Portrait of smiling daughter wrapped in blanket with mother at lakeside

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 trying to hold them together loosely 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.”

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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 at all sure how to bravely inhabit the place I’m in right now.

My littles are becoming bigs and my role as their mother is shifting so quickly that I can hardly keep my bearings. I miss the simpler days scheduled around nap times, when the hardest thing I had to do was keep the 1-year-old out of the toilet and the 3-year-old out of my makeup. (Said with zero sarcasm, because we all know how hard that really is).

Meanwhile, my writing is changing from a hobby that I secretly played at, to a calling I’m taking seriously and a vocation I’m stepping into. Where I used to give myself free rein to play, to embrace my amateurism, and to throw my love of words around like confetti at a parade, I now tend to give myself expectations, timelines, and heaps of pressure to get it right. I’m still learning how to weave together that amateurish love of writing with the narrative that serves you as the reader. There’s a crossover, I think. There has to be. Because I feel a deep resonance when I write from that place. I hope you feel it too.

All my roles are shifting, and while that’s exciting, I worry a lot about whether I’m getting it right here in the transition. The pause between two notes. The split second of awareness between what’s behind and what’s ahead.

I think a big part of me yearns for those simpler mothering and writing days- when the stakes didn’t always feel so high. But there’s this whole other part of me that also yearns to up the ante and go all in. Get to the next thing.

I guess I’m still learning how to be “all in” as a mom and be “all in” as a writer at the same time. 

Because even though I’m on a creative path that feels right and rings true, even though there’s a deep resonance with this work that makes it difficult in all the best ways, I’m still constantly tripping myself up with hesitation. Fear of making a wrong step.

I’m caught between wanting to freeze time so I can enjoy these fun, independent, capable kids who no longer fit on my lap, and wanting to hurry up so I can grow my own dreams right along with them.

I think that’s why I was crying on my porch about the precipice, and wondering whether or not I’m doing this part right.

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Maybe you’re wondering too.

Maybe you’re here, in the middle of that thrilling and scary place, where you feel yourself voyaging between seasons of motherhood, of creativity, or of work, when all the lines are constantly moving and you have no clue how to stay inside them.

Or maybe you’re in that equally thrilling and scary place where, in the middle of all of that,☝🏼your dreams have come bubbling to the surface of your heart, and you can’t ignore them, but maybe you aren’t sure what to do with them either.

How does it all fit together?

How do we live this part well?

No seriously, I’m asking.

How?

Because so far I’ve only got one answer:

Rest.

Rest is the only way I know how to simultaneously recover from what’s finished and to prepare for what’s ahead.

As a family, we’re coming off an extremely busy season of school, sports, house-flipping, and projects. Personally, I’m coming off of an intense season of book proposal writing as well. It’s finally done now, (ALL THE PRAISE HANDS)… But, I also know it still needs some polishing.

So I have no idea if it’s right or wrong, but this summer I’m saying yes to precisely two things:

  1. Finding an agent and making my proposal the best that it can be.
  2. Soaking up moments with my family this summer through rest.

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet here on the blog this summer. That’s because I know I can’t serve you well with my words, unless I carve out time to rest and be inspired first. So we’re pausing to eat popsicles in the pool with the kids, and play boggle and laugh at our weird dogs by the campfire. I’m jotting down notes and ideas for letters to you and I’m letting them percolate before I rush to my keyboard.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of Dear John letter where I tell you I’m done blogging, “but there’s a casserole it the fridge and you’ll be fine without me.”

No, I’ll still be here, writing to you. I couldn’t quit you if I tried.

This is just me, inviting you into this space, and hoping we can be honest with each other about how we’re not sure if we’re getting any of it right.

It’s me saying I’ll be here, but we may not do any deep dives this summer.

Is that okay?

We may just keep it light and fun and talk about our Favorite Things (like a flip flop with actual arch support, because at 35, these are the things I am forced to investigate for us. Don’t worry, I got you, boo) Or like what to do for fun on a date night, or what happened on the Road Trip this summer… because let me tell you, this year was something extra.

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But before I go, I have to tell you about this thing that Sarah Bessey said last week. I came across it while I was writing this very piece about rest, and it was so heart-stoppingly simple and profound that I have to share it with you. She was talking about the power of faithfulness,  of staying, of not giving up on our creative work.

She said, “Cultivate joy and rest and renewal as an act of resistance.”

I can’t stop thinking about that last part.

An act of resistance.

Maybe the only way to push back against the questions, the pressure, the scary unknown stretched out before us… maybe it’s rest. Maybe it’s getting low and getting quiet and trusting God to lead us while we find joy in this brief moment on the precipice.

 

*this post was sent from my computer and my heart*

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In a couple of days I’ll be hitting the road with my best friend (the other Amber) and all of our kids for the long-awaited Road-trip of 2017.

It’s a tradition we started 5 summers ago, after reading stories from one of our favorite authors (winky face to you, Melanie Shankle) about the adventures and memories that came from doing the same thing with her best friend and their kids every year.

We loved the idea so much that we started our own version of the tradition: No husbands. No plane rides over oceans. No babysitters. No fancy Pinterest-worthy handcrafted car-entertainment. Just 2 Ambers, 5 kids, and the open road. Actually, this year we’ll have 6 kids because one of them has reached teenager status and officially needs a friend to survive a long car ride with “the littles”.

Every year the Road Trip is the best of times:imageimage

And the worst of times:

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But it never fails to be the highlight of our kids’ summer and the thing we all talk about for the rest of the break.

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One year the car broke down.

One year we promised to take the kids to the famous Sea Glass Beach, got lost on an 11 hour tour of the coastline, finally discovered that the beach was too dangerous because of high tides, and settled on getting ice cream as our “fun” for the day.

One year Amber was kept awake all night long for two nights in a row, driven crazy by the faintest sound of a Mariachi band that she assumed was outside her window (because that’s normal…?) but it turned out that the radio next to her bed was set to the Spanish station on the lowest volume.

One year my 6-year-old son lost his ever-loving mind in an Oscar-worthy meltdown at Disneyland because he was terrified of Johnny Depp- a fact we were all unaware of until we were boarding the ride for Pirates of the Caribbean and he literally tried to jump off the boat in a mix of terror and fury.

This year we’ve got Yosemite on the docket, then we’ll head to a random water park in a little town called Gilroy, which is apparently famous for it’s garlic production… So basically Gilroy Gardens will either be really cool or really lame, and I guess we’ll just have to find out when we get there. (Sidenote: “Gilroy Gardens” is actually harder to say than you’d think, so now we just choose from “Gilmore Girls”, “Bilbo Baggins”, “Gilroy Bilbo”, “Guru Gardens” or any other wildly incorrect but fun to say pairing of words.

After GooGoo Gardens we’ll head to Santa Cruz and Capitola for the last couple of days of our trip where we’re guaranteed some beach fun and delicious pastries from our favorite little cafe there, aptly named The Buttery. We’ve made it a point to stop there almost every single year, BECAUSE BUTTER.

When all else fails, we always have The Buttery.

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I guess you could say we’ve learned a few things about road-tripping the hard way over the years, so we thought we’d share a few insider tips, in case you’re hitting the road with your littles this summer too.

  1. Whatever number of water bottles you think you’ll need for a long car ride- double it.  This will also double the number of potty stops, but by God, we can’t let them go thirsty.
  2. Crossing the street with children is the equivalent of crossing the street with 5 drunks. Proceed with caution.
  3. Never underestimate the power of candy. Also never underestimate the power of promising a “surprise” even when you have no idea what that “surprise” is yet.
  4. If you’re wearing flip-flops in the vicinity of little kids, your toes will be stepped on multiple times a day. You will be expected not to mind this.
  5. Anytime after hour 7 in the car, there will be psychotic bursts of hysteria: laughing and gleefully shrieking one minute, crying and wailing the next. The kids may do this also.

Good luck, go with God, and, wish us luck on our next adventure!

I’ll let you know how it goes….


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Once a month here on the blog, we play a fun game called “Let’s Play Oprah” where we share our current top 3 “Favorite Things” with each other and then at the end of the month I give away one of those items to a lucky subscriber.

Because giveaways are fun! And we just so happen to be fun-havers!

Every once in a while I’ll pick a theme for my Favorite Things but this month I didn’t even choose one on purpose- I just looked at my list and realized they all had one thing in common: Coconut.

I prefer clean, light, earthy scents over heavier floral scents any day, and Coconut happens to be one of my favorite scents of all, so I guess it’s no surprise that it appears in so many of my beauty and household products. The smell reminds me of summer vacation and all things beachy, and who doesn’t want to be reminded of that?

Okay, are you ready?

? Lets Play Oprah! ?

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  1. The Copper Coconut 3 wick candle by White Barn. 

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I have a *bit* of an obsession with candles. I have no problem telling people about my book-buying obsession because it makes me sound quirky and brainy, but I’ll never publicly cop to the number of candles I own. It’s a lot. Enough to be ashamed about. My candle cabinet is in the last place in my house that anyone would look because no one needs to be knowing about my dirty little candle hoarding secret. Read More…

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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…

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Did you know that it’s National Honesty Day? Apparently it is. Apparently that’s a thing.

Is there like, a National Burrito Day that I don’t know about? National Don’t Do Your Hair Day? (Otherwise known as HairDOn’t Day)?

I just feel like if we’re going to give everything it’s own DAY, then we should be starting with burritos and ignoring our hair. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love honesty too. Real big fan over here.

Huge fan.

In fact, in the spirit of honesty, I thought I’d share a few *potentially* embarrassing things you might not know about me:

1) I have two recurring dreams:

* In the first one, my friend Poopie picks me up from the airport (because I’m a traveler, obviously. I fly places and do things and it’s all very glamorous) and when she pulls up to get me, she yells, “Surprise!” and points to the back seat where Amy Poehler is sitting. Then they both yell “Get in!” and I do, and then we all laugh hysterically the whole way home, just like I always knew we would.

* In the second one, I’m sitting at the dinner table across from my husband, when he casually tells me that he’s leaving me for Angelina Jolie. I am equal parts enraged and destroyed by this news so I try to speak or cry or yell, but no sound comes out. He is nonplussed and asks me to pass the potatoes.

I just now realized that both of my recurring dreams involve celebrities. Maybe I need to quit reading People magazine. P.S. My husband would never really leave me for Angelina Jolie. MAYBE Carrie Underwood… or that chick who played Rogue on X Men (why? I just don’t see it?), but definitely not for Angelina. P.S.S. He wouldn’t really leave me for any of them.

2) The only famous people I’ve ever been told I resemble are Mayim Biyalik and Jerry Seinfeld. So…that sucks. And okay, fine, Blossom is my doppelgänger, but I’d like to think that I have more of a Jerry essence than appearance.

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3) I answer to an array of nicknames including, but not limited to, “Poopie”, “Ambergesa”, “LadyBeauFontaine”, “Craig Tippie”, “Google Search Bar”, “Amberuski”, and  “Bombie”. I’m not sure if this says more about me or the people I’m close to.

4) I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have a carb tooth. NO ONE SEEMS TO ACKNOWLEDGE THIS AS A REAL PROBLEM.

5) I like to use old-timey phrases and my friends always make fun of me for it. I like to slip the occasional “hide nor hair” or “willynilly” into a conversation and see where it lands. One time at a BBQ we were all joking around and sipping cocktails when I used the phrase “don’t darken my door” and they all turned on me faster than a dog on a bone. They nearly ate me alive for that one. It’s been 5 years and I still get random texts baiting me into saying it again just so they can make fun of me for it at the next BBQ. My friends are nice people, its just not in our nature to let things slide.

6) This works out well enough, because teasing is basically how I show affection. (You should see how I make out!)

7) Everyone close to me knows me knows that I’m a bad driver. What they don’t know is that I’m actually a really good driver when I’m by myself. Unfortunately I have no way of ever proving this.

8) My mom thinks I’m a hussy. I wear a lot of V neck shirts. My sister wears a lot of crew neck shirts. This makes her the more appropriately clad daughter. Its fine. I know my own truth.

9) I have zero chill. I wreck myself all the time. You know those quieter, peripheral types of people? The ones who can read a room, rarely embarrass themselves, and tend to take it all in more than let it all out? I will never be one of those people.

If you are one of those people and you’re looking to be LESS chill, I wrote this for you ??

How To Have Zero Chill

10) I’m working on my first book proposal. This one falls more under the category of Potentially Embarrassing rather than Already Embarrassing. I’m proud of myself for going for it, but I’ve never done anything like this before. At this point I really can’t tell if I’m hatching brilliance or polishing a turd, but I’m almost done and I guess we’ll find out soon enough. It’s probably not smart to talk about it because what if it goes nowhere? But it doesn’t matter because I’m incapable of keeping things in. Refer to #9-?? Classic Blurter over here ??. I know no other way. Wish me luck, though?

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I’d love nothing more than to hear a confession from you!

Give me a juicy tidbit! Tell me an embarrassing story!

Come on! It’s National Honesty Day! Do it for your country?

 

*this post was sent from my computer and my heart*

 

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It’s giveaway time, y’all!

You know what this means… It means it’s time to talk Favorite Things.

Are you ready?!

Let’s ?

Play ?

Oprah! ?

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I like to make each work a staccato so you can really feel my vibrato, there. Is it working? Are you silently singing in your best Oprah voice too? Sweet. Now let’s get down to business.

I’m so utterly, completely, gleefully obsessed with all three things that I’m about to share with you, that I’m physically thisclose to losing my mind Kristin-Wiig-Surprise-Party-Sketch-Style.

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So before I go jumping through a plate-glass window, I’ll just tell you all about my things instead.

1: Schitt’s Creek:

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This morning as I was scrolling and sipping coffee (as one does on a Thursday morning) FB showed me this piece I wrote for my friend, Steve Weins last year. I chuckled into my coffee cup as I read it again, not because my words were particularly clever, but because the whole piece was about editing, about sacrificing our most precious and self-indulgent pieces for the overall good of our work (metaphor for life somewhere in there, I think?) and as I read it, the irony of how much I have yet to learn about “killing my darlings” was not lost on me.

It’s a process, yes?

Speaking of processes, the whole piece made me think of you guys. Of how you’re doing over there on the other side of this screen.

We’ve talked a lot about the “creative process” lately. I wonder what you think of when you hear those words?

Do you think of paintbrushes on canvas, words on a page, music notes being played, scenes being rehearsed? Do you think of art as some kind of bold and intimidating word?

?? I used to.

I used to think that I wasn’t a creative person at all. I wasn’t even mad about it, really. I just always put art in a box and when I didn’t see myself fitting into that box, I assumed I didn’t have anything to offer in the creative arena. (Sometimes I am not very smart.)

But if there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that our whole lives are a creative process.

It’s that “art” can look like a keen sense of humor, like food arranged on a plate, like bringing order to chaos in our homes, like the rare ability to make people feel included, welcome, and seen.

It can look anything and nothing like what you expected.

But at the end of the day, your art is your art. My art is my art. I can’t do yours for you and you can’t do mine for me.

Yet the world waits, desperately needing all of it.

I wonder what creative process you find yourself in right now?

Whatever it is, I hope you find the courage to kill your darlings along the way. And I hope you have the audacity to enjoy the process too, because the process is your actual life. 

If you’d like to read the piece that made me think of you this morning, click the photo or link below!??

Love you guys.imageKill Your Darlings

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about blooming.

I know, how deep, right?

Thinking about blooming in the springtime?

Call someone call Oprah! Tell her to get out the overstuffed chairs and place them in the forest! It’s time to sit down and talk about how deep and unique I am for having a revelation basic to the human existence! (Btw, I never planned on referencing Oprah so much in my writing. It just happens sometimes so I’m rolling with it.)

Anyway, blooming- I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Which is sort of new, because I don’t exactly have a green thumb- In fact, I’ve killed every plant that I’ve ever owned. Every single one. Even the succulents on my front porch, which I assumed were basically indestructible. After 15 years of attempting to have greenery in my home, the plant-killing became too much for my conscience to bear so I finally gave up.

I’ve never even been one to notice flowers, much less learn their names, how to care for them, or appreciate their unique beauty. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of cold, cynical monster who landscapes her front yard with exposed aggregate instead of grass, I guess you could say I’ve just never exactly stopped to smell the roses.

Until lately.

Last week flowers made me cry.

They weren’t even flowers that someone picked or bought or presented me with. They were just out in the wild. And by “the wild”, I mean that one island of trees in the middle of the parking lot at my kid’s elementary school; the one that runs the length of the carpool lane.

There were cherry blossom trees in full bloom there, in the middle of all that asphalt, bursting with so many pink petals that they covered the entire surface of the ground below.

It probably feels like I’m about to ramp up here into some metaphor about life springing up out of dead places or something, but that’s actually not where I’m headed. (Although, maybe it should be a post for another day? ??‍♀️Please mark yes or no and put in locker #7.) Read More…

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People of the Internet! Are you ready to play our favorite game?

Because it’s time.

And I, for one, am VERY excited about this round.

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Once a month here on the blog we get to kick off our shoes, relax, and settle in for some fun. (Because of all the things I want us to be, Fun-Havers is at an even tie with Big Dreamers). How it works is, we all get to Play Oprah by sharing our top 3 “Favorite Things” at the moment, and then end of the month, I give one of those things away!

Maybe to you!

It’s quickly becoming my favorite post each month, because I get to hear from you guys and find out all the latest scoop on what you love. I love getting to know you guys on a more personal level, and I especially love packaging up the giveaways, writing a little note, and sending real, actual mail to you.

There’s nothing like finding a package with your name on it in your mailbox, amiright? Does it even get more fun than that?

Maybe if we were all sipping a glass of wine together.

So without further ado,

? Let’s Play Oprahhhhhh! ?

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My Top 3 Most Favorite Things this month are: Read More…

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This is a safe place, right?

I mean, we’ve talked about everything from sex, to mothering, to bikini-waxing, and beyond. We all know each other pretty well by know, don’t we?

Actually, now that I think about it, it does seem like you guys know a lot more about me than I know about you.

So if you could each go ahead and email me a short essay revealing your deepest desires and most embarrassing moments, that’d be great.
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Cool, now that we’ve agreed on that, there’s something else I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. Come close and huddle in, because this one is, how shall we say….one of my “less delicate” posts.

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I should start by telling you that I recently turned 35.

On the one hand, life is beautiful. I have a husband who’s loved me well for 15 years and he knows the exact movie quote that will communicate his feelings to me in any given situation (because, priorities! ??).

I have two healthy, spunky kids who fill me up and empty me clear out 10 100 times in a day.

I have a local community of friends, a dream I’m working towards, and Jesus by my side.

Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Nothing to complain about here.

Unless you count the totally unexpected and seriously WHACK things that are starting to happen to my mid-30’s body. 

Things are changing y’all, and they’re changing fast.

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Read More…