Friday, June 27, 2014

The Creativity Project

I have been taking a course on creativity.  Little did I expect that this course would inspire me back into the world of blogging.  I think that it is time.  I have missed this place... not blogger per se, I have missed the deep place in my heart that longs to write.  As Virginia Woolf once wrote, "Every secret of a writer's soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works." 

Entry #1:  Saturday, May 31, 2014

Today I attended my first class to get my gifted endorsement.  I couldn’t sleep last night as I was so excited.  What would the class be like?  Would I learn all the things swirling around in my mind before I have to teach gifted classes next year?  Who would I meet?  What assignments would we be asked to complete?  

About midway through the class we were asked to write down some ideas on a piece of paper.  What is something that we have always wanted to do but haven’t taken the time to do it?  I jotted a few things down in my notes:  learn to play the guitar, write my dissertation (YIKES!), build a piece of furniture, write a children’s story…  There are so many things that I would like to do one day when I have the time and the money!

At the conclusion of our class, the instructor told us that the class would end in a Creativity Project.  We were asked to pick a creative endeavor and then complete it over the next few weeks.  We would present our final projects on the last day of class.  We were also asked to create a journal about our process.  

So… here it is.  My journal.  My creative thoughts during a creative process.

Entry #2:  Sunday, June 1, 2014
“The Husband Discussion”

After my class yesterday, I told James over dinner that I needed to do something creative.  “I think that I want to build a bed!”  I said boldly over quesadillas.  “A BED?”  James stared at me.  It is not uncommon for me to throw out strange ideas over dinner.  Most husbands might ask how one is going to build a bed, what kind of bed, do I have the tools needed, etc.  Instead, James just said, “Can you please just do me one favor first?”  I waited.  There was no telling what he might ask me to do first.  Clean out the garage before bringing in the wood?  Make sure he liked the style of the bed before I built?  

“Can you please finish painting the office before starting a new project?”  He said gently.  Disappointment suddenly washed over me.  Finish painting the office?  That project was so summer of 2013 and not at all interesting to me anymore.  I had chosen a dark navy for my office.  I had a huge vision in my mind.  Dark navy with all the boys artwork in white frames.  It was going to be gorgeous… and I had promised James that once was office was complete, I would finally be in a good frame of mind to write my PhD dissertation.  I had painted all the walls, all the trim, and the office was in pretty good shape except for the window frames.  The inside of the windows still resonated with the odd green color chosen by the previous owners.  Oh, James!  They were just the insides of a window.  The details.  This conversation shows the normal conundrum facing our marriage.  I have dreams.  Big Dreams.  New Dreams… but I never seem to be able to finish the details of the dreams I already started.

Entry #3:  Monday, June 2, 2014

I walked into the office this afternoon hoping that inspiration would consume me to finish painting the insides of the window sills.  The only problem I had was actually reaching the windows.  I couldn't reach the windows to paint because the office was filled with books.  Books gently placed on the floor in front of all the windows.  My mom had been in town a few weeks ago.  Her minivan had been filled with books.  Special books.  My dad’s books.  

My dad died last August after a four year fight against cancer of the bone marrow.  I wish that I could write a blog right now about my feelings of grief.  But I am not quite ready.  A blog feels so unworthy of the emotions and feelings I have toward my dad.  Words seem trite - unable to fully grasp the emotion, the love, and the loss.  So, instead I will talk about his books.  My dad loved books.  Every single night while growing up, my dad would excuse himself early to his bedroom.  He would sit up on his bed and read.  He would read fiction, non-fiction, law books, religious books, current events, and anything else that intrigued him at the moment.  He would sit with a pen and a ruler.  My dad would underline.  He would underline his books.  Using a small ruler and his pen, my dad would make perfect lines under anything that he deemed important.  

I asked my mom for his books.  Besides my dad’s nose, I inherited his love for books.  I wanted his books because I want to read every single underlined note he ever took.  I want to read all the things that he thought were important enough to underline.  I want to know more about his brain.  His loves.  His thoughts.  I want to be able to talk to him again, and I have this wonderful dream that his underlines will speak to me through his books.  

As we unloaded a minivan full of books, my mom told me a story about dad’s last week of life.  Shortly before moving into the Hospice House, my dad asked my mom to walk him into his office.  He stood there quietly.  His still tall (but now cancer stricken frame) held on to my mom for support as he raised his arm.  With a raised arm, he walked around his office and let his hand run across the spines of his books.  It was as if he were saying goodbye to some of his dearest friends - his books.  

And now, as I looked around my own office (the windows sills still filled with green paint), I saw all the books piled on the floor in front of the windows.  Where should I put these treasures?  I wondered.  They need a beautiful place.  A beautiful home.  For these books are beautiful to me.  

And suddenly I knew, I would no longer be building a bed.  I would be building a bookcase.  

Entry #4:  Tuesday, June 5, 2014

I called my mom on my way home from work today.  “Mom, can you help me build a bookcase?”  

And that is how the adventure began.  A building adventure with my mom.  For as much as I love and miss my dad, I admire my mom.  While my mom feels that she is slowing down with age; I have grown up knowing that if I needed wood floors, a kitchen remodel, or the best babysitter for my kids, I just need to call my mom.  

We set a date when she could come to town, and I set about dreaming.  I had a plan, but now I needed inspiration!

Entry #5:  Friday, June 8, 2014

Inspiration… Inspiration can come from a variety of sources.  A beautiful masterpiece found in a new art exhibit.  The wings of a butterfly when it lands on a nearby leaf.  A week at the mountains in a rustic cabin.  Or if you are like me… inspiration comes from pinterest!  

Before & After: Built ins. Can make a room look much larger than it actually is!  Would look great in a Craftsman style home... how to decorate around a centered fireplace

It was my “illumination.”  I had my “aha” moment.  I needed those bookshelves.  They were almost as beautiful as my dad’s books.  

Entry #6:  Friday, June 20, 2014

Tonight my mom arrived.  I will attend class tomorrow for my gifted endorsement and we have one week to build my bookshelves.  I am optimistic!  Mom seems a little more quiet about our time line.  We walked into my office tonight.  Mom hesitated.  “Would you like to build a window seat?” She asked.  “If you want, we could buy some cheap bookcases and dress them up with molding.  I have done that several times.”  

And then I made my confession.  “My instructor said it couldn’t be a pre-made bookcase that I just put together, mom.  I told him I was going to do this from scratch… And by the way, I have an inspiration picture.”  

I pulled out my phone and found the pin.  In my excitement I held out the phone in front of her.  “We can do this mom!  You can teach me how to build!”  

She hesitated, “I have never actually built a bookcase from scratch before, Emily…” and I could tell she would be up late thinking.  I, however, went to bed full of excitement and expectation.  My mom knows how to do everything after all…

Entry #7:  Saturday, June 21, 2014

I went back to class today.  The sweet lady next to me asked what I was doing for my creativity project.  “I am building a bookcase!”  I said with my eternal optimism.  “My mom is going to teach me how!”  

When I got home, we got to work measuring walls and realized that one side of the doorway measures 49 ⅛ inches while the other side of the doorway stands at 50 ⅛ inch.  Perhaps this project is not going to be quite so simple after all.  

We made a list of all the supplies we would need… including a bigger car for hauling our wood.  A simple phone call to my husband went something like this… “Do you want to meet up at the mall after work for dinner?”  and “By the way, we need to borrow your car while you take care of the kids so we can buy wood at Home Depot…” which James may or may not have heard since I hung up after he said yes to dinner.  

This is how we ended up at Home Depot until closing on a Saturday night with a potty training three year old (I may or may not have spent more time in the bathroom than the wood aisle), my mom, my husband (who kept coming up with odd and ends he found on the clearance table) and an eight year old who would have rather been playing Minecraft.  

We did not come home with any wood.  

And I might or might not have spent the next three hours online trying to find a white pre-made bookshelf that measured 49 ⅛ inches on one side and 50 ⅛ inches on the other.  

Entry #8:  Sunday, June 22, 2014

We left the boys at home!  After comparing prices at Lowe’s, we made our way back to Home Depot for wood.  “I have a $200 budget,” I told my mom as we walked up the aisle.  “How did you get that number?” Mom asked.  I stopped in my tracks.  “I just think that’s how much this project should be worth.”  I replied, while realizing that I had absolutely no idea if my budget was practical for home made built ins.  More details.  Two hundred dollars just seemed like a nice reasonable price, and I knew we had an extra $200 in our checking this month.  

I am very pleased to say that we left Home Depot with a grand total of $213 (and since we accidentally bought an extra piece of wood, $200 was the exact price for built ins).  If you ever need budget help, please just call.  I apparently have a knack for going with my gut and pulling numbers out of thin air.

And thus began my afternoon of learning to build a bookshelf.  I spent the energy I would normally spend for writing in hauling wood, measuring, re-measuring, cutting, and nailing.  After hours of building, mom and I finally carried the bookshelves into the master bedroom and placed them against the walls (49 ⅛ and 50 ⅛ respectively).  When they fit perfectly we squealed with delight, and when we placed mom’s level up on the shelf and that little tiny bubble was exactly in the center of the level… we looked at each other and said, “How in the world did that happen?”  

We did it!  We built bookshelves from scratch.  Tomorrow we will add the moldings!

Entry #9:  Monday, June 23, 2014

Here is a trick I learned from my mom.  If you want the built in look, you can buy an inexpensive bookshelf and add moldings.  It will give your cheap bookshelf an expensive, finished look.  

Here is a trick I taught my mom this week.  If you are in a creativity class where you have to build bookshelves from scratch, you can still add moldings to give it an expensive, finished look.

Today I learned how to cut moldings.  I hammered them into the new bookshelves.  I also discovered that I am very particular about nails.  I do not like using dirty nails.  A nail should be pretty and shiny and silver.  It should not leave junk on your hands.  My mom learned that her daughter might not fully be cut out for carpentry.

Entry #10:  Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The bookshelves are done.  They are nailed into the walls, secured from hopefully ever falling down.  The trim is beautiful.  The shelves are filled with all of my favorite things.  I have pictures of my boys, a wedding picture of James and me, a framed note from my very best friend, and my dad’s books.  

I loved this process.  I loved working with my mom.  I feel closer to her today than yesterday.  I also feel closer to my dad.  He would be so proud, so happy that the books he loved are still loved by the daughter who loved him more than anything.  

James walked in our room tonight and said, “Emily, they look beautiful.  I love them.”  I am not sure if he is talking about the shelves or the books.  It doesn't really matter; I love them both.

Postlude:    Several days later, James asked me when the bookshelves would be finished.  “Finished?”  I said loudly.  “What do you mean?”  He pointed to a nail hole on the side.  “Emily, you said that after you punched in the nails you would fill them in with putty and paint them white.”  Long pause… “Oh that.” I mumbled.  “That will be done right after I paint the window sills in my office.”  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Train Wreck

I promise to write more of Anderson's story soon! I wasn't trying to create a cliff hanger, I honestly just didn't want anyone to get bored reading the whole story in one sitting :)

I have not written any more this week, however, because my house is a train wreck.




and since I have a personal rule that blogging will never take away from my time playing with these guys, I have been busy.


More of Anderson's story coming soon.

Until then, please continue to read my dad's blog and keep praying for our family!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anderson's Story


Oh, there is so much to tell about our precious baby, Anderson. I don't know where to start with this little one's story... Perhaps I need to just start at the very beginning.

It was almost a year ago today... I had just recently finished my comprehensive exams in Dallas, Texas, for my PhD work; and I was in a great mood. I was done studying. I was done writing (for the moment). James, Austin, and I had enjoyed the summer together and a new school year was fresh underway. I was teaching PreK across the hallway from Austin's class, and James was really enjoying his new career.

I thought that something might be different, however, so...

I took a pregnancy test and it confirmed right away what I already thought in my heart.

We were going to have a baby!

... and I will be honest, in those moments, I was completely overwhelmed.

We had been praying for several dear friends who were battling infertility. James and I were in the process of rebuilding our own marriage. We no longer owned a home. I was just about to start the dissertation phase of a PhD. My sister-in-law had just discovered that she was pregnant (and I didn't want to steal any attention away from that news).

I will never forget telling Austin that I needed a few minutes of quiet time and allowing him to watch a movie in the living room. I slowly walked to the master bedroom and shut the door. I sat up on our bed and immediately began to pray. "Lord, are you sure? Is this your plan? How am I going to tell James? What is James going to say?"

And over and over again in my mind, I could only hear one verse, "I will restore what the locusts have eaten."

"Lord, will you work all of this out?"

"I will restore what the locusts have eaten."

"God, will you prepare James' heart for this news."

"I will restore what the locusts have eaten."

No matter how many questions I asked or how fervently I prayed, this one Bible verse kept replaying over and over in my mind. It is from Joel 2:25. It says, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten."

Here is how another blogger describes locusts: "A few years ago, I watched a TV program on wild locusts and the way they destroyed everything that stood in their path. With devastating effect, they descended upon a field of corn. Within half an hour the swarm wiped out the entire field of corn, leaving nothing but a vast wasteland."

and another writer says, "Locusts! Have you seen what they can do? They can literally decimate a crop in minutes. Rendering whole villages , farmers and their families without food or income. Can you imagine the pain and stress that having your livelihood taken away like that brings? Having your crops destroyed may create a struggle for your very survival."

I can relate. For those that don't know our story, James and I have faced our share of locusts in recent years. Locusts that left us without jobs, without income, without a home, and hanging on by only strands at what was left of our marriage. My dad continues to battle a terminal illness and everything that I had counted on for security was gone. I was in a struggle for my very survival...

The locusts had eaten. They had ravaged. They had destroyed.

And then we found out about Anderson.

To be continued...


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Five Months!

I wasn't planning to take a five month leave of absence from my blog, but it was a much needed break. We have been busy. Each day of the past five months deserves a blog post all in itself, but I need to start living again in today, so I will just do a quick picture summary of some of the key events from the past five months.

As each day passed, I continued to get bigger and bigger with pregnancy!

and so did my sister-in-law, Sharon.

We spent as much time as possible in Clearwater with my dad - who is still fighting his battle with multiple myeloma.

I kept teaching with some of my favorite people at Sonshine Day Preschool

And as a family we tried to visit Disney as much as possible before our summer black out dates set in.


Austin and Mommy ready for the school's spring program!
Austin and I participated in the Spring program at school

And Austin turned Five Years Old! (His cousin, Andrew, turned six)

My nephew, Riley was born, and mom and dad went from four grandchildren to five!

I received the package of a lifetime from my dear friend, Amber... and finally felt prepared for the arrival of our new son!

We celebrated Easter

and decided that since life wasn't busy enough we might as well buy a new home.

And then, ON MAY 20, 2011, we gave birth to our son, ANDERSON!!!

Austin meeting Anderson for the first time with his Aunt Kendra (James' sister).
And from their first meeting, Austin and Anderson have been the best brothers!

Austin graduated from PreK

And we celebrated as a new family of four (Anderson two weeks old!)

At Anderson's two week appointment, we discovered that his newborn screen showed he carried at least one recessive gene for cystic fibrosis.

So, as we celebrated life, we also entered the world of constant doctors appointments and genetic testing.

Anderson continued to grow and gain weight (for which we were all so thankful)

I had some precious visits from some of my oldest and dearest friends


And with the help of our church family, we moved into our new home! I couldn't have done it without them.

We enjoyed the final days of summer before school started again...

Austin started Kindergarten and I was offered a new job...

and we finally received the news of Anderson's dna testing.

But those are all stories for tomorrow...

Hello again, Blogger. It is good to be back.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What does it feel like to die?

As Austin and I drove home from school today, I asked him about his day. We talked briefly about his friends, the playground, the sand in his shoes, and the spring program scheduled for this evening.

After some quiet moments, Austin asked me a question. "Mom." He said, "What does it feel like to die?"

I paused.

We talk openly about life with Austin. We talk openly about death. We pray nightly for his grandpa who is fighting a very difficult journey with multiple myeloma. I want Austin to always feel comfortable asking us about anything, so I answered as honestly as I could.

"What does it feel like to die?"

"I don't know, Austin." I began. "I don't know what it feels like to die... I think that it probably hurts for just a second and then you don't feel any more pain. I believe in heaven, Austin. So, even if death hurts for just a moment, you will never feel pain again and you will be so happy."

Austin sat quietly in the backseat for a long time.

I wondered if I had said too much.

I wondered if I should have eliminated the word pain from my explanation.

I wondered why he was asking me about death.

"Mom, I don't think death is like that." He began slowly.

"I think that death is more like jumping off a diving board...

You are so scared...

and you don't want to do it...

but once it's over, then you are just so happy,

and you realize that you had nothing to be scared of in the first place."

and then we both just rode in silence.

"What do you think, mom?" Austin asked.

"Do you think that's what it feels like to die?"

I don't know sweet boy, but I do know what it feels like to receive the wisdom of God through my four-year-old son...

Monday, February 7, 2011

to LIVE...

In January, many of my friends (and fellow bloggers) chose a word to live by in 2011.
A single word.
A word that they wanted to strive for, to uphold, to motivate them throughout the upcoming year.
I never wrote about it, but I chose a word as well: LIVE.

I want to LIVE in 2011. As my dad's illness continues to progress, I struggle with the realization that life is truly but a breath. I don't want to take a single moment for granted and I want to enjoy life. I want to live in 2011.

As a new life grows inside of me during this time, I realize that I am surrounded by newness in this life. New restoration in my marriage. New hope for the days to come. New life.

And for a girl like myself, a rule follower to every degree... living can become the challenge. I have lived my first 33 years trying to make sure that everything was done correctly. Always earning the A in the class. Always considering the ramifications of my actions. Always trying to follow the rules... in the hopes that life would be fair in return. Within the rule follower, I have discovered that there is the unspoken thought, "If I play by the rules, then life will be safe. If I obey, then I will not get hurt."

I have played by the rules, and life has not been safe. Life has been scary - actually horrifying at moments. I played by the rules, and I have still faced infidelity, loss of income, loss of home, and dad's horrible illness. Yet, I have also found that playing by the rules prepared me, discipled me, convicted me during every terrifying moment. So, my goal is not to stop playing by the rules. My dream is to LIVE life to the full within those very rules. Within the context of striving to be sanctified (to be a Godly woman) is it possible to just sit back and enjoy every moment... not fearing what tomorrow may bring?

And so, I haven't written a lot since January. I haven't written, but oh, how I have been living. Soaking in a warm bed on a Saturday morning, traveling with dear friends for a weekend of skiing, laying still with my hands on my belly and enjoying every kick from our growing baby. Laughing out loud at my four-year-old's jokes. Enjoying every second of James and Austin wrestling together at night. Praising God for the coziness of our tiny apartment. Trying to take any moment to visit my parents out of town and enjoying them while I am there. Eating a huge piece of dad's birthday cake because I am just so thankful for the celebration of his 60 years. Dressing like a pirate because that is just the thing to do when you are a four year old boy... living my life.

For He (Jesus) came that I would have LIFE and LIVE it to the full.

And so I look for the balance in 2011... but mostly importantly, I have made my choice: to live.

Just some of the living that we have been doing lately:


I am so in love with this man!



The whole family just sitting and laughing and enjoying Dad's 60th birthday!


Eating cake!


Going to pirate birthday parties!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a...


Today was our 20 week ob appointment, and we found out that we are having another boy! We are beyond thrilled (although I might have secretly had hopes for hair bows and smocked dresses). Once we heard the news, however (and saw that precious baby on the screen), there was absolutely no disappointment. A BOY! A BROTHER FOR AUSTIN!

After my appointment, I went back to school to pick up Austin and tell him our good news. "Austin," I said. "Mommy just had a doctor's appointment, and we saw your baby on a computer screen. Guess what? It is a BOY!"

Austin just stared at me. "Mom," he finally said. "I told you all along that it was going to be a boy." He was so determined... so insistent this entire time that he was going to have a little brother. I am actually glad that it is a boy because I don't think he would have believed anything else.

On the way home, he called his Granny to tell her that he was going to have a brother. After their brief conversation, he started to tell me all the things he wanted to teach his little brother. "I will teach him how to fly a kite. I will teach him how to play Mario Kart on the Wii..." Finally, Austin looked up at me and said. "Mom, you teach him how to walk and talk and I'll teach him the rest. How does that sound?"

That sounds just about right, sweet boy. Just about right.

Now that my mind is officially switched to blue, I am researching cribbing, nursery ideas, and names for our precious little boy. Some of you may or may not know that when we told Austin we were expecting (in September!) he told us that it was going to be a boy and we were supposed to name him Ryan. (Ryan is his best friend at school). He might have been right about the gender, but the verdict is still out about the name!

I have so many thoughts about having another son! I love my relationship with Austin and love the way that he loves his mommy. Just tonight at dinner Austin asked me what I wanted for my next birthday. (My birthday isn't until November!)

"Just hugs and kisses from you!" I told my pre-birthday planning son.

"Oh, mom. Those you can have any day for free. I am going to give you a huge bouquet of flowers and definitely a new sewing machine."

I have no idea why I am getting a new sewing machine, but he is determined...

and he is normally right.