Category Archives: me and my thoughts

Donating the Dress

5 years ago, I unsealed my wedding gown box so that I could try on my dress. I was thrilled it zipped, even if it didn’t quite fit like it had on my wedding day.

I mentioned in that post that I was thinking of getting rid of the dress, because I am just not terribly sentimental about things. Everyone in the comments (and there are a TON of them!) freaked out and insisted I keep the dress. Go read it…lots of great ideas about what I could do with it.

So I kept it.

And then we moved across town, and 5 more years went by, and during that time I lost 30+ pounds (I’m still so happy about this!). I got the gown out again in January to try it on while going through some things in the basement. Obviously, it’s way too big now.

And 5 years later, I’ve found that I am still not sentimental about keeping it. So really. Why is it still here?

The decision has officially been made: I am donating the dress…like it’s literally boxed up and going to the post office today. And I’m donating it while I still can: there is only one wedding gown charity that will take it because, you know, it’s ancient in terms of wedding fashion. (For the record: I still think it’s really pretty.)

I’m sending it to Adorned in Grace in Portland, where the proceeds will go towards eliminating sex trafficking in their city. I love that my dress will make another bride happy AND do good.

Here’s a list of several wedding gown charities, in case you might be ready to let your dress go do some good for someone else, too. If your dress is 5 years old or less, there are lots of different options for you to choose from!

I put it on one last time last week and had Matt take a picture…

um, once upon a time i, uh, filled out this dress a little better :/  it’s sad that we can’t choose WHICH part of our bodies to lose weight from.

On Running.

I am about to say words that I literally never, ever in a million years thought would come out of my mouth.

I like running.

Crazy, right? I know. There are probably ten blog posts in existence where I tell you how much I hate it (I don’t currently have the energy or desire to track that down, but trust me…it’s there). But I really don’t hate it anymore.

Two springs ago, after I was a few months into healthier living/eating, I started walking and eventually added a little jogging just to get my heart rate up. Well, as we all know, jogging burns more calories than walking, so I started doing a little more of it, JUST for the calorie burn.

For the next year and some change, that was my approach to running: I didn’t like it, but it torched calories, and I was a fan of that. So I did it.

Last June, my foot started hurting, and eventually, I had to stop running altogether, and then stop all high-impact exercise, and then, have surgery when it was evident this wasn’t going to clear up on its own. Throughout that time, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to be able to jog again.

It took several months of taking it easy to let my foot heal most of the way, but I’ve been out running on the few warm days we’ve had, and I.LOVE.IT. All the months of heavier weight training at home (in place of as much cardio/circuit training as I used to do) have totally made a difference in my endurance, and I can already run 3/4 of my usual 3.6 mile route. The times I’ve been out, I’ve run faster than I ever have as an adult.

(I still have some foot pain, generally for a day or two post-run. I’m not sure what to think of this…I think I could still see some improvement in the months to come, but I may just have to deal with a small amount of heel pain. Whatever. I can deal.)

I had to share…because this something I never, ever thought could happen. Additionally, I’ve started drinking coffee (with a ton of milk) or lattes, which previously grossed me out.

So apparently, you can teach an old dog new tricks :)

Illini. Forever.

For Christmas, the boys all got new Illini pullovers and tickets to the basketball game against Northwestern. Saturday was finally the day we got to go to Champaign-Urbana!

We left early Saturday morning from STL, so that we could have several hours on campus for shopping and sightseeing before gametime, and also to ensure that we could eat two meals at our favorite Green Street locations. Priorities.

On our way out of town, my friend Kelli texted to see if we’d seen the latest forecast. I hadn’t, but it had changed from the 1″ of snow that I was expecting to 5-7″, on its way midday into the night. Great. But at this point…whatever. We were on the road, so not much we could do about it now.

We got to C-U, and I swear, I smiled all day long. I love being on campus so so much! We had lunch at Zorba’s, followed by shopping at the local bookstores for some new Illini gear.

zorba's entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

zorba’s entryway, full of 2004-5 newspaper clippings of final four team.

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

snowy quad + foellinger in the background. feels like yesterday that we were meeting up on the quad between classes :)

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early.

instilling a love for this beautiful campus early. #goodparenting #ftw

I posted this picture to Instagram/Facebook kind of early in the day.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn't wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in '99.

me and alma. still annoyed that i didn’t wait in line in my cap and gown for a pic here in ’99.

My roommate Karen commented on that picture: “Um, not trying to be mean, but are you wearing orange? It looks like something cute and trendy, but it better be orange!”

Hilarious! Because every good Illini fan knows: YOU WEAR ORANGE TO ASSEMBLY HALL. I didn’t have anything to wear (my Illini gear was all old and too big), so part of the plan was for me to find a new tee while shopping and change clothes in the van in a parking garage. Which is exactly what I did (my kids: “Are you serious?” Me: “Totally. There is nothing weird about this.”).

We took the boys by all of our old res halls and apartments, which just made me grin even more…Wardall 6 and 502 w Green #205 were home to three of the greatest years of my life, and just getting to see them made me happy. (Matt did not feel the need to be photographed outside where he lived. Weird, right? ;) )

because you needed to know which rooms were mine.

because you needed to know which rooms were mine. and…there’s my orange!

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

oh hey, people who live here now. i almost knocked on the door so i could get a glimpse inside.

And THEN, we got to spend some time with my other roommate, Kim, her husband Rich, and their daughter Zoe at our other favorite Green Street spot, Murphy’s Pub. Our boys love going there and scratching their names into the tables and benches, and, of course, the food is great. Loved catching up with our friends, and making big plans for a fall reunion!

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

kim and me. never enough time to get all of our words in on these visits :)

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

yes, we take our kids to a pub every year.

By the time we left Murphy’s, snow had started falling on campus. Oh well. We got to the game about 30 minutes before tip-off, and the boys were so pumped. They just wholeheartedly love Illini basketball, even when the team isn’t that great.

assembly hall with these crazies.

assembly hall with these crazies.

Fortunately, it was an awesome game that saw the Illini hit 14 of 28 three-pointers and result in a 26-point victory. Less fortunately, it had really started snowing by the time the game was over, and our drive towards home got more treacherous the further south we got.

So, we made a decision about 15 miles outside of Effingham that we would take Matt’s parents up on their offer to let us stay there overnight instead of continuing on with horrible visibility and road conditions. They graciously took us in, and the boys crashed immediately.

We woke to a full foot of snow on the ground there, but were happy to hear that STL had only gotten about 4″. And by late morning when we headed out, roads were clear and the snow had nearly stopped, making travel much, much easier.

I think it’s safe to say that none of us will forget this trip soon.

Let’s All Be Brave.

Friday night, I had some good-for-the-soul time with two of my best girlfriends. Over dinner and a couple of drinks at one of our favorite spots, we talked and laughed for a few hours that served to recharge our batteries.

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here we are, reunited on sunday morning.

 

Also: it’s not a night out with me until someone has told me I’m too loud. And that happened a couple of times, which is another mark of a successful evening. What can I say…I am a tiny bit loud.

These girls, Kelli and Robin, are not just friends that I have a good time with. These are girls who know me. They know about these big, scary dreams I have for myself, and they’re supportive. Not just cheerleaders for my cause, but people who ask hard questions, pray for me and my family, and hold me accountable for the things I say I’m going to do. And I do the same for them.

They’re the girls I referred to at the end of my Maybe It’s Time post, who are also dreaming big this year. And they’re well on their way to pursuing their goals, and we are only seven weeks into the new year.  I’m kinda proud of my people.

And? I’m beyond blessed to have more than just these two in my corner. There are a select few others, too, pulling me out of my comfort zone and into this next whatever-it-is stage I’m entering.

>>>>>

On Friday morning, I saw a review for a book called “Let’s All Be Brave” by Annie Downs. I read a little more about it, and I decided it was something I needed to read. I ordered it from Amazon, and thanks to prime shipping, it was in my hands by 9:45 on Saturday morning.

The boys asked if they could watch a movie, and I readily agreed, and ran upstairs and jumped into bed to read my new book. In just a few pages, I was in tears (in addition to being kinda loud sometimes, I’m a bit of a crier, even more so recently). It’s not a sad book; it’s just that I’m feeling like I’m at this transition that’s requiring some courage, and a few of her comments read like a friend writing encouragement right to me.

Like this.

I think it’s really nice when other people remind you that you are loved.

It makes you brave.

When you know who loves you, you know your safe places. You know where you can rest. You know where you can go when you fail. (I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you this, but brave or not, you are going to fail.) Knowing who loves you also lets you know who you can trust with you brave ideas and who will hold you accountable to being brave but not being foolish (if you let them).

Right?

I hope you have brave ideas. And that there are people right there with you.

You Never Know…

I wrote earlier this week about having breakfast by myself at the end of my retreat overnight (already a distant memory. Sigh). The restaurant was, of course, really busy late Sunday morning. I brought a book along to read in case I ended up sitting at a table by myself, but I was seated at the bar, which was totally fine with me.

At the same time I sat down, another lady who was also by herself, was seated next to me. As it turned out, she lived close by and was a regular. We started chatting immediately (I know, y’all are shocked that I needed to talk). She shared pictures of her grandsons, told me about her four grown daughters, and we talked about my little retreat and my family, too.

Near the end of breakfast, I asked if all of her daughters lived here in St. Louis. Three did, she said; the fourth lived in their hometown 80 miles east of St. Louis. Since I’m from 120 miles east of here, I was immediately interested in details!

It’s a good time to interject that I LOVE small world stories. So much.

She was from Centralia, a town 60 miles south of Effingham, and I was really only familiar with it because in the mid-1980’s, neighbors moved in backyard kitty-corner to us. The girl who moved in was 6 years older than me, and she became my surrogate big sister. This family that became our neighbors was from Centralia.

Given that it’s a fairly small town, I asked, “By ANY chance, do you know the C family? They moved from Centralia to Effingham in the mid-80’s?”

Aaannddd of course, she not only knew them, but the C family had many years before their move to Effingham bought her parents’ home. And, my breakfast friend ALSO lived on the same street, so her kids played with the C kids when they were young.

Can you believe it? How fun is that?

I was suddenly so glad that I hadn’t been seated at a table by myself, but instead at the bar, where I got to have a nice conversation and make one of those small-world connections that can only happen when you take the time to chat with a stranger. :)

Retreat.

Last weekend, my husband gave me the best gift.

I know that when I told him a few months ago that it was something I wanted, he thought I was a little crazy for making this request. However, over the last several months, I’ve sort of made a habit of telling him things that make him think I’m losing it, so what was one more?

{I am a joy to be married to. Bless.}

Anyway, my request was a one-night retreat, in a hotel right here in town, all alone. Just a little time to exhale, and sleep in a big bed all by myself. I emailed him 10 days ago with a link to a great hotels.com deal on a nice hotel in Clayton, along with last Saturday night’s date, explaining that our calendar was clear.

And he told me to book it. I think this is an acceptable trade for the 4 days he spent in Colorado last month skiing with guys from work, no?

I think moms too often feel like they can’t or don’t deserve time to themselves of some sort, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Obviously, I got to do this in a big way, but breaks of any kind are important. My friend Karen sent me this post last week, and I couldn’t agree more. Find a way to get yourself a break.

So late on Saturday afternoon, after my friend Kelli and I spent some time together, I checked into the hotel. It was perfect…if I ever get to do this again, I’d go back.

So what did I do? Walked to Pastaria a block away and sat at the bar and had a drink while they made my dinner, which I brought back to my room and destroyed.

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first of all, they sent me with a million containers. but, i feel like you need to know that i can EAT. and since i’d skipped lunch, i did.

 

I did a little reading and writing, and crashed into that big bed with ALL FOUR PILLOWS TO MYSELF :) with the laptop and one of my favorite old movies I hadn’t seen for a while, When Harry Met Sally. I’d say I slept like a baby, but we all know babies don’t sleep well, soooo…just know, I slept so, so well. I love hotels*.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of.  i'm leaving it in my will to someone.

this was pretty much my setup. complete with u of i sweatshirt from 1995 that i will literally never, ever for my whole life get rid of. i’m leaving it in my will to someone.

Sunday morning was more of the same, except that I went out for breakfast at Half & Half. So yes, more food pictures.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry's in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

you guys. these pancakes are tied with wildberry’s in chicago for the best ever. go eat these.

Not so long ago, going out to eat by myself would have been something that felt awkward, but not anymore. I sort of loved it. And I have a fun story from breakfast that I’ll save for another post.

I finished up my alone time by running by the mall to find a pair of black dress pants. I left with some dark magenta skinny jeans, so that went exactly as planned.

I met up with the fam at Bennett’s basketball game, totally refreshed and ready to dive into this week, which has already included pulling a tooth, hosting small group, and getting everyone out the door this morning with no yelling.

Boom.

*Let’s be clear: all 5 of us smashed into a regular-sized hotel room is not what I’m talking about here. For the record.

What’s Next.

Almost every Saturday morning of my childhood was spent in a dance studio. For the past several years, many, many Saturdays are consumed by the boys’ practices or games. For me, Saturday usually equals busyness and fun. Not quiet and time to reflect.

So it was really weird last Saturday to find our calendar empty (which ended up being a great thing, because Matt’s parents were able to come over for a quick visit later in the day!). Matt decided earlier in the week that he’d like to do something fun with the boys: take each of them out for a meal by themselves at a place of the boys’ choosing. Just some one-on-one time with each boy to hang out.

And in the semi-quiet of our house, something that I’ve been thinking about abstractly for the past several months came into better focus. I’ll try to put it into words as succinctly as possible.

We’re at a transitional stage of parenting where Matt needs to play a bigger role. I think this is particularly true because we’re raising all boys (not that girls don’t need their dads, clearly). Clarifications:
1) This is not because he’s been checked out to this point…on the contrary, he’s a great dad and has always been involved.
1b) This does not mean that I am checking out. I know I’m still very much needed. For at the very least rides, food, and help with homework ;)
2) THIS IS NOT A COMPLAINT FROM ME. The early years of parenting are hard, particularly on the primary caregiver. Which obviously was me, especially the last 8 years since I’ve been home. And we’re through those years, mostly unscathed, praise God.

ahem. yes. we so totally were.

However, can you see where this is going? It’s not even sadness, really, that I’m feeling. It’s simply that so much of me and my purpose (and the reason I quit my job) were enveloped in a stage that’s over. And I didn’t think much past this stage (because let’s face it; when you’re in the thick of those years, the light at the end of the tunnel seems very, very dim). PLUS, even though those infant/toddler/preschooler years are ridiculous and difficult and challenging and often gross, they’re my favorite. Parenting littles was so totally in my wheelhouse.

i had no idea what i was in for, even this many years into parenting.

2 Augusts ago, when Jack Henry went to full-day school, I felt none of this. There was just happiness over my newfound freedom. But starting last fall, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready for a new something. So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. And the truth is, I’m still not at all clear what the next stage looks like for me and my family. I have lots of ideas…I am a fantastic daydreamer. Also, I am an excellent song-lyrics-memorizer, so if you can think of a way to parlay that skill into a perfect part-time job for me, feel free to let me know.

Truly, while I’m a terribly impatient person and the idea of waiting for the timing to be right for whatever is next does not thrill me, I’m excited. I’m excited to think about doing something I’m passionate about, and being challenged beyond what I’m doing right now.

And this is the second kinda vulnerable post I’ve written in the new year. I need to go back to easy fluff writing.