img_0103They were supposed to come over for some chicken salad and swimming. You know, fun, casual, summer-Friday-type-stuff.

Instead we wound up lingering on the porch despite the 100 degree heat, asking each other general questions about what’s new, when we were all equally caught off guard by the tears that immediately started rolling down my face.

I laughed, a little embarrassed as I brushed away the freshest layer of wetness from my cheeks. Then I made a joke about how it was sweat and definitely *not* tears and shook my fist dramatically at the sweltering Oregon sun.

They laughed, but continued to sit comfortably with me, neither of them moving to change the subject or rushing me to explain my sudden display of emotion. They both know I’m a blurter and it’s only a matter of time until it all comes tumbling out anyway.

“I’m just not sure if I’m doing it right.

You know?

Any of it!

The mothering, the writing, the prioritizing, the expectations I’m setting for myself, my Yeses, my Nos, or the way I’m holding them together all at once…”

They waited. There was more.

Because of course there was.

“I feel like I’m on this precipice, and my toes are hanging off the edge… and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to dive off or if I’m supposed to grip the edge harder.”

///

Yes I know. It all sounds a bit melodramatic. But I can’t help it. You see, I’m neck-deep in a season of flux. Of transition. Of being in the middle. I feel one season slipping away, and another season not yet within my reach, and I’m not sure how to bravely inhabit the place I’m in right now. Read More…

If you know me well at all, you know that there’s nothing I love more than sleeping in. Maybe that makes me sound like a lazy, slothful woman but I may as well own it because it’s the honest-to-God truth. If you ask my husband about how much I love my sleep he’ll just shake his head and mutter something about how he’ll “never understand.”

He could never possibly understand though, because he has the terrible misfortune of being physically incapable of sleeping in. On the rare occasion that he can manage to keep his body down for more than 7 hours, it punishes him by waking him up with a terrible headache that lasts for half the day. He may actually be allergic to sleeping in. It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

He’s not only up with the birds each day, but adding insult to injury, he also wakes with the proverbial sun shining out of his butt. I mean, really. He’s relentlessly cheery in the mornings. Don’t ask me about it or I’ll just shake my head and mutter something about how “I’ll never understand.” Read More…

I tend to start these end-of-the-month letters to you as if we’re already in the middle of a conversation. There’s not a lot of fluff or formality or neatly packaged antidotes about life. These letters are a lot more personal than the rest of my blog posts and a little less refined than usual (I don’t plan out what I’ll say or even edit myself. Read: I basically just sit down at my computer and go rogue.)

I like to think of it like I’m inviting you from the front porch into the living room where we can relax and kick our feet up.

So, Hi.

How are you, even?

Tell me your things.

What was your month like?

Our June was… full.

We made it to the end of the school year, which means that Bella, our oldest is officially a middle schooler now. So, please excuse me while I go dry-heave into my purse.

Sorry, that was a strong mental image. But the thing is, I’m having some strong feelings about all this growing up business and I’m having a hard time processing them just yet.

I mean, look at her!

Something about this age just slays me. She is equal parts little girl and young lady.

Between her performance in the talent show (a hip hop dance. Is it just me, or are kids way cooler nowadays?) and her elementary school graduation ceremony I’m pretty sure I’m still dehydrated from all the crying and emotional sweating I’ve done this month. Read More…

There aren’t many things I’d say I’m an expert at. In fact, if we’re counting, I have precisely two areas of expertise:

1) How To Order Taco Bell. (There is a right and wrong way to be ordering. There are Taco Bell food groups. There is a system and it works. Ask me how I know.)

2) How To Have Zero Chill.

We’ve already discussed my first and real passion (burritos) so I think it’s time we dive into the other. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’ve been publicly wrecking myself for years so I have a lot of hard-earned knowledge to share with you.

This one’s for you, dear reader. All of you nervous-talking, big-feeling, over-thinking, off-beat, sensitive, hilarious souls. I got you, boo.


10 Ways To Have Zero Chill


  1. Have no mystery. This is the first and most important rule of having no chill. You may not be coy. You mustn’t allow your thoughts and feelings to remain safely beneath the surface of your calm demeanor. They should be written all over your face. And on the rare occasion that they’re not, you should just go ahead and blurt them out at the first hint of an awkward silence. This way everyone will basically know your whole deal at all times. And side bonus: you won’t have to suffer through uncomfortable lulls in conversation, which are obviously a trigger for you, so win/win! You might feel like you’re living life as an exposed nerve, but that’s actually perfect because it brings us to our next rule.
  2. Regularly suffer from cold sweats, a nervous stomach, trouble controlling the volume and pitch of your voice, and an involuntary crimson blush that starts at your neck and doesn’t stop until it reaches your hairline. Your body will betray you at every turn but that’s okay because YOU ARE A PERSON WITH ZERO CHILL, remember?
  3. Be insufferably hopeful/ constantly worried.This is a double-edged sword because you will genuinely want the best for yourself and others but because you care so much about everything and everyone you live in a constant state of anxiety about how everyone is doing. Including yourself. Have very high standards in choosing your close relationships because you need people who get you. Worry that most people don’t get you, and handle it by replaying every conversation from all angles, wondering what people are thinking, and spending a lot of time inside your own head. But remain ever hopeful, always assuming the best things in life are just around the corner and headed your way. This will be equal parts endearing and exhausting for your significant other, so remember to choose wisely there. You’ll need someone with a little extra chill to balance you out and bring you back down to earth occasionally.
  4. Nerd-out whenever you encounter someone you admire. Say the first thing that pops in your head and just keep rolling with it until you run out of words. This may take a while because you’re a nervous talker, so you know, really ride that wave. Ignore that fact that your face is getting hot which means you’re blushing that telltale shade of magenta, and just keep talking. Say all the things! That way you can replay it in your mind afterwards and have lots of instant remorse.
  5. Oh wait, we didn’t mention that yet? Accept that Instant Remorse is your Siamese twin. Get used to her. You know your own mind but you also share a body, so let’s just say it’s complicated. Instant Remorse is always there, whether it’s when you order the wrong thing at Taco Bell (hypothetically speaking, because I would never actually do that), or when you buy the wrong color Mossimo top at Target. Sometimes you will be able to arrive at the right decision a half second before Instant Remorse, but other times she’ll beat you to the punch. The good news is that it’s a constant power struggle. Yay!
  6. Think everything is funny. This is actually the best kept secret about having zero chill. You get to have lots of fun. Sure, you feel all the feels and you worry a lot, but you also know how to cut loose. This is probably God’s way of making sure you survive. You will laugh when you’re happy, laugh when you’re nervous, and you’ll laugh at inappropriate times. You can laugh at yourself, at everyone else, and sometimes you even laugh while you cry. You are able to find the humor in any situation. Laughter is how you cope, how you show affection, and how you suck all the marrow out of life. This is part of your charm. It also comes in handy when finding your person. Odds are, they’ll be a person who laughs a lot too. You can bond over it and then one day decide that you want to laugh about the same things together until one of you dies. Then you can start focusing on number 7.
  7. Embarrass your children. Your kids will adoringly mimic every single one of your quirks, which will take you from pride to dismay and back again 100 times in a day. Don’t worry, this is normal. They will think you are pure magic and a hero until around the age of 10, when in the presence of their friends, they will suddenly think your very existence is an embarrassment. This means you’re right on track. It’s all part of the plan, (more or less). At the very least, it’s a chance for you to teach them not to take themselves too seriously.
  8. Lose your mind every time you see, touch, or smell a puppy. Go cross-eyed, make guttural noises, and get weird. This one is self-explanatory.
  9. Discuss everything with your people. You are the kind of person who needs to talk things through. It helps you to process and sort things out for yourself. But remember to really let it all hang out. Don’t hold back. Don’t be chill or casual about it. Have a general sense of urgency about figuring life out. You may even want to go a step further and discuss everything with the whole rest of the world. Start a blog so you have your own place on the worldwide web to share your inner monologue and really make sure you have no mystery. It is rule #1, after all.
  10. Lastly, (and this one is crucial): OWN IT.  Go ahead and be your full, unadulterated self. Don’t try to edit who God made you to be. You do you. It’s okay. It’s kind of cool, actually.

Last week I left Melissa a 5 minute audio text all about how I’d reached out to an author I admire and how she, in all her gracious awesomeness had actually responded to me. So then then I did the obvious next thing, which was to ruin everything by writing her back with A FREAKING NOVEL all about what my own dream of writing a book. (Refer to rule #4).

“Blurg! Why do I always do this? Why do I always wreck myself?” I wailed into my phone.

She responded with all caps, saying, “STOP TRYING TO BE CHILL. You’re not chill. You will never be chill. You weren’t made to be chill. It’s cool. Be you. You’re amazing. It’s what makes you Amber… And I like that you don’t have chill and say what you feel. It’s real. The world needs more real humans.”

Guys, I think Melissa is right.

It’s better to be real than to be cool. So if you, like me, are a person with zero chill, just own it. That way you get to tell the joke, not be the joke. And that, my friends, is where the fun really is.

I haven’t spoken about it a whole lot, but our family has been in somewhat of a stressful season. The details aren’t important (or rather, they are, but it’s just not the time or place to do a deep dive) so my husband and I have made the intentional decision to deem this our Summer Of Fun. Because sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing, except change your perspective about things.

SO, Summer of Fun, here we come!

Sounds amazing, right?

Don’t we sound like such cool, carefree parents? (Don’t answer that. It was rhetorical.)

Well I should tell you that it’s our first official day of Summer break over here, and if I’m being honest we’re already playing it fast and loose with our definition of “fun”. If you count getting woken up by an early-riser (why, God?), putting out a fight over who gets the last bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats, answering 47 questions about the plan for the day in a way that does not dash all hope but also can’t later be misconstrued as “you promised!”, and paying bills all before 9:30 am as “fun”, then YES, we are having so much fun already.

The thing is, we did deem this the Summer of Fun, but we don’t exactly have a mile-long list of riveting activities to keep the children entertained for the next 85 days. (I like to call them “the children” every now and then, because it makes me feel fancy.)

Other than a couple trips to the beach, a camping trip with friends (in a trailer, because air-conditioning and coffee pots), and the annual road trip that Amber and I take with our kids, we don’t have much on the calendar.

And you know what?

THAT is fun.

The lure of freedom and all the possibility it represents is the most thrilling thing in the world to me right now.

///

For us, The Summer of Fun is mostly about choosing to consciously find and appreciate the fun in regular-life moments. There will be lots of swimming and Popsicles, outdoor movies and late bedtimes, family game-nights and spontaneous picnics in the park.

I guess what I mean is that we will not be standing on our heads and dancing like monkeys in an effort to keep the kids happy. 

Because everyone knows that ‘keeping the kids happy’ is the biggest booby-trap in the entire world. They would ride that wave until we are fully capsized on the Sea Of Parents-Who-Died-Trying. Read More…

If  you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know that I secretly (openly) love Taco Bell. Now that I’m a grown adult I realize the folly in this unrequited love affair.

I know it’s not good for me. I know there’s something better out there. In my heart I know that Taco Bell isn’t going to enrich my life in the way I deserve, so occasionally and reluctantly I cut it out of my life for periods of time. I tell myself it’s over. For weeks and even months I manage to quit cold turkey. These tend be terribly bleak, dark days and life in general becomes quite lackluster.

But I rally.

Because like I said, I am an adult.

“I am a strong, independent woman!” I’ll say as I speed past it’s shiny billboard advertisements, remembering to look back in my rear view mirror with disdain. I remind myself how the ingredients at Del Taco are so much better (real cheese!). I distract myself with fancy Chipotle bowls. I even go slumming with cheeseburgers, just to see how it feels. But like any torrid love affair, I just can’t seem to stay away.

However shameful, my love of Taco Bell runs deep and can’t be denied. What can I say, the heart wants what it wants. As a result, I’ve been ordering and eating Taco Bell for the better part of 34 years. Look, I even had a birthday party at a Taco Bell when I turned 8 years old so… I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I know my stuff.

The point is, I’m here to help.

There is a right way to eat Taco Bell and there is a wrong way.

There are Taco Bell food groups.

There are guidelines that should be followed if you want to get the most out of your $3.00-$7.00 meal. Read More…

 

GUYS. We are like, THISCLOSE to summer break!
Actually, some of you are already on summer break.

It’s fine.

We Oregonians are not jealous.

Not only are we forced to live life a general 2-3 hours behind the rest of the country, but our school system is also a solid 3-4 weeks behind most others.

It’s okay.

We see you, doing your cannonballs into pools and opening popsicles and sharing photos of your bare feet on Instagram with the hashtag #summerfun.

We are not bitter.

We will dutifully pack those last 11 lunches (and by “pack”, I mean, throw in an assortment of snacks and call it good because whatever, man. We’ve made about eleventy billion turkey sandwiches -one with mustard, one without, mind you) by this point in the school year and I’m just going to be real and tell you that our level of caring over here is at about about a -2.

I was just texting with a friend yesterday who confided that she let her kids sit in the hot tub and counted it as a bath, and I wrote her back to say we did that very thing last week I don’t even feel bad about it.

Have I mentioned that it’s MAY?

May is that one month out of the year that I always forget to remember is going to be totally bananas. (That sentence didn’t feel grammatically correct, but pls refer back to my general level of caring.)

May is like June’s slightly unhinged kid-sister that you never see coming. You want to hang with June, but but you’ve got to get through May first and she is NOT going to go easy on you.

Everything just ramps up to a fever pitch unit Summer finally comes. The school projects, the field trips (we have had FIVE this month), the home projects (more on that in a minute), the piano recitals, the talent show… I could go on, but you get the picture.

All I know is that June comes tomorrow and I AM HERE FOR IT.

I’ll give you the normal end-of-month rundown on what we’ve been watching/reading/loving/hating but first there’s some exciting stuff in the works for this summer that I wanted to tell you about:

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I shared the Mom Wants More podcast episode I was on with my friend and fellow hope*writer, Alana Dawson?

If you haven’t listened yet, click this image👇🏼


and go take a gander if you have time, because our conversation has everything to do with the heartbeat of why I write to you. I’d love for you to listen in.

Anyway, Alana and I had so much fun chatting we decided we don’t wan’t to stop. Not yet.

So I’m actually going to be co-hosting the Mom Wants More Podcast for the summer!

I’ll do my best to keep you guys in the loop whenever new episodes air, but if you’d like to keep it super easy, just head over to iTunes and click subscribe! That way all new episodes will pop up in your queue and you won’t have to wade through any emails to get them.

Alana and I will be chatting about the benefits of pursuing your passions in the middle of motherhood, how to keep doing it even when it’s hard, how to navigate pursuing multiple passions at once, and how to determine if your creative work is something that could or even should make you money (you might be surprised at our perspective!)

As you know well enough by now, I’m a woman of many words. I like to throw them around like confetti at a parade. It really can’t be helped.

I’ll always love connecting with you through words on a page, but having real life conversations opens up a new level of depth and also brings some extra fun to the table. I’ll still be here writing to you, but I’m also really excited about this new avenue of communicating with you guys.

One of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with podcasts is because they’re so convenient! I listen to them while I drive, while I cook, while I fold laundry. It makes me feel ultra productive and I’m not going to lie, I really like that.

As for the scoop on life here on the farm this month, it’s been an interesting mix..

As I mentioned in last month’s letter we’re in the middle of an unexpected season of life. I won’t go into detail right now, but basically we’re dealing with excess stress, a lot of unknowns, and doing our best to live well in this space between questions and answers.

The long and short of it is that it’s been hard and it’s been good.

We trust in God’s plan for us and we believe in our hearts that nothing is truly random. So we’re learning to sit in this tension instead of struggle against it. We’re waking up each day and choosing to dwell in the now and to focus on all the joys, big and small.

We’re enjoying the longer days and spending most morning and evenings on the back porch. We’re snuggling our kids and watching lots of good movies. We’re refusing to let our concerns get in the way of our passions and dreams and plans. We may slow down on a few fronts but we won’t quit. For some reason, that feels important right now.

In fact, I wrote down this quote from Rachel Hollis (I read her book, Girl, Wash Your Face this month and it’s FABULOUS. Highly recommend):

“And on the days that seem the hardest, I hope you remember that by an inch or a mile, forward momentum is the only requirement”

I also wrote down at least a hundred other quotes from the book because she basically had “152 insights into my SOUL” (name that movie) but this one feels extra relevant to our current life season.

On a lighter note, this month we finally put up the hot tub that we ordered at the beginning of the year and that sat in an enormous box in our driveway for over 2 months.

We had to wait til construction was underway for our outdoor entertaining space, but the minute Nate had finished the patio, we slapped that baby up.

It gives me a ridiculous amount of joy, sitting in that tub of hot water. I can’t even tell you why, but it does, so I’m fully embracing it by using it no less than twice a day.

(Come over!)

Life has otherwise been business-as-usual for us. The kids are ready for summer. Bella is about to graduate the 5th grade and it’s giving me a lot of feelings. I’m totally going to be that lady in the back row at the ceremony silently sobbing into her tissue and falling apart while all the other parents smile and clap emphatically.

It’s not that I’m not happy and proud of her- I am. She’s ready for middle school. It’s me who’s not ready. She’s growing up into this cool, confident, quirky person and I love bearing witness to it. It’s just that it’s all happening so quickly, and it makes my heart expand and contract at the same time.

But that is a letter for another day.

Jax is happy-go-lucky, ready to cruise into 3rd grade without a care in the world. Something about his age is magical in that it’s simple and fun.

I’m very much looking forward to slower mornings, longer days, and taking time to slow down and soak them up.

(See how flowery I’m getting here? Check back with me on Day 9 of summer break. I’ll be like, “Why are they like this? FIX IT JESUS.)

It’s fine.

Enough about me.

How are you, dear reader? What’s been hard this month? What’s been filling your cup right now?

Tell me your things.
*this email was sent from my computer and my heart*

 

Read More…

I wrote this guest post a while back for my funny friend (and fellow GIF-lover) Mary Carver, but since it ended up being one of my favorite blurbs that I’ve ever put on the Internet, I decided to share a snippet of it here with you. You can read the whole piece, “What Mindy Paling Taught Me About Life” over on her website.

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Some people choose to read self-help books to learn how to rule at life.

I prefer to read books by funny women for the same reason.

Tina Fey’s book taught me not to waste time trying to charm the uninterested, to stay true to my own voice, and that it’s okay to be both funny and thoughtful at the same time. She also taught me not to talk through the gap in the door to the person one stall over in the bathroom because it’s just poor manners.

Amy Poehler’s book taught me to just say Yes already. To say yes to the scary, new, and wildly unexpected opportunities that come my way- and to remember to have fun with them. Because no one looks stupid while they’re having fun.

Amy Schumer’s book taught me that having a tender heart and being funny often go hand in hand out of necessity. Because sometimes you see what’s unbearably true about the world and you have to laugh about it so you don’t cry. The chapter in her book about her father pooping his pants in the middle of an airport because MS was slowly robbing him of control over his body broke my heart and had me rolling at the same time.

///

But out of all the women in the Funny Girl’s Club, I would have to say I’ve learned the most from Mindy Kaling.

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Here’s what I love about Mindy: She writes as if she’s talking to her closest and funniest friend. She never writes down to her reader, which is a common trap for comedians. Instead she writes to you as if you’re someone whom she genuinely wants to impress. She makes you feel invited into the club, all while maintaining relatablity and confessing to her own need to be invited in.

And of course, as any close friend would do, she tells her secrets and doles out advice with the perfect mix of confidence and self-deprecation.

///

Mindy’s books taught me that humility and gumption are equally important.

She pokes fun at herself and the industry, while bringing both depth and sharp humor to comedy that would otherwise feel vapid and depressing.

READ MORE HERE: Read More…

So there’s something I’ve been dying to share with you, and now I finally can!

WAIT.

Time out.

I just now realized that was a very leading headline, what with all the Book Dream talk we’ve had around here this year. So before we go any further, NO, I don’t have a book contract (*Yet*, she whispered hopefully to herself). My agent and I are working on the finishing touches of my proposal and I hope to ship it out to publishers soon.

But in other news, I’ve dying to tell you about this podcast, and now I finally can because it released on iTunes!

I was recently invited to be on the Mom Wants More podcast to chat with my friend, Alana Dawson.

I met Alana a year and a half ago at the very first Hope*Writers Workshop. I’d traveled all the way across the country to invest in my burgeoning dream of calling myself a real writer. I only knew a couple people there, and at the end of a very long, very extrovert-y day, I found myself by the campfire out at The Nester’s famous White Barn feeling more than a little bit…exhausted.

It was the exhilarating kind of exhaustion- you know, like a kid who’s ready to pass out after a long day at Disneyland- THRILLED to be there, but also ready to collapse from all the excitement. I remember standing by the campfire, thisclose to fully malfunctioning, thinking to myself “That’s it. I’m officially peopled out. No more talky.”

But then Alana and I started chatting and it was like something inside me exhaled. Have you ever just immediately known in your knower that you’ve found a kindred spirit? When conversation with them is just easy and it fills you up instead of drains you? Talking to Alana is like that.

We have a lot in common- we’re both Enneagram 4’s,  we’re both hope*writers, we’ve both moved about a million times, but the biggest thing we have in common is that we share a similar message.

We’re both passionate about encouraging women, moms especially, to uncover the art of their RIGHT-NOW lives. To pursue their passions, to participate in the bigger story that God is writing for them, to take risks, step out of their comfort zones, and to do so boldly and with an unflagging joy, knowing that they already have all the ability and permission they need. 

So when she asked me to be a guest on her podcast I didn’t need to think about it for a second.

I was in. Read More…

While our kids played in the next room, my friend and I stood in her kitchen, sipping coffee and talking about our dreams- in hushed tones peppered with nervous laughter, as if the very topic was somehow taboo.

Frivolous.

Indulgent.

Maybe even selfish?

“I feel like I’ve lost pieces of myself since having kids…” She spoke quietly, almost to herself, but her words echoed loudly inside my own heart.

I knew exactly what she meant.

I think in an honest moment, many of us would admit we do.

Motherhood, especially in those early years, can be an engulfing experience. It’s a deeply beautiful, life-giving (literally), and fulfilling role that some of us have always dreamt of, but there can be moments when it feels as if motherhood and the minutia of the day might swallow our identity whole. Like we’re constantly needed yet rarely seen.

We’re busy doing those million and one little things that we worry don’t matter, even while knowing, deep in our hearts they do. We teach, we train, we pray, we worry, we kiss, we rock, we soothe, we comfort, we’re filled up and emptied clear out 100 times in a day. We lose sleep and gain access to chambers of our hearts we never knew existed. We’re driven to the edge of our sanity and then pulled back again in one suddenly tender moment.

We ride that rollercoaster of fear and worry, pride and dismay, wonder and bafflement, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We love our life.

And yet…

We wonder about those pieces of ourselves that seem to have disappeared. Our audacity, our playfulness, our ability to dream. They don’t call. They don’t send flowers. They just slipped unceremoniously out the back door.

Will they ever come back? Read More…