When Life Gives You Lemons, Drink Champagne

I had a birthday this weekend and it did not go as expected. A trip had been planned; that trip got canceled. I was pretty bummed but then Frank took the girls to the Women’s March and I went to a used bookstore and had a quiet reading lunch. We got a babysitter and had a lovely date night. It snowed and our neighbors fed my family so I could have alone time. I drank champagne while eating leftovers from the fancy date restaurant. All in all, it was a good reminder of what a birthday weekend really should look like: Family, friends, books, and bubbles.

I learned a lot from this weekend that I hope to carry into this next year:

IMG_8185It’s OK to Feel Your Feelings
When I woke up the morning after canceling my flight, I was really sad. I didn’t feel like celebrating. And I let myself feel those feelings. If I had plastered on a happy face, it would have been fine for a while but eventually, that disappointment needed to be felt. So, I did. This year, I want to remember to feel my feelings. Not to wallow in them or to let them ruin an entire day. (And sometimes, it’s just not the right time or place to feel every emotion and I have to wait.) But I want to recognize the health and importance of feeling the uncomfortable feelings – the ones of disappointment or hurt. When I stop and recognize them, I also see some root causes that I may not have noticed before.

What Was My Desired Outcome?
When the actual trip didn’t happen, I thought about things I was looking forward to: Reading a book on the airplane, catching up with a dear friend, resting, solitude, seeing a new place. While I couldn’t catch up with my friend like I was hoping, I did try to recreate some of my other hopes. I stayed in bed and read while Frank took the girls on some outings. I started my “airplane book” at a restaurant and read it for the amount of time I would have been on the plane. When life doesn’t go as planned, I hope to stop and recognize my hopes and outcomes – what can I do to create space for creativity and rest?

Call on Your Community
When we had to shift our plans, we called our babysitter to see if she was free for a date night. I texted a friend about getting together. Our babysitter was available; my friend wasn’t. But reaching out and asking helped get ideas rolling. Once I started thinking about things I wanted to do, I was motivated to get dressed and do them. At first, I wanted to keep my disappointment to myself, but by letting others in, I realized what support and love I have right here – something I hope to never take for granted.

Drink Champagne
A few years ago, Frank got me a case of sparkling wine for my birthday. The idea was that we’d have enough “everyday champagne” to toast all the moments – big and small. So, on this weekend, the girls drank Martinelli’s sparkling cider with every meal and I sipped on Cava all afternoon by the fire. We had the fancy Champagne on my birthday dinner but having something sparkly to sip all weekend reminded me to celebrate every moment, no matter what.

Now, with a few days between me and my initial disappointment, I have a much better perspective. Do I still wish I could have spent some quality time with my friend? Absolutely. But I know it will happen. And the gift of remembering these perfect small details of life made this birthday weekend one that I hope helps define my year.

What are some good life lessons you’ve learned out of disappointment? How do you recalibrate your expectations?

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Books you might like:

(This book gave me perspective.)
(My “airplane” book.)

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Yes, I Am Able

I’ve never dyed my hair before and, as my 35th birthday approached, I felt the itch to spice things up a bit. I’m embracing my identity more and more and I felt the need to commemorate that with something totally outside of my normal look. Something fun and funky but still maturely thirty. So, we went with purple and green highlights. They are subtle and fun and everything I hoped for in a mid-winter, mid-decade change of pace.

I was talking with a friend about the -5s. Those half-decade birthdays that sometimes seem bigger than entering into the decade itself. Looking back on my other half-decade birthdays I can definitely see the pattern.


At 15, I first watched Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting and my interests took focus and my life changed as I pursued art history. At 25, after deciding I was destined to be single, I started applying for teaching jobs overseas. And then met Frank… Now, at 35, I feel on the edge of something. Of course, not even a week after this birthday, I can’t predict how it will impact my course but I am excited for what is around the corner.

My word, Capacity, has already shown itself to be a true vision for 2017. I’ve already made choices about how my time is divided, about the commitments I’m able to make, about what our family dynamic looks like in this particular phase. I’m on a journey with some incredible women to write our life’s mission statements. Our meetings have been profound and stirring. I feel that I’m preparing myself for something significant.

Because my birthday is in January, I usually hold off on the typical beginning-of-the-year goals and wait until my birthday to reflect and make that list. This year, my goals are much more vague and simultaneously more ambitious. I feel like the coming year will lay a foundation for bigger things – ones that I can’t even imagine yet.

If the decade between 25 and 35 was about forming my adult identity – one of teacher and wife and mother – then my hopes for the decade between 35 and 45 will be years of refinement. Of knowing who I am and feeling equipped and empowered in that knowledge to make big choices. I want to live these coming years with open hands and with an attitude of yes, I am able.

I am able to stay at home and raise these two feisty, thoughtful, compassionate daughters. I am able to be part of groups and teams and organizations that are changing the world. I am able to give my time and energy to my community in new ways.

I am embracing my ability to use this time wisely. This time of staying home but of more independence. I don’t want to waste these years, not just from a parenting perspective but from a self-care point of view. How can I use this time to really be intentional about my roles, both currently and in the future? How can I use this time to prepare for whatever our next chapter holds?

What birthdays seemed “bigger” to you – the -0’s or -5’s? How are you embracing the decade you’re in?

Celebrating Legacies

We just got back from a weekend in California, celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday. (Does this sound familiar? I’m so lucky to have both amazing women still in my life!) On the way out, a woman on the airport shuttle asked if my grandma was doing well. In reality, some days are better than others. My grandma has developed dementia, so days and moments can look vastly different.

Bea & Grammy
Bea & Grammy

Celebrating her life, surrounded by friends who have known her for decades longer than I’ve been alive, was such an amazing reminder of the legacies we build early in life. Have the last few years been tough, both for my grandma and for those of us watching her age? Yes. They have.

And yet, I think about her sense of adventure and love of travel – qualities instilled in me at a young age that formed my own worldview. I hear about her love of art and encouragement of drawing, which led my dad, my cousin, and my brother to pursue careers in art. I hear about her hospitality and value of community. I think about her value of family and the importance of creating safe spaces for us.

I am so thankful for the woman my grandmother chose to become. Because, she grew up in a family environment where she did have to make a conscious decision to be different from her family. I am thankful for her spirit, for her grit, and for her determination in creating her own family and writing her own story.

GG, Bea, & Grammy
GG, Bea, & Grammy

Mostly, I’m awed and grateful that Bea has been able to meet and develop relationships with both of my grandmothers – women who have shaped and formed who I am and have taught me so much. Hopefully she’ll know them for a long time as she grows up, but for now I’m glad she has a legacy of strong, thoughtful women as role models.

Who has shaped your journey? Is there a woman who has created a strong legacy for your family?

When I’m 90

We just got back from a weekend in California celebrating my grandma’s 90th birthday. All seven of her kids, most of her grandkids, and many of her great-grandkids gathered for the occasion. Kids ran wild, adults laughed and caught up, and we ate lots of delicious food. The party itself was a beautiful testament to the life my grandma has led, but one of my favorite moments was the night before, at a family dinner.

At my wedding
At my wedding

Rather than a traditional blessing before the meal, my aunt asked each of the siblings to share ways in which my grandma has blessed them. Descriptors like caring, servant, unconditional love, intentional focus, ability to make each kid and grandkid feel special, open hospitality, love of God, family, community, and neighbors… The list was extensive and words described a woman who truly lived out the idea of loving God and neighbors first.

I’ve always admired my grandma and wanted to be like her in a vague sense, but hearing these words gave me definite adjectives of how I want my life to look and how I want to be viewed in sixty years. What am I doing right now to make each person in my life feel special, important, and heard? How am I showing open-handed hospitality and grace? How am I living out the message of Christ, rather than simply internalizing it? It’s amazing to see family gathered, values passed on through generations, and the legacy she and my grandfather so intentionally built.

Frank and I were talking about what a privilege it is to have such a model in our lives. I sometimes forget how amazing it is to have a family who gathers without drama, who loves each other and spending time together, and who create open and caring communities as a matter of habit. I’m thankful that this was a norm for me and it will continue to be a norm for my kids.

Who is your role model for what you hope life looks like at ninety?