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I Had a Dream

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Right before waking up this morning, I dreamt a friend and I were standing in the middle of a four-lane road with cars flying by in either direction. We were discussing the vital importance of practicing the act of writing for 20 minutes everyday, no matter what…

And then I woke up

Prior to waking up and prior to standing in the middle of the road, where I was, incidentally, holding a vintage typewriter under one arm, I had been at a beautiful gathering of writers and journalists who were sitting at tables together, sharing and listening. [Read more…]

5 Minutes a Day

I’ve been pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Or, ahem, now that I’m an adult. It requires stripping my heart naked and heading back to the mud of childhood where my curls were ringlets and my belly round and everything I ever said and did was cute, because: toddler.

Cheeks rosy. Throw head back for laughter to leave the lungs and fill the room. Pudgy hands crash together and again. And again. And again.

“More! Again, Daddy! More!”

Chasing, building, looking, exploring, balancing on anything and everything considered a balance beam. Eyes full of wonder. Seeking the knees of my Mom or my Dad, the safe space where my arms and their legs, once joined, were pillars, strong towers, the safest known place unless legs encircled around their waist and my head tucked into their neck and shoulder crook.

The smoothest ride without a care in the world is in the arms of a loving parent.

What is it I want to be? What is it I want to do? Why was I made and why am I here and how can I be of help to others because many a year has passed where I’ve more than helped myself.

What is it I wanted to be all those years ago? Was there something specific? Is it there I should be looking or forward to what I want to be or right here to discover and unfold the treasure?

And now my legs are the pillars for my little guy, and my hand and arms and shoulder and ears a source of comfort and strength for my daughter. How did I come to this age where adulthood is my label but youth and naïveté fill this bottle?

 

5 Minutes a Day

I’m going to experiment with writing for 5 minutes each day this month, with no particular prompt, simply spending a few minutes praying prior to opening the laptop and then seeing what comes out on “paper.”

We’ve recently relocated to Nashville. People ask how it’s going, how we are adjusting, if we are all settled in, what we are doing here in town, etc. We moved here because we felt like we were supposed to, and really because we wanted to. We felt like there was new life for each of us here. Our kids got into a special school with a loving community and great educational emphasis, so we decided it was the tip of the iceberg of reasons we were supposed to move. The rest would fall into place gradually, we suspected.

Well, we’ve been here two months. We are renting a small, sweet little 2-bedroom Airbnb place in an incredible neighborhood, one we could never afford to buy in until I write some best-selling books or win the lottery or pull off an international heist. Our kids love school. Jason’s still enjoying and plugging away at his job with World Vision International, which he does remotely. And I’m daily making it a practice to talk to strangers and learn their stories, some of which I’m writing down, others savoring in the moment.

What will unfold is still a mystery.

There are days that are mundane and I wonder what on earth we are doing and other days, or moments throughout the day, where I sit and breathe and savor and smile and give thanks because right here in the heart of the Country, away from most of what is familiar, glimpses of glitter shine and I see we are right we we are meant to be.

Life Interrupted

When I was in high school I used to keep a daily calendar…to be specific, I had a DayTimer. It was black leather with a zipper, totally official and tabbed and color-coded. And every single day over the course of a month, I wrote down and planned what outfit I would wear for the week, as to be careful never to repeat an ensemble twice in a two-week period, if not longer.

Clearly a first-world luxury.

I also used my DayTimer to plan ahead and keep track of class requirements, upcoming tests, my swim team meets and responsibilities as captain, my basketball games, youth group gatherings, and even a little red “dot” to mark important dates.

Though I’m an artist, go-with-the-flow kind of spirit, I thrive and flourish within boundaries and structure…

When I headed to college I replaced the calendar pages with a fresh new year and wrote in pencil everything each professor had given us in our syllabi, as well as all my social events and chaplain responsibilities and meetings, even first dates and break-ups. I lived and breathed and existed via the pages of my “organizer.”

After college when I had a career for 5 years, one in the field of college student development with a job description entailing a 24/7 work week, I kept my every move, hour by hour, scribed and color-coded, in my weekly and monthly schedule. If that thing ever got misplaced, I was lost…totally and completely lost. Thankfully, that never happened.

Then we moved across the country, while I was mega-pregnant, and bought a fixer-upper and knocked out walls and tore out the kitchen and Jason started at his new job 3 days later, so I sat covered in sawdust, eating chocolate chip cookies baked in a toaster oven, friendless, and started watching Soaps…

Eventually I snapped out of it, we met friends, I ditched Bo and Hope, my belly became a beautiful, little, priceless reality named Emily, and I started on the journey known as parenting…

a journey impossible to pencil into a calendar…a day to day sacred learning experience never intended to be minutely planned and scheduled into something as sterile as boundaries and structure and a DayTimer.

Parenting has been a rollercoaster ride with its twists and turns and loops…seasons of “closed for repairs” and “remodeling” and “expansion coming soon” and the fear of what’s on the other side of this upward climb and the letting go of trying to control it all.

Weirdest thing how the day I became a mom, my life no longer fit neatly into a neat, weekly-tabbed schedule…

I wear the same jeans every other day…because: COMFORT! A “red dot” is a sticker on clearance items at a store. I have “chaplain” meetings with my kids whether they are scheduled or not, and the only color-coding going on in my life has to do with laundry, on no specific day of the week.

Now, if every hour of my day and week were totally structured and written out in a planner or calendar, I’d rebel against it and feel suffocated, anyway.

But, with the kids spreading their wings little by little, I’m seeing a need to re-visit maybe a little bit of the structure I once knew and embraced. I know now better than to believe my life could be reduced to a rigid schedule, but I think part of me is longing to reign it in a teeny…maybe the creative, artistic side of me, as ironic as that sounds, is longing for a plan of action.

 

An Interview With My Hubby

Here’s a relationship interview with my husband of 22 years that I’m trying to have while we watch “Modern Family” and he searches for hotels for us to stay for our upcoming family adventure to Australia next month (I’m desperate for blog material, so sue me…):

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20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

Me: How come you can’t read my mind?

Him: (shakes head, laughs to self…keeps scrolling booking.com (booking dot yeah) while watching “Modern Family” (he’s a “multi-tasker”))

Me: So, I’m pretty desperate for material for my blog…can you help a sister out?

Him: (laughs out loud, like, “hahahahahaha” to my statement, not the funny thing Phil Dunphy said on MF)

Me: What do you think is the most stressful part of marriage?

Him: When your wife asks you questions when she’s trying to write stories…(laughs at his own hilarity…)

Me: (Waiting…)

Him: Um.

Me: I think it’s when you try to multi-task ME.

Him: Stressful? Listening but trying not to be a problem solver.

Me: Why is that hard for you?

Him: Uhhh, I have a PhD in engineering…I’m wired to solve problems.

Me: So why is listening hard for you?

Him: Listening isn’t hard for me, it’s the part about listening without trying to solve it.

Me: So, when did you realize I just wanted you to listen to me, not fix it? After you saw this video?

Him: Yep. Pretty much.

Him: Women want to engage in conversations within their relationship, but it’s almost impossible for a man to listen and not want to talk about solutions and the issues at hand.

Me: That’s pretty stereotypical. If I had a nail in my forehead, I’d want to figure out how the hell to get it out…

Me: Let’s try this again…what’s your favorite part of being married to MEEEEEEEEEE?

Him: (hahahahaahahahaha) What are you trying to accomplish?

Me: Nothing. I just have to write shit. That’s what Anne Lamott says and that’s what Micah J. Murray the blog master says, just write shit. It’s the act of writing that I’m practicing, whether it’s good or not, it’s just about writing…

Him: (With the cutest smile smeared across his face…) Why does it have to involve MEEEEEEE?

Well, I think that went seemingly…until next time…

For The Love, JUST WRITE!

The practice is to simply write. Just write. Sit down and write stuff. And when you can’t think of anything to write, write about how you can’t think of anything to write…write about that

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I haven’t written every day in a row for 31 days since our son Noah was in the hospital. That season of our lives was depth-charged with adrenaline to find answers, superhuman powers to find a cure, and 5 months of sleepless love-filled nights watching him breathe, soaking in his smell, praying prayers and pouring tears and breathing in those moments knowing life is short…life is priceless.

It was more than adrenaline. It was turbo.

Thing is, in a body at least, adrenaline runs out and you tire.

Ridiculous a thing like challenging myself to write everyday could resurrect these feelings and sensations all these years later, but that’s how some of these entries have been for me…wanting to convey my heart, longing not to be misunderstood, hoping to encourage others on their own journeys who will read along.

For me, writing is so woven into who I am, it’s something I do in my head and heart all the time, all day long, so typing it out is a first step of expressing it, then hitting “publish” and letting others read it, even by choice, takes it to another level for my heart.

It’s like I’m letting you get to know me, but what I would love even more is the chance to get to know YOU.

The whole thing leaves me with what Brené Brown labels a “vulnerability hangover.”

I’ll let her explain:

 

Yesterday on the Facebook page where some blogging friends rally to encourage one another and learn from each other, I wrote: “I’m out. This is the second sentence I’ve written today.”

I was ready to check out. It was a weird feeling because the disciplined practice of writing hasn’t been that bad, though draining, but has shown me how, if I make it my own person “day job,” I could actually write the books and curriculums I want to write, by sheer dedication.

And if anything, maybe that very thing is what is supposed to come of all this gut-wrenching writing.

(photo credit: pixabay user/StockSnap)

When You Meet a Blogger in Real Life

“I love Jesus. I love writing. I love people.” – Micah J. Murray

 

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(photo: Micah J. Murray’s “Clumsy Bloggers’ Workshop”)

 

Yesterday I got to meet Micah. Micah hosts a priceless course on-line called, “Clumsy Bloggers Workshop” and I happen to be taking it, you know, to learn how to actually blog after all these years. (click on the picture above to learn more.) My family and I went to the Twin Cities over the weekend to see family while I had a few meetings. I emailed ahead to see if we could set up a time when he could “show me” blog stuff (I’m a visual/kinetic learner) and I could pick his brain a little. It ended up being my whole crew along for the lesson, as well as eating some great tacos from a shop down on Central, and his boys and my little guy striking up friendship over silly string and Legos.

Part of the course includes a private Facebook page where the rest of the gang enrolled in the workshop can bounce ideas off one another, ask questions, cheer one another on, and let off steam and drop occasional curses…it’s so liberating! It’s become a space I love “going to” everyday to read and be inspired and challenged in this THING I love so much…and hate all at once: writing. To be honest with you, I thought I was just signing up to learn blogging stuff, but the course and community and the act of writing again has brought about more of a personal renaissance…and that was unexpected.

You guys, I want to tell you a few things I learned about Micah J. Murray…he loves Jesus. He loves writing and sharing the art with others. And he really loves people…specifically, you guys, he said he loves his “Clumsy Bloggers.” How special are we?! He enjoys helping us find our words and voices. And it’s inspiring to see all the bloggers in our group that are finding their mojo because Micah is doing what he loves and is good at…reminds me of Victor Frankel’s, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” that I read this summer.

I wanted to encourage you all that Micah’s the real deal. It’s difficult to tell sometimes on social media if a person is authentic in what they portray for others to perceive. Not so with him…he is legit, no doubt. He’s not only a smarty in all things blogging, like mind-blowing brainiac-ish, but he’s also got heart that backs his work…and wears it on his sleeve, literally…ask him to blog about his newest ink based on one of his motto’s, “Love Trumps Fear.” It’s pretty cool.

So, press on, keep writing, and if you are a person who has considered taking up blogging or setting up your own website, Micah is a real live person cheering who will cheer you on. And in the on-line world, this just TOTALLY AND COMPLETELY MATTERS.

Right Before You Choke and Die

photo credit: Ryan McGuire, pixabay

photo credit: Ryan McGuire, pixabay

(*For an entrepreneurs course I’m taking at a local college, the prof assigned us the task of keeping a journal, old-school style…like made out of paper, where we write with pens or pencils or crayons or whatever. The following is from my entry this morning.)

My journal for the entrepreneurial class I'm taking. Cover artwork by: yours, truly. Though, technique taught to me by the lovely and talented Jennifer Stone, Watertown, SD.

My journal for the entrepreneurial class I’m taking. Cover artwork by: yours, truly. Though, technique taught to me by the lovely and talented Jennifer Stone, Watertown, SD.

Handwritten journal like in the times of Laura Ingalls...

Handwritten journal like in the times of Laura Ingalls…

I pasted some of my alcohol paint work into my journal for inspiration.

I pasted some of my alcohol paint work into my journal for inspiration.

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10/6/15

I know I’ve bitten off more than I can chew right now…this usually leads to a few scenarios:

  1. A huge mouthful of food, cheeks large, smacking sounds that make others uncomfortable, looking like you’ve never heard of a thing called manners.
  2. A nauseous feeling, like where you may gag if you think about it too much.
  3. The decision to press on and chew and chew and chew and then swallow the ridiculous amount of food, and then wash it down with water.
  4. Hope you don’t choke on it.
  5. Choke on it.
  6. Lift a napkin from your lap and subtly spit the food wad out and set aside.
  7. See #5 and require an intervention.
  8. See #6 and assess what should be on your plate, what bites need to be cut into smaller pieces, remember just because you hit the buffet or it was even served up to you, it’s more than you can eat, and it doesn’t mean you have to clean your plate.
photo credit: Ulrike Mai, pixabay

photo credit: Ulrike Mai, pixabay

photo credit: user unserekleinemaus , pixabay

photo credit: user unserekleinemaus , pixabay

So, everything I am learning here is so great…like food on a *ahem, good buffet. What I’m learning from: Good Life Project and the passionate Jonathan Fields, the story prodigy Micah J. Murray and the Clumsy Bloggers Workshop, the actual practice of writing for 31 days with the challenge group, the Bevy re-launch, focus groups, interviews, and market research my friends and I are collaborating on…it’s all so great. But, it’s a lot to process. I feel like I need two weeks away to soak it all in. Add to that:

  • woman
  • wife
  • mom
  • daughter
  • sister
  • friend
  • and whatever else hats…

…and something has to give.

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My prof just showed up “at my office” (coffee shop) to read my journal and talk about all these things and more. I’ll be back in a bit…

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Ok. That. Was. Awesome.

Yes, it’s a lot. No, it’s not all meant to be “consumed” at once. She read my journal and chuckled here and there…She encouraged me that it’s a positive thing it’s all interconnected, but to be mindful if there is something that has to give, and only I could discover it.

As an “adult learner” taking her course, but with the open buffet you just read above, I wanted her to know I respect her and appreciate of the content of the course, one she teaches to female entrepreneurs in western Uganda through her NGO called, “Two Sides to the Same Coin,” one, and two, how my absences and inability to get my shit together for an “elevator pitch” or 1/2 the other assignments weren’t that I wasn’t thankful for every bit of the course and her time.

And then she said smart stuff to me. She said as an “adult learner” there’s beauty in knowing from life experience what’s applicable and what information is necessary and useful now. Then she shared her desire is not to have the course be another bite full, so if it’s part of what I need to spit out, she would understand…And that she was simply happy to have me in the class. I was welcome. 

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I feel like a few things just happened. Nothing actually came off my plate, but the expectations I had set to be a perfectionist or attain a certain outcome, have been lifted. Almost like it’s a several course meal, but not all on the table at once, and when I’m ready for the next course, it will come. Or like I went to the bathroom and burped and farted frat boy style. 

Whatever it was, I sure feel better.

Ever feel like that?

31 Days of Stuff I Need to Get Off My Chest

I write in my head all the time but most of it never hits the keyboard, so I’ve decided to jump on a writing bandwagon and Write for 31 Days in the month of October in order to clear my head and heart and make room for more.

A very wise soul wrote a blog post recently which encouraged writers to Write Like You Talk. Micah J. Murray is brilliant. I’m taking his Clumsy Blogger’s Workshop and learning how to blog for the first time in 9+ years of blogging…

I’ve feared this. I cuss sometimes. ( I love Jesus but I drink a little. Watch up to 30 seconds-ish…this kind of laughing is good for your health.) 

I don’t believe what everyone else believes. I don’t like labels. I have some strong opinions about anything from living to dying to breathing to eating to politics and nationalism, travel, religion, family, marriage, architecture, leadership, how to live a good life, or how to waste one, and seriously, the list goes on.

So, I’ve stayed silent…for a lot of years. I listened to lies in my head that people don’t care about my perspective on life, because, who doesn’t have ideas and mine’s just another voice to add to all the static…except the silence is so loud in my heart, I just can’t keep it inside any longer.

It’s funny, strange, not ha-ha, the irony of what demons we face when it comes to our passions and the ways we are wired. Personally, what pumps blood through my veins is gathering people to hear and learn their hearts, share my own, and see what happens when we collaborate. Instead, for several years, I’ve secluded myself, thought everyone else was having fun without me, moving on with life, writing stuff and encouraging others, so there wasn’t room for me, too…and, if I did write or say something, I was inconveniencing those reading or listening. It’s jacked up stuff, I tell ya, listening to the lying voices in our heads, the ones that set us up in competition and comparison with others, and always questioning why the heck we are here and what the hell our purpose is.

Anyway, I’ll expand on all of this and more in the next 31 Days where I’m going to write, totally unfiltered, stuff I want to get off my chest, essentially, my heart and guts on anything and everything that comes to mind each morning as I sit at the keys. Gradually this page will fill up with 31 posts you’ll be able to access easily if you miss something or want to go back and chew on a topic or even share with a friend.

Please come back, in spite of offense or differing of opinions. It’s important to start these conversations, and I’m just sorry I haven’t done this sooner.

31 Days Unfiltered: Stuff I Need to Get Off My Chest

Day 1: (This starts on October 1 and this post will serve as my first entry…and buy me time to write stuff…)

*Topics will include, but are not limited to: politics in America, “American Christianity”, the Church, abortion and PP, feminism, vaccinations, health and wellness, fear, terrorism, authenticity, de-cluttering your life, butternut squash soup and other fall recipes, how I think Kid-President should actually be president, talking to teenagers, refugees, peacemaking, war, old people and aging, death, the perfect storm of why everyone’s sick and dying, the only thing that matters in the whole wide world, how Noah’s death without a diagnosis left me without a “cause” (sorta), a colonic for the soul, why being mean is mean, Native Americans and racism, women in ministry, collaboration, and some other stuff…for starters…

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Fluid

This vagabond life as The Graveswolds isn’t without its ups and downs. (*For those just tuning in, we sold our house, sold or gave away half our possessions, put the rest in storage, all a week and a half before Thanksgiving, and have been without a home, not homeless as there is a difference, ever since…THIS lasting for however long God leads, but also likely at least a year or so…and for those who are practical, we are basing out of my Dad’s house but traveling when opportunities arise.)

So, yeah, we are homeless, yet we homeschool.

And then there’s the part where we don’t currently have a home, but Jason works from home.

Let’s be honest…”homeless” in a first-world country when one of the adults in the household holds a steady job isn’t the stereotype one may assume. We are not without a roof, food, income, or the ability to rent space. We had some dreams, God opened the doors, and we have chosen this for a season.

So where are we and what are we doing? Please understand that I don’t think our lives are any more interesting or blog “worthy” than the next guy, it’s just that there are some people who have asked, so writing about this season of living without a home is a practical way to share, as well as allow others to learn from our mistakes, get some good laughs at our expense, and perhaps inspire anyone to step out and dare to do something you’ve always longed to do but it was so against the grain, you didn’t even know where to start.

I have to say, I’m grateful to be asked to share about this season. Since my Mom died last June, I haven’t wanted to write much of anything. You see, I wrote this blog mainly TO her. She was my reader. Originally, when she was out of town while Noah was hospitalized, I’d write for her and other family members. In the years since, she continued to read and cheered me on, calling or emailing after a post, encouraging me to write…always challenging me to continue writing truth, and with all my heart.

Well, the truth is, I wanted to share THIS SEASON with her. Not only did I want her to read about our adventures, I wanted her to join in them with us. So, hang with me while I wrestle into a new season of writing, if you don’t mind…I’ve flailed a bit. Amidst the dreaming and excitement and reality of what we’ve just bitten off, my Mom would be an anchor for me when everything else is unknown, swirling about. I miss her terribly, but even in our current season, she told me ahead of time she knew it was how I was created, so, in a way, her cheers before she died are still heard loud and clear in my heart…it’s just the putting one foot in front of the other part…

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One practical thing we did today, which was really kind of exciting, was register to be official “house sitters.” There are sites with screening and background checks and references where people register their homes and pet sitting opportunities and others register as house and pet sitters, and then the rest is up to the calendar and personal preferences. I am excited to see where this leads as staying in a home rather than a hotel is our preference for travel. Hotels are fun once in a while, but four of us in one bedroom doesn’t lead to the most awesome *ahem* well, you know…plus, Em isn’t a fan that the whole room has to go to bed at 8pm when Ryan does, so either we keep him up a bit, or Em just lives with being a ‘tween with a lame-o bed time.

Honestly, hotel living isn’t like Eloise or Zak and Cody or when you are on a trip for a week. Those guys are actors and millionaires and vacations are full of adrenaline for a week and then end. Hotels have their perks, like tag teaming time in the gym, free breakfasts, a pool for the kids to exhaust themselves in for hours, but one of the last hotels we had didn’t even have a lock on the bathroom door and that’s no bueno.

So, on our house sitter registration I shared how our desire is to travel the world together, but rather more like locals than tourists. Jason and I have rented houses on vacations in the past and it’s so nice to have a kitchen and space to spread out. I want to teach our kids about the beauty of stories and allow them glimpses into the lives of real people in real communities, not just seeing sights and staying in hotels.

So, as we wrap up our Christmas break here in Colorado and head back to South Dakota for a bit, I guess the calendar and the map are a bit open. We’ll see what house sitting opportunities are out there, and then, I guess we’ll keep you posted.

*I’ll post more about the ups and downs this week. It’s taken a week to write this freaking post b/c of them, and if I don’t hit “post” now, it’ll just be a draft forever 😉