Happily Home

by Lesley on March 24, 2015 · 2 comments

in santa barbara

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A year ago, today, we woke up in Sacramento for the very last time. We’d spent the night at the Melvin’s house, which was appropriate since they hosted us on our first night in Sacramento, and I tossed and turned with dreaded anticipation of the morning, nostalgic about how we’d arrived in 2006 with a tiny moving van and no money, and we left with a much bigger moving van, two children and handfuls of rich memories.

Our years in Sacramento went so fast, but also so slow. They were hard and good years, stretching and beautiful; full of change and growth and the unexpected. Our final days and weeks were no different. The move to Santa Barbara came suddenly, and it was sandwiched between weaning Owen, taking a new job, and saying goodbye to my Grandpa Frank, who died on moving day. In many ways, it felt like we limped out of Sacramento, desperate for a water station and a good massage.

We’ve been here a year, and it only seems appropriate to mark this date with an Amen and a Hallelujah and a Praise God. Santa Barbara pursued us, and we said yes with some reservations, hesitations, and timid feet. And while we still really, really miss the community we had in Sacramento, I think both Jonathan and I would say this last year has been one of the best of our marriage.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this last year has been the breath of air we needed so desperately. It is partly because Jonathan has settled into his new job and really likes it. (And I like that he can easily stop home for lunch a few days a week, when he’s in between court hearings.) I think we’ve also really appreciated a solid 12 months without any major changes, since pregnancies and babies and cancer seemed to flood the years prior. But, as a whole, the biggest thing is that we’ve tried to embrace a new way of living.

Santa Barbara is a vacation town, and we decided on our first day back that we never wanted to grow used to living here, and so we’ve made an effort to create small vacation moments throughout our week. We watch the sunset regularly, and take walks at the harbor on random weeknights. While we miss our little house in Sacramento, we don’t miss yard work, leaky faucet fixing, and all the other things that come with a home built in 1948. Without house upkeep, we’ve been able to spend many weekends as a family; playing on the beach, hiking or picnicking. The thick air, the smell of Eucalyptus leaves, and our church community have all revived my soul and body in a deep way. I also learned how to take care of myself as a mom this past year; accepting that I’m not a bad mom for needing time away from my very needy little boy, and finding small ways to have a break from his constant demands. I’m realizing just how hard I was on myself last year, when Owen was an infant, and I’m thankful that in the middle of a very difficult season with him I was forced to make some healthy changes.

I want to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone reading this is in a sweet season. Maybe you’re in a hard year, or simply having a hard day. Please know that I still have those too.  (In fact, our last week has been filled with a whole host of snot, fevers, vomiting, canceled plans, and mounting deadlines that I just don’t even want to talk about….) Life is never all roses and sunsets and beach days. But, I also want to give praise where praise is due. God brought us home to Santa Barbara, and we are so thankful for our current season of sunshine, and avocados, and new beginnings.

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On women and writing and community

by Lesley on March 15, 2015 · 9 comments

in writing

At this stage of my life, justifying time away from my family is always a battle. There’s the money battle (“Can we afford this?) and the logistics battle (“Who will watch the kids on Friday?”) but, the worst battle of all is the one in my soul. Do I really deserve time away? 

I’m writing from a hotel near Chicago O’Hare Airport, killing time before my flight back to California. My body is tired from staying up too late and a mysterious 1:00am fire drill, but my soul is more than overflowing. Did I deserve the time away? That’s a silly question. Did I need this time away? YES.

I joined the Redbud Writer’s Guild about two years ago, but this weekend was the first time I met many of the women in person. For years I’ve read their books and watched their words pop up on websites like Christianity Today, Relevant, The Gospel Coalition, and Sojourners. These women are shaping Christian culture, advocating for the marginalized and oppressed, filling the world with beautiful poetry and songs, and pointing myself and so many others back to the Gospel through brave, authentic storytelling. They represent many political backgrounds, denominations and races. They range in age from young to old. There are attorneys and seminary grads in the mix, moms and grandmothers, marketers, teachers, a judge, songwriters, pastors and preachers and teachers (or whatever you feel comfortable calling women on the pulpit, wink wink.) But, the thing that unites us is a faith in Christ, and our passion and gifting for the written word.

To be honest, while the weekend was packed with devotions, worship, seminars and panel discussions, the casual conversations were my favorite part. I tried to sit with someone new at every meal and meeting so I could hear about each person’s passions and projects. We talked about everything from how to find a good agent to how to find a good babysitter (the latter is still fuzzy for most of us) and we found encouragement in each other’s successes.

During lunch today I listened to Jenny Rae Armstrong and Amy Buckley discuss how they’re each working on biblical equality education in Africa. (I added nothing to this conversation, just in case you were impressed or wondering.) Not only was I humbled by their minds and hearts for God, but I also loved seeing how He was bringing together women with similar passions and gifting to do crucial KINGDOM work on the other side of the word. (On a related note, check out Amy’s recent article on Relevant called What Does It Look Like to be a Christian Feminist.)

I came into the weekend not knowing what to expect, and I left with clarity and goals for my writing, new friendships and a huge admiration for the work of the Holy Spirit.

If you’re a female, Christian writer please ask me about Redbud. There’s a place for you in our community, and we’d gladly welcome your voice. Thank you Buds, for being a community who shares the same trunk, and blooms together for the same purpose.

And, speaking of thank you, my husband deserve a big one. Jonathan, thanks for brushing Anna’s hair, taking the kids to donuts, and being a generally amazing dad. I needed this time, and you made it happen for me. xoxo

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Stuff I’m Into Lately

by Lesley on March 5, 2015 · 1 comment

in what i'm into

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You guys, February was fantastic, so don’t let me lack of blogging tell you otherwise. While California’s drought is a bit scary, I have to admit that I’m loving our mild winter. We have spent a lot of time outside as a family, and we’re enjoying the simple things like trampoline jumping, avocado picking, and cul-de-sac playdates with “the neighbor boys.”

…Here’s what I’ve been up to…

Books: I mostly read Amy Poehler’s new book, but skimmed the last half. And I’m almost done with Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Mind. So good.

Music:  Uptown Funk has been on constant repeat since December. Also: Sugar by Maroon 5 is my new jam. The super cute music video, combined with a few family weddings, has given Anna major marriage fever. A few days ago we had a long discussion about the appropriate age to get married. Right now, she’s convinced it’s 16. Sigh.

Food: Anne and Amy’s Chicken Noodle Soup is amazing, but if I shared the recipe I’d have to kill you. (Just kidding. I’m too lazy to type it all out.) We also tried Blue Apron this month because of their “two free meals” deal. The food was delicious, but I didn’t love the concept. Each meal took an hour to cut, chop and prepare. With a little boy who still likes to be held, especially in the late afternoon, I rely on pre-made food, make ahead meals or simple, 15 minute or less prep. Have you tried Blue Apron?

TV/Movies: I made it through the Parenthood season finale, sob, and wish the series wasn’t over forever. Did you watch? We also saw American Sniper (double sob) and I’ve been sneaking in a few episodes of Sister Wives Season 5, because I can’t help myself, and nothing makes laundry folding more fun.

Podcasts (new category!): I’m still really sad that Serial is over. I need it back in my life. But if I’m on the treadmill, I do have a few other favorites. This American Life’s If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS was one of the better podcasts I’ve heard in a really long time.

Wearing: Jenny gave me the greatest ever birthday present: a hand-me-down Lululemon workout top. (She remembered that I wanted one last year, and hers didn’t fit well anymore, so I got it! Score!) I’m also loving this tiny gold ring from Ashlee and my favorite pair of black skinny jeans. The stretch on these babies is so, so forgiving.

A few of my favorite purchases in February: This drawing for our new hallway gallery wall and lots and lots of Girl Scout Cookies.

Things I loved in February:

  • Sarah’s wedding in San Diego (January 31st, but it still counts.) Anna nailed her flower girl job duties; smiling the whole way down the aisle and sitting quietly in the front seat during the ceremony. The rest of us had a blast dancing, eating cookies, and feeling the love of family and commitment. That photo at the top of the page is the happy couple and us, at their rehearsal dinner.
  • Lots and lots of sunsets, all month long. It’s a New Year’s goal to catch 1-2 sunsets over the water each week, and so far, I’m doing it! We even caught an amazing sunset during the Superbowl halftime with cousin Isaiah.
  • Visiting the Melvins at their new house in Costa Mesa.
  • How Anna is calling everything “cute.” Example: “Mommy, your wedding photo is so cute.” and “Mommy, this birthday card is so cute. Awwwwwww.”
  • Owen learning the word “applesauce” (or, to be specific, a grunting rendition only we can understand.) He uses this word daily to communicate his food preferences.
  • Writing the feature story for Kidaround’s latest issue, which comes out today!
  • My birthday (I went on a beach walk! I got a pedicure! I drank a Blenders! And we had a date night!)
  • Valentine’s Day at the beach with our kids. It was 80 degrees. Crazytown.
  • Hachoo’s weekday visit, our birthday dessert at the El Encanto, and flying kites at Elings during sunset hour.
  • Anna graduating to the next level of swim lessons. The girl launched herself into the pool yesterday and then swam back to the wall. We are so proud of her! And she is SO proud of herself.
  • Spending too much time on Glide, catching up with my college girlfriends, and sending each other funny messages using the Crazy Helium Booth app. Trust me, it might be the most entertaining thing you’ll ever download.

Reading:

Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent: What You Should Give Up This Year (hint: you might be surprised.)

On Friendship and God’s Bounty

Where Should Your Children Go to School?

When We Were in the Fire

Anticipating:

A trip to Chicago for a Redbud meet-up, finishing What Alice Forgot (it’s so good!) and receiving Shauna’s new book in the mail.

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How is your new year, my friends? Ours is off to a wonderful start. Homegroup and MOPS haven’t started, and swim lessons are on hold this month, so everything feels less busy. I’ve squeezed in a few sunset walks and runs, and made some changes to my routine which seem to be paying off. It’s amazing how going to bed on time, getting up earlier, and throwing in a load of laundry every day (instead of three loads every third day) makes such a difference. I am convinced that we’d all be better goal setters if we eased into the new year instead of trying to tackle it with such force. We are easing in, and it feels nice.

Before the kids wake up, I’ve been working my way through this book, and at night I’m skimming this one. (Can you guess which one just isn’t holding my attention so much?) Oh, and Berenstain Bears also seem to be quite popular thanks to a recent library visit. What are you reading these days?

We had a sick little girl yesterday so after some light reading (see above) we took hot baths, ate Mac & Cheese, watched Planes and made it snow. I think this is the first time I’ve made a sensory bin Anna actually likes. (Also, I made a cake pan’s worth, because no way I’m going to waste four boxes of corn starch.)

Flower Girl Bootcamp continues, with game day only two weeks from tomorrow. This YouTube video seems to be motivating and helpful for our soon-to-be cream puff. Also, speaking of wedding prep, who knew alterations in Santa Barbara would cost as much as a small car? I’m really thankful to my mother-in-law who came to the rescue with a tailor in the Los Angeles area. Thanks, Marlene!

Also! Guys. We had NO TEARS at the dentist last week. After our terrible visit in July (tantrums, fear, crying, and then a little boy who gagged himself with a toothbrush on the way home) I got smart and did some prep. This video has been on repeat all month, and it worked! Miss Anna sat still, opened wide, and barely flinched through the whole visit. Who said electronics and media were a bad thing?

My two favorite reads this week:

A “Parenthood” Writer says Goodbye to “Parenthood” and To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.

Also, I was published on the Hello, Darling MOPS blog this past week–twice! 3 Tips for Making Friendship Work and My Friends Helped Me Survive My Husband’s Cancer

Have a great weekend, y’all!

p.s. Isn’t our little 18 month old so cute in his daddy’s lap? I can hardly believe he turned 1.5 this week!

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It’s officially the first Monday of a New Year which means that people everywhere are attempting to be productive, stick to their resolutions and generally make a go at change. I *tried* to crawl out of bed for a 6:00am yoga class but failed miserably. Maybe tonight instead. Maybe.

Last night we hiked to the top of Elings Park, which took about 12 minutes and gave us the most incredible 360 degree view of Santa Barbara that I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe I didn’t know this hike existed until now. It was easy enough for Anna (we carried Owen) and the top offered sweeping ocean, city and mountain views. We agreed right then and there to make sunsets a part of our family rituals in 2015.

To be quite honest, I wish we didn’t have to make rest and sunsets a part of our resolutions. Shouldn’t those things come naturally? Unfortunately, I think many of us go go go until we break. I’m tired of feeling tired, you know?

This year I’ve decided to stop living in a scarcity mentality. I spent a lot of 2014 pretending that I don’t have enough time or money for what is important. There were many days I found myself whining, “I just wish I had more time to….xyz.” and “I never get a chance to…xyz” or “I’m always so busy, and I hate that I’m so busy” or “I wish I had money to purchase that really cute canvas for above our bed” or “My clothes are so old and I don’t have a beach cover up that isn’t faded!” (Whomp whomp.)

For Christmas this year, Jonathan got me a t-shirt from Etsy that says: He is Enough. (The HE being God, not Jonathan, wink.) I decided that while I like to tell myself I don’t have enough time or money, it’s really not true. I have plenty of time for the things that matter, and plenty of money for the things I need. And even if I didn’t, He Should Be Enough.

A few weeks ago my friend Kellie asked me to be her first guest on a new venture called The Postpartum Podcast. Kellie and I met a few years ago through the Sacramento blogging world and when she asked to be on the show, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d love to explore starting my own podcast someday, so it was fun to be part of her first episode, which airs today!

Despite the awkward start to the podcast (you’ll see what I mean if you listen…I might have used her daughter’s name instead of hers…) I think I did okay. (Kellie, I’ll let you be the judge of that!) I am so honored to be part of Kellie’s big launch, and I’m grateful she took a chance on me being that I have no experience. The show is 30 minutes long and we cover my thoughts on postpartum counseling, recognizing your postpartum trigger points, and Dinosaur Train.

You can listen to Kellie’s podcast via her website, or search iTunes for The Postpartum Podcast.

Happy Monday, everyone!

p.s. That driftwood heart? Made that last night and it might be the only DIY project I get to in 2015. DIY projects are not on my list of resolutions.

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