Just thought I’d stop by with some updates! Not much is going on now and my mind feels sleepy and quiet, so I haven’t had too much to say. Maybe it’s just this season of life, but I’m having a hard time following a train of thought to its conclusion these days. I wish I were writing more; I feel stuck and blocked whenever I sit down with a pen or at the computer, so I haven’t been doing it as much as I really should. Perhaps by committing more here I can get the practice I need, and practice makes progress.

So anyway: last month Will and I put the garden in. Here’s what it looked like when we started:


Here’s what it looks like now:


I’d say that’s a pretty significant difference! The green beans are actually re-planted because Buddy ate them to stumps a few weeks ago, but even planting them ten days after everything else they’re still huge. We had some wild temperature swings over the last two weeks, and they suffered a bit from that, but I pinched off the struggling leaves and they seem to be recovering.


I have two tomato plants that are outgrowing their cages (not sure what to do for them next …). I pruned the bigger one and both of them have several small green tomatoes.


I can taste the salsa already.

My lettuce is out of control and I’m not eating enough salads.


I have really enjoyed caring for my little container plants this year and hopefully next year I can plant in the ground. In the meantime I need to construct fence or something to protect the veggies from Buddy so he can go out onto the deck again.

In other news, I did something either crazy or courageous and took both kids on a road trip by myself last week.

image (2)

We headed up to Pennsylvania to see Steve’s family while Steve got some work done on the house. It took us seven hours to get there (with four stops), but it went incredibly well. Both kids did great and we didn’t run into any problems. I wasn’t anxious about the trip at all; I didn’t worry about things going wrong and I decided to keep my expectations measured so I wasn’t trying to hold us all to a standard of perfection.

image (9)

(when we stopped for lunch)

While we were in PA we spent lots and lots of time with family which was wonderful. I’m so thankful to have such nice in-laws! I was able to get out to the King of Prussia Mall with my sister-in-law to do some shopping (Sephora, the Gap, Loft [I didn’t venture into Hermes or Cartier — this time]), and later in the week we spent some time at an arboretum.

image (3)

image (7)

(with my babies in a replica of Thoreau’s cabin)

All in all it was a wonderful, restful week. My sainted MIL made the trip back home with me and spent the weekend with us, too, which was an added bonus! She went home yesterday so we’re back to life as usual.

image (8)

The last thing I want to write about tonight is Marie Kondo. I love her. She’s totally nutty but I totally love her. I mentioned in my last post that I had KonMari’d our drawers. I still love it. I did my closet a few months ago and it’s still (still!) clutter-free, which might actually be a record for me.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I’m already seeing widespread changes. I went from decluttering in my dresser and changing up my storage to decluttering the surface of my dresser, to keeping my dining room table clear, to keeping the top of my dryer clear (all these being places where odds and ends tend to collect and then languish indefinitely). I am not through yet but I’m holding myself to a higher standard. Will and I have been picking up the toys at the end of the day instead of leaving them on the floor. I bought a Mrs. Meyers basil-scented spray and it smelled so good that I felt even more motivated to make the house look as good as it smelled. I don’t know what it is — maybe it’s just the act of reading the book — but it’s been a refreshing change and not one I want to give up. I’ve talked and talked and talked about clutter here before, and probably have more to say on the subject, but suffice it to say: the book is pretty out there, but I am so glad I’m reading it.

Anyway: I’m going to have some ice cream and finish reading. More on this later.

Well, for one thing, not being dead! I’m still here. I’m not really sure what happened to this month; the first half was taken up with sickness and the second half? Maybe recovery, maybe just laziness. But here I am.

We started out the month with Anna’s baptism:


We were nervous about how Will would manage his time up in front of the congregation, but thankfully he did pretty well. It was his first time attending “big church” and at one point he whispered loudly to me, “I don’t like this!” — so we may have a ways to go before he’s able to sit through the service with us. Steve took him home right after the baptism because we had discovered the day before that he had hand foot and mouth disease … which we discovered on Sunday afternoon that Anna also had. The whole week was pretty miserable:


They both had cases so severe it looked like they had come down with chicken pox, and poor Anna had it in her throat. They were both understandably miserable, and Steve and I had several tough nights in a row first with Will and then with Anna, but they bounced back and for a while they both looked a lot worse than they felt. We were both so glad to have that behind us, and we were thankful also that they didn’t both have a bad night at the same time! They were considerate enough to take turns. Such nice babies.

The week after hand foot and mouth disease, I came down with mastitis. I had a mild case of it when Anna was about a month old, but this time I felt like I had been hit by a truck. After a day and a half in bed with a fever the antibiotics kicked in, and thankfully ever since we’ve all been healthy. I hear that once you have mastitis you’re more prone to it in the future, so I’m just hoping I won’t get it again.

Other stuff:


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Bronte): I really enjoyed this. I thought Helen was a good companion to Jane Eyre, in that she too is a woman who faces serious moral quandaries and looks to her convictions and faith for guidance, instead of her emotions. And I really liked Gilbert Markham — the Brontes aren’t particularly known for their humor, but I thought Gilbert would have fit right into a Jane Austen book.

Now I’m about halfway through The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has been on my to-read list for a while. It’s a good read so far, but that’s partly because I feel inspired to clean up my act, and because I think Marie Kondo is unintentionally hilarious. I will write more about it when I finish. In the meantime I’ve KonMari’d my dresser and both kids’, and I think I’m a convert. I need an uninterrupted weekend to tackle her advice about paper and miscellany, though.


(Does my garish old kimono spark joy? YES. IT STAYS.)

Up next: I have a copy of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down on my bedside table that I checked out of the library over a month ago, so I should get on that, huh.

On my mind:

I have been thinking a lot about my long term goals lately, and how I don’t really know what they are. In the meantime, I am very much enjoying my day-to-day. Will finished his year of 2’s preschool, so we’re untethered to a schedule for the summer. I think I am going to have to impose some kind of routine on us (/develop a new rhythm for the summer) so we don’t find ourselves lolling around on the floor in our pajamas at 3 p.m. Neither Will nor I moves particularly fast in the mornings, but I am going to have to find a way to get us moving.

Anna still wakes up once most nights and I think the interrupted sleep is still taking a toll; I still oftentimes feel like I’m two steps behind in most aspects of my life, but it is starting to get a little better — or perhaps it can get better now because I’m becoming annoyed by how behind I always feel. I feel like I’m stuck in a cycle where I’m behind because I’m so tired and I have no energy, but I’m too tired to get up and get moving so I can catch myself up. It’s frustrating.

Other stuff:

– Related to the above: I’m tired of feeling disappointed in myself, so a few weeks ago I signed up for a 6 a.m. spin class on a whim. I’ve been twice, it is hard as hell, but I am going again tomorrow. It has been a great encouragement to feel like I can meet a challenge again (I have struggled a lot with feeling like I keep falling short of the mark lately, setting goals and then being unable to meet them), and it’s an empowering way to start the week. Plus it’s a lot easier to get to the gym without two small kids in tow.

– We got our garden in! We opted for containers this year because we need to till and condition the soil in the raised bed we’re going to use in the future. Here’s how it looks:


This was taken twelve days ago. Since then the tomato in the back has about tripled in size, as has the lettuce. The two large containers are green beans and cucumbers. The green beans were all two inches tall and looking great yesterday, but Buddy (who likes to lounge out on the deck) ate them all! I was heartbroken but thankfully I had more seeds, so I pulled up what was left of my beautiful seedlings and planted more. I have netting over everything, but I need to put sticks in the containers as well to keep the netting off the seedlings and doing a little more to keep nosy cats out of the way. (And to think I thought my plants would be safe from pests up on the deck …!)

Every year I learn a little more about the garden and every year I enjoy it more and more. I have also been out in the yard pulling up this invasive vine that’s taken over my side yard, and you know, I find yard work immensely satisfying. It’s been great to be out in the sun. This is a good thing, since our yard still needs a ton of work in the next few years.

– Anna is now almost eight months old:


She’s such a fun little baby, and still so easy. She really wants to crawl and is almost there, so my days of being able to put her down and trust her to play contentedly with what’s in front of her are very limited.


(She had to nap in the rock n play when she was sick. She was so big her feet stuck out, but it got the job done! Poor baby. As you can see, though, she enjoyed it.)

We also had a visit from Steve’s sister and her family, which was a lot of fun — we went to the UVA grounds for a visit, which is an area of town we don’t get to very often.


We also participated in the time-honored tradition of strawberry picking a few weeks ago:


I actually LOVE berry picking and can easily pick 15 pounds by myself. But with little kids in tow, we got about 6 pounds and then I bought 7 pounds more to make jam (which I still haven’t done …). Two years ago I made a huge batch of strawberry jam that lasted until this past February, and while I don’t anticipate canning 27 jars this year, I have been missing my homemade jam. I think I might go again tomorrow for more berries, because I haven’t had enough strawberry shortcake this spring and strawberry season is almost over.

Onward to June! I’m hoping that by this time next month I’ll be feeling a little less behind and a little more organized, but honestly I think I say that every month. KonMari, take me away!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Tomorrow I am giving my testimony in MOPS. I was originally going to give it back in February, but we were snowed out, so I was rescheduled all the way in May. I reread it just now after not having touched it since the winter, and thankfully nothing about my testimony has changed in the interim. I wanted to share it here both for others to read, and also because it encompasses a lot of the things I wrote about in the early days of this blog. Be aware that it’s quite long. 🙂

I want to tell you a story this morning. Please keep in mind as you listen that this is not a story of grief, loss, fear and longing. Despite those elements being present in my testimony, this is a story about joy.

I want to start by reading a passage from Lamentations 3:

[a]I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old
and has broken my bones.
He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.
He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.
Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.
He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

And the New Living Translation’s version of 1 Peter 1:6: “So be truly glad: there is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure trials for a little while.”

Has anyone here ever heard — or said — that God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle? I think it was Mother Teresa who first made that claim. She was wrong. I know only the slightest bit about God, but one thing I do know is that He does, in fact, give us things that are beyond us to endure. There comes a point when all of us have to lean on Him, and not on our own strength.

There was a time in my life when I read — and lived — Lamentations 3 every single day. From 2010 through 2012, I experienced a season of profound grief which included three significant losses within one year. I suffered two miscarriages four months apart (one of which occurred very unexpectedly on my 31st birthday), and just as I began to emerge from that fog, my mother died of breast cancer after a sudden decline. The Lord truly had walled me in so I could not escape. He weighed me down with chains.

I found out that I was pregnant with my son, Will, just over 24 hours before my mom died; in fact, I told her I was pregnant during the very last conversation we were able to have. So I began my journey into motherhood in the midst of deep, deep grief. I wasn’t excited to be pregnant; I was filled with fear about losing another baby, and I really wasn’t sure I was interested in bringing new life into a world I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a part of anymore. I felt very keenly the fact that we are all just pilgrims in this earthly world, and that our true home is in Heaven. I knew that my mother had gone to her true home, and that my first two babies had as well, and frankly, their home sounded a lot better to me than the lonely world in which I was stranded.

Not only was I grieving, but I felt a lot of resentment as well. I resented the fact that, as Joel says, my years were being “eaten by locusts”. I was enraged by my loss. I walked around feeling for a long time like there was a literal giant hole in my chest where my heart had been, and that frequently it bled out all over the floor. I got very used to this feeling — a lot of the time, in fact, I could actually feel it physically. As you might imagine, this was uncomfortable, but the physical sensation matched my emotional state, and this was in a way comforting.

I realized early on that in my weakness, I was not at all up to the task of “staying strong” during these ordeals. I needed God to carry me through. I prayed every day not for the strength to endure, but for him to carry me, shelter me, protect me, uphold me during the storm. I felt more than anything like I was on the floor of a tiny boat, riding these giant waves of grief and anger, just praying for his protection. “Staying strong” was not at all an option, because my strength was gone. If I was going to survive my grief and learn to live again, it was going to be because of God’s mercy, and because of his strength.

I was blessed to have been raised by a godly mother who used her cancer diagnosis as an opportunity to glorify God. After she died, her friends told me that she never asked for her cancer to be taken away. Instead, she asked that God would be glorified through it. As a cancer patient she felt blessed to have the hope of Christ as she faced death. Her prayer was answered in every way, not least through the challenge it presented to me, her daughter. If my mother could pray that God would be glorified through her illness and death, so I must too be willing to pray the same thing in all of my own circumstances, no matter how painful. I reluctantly asked that God would be glorified through my grief, and that my losses would ultimately bring me closer to him, that I would grow in wisdom and closer to that elusive peace that surpasses all understanding.

I did not want to pray these things; in fact, to be honest I really would have preferred to be able to stay blissfully ignorant and spiritually shallow. I longed to return to a time when I still believed that if you just “fought bravely”, you could “beat” a deadly disease, and that having a baby was as easy as simply wanting one. Spiritual growth and closeness to Jesus did not seem like a worthy tradeoff for the loss of my mom and my babies. But I kept being drawn back to Philippians 3:

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The challenge was just that forgetting what was behind, straining toward what was ahead, and pressing on toward the goal were not fun things to do. I was challenged over and over to actually claim my faith. Psalm 63 states, “because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” Better than life. Can I really believe that? I was being called to actually live out these truths I had professed for my entire life.

In addition to having to face the stark truth of Scripture and live up to my mother’s testimony, I was also just very tired of my grief. I knew that my grief and rage were both natural responses and also very necessary, but I finally came to a place where I didn’t want them to rule my life forever.

From the book of Joel:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”

Note the line my great army that I sent among you.

I had no desire to become my grief, and succumbing to a lifetime of sadness and anger would only be allowing the locusts to eat not just these years, but my life and my soul. If I was to believe the Scriptures, one of God’s promises to me would be to repay me for these years of grief. To redeem it. How could I allow that to happen if I stayed locked inside my sadness? How could I do that, and allow cancer to win? To allow death to win? 1 Corinthians 15:26 states that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. My task was clear: I had to learn how to be happy.

There are 235 references to the word joy in the Bible, which is more than the words grief, sorrow and weep combined. So that told me something. Slowly, God began to show me how to make my way through the labyrinth of grief and use it as a means of finding joy.

I learned quickly that there was no avoiding the pain of grief, and that trying to white-knuckle my way through the experience wouldn’t make it any easier. Instead I turned to my yoga practice, and there I became comfortable with being uncomfortable. God used yoga as a way for me to begin to approach peace in the midst of pain. If I could breathe and stay calm while balancing in a difficult pose, I knew I could do the same while balancing in difficult circumstances. I stopped being afraid of the grief. It wasn’t going anywhere, and I didn’t have to let it hurt me. My grief and I began a hesitant coexistence.

He also allowed me to be angry. I really believe that actually experiencing what I was feeling — all the rage, the overwhelming grief, the fear — without running away from it was key to being able to survive it. Anger was huge for me; I did not shy away from it. It was far easier to be angry than sad. My rage wasn’t focused on anything in particular, but it was my faithful companion for a long time and I actually think it was healing.

Through all of this I clung to the verse in 1 Peter that reminds us that there is wonderful joy ahead. I knew now that this must be true regardless of how much I could lose. No matter what happened to me, I believed God’s promises to be true. I had to. There is so much evidence in scripture of this wonderful joy — weeping may remain for the night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30). The Lord shall be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end (Isaiah 60). Death could not win. It was impossible; it was written there in black and white, in the gospel, in Jesus. The victory had already been won. It was mine for the taking, but I had to want it, I had to believe it, I had to receive it.

I felt all the while like I was in a kiln. I felt like I had been lit on fire, but the fire was doing what it was meant to do: purify me. I was unfinished clay and I was going to come out beautiful. My losses made me a different person. In the end they made me a better person. I am wiser, I am more faithful, and despite all that God has taken from me, I trust him far more than I ever did before, because he has shown himself trustworthy to me. He has repaid me for the years the locusts have eaten. This doesn’t mean that my loss was good or that the purpose of enduring them was in order to make me a better person. It means God redeems. It means he took death and disease and used them for his glory.

There is a line in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that resonates with me, and it’s this: “He will not forget his grief, but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.” This is what the Lord has done in me.

Whew. This was a challenging month for me; perhaps T.S. Eliot is right! Thankfully I am feeling more settled (both kids sleeping past 7 a.m. today helps a lot!) and I’m ready to take the lessons learned in April and put them to good use in May.


(There was a lot of this.)


It was a lighter month for books — I finished Gilead early this month and moved on to the following:

Me Before You (Jojo Moyes): I won’t go so far as to say this book was a waste of my time, because it was enjoyable reading, but the worldview espoused by the ending was very depressing and frustrating. It’s a pretty fluffy novel about something serious, which normally doesn’t bother me, but I think the reader is supposed to overlook the worldview and questions about what makes life worth living in favor of a Highly Romantic and Tragic Ending. Do not recommend, sadly.

The Getaway Car (Ann Patchett): Another book about writing, and this one barely counts because it was so short and only took me one night to read. But I liked it.

Now I’m in the middle of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (I feel behind in my Year of Brontes!) and I love it. I’m hoping to finish it soon.

On my mind:

The usual — self-improvement, writing, homemaking. Now that I’m not able to run anymore, I’m thinking through how to maintain (or build) my fitness in a way that I can stick with; I’ve never been big on checking exercise off a list, and one reason I liked running so much was because it had measurable goals that I could set and work to meet. So I need to find new ways to achieve that.

Which leads me to another thing I’ve been pondering — how much can I change my nature, and can I change my nature by changing my habits? But more on that another time.

Other stuff:


image (3)

Springtime means lots of outside time, so we’ve been out on the deck drawing with sidewalk chalk and enjoying lunch in the backyard and dinner on our new patio table.

image (6)

Peas and lettuce are coming up! But (as you can see) I’ve discovered that my cat really likes peas. I have to cover the peas with a muslin baby blanket whenever he’s out on the deck. He’s munched on several of them so I hope my harvest is still good.

Will helped me plant the lettuce, so thanks to his enthusiasm on a few of the pots we have a lot of lettuce sprouting. I think I might prune them a bit so it’s not overcrowded. We are only doing containers this year while we get the soil in the raised bed ready (which will involve digging out roots and adding soil amendments) so I have a trip to the garden store planned for this weekend. I’m still hoping to be able to grow green beans. I’m thankful to have a large sunny deck that’s protected from deer and bunnies, and large enough for a lot of containers!

We had some visitors this past weekend — one of my close friends moved to North Carolina a year ago and came through town with her two sons, who are each a few months younger than Will and Anna. It was great to see her again! We took a trip up to the Mennonite store half an hour north of us. They have farm animals there, bulk wheat for a good price (she grinds her own flour for bread), and it’s the only place I know of where I can buy lard (my secret to the best pie crust you’ll ever eat).

image (10)

(Here’s Will on the playground at the Mennonite store. He turned three and now he is three. My sister tells me ages three and four are the best and so far I agree! It’s so much fun.)

And as for writing — I’ve gotten some work done, but I would really like to work from an outline. The problem then is that I need to, well, create one. And that means I need to map out what happens. And that’s what I don’t know yet. It’s frustrating to be stuck, but I’m making forward progress, little by little. It’s been wonderful to write seriously again.


image (9)

She’s about to be seven months old, and she’s sitting up. Next comes crawling …

Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Actually it’s having two babies that changes everything.

I have to stop running, at least for a while. This isn’t because I’m A Mom Now So I Don’t Have Time; it’s because having a baby changed my body to the point that running isn’t a good idea right now. I have been experiencing significant pelvic pain during runs for the last few months, though I haven’t been running often — only once or twice a week for 3 or so miles, with walk breaks included. After I had Will, I was able to jump right back into running and finished the four-miler at an 8:50 pace before he was even five months old. But a second pregnancy has put an end to that.


(Probably won’t be setting a PR at this year’s race.)

It’s pretty amazing to me how much pregnancy and childbirth takes out of you. Maybe it’s because I had my kids in my thirties, but I shudder to think what a potential third pregnancy would do to me. Here I am almost seven months postpartum and my body still doesn’t feel close to being back to normal — a big change from Will’s infancy, when I remember feeling like my old self, and in my old body, after about six months. This time around, I’m wondering whether the changes are permanent.

Yesterday I ran three miles and I’m still feeling some discomfort today, so I think it’s time to retire for a while. I’m going to spend the next who-knows-how-long rebuilding my core strength before I try it again. But truthfully, I haven’t felt like much of a runner for a while now. I didn’t run when I was pregnant and didn’t really make the time for it after Anna was born, so saying goodbye long-term isn’t as hard as it would have been two years ago. I’ve also discovered a love for swimming and cycling, so thankfully I’m not banished to a lifetime of elliptical machines. I’m also planning on walking the 5k I was originally going to run in two weeks — we’ll see how it goes!

I’m also interested in trying out some at-home workouts — quick stuff, like tabata-style workouts or kettlebells. Trekking all the way to the gym for a workout winds up taking up most of our morning when I have to time it around Anna’s naps and feeding schedule, and it would be nice to find something fast and effective that I can do before they get up in the morning or during one of Anna’s naps while Will enjoys Daniel Tiger Hour. I think the challenge will be sticking with it and finding a measurable goal to pursue. Any suggestions or advice? (I haven’t braved Pinterest yet.)


Sigh. Goodbye to all that. Hello, I hope, to new and better things!

See? Facebook is good for something. These three recent articles — all found linked on Facebook — have all encouraged me and made me think.

1. My Mother Practiced the Piano — from StoryWarren. This is a great article about creativity and motherhood. I especially liked this passage:

You can tell a child a thousand times to go make the world beautiful, but I don’t know how he is to believe you without watching it done. Whether your art takes a traditional form like music or painting, or whether you are an artist in chemistry, cooking, gardening, politics, or befriending the lonely, that part of you still matters. It matters for your children to see that it matters, too.

This is a helpful way to frame thinking about pursuing your own hobbies and passions as a parent. Modern-day motherhood is fraught with the expectation that we need to be all things to our children, and provide them with precious memories and enriching, entertaining activities every day of the year. A good mother is one who martyrs herself for the sake of her children. But there’s a backlash against that attitude nowadays, which I’m glad to see, and this article is the latest (and least hysterical) one I’ve seen. It’s worth a read.

2. The Moral Bucket List — by David Brooks in the New York Times. This article has been all over the place recently, and for good reason.

About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

When I meet such a person it brightens my whole day. But I confess I often have a sadder thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved a decent level of career success, but I have not achieved that. I have not achieved that generosity of spirit, or that depth of character.

It’s my goal in life to be like the person David Brooks describes above, but I often get caught up in how that person looks and acts on the outside, rather than allowing myself to grow into compassion and wisdom on the inside. It’s not cute.

In his article, Brooks brings up the concept of a person’s “core sin” — your primary weakness — and in the interest of completing my own moral bucket list, I’ve been thinking about how I too can defeat my own weaknesses. (See my previous post, on not making the perfect the enemy of the good.) The lesson here, too, is that this is a lifelong learning process, not necessarily something I will master in a week, but that that’s the point. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

(illustration from the article)

(PS —

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.

Another point for homeschooling?)

3. Your Predisposition is Not Your Future — from Becoming Minimalist. This article is in response to Brooks’s article, but it gets into the concept of self-defeat on a deeper level. I especially liked this suggestion:

Intentionally pursue the opposing behavior. Even for just a short while, cultivate the exact opposite behavior [of the behavior you want to change]. When I decided I wanted to become an early-riser, I challenged myself to wake up at 5 am for 29 days straight. And you know what? It worked.

I … might need to do this in some areas of my life. Just as a temporary experiment. Maybe one a month? Early rising one month, cutting out sugar the next, striving to be early for everything the month after that … Eek. But I do love a good personal challenge.

Anyway: happy reading! And if you’ve read anything good lately (or anything deeply stupid), share the links!

As I alluded in my previous post (thanks for the encouragement!), I’ve been feeling really frustrated these days. The peaceful zen of our winter has given way to a riotous, chaotic spring, and I’m not sure what to do with it all. The riot and chaos is all in me. Everywhere I look I see things I have failed to do, and while I am trying my best to just accept that that is part and parcel of being home with two small children in a fixer-upper while also managing a part-time job from home (not to mention trying to pursue personal goals and hobbies), it is really hard. Is the chaos just something I have to accept, or is it a result of poor planning and decision-making on my part?

A large part of the frustration is that I am irritated with myself, because I can’t help believing it’s the latter. Maybe because it’s easier to blame myself for living in a house that’s strewn with duplos and toy dinosaurs instead of one with perfectly swept floors and clear surfaces; that way I still feel like I have some control over it. It’s not perfect because I’m just not trying hard enough.

Of course I realize how ridiculous that sounds, and I know that the chaos right now is probably a little bit of both, and that I need to be able to forgive myself for being too tired at night to pick up the duplos, too scattered to sit down and really think about my novel, and so overwhelmed sometimes that I start to shut down. Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean that I think it’s okay, or that I don’t have to strive to do better. But I do have to work harder at not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I’ve realized something about the frustration I’m feeling: I’m letting it control me. I’m resisting it instead of breathing through it, and that only makes it harder.

See how God redeems even my worst character flaws? This frustration that I feel is working to refine and mature me — as a mother, as a Christian, as a person. Instead of resenting my frustration and allowing it to make me irritable and overwhelmed, I can take a step back, acknowledge what’s good (even if it’s not perfect) and what I can do in the moment to get past it. I spent much of today doing that, and you know what? I feel so much more in control of things. Imagine that.

Life, not just motherhood, is an exercise in sanctification if you allow it to be. But motherhood can be like a crucible for this sort of thing, a greenhouse for less-than-pleasant personal growth. I get the feeling that right now, maybe I’m not meant to not be frustrated. And maybe it’s okay that I feel discouraged. When I was in mourning, I often reminded myself that feeling sad was normal and that I didn’t have to try to run away from sadness. Maybe now I don’t have to run away from feeling frustrated. Instead of resisting it, I can sit with it for a while and try to learn from it, and know that it doesn’t have to be the one in charge. Like holding a challenging yoga pose, I can just keep breathing.

And that makes me feel so much better.



(Gardening: a good exercise in both frustration and hope. Above is a speck of green that will someday, I hope, be a salad.)

This isn’t a post about running; it’s about motherhood. Or, about life.


I am incredibly tired. I mentioned before that the prevailing feeling that I’ve had since Anna was born is that of running on a treadmill that’s set just slightly too fast. I’m tricked into thinking I can keep up with the pace, but before I know it I’m out of breath and overwhelmed, only there’s no way to slow the treadmill down.

It’s been a challenging few weeks, even as Anna has continued to settle into a schedule and Will has grown ever further out of the toddler stage. I think the challenging factor is … me. I keep coming up against my own limitations, and not knowing how to exceed them. Every day I am surrounded by my own insufficiency.

When I say that I’m trying to make the right choices ahead of time, to be prepared and ahead of the game, and to be patient, what I really mean is that I am wondering what it would be like to be someone who actually does those things successfully, regularly, and habitually. What is that like?

It’s hard for me to accept the limitations of this stage in life, because every time the laundry piles up, or the kitchen is left a mess after breakfast, or there are toys scattered in every corner of the house, or I have ten work emails that haven’t been answered yet, it means there is something else I haven’t done. Something else I still need to take care of. Leaving it until later, throwing my hands up in the air and saying “oh well! I have two little kids! It’ll have to wait!” just means that I need to find time eventually to do it, and by that point five other things will have popped up in the meantime. Putting off folding the laundry just means that when I get around to it, I’m drowning in it, and when I feel like I’m drowning, I shut down.

And I think that is the issue right there. I feel like I’m drowning, so I’m shutting down. I don’t cope very well with feeling overwhelmed, which makes me wonder sometimes if I struggle with more limitations than other people (?? that is another can of worms right there …?). I just shut down. When I don’t have time or energy to fold a small hill’s worth of laundry, letting it become a giant mountain only makes it less likely that I’ll be able to address it without suppressing something akin to panic. I don’t know why this is. But it leads to the old familiar chorus of other people can do it just fine! so why can’t you? what’s wrong with you? that I have worked so hard to drown out.

Yes, it’s only housework. Yes, it’s only a part-time job. I really don’t know why it feels so overwhelming or why I feel so stretched thin, but I do, and I don’t really know the way out.


One more hour until preschool pickup — I’ll make it count.

It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but I still have moments where I instinctively reach for my phone to call my mom. Most recently this happened the other day when I took a picture of Anna practicing her sitting. I then had that whole numbing string of realizations: I can’t text her this picture. In fact, she never met Anna. And in fact, she never even met Will. She never got to know me as a mother. She’s still gone.

It hurts just as much as it ever did, but I’m so used to it now that it feels more like a heavy, dull punch to the chest than a violent blow to the head. It knocks the wind out of me, but I can catch my breath sooner now. It’s wearying to think that this is going to continue happening for the rest of my life.

I’ve accepted my loss. I have “come to terms” with it, whatever that means in the end. Spiritually and theologically I allow it. But it still pisses me off.

In the end I’m just really annoyed that I don’t have my mother around. She doesn’t know my kids and they’ll never know her. It was my worst fear when she was diagnosed, and now that it’s come true, it feels just as empty as I thought it would. I hate not having her around for advice, for encouragement, just for company. Right now I don’t hate it in a sad, disappointed, grieving way — I hate it in an angry way. I may have a happy life, but I can think of a million little ways in which it would be ten times happier and richer if she were still a part of it.

image (7)

Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting? — honestly I can see the victory and feel the sting all the time. It’s here in my own heart, in my neverending sadness. It’s hard not to feel sometimes like death has already won.

But today’s Easter sermon was on 1 Corinthians 15. What a relief I felt when I read the passage! It’s one of my favorites and one that brought me deep comfort when my mom was dying. To destroy suffering. (You can listen to it here.) What Easter means is that death hasn’t won. The battle has already ended.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That victory, here on earth, here in my mortal body, feels hollow sometimes. Sometimes I just want her back, damn it, and that’s the end of it. It’s that physical ache that will never really go away, that hole in my chest that’s never going to close, that longing that is not joy.

But death has been swallowed up in victory. On the other side of this we will laugh at it. I don’t know why there is so much suffering in this world, but in spite of it, laughing in its face, I see God’s redemptive work every day. One day I will try to write and make sense of my mother’s life story and testimony, but all I can see when I look at it right now is that redemptive work. It’s all I see, too, when I think about my own grief and loss. See? The battle has already been won. Suffering will end. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This is why Easter is my favorite holiday. The hope fulfilled. The longing satisfied. The joy, the joy, the joy.

Happy Saturday! I keep being reminded of the old adage the days are long, but the years are short lately, because the weeks seem to be flying by despite how long some of the days feel. I have always disliked how fast the years seem to fly by. (It’s already April?) — I think I just hate knowing I will never get any of that time back.

But that’s more heavy than I want to get on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I have a few things I’m celebrating this week.


image (8)

Six months old. I talked sometime last week about how the last six months have gone, and even since then I feel like we are turning a corner. Anna is learning how to sit up on her own, she is (I think) transitioning to a nap schedule, and we’ve started solid foods in earnest.

image (4)

Today I made pea puree and I have applesauce in the crock pot. She has had oatmeal, carrots and applesauce so far and isn’t quite sure what to make of solids yet. She doesn’t know what to do with the food once it’s in her mouth, but I think she’s starting to get the hang of it.

And speaking of turning a corner now that we’re at the six month mark: I have two pairs of jeans that fit me now. No, I am not forsaking my personal uniform or my new year’s resolution to wear leggings all the time, but man does it feel good to have pants that zip and button. Small victories.

Another small victory: today I did a headstand in yoga for the first time. My yoga practice has been interrupted by pregnancy and childbirth a couple of times now (as well as long periods of time with no access to regular instructor-led classes), so it’s taken me a while to be able to advance my practice to the point where I feel comfortable doing more advanced inversions (and, I think, you also have to be in the right place at the right time — today’s class was small, and the instructor was able to help me). I was against the wall of course, and I had some help figuring out how to kick my legs up, but it felt so good to have things click into place, as well as to prove to myself that I do have a lot more muscle strength than I did a few months ago.

And now on to a regularly recurring feature in my life: here’s an article I hated. Every so often I come across an article online that is meant to be inclusive and relatable, but instead it seems to reveal more about the author’s character flaws and personal shortcomings. This is the latest: I called him pathetic, he accused me of ruining his life: What children did to our marriage, via salon.com.

I don’t even know where to start with this one. First: imagine being one of this couple’s children (including the fact that your mom published this article on the internet for all eternity) and try not to cry. Second: imagine being either the husband or the wife. Sometimes, as it turns out, having children isn’t the problem in your marriage. It’s being selfish. Of course children complicate a marriage relationship and it can be hard to navigate the road from independent couple to settled-down family. But insisting to your husband that it’s okay for him to be emotionally absent from your family because you want another child and he doesn’t? That’s insane, and it hurts everyone in your family. Being uninvolved and resentful of your wife and children because your “real life” is being interrupted and put on hold? That’s insane too, and childish. Sulking and blaming your spouse and children because your life doesn’t look like how you thought it would? Oh my god, grow up. I totally want to go to a dinner party with this couple. I bet they’re a blast.

Please tell me I’m not alone in being totally horrified by this article. Please. Someone. Anyone.

Anyway: that’s all for now. I’m attempting to create my meal plan for the next week or two and may have to make a trip to Whole Foods later today — I hope I can make it out alive, braving the grocery store on the day before a holiday. Wish me luck!