Category: friendship

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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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When you hear the word “hospitality” does it give you a warm, cheery feeling as you envision your house and your heart full to capacity? Do you think of meals and stories shared with friends, of laughter, drinks being poured, and memories being made?

Or does it conjure slightly less pleasant feelings- like sweaty palms, insecurity, and pressure?

Does your mind instantly dart to your unmade bed, your outdated kitchen, or the glops of toothpaste that you just know are smeared around the entire perimeter of the bathroom sink? Do you shrug and hope that one day when all the planets align with the moon, when you have time to clean and decorate your house, prepare the perfect meal, and figure out how to get your children to be their best selves, then you’ll get around to planning that dinner party?

I often hear peers comment that they wish they had the time or the knack for it, but they’re resigned to the fact that they’ll just never be “the hospitable type”.

But what if hospitality could be as simple as an act of vulnerability? What if it just meant being open enough to invite someone into your real, right now life, however that might look?

We get scared off by the word “hospitality”, not because we don’t actually want anything to do with it, but because it’s intimidating. It’s automatically associated with some formal, stuffy, made up version of the “dinner parties” of yesteryear. (Also yes, I’m sticking with the word yesteryear, because how often do you really get a good opening to say it? Almost never, that’s how often.)

We think fancy cocktail hours, followed by even fancier 8 course dinners, and before we know it we’ve got low-grade anxiety.

How many forks is too many forks? Does the soup course come before or after the salad course? And what if we don’t know which wine pairs with which hors d’oeuvre? And how could we possibly know that if we had to google how to even spell “hors d’oeuvre”? (I love you so much, Google. You help me feel smart.)

The train hasn’t even left the station before we’ve jumped the tracks because let’s all be real here, it’s more trouble than it’s worth, right?

I get it.

Inviting people in, both to your home and your life, feels inherently RISKY.

Your home is personal.

It’s your safe place, your retreat, and your hideaway from the rest of the world. It’s also where your dirty laundry lands, where your bills pile up on the counter, and where all your worst habits are likely to manifest themselves.

To share your home with others can be a real and true act of vulnerability at times. Read More…

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Well friends, summer is drawing to a close, but I still have a couple more guest posts lined up for your reading enjoyment. Today’s post is coming from Heather Bender, a fellow hope*writer, but more importantly, a fellow GIF-lover. It’s no secret that I would (and could) communicate solely with GIFs and still get along just fine in life. Which is saying a lot, considering I’m a writer. Heather is funny and open, and whether you’re a writer or not, you may relate with her quandary.

Enjoy!

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Amber and I met through Hope*Writers earlier this year, and we quickly found that we spoke the same bizarre twin-language of GIFs and pop culture references and the holy trinity of Poehler/Fey/Wiig and TALKING IN ALL CAPS about our various insecurities around writing. So, when Amber and I started messaging about guest-posting earlier this summer, I let myself have a zero-chill (© Amber Salhus) awkward fangirl moment:

Amber Salhus!
Is putting me on her guest post schedule!
Because she thinks I’m a “good fit” for her audience!!
OMG OMG OMG!

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OK, so fast forward to a few weeks later, when I had to actually prove it, and write.
Yeah. About that.

Thursday
I promised Amber that I’d have a post ready by Friday. Tomorrow.
Total word count: 0.

I am right this very minute stress-eating potato chip crumbs out of a paper cup and staring blankly at my laptop, desperately casting for a topic. Hint to future guest posters: Do not read the other guest posts in a misguided attempt to determine an original angle for your piece. You will only become more convinced that you have nothing interesting to add. That lack of self-confidence will crumble into despair once you realize you’ve eaten all the potato chip crumbs.

I’ve been thinking about this post for weeks, but not writing it. Because, you guys, I’ve also been busy procrastinating on other things! I have my own blog to ignore. I also have a mountain of laundry, a 10-month-old who has decided that not being held 24/7 is NOT HIS JAM, and something in the fridge that’s only getting furrier. Amber should probably get in line, because I’m busy being bad at life and writing. Read More…

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Well the third annual Road-trip is officially on the books and I can honestly say it’s been the best one so far. Which is saying a lot, because we spent more time in the car than any other year.

32 accumulative hours, to be exact.

Not that I’m counting or anything.

As I told you guys last week, Amber and I decided to go big this year and brave the 12 hour drive to Disneyland. Which was really more like a 16 hour drive because CHILDREN. We spent 4 eight-hour days in the car (round-trip) and I’m happy to report that the kids handled it amazingly well. There was no melting down. There was no fighting. There weren’t even any complaints of hogging air-vents, or “she won’t stop looking at me!” like we’ve experienced in years past

And bonus: we listened to the entire Hamilton musical on the way, because what the heck else are you supposed to do in a car for 8 hours? Now, I should pause here to admit that I have been extremely resistant to all of the hype surrounding Hamilton. I had no intention of getting sucked in. I had no intention of caring at all. I certainly had no intention of becoming one of those people who are always blithering on about a musical and insisting other people listen to it.

But you guys.

It’s so good.

It really is incredible.

I had chills more than once listening to it.

It was kind of like that one time I thought I’d casually watch just the first episode of Scandal, and the next thing I knew it was 3am and I was in too deep to ever turn back. I’m afraid that Hamilton, much like Scandal, is a polarizing trend. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no gray area. Read More…

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Today was the first day of the annual road-trip that Amber and I take with our kids. We got up early, loaded my car to the literal brim with kids, beach bags, snacks, and the like, and after MUCH anticipation we finally hit the road.

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In case you missed it, last week I shared all about this tradition that we’ve started, and a few things we’ve learned over the years (the hard way). You can read about our past triumphs and tribulations here.

This year is a little bit special though, because we’ve decided to pull out all the stops. We’re going big, partly because we just wanted to, and partly because we threw the idea out there only halfway seriously, but then failed to plan anything else before it was time to actually go.

So it’s really happening.

We are going to Disneyland, people.

That means a 12 hour drive across state lines.

In the same car as the children.

It is either the best or the worst idea that we’ve ever had.

We told them this morning, and the kids had no idea, which was nothing short of a miracle because I have a hard time keeping a lid on fun surprises because EXCITEMENT and FEELS! So we waited all the way until today, and we let Teya (Amber’s oldest, who is 12 now, and opted for middle school church camp instead of the road-trip this year) tell them so she still felt involved on some level.

There was an excessive amount of hooting, hollering, and cheering upon hearing the word “Disneyland” so Amber and I were sufficiently pleased with ourselves. Read More…

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Well I don’t want to jinx anything by saying it out loud, but I do believe things are finally quieting down around here. Our schedules have been so busy for the last two months that I’ve landed in July and I’m not even sure how I got here.

I’m entirely disoriented but I only have 5 days to get my bearings, because the most important week of summer (as far as the kids are concerned) is almost upon us.

It’s here, you guys.

It’s time for The Annual Ambers Road-trip. Read More…

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I’ve always said that if vacation is anything like floating around weightlessly in the quiet serenity of outer space, then coming home is like that harsh thud when gravity hits. You’d better buckle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I am no longer shocked when, the day I get home from a trip someone gets an ear infection, or I suffer a terrible fall down the stairs while trying to get to my morning coffee, or I accidentally vacuum up the puppy poop that I never knew was sitting in the corner of my foyer. (Yes, I did. And as a compulsive sanitizer, I only have two words for you: FOREVER UNCLEAN.)

So I really shouldn’t have been surprised this morning when I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm to discover that one of the dogs had been sick in the laundry room all night. I should have known. I should have been ready.

This is Re-Entry.

And When Re-Entry also happens to fall on a Monday, you don’t just need to buckle up, you need to gird your loins.

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Last weekend I was able to sneak away with a few girlfriends for a much-needed break from the busyness of our schedules that seem to have reached a fever-pitch as we near the end of the school year. Between sports, house-flipping, day-jobs, writing, school schedules, traveling, birthdays, and deadlines, this time of year always starts to feel a little out of control. It’s that final push to summer break, and it has the potential to kill me dead.

So every May for the last four years we’ve called a time-out. A quick breather to recharge. No kids, no husbands, no cooking, no cleaning, and no carpooling. We made the necessary arrangements, kissed our people goodbye, and ran towards the plane as fast as we could. Which, it turns out isn’t very fast, because when you’re traveling with six other moms everyone brings a snack bag, two extra water bottles, a change of shoes, and a cribbage board. So yah, we obviously know how to party.

We got away and it was glorious. We laughed, we cried, and we solved all of life’s problems before our plane even landed in Vegas.

I know what you’re thinking. Vegas is the seedy underbelly of the free world. We all saw The Hangover. We all know what happens.

But let’s be real here: this was not that kind of a trip. For us it was more about sipping coffee in our bath robes and ordering room service than it was about putting on tall shoes and going clubbing. In fact going clubbing was never even on the table because it turns out I’m physically and mentally unprepared for the trauma of wearing heels for more than 2 hours at a time.

Slipping on a fun pair of high-heeled booties is all fun and games until it’s time to walk. I only made it ten steps outside of our hotel lobby before I was in so much agony, I was fully convinced my shoe was filling up with blood. Although I can’t be sure, because I was honestly too afraid to look.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Vegas, but even finding your way to an uber or a taxi requires a lot of walking. I’d foolishly packed two pairs of brand new shoes, which I can now tell you was the biggest mistake of my adult life. You know things are getting desperate when you seriously consider walking barefoot on what are possibly the dirtiest sidewalks in America, for fear of crippling yourself in the name of fashion.

My feet were in so much pain I was literally walking like the hunchback of Notre Dame. My pinky toe might actually be dead now. I don’t really know because I still can’t feel anything below my ankles.

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I was happy to survive a few hours in my uncomfortable shoes for dinner and a show, but what I want to know is how in the actual world any woman is able to wear 6 inch heels and stand in a long line waiting to get into a club, then have the motor skills to look cute while dancing once inside said club, and then muster the fortitude to walk home afterwards? Is it like a superpower? I feel like the women who possess this superpower are the same women who have the ability to do a perfect smokey eye and a messy bun. They’re like magical unicorns. I will never understand.

In the end all the walking was worth it because we had a total blast. We ate, lounged, laughed, watched great shows, and totally forgot about the all responsibilities waiting for us at home. For three whole days we didn’t wipe a single nose or bum other than our own, which is basically the highest level of freedom for a mom of littles.

While it was a lovely time, I know that going out of town is not always going to be realistic and that’s okay. The trips are fun, but they aren’t necessary. It’s not about where we go or what we do, it’s about being together and investing in our our friendships. These women (among others) have laughed and cried me through the biggest moments in my life.

We’ve shown up on each other’s doorstep with coffee and food when life is hard. We’ve supported, prayed, and laughed each other through everything from marriage to motherhood, births and deaths, successes and failures, and everything in between.

Whether it involves a fun getaway or not, I hope you are able to take the time to invest in the women in your life. These relationships are worth every bit of the care, effort, and grace they require to flourish.

And remember: It’s good to go away, but it’s good to come home.

So if you have children, dogs, or any other variables that serve as potential stressors, just drink some extra coffee on Re-Entry Day and don’t fight the funk.

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One of the best things about writing has been discovering a whole new community of other writers to connect with. One of these new writer friends, Steve Wiens, is generously sharing his corner of the Internet with me today.

Steve is a kindred spirit who writes to inspire and encourage, but also has a sense of humor, so when he graciously asked me to write a guest post for him I was thrilled and said yes without hesitation. I’m over on his blog today and we’re discussing creativity, the art of writing, and why it’s so important to “kill your darlings”.

Below is a small bit of that post. You can head over to Steve’s website to read the whole piece. And while you’re over there take a look around and show Steve some love! He is a great writer and you won’t be disappointed.

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“For most of my life I did not consider myself a creative person.

Like…at all.

I’m never the one to come up with a big idea. I’m not good at crafty things; not to mention I don’t even care for craft suppliesI cannot paint or draw. I cannot make music. I’m not even a good dancer. Unless you count car-dancing, which, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’m actually very good at because it only requires me to focus on half of my body at one time.

For the better part of my adult life, I’d completely accepted this lie about myself as truth. The lie that I’m not a creative person.

But the truth is, I am a creative person.

There, I said it.

I’m creative with blank pages and words.

And while we’re on the subject, can we just go ahead and agree that all people everywhere are creative in one way or another? I mean, seriously. The God of the universe who wildly, romantically created things like sunsets and galaxies and springtime is the same God who chose, as his grand finale, to create us. In his image.

I’m pretty sure that means we are all creative too, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it or actually do anything with it.

YOU, by your very nature, are creative a creative person!

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The moment I believed this to be true about myself was the moment everything began to change. Suddenly I was allowed in this club. Incidentally, the only way I knew I was ‘allowed’ in was because I decided to be. No one sent me a formal letter of acceptance into the Creatives Club. One day I just chose to take a seat at the table.

I was making my own art and I was putting it out there in the world! And it felt so freaking good.

The only problem was, as soon as I started identifying my words as my art I became rather attached to them. I was suddenly protective over every sentence. Every word felt in some way precious to me because I’d labored over it. I basically fell so in love with the whole process of writing that I completely forgot that editing is a vital part of that process.

I left nothing on the cutting room floor.

Slowly but surely I became less and less satisfied with my work. I would hit ‘publish’ on an essay and walk away with an unidentifiable chip on my shoulder. I couldn’t pinpoint what was bothering me, and as a result I started to struggle more and more with writing. I even stopped altogether for brief periods of time.

The temptation was to ignore the fact that I still had a lot to learn and to whine and complain about how hard writing is, how it takes so much from me, and to wonder why it’s obviously so much easier for everyone else.

The temptation was to resent the fact that making art and having a dream can often look a lot like doing the work…”

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Click here to read the full article.

 

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A woman in one of my blogging forums reached out to me recently. She sent me a sweet, short message simply saying she enjoyed my blog. I was flattered and surprised and I quickly messaged her back to say thank you.

Later when she shared some of her own work in the forum I became an instant fan of her writing. Laura is funny, she’s gutsy, she’s honest, and she has heart. She is totally my kind of person. We’ve now formed the foundation of a friendship that I’m genuinely excited about, but the reason I’m telling you all of this is because it almost didn’t happen. This was very nearly a story with a different ending.

What I didn’t know when Laura initially reached out to me was that she couldn’t stand me. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something about me drove her nuts. So she did what most women would not, and she reached out to me. Instead of quietly brewing any negative feelings she decided to squash them instead.

She wrote about the experience and our interaction HERE. Read More…

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It’s my first real post of 2016 and there’s so much that I want to talk to you guys about! So much actually, that I realized I need to divide it up into 5 separate posts, so as not to make your eyes bleed from exhaustion by trying to squeeze it all into one. See how much I care about you guys? You’re welcome.

It’s been a very busy few weeks around here. Christmas happened. 15 of my relatives came to town to celebrate with us, which including my local family equaled 25 of us all together. It was quite the Griswold style affair. I hosted our traditional Christmas Eve dinner, so I don’t mean to brag or anything, but that’s a lot of people and if you need me I’ll just be over here high-fiving a million angels because DISHES.

Here we all are, squeezed into one photo in my kitchen.

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It was a lovely time with family and- bonus! It turns out my children thrive on extra chaos. They loved it.

Here’s our own little family on our porch on Christmas Eve, because for some reason that has become our tradition since moving into the Forever House.

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Every holiday we take a picture on the porch. It may feel redundant as the years pass by, but one day it’ll just be Husband and I standing there and I want to document all the years we have with our littles on this porch.

As you guys know, we’d been planning to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the very big news that we’d be leaving to join our best friends in Hawaii a few days later. You also know that I held on to this secret for an entire year which is basically the biggest accomplishment of my life. I’m happy to report that all my be-labored efforts to keep a lid on it were totally worth it and their reactions fully lived up to my expectations.

They basically lost their minds. It was the best. I really wanted to include the video of their reactions here so you could see for yourself, but unfortunately I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to do that so you’ll just have to use your imagination. But just know that it was totally magical.

There was a minor (major) kerfuffle the day before we were meant to leave when we realized that we (and by we I mean Husband) booked tickets to the WRONG ISLAND. Yes, he did. After some very expensive last minute rearranging, and a rather pointless pit stop in Honolulu, we joined our friends in Maui for 9 whole glorious sleeps. In fact, on the plane ride home Husband and I had to recount this together at least three times on our hands because it went by so quickly that we were convinced the whole trip was only 4 or 5 days long. It turns out Hawaii is a strange vortex where time has no actual meaning. The days were long and leisurely but the collective whole of them felt as if they were so fast they’d never even happened. Like some kind of dreamy and tropical mirage in the desert of regular life.

It was wonderful. Read More…