March 6, 2017

Holy rusted metal, Batman!


Throwing parties for my boys is my favorite.  I know there will come a time when they grow out of themed birthdays and maybe that's why I go over the top every chance I get because I know one day they'll be like, "Come on mom, I just want to go to the lake with my friends."   And I will sit in a pile of colored streamers and mourning the days when I was making monsters and Elmo faces, and creating superheroes and spaceships out of paper lanterns.

But for now, my boy is four.  And themed birthday parties still reign supreme.  This year was no exception. 

Jacob has been infatuated with Batman for months.  He was Batman for Halloween and he wants to watch all the Batman things on Netflix, though I have to find the ones that aren't as creepy, because Batman is a little dark ya'll.  They watch the old Batman movies from the 90's (with the exception of Batman Returns, mostly because I can't even handle The Penguin and how freaky that movie is).  My boys love the cheesy George Clooney rendition with The Freeze and Poison Ivy and where both Batman and Robin have visible nipples on their suits.  Like, really?

Anyway, Batman was the natural choice for birthday party number four for my little guy and I began planning all things black and yellow. 

 











And then, I happened upon the best thing ever.  Batman, himself. 

Thanks to the world of Facebook, I found the most awesome guy in our local area, The Batman of San Antonio.  He is an active member of the community, visiting hospitals, schools and heads up fundraisers for sick kiddoes.  I mean, he is pretty amazing.  And as a bonus, he makes appearances at birthday parties and of course, I had to make this happen.  I made arrangements with Batman and I couldn't wait to surprise my boy.

When Batman came in, Jacob had a look of shock, confusion and awe on his face.  It took him a while to warm up to him and some of our younger party guests totally freaked out.  Batman is a little intimidating I suppose with the dark mask and all.  Batman came with presents for Jacob and treasures for all the kids.  He told stories and answered questions and stuck around to take plenty of pictures.  He sang Happy Birthday with us and made Jacob's birthday absolutely unforgettable!  The Batman of San Antonio's motto is "Be the change."  He encourages everyone to be a positive change in the world and to live in a way that inspires good and kindness in others and I love that he came to share in Jacob's day.


I've loved listening to him tell people that Batman came to his birthday party, and Batman was in his house and Batman gave him presents.  Seriously, my mama's heart explodes creating these fun memories for my boys!  Also, now my kid knows that I personally know Batman and I feel like this gives me the upper hand somehow.


"Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman.  Then, always be Batman."

March 4, 2017

Vibrant

Sunny, breezy and loud, I stood there shoulder to shoulder with friends and a crowd of two thousand people up early to run a 5K.  And not just any 5k, the Color Vibe 5K.  If you haven’t heard of these runs, they are known for colored chalk-powder that is blown or thrown at you while you run the course.  Music pumped loudly while the deejay charged up the crowd.  We danced and jumped and stretched to stay warm and get ready for the run.  I was surrounded by teenage girls in too-short shorts, the serious athletes recognizable by their defined calf muscles and serious running gear gadgets and middle-aged women dressed in rainbow tulle tutus and pig-tails. 
The runners, the wanna-be runners (like myself who is more of a "wogger" - a term I coined for my awesome running move that is somewhere between a walk and a jog), the not-runners-at-all, the young, the old, gay, straight, black, white, brown - everyone belonged.  I could see with my own eyes that people could still come together and be without division or hate.  I noted how diverse the people were around me and felt a little hope for the world I live in.

And then it was time.

3. 2. 1.   

The deejay counted us down and we all let our color packets loose into the air.
For this one, brief moment, the air was hazy and thick of color and magic.  You could almost reach out and touch the energy of excitement surging through the crowd.  I had seen a video before, but it was all together something different to be right in the middle of it. I can’t remember if it was quiet or loud, I only remember feeling and it was one of those moments I felt inherently alive.  Color splashed everywhere and a hilarious pandemonium ensued of laughter and cheers and screams of delight as everyone was drenched head to toe in bright, flashy neons. 
My friends and I made our way through the course.  Stations of yellow, pink, green and blue powder thrown at us while we ran through.  I stretched out my fingertips and leaned into it.  The goal seemed to end up as vibrant with color as possible.  We jogged some and walked some.  We talked and laughed and I could feel my muscles burning as they moved, but in the good kind of way that makes you feel strong.
We finished in 44 minutes, 3 minutes under my last 5K time.  I gave myself an internal fist bump because it felt good to know I had gotten faster even if it was only 3 minutes.  Because it was THREE WHOLE MINUTES.  I felt the weight of what it meant for me to cross the finish line. How there have been so many times I would start things and not finish them.  Or hesitate to ever begin because I didn't believe in myself that I had the courage to complete whatever it was. Starting and finishing things.  It's what I do now.  
It was hilarious and fun, messy and loud.   The day felt like an invitation to live more of life.  To lean in to things.  To start things and get them finished.  To keep reaching for goals.  To feel the burn and know my strength.  To acknowledge diversity around me and see the hope - to be the hope.
To stretch out my fingertips and live vibrantly.

January 13, 2017

Dear January,

Christmas is back in the attic.  Our house and our routines are returning back to normal.  And winter has forgotten to come to Texas.  I suppose this is mostly okay, since I'm not a fan of winter.  I'm only sort of bummed about such warm weather because it's too hot to wear my new leggings and cute boots.  Also, my legs are far too white for the shorts and sandals I've been sporting.

We've known each other awhile and you know by now that you and August or my least favorite months out of the year.  I'm sorry I think you're so lame, but you usually come with long, cold, sunless and boring days.  This weird winter has come with the opportunity for change.  And I write the word "opportunity," but how I really feel about it is like winter has come to screw me over, or winter has come to scoff at me, or winter has come to torture me with change. Do you ever feel like that January? 

I've been talking to myself saying things like, "Okay Jennifer, this sucks.  Yep.  This is pretty shitty actually.  But we're okay.  Today, we are okay right?  So let's take a moment and breathe.  You want to be angry and sad?  Okay, let's do that.  Let's feel angry and sad.  You can feel angry and sad and not open the pantry or pour a drink.  Let's take a minute and think about the situation and then we'll sit down and make a plan and sort it out together."  And maybe that inner dialogue is totally weird and I'm possibly a crazy person, but sometimes, self-care means having to walk myself through something difficult as  if my sane, logical, kind self is grabbing my crazy, anxious, irrational self by the hand.  It would be like April or June coming to grab your hand and tell you that everything is going to be alright.

The last time I was with you January, we were in the hospital.  And I can't tell you how glad I am to NOT be in the hospital.  That was the worst January ever, no offense.

Why does it seem that when life finally shakes out a bit and you start feeling settled from the last place that shook the crap out of you, that something new comes and you're back to that same place of starting anew or readjusting all over again?  I suppose it would be dull to have everything the same for so long and that's what makes seasons or change or spontaneity so wonderful.  But, I guess I get a little weary sometimes with all of the change and having to keep changing right along with it.

And if I have to keep changing and things have to keep changing, can't I at least have some decent weather so I can wear my cute leggings January? 

If change is inevitable and I have to constantly keep growing and being stretched, than I want to at least look cute doing it.

Thank you for your considerations.

Sincerely,
Jennifer

December 31, 2016

2016: Year End Review, Survey Style



I suppose 2016 will go down as the year in history that kicked all of our asses.  Didn't it though?  It just wouldn't stop.  I have yet to meet a person that was like, "Yea!  2016 was my jam!  It did me good!"  I wanted to write something poetic and full of deep reflection, but you know what?  I really just want to tell 2016 to f'*&% off and be done with it. Based on my use of profanity as of late, 2016 has made me into something of a potty mouth.  Regardless, I thought it would be fun though to take a look back at 2016 survey style as I close down ye old blog for the year.  After searching the interwebs about questions to encourage year-end reflections, I found several, some serious and some light-hearted, of things I most definitely want to remember about 2016, and some I also might want to forget.

What am I most proud of this year? 
My health and fitness.  Though I still have a ways to go, I have started and maintained new habits in regards to my eating and exercising that I have never kept up for as long as I've had.  It feels SO good to head into a new year with good habits already in motion so I have a place to keep building on rather than feeling like I have to start from scratch.  My weight loss and fitness goals feel attainable this year and I'm excited to keep pressing on.

Where am I feeling stuck?
My job/career/work.  I am good at my job as a bookkeeper, and it has proved to be a good income for my family.  But I also deeply long to have a job that needs some of my creative talents too.  This is a place I want to be open to taking some risks and thinking outside the box.

Where do I need to allow myself grace?
As a mother.  I am so hard on myself for all that I get wrong or mess up.  I worry about not being all that my boys need me to be and I feel like I'm failing them.

How did I spend my free time?
Netflix.  Way too much Netflix.  There might be a New Year's resolution in there somewhere.

When have I felt the most alive?
At the beach.
When I'm running (to be interpreted as a very slow jog).
During worship.

What is the hardest decision I made this year?
Leaving our church.  It was and remains to be the most gut-wrenching decision we've been faced with in the last several years.  Severed relationships and devastating wounds.  It has SUCKED.

What do I need to let go of? 
Trying to fit in places where I don't belong.

What old habits would I like to release?
Biting my nails.  Comparing myself to other people. 

What new habits would I like to cultivate?
Family devotions on a daily basis where we have a time focused on our faith and prayer.
Creating more time for reading and writing.
      
What were some of my favorite memories this year?
Getting to be a part of the IF:Gathering even though I was still sick.
My first date night with Todd when I was well again.   
Family karaoke day.
Being at the beach with Todd.
Poppy blowing out exploding candles on his birthday cake.
Christmas cookie decorating with my family.  

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
My illness, surgery and recovery.

What was an unexpected joy this past year?
After being sick for so long and becoming well again, I have a new appreciation for the things that I am able to do like cooking, cleaning, and exercise.  Just being able to take care of my family and care for my home after not being able to for so long, has brought me so much joy.

What was an unexpected obstacle? 
A struggle with pain medications and alcohol that I never saw coming.  Very grateful for help and healing in this place the last couple of months.

Pick three words to describe this past year 
Expensive.  HARD.  Rewarding.

Who were your most valuable relationships with?
Todd, my boys, Sarah, Shelly.

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Facebook, Pinterest and Netflix.  And being on my phone.  *sigh*

What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Playing with my boys, exercising, and having sex with my husband.

What new things did you discover about yourself?
That I can be disciplined, I can do and get through hard things, that I have an inner-athlete that's been trying to get out.  And that I'm not a republican.

What was the best news you received this year?
"Yes, you can eat now." (After months of living on a liquid diet).

What, or who, are you most thankful for?
My husband and boys, a handful of faithful and precious friends, God's unending grace, improved health, and having all I need and then some.  

What was the best movie you saw this year?
Captain America: Civil War.  I'm a superhero-loving geek at heart.

What was your favorite compliment that you received this year?
That I seem so joyful and at peace.  And knowing that it was really true.

What little things did you most enjoy during your day-to-day life?
Morning coffee, sitting around the dinner table with my little family, singing to Jacob before bedtime, building Legos with Tommy, Todd kissing my neck when I'm cooking in the kitchen.

Was there anything you did for the very first time in your life this year?
Other than undergo surgery?  No.  But, I do have a short bucket list of some things I would like to do and try next year. And skydiving is totally on that list....

What was your favorite moment spent with your friends?
Riding on giant stuffed animals in the mall with Tiffany and Canadia.

How did your overall outlook on life evolve?  
I think I could write an entire blog post just on this question.  I think my overall outlook on life changed and evolved in so many different places.  After my illness and recovery, I felt a deeper sense of gratitude to simply go about my every day life.  So many of us take our health and wellness for granted and that isn't something I want to lose sight of again.  After a tumultuous year politically and seeing so many tragic events occur in our nation and the world, I have been faced with overwhelming convictions of my role to bring peace and love and charity into the lives of others who are hurting.  I am beginning to change my passive stance to a more active one.

What advice would you give your early 2016 self if you could?
"It's gonna be a hell of a ride girl, hang on tight!"

What do you want the overarching theme for your 2017 to be?
Reach, strive and don't quit.   
Always be humble and kind.   
Be joy and peace and bring it to others.

What do you want your everyday life to be like?
Continue with healthy eating and exercise habits.
Lose my shit less with my boys.
Less Netflix and wasting time on my phone.
Being more present, even if it hurts to be.  

What are your hopes, dreams and goals for 2017?
Finish a half marathon, take a creative writing course, pay off some debt and save more money, throw myself a big birthday party, go skydiving, buy a sexy red dress, be more involved with my children in giving back to our community and those in need.

It really was a doozy of a year for me personally, but it was also a year of extreme growth and humility as a person, and for that, I am grateful.  Looking forward to a new year with fresh eyes, an encouraged heart and deeper resolve.  May 2017 be filled with an abundance of blessings and unending grace to get us through the hard times.

Happy New Year!

(Oh, and f*%& off 2016!!)                                 

December 28, 2016

2016 Holiday Highlights

 Gingerbread house building, tree decorating, cookie baking, ugly Christmas sweater parties, looking at lights, white elephant gifts, Hallmark movie watching, dinner with old friends, gift giving and receiving, singing and plenty of laughter.  Sweetest of sweet Christmas memories tucked away in my heart this year.  Happy Holidays from my heart to yours.
 
 
 
 
 



 
















December 14, 2016

Peace on Earth


I made pot roast for dinner last night.  Mashed potatoes, green beans, and gravy.  We ate a hot meal and filled our bellies.  After dinner, we loaded up the boys and drove to the part of town that has magical Christmas light displays.  We saw twinkle lights galore, a giant plate of cookies left for Santa, creative handmade pieces of nutcrackers and gingerbread houses and Santa's sleigh.  After our drive we came home, bathed our boys and tucked them in their warms beds with clean pajamas.  We kissed them goodnight and Todd and I ended the evening by watching a show on Netflix.

Nothing we did was really out of the ordinary.  It's was a normal evening for the most part, with a fun special outing to boot.  This morning though, as more news and footage and pictures from the travesty in Aleppo continues to be brought to us, I feel this desperate, aching kind of sorrow for our full bellies and clean clothes and safe home and those who don't have them

This picture has been around me a lot today.  These two poor babies.  Tired, scared, dirty, alone.  Probably hungry. Oh, how I want to scoop them up and just hold them.
If I'm honest, these are the pictures I want to look away from.  It's Christmastime.  It's time to be happy and celebrate and have fun and be with our families, eat good things and open presents.  Yet, there is so much awfulness happening around the world and I am one of the millions of Americans who has usually given into the belief that I can't really do anything, so I'll feel sad and utter a prayer and think about my own little life worries.

But, I have been finding it harder and harder to do that.  I can't do that anymore.  I want to sit with the reality of this picture and do more than pray a good prayer or send a good vibe to Aleppo.  I want to help.  I want to this little girl and this little boy to know that I see them and that what they are going through is not okay. 

The Syrian refugee crisis is one that I've felt deeply moved by and called to do something about.  I  believe that we live in this era of technology and social media for a reason.  We don't just hear stories, we can see them right in front of our eyes on a daily basis.  We have a real opportunity to help and be a part of a solution in doing the things that Jesus taught when it came to loving on those in need.

I was reminded of this scripture in the gospel of Matthew.  Jesus is talking to His disciples.  They were both students and friends to Him.  He had this to say them as they sat on the Mount of Olives together just before Jesus was betrayed by Judas and was arrested:

Matthew 25:34-40
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;  I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You a drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  Or when did we see You sick, or in prison and come to You?'  And the  King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"

Jesus continues in this passage with a warning for those who do the opposite.  These scriptures have been convicting and have called me to action.  If I am a disciple of Jesus, if I am His friend - He is talking to ME here, just as much as He was talking to His disciples then. 

The needs for Aleppo and the entire Syrian refugee crisis can feel huge and overwhelming.  It's easy to feel small.  But we've made some small changes for our own family, and I think if everyone could do the same things, it could add up to a really big something.

We've trimmed our budget, eliminated some luxuries.  We've researched some really great organizations right now on the ground that our funds and donations can go directly to helping feed and clothe these people.  I have printed some pictures from Aleppo and put them on our refrigerator as a constant reminder to pray and be mindful of those in need as I go about my daily routines in the kitchen that are full of comfort and security.  We have conversations with our children, we show them the news and the pictures - not to scare them, but to create an awareness in the world of those who desperately need Jesus and how we can give life and love to these hurting people.

This time of year we often hear the songs of "tidings of comfort and joy" and "peace on earth, goodwill toward men."  There is no peace on this earth, except for what we have in Jesus.  If we have Jesus, oh let us be the comfort and joy to someone this Christmas.  There may never be peace on earth, but we can be peace to someone else.  Let it begin with me.

December 12, 2016

Poinsettias, Parties and Prizes

I've always had my own unique way of making friends as a grown-up.  I usually hear about a thing that's happening or going on and I totally invite myself to that thing.  Perhaps it's more polite and proper to wait to be invited to a thing, but who has time for that?  And you know what?  People don't usually say no. If you've had the guts to invite yourself to a thing, people aren't usually going to tell you that you can't come, even if they want to.  So my word of advice to you - invite yourselves to the things if you really want to go. 

Also, I just said the word "thing" like 52 times and this is why I will never be a for-real writer.

One of the other ways I make friends is by going to a thing (in this case, that I was actually invited to) where I don't know a single person, and find a way to make conversations with strangers.  And you know what's a great way to do that?  By dressing yourself up as a human poinsettia for an ugly sweater themed party!

There are two kinds of people in this world: 

1)  The kind that go to an ugly sweater party and wear an ugly sweater. 
2)  Those that go to an ugly sweater party to dominate. 

I think it's pretty clear which kind of person I am.....

 
By the way, my new friend Melissa has purple hair and a dozen tattoos and two boys and we speak the same language and I love her.

We've been attending a new church for a few months and making friends and connections there has been a little slow in coming.  When I heard about the ladies Christmas party they were having, I immediately signed up even though churchy ladies things have historically not been my jam.  But, I need to make new friends and I couldn't have been more excited to go to a party where I didn't know anyone in my entire life. 

Apparently showing up as a human poinsettia was a great idea and I met lots of new people throughout the evening.  My ugly sweater (though more of a shirt really) was kind of a hit and I felt a little bit like the homecoming queen, especially when I won the ultimate prize:
I don't think I've won any kind of contest in my entire life, so I kind of want to shadow box this and keep it for always.  This is a pretty big deal.  Major life accomplishment.

For those that want to know - my costume was made with a red shirt, hot glue, several poinsettia silk flowers, mesh garland and a belt.  I don't sew, but give me a glue gun and I can work wonders.

I also received this beautiful cross made out of holly and pine sprigs and berries and carried it like a bouquet of flowers, holding my trophy and taking my winner's walk like I had just won the Miss America pageant.  I felt a little bit like "the bell of the ball" even though I was more like "the potted plant of the party."  Oh Lord, humility is not my natural state of being.

Anyway, the moral of this story is that if you invite yourself to the things, you might end up as the homecoming queen.  Or something like that.