Tag Archives: love

These First Five Years

“I vow to lift you up when you are down and soar with you when you are in the clouds,” he said.

“I vow to always rise to your challenge and strive daily to better myself and our relationship,” I responded.


On this day five years ago, my husband and I threw these promises, these hopes and ambitions, into the universe when we committed to spend our lives together. We didn’t know then the peaks of joy and depths of sorrow that the universe would throw back at us. We didn’t know how life would take our words and hold them up as mirrors, reflecting the most breathtakingly beautiful and soul-crushingly difficult parts of ourselves and each other. We knew only of vague references to good times and bad, richer and poorer, sickness and health, without the foresight to see the unpredictable ways these notions would take shape into our own realities.

Five years seems so minuscule, but these handful of years have already held what feels like a lifetime of celebrations and tribulations, learning and growth, adventures of the ordinary and extraordinary. We’ve climbed ice-capped glaciers and sailed sparkling seas. We’ve flown planes over lakes and valleys, and we’ve traversed more miles in cars than we’d like to remember. We’ve moved and settled, made new friends and said goodbye to old ones, and started all over again and again. We’ve skied and swam and laughed and danced. We’ve relished in the good life and the abundant love.

We’ve also suffered together. We’ve mourned the loss of a child we would never know and the passing of a mother we could never imagine living without. We’ve seen dreams shattered and hopes let go. We’ve been forced to face demons, both individually and relationally. We’ve been pushed to give up vices and push back against our own bad habits, our own default defenses, as we’ve walked down rocky roads of our own making. We’ve mustered the strength to offer outstretched arms to one another, even when it felt like our own pain would overtake us.

And we’ve lived the redemption of life’s miracles. We’ve held the world in our hands as we’ve stared into our daughters’ eyes. We’ve watched how they change and grow and force us to do the same. We’ve been daily overcome by their needs and nightly redeemed by their pure love. We’ve given up sleep and time and money for the sake of this family we’re building. We’ve wondered at times if it’s all worth it and reassured one another during those dark nights of frustration that it absolutely is.

Still, we’ve seen how the roots of this life we’re growing together can push into the foundation of our marriage and form cracks of resentment. We’ve felt the frustration of never having enough time and always having too much work, and the alienation of miscommunication and misunderstanding. We’ve glimpsed how, left unchecked, this resentment has the power to crumble our core. And we’ve been diligent about reinforcing our souls against the false assumptions that silent fears can breed.

Through it all, we’ve persevered. We’ve experienced the ache of putting in just a little more time, just a little more effort, just a little more prayer. We’ve waited, sometimes seemingly endlessly, for the payoff. We’ve held each other through and held each other accountable as we’ve waited and worked – for a job, for a move, for a family, for a home, for a happy marriage, for a simple life. For all these things that we’ve built and are still building together daily.

We’ve held on to the roots of love that brought us here.


“But most of all I vow to love you… A love that I will actively work towards each day as we grow together, through good times and bad, allowing grace to infuse and strengthen our marriage,” I said.

“I vow to love you until that is the last emotion I can feel,” he replied.

Photos by Leah Bullard Photography

Advertisements

What Love Looks Like

On this day six years ago, on the bank of a lush green peninsula with the Tennessee River weaving its way around us, my (now) husband nervously dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him. My heart raced. Excited as I was about the expectation of this day, I was stunned in this moment of surprise. With tears in my eyes, I wholeheartedly exclaimed, “Yes!” and he somehow managed to slip the ring on my shaking hand. Our lips curled into smiles as we kissed and settled into the strange sense of relief and anticipation that this great decision brings.

IMG_0632.JPG

In the span of time between then and now, our lives have shifted so much. We’ve made three moves and had two babies together. We’ve switched jobs and quit jobs and attempted to create jobs. We’ve lived apart and together. We’ve traveled, we’ve learned, we’ve grown. As our minds and our bodies and our routines have been forced to adapt to our ever-changing circumstances, so, too, has our love. The love I said yes to six years ago looks a whole lot different than the love we live out today.

Sometimes love looks like chasing down dreams. Mine. His. Both of ours. Sometimes love looks like putting my dreams on hold to allow him to pursue his. Sometimes it looks like rejoicing in gratitude when he selflessly does the same.

Sometimes love looks like sharing adventures. Traveling the world, climbing glaciers, flying over fields and valleys. And realizing, no matter where we go, he and I are still our same selves; which is both beautiful and daunting.

Sometimes love looks like settling. For a place we don’t want to be. For a house we don’t love. For jobs we don’t enjoy. For a person who doesn’t always meet all of our expectations.

Sometimes love looks like surprise. Surprise at how we can know each other so well and still uncover new gems. Surprise at how our hearts can soften when it would be so much easier to let them grow hard. Surprise at the depth of our commitment to better our selves and our relationship.

Sometimes love looks like acceptance. Acceptance that his emotions and reactions and outlooks are going to be different from my own. Acceptance that we’re not always our best selves, but at least we keep trying.

Sometimes love looks like weathering loss together. Holding each other through the heavy burden of grief. Holding space for the hurts that cannot be expressed. Holding grace when those hurts seem to flow through us and out onto each other from the gaping wounds that have yet to heal.

Sometimes love looks like the strange combination of hope and fear that big life events bring. Babies and birthdays and moves and job opportunities. Love looks like supporting each other through the joys and trials of these transitions.

Sometimes love looks like doing dishes or doing laundry or mowing the lawn or paying the bills. And choosing not to stew in the resentment that passes through our household when the scales of the chores seem unevenly tipped.

Sometimes love looks like staying home. Or going to work. Dividing and conquering the responsibilities that never end. Even if it feels more like dividing than conquering.

Sometimes love looks like the faces of these children we’ve created together. Little faces that are a beautiful blend of both of our bodies and spirits. Faces that both delight and and exhaust us.

Sometimes love looks like putting the kids to bed early so we can have a little extra time for just the two of us. And sometimes love looks like a shared sigh, a glance, a brief embrace, when, despite our best efforts the kids just won’t sleep. And this is the best we’re going to get today.

Sometimes looks like talking about our deepest thoughts and dreams. But sometimes love looks like simply sitting together in silence.

Sometimes love looks like the soft touch of gentle hands. His hands on my back as I labor to bring our children into the world. My hands stretched across his chest in the dark of the night as we savor this silent time together.

This love that has changed shape over time is not always what I expected, not always what I signed up for six years ago. And yet, it’s so much more. I didn’t quite know what I was saying yes to this day back then. I still don’t know what I’m saying yes to in this future together. But I’m so glad that I said yes, that I continue to say yes, to our ever-evolving love.

IMG_0665.JPG

A Love Letter to My Friends

Dear Amazing Friends,

I can barely begin to describe the beauty that you bring to my world. When life is busy and the road is winding, each of you provides a beacon of hope and joy. You are the sparks of light along the way that make the journey infinitely more enjoyable. Whether it’s laughter or listening, advice or accolades, you bring exactly what I need when I need it most. You fill my soul and make my heart happy. You inspire laughter and soothe tears. Quite simply, you make life so much more delightful.

And what an incredible life it is getting to live it with each of you. You’ve known me through it all. You’ve been with me through high school homework stresses, college relationships, job struggles, early adulthood adventures, walking down the aisle, and raising babies. You’ve seen me at my best without responding with jealousy, and you’ve loved me at my worst without bringing judgement. You’ve held my hand on important occasions; you’ve held my heart throughout.

I’m really not quite sure what I’ve done to be lucky enough to have you all in my life. As life has gotten ever more complex with marriage and moves and children, I know there have been so many times that I’ve dropped the ball on being the type of friend I want to be, the type of friend you deserve. For that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that it takes me two days to respond to a text, two weeks to return a phone call, and two months to reply to an email.

I’m sorry that I’m constantly tired and distracted when we do finally get the chance to chat.

I’m sorry that my brain these days is frenzied and forgetful and I’ve neglected to send birthday cards or inquire about important life events.

I’m sorry that I’ve missed bonfires and bachelorette parties and weddings because my babies needed me.

I’m sorry that I haven’t always shown up at the times or in the ways you needed me.

It is said that when juggling all the responsibilities of life, its not about never dropping the ball, it’s about learning which balls are glass and which are rubber; which ones will break and which will bounce. I hope, lovely friends, you can continue to bounce with me as I try to find my balance in this busy phase of life. I hope you know how much I value our friendship and would never want to break our bond. For still being there in spite of it all, for loving me anyway, I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you for making me laugh until it hurts and (ice) dance until we collapse in giggles.

Thank you for listening; for truly hearing what’s on my heart.

Thank you for asking the questions and saying the words I didn’t even realize I needed to hear.

Thank you for caring; for remembering the details of my life that even I sometimes forget.

Thank you for lifting me up; for making me feel valued, worthy, and adored.

Thank you for laughing at my corny jokes and off the wall comments.

Thank you for welcoming my babies to join brunches, bridal fittings, and weekends away.

Thank you for holding my little girls, making them laugh, and loving them with your whole hearts.

Thank you for accepting and embracing me for exactly who I am and where I am in life.

I love you dear ones…

Xo,

Court

A Love Letter to my Husband

Dear Handsome Husband,

I know this phase of life feels a little tricky at times. I know that there never seems to be enough time or energy or money to go around. I know our days are endlessly consumed with meeting the needs of small children, with little left for ourselves, much less each other. I know I often forget to tell you how much I love and appreciate you. I know that when we find ourselves completely spent, day after day, it’s far easier to focus on the annoyances than to celebrate the fantastic.

But I know, too, that I am still madly in love with you in a million amazing ways every single day.

The things that make my heart melt these days look a little different than when we first met. They are not all roses and romance (although I did absolutely love those beautiful yellow roses you surprised me with!). What takes my breathe away are the things that make the rhythm and flow of our life, however chaotic, feel a bit more bearable and beautiful.

I love how you show up. For work. For the kids. For me. For your flying community. You are all in and all there, even and especially when there never seems to be enough time and energy.

I love how you work tirelessly to support and better our family. I know you don’t love your job, and the sacrifices you make every day to provide for us cannot be underestimated or over-appreciated.

I love how you support and encourage my dreams. Whether it’s staying home to raise our children or getting out to write, you bend over backwards to help make it happen.

I love how you relentlessly chase down your own dreams. You reach and strive to learn more and become better and grasp you goals, stubbornly rejecting failure.

I love to watch your boyish wonder and fascination with all things aviation.

I love to watch you share this passion with our daughters.

I love how you can elicit laughter from our children with a simple silly face or fun game and turn everyone’s moods around.

I love how you can walk in and breathe patience into a room when I have none left.

I love how you cook for us and am constantly blown away by the delicious concoctions you create in less time and with less mess than I ever could.

I love how you clean up after me. I know I am a walking mess maker, and there are always dirty dishes, scattered laundry, and random clutter left in my wake. Thank you for not nagging me (too much) about it; thank you even more for silently doing the dirty work.

I love how you effortlessly seem to figure things out and fix things to keep our cars, house, and life running smoothly.

I love how you twirl me in the middle of our cluttered kitchen when one of my favorite songs plays, even though dancing is the last thing you want to do.

I love how you still look at me, after all these years and a couple of babies, with desire in your eyes.

I love how I get to glance across the kitchen at your rugged handsomeness, kind dark eyes, and smile that lights up the room.

I love how you seek adventure and and ruthlessly refuse to settle for the ordinary. And I love how you push me to do the same.

I love how you bring me milkshakes and pay the bills and watch our daughter so I can have a weekend away. I love how you clear the drains and shovel the snow and take out the trash. I love how you make coffee in the morning and do bedtime in the evening. I love how you get out of bed to help our daughter and how you stay in bed to snuggle me close. I love your rough hands and your kind heart and your brilliant brain and your compassionate soul.

I love you for all these reasons and so many more that too often go overlooked. I may not be as great at saying or showing it these days, but I love journeying through this life with you and all the everyday joys you bring with us.

All My Love,

C

A Love Letter To Myself

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, it’s a time of great love and even greater expectations. We all want to feel loved, cherished, adored, and noticed. Perhaps we wait with bated breath for someone else to tell us we’re worthy. Perhaps we feel a deep sense of disappointment and self doubt if we either don’t have someone to tell us how wonderful we are, or the person we hope for fails or forgets.

But what if we gave ourselves this gift of love we so desire? What if we took the radical step of seeing and appreciating all that we are and all that we do? It’s so hard to fully love others when we don’t really love ourselves. So maybe we start a revolution and become our own Valentines. Thanks Hallmark, but I’ll just save myself the postage.

IMG_9503

Hello Lovely,

I see you there with your radiant red hair blowing in the winter wind. I don’t care if it hasn’t been washed in days, it still looks gorgeous, as do you.

Let’s talk about your beauty for a second. You are truly beautiful. Your body has grown beauty inside of it, and though you may feel like its left you a little stretched and sagging, in reality you have become so full of the beauty your body has been holding and nurturing over the past four years. Your muscles show the signs of heavy lifting, not confined to the walls of a gym, but every day in every moment in the real world. Your face glows with the joy of living a purposeful life. Your eyes shine with, well, sleep deprivation, but also resilience.

But it’s not just that amazing body I adore, it’s the soul contained inside. You are working tirelessly everyday to better yourself. You’re never afraid to question your own ways and seek new solutions if something isn’t working in your life. I admire how you’ve come to embrace who you are and where you you are in life, yet continue to rise to the challenge of gaining greater knowledge, depth, and humanity. You balance on that tightrope between striving and settling, and on it you’ve found your happiness.

And darling, how the world sings when you let that happiness ring forth in laughter!

Your joy is contagious and I love watching it bloom into the brilliance that is your daughters. They are thriving and smiling and you don’t even realize the incredible role you play in forming them into the beings they are becoming. You pour onto those beautiful babies every ounce of kindness and care and compassion you can muster. And when you fail and yell, as you sometimes do, you embrace them with empathy and grant yourself grace instead of guilt. As you flounder through many moments of motherhood, I fall even more in love with you, knowing that you are learning and doing your best.

I see you. I see you doing the messy and mundane tasks of everyday life. The dishes and laundry and diapers and cooking. The things that so often go overlooked, but that provides the fuel that keeps your family going. I see you trying to be everything to everyone and still coming up short. I see you questioning whether you are being a good enough wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I see your doubt, and I embrace it all the more. Never doubt, my sweet, the mark that your small but meaningful efforts make.

Even when you feel like you’re failing, especially when you feel like you’re failing, I still love you, my dear. Always remember to hold yourself with the same grace and tenderness that you afford others.

I know you’re tired and spent, but I so admire how you summon the energy and courage to pursue your passion and write. You are learning amazing things with each new word and each new day. I am in awe of how you get up every morning, no matter how early the children wake you or how restless your night has been, and face each day with the potential and adventure it holds.

Keep trying, keep shining, keep showing up.

With Abundant Love,

Me

When Love Is Not Enough

IMG_9493.jpg

The room is dark as I quietly creep in and gaze down at my older daughter’s sweet sleeping face, filled with the peace of a deep slumber. I kneel beside her little bed and touch her lips, pursed in a rare moment of silence, as they have been busy all day forming new words. I stroke her tiny ear, so unencumbered by the hearing aids that rest upon them during waking hours and fill my daughter’s head with all the incredible sounds of the world. My heart is heavy with the weight and depth of the love I feel for this amazing little being.

But sometimes it feels as if love is not enough.

I grew my firstborn inside of me with every ounce of love her small body could contain. My love flowed to her like blood and nourishment, pulsing with the beat of the potential that was her life to come. When she was born into this world, becoming the physical embodiment of that great love, she was pure perfection in every way, except one. On the second day of her life we discovered that she was born with inexplicable hearing loss.

In that moment, it felt like my love was not enough. My love was not enough to grant my child two perfectly working ears. My love was not enough to guarantee that she could effortlessly hear the music that makes our lives sing.

Through the miracle of science and the grace of great clinicians, we quickly got our baby girl fitted with hearing aids to help her fully experience the world around her. At just three months, her little ears blinked with the bionic beauty that let us know that the tweets of birds and rustle of leaves were being amplified and broadcast into her mind. By six months, she was working with the most incredible therapist who made sure she was striving for milestones. And strive she did. As our baby grew into a toddler, and now a little girl, she has amazed us with her ability to thrive in every metric. Her hearing loss, originally diagnosed as mild-to-moderate, faded into the background of our lives as we relished watching our girl grow and learn.

Until a week ago. I sat in the office of our audiologist following a routine screening. The room was loud, filled with the sounds of my own restless children who were hungry and tired and losing patience. I tried to listen as the audiologist explained the results of the test, stating kindly, “It looks like your daughter’s hearing is getting progressively worse. It’s slipping into the category of profound.” My eyes welled with tears and my ears rang as I caught phrases like, “cochlear implants” and “total deafness” and “we just don’t know.”

And in that moment, I was hit again with the realization that my love simply is not enough. It is not enough to ensure that she will one day be able to hear, with her own two ears, the voice of the person she falls in love with or the music that compels her to dance or the sound of her children’s laughter. My love is not enough to ensure that she hears my own voice, right now, whispering how much I love her. And my heart breaks for my girl.

I know I’m not alone. Mommas around the world hold their babies, young and grown, with heavy hearts filled with uncontainable love that spills out onto their children. I know I am a lucky one, for my daughter’s challenge has options and opportunities still; it doesn’t threaten her very existence. There are mommas who stroke their baby’s eyes, with no hope of them ever seeing the beauty of this world. There are mommas who caress delicate legs that will never know what it feels like to run through fields and forests. There are mommas who hold close tiny bodies, waiting to feel their child’s inevitable last exhale. Our stories and our struggles are unique, but we all carry with us the heavy burden that our love is not enough to protect our precious babes from their own fate.

But we go on loving anyway. Because that is the call and the contract of parenthood; to have our love live outside of ourselves. From the moment of conception, we’ve agreed to trust an imperfect world with our most perfect expressions of love – our children. This world will disappoint us, and this world will disappoint them, with the injustice of it all. They will face suffering of all shapes and sizes, and time and time again, our love will fail to save them.

Yet, our love is the only thing that can save them. Our love may not be able to provide health and healing, but it offers glimmers of hope and happiness through the hardships. Our love may not bring a solution to the problem, but it brings purpose to the journey. Our love shows our children that, though life may look or sound different than we had imagined, it is so full of treasures that make the trials worth it. Our love is the strength and the salvation that carries them through it all.

This will be the hardest thing we do as parents – to keep loving in spite of the fact that our love is not enough. This will be the holiest thing we do as parents – to keep loving, in fact, because our love is not enough.

So we face each day with broken hearts; hearts that break open to pour out our boundless love on to our babes. Raw and ragged, the wounds that ail our children seep into our souls, inspiring ever greater love. We carry with us the ache of knowing our love is not enough, and the grace of knowing our love is everything.

As for our daughter, she continues to amaze us every day with the breadth and compassion of her own love. She continues to face each day with wit and wonder. She awakens in the morning and excitedly grabs her “hearings” to ignite her mind with the melodies of life. And she listens, not taking for granted the sounds that others might miss. When she hears something in the distance, she ponders sweetly, “What does that sound look like?” I don’t know what her future holds, in terms of hearing loss or life in general, but I know that I will continue to love her with a wide open heart, and that will be enough.

IMG_9489.jpg

Happy Hygge-Days!

Christmas may have come and gone, but the long, cold winter still stretches endlessly in front of us. We have sixty more days of this snowy season, to be exact. People love to hate winter; complaining about the cold seems to be a favorite national pastime. And I get it. I live in Chicago, so when it comes to winter weather we have plenty to complain about. Our winter is not limited to December through March; we remain firmly bundled from October to May, or even beyond. When it snows here, it doesn’t just stick around for a day or two before being plowed or melting away, the white stuff fades to a dingy grey and becomes a permanent fixture for weeks. And it’s not uncommon to have days on end where temperatures hover in the single digits and even the sunshine decides it’s too frigid to make an appearance. Yes, I know the hardships of winter through and through.

Yet, I still kind of love winter.

Why? Because as I watch the snow fall quietly outside my window, blanketing the world anew, I can’t help but let the beauty and magic of it seep right into my soul. Then, as I look back inside our little house, I can’t help but be overcome by the love and warmth and togetherness that fills our home. There is an inexplicable feeling of coziness that comes from snuggling close with those I love most while the cold winds rage outside.

This warm-hearted feeling of coziness, I’ve discovered, has a name. It’s a Danish concept known as “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga), and while there’s no direct English translation, according to the website Hygge House, the word is used to describe “a feeling or moment, either alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as cozy, charming, and special.” Basically, hygge boils down to slowing down, enjoying the simple pleasures, creating intimacy, and being present in the ordinary moments of life. The Danes created hygge as a means of surviving the cold and dark of their own harsh winters; and something has to be said for a nation that weathers one of the worst winter climates, yet still consistently produces some of the world’s happiest people.

The idea of hygge, and embracing a more “hyggeligt” lifestyle of slower days and greater appreciation, has truly transformed the way I feel about this admittedly cold and dreary and sometimes limiting season. As freezing temperatures and swirling snow have swept across much of the nation this week, reaching all the way down to my friends in southern states, I thought I’d share ten tips for adding a little more hygge to your life and warmth to your home.

1. Light a Candle   Lighting candles is perhaps the most essential element in the Danish art of creating hygge. The soft peaceful glow that comes when you dim the bright overhead lights and spark a small wick brings instant warmth, calm, and closeness. I find myself captivated by the delicate dance of the tiny flame, and the intimacy it ignites inspires ideas and conversations. Conveniently, lighting a candle also happens to be the easiest thing you could do to up the hygge in your house. Most of us have a couple (or a couple dozen) spare candles lying around the house and an old set of matches tucked away in the bathroom. Dig them out, light them up, and enjoy the beautiful burn. My husband, in fact, became the unwitting cultivator of hygge in this regard. A couple months ago, as he grew increasingly annoyed at the unused candles that sat around our house creating more clutter, he started burning them religiously. As soon as he walks in the door, he lights a candle in our kitchen. His motivation, however, is more purposeful and less hyggeligt – he hopes that by burning the candles, we can finally get rid of them once they’re extinguished. Alas, new candles will always find a way to sneak in and add a little hygge to our home.

IMG_9470.jpg

2. Wear All the Wool   Wool clothing has become a recent obsession of mine, and quite frankly a necessity living in such a cold climate. This Christmas, approximately seventy-five percent of our gifts were something wooly. Our children got wool base layers and pants, my husband got wool socks, and I received a comfy wool shirt and the most incredible wool slippers. My husband and I joked that we should just become sheep farmers with the amount of money we’ve spent on woolen items. But really, it’s the perfect winter fabric – natural and renewable, moisture wicking and odor resistant, soft and comfortable, but above all, insanely warm. For padding around the house, slip on a cozy wool sweater, leggings, and the thickest wool socks. If you feel like venturing outdoors, simply throw on some boots and a coat and you’re ready to go. There are few things cozier than clothing yourself like a sheep.

3. Indulge in Comfort Food and Drink   Break out you crock pots and Dutch ovens, it’s soup and stew season! I’m all for a good juice cleanse, but I think I’ll save it for the heat of the summer when I can’t even stomach a hearty meal. Right now, though, bring on the beef and potatoes, the roasted veggies and the rich gravies, the steamy soups and creamy sides. Besides, I like to tell myself, my body needs all those extra fats to keep warm… I’m just trying to save on our heating bill! Truthfully, there are few aromas I love more than a roast that simmers all day, enhancing in intensity as the day wears on and the flavors combine. By the time the sun sinks below the horizon, at 4:00 pm, you have a delicious meal ready to fill the bodies and souls of your household as you gather around the dinner table.

When it comes to drinks, you can choose the route of numbing the bitterness of the season with alcohol, but I find that I’m feeling numb enough already with all this cold. Instead, I crave something that will warm me up and ignite the flames within me. I want to sip something that will stimulate my senses and leave me feeling simultaneously invigorated and calm. Our kettle gets quite the workout this time of year as we brew coffee in the morning and tea in the evening, with hot cocoa thrown somewhere in between. Grab an old favorite mug, fill it with your warm beverage of choice, and savor it slowly, truly tasting the flavors.

img_9687

4. Bake With the Kids   If you’re a mother (or father) of young children, this may be an activity that you actively avoid doing with your little ones. Baking with kids is much less efficient, much more messy, and often less enjoyable than going it alone. Not to mention the results may leave something to be desired. But that’s kind of the point when it comes to hyyge. Baking becomes both an experience and experiment rather than something else to get through. Choose a day and time when you don’t have anywhere to be or anyone coming over, when the time spent and the mess made won’t matter. Then just slow down and try to enjoy the chaos of it all. A few weeks back, my husband decided to bake a cake with our daughter based solely on proportions, an idea I’m not even going to try to explain… but they worked together as he let her choose some of the random ingredients to include. The result? Less than perfect since he accidentally added only half of the recommended sugar. But the idea? Brilliant. They had fun and made something together that they were both proud of, despite the questionable taste (which was easily remedied by adding extra-sugary icing). Enjoy the fruits of your labors with your hot beverage of choice for the ultimate hygge moment.

5. Enjoy Simple Family Traditions   Most people associate traditions with holidays, but I feel that simple traditions are all the more meaningful when brought into everyday life. Traditions build in moments to pause and reflect and connect in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day. We still often Light up the Night. For your family it could be a board game played together or completing a puzzle. Perhaps it’s a dance party or a tea party. Or maybe it’s simply sharing a meal together in the evening. The point isn’t to create yet another task that you have to do, but to celebrate the ordinary things you’re already doing. Cherish that togetherness.

IMG_9463

6. Take Family Naps   This is, perhaps, my favorite family tradition that we’ve added to the mix. Our children are still young enough that they, gloriously, nap during the day, and most of the time we can even manipulate them into sleeping at the same time. When this happens we don’t usually run around the house trying to get everything done, instead we make the conscientious choice to tuck ourselves into warm flannel sheets and snuggle close. As the soft afternoon sun warms the room and I wrap my arms around our sleeping baby while listening to the soft exhales of our toddler’s breath, we drift off to sleep, all together. Sometimes the peace lasts mere minutes, but on a good day we all wake up after a couple of hours, feeling rested and refreshed, and reconnected in the cozy comfort of our shared bed.

7. Have a Movie Night   Generally speaking, I’m kind of a crazy person when it comes to TV with my kids. I try to avoid letting them watch it much because I feel that there are so many more interesting things they could be doing with their time and minds. Also, selfishly, I can’t stand it. I find all the loud noises and bright colors, of kids’ shows especially, way too stimulating for me, so I can only imagine how my children’s tiny brains feel. But of course it’s a balance, and in winter, between the constant sicknesses and sub-zero temps that keep us indoors, we need a little something to break up the day. Still, TV time is usually limited to a single 20 minute show, during which I frantically try to do everything I can’t when I have kids needing something from me every 3.5 seconds. So movie night is a special time for our family. We try to pick something we will all (mostly) enjoy, and sit down together intentionally, limiting phones and other unnecessary distractions. We make popcorn. The real kind. Not the kind that inflates a bag in the microwave, but the tiny kernels that produce that distinctive lovely popping sound on the stovetop before being drenched in way too much butter and salt. Then we snuggle together under a blanket and indulge in entertainment.

8. Read a Book   When temperatures drop, it’s easy to stay on the couch and binge on Netflix. And certainly there’s a time and place for that in this snuggly season. But there is something wonderfully cozy about holding a book in your hands, feeling the weight of the pages as you let the words inspire your imagination. Whether you are snuggled with wee ones beneath a fuzzy blanket reciting Dr. Suess, or curling up on your own with that novel that’s been collecting dust on your bookshelf, let yourself focus and dive fully into the beautiful new world that a book brings to life.

9. Create Something   As we allow the pace of life to slow down and relax into the simple pleasures of ordinary days, you may find that you now have more time and space to pursue a creative passion. Though it can feel limiting to spend so much time indoors, it also provides the perfect platform to work on a passion project. For me, that is writing; for my husband, it’s working on and flying his plane. Our interests may differ greatly, but the common thread is allowing ourselves the reflective insight to find what we love and the intentional cultivation of a quieter season within which to toil. With children, you may pull out the paints and play-doh; or finish that craft project you’ve been talking about for ages. Besides, if you look through a new lens, winter is not merely a season of dead leaves and barren trees. It is a fount of inspiration – from the glint of the midday sun glistening across fresh snow to the soft afternoon rays casting shadows on the landscape, the rare sight of a red bird in flight or the quiet stillness of a dark cold night – the wonders are surely there if you only stop to see them.

10. Go on Winter Walks   Lest you think all hygge activities have to be limited to snuggling under a warm blanket, it can actually be a cozy experience to venture out into the cold world. I personally cannot stay inside too long. My mind and body and soul have no regard for the freezing temperatures; I need to breath the fresh air and feel the chill of the wind against my skin and experience the sights and sounds that only exist in the natural world. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” So we put on layer upon layer of wool (see above) and get outside. We walk and play with friends at our weekly Wild Child group until we can’t feel our fingers and our faces are frozen with the smiles that come from reconnecting with the fun of nature. Or we trek down to our local park and run like crazy around the deserted ball field, making snow angels and throwing snowballs and ignoring that the thermometer reads zero degrees. Then we come home with cold hands but warm hearts.

IMG_9409.jpg

These are just a few of my favorite hygge things. Your ideas and activities surrounding hygge may look completely different, and that’s the joy of it. Slow down, allow yourself the time and space to just be, to relax into the simple pleasures that warm your heart and captivate your soul, and to enjoy and find joy even in the cold and grey and everyday of this season.

The First Ten

Today marks ten years since I first met my husband. A decade. A third of my life I’ve now spent with this man.

img_0389

When I think back to that fateful night ten years ago, it feels like the time that’s passed is both a lifetime and a blink. In the span of the last decade there have been countless moments and memories that have shifted and shaped us, both individually and as a couple. We’ve grown up and grown out of bad habits and grown into ourselves and grown together. The evolution of it all is wondrous.

There was the beginning. There was the late night with too many drinks and bad dance moves and his irresistible dark eyes and sweet crooked smile. There was our first date. My sick day off work and my warnings of being contagious and his reckless abandon as he kissed me anyway. There was my move halfway across the world and the awkwardness of saying goodbye to something that was still nothing. There was the crushing loneliness of knowing no one in a new land and spending hours at a European Internet cafe just hoping I could connect with him. There were entire nights spent chatting online because we were young and had all the time and energy in the world to burn. And thousands of miles couldn’t dim our spark. There was him flying halfway across the world to visit me. The glimpse of a familiar stranger in a foreign place. There was the love that sprouted as we traversed new territory, even though we weren’t yet brave enough to give it a name.

There were the adventures. Oh, the adventures! There were the 7 countries we trekked through, devouring food and culture and experiences and laughable moments. There were the countless states across this great nation, stretching from the southern tip of Florida to the furthest reaches of Alaska, upon which we’ve made our small but meaningful marks. There were planes, trains, and automobiles; and mopeds, gondolas, and donkeys too. There were missed trains and sleeping outside on station benches. Or airport floors. There were broken bones and crutching over cobblestone. There was the warmth of the Grecian sun kissing our skin and the chill of ancient ice glistening on a glacier. There were alligators and pythons and orcas and eagles. There were mountains climbed and vistas viewed. There was the magnificent flying, just the two of us soaring  high above lakes and rivers, hills and valleys. The most unique and beautiful way to experience this gorgeous Earth. There were more places and people and experiences that have taken our breath away as we’ve explored the world together over these first ten years than I could ever hope for in a lifetime.

There were the places we came home to. There was Maryland and DC, Florida and Tennessee, and now Illinois. There were crowded college houses and quaint city apartments. A tiny travel trailer and abodes shared with relatives. A house covered with dog hair and a home filled with all the joys and messes of children. There’s our conflicting zest for more travel and adventure mixed with our fervent desire to settle somewhere we love.

There were the leaps of faith. The jobs left and the passions pursued. There were the foolish but fun choices and and the vehement refusals to live according to someone else’s plan. There were the moves and the upheaval; the packing and the unpacking. There was the striking out on our own and encouraging the other to blaze their own unique trail. There was the catching each other when we fell and supporting each other when we floundered. There is the seemingly reckless but ultimately unwavering faith we have in one another to pursue our best lives; together.

There were the life transitions and momentous milestones. The moving in together and rearranging our lives for one another. The walking down the aisle and rings exchanged and vowing to love each other for the rest of this life. There was the heartwarming joy of growing new lives together and welcoming our children into this world. There was the heartbreaking grief of shepherding life out of this world and figuring out how to go on living.

And there were the heavy and hard times. More than we’d probably care to admit. There were the dreams shattered and hearts broken. There were the harsh words spoken and tears brought forth. The blame and shame and resentment and restitution. There was the bickering and the fighting. The honest miscommunications and the blatant bitterness. There was the questioning of whether this relationship could be or should be. The wondering if we were broken, and if we could be repaired.

Then there was the learning. The learning how to give and how to take. The compromising. There was the pushing and pulling to bring out the best in each other. The seeing through the broken cracks to discover new light in the other. The calling out of that light and trusting the person and the process. There was the embracing what truly matters and letting go of the rest. There was the realization that we’re in this for the long haul so we have to put in the effort, because nothing good ever comes without a little (or a lot) of work.

And there was, and of course still is, the love. Always the love, ever evolving. First burning hot and fast under the guise of desire. Then steadfast and righteous and ardent, followed by raw and vulnerable and real. Now all of those things combined, faded slightly in intensity, into the comfortable commitment that comes from spending a decade together. Strong and steady and simple. There were the small seemingly insignificant daily acts that formed the love song of our life. There were the million moments when we chose us and chose love, when we could have chosen something different.

There is the now. There are the sleepless nights that a decade ago were spent drinking or dancing or talking and now are spent caring for sick children. There are the soothing messages with scented lotion that have been replaced by the tender smoothing of vapor rub on our always sick and tired bodies. There are the beautiful babies and jubilant laughter and simple pleasures. There are the heavy burdens of responsibilities that accompany adulthood, and especially parenthood, and the effort not to let them consume us. There are the extraordinary joys we’re creating that often go overlooked in our ordinary life. There is the continual choosing, every day, to love one another and to carry onward on this well worn but still entirely unpredictable path together.

Here’s to the next ten, and the many more to follow.

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 1.28.12 PM

Poppa, The Great

IMG_5728

This guy. In the past 15 months, this guy has surpassed any and all of my wildest dreams and expectations of the father he would be to our daughter. And I am a gal of high expectations.

Though I knew in my heart that my husband would be a great dad, in my mind I worried how he would take to this life-changing little person who burst into our world. He’s a guy who shied away from holding our nieces and nephews as babies because he’s “not a baby person.” He’s a guy who laid out every real or imagined constraint that a baby would place on our lives. He’s a guy who, when I told him I was pregnant, responded with a nervous and questioning “congrats?”.

But he’s also a guy who has the incredible patience and compassion and persistence that it takes to care for a new life.

From the moment our daughter was born, he was there. He was there for her and he was there for me. In the trenches, all of us together, a family. He never hesitated to endlessly bounce our fussy newborn on an exercise ball. Never groaned about taking our sleepless babe at 5:00 am even when he had to leave for work at 6:00 am because I couldn’t hold my eye se open another minute. Never thought twice about curling up in bed with our child who can only sleep with human touch. He rose to his role as a father when neither our baby nor myself had the words or energy to thank him. This wonderful guy shepherded our growing family through that first foggy phase of new parenthood, helping us to evolve and emerge into new and beautiful places.

Since that early hazy period, so much has changed; and this guy continues to grow as a father to meet the ever-changing demands of our toddler daughter. His success as a father is reflected in the joyful spark that lights up our daughter’s eyes. He is her favorite playmate, most brilliant teacher, hilarious entertainment, and all-around hero. Throughout the day a chorus of “Poppa” echoes through our house (long before there were any utterances of “Momma”, I might add). And when the prodigal Poppa returns from work each day, the excited squeals emitted by our one-year-old could rival a group of tweens at a One Direction concert. He is her world, and it’s such a stunning sight to see.

I was the girl who always wanted to be a mother; my husband was the guy who was more reluctant to become a father. Yet everyday he is the one who is teaching me how to do this parenthood thing. He shows me that being a parent isn’t about the rules or expectations, it’s everything that lies in between – the endless capacity to love, the inspiring opportunities to play, the wonder of seeing the world through a new perspective and learning together, always together.

These are the things that make a great father, and these are the qualities that I’ve loved to see take flight in my husband as he embraces his role of proud Poppa and boldly leads our daughter into a world of limitless opportunity.

IMG_5611

This guy is simply the best.

Dear Momma

IMG_7300

Dear Momma,

I’m sorry; I’ve failed you this Mother’s Day. Your card is still sitting on the kitchen counter, buried under a pile of unopened mail topped by an un-done to-do list. Besides, it isn’t even an actual Mother’s Day card since Trader Joe’s only carried generic cards and I didn’t have it in me to stop yet again when the baby and I both so desperately needed a nap.

You get it, I know. You’ve been doing this mom thing for thirty-plus years. And I get it now too. Though I’m only a year into motherhood, it’s more than enough to make me realize all that all that you’ve done for me, from the moment of my birth; all that you continue to do as I grow into a mother. Over this past year, I’ve come to love and appreciate and respect you in a whole new way.

The very reason I can’t manage to get a simple card in the mail is the same reason that you deserve so much more than Trader Joe’s ninety-nine cent sentiments. Motherhood is hard. Without your love and support and guidance as I fumble my way through, I would be lost. Your gifts to me have been selfless and priceless and limitless.

What do I get for the woman who gave me everything? Who has not only shepherded me as I become a mother, but has risen to great and beautiful heights as a grandmother.

How do I say thank you for jumping in your car, driving all day, just so you could hold my shaking hand as I prepared to bring my daughter into this world?

How can I repay you for the countless vacation days you have spent washing my dishes, walking my dog, and taking care of me, so I could take care of the endless needs of a new baby?

Where do I find the words to tell you what it meant when you miraculously appeared at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., when I was at my wits end with a baby who Would. Not. Sleep.? Giving me a break when I needed it the most.

No gift could express the gratitude I felt when I faced you the next morning, bleary eyed and grumpy, and you didn’t tell me what I could be doing differently to get my child to sleep. You never questioned why my one-year-old wasn’t sleeping through the night. Instead you simply embraced me and told me the one thing I most needed to hear; the one thing I was most doubting. “You are an amazing mother,” you whispered softly.

I probably rolled my bloodshot eyes at you (sorry, I was tired…), but those words meant everything to me. Still do.

When I doubt myself, and my mothering skills, your reassuring voice is a constant refrain in my head: “it’s ok, it’s ok, you are doing great, you are incredible.” Your words become the steady heartbeat coursing through my veins and keeping me alive through difficult days and sleepless nights.

So momma – there’s no card, no flowers, no bottle of wine or meticulously prepared dinner waiting for you this year. I’m sorry that, this year, I’ve gotten too caught up trying to be a mother and paid too little attention to celebrating my own. You expect nothing, but you deserve the world.

But this I can tell you, as the wisest of women once told me, “YOU are an amazing mother.”

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Momma for all that you do. I Love You…

IMG_7304