to fully prepare for this.  Or to even capture all of the transitions and changes and adjustments that will be happening in the coming few weeks. 

All I know is that we're taking it all one step at a time and that I'm doing my best to only focus on the true priorities and on the things I know I have at least some control over.  For everything else, I'm just going to pray!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Indiana State Fair: Animals

Another thing that is well loved by fairgoers is seeing livestock.  It's an amazing assortment of animals and a visit to the State Fair is often a city kid's only chance to be exposed to farm animals close up!  Horses, ponies, donkeys, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, alpacas, llamas, draft horses, rabbits, cats, oxen, and more can be found at our State Fair! 

I love walking through the barns and visiting the animals.  My allergies don't love it so much.  I do my best to arm myself with medicine, eye drops, nose spray and my inhaler- all items only needed when I know I've got big allergen exposure headed my way.  Even with all my defenses on board, I have to pay attention to early allergy signs and exit the barn when they hit, get scrubbed up to my elbows in a bathroom, and stay outside for a while.  It's better than it used to be and there are a lot of factors to the whole game of allergies.

Something fun this year was the Fido 500- small dog races.  Not like serious racing- just for fun, tiny little legs flying through wood chips to get to a special treat at the end.  It was adorable and hilarious!