Being Present in Transition

PresentinTransitionWe’re a family in transition. We have been for a few months now. My husband started a new job in early May. Our eldest graduated from high school a few weeks later and then left the state for a summer job. Our sixteen-year-old took her first job a month after that.

It has been exciting and exhausting all at once. Which is to say that it’s an emotional time in our house, even if those emotions aren’t readily apparent on the surface. For that reason – the transition and its accompanying emotional weight, I’ve been largely absent from the virtual world. Where many others are posting pictures from vacations and outings and summer fun, I’ve been offline. While blogging moms and writer friends have continued to explore and document life as it occurs, I’ve been silent.

So I apologize if you’ve stopped by this space and found it growing stale and musty. I haven’t been here for a few months.

Instead, I have been playing board games or card games after dinner nearly every night with my husband and two of our daughters. I have been texting with our other daughter who has been away at camp for her second summer working as a lifeguard. I have stayed up late eating, laughing and talking with my parents, siblings and nephews during a week-long family reunion/getaway. I have stared at the stars and breathed deep of evergreen and campfires while on our annual camping trip. I’ve both paddled hard and drifted lazily in a kayak. I’ve talked and listened and walked and run and read books and lazed around.

In a word, I’ve been present.

I knew as we reached the exhausting end of my daughter’s senior year that I needed a “reset” of some sort. I needed centering; grounding; a disengaging from my relentless pursuit to Be All The Things – wife, mom, writer, secretary, speaker, friend, volunteer.

So this summer, instead of being something or filling some role, I’ve just been. In the place of doing and giving, I’ve been receiving. And in the space of being, that is, being present, I found my capacity for joy and gratitude expanded. Where anxiety and compulsion once resided, I found room for acceptance. I learned that I could take life as it comes and appreciate it for what it is. I moved through my days with less anger, less frustration, and more compassion, more warmth.

We’re still transitioning. In fact, I feel like the biggest transition is yet to come in a week-and-a-half when we drop our eldest off at college. But being present for the past ten weeks has me better prepared. Maybe not for the emotion of sending her off, but for the sendoff itself. I know I can, and will, be fully engaged with that process. I’ll be able to make the most of the handful of days between her return from camp and departure for college. I’ll continue to be cognizant of her youngest sister’s grief over the impending change. And I’ll hopefully be attuned to where I’m wanted in my college-bound daughter’s preparations and where she needs to step out on her own.

If I’ve learned one thing about bucket lists from the journey of being present this summer it is this: once in a lifetime is the moment you are in right now. That moment will never return. Yes, keep a list of what you’re looking forward to. Go after your goals and dreams. But in the meantime, get as good as you can at savoring what’s in front of you. The ability to be present in the day-to-day will serve you well during those long-hoped-for experiences too. Including the awaited moment of sending a child off to college for the first time.

Congratulations to the Winners of the Everbloom Giveaway!

IMG_7602 (1)Thank you to everyone who contributed to the conversation last week, and spreading the word about the new anthology, Everbloom, written by members of the Redbud Writers Guild. Since the book launched, I have been hearing positive feedback from readers. It’s so gratifying to know that it is impacting people and to know that I am a part of that!

Today I am excited to announce the winners of the launch celebration giveaway. Two lucky winners were chosen at random to receive a copy of the book and a special Everbloom coffee mug.

Our winners are:

Karin M.

Mary S.

Look for an email from me about collecting your prize!

And if you want to learn more about Everbloom there are plenty ways you can do so: watch the trailer below, head on over to the publisher’s website, or even join some of the contributors at the Chicago area book launch celebration on Saturday, May 13th at Praire Path Books, 302 E. Wesley in Wheaton at 1pm.


Celebrating Another Bucket List Goal: The Launch of Everbloom

Everbloom JPEG[1]I’m excited to announce another bucket list goal I can check off: being published in a book. I’ve had hundreds of articles published, and I’ve written three books of my own. But this latest project is something completely new for me because in it I get to be a part of a compilation and it’s through a traditional publisher.

Even better, I share the pages of Everbloom with women I admire, who have captivating stories to share and who are excellent at welcoming others into the storytelling space.Everbloom 2 (1)

Because we all have stories to tell. Stories of being awakened to injustice, as Jenny Rae Armstrong shares in the collection. Stories of starting a new career, a new ministry after raising children, like Peggy Mindrebo’s. Stories of facing cancer, like Kate James’s, so masterfully woven in poetry.

In this book though, you won’t just find stories. As I said, the women of Redbud Writer’s Guild whose words were gathered and edited by two of our own, Shayne Moore and Margaret Philbrick, are a sisterhood of encouragers of words. By design, those in our guild help each other to give voice to their stories and the stories of others. And so this book includes writing prompts at the end of each chapter. Not writing prompts for writers, but writing prompts for every woman. For each of us who, through living life, have our own stories to tell. If not for the world to hear, then just for ourselves.

IMG_3645As for me, my essay is the last chapter in Everbloom. It’s a story of rearranged kitchen drawers and finding an identity lost to motherhood and people pleasing.

Now for the celebration part: in honor of the book’s release today, I’m giving away a copy of the book, along with a Everbloom beautiful mug to two lucky winners. In order to enter, leave a comment below about what stories mean to you, or about a time when you got to share a story, or about someone whose storytelling you have admired. Follow the Rafflecopter instructions below for additional entries.IMG_7602 (1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Roller Coaster Ride of Raising Children: When Your Child Turns 18

Roller CoasterIn many ways, raising children is a roller coaster ride. We hop on (at pregnancy or adoption) in anticipation of the thrills, fastening our restraints and holding our breath for what’s to come. And then the dips and loop-de-loops of late night feeding, tantrum calming, homework helping and all the rest of what it takes to raise kids consume our focus. The in-betweens of snuggles on the couch and giggling together over bedtime stories fuel us for the next round of whiplashing turns and spins.

And then comes high school. You sense the ratcheting click, click, click of the roller coaster climbing the last long, tall hill when your child reaches their junior year. ACT and SAT exams and college visits remind you that this is it. There’s not much time left until this child is grown and done being watched over in such close quarters. Click, click, click. You feel the gravity of it, your body pressing harder and harder against the seat, your face tilted nearly straight up to the sun. And then you reach the summit. The pause just before you’ll plummet full speed, terrifyingly fast to the end of the ride.

We’re there this week with our eldest. At the summit. We’ve click-clicked our way through the college application process and college acceptances. The decision is made. And all is still. Come Sunday we’ll attend our first senior banquet. Monday she turns 18. The Saturday after is prom. And then award banquets and assemblies, final exams, graduation, departure to work away at summer camp. College drop off. The end of the intense roller coaster ride of raising this girl from birth to young adulthood.

I talk a lot here about family bucket lists and seizing all the opportunities you can while your children are under your roof. Make the most of those 18 years, I’ve said. Now here I am. And I wonder, did we do it? Did we make the most of that time?

I’d like to think that we did. We didn’t check everything off our family bucket list. But we’re still a family. And there will still be college breaks and other family time together. We did pour ourselves out on our daughter’s behalf, taught her how to treat others well, encouraged her to think for herself, reminded her over and over again that she is loved by us, however imperfectly, and loved unconditionally by God. We’re proud of the confident, bright, ambitious young lady she’s become. We’re as ready as we can be for the ride to end.

Just don’t be surprised to see us walking on shaky legs in the next few months. It’s been quite a ride, as it is for all parents!

If you want a small glimpse into my own journey during those 18 years, an essay I wrote, “This is What It Costs,” has been published in an anthology called Everbloom that releases next week. I’ll be doing a giveaway for it here on April 25th. But in the meantime if you want to learn more, check it out on Amazon.

Donut Challenge Day 7: Sylvia’s Bakery & The End

Donut Challenge Day 7Spring break is over and we’re back in the flow of the school year. But I realized being swept up in weekend activities and preparing for break to end, I missed posting about Day 7 of our Donut Challenge. Of course, that might be due in equal part to the letdown we experienced as our challenge came to an end.

Ending any adventure comes with a complication of emotions, doesn’t it? If the experience went well, chances are we’re wanting to hang on to that emotional high and keep the good times going. But just as often, we’re ready to return to the everyday (at least I am) and the comfort of routine. And so the final hours and moments might be a mixture of up and down, reluctance and euphoria.

In the case of our Donut Challenge, it was mostly down.

Admittedly, Sylvia’s Bakery had a tough position, being last in our challenge. We’d already savored such delights as DeEtta’s sour cream old-fashioned, Stan’s Biscoff Pocket and Busy Bee’s amazing glazed donut. What was Sylvia’s going to bring to “wow” us?

Driving South on Cass Avenue in Darien, we struggled to find the shop. Where our GPS told us toSylvias expect it we saw a broad swath of buckled concrete parking lot, flanked by a rundown strip mall called “Darien Plaza.” Not to be deterred, we bucked and bumped in The Donut Mobile toward the building, until finally, tucked beyond a jutting section of the building, we saw Sylvia’s.

“Maybe it’s a hidden gem,” I remarked to Katherine. After all, it hadn’t come recommended by anyone. I’d simply found it in my Internet searches as I worked on putting together our list. Could it be the discovery I’d been hoping to make when I added it to the challenge? A terrific little donut joint none our friends had ever heard of?

We entered Sylvia’s with an attitude of anticipation. For a Saturday morning, the shop seemed too quiet. We were the only customers. A lone young woman stood behind the counter, where photos and signs advertised Easter pastries like babka, houska, and braided Easter egg bread. A model lamb cake stood sentry in a case by the door.

IMG_3623Tucked in a corner of the glass bakery case sat trays of standard donuts – no new flavors for us to try. And so we picked up the usual – a glazed yeast donut, chocolate-frosted cake, and a custard-filled bismarck, along with two long johns for Mike and a friend, plus a cake donut for Bethany. On the positive side, the prices here were the least of anywhere we’d been all week.

A quick hop on nearby I-55 and we were home in a short time, hungry for breakfast and hopeful these donuts would satisfy.

The glazed donut was coated in a nice thick layer of glaze that crackled when I cut into it. The donut itself had a nice buttery taste, with a light, if dry, texture.  Katherine and I both deemed it a little better than average.

IMG_3625The chocolate frosted cake donut was only slightly crispy on the outside – not quite what we’d come to expect. The interior crumbled easily and had a drying effect on my tongue. Decidedly not enough moisture to it. Neither Katherine and I could place the flavor we were picking up in the donut. Again, it didn’t taste like other cake donuts we’d tried and although unusual doesn’t have to be bad, this distinct flavor didn’t appeal to us.

That left the custard-filled donut. Again, the pastry itself was dry, with a slightly sour custard. Not spoiled tasting, but not a sweet-cream custard. We decided it resembled more of what you’d find in a tapioca than a vanilla custard. A disappointment.

Sylvia’s Bakery Scores 

Presentation: 2 stars

Variety: 3 stars

Creativity/Uniqueness: 3 stars

Texture: 2 stars

Glaze: 4 stars

Overall Donut Flavor: 2.5 stars

Overall Score: 2.75 stars

And so our Donut Challenge ended on a down note. Maybe we’d gotten burnt out on donuts. Or maybe we’d been spoiled by places like Busy Bee and Dimples. I do know that both Katherine and I become more aware of the nuances of the pastries we were sampling over the course of the challenge. We learned to recognize what made a donut appealing to look at and how texture comes into play. It helped to sample so many different places in such a short time. In the end, Sylvia’s just didn’t live up to what we’d come to expect.

Have you ever experienced a letdown at the end of an adventure? How do you usually feel when a vacation or other new experience is coming to an end?