He is There

I am so happy to share that (drumroll please) my kitchen renovation is about halfway complete! 

I have been pulling double shifts and painting until midnight. Tonight I was overcome with an overwhelming emotion of school girl giddiness. I can attempt to explain it no other way. I was painting away and I looked around the room and I felt some peace. Yes, peace and excitement, at the same time. All I could imagine was my family all together in our new kitchen. I could see my kiddos eating their pancakes at the table. I could see me running around and grabbing requested items, coffee cup in hand. I could picture my hubs shaking his head as our oldest squeezed too much syrup on to his fluffy pile of flapjacks. 

I have been dreaming of this kitchen for two years now. Thanks to my mom and stepdad, it has finally started to look like something from my dreams. Mom has been my coach. She explains the process of the things we are doing and she double and triple checks my work. She gives me advice and she has been the visionary on the plans for what I wanted. My stepdad is just an all-around craftsman. He can build just about anything! It truly is amazing to see someone make ideas become reality. I honestly hope that my children can learn so much from him in the years to come. I want them to be independent young men who are not afraid to craft awesomeness. 

The school year can be such a stressful time for us. I look forward to many happy Saturday mornings spent in the improved space. I promise to post “after” pictures when I have everything completed and things are in their rightful places. Right now…I will share a few from before we got started.


Also, I wanted to say a special thank you to my dad. He has been on my mind during this whole project. In the midst of night, while I am in there painting away, he is heavy in my heart. I feel like my sweat and tears are helping me to breath some of his soul into this kitchen. I feel he would be proud of my trying to do something challenging and fulfilling. I feel he would want me to have a happy place as my stress-free zone. I feel…him. He is there. He is happy. He is my peace. 

Travel PornĀ 

I enjoy new perspectives. One of my coworkers is married with kids. On her breaks, she searches realty websites for what she calls “house porn.” These are like fantasy houses. They are the epitome of her dream home. She has shown me a few. Let me tell ya, they ain’t bad! 

I enjoy my own dream home fantasies, but I recently decided that I don’t do “house porn.” I do “travel porn.” In my spare moments, I find myself dreaming of adventures. I dream of open spaces or beaches with no itinerary. But, no matter what, it’s ALWAYS about adventure. Lately, I have been stuck on Montana. I dream about hubby and I taking the kids camping in Montana. I dream of waking up, unzipping our tent (my dream, not hubby’s) and enjoying a cool morning sunrise over the mountains. I dream about having a morning cup of coffee while sitting on a log and taking in the silence and beauty of nature.

  
Yes, to be more specific, this is the view I’m dreaming about. I want to be there. I want to take in a cool, crisp, deep breath in this exact spot. Thank you @visitmontana for putting this sponsored link in my IG newsfeed. I will stalk you and your pictures for my sanity. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering what my primitive coffee cooked over a campfire might look like…

  
it looks like that. In case you love this adorable mug as much as I do, it comes in other colors. It is made by Sea Jay Shop. Check them out here

I have no idea what made me chose Montana to dream about. I guess I equate Montana with the word ADVENTURE. I’m pretty sure my dad went on a hunting trip in Montana when I was younger. When he comes for a visit this summer, I plan to pick his brain. I also plan to buy camping books and educate myself on camping essentials. My kids are still pretty young, 1 and 3 to be exact. But, they are both boys, I hope that works in my favor here. I would love to take them camping in Montana. I plan to go to Ohio for a few weeks each summer from now on. Hopefully, we can use some of that time to practice tent camping at one of the state parks there. Since most of Ohio is sans bears, I’m thinking the most I have to worry about are some raccoons. 

It will happen though. I will complete this dream. We will camp in Montana. We will wake up, unzip that tent, and step out into adventure.

A New Heart

I woke up yesterday morning and felt a strong need to make something right in my life. I can’t explain the feeling, but I can say that it was overwhelming. So, without giving it a second thought, I put the wheels in motion. At 6:00 p.m. last night, I was baptized at the age of 29.
I wish that I could say a lot of planning or thought went into my decision, but if I am being completely honest, that was not the case at all. One of my goals for the new year was to be closer to God. That was as much planning or thought that I had really given it. I have written before about how I didn’t grow up in a religious home. We were always invited to attend church on Sundays with my paternal grandmother. My sister always went more than I did. She was even baptized there. I remember her marching down the isle during church one Sunday, soaking wet. She might have been seven. Anyway, I never felt right going to Sunday school. I had never read the Bible stories and I always felt lost when the Sunday school teacher would talk about them. It felt like a secret language that I hadn’t been invited to learn. It’s not that my parents didn’t want us to practice religion, it’s just that they did not practice any themselves.
I became friends with a girl in high school, her father was a baptist preacher. I attended church with her on many occasions. I even went to church camp with her the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. Slowly, we stopped hanging out and slowly I stopped going. Then, I began attending a Gospel church while I was dating my high school sweetheart. Music was a very large part of that service and they often spoke in tongues. They had a really great youth group and one of my friends from school would go with me on Wednesday nights after I got my license. I stopped going after I got a job at the end of my senior year. I got a job which required me to work on Sundays. That was basically the story of my life until I got married. I know for a fact that I worked almost every Sunday for the last two years that I lived in Ohio. Sometimes, I would pull two shifts on Sunday. I was a waitress, so it was always one of the busiest days of our week.
After moving to Texas, I slowly began attending church with my husband’s family. I went a few times before we were married. I went more after and even more when I was pregnant with our first son. Something about being there was calming for my soul. It was like I had a hand on my shoulder guiding me through the week. I have been going ever since. Some days, with two little kids, it can be a challenge. But, I am a firm believer that it is the only way to start our week.
When I voiced my belief in Him last night and was dunked into that water, I felt a giant relief come over me. Mind you, that relief was quickly replaced with the vocal needs of two kids under the age of 3, expectations for my presence at a work event, and the ongoing struggle to juggle everything in my life. But, for those few brief moments, I was free. Life stood still so that I could silently acknowledge my love for Jesus.
I thought I would have many things accomplished in my life before I turned 30. I do have many accomplishments. I also have failures and I have committed sins. The best part about moving forward into the next chapter of my life is that I can do it with a new heart.

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My sweeties and I right before.

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God is good.

Renovation

The small hours of the morning are my safety net. It’s the time of the day when my thoughts are all my own. I’m not forced to listen to anything I don’t want to hear. Even my three month old is still on my chest.
Today, I am dreaming about renovations. There are so many things I want to do to our home. I catch myself dreaming of them often. My kitchen is the thing that I wish to change the most. By all descriptions, it’s a large kitchen. That’s because the kitchen also includes an office area and a wall with built in cabinets and drawers. It’s dated, of course. It has dark cabinets. It has older appliances. The counter tops are cracked in places. Oh yes, in my mind, I’m giving my kitchen a giant kick in it’s 29 year old face. Yes, my house is as old as me.
At 4:00 a.m., I am dreaming of all white walls. I want dark gray laminate flooring to replace the awful tile patterned linoleum mess that is there now. I want all the appliances replaced. I want a large, white, porcelain farmhouse sink. I dream of painting all the cabinets a light gray. I want to take out the cabinets above the waist around the sink and appliances. I want open shelving where everything is exposed. I want to take the cabinets out in the area where we have our bar set up. That area will be converted into a eat-in area. I want seating for our table to be built into the wall. The backsplash will have white subway tile covering it. Did I mention the butcher block counter tops? I want a coffee bar and a place for a small television on the wall.

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I love this open shelving.

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My dream kitchen includes rustic lights.

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Built in seating is a must.

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We can’t forget the butcher block counter tops and (a lighter color) of gray cabinets.

In my mind, this isn’t just a kitchen. This is the place where my family will bake cookies for Santa. It’s where I will sip coffee with my mom when she visits. It’s where I can sit in the corner and make lists for the grocery store or write bills at midnight. It’s a gathering place for my family. A place where I can open the blinds and we can watch the foals graze while we enjoy our pancakes on Saturday morning. While it may sound boring to most, this kitchen will breathe life into our old house. Come on, who doesn’t need a little sprucing up after almost 30 years? I do, and so does my kitchen.
Yes, these are the things I dream about at 4:00 a.m. Right now, any extra money I save goes towards Christmas. It’s only seven weeks away. Eeek! But, I am making plans to make this kitchen happen. Until that day comes, 4:00 a.m. is a time for dreaming with my eyes wide open.
Cheers y’all!

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Small Adventures

I’m ready for an adventure. Don’t get me wrong, everyday with a 2 year-old and 3 month-old can be an adventure. I’m just ready for one that doesn’t include dirty diapers and snotty noses. I love my boys, in all their glory, I just have a longing that needs fulfilled.
It could be as simple as a quiet coffee shop and my book. It could be a shopping trip with my girls. It could be a visit to a winery. On more than one occasion I have dreamed of a sunrise horseback ride with my hubby. I think these are all romantic notions that I have dreamed up in my spare moments of solitude. Is it wrong that I lay awake at night and yearn for small adventures like this? I hope it’s not wrong to want these things. My kids are my world. I think as mothers and parents, we often feel a pang of guilt after any inkling of fun that may not involve our kids. Being a mother is the most rewarding job I have ever had. It is also, by far, the most exhausting. A hotel bed with crisp, clean sheets, a television, and no alarm set is one of the most amazing pictures I can paint in my mind. I also dream of fancy dinners where my main concern is what drink I will pair with my meal instead of where did the crayons fall on the floor or when was the last time my 2 year-old washed his hands?
I often feel that if I don’t make an effort to at least dream of these adventures then I am doing everyone I talk to an injustice. For example, talking with people who do not have children or have grown children, often can be a disaster of a conversation for me. I notice that it’s usually my go to conversation piece. Some people don’t want kids or can not have children. Therefore, they have zero interest in hearing what crazy, awesome thing my 2 year-old did the other day. I sometimes feel guilty talking to people who also have kids. Are we robbing each other of these few precious moments where our lives do not revolve around those munchkins? I mean, let’s think about it. On average, my husband and I spend one night a year together away from the kids. That means 364 days, we see/talk/think about the kids and their needs. If our life is at all similar to any other couple with children, then that does not leave much time (save the middle of the night or in between bites of food and screaming children) to talk to each other or other adults. So, if we are going to have a baby sitter and a night out with friends (who have children) is it wrong to try and talk about anything other than your kids? I enjoy an adult conversation once a year that doesn’t involve poop or the newest virus going around the daycare. Does that make me a bad person? My simple answer to this is no. No, I will continue to dream about having those adventures. Life without dreams is a sad one. Will I have a chance to do all of the things on my adventure list this year? Probably not. Will I have a chance to do one of them? I hope so.

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Four

On this day four years ago, I got up at 5:00 a.m. I took my sweet time getting ready. I shaved my legs for twenty minutes. I let hot water envelope me into almost a meditative state. After I was clean, shaven, and relaxed, I opened my hotel room door and walked the 20 paces to my right and knocked on the door. I was meant with the welcoming faces of my father, his significant other and my sister. My sister then proceeded to do my hair and makeup. We then went into the lobby and ate some breakfast. Shortly after, we rode to the site where, in a few short hours, we would say I do. We had a quick walk-through. Afterwards, we all gathered together in the small conference room of the hotel and had a rehearsal brunch. Our friends and family all broke bread together and then we all scattered. Several hours later, I was driven through a garden in a classic convertible style car. My parents walked me down the aisle and my hand was placed in Ben’s hand. From that moment forward, I have often thought of that day. The sounds. The voices. The faces. I remember all of it, but yet, it is a blur.
Four years later, I think I have figured out that this is just how my brain processes the greatest days of my life, a large blur. The birth of both of my children happened much the same way. All the intricate details are hidden there, in the shadows of my mind. If I jostle my memory just enough, they come flooding back. Otherwise, they remain stored in that area of my memory. I prefer to think of it as a “corner.” This “corner” is a room with a green vintage screen door. From far away, you can see inside. Everything in there is white and has a haze to it. Lace hangs from the ceilings. There are frames with chubby cheeked newborns adorning the walls. It’s clean…no clutter allowed in this area. My wedding dress hangs from somewhere. I don’t know where because I can’t see through the lace. It seems to be suspended in time, just floating. In the back, there is a beautiful little oak desk with a single chair, a vintage typewriter, and a mug. The mug has an ever changing quote on it. Among all of these things that I love and hold of importance to me, there is a box. A caramel-colored, weathered, leather box. It is sitting lonely on a high shelf. It is much too high for me to reach alone. I think that is the point. I can not reach this box without my husband. This room in my memory would not exist without him. The chubby cheeked newborns, the dress I loved when I first tried it on, the corner desk with the typewriter and my dreams. I closed my eyes and beckoned him. When I opened them, he appeared in front of me, smiling. As in an answer to my unasked question, we both turn and reach for the box together. His hand has a tight grip on one side and mine on the other. Together we bring the box down and hold it between us. What is inside? Is it a gift? Is it a curse? Is it empty? As our eyes meet, we never break their stare, as together we lift the lid from the top. It seems like seconds pass, or is it minutes? Neither of us is looking down yet. He smiles and says, “Well, aren’t you going to look?”
I smile and answer with, “You first.” He shakes his head at this and in a moment we have agreed to look together. “One,” I say.
“Two,” he answers back.
“Three,” I say louder.
“FOUR,” said together this time. Both of our gazes drop and rest upon what lies between our hands.
The box falls to the floor.

Happy Anniversary my love.

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Economics and the Heart

Next month marks the fifth year I have lived in Texas. I never regret my choice to follow the man that I love to this great state. I love everything about the south. I love the weather. I love the friendliness of people, even the ones who are complete strangers. I love how people down here talk slower. I love how Sunday is the day of The Lord…no exceptions. Friday night means high school football and Saturday means college football. I love that family comes first, NO MATTER WHAT. I love that cowboy boots go with anything. I love that you can find a heart warming, home cooked meal at the diner down the road. I love that there is never an awkward silence anytime you have a conversation. Oh…and everyone, men included, love to see and talk to the babies you have in tow. No ma’am and yes sir are the first things your child learns to say. I can honestly say that this is, without a doubt, the most amazing place in the world. Five years ago, a man from Texas stole my heart. I fell in love with him. I fell in love with this great state. I am proud to call it home.
Now, with all that being said, I do miss my family in Ohio. It hurts my heart that I can’t drive over to see my sister and my niece anytime that I want. It pains my heart that my dad only gets to see his grandsons two or three times a year. It worries me that my grandmother will be 85 in two months. Every time I talk to her on the phone, I hear in her voice how badly she wants to see my kids. I have all these emotions fighting me on the inside. It makes my heart pang.
I have made my fair amount of trips to Ohio the last four and a half years. I just find myself thinking of the holidays as they approach. I love my family here in Texas. They have always made me feel 110% welcome. We have amazing family gatherings here and I am thankful for all the loving family I gained through marriage. Now that we have kids, it’s hard to want to be anywhere but our own home for Christmas. I still find myself dreaming of Ohio. There is nothing like Ohio in the fall. The crisp, cool weather that comes with September and October is one tall tell sign that football season has arrived. It means fall festivals. It means piles of leaves lining the sides of the streets. It means hot coffee or hot apple cider. Fall holds a very sentimental place in my heart. I find myself feeling nostalgic about all things fall. I have fond memories of Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother’s or my dad’s brother’s house. I miss all the warmth and genuine happiness that comes from wrapping my arms around my dad’s sister or my awesome cousins. I miss sitting with my grandmother and sipping coffee on a Saturday morning. I miss the cackle of a laugh that belongs to my mother’s youngest sister. I miss all the same jokes and jabs I have been hearing for some twenty odd years. I miss the unmistakable smell of my sister’s hair or is it her body lotion? It’s a sweet smell. Not overwhelming, but just noticeable enough that when I hug her, my nose tingles for a few short seconds with the invasion of the long lost scent.
As I lay here writing these things, I feel an empty pit in my stomach. My grandmother has sold her house. It’s strange to think that we will never share a family Thanksgiving while sitting at her large red cherry dining room table again. I won’t drive back to her house and pass two of the houses I lived in while growing up just up the street. With her moving, I would really have no reason to go back to that neighborhood again.
These are all the thoughts that run through my head at any given moment when I think of Ohio.
I know it’s not economical to travel back there as often as I would like. I know that in my head. I also know that I made the choice to move away. I just have a hard time explaining the economics to my heart, especially this time of the year. So, if you see my eyes get glazed over at the mention of Thanksgiving, or if you hear me talk about Ohio a little more during the fall months, I hope you can understand where I am coming from. Although I do miss the fall weather, it’s not Ohio I miss. It’s my family that still lives there.

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