What Blissdom Meant to Me

Sunday, February 26, 2012 5 Comments A+ a-

It was never about the size of my audience. And I can say that without irony because I’ve been doing this blogging thing since 2005 and I have less than 300 followers here. It makes me laugh. Its never been about growing my circle of influence or to follow a formula for success. I’ve started to feel like a fish out of water these last few years because this blogging landscape has changed dramatically in a short time. I couldn’t find my niche, my place, in this new world of sponsors, stats, and ratings. I may have even gotten a bit prideful in the fact that I was still one of the few that hadn’t given in to the pressures of monetizing my blog.

Its been said that pride goeth before a fall…

This weekend gave me a fresh perspective and passion for blogging, on family, on friends, and how no matter the size of our audience, we all have a very specific story to tell.  It’s a story that no one can tell quite like you.  A story that will speak to someone’s heart or situation in just that moment, or in just the right way.

I’ve been writing and creating for as long as I can remember.  From a very early age, there’s been this desire in me to pour out all the colors, the words, the thoughts that were spinning in my head.  Even now I feel like have curse because I usually have 10 different ideas going at once.  Starting my blog in 2005 was the perfect outlet for me.  Having an almost-one-year-old, I needed a place to record my thoughts, my emotions, my story.  From the moment I hit publish on my first post, I knew exactly that blogging was going to be an amazing journey for me.  And truth be told, any negative moments in this journey has been significantly outweighed by the positives.  I don’t think I’ll ever look back and regret that I’ve put myself out there on the world wide web.

This weekend was so much more than getting to meet these women that I call friends online.  It was so much more than putting together the perfect formula to build a successful blog.  For me, it was the coming together of like minded women.  Women who have reached out into the internet space and shared their hearts.  For me, it was being in a room of women who “get” me in some way.  Whether its similar, shared experiences as a mother, or discussing colors and patterns and ideas with fellow designers, or women who love the integration of social and media.  I thoroughly loved that there was a spot for everyone.  There was so much empowerment, encouragement, and beauty in this weekend.  It was an honor to be there and I’m so very excited to see what’s born of some of these new ideas in my head.

Thank you to the ladies who brought us all together, thank you for “getting” us, and thank you for believing that we each have a story worth sharing!

I’m Here, I’m Here

Friday, February 24, 2012 8 Comments A+ a-

iAfter a stressful and whirlwind car ride to the airport on Wednesday, where I pulled up to the curbside check-in minutes after they’re supposed to stop checking bags and being the last to board my flight to Nashville, I am here.  And its one of the most surreal experiences of my life so far.  Not even just Blissdom (which is in fact as awesome as I thought it would be), but the fact that a) I’m here by myself, b) that I’m in Nashville of all places, c) I have zero responsibilities, and d) I’m by myself.

Did I mention that already?

I was picked up from the airport by Kara, both friend and cousin.  We married cousins within a matter of weeks of each other, now sharing family and last name.  She and I rarely get to connect on a deeper level during brief holiday visits, so it was absolutely amazing to get to spend some quality time with her and her family.  We haven’t been able to get that real and personal with each other in a long time.  And oh, it did my heart good. 

The following day she dropped me off at the Opryland hotel and the real adventure began. 

First, I must say that this hotel is massive!  MASSIVE!  Maps and pictures of this amazing place don’t even begin to do it justice.  It’s a walk and a half to get from one part of the hotel to another.  The size and beauty of the hotel is overwhelming enough, but add in the meeting of new friends and women who you’ve been tweeting with for years, and you have Jenn on stimulation overload.

IMG952530 - Josh,Vignette,CorneredI’ve met the roommates, women I’ve tweeted with and have not met in person.  We’ve instantly clicked and it feels like we’re having one big slumber party.  I’m obviously comfortably enough when I reach over and tickle my bedmate in the middle of the night. [Insert face of horror and disbelief here.  Seriously one of the most embarrassingly moments of my life.]

Lightbox_1330111502108 - Lucas,Focal,TrashyAnd right now, I’m sitting by myself (emphasis on ALONE) and enjoying a glass of ice tea while I blog, surf the internet, check on the LIttles, etc.

Blissdom isn’t just about networking and learning new secrets to blogging.  I’m finding my bliss in the moments outside of the conference too.

He’s Five Now

Thursday, February 16, 2012 5 Comments A+ a-

He woke up yesterday, rubbed his bleary eyes, and tried to make out the Happy Birthday banner strung across our mantle.  Then as realization dawned, he got the biggest, proudest smile on his face, and puffed out his chest.

“I’m five now!”

Hudson1We all said our happy birthdays and gave him high fives.  He was both embarrassed and proud of all of the attention.  You could see it in his eyes.  Those 10 hours of sleep had turned him from a preschooler into a big kid. It was evident in the way he walked, adding a little bounce to his step.  It was apparent in the way he announced it to anyone that would listen.

“I’m five now!”

Hudson2Everyone says that time flies, that it goes faster with each year.  As a teenager you roll your eyes, certain its either an exaggeration or that the adult can’t possible understand just how very slow time is actually going.  Its such an overused saying. 

Until you wake up one day and realize its true.

It truly seems like I just gave birth to that beautiful baby boy just last year.  The way we rushed from the doctor’s office to the hospital, the way I frantically called Jon’s boss and told him to find Jon NOW.  The way I hadn’t bothered to grab my hospital bag because I was in such denial that I’d go into labor on my own.

BabyHudsonThey laid him in my arms and he’s held my heart ever since, that boy of mine.  Five years. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he’s had my heart for five years.

Yes, my son, you’re five years old now.  And we’re having an absolute blast with you!

Girls Are Peculiar Creatures

Monday, February 13, 2012 3 Comments A+ a-

I feel like a disclaimer should be here.  There is nothing deep or inspirational in this post.  There is not one ounce of wisdom to glean from this post.  In fact, its just me… blathering on like an idiot.  Without a filter.  You’ve been warned.

I've gone a little crazy...*This is not me. Just a very accurate picture of how I’m feeling at the moment.

If I ever had any doubts as to just how peculiar females are, this Blissdom trip has absolutely confirmed everything I’ve feared about being a girl.  Lets discuss just how crazy I’ve gotten in preparation for this trip…

  • I’ve colored my hair for the first time in 18 years.  Both out of necessity (grays were out of control) and because I was not showing up with all that gray.
  • I’ve been practicing new makeup techniques.  All of which were a major bust.
  • I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect new lip color.  As of now, I am 1 for 4.  And wouldn’t you know it, my favorite is the cheapest one.  (Now Jon, let’s just forget about the other three I bought that have now found a home in the girls play makeup. M’kay? I love you.)
  • Ever since I bought my Blissdom ticket in December, any money spent on clothes has been with the sole purpose of wearing it in Nashville.
  • New perfume. Check.
  • Whitened teeth. Check.
  • New undergarments. Check.  (Now, in my defense, I’ve recently almost-weaned Ashlynn, so this was a necessity.  In a major way.)
  • I did draw the line at getting some, um, hmmmm, enhancements.  Even though I’m in desperate need of some help since nursing 4 children, this really isn’t the place to try out something so new.  (You’re welcome for the TMI. My apologies.)
  • Despite the new clothes I’d bought and received as Christmas gifts, I decided my wardrobe still needed help. So I enlisted the help of my sister and we went shopping in her closet.  (Truth be told, I had more fun in her closet than any of the stores.)

So now that I’ve disclosed just how insane I’ve gotten over this whole trip, and you’re all reading with your mouth agape, let me explain why I know females are peculiar creatures.

Now that I’ve won the love and devotion of my husband (maybe he still loves me, I’m not so sure after he reads this post), I no longer get dressed to impress any men.  I don’t need to.  Jon assures me constantly that he thinks I’m beautiful and that he finds me attractive.  Jeans, t-shirts, baby spit-up on the shoulder, and all.  Seriously.  I really have no doubts the man is crazy about me.  He’s good like that.

But as my sisters and I’ve discussed before… I feel like I dress to impress other women.  Its ridiculous. I KNOW THAT.  But knowing something and believing it, are two different things. 

And?

I really don’t believe the women who are going to this conference will be critiquing my outfit choices to the minute detail (well, some might because, lets be honest, there are a few of those), but I still worry.  Even though I know most of the women there are like me, and will be too busy wondering what other people think of my outfit to notice whose wearing what.  But I’m still freaking out. 

Because the truth of the matter is this.  The female mind is a peculiar creature.  We’re each other’s biggest supporters and harshest critics, all rolled into one.  Because even though I know it doesn’t matter, shouldn’t matter, in our heads, it does.

Plus.  This is the first time I’ve had a reason to look nice since quitting the workforce almost two years ago.  It was a bit of culture shock to go from having my hair did, makeup on, and cute outfit ready to get out the door by 7:45am every day, to knowing that no one will notice that I’m still wearing the yoga pants from two days ago.  My Littles definitely don’t notice things like that, they just want me to entertain them and keep their tummies full.  So I’m taking FULL ADVANTAGE of having the opportunity to wear cute clothes.

And for those going to Blissdom.  You should be fairly warned that I don’t look like this at home.  Here, I’m lucky if I get to brush my teeth by 10:00am.

It’s a quiet kind of random.

Friday, February 10, 2012 6 Comments A+ a-

I’ve been quiet lately.  Just being.  Even now, with the laptop open and the blinking cursor staring at me, I find the words are hard to come.

I know that with these stirrings in my soul, it means God’s working on something. Getting ready to carve, shape, mold me.  And so I wait.  Wondering when I’ll be allowed in on the work He’s doing in my heart.

I wonder if it has anything to do with the struggle of walking the tightrope of grace and judgment.  Of freedom and legalism.  Its been weighing on my heart. And I’m no closer to answer.

It could be the James study and how I’m both terrified and excited to dive into this book.  A book that I haven’t studied too much before.  Mainly because the verse “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9) is a conviction straight to my gut.

Another convicting scripture from James, one my mother had me memorize as a child.  “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” James 3:6  I’m confessing here that my tongue has gotten me in more trouble than I care to admit.  My sisters can attest to the fact that my tongue is the preferred weapon of choice.  It’s a vicious beast and one I’m determined to overcome.

And another verse… Oh heck, shall we just admit that the book of James, as a whole, is a convicting one.  Why am I so excited about this study again?

Moving on…

I registered Hudson for kindergarten today.  It was bittersweet in its own right.  Not nearly as emotional as registering Devyn two years ago, but just so strange to believe that the little boy that’s so completely stolen my heart is headed off to kindergarten in the fall.

Reagan, while great at school, coloring her way through several pieces of paper while I filled out forms, had a bit of a meltdown as we left the school.  I had to stop her from marching into Devyn’s classroom and making herself at home.  Where I’m sure she believes she belongs.

Speaking of Devyn, we’ve had a rough go of it recently.  She’s been dealing with a never-ending ear infection.  Going on four weeks now.  After a particularly bad night, we went to Urgent Care for help.  The doctor on-call took one look at me, looked at Devyn, then back at me again.  “She is the spitting image of you, Mama,” she said.  It made both of us smile.

In one area, though, she is nothing like her mama.  My daughter, MY little girl, hates reading.  She doesn’t like it, doesn’t want to do it, and would rather do chores than read.  Which reading has now become.  A chore.  We have an agreement, she and I.  If she reads for 15 minutes every day without me having to remind her or nag at her to finish, I’ll buy her the voice activated diary she’s been wanting.  Bribery. Parenting at its finest.

And while she might hate reading, the girl is a whiz at science and math.  Not only is she good at it, she actually… wait for it… LIKES it.  We were discussing high school this week and how students get to choose their own schedules and classes.  “Wait…” she said.  “You mean I get to take classes for fun?!  I’m definitely taking a math and science all the time!”  I’m really not sure who she gets this enthusiasm for the sciences from, but hey, its uniquely her.

Speaking of being unique… Our Ashlynn.  Surprisingly, I don’t really have a handle on our youngest yet.  Surprising because she’s the only baby that I’ve been with day in and day out since the day she was born.  And yet, she’s an enigma.

When she’s feeling safe, usually in the comfort of her own home, she is an absolute riot.  Loud and silly and rambunctious.  Did I mention loud?  In that regard, she is most definitely the youngest because the girl can make some noise.  But the moment we’re in a new environment, she is serious and quiet.  You can’t beg a smile from her.  Regardless, I’m loving watching her personality come out more and more. 

Today was one of the first times that I’ve witnessed the truly ugly side to Reagan and Hudson’s relationship.  I’ve mentioned before that they’re either best friends or worst enemies.  Today was the latter.

I asked what they wanted for lunch and both immediately asked for grilled cheese sandwiches.  And not two seconds after they climbed into their seats, did Reagan lean across the table, put her face inches from Hudson’s, and said, “I don’t want you to have grilled cheese, Hudson!” I’ll let your imagination pick up there… Hudson didn’t take too kindly to it.

I feel like Reagan gets a bad rap sometimes.  Both here and on social media.  But the truth of the matter is this…  She is a handful, plain and simple.  One of our more trying children. BUT.  She has a larger than life personality, and for every one instance of backtalk or tantrum, there are two to three examples of love and life personified.  She is so fun and I’ve been so excited to watch her bloom these past few months.

In 12 days I leave for Nashville.  And while I’m so very excited, and deep down, I know it’ll be a great experience, I really can’t help but worry that no one will like me.  Isn’t that so like a woman?  Insecurities creeping in and setting up home, when I really don’t have time or patience to be dealing with it right now.  Especially when those same insecurities creep into other areas of my life. 

I do have some specific prayer requests for this Nashville trip, and I’m going to list two of them here.  If you feel so inclined, I’d love to have you praying these things with me…

  1. That I would be open to any new opportunities that may come along.  That I would step back before answering yes or no, that I would take the time to discuss with Jon and pray before committing to anything new.
  2. That I would remember where my priorities should be.  Its going to be easy to get caught up in the moment of being alone and getting my “me” tank filled.  And while I’m going to soak in every moment of alone, the truth of the matter is that I’m coming home to five of the most precious blessings in my life.  Blessings that get placed first, and should be treated as such.

There are other prayer requests but those will stay closer to my heart.  But if you think of it, I’d love to have some prayer warriors joining me.

And with that, my “quiet” list of random is coming to a close.  I guess it wasn’t as quiet as I thought it would be.

Sacred Marriage, Chapters 7 and 8

Wednesday, February 08, 2012 1 Comments A+ a-

One characteristic holds the history of God and Israel together – perseverance.  When Israel turned her back on God, God didn’t turn His back on Israel… I particularly relate to the four hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments.  So often it isn’t that our marriages are either good or bad – they just are.

In fact, some experts suggest it takes from nine to fourteen years for a couple to truly “create and form its' being.”3  When I hear of couples who break up after just three or four years, I feel sad because they haven’t even begun to experience what being married is really like… it takes at least the span of a decade for the sense of intimacy to really display itself in the marriage relationship.

I really loved chapter 7 of this book, loved it!!  And while chapter 8 had some good points, I felt it was a little redundant.  Which begs to be said…  the idea of perseverance is extremely important to marriage.

And as I read through this chapter, I couldn’t help but smile to myself.  Because it was in these chapters that I saw Jon and myself, at this stage of our marriage.

We’re celebrating 10 years in May.  10 years of marriage.  This past October we celebrated 14 years together.  14 years.  I met Jon at the young age of 16, we started dating two years after that.  In two years, Jon will have been a part of my life for over half of it.

That’s a long time.  And yet, at times, it feels as though its always been this way.  It feels… right.

Marriage has been described as a roller coaster, with its dips and climbs.  Or even a landscape with hills and valleys.  I can attest to the truth in both of them.  We have been through the mundane, every-day-is-the-same-as-yesterday in our marriage.  We have been through the don’t-talk-to-me-you-can’t-even-breathe-correctly moments in our marriage.  We have been through valleys that have lasted years, only to be uplifted to a mountain top weeks or months later.

And right now… Oh, my goodness… Right now, we are reaping the rewards of a hill together.  Heck, I think we jumped from the mountaintop into the clouds.  It’s a time in marriage that we’re enjoying the butterflies, the secret looks, the bone-melting-stomach-jumping-kisses that are being stolen in the kitchen.  I can honestly say that in the 14 years we’ve been together, this phase has only happened twice in our relationship.  The beginning.  And now.  I never imagined I’d get to have that time back and I’m relishing every moment of it.

Because like clockwork, this season will end and a new one will begin.  It may be a walk through the valley, or standing on the edge of a cliff.  It might become boring where the landscape doesn’t change for miles.  I don’t know what the future holds.  But I do know that the good times sustain the bad times, and the bad times make you appreciate the good times.  And on it goes.

Perseverance.  One word.  A whole lot of action.
________________________
3 Oliver, Conjugal Spirituality, 33.

The Laptop Saga That Won’t End

Saturday, February 04, 2012 6 Comments A+ a-

My laptop has been acting funny the past month or so.  Its as though it has a mind of its own and will update things when I say not to update them, it’ll shut down files that I’m working in, the wireless will stop working for no apparent reason, then start up again.  Just being a general pain in the rear. 

My favorite part of my laptop dying?  The fact that it no longer charges and only works when plugged in.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I was mid-design and one of the Littles accidently bumped it just right for the power connection to break.  Thus resulting in my completely losing all of my work.  It became a nightly ritual to hear Mama scream in utter frustration at the lost work.  Not the Littles fault by any stretch of the imagination, but frustrating nevertheless.  So we knew a laptop purchase was in our very near purchase and I’ve been saving up for it.

However, our purchase was pushed up a few weeks when my current laptop stopped reading my external hard drive.  The hard drive that has ALL OF MY DESIGNS AND PROGRAMS on it.  I died.  At least a thousand deaths as I envisioned all of that work just *poof* gone.  (Think Monica from Friends when they lose the apartment to Joey and Chandler. Nooooooooooo!  And yes, I’m aware this blog has a lot of references to Friends.) Then that same laptop refused to access the internet for the rest of the night.

I took a deep breath and went to sleep.  The next morning I plugged in the external hard drive into my parents computer and you wouldn’t believe the sigh of relief that escaped my lips when all the files showed up.  I believe there may have been a happy dance involved.  One crises averted.

I placed the order for my new laptop, the one I’d finally chosen after weeks of research (thank you to all the cousins, friends, and internet people for helping me out) and selected 2-day shipping.  This was placed on Wednesday, 2-day shipping ensured I’d have it by Friday.  Just in time to spend all weekend getting caught up on designs.  Perfect.  I hit complete and drummed my fingers against the laptop that would sometimes allow me to get on the internet, sometimes not, and stalked the UPS website for delivery details from my phone.

Thursday night a snowstorm hit this state.  It was a blizzard in some areas and I’d resigned myself to the idea that it might be delayed.  However, when I saw that the laptop had been scanned in Denver early on Friday morning, I relaxed a little.  Surely, I’d receive the laptop as planned, for Denver was only an hour and a half away. 

I spent all of Friday glancing out the front window, wondering when the brown truck was going to pull in front of my house.  I had daydreams about taking out the laptop, shiny and new, and playing around with my new best friend. 

At one point I saw a brown truck drive past without stopping.  It toyed with my emotions greatly.

Around 8:00pm, I knew my laptop wasn’t being delivered.  Despite being scanned in DENVER (Did I mention its only an hour and a half away?  Or that I could’ve driven there and back at least 4 times that day?!) and requesting 2-day shipping FOR A REASON, my laptop wasn’t coming as promised. 

I called the 1-800 number and spoke with a very nice girl on the other end.  I was nice and sweet, asking for a status on my order and wanting to know when I should expect my laptop to arrive.   I was calm, cool, and collected until she said that it wouldn’t be here until Monday.

Monday.

That is most definitely waaaaaay past the 2-day delivery I’d chosen. 

Now I’m a reasonable person.  Really, for the most part I am.  I get that things come up like snowstorms and mechanical failures.  Hey, life happens.  I get that.  But unfortunately the lady didn’t know that she was dealing with a crazy woman who hadn’t been able to work since Tuesday night and was now five (5!) designs behind schedule. 

I explained that it was unacceptable.  That while I understood a delay, a 3-day delay on a 2-day delivery was unacceptable.  And that’s how I found myself talking to a call center supervisor who assured me he'd find out what they could do and call me back.

I ranted and raved to Jon while waiting for that call.  For the most part, Jon was wise in keeping his mouth shut while I breathed fire over the situation.

The supervisor called back, gave me the number of the local UPS sorting facility and assured me.  “Ma’am, call this number in the morning.  They’re going to do their best to get your laptop on a Saturday delivery truck.  And worst case scenario, they’ll have it ready so you can come pick it up yourself.”

Great. Awesome.  I appreciated the solid effort.  It wasn’t Friday, but I could handle Saturday.

This morning, I called as soon as I woke up.

No answer.

I tried again an hour later.

No answer.

I tried every half hour for the next two hours.

No answer.

I almost dropped the phone when they finally answered.  They had NO idea what I was talking about.  And I knew. Right then.  I’m not getting my laptop until Monday.

That is just awesome.

I listened as the manager of the local facility promised to look around and get more information.  And would call me back as soon as he knew more.

I will give him credit.  He did call me back.  But it was only to say that they couldn’t find my laptop at their facility, which means its on a truck to be delivered to their site on Monday morning. 

“I’m so sorry, ma’am. I wish I had better news for you.  Why don’t you call this number and they’ll give you a full refund on your shipping costs.” Uh, yeah they will.

I thought I’d be mad or upset, but I was very much just resigned by this point.  Or perhaps I got rid of all my mad last night.  Who knows? 

It doesn’t matter.  There’s no new laptop until Monday.

At which point, I will be very, very behind on designs and will be a crazy woman until I’m caught up.  I’m very thankful for patient and understanding clients (THANK YOU!), a sympathetic husband, and a laptop, albeit a finicky laptop, that actually let me get online tonight.

And so goes the saga of the laptop. May it finally end on Monday.

Surrendering

Friday, February 03, 2012 12 Comments A+ a-

I am finally raising the white flag in the fight against gray hairs.  Within the past four years or so, the white/silver hairs started making their appearance.  Fortunately, I was able to stay on top of it by plucking the annoying things.  And yes, I’m well aware of the old wives tale that for every gray hair plucked, two more grow in its place.  But I assure you, it was worth it to me.

Oh vanity. Silly, silly vanity.

Then something happened after Ashlynn was born.  Suddenly those gray hairs that I was trying to pretend didn’t exist, multiplied.  Over night.  I blame the hormones.  There is certainly NO WAY that its because of my age. 

And I continued to pluck.

But I had to face reality when Devyn tried counting the gray hairs in my part and we both lost track around 40-50.  And that, my friends, is a punch to the ol’ pride.

So here I go.  Off to the salon for my first hair color since I last dyed it an auburn color in 8th grade.  I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m asking for help.  I asked the Twitter and was told caramel or red highlights.  So that’s what I Googled and came up with a few ideas. 

HairHelp

What do you think? Do I do something fun?  Or should I stick to my natural color as much as possible?  Le sigh. Anyone want to come hold my hand next week?