Tag: friendship

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…

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…

This week’s guest post is from my friend, Kris Camealy, and I’m thrilled to be hosting her words because they are honest and real. I hope that you, like me, see an echo of yourself in these paragraphs, and are encouraged.

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I sat down on the front stoop the other evening and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.
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When my husband and I first moved to the old house, we had one toddler and one baby on the way. After walking through a number of nasty houses, we stumbled into a house that was clean, tidy, and move-in ready. We didn’t deliberate long before signing on the dotted line. We made our home there, and for a while, tolerated the openness of our large backyard. But as the boys grew into preschoolers, and we added yet another baby to the mix, the lack of fencing around the perimeter of our yard gave me pause. Our backyard became a regular cut-through for teens making their way to the bus stop, or to the main road. People regularly walked through our yard as if it were a public thoroughfare, and honestly? I hated this. The regular foot-traffic of strangers across our property made me feel unsafe, and caused me great angst when the children wanted to play in the yard. This, coupled with the fact that our home sat only one house into the neighborhood, off of a busy road, made me long for a fence to keep the kids in, and the wanderers out.

As soon as we were able, we had a 6 foot privacy fence installed all the way around the backyard. I would no longer have to deal with the neighbors dogs pooping where my kids played, or the teenagers behind our home traipsing past my living room window on their way to wherever. My kids could play freely without my worrying that they’d somehow make their way to the busy street out front. This was exactly what we wanted.

But now? I would no longer see my neighbors.

Before the fence, we’d greet each other while returning our trash cans to the backs of our homes, or while raking the yard or letting the dogs out. Before the fence, we could wave hello as they sat on their back deck, or grilled burgers across the lawn.

Before the fence, interaction with our neighbors happened naturally, without much effort, without any pretense.

The fence gave us exactly what we wanted. I still think we needed the fence for all of the reasons I mentioned, but at the same time, we lost something too. When we locked the door on that house for the last time, after 11 years in the only neighborhood my children had ever known, we didn’t say goodbye to anyone. We had no relationships there to grieve or miss. We’d been rooted there alone, and partly by our own doing.
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After nearly 12 years in what felt like a social dessert, we’ve miraculously landed here, on what is arguably the most social street in the state. Six months ago, I didn’t know places like this actually existed, outside of Hollywood sound stages and sitcoms. We are living in a place “where everybody knows your name”. For real. It’s crazy-amazing.

Almost no one has a fence.

Our current backyard is a wide open space that bleeds indistinguishable into our two neighbors yards. Our children play between the houses, and in the common area situated smack out my kitchen back door. On any given afternoon, half of the neighborhood can be seen wandering between each others homes, sitting in each others driveways, and wandering in and out of each other’s garages. Here, you can’t help but see each other.
I’ve thought a lot about fences since we settled here. I’ve thought a lot about the ways we build them in real life, and relationally. If I am honest, I liked living behind a fence. It made me feel safe. The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

Last year, God called me to launch GraceTable, a hospitality themed website where writers share stories of what it is to love their neighbors, to live in community and wrestle out what Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. GraceTable is a virtual space, but through it God is teaching us what it means to make actual space for people. As we have been coming around to the idea of practicing intentional hospitality, it’s not lost on me that God planted us here, in a neighborhood free of fences. This is a place God is growing me, growing us, as a family. We are learning what it is to let others in, to let them walk on our grass, and discovering the beauty of fence-free living.

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Kris is passionate about bringing people to the table to be nourished by good words, good food and Jesus. Meet Kris at her blog, kriscamealy.com and on Instagram @kriscamealy. Kris is the author of the book, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey Of Refinement and the founder of GraceTable.org, a community Table open to all who are hungry for more of Jesus.

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…

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…

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…

As you guys know, Husband and I have deemed this our Summer Of Fun.

Sounds amazing, right?

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

Well it’s officially our first day of Summer break over here, and if I’m being honest I should tell you that 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 of the 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.

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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…

I love that scene in the movie The Holiday where Iris is having dinner with her unlikely and charming friend, an old man named Arthur Abbott. They’re discussing gumption in leading ladies on film and he tells her to quit playing the ‘best friend role’ in her own life. She says, “You’re right. That was brilliant. I mean, you’re supposed to be the leading lady in your own life, for heaven’s sake!”

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By the way, you should know that aside from burritos and GIFs of SNL-funny-ladies, movie quotes are basically my love language. As a self-confessed movie buff, I sometimes get a lot of flack for watching the same movies over and over. (I also get a lot of flack for using the word “flack”, but that’s a story for another day.)

I do realize that watching one film more than 5 times seems excessive and frivolous, but guys! Sometimes I actually learn things, okay? Plus, it’s like therapy, only better. I get to lie on a couch and sort out important life lessons but it only costs a fraction of the price and I don’t have to put on real pants. I think I’m onto something here.

So is Iris, by the way.

In the story of my own life, I may as well swing for the fences and shoot for the role of leading lady, right?

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Arthur and Iris got me thinking- about stories, and how every good story requires adventure. And every great adventure requires some amount risk and courage.

Now, before we get too flowery and aspirational here, let me just pause.

I get it.

Living “an adventurous story” and being “a leading lady” who “takes risks” is all fine and good and nice to talk about on a Thursday morning. But it takes actual courage.

Courage is one of those words that are fun to say and hard to do.

And finding courage when you lack it can be even harder. 

As I continue to pursue writing, I find myself saying “yes” to all kinds of new, scary, and difficult things. I find myself taking risks, even when I have no idea how it will end. Not because I’m some kind of a badass superhero, but because I’ve simply reached a point where I can no longer ignore the dream and the lure of it’s possibility.

Which is really not like me, by the way, and has led to some extremely anxious, sweaty-palm, nervous-stomach moments when I feel like I’ve suddenly misplaced my courage like it’s a lost set of keys.

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Writing is a bit of a lonely endeavor. It requires a lot of time and space to think, to get inside your own head, and to wrestle the words onto the page. Sometimes it feels easy and fun but other times it feels like you’re clawing your way up a mountain.

Alone.

And terribly unprepared.

With only, like, a couple of carabiners and some ill-fitting spandex shorts. Like Tom Cruise in that one Mission Impossible movie, but minus the multi-million dollar budget and fancy props. Read More…

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.