Life: Not Cancelled.

shallow focus photo of orange ceramic mug on white saucer

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It’s no question. We are living in unprecedented times. (How many times have I heard that in the last couple weeks?) Like seriously… Un. Heard. Of.  My big girls asked me when the last time something like this has ever happened.  Never.  There are so many questions.

What do we do now? What about school? What’s for snack? What about dance recital? Why is there no toilet paper? What’s for snack? Can I sleep in? What’s for snack?

I do not have answers for most of these questions.  I just don’t know. I cannot tell which scientist/politician/doctor/website is telling the truth.

Is it just a bad flu? Does it only affect the elderly? How long does the virus live on surfaces? Do I need to cover my face in public?

The Man’s 40th birthday trip to Minnesota. Cancelled.

Wedding trip to Missouri. Cancelled.

Anna’s high school band/choir trip to Orlando (On which I was also set to go as a chaperone). Cancelled. (Will it be rescheduled? Maybe. Will I get my money back?  Most likely not.)

My luggage is still neatly packed in the corner of the bedroom out of denial that this truly is happening. I am guilty of hoarding an unusually large amount of coffee, because I am pretty sure no wants to be quarantined with me otherwise. I am literally stringing together unorganized thoughts, because there is so much going on in my brain right now.

My four sweet girls are fighting copious amounts of emotions.  They are 15, 13, 10, and 7.  They miss their friends, teachers, dance, choir, enrichment classes, and youth group.  Some are old enough to connect to friends via technology. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Some of their friends are home, too. Some of their friends are still going out and we wrestle with the questions of why we have chosen to stay home as much as possible. (Disclaimer: Iowa currently does not have an official shelter-in-place order.)

I watch the news just enough and bear witness to the chaos that seems to be overtaking places such as New York, California, and Washington. It would be easy to tune it all out and imagine we are on summer vacation. Minus the heat and the sun. The news betrays me, because here at home in Iowa, there are more COVID-19 cases reported every day. It feels like standing by and watching a tsunami inch closer with nowhere to run.  I don’t really know how to do this. 

I watch. I pray. I prepare. 

I have now entered that sweet spot of life known as “middle age.”  I am forty.  I remember 9/11 well. I was in college in Minneapolis. I have often tried to explain to my children what it was like and they have always had a hard time understanding why it left such an impact even though it happened so far way… mostly in New York.  I have tried to explain that crushing feeling of uncertainty, because back then, we didn’t know if it would just be New York.  We were waiting to see what was next.  Would it be me next? Would it be my city?  Even though the circumstance is so incredibly different, THAT feeling of just not knowing is much the same.  Daily, we work through all the feelings (because there are a lot these days).  I said, “Remember when we talk about 9/11 and I try to explain what it felt like?  THIS. This is pretty much what it felt like.”

And despite the fear and frustration about what we were all going through at the time, there was this sweet unity born out of crisis. For just a moment, Americans rallied together, because we were all suddenly in the same boat.

Similarly, beautiful things are coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Amidst the inconveniences, each day there are stories of humanity rallying together to infuse joy and goodwill into our momentarily awkward existence.

  • The man who bought a $300 gift card at the coffee shop and told all the healthcare workers to go get a treat on him.
  • The teddy bears, rainbows, and Easter eggs in neighborhood windows.
  • The Christmas lights on display in spring.
  • The homegrown seamstresses making masks for healthcare workers who are in short supply.
  • The teachers organizing drive-by parades through their student’s neighborhoods just to give a wave at an appropriate social distance (six feet, of course).
  • The preschool teacher who dressed in a hot-dog costume to “ding dong ditch” her students and leave small gifts by the door.
  • The groups organizing help for the elderly to get the supplies they need.
  • The grocery store manager buying loads of unsold Girl Scout cookies from a troop to give to hard-working employees.

And on, and on, and on.  There will be more stories.

This. THIS… is what happened after 9/11. We were all on the same side. We were all scared. And we all needed to see good things happen. Everyone wished this refreshing spirit of goodwill would continue. Unfortunately, collective altruism lost and familiar partisan practices won .

I recently read a post from a young adult saying they hoped it would stay like this. You know what? I really hope so, too.  I hope this changes our lives forever. I hope we never grow weary of kindness and jumping in to do the hard things just because we are able.

Maybe we will be better humans because of this mess.  Maybe we will continue to be good stewards of our resources.

Cook more. Connect deeper. Love harder.

It’s all up to us. Choose to make it better. And if you “Ok, Boomer” me, fine. I’m just rooting for all of us to win this together.

So pour your coffee. Make it strong. Check on your mama. Call your friends. And put something wonderful into the world that wasn’t there yesterday.

Love and coffee, Friends. (And a whole lot of prayers.)

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

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Into the New.

coffee bean heart

There was Christmas. (Magical.) Then New Year’s Eve. (More magic.) There was the snow. (Yes!) There was the extreme cold. (You know the days that were colder than Antarctica. Literally.) There was the casting of lots to see who would make the long trek to the mailbox in the Iowa tundra. (Not. Me. Because I feed you. And reasons.)

And now. It is that weary time of the year when all seems to lie dormant. Dead. Dying. Consequently, we hibernate. Drawing into the cocoon of a cozy house, waiting for winter to pass. (Hurry, Spring.)

Regardless, there are lovely things. Lazy nights sipping tea while playing cards. A well-loved movie, nestled under the warmth of a blanket. The harmonious aroma of hot chili and sweet cinnamon rolls wafting from the kitchen.

Time is shorter than ever. My efforts to keep busyness at bay often fail me and the only constant seems to be coffee. I most often arise at an ungodly hour for my work. Perhaps one of the most exciting things to happen around the homestead in the last couple years is that I now work from home teaching English online to elementary students in China.

I get to stay home and love on my sweet girls and work before they rise each morning. Also, before the sun rises. And often, before my brain rises to the occasion of coherence.

Coffee. Is. Life.

As I stumbled into the kitchen on a recent morning, I opened a fresh bag of coffee in order to prepare the morning brew. (Like insanity-inducing early also known as Beijing Time.) In a complete stupor, I made a clumsy attempt to carefully add the coffee, gave up, and just dumped in a more-than-appropriate amount for good measure. But something wasn’t quite right. My befuddled brain mused as to who could have put what resembled chocolate chips in the coffee bag?

Until it dawned.

Beans. Beans!? Yes, in my hurry at the supermarket, I grabbed beans instead of ground. Darn. It. Because at 3:00 am, the family does not take kindly to awakening by coffee grinder. It is what it is.

But perhaps the single most exciting thing is that we recently moved to a new homestead. New pastures to explore. (Some laden with cow pies. Quite literally.) A fresh piece of small-town Iowa to traverse. Adventure awaits in every sense.

So much coffee and so many stories to share. Stay tuned, Friends.

But for now…

Love & Coffee!

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The Light Changed.

chris-lawton-154388 (1)The early chill cut to my core and I had yet to lay hold of my morning sustenance.  The wee hours were just waning and I suspected that the morning was eager to burst forth within the hour.  I gingerly stepped onto the cold wooden floor, thankful for my fair-isle slippers with the leather sole.  At first step, my sleepy eyes met with an unexpected golden glow streaming through the vintage lace curtains of the old farmhouse.  The lace cast intricate patterns across the aged floor and on to the fine China seated in the hutch.  The aura seemed most ethereal and near heavenly.

The light had changed.  The hour had moved.  And I had forgotten.

I thought, “I must hasten the morning coffee that I may capture this moment while the quiet persists.”  Cup in hand, I sat in the weathered rocker, blanket-wrapped, watching the light filter through the front-yard tree, setting the living room to light.

I anticipate the time change almost as much as a morning coffee.  It feels like “coming home.”  Everyone retreats to the house early.  The sky darkens.  We dine by the dimness of the evening.  We rush into our jammies, dim the lights, and cozy up for a game of cards or a favorite read-aloud story.  There are steaming cups of peppermint tea and fleece blankets a-plenty.

We savor cold nights, neatly tucked into the old farmhouse and I reflect on change thus far and change for the future.  I always thought I would be sad to grow older. But as time creeps and age blooms, I find myself unwrapping each moment as a gift. Always unexpected. And usually good.

My Peanut (if I can still call her that) is thirteen.  We talk about things.  All the things.  Over coffee.  It is more beautiful than I imagined it could be.  To see a young woman take shape just where my little girl once stood.  To see her struggle.  To work things through.  To celebrate wins.  To find herself.

And the light in her eyes?  It has changed, too.  And changing still.

Ladybug is right behind her…   And then two more.

Gratitude rises within as I have grown to appreciate each season. Each moment. Each breath.

 

I am thankful for…

Fingerprints on the picture-window glass. (And the little girls that left them.)

The dog that curls up to warm my feet. (And warms my heart twice as much.)

Mason jar glasses brimming with chilled milk. (And sometimes a cookie.)

Untidy rooms. (Lived-in and loud.)

Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuit crackers. (With a bit of aged cheese.)

Worn-out jeans. (The coziest kind.)

Dog-eared books (Well-loved and smelling of “old”).

Ragged dolls. (Played with time and again.)

Logic puzzle magazines. (And a freshly sharpened pencil.)

Briars stuck in long, girlish hair. (And the adventure that caused them to be so.)

Gold glitter nail polish. (Almost as bright as little-girl eyes.)

Scripture Lullabies. (And calm nights.)

Romantic nights in. (With expensive chocolate.)

Blank paper in my sketchbook. (And a good set of pencils.)

Friends that love me anyway. (Grace!)

Family members that choose to stay. (Grace all the more!)

Coffee. (Yes.)

Coffee. (Of course.)

Coffee. (I’ll stop now.)

And a little cream.  (Mmmmm…)

 

May we celebrate all of the things for all of the years we have. 

 

Love & Coffee… and maybe some pumpkin pie.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends! 

 

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When It All Comes Together

nathan-dumlao-298337.jpgI am not certain that it ever fully does, but in a sense, it feels like it’s all coming together.  I cannot even say exactly what.  It is that moment when you turn around and look behind you and it takes your breath away.  That moment when you recount all the mistakes and regrets you have about your journey thus far and sigh with relief that things have not turned out half bad.  It could have been worse.  And the good far outweighs anything less.

Sure, there are things I wish I had done differently.  And time marches on to a metronomic beat that every fiber of my being wishes would slow to a largo.  My four darlings are turning out beautifully.  Too beautifully.  And time refuses to stand still.  The Man never seems to age, yet somehow creases are settling into my own visage without relent.

I suppose you could say that life is comfortable.  Not in a financial sense.  Or a perfect house sort of way.  For the first time in my life I feel like I may be comfortable in my own skin.  In who I am.  In who God created me to be.  Content to be confident in my Creator.  And it’s a beautiful feeling.

My sweet girls have continued to grow up, despite my protests.  It seems unfitting that my 13-year-old beauty continue to be called “Peanut.”  Or that my not-so-little “Ladybug” shares my shoe size.  It is also seems utterly impossible that “Lovey” has outgrown her taste for deodorant and Sharpies (although she continues to challenge me in entirely new ways daily).  And “Cupcake?”  Four.  And a half.  And sassy as can be.

Upon reflection, this blog began over 6 years ago.  SIX!?  Oh, how life has evolved.

All things considered, it has been a good run.  But I feel like it’s just getting started.  First?  Adolescence.  I am NOT handling it well or otherwise.  Second?  The Man thinks we should give chickens another chance. (Third time is a charm?)  Third? I have this half-brained, but also necessary, idea that we are going to renovate our 1900 farmhouse if it kills all of us.

I feel like there is going to be a LOT more coffee in my future.

I hope you will join me, because this ride just got a whole lot more exciting.

Love & Coffee, Friends! 

 

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Just wiggle harder.

OH, how I have missed writing things.  For eighteen long months, this sweet, wistful life on the homestead became bombarded by circumstances and ambitions that mostly seemed contrary to my entire life philosophy.  As I plowed deeper into the rigor of further education, my sweet girls went to public school for a year, The Man switched careers entirely, we ate entirely too much frozen pizza, and my brain was nearly left in a crumpled heap of exhaustion.

I can barely remember the ride…

And somehow while all of that was happening, Peanut is now almost to turn thirteen (and consequently no longer thinks kindly of being called “Peanut”).  Ladybug is double digits and always dreaming of Paris, fashion, and lip gloss.  Lovey is entirely too lovely and no longer looking so smallish.  And Cupcake.  Sweet cupcake is no longer a baby and nearly four.

Perhaps one of the most beautifully hysterical things to happen in recent months is that Peanut and Ladybug have discovered that their mother writes a blog!  (Two, actually, but who is counting? And seeing that this blog has now been going for nearly six years, they are caught somewhere between utter hysterics and death-worthy embarrassment upon reading its contents.  (HELLLOOO GIRLS!)  You see, Peanut and Ladybug have bookmarked this blog to police me.  (Nice try, Ladies!)

But  I must tell you about Lovey and Cupcake.

I believe one of the greatest victories this side of heaven surely must be the day you are done with diapers.

FOREVER.

Twelve.  Years.  Of.  Diapers.

Done.

But in a house brimming with girls, it seems that there may never be enough bathrooms.  And even if there are, they will always choose to use MINE. And so it was, just last week.  The facilities were full, Lovey taking her time as girls often do.  (You know, because bathroom time is the best time to write songs.  And poems.  And talk to your imaginary friends.)

And Cupcake is a wiggler.  Yes.  She does not do that normal thing that most children do when it is time to go, but rather this awkward, yet cute-as-a-button, wiggle.  And as I happen upon this interesting display, our conversation usually goes something like this:

“Cupcake, do you have to go Number 1?”

“No.  Just wiggling.”

“Cupcake, do you have to go Number 2?”

“No.  Just wiggling.”

“Cupcake, surely something is wrong?”

“Wiggling.”

“The bathroom is free.”

(Makes mad dash for the bathroom.)

Perhaps it is a tendency to be modest.  Or perhaps we are raising a pathological liar.  I am never entirely sure.  However, on this recent occasion, as Lovey composed and recited and conversed to Cupcake’s chagrin, I apologized while she wiggled, “Cupcake, darling, I am sorry for the wait.”

“Don’t worry, Mama. I’ll just wiggle harder.”  My sweet, oh-so-positive, Cupcake!

I nearly spit my coffee all over kingdom come in amusement, yet her words rang true.

Because that, Friends, is what we do.  When things are weird.  And the wait is long.  And  nothing turns out like you had perfectly imagined…

We “wiggle harder.” 

You know that feeling when you come home after a long, tedious journey?  Not the one to Disney, but the one you didn’t really want to take in the first place?  The one where you were not really sure what you were doing there, but were hopeful it would make sense later?

Well, here I am.  Home again.  (As a college graduate, no less!)  And planning my spring garden.  (It is going to be amazing!)  And whatever unexpected things may come…

Just.  Wiggle.  Harder.

Because spring is coming.  There is much to be done and the homestead is coming to life again.

Love & Coffee, Friends.

(Seriously… BIG love.  And HOT coffee.  I’ve missed you.)

 

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Blood, Death, and Puke.

20160209_165527000_iOS (2)That is the criteria.  When the bathroom door is closed.  When the bedroom door is closed.  When the office door is closed.  Do NOT dare knock on that door unless there is

Blood.  Death.  Or Puke.

It is simple really.  As much as I adore my dear girls, there are days and then there are DAYS.

So there I was, locked in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub for probably the fifth time that time that day, nearly in a state of catatonia, daydreaming of what it must like to have peace and quiet for five whole minutes.  Or to actually complete an entire thought without a minor crisis.  Or to have…

Knock, knock.

I bellowed the familiar mantra, “Blood.  Death.  Or puke.  If none of that is currently happening to someone in this house, I am confident you can handle yourself for another five minutes.”

And then I heard The Man’s voice, “Are YOU okay?

“Of course.  Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Because you have literally been in the bathroom ALL.  Day.  Like so literally.”

And he was right.  Because I was hiding.  From the house.  Responsibility.  Parenting.  I mean, that’s normal, right?

Everyone always says “Ohhhhh, FOUR girls???”  And they are always smirking.  “Just wait until they are teenagers. *insert evil laugh*”  And I have always wanted to just give those haughty women a little speech about how awesome I am at raising sweet little ladies and that crap junk is so not even on my radar.  (Sorry, that I just wrote crap junk, but I gotta be real for a moment.)

And then it happened.  Earlier than I expected.  I mean Peanut and Ladybug are now 12 and 9, respectively.  But they may as well be 13 and 16, because most days I believe I will go certifiably insane from the drama.  I could be wrong, but I positively do not remember this level of drama at 12 and 9.  Seriously, when I was that age, all I really cared about was New Kids on the Block, sky-high bangs, and Crystal Pepsi.  Easy peasy. 

And while Lovey has seemingly grown out of her taste for deodorant, she still enjoys a Chapstick every now and again.  And like a good big sister, she has lovingly trained Cupcake in her sordid ways.  Poison control is still on my speed dial.

But then those sweet four decided it was spa night for Mama and they gave me the makeover of the century.  They are either apologizing or preparing me for something.  Either way, it’s been a long week so I’ll take it. With coffee and a smidge of sugar, of course.

 

Love & Coffee.

 

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Sweet Freedom.

20160318_142814000_iOS (2)Hear me, Friends:  Sweet freedom is upon me!  How refreshing to be out from under the weight of a heavy academic schedule!  There is a very good reason you should undertake (and finish!) such things when you are young and unobligated.

It has taken every ounce of everything just to survive these last few months and the idea of a summer break with which my brain can rest is of epic proportions.

 

I look forward to beautiful things like:

 

Recreational reading.

Early morning walks.

Pre-dawn coffee with a book I ENJOY.

Embarrassing the heck out of Ladybug, Lovey, and Cupcake at every ball game.  (Yes, I am THAT mom.)

Digging into the massive pile of begging-to-be-read subscription magazines on the floor next to my desk.

Art projects with Peanut. (Who really is NOT a peanut anymore.  *tears*)

WRITING ON THIS BLOG.  (Woohoo!)

Heck, I might even reacquaint myself with The Man!

(Also, tackling the incredibly disturbing laundry mountain should probably be on this list.) 

 

On school, the end is sight.  But until August, I surely plan to squeeze every ounce of sunshine, delight, and utter awesomeness out of summer that I can.  And there will be loads of coffee to make it all happen.

 

So friends, consider this fair warning:  We are BACK IN BUSINESS!  And I could not be happier.

Love & Coffee.

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