Sunday, January 10, 2016


I am a voracious reader.  And every now and then, I will find an author that really, really resonates with me, someone that I will read and say, "Yes! You really get me!"  I know I've talked about this before on this blog (although it's been a while), but one of these authors for me is the Christian author Shauna Niequist.  I just love her books.  My dad, who also really gets me, bought me her book of devotions (Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are) for Christmas.

Although my posts have been sporadic over the last year and a half, anyone reading this blog knows that it has been a very rough season of transition in my life.  I am still processing through all that our family has been through and how that has changed us.  Not surprisingly, Shauna gets that.  Yesterday I read a really beautiful devotion that spoke to my heart, and I know will hit home with many others as well.  I had actually read it before; it's an excerpt from one of her other books, and I had highlighted it there.  I'd like to share it with all of you.

"Blessings & Curses"
by Shauna Niequist

When you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is.  When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration.  When you can invest yourself deeply and unremittingly in the life that surrounds you instead of declaring yourself out of the game, once and for all, because what's happened to you is too bad, too deep, too ugly for anyone except you to move on from, that's a good, rich place.  That's where the things that looked like curses start to stand up and shimmer and dance, and you realize that they may have been blessings all along.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they were curses, but the force of your belief and hope and desperate love for life has brought a blessing from a curse, like water from a stone, like life from a tomb, like the story of God over and over.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It's Not Easy

WARNING: Herein follows a post in which I get very, very raw and REAL.

It has been nearly seven months since my family relocated to Indianapolis from our home at camp.  Leaving camp was hands-down the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  I hoped that as time went on, as we adjusted to our lives here, things would get easier.  That we would all make peace with our new lives.

For a long time, months and months, not a single day went by without two or three of my kids asking me when we were going back to camp, when we were going "home."  And it ripped my heart out every time.  It was obvious from the way that they asked that they missed it as much as I did.  That they were just biding time in this new life too.

When people asked the girls if they liked their new school, they would answer honestly, "It's okay.  But I miss my old school and my old friends.  I liked it there better."  Not that there's anything wrong with this school.  It's frankly a better school, if you're judging by academic standards.  But the girls had a hard time getting their hearts into it, even though they each had their very best friends in all of life here to guide them.  (Thank goodness for that--I don't know what we would have done without those friends to ease the transition.  The kids, and I, probably would have self-combusted.)

When it came time for each of the kids' birthdays (Bryn and Shay in November, and now Liam upcoming in March), each of them had the same answer: "I want to go to camp to celebrate."  But birthday parties in the CAC aren't an option for us anymore.

This past Saturday, I asked Bryn what she wanted to do this summer.  She looked at me like I was crazy.  "Go to camp, of course," she said.  I got a lump in my throat.  "Okay," I said, "You're registered to go Week 1.  But what about the rest of the summer?  Maybe you could try going to church camp too.  It would be good for you to get to know the kids from our church better; after all, you're going to be growing up with them...."

I was saved from further blathering on when she interrupted me.  "WHAT?!?" she cried. "You mean we're staying here???"

In the conversation that followed, it became painfully clear that she has considered the past seven months of her life to be impermanent, a stopping-off-point, a waiting period before she goes back to her real life at camp.

It pretty much broke my heart into a million pieces to tell her that sorry, but this is the real thing.  This is our real lives.  As much as she (and I) might wish otherwise, we are not going back to camp.  She will not get a whole summer, or a whole lifetime, at camp as we had planned.  She will get one week--and that is more than the rest of us will get.

And even though I broke it to her as gently as possible, she cried and cried and cried.  And so did I.

I don't know why she thought that we were going back.  Maybe because she knew we were renting our house, knew that we'd eventually be moving again?  Or maybe she just wished for it so hard that she came to believe it.

And she's not the only one thinking like this.

Today, I convinced Liam to take a rare nap.  As he snuggled up next to me, he whispered, "Mama?  I miss Irving..... And the Trading Post..... And the dining hall.... And our log house. And our white house..... And the tennis courts..... And the golf carts..... And the long straight road with the big hill by the lake..... Mama?  I miss every single thing about camp."  And then he cried quietly until he fell asleep.

And that pretty much sums up exactly how I have felt every single day for the past seven months.

It comes to me in flashes, the home I miss so much.  My kids holding hands as they walk under Irving the Indian and across the parking lot to the dining hall to dinner--that's my favorite image, one I saw nearly every day.  And others: Too-short legs swinging from a too-tall bench in the back of chapel.  Little boys huffing and puffing up the lake road.  Aiden's baby face smeared with lasagna as he shoveled in dinner with his chubby baby hands.  Brave, confident daughters singing and laughing.  The kids getting endless hugs from counselors.  Sunshine.

And even though what we have here is fine, maybe even good, there's this ache in my gut that says it's never going to be enough.  That once you've had something so big, so beautiful, so REAL, going back to everyday life is never going to be enough.

There are days when I feel like we're ticking off boxes here, everything falling into place, and I think, "Oh, this is what a good life should be."  Wonderful friends that we get to see regularly.  A church home.  A good school for my kids.  A good job for my husband.  Grad school for me.  Good job prospects on the horizon for me.  Activities that my kids enjoy.  Check, check, check.

But even while I'm checking those boxes, there is this thing inside me screaming: But there is something MORE!  There is sunshine!  There's the wind in the pines!  There's the sound of chapel songs from your front porch!  There are campfires and laughter late at night!  There are those hundreds of smiling faces.... and the energy..... and dance parties in the dining hall..... There's being surrounded by a cause that you believe in, breathing it in, living it night and day.  And most of all, even though we're all imperfect people, there's the LOVE.

And when I let myself think about that, I don't know how I'm going to make it another seven DAYS, much less another seven months, or years, or the rest of my life, away from all of those things that I love so much, away from all of those things that make up the essence of what's best in me.

So I try to convince myself that this is what adulthood is--tamping down that scream that keeps rising up in my throat, ignoring the memory that tells me that there's something better, fighting down the voice that urges me not settle for a perfectly normal life.

But... but... what about my kids?  They're not happy like this either.  They long to go home to camp with a depth of emotion that I can't explain away.  It's not that they don't like it here; they do.  They love their friends and their teachers and their activities.  But something deep within their hearts is crying out for the unique home that can't be reproduced.

So I don't know what to do.  It's a pain that can't be resolved.  I ache for home, long for it.  I do not exaggerate when I say that I dream of it every single night.  There are days when I feel so desperate to go back that I think I would do anything, ANYTHING, to make it happen--throw away my graduate degree to scrub toilets with my toothbrush and live in an unheated, one-room yurt year-round if it would just mean that my family and I could go home.  But after a while, reason (or Ben) kicks in, and I realize that the yurt-and-toothbrush route isn't a viable option.

So what's left?  This, I guess.  Going through life filled with longing.  Drying my kids' tears.  Wishing that I could go back.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Shay's Thanksgiving Play

For Thanksgiving this year, Shay (who turned 7 on Thanksgiving day) wrote an original play for she and her siblings to perform.  Her siblings loved the costumes she designed, which consisted of headbands with either Indian headdresses or Pilgrim hats attached, but in the end, they revolted and refused to memorize their assigned lines, so the play never had its debut performance.

However, I thought it was a great play, particularly for a newly-turned-7-year-old author, so I thought I'd record it here for posterity. You know, in case any of your families want to give it that debut performance.  :)

"Thanksgiving Play"
by Shay

(spelling mistakes corrected by Mommy, to aid in your reading pleasure)

Director: The Pilgrims were sailing and found a place to land.

Pilgrim: We can live here!

Director: They found a place to live!

Pilgrim: Let's build a house for all of us!

Other Pilgrim: Okay!

Director: Their first winter was very hard.

Pilgrim: It is spring!

Director: The Pilgrims meet a new friend.  It was an Indian.

Indian: Hello.  My name is Squanto.

Other Indian: Nice to meet you!

Director: They became good friends!

Indian: We will help you learn how to plant food and cook turkey!

Director: They were harvesting!

Indians: We have worked so hard for the food.  We can have a feast.

Pilgrims: We can spend the feast together!

Thursday, November 27, 2014


One year ago today, on Thanksgiving Day of 2013, I had my first allergic reaction. Ben and I were hosting Thanksgiving for the first time ever, for my mom, his parents, and one of our friends. We had spend most of the day cooking. We'd all shared a wonderful meal. We were all full and happy. After dessert, the guys headed out into camp to do some chores for some friends that were away for the holiday.

 About a half an hour after we had finished eating, just as we were starting cleanup, I started to feel itchy. It started in my hands and built quickly. As I looked at them, they got mottled and red. They started swelling. I had to pull off my wedding ring, and then my watch. And then the back of my neck started to itch. I excused myself to my upstairs bathroom. I saw red welts started to raise there too.

 And then my stomach. I lifted my shirt and saw red welts there too. And then my stomach seized up. It was a good thing that I was already in the bathroom, because I don't know that I could have made it very far, with the force that that attack came on. I had wave after wave of intense stomach cramps and diarrhea. At some point, I also started vomiting in the wastebasket.

 I have no idea how long this went on before someone came up to check on me. I was in a lot of pain. I knew that I was having an allergic reaction and was even with-it enough to have determined that it was probably a reaction to the pistachio dessert I had eaten. My mother-in-law called my sister-in-law, who is a nurse, and she recommended taking some Benadryl to stop the reaction and putting me an a shower to clean me up. It seemed reasonable, so we did exactly that. After all, I'd never had an allergic reaction before.

 None of us had any idea how severe the reaction was. I took the Benadryl and got in the shower. Everyone else went back downstairs. I was hit with a wave of dizziness so strong that I ended up on the shower floor. I have no idea how long I was there. I just know that in the end, the only reason I literally crawled out was because my stomach started cramping again and I really, really didn't want to poop in my shower.

 I managed to get to my toilet, but after that, I basically passed out. And again, I have no idea how long I was there.... but that's how my family found me, some period of time later, naked, soaking wet, hunching unconscious on the toilet, bowels cramping. I cannot think of a single time in my life when I have been in worse shape.

 They managed to get me into bed and, I imagine, retreat to the kitchen to freak out. I blessedly missed the freaking out part, as I was unconscious.

 I do vividly remember the next day, during which every move I made was excruciatingly painful. I felt like I had been run over by a Mack truck. Maybe two or three times.

 So that was my first allergic reaction. I came away from it thinking, "Wow, pistachios suck." The next time I saw my general practitioner, I told her about it and she prescribed me an Epipen. But nothing about my daily life changed.

 Meanwhile, I continued to fight intense migraines. Two months before this allergic reaction, I had been pulled from full-time work due to severe migraines. Even though I was under the care of a neurologist and was taking three medications daily to prevent migraines, I was still having severe migraines at least six out of every seven days. My neurologist and my general practitioner agreed: I was not medically able to work full-time. So at the time of my first allergic reaction, I was still on medical leave for migraines, but basically steeling myself for the fact that I would not be going back to teaching. I did not even stop to think that the allergic reaction and the migraines might be related in some way.

 Several months later, maybe in March (?), I was out at Pizza Hut with some friends. I didn't eat anything that I hadn't had a million times before, although there was some serious carb-loading. But by the time I made it home from Lafayette, my body was freaking out. I was itching out of my skin, and I had to race to the bathroom as soon as I made it in the door. I knew better than to take Benadryl this time, but I was up for most of the night in agony. I had no idea what had happened to cause such a reaction. This was when I started considering the idea of seeing a doctor about food allergies.

 In May, our family went on an overnight campout. Before heading out, I sprayed myself and the kids down with bugspray. By a half an hour afterwards, I was in complete agony. I was covered in angry red itchy welts, and I was sweating out of my skin. My stomach was cramping mercilessly, and I spent more time in the bathroom of the lodge than at our campout site. I thought it must be something I had eaten; I didn't even think about the bugspray.

 It was that incident that finally convinced me to go see Dr. Benzinger at Indy Health and Wellness. He ran a diagnostic panel on me that identified my food allergies (yeast, cheese, peanuts, pistachios, corn, wheat, and mushrooms at first, though I've earned some of those back) and my chemical sensitivities. He's helped to figure out a diet that I can live with. After getting my food allergies under control, my migraines have improved tremendously--way more than medication could ever have done alone. For the first time in 15 years, I feel like I'm starting to get my life back instead of watching it slowly slip away.

 So even though I didn't eat stuffing, or corn, or gravy, or green bean casserole made with mushroom soup and fried onions, or light fluffy rolls this Thanksgiving, I am still incredibly thankful. I am thankful for this journey of learning about my allergies that I have had over the past year, because it has put me on the path to better health than I have been able to even dream of in a really, really long time. I am thankful for Dr. Benzinger and for the friends that sent me to him. I am thankful for Ben's love and support through this journey. And I am thankful for all the opportunities that I'm going to have with my family as I continue to feel better and better!

Monday, November 10, 2014


I'm having a hard time believing it, but Bryn turned nine last week.

The night before her birthday, she said, "Mom, will you cuddle me to sleep?"  She used to ask me to do that every night, but over the past six months, her requests have become more and more sporadic.  I agreed willingly, and as I listened to her breaths grow slow and even as she fell asleep in my arms, I couldn't help but think how blessed I am that she still asks for cuddles.  I know it probably won't last for too much longer, but I will happily comply for as long as she wants me to.

At nine years old, Bryn loves to read more than anything else.  She still has that intense attention that she had as a toddler-- when she's focused on something (be it reading, television, coloring, whatever), it's incredibly hard to break that focus and get her attention for something else.  She excels at school and is at the top of her class.  She is our quiet, serious child, but with her close friends, she can be crazy and goofy.  She had a sleepover with three close friends for her birthday, and as Ben said, "If you girls are the quiet ones in your class, I wouldn't want to meet the loud ones!"

I am most especially lucky, though, because at nine years old, Bryn still tells me, honestly, that I am her very best friend.  By this age, she understands that it's not that way for all mothers and daughters.  She knows that what we have is special.  She tells me everything.  As we head into the challenging pre-teen years (yikes!), more and more, I feel a divide between the "mom" moments where I have to scold her for something and she rolls her eyes at me, and the "friend" moments, where she invites me to sit on her bed and she tells me everything she's thinking.  I know that the "mom" moments will never end; they're my job.  But I also pray that the "friend" moments will never end; that's the relationship that I want to endure long after she's grown.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have a daughter like Bryn.  She's one in a million.  I love you, Brynie-Boo, and happy birthday!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What I Can Do

This morning I learned a very important lesson in both life and theology from my four-year-old.

He said to me, in that confident kid voice, "I can do anything!"

Then added, in just as confident of a voice, "That God wants me to."

I can do anything... that God wants me to.

I thought, then, of dozens of times in my life when I have wanted something desperately, tried for it to the best of my ability, sometimes even well beyond the reach of what I logically should have done, and still failed. Competitions lost. Relationships that didn't work out. Jobs I was rejected from. Even those all-too-normal, frustrating days when I work as hard as I can all day, only to look around at the end and instead of seeing a job well done, feel overwhelmed by all that is left undone.

And for each of these things, I beat myself up, thinking that if I had just tried harder, worked longer, done better somehow, things would have been different.

I don't think I'm alone in this. I think everyone does it, lives with those regrets to some extent. It's part of the falleness of our human condition.

Which is why it's so freeing to realize the truth of those words: "I can do anything... that God wants me to."

Those things that I couldn't do? Those times that I failed? They weren't part of God's plan for me. He had something bigger, better, far more perfect in mind.

And it's not just me. God has a perfect plan for each of us. He can't wait to show us. It's just that the cynical world has gotten in the way for most of us... but not for my trusting, enthusiastic, four-year-old. Which is really what makes the whole thing so beautiful.

So take a lesson from him. Stop beating yourself up. Stop living in those regrets. Because you can do anything that God wants you to do. And the things that you can't do, well, those are just signs of something better that He has in store for you.  Approach your life with enthusiasm and trust, and there will never be cause to fear.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


You know that saying, "Bloom Where You Are Planted"?  I really felt like our family was doing that.  I felt like we had been Planted at Camp Tecumseh (see my posts about how we ended up there back in 2011 here and here).  Ben had a job that he truly loved, and his work was bringing great good to countless other people.  I also had a job that I loved, working as the teen librarian at the Monticello Public Library.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that I was bringing "great good," but the kids did refer to me as the "cool librarian," so I must have been doing something right.  :)  As for my own kids, they loved their schools and had wonderful friends with awesome parents.  We had a wonderful friends both at camp and in the Delphi community.  Life was good.  Not perfect (it never is), but really good.  Yes, we were blooming.

And then a storm came that lifted us up by our roots, swirled us around, and blew us far from the field where we had been planted.

It's a long story that I'm not sure I even fully understand, much less can explain to all of you.  In its simplest form, we learned partway through the summer that Ben's position was no longer going to exist at camp in its current form, so since there was no longer a job for him, we would need to leave camp at the end of the summer.  The whole situation was devastating for our entire family, and I still have a very difficult time talking about it.  Camp was and is home to us in so many ways.  Liam and Aiden (and even Shay, in many respects) don't remember living anywhere else.  But it's more than that.  Camp is what we actively chose over everything else that the world had to offer.  It's been the home of my heart since I was 11 years old.  To be sent away from that.... well, it's pain like I can't describe.

What made it even worse (if "worse" was even possible when discussing terms of leaving the place I love most on earth) was that we moved to camp from Indianapolis and decided to return to Indianapolis, because we figured that Indy held Ben's best chances of finding a job.  (Because this news was sudden and he had no job prospects lined up for after camp ended.  Thankfully, he does now have a job.  It's an hour's drive from where we ended up living, but it's a job.  Thank God!)  But the schools in Indy are on a "balanced calendar."  Which meant that from the day that we got the news that we'd be out of both a job and a house (because our house was owned by camp) at the end of the summer, we had less than two weeks to pull ourselves together, decide where in Indy to move, find a house, pack up everything we owned, register our kids for school, and make the actual move.  Did you catch that?  Less than two weeks.  Maybe there are times in my life that I have been more stressed, but none are coming readily to mind.  Combine all of this with the fact that I was constantly sobbing by heart out over leaving camp, and it was definitely not a pretty picture.

But we did it.  We spent the first week deciding on a game plan.  Then Ben took one day off work and we came down to Indy and spent that day looking at rental houses.  We rented the best house that was available that day (and was available for near-immediate move-in).  That was a Wednesday.  We returned to Delphi.  I worked through the end of the week.  We packed like crazy people.  Ben worked all weekend.  One of our dear friends took our kids into Lafayette (in our car) for a day of fun so that I could pack undisturbed, and they ended up being the second car in a five-car pile-up.  Thank God, everyone came out uninjured, but the car had to be totaled.  Somehow, someway, we made it through all of this.

We moved on Monday.  We unloaded a U-Haul into the rental house.  Ben returned to Delphi that night and went back to work on Tuesday.  I registered the girls for school on Tuesday, and they started school the next day, Wednesday.  And then it was full-steam ahead into our new life.

It was just the kids and me for an entire month before Ben found a job in Indy and was able to come and join us.  Let me tell you, that was a long and insanely stressful month.  It was filled with unpacking boxes, learning new schedules, and finding my way around a new city (we're on the opposite side of Indy from where we lived before).  But most of all, it was full of missing Ben and missing camp.  Now Ben's here, but the feeling of missing camp hasn't gone away.  Maybe it never will.

With all of that being said, I think our family is doing well in Indy.  He likes his new job.  While it's not saving the world, he enjoys the "mental puzzles" that it presents.  And he's making a paycheck that actually pays the bills, which is a really luxurious feeling.  I'm home with the kids for the time being and joke that my new career is "full-time box-unpacker."  While I really, really miss working at the library, I do love getting to spend time with Aiden especially.  I had time at home with all the other kids when they were little, but never with Aiden--I was babysitting other kids from literally the day he was born, and then I went back to full-time work when he was six months old.  I actually thought I'd never be at home with him, so this time really is a precious gift to get to know my baby in a way that I never would have had a chance to do otherwise.  The girls love their elementary school, and Liam loves his preschool.  It has been wonderful to reconnect with old friends and enjoy all that Indy has to offer.

So for us, I guess, the saying should be "Bloom Where You're Transplanted."