In the Beginning

I started this blog when my children were little. It was a convenient way to share some of their stories and to keep family and friends up-to-date with our lives. Now they’ve gotten older and they aren’t interested in having their cute conversations splashed all over the internet. I’m really not sure anymore what the purpose of this blog is.

But I do enjoy blogging. I’ve missed it. I may or may not figure out what to do with Thoughts From the Green Room.

Until then…. I’ve started a new blog. There’s a point to it. A beginning and an end. If I post twice a week, the blog should be alive for about two years. And who knows what might happen along the way.

Check it out. Feel free to follow it and like and/or comment on the posts.

ps – It’s a cooking blog and I’m not making all the recipes public. But I’m always happy to share my recipes with friends. So if you love something you see… all you have to do is ask.

cooking through

Ever since I watched Julie & Julia, I’ve loved the idea of cooking through a cookbook. It’s a fun thought- but the struggle lies in finding a cookbook that I’m willing to commit to. Enter a weekend retreat in Columbus, Ohio.

A group of us ladies were sitting around the lobby of the Rosedale International Center, where these World at Your Table cookbooks were tantalizingly on display. As we sat and waited for dinner to be served, I flipped through these pages and realized I could see myself feeding 90% of these dishes to my family. I made a light comment to my friend about cooking through this cookbook and she said, “Yeah, and you could blog about it.”

Like I need another blog.

Or another commitment in my life.

But I am burned out on feeding people, my family included. I could use some motivation to prepare better…

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.because you asked.

Dear little beautiful, ungrateful kid who I love with every fiber of my being,

You want to know why I’ll do your daddy’s laundry and not yours? It’s simple.

Your daddy works a full-time job to pay our bills and buy the things we want.He takes care of our network issues so you can browse facebook from any device in any room of our house.He keeps us all up late at night reading us good literature.

He does our taxes.

He cooks you breakfast any time you ask. He makes the bed every morning. He fixes broken water heaters and furnaces and washers. He always knows what to do when one of you kids is hurt.

One day soon, he’ll teach you to drive.

He loves people and they know it. Because of him, you and I have a good reputation before we even open our mouths.

He works a crazy job that could easily consume him. It would be so easy for him to push his family to the side and spend these years focused on his job. But even on the busiest days, he makes his family a priority. Sometimes you think he works you to death – but he also always has time to laugh with you.

He’s the only person in this house who will drop everything to help someone find something.

I’ve always had this dream of what my children might become. Because of your daddy’s influence in your lives, that dream is actually coming true. You’re awesome kids – even better than I’d hoped. You’d be kind of a mess if it was left to me.

He’s patient. He’s kind. He understands higher-level math. He never compromises on the important things and he’s teaching that to all of you kids.He’s never grouchy. You can always trust what he says.

He takes care of our animals – even when it means going out alone in the dark or in bad weather. He does awesomely big things for you – like building you a secret Lego room in the attic.

And it goes deeper than all that. God made your daddy and me very different. He’s better with people. I’m better with household chores. I take care of your daddy so he can take care of other people. It’s part of how I love other people. That may sound convoluted and weird now, but it’ll make sense someday.

Plus, he already knows how to do laundry and doesn’t need the practice. I’m not sure I can say the same for you. And that’s why I’ll do your daddy’s laundry and not yours.

Love,

Mom

ps – You know those times that I randomly do your laundry for you? That’s my favorite. It’s another way for me to say “I love you.” I wouldn’t have that if you weren’t responsible for your own laundry.

 

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-books of 2015-

A year ago I found an intriguing reading challenge online. It looked like exactly my kind of thing – other than the fact that I was expected to read 50 books (52 including the trilogy) in one year.

That’s a book a week. I’d like to be a person who reads a book a week. Never mind that I failed. I missed a few, but I’m trying to accept failure with dignity and grace. I almost went back into goodreads and changed my personal reading challenge to 45, but that wouldn’t be dignified or gracious, would it? Oh well…

This was a fun challenge. Sometimes I looked up books specifically to fit the category (an author with my initials, a play, a trilogy), sometimes I tweaked (i.e. changed completely) a category – but I mostly picked a book I wanted to read and made it fit somewhere.

Here’s my list, including everything I read and everything I didn’t – and some I’m still reading. I’m including goodreads links to everything I think is worth recommending. If you don’t see a link here, then you didn’t get a recommendation from me.

I would love to be one of those amazing book-reviewing people, but really all I can do is offer my opinion once in a while. Have at it.

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  • a book with more than 500 pages – Eclipse (Stephenie Meyer)
  • a classic romance
  • a book that became a movie – Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  • a book published this year – Kindle The Flame (Tamara Shoemaker) [This is the first in a series, and my daughter is anxiously awaiting #2. For Christmas, I gave one of the kids another book by this author and you should have seen the emotions on my daughter’s face when she saw the name: complete joy when she thought it was a sequel, then despair at realizing it’s a different series and she’ll still have to wait. Practically forever.]
  • a book with a number in the title
  • a book written by someone under thirty – Educating Esme  (Esme Raji Codell) [Read this if you’re a teacher and need something light and humorous that is also thought-provoking and true.]
  • a book with nonhuman characters – New Moon (Stephenie Meyer)
  • a funny book – The Lost Continent (Bill Bryson) [Everyone should read at least one Bill Bryson book in their life. You’ll enjoy him more if you’re a cynical writer kind of person.]
  • a book by a female author – Carry on Warrior (Glennon Doyle Melton) [ This is one of those blogging women who are mysterious to me. How do they find enough to say that they can keep up a blog AND write a book? She kind of reminds me of myself. I can’t help but like her.]
  • a mystery or thriller – Insurgent (Veronica Roth) [I guess it was kind of a thriller… it didn’t fit anywhere else.]
  • a book with a one-word title – Wonder (R.J. Palacio) [My girls and I all enjoyed this book. This one I immediately wanted to recommend to everyone I know, young and old.]
  • a book of short stories (I’m in the middle of Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories) [I hear we should all be reading Flannery O’Connor.]
  • a book set in a different country – Tom’s Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)
  • a nonfiction book – The World as I Remember It (Rich Mullins)
  • a popular author’s first book – Twilight (Stephenie Meyer)
  • a book you haven’t read from an author you love  – A Pale View of Hills (Kazuo Ishiguro) [Possibly my favorite author.]
  • a book a friend recommended – The Book Shop (Penelope Fitzgerald) [Condensed fiction. Beautiful, spare writing. A tiny book, but not necessarily a quick read.]
  • a Pulitzer Prize-winning book (I’m in the middle of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex)
  • a book based on a true story – In Cold Blood (Truman Capote) [Great book – but only recommended to people who enjoy true murder stories.]
  • a book at the bottom of your to-read list – Pontoon (Garrison Keillor) [I enjoy Garrison Keillor on the radio. In print, he bores me.]
  • a book your mom loves – [I borrowed Coldwater Revival by Nancy Jo Jenkins from my mom, but haven’t gotten to it yet.]
  • a book that scares you – Asylum (Madeleine Roux) [This isn’t exactly scary, but I don’t do scary.]
  • a book more than 100 years old – Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
  • a book based entirely on its cover – Wild in the Hollow (Amber C. Haines) [An instagram friend posted a picture of this book cover and I went to amazon and ordered it. It was spontaneous, but I didn’t regret it. This was one of those “how did she write out all my thoughts so concisely?” books.]
  • a book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey) [I read all the books I was assigned in high school. This is one I especially hated, so I decided to give it another try as an adult. It’s a rough and gritty read, but the adjective I always come up with to describe this book is: beautiful.]
  • a memoir – Girl, Interrupted (Susanna Kaysen) [Reminded me of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, but… it wasn’t. It didn’t help that I read this one just 3 months after finishing The Bell Jar. It’s hard for anyone to measure up to that one.]
  • a book you can finish in a day – Fortunately, the Milk (Neil Gaiman)
  • a book with antonyms in the title – Bittersweet (Shauna Niequist)
  • a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit – Sailing Alone Around the Room (Billy Collins) [Technically, this is a book of poetry and not set anywhere, but I would love to visit the inside of Billy Collins’ head. He’s my poetry Yoda.)
  • a book that you read with a friend – Wise Blood (Flannery O’Connor)
  • a book with bad reviews – Looking For Alaska (John Green) [The only bad review I took into account here was mine. HATED this book.]
  • a trilogy – The Singer, The Song, The Finale (Calvin Miller) [I loved the first book, liked the second one, got a little bored with the third. Because: the setting of the first book was obvious and the writing style made the story feel new again and magical; the setting for the second book was a little more obscure; the third book is based on future/prophetic events which always lose me.]
  • a book from your childhood
  • a book with a love triangle – Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh) [I think I may have started this book at the beginning again as soon as I finished it. The first time through I just enjoyed it; I wanted to read it a second time to understand it better. But… when you’re in the middle of trying to read 52 books in a year, you don’t get very far in an immediate reread.]
  • a book set in the future – Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel) [This was a free download from somewhere that I expected to get bored with. Wrong. This was well written and hard to put down.]
  • a book set in high school – A Separate Peace (John Knowles) [One of my favorite books. This was a reread. I seem to love gloomy, depressing books with splashes of joy and beauty thrown in.]
  • a book with a color in the title – Everblue (Brenda Pandos) [This is the beginning of a series that you might love if you’re into mermaids and modern day fantasy.]
  • a book that made you cry – Allegiant (Veronica Roth) [How do I say this without giving any spoilers… I loved the ending of this book. I’ve waited my entire life for a book written in first person narrative to end like this. Good job, Veronica.]
  • a book with magic – Stardust (Neil Gaiman) [There were a few moments in this book that keep me from wholeheartedly recommending it to anyone and everyone, but if you’re already a Neil Gaiman fan, this will charm you. Or something.]
  • a novel written for children’s – The Enchanted Castle (E. Nesbit) [She wrote one of my favorite children’s novels The Railway Children – I ran across a couple of her other books and decided to give them a try.]
  • a book by an author you’ve never read before – Crazy (Linda Vigen Phillips) [One of those fantastic poem-novels.]
  • a book you own but have never read – The Road (Cormac McCarthy) [Another dark, but rewarding read. Out of all the dystopian fiction I’ve read, this is the best. It’s scary-realistic and not at all flashy – meaning: this is the book that people won’t read. This book will not make you happy.]
  • a book that takes place in your hometown – Soul Survivor (Tamara Shoemaker) [The author is a friend of mine, and this was set in Asheville, NC where I grew up. Win-win.]
  • a book that was originally written in a different language
  • a book of poetry – A Night Without Armor (Jewel) [I don’t know if this is “good” poetry, but it’s the kind of poetry that I like.]
  • a book written by an author with your same initials – Unlocked (Ryan VanCleave)
  • a play – A Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen)
  • a banned book – Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov) [If you’re reading a banned book, you might as well go for the grand-daddy of them all. I wouldn’t call this an enjoyable read, but I was impressed.)
  • a book based on or turned into a TV show – Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin) [Another one of those that I don’t recommend unless you’re already considering it and know what you’re getting into. The writing, the characters, the plot – they’re all fantastic. There’s just a lot of “stuff” in there. I don’t want my children reading these books any time soon. I’d like to finish the series, but I’m not sure I want to invest that much of my life into the rest of the books. They’re huge.]
  • a book you started but never finished – The Eyre Affair (Jasper Fforde) [How did this book not suck me in the first time I tried it?! If you’ve ever wanted to climb inside a classic novel and you enjoy crime fiction, this is the book for you. And it’s only the first in the series. More fun to come!]
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-in the aftermath of mother’s day-

This year I decided to play the Mother’s Day card. Never mind that I don’t actually care about being celebrated. (Never mind that I didn’t even call my own mother on The Day to tell her what a wonderful mother she’s been to me over the years and how I can’t imagine life without her and I love that she’s such a positive part of my life and I wish there weren’t so many miles between us keeping her from being a bigger part of my life.)

Instead of calling my mother like the good daughter I wish I was, I played the Mother’s Day card with my own family: “I’m the mom. It’s my day. I get to pick what we do and we’re going to do it together.” It’s my favorite kind of card. And nobody seems to mind being bossed around, since they’re being forced to do something they all enjoy.

Except for this part. They weren’t a huge fan of posing for a photo with the woman who gave birth to them.

IMG_3838Judah is saying, “If you’ll just cooperate and smile, it’ll be over a lot faster.” I wish the same was true of childbirth.

We hiked for a couple hours, then went to Lexington so the girls could experience a mall. This was a fail. The girls told me recently that they’ve never been to a mall before. This was a weird thought to me. Walking through a mall and spiraling into a deep well of loathing for all of materialistic humanity feels like such a normal part of life. How sad that my daughters have lived 10 and 12 years without ever darkening the doors. So we took them to the mall.

After they closed.

Which we didn’t realize, because we walked into Macy’s and out into the rest of the mall. We thought it was funny that so many stores were already shut up, but… it’s a free country; they can do what they want on a Sunday evening. I was disappointed, though, that my girls weren’t getting an actual mall experience. Finally, an employee stopped us and asked how we got in. He seemed to genuinely believe that because the outside mall doors were locked, no one could get inside. Even though Macy’s was still open – and completely open to the rest of the mall. With no “closed” sign in sight. So weird. And slightly naive. And now I’m going to have to take my girls to a mall again someday because they didn’t get the true experience.

Seriously, I hate the mall. Worse than sports.

So… there’s a little piece of my day. And it’s not even what I sat down to write about.

Yesterday morning in church, we got to hear about the Proverbs 31 woman again. Not familiar with that superhero? Read about her here. She follows me around from Mother’s Day to Mother’s Day. Sometimes I think she shows up just to remind me that I’m not good enough.

Hint: Don’t click that link if you’re already feeling down on yourself. She’s kind of a teacher’s pet. She takes everything to the extreme and she gets it all right. If you try to measure up to her, you’re going to have all the joy sucked right out of your life.

It’s one of the more discouraging passages in the Bible. What if I’m not the first person up and the last person to bed at my house? What if I don’t sew my children’s clothing or piece heirloom quilts for their beds? What if I’m not up before sunrise grinding wheat and preparing food from scratch for my family? Sometimes ramen noodles and microwave popcorn feels like a major accomplishment. And that bit about buying land? Hello. I can’t even schedule a dentist appointment. Ain’t no way I’ll be buying property for my family to grow a vineyard on. Unless I can figure out a way to do it through amazon…

The thing is: there are so many ways that I fall short of being a spectacular woman. If this Proverbs 31 woman existed in the body of a single person, she’s phenomenal. I admire her. I would like to be like her in a lot of ways.

I read over this chapter every year or so, and I feel differently about it every time. Usually I look at it like a checklist. How many of these things do I do? How many of these things are realistic goals for my life? How many of these things are completely irrelevant and unrealistic for this century or this phase of my life? (She “supplies the merchants with sashes” – my Wal-Mart cashiers would love this – or at least, they’d love telling their friends about the psycho woman who tries to give them weird gifts.)

Yesterday my thought was: this woman was not doing all this stuff at the same time while simultaneously raising small children. This weekend I spent time with two different families with toddlers. Those babies were all still fresh in my mind Sunday morning as I was reading Proverbs – along with the memory of how tiring and draining the early years of child-raising are. If you’re raising young children or many children, show yourself some grace. Things will get easier. You won’t always be tired. And during this season of your life, you may feel like you’re not accomplishing anything more than raising your children.

But if raising a child is the only thing you’re getting done, guess what? It’s enough.

As I read over the great to-do list of Proverbs 31, I realize that my array of accomplishments is bigger than it was 10 years ago. I’m in the middle of a long and steady journey to becoming something better than I am right now.

And I think maybe the important thing to get out of Proverbs 31 is the idea of continual growth. These verses weren’t written here to discourage us. It’s like that verse in Matthew–  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Am I ever going to be perfect? No. But I do have a perfect example to follow.

In the aftermath of mother’s day, as we’re scrolling through a steady stream of facebook posts memorializing beautiful mothers everywhere and the sacrifices they’ve made for their children’s health and happiness, it’s easy to feel like we ourselves are somehow less than. But the compare game is always a losing game. Don’t fall for that. Just keep doing what you’re doing without settling for mediocre.

Be the best mom you can be. It’s enough.

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For Girls

Just have to share an “I did something right” moment. Aren’t those the best? (And more fun to read about than failure moments….)

Being a girl is hard.

From the very beginning of this daughter-raising journey, one of my goals has been to raise girls who feel pretty without obsessing about it. I’m not sure I believed I could actually do this. After all, how many young girls do you know who actually believe they’re beautiful? I haven’t met many women who have a balanced view of their own beauty. We tend to view ourselves so negatively.

And here’s my 12-year-old, writing from her beautiful heart.

One parenting goal…. accomplished.

malin.brooke

I wrote this for a girl in my class who said I was pretty. I said she was too but like many girls she disagreed with me. I knew there was no use trying to convince her so I wrote this and emailed it to her:

You are pretty. Very pretty. Beautiful! After you complemented me I looked at your face and thought how pretty your face was. I don’t know, it was something about your freckles. AND you’re skinny and fit. My dad asked someone if you could run and he said “Yea she can run, She fly’s!” Just learn to respect that girl you are. She’s Beautiful.

The part I like most is the last part, “Just learn to respect that girl you are. She’s Beautiful.” So many girls need to know this. They want to think they’re pretty, but they’re afraid they’re not good enough for the…

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