Sunday, June 29, 2014

Day 180: My Boo.

Who was born 34 year ago TODAY?

This hot thing.

Today I'm thankful that my husband was born.

I love almost everything about him.  (If I said "everything" then you would all know I'm a liar - of course I don't love that he leaves his clothes next to the clothes basket every. single. time.)

My top ten favorite things about D at this moment. (subject to change based on performance, mood, and wind direction)
  1. This hair.
  2. That if I ask, "Will you run to the grocery store and get blank?" He will always do it.
  3. He puts music and apps on my iphone without me knowing it.
  4. He lets me do fun things like go to California without him.
  5. He's always up for an adventure.
  6. He always goes to bed later than me so I don't have to turn off any lights and listen to strange noises in the dark.
  7. He loves God.
  8. He is a great father.
  9. He looks good in t-shirts.
  10. He's funny and kind and humble.
(see what I did there, squeezing a few extras in the end?)

Happy birthday Sweet Cheeks. (the name my sons have decided is the absolute funniest thing you could call anyone in the history of ever, and should therefore belong to their dad.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 179: One Year

The picture I took the last time I walked down my cliff - exactly one year ago today.

A year ago from this moment we were driving to Central Illinois after being gone for two years. 
We were scared.
We were excited.
We were heartbroken.

And look at us now.  I can't even believe this is us just a year later. 


I still have days were my breath gets sucked away - like yesterday when a double rainbow spread across the sky.  There is no doubt that I miss our lives in Northern Ireland.

But I also have no doubt that this is exactly where we are supposed to be in this moment.

We were placed here.

Today I am thankful for the last year, and a smooth transition.

Full circle baby.

Day 178: New Lake

Dustin's family owns a piece of land with a patch of water that is too large to call a pond and too small to call a lake...but we do anyways.

It has a small beach and patch of trees.  The wildlife runs rampant and the cows are grazing just feet away.  I've always loved it.  When his grandfather was still alive it was always kept in great shape.  We went camping out there - by ourselves and with friends.  Eventually everyone got a little too busy to keep it mowed and free of weeds.  The lake went unused except for the occasional fisherman looking for a little peace in the middle of the Midwest. 

This past year has brought plans by some members of the family to renovate this little patch of land.  Basically, to clean it up and make it more appealing.  It didn't take much.  There is so much beauty there by itself. 

And I love going there with my boys.  I hope it is a place they remember fondly from their childhood. 

Today I am thankful for this patch of land and for the people who are caring for it.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 177: Crickets

Today I am thankful for the sound of crickets at night.

And the breeze coming through my bedroom window.

And knowing that it is summer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 176: Energy

** Before I start writing I must offer a correction to an earlier post.  A few days ago I wrote about my Dad and his big bike-riding weekend.  WEELLLLLLL, it turns out he actually did it all in one day - and the ride in the middle was 50 miles. 60 year old father rode 100 miles in the morning, took a one hour break, and then rode in an organized ride for 50 miles, and then rode another 100 miles home to Ohio and was back in my mom's arms by 8:30 p.m. (Actually it was probably more like 9:00 since I'm SURE she made him take a shower first.)  It turns out my dad is even more B4d4$$ than we all thought.  (Did I mention he can also rollerskate backwards?)

Anyway, about today.  I woke up still pretty sick and sore from my grim (but not so grim!) diagnosis yesterday.  All I could think about was the million things I had to do that couldn't wait - like, for example, tend to the 8 quarts of strawberries I had purchased and were now rotting away in my kitchen. 
By some miracle I had enough energy to function by about mid morning.  And I was even lucky enough to get almost everything do (namely - the strawberries) before I started heading downhill again. 

Today I am thankful for found energy where there wasn't any before.

When you're home over the summer with three little boys and the sun is calling to everyone but you, you have to hope for a reserve somewhere.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 175: Nodes

On Sunday my left lymphnode became noticeably swollen.  It spent the next few days getting larger and larger, and more painful.  Of course, like any self-respecting natural worrier, I spent a lot of time running through the worst-case scenario. 

Today I sat in the doctor's office and he ran through the different things it could be.  At the beginning of the list was simple strep throat - something I would have never thought of since I didn't even have a sore throat.  The first test he did was a strep test. 

It was strep.  After hearing the list of possibilities, combined with my own manufactured list, all I could think was "I'm so happy it's strep."

Today I am thankful I just have strep throat.

I never thought I'd say that.

Day 174: Alone

It rained almost all day today.  As I’m writing this (at 7:30 pm) the sun is shining hard on the lakehouse, but it is for the first time today.  In between downpours there have been windows of dry air, but never the sun. 

The largest window came around 2:30, and it was also the time Miles decided he was done “resting” and was ready for the beach.  Since the other boys were napping Miles and I decided to head to the beach for at least a bit of time before the rain showers returned.  When we got there Lake Michigan was glass and there wasn’t another soul within sight.  It was cloudy and cool.  It was amazing.  We ended up spending the entire afternoon there, and were later joined by Dustin and the other boys.  Still no one else showed up.  It was our beach for the day.  It made us feel special and important and no one fought the entire time.

Today I am thankful for that time truly alone as a family.

Eventually the storm clouds did roll in, and we did pack it all in for the walk back.  We made it back just in time to close the door behind us as the first drops fell out of the sky. 

Day 173: Lake

Today we finally made it to the beach for the first time this summer.  We got there early and arrived to find this peaceful foggy place that seemed like a dream.  It was beautiful. 

Today I am thankful for the natural beauty of the lake.

It renews my soul every time.

Day 172: So Much

Today was filled with SO MUCH. 
So many helicopters. 
So many hours in the car.
So many friendly reunions. 
So many celebrations.
So many hellos and goodbyes. 
And unfortunately for me, so many sunburns. 

We drove to our college town from yesteryear and, being the spontaneous young blisters that we are, we met up with some people that we haven’t seen in awhile.  Right at the time we arrived there was a helicopter show going on at the municipal airport, where we met my VERY PREGNANT friend Kimberly (on her due date – but no baby) and her family.  The boys loved it.  I loved that it was free and not hot. 

We then got to see her new house, and then we zipped over to my friend Audra’s house while she was moving in (I carried TWO BOXES!) to see her new house.  And finally we went to Dustin’s brother’s house to say hello and hang out for a bit. 

It was a full day with a lot of goodness.

Today I am thankful for a day full of goodness.

Days 171: Bike

Tomorrow at 1 am my dad is going to ride his bicycle over 100 miles into Indiana, then is going to rest for one hour, and then ride it a few more hours in another “ride” that is taking place.  Then on Sunday he’s going to ride back home.

Did you just read what I wrote?  ON. HIS. BICYCLE.  

And yesterday he got Liam to ride a two-wheeler for the first time.

Today I am thankful that I have a Dad who is healthy and fit.

Although, part of me is starting to think he is showing off just a bit.

Added 6/25/14:
** I must offer a correction to this post.  It turns out he actually did it all in one day - and the ride in the middle was 50 miles. 60 year old father rode 100 miles in the morning, took a one hour break, and then rode in an organized ride for 50 miles, and then rode another 100 miles home to Ohio and was back in my mom's arms by 8:30 p.m. (Actually it was probably more like 9:00 since I'm SURE she made him take a shower first.)  It turns out my dad is even more B4d4$$ than we all thought.  (Did I mention he can also rollerskate backwards?)

Days 170: Home

There are times when nothing feels better than being at home.  You know, home home. 

Today I am thankful that I have a place to call home.

When I first got married I dreaded (read: DREADED) moving to Illinois.  I was moving to a place where I would forever be “Dustin’s wife” and was convinced I would hate.  Needless to say, that isn’t true, but I still get homesick for Northwest Ohio. 

I wish I could describe it to you all, but I can’t.  All I can say is that I feel so lucky that my parents (even after moving to another country and selling the only home I’d ever known, and then years later moving back to a condo) still have a place where I feel like I am truly home.  It isn’t a home I grew up in, but because my parents are here to fill it with love and other warm-fuzzies, it feels just like it.

Days 169 - Resourceful Friends

This morning we left ready to conquer our first day of vacation head-on.  We had our tickets to the Arboretum purchased, restaurants scouted, and excitement at its peak.  What we hadn’t planned on was weird tornado-making weather springing up right over our destination of choice.  In a last minute decision we decided to make a U-Turn and head to our next destination – my parent’s house in Northwest Ohio.  The Arboretum and super cool train restaurant were going to have to wait.  Needless to say, excitement in the family car took a spiraling plummet quickly. 

And then, like a sometimes do, I had this brilliant idea to text a friend that lived in Michigan City and told her of our dilemma.  Within 15 minutes she gave us an equally cool (if not cooler) train restaurant, and excitement was restored.  Liam even shouted at one moment that, “This is the BEST DAY EVER.”  (Blame it on his short life and low threshold of experience.)

Today I am thankful for resourceful friends who are available in a pinch.

And if any of you ever need any good restaurant recommendations in the Central Illinois area….I’m your girl.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 168: Piano

In January Dustin and I started noticing that our five-year-old REALLY loved music.  After some consultation with his teachers and others we decided to enroll him in music lessons.  We had no idea what that entailed.  He thought it should entail drums.

We were referred to this amazingly nice young man that does lessons for little people out if his home.  Miles really loves going and for some reason this man gets him.  It turns out music lessons at five looks mostly like piano lessons, so we borrowed a keyboard and brought home an orange piano book.  Every day Miles practices without (usually) any argument.  He goes in once a week and learns new notes and asks a million questions that his teacher always answers. 

He still wants drums.

But he knows notes.  He can read music. 

Tonight our family piled into the car and headed to the local church where we sat through this short, but amazing piano recital.  I spent all day trying not to have expectations that exceeded the reality of a curious six year old boy's potential performance, but I really didn't need to.  Miles walked up on stage, waved at a few friendly faces in the crowd (multiple times), and played his piece.

This is all so significant to me that I can't even really express here in writing how much tonight meant to me. 

And then after the music was over and the cheese trays came out, his music teacher raved about how smart our boy was.

Smart.  This I knew, but it helps to hear someone else say it too. You see, he gets him. 

Today I am thankful for Miles' music teacher.

We all need someone that gets us.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 167: Breeze

Today was a scorcher...relatively speaking anyways.   I mean, I know it's going to get hotter eventually, but I hope it doesn't.

Let's just say we were all a sweaty hot mess.

Then this evening, out of nowhere came a cool calming breeze.  And all of our off-kilter heavy hearts became aligned.

Tonight I am thankful for refreshing summer evening breeze.  

And the way it replenishes our souls.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Day 166: Dads

Today I am thankful for fathers.

I am thankful for my own father that taught me the value of honest living and hard work.  For phrases he hung on to, and threw around all my life, including (but not limited to)...Nothing good happens after 12, and Remember where you came from.  I'm grateful for years of magical memories I have stored up in my bank of knowledge that all include him.

I am thankful for the father of my children who is always willing to change a diaper that I walk away from and would never let our kids starve to death.  The father that will let his partner go off to California while he played single dad for four days and looked good doing it.  He is the teacher of life lessons, the filler of my music library, and the flipper of morning pancakes.  He spends his days building websites and his evenings building little men.  He's also a hottie.

I'm am thankful for my father-in-law who taught above-mentioned hottie how to do it all.  You raised a good one, so you did. The man whose son must have been taking copious notes for the first 22 years - especially in the pancake flipping department.

I am thankful for the men who step up and act as fathers to my children when Dustin can't be there.  For our neighbors and church family that are filled with outstanding men living as substitute fathers in disguise.

I am thankful for my grandfathers and what they taught me about hard work and quiet love.  I am thankful for their devotion to Jesus.  I am thankful that they could procreate and therefore made parents that could parent with conviction and love.

I am thankful for the men who step up without a moments hesitation to be a father to the fatherless.  The men that slide into those roles as though they were theirs all along - who love children that are not theirs as though they are theirs.  

Day 165: Date Night

Today I'm thankful for a much-needed date night and the excuse to hire a babysitter.

Spending money on a babysitter is hard for us, so tonight I'm grateful that we had something to go to that could only happen this one night so that we had an excuse to hire someone while we went out.

In relation, I'm glad we have neighbors that are amazing artists (in many areas of the arts) so that we can be surrounded by inspiring talent.  It also gives us an excuse to get a babysitter and go out to an art opening like we are important or something.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Day 164: Film

Tonight, after a long day of hard work raising and entertaining kids I decided on a whim to suck up on tiny bit of extra energy to take my kids to a movie in the park that had been advertised.  It was the first time the park had done this, and so I had low expectations.

It turns out I didn't need to keep them quite so low, because it was an amazing night.

As I sat there in the park of my tiny town with a crowd of people on blankets and in lawn chairs....

As we stared at a large screen in anticipation that was propped up on the edge of beautiful calm lake...

As the sun set in a pink glow exactly in our line of vision.... was all absolutely perfect - and this intense reminder of why I love living here. 

Today I am thankful for the town I live in and how it made my heart feel tonight.

Warm fuzzies all around.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 163: Chill Out

My second year of teaching I had an especially difficult year.  The Seniors that year were discouraging and maddening.  I was inexperienced and high strung.  It was a recipe for miserable.  In my seventh hour class I had a student named Matt that drove me nuts.  His favorite phrase to use on me was "chill out". 

We can assume here that I didn't handle it well.

These days I am still not naturally a "chill" person.  I want to be, and can usually pretend as such - but my first instinct is NEVER EVER EVER to chill out.

And for some reason I've decided that this phrase should be my mantra for the summer.

When we are falling behind some invisible and make believe schedule I've fabricated in my mind...

chill out.

When our plans are interrupted by the sight of our neighbors outside playing.

chill out.

When I didn't get to the million to-do things I had written down for naptime.


It usually works. 

It almost always works, and I'm pretty sure that the only reason it "works" is because someone, somewhere taught me how to do it.  (Or forced me to do it.)

Today I am thankful that someone along the way taught me how to chill out.

And I can most definitely, without-a-doubt can tell you that it was not Matt.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 162: Longer

It is 8:15 pm as I write this and my husband is out mowing the lawn while my town oldest run around the yard barefoot chasing one another.  It pales in comparison to the 11:00 sunsets I miss so much in Northern Ireland, but still...

Today I am thankful for the long days of summer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day 161: Safe Travels

Yesterday was full of travel.  Two hours driving through winding countryside and bustling city streets, followed by two flights.  That’s two times that I sat in a seat aboard a large metal box and prayed that it would lift up into the air and land safely like a feather to the ground.  And then finally another late night car trip to get to my front door.

After I boarded the second plane to come home I couldn’t wait to get there.  The two hours I spent on that tiny (and I mean TINY) little plane between Denver and Peoria seemed to last forever.  My flight ended up getting in late enough that Dustin couldn’t come get me without waking up three boys in their “middle of the night” so a very generous and good friend offered to come get me without even blinking an eye.  I should mention that she also has little ones at home, so it’s not like I was asking nothing of her – she is just that amazing and generous.

Today I am thankful for safe travels and all that it entails. 

Cars winding safely through dense traffic, and planes lifting up through the clouds.  Late night free taxi services – I feel thankful for it all. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Day 160: Reunions


If I tried to tell you how amazing my weekend just was, you’d never believe me.
It’s a simple equation really…

4 women
1000 life changing experiences living and working in another country together
2 years since we’ve all been together in one place
1 million other distractions
2.5 days Sonoma County wine “toodling”

25 moments of delicious food
100 soul filling conversations
60 miles of breathtaking countryside
1 beautiful reunion.

Oh my word, how I have missed them.  I’ve missed telling them everything that has been happening since I last saw them.  I’ve missed hearing about their lives and loves. 

Today I am thankful for reunions.

There was so much emotion wrapped up into this weekend.
Happiness at seeing their faces all together at once, and in real life.
Sadness at the reminder that there are others I miss so so much and who I don’t get to see quite yet.

Excitement at getting to hear where their lives are leading them, or have led them.
Shock at the realization that it has been nearly a whole year since I have stepped foot on Northern Irish soil. 
Bewilderment at how quickly months pass, babies grow, and lives change.
And dread at having the weekend end and having to say goodbye all over again. 

So this morning on that dusty San Francisco sidewalk in the middle of the Mission I hugged them all goodbye one more time.  The tears came, and new wounds were opened, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of this weekend for anything in the whole entire world. 
And now I have another reunion to look forward to.... with four very darling boys that I've missed.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 159: Redwoods

Today I woke up on my own terms and walked out of our little cottage and into the woods.  I didn't have to worry about anyone waking up and needing to be fed, or waking up the entire household after I left.  I didn't have to listen for calls of my name, or worry about people seeing me outside in my pajamas.  I was all alone.  Quite a feat these days...

Today I am thankful for some quiet time this morning among some beautiful things.

But I have to admit...I'm starting to miss those I left at home just a tiny bit. :)

Day 158: Faces

Today I have spent the entire day galavanting around beautiful countryside with three other women that I haven't seen all at once for two full years. 

Today I am thankful that I got to see their faces.

And so much more...but I'll save that for later. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 157: Flight

I am full of anticipation as I sit here ready to board a flight that will lead me to some of my favorite people that have walked the earth.  I'm lucky, because I have A LOT of favorites - people that I can't imagine my life without.  I have a lot of people near me, and far away from me, and in many other countries. 

I wish I could see all of them every weekend. 

I wish I had a million dollars, because that is how I would spend it. 

But today I get to have my largest Corrymeela reunion yet since we left nearly a year ago.  Today I get to see some people I miss so much my heart hurts.

On other days my heart hurts because I'm sad they are so out of reach.  Today my heart hurts from the pure excitement of seeing them in just a few hours.  By the time I go to bed tonight I will be sharing a tiny cabin in wine country with three other women I haven't seen in a year or more. 

I can't stand it.

Today I am thankful for exciting reunions and the airplanes that make it possible.

Day 156: First

Today was the first day of our one of 12 summers, and it was perfectly unscheduled and unplanned.  Tomorrow I leave for a short trip, so I didn't really count today as our big summer kick-off - that will be Tuesday.  However, today was this sort of laid-back warm (but not too warm) bonus day that we all got together to do whatever we wanted.

Today I am thankful for a day low-key bonus day with my boys.

Tomorrow I leave on a jet plane for exciting adventures without them.  #sorrynotsorry

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 155: End

Today was Miles' last day of school for the year.  Recently I read something that a friend wrote, stating that since the death of her mother she no longer gets sad about how quickly milestones seem to pass, but rather rejoices in the fact that she gets to be here to see them happen.  For that reason I decided I was not going to cry today, but rather rejoice.  You see, I realized yesterday that I really only have about 12 more summers with Miles.  And if we're being honest, it's more like 8.  Eight more summers of picnics and bike rides and adventures.  I don't have a minute to waste - unless I feel like wasting a minute.  It's my summer and we'll do what we want.

This has been a big year for us, but there are a number of things that are coming to an end here in the next couple of weeks.  The first, and obvious one is school.  Miles and Liam are both done.  They both had a amazing teachers that stretched them in ways I never could have.  I believe with every ounce of my being that Miles' teachers may have changed the course of his academic career simply by being amazing. Remember above when I said I wasn't going to cry?  I did a tiny bit when I said goodbye to those ladies.  They are miracle workers, they are.

The next is my job.  I've really liked it.  It paid next to nothing, but the hours were flexible - which proved to be a blessing when Miles' schedule had to be rearranged at the beginning of the year.  Honestly, if I would have been working full-time, I'm not sure how we would have done it.  But now it's time for the next step - a new job.  A full-time job.  A job I wasn't really looking for, but absolutely can't wait to start.  I'll tell you more later.  Here's a spoiler - it's teaching art.

A finally, the end of this month will mark one year since we've been back.   I feel like that life is continuously slipping further and further away from me - which I guess is the whole point of living one's life.  I'm no longer the outsider that moved here from overseas.  I'm just boring old Tiffany - wife to Dustin, retired Hornet basketball number 44.  Just kidding (although I wish I was more kidding).             

The truth of this past year is the everything fell into place perfectly how it was supposed to.  When I was praying and crying fervently for jobs and homes to just appear for us last year, they did (although not when and where I thought they would).  When I wanted to find a job that would allow me to stay home a great deal, I found it.  And when I decided I was ready to try something more - boom. 

Today I am thankful for smooth sailing and transitions on sometimes rough seas.

And the it has been a year with all of the above.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 154: Strangers

Today I fell off my bike. 

Trust me, I've fallen off my bike before - I'm no stranger to embarrassing moments involving bikes. 

The problem was that this time it was in front of a school building (with lots of spectators) and I had a nearly two-year-old strapped in behind me.  And it all happened in a painful slow-motion.  And we landed in an evergreen bush. 

I wanted to laugh off the embarrassment and cry out my shaky-ness all at once, but no one was around besides my 4 year old who couldn't figure out why Oliver and I were lying down in the bush. 

Until she came running across the street.  I had no idea she had seen us, but I knew she was about twenty steps ahead of us at the cross walk before the fall.  Instead of just glancing to see that I was okay, and going on her way she actually ran across the highway to check on me.  To laugh a little with me, and to offer a tiny bit of comfort.  And to change the subject when I was clearly done self-deprecating myself. 

Today I am thankful for kind strangers.

Especially those who go a step further than I might if I was put in their situation. 

Day 153: Safe Travels

Dustin left today for an overnight with college friends.  Friends that six years ago I would have wanted to leave and go see as well because at one time they were also mine.  But truth be told, there is no place for children in these gatherings.  And second truth be told, they are actually more Dustin's friends than mine.  And third truth be told, my turn is coming soon enough.

Today I am thankful for safe travels

Sometimes I take for granted that he is always returned to me in one whole beautiful piece.

Day 152: Truth Telling

Telling the truth about ourselves is sometimes hard and emotionally draining.  It can create raw places within ourselves that leave us vulnerable to others.  I have just recently (within the last few years) become a truth-teller - someone willing to share things about my past experiences based on the fact that they may have shaped me, but they most certainly don't define me.

Today I watched as someone else told truths that I know were hard and vulnerable.

And today I am thankful for the truth-tellers of the world.